January 2020 Storytime Blog Hop

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image.png

Once again it’s time for a fun adventure. Enjoy my story below, then follow the links to other stories of participating authors in the blog hop.  Leave us comments.  We love hearing from you!

Grim Failure

Everything they taught us in school failed to change my mind.

I hate death.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not completely opposed to death. It’s just too widespread.

Death should be for the vilest, those who want a way out, and for the elderly as a way to keep the world from overpopulating. Too many good people die too early. The current system is flawed and unfair.

But my profession does not allow for judgment. I am to be an unbiased servant of the system. That’s what they taught us during training. Doesn’t mean I have to like it

Plus, death mades me sick to my stomach, literally.

I persevered and graduated at the top of my class. After surviving Grim Reaper school and…ha ha! See what I did there? Surviving Grim Reaper school? I supposed that’s the type of humor only Reaper School students appreciate.

The deaths I had encountered during my training were simulations. What I now faced was the real thing.

Grim Reapers in Training always received their first assignment in a nursing home or hospital. None of the assignments were difficult, but still, drawing a 96-year-old heart attack victim in ICU as my first patient didn’t come cheaply. I had to agree to go out with Dale’s ugly sister. She looks like death warmed over.

Oh…my… I..can’t..stop..laughing! I’m sorry. I did it again with the Reaper School humor.

Now, where was I?

Oh yes, my first death assignment. It was an easy mission, but I was nervous. As the top graduate of my class I felt pressure to succeed. My professors had high expectations, so if dating Dale’s gross sister helped me get off to a good start, well, I thought it was what I had to do. If I could face death certainly I could handle one date. I hoped.

Thankfully I found the subject alive—only with the help of tubes and machines. I feared I might be late.

I tried repeating the mantras they taught in school to remind us of our responsibilities. As a youngster I had always thought being a grim reaper had to be the easiest job. You show up, escort the soul to its final destination, repeat. Simple.

I had been so naïve.

There were so many regulations on what we could and couldn’t do, could and couldn’t say. Then the paperwork. Wow! How can a job that literally lasts a few seconds create so much paperwork?

A nurse entered and adjusted the covers. She copied data from the machine onto a chart and replaced it on the end of the bed. A waste of time since he would be gone any moment. But she didn’t know that.

Two ladies—probably the subject’s wife and daughter—sat in silence. The elder’s eyes were shut. The younger one read a book.

The beeping turned to a steady hum and I turned from the subject. In class I had to face death to look strong and in control. I would have lost points and wouldn’t have finished highest in my class if the professors noticed my aversion to death.

I had always faced simulated deaths with my eyes tightly shut, or if the professors were observing us, I stared beyond the unreal body.

But now, with no one observing me, I had the freedom not to watch. I focused on the women. The younger one dropped her book and gasped.

She shook the older lady. “Mom. Mom!”

The lady startled awake, panic across her face. She glanced at her husband and screamed. Her daughter embraced her as they made their way to the lifeless body.

Still queasy, I couldn’t avoid the subject’s death forever, so I approached. Where was his soul? It was supposed to come out as soon as…”

Oh no! In my effort to avoid watching him die, his soul must have roamed away. I darted up, then down, then searched all of the surrounding rooms.

The nurse and a doctor tried to revive him.

“Come on, you can do it!” I cheered, figuring my only way of finding the lost soul was to have them bring him back to life. Surely that would suck his soul back into his body, right? I didn’t know if it was possible, but I had no other plan.

Finally, they called it.

“Time of death, Nine fifty-eight.”

I had failed! All that work, training, and switching and I still screwed up.

I thought of the humiliation when everyone found out. Then I thought of the extra paperwork this would cost me.

Then I realized I now had to take Dale’s sister out on a date for no reason at all.

I was going to be sick.

Thank you for reading! Now enjoy some more great stories from my friends…

1. Secrets by Gina Fabio
2. The Daughter of Disappearing Creek by Karen Lynn
3. The Gynnos Seeker Project by Juneta Key
4. Mugging Morpheus by Vanessa Wells
5. Shores of Lamentation, by Melanie Drake
6. Syrojax Lends a Claw by Nic Steven
7. Culture Sharing by Angela Wooldridge
8. Sisters by Barbara Lund
9. Rogue Ring by Katharina Gerlach
10. A Little Off the Top by Tyler Vawter

Posted in Blog Hop, Grim Reaper in Training, Stories | Tagged , , | 17 Comments


January 1, 2020

Successful people do consistently what normal people do occasionally.

I recently heard this saying in a sermon by Craig Groeschel. Well, the sermon is a year old, but I listened to it again recently because it’s on a topic that is my word for the year—habits.

Yes, habits is my word for this year. I know, it’s a bit odd, so let me explain.

As many of you know I’m trying to develop a writing career. On my free time I write fiction (primarily) and I have a dream of writing fiction full-time. I’ve published a few books, but I have a long way to go.

I am not satisfied with the amount of work I accomplished last year. I’ve work hard the last few years to have more time in my schedule to write, yet I don’t feel like my productivity lived up to the time I had available.

Every year I make goals (actually, more often than once a year as I make adjustments continually), and this year (2020) my goals are rather ambitious. Maybe too much so, at least according to my 2019 work habits. So something needs to change.

I’m reevaluating my whole life system and considering what I need to adjust to become the person I want to be and achieve the things I want to achieve.I’m determined to make some new habits.

It will be a work in progress, but my overall goal this year is to train myself to become more of the person I want to be.Here are my first steps. I’ll start with my spiritual life, since that is the most important to me.

I’ve been inconsistent in spending time with God and that is not acceptable. I have this smart phone that barely gets more use than my old flip phone, so I decided to start there. My goal is to do a devotional using the YouVersion Bible App on my phone first thing every morning.

It takes me ten minutes to read through and pray. It’s intentionally a short goal, so I can develop the habit of doing in every day. If I succeed, that will be 3,660 minutes (61 hours) with God in 2020. Not a bad start.

The second habit I’m adding to my schedule is the use of a ten minute timer to help me write new fiction.

In 2019 I did a lot of revision work and not a lot of new story writing. That’s going to change in 2020. So far, setting a timer while I write has improved my focus. One of the problems I’ve faced is getting easily distracted by, well, by about everything.

I set a timer (another nifty feature of my new smart phone) for ten minutes. Then the only thing I do for those ten minutes is write. No editing, revising, laundry, checking e-mail, or anything else. Only writing new words. So far this has been a huge help. In fact, it’s how I’m writing this column, although with the looming newspaper deadline every Tuesday afternoon I’ve had little problem in the past of getting my column complete.

But when I’m writing fiction, especially in my house, I tend to spend too much time thinking about what I’m doing instead of doing it. Thinking about things too much is a problem I’ve had for most of my life. Hopefully, at least in this area of my life, I can mitigate that issue a bit.

When it came to deciding what I should give up this year, I had way too many viable contestants to pick just one. But I knew if I pick several things to give up I’m less likely to complete even one. So I came up with another plan.

Every month I’m going to give up one thing, and only for that month. I hope that as I try life without certain things I’ll want to let some of them go permanently, and if I do my trial period, that will make the departure easier.

For January I have given up watching any shows, which for me means no Netflix or Amazon Prime. I don’t have television. Already it feels like I have more time and I’ve read a lot more, which makes me happy. I like reading more than I like watching a show, but often watching a show is easier to do. It became a subconscious habit. And with the online format, it can be hard to watch just one.

My writing goal for 2020 is to self-publish 2-3 books, send query letters throughout the year to agents/publishers for three of my books, and to write 2-4 new stories (novel length). I really want to be on the high end of those goals, and too many goals drown in a sea of good intentions, so I’ve determined to adjust my time and my life accordingly. Besides, if I want to write full-time at home I need to have stronger writing discipline and I need to have them in place before the opportunity presents itself.

My life is too short, my time too valuable, and my calling too important to squander my time.

I want to invest my life, not spend it.

Posted in Habits, Personal Thoughts | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

October 2019 Storytime Blog Hop

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image.png

Once again it’s time for a fun adventure. Enjoy my story below, then follow the links to other stories of participating authors in the blog hop.  Leave us comments.  We love hearing from you!

My story below, Loney Lucy, recently won a contest and was selected to be included in the special Halloween edition of the podcast, Alone in a Room with Invisible People.
To listen to that episode, follow the link above.

Lonely Lucy

Lucy jumped as thunder shook the window of the fifteenth floor apartment. She hated storms, but she hated the deathly feel of her apartment even more. So she sat in her rocker next to the window and endured the storm that had stolen the usual midday sun; the sun that she considered her best friend.

Her roommates were nice enough, but Zoe worked a lot. Bailey, or Nurse Bailey as Zoe called her since Lucy had broken her leg, was not as helpful as Zoe thought she was. Neither of them understood Lucy’s fear.

For each hour Lucy stared out the window—begging the sunshine to reappear—the sky drew darker. The gusting wind slapped rain against the window, startling Lucy from her thoughts.

Lightning flashed and the apartment went dark, along with every light within view of the apartment window. Bailey left the room to sleep, apparently taking comfort from the dark apartment and droning rain.

The lightning frightened Lucy.

When it ceased she was horrified. Without lightning to illuminate the sky and the apartment, Lucy was unnerved, petrified.

The storm raged on. Each moment in complete darkness was utter torture. She wanted to leap out the window. She wanted her life over. But she couldn’t move.


Lucy sprang from her seat and tumbled to the floor. She propped herself up, unable to stand with the broken leg. Her eyes darted in a desperate attempt to spot the culprit. Suddenly from behind her it came again.


She rolled over and took a swipe, even though she knew it was useless. The ghost just floated in the air and laughed as Lucy’s swing went right through.

Lucy stared at her unwelcome third roommate, waiting for its next attack. 

Bailey must have heard the commotion. She came running into the room. Lucy desperately wanted Bailey’s presence to bring her comfort. She wanted Bailey to understand her fear; to see the phantom that haunted her this time each year.

Lucy listened to the ghost laugh hysterically as Bailey carefully scanned the room. She looked at Lucy and shook her head as she walked away. Bailey couldn’t see or hear the things Lucy could.

Lucy crawled under a blanket on the floor and endured the haunting sounds. The ghost tormented her all afternoon, just as it had done every other Halloween.

Finally Lucy heard a noise at the front door; Zoe, returning home from work! Without the sunshine to keep the ghost at bay, desperation overtook hopelessness and Lucy determined to explain everything to Zoe—make her understand this time.

She hobbled to the living room. The door opened and Zoe appeared. Water dripped off her as she set down the umbrella. She closed the door and bent down, beaming at the sight of Bailey and Zoe. Before Bailey could lick Zoe’s face, Lucy screamed, “Meow!”

Please check out these other stories by some of my author friends.

  1. The Traveler by Barbara Lund
  2. Evening by Karen Lynn
  3. Man Of Your Dreams by Gina Fabio
  4. The Undertaker’s Daughter by J. Q. Rose
  5. The Road by Elizabeth McCleary
  6. Storytime Blog Hop by C. T. Bridges
  7. Storytime Blog Hop by Warp World Books
  8. Family Time by Bonnie Burns
  9. The Exception by Vanessa Wells
  10. Number 99 by Juneta Key
  11. Edda’s Second Chance by Katharina Gerlach
  12. Very Thin Line by Rebecca Anne Dillon
  13. Henry Moves House by Nic Steven
  14. For The Ghost The Bell Tolls by James Husum
  15. Never Alone by Melanie Drake
  16. The Neighbor by Meghan Collins
  17. Storytime Blog Hop by Raven O’Fiernan

Posted in Blog Hop, Stories | Tagged , , , , | 20 Comments


My preference is to wait until a movie has been out for a few weeks before going to see it in the theater. I’d rather not fight a crowd or risk getting stuck with a front row seat. Actually, I would stand in the back or to the side before I’d sit in the front row. Sitting that close to a big screen makes me nauseous.

That being said, I do find myself at movies on opening weekend in two instances—when my kids want to see something opening weekend or when I have friends that want to go opening weekend and it’s a movie I want to support. I do understand the importance of early box office sales to the longevity and success of a movie.

That’s how I found myself at a sold out 7:10 showing of Overcomer at the Chisholm Trail 8 in Newton last Friday night.

I met my friend and local DJ, Rockin’ Ron Corino at the theater at 6:30. He had already purchased my ticket, so a shout out to an awesome guy!

He had arranged with the manager to have a drawing before the movie. Ron handed out tickets in the lobby and then in the theater, then about ten minutes before the movie started he drew numbers and gave away a couple of CDs, four DVDs, and two gift cards for the winner to give to someone to come see Overcomer. I got to be his runner and deliver the prizes to people in their seats.

Since becoming an author I’ve been studying the art of storytelling. I can’t watching a movie or show or read a book without noticing elements of how the story was put together. That being said, I’ll provide brief thoughts on the movie from two perspectives—the inspirational and the structural. And I promise, no spoilers.

From a spiritual/inspiration/motivational perspective, Overcomer was a home run. That shouldn’t come as a surprise as it was written and produced by the Kendrick Brothers, the same pair that made Facing the Giants, Fireproof, and War Room.

Take plenty of Kleenex. It’s an awesome, emotional ride with strong themes of restored relationships, forgiveness, and of course, overcoming significant obstacles.

From a storytelling perspective, I had a couple of disappointments. One is typical—there were some small elements that were a bit far-fetched. Now, I tend to not hold that against a movie unless they’re glaringly obvious because all movies have moments they ask you to suspend reality and accept their truth.

In this case I’m sure it was done to keep the length of the movie reasonable, which is probably also the reason for my second complaint. I expected cross country to be more of a central part of the movie. Yes, the sophomore girl running cross country was central to the theme of the story, but they skipped much of her progression during the middle section of the movie. I needed to see more of the development of that particular plot.

That being said, the last 20-30 minutes of the movie was so well done and powerful that it made up for any shortcuts it took to get there. There were two brilliant twists I did not see coming that had me lying awake in bed that night thinking about them.

So go see Overcomer. Who couldn’t use a little inspiration in today’s world?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Protected: July 2019 Storytime Blog Hop

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Posted in Blog Hop, Stories | Tagged , , , | Enter your password to view comments.

The Drive to Roswell

My first post will be a relatively short one because, well, all I did was drive. I drove 596 miles in less than 9 1/2 hours. I forgot to look at what time I arrived exactly. I stopped four times, not more than five minutes each.

The big highlight of the trip was when my car turned over 200,000 miles in the panhandle of Texas. My last Camry went for 315,000 before conking out, so I hope to have a lot of years left in my 2004 model.

I had to work for a couple of hours this morning, then pack before I left.

When I arrived in Roswell I stopped at my sister’s house and visited with her and her family. She gave me a tour of their house (they moved in last December), and I brought my Dad and stepmom’s dog to their house.

They are in Lubbock because my stepmom had a stint put in her heart. Nothing serious, and they should be back tomorrow afternoon. So for tonight I am house sitting and dog sitting, but mostly I will be sleeping.

Good night.

Posted in Appearances, Personal Thoughts | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

UFO Festival 2019

In two days I’ll be attending the 72nd annual UFO Festival on July 5-7.

This is a great event with a lot of, well, um, unique individuals.
Now before you laugh, consider that in 2018 the event drew in over 20,000 visitors from 43 states and 7 different countries. And I was the only author selling books.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with my work, I have a science fiction book series where the main character is kidnapped by an alien in Roswell. In the books I also explain the truth behind the controversial 1947 crash just outside of Roswell.

Yes, I write fiction, but my theory is as plausible as any out there. Check out Vetrix and Earth, the first two books of the series, and see what you think.

As you can imagine, my best sales event ever was last year’s UFO Festival. This year I have a third book in the series published—Zentron—and new book covers for all three books. I hope for a profitable trip.
And I have a legitimate chance to break even or make a profit. The only two expenses I’ll have are the vendor fee and gas because I have family in Roswell.

My sister and brother and their families live in Roswell, but I’ll stay with my dad and stepmom. Last year my stepmom (one of the best cooks on the planet) packed meals so I didn’t have to eat out at the festival. I also packed meals for the drives to save time and money. I can make the drive in less than nine hours.

I will try to take many pictures and write a blog each day about my experience. You can follow them on my Facebook page—Bill Bush Author—and on my website at billbushauthor.com. I have a twitter account and will try to update it, but I’m not very faithful to it.

Posted in Appearances | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

April, 2019 Storytime Blog Hop

Once again it’s time for a fun adventure. Enjoy my story below, then follow the links to other stories of participating authors in the blog hop.  Leave us comments.  We love hearing from you!

I fudged a little this time around. The following in an excerpt from the first chapter of Vetrix, the first book of my middle grade science fiction series. Sorry 🙂 I promise a complete flash fiction story next time around.

Many of you are familiar with Flipper and Allison and Josh from reading some of their flash fiction stories. Well, this is how

it all started…

Flipper was a normal twelve-year-old kid, or so he thought. Little did he know that a war several million light years away between the Gudes and the Snaders was about to change his destiny. Then again, the Gudes and Snaders didn’t realize Flipper was about to change theirs either.


Allison’s dreams that night were intense, and she didn’t feel like she was dreaming. She felt like she had gone back in time — was reliving the previous day — but there was something quite different about this repeated experience, like a long déjà vu.

She was back in Social Studies class and Josh was giving his presentation on the Roswell Incident. Everything looked the same as it had that morning, but this time she was overwhelmed by the same strange sensation she had felt when walking home. She felt like she was in the presence of someone important; kind of like when she met the mayor at a dinner she went to with her parents. Except this felt like she was in the presence of someone much more important than a mayor.

Allison turned and looked behind her. In what had been an empty seat in the back row that morning sat someone she had never seen before. He was older than the students and had a slightly amused expression. His hair was rumpled and his skin was… She blinked, hoping her eyes would clear. His skin was… Allison gaped at him until he noticed her stare and looked her way. She jerked her head back to Josh, droning on about the Roswell Incident.

She felt the presence ease, so she looked back. The man was gone, but she couldn’t get his image out of her mind.

His skin had been purple. Brightly, unapologetically purple.

Instantly, she was with Flipper and Josh, walking home from school. She froze sensing the same overwhelming presence as earlier. But this time, when she looked across the street at the lot, she saw the purple man from the classroom standing, watching them.

This time, she locked eyes with him for several moments. The purple man tilted his head, looking at her, puzzled. The look of confusion on his face mirrored what Allison felt. She looked at Flipper and saw her hand clamped on his arm. She looked back across the street but the man was gone.

Allison tossed and turned as her dream intensified.

She began having flashbacks to their evening of trick-or-treating. Everywhere they went, the purple man was there, watching, following. The sense of his presence intensified with each sighting. Finally, she couldn’t take it any longer and started running towards him. She didn’t know who he was or what he wanted, but she couldn’t stand the feeling any longer. She was scared and angry. She screamed, “Just leave me alone!”

Allison startled awake and sat straight up, sweating, breathing heavily. She was awake, but the intense presence she had felt in her dream was still with her. In fact, it was even stronger. She jumped to her feet and turned around. The purple man was standing in the room with them, holding Flipper in his arms. Flipper was still asleep.

“What are you doing?” Allison demanded.

“We are trying to protect you. Blake… Flipper… has been chosen to save us all.”

And with those words the man and Flipper vanished.


Thank you for reading! Now on to the next story…

Zombies by Barbara Lund
Before The Dreams by Katharina Gerlach
To Wake A God by Juneta Key
The Sprite In The Well by Angela Wooldridge
Something Different by Karen Lynn
0 – The Fool by Raven O’Fiernan
Big Enough by Elizabeth McCleary
Grumpy Old Demeter by Vanessa Wells
Say Please By J. Q. Rose
Provoking the Muse by Moira K. Brennan

Posted in Blog Hop, Flipper | Tagged , , | 20 Comments

Mourning A Loss

It’s been a tough week.

On March 19 my uncle Jack passed away. He was 71.

Jack and my Aunt Rhonda had been married a long time, but I didn’t really know him until my kids and I stayed with them during our vacation in Colorado Springs in 2015.
They had invited us to visit for years, but my mom had planned to take me and my kids to Colorado the summer she passed away. It took me six years to confront the pain of going to that beautiful state without her.

They were wonderful hosts. I parked my car in their garage when we arrived and I don’t think I took it out again until we left. They slept on the living room floor and gave Sydney, Blake, and I the three bedrooms.

Rhonda took most of the week off so she and Jack could spend it with us. Even when she had to go into work, Jack drove the kids and me around.

During our visit he was hospitable, selfless, attentive, and treated us like he had known us his whole life. I believe I gained an uncle and a friend that week.

Jack and Rhonda helped me heal from six years of pain. Since that first trip I’ve been to Colorado Springs several times and I’ll never go to Colorado without thinking about Mom and Jack and Rhonda.

I hope Jack tells Mom about our trips to Colorado. I think she would enjoy hearing about them.

I felt a connection to Jack that I have rarely experienced. I admired him. I enjoyed him. I liked getting to know him and I loved having discussions because he was ruled by reason. Jack was a deep thinker and I valued his opinions (even when I disagreed) because he had carefully thought them through.

He received a PhD in Sociology from the University of Missouri in 1994. He had many published writings and had asked me to read his current book project before he submitted it. I felt both honored and intimidated at the invitation.

We had running in common, though he completed and succeeded at a much higher level than I ever will. He attended Fort Hays State University and won a national championship in cross country in the 1950s.

I was numb all week until I spent most of my Sunday writing my memories of him for his funeral. That forced me to face reality, accept my grief, and begin the mourning process.

I’m hurting. I struggle to focus, to write, to care, to feel. I’ll always miss him, but like the others in my life that have preceded him in death, the pain will ease and the hurt will heal.

At first I thought I would make it to the funeral. Then it turned out that I couldn’t. I’ll be at his house in May, and I hope I can get the closure then that I missed from not attending his funeral.

I realize that few reading this knew my Uncle Jack. But we all understand the pain of losing loved family members.

Thank you for allowing me to process. I don’t think I could have written about anything else this week. This is the only place my emotional energy will go.

Posted in Personal Thoughts | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Zentron – Chapter 1

One day a long, long time ago, a species fought for survival. Not long before that day their survival had been assumed to be infinite—they were the strongest and cleverest, had superior technology, and controlled the universal traffic and economy.

The chilling space-bullies were a physically unique and intimidating species. The average adult stood over twelve-foot tall, used all eight of their legs to walk, and any of the eight could double as an arm. Their solid, smooth, and scaly upper bodies culminated with the head of a snake—sharp, pointed teeth on bottom, four fangs on top, a small slit for a nostril, and bulging, beady eyes with no eyelids. They were hypnotizing in every sense of the word.

But just as seasons change, so did their place in the hierarchy of races. Their overbearing methods developed many enemies who rose up to overthrow their high-handed oppression. 

Because of this revolution, the towering creatures with eight legs that ruled the universe are now no more than monsters that fill our horror stories and haunt our dreams. But before their overthrow, they had one last mission, designed and fulfilled with the purpose of providing an opportunity for a future return to dominance.


“Are you sure we can trust him?” Zryolk’s fourteen-foot ten-inch frame was incongruent with the doubt in his voice. “If he doesn’t come through for us we won’t survive the day, let alone complete our mission.”

Captain Criswal didn’t respond. Instead, the captain’s mind seemed to be as far away as his gaze at the monstrous planet that lay in front of them. Zentron was the largest planet among the known universes, although very few were even aware of its existence. The inhabitants of Zentron had gone to great lengths to keep their existence unknown.

Zryolk was about to repeat his question when the captain said, “If he doesn’t, our last act as a species will be to obliterate their planet.”

The opportunity to destroy another species sounded exhilarating; doing so at the expense of his own race didn’t.


Pharghtang’s previously unnoticed presence and squeaky voice seemed to bring the captain’s focus back into the flight deck of his spaceship.

“Yes, Minion?” The captain used the term degradingly, but Pharghtang always took being called the captain’s minion as a source of pride. Zryolk assumed Pharghtang and his dumb, scrawny, nine-and-a-half-foot-tall body was so desperate for a connection with others that he created one in his own mind by accepting the putdown as a sort of pet name. 

It explained why Pharghtang seemed to enjoy being picked on by the soldiers. Pharghtang wasn’t a soldier, but a gopher—primarily for the captain, but in practicality for anyone who felt like abusing him at any given moment.

As the primary pilot for Captain Criswal, Zryolk had plenty of opportunity to be around the minion. At first Zryolk had tried to get to know Pharghtang, to understand why he thrived on the negative attention. He had had to abandon his attempt when Pharghtang was completely uncomfortable with the positive attention and of being treated with respect. Although it didn’t satisfy his inner curiosity about Pharghtang, Zryolk was happy to treat him as an underling.

Pharghtang cleared his throat, which made his voice a little less shrill, but it definitely still classified as squeaky. “The troops are ready and on standby.”

“You are dismissed.”

Pharghtang bowed to the captain as if he were king, then scampered from the room.

The captain paced the flight deck. Zryolk focused on flying the spaceship.

“We’ll be in position in less than five minutes!” Talistian, Zryolk’s co-pilot, spoke to the captain, but said it loud enough for everyone on the flight deck to hear.

“Very well. Everyone be prepared.” The captain sat down in his elevated chair, located in the center of the flight deck. “Charks?”

“Yes, Captain?” the quiet and unassuming lady in the back corner replied.

“Get in contact with General Merkes immediately and give him a status update. If one little thing goes wrong with this plan, we will let him know and we’ll destroy this planet to the point there will be no evidence it ever existed.”

“Yes, Captain.” Charks began talking into her transmitter.

Zryolk knew Captain Criswal wasn’t excited about their plan, and had made his disagreements known. He also knew the captain would fulfill his orders, as much as he disagreed with them. For better or for worse, this was now their best option to ensure a resurgence to power one day. 

Talistian spoke again. “Captain—Xandor, our contact from Zentron, is available.”

“Put him up on the big screen,” the captain ordered.

Immediately two large green faces appeared on the front window of the flight deck. 

“Greetings, and welcome to Zentron,” said the man with a large nose and wrinkled skin.

“Dispense with the insincere formalities,” the captain bellowed. “We know you don’t want us here anymore than we want to be here.”

“We have been able to keep our existence hidden from all other species for thousands of years. Of course we don’t want you or anyone else here.” The woman’s tone of voice was as fiery as her long red hair. Set against her green skin, her hair was stunning. In fact, Zryolk thought she was about the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. “You threatened our family and our existence as a species,” the woman continued. “What are we supposed to do?”

“Exactly as we require,” said the captain slowly. His eyes locked for several tense moments with hers.

The man squirmed in his seat and cleared his throat. “I am Xandor, and this is my daughter, Limon. I apologize for her directness, but your presence puts our family in a dangerous position. If any of our people find out we are helping you, well, they won’t be understanding.”

Captain Criswal seemed to lack sympathy for their precarious position. “My assistant will keep General Merkes updated on our progress. If at any time this mission goes bad, he will order an assault on your planet. All our troops throughout the universe will be contacted with your location and given instructions to abandon their current battles, locate your planet and destroy it beyond recognition.

Limon scowled. “You can’t afford to abandon your battles. You’re on the verge of defeat as it is.”

Zryolk gasped in shock at her irreverent boldness.

Captain Criswal roared. “Understand, greenie! If you betray us, our last act as a species will be to eliminate yours.”

An awkward silence followed, and Zryolk could swear that Limon’s face now matched the color of her hair.

Captain Criswal broke the silence. “Now, do you have the facility prepared so we can hide our merchandise?”

“Everything is as you requested,” Xandor said diplomatically.

Neither Xandor nor Limon wanted to help the Snaders secure the means by which they could regain dominance in the future, but the man didn’t show his discontent.

Zryolk would have felt the same way were they in opposite places. The Snaders were used to—in fact, preferred—that others didn’t like them or want to cooperate with them. They prided themselves on instilling fear in order to get what they wanted. 

“Good.” The captain stood and began to pace as he spoke. “We’ll be landing in a few minutes. We need to transport our package into the secure area as quickly as possible to ensure not being detected.”

“Understood,” Xandor said before the screen went blank.


Half an hour later Captain Criswal and Zryolk stood outside the spaceship on Zentron. Charks was with them maintaining contact with General Merkes on the radio. They wore special bodysuits that covered every inch of their skin to protect them from the cold. Although the bodysuits were thin, they were impenetrable by the cold.

Captain Criswal didn’t understand how, but even with his face covered by the bodysuit he could see through it clearly and could breathe without restriction.

Pharghtang, distinguishable only by his small size, drove a large ten-wheeled vehicle out of the spaceship and stopped just short of where the captain and Zryolk stood. The red, rectangular vehicle required two engines to haul the trailer and the weight of the load it carried.

The trailer was thirty feet long and twelve feet wide. With the weight of the cargo, it traveled less than a foot off the ground.

Captain Criswal shuddered as his gaze froze on the trailer’s freight, a box thirty feet long, seven feet wide, and five feet high. It was made of a special metal that was two feet thick on all sides. The rectangular metal box had several slits on each side, with red and white smoke constantly flowing out.

Twenty troops marched behind the trailer, each wearing identical black bodysuits as the captain. They split formation—half going on each side of the trailer—and lifted the heavy coffin-shaped box. Pharghtang carefully pulled the vehicle forward so the trailer cleared the box, then made a U-turn back toward the spaceship.

Pharghtang drove the vehicle back into the spaceship, then returned to join the others.

Although it was night, three bright moons—two half and one full—lit the sky. The land was flat, the ground frozen, and they could see for miles. There wasn’t anything in sight.

Where were their hosts?

“Are you sure we have the correct spot?”

Zryolk double-checked his hand-held computer. “This is the exact spot Xandor instructed us to meet them.”

“Well, where is that no-good s—”

“Captain!” Pharghtang pointed. “They just came out of nowhere!”

Criswal didn’t hear what Pharghtang said because he had seen exactly what Pharghtang and the rest of the crew saw—Xandor and Limon appearing out of nowhere.

“One second there was nothing, and the next those two greenies were walking toward us,” Pharghtang explained to the troops holding the front of the box.

Xandor and Limon approached the group walking on two legs and casually swinging two arms. The captain had always thought it strange that other races could balance so well with only two legs. He couldn’t imagine functioning without eight interchangeable appendages.

With their green bodysuits on, at first the captain couldn’t tell Xandor and Limon apart. As they neared, he saw how Limon’s hair puffed up her bodysuit on top, where Xandor’s bodysuit fit snuggly over his bald head.

Captain Criswal stepped forward. “I am Captain Criswal. I thought your people didn’t have the ability to teleport.”

Xandor nodded his head. “That is correct; we are not able to teleport.”

Zryolk stepped up beside Criswal. “But the two of you appeared out of nowhere!”

“We are using the same technology to hide the building behind us that we use to hide our solar system,” Xandor explained. “The building is there, but a bubble shield causes anything looking at it to see the landscape in its natural surroundings.”

“Why bother hiding the building?” Zryolk asked. “Our radar indicated there isn’t anything living near here.”

“Yes, the size and rotation of our planet makes living conditions on much of the planet impossible,” Limon said. “Our home is one the other side of Zentron. By way of land, it is over three hundred thousand miles away.”

“Even so,” Xandor continued, “we can’t risk this facility being discovered. Otherwise our, uh, arrangement would quickly be compromised.”

“Shall we proceed inside?” Limon offered.

“Just so we are clear,” Captain Criswal said as he nodded to his left, “Lieutenant Charks here is responsible for keeping General Merkes periodically updated. If at any time our plan is compromised, he will immediately issue a command for all our troops to attack and destroy your planet.”

Limon glared, but to her credit held her tongue. She turned and walked with Xandor behind her. General Criswal motioned for his men to follow.

When Xandor and Limon reached the spot where they had appeared, they disappeared. Everyone in the visiting party stopped.

Captain Criswal sensed the reluctance they all had about passing the point of disappearance. He swallowed hard and took the last three steps quickly, before he could consider what other options he might have. As soon as he crossed into the invisible bubble he saw Xandor and Limon, thirty feet ahead, waiting in front of the building that had been invisible to them a few seconds before.

The building looked like a domed roof. Xandor pressed a code into a number pad on the side of the building and the whole front wall (at least from their angle) began to lower. Once everyone was inside, Xandor shut the wall.

Captain Criswal, Zryolk, Charks, and Pharghtang stood at the far end in the center of the room with Xandor and Limon. The peak in the room allowed them to stand up straight. The box took up the remaining length of the room. The accompanying entourage on either side holding the box had to bend over because of the sloped ceiling. The troops set the box down on the ledge that ran down the center of the long room.

Once the door had shut, a steady hum began and the floor slowly descended. After several minutes they came to a sudden and jerky stop. A few seconds of quiet, and the humming noise began again. A ceiling crossed above, gradually entrapping them in a boxed room.

“Captain Criswal, this next part could be rather disturbing, as—”

“Yes, Xandor, we all know exactly what to expect.”

Xandor grunted, and Captain Criswal smiled at his frustration. He was tired of Xandor’s proud touting of his innovation. He just cared that Xandor did what the Snaders required. How he did it didn’t concern the captain.

He gave the captain a nod, which the captain hoped meant that he understood the time pressure they were under, and began typing in a code to the transmitter he carried with him.

Air began to blow into the room from all directions. The pressure of the air pushed on all sides of his body. It was unpleasant, but expected.

In spite of their preparedness, several of his troops complained. Their panic was short-lived, because within seconds they couldn’t move a muscle. The extreme air pressure was necessary to keep everything and everyone from being tossed around during descent, and to keep them from imploding from the force of the drop. Nothing would be able to move.

Even though he didn’t have eyelids, the captain wasn’t able to see much. His gaze was frozen on the box. As the air continued to thicken, visibility decreased. There was virtually no peripheral vision, and seeing straight ahead was quickly becoming impossible as well.

When his vision reached the point he couldn’t clearly make out anything through the thick air the captain heard a loud roar, sounding not unlike his spaceship when it roared to life. The roar meant they were already moving toward the core of Zentron, quickly picking up speed. In less than a minute the rumble reached its peak and they were moving at top speed. They would cover the ninety thousand miles in about twenty minutes.

The captain had done the math when they’d first learned about the mission. They were traveling at forty-five hundred miles a minute, or two-hundred and seventy thousand miles an hour. That was not fast for an interstellar spaceship, but completely unheard of for planetary travel. He remained frozen and could not tell at all that they were moving. The thick air secured them during the journey, protected them from being hurt at the extraordinary fast take-off and speedy travel.

The one question the captain never got a satisfactory answer to was what they would do if there was a problem during their travel to the core of Zentron. The answer given him, which he didn’t like, was that there was nothing they could do. They had been assured, however, that Xandor and Limon had done everything possible to ensure there would not be any issues. Being frozen by the thick air prevented them from reacting to anything that might go wrong. In reality, there wasn’t anything that could be done at these speeds, and he didn’t want to trouble his mind over a very unlikely event. But now that he had twenty minutes of nothing but his own mind, that’s all he could think about. Well, that and peanuts. He hadn’t had any peanuts since they left on their journey nearly a year ago.

Fortunately, they arrived safely.

At the end of the journey the roar slowly faded until it went silent altogether. The air immediately began decompressing and within a minute everyone had full control of their bodies again.

The wall nearest the captain lowered. Xandor and Limon led them into a room that was about the size of the captain’s flight deck. The room was completely empty, except for a long slab of stone in the center. The captain knew from his training that the core of Zentron was twenty times the temperature of the hottest sun of his home planet. Without the invisible protective barrier—he couldn’t fathom how it kept such heat safely and securely out—they would have disintegrated early into their journey downward.

The heat would not bother the casket. It was frozen with a special chemical that would protect it in any conditions, even the most extreme heat and cold.

Captain Criswal was impressed with the arrangements. He would never admit that to Xandor.

The troops walked their cargo to the center of the room and set it carefully onto the foot-high slab, built to be the perfect size to hold the box, then stepped back and a curved tube rotated from below, encasing the box on the table within glass. The tube melded, and within seconds was seamless. Although a few slits allowed smoke to roll out, there was no visible means of opening the glass tube.

Xandor told them all to stand back. A glass case lowered from the ceiling and encased the tube. The glass was three feet thick on all sides, including the top.

It would take a pure-blooded Snader to open the glass cage and release the box and its contents.

Limon stepped directly in front of the captain. “It’s done.” 

She handed him a square box half the size of Captain Criswal’s humongous hands. “We call this The Key because it is the only way to open the glass case around your casket.”

“How does it work?” Captain Criswal asked.

“In order to activate The Key it needs to be in contact with the glass case.” She pointed out the faint outline where the box was to be placed. “One of the sides of The Key will open. A Snader must insert a finger…”

“Or toe or tongue,” Xandor quickly added.

“Yes. Then The Key will poke the finger, or toe or tongue, and test the blood. If the blood is pure Snader blood, then the transfusion can begin.”

“What happens if the person isn’t a pureblood?” Zryolk asked.

“They don’t get their finger back,” Xandor said.

Some of the men cringed, but Captain Criswal smiled and nodded his understanding. He admired the box with a reverent awe. This had been a surreal assignment and now that they were near the end, he was overwhelmed with the magnitude of what he held.

“You understand the procedure for releasing your item?”

The captain thought she meant it as a statement, but it came out as a question.

“Yes, of course.” He looked up at Limon, then over to Xandor. “And you understand the consequences if we return and are not able to access this box.”

The captain meant it as a question, but it came out more as a threat.

“Of course.” Limon didn’t try to hide her disdain of the threat. “What’s in the casket that is so valuable?”

“Only the most valuable item in the universe,” the captain shot back. “And it isn’t a casket.” He positioned himself in front of Xandor and Limon and stared them down. “Just to make sure we have been clear, you are responsible for keeping our cargo safe and secure. No matter how long it takes us to return for it—the days or years that pass—you are to be prepared for our arrival to reclaim our package at any time. And if you are not, or if something has happened to our possession, we will destroy every living thing on this planet.”

“We were promised that if you ever returned for your package and it helped you return to power, that your people would allow us to live in obscurity.” When Xandor spoke it was with a lot of doubt.

“Of course,” the captain said without conviction.

Charks informed General Merkes that the merchandise had been secured, and they were about to return to the spaceship.

Within thirty minutes they were on the ship making preparations for take-off. Another ten minutes and they were leaving Zentron. Charks gave General Merkes the all clear.  

The captain sat in his chair on the flight deck, satisfied that their successful effort on Zentron would provide them with the opportunity to someday once again conquer and rule the universe.

With the considerable distance they needed to travel and the necessity to avoid the warring areas, it would be months before they would return to their home planet. Most likely by then the war would be over and they would be facing a mandatory exile.

They had only been en route a couple of hours when the alarm on the spaceship started blaring. The captain had returned to his bunk to update the ship’s log, and was deep in thought when the alarm went off.

Before he could call down to the flight deck, he heard Zryolk’s voice speak to him over the intercom. “Captain, we have company, and they’re closing in quick.”

“Notify everyone to prepare in case of an attack. Contact the spaceship and let them know we’re friendly; we don’t want any trouble. I’ll be right there.”

The captain rushed to the flight deck.

“Captain on deck!” Pharghtang shouted.

Captain Criswal was quickly updated on their unexpected guest that was nearing.

“It’s like they came out of nowhere,” Zryolk explained. “One minute the radar was clear, the next we had a spaceship coming at us from the side only a few minutes away. I can’t explain it.”

The captain took his seat and pulled the overhead monitor down to eye level. “They aren’t the ones that appeared out of nowhere, we were.”

“What are you talking about?” Zryolk asked.

“We don’t have time for that right now,” the captain said. “Have you contacted them? Do we know their intentions?”

Zryolk looked at Charks, who shook her head. “We’ve been sending out messages, telling them we don’t want any trouble, but they aren’t responding. We don’t know what they intend.”

“Let’s continue straight, but steer gradually away from them.”

Charks continued her attempts at reaching the spaceship, with no response.

They veered away from the other spaceship and thought their message had gotten through as the other spaceship seemed to back off. But after a few minutes it started to quickly close the gap between them.

As the ship neared they could read the words on the side.

Freedom  —  Peace — Justice

It was one of the council’s spaceships.

The captain had a feeling he knew their intentions. He stood. “Zryolk, I have to step away for a moment. You are in control.”

He quickly left the flight deck and returned a few minutes later with the council’s spaceship almost upon them.

Pharghtang yelled, “Captain on deck!”

The captain resumed his seat. “Full throttle!”

“Sir, we can’t outrun them,” Zryolk said. “It’s a council-sanctioned ship.”

The captain looked up at the big-screen monitor on the front window and saw the council’s emblem on the front of the ship. He knew Zryolk was correct.

It was at that moment the other spaceship opened fire.

“Full throttle!” The captain shouted again, this time with extreme urgency.

Immediately Zryolk took their spaceship to maximum speed. They quickly created some space between them and the council’s spaceship, but it wouldn’t take them long to catch back up.

“Charks, tell the troops in back to open fire.”

“Yes sir!” Charks abandoned trying to contact the council’s spaceship to call the battle room in the back of the spaceship.

“Zryolk, I need to speak to you outside.”

Talistian took over the piloting duties as the captain led Zryolk through the door to the hallway outside of the flight deck.

“Zryolk, I need you to prepare the escape pod for me.”

“But captain…” Zryolk looked astonished.

The captain had expected as much, but didn’t have time to explain. “I need you to trust me. The fate of our race depends on what happens in the next few minutes.”

“Okay, sir.” Zryolk nodded his head.

“Call me on the secure phone when you reach the pod.” The captain referred to the phones that he, Zryolk, Talistian, and the General carried that were dedicated solely to communicating with each other, in case of emergencies similar to what they were undergoing.

“Yes, sir!” Zryolk said, then disappeared down the hallway.

The captain returned to the flight deck just in time to see the council’s spaceship open fire again. He hurried to his seat and buckled in.

He gave the orders to retaliate, and the battle was in full force. They were sustaining a lot more damage than they were delivering.

The captain felt his phone vibrate, indicating that Zryolk was in the escape pod. He pulled down the monitor suspended above him and connected his phone. A soundproof glass tube surrounded him, giving him privacy so no one could hear what he was about to say. 

“Zryolk, are you in the pod?”

“Yes, but there’s a problem. The door has shut and locked. I can’t get it to budge.”

“I know. Listen to me carefully…”

“You know?” Zryolk’s voice was filled with bewilderment.

The captain continued. “I left The Key in the escape pod for you. I need you to take it and keep it secure. That Key is the only way we can retrieve what we just hid in the core of Zentron. Without it we will never be able to return to power. In fact, without it we likely will not exist as a race in the distant future.”

“Captain, you can’t give up on this battle.”

“The fate of this battle will be determined in the next few minutes and we both know that our chances are slim, at best. We cannot take the chance of losing control of that key—or worse, having it destroyed. It has to remain in our people’s hands. In a few minutes you will be alone, carrying with you the secret of what we did today along with The Key. Keep it. Pass it down to your children. Entrust it only to those worthy of protecting and one day rescuing and unleashing our secret weapon. One day we will escape from the oncoming exile and begin again at overthrowing the corrupted forces of the universe. It’s now your responsibility to have in place the method and the person capable of the sacrifice it will take to provide the leadership we will need. I am not understating it when I say the future of our race now lies in your hands.”

“Captain, I-I-I don’t know what to say…” Zryolk’s voice cracked from emotion.

“There isn’t anything to say.” The captain took a deep breath. “This is a time of action, and now you know what is required of you. I can’t think of anyone I trust more for this task. It’s not a small burden, but it’s now yours to carry alone. For that I am sorry.”

“Sir, for you, for our people, and for our Lord, I will dedicate my life and my descendants’ lives to protecting The Key.”

“I knew you would,” the captain said. “Are you secured?” 

“Yes, sir.”

The captain programmed a code on the screen floating in front of him. The escape pod disengaged from the spaceship and started hurtling away, quickly putting distance between it and the spaceships.

But the captain didn’t have time to watch. He had to act quickly before the council’s spaceship could send their own posse after Zryolk. 

He removed the tube from around his head and began barking out orders.

“Talistian, transfer the controls of the ship to me.”

“Yes, sir!”

Immediately on the monitor in front of him flashed a message that the co-pilot was transferring all the ship’s controls to him. The captain accepted and began to steadily and quickly slow the ship’s speed. The council’s spaceship behind them also slowed down to avoid a collision.

The fighting remained intense and the slower speed was causing them to take more damage. The captain wasn’t worried about the extra damage. He knew they weren’t getting out of this alive. His focus was on preventing the council from sending anyone after Zryolk, which he knew they were in the process of doing.

When the captain had slowed down as much as he thought he could risk, he sped the ship up to full power. He knew his crew would wonder what he was doing, but he didn’t have time to explain, and in a couple of minutes it wouldn’t matter anyway.

He increased his spaceship to full speed, and as he expected the council’s ship sped and began making up the ground.

“Charks, connect our intercom to the council’s spaceship.”

“But captain, they have yet to respond,” she replied.

“It doesn’t matter,” the captain said. “I know they can hear us.”

In no time Charks told the captain, “Okay, sir. We are connected.”

When the council’s spaceship had closed the gap, and before they could slow to a trailing speed equal to his own spaceship, the captain slammed all of the engines into reverse. This caused an immediate and dramatic decrease in speed—one which the council’s spaceship had no chance of duplicating.

The captain screamed into the intercom so the last thing everyone on both spaceships heard was, “For the Snader Lord!”

The council’s spaceship plowed into the captain’s spaceship and both exploded, destroying all involved.

Posted in Books, Flipper | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment