1984 or 2020?

Are you under surveillance?

Is there a spy in your house?

Should we care if we are exposed?

Is nakedness the same as unprotected?

Can we be tried and judged on our thoughts?

What if you verbalize thoughts in the privacy of your own home?

What if you mumble ‘someone should shoot that asshole?’  Is that criminal?

Do we have a right to privacy, and if so, where does it begin and end?

Should big tech be held liable for violating your privacy?

Is ‘smart’ really a good idea?  In a world of Siri or Alexa and yes, Google, you can have many things happen with the spoken word. 

Yesterday while in conversation, I happened to ask Alexa what time it was.  My smartwatch was still on the charger and ‘she’ is in every room in the house.  While a constant source of information and a voice I recognize, I was not amazed when she replied in the following… “By the way, I can also help plan birthday parties…”

We had been speaking of a birthday gift minutes before.

With millions of these devices in homes and business’s globally, one has to believe that it is software and some server listening.  The algorithms listen for keywords, much like cookies track your searches.  From these results, you are offered ads for what you searched for, or the subject of conversation.

As a writer I often research things that could be seen as things terrorist might search for.  One has to wonder how many times I have been ‘looked at,’ as a possible bad person.

For the record, I have published over 30 novels and still writing.  These are not the droids you are looking for. 

At one point, I had cameras throughout the house so I could monitor things while I traveled.  One day I heard the camera in my office moving on its own accord.  Someone was controlling it.  Someone was watching me work on the computer.

All of the Chinese cameras went into the trash that day.

Even with the firewall and so forth in place, this camera had a backdoor built into the firmware.

While I could have trapped the packets, I am confident the rabbit trail would lead to China.

Industrial espionage is a huge deal. I suspect that there are perverts in all countries who, much like peeping toms, get off on watching…

When I wrote my novel Cyber Subs, I took that into account.

It is one thing to put it out there and be paid for your willingness to do so.  It is quite another to be spied upon, either with your own camera’s and or security system.

I realize that Alexa and other smart devices are listening. If you don’t know this, read what I am telling you here and now.  They also have cameras embedded within them, and it might very well be possible for some ‘person’ to activate them at will.  The same is true of your phones, tablets and laptop computers.

In another of my novels, Presidential Assassins, I use these smart things as plot devices.

The bottom line is you should not expect privacy no matter where you are.  If you carry a smartphone, you are being tracked. If you should run afoul of the law, they can use your phone to see where you have been.

The anarchists burning cities down, hurting people, and so forth have a considerable footprint that one day will come home to roost. If you are one of those who are getting paid to do stupid shit, I would stop immediately. While that CSI shit might seem like the stuff of fiction, trust me grasshopper, it is not out of the realm or veracity.

While a local DA might be bought and paid for, not to convict you, many of the crimes are federal and out of their jurisdiction.  

Recently someone sent me a phishing extortion letter.  Within minutes, I knew it came from a company called Talk Talk in the UK.  Some rogue employee is using that ISP as a platform to extort money through elaborate ‘fortune cookie’ letters sent out to email addresses procured from websites.

I suspect they will be spending time in jail soon, as they too left a trail of breadcrumbs.   Even if you use Bitcoin, there are ways to track you down.  You might feel that you are smarter than others, but again, you are only fooling yourself.

If you want assured privacy in your house, don’t have anything connected to the internet, and that means cell service too.  Unless you can remove the battery, off is not good enough.

While I might sound a little paranoid, in my line of work, I am paid to be paranoid.  Don’t do stupid shit, and you don’t have anything to worry about.  Consider those spying on you as your cheering section.  That is a line I used in the novel.

Yes, I have found bugs ‘video cameras’ in hotel rooms, especially independent hotels. 

‘TW doesn’t that freak you out?’

How many times have you traveled since 911?  Images of my naked body are stored on more servers than you can imagine.  If you genuinely believe that those images from the porn scanners at the airport are not stored next to your unique scanned id, you are kidding yourself.

They know better than I if I have put on or lost any weight.  While ignorance is bliss, it is also dangerous.  You willingly surrendered your right to privacy after 911.  The patriot act is the golden ticket to spy on anyone anywhere without provocation. 

Again, as I say in the novel, enjoy your life and don’t worry about it. 

If you are a law abiding person you will never be confronted with any of this.  The secrets will live on servers across the country. 

From facial biometric cameras at each traffic intersection, to your unique DNA used for genealogy or perhaps taken from some medical procedure, if they want to find you, they can.  

A day of reckoning is coming…

For the rest of us, enjoy your smart stuff and know that somewhere, someone could be watching, listening and laughing at your feeble attempts to have some modicum of privacy.

There is a meme that shows a cabin in the woods with no commercial power.  Would you spend a year here for a million dollars? 

Give me a gun, bullets, and a fishing pole and just you watch, or in this case, come back in a year.  Since the Covid bullshit, I am ready.

Cheers!

-TW

Away…a Critique of the Show.

Is there life on MARS?

Away

Netflix released a new show that is billed as a Sci-Fi.

Spoiler Alert…I talk about events that happen in this show and offer advice for a season 2.  Binge watch it like I did before you read this unless you are not going to, then enjoy it.

I usually don’t watch TV, much less binge watch a program.  As a writer, I have a few things to say about this program.

I want to start with a shout out to Talitha Bateman.  Your acting is what made me continue to watch the show.  When I write an emotional scene, often, I will include the ‘strings of snot,’ as we have all been there. Those are as important as tears.  They make it real.  Not only were you visually believable, but for 19 years old, I look forward to seeing what else you show up in.  Don’t lose your soul while you live in the lights.

Some of your acting was a little over the top.  In the scenes in the hospital, when it is mentioned that you are too comfortable, that scene was unbelievable and jarred me out of the story.

Whoever told you to eat with your mouth open is wrong.  It is a total distraction, stop it. If you do that in your real life, go to charm school.  As an actress, you can ill afford bad habits.

Hillary Swank…I was lukewarm about her performance.  There were times she sold me, and times she fell flat.  I think NASA training would have had her emotions totally in check.  The model of Patrick Stewart on Next Generation.  If you need a female model, pick Janeway from Voyager.  Shit happens. As a leader, you have to deal with it.  Emotions are not part of the package in that role.

If you were to indeed fall apart on the moon before leaving on a three-year mission, any competent ‘GROUND’ would have scrubbed the mission.  In my opinion, this show made women look weak, and I know plenty who could be a Katherine Janeway.

Josh Charles… I had totally empathy for him as a character.  He needs to make better progress with his health in Season II. 

His daughter and his wife are the focal points at this juncture. His brokenness is established and turning in to a distraction.

Felicia Patti was adorable, and her part was believable.  I would love to see her more active in Season 2 if there is indeed a season 2.  I would look for other roles quickly, so you are not typecast in that role when your name is mentioned. 

Monique Gabriela Again loved her acting.  While supporting cast, she sold me.   

I have nothing negative to say regarding the other actors.  The ones I mentioned carried the show.

There might be too many characters or POV’s to deal with, which are a distraction. I felt like we were doing a lot of head-hopping.

There were way too many flashbacks ‘information dumps’ slowing the pacing of this show to a crawl.  NASA would never miss something like RAM’s health issues, which made the attempted airlock and subsequent corona viruses PPE hot zone Epstein Barr BS hit too close to home, not allowing us to have that fantasy we all try to have when watching a show or reading a book.

Mark Ivanir was fun, but, again…the daughter drama was just over the top and took away from the story.  From ‘she is not qualified to, I am blind is a stretch.’  The puppet show was amusing, and the character of Misha was likable. I would rather see more of his culture than all of this lost my wife and now I am too broken to be anything but a lowly cosmonaut See, that doesn’t work even in writing.

I have severe issues with him cheating on the eye exam.  The concept of space blindness coming on that quickly seems very contrived. I would think their strict training would have him fess up that he was having issues.  The thousands of bolts and parts made this scene too long and unbelievable.

Drilling a hole through the side of the ship was unbelievable.  Knowing that was a possibility they could have had something to put over the hole with them and ready just in case. If NASA engineers told them where to drill, how could they not hit the water?  Sorry, that is poor writing and lack of technical expertise on the writer’s part.  As soon as the drill punctured the metal, they would have heard the hiss. 

The message of Climate Change was there, but not to the point where it took away from the show itself.  The concept of all of the countries working together was good until you had the Chinese pulling strings for propaganda. 

Who would agree to that?  Why would they agree to that?  It makes zero sense.

If the purpose of a mission to Mars is to bring the world together in a Cumbia moment, just possibly, we should have developed a relationship with the entire crew that they had when they landed before they took off.  Yes, that removes some conflict, but…the conflict on the ship takes away from the believability of the show.

Instead of drilling a hole, have a micrometeorite punch a hole.

Have them fly through a dense area of them damaging things like the solar panels, limiting the power they can use.

The tension on earth, behind the scenes is one thing. Tension and BS with the crew, not so sure NASA would send up a team that might stab each other in the back if given the opportunity.

Everything that went wrong was predictable, and as a writer, I was looking for it.  The only twist, the only thing that I did not expect was the Midnight Mass.  That was refreshing and made me like Isaac.  Whoever came up with that idea.  Good Job!

As a writer, I know what I would do to make a season 2 but, it would change the film from a soap opera into science fiction.

We are Not Alone

When they get to the Pegasus, show evidence that someone or something got to it before them and took most of what they need to survive, leaving, of course, the parts necessary to convert urine into water.  Give them just enough to survive while they wait for the second supply ship.

During this time, they must figure out who or what else is living on MARS.

They must wait for the secondary supply ship because if they leave right now, they will die on the return trip.

This lack of supplies forces them to deal with the natives, and they don’t have guns.  They will have to invent a weapon to protect the ship from the Martian marauders who are looking for more food.

Flesh out the relationship between Emma and Ram while working the same magic on earth between Josh and Monique.

I love the idea of him as broken and her with a special needs daughter that needs a sister, friend, and father figure.  Emma and the crew thought they were going to die and had a fling, making it impossible for them to get back together when they return to earth.  Yes, it is a trope but, you already have us going down this road.  We already want them to hook up.  Emma needs to change the way she feels about Josh. 

His daughter and her boyfriend can further the conflict by having her get on the bike and race for a prize.  This forces her dad to deal with her as an adult and not a child.  Monique assist him with this process and he is amenable because of some strange messages from Emma regarding Ram.  She talks about him in just about every email.

Possibly some bacteria gets into their food or water, which messes with their brains…a little.  I was thinking the water in the skin of the ship came from the moon…How about a moon virus, or bacteria, from that water which they drank?

Think about it, life on the moon too…

Remember, this is science fiction. All of these complicated subplots need to be sprinkled and not flooded on the screen. Focus on the Martians and protecting the ship while you sprinkle.  Maybe they have to track the Martians down to retrieve something they need to make the ship work.  Force them in the lion’s den.

Bring in more science and some tense moments with the Martians, whatever they are.  I would make them underground creatures that only come out at night…  They might look like giant spiders … Spiders that think and act as a collective. Maybe and have a taste for human blood.  There was plasma on the supply ship, and now they are vampires…LOL

Seriously, they could be creatures that act as a collective like honeybees or ants.

Ok, that is my two cents worth.

If you have watched it I would love your take.

Much Love -TW

What day is it?

Is this just another day with a Y at the end?

Do you find yourself asking this?

As we come up to another holiday weekend one wonders what is going to be different?

Maybe we don’t spend so much time in front of the computer?

Can we close the lid on the laptop and then what? Read another book or perhaps find some other mindless show on a streaming service?

While some find an oasis in their back yard many don.t have such a place. I cant help but wonder what the long term social effects, of this lost year will manifest as.

Employers are learning that employees can telecommute.

If employees are under house arrest ‘so to speak’ they tend to put in longer hours just because.

Now that the world is paranoid about a virus so small it takes an electron microscope to see it, how do we use that to ‘our’ advantage?

You had best know that people in power are looking into this. Every new technology is first looked at in the way of, how can I weaponize it. the same is true of events such as this pandemic.

I firmly believe that the media is using fear of the unknown to socially modify the fabric of society around the globe, but to what end?

The other day I was writing a letter to a freind and I used the term ‘China Virus.’

My grammar checker berated me for using such a hateful caustic bigoted term.

WTF?

The thing came from China. There is no argument about it. Those are the facts.

Who programmed or modified the code to look for such terminology?

I have many friends from China, I don’t hate the Chinese people.

I want to know who in their right mind thinks it wise to make a bad virus worse?

Did you know they have genetically modified mosquitoes? It is true, they have modified the mosquito to render the female sterile.

On the surface this sounds like a good idea but, what else have they done we don’t know about?

In Japan they are working with the embryo of Sheep human hybrids.

That sounds like a BAAAAAAD idea.

You know that somewhere in some back room there is a hybrid talking sheep.

What might this day with a Y at the end bring in the future?

Was this virus designed to kill off the old and sickly?

Was the HIV virus created to remove gay people from the earth in some post Hitler Genocide attempt?

Was Ebola constructed to do away with over population of people who are starving?

What else in cooking in petri dishes around the world in nondescript buildings ?

No, I don’t trust any government. Power corrupts. I am also a science fiction writer among other things, so my cynicism allows me to construct wild fantasies that today are just not that wild.

Stay Safe, Stay healthy and Enjoy the weekend!

Much Love -TW

Groundhog Day

Are people really that stupid? Yes Virginia, some are.

The ignorance out there abounds to levels that never cease to amaze me.  I needed to run a few errands.  Truthfully I needed to get out of the house. 

Either people are scared as in petrified or just plain stupid.  I am in my car, windows up, at a red light.  The person next to me honks her horn and then points to the mask on her face. 

She then points her crooked finger at me and then her face.

What do you do with that?

I thought about rolling my window down and give the appearance of a sneeze, but that lunatic might have produced a gun.  Her windows were up too.

I wear a mask when it is appropriate, but I find myself not going out as often as I would.  During this entire pandemic, I have only purchased gasoline once, and that was just to put some fresh gas in the tank as gas can get stale.

What are you doing this weekend?

For me, it is almost just another day with a Y at the end.

When Bill Murry played a role in Groundhog Day, little did we all know we would get to do it for real.  For some of you who have the rioters and looters burning your town down in those peaceful protests, you might want to consider carefully the people who let that happen.  No, it wasn’t the current president.  Local law is not controlled at the federal level.  That is your mayor or Governor, not Trump.

As for me, I have several projects I am working on to stay busy.  I was looking at the 1933 film King Kong.  If you follow me at all, you know that I love to paint old movie stars. 

I am focusing on Fay Wray this month.  She was known as the Queen of Scream.  If I paint her, should I also paint Kong?  Just a thought.

Stay tuned for details as I put brush to canvass.

Much Love -TW

What are the odds?

Will it work?

As a forensic technologist, I get some strange requests.  Not long ago, a guy sends me some zip disks that he needed the files on them.  I happen to have one that would read them, put them on a flash drive, and he was a happy camper.

Now there is probably a story I could write about what I found on his zip disks but damned if client information is protected.  They could have been the directions to where Hoffa if buried or perhaps who shot Kennedy.

We will never know as the information goes with me to the grave, or in my case, forgetfulness.

This beast came in today.

Many of you are reading this have no idea what this is, but I had one in its heyday!  Crossing my fingers, I plugged it into my variable power supply. I wanted to bring the voltage up on the caps slowly.

The magic smoke came out of at least one resistor before I ever got past to 60 volts.

The cost well outweighs the effort necessary to bring this dinosaur back to life.  I could, but why?

The odds are high; the hard drive is seized.  Most probably, I would be replacing multiple capacitors in the power supplies of not only the PC but the monitor.

Finding parts for this beast would be more of a challenge than fixing it.

I know of a museum that collects things like this.  I think the next time I travel that way, I will take it with me.

Fun fact, this device, or one like it, was used as a protocol analyzer.  Back in the day, I carried one like this all over the country.  That thing would let you see the datagram from the preamble on.  When I first saw it, the fellow operating it told it to me like this. (this is what whetted my appetite in forensics btw.)

The topology or network architecture of the day was token-ring. 

This machine still has a token-ring card in it.  Token-ring was named after its architecture.  One token or ‘train car’ goes around the track… The track is the series of wires, MAU’s and devices.  Once a data packet ‘token’ was sent out, the token would go to every active device and ask ‘is this for you?’

Terribly inefficient and expensive. Each NIC (network interface card) carried a license from IBM, which was not cheap.

This device could tell me not only who the conductor was but the color of his or her underpants—metaphorically speaking.  Without details of the OSI model and technical stuff that would cause you to leave, this was the bomb.

As I lifted it on the bench a little while ago, all those memories of carrying it through the airports came back.  This was known at the Compaq luggable, and we called it the singer sewing machine because of the size and shape.

From the Osborn to the Kaypro and then this, we were moving on up.

Truthfully I hoped I would see a C:\   I wanted to type DIR and see what would happen or was it DIR *.* ??

That trip down memory lane stopped with the smoke, but I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Writers, there are stories in that box.  What secrets does it hold?  What is on that hard drive?  Who owned it?

Yes, I have to get back to my story on The Three Hundred, but work comes before play, and I needed to get in touch with you.

Have a story to share…Use the comments. 

Much Love -TW

Saturday WVD 234

WVD. Wuhan Virus Day. How many days have you been living with the threat of this virus?

Never in my wildest imagination did I envision having my life disrupted for this long.

“Give it two weeks of lock down to flatten the curve.”

For those of you who drive, think of that morbid sense of curiosity when you pass an accident where the cars or perhaps other form of transportation is a tangled mess of metal.

Without thinking your foot comes off the accelerator even though you have been complaining about everyone in front of you slowing to look.

That is how I feel seeking your response to this next question.

What are you being told about the virus?

Our media has blamed it all on Trump. It is as if he was in his basement with his 1950 chemistry set from ACME playing evil genius. Mixing a little of this chemical with some of that until things began to bubble. When a vapor spilled out of the vile everything it touched wrinkled as if the atoms themselves were being ripped apart. The covalent bonds somehow warped around his sinister action.

It is of course an election year. There are some who don’t want so see him get another four years.

Where did the virus come from?

How did it get in to your part of the world?

How are you doing with it?

In yesterdays blog I spoke about looking at this time as a way to lift each other up. There is huge wisdom in helping each other in times of crises. I believe this is the quintessential definition of ‘crises.’

I think the reason the virus is so problematic is there is no end in sight. In this country the media has used the virus as a cudgel to batter the president. Dividing our country along ideological lines is straight out of Joseph Goebbles play book when he was the propaganda minister for Hitler.

One of the largest issues I see is few have any idea who Joseph was or what he did.

The novel I am writing on this blog The Three Hundred take place right after everything goes to hell in a hand basket.

Check it out, the first ten thousand words are there for you to read and comment on.

Much Love -TW

Where are they are Mars?

Are you all reading the first two acts of The Three Hundred ?

With story structure, we have many different things to consider.  In a short story, you have limited words to work with, which translates to limited plot devices, characters as well as the structure itself.  If we write a novel of 60 to 100 thousand words, then what?

More characters, more twists, and turns, and the structure changes.

The Three Hundred currently is 10K words and, there are more in the pipeline.    Sitting on Mars, we have a small crew investigating the infamous face on Mars.

What is it?

Back in the dark ages…1976, Viking 1 snapped a picture of a fantastic sight.  There on the surface in an area of Mars known as Cydonia was proof positive that there was life on Mars! 

Maybe not.

Taking a picture of a rock formation that appeared to have two eyes, nose and mouth, NASA released the image to the public to drum up interests in NASA and Mars.  It worked.  It worked a little too well as the rags that live on the shelves by the checkouts in stores, showed the face and tantalizing teases.

Writers like yours truly, use it as fodder for stories, and why not?

If you were standing on mars close to the two-mile-long structure, dare I say it, you would not recognize it as anything other than rocks.

For the purpose of this story, there is a rectangular opening. What are the odds of a perfectly rectangular opening on and edifice that looks like a large human face?

If and when we ever do get to Mars, I am confident that someone will snap a picture of it from ground level. Until then we can enjoy The Three hundred and other sci-fi fantasies

One of the craziest scams I saw recently was someone selling an acre of Mars for $12.  Much like the star registry, someone came up with selling land on another planet.

Can you just imagine some rich Texas oil tycoon buys Mars in total, finds a way to go there to discover that life is on Mars, and they are all larger than life spiders?

I am giving away a much better product, a fantasy of Mars, and all you have to do is to hit that follow button and read on when the next act drops.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

As always, I welcome your feedback, comments, and a friendly Hello.  We are all in this COVID Pandemic together. Why not find something bad like this virus to bring us together as a people, instead of divide us like so many in the media want to do?

Much Love -TW

The Business of Writing

Is writing a story enough?

I spend more time on the mechanics of writing than I do the business.

“TW, I just want to write a book and let someone else do the business part, I am a ‘creative.'”

Can anyone of you tell me what is wrong with that statement?  I bet many of you can, especially if you have followed me for any length of time.

Children tell stories.  Have you ever listened to your kids having a sleepover under the guise of making toll house cookies? (Come on, we all want to know who are kids’ friends are.) I digress, storytelling is a small part of the equation.

Stories revolve around ideas.  We all have ideas; when we can put them on paper in a way where others want to read them is where the rubber meets the road.

  1. Writing the story
  2. Editing the story
  3. Creating the tagline and logline
  4. Selling the story

If those four parts are not daunting enough, there are dozens of other steps you must take.  The business of writing is not for the faint of heart.

The four generalized bullet points are the tip of the iceberg. Let’s say your strengths are story structure.  Maybe you and Robert McKee were roommates in college. One of the things I see writers do is offer up their unique talent as a service to other writers.

If they are Save the Cat, Blake Snyder Credible, that service will not be cheap.  If they are not, you might be wasting your money.  Be advised this ‘business’ is rife with predators.

One of the aphorisms I live by is, ‘don’t quit your day job.’

I own a company that has little to do with writing.  If it involved writing I would not have the passion for it that I do.  Writing would be a job and not a hobby.

The trick will be if I reach my destination, how will I keep the passion as it will turn into a job.

Where do you draw the line between the business of writing and keeping it as a hobby?

My background is probably not one that you would find familiar in a crowd of people.

Currently, I am a forensic data miner.  Those idiots that send out phishing scams and attempt to extort money from people, I go after them.  Since my own site has been attacked, I chuckle when they try it; and then I begin to do my thing.  Those people need to be held accountable.

So why write?

The business of writing is another puzzle.

What started as storytelling, was just the outside layer of the onion.

Like Metadata often leads me to my quarry, peeling the onion back, we find yet another layer.   Sometimes it is like those Babushka dolls, instead of representing fertility it is more like the next waypoint toward my goal or destination.

If you start out with a ‘story,’ and your end goal is re-occurring revenue from a best-seller, you had best have a damned good GPS.  The road is fraught with peril, thieves, misfortune and challenges.   I have taken it on as I take on everything in life, as a puzzle.

Many, including me, have tried to shortcut the path by doing that which has already been done.  When 50 shades hit the stores I ignored it.  Not my cup of tea.  I did the same with Vampire stories.  As ELJames and Stephenie Meyer were making the big bucks, I could no longer afford to ignore them.

Writing similar stories of the erotic variety, while fun to write, ‘tell a story,’ they were no longer unique.

So, here is the advice part of this blog post.

Write that which you are passionate about. Don’t try and write the next Harry Potter, it has been done to death.  Once you write your story, get into a writing group where they critique each other’s work.  Make the story the best it can be and then you self-publish it. 

Yes, save yourself the months of trying to capture an agent’s attention with your first story.  Self-publish it and learn the rest of the business.

Mark Corker of Smashwords tells new authors that most will make about $10 the first year.  Ouch!  There is a harsh reality.  I can craft a book a month; most people take years.  While my stories sell, they do not sell with the alacrity that I would like them to have.

Having written over 24 million words in different novels, I have learned a few things.

Your first novel will probably suck; just like a vampire, it will suck big time.  Let your sales be your guide.

Feedback from people who spent $3 on your book is invaluable if they are convincing and objective.

Once you face the harsh realities of this world, figure out where your strengths and weaknesses are.

My strengths are I have many ideas, and I write very fast.  I love to solve puzzles, and am self-disciplined when it comes to sitting at the keyboard.

The puzzle aspect of this ‘business’ is I don’t have thin skin, and if someone tells me that something sucks, I can take the criticism and consider where the sucky part came from and fix it.

Currently, I am giving away a novel five thousand words at a time.   If you follow me, you know it is science fiction.  Why?

FEEDBACK!

Once the novel is finished and I have received feedback, I will re-write it and self-publish on Smashwords and Amazon.  Now, many I know would not do that.  They think that one novel will be their life’s work.

Friends, you cannot be a one-trick pony in this business.  I can write five thousand words with a glass of Merlot.

Short stories are a different story structure but an excellent way to improve your writing skills.

Currently, I am re-writing one of my novels‘ Voices from the Past.’

Not only can the story use some help but, the cover, like most of my covers, need help.  There is a science to cover design I recently just learned.  I am an artist so I designed them artistically.  Lots of Expletives later I now have to go back and redo just about every stinking cover.

While my GPS missed a waypoint, I will continue, and I hope that you do as well.

Use this time of few distractions to work on that which you love.  Turn off the news, limit Netflix, and find time with you and your keyboard.

I spend very little time on social media as it is pissing my life down the toilette, just like the noise from the mainstream media trashing the president or his opponent.  Follow the facts, not the noise. Turn off the sound and don’t let 2020 be a wasted year.

If writing is a passion, then dammit do it!

Seize the day!

Much love -TW

Happy ‘Hump Day’

What does Hump day say to you?

As a writer of naughtiness on occasion, I have mixed feelings about the words ‘hump day.’

In the spirit of total transparency, I have issues with the appropriation of many words and colloquiums. 

I rather like the term gay as happy.  Now, if you were to say ‘I feel so gay,’  people would look at you strangely and might say, good for you for coming out.  

Imagine you are at a social event, and you are feeling rather ‘gay.’  You see your man friend drinking a girly drink with that skewer of pineapple and maraschino cherry.  Not wanting your friends to think him effeminate, you go and steal it playfully.  You then look at him with a cat-like grin, tell him ‘ha, I got your cherry.’

How might that conversation go?

While hump day is the reaching of the precipice of the week, and then the egress down the other side, how many of us think something very different?  That is one reason I think Wednesday night church service is a bad idea.  At the end of hump day, I don’t want to be thinking about Jesus on the cross.

***

If you are a regular, you no doubt have read the second act of The Three Hundred.

I was reading it over last night and found more typos than I usually allow but, I left them for this reason.

When you write something, don’t be so hard on yourself.  My mistakes occur because I think much faster than I can get the ideas down on paper.  In one sentence, there is ‘door something and door’ again. One tip I usually use is to read it aloud.  Printing is also an excellent way to catch errors.

I will go back and correct it soon.

I started ACT III, and I hit a stumbling block.

Here is a question for you who follow me.  Should I have them find living Martians or …should I have them find evidence of Martians?

I told you when I started, I was offering you the chance to have input, there It is.

Say something in the comments below.

Until then, my lovelies, stay safe, sane, and remember it is Hump day.  Make sure your loved ones know you are thinking of them.

Much Love -TW

Stopping to get water from the Martian ice, they did not expect to find this.

The Three Hundred ACT II

© TWScott 2020

Family

Dave headed back down the hall, passing different people who all seemed to be on a mission.  Nobody stopped to acknowledge him, which seemed rather strange.  The lights were out in his quarters, and there was a lump under the bedding.  Sam turned over with the sounds of him undressing.

“You did come back.”

The warmth under the covers was comforting while snuggling up to her.  Hours passed before there was a buzz at the door.

“Damnit!”

Tossing his robe on, he opened the door to find a young lady standing there.  Her English was broken but understandable.  “Bill, he ah sent me down here to remind you of your address to the crew.”

“What address is she talking about?” Sam asked, looking at the short blond-headed woman.

“It is right here on the schedule, 1400, address to the crew.  You are the captain, ya?”

David looked at her nodding his head.  The door shut with her still standing in the room.  “Where are your clothes?”

David looked at Sam and then back at this person.  “Excuse me, who are you?”

“Oh, begging pardon, I am Helga.  I am your assistant, butler, and go-to person.  I am also your …other.”

David was not sure what she meant, but he assumed it was a language thing.

“Oh, well I need to shower and dress, I will be along in about twenty minutes.”  The blue eyes pierced his soul as she did not waver or turn to leave.  Her short curly hair reminded him of a poodle his mother once had.

Helga left the bedroom as her short skirt left little to the imagination. She headed into the bathroom, turning on the shower, she returned.  “The water is perfect if you don’t mind.” She said, reaching for his robe.

Before he could object, she had his robe in hand while turning to reach for a hanger.  Spinning around, she looked at him, “Go; time is …fleeting.”

Sam thought it funny until Helga pulled the sheets off the bed.  “You too, miss, go help him get clean.”

Helga was unmindful to the nudity, which took Samantha aback.  Heading into the bathroom, David was somewhat surprised to see her joining him. “Do we have a keeper,” she asked?

Shaking his head, he passed her the soap.  David stepped out of the shower, and before he knew it, Helga was there with a warm towel.  That part of the treatment he liked.  Sam stepped out of the shower to see her drying him off and became jealous.  She wanted to say something when part of her ‘programming’ kicked in.  The feeling left as soon as it came up.  Helga turned to see her dripping water on the floor.  Pulling out a warm towel, she wrapped it around her before taking another to dry her hair.

“Sir…you need to hurry..” she said as she dried Samantha while setting her in a chair by the mirror.

David turned around, leaving the two heading for the closet. 

Helga watched to see that he was close to dressed before taking a brush to his hair. “Go, we will catch up with you.”

David hit the door, taking one last look at the two.  Samantha did not mind the pampering or her familiarity with either of them.

“What did you mean by, other?”

Helga looked at her in the mirror. She was rolling her hair on the brush while drying it.  She then took the time to explain it to her in detail.

The door to the main auditorium opened where David was on stage.

“Bill, why didn’t I know about this?”

“As our team makes it through the education process, they suddenly have a purpose.  Helga, who I believe you have met, is assigned to you and Sam.”

“Assigned?”

“The Ularins have different ways of structuring families, people, and social situations.  You might have noticed that we have a high ratio of women to men on this tub.”

“I hadn’t noticed, why is that?”

“I don’t want to spook you, but if the human race is to survive, we need babies.  Why do you think this ship is so large and there are so few of us?”

“Are you fu…kidding me?”

“Nope, the aftereffects of that virus have not been negated.  Samantha and others are going to be working on that.  Helga, well, she is to make sure you or Sam are not lonely or become depressed.”

David shook his head, thinking he was in some dream that he could not share with anyone.  “Tell me this, was this their choice?”

“Over thirty percent of these girls came from the red light district in different countries.  They are working girls.  Since they are healthy and have an aptitude for certain things, the Ularins grabbed them.  Yes, they are thrilled to be here, and for your edification, they were given the choice of who they wanted to serve.  There was contention for you and Sam, so they might be some sharing.”

“Oh my goodness, what will Sam think of this?”

“You, me, and everyone here has had a little tweaking of our brains; her programming will come to terms with it rather quickly, as will yours.”

“Programming, have we gone from slaves of the politicians and damned billionaires to slaves of the Ularins?”

“No, think of this as the ARC and David, we will probably never see the Ularins again.  This is our shot.”

“What is your role?”

“I am thankful that you and I were friends, I might have still been in the Congo when things happened.  Like always, you and I complement each other.  I have been given a little more of the game plan because I am detail-oriented.”

David shook his head, thinking about what Sam was surely thinking.

The background sounds in the room dropped down to dull roar as Sam and Helga walked on the stage.

Sam stood beside him, wrapping her arm around his.  David glanced at her, and she just smiled. Helga took her place directly behind the two.  She was, among other things, their manager.

Bill tapped the microphone causing the room to become still.  Sam looked at David and then said. “I will start this.”

David’s nostrils flared as he watched her step forward.

By now, you all know as much as any of us.  The world we grew up on will be uninhabitable for at least ten years.  The release of nuclear bombs has triggered multiple volcanic eruptions, including the supervolcano under Yellowstone.  As you can see on the monitor, the Earth is shrouded in clouds and particulate matter, which will block the sun from reaching the ground.  If we are right, the Earth will enter an ice age after the firestorms from all of the explosions.

After the particulate matter settles, there is the radiation that was released.  If anything survives at all, it might be sea life.

As you all have experienced by now, our history sucks.  Incredibly, this race of beings sought to save any of us from ourselves.  Those of us on this ship represent .0000009 percent of the Earth’s population, rounded up.   David and I just discovered a few moments ago that our lives would never be as they were.  Our customs and mores must be malleable.  From what I am told, there have been no serious objections.  Visit me if you have any issues, and I will see if I can fix them.

We have three months’ worth of supplies before this ship coast in the vacuum of space until we all either starve, run out of oxygen, or, we all pitch in using whatever talents we have and make this work.

It appears that I am to be a doctor.  If any of you were trained in medical procedures, I would like you to meet with me in room 259, after our captain dismisses us.

David approached the podium.  “Nice speech.”

“I wanted you to have some time to clear your head and get some thoughts together, did it work?”

He smiled and chuckled as he made his way to the podium.  Passing by the short blond in the blue ruffled dress, he glanced at her again, smiled, and turned his attention to the crowd.

I don’t think I can stress the importance of this mission any more succinctly than Sam just did.  I would like to add that we are all one rather large family.  Each of us has a job, at least one task to perform.  I would like to meet with you in the conference center if your education includes anything related to space, physics, Astro-physics, or particle physics.

“Bill, do you want to say anything?”

Yes, thanks.  While the two groups of people that David and Sam want to speak with head that way now, the rest of you stay here, I want to meet you and get an idea of what you all do.

Several people headed off following Sam.  David wondered why so many but let it go—leading many to the conference center, around fifty people more women than men followed him.

Bill stayed there with around two hundred people.

“You may have noticed we are chugging along right now because we don’t know where to go.  In this room there are pieces of the puzzle we must learn.  Once we all meet, I hope we can give David, the captain, some input as to a plan.  Any questions?” Bill asked

“Ya, I am to take care of the water.  There is lots of it on comets, asteroids, and the poles of Mars.  I would suggest we head to the red planet first.”

“Are we low on water?”

“Nine, but that large glass top up there is for farming and recreation.  Many of us are farmers, and we need to get things planted if we intend to have fruits and vegetables.”

“How many farmers here?”  

Over a hundred people raised their hands.

“Would you folks go up to the garden area, inventory what we have and what we need.  Peter, I have you down as our water person, are there others?”

Over two dozen raised their hands.  Bill learned they were trained on different systems on the ship

Red Mud

Bill met with the engineers that made the ship work. When he talked with David, they developed a plan.

They were learning that the ship was capable of faster than light travel.  That was an exciting proposition.  How much faster was the question?  The question about why a star system 300 light-years away puzzled them.

David returned to his room to find Sam and Helga sitting on the couch, talking.  “Ladies, I have been distracted by this most of the day.  How is this supposed to work?”

“We were debating those very questions.  It would seem that many of the couples and men on this ship are having similar conversations.  Helga has offered it up this way.  We have a spare room which I know you were thinking was your office.  We can make it a bedroom for her.”

Helga looked at the two of them.  That is not what she wanted.  She was looking for acceptance.

“That is not what you had in mind, is it?”

“No, I will if that is what you want, but I would rather be part of your unit.”

“Unit?”

“She means a family unit. She would be one of us.  You commented on the size of this bed, now we know why.”

“Sammy, what do you think about all this?”

“David, she not only pleases you, but she pleases me.  We please each other.”

“Bill was telling me about this, and I just about choked on my coffee.”

“You don’t want that?” Sam asked.

“I didn’t say that.  I have loved you since we were kids, and I don’t know how this all works.”

“Well, if we will permit it, that shower is more than large enough for three of us.  Not only can she dry you off, but she can scrub you too, and you can scrub her and so on.”

“When I was in college, a group of us got drunk on cheap wine.  When the bottle was empty, we all ended up in one large pile of flesh on the bed.  Sam, do you remember that?”

Helga was listening to them.  She realized that they were talking themselves into the relationship.  As they spoke, she began to undress.  The conversation stopped as both of them were now watching this blond vixen.  Not only had she been in the red light district, but she had worked on stage.  All of those talents were in use by the time she landed on the bed with them.  Kissing Samantha first, and then David, the pile of flesh was repeated without the Ripple.

Similar scenes played out throughout the ship. The Ularins had picked the ratio of more women than men for a reason.  They needed to get past their first taboo and start the process of creating their replacements. 

As shifts went on and others came off, the demeanor of the crew was much better every hour they were together. 

Setting a course for the red planet, Bill and David watched the screen as Mars became larger than life.

“I used to see this through my telescope, never in my life did I think I would be this close.”

“So we just stick a straw into the snow and suck up water,” David asked?

“No, there are smaller ships in the launch bay that have water tanks on board.  We thought we would keep this water separate from our potable water, just in case.”

“In case?”

“The planet is dead.  Anything that was once alive is dead because there is no atmosphere or magnetic shield to protect it from cosmic radiation.”

“Bill, if this is so, why not just add to our water?”

“Theoretically, it should be dead.  We still don’t want to take any chances.”

Bill headed off to speak with the team that was going to acquire the water.  Running biological scans of the water was part of the plan.

They were staring at the planet below them. David could see where water had once been.  Mars was once alive; he knew it.  Orbiting over the South Pole, the team left the ship heading to the surface.  David thought about taking one of the trips to the surface when Helga stopped him.

He and Sam had been talking when she came out of the bathroom, dripping wet. “You are not going down there.” She said.  Sam got up getting a towel to cover her, and return the favor.

“I am the captain, why can’t I go?”

“You are the captain, which is why you can’t go.  Let the women do this.”

“You mean the crew is all women?”

“Yes, we are expendable.”

“Nobody is expendable!”

Sam interjected, “she is right, there are more of us than men.  We need to be pragmatic about this and David; you are not leaving this ship until we reach wherever we are going.”

“Who is the captain?”

Helga pushed him back on the bed, landing on top of him.  “You are when we let you.”  Stopping his talking any further by kissing him, Sam watched and was suddenly very aroused by her actions.  Her milk-white skin was almost too perfect.

***

With all the crew back on board, they had acquired tens of thousands of gallons of water from mars.  Detecting Nothing in it that was harmful, they begin to farm.

The area topside was under a glass dome made in such a way that the lower the light available, the more it would reflect light to the surface.  It was a special glass that was tougher than steel, impervious to meteorites, and very transparent.

David went up to look at the farm.  Rows of different plants were growing.  Many of the farmers took turns caring for the plants.  They were forced to play the role of the honey bee, which would require the hundred or so farmers to manage it.

The warmth under the dome caused many to wear little, while playing farmer.  David and Sam went to walk through a part of the farm set up as a garden.  They noticed many topless ladies and a few men who were also just wearing pants.

“Do we have a ship of nudists?”

“If they are happy, do you care?”

“No, are they playing in the water over there?”

A girl went running by as another was chasing her with the hose. “I think so.”

“This is still Martian water, right?”

“There is Nothing in it.  We have tested it; I think some these guys have drunk from that hose.”

David shook his head.  “My gut tells me that it is a bad idea.  Doctor, I want you to check anyone who has drunk this water.”

“David, you are a little paranoid.”

The light from above cast just enough of a shadow to give him contrast of the soil.

“Sammy, that dirt has a red ting to it, why?”

The smile left her face as she looked down to see what he was talking about. “Shit!”

David yelled at all who could hear until he got their attention.

“The doctors are going to be checking each of you.  It would seem that the Martian water does have something going on with it.”

Soil samples were quickly analyzed to find that something was growing beside their plants.  A bacteria of an unknown kind was in the water and now contaminated their entire farm. 

When people began to have strange growths on their skin, the entire medical staff went into action.

Martians

“How many are infected, Skipper?”

“Bill, dammit, I knew better.  I knew it was a bad idea, and now we have alien fungus or something infecting the entire farm and all of the farmers.”

“Are they quarantined?”

“I have them restricted to the section of the ship closest to the farm.”

“We can’t set it on fire, what do we do?”

“Nothing yet, I have them tending to the plants as if there were Nothing wrong.  The fungus on the farmers is Nothing more than a minor irritant at this point.  The botanist is looking in on the farm.  The scientists are examining the water.  We need to know what we are dealing with before we react.”

“What about the people who drank the water?”

“Don’t know.  Sam thinks their stomach acid might save them.  She has applied a weak version hydrochloric acid to some fungus on one of the farmers, and it seems to have killed it.”

“We should have radiated that water before we brought it on board.”

“If we survive this, we will have other challenges.”

The medical crew applied fungicide to the growths on the farmers.  After a few days, the fungi seemed to vanish.  The botanist kept up with the farm and noticed the plants were growing much better than before.  Examining the root system under a microscope, they were surprised to see fungi that appeared to be very much like mycorrhizal fungi.

“Wait, you are telling me this is similar to what we had on earth?”

“Other than the part where it is growing on the dirt, pretty much.  It seems to have made the dirt work better, allowing a better root system for the plants.”

“Sam, what do you think?”

“I think we should sterilize that water and not worry about the plants.  It appears that the farmers were infected by playing in the water.”

Bill listened in on the conversation while thinking about what could have happened.  They could ill afford any more screw-ups.

Orbiting the planet, one of the science officers had been scanning the surface.  Finding a structure under the surface, she alerted the crew.

“What kind of structure?”

“There is a subterranean structure close to this thing that looks like a face.”

“Do you realize how many people have postulated about what this is?”

“Skipper, we have a chance to see what it is.  What do you think?”

“Everything we do risk the success of our mission.  Still, if there is a structure and that thing is not an aberration of wind-blown stone, it would be kind of cool to know for sure.  How is our fuel holding out?”

“We have well over 90 percent of it left.  This thing must get two million miles to the gallon.” Bill joked.

“Why don’t you handle the team for the surface? I need to work with the scientist to see if we can locate a source of fuel.”

“Skipper, should I go with them?”

“Do you want to?”

Bill smiled for the first time since this adventure started.  “Tell the Amazons that I said it was ok.”

He laughed as he left the board room.  David knew that they could die at any moment.  They were babes in the woods.  Mars was in their back yard. This adventure was probably a once in a lifetime chance to learn about the planet.

David met with the scientist as they pontificated about dark matter.  The ‘teacher’ had told them much, but it did not allude to where they might find it.  He sat in the board room as several of them other prattled on about different theories.

Flipping through photographs of different images captured by stellar photography, he could not help but stare at the Andromeda galaxy.

One picture after another caused David’s attention to fade.  A scientist realized that David was not paying attention to them.

“Are we boring you,” One of them asked?

“Pete, tell me, what holds these galaxies together like this?”

“What do you mean?”

“Why are the arms twisted like that all on one plane?”

“We think gravity from a black hole, why?”

David talked to them for several minutes about black holes and such when it hit him.  “What if dark matter is holding things together?”

“Between the arms?”

“Yes, what if a black hole is nothing more than an abundance of dark matter?”

“We think a black hole is a tear in space.”

“How would that create gravity?”

“We can solve this question quickly enough; there is an instrument on this ship that detects black holes.”

David looked at him.  “Do you suppose that could be like a GPS for the gas station?”

“Maybe, it is a hell of a risk.”

“What about a small black hole, don’t they have those?”

“If you are right, we have several tanks full of the stuff of black holes.”

“When Bill and the team get back, locate a small black hole, and let’s see what happens.  Also, while we are waiting, why not see if there is other equipment on board for, I don’t know, collecting things like black hole material.”

The team left the board room to explore the ship, while Bill and his team were making their way to the surface.

***

Turbulence buffeted the ship as it made its way through the thin Martian atmosphere.  Dust devils the size of mountains on Earth tracked the grounds under them.  Vectoring around one of the more giant vortices, Bill set down close to the monolithic edifice.  Once they were all in atmospherically controlled outfits, they became the first humans to step on Mars.

There were no cameras, no fancy words that would go down in the history books.  He did not even have a flag to hammer into the soil.

Those gathering the water never left the ship.  Had Dave been more protective, this visit might not have happened.

Pointing to what looked like a rectangular opening to something, the four-headed in that direction. 

They had never been off on another planet before.  The ‘teacher’ had briefed them on proper procedures for off-world travel.  Still, even with the education, they did not anticipate the lightness in their steps or the fact that they could see the wind moving sand and dust around, if they opened their visor, they would die instantly.

As civilian citizens learning about barometric pressure meant little to them.  Bill knew that there was so low pressure, it would be as if they were in a vacuum.

Standing at the base of the monolith, it was clear this was made by some form of intelligence.

“I guess this answers the question about life on Mars.”

Turning on lights on their suits, they entered the room.  Equipment, as they had never imagined, lined the walls inside.  The floor was covered with piles of red dirt that had blown in from eons of the door open door.

Recording what they were looking at, the team examined the intricacy of the gauges, knobs, and so forth. 

“I wonder how old this stuff is?”  A team member asked.

“It looks dead as a doornail, but just the same don’t touch anything,” Bill said.

“Look, there is a door over there.  If my scans are correct, that leads to a hidden chamber.”

“By the size of the doors, whoever was here must have been about ten feet tall.”

Bill walked over to the door in the back of the room.  Buttons by the door were the only way he could see of entering or opening the door.  Touching a button, the lights came on in the room.

Their heart rate jumped as they heard the door behind them closing.

“Shit!” Bill said.

“Hang on Bill, this is probably a way to keep the air pressure from the outside, effecting that beyond that door.”

They heard sounds of wind whistling.  Soon there were vortices of sorts blowing dust and sand about at first clouding the air around them.  Bill noticed the air clearing as a filtration system had activated cleaning all the sand and dirt from the room.  Looking at a gauge on his suit, he saw the pressure was adjusting closer to what they were accustomed to on Earth.

One of the team members pulled out an instrument monitoring the actual air in the room. 

“What is it doing, Dana?”

“Oxygen content is rising.  If it were to continue, this would be breathable.”

“What about pathogens?”

“Sir, this planet is sterilized dead.  That fungus we picked up is only there because there is water.  Anyway, I am finding Nothing organic.”

“Something is producing oxygen.”

“Not just that, sir,” Jane said.

“What.”

“Detecting trace amounts of humidity, something is allowing water to survive here.”

Calling the ship, there was no answer.

The equipment around them began glowing.  Panels lite up as monitors sprang to life.

“If a little green man pops out that door….”

“We have no weapons, so let’s hope if they do, they are friendly,” Bill said.

***

“David, I am not getting any signal from the biometrics of the team.”

Speaking to his science officer, David asked. “Do you have any readings on where they are?”

“There ship is close to that monolith.  They reported there was an opening, and they were going to investigate.”

“Keep trying to raise them.”

David went off to find Sam.  Heading to the galley he found many but not her.  His quarters were next on his list.  Opening the door, he saw her, with Helga.

They were engaged in pillow talk when he entered the room.  Glancing at him, the soulful look from Sam was met with the analytical mind of Helga.

“You’re not expected for another three hours,” Helga stated.

“These are my quarters, that is my bed, and that is my…Samantha.”

Sam jumped out of bed, grabbing a robe. “What is going on with you?”

Looking down at the floor, he shook his head.  “Some things are going on, and I wanted to talk them over with you.”

Pulling him to the bed, Helga scooted over so he could sit.

“David, Helga is our…too.  We can label her if you like, but she loves you as much as she loves me.”

“You’re right, Helga, this is still new to me.”

Helga looked at him, crawling up beside him.  Placing her warm body next to his, her face was now within inches of his. “I understand more than you know.” Kissing him, he forgot why he came looking in the first place.  His mind was soon drifting to these two had to offer before Sam stopped them.

“I sense there is more on your mind than an afternoon …nap..”

Sitting back up, Helga was once again planted at his left side.  His arm around her waist was more than a distraction.  Her warmth and supple skin made it hard for him to concentrate.

Standing, she sat next to Sam while he looked at them.

“Bill and his crew our out of contact with us.  Biometrics is reporting a loss of signal with their suits.   I am worried, and I wanted your opinion.”

“David, I would love to walk on Mars.  Why don’t we see if we can land the ship close to them so we can send out search parties?”

“This ship is the size of a small city.  It makes an aircraft carrier seem like a yacht.  You want me to land it on the planet?”

“It was on the moon; it was under our ocean for a time, let’s see if there is enough flat surface around there where we can put down.”

“When was it under our ocean?”

“The Ularins were examining our sea life.  I got a full lesson from one of my medical courses.”

“You have been rather subdued Helga, what do you think?”

“My mind was thinking of other things, and you interrupted that.  What I know about this ship, it will take hours to get it ready to land.  Why not tell the crew to get it ready, and then you take a nap before we have dinner.”

Samantha smiled, tossing the robe on the chair, sitting back down with Helga.

“Yes, why don’t you do that?”

Helga was worse than being drunk.  Every time he was around her, it was as if he turned into a college kid who just got the keys to his parent’s car.

He smiled at the two of them.  “I will be back in a jiff, keep your motors running.”