Plutonian Plans of Conquest Dashed

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“Plutonians!” the court’s Master-of-Arms called out “the time to expand our influence in Oort Cloud and the Kuiper Belts, is here!”   

The crowd of thousands applauded. The clapping resonated across the open courtyard of the castle and rose to the balcony where the King, and Master-of-Arms, stood with their arms crossed.

“Our scientists and engineers have built a spacecraft that will allow us to travel to the nearby dwarf planets of Haumea and Makemake. After observing them for decades the consensus is there’s life on both planets!

“I don’t have to tell you what that means. Our over-population problem is solved. But we must first explore these planets by sending an expedition to each one.

Long live the King!”   

“Long live the king!” the crowd echoed.

Later, inside the castle, the King was sitting on his throne and laughing with amusement at the life and death struggle before him. The knights were armed with short swords and they were both bleeding from numerous wounds.

Finally, the shorter one drove his knife into the open mouth of his opponent! Blood instantly gushed out as the warrior fell dead on his feet. The winner, Sir Doucet, turned to the king and bowed deeply.

“Good move!” the approving monarch gushed, “You shall lead the expedition to Haumea. Your primary job will be to pacify whatever people live there and make them our slaves. You’ll be accompanied by a team of our leading scientists who will explore the planet’s natural resources and see if they are of use to us.”

“As you say, my King. I’ll leave in the morning.”

When the Plutonian ship landed on Haumea, Sir Doucet gathered a group of knights to accompany him. They donned their space suits and went out the air-lock.

There were a lot of things they didn’t know about the planet they were going to conquer. Another team composed of scientists went the opposite way towards a mountain range.

After Sir Doucet’s team had been walking for days in the arid desert they came upon a forest. It extended as far as they could see. There was no way around it. The trees and thick underbrush hid the sun’s rays.

Sir Doucet turned on the light mounted on his helmet and gestured for the twelve men to follow.

Strange animal shrieks and other odd noises coming from the trees made the men jumpy. Then the ground started to rumble as something large approached the team. When the beast landed in their midst the carnage was instant!

Blood soaked the forest floor and body parts flew as the initial attack survivors tried to get away from the monster’s fury. It was hairy and huge. Bigger than any living thing on Pluto.

Only Sir Doucet, and a badly wounded knight, managed to escape from the deadly forest. Both men were in shock as they slowly made their way back to the ship.

Back on Pluto

“I read your report Sir Doucet, and I can’t say I’m pleased. There’s not one good reason to inhabit Haumea!”

“Forgive me, my lord. We tried.”

“You’re going to have to try harder when you go to Makemake! I want good news this time, or I’ll use your head for a kick ball! Now, get out of here!”

The trip to Makemake took longer than the last one. Sir Doucet had plenty of time to think about his lost comrades, and the king’s dire warning. He felt trapped.

Makemake

This time the team didn’t need helmets to breath. The atmosphere was the same as their planet. A real good sign.

The scientific team was thrilled to find minerals and other usable resources. Sir Doucet’s team roved around looking to make contact with someone, or something. They walked across fertile fields of grass and saw mighty rivers flowing into the horizon.

They saw small mammals and brightly colored birds. The multi-colored trees made a beautiful backdrop to the landscape. The temperature was mild with a gentle breeze as the team trudged on.

When the team stopped to take a break, a bright light suddenly hovered over them! The light grew larger and moved around until it faced the team.

“Welcome to Heaven,” the angel said, while becoming visible to them. “Just repent your sins and you can stay.”

Back on Pluto

“I don’t care! I want another ship built!” the king roared at his court.

“But sire, we sent our best scientists on the last expedition that disappeared,” the Court Chamberlin replied.

As It Stands, I thought this was a novel way to get to Heaven!

The Lone Wolf and the Space Cruiser

renderfin_by_adamkop-d9c9jw1The first company to offer public Space Cruises was Skyliner Corporation, in 2103.

The privately owned company was known for its innovations in space travel as a contractor for the U.S. military since 2078.

Space travel was becoming routine when the company’s first public space cruiser took its maiden flight in 2099. The 230 passengers consisted of family members of the entire team that built the giant luxury cruiser, and celebrities who paid top dollar to be on the historic flight into outer space.

The Captain, Joseph Van deMare, was a veteran space traveler who set numerous flight records during his career with the military. Skyliner’s CEO, Todd Knight, lured him out of retirement with the offer to make history, and a lot of money.

The two passenger levels offered a 360-degree view of the wonders of space. Every modern convenience was available to make passengers comfortable. The food, offered up by a 5-star chef was, as the company literature boasted, out of this world!

After the three-day cruise was over, passengers raved about their experiences. They made appearances on popular TV shows and shared their stories of awe and wonder. Some even claimed it was like a religious experience.

Afterwards, the designers and engineers went over the giant ship to see how it held up. One of the many computer techs found something in the software that troubled him. He went to his boss and explained his concern.

There were a couple of minor failures in the re-entry system software, and if not for the fail-safe system backup there could have been a disaster. All those happy passengers could have been roasted like chestnuts in a fire.

The board of directors agreed more work needed to be done before the next public flight. They also made sure no word got out about how close they’d come to a catastrophic event.

A year later the designers, the engineers, and the computer techs, patched the problems and added another back-up, to the first back-up system. Throughout this time controversy sprang up on social media platforms, and television, about man’s need to leave the planet.

Most agreed it was a good thing. Space travel for the masses might someday save mankind. Others thought it was blasphemy that people would want to leave the planet God made for them. Even for a short time.

Captain Van deMare stood on a platform next to the Space Cruiser, christened The Arc by the press, and the Milky Way Express by the owners, and patiently answered questions.

“Is it true there’s going to six weddings during this cruise?” a reporter from CNN asked.

“Yes. And I’ll be marrying them.”

“Any safety concerns?” another reporter from a local news station asked.

“If there were, I wouldn’t be going. This big bird (he slapped the side of the space cruiser’s hull) is indestructible,” he assured the reporter.

Watch it!” another reporter joked, “Isn’t that what the owners said about The Titanic?” 

“Well, that’s about all. I have to get ready now, we’re leaving in six hours. Thank you all for coming. I’ll see you again when we get back,” Captain Van deMare said.

DAY ONE

All of the passengers are having the time of their lives with the exception of one man, Abraham Klein. He’s sitting quietly at a table for two. Before him, an Autumn Vegetable Salad with Beetroot Dressing has hardly been touched.

He waits for God to speak to him. He’s ready.

DAY TWO

Alone in his room, Abraham pulls out the leather pouch from beneath his shirt. He carefully pulls the leather string and peeks inside – the miniature bomb’s shiny surface picks up the overhead light and he sees his face.

But no word from God.

DAY THREE

Abraham continues avoiding conversations with people. It’s lonely being God’s servant. He has a moment of guilt when he sees a new bride kiss her husband on the big screen. Their joy almost seems heavenly he thought, then caught himself.

No. He was the heavenly one. Soon to be one of God’s angels.

DAY FOUR

When the captain offered a tour of the massive space cruiser, Abraham joined in with the other passengers. His heart sped up. Was this going to be his opportunity?

Two levels below the second passenger level, there were three fusion reactors that powered the behemoth. As the curious passengers stepped out of the elevators, Abraham felt his chest, and the leather bag underneath his shirt burned.

Then God spoke.

Back on Earth

Press from around the world surrounded Skyliner Corporations headquarters.

The Milky Way Express had gone dark two days ago. Phone calls to, and from, the space cruiser suddenly stopped. Military space ships searched the route the space cruiser took, but found nothing.

As It Stands, this is my nod to the terrorists we face today. Especially to “Lone Wolfs.” 

 

All Aboard the Soul Train!

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A dimly lit train station surrounded by darkness.

Flickering souls, like giant fireflies, waiting impatiently. They hover around the loading platform. A train’s whistle breaks the silence…

“Step right up folks! Have your holo-tickets ready. No shoving or cutting into line now,” an old man with a conductor’s hat on, called out.

The train took off into the vast darkness, its steel wheels humming like celestial music. Inside, two souls were deep in conversation:

“That sure was close,” the first soul, whose name was Rosco, said with a sigh of relief. “If it wasn’t for those extra points I earned giving up my life for those kids, I think I would have gotten a one-way trip to hell.”

“Don’t be too confident now. We still face challenges before making it to Heaven,” the second soul, whose name was Harry, pointed out.

“You’re right, of course. We still have three trials to face before getting our wings,” Roscoe agreed.

“My first ticket is to a place called Agincourt, on October 25th, 1415, during the Hundred Years War,” Harry said.

“What’s your new name?” Roscoe politely asked.

“Peter Archer, I’m a long bowman for King Henry V.”

“My new name is Albert McColloch, and I’m a bystander at the OK Corral shootout in Tombstone, Arizona, on October 26, 1881,” Roscoe said, after closely scanning his holo-ticket stub.

“Looks like you’ll be getting off this train after me if the stops are chronological,” Harry observed.

“I hate to admit it,” Roscoe said, “but I was a politician in my old life.”

“That explains your close call for getting the tickets.”

“I know,” Roscoe confessed. “I’m sure grateful that I qualified for the Karma program and got these opportunities to show why I’ll make a good angel.”

“Next stop coming up!” the conductor’s voice suddenly rang out.

Harry stood up and stretched.

“Agincourt!” the conductor announced.

“Good luck to you Roscoe. I hope to see you in heaven some day,” Harry said before hurrying down the narrow aisle to the open door.

Roscoe watched him leave and the conductor close the door. He looked out into the darkness and prayed that he wouldn’t run for mayor of Tombstone.

As It Stands, souls, and what happens to them, are one of my favorite themes.

Why The Music Must Never Stop

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The teacher told this story to his students one rainy day:

“You couldn’t call it Rock and Roll Heaven.

There were too many other types of music represented there.

It, where everyone was gathered, was somewhere between limbo and another life on a runaway asteroid.

A collection of souls that couldn’t separate themselves from their music.

From guitar devotees to tambourine fans, they followed their muse blindly. Pianos, drums, trumpets, French horns, tubas, guitars, harmonicas, accordions, violins, banjos, and harps all combined in a cacophony of sound that serenaded the stars every night.

The universal language of music attracted other life forms from solar systems across the galaxies. Celestial beings from Nimius, to the ethereal inhabitants of Anor Minor, listened to the music coming from the rogue asteroid.

The common theme among those musical souls – some referred to them as angels – was a message of peace and love.

Not far behind from where the angels dwelled, there was another asteroid. It was called hell.

It’s inhabitants were tortured souls, stuck in an eternal cycle of hate, greed, lust and vengeance. A collection of demons from every planet in three universes. Their cries haunted the cold cosmos.

Hell grew with hate, sucking it out of every living species and soul. Devouring hope and destroying planets with terrible technologies of the inhabitants own making. It was a powerful negative force that fed on fear.

Sometime in infinity hell crashed into the planet earth. Not long after that the angels appeared. Mankind, in it’s infancy, worshipped the angels and the demons. What became known as good and evil evolved among the human race.

The angels brought with them music in all its forms. The human race adopted the endless varieties of music to protect themselves from evil. As long as music was being played somewhere on the planet there was always hope.”

The teacher paused and looked at his eager young students, before saying, “That’s why the sages tell us that the music must never stop.”

As It Stands, I’ve always considered music a mystical thing with powers beyond our understanding.

Pete’s Last Hope To Stay Out of Hell

Do, or Die

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Questionable souls, standing in line, waited for one last chance to save themselves from the fires of hell.

There were two lines that stretched into infinity. One coming into the arena, and another going out.

The sounds of the Celestial Games filled the air.

“Do you have any idea what our challenge is going to be?” Pete asked the hulking soul in front of him.

“I heard it was different for every soul,” the hulking soul named Tyson replied.

The cacophony of sound increased as they walked into the enormous coliseum packed with Saved Souls seeking entertainment. Super sports fans. They were so good that they didn’t have to compete to stay out of hell. They went directly to Heaven after dying.

God sat on a huge golden throne on the other end of the coliseum. He was wearing a baseball cap and a sports jacket that glittered like diamonds. “Let the games begin!” he roared.

The games consisted of a variety of sports. Baseball. Football. Basketball. Hockey. Soccer. Golf. And boxing. The contestants were assigned a sport. Those in the football line had to tackle famous running back Gale Sayers before he got a touchdown.

Sayers, was one of the happy souls that got to play the game again…and again..in his version of heaven. Determined souls slid right off him as he barreled for touchdown after touchdown.

The souls that were assigned basketball had to make a basket with Wilt Chamberlain guarding them. He happily swatted away desperate shots without working up a sweat.

Those souls in the baseball line had to get a hit against Sandy Koufax. When it came to hockey, the souls had to keep Gordie Howe from scoring a goal. The souls assigned to golf had to play – and beat – Arnold Palmer in a 3-Hole sudden death.

There was one line – in the center of the coliseum where the souls waiting to fight against Mohammad Ali, were groaning out loud with fear.

Pete was in the basketball line. He watched Tyson dribbling the ball around Wilt…looking for a shot. Finally he thought he saw an oppening and took it. Wilt smiled and waited until the last second before sending it into celestial orbit.

Pete had a few basketball moves, but never played with an organized team. He grew up playing street ball. The were few rules in that version of basketball. He stepped onto the court and was handed a ball.

Pete looked up at Wilt who was smiling at him.

Flashback.

Pete and a four teenage friends are playing pickup basketball at a local gymnasium. Their team is playing one of the tougest groups of thugs in the neighborhood. The “No blood – no foul” rule was in effect.

The other teams center was taller than anyone in the gym. His arms looked unnaturally long and it was nearly impossible to get a shot past him. The game was tied at 19-19 (a point for every basket). It took 20 to win.

Realizing that he couldn’t get around, or shoot over their center, Pete dribbled to half court. Without even trying to drive and pop against their big man, Pete stopped and took aim.

He always had a good set shot. The range wasn’t impossible. He’d made many shots from there before. The center was content to let him make the shot. Everyone else was closely guarded.

Pete fired away. The ball arced and came down smoothly, barely moving the net in its descent. Game over.

“C’mon man! Bring it on! “ Wilt said, with a note of irritation.

According to the rules, a soul had to drive on Wilt and score. But Pete was never too worried about rules. This was sudden death. A deep breath…and Pete released the ball!

As It Stands, this tale was for all of you sports lovers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ‘Tagger’ Who Brought Peace to the Barrios

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East Los Angeles. A cop putting handcuffs on a 14-year-old “tagger” named Paz.

There’s no resistance and few words are spoken. In spite of himself, the cop keeps glancing at Paz’s work in progress. An angel surrounded by names of gang members.

Not just any angel. The loving look it had automatically made him smile. A sense of peace descended – for just a moment – and the cop thought of his deceased mother. The moment passed as he walked Paz to the squad car.

Paz was homeless. By choice. She never knew her parents. She bounced from one foster home to another throughout her life. When she turned ten she started running away from the foster homes.

Each time she was caught, she was passed on to another home. At first, she was only able to hid from the cops for days. With practice it turned into months. She was 13-years old the last time she ran away to East Los Angeles. One year, and counting, until she was caught again.

Paz was able to do what many people in East Los Angeles couldn’t get away with. She intermingled with all the gangs without injury. The fact was, people liked being around Paz. She made them feel better about themselves.

While Paz was in custody a fight broke out between the Bloods and the Crips on North Gage street near the I-10. Two Crips were killed. No arrests made. Other outbursts soon followed.

The Clarence Street Locos ambushed two Gage Maraville boys, and beat them to death. Meanwhile the King Cobras had declared war on the City Terrace homies and members of both gangs were patrolling the neighborhoods looking for trouble.

It took a year, but Paz was finally able to escape from her temporary guardians, returning to the barrios of East Los Angeles. She knew now that she was on a mission. Her life came into more clarity the last year as she pursued her art.

A member of the East Los Angeles Dukes took Paz in and provided her a place to sleep in his house. A day later, Paz was painting a mural. It was on the side of a small liquor store in Boyle Heights.

Nearby residents were amazed that no one bothered Paz. Gang members would stop by and look at her work, often without saying anything. The angel she was creating was her most ambitious work to date.

It glowed with some inner lighting she’d never used before, something reminiscent of Renaissance masters like Raphael, or Botticelli. As the days turned to weeks Paz knew it was her greatest, and last work.

Groups of people began gathering at the tiny liquor store, day and night, silently studying the angel. The King Cobras and The Terrence Street gang called off their war. Peace was declared between the Bloods and the Crips.

Shortly after the painting was completed Paz was hit by an out-of-control garbage truck and died on the scene. As an ambulance took her lifeless body away crowds began to gather in front of the angel as word got out.

People filed by and gasped with wonder. Somehow, it had to be a miracle, the angel’s face had changed, and now Paz was smiling down on all of them!

As It Stands, I’d love to see a miracle happen in all the barrios of the world.