Best Laid Plans

Jedrek looked up through the clear dome shield and at the moon looming above the surface. It’s size threatened to crash down upon him, but his planetologists assured him it this would not happen for another three thousand years. The planet’s gravity only decreased the distance by a mere three inches a decade, but Jedrek couldn’t help but believe the moon grew larger every day.

Ceroid was a planet rich in carbon-base materials. Its flaxen surface hinted at a low hospitality for life, and this was proven true by the fact water had to be brought in daily to sustain the few inhabited domes on the surface. There was only one reason to come to Ceroid and that was to put your life at risk for a generous paycheck. Jedrek made it as safe as possible for his employees, they were each a valuable asset, but accidents happened. Ceroid was proving to be the most profitable planet in the Galactic Consortium.

Ceroid’s moon, however, was deemed useless by the Vanguard. Bereft of profit, it consisted of a powdery substance that clogged even neutrino engines. Visiting the surface of the moon was costly. Therefore, Jedrek deemed it the most valuable asset against what was coming.

Having the city made was not an issue. The secrecy of it was not hard to maintain either. Ceroid’s moon had minimal rotation. Jedrek’s plans were precise, allowing him nearly two years before anyone on the surface would even have the chance to notice his little operation. Not that anyone would. Nearly everyone on the surface was employed in his factories.

Anyone traveling to the planet would potentially see it, but his calculations only granted visitors from the outer territories the chance, which were few at most and only workers who wouldn’t question anything they saw there. He still took the precaution to hide the parts of the city that penetrated the surface of the small moon. If anyone did notice, they would have no idea what the purpose was.

The city cost Jedrek a fortune even with his own factories supplying the graphene materials used in the construction. His caution added little more cost but gave him enough assurance he deemed it worth the price.

“Father? What are you looking at?” A voice cracked behind him.

“Just the future, son,” Jedrek replied. He looked at his son, barely beginning his journey from boy to man, and smiled.

“And what do you see?”

“A clever question. I cannot say for certain. All the best laid plans do not survive the passing of time. All I can say is that I hope. I hope for an easy future for you.”

His son, Rayner, took his words in silence and looked upon the vast horizon of carbon dust beyond the dome shield. No life existed outside the static screen.

“Are we in danger?” his son asked nonchalantly.

“Why would you ask such a question?”

“You’ve been on edge lately. Expectant. Like you used to be back when you feared a raid from the Okkunan in the forests of Baddan.”

“Things are different now than they had been on Baddan. We are a recognized coalition within the Galactic Consortium.”

“That is not an answer.”

“Perceptive. Good. I’m glad to know your lessons are proving educational.”

Rayner looked at his father and sighed.

“Fine,” Jedrek said, “I see you are finally at an age to comprehend the dangers of the high game. To answer your question, yes, I believe we at risk. Our operations have grown to a noticeable level and have attracted the attention of the elder coalitions. It would be unwise to believe another may try to usurp our position here. Even under the noted doctrines.”

“You expect a hostile union?”

Jedrek nodded.

“When?”

“Within three years.”

“That soon? What can be done to prevent it?”

“Nothing.”

Rayner looked at his father. Disappointment visible in his eyes.

Jedrek laughed. “They will come with a force enough to destroy the scattering of domes we have on the surface. There is no sense in defending them. We will let them take the surface.”

“We will just give it away? Retreat without a fight?”

“Yes. The fight cannot be won and therefore not worth having. We will retreat, then wait a half year before we mount the counterattack. They will believe they took it with ease and we retreated into the outer territories when in fact we will have been here all along. Letting them settle into a comfort that will prove most fatal.”

“Bunkers outside the domes?”

“Go find Mende. Give him this,” Jedrek handed his son a small slip of paper, “he will know what it means. It’s time you learned the real reason we came to Ceroid.”

Rayner walked away in silence. Jedrek watched him, thinking how his son would inherit the planet in due time. He will do well here, he thought, I just have to ensure he has the chance. A beeping sounded from his wrist.

“Yes,” he called into the receiver.

“Sir, four cruisers were just picked up on the long-range scanners.”

Jedrek looked up at the moon. His moon. Then uttered his response into the receiver. “Keep an eye on the scanners. Provide me with updates as more arrive. Contact Rayner and have him meet me at the flight pads in B5. Stop all production and ready the men to evacuate the cities. I want full departure in one hour.”

This may prove easier than expected. He laughed as he strode off toward B5. The fools come from inner territories in full force. They will find an empty planet and let their greed fool them into thinking we ran. They may be cautious enough to scan the surface, but they will nothing. Once their battleships leave, we will make our move.

“Ten more cruisers and three dreadnoughts have gathered on the edge of the system sir.”

Jedrek raised the receiver to his lips. “Where is my son?”

“Last contact had him awaiting your arrival at B5’s flight pad nineteen with Tuhinga Mende.”

“Good. Begin the evacuation. Short range. Lunar sector eighty-six.”

“Sir?”

“Do it. I’ll provide explanation when we land.”

“Full evacuation will be completed in forty minutes.”

“Well done. Ensure comm silence until we are secure.”

“Understood sir.”

Jedrek ushered Rayner into the ship as he approached.

“Get inside. We are leaving.”

“I thought you said they wouldn’t be here for another three years.”

“I said they would be here withing three years. That included every second after the statement.” Jedrek eyed Mende.

“We will have much to review,” Mende stated as they entered the ship.

“Get us off this planet,” Jedrek barked at the pilot.

Jedrek secured himself in a seat. His mind raced through all possible outcomes. They would be secure beneath the moon’s surface before the ships had Ceroid in view. All he needed to know was which coalition had the audacity to attempt a hostile takeover so quickly. Once he had them identified, he could choose the corresponding plan that would annihilate their establishment. Not only the ones they built on Ceroid, but across the known galaxy. He would be ruthless, and it would only be the beginning.

A Place To Call Home

Mark made the decision the day after his wife’s funeral. Within two weeks, he had sold the house and everything in it. His friends called a few times. A few even stopped by, but Mark was always out. They only discovered he no longer lived there when the new owners arrived a few weeks later.

Home had been whenever he was with Emma, so giving up the house was easy. Leaving his friends was a different matter. He debated for some time whether or not to let them convince him to stay, but he knew that whatever time he spent with them now would be overshadowed by the loss of Emma. They had all loved her too.

He wouldn’t trouble his children by becoming a dependent in their home. They were all grown and busy building their own families. The closest lived halfway across the country anyhow. He would still visit them from time to time.

This wasn’t some grand gesture, or him losing his mind to grief, though many might see it that way. He briefly troubled himself about how to break it to his friends, but realized that he didn’t have to. They each knew him well enough to know what he was doing. He was making this journey to discover not just new places but new versions of himself. He was no longer a married man. At least, not in this mortal plane.

The Mark who lived happily for 46 years, who created a family with two boys and three girls, and who worked 38 years for the same company was buried with his wife outside St. Paul, Nebraska. The Mark currently flying over the Pacific was someone new. He had no obligations to anyone or anything. He was just searching for his place in the world.

Book Recommendation of the Week

This week’s book recommendation is Animal Farm by George Orwell. I know, I know. I recommended 1984 like a month ago. Even though both of these books were simultaneously banned in several countries, they are both great for their own reasons. Animal Farm is more of a novella at 112 pages, and was published first in 1945.

It is more of a political satire that recounts the events of animals wresting control of the farm they live on from the authoritarian humans. Of course, the social commentary comes in after this event when the animals must fend for themselves. They form their own social structure that creates its own problems. “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” Yeah, I’m sure you can see how great this turns out.

The historical references and social commentary within this book are funny while also concerning. It is crazy to think that human history has suffered through so much, but has not learned from it.

Because this book is short, I will refrain from mentioning too much about it to avoid spoilers. I believe this book will go into the public domain in the U.S. in 2020, but I know it is already in public domain in other countries. If you’d like to read it, I would not feel the least bit guilty if I provided to you a link* (not a file) to the book.

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Happy Reading.


*This link is easily found with a quick Google search. I am not redistributing the file, but rather just a link to a web page.

The Worth of One Life

She tightened the restraints and checked them three times. The man struggled futilely as she stood and looked at him, bound to the straight-back wooden chair. A wad of cloth muffled any words he attempted to shout at her. Haley once thought she was incapable of murder, of snuffing out the life of any creature, but she found it grew easier with each sacrifice.

She pulled the wad of cloth from the man’s mouth and began unraveling it.

“Let me go you stupid bitch,” he screamed. The building was empty. She made sure of that so no one would hear him scream. She chuckled at him.

“Why would I do that?” she asked. “You can’t say you don’t deserve this.” She took the length of cloth and wrapped it from his chin to the top of his head. She dug a wooden cylinder out of her bag. It was intricately carved. A knob carved with the likeness of a face protruded half-way down the cylinder. She placed the knob in the man’s mouth to once again stifle his words, then she tightened the cloth until he could no longer move his jaw.

“I would say I’m sorry about this,” she said, “but to be honest, I’m not. The world is better off without trash like you.” She pulled out a knife and shoved it into the man’s chest. She stared into his eyes as he glared at her first with hatred, then pain, then fear. Blood dripped to the floor, but she continued to stare until the light faded from his eyes. The cylinder rattled as he died.

She wiped the blood from her blade, cut the cloth, and withdrew the soul-catcher from the man’s mouth. Counting tonight, it had rattled 98 times. One more and I can finally bring him back, she thought.

She grabbed the canister of gasoline and doused the body then sprinkled the room. She pulled out her lighter, lit a cigarette, and inhaled deeply. Danny was the reason she quit, and she promised to quit again when she had him back, but she could not fight the overwhelming need to have one after each of her kills. They were all terrible people. That was the only way she could convince herself to even do it. She would only collect the souls of those who shouldn’t have to wait to go to hell.

Haley looked at the body in front of him. She’d already forgotten his name. She found him through the sex offender registry. He had received a light sentence for a heinous act, and she took it upon herself to remedy that fact because it would serve her purpose and relieve the world of a terrible person. Before her crusade, she would have simply been saddened and sick upon hearing what he had done. Now she had strength.

She took one more draw and exhaled. A flick of her finger sent the glow of the cigarette tumbling through the air. The room ignited upon its landing and Haley watched from the doorway as the flames engulfed the room. Then she left for home. The knife and soul-catcher safely secure in her coat pockets.

The next day she perused the local paper for news of any recent crimes. She was really looking for suspected persons she could use as her last sacrifice. She was so near the end she felt impatient, but knew she had to be careful. Her exploits were not going unnoticed.

One article mentioned her nightly activities as a cleansing fire across the city. She smiled at the phrase, but could not shrug the fear that her victims have been tied together. The police were surely investigating the killings. They could potentially have leads. She hadn’t seen anything, but they may purposely be keeping the search quiet. She had to be careful. It would all be worthless if she were incarcerated before she could finish. It would be almost be worse if she were caught after she succeeded.

She scanned the paper until she found a lead. A man had been accused of several hate crimes over the course of the last few years, but he had never served second for the damage or fear he caused his neighbors. He even fired gunshots at their house. They moved after he was released a third time without any consequence. He would be her last sacrifice. Her impatience won out. After tonight, she would set this all behind her and live the life she was meant to have.


The soul-catcher rattled. Before she could remove it from the dead man’s mouth, the spirit within it emerged. A darkness hovered behind the body. The spirit’s form was darker than the shadow cast in the moonlight. Green flames emerged as eyes set into a pale-white skull.

“You are but one of few to have accomplished this task,” it spoke. The raspy voice echoes around the room as if it did not belong to the form in front of her.

“Give him to me,” she said.

“Ah, but you have not yet finished what you have started,” the voice circled her.

“What do you mean?”

“What is the worth of one soul?”

“You said yourself ninety-nine souls could be traded to bring one back from the dead.”

“I did, but collecting ninety-nine souls was merely the beginning. The final requirement now falls before you. The worth of one soul is not quantifiable by numbers. A sacrifice is required by those who would reverse death.”

“What are you saying?” Haley could feel tears welling in her eyes. All of that work. All of those people. The things she had done. She could not believe it was all for nothing.

“One more soul is required to bring your son back. The soul that has tied his to this world. Yours.” The black shroud moved and lifted the soul-catcher from the dead man’s mouth. The knife floated from the man’s chest. Both items were brought before her. A green flame swallowed both items. The blood from the blade evaporated within the flame.

“Do what must be done,” the voice echoed.

Haley grabbed the soul-catcher. The green flames died away at her touch. She slowly inserted the knob of the cylinder into her mouth. She gripped the handle of the blade and held it above her chest. Tears danced across her cheeks.

The soul-catcher bounced against the concrete floor. The blade soon followed. Haley fell to her knees. “How can I be certain you can bring him back,” she called.

A laugh grew louder around the room. “What do you think I have been doing while you toiled away in this…..mortal plane?” The shadow beneath the skull pulled back to reveal an incorporeal image of her son.

“Danny,” she yelled.

“He does not have the ability to hear you in this form. Complete the task and he will take your place in this world.”

The blade and soul-catcher once again were encased in green flame. She picked them up and readied herself. The image of her son gave her the resolve to finish what she had started.

A rattle sounded in the room followed by hollow laughter on the wind. Outside, the cries of a child filled the air.

Book Recommendation of the Week

This week’s book recommendation is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. This book was on the list of required reading when I was in high school. It was one of the few required reads in school that I really enjoyed at the time. Others I didn’t enjoy until I reread them when I was older. It’s been about ten years since I’ve read it, but I just picked up Go Set a Watchman, which is the sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird and only other book written by Harper Lee.

To Kill a Mockingbird is not an instruction manual on how to kill a mockingbird (a common, and comical, misunderstanding that disappoints many teenage boys). It instead follows a young tomboy named Scout Finch. We see through her eyes the events that shake up the town of Maycomb, Alabama in 1936, when her father is appointed as the defending lawyer for a black man who is accused of raping a young white woman. Through Scout, we see the prejudices of the town manifest in actions toward Scout’s family because of her father’s role in the case.

This book was published 1960, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1961, and was made into a film released in 1962 staring Gregory Peck that won him an Academy Award. I think what interests and surprises readers is the look behind the curtain of a certain type of human psyche. Specifically one that used to be common in the history of this country and unfortunately is showing its persistence in the current political climate. It also delves into the reflection of society when faced with a scenario that grinds against the expectations of the masses. Mob mentality is a dangerous thing.

In a way, this book shows how society can corrupt justice, making it bend to meet a level of satisfaction for the greater amount of people. As sad as that is, I think we have all seen instances in our lives where this has happened. Humans aren’t wholly good creatures. Being the optimist that I am, I like to believe our human decency is above average when lumped together.

Another aspect of the book is how the events affect Scout. Children are malleable but also resilient. We see this in Scout as she faces direct and indirect obstacles caused by forces outside of her control.

There are a lot of good things about this book. Many human things as well, which is why I think it became such a huge influence in the world. If you have not read it, I hope you do one day. This is a book recommendation after all.

Happy Reading.