Avalon 1.5: Imps

            Dwizzle, the Imp closest to the travelers stood.  “Look, females.”  He reached out a hand that was too big for the little body that supported it.

            “Careful, Dwizzle,” Itchy spoke from beside the rock.  “It may have prrrrikles.”

            The hand paused and Alexis pointed her wand.  There was an electrical discharge that struck the hand and Dwizzle snatched his hand back and slipped it into his mouth, a mouth that was too big for its face.  Indeed, the nose, eyes and ears were all oversized.

            “She’s a blinking witch,” Crusty said as he waddled over to the rock to stand beside Itchy.

            “I think you may have cooties,” Lockhart told Boston who grinned at the idea.

            Somewhere in the back of his mind, Lincoln remembered that the imps belonged to the Kairos, even if the Kairos was not yet official.  That helped him relax and ask his question.  “What are you imps doing out in this forsaken wilderness?”

            Itchy looked at the man like he was daft.  Crusty spoke.  “We got our job, don’t we?  Dry the land and make it sand.”

            “Yeah, but we’ve been working too hard,” Itchy complained.  “We heard there was a party around here.”

            “Hey look!”  Dwizzle removed his hand from his mouth as he spoke.  “This female has bumps.”  He reached for Boston’s chest and she did not hesitate to slap the imp across the cheek, hard.

            Dwizzle paused.  His eyes got bigger than big.  He let out a drawn out sound.   “Ooowww,” and put his good hand to his cheek while his other hand went back into his mouth.

            “You better go stand behind your friends before you hurt yourself,” Lincoln suggested.  Dwizzle did that while Itchy spoke.

            “Surprising sense from one so thick.”

            Mingus interrupted any response with his explanation.  “He means thick like more body, less spirit.  He doesn’t mean stupid.”

            “I mean what I mean,” Itchy said with a stern look at the elder elf, but then Dwizzle had a thought.

            “Stonecrusher is hungry, you know.  He eats human beans.”

            “Is Stonecrusher a troll?”  Boston had to ask.

            “Nah!”  Crusty answered.  “He’s just an ogre with a bad temper.  Ooowww.”  Itchy hit Crusty in the arm.

            “He is a great, big ugly giant,” Itchy said.  “Terrible and mean and, and hungry for human meat.”

            Dwizzle removed his hand for a moment.  “Yeah, we thought we would snitch some food from the party.”

            “Better than him eatin’ us,” Crusty mumbled and put his fists up in case Itchy had in mind to hit him again.

            “When the ogre is fed you are safe in your bed,” Boston said.

            “I remember.”  Lockhart patted her on the shoulder.

            “That’s very good,” Alexis complimented Boston.  “Where did you hear that?”

            “Missus Pumpkin,” Boston answered.

            “Ahem!”  Lincoln coughed and pointed to the imps.

            Itchy smiled too big a smile for his face.  “Anyway, all you got is elf bread stuff.”  The imps made faces of disgust.  “How can anyone stomach elf food?”

            Everyone paused while the sound of howling and dogs fighting echoed across the barren land.  Doctor Procter chose that moment to sit up and yell.  The words were nonsense, but then he fell back to his makeshift pillow and grew quiet again.

            “You got a sicky.”  Crusty pointed.

            “What’s a sicky?”  Dwizzle asked.

            “That there.”

            “You’ve never been sick.  You don’t know what sick is.” Itchy mocked.

            “Do so.  I saw a thicky get sicky before.”

            “Hey!”  Lockhart got their attention again and the imps paused in their own argument to look up at the man.  Lockhart smiled, but not as broadly as Itchy had smiled.  Itchy shook a finger at the man.

            “We gotta watch this one,” he said.  “But right now we gotta go find that party.”

            “Right,” Crusty agreed.

            “Better than us getting eaten by Stonecrusher,” Dwizzle added.

            Roland was behind them with his bow ready.  Captain Decker had his rifle to one side and they were hemmed in on the other side by the big rock.  The rest of the travelers were in front of them so they appeared surrounded, but they moved with surprising speed  and slipped around both sides of the Captain knowing better than to test the elf.  Captain Decker might have plugged one, but Lockhart spoke quickly.

            “Hold your fire.”  In a few short seconds, the imps blended back into the landscape and became impossible to see but for the motion of the dust and sand they kicked up. 

            “A glamour,” Mingus described it.  “Not true invisibility.”  Everyone else just nodded.


            Andor got into the water and the first thing Dallah did was judge the depth.  It barely came to her son’s knees which meant it had dried up another two inches or more.  Reneus knelt down to fill the water skin.  Mya stared at Andor before she made the boy strip down to nothing.  Andor did not mind playing in the water.  It was hot out, and even the shade of the few lively trees that bordered the stream did not help all that much.

            Dallah sat slowly in what shade there was.  Her joints ached.  “You better do a good job, Andor, or you will have to take a real bath and get scrubbed.”

            “Aw, mother.”  Andor glanced at Mya.

            “Now, come.  Your sister is getting married.  Do it for her.”

            Andor did not mind that so much.  He liked his sister, so he began by dumping a double handful of water on his head. 

            Mya grinned at some impish thought, dropped her dress so she was in her under things.  She stepped into the water with a word that perhaps Andor needed help, and she splashed him.  Of course he splashed her back, and they went at it for a few turns before they turned, without a word, and splashed Reneus.  He immediately dropped his wet clothes and put his hand to the water.  He turned to look at his mother but she spoke first.

            “Don’t you dare.” 

            He did not dare, but he had fun with the others while Dallah watched the visitors come in close.  She would rather not deal with them at the moment, but nothing in this lifetime went the way she wanted.  She watched as the imps came out from beneath their glamour and she put her hand to her ears when Mya screamed and grabbed hold of Reneus.

Avalon Season 1.5: Little Packages

After 4364 BC on the Plains of Thera.  Kairos:  Dallah


            “Another one.” Alexis pointed.  Lieutenant Harper trained her rifle in the general direction, but it was hard to pinpoint since whatever it was kept going invisible.  They were the color of the sand, the main part of the landscape.  The rest of the scenery was not much to look at.  The trees, what there were of them, were just sticks, short,  stunted and dry like they baked in the oven too long.  The clumps of grass that stubbornly refused to give up looked burnt yellow and brown.  The sun was relentless.

            A dog howled in the distance, but Alexis shook her head.  “They aren’t dogs,” she said.  “What we are seeing.”

            “A mirage in this heat?”  Lincoln wiped the sweat from her brow.  The sun itself appeared to be sweating from its own heat.

            “Not a mirage,” Lockhart answered.  “With mirages you see things.  All we are seeing is occasional movement and glimpses of figures that vanish in the heat.”

            “And not enough of glimpses to make out shape and size,” Roland added.

            Lockhart and Captain Decker set down the stretcher.  Doctor Procter kept mumbling that he would be alright, but Alexis was not so sure.  Lincoln was going to take a turn, and Roland, though it would be his second turn.  Mingus said he would be there to help if needed.

            Poor Doctor Procter was delirious most of the time.  The only time he came awake was when someone reached for him.  Then his words were clear and sharp.  “Don’t touch me.”  And they were spoken with such vehemence, no one dared disobey.

            “At least it is not the Bokarus,”  Boston pointed out.  “There is only one of them.”

            “This is no terrain for a Bokarus,” Mingus assured them.

            “Or ghouls,” Alexis said.  “If they sent out a second group after the first stopped reporting, they would not be nearly this far along yet.”

            “Whatever it is, it is a wild one.”  Roland suggested as he sipped some water.  Lockhart was already watching their water supply, carefully.  There was no telling how long it might be in that environment before they found more water.  Captain Decker also seemed to have gotten the idea, but neither said a word, yet.

            “Wild ones, I think.”  Mingus responded.  He gave them the impression that he was seeing a bit more than the others, but he did not let on yet about what it was he was seeing or thinking.

            Alexis bent down toward Doctor Procter.  The man sat straight up.  “Don’t!”  Alexis paused.

            “It is just some water.” 

            Doctor Procter reached for the cup, careful not to touch the woman.  He drank greedily and when he handed the empty cup back so she could take it by the handle, he added a word.  “Don’t let anyone else drink from that cup.”  His words were stern as he began to shake his head.  He closed his eyes, fell back and mumbled “no, no, no.”


            Dallah walked out from the camp.  She needed some alone time.  Her daughter, Korah was to be married in the afternoon and in her world, the mother-in-law made all the arrangements, not the mother.  She supposed that was only right since Korah would go and live with her husband and his family.  To be sure, she had a wonderful time when Mya married her son, Reneus.  Still, she had to think about it.

            Dallah had too many cultures in her head.  Maybe it was best if she did not think about it at all, but lately she could not seem to help it.  She was forty-three or forty-four years old.  She was not sure, but at her age and given her life circumstances, there was little for her to do but sit and think. 

            Godus, her husband was away for days at a time.  He always came home with food for the fire, but the absences were hard.  Her nine-year-old, Andor, the love of her age kept the sheep, what was left of them.  Her son, Reneus stubbornly tried to bring grain out of the soil.  Mya had taken over most of the cooking and cleaning duties for the family, and Dallah had no complaints, but it gave her too much time to think and worry.

            Somehow, she made an enemy of the sun god, Dayus when she was a child.  It was not anything she said or did, Dayus simply did not want her to be born in his world.  His advisors warned against killing her outright as a child, but that did not stop him from ruining the world around her and thus killing her slowly.  They moved and migrated and moved again to greener pastures only to find those pastures dry up under the incessant sun.  The people swore the rains would come again.  They can’t stay away forever.  But Dallah knew it was more complicated than that.

            She had no doubt Korah would move away with her new family once the marriage was consummated.  Dallah would cry, but pray for her.  Korah would do well away from Dallah and the ruination that surrounded her life.  She might even be happy.

            Dallah looked up at the sun and squinted.  “Is it enough?” she asked.  “Are you satisfied?”  She knew the god was not yet satisfied.  After all, she was still alive.

            “Mother!”  Reneus called.  He followed her out into the wilderness.  She had an empty water skin with her, but she was in no hurry to get to the stream.  “Mother.  You don’t need to be wandering out here alone.”

            “Well, there does not seem much for me to do back in the camp,” Dallah said.  “I thought I could fetch some water at least and make myself useful, somehow.”

            Reneus took the water skin from her hands.  “No need for that,” he said.  “Father is looking for you.”

            “Is he?”  Dallah looked back once, but all she saw was Mya chasing after Andor.

            “Mama!”  Andor ran up to her.  “Help me!  Help!  Mya is going to make me take a bath.”

            Mya arrived with a stern look on her face directed at the boy hiding behind Dallah’s dress.

            “There is time for that,” Dallah assured her daughter-in-law.  “Reneus and I were headed to the stream.  Maybe Andor would like to splash in the water while we are there.”  She winked at Mya, who understood what Dallah was suggesting but had a strong-willed streak that did not like to be disobeyed by a certain nine-year-old boy.  Andor knew the dynamics well.  He stuck his tongue out at Mya before he took his mother’s hand.

            “Why you.”

            Dallah put her hand up to stop them both.  “I really came out here to be alone for a while.  I don’t mind you coming along, but please keep your thoughts to yourselves.  And that goes for you, too.”  She poked Reneus in the chest.  He backed up in innocence to say, “Me?”  But he did not actually say anything out loud.


            Boston stepped back.  There was something ahead, just around the edge of the rock. “Did you see that?”  She turned her head and asked.  Captain Decker was already moving out into the brush to get an angle on it.  Roland was making his way quietly around the far side of the rock.  Lieutenant Harper had her rifle ready and Alexis had her wand in her hand.  Lincoln and Lockhart had already put Doctor Procter on the ground.  Mingus was the one who responded.

            “Yes,” he said and raised his voice.  “And they better all come out of hiding if they know what is good for them!”

            A face popped up from the ground, not far from Boston’s feet.  She might have stepped on it, but instead she jumped back though it hurt her muscles to move like that.  He had not been invisible, but perfectly colored to blend in with the desert floor, and he spoke with a sandy rasp in his voice.

            “Look, Itchy, it’s human beans.”

            A second came from behind the rock. “Yeah, Dwizzle, and they got elves.  ‘bout the worst case I’ve ever seen.  What do you think, Crusty?”

            A third stepped from behind a skinny tree.  No one saw him there but could not imagine why.  He was much fatter than the tree.  He clicked his tongue a couple of times before he spoke.  “Domesticated elves no less.”  He clicked his tongue some more. 

            “Imps.”  Mingus identified the creatures with some disgust in his voice.

Avalon 1.4: Dust to Dust

            It was high noon when they all stopped to eat and rest.  Alexis and Boston needed the rest.  Doctor Procter said he was better, but he did not look too well, and he kept his distance with the excuse that he did not want them to catch whatever he had.  Lockhart stayed beside Boston the whole time.  Her bones were completely restored, but her muscles were sore.  She would need some recovery time.  Alexis stayed beside Lincoln and hooked her arm through his but said nothing.  She just smiled.  Mingus watched them and frowned.  Roland had his eyes on Lockhart and Boston who were laughing and having a good time.

            “Wonders,” Coramel said.  “This cooking, this bread, things flying through the sky, serpent people and stick people.  The things I have seen.”

            “The things you felt.”  Saphira spoke in a voice of great concern.  She sat down beside the hunter and pressed her hip to his.  She took both of his once frostbitten hands in hers and drew them to her chest.  She was in leather armor, but it was the thought that counted.  “Are you feeling warm now?” 

            Coramel slowly grinned.  How should he answer that question?

            “You have no idea how grateful I am for your help.”

            “I’m glad,” Coramel said as he took back his hands.  His toes were still itching their way back to life.

            “So boys.”  Saphira turned on them.  “How old are you, anyway?”

            “Twenty-one summers,” one answered brightly.  The other sounded glum.

            “Just eighteen.”

            Saphira thought for a minute before she decided.  “This could work.”  Everyone knew what she was thinking, but they all had the good sense not to say anything.

            “Lieutenant.”  Captain Decker pulled her aside to where they could speak in private.  “Are you getting all this?”

            “The recorder is working.  My pin camera is working.  I am sure it will all be there when we get back.”

            Captain Decker gritted his teeth.  “Any ideas how we can transmit the data we have already collected?  There has to be some way out of this zoo.”

            Lieutenant Harper just shook her head.  His mind simply would not accept the truth.  “I’ll keep working on it,” she promised.  “Meanwhile, relax.  We just saved the human race.”

            “Just this time zone full of flakes,” he said.

            “Yes sir,”  Lieutenant Harper agreed and quickly stepped back to the others.  She was not sure where she fit in with this group of travelers, misfits, explorers, adventurers and miracle workers, but she knew the marines were not it.  She would never be the same, even if Captain Decker never changed.

            Alexis looked again at the stick people.  She saw such innocence and goodness in them.  There was not one of them that had a hidden agenda.  She was not sure if they knew how to lie.  She wanted to be reconciled to them, to say we humans are not so bad.  She wanted to wish them luck and say good-bye to the children, only she could not imagine a way to do that.  They were withdrawn from the travelers and Alexis could not blame them.

            Alexis was staring when the woman appeared.  She had to be seven or eight feet tall and she stood between her and the stick people to block her vision.  It was Tiamut, the goddess, and she did not look happy.

            “You!”  She pointed at the humans in the camp.  Everyone stood and grabbed their weapons, not that they would have been effective against the goddess.  “I could have made good use of those creatures, but you destroyed them all like you destroyed my servants.”  She pointed her finger at Saphira but took them all in her gaze.

            Tiamut paused.  They watched her facial expression turn from anger to clever, and that was worse.  “Come,” she said.  Mingus, Roland, Doctor Procter and Alexis disappeared and reappeared a few feet from the goddess.  Alexis was right in front of her, looking up into that terrible face and she felt the shiver travel all the way down her spine to her soul.

            Tiamut walked once around Alexis to examine her like a person might examine a prize animal.  The others either could not move or did not dare.  “You did not begin as a human.  How is it you came into this state?”

            Alexis was compelled to answer.  “My god changed me so I could be with my husband.”

            Tiamut glanced briefly at Doctor Procter.  “Better than making more half-breeds,” she said.  “But I have a job for you spirits of the trees.  I would have you back.”  She waved her hand and Alexis transformed back into the elf she was born to be. 

            “No.”  Saphira heard the word escape her lips and felt something surge out from her deepest insides.  It was a force linked to the very forces by which all things were made.  Alexis immediately changed back to a human woman and Tiamut’s anger returned.

            “How did you do that?”  She yelled.  She was not really asking.  She waved her hand again, but Alexis stubbornly refused to become an elf.  “How are you doing that?”  Tiamut’s words became mingled with astonishment.

            The goddess Astarte chose that moment to appear at Saphira’s back.  She was also tall, more than tall enough to look over Saphira’s head.  She place both of her hands on Saphira’s shoulders in a sign of reassurance.  Two young men also appeared with Astarte, one on each side.  They were twins though the one to Astarte’s left looked like he might need glasses.

            Tiamut paused.  Her face became so distorted it was hard to make out her facial features.  Her mouth opened wide and the travelers saw pin pricks of light in that deep darkness like people might see stars in the night sky.  A roar of frustration came from that maw, loud enough to make everyone throw their hands to their ears.  With a wave of Tiamut’s hand, the ship behind her, all of the stick people and their children turned instantly to dust.  And Tiamut disappeared.

            Astarte leaned forward and whispered in Saphira’s ear.  “I’m sorry.”  Then she and the twins vanished.  Everyone could breathe again, but Alexis was the first to go to tears. 

            It took some time before they were ready to go.  Saphira, Coramel and his sons stayed to help clean up, and Coramel had the lone comment that whole time.

            “It is like they never were.”

            At last, Saphira turned to Doctor Procter.  “What is your direction?”

            Doctor Procter’s hands were shaking and he kept shaking his head now and then like a man trying to throw off the rain, but he managed to get out the amulet and point.  Saphira nodded.  She was going the other direction.

            “I’m sorry you won’t get a chance to see the future Sodom,” she said.  “We are headed in the other direction.”

            “Eh?”  Lockhart wanted to know what she was thinking.

            “We have to check the crash site to be sure there were no survivors.”

            “I can’t imagine anything survived that crash,” Captain Decker offered, and Saphira nodded.

            “Still –“ She started to speak but Boston interrupted.

            Boston had gotten to her feet and was staring at the big pile of dust that the wind had not yet taken.  “All that work for nothing,” she said.

            “Not for nothing,” Lockhart assured her.

            “Besides, you work for me, remember?”  Saphira said.

            “Yes, lady.”  Boston turned and practiced the curtsey the way she had seen Mirowen the elf do it in her overalls.  Boston knew she was not as graceful, but Roland at least smiled for her.  It would be a while yet before anyone else could smile.

            “So, that’s it?”  Katie Harper looked to Lockhart who caught her eyes and nodded.  Saphira was already moving off into the tall grass, flanked by her men.  Katie yelled.  “So who was that woman?”

            Saphira turned to walk backwards and shouted.  “Astarte.”

            “And the young twins?”

            “Enlil and Enki.  Enki needs glasses.”  Saphira smiled before she added a last thought.  “At least I should sleep well tonight.”  Then Saphira and her three men were swallowed up by the grasslands.

Avalon 1.4: Balok

            Captain Decker, Roland and the boys were surprised when the Balok rose up in front of them.  The boys got excited and rushed forward to throw their spears.  The Balok easily avoided the stone tips and pulled out a hand and a weapon.  To be sure, the hand was more like seven skinny tentacles than a human hand, and the weapon looked like a small disc but Captain Decker and Roland both saw it.

            Roland had his bow out, but he could not get off a shot because of the boys.  The Balok clearly recognized the bow as a danger and shot Roland first.  Roland froze in place even as Decker yelled.

            “Boys!  Lie down on the ground.  Now!”

            One went straight to the dirt.  The other knelt and bent down, but looked at the Captain with questions on his face.  It was enough.  Captain Dekcer peeled off three bullets before the Balok shot him and he fell.  It is likely the Balok would have died shortly.  It may have already been dead, but to be sure, Roland shook himself free of his frozen state.  He pulled his sword and beheaded the serpent before he turned to see to Decker.


            Lockhart stepped over to where Boston lay on the ground.  She was sitting up, breathing better, but Saphira thought her ribs were cracked if a couple were not broken.

            “Coramel is fine, but frozen,” Lincoln reported.  “His fingers and toes look frostbitten.”

            “Frozen?”  Lieutenant Harper asked.

            “Think like a reptile,” Saphira answered.  “A heat ray would not be as effective.”

            “Lincoln.  We need a stretcher,” Lockhart shouted.

            “Coramel will be fine in a moment,” Lincoln said.  “Oh, you mean –“  He patted a groaning, shivering Coramel on the shoulder and got up to search a small stand of nearby trees.

            Saphira headed straight for the Balok ship, Katie Harper on her heels.

            “Don’t wander off,” Lockhart shouted.  Saphira waved, but they ended up closer to the ship than she imagined they would.  It was too much to ask her not to take a look.  When they arrived at the door to the ship, they heard three shots fired not too far away.

            “Decker,” Katie said.

            “Let’s hope that’s it,” Saphira responded while she examined the outside of the door.  It took three hands with pinky fingers and three little sticks to press on the six holes that would have fit a Balok hand very well.  The door opened and they could look in if they held their breath.  The whole thing smelled like rotten cabbage and decayed meat.  Saphira did not have to look for more than a moment before she let out a stream of invectives for the third time.  She spun and ran, Katie beside her.


            “Three,” Saphira said.


            Alexis spent her time cleaning up the camp and getting things ready to move out.  She confessed to herself that being twenty-five again did not necessarily change things.  She might be Boston’s age, but she was not wild and free like that girl.  She had been a mom too long, and now she was a grandmother.  That was what she liked, and she was good at it, and maybe there was nothing wrong with that.  At the same time, though, maybe she did need to let Benjamin get adjusted.  She smiled.  Poor little Billy, her grandson.  He would always be older than his uncle, or maybe his aunt.  She had two boys.  She decided this time she wanted a girl.

            “Daughter.”  Alexis was startled.

            “Father?  How is Doctor Procter?”

            “Shivering from fever,” Mingus said.  “But he won’t let me so much as touch him.  He growls at me every time I try.”


            “He is an old man, far older than his human half should be.  Old men growl, haven’t you noticed.”

            Alexis looked up into her father’s face.  She was serious at first but quickly smiled.  She reached for his hand.  “You don’t growl, you just get grumpy now and then.”

            Mingus returned her smile.  “I am sorry about the stick people.”

            Alexis shifted her gaze to where the stick people were gathering, still repairing their ship, and keeping their distance from the mad humans.  “They would rather die than take life,” she said.  “What can the human race offer to compare with that?”

            Mingus took back his hand and began to take down a tent.  “The Kairos was wise all these millennia to keep us from interacting with the human race.  Look at me.  I have studied human history for centuries and have been corrupted.  I sometimes think I must be more human now than elf.”

            Alexis said nothing.  She screamed.  The Balok rose up from the grass only a dozen yards away.  It splayed both hands and each held an instrument of some kind.  The first was a freeze ray it shot at Mingus, but Mingus easily shrugged it off because of the fires inside of him.  He shot back with a ball of flame, and while the Balok backed away from the actual fire, the heat and warmth of the flames appeared to strengthen it.

            Alexis had her wand by then and barely responded in time before the Balok tried the other weapon.  Alexis put up a magical shield and while it deflected the heat ray, the ray was powerful enough to knock her back on her rump.  She screamed again while Mingus searched frantically for a weapon that might be effective.  He found a big stone.

            The Balok pulled in its legs and began to slither forward.  It was fast, but Doctor Procter was faster.  He had his wand out and managed a magical freeze ray of his own.  The Balok shrieked in pain and fell to the ground where it began to whip about.  Mingus struggled, mumbled something about the beast keeping still, but finally managed to bring his rock down on the Balok head.  It was a glancing blow at first, but the second and third strikes were more accurate.  The Balok head became mush from blow after blow as Mingus pounded it into the dirt.  Alexis looked away.

            It was only moments later when Saphira and Katie ran up.  The marine went immediately to make sure the Balok was dead while Saphira put her hands on her knees and caught her breath.

            “I’m older than I look,” Saphira said.

            Alexis looked.  Alexis was twenty-five or so and Katie Harper could not have been older.  Saphira was what?  Maybe thirty?

            “In my day, thirty is old.  I should be fat with a dozen kids to do the running for me.”

            “Do you have any children?”  Alexis asked.

            Saphira nodded, but said nothing as they saw Captain Decker in the distance.  He was leaning on Coramel’s sons, and Roland was walking quietly beside him.  He had some frostbite, but nothing serious.  Lincoln, Lockhart and Croamel came last, carrying Boston on a stretcher made from two tree branches and fairy weave.  Boston was complaining and giggling.

            “Ouch.  Stop wiggling.  Lockhart, I’m supposed to be pushing you around in a wheelchair, you old man.  Ouch, it hurts when I laugh.  This is embarrassing.”

            Alexis went immediately to her, and they put her down on the edge of the camp where Alexis could spend considerable time healing and knitting Boston’s bones.

Avalon 1.4: Grounded.

            Saphira connected the last wire as the Balok ship moved.  It dropped down in the sky, but not far, and began to disgorge small ships, probably fighters from an open bay.  Saphira spoke when the first was launched.

            “Set the radar on the mother ship.  The pulse is tied to the radar.”

            Katie knew that, but this reminded her not to be distracted by the fighters.

            When the second fighter was successfully launched, Saphira spoke again.  “Ready.  Boston?”  She had to shout, but Boston answered.

            “Almost.  Just a minute.”

            A third fighter got launched and away before Saphira said, “Go.”  To be sure, her fingers were crossed in one hand while she threw the switch with the other.  Theoretically, the microwave pulse should burn out every electrical system on the Balok ship, provided they used electrical systems and provided the Balok screens were not strong enough to ward off Saphira’s strike.  Even Martok could ultimately only use what was available to him.

            The pulse went out, and there was a second where nothing seemed to happen.  Saphira had to take her finger off her switch lest she burn out the Stick systems.  The Balok ship began to wobble.  By the time Saphira joined Katie at the radar scope, the Balok ship was plummeting to the ground.  It fell like a stone and exploded on impact.  It was not an atomic explosion as Saphira feared it might be, but it was big enough to assume there were no survivors.

            “Boston?”  That left the three fighters.

            “Ready!”  The word echoed in the stick ship.

            “Zero in on a fighter,” Saphira said, but Katie was already doing that. 

            “Now.”  Katie spoke into her wrist communicator, and Boston sent out a plasma pulse.  The Balok fighter disintegrated in a crimson ball of fire.  Immediately, the two remaining Balok fighters began to move around to avoid being targeted, but Katie and Boston got a second one before the last dipped below the radar.

            Saphira grabbed Katie’s hand and spoke into the wrist communicator.  “Lockhart.  One fighter landed.  Meet us at the front door.”

            “Already there,” Lockhart responded.  They vacated the stick ship for the firm ground, and a few of the stick people followed them.

            The stick leader looked sick.  He bobbed up and down a couple of times before he spoke.  “You are mad, like the Balok.  We did our very best to escape them, but since they found us it would have been better if we had died than participate in their madness.”

            No one knew what to say until Alexis stepped up.  “You have the right to live in peace.”

            “We have no right to take life,” the leader said, and with that he moved his people away from the travelers. 

            “I guess we screwed up,” Lincoln said even as Saphira, Katie and Boston came huffing and puffing down the ramp.

            “Alright,” Saphira said.  “We need to find that ship.”

            “They would rather die than be part of the killing.”  Alexis summed things up and pointed to the stick people who were keeping their distance.  Saphira looked, but she had an alternative view and said so in her own tongue.

            “We are protecting my people.  We are protecting the human race, even if I am sorry the stick people got in the middle of it.  We won’t survive if the Balok come here.”  That seemed to satisfy the group.  “Now, I want to split us up.  Despite the X-whatever-teen single man fighters are current with your military, most space fighters have two occupants.  There are too many systems to keep track of.  So Decker and Roland, you take Coramel’s sons and circle around quietly to approach the fighter on the flank.  The rest – where is Mingus?”

            “Doctor Procter has taken a fever,” Roland said and Boston looked at Alexis.

            “I do wounds, occasionally help avoid surgery.  I don’t do sickness.”

            “Alright.”  Saphira adjusted her thinking.  “Alexis, would you stay with your father and Doctor Procter?  We should probably leave someone here to watch over the stick people, even if they don’t want our help.  Katie and Boston, Coramel, Lincoln and Lockhart.  We go straight for the ship.”

            “Works for me.”  Captain Decker checked his rifle.

            “A last thought,” Saphira stopped them all.  “We need to kill them.  No, there is no alternative, and do not hesitate or they will certainly kill you.”

            Roland nodded and lead the way into the open fields.  They stayed in sight for a time before they dipped down into a gully.

            “We go.”  Lockhart had judged the time and distance, and they started off into the tall grass.  There were stubby, non-descript bushes here and there and the occasional tree, but it was mostly grass to the knees and sometimes to the waist.  There was no way to move quietly, but they spread out and kept their eyes and ears as open as they could.  A slim trail of engine smoke still rose into the air in the distance.  They headed straight for it.

            When they topped a rise, they saw the ship down below, and it was much larger than they had imagined.  The grass was much taller there, too, being on the side of a hill where most animals would not bother to graze.  All things considered, it should not have come as a surprise when the serpent rose up and wrapped itself twice around Boston. 

            Boston screamed and struggled, and that made it hard for the others.  They dared not fire at the creature for fear of hitting Boston.  The snake kept trying to bite her, but it could not get its head at a good angle.  Saphira dropped her bow and waited three seconds for an opening before she brought the butt end of her spear down on the snake’s head.  The snake nipped at her, but by then the others were moving.

            Lockhart pulled the same stunt with the stock of his shotgun, and the hit appeared to hurt the serpent.  Lincoln and Lieutenant Harper were still trying to get off a shot, but Coramel came up with a stone between his hands.  The snake responded by showing a hand of its own.  The hand pealed out from the side of the creature and it held something.  There was no sound or light or anything, but Coramel dropped to the ground, stunned, maybe dead.

            Then the snake took Boston to the ground while Boston screamed the words, “I can’t breathe.”

            Lincoln went to Coramel while Saphira’s next shot hit the snake in the hand.  It dropped the weapon but began to roll down the hill with its captive.  Lockhart, Saphira and Lieutenant Harper followed, and when Boston and the creature slowed, Lockhart managed another whack at the creature’s head.

            The snake roared from pain and appeared to speak, though no one knew what it was saying except Saphira.  Then it suddenly let go of Boston to slither away in the grass.  Saphira, with the snake’s weapon in her hand, went to her knees beside Boston.

            When the serpent reached what it no doubt imagined was a safe distance from the primitives, it put its rear legs down and reared up eight feet in the air.  It spoke again, more clearly as another hand made itself known, and whether they retained some vestige of the primal tongue of Shinar or the magic of the Kairos was working overtime, they all managed to catch one distinct word.  “Die.”

            “Balok!”  Lockhart shouted to distract the snake, and Lieutenant Harper’s rifle went off.  The creature looked stunned as the bullet tore through its neck.  Then Lockhart fired the shotgun and the snake head shredded.  The body fell after a moment.

Avalon Season 1.4: The Hunt

              Saphira and Captain Decker came up from one side.  The Captain no doubt thought he was protecting the woman, but Saphira wanted to keep an eye on the man to make sure he did not shoot anyone, needlessly.  Roland came up from the other side, and she knew whoever it was would not hear the elf as long as Roland did not have some noisy human by his side.

              Captain Decker stopped her with a hand on Saphira’s shoulder.  She had already seen the men, or three of them, but she thought to grab Decker’s hand and turn her head to look into his eyes.  She paused before she dropped the man’s hand and showed great restraint.  “Not a good idea,” she whispered, but now she had her pent-up energy to release.

              Saphira stood, her spear ready, and she reverted to her native tongue.  “Alright you men.  Get up and show yourselves.”  Saphira spoke loud enough for her voice to carry.  Some nearby stick people woke up and looked.  “You’re surrounded, so there is no point in trying anything.  No one needs to get hurt.”

              The men stood, though they held tight to their own spears.  Those stick people who noticed got up and scurried away with a sound of alarm and a clapping of hands.  The men had been camouflaged, having branches and such attached to their clothing.  There was no telling how long it took them to inch up close to the camp.  Decker was ready, just in case, and in the rising light, Roland showed himself.  Roland was just as ready, but he relaxed a little when the elder of the three men spoke.

              “Saphira.  What are you doing here?”

              “Right now?  Hunting fools, Coramel.  And who are these two idiots with you?”

              “These are my sons,” Coramel said, proudly.

              “Are you lacking any brains like your father?”  Saphira asked.

              “Yes, er, no.”

              “We wanted to see the strange creatures.”

              Captain Decker tapped Sapira on the shoulder this time.  “I take it you know these particular idiots.”


              Boston and Katie used their flashlights to get back into the ship and found that indeed the stick people had begun to “fix” things back to the way they had been.  It was going to take some work.  They returned and reported to Lockhart even as the light began to glimmer across the horizon.  They took a bit of bread for breakfast and then figured they had better get started rather than wait for Saphira.

              Boston was pretty sure she could redo what the stick people had messed up before the night made the sticks stop working.  She was not worried, though, since Martok calculated at their present rate of speed the Balok would not arrive until mid-afternoon.

              “Plasma cannon looks untouched,”  Katie said.

              “Looks can be deceiving,” Boston countered as she began to examine the jury-rigged work.

              “Well, at least the screen enhancements are still in place,” Katie said, and Boston nodded with a grunt as she followed a circuit line.

              “I don’t imagine the stick people are stupid,”  Katie continued.  “Anything that might help them ward off the stray asteroid or radiation in space would be appreciated.

              “I’m sure,”  Boston mumbled, but she was not really listening.

              Katie nodded.  “I guess I’ll have a look at the radar array.  Hopefully they left it alone.”  She wandered off slowly, but it was not long before Boston heard the words.  “What the Hell were they thinking?”


              Saphira brought Coramel and his sons to the others and made them sit and keep still.  Alexis got out the bread so they were content.  “And if you so much as touch one of these stick people, I’ll have to kill you,” Saphira said.

              “Yes, mam.”  Coramel grinned.

              “Father?”  One of his sons questioned what their father meant.

              “Son.  You must always do what the golden lady says if you expect to be rewarded.”

              “Her?”  The other son was not shy to point.

              “Golden lady?”  Lockhart asked.

              “I’m expensive,” Saphira said.  “Only the best.”  Then she thought she had better to go check on the work inside the ship.

              “Damn!”  The word echoed out of everyone’s wrist communicators.  “The Balok must have overdrive.  They just entered the atmosphere.”

              Saphira said something, too, and it was a bit stronger than “damn.”  She grabbed Lincoln and marched to the stick ship.

              Once inside, Saphira set Lincoln by the screen array.  “If they come in firing as I expect, you just keep your finger on this button.  She checked the damage to the plasma cannon she had built.

              “I can fix it,” Boston insisted.  “I just need some time.  You need to check the microwave chamber.”

              Saphira went to do that very thing and did not swear too much.  She had it rigged to send out a microwave pulse, but the stick people had started to dismantle it.  Besides, by then she was swearing at herself for not anticipating this.

              “Bring everyone inside.”  The call went out over the wrist communicators.  When the Balok ship appeared as a dot in the sky, the stick people did not have to be encouraged.  Apparently they had very good eyes.  They scurried toward the ship, clapping and howling.  They hardly knew what else to do.  Coramel and his sons were reluctant to enter that strange place, but they were given no choice.  They stood with the travelers by the open door and watched.

              “Strafing run.”  Lieutenant Harper recognized the move on her radar.

              “Lincoln finger!”  That was all Saphira had time to say.  She was too busy.

              Lincoln pressed his finger as hard as he could against the button, and when the Balok ship came low and let out a blast of its main gun, that energy pulse was repelled.  The Balok ship rose up to what they had to believe was out of range and paused.  The Balok Captain was no doubt considering his options.

              “It’s overloading,” Lincoln shouted.

              “Finger off the button.”  Everyone yelled at him, but Lieutenant Harper had to step up and help put out the small electrical fires.

              “What are they waiting for?”  Lockhart’s words came into the ship over his wrist communicator.

              “We are working as fast as we can,” Boston yelled back, having misunderstood the question.  “Almost there.”  But their homemade weapons were still off line.  The Balok had them, only they did not know it, yet.

Storyteller Wednesday: What about Creative People?

Do you belong?  What is it about creative people that they don’t belong, not exactly, not entirely – anywhere.  Artists, musicians, writers, certainly storytellers are never quite comfortable with the routines of work, school, family life, relationships.

Play is often a creative exercise in itself.

Work is never a comfortable subject.  Many creative people, if unable to find work in their desired creative field (such as being unable to make a living with their writing) often drift through work and careers like fall leaves in the wind.

Family life and relationships are hard when the one wants full attention but the other has their mind on the next chapter or the melody or the colors in motion.  It is a wonder such people get married; but just look at Hollywood to see how well marriage sometimes works out.

Creative people are not necessarily outliers, but they are often outsiders.  Many are content to sit back and observe rather than participate.  Oh, participation is very important when it is related in some way to the creation, but in general observation is the norm.  And people recognize this in the creative types and often treat creative people a bit like outsiders.

Being absorbed in a truly creative project can be overwhelming and not leave much room for other people.  It takes a special kind of spouse to understand this.  It takes understanding children and an understanding boss – if such things exist.  You can give a dissertation to a creative soul and have them say when you are done, “What?  I’m sorry, were you saying something?”

Creative people belong where the creative act is ongoing.  Creative people do not necessarily belong anywhere in what most call daily, regular, ordinary life.  Listen.

D. L. Moody once had a young man in his office who said he felt called to be a preacher.  Moody asked the young man if there was anything else he enjoyed.  “Why, yes.  I love mechanical things, working on and fixing cars.”

Moody responded, “Then go be the best auto mechanic you can be.  If you are called to preach, God won’t let you do anything else.”

That is sort of the way it is for creative people.  The art, music, craft, storytelling generally won’t let a person do anything else.  When driven to do other things, there is always the sense of being a bit of an outsider, like, “This is not where I belong.”

Hence the question.  Do you belong?

Avalon Season 1.4: The Heart of the Matter

            Boston had a good sunburn, but Alexis found some aloe in the medical kit and managed to keep her from blistering.  Boston explained.  “I got too close to the plasma engines, but I think we cooked up some good surprises if the Balok come around here.”

            Saphira looked up from where she was resting on the ground.  “You mean when they come.”

            “I think that Martok is brilliant,” Katie said.

            Saphira smiled.  “Martok says thanks and you’re not so bad yourself.”  Lieutenant Harper found her own cheeks redden a bit.  She forgot the Kairos remained in close contact with other lifetimes, especially ones recently accessed.  She looked to Lockhart for support, but he just smiled like Saphira.  Alexis saw something in the way Katie Harper and Robert Lockhart looked at each other and she looked at Lincoln, but he simply looked away.

            “Stay out of the sun,” Alexis sniffed and stood to walk off by herself for a time.

            That evening the stick people built a great bonfire, not much different than the one built by Ranear’s Neolithic tribe.  Mingus lit this one to their delight.  They did not cook their food and only ate what looked like water with some dirt in it.  They also hardly needed the warmth in that climate, but they seemed to like the light.

            One of the Thets came up to be friendly.  At least Alexis thought it was a Thet.  It was hard to tell.  She also had no idea how to distinguish males from females and was working on that problem when Saphira suggested they might be uni-sexual.  Of course, Saphira went on to explain, in more detail than necessary, how glad she was that humanity had two sexes, and Alexis had to remind herself that in this lifetime the Kairos was a whore. 

            “You have a beautiful planet,” Thet began.  Alexis looked over and saw the one she thought was leader sitting between Lockhart and Captain Decker while Lincoln scribbled notes on his pad.  “You have many children and much variety.”

            “I’m sorry?”  Alexis tried to focus in. 

            “When we first came to the ground there were many of your children who moved away to make room for us.”  Thet sat on the ground.  The trunk kept the stick person straight up and down while the legs bent and the feet set some distance from the body.  It gave the person the appearance of a three legged stool, very hard to knock over.  Alexis later learned that the stick people slept in this position as well.

            “Animals.”  Alexis grasped what the stick person was saying.

            “Yes, and such a rich variety.  You must be very proud of them.”

            “Yes.”  Alexis said.  She could not bring herself to say, we eat our children.  Somehow she knew that would not be taken well.  Fortunately, they shortly heard the sound of drums.  It was a steady beat.  Then something of a cross between an oboe and bagpipes began to play.  It was dominant and tonic followed by tonic and dominant.  As it played on, Alexis wondered if the stick people ever discovered any other notes.

            “What the heck is that?”  Captain Decker held his ears.

            “I think it is music, sir,” Lieutenant Harper responded.

            “Catchy tune,” Lockhart quipped.

            “I like it,” Boston interrupted.

            “Yeah, good luck getting that melody out of your head,” Lincoln added.

            The stick people shrieked in delight and sounded much like the children.  Soon there was a line of stick people around the bonfire.  They moved in a circle, bent near ninety degrees forward and then bent near ninety degrees backward as they moved.  It looked like their legs were attached to their trunks by ball joints.   All the while the people waved their bent hands and shouted in delight.

            “Now what are they doing?”  Decker asked.

            “I think it’s dancing, sir.”

            Alexis imagined Boston might have liked to join them in the dance, but she was so burnt, she dared not get too close to the fire.  She saw the children off to the side.  Some of the bigger ones were imitating the adults, like they were practicing.  All was well, she thought.  These good people were well worth saving.  She held on to that thought when she lied down that night and slept in her own space without touching Lincoln at all. 

            Alexis woke in the wee hours just before dawn.  She found Saphira and her brother awake.  She watched without a word as Captain Decker came to join them.  “Not one shot!”  she heard the stern command in Saphira’s whisper and she sat up, worried.  They looked at her so she spoke what came to her mind in the night.

            “Do you think the stick people might have repaired the damage you did to their systems in the night?”

            “We didn’t damage any of their systems,” Saphira responded.

            “But you rewired things and changed things.  Did they really understand what you were doing and why or did they just watch so they could put it all back after you were gone?  I doubt they understand weapons and probably imagine the Balok were mistaken and certainly would not follow them here.”  Saphira finished her thought.

            “They fled their home world to escape the Balok, but –“ Saphira nudged Boston and Katie and instructed them quietly to return to the stick ship and check on their work to make sure it was not tampered with.  Then she hushed Alexis and took Roland and Captain Decker into the dark.  Alexis only heard Saphira’s strong whisper once more.  “No shooting.”

            Boston and Katie stayed visible longer beside the embers of the bonfire, but soon they also disappeared into the dark.  Alexis looked to the sky.  She knew the sun would be up soon, but it was hard to tell how soon.  She felt a touch on her shoulder.

            “What is it?”  Lincoln asked as he touched and then held her arm.  He propped himself up on one elbow.

            “I don’t know,” Alexis answered.  “Boston and Katie wandered off that way to check on their work and Saphira, Roland and Captain Decker went off that way like they were leaving the camp.”

            Lincoln tried to smile.  “Don’t worry.  I am sure we will find out what is going on soon enough.”

            “Why are you awake?”  Alexis wondered.

            Lincoln’s smile fell away and he let go of her, but stayed propped up next to her when he answered.  “I guess I don’t need as much sleep as I did when I was old.”

            “Is being young again that hard for you?”  This was a serious question and Lincoln knew it.  He made his serious face before he shook his head.  Then he would not look at her.

            “I’ll adjust.  It is just seeing you young.  You are so –“ he softened his voice to barely a whisper.  “—beautiful.”  He paused to cough and clear his throat.  “We don’t have to still be married if you don’t want.  This is like a new life.”

            “Why would I not want to be married?”

            “It’s just.”  Lincoln was having a hard time framing the words.  “You could have anyone.  Why would you want me?”


            “I mean, I know you were not exactly happy those last years.”

            “I was happy.”

            Lincoln frowned at her.  “I got old, complacent, grumpy.”

            “You’re not old now.”

            Lincoln smiled, but just a little.  “Neither are you.”  She hugged him.  “To be honest, I woke up because you weren’t beside me.  I don’t think I could sleep if you were not beside me.”

            Alexis tackled him, landed on top of him and grinned mightily.  “Even if I don’t have the blood or form anymore, I am still an elf at heart.”

            “I remember.”  Lincoln got out that much before they kissed.

            The sun was starting to break the darkness, but they did not care.  They also did not hear Mingus mumble, “I think I am going to be sick.”

Avalon 1.4: Sticks and Stones.

            “Let me see,” Saphira insisted and reached out for the binoculars.

            “Hold on,” Lieutenant Harper groused.  “You’re as bad as Boston.”  She slipped them from her neck and handed them over.

            “Which is why I get them next,” Boston said.

            “There are children down there,” Saphira confirmed.  “This is much bigger than the stick ship I ran into before.  I think that was a scout ship.”  She handed the binoculars to Boston though Alexis wanted a look as well.

            “We’ve been spotted,” Roland said and pointed.

            “Where?’  Captain Decker turned his own binoculars to get a look.

            “Come on,” Saphira stood.

            “Is it safe?”  Lincoln asked. 

            Saphira nodded.  “Last time I got the impression that they had no weapons.  I’m not even sure they know what weapons are.”

            Alexis skipped her turn with the binoculars and joined Saphira in the march down that little hill.  She wondered what grace the Kairos might show to what appeared to be refugees.  Saphira spoke in an alien tongue, but the travelers understood full well what she was saying.

            “Hey!  You can’t park here!  I told your people last time.  This world is off limits.”

            Alexis rolled her eyes, but smiled.

            Several stick people came up to meet them, clapping their hands.  They did look like logs and had no shoulders or neck between the trunk and head and no hips at all.  They were skinny as well, anorexic maybe, and their eyes were so close together it was a wonder how they could manage stereoscopic vision.  They were brown, like the color of wood except their arms and legs which were gray.  Those two arms and two legs looked human shaped with elbows, wrists, knees and ankles but they were truly thin as sticks.  The twelve toes on each foot and four fingers on each hand, one being a thumb, looked like twigs.  It was a wonder they could hold themselves up with those spindly appendages.

            Lockhart extended his hand, but Saphira interrupted, speaking in her own tongue.  “No, no.  Don’t do that.  They are like petrified wood – like steel.  They might lose at arm wrestling, but in a handshake they would crush your flesh without realizing what they are doing.”

            Alexis wondered again.  She now had three languages in her head.  The English never went away, only now she had an overlay of Saphira’s tongue and the sounds of the stick people.  She had to think about that last one, though, to frame her question.  “What happened?”

            The stick people looked at each other before one of them answered.  “We were attacked.”

            “Who is the leader of this ship?”  Lockhart asked his question. 

            “I am.”  One of the stick people answered and he let out a wail and began to bob up and down.  It was a sound and action picked up by others until it had spread its way all around the refugee camp.

            “Who attacked you?”  Lockhart continued when he could.

            After a while, the leader settled down and answered.  “They call themselves Balok.”

            Saphira suddenly interrupted with a string of words, or actually only one word in many languages; the primal language of Shinar, Pan’s, Iris’, Keng’s and Ranear’s languages.  She spouted in her own language and in English.  And it was not a nice word.  “Let me see,” she insisted and began to walk straight for the ship.  The others followed including the Stick leader and his people.

            Balok?”  Alexis caught up.

            “Think of the serpent in the Garden of Eden.” 

            Outside the ship, Saphira turned to the group following her.  She looked around and there were other stick people inching close.  She decided curiosity was a powerful motivator, whatever the species.  She spoke.  “Boston and Lieutenant Harper.  I could use your help.”

            “Katie,” Lieutenant Harper said.

            Saphira nodded.  “I knew that.”  She turned to the sticks.  “Leader, bring two of your people to show us the way but everyone else please stay outside.  We are going to have to concentrate to get any work done.” 

            The Leader appeared to understand, at least that they wished to see the inside of the ship.  Two stick people followed them, but if the leader made a signal to designate who, none of the humans caught it.  They followed the sticks into the heart of the ship and Boston’s first word were telling.

            “I saw more sophisticated stuff at M. I. T.”

            When they got to the scanner, Katie added her voice to the chorus.  “This looks like plain ordinary radar.”

            “Probably is,” Saphira responded.  “Is there a way to push our sight beyond the atmosphere?”  Katie shook her head.  The stick leader had a question.

            “Why do you wish to see beyond the atmosphere?”

            “Balok,” She frowned before she explained.  “They believe they should be unique in the universe, that everything exists for them alone.”

            “But don’t humans have a similar view of creation?”  Boston asked.

            Saphira nodded.  “But the Balok want to make their belief real by exterminating all other forms of intelligent life.   Given the Earth, they would probably try to kill everything down to the intelligence level of a dog, just to be safe.”

            “I assume there is no talking to them.”

            Saphira just shook her head.  “I have to go.  Martok is the one who needs to get a look at this.  One of you lend me a piece of fairy weave.”  Boston separated a piece of her long pants and thought she might live in her shorts in that climate.  Saphira formed the fairy weave into shorts herself.  She stood, turned her back and left that time and place while Martok came from the far future to fill her space.  He dressed with his back turned to Lieutenant Harper and she did not realize Martok was not human until he turned around.

            Katie drew her breath in.  The excessive hair on Martok’s arms, legs and chest caused her to look close at the hair on his head.  It looked more like fur, but it was the eyes that gave Martok away.  They looked yellow, like cat’s eyes or maybe like the eyes of the snake-people they were expecting.

            “Hello Boston, dear.”  Martok spoke in a deep voice that sounded human enough but seemed odd given his height of barely five feet.  Of course, Boston had met Martok before.  She simply waved as she wandered off to look around.

            “Wait.”  One of the stick people spoke to Boston and everyone looked.  “That is a microwave chamber, part of the propulsion system and very dangerous.”

            “Microwaves?  Oh good!”  Martok raised his voice and both Katie and Boston caught a better glimpse of the fact that Martok was not human.  “Now, the visuals.  Leader, where did you lose the Balok?”

            “Out where the rocks circle around the star.”

            “The Asteroid Belt.”  Martok nodded and tore the back off the radar equipment while the leader watched and clapped his hands in worry.


            Outside, Alexis turned to the stick person beside her.  “Do you have a name?”


            “I’m Alexis.”  She smiled and turned to the other one.  “And what is your name?”


            Alexis wrinkled her brow.  “Your name is Thet and your name is Thet?”

            “No, my name is Thet.”

            “My name is Thet.”

            Alexis looked around, but all Lincoln, Lockhart and Captain Decker could do was shrug.  Mingus stepped up.

            “That’s what you get, daughter for having human ears,” Mingus said.

            “I like her ears,” Lincoln objected.  Alexis looked at Lincoln and the look on her face said, “Do you really?”

            “Watch.”  Roland stepped up and had his bow in his hands with an arrow on the string.  When he let it go, though, the arrow stayed in his hand while a glowing ball shot up into the sky.  When it reached some height, the ball exploded into gold and silver sparkles in a perfect imitation of fireworks.  His next shot was red and green and all the little sticks came running, squealing in delight.

            Several adult stick people chased the little ones, and the two still with the group moved quickly to intercept them.  “No, no.”  The stick people shouted.  “Do not touch them.  Sit.  Do not touch.” 

            One of the Thets returned with a clap of his hands and a word.  “Please take no offense.  We do not know if the children may have a sickness to which you have no defense.”

            “Quite alright,” Alexis responded.  “We may have some sickness your people can’t handle as well.”  The stick person bowed even as the ship groaned and made a noise much like a bad set of truck brakes.  Alexis quickly turned to her wrist communicator which she had hardly ever used.  “Everything alright?”

            The word came back.  It was a deep male voice which they did not expect.  “Fine.  Boston just got an instant suntan is all.”

            “I’m as red as my hair!”  Boston complained.  The others did not know what to say so they turned to watch Mingus who was presently entertaining the kids juggling balls of fire.

Wise Words for Writers: Why we had a President Named Calvin

People ask, what is the most important thing necessary to be a successful writer?  You see this question posed regularly on forums around the net.  Answers vary. 

You have to hone your writing until it reaches professional standards.  You have to learn to create realistic characters who relate through realistic dialogue.  Show, don’t tell.  Develop an unique, strong and positive voice.  Start with a main character in a situation (problem, dilemma), not with background.  Learn to conclude.  Write so the reader will keep the pages turning.  Edit well.  (And my favorite): Tell a story that is worth reading.

All these are good suggestions for writing a novel, but none are most important.

Then you get notes from the other side of the coin:

Learn how to market your work.  Get your name out there.  Build your brand.  Network, if you hope to make sales.  Get reviews – find reviewers you can trust to say good things.  Facebook, linked-in, tweet, and talk to actual human beings.  Give interviews, book signings and sell, sell, sell.  And all these are good things, too.  But again, not most important.  And hardly relevant to the beginner who has yet to see something in print…

In my mind (with absolutely zero statistics to back this up) I imagined reality is something like this:

100,000 books are written this year.  90,000 suck, but of the 10,000 good ones, only a few will see print.  Most agents will tell you, the bad ones are easy to spot.  The hard part is deciding between the good ones – which ones do they honestly believe they can sell.  Agents don’t make money unless they sell.  But here’s the thing:

Of that 10,000, some 9,000 will never see the light.  They will never be sent, anywhere.  Fear, low self-esteem, no self-confidence and so on are your friends… in other people.  Still, that leaves 1,000 books in competition.  For maybe 900, the writers will receive a couple of rejections and give up.  Whether they decide it is too much work, they can’t handle rejection, they lose whatever confidence they had or whatever, they quit.

Out of the 100 books left, it may take 100 tries to find your place.  It may take 200 tries if some of the thousand luck out and get accepted before the couple of rejections turn them off. 

So then I came across the “most important thing” question on yet another forum, and it occurred to me there is a reason why we had a President named Calvin.  Here is what he said:

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.  – Calvin Coolidge 

As the Captain in the movie Galaxy Quest said:  “Never give up.  Never surrender.”  That is truly the most important thing if you hope to be a successful writer… or a successful anything else for that matter…