Book Recommendation of the Week

This week’s recommendation is: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Seriously, if you haven’t read this book already, get on it. Even after 60 years, it’s as relevant and thought provoking as ever. Fun fact: most dystopian novels mention a perpetual war happening somewhere outside of the story being told.


 

This was my second book recommendation after I started doing recommendations. It was originally only posted on my Patreon page and decided it needed to be posted here also. This book is great. HBO released a movie based on it this past weekend (May 19th) and I hope it lives up to the book. I’m sure they will change a lot, but we will see.

It was a pleasure to burn. Such a great first line. My original recommendation does state that you need to read this if you haven’t, and of course I stand by that 100%. I know it is often required reading in many schools. If you originally read it in school, read it again because it gets better the older you get (as most books do). This book is fairly short at around 150 pages. You can probably read it in a weekend if not a day. Go to your library and read it.

Happy Reading.

To Own A Galaxy

Public transport had been the best option. It had been the only option, but it was beneficial is two ways. It was filled with hundreds of other passengers going off world for whatever reason they desired, and it left the authorities with only a rough time of departure and possibly thousands of ships to trail. Mya hoped the guards hadn’t noticed Prince Kayden’s disappearance for at least several hours. The longer they waited, the better their chances were. Kayden was notorious for running off from his studies so it wouldn’t be too far out of the ordinary for him to be somewhere he wasn’t scheduled, but Mya was also gone and therefore not present to offer an explanation of the prince’s whereabouts. That is why she worried.

They sat on the observation deck watching the planet shrink behind them. Mya kept her eyes out for any small, imperial ships. She hoped that if any arrived, they would be small and would search the passengers briefly before letting them continue. She had already found a place where she and Kayden could hide during the search. Her greater fear would be the emperor arriving himself in his personal ship The Eclipse. If that happened, she was dead. She could see it now. The emperor not even asking to see her. He would only ask for the button that would expel her into the void.

Kayden watched in wonder as the other ships passed by and the stars slowly changed as their ship shot further into space. Mya couldn’t help forgetting everything as she watched him. This was the first time he had been off planet. It was his first time even outside of the palace. Everything was new to him and his sense of fascination filled her with love and inspiration. She was never able to have children and Kayden’s mother was killed before he could know her name. If she hadn’t taken him away, he would have grown into a more ruthless version of his father. She couldn’t bear to the innocent child before her become a monster.

The stars stretched as the ship accelerated and the planet behind them disappeared. Kayden gripped her leg, frightened, and she patted his head.

“It’s okay little one,” she said, “we will be to our new home soon.”

The boy looked up at her with his big eyes. She smiled.

“Come, let’s go get something to eat.”

She took him by the hand and guided him down to the dining area that was filled with nearly fifty other passengers. They waited in line and humbly accepted their bowls and bread. Mya was concerned the clothes she had picked out for him were insufficient, but no one looked at him twice. As far as they knew, the prince was in the palace and this was some random kid. Too clean to have come from Entori, but perhaps that was now working in their favor.

They found a table in a small alcove where they could sit and eat. Once full, Kayden began to nod off. Mya picked him up and took him to their small room. She hoped they would sleep the remainder of the trip.

 


Lunder’s men were suited up. If his info was correct, the ship with the prince would be arriving in this sector shortly. It would only stay a few minutes as its crew re-calibrated for the next jump. He kept his hands on the controls.

“All your helmets on?” he asked over the comms.

“We wouldn’t hang out in the EVA door without them on.”

Lunder grumbled. Ryker was always a smart ass.

The cruiser popped into view and Lunder hit the accelerator. “Show’s on boys.”

“Could have warned us before sprinting this junkheap,” Ryker chimed in.

“Shut up or I’ll conveniently forget to reel you back in. Get ready to jump.”

The small freighter moved alongside the cruiser. Lunder checked the thermo-scans. “Nearly everyone is asleep except for some of the crew. The boy is located on the third floor center hall. You know the drill.” He punched a button and the EVA door opened. The six men jumped out, shooting small jets of air to maneuver around the cruiser. They got into position and Lunder listened as they checked in.

“Charge one set.”

“Charge two primed.”

Each man pulled away when finished and Ryker commed to Lunder with the all clear. “Ready to burst the bubble, boss.”

“Do it,” Lunder said.

Explosions lit up the side of the cruiser ripping a hole in its side. Contents spilled out into the emptiness. The the frozen void now littered with rubble and bodies. The six men weaved through the debris and onto the ship. They detached their harness ropes as they entered the cruiser.

“You’ve got a straight line to the boy, but security is coming in fast. Make it quick.”

“I hear ya,” Ryker’s voice chirped over the comms.

Lunder watched his men comb through the halls checking rooms for the boy. He kept an eye on the other heat signatures racing down the stairs. His boys were good in a fight, but he didn’t want to risk a gunfight with the boy inside.

 


Mya had woken to the rumble through the ship. The alarms started a few seconds later. Kayden woke up and clung to her. He was frightened, as was she, but she soothed him. The alarms tone shifted from blaring to a quiet clamor as the captain’s voice came over the speakers to alert everyone that the ship had been boarded. He asked everyone to secure themselves in the nearest room possible and fit themselves with EVA gear if possible.

Mya looked around the room but didn’t see any gear for either of them. She cursed herself for choosing a common room that didn’t offer the basic emergency equipment. She knew the emperor would have ordered the ship seized without damages before being searched thoroughly. The captain mentioning EVA gear meant the hull had been breached, which meant whoever was boarding the ship wasn’t working for the emperor. If they were simple raiders…she wished her luck wasn’t that bad, but if they were, there was a chance they knew nothing about Kayden and would loot the ship quickly and leave. She hoped security would take care of the problem soon.

She heard a noise outside the door. Then a muffled voice say, “You sure this is the one?” Pause. “You better be right.”

They had no where to go. She held Kayden closely to her. He began crying. The door crashed inward and two men walked in. They barely fit in the tiny space. She looked at them but only saw the black masks and black EVA suits. No signifying markers. They had paused, looking at her as if confused. The one by the door pressed is fingers to his ear, then said, “Alright.”

He pulled out a bag and threw it over her and Kayden. She tried to prevent it from landing on them but the other man wrapped it around them both and zipped it up, pressed a button, and the material hardened into a rectangular container.

“Let’s move.” Pause. “We’ve got the package. Heading out now.”

 


Lunder watched the heat signatures as three of his men engaged security while the other three, including Ryker, hauled the boy back to the tethers. The small hallway provided no cover and two of his men went down fast and permanently.

“Get us the hell out of here,” Ryker yelled over the comms.

Lunder switched two buttons and the two men who had tethered the package began reeling toward the ship.

“Hurry it up Ryker. I won’t wait for you.”

“Then don’t you wimpy bastard.”

A third man fell in the hallway as Lunder hit the switch and Ryker ran for the tethers, shooting behind him the entire way. Every tether began winding toward the ship. Ryker jumped and gripped the packaged. He flew through the debris and was nearly pummeled by a section of wall. A few security guards shot after him but he was well beyond their range.

As soon as the EVA door was secured. Lunder floored the accelerator.

 


He sat watching an entire galaxy spiral before him. A drink in one hand paused halfway toward his lips as the table to his right alerted him of an incoming call. He tapped the surface a few times and Lunder’s voice popped out of the speaker in the room.

“We have what you want.”

“Good.” He never took his eyes off of the galaxy below. “Bring him to me.”

Shared Nightmare

When Teryn first walked into the room, he thought it was a monster. He was frightened. The man before him did not look like a human. With his back turned, Teryn could only see the long cords running from the ceiling, hanging low before turning upward and connecting to the man’s back. Several cords littered the floor running into his legs. Legs that were no longer made of flesh. Bone could be seen through the plexiglass and poly-carbonate frame and within the blue liquid currently mimicking blood. Teryn was eight years old. To his eight-year-old eyes, the man was not human.

He was human once. Some of his features still showed semblance of that. Features hidden throughout the mass of cords. A glimpse of a spine. Exposed muscle fibers. The man turned to face Teryn. The face was wrinkled. One eye a cloudy, milky blue. The other green and alert.

“Is this the one?” the thing asked the escort who’d brought Teryn inside.

The escort nodded.

“Good,” the man-thing said, “good.”

Teryn was fixated on the face. It moved like a real face attached to a human body but also danced as if hovering, as if the man were simply a marionette and the master of strings somewhere else spoke through it. One arm, flesh covering only the forearm and hand, extended too far from the body and slowly waved them away. A noncommittal gesture. The escort came forward but Teryn remained fixated until the former man had turned away to once again hide its human features.

The escort guided Teryn from the room and down a hall. The room had been dark with monitors and screens scattered across the walls. The hall was a stark contrast of white. The choking smell of sterilization never went away. Teryn was led into a large, white room where he was told to lay on the table he almost didn’t see as it blended into the white walls. His dirt covered clothes seeming to be the only variance to the white.

He was unaware of why he was there, where “there” was, or who had grabbed him off the street. His fear had been subdued at first with the hearty meal they fed him while in the shuttle. It was the first meal he’d had in years. He was one of the lost children, considered a menace and parasite simply because he tried to survive off the scraps of the poor citizens. On good days he could find an apple core. Most days he would go without anything, so the food in the shuttle was a banquet. A half hour after finishing the meal he’d fallen asleep to the hum of the engine. He woke up in a white room. The escort arrived seconds later. His fear returned little by little he was taken down the halls. When he saw the former man, the fear did not overwhelm him. Instead it receded again to be replaced by wonder and curiosity.

Now that he was again in a room of pure white, the fear came back to unsettle him. A casing descended and encapsulated him on the table. Little metal claws came forth and stripped him bare before the tube was filled with water. The seconds passed like minutes as he panicked within the water. He tried to prevent any from entering his lungs but the need to inhale was becoming urgent. Then the tank drained and air assaulted him. The casing ascended and he looked down to see his skin clean for the first time in his memory. The escort provided him with white clothes.

He dressed and was taken to dining area filled with other children ranging from his age to late teens. He saw a few he guessed were even a few years younger than he was. He didn’t recognize anyone and kept to himself. Many stared at him while most ate and talked without giving him any notice. He was shown a seat near the back and given a plate of food. He was still full from the shuttle, but he ate voraciously nonetheless because there was never a certainty of another meal.

Six years passed and he grew accustomed to his new life. He would wake up, eat in the mess hall, exercise rigorously, then be given a break for lunch and leisure before returning for a second exercise session. No one spoke to him except the other children. A few he called friends. One of which, Martin, had ran the same streets he had before arriving here. He still didn’t know where “here” was, but he was grateful. He had turned from a malnourished boy to the semblance of a strong young man.

New kids joined their ranks every week. Several left their ranks each week as well. The pattern was always the same. Young boys came in and young men left. The few questions asked were never answered. He always speculated that the men were conscripted into the war.

“What war?” Martin always asked.

“The war, you know, there was always advertisements about enlisting. Trying to convince people to leave the city and hop on a ship to some other world where they could fight.”

“There was no war. They just wanted idiots to join labor camps.”

“Yes there was. I remember seeing the ads. They always mentioned three full meals a day. I fantasized about joining but you had to be at least sixteen. I walked into the recruitment center once but the guy threw me out.”

“Those ads were for the labor camps. You could enter one and get food, but then had to work to pay for it. That was the scam. You get a full belly then spend the rest of your days paying for it. Each meal costing more than the previous one.”

“And what about this place then?”

That was where the conversation always ended because they had no answer. Martin waved off the question as they entered the arena where their second training session was to be held. After three hours they were exhausted. They showered and returned to the mess hall, ate, then slept like dead men as they did every night.

Four more years passed. Every day more or less the same. Teryn and Martin saw friends escorted from the dining hall or simply disappear after the previous nights rumble. They suspected their time would come soon and were proven right one night as they sat down for the last meal of the day. They were taken together. It was the first meal Teryn had left unfinished in the ten years at the facility.

He and Martin were escorted down the white halls. No one spoke. Teryn only looked at Martin with a small trace of concern. When Martin was taken down a different hallway, Teryn watched with concern but returned a nod before Martin disappeared from view. They’d both known the chances of staying together were infinitesimal.

A door opened and Teryn was transported to a memory he’d nearly forgotten. It was the grey room filled with monitors. The cords hung from the ceiling. Falling close to the floor before turning upward and into the spine of the former man. The thing turned toward him. The aged face still held one foggy blue eye and another clear green one. A smile crept across the mask of skin.

“A perfect specimen,” it said, “we can proceed.”

The escort approached Teryn.

“Who are you?” Teryn asked. He didn’t truly expect an answer. He was used to his questions being met with silence, but the man-thing replied.

“I am a monster that was once a man. A shared nightmare.”

Teryn was removed before he could reply. He was taken to the room with the table and fitted into a capsule he did not remember being in the room ten years ago. His mind was circling the man-things words as they placed a helmet on him and he drifted into unconsciousness.

When he came to, he was standing before a mirror. His vision slowly focused and he heard his voice without speaking.

“I must thank you for setting me free,” his body said.

His mind was foggy. His eye surveyed the room looking for explanations. His body stepped toward him.

“You will remain here until yours is found. Then you shall be freed,” it said and placed a hand on his face, “I waited two centuries before you came along. I’m sure your wait will be shorter. Stay strong. If your mind breaks, that will be the end.”

Teryn couldn’t feel anything as the hand was removed. He watched his body leave the room. He tried to move but no part of him reacted. His eye scanned the screens in front of him. He couldn’t feel his arms or legs and couldn’t even tell if he was breathing. There was no familiar rise and fall of a chest. Nothing. He tried to move again and an arm drifted into his view. Flesh covered the hand and forearm but near the elbow it turned to metal and plastic. He tried to scream, but had no voice.

 

 

Book Recommendation of the Week

This week’s book recommendation is Republic Commando: Hard Contact by Karen Traviss. This is a Star Wars book, so this may only be of interest to a few million (maybe few hundred million) people on the planet. I believe this book can also interest many people who are not fans of Star Wars. If you’ve never heard of Star Wars, please tell me which planet you hail from as I am interested in interstellar travel. I am recommending this book because: 1) I like it (surprise), and 2) this Friday is May 4th, which has been deemed Star Wars day.

Now, onto the details. This book follows the missions of a elite four-man squad of commandos during the Clone Wars era of this franchise. What makes it great, besides the spec ops side of the story, is the special look into the lives of these soldiers. They are clones bred for one purpose and trained excruciatingly to be the best. They are not considered human but rather government/army property. The names they are given are tied to their number designations or a reference to their specialty (i.e. the name of one demolitions expert is Scorch). When grown (they were grown not born), their genes were manipulated so they aged twice as fast as a normal human. This was done so the soldiers would be ready in half the time it would have normally taken. Because of this, almost all of these soldiers are literally ten-year-olds in twenty year old bodies. This accelerated aging becomes a point of interest later on in the series. Yes, it is a series of five books that starts during the Clone Wars and ends after the formation of the Empire.

This first book focuses on one squad of commandos, a Jedi, and the squad’s original Mandalorian trainer who is one of a handful who believes these men/boys deserve much better than what they were given and will fight to help them. I won’t go into the specifics of their mission in this book to stay away from spoilers. The second book brings in another four-man squad of commandos. This squad is actually the one you get to play as/with in the Republic Commando video game that came out in 2005 and was incredible. I still play it from time to time.

What I think is most interesting about this series are the conflicts that occur because these elite soldiers are clones. The way they are treated/viewed by the citizens of the galaxy they are fighting for is saddening and, I hate to say, realistic. The psychological and physical issues are staggering and can mirror many problems we face in our own, real world.

Karen Traviss (who has written books from several franchises) does a great job portraying this squad. She is an excellent writer of action/military/science fiction. If you don’t like Star Wars, try another one of her books.

I know even the fans of Star Wars are split on several issues including how the newest movies are altering the fictional world they know and not meeting some expectations (which happens). This franchise has changed the world several times over the last 40+ years. I was even a little upset when I found out that all of the books that take place after episode six were unceremoniously thrown aside and we are supposed to act like they never existed. Of course I hate that. There were many awesome stories in those books and I’m sure those authors worked hard to make those stories not only compelling but fit into the overall story of the franchise/universe. All that elaborate work seemingly no longer relevant or included. I haven’t read all of them (not even close, there are so many). I’ve only read a few. This series is by far my favorite of this franchise. Luckily it is still part of the Star Wars canon.

Happy Reading.

Supernova

Riding the cosmic waves was one of Deban’s favorite hobbies. He hadn’t taken his board out in weeks, but he also hadn’t made any credits either, which is why he had to turn Granta down.

“Come on, they say a shower is coming in. A good one. They’ve already raised the level to red,” Granta’s face filled the tiny screen projected into the air in front of Deban’s face.

“As much as I love dodging meteors out on the surf; if I don’t do this job, I won’t have a board. Sorry man, I’ll catch you next time.” Deban flicked the hologram and it receded back into his arm console. It wasn’t necessarily true. He could sell his slab and live off the street, but his board would no doubt be stolen the first day. Not like he’d have to make that decision anyway. He practically won the lottery.

Antares was a city that borrowed its name from the star at its heart. In school, he learned that Antares was built over six thousand years ago during the first years of humanities endeavors into space. Earth was a term in the history books that meant nothing to him except it was a speck of dirt lost somewhere in the cosmos when compared to Antares, and that he supposedly came from there. Or at least his ancestors did. Earth was a tiny planet that revolved around some star named Sol. Antares the star is 700 times the size of Sol, and Antares the city surrounds the star making it roughly two billion one hundred million miles circumference. Not bad except over two trillion people live here, which made space a commodity.

Which is why Deban needed the cash to pay for his tiny eight by eight slab he called home despite all the heat and electricity for the city being siphoned from the star beneath it. The only thing between him and falling into that fusion reactor was eight miles of engineered metal. He was born and raised here so never gave it a second thought.

Somehow out of the trillions of people always needing a buck, he was given the opportunity to make an easy six million credits by delivering a data file to some prick who fancied himself a politician. Deliveries cost extra and often entailed dirt on somebody or else a simple data transfer across the net would do the job. Deban didn’t want to know and didn’t need to. All he needed was the cash. Sure, he could crack whatever simple encryption they placed on the little metal tab in his pocket, but doing so would leave a mark and they’d know he compromised the package. It was bad business and he was a professional.

Deban pulled up the map on his visor and followed the augmented path through the metallic city. This trip would take him out of his hemisphere which meant he would be seeing some new sites. Sites he would never have been able to see before, but included with the data file was a false identity that would let him cross borders with no issue. At least that’s what he was told.

He made it to the train station and it was time to put the caliber of his clients pocketbook to the test. False identifications were extremely hard to come by with the scanners stationed in every nook of the city. Even if you managed to get one, or have a delusion of grandeur and decide to make one, it was never guaranteed to work. They failed nearly ninety percent of the time and getting caught meant meant getting Iced.

Deban placed his hand on the terminal and hoped his life wouldn’t end with a false read. The synthetic fingertips registered and he was admitted as Wallace Stevens. Two first names? he thought. Whoever made this ID was either a genius or the luckiest idiot in the galaxy. Two first names is almost a guaranteed red flag but it worked so he boarded. The nerves didn’t go away even after the train had been hovering for an hour. He was headed to a new land so to speak. All of Antares was basically the same. He tried to keep calm and soon lost himself while staring out of the window across from him.

Another hour passed and they must have entered the new hemisphere because a news story filled the window he had been gazing out of.

“Dr. Bugosa was found dead in his laboratory two nights ago. The servers containing his research were destroyed and no backups can be found. Though nothing is confirmed at this point….”

He stopped listening and pulled up his arm console. His audio switched to his personal link and music filled his ears. He surfed the net for another few hours as the train took him closer to the biggest payday of his entire life. He lost himself in his console and didn’t notice the two large men board and sit across from him until he happened to glance up and see both of them staring at him. They wore old Mark VI suits. He offered a nod but neither of them moved. He returned to his console and tried to forget about them. Other passengers boarded, got off, walked by, but the two men never moved.

He decided to get off and walk the last fifty miles hoping the two would lose interested. When he stood, they stood, and he knew he was in something. He turned to exit and one of the men tried to grab him. Deban prevented the man’s thick hand from getting a hold of his jacket and bolted through the closing door. The doors reopened and the two men ran after him, but he was through the scanners. This hemisphere’s housing units weren’t as close as they were up north, but they were still stacked at least three high which gave Deban cover and confidence he could lose the men as he ran the final fifty miles to his new life.

Running through crowds was an easy way to get spotted. The streets were less crowded here, but he knew how to blend in. He stopped after the first few miles and took a straightforward path walking the streets like it was a normal day. He stopped at a small noodle shop and had a bite. He hadn’t eaten since last night and he was feeling it. He tried to eat slow but finished quickly anyway so he hit the streets again. He almost walked into the two Mark VI’s as he left. They walked by surveying the area but hadn’t seen him. He thought about grabbing a car, but his contact said only trains and no direct paths to the destination. Besides, cars were easily traceable and easy to get caught in. Deban had mulled that tidbit over on the train and had a plan that technically fell in the clear. He carefully retreated the opposite direction of the two suits and and visited a board shop. He bought cheap, beginner’s model.

Boarding was restricted except for designated areas so he headed toward the nearest launch point. He’d start off in the waves and then veer off toward the estate to drop off the metal tab and pick up his six mil. He was thinking about how he’d use the money when a slug bounced off a wall to his left. He turned to see the Mark VI’s running toward him with weapons drawn. He launched his board instantly and took off above the stacks running the board as hard as he could. He made it to the estate within minutes. No cars had followed him.

As he descended, he saw enforcement cars near the front gates. He almost bolted but instead cut the engine and dropped eighty feet instantly before powering the engine back up to stop himself. He mistimed his ignition and tumbled onto the back grounds of the estate. He hit the floor and was surprised to find it soft. Still hard, but softer than the metal he was used to. He ran a hand through the green blades of grass he had only seen in holograms. He wished he could enjoy it, but he needed to hide.

He got up, grabbed the board that was still hovering several feet above the ground, and hid in a small corner. He pulled up his feed and synced with the local network. His screen showed the front of the estate behind a reporter.

“Landus has been found dead inside his estate this morning. Though no links have been determined as of this moment, there is speculation that his death may be linked to Dr. Bugosa’s from a few days ago. Both men had been-”

Deban flicked the screen away. His heart was racing. What is happening? He fumbled in his pocket and pulled out the metal tab. It was a simple device. He scanned it and worked quickly to decrypt the contents. Ten minutes felt like ten years but he finally cracked it and let the contents spill across his screen. It was mostly raw data though not hard to understand. Antares, the star, was nearing the end of its life, which meant that the city would share the same fate. Deban assumed the people chasing him wanted to keep it a secret since the data had Dr. Bugosa’s name imprinted in it.

The way he saw it, he had three options. Upload the data to the net so everyone on Antares knew. This would get him Iced by authorities once they traced his upload, or he could even be killed by whoever held the leash of the Mark VI’s assuming they could trace him also, but a mass exodus would likely occur. Maybe he could escape in the chaos. Option two was to try and get the metal tab to someone with authority who could use the information to save the city or at least its inhabitants. Of course he would never know who would be clean and who would be apart of the group trying to kill him. His last option was to keep the data and run, but he would be running forever even if he found a way to get off Antares.

Deban ran his hands through his hair. Easy scores are never easy. Now what? Idiot.