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For this month's writing prompt write a scene using the following sentence to start;

The streets were deserted. Where was everyone? Where had they all gone?

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Our monthly writing tips are written by our very own TerishD. You can read more in Terish's Blog located in "The Abstractions" area of the forum.

Look Back

When not able to write ahead, it helps to look back. In my case I had written a paragraph ahead of the story. What I needed to do was add a section of exposition (talking) presenting some facts. In going back, I realized that I could insert a section where a 'tour' of the surroundings could be done. This allowed for character interaction, story development, and other things that enabled me to present the facts in an entertaining manner.

One should not face a writer's block with the mentality of bursting through it. I have found in my own experience that a writer's block is usually due to my mind indicating that it has a problem in 'channeling' the story. One reason might be a re-imagining of certain story points. Another reason however is that there is a problem in where you are at in the story, so you need to look back and find out the problem with the 'journey' that prevents the tale from advancing.

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 OUTSIDE - The Gathering

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Number of posts : 1287
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PostSubject: OUTSIDE - The Gathering   May 10th 2010, 8:17 am

Outside - Story Ten
The Gathering

Part 1

The first full system that we claimed was named by me to be Echobound. Echo was a nymph who loved Narcissus, but the name of that man has come down to us as someone who could not love another. There is an ancient star mapping system, but in the development of our modern system they threw out all the old designations. It was not considered a loss, because very few stars were named. The old designations are still in the database, but those of us seeking to plant our flag have the authority to name our discovery. Echo faded away, but we have made it to this system to bind it before such could happen to it.

My name is Rachel. Thor is the owner and captain of this vessel, but he is my husband and knows that he owes me for keeping this ship out of hock. Truthfully, a better partner in bed and life I could not find. Yes, he makes mistakes, and, yes, he has faults, but he listens to advice and is always willing to compromise. I could not have gone into space with a better person.

Echobound was one of those systems passed up by everyone else. It is not that far from Earth, but off the paths of those seeking to move into the unknown. I thought it would be a joke if I could claim-jump an entire system, so made certain that this solar system was put on our agenda. There was no vote. This was my ship and crew as much as it is my husband’s. I simply made it known that this solar system was put on our agenda.

This story starts as we were coming near Echobound. I was in the bridge studying the known astronomical data of the system to determine where I would first direct our studies. I expected Clover to come through the doorway. He did not like my name, and we had a past of debating topics until all facts were settled. I thus expected him to show up with one final argument to change the name for what he considered to be a better option. The young man did stride through the kitchen to enter the bridge, but I lifted my head in surprise as I saw Diamond to be with him.

I looked up say, "Yes, gentlemen?"

As expected, Clover was the first to speak. "Rachel, you don't have yourself on the roster."

Not the words I expected, but my response came quick enough. "I don't have to fly. I own this ship."

Diamond now spoke, "You just released the scan schedules, but we thought that we had better get to you before your husband does."

"What problem will Thor have with my …"

My husband appeared right on cue, "Rachel, this is not the way things get done!"

Believe it or not, I am not used to arguing with my husband. We do see things differently, but he and I discuss our positions rationally. At least, most of the time. I am used to arguing with Clover, so I asked my question of him.

"What did I forget?"

"This is your system, Rachel. You have to perform the naming."

"I thought you would be coming to argue with me about the name."

The young man showed some annoyance as he exclaimed, "Women!” He then explained himself. “Naomi likes your name as well.” Clover then turned to look at my husband, then turned back to me to say, “Whatever you are going to name it, you need to go out there and do it. We have the flags, we have the tradition, and you have a boat. You go on the roster first."

Thor seconded the statement by saying, "Right. Our pilots don't start the scans until the ceremony is done."

Yes, my husband did support traditions. His father was a historian, and worked hard to instill the joy of history into his children. Mr. Hawkins was a fine man, and to his credit he did get his children to listen to him. What I sometimes found strange was that people listen to my husband, but I guess they don't see all of his faults. The members of my crew also found his little peculiarities as interesting diversions, and with the success of the previous mission they have supported them.

I did not have any systems on the last mission, but we really did not enter that many. Thor and I claimed a few on our first mission together, but then the act of planting a flag was novel and fun. I tried to think back and remember the rules.

"Darlene, let me know when we enter the system and you spot something that I can plant my flag upon."

The lady at the main board of the ship replied, "No problem, Rachel, and will do. This system is supposed to have a couple of good sized rocks, but I will be looking for what choices you have as we make an initial cruise through the system."

The preference is for a planet, but that is not a requirement. The first reason is purely practical; once you step outside your boat there is nothing to protect you from the planet's gravity or atmosphere. Luckily, my husband also points out historical support for not needing anything major. Christopher Columbus did not actually plant his flag on the continent of North America. I however felt that I had those that cared more than I did nearby, so delegated the responsibility to them.

"All right, boys, find me the spot you think is ideal. I will make my performance, but then we need to get to work."

That is all the men wanted to hear, and they left. Well, the two pilots left. Thor stayed to kiss me. That was not a problem, and I gave him a lock on his lips letting him know that I would be willing for more once a convenient time became available for the both of us.

I was ready for our relationship to move to another level. Not only was I willing to stay with Thor, but little things like keeping traditions marked him as a wonderful person to have as a partner in this other endeavor. I hoped that my husband knew that I was no longer on any protection. I know that he was no longer on any medication, but using condoms. He was not unwilling to become a parent, but trusted me to wait until a good time. What he did not understand was that there was no good time, but I was working with Clover to assure that the future would support anything that happened now.

Ah, heck, we went ahead and had some fun right then. I had gone over the astronomical data already a few times. I did not need to stare at it for the next few hours. Thor and I have also spent numerous hours doing what we did a multitude of times, but it was still pleasing and I did need to do it. Not just to keep my man happy, but to make him something more than my husband. There was no assurance that this time would be the one that took us to the next step, but it would not happen at all if we did not go through certain activities.

Yes, I was smiling as I walked back on the bridge, and it helped that what I saw was everything as it should be. Clover was active at a station with a link to his computer system setting up everything to gather as much data as possible. Felix and Watson were doing the same, although their computers and programs were nowhere as sophisticated as Clover's. Each man had their own methods of looking for money, and two of the three had already gained success. Considering that this was my system, I hoped they all discovered something worth millions.

Clover spoke when he broke eye contact with his board and saw me. "Rachel, just in case you are interested, Doug is four days out. The Ghandi is three days out. We really do not know how far behind us those in the saucer are."

Darlene followed his information with some of her own. "There is discussion that those in the saucer actually found something, and are working to secure their claim."

I looked to Clover to ask, "What was our agreement with them?"

"I believe it was their agreement with us that we can make binding. Still, I don't think they are smart enough to recognize a good claim. If they do try to make the claim their own, I believe that we will be fighting for kilodollars at the best. I might counter the claim just to force my lawyers to earn their pay, but it depends upon a number of factors."

I did not needlessly argue with Clover. I met the young man as he discussed topics on public forums. He was young, and had gained some early success, so still had idealistic viewpoints. My experience in space was not so fabulous, so I took him to task on some of his conclusions. We both learned from the discussion, and became friends. I wanted him on my ship as a counter to my own ideas, and he filled that job admirably.

I worked to end the topic by commanding, "Darlene, make certain that you inform me should anything of that nature be reported, and see that Harley gets the same command."

"No problem, Rachel."

Clover now said, "Black Dove, we need to come out of tachy in less than twenty minutes to commence system scan."

I went to Clover's board to see the desired speed and heading. I then moved to the other men and verified the vector. With a confirmation, I moved to the front board to set the piloting instructions to the ship. Darlene was not a stupid lady, and could steer the ship, but she was only helm and not a pilot. To officially be able to verify the data from the scans, the vector of the ship must be set by a pilot. Such were the rules.

The combination of men watching the scan data left Indigo and Castle at point. The two normally worked different shifts, but they were also a pair that trusted in the bonus gained by the work of others. They saw the work put in by those of us that had claimed our own systems, and decided that it was not for them. I knew that both Indigo and Castle invested their money, but not in planetary systems. The men in the bridge with me watched what their computers were programmed to report as they spoke to the pair flying ahead to gain visual data.

I, of course, moved between the boards to see if the other computers were picking up something that was not being revealed on the main screen. This was my system, so I had paid money to secure a claim in hopes there would be something worthwhile to others. I had seen enough scans however to know that Clover spoke correctly.

"This system looks like a bust."

Thor spoke from the kitchen, "Most people, especially my wife, has made their money off of the chemicals. We work the system."

"Why not? We traveled far enough to get here."

I felt a need to support my husband, and take a jab at Clover. "Listen, I have made my money off of the chemical corporations, so I want this system worked thoroughly. Understood?"

Clover simply turned to wave to the front screen as he replied, "Well, first you need to plant your flag."

I called Harley to have my ship start warming up, then I studied what system data we had gained. I chose a large rock that was close to the mass of Earth. Planets were preferred, and this one did seem to have that designation. It however did not register much of an atmosphere. Only two bodies in this system had that blessing with each having it so thick around them that I thought of two children in a bed who had pulled all the covers off of their siblings. The composition of those shrouded planets would definitely be examined, but I did not want to chance my life. I thus chose a bare rock as the place to set my flag.

The tradition did not require an assembly. I thus got to fly to my rock alone. Indigo and Castle could have joined me, but they simply powered down their ships while I did what was required. They would be sent on missions as soon as my little rite was finished, and probably spend the next few days only returning to the Menlo Park to refuel. A chance to close their eyes for a few minutes was appreciated. I moved my ship to a smooth place on a crater of the rocky body that made landing an easy process, and set myself to do what must be done before all of us could go looking for money.

I had done this enough times that I knew my words. "In the name of the expanding domain of mankind, I place this flag to grace this system with a name that sets it as a possession of the race of man. Let this system from henceforth be known as Echobound and marked as one more place that those from planet Earth have visited. I, Rachel Hawkins, doom this system to eventually being within the control of those who seek to impose their laws upon others."

That was it. I moved to pose in order to get a good camera shot to send back Inside. What was recorded however was me being blown across the rocky surface.

Fantasy puts more requirements on the writer than any other fiction, because the world must be made as real before anything else can be real.
Adult Christian fiction quite different than all the usual lame stuff in that market.  "Dilemma of Dreams" now in hard back.
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PostSubject: Part 2   May 15th 2010, 8:08 am

Outside - Story Ten
The Gathering

Part 2

The first thought that enters the mind of someone in space when anything unusual happens is if they are still alive. The second thought is if you are about to die. Those in space understand how inhospitable it is to life, and understand how thin the barrier is that keeps them alive.

I hit the ground of the planet and instantly began checking the condition of my spacesuit. I was not relieved to announce that I was all right, because I knew that I was still in a hostile place with no defense. Until I knew that I still lived however, I did not think about fighting for my life.

I did feel some relief when I told my computer to switch to a certain channel and heard Thor screaming commands to our crew. As soon as the attack occurred, Darlene turned off all broadcast channels and signaled Harley to command her station. I had one of the best crews in space, but one of their assets is that they did not announce themselves until they had assured victory.

Felix's voice came over my speaker, "Black Dove, when the ground shakes move to your right."

My body quivered almost immediately from the ground I was lying on. I did not appreciate Felix barking at me as if I was some soldier under his command, but I did get my body moving in accordance to his orders. There was some relief in hearing my husband in the background make a sound of joy in seeing me move, but I continued to be focused on what Felix was saying.

"Black Dove, it seems that some nefarious activity had considered themselves safe on this rock. They are not happy that we have come upon their home. All pilots but me, Watson, and Clover, and, of course, Thor, are active. Once the others get into position, and Thor is able to get a plan active on tactical, Clover, Watson, and I will be out in our ships as well."

I responded, "You guys are planning to take them out?"

"Military will be here in three days, but I want them cleaning up. We have scans to do, and we cannot do them safely with these guys around."

"Okay, we agree. What is the plan?"

"You were hit with a blaster. Your ship's field was turned off so you could disembark, so being hit by electrons really won't hurt it. However the blasters could definitely keep it from generating a field enabling you to leave. We have just let our opponents know that we have mines, and, we believe, high ground. We are waiting for a response."

Thor added some data, "Sandra has loaded a missile, but we don't have a target yet. Oh, fart, we now have targets."

I listened as my crew traded tactical information. There was no talk of them being outnumbered, but they were taking their situation very seriously. There was every expectation that something more serious than blasters would be used by their opposition.

I had no weapons on my person, but I was not going to announce that fact. I had only left my boat in order to perform a simply ceremony before my crew would get to work. I did consider rushing back to my boat to retrieve a weapon, or two, but was unsure where my opposition was located. I looked around to determine if I was really in a well defended position. I had picked a basically level plain, but the rocky terrain was only less irregular than the rest of the planet. Felix had put me in a depression, probably a more recent crater by a smaller rock, near some large rough boulders about half my height. As I crouched behind the boulders, I grabbed a small stone that I hoped I would not have to use.

I froze as the voice of Indigo said, "There it is. Found the base."

Diamond yelled, "Indigo, out of there!"

"Just going to launch a mine."


The sky off at a distance to my right suddenly erupted in light. With my trained eye, I could make out the Kert fields of distant boats as they moved against another distant glowing body. I was realizing the other body was not something reflecting the light of the sun as my suit picked up a new broadcast.

"Get your butt out of there, Indigo."

My female pilot acted as if she did not hear the broadcast, "Mine away; I'm away, but who fired that missile?"

Darlene's voice now sounded, "Pick up regular frequencies, Indigo. We have help." She then switched frequencies to say, "Thanks, stranger, but how did you know it was Indigo?"

"This is the Solid Sea. Inside makes you register your ship before you set out, and we knew we would be coming into your system. We thus loaded your registration data into our computers to help us make proper identifications."

Diamond returned, "Nice missile shot."

"Yes, well they weren't expecting us. You weren't expecting us. There was thus no damn reason we could not get off a good first shot. They know that we are here now."

I felt a need to say, "People, I am in a hole here. Can you get me out?"

Indigo replied, "That is why I was so determined to blow that hole, Black Dove."

"I did not like hearing you chancing trading my life for yours."

"I don't like knowing that was what I was doing. Thanks, Solid Sea."

"Keep your chin up, Indigo. It looks like those mines were well placed."

Watson broke in to say, "You are in hostile territory, Black Dove. Stay down."

I tried to merge with the boulders near me even as my head kept jerking around looking for approaching trouble. I saw flashes of light reflected off of distant rocks and felt the ground shake some more. I continued to listen to the voices over my speakers, but they were only short comments of tactical nature. I wanted to hear joyful statements of success, but became more worried as my people stayed serious.

Suddenly, I saw a number of flashes near me. I became worried as I heard Thor and Darlene make exclamations then crisp comments of having another player in the deadly game. The voice that suddenly came over my speaker however only brought me relief.

"Hey, Black Dove, this is Red Dove. I am here for you, roommate. We got bodies on the terrain around you. Let me make one more strife."

Flashes again played on the landscape close to my position. I listened as my old flight school friend made short statements about her conflict with people on the surface. Finally, Clover and Felix arrived to help the lady, then I heard Felix tell me what I wanted to hear.

"Okay, Black Dove, you are free. No need to rush to your boat however, as Clover and I will be joining you to secure our opponents."

"I am going back to my boat to get my weapons."

Thor's voice sounded relieved as he said, "Yes, Black Dove, get your weapons. However, take a moment to look at your flag. It still stands."

The fact that the flag had not been bothered meant something to my husband, but I was not going to take the time to consider it. I moved from my position to run towards my boat. It was a larger vessel than most, but I saw no reason not to travel in luxury. Due to the volume of space inside, it had a full airlock, but I felt safe as soon as the outer portal shut as I felt certain that it provided more security than simple rocks.

Gaining the inside of my boat, I did not only grab weapons and extra power supplies. There were some armor pieces for my spacesuit. It really did not protect against blasters. The plasma contained electrons that tended to spread their effects upon whatever one was wearing, but the laminated metal pieces could save me from a couple of other weapons that I put on my person. Bullets were truly agents of death when out in space, and so was a knife. I no longer wanted to be a sitting target holding only a rock.

I came out of my boat prepared for battle. I had checked my computers, so knew that Clover and Felix had landed and were out of their boats. I moved away from my vessel looking around ready to return fire.

Clover used a blaster on a body, then said, "I have my signals set to broadcast on all regular frequencies. I might not be able to hear you, but I know you can hear me. I however asked to be told what frequency you were using."

Felix saw me about, then asked, "Hey, Black Dove, mind if we use your boat?"

"Why don't you plug into them here? Why dirty up my boat?"

"Come here and look at their suits."

I moved up to see what was worrying the men. The spacesuits of these criminals were set with numerous metal cones. If one of us got too close, they could possibly swing a part of their body and tear our suit. However, I had also come out prepared to teach others about the cruelty of space.

I told Clover to back away from his man, then I fired my pistol. The body jerked when he realized that I had not fired a blaster. Clover stood in front of the man holding a blaster while I spoke from a side.

"All right, I am not playing games. This is my system. If you had data, and presented yourselves properly, we could have talked. Now, we are not doing any talking. You however had better start spilling everything we want to know."

"We were here before you."

"I would have shot you, as those are not the words that we want to hear, but you are correct. Legally, that does not matter. The rules are set. You can make a claim without money. Your profit margin is extremely low, but I know a number that have started their fortune in such a manner. The fact that your group has not played by the rules, or even bothered to announce their presence, does not win you any compassion."

Felix said, "Black Dove, this guy to your back right is attempting to crawl away."

I moved to give my gun to Felix, then drew my knife as I said, "I can throw these things pretty good. Just ask my husband."

Thor's voice was heard to say, "Don't mess with my lady when she has a knife in her hands."

One of those down said, "Damn, lady."

I cut in to quickly retort, "Damn, lady, what? Damn, lady, we weren't trying to kill you? I did not get that impression at all."

Another of the men piped in to say, "No. Damn, lady, you had better start talking to us nice, because that housing system you destroyed with mines probably killed a number of our families. We have nukes, and now have no problem about using them."

Fantasy puts more requirements on the writer than any other fiction, because the world must be made as real before anything else can be real.
Adult Christian fiction quite different than all the usual lame stuff in that market.  "Dilemma of Dreams" now in hard back.
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PostSubject: Part 3   May 20th 2010, 8:15 am

Outside - Story Ten
The Gathering

Part 3

I decided to let the idiots on the ground know just how un-scared I was. "Darlene, you are in communications with the Ghandi?"

Instead of the lady at the helm of my ship, I heard a strong masculine voice. "This is Captain Shotlow of the Ghandi. Yes, Black Dove, we are aware of your situation."

"There was a transmission of Indigo's placement of mines. Are you aware of it?"

"I am aware of it, and have watched it. She almost got herself knocked out making certain that they were placed properly. The weaponry associated with the habitat was taken out while the living compartments are still in good condition."

"Thank you, Captain. Now, idiots that can hear me, this is my second mission with this crew. I know my people. We have already learned each other's styles. Don't try to threaten me with lies again."

Another voice came over my speaker. "The part about not being scared of using nukes was no lie."

I was about to answer when the sky behind me and to the left lit up. Our suits did protect us against radiation, but the distant blast still seemed too close for comfort. One nice thing about space however, is that there is nothing to transmit concussion. The electronics in our devices outside our suits were knocked out, but those were just the toys. My gun was not a toy, nor was my knife. If the blast was closer, or stronger, the electronics within our modern space suits might have been hurt. Our craft however are powered by nuclear energy, and our technology is at a level where we protect ourselves against forces that we know enough to use.

Enough people were asking the identity of the one that blew up the ship, and I had to spout a question as another Outsider introduced himself. "Where in Hell did all you people come from?"

Red Dove answered, "My husband and I run a mining station just seven light years away. There really is not a convenient vector, but a number on my mining station have often been tempted to claim this system. When I heard that I would have company nearby, I claimed my leave time and plotted a course."

I listened as a few other Outsiders stated where they had been, but then I had to ask, "And why did you guys come here?"

The answer was unanimous. They had come to see Doug. All were worried that the man might be dead, or close to it, and were determined to meet the famous photographer before he passed on.

The Outsiders knew that this was my system, so were not going to interrupt our scans. They all had set up a parking location waiting for Doug's ship to arrive before announcing themselves. When we ran into trouble however, they decided to make their arrivals a little sooner.

Those who had threatened our lives realized that they were outnumbered, and gave up. There were a number of bases, but they were more family units than anything else. Some tried to hide, but once we got into one habitat we had the data to find the others. You cannot survive completely by yourself in space, and the contacts you make for necessities do leave markers for others to find you.

This was not a slavery operation, although there were some slaves. My system had been used as a support outpost for the unlawful. Crops were being grown in large hydroponic rooms. Some of the crops were illegal, but most were good food for the people to eat. Animals were being kept in a few other rooms. We found a lot of machines for breaking down objects into their base metals, and others for tooling what item of jewelry or practical use you might want. Someone who did not want to be found that had stuff that was not his could come to Echobound, sell the stuff that was not his, then get food and drugs to be at ease.

By the time that the military ship arrived, we had a good working knowledge of my system even though we had yet to do our first true scan. Those of us of the Menlo Park were doing our best to broadcast the work of identifying bases and people, as we wanted to entice someone to buy our claim. The records of the outlaws stated that they had successfully used the soil as growth mediums for some plants after mixing it with animal feces. Of course, there was no proof that the soil helped, as most plants do well enough in uncontaminated dung. What we basically showed off was that any starting company would not need to start from scratch, but that there were already usable habitations available with purchase of the system.

The soldiers of the Ghandi swarmed from their ship as soon as it arrived. They had been actively viewing our transmissions and directing our work, but there was always a feeling in the conversations that they felt the job was not being done as best as possible. We were not law enforcement people, so were scared of our lives without proper training to give us faith in how to act. While there was a large population of Outsiders present, we were still not a grand authoritative body. The first act of the Ghandi upon arrival was therefore to let the outlaws know that they were now under the jurisdiction of the law.

Those of us that flee from Inside often gripe about the number of unnecessary rules that those planetside feel a need to live by. Those of us watching the military often felt sorry for revealing the outlaws as we heard the list of infractions that were being charged upon them. It was true that the people were stealing things for their own profit that other people needed to survive, but many spoke some sorrow as they heard the outlaws being held accountable for a multitude of crimes that they probably had no idea they were breaking.

Once the military had full control of my system, the Outsiders all gathered at one of the larger habitats. The military had cleaned it up for their own use, but allowed us to hold a meeting in it while they handled most of the criminal processing on their ship. A military camera crew was present to make an official record of the occasion, but besides them we had the place all to ourselves.

Red Dove and I were actually glad to rush into each other's arms in full view of the camera. We wanted the other doves to see us. We all, except for one, attended the same flight school at the same time. I was picked on because I was darker than the other black girl, so they wanted to name me Black Dove. That started a lot of racial and colorful speech that ended up getting all of us into trouble. None of us ladies were really prejudice, but we only allowed some jokes to go too far. We contacted the lady known as White Dove, and at the end of the conversation we all were doves. I allowed myself to gain the name Black Dove, but not because of my skin color. I just felt it better than Red Dove, Blue Dove, Yellow Dove, or any of the other colors that the other ladies gained. Most people that knew of us felt that we had a secret organization, but truthfully we were proud of ourselves for taking the time to send messages to each other. This meeting was the first time I had met Red Dove since graduating from the flight school.

Naomi was glad to arrive, although brought in a bunch of stuff expecting to be hostess. She however really wanted to meet everyone, and I don't believe had anything to do with serving the food after bringing in the first armload. The lady wanted everyone to know that she was happy to among their number, and I believe everyone was entertained talking with her.

The rest of my crew easily associated with the others present. While most had never met, it helped seeing the actual faces of those who produced certain voices. We talked a lot in space, and most facts about each other were in databases that enabled us to learn intimate details of those we communicated with. Very few of us had actually previously met, but most shook hands as if greeting old friends.

Thor and I were quizzed by everyone with questions about the idiots in the saucer that were following us. We spent a lot of time telling our stories while having everyone else mention what facts they knew and what they suspected. What both my husband and I found interesting was that no one was certain about who was flying the craft. There was a lot of information about the history of the saucer, along with agreement about it not being a craft built for deep space travel, but none about its crew.

I know by moving around that my other crewmembers were being quizzed about their reasons for signing up for a second mission on the Menlo Park. Every return comment I heard dealt with the chance of making a good paycheck. I even heard Clover use that argument.

The time was passing well, but then alarms went off. The various beeps, music pieces, and flashing lights surprised most, but none asked what they were for. No one had been drinking the alcoholic beverages, as everyone kept themselves in condition to pilot their crafts. Some even settled in chairs against the walls and allowed their eyes to close and chins to droop. As each signal activated, the person drifted to the airlock.

The Ghandi was already at a certain location in space, but did not issue any statements as other vessels moved near it. When the Menlo Park arrived, communications with Clover started in an attempt to determine particulars of the coming event. As computer simulations were found to agree, some Outsiders were asked to alter their position. None argued with the requests.

Space went silent for a time. It was Malcolm at the helm of my ship, but he had the link with Outside Control active. No one spoke. I saw the mouths of some crewman counting down the seconds, but in silence we waited for the arrival of Doug.

Fantasy puts more requirements on the writer than any other fiction, because the world must be made as real before anything else can be real.
Adult Christian fiction quite different than all the usual lame stuff in that market.  "Dilemma of Dreams" now in hard back.
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PostSubject: Re: OUTSIDE - The Gathering   May 23rd 2010, 11:00 pm

I don't sign in often enough but when I do I am always pleasantly surprised with your work. It's odd, but in a good way. In a way that, if you go into a bookstore you won't find this caliber of writing. If that is the way to phrase what I am saying. I've only read the first part of your story and it doesn't get me into the story that some of your other has. Of course I have to look up some of the words to fully understand, I'm not a walking dictionary. You are overly creative or I'm under-ly educated, I'm thinking the latter of the two is correct. Thanks for sharing I will be back to read the other parts.
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PostSubject: Reply   May 24th 2010, 12:10 am

Thanks, Poet. I really appreciate just taking the time to respond. The nice things that you said make me feel surprised in a good way. Thank you again.

About the language, I am sorry if I get a little complex in my word usage. My degree is in Physics, so I probably do use words that most others don't. Also, as I have the Menlo Park get even further out in space I am going to have them face ideas that will hopefully be realistic while pushing some boundaries, which means that I might use some odd words. If you need explaining, please ask (if you don't want to appear dumb, PM me and no one else need never know).

Again let me state my thanks.

Fantasy puts more requirements on the writer than any other fiction, because the world must be made as real before anything else can be real.
Adult Christian fiction quite different than all the usual lame stuff in that market.  "Dilemma of Dreams" now in hard back.
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PostSubject: Part 4   May 25th 2010, 7:56 am

Outside - Story Ten
The Gathering

Part 4

Sounds erupted as a spaceship suddenly appeared in our midst. It was amazing how our science moved us in space, and seeing a large vessel suddenly appear before you caused you to believe in magic. All that Clover had to do was switch the star from something too far away to know what it was to the local sun, and Doug's movement went from multiples of lightspeed to basically stopped. Of course, the ship considered itself stopped the entire time. It was stationary to the distant object, and simply now became stationary to the central gravity well of this solar system. Some screamed simply as a reaction to seeing the spacecraft appear before them, while others yelled glad to see a well executed finale to a very long voyage. Clover and a few others made sounds of elation in having been able to make the switch in stars so precisely.

As my youngest pilot started checking his board that had control of Doug's craft, a voice from the military said, "We want Mr. Grafton still asleep."

I spoke to enable the young pilot to keep working, "Sorry, but we don't enter the vessel without an emergency or a welcome."

"The health of Mr. Grafton is of the prime importance."

"Doug has been getting up to eat, use the restroom, and administer his medication. Has there been any problem?"

Yes, there had been a problem, but the military did not want to admit it. The elderly man did not want any government body telling him what to do. Naomi had been called to the bridge a number of times in order to restate certain commands. The head medical officer aboard the Ghandi, Doctor Antoon, tried to sound realistic as he stated what he hoped would be accepted as fact.

"We will just need to put him under for certain tests."

Naomi recognized her cue, and asked, "Which test is that?"

I knew that we had an audience, so stated a private joke to put the military in their place. "They probably want Doug asleep for the psych test."

As expected, a number of chuckles and giggles came back over the speakers. A number of Outsiders were present to catch every signal that passed between the vessels, but numerous more listened on broadcast frequencies. The military was greatly outnumbered.

"Okay, Menlo Park, it is your show."

Clover turned to speak to his wife, and to hopefully prevent his voice from being easily heard, "Right on time, because Doug is getting up."

At the sound of a croaked call of her name, Naomi moved to stand beside her husband in order to respond, "I am here, Doug."

"Am I where am I supposed to be?"

A multitude of voices told Doug that he was among friends. The elderly man did not believe his monitors at first, but then spoke to each one present as he read off the registration codes that he saw. He had to have seen the military designation on his screen, but that was one set of figures he did not call out.

"All right, people, let me know how my ship looks from the outside."

"Tigereye here, Doug, and right in location for a good view. Transmitting camera if you care to see what I see. You took a good hit along your side. Strangely enough, it did not crack your outer hull, but there is enough of an indent to definitely believe you had trouble inside your vehicle."

Malcolm glanced at us with an annoyed expression as he activated the commands to feed the signal from Tigereye’s boat to our front screen. Almost everyone in the bridge had told him to do it, but his countenance clearly indicated that he had not needed to be told. We said nothing in return, although we felt that he understood as he turned to look at the view of Doug’s ship with us.

He flew an old trader vessel. Once mankind moved into space, they needed supplies to be sent to them. More people thus went into space to supply the demands. Exactly how Doug ended up with one of those early ships for moving goods between places is a matter of speculation, but I felt like I was seeing a relic of the past in just seeing the ship on the screen. Even on such an early construction, the basic design had a more flat boxy appearance. The view of one hull being curved in reminded me of the crater in which I felt that I had might have recently died, and the words from Doug had the tone that he also had memories of facing death.

"Yeah, it’s what I expected, but thanks for the view. Am I glowing?"

Tigereye replied, "Through our hulls? No. You are still alive though, so whatever radiation you have cannot be as bad as you feared."

"Clover, are you coming over?"

I kept my eyes on the screen as the young pilot replied from his place nearby. "Well, I will be escorting my cute little medic of a wife. The military are coming too."

"Yeah, I probably need to let them examine me. Uh, Ghandi, no gravity."

I recognized the voice of Doctor Antoon. "Roger that, Mr. Grafton. Bay Two is set up for full medical without gravity. Will need to transfer you through space however."

"Clover… Menlo Park, you have a ship that can do that?"

I said, "This is Black Dove, Doug. We are going to use my boat. It is a big thing."

"Okay, Black Dove, I will open up for your boat."

Clover said, "Doug, sorry, but we need to go through your ship."

"Yeah, it probably stinks. We will need to talk once the military gets through with me. Send in a cleanup crew, and use the evidence against me."

The captain of the Ghandi declared, "I have the crew to do that, Mr. Grafton."

Clover was quick to follow that statement with some advice, "And you need to let them, Doug. Don't make us scrub your decks."

The man chuckled before replying, "They don't work alone. I don't care who oversees their work, but they don't work alone."

"Okay, Doug. I am shutting down my board, so full control is being returned to you. Will be there shortly."

After his board went blank, Clover turned to me to say, "Okay, Black Dove, bring us to Doug. Harley should have your boat warmed up, and I set up some codes so I can recall command of Doug's ship if necessary."

My husband asked from the door to the kitchen. "Who do you want to go with you, Clover?"

"I don't care. We can all fit in the Next Experiment, and if Doug was in better shape he would probably enjoy the company. He wants to see Naomi, and being the Menlo Park's medic she has the authority to see him through to the military."

Thor moved to kiss me, then said, "I will stay here. Sandra, Harley, and Malcolm, I am requiring you to stay here. Malcolm and Harley because they have work to do here. Sandra, I don't need you arguing with the military about the condition of Doug's vessel. If Doug goes back out, yes, you can approve the work, but I really don't expect that to happen."

Watson and Indigo were the only other ones that moved over to my boat with me. Both planned to stay on Doug’s vessel to assure that the military had the requested supervision. Most felt that there would be a time coming when Doug could have company. At the moment everyone was simply wanting him to stay alive, so felt a need to allow the doctors do what they could for him.

No one was saying it, but the opinion was that Doug would not go back into space again. Some had the belief that he should be patched up, hugged, and allowed to end his days among the stars. As noble sounding as that seemed, most understood that it was not practical. There were thus others waiting for their chance to make their pitch for a place he could call home for the rest of his days. Allowing the military to take him Inside was definitely considered a wrong option, so those that had stable residences away from civilization were present to give Doug a viable place to end his life. That was why Red Dove's husband had allowed her to come, and a few others had arrived to make such personal proposals as well. As strange as this presently unmapped system might seem for a gathering, it was a perfect wilderness to make a certain old man feel home.

It was an early design, but modern airlocks were made to self-seal for those occasions male and female parts did not match up. There was a constant hope of meeting another alien species, so failsafe airlock seals were one requirement most did not argue with. Being without gravity also made the angles of our match unproblematic. There was simply the odd visual of up/down when looking inside one craft that did not match the up/down when the eyes turned to the inside of the other vessel. Our eyes passed back and forth waiting for an ancient tradition to be performed, and the fact that we were not seeing Doug worried us.

We smiled when a distant voice sounded, "Sorry, everyone, but I am an old man."

I was quick to return, "Ah, but Doug we expected you to be familiar with moving without gravity."

"Welcome aboard, all of you. I hope to name you all, but I promise to remember your name for the next time we meet."

He did know us. It helped that we had worked with Clover on the previous mission. His voice was not unknown calling for Clover, and over the years all who worked aboard the Menlo Park had spoken to this ancient photographer.

He stayed aboard his vessel until he wrapped Naomi in his arms. There was an odd smell to his ship, but the aroma could not be specifically identified as being wrong. The chemicals of his photography work was the strongest stench. The stale smell of a ship that had forgotten the variety of life was present, but that was not an unusual aroma when dealing with those Outside. There were however odd traces of perfumes that could have been those of an old dying man, or of the worlds only he had visited. Until Naomi came to him, we were visiting his universe. With Clover's wife in his arms, he admitted that he needed to leave his ship.

In first meeting him there was the feeling of coming into the presence of a giant. When he entered my ship I however could tell that he really was taller than normal. I knew the Next Experiment intimately, but with Doug aboard its scale seemed smaller, which made it feel confined. He did not complain, but asked for a beverage that he claimed to have been missing. I did have it in stock, and gave him a container glad that my boat was big enough to fulfill one of the man's desires. After hearing his thanks, I headed to the pilot's seat.

The trip to the Ghandi was spent with stories being quickly told. What helped the tales was that each knew the stories of the other. What was listened for were the little details that somehow never got related in the public telling. Certain well-known stories were thus requested to verify private suspicions of motives or facts that had for some reason had not been admitted to a larger audience.

The Ghandi was a vessel designed to work with fleets of boats of various sizes. My boat was rather large, but the military ship had a bay that it could fit in. They also had powerful pumps for removing and restoring the atmosphere. There was a team in spacesuits waiting in the bay to secure my boat, but by the time it was set in position a group of regular soldiers were moving about assuring all would be in order when the doctors entered.

Doug moved from the ship under his own power, although the military was waiting to secure him to a bed. He floated to the padded table without complaint. He shook the hands of the doctors and aides ready to check him over. Doug quietly listened as Doctor Antoon explained some things to him.

"Mr. Grafton, I want it stated that we understand your special needs. We are going to be turning on some gravity, but it will only be a tenth of normal. This will help us work. We are going to secure you to the table. This is only for your safety. Without gravity you can easily be moved by the bodies working around you, and we don't want you moving. One-tenth ‘g’ should provide some stability while still keeping you comfortable."

"That is all fine, Doctor, as long as Naomi stays with me. I am not going Inside. I want you boys and girls to check me over, and do the best that you can with me. I will leave with the Menlo Park."

Fantasy puts more requirements on the writer than any other fiction, because the world must be made as real before anything else can be real.
Adult Christian fiction quite different than all the usual lame stuff in that market.  "Dilemma of Dreams" now in hard back.
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PostSubject: Part 5   May 30th 2010, 8:10 am

Outside - Story Ten
The Gathering

Part 5

I quickly said, "Hold it, Doug. We have no agreement."

"Are you saying that I don't have enough money to pay for a berth on your vessel?"

"Probably not, especially after you get the bill from the military. Still, we don't have an agreement."

The aged photographer reached out a hand to touch our young medic as he said, “Naomi, Rachel is right about there being no agreement. Another point that needs to be considered is that none of us presently know exactly in what shape my body is in. I don't want to be taken Inside. I don’t want to live with things attached to me. If I am going to live with only the ability to rock away my life, I am going to do it moving through the stars. It however sounds like I am going to have to argue with people when all is finished here. So, Naomi, you make certain that these doctors don't do anything to my vocal chords."

She replied, "I want to talk to you some more, Doug. I want let them cut on that part of you."

A doctor now said, "We are not intending to cut anything, Mr. Grafton. We are going to do a number of tests and scans. We are going to put you out, Mr. Grafton, but you should be awake when we finally are ready to state our findings. We can discuss things further at that time."

The old man started to cry as he lied down, and sobbed out the words, "I am so glad to be here. I really am not in good shape, but I am tired of being alone. No middle ground, doc. Either let me meet everyone on the other side, or make certain that I am not going to be a burden on those on this side."

"We just want some facts, Mr. Grafton. Seriously, let us have this discussion later."

I watched as the doctors administered the anesthetic. As a number of machines were brought to take detail inner scans of the man, I left to allow those who were able to perform at their best. I could be no help in this situation.

I had spoken to Doug a number of times on our last mission. There were many other times when I was able to overhear Clover speak to the ancient photographer. I felt that I knew the person that was lying on the medical table, and it hurt me to see him so frail surrounded by doctors. Those few moments that I was actually in the man's presence strengthened what connection I had for him, and it hurt to think that I might lose the elder as soon as I was getting a chance to know what would be lost in his passing. I wanted to speak to Doug again.

There was no way that I could remove the emotions that played within me. A sense of relief came over me as I sat in the pilot's chair of my boat. I was not one who liked to cry, although there was also an understanding that keeping one's feeling bottled up inside was not an acceptable alternative. Luckily, I had another outlet for my emotions.


"I am here, Rachel. This line is not private."

I really did not care. "Why, Thor? This is not the reason that we came Inside. We did not return attempting to announce to the galaxy that we had found life. Our health was failing, we were running at a small profit, then we found that oxygen scrubber and we knew that we needed to head home. Why aren't those facts enough?

"Damn it, Thor. We have been listening to the stars for over a century. We have been able to tune in to the frequencies beyond light speed for over a decade. Mankind should have the message that we are alone. Why are they so desperate for another race to communicate with, and probably go to war with, that they rush whenever some minor details tend to point towards some hope of an actual meeting?

"We have a good crew, Thor. Of course we would have wanted to keep them. We made money on a short mission, of course they would have the confidence that we would do the same. The fact that we stayed together should not be proof of anything.

"The oxygen scrubber is not really life. If it proves anything, it probably shows that we have been overlooking a variety of attempts by nature to create life. Instead of hoping that our rush into the stars might show advanced forms, our people should be looking again at the systems we now know about to search out life that we might have already encountered.

"What is this that everyone thinks we have an answer to? Why do the foolish and old believe that they need to go with us? We are not the only people heading into the stars, Thor, so why are we the ones being singled out?"

My husband responded with the calm voice that I needed to hear. "Maybe it has nothing to do with us, but with the timing. We are not the only ones heading towards distant stars, but we happen to be doing so when mankind is waking up. Maybe people are suddenly realizing that something could be found, and they want to be a part of it. Maybe people are suddenly realizing that we should not be alone, and are attempting to make these excursions into something more than solitary treks."

I know that I waited for someone else to speak. I believe that my husband paused to also allow another to make a hopefully useful comment. There was a large gathering of people around us, but no one said anything. There was not even the usual comment from Malcolm about a belief that Clover would simply get lucky. No other voice came over the speaker, and I realized what everyone was waiting for me to say.

"I cannot do it, Thor. If Doug wants to come, I will have to allow it."

"I don't believe that we have room for his photography studio."

It was now that someone spoke. "He really does not need to continue to do it the old fashioned way. Nothing wrong with our modern cameras. High level bits allow for tremendous control of color."

Another said, "You should already have your gravity plates set to computer control in order to save unnecessary power. Simply have them recognize the movements of Doug."

Maybe a couple of more said something, but all I remember is Thor speaking next, "The presence of Doug will change nothing."

I replied, "I don't want to bury him."

"I believe that Clover would rather seal his coffin than get word of his passing. Still, I also believe that if he goes with us we will not need to bury him. It will be when he again comes Inside that he will pass."

"Why is that, Thor?"

"Because, like the rest of us, he is alive out here."

With those words I went quiet. I found myself accepting the answer that I knew everyone else expected. Before it was worth my effort to ask any more questions, I needed to know some facts. With everyone else, the only sounds heard in my craft were of the doctors working on Doug. I had to know if he was going to live.

The first audible sounds of the number of people who were present in space around us was when the military team sent in to clean up Doug's ship made their report. They mentioned that the break in his nuclear reactor was not enough to be a serious problem. The threat of gamma radiation was real, but not as high as was feared. Doug's ship had only reacted because there was a problem, and not because there was a serious problem. The safeguards required by law were not set to determine the severity of a radiation threat, but to protect those aboard the craft in the event of any contamination. The military said that Doug's ship was no longer qualified to be used as a transport vehicle, but neither needed to be destroyed. I heard prayers for the aged pilot as those nearby suddenly felt that he did have hope.

The doctors took a long time working with Doug. They tried to move away as other military personnel came with panels to make a private area for the man to rest, but the Ghandi had their own camera crew assuring a proper view for everyone. The one in charge stopped the lead medical officer to ask for a report. When he was pointed at the camera, a statement was made.

"Mr. Grafton is an old man that has lived a long life under conditions the human body had not evolved to handle. He had however taken measures to protect himself. There is still substantial bone loss. There were also nutritional problems as the man had been limiting his vitamin and calorie intake. Needless to say, we also encountered the regular problems of a man his age.

"We cannot reverse the man's age. That is a medical miracle we have yet to manage to perform. We are supplying his body with vitamins and nutrients to restore some systems. With time, his overall health should improve. It is not recommended that he ever be subjected to more than a third Earth normal gravity."

Before any of us Outsiders could ask, the military figure that stopped the medic asked, "What about his future?"

"That is not a medical question. I believe that is a decision Mr. Grafton will need to make as he examines his options."

I am told that it was Felix that sent a message through other channels, but it could have also been Watson. What I know is that a low ranking member of the military went to the military reporter with a whispered suggestion. The camera then moved to the area where Doug was resting, and a request was made for Naomi.

"Mrs. Stirgam, what is the prognosis for Mr. Grafton?"

She came to the camera to state her prognosis. "Mr. Grafton is suffering from a series of conditions mostly resulting from poor diet, exposure to certain chemicals, and age. There was no alpha radiation exposure found. Some areas did show signs of tissue damage that could be attributed to gamma radiation, but nothing extensive enough to be concerned. The only extreme consideration that will plague Doug for the rest of his years is his body's loss of bone tissue and muscle tone due to his life away from the constant pull of gravity."

"Mrs. Stirgam, what about Mr. Grafton's request to join the crew of the Menlo Park?"

"That is not my decision to make. The Menlo Park has its owners. My husband does have some agreement with Thor and Rachel that could affect the decision, but I will allow them to do what they feel is best."

"As the wife of Ronald Stirgam, Clover, what opinion do you have on the matter?"

Naomi turned as if to speak to another, which I knew would be Clover, but she instead again faced the camera as if realizing that she knew how to answer. "My husband considers Doug a part of his family. Clover does have a sister, and some other relatives, but they are all Inside. As far as his life out here in space, Doug has been his mentor."

"Your family is also Inside?"

"Now? Has the paperwork all been approved?"

The camera seemed to shake for a moment as if those making the broadcast were caught off guard, although the military reporter quickly regained his composure. "I am sorry, but it is supposed to be done next month."

"It does not matter. My life is in space. Yes, I will want to visit whenever I return, but I understand that we will be out in space for a few years. It would be nice having Doug nearby."

A message appeared on my board. It was a copy of what Thor sent to Clover. It was a simple statement where my husband told the young man that it was his decision. I smiled when I read the reply.

Initiate scan of system. If needed, I will work. I will however work with Naomi to keep a constant vigil of Doug. Should have answer by the time we are looking at the data. Can only then start making decisions.

Fantasy puts more requirements on the writer than any other fiction, because the world must be made as real before anything else can be real.
Adult Christian fiction quite different than all the usual lame stuff in that market.  "Dilemma of Dreams" now in hard back.
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PostSubject: Part 6   June 4th 2010, 8:00 am

Outside - Story Ten
The Gathering

Part 6

Thor activated the pilots and started the work necessary to secure our claim on the system. The initial data took time to accumulate, and was boring work mostly done by computer programs. The pilots tended to play computer games, catch up with paperwork, or otherwise pass the time allowing the machines to secure the precision necessary for proper work. Harley normally has the job of simply making certain that there is a watch of the boards to assure that the pilots will catch any irregularities that might happen. On this occasion the only stray sounds heard from the boats were the comments of reporters as all kept a watch for any new information on Doug.

I took over Clover's time on duty. It was menial work, but it needed monitoring and I did not doubt that the mind of the young man was focusing on other matters. I knew that his computers were absorbing all the data, and suspected that he would be ready to verify or challenge our data when the scans were finished. He could examine the figures while staying with Doug.

As I was moving into position to start another set of scans, I received a private message from Diamond who was going off duty. What I received was a sound file. I wasn't really certain what Diamond wanted me to listen to, but once I had my ship flying its route I had nothing else to do but listen.

I heard Clover's voice, "Your opinion counts, Diamond. You are staring at it more than the rest of us."

"The Menlo Park is fully staffed, Clover. There really is not room."

"It is not fully staffed, Diamond. We hired a medic, but she rooms with me. The extra rooms are being used for storage, but we could clear one out."

"Red Dove probably has the best option, Clover. Give the guy a habitat on some rock."

"That is what you want, Diamond?"

"My bones are not bad, Clover. I can dance with the old ladies."

"You avoided the question, Diamond."

There was a pause, then a soft curse before the elder pilot answered, "You are right. If I was going to be alone, I would find a way to head back out. We might not want Doug, but it is safer for everyone if we take him."

"Okay, Diamond, now how do I tell Thor and Rachel?"

"Keep looking at the options, Clover. I will try to bring up the topic with them. When our captains contact you, make certain that you can support your arguments."

The file ended, then I transmitted it to my husband. I did not have to wait long. Soon enough I had a private transmission from Thor.

"Doug is not just family to Clover, Rachel, but he is a legend to all of us. The military brought Clover's food, and they actually brought extra to replenish Doug's pantry. Medical provisions are also available."

I had to reply, "So there is no reason we can't, and no reason we shouldn't."

"Rachel, I am not going to argue with you. If you don't want him, say so."

"No, Thor. I spoke numerous times with Doug on the last mission. I have often sat and admired his photographs. We often got to see them before others did, because he would send them to Clover. To be honest, for this mission he would be a benefit."

"That is my opinion as well."

"So, we clear out a room?"

"No, the answer was obvious once I thought about it awhile. I even believe that Doug will like it."

I again must say that I love my husband. That man sees answers where most of people don't even realize that they are looking. When I heard his solution to gaining Doug on board our ship, I lost my somber mood and started to see the future in a better light. The fact that Thor agreed that I could go to Clover with the plan even made me happy.

At the end of my shift, I moved to dock with the Ghandi. I first spoke to the captain about my husband's suggestion. He called in the medical officer to hear the idea, and he nodded that it was probably the best. Both men told me that I needed to let Clover hear the suggestion.

When I arrived in the bay where Doug was recuperating, I found Clover and Naomi speaking to the elder as a number of medical personnel checked his vitals. He and the young couple were glad to see me. I got the impression from the initial conversation that they wanted to speak to me about something, so I went ahead and opened up the topic.

"Listen, Doug, I know that you would prefer going back out into space. I am not going to ask, because you probably cannot tell me. You gained a ship and took off, and have been going ever since. It is just a part of you.

"We already have offers on this system. Whether or not our scans find anything, the fact that your spaceship is here makes this system valuable. It will fly, it got you here, but the military is not going to let it fly again. Still, it does have value."

Clover was not afraid to say, "They want to make a museum out of it."

"Yes, and the more stuff that Doug will leave in it, the more value that ship has."

None of the three said anything. They all looked at me. They were right. I had started the topic, so I might as well end it.

"Listen, Doug, there is a part of our ship where we seldom turn on any gravity. It is a place where there is a regular flow of traffic. With a little work, it might make you a nice place to stay."

The old man was smiling as he asked, "You mean that you will let me join your crew?"

"No. You will be a passenger. Give us the rights to your ship, and we will let you travel with us. Free food, care, conversation, and lodging, provided you agree with where Thor and I want to place you."

Clover’s face displayed his confusion as he asked, "Where in the Menlo Park do we travel through without using gravity?"

I smiled as I answered, "The berthing area. Boats are able to dock on top of each other, so there is no gravity to enable an easy first step into the ship. It really is just a couple of dead end hallways however, so we can put Doug at an end and make it a home. We have some bulkhead sections, and Clover has some extra computer parts, so we can fix Doug up a decent enough place to stay."

The young man was suddenly saw other advantages. "Yes, Doug. The only person who actually works in that section is Harley. We can set the gravity at her station on full, if she wants, but the rest of the room can be at a third."

I nodded while saying, "Doug, you will have privacy, but knowledge of having people around you. I cannot promise you constant company, or exceptional comfort, but we can work to make it a decent place to live."

The old man continued to smile as he said, "Rachel, Naomi says that you and Thor are wanting children as well."

"Yes, Doug. Clover is supposed to be working on something to help there."

"I know, he has been showing me his plans. I want to be around children. You young people will take some getting used to, but I have missed not having children."

"That is going to take some time, Doug."

"Where are we supposed to be in nine months, Clover?"

"Going even deeper into space, Doug. Do you want to look?"

The old man suddenly became very happy. He asked Clover about the amount of money his ship might be worth, and soon we were all examining the accumulated results of the scans to determine how much the system itself might be worth. By the time we were finished, we all had come to an agreement on several issues.

The system was sold as we finished our survey. I played up the bidding as much as possible, but a conglomerate of Insiders seemed to control the process behind the scenes. The price was comfortable, but I felt that it was not the best available. Still, going two for two on systems was far better than most could hope for.

One of the agreements with the purchase was that Doug's ship be left as pristine as possible. He had already concluded that he could no longer take pictures in the old fashioned manner. The old man did grumble with Clover about modern photography, but Doug had to admit that very few had actually seen his pictures except on a computer screen. He thus agreed to start working with digital images. It hurt Doug to realize that he was going to leave his belongings, but only a few items were requested by him.

The Outsiders worked with the military to make Doug a proper room. They liked the idea of using the berthing area. The end of the tall corridor was redesigned to make a living area that helped to give the elder privacy and comfort.

It was a call from Red Dove that had all the Outsiders again assemble. Those who had come were ready to go, but no one wanted to simply leave. Doug was present, and some military, as everyone gathered at the same outpost we had used before. This time the alcohol flowed, as no one really felt anything pressing on their schedule. We all had places to be, and jobs to do, but understood that a few hours delay would mean little to our schedules of months and years. All of us talked until we could talk no more.

Everyone was given time to recuperate, but eventually I decided to make the call. "All right, Clover, get up! The schedule is back to normal. You and Watson at point. Malcolm will be at helm and Harley at communications."

The voice of my youngest pilot came back over the speaker to ask, "Are you sure that Thor does not feel that we are leaving anything?"

"He is going to leave your paycheck behind if you don't get moving."

I heard some chuckling, then Naomi said, "His berth is right above us, Rachel. He will be flying as soon as his ship heats up."

"You guys are with Doug?"

The old man said, "It is good having people around me. I believe this is going to be the best journey into space I have ever had."

"Let us keep doing what we are doing, and we can make this the most profitable one. That means we move."

I turned as Malcolm stumbled to the helm. He had the look of someone who had a few more shots after he came home, but he punched his codes solidly enough. I soon heard Harley chatter with Watson as the two spoke about certain military personnel. Feeling that my house was in order, I smiled as we left the system that I had once claimed as my own.

Fantasy puts more requirements on the writer than any other fiction, because the world must be made as real before anything else can be real.
Adult Christian fiction quite different than all the usual lame stuff in that market.  "Dilemma of Dreams" now in hard back.
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