Things aren’t too bad here in the Ozarks. It’s drizzling outside right now as I’m doing volunteer guard duty at church. My church is hosting their second Wild Game night this weekend. There are lots of donated hunting mounts. Insurance requires there be at least people inside the building 24/7. I volunteered for the 10-2 shift every day this week.
I’m still looking for work, I’m being a little choosy as I want to continue working in industry in some sort of capacity. What I mean is that I’m applying for work with jobs that involve graphic design in some sort or another. I’m not applying for a job flipping burgers. God is providing me the opportunity to do so. Ashya and I are in agreement that we are not hurting financially and we can afford for me to look for a job I’ll be happy with as opposed to “Ah we need Stev working NOW.”
In the meantime, I’m keeping myself busy:
Project 40 Eridani A is my attempt to get some freelance work. I’ve already got 3 pro bono projects in the works, just to get my name out in the community.
Project Connor is an all new, non-Stev story that I’m working on. The Hand of F.A.T.E. I’ve got character sketches put together for the five main protagonists. I’m excited about this one.
United or Untied is my serialized Stev story. I haven’t abandoned it, it was just one of the things stored on the mysteriously erased thumb drive.
Demotivational Posters and other cool Photoshoppy stuff are now being done under Project 40 Eridani A…..
Ashya and I will be celebrating our 3-month anniversary next week. It’s hard to believe (in a good way) that it’s only been three months. No news is good news, all four of the boys seem to be doing well in school. Private Black Spartan has confirmed that no aliens have invaded in the past week.
I hope to have the next installment of United or Untied up this week or next. I’ve also got more demotivational posters in the works, I’m just stuck on some of the “jokes”.
I just finished reading Ender in Exile. This is the most recent book in Orson Scott Card’s Ender Universe. I saw the book in the bargain bin at Wal Mart. Even though we are counting our pennies, my wife saw the look of glee on my face and acquiesced to its purchase.
Card’s stories about genius children saving the human race from the onslaught of an invading alien menace has got to be one of my favorite fictional universes. The book was excellent and for the first time in a while I was immersed in world that I could not put down.
This is not a review of the novel.
What happened was this, Ender makes constant reference to his jeesh, a small private army of your friends who you know has always got your back. I got to thinking that Ender was a pretty lucky guy to have a group like that. Then I got to thinking who would be in my jeesh were I fortunate enough to have one…
In no particular oder:
Berin Kinsman; a superhero currently living in the desert southwest. We have never met face-to-face, but he is a brother in every sense of the word. During my darkest moments surrounding the death of Mrs. VS, Berin was there as an ear to listen, a reassuring voice, and source of inspiration.
William Lawton; my brother, my friend, my GM. My daughter introduced us when she told me that I should come play in her gaming group. Bill is one person who can honestly say he lives in my head (scary thought). He gets me.
Brook Ullum; the children’s pastor at church. She allowed me to once again use my puppeteering skills with children. She shares my sense of humor (another scary thought).
Hank Harwell; an expatriated Texan. He is an officer and a gentleman. He shares my faith and has been a rock when I needed it. Another of my brothers-from-another-mother. We’ve never met face-to-face but I do know that someday we will.
Adrienne Paradis; my writing partner of over 20 years. She’s one of the few people who knows Stev as well as I do.
S.L. Shirley; a fellow Dire Paladin. Stefan would follow me into an autoduel with no questions asked.
48 Fan & Private Blackspartan; yes they’re my kids. How many dads can say that they are friends with their children?
Lady Ashya T’Sai; my friend, my partner, my wife. We were friends in high school. I missed asking her out by three weeks. She shares my sense of humor, my likes, my worldview, and many other things. God brought her back in to my life after 25 years. I don’t know what I’d do without her.
The story thus far: Stev, a Vulcan agent of the clandestine Federation organization known as October, has been given a mission to go to Romulus to determine whether a new informant is genuine or an effort by the Tal Shiar to sniff out the whereabouts of “The Hobgoblin”. His contact to get him through Romulan security is one his former professors. Stev and Phyllis are now en route to Romulus
Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 / Part 5
The pair of Federation agents had no further trouble on their trip to the Romulan capital. The conversation continued during the remainder of their journey.
“So you still hold to your interpretations of the teachings of Surak?” Phyllis finally asked.
Stev smiled, “Yes, though I have been unsuccessful in convincing other Vulcans of the validity of my beliefs.”
“Then your vrekasht, is still in effect?”
“Yes, and since I am officially dead I doubt that it will ever be lifted.”
Phyllis looked her former student in the eye, “Stev, you of all people should know the future is not set.” Her eyes twinkling again, “Nothing lasts forever.”
Stev’s features remained stoic. He calmed his exterior while below the surface his emotions rolled, “I know all too well that nothing lasts forever, Phyllis.”
The older woman studied his face for a moment, “Vulcans are always difficult to read, you even more so. Regardless of your beliefs, you are still Vulcan.”
Stev smiled briefly, “I know you are not prone to stating the obvious, professor. So your point is?”
“You left someone behind didn’t you?”
“It would be illogical to deny the truth. Yes, my wife believes I am dead. She is currently working for Starfleet.”
“Why would she think you are dead?”
“October staged a shuttle accident about four years ago and faked my death.”
“You chose this solitary existence over your wife,” Phyllis asked incredulously.
Stev exhaled slowly, “One of my last missions aboard the Intrepid originated within October. It was a suicide mission to be blunt. The fact that I survived and accomplished the mission caught the attention of Frankenstein. T’Aiya and I discussed it and we determined that my taking this assignment was the most logical course of action.”
The console in front Stev indicated an incoming transmission.
“If you say so,” Phyllis said just before Stev activated the subspace radio.
“Inbound craft, identify yourself,” the transmission ordered in Romulan.
“This is the Plaplak Jag’r carrying Phyllis Jenkins, merchant number 89-919699 and her shipment bound for the Krocton sector,” Stev replied flawlessly without any accent.
Seconds passed by slowly before the Romulan replied, “Plaplak Jag’r you are cleared for planetfall at the port of Si’rcH, berth 902.” An entry vector appeared on one of the bridge monitors.
“Acknowledged,” Stev replied. The Vulcan skillfully brought his small craft through the atmosphere. His course never deviated from the prescribed route. He grinned. He could feel the atmospheric turbulence buffet the small craft. He relished the feel. It was times like this that he was thankful for his interpretation of the teachings of Surak. Any other Vulcan would coldly calculate the variables. Stev was one with his ship, the monitors his eyes and the atmospheric flaps his extremities. He reveled in the feel and he took pride in the fact that he was damn good pilot.
Seeing the spaceport ahead Stev skillfully brought the ship into its assigned berth. He killed the inertial dampners just before the ship came to a complete stop. There was just the briefest sensation of forward movement before everything was still.
“Jij y’trewq O’k?” she asked in Andorian.
“Reowr mahwahr Stev,” he replied in Caitian.
“Noto ta, Stev?” she asked in Vulcan.
“Yes it is really me, the man who according to you did more for the universal translator than the legendary Hoshi Sato,” he replied also in Vulcan. “May I ask why are you now going by the name Atropos?”
“Stev? It’s hard to believe,” Professor Jenkins said after a moment’s silence. She settled back into the seat and continued, “Atropos is a fiction created by October as a security layer. If the Romulans get intelligence about Atropos they won’t be so quick to connect ‘him’ with Phyllis Jenkins. Now how long has it been and what happened to your forehead?” she continued the conversation in Vulcan.
“It has been twenty-eight standard years since I was in your class and the forehead is a long story.”
“And it is probably the work of those butchers Frankenstein has at his beck and call. I see he has managed to get his hooks in another fine officer,” she said with both pride and disgust in her voice at the same time.
Deciding to let the subtle jab at his superior officer slide, Stev instead tried to focus on why his old professor was now an agent for October.
“And what brought you out of the classroom and out here to the fringes of Federation territory?”
“I met a Romulan ambassador at a diplomatic function some years ago,” her eyes took on a far away look as she continued. “I suppose he was interested in me because I could speak his native Rom’lesta as well as the official dialect of Rihannsu.”
Raising an eyebrow in a most un-Romulanlike manner Stev maintained his silence and let her continue.
“After the dinner I was contacted by someone who I thought was with Starfleet Intelligence. I was ordered to get closer to the diplomat and report anything that I learned,” she smiled. “After some years we became more than friends, I became his human jol’khe, resigned my commission and came out here.” There was an almost imperceptible sigh as a trace of melancholy wound its way around her words, “Since it is impossible for me to stay with him, he called in some favors and got me a merchant’s license.”
“So getting into and out of Romulan space should not be difficult?” Stev asked.
“No, October decided to make sparing use of my license. Frankenstein would rather keep me legit and use me for the big missions rather than compromise my position. I guess your mission qualifies as big?”
Stev filled her in on the details he was allowed to disclose to her.
“Yes that does qualify for big,” she replied. After a brief pause, her eyes now twinkling, she continued in standard, “Well Teven, I believe your ship will suit my purpose. I will be accompanying the first shipment and introduce you to my contact.”
“Very well, Atropos. As soon as your cargo is loaded then we can leave,” Stev replied matching the twinkle with a slight eyebrow raise.
“Just so you don’t use the Atropos name once we’re in Romulan space,” Phyllis then laughed out loud at Stev’s dead-panned bemused expression.
It’s Thursday morning December 9, 2010. I’m sitting in my favorite Panera Bread waiting for the library to open. Christmas music is playing on the speakers. Nearly every table is occupied with a customer. Most of them have their laptops or iPads out.
The sky is gray outside and the sun is refusing to show itself today. I know how it feels. Neither Ashya or I wanted to get up today. All three of the live-in boys felt the same way. It’s just gray and cold enough outside that a nice blanket of snow would cheer things up.
Last night we had practice for the children’s Christmas program at church. I have been blessed with a group of talented young individuals. What they lack in polish they more than make up for in enthusiasm. After church the family went to see Soccer Dude’s game. His team won 6-4.
The job hunt is still proceeding. I’m willing and ready to work but not desperate enough to take a part-time, minimum-wage, burger-flipping job as yet. I’ll keep applying for jobs that suit my skillset.
Still no net service at the house. Apparently we live far enough out in the “rural” area that there’s no DSL coverage. I guess I find southern Missouri’s definition of “rural” amusing. I can see plenty of neighbors from each window in the house. In Iowa that would be defined as a neighborhood.
The Pirate has been doing well in his new school. His grades keep coming back in the high 90s. 48 Fan is dancing with GC Jazz for the first time next Monday. I should be in attendance at that concert. Pvt Black Spartan is still serving our country. She did want everyone to know that she passed her most recent PT test.
God Bless everyone.
“Yes, and you are Captain Teven?” she said barely able to contain the small smile forming at the corner of her mouth.
“She recognizes me even through the Romulan disguise,” Stev thought to himself. “Yes, I understand you are in need of a ship?” he replied in the aloof manner of a Romulan merchant-prince.
“Yes I have a very special delivery that needs to be made.” She returned, able to now mask her near slip with the relief of someone who just got some good news.
“Wonderful, perhaps we could discuss the terms of this delivery aboard my ship and you can determine if it will suit your needs,” Stev waved his arm indicating she could enter the vessel if she wished.
Atropos affected an appraising eye and then looked the Ghost Rider, now masquerading as the Plaplak Jag’r and then spoke, “Yes your ship looks adequate enough from the exterior. I need to determine if it has the cargo capacity needed.”
Stev placed his palm on the hidden scanner located on the exterior bulkhead. The hatch opened and he stepped through.
“Follow me,” he called over his shoulder. “Audio-masking now,” he called to his tribble using the protocol indicating non-approved personnel were coming aboard.
Phread initiated the computer procedure that recorded the voice patterns of those speaking inside the shuttle. The computer then rebroadcast an innocuous conversation using those same vocal patterns to any external scanning or listening devices.
Stev waited at the entrance for the human female to enter. Once she was inside he sealed the hatch and proceeded to the cargo area of his tiny craft. Describing the elaborate measures he could use to ensure the safety of the cargo he kept an eye on the computer screens. When the computer had recorded enough of Professor Jenkins vocal patterns to initiate the audio-masking protocol Stev wound down the tour of the cargo bay. He then indicated the living quarters as the direction to go. When the pair had seated themselves in the eating area and he had verified that audio-masking was running, Stev finally let the recognition he had suppressed earlier show on his face.
“Professor Jenkins, it has been a long time since Fourth-Year Alien Languages.”
“Jij y’trewq O’k?” she asked in Andorian.
“Reowr mahwahr Stev,” he replied in Caitian.
“Noto ta, Stev?” she asked in Vulcan.
“Yes it is really me, the man who according to you did more for the universal translator than the legendary Hoshi Sato,” he replied also in Vulcan.
“Stev? How long has it been and what happened to your forehead?” she continued the conversation in Vulcan.
“It has been twenty-eight standard years since I was in your class and the forehead is a long story.”
Part 2 – Part 1 can be viewed here.
Deep Space 3, a Federation outpost, hung in space like a neglected Christmas tree ornament. Starfleet had just enough presence in the sector to protect the space station from attacks by the Klingons, Romulans, and the occasional Breen incursion. At least that was the official position of Starfleet, the sector held no strategic importance and there were no known resources within the sector. The Federation maintained control by default.
The reality of the situation was that the space station was used by most of the quadrant’s adversarial governments as a place to conduct clandestine deals. As such the station had only ever been attacked once, by the Breen. Coming to the defense of the station was a Klingon Bird of Prey, a Romulan Warbird, a Miranda class starship and 20 free traders with ties to the Orion syndicate. The Breen didn’t bother the sector anymore and the respective governments denied the incident.
Stev had already programmed the holographic projectors dotting the Ghost Rider’s exterior. Any external visual scan would be presented with the pockmarked surface of a well-used independent Romulan trading vessel. The computer was also broadcasting a forged identification algorithm that would fool most scanners into reporting the exact same thing. Just because everyone turned a blind eye towards the goings on at Deep Space 3 didn’t mean he needed to advertise his presence by flying the Ghost Rider into the docking bay.
Stev watched the scanners. Soon he had the station pinpointed on his monitor. Minutes later a light began blinking on his console indicating his vessel was being scanned. Stev kept to his cover and played the part of a smuggler by waiting until he was hailed. Sure enough five standard minutes after the scan indicator went off; the Ghost Rider’s comm system indicated an incoming transmission. Stev put it on main speakers.
“Unidentified vessel, this is Deep Space 3. Please state the nature of your visit,” a clearly human voice requested.
“Deep Space 3, this Captain Teven of the Plaplak Jag’r, requesting permission to dock,” Stev replied affecting a Romulan accent.
“Plaplak Jag’r, what is the nature of your mission?”
Stev silenced the comm. Glancing over at his pet, he asked the enhanced tribble, “Phread what is the name of our contact on DS3?”
“According to the mission data we need to ask for Atropos,” the little ball of fur helpfully replied using his computer link.
Thanking his friend by scratching it along its back in an affectionate manner, Stev toggled the comm system, “I have business with Atropos.”
There was brief silence on the other end of the comm system. Stev mentally counted off the seconds it would take the deck officer to query the computer and verify the information. When the Vulcan had reached zero he pointed at the audio panel.
As if on cue, the audio panel snapped to life, “Plaplak Jag’r, proceed to docking bay fourteen, berth five.”
“Bay fourteen, berth five. Roger.”
“Deep Space Three out.”
Stev followed the indicated flight path. Soon the Ghost Rider was nestled in the assigned berth. The Vulcan nonchalantly activated the shuttle’s security systems. He looked squarely at the tribble, “External scanners indicate someone is waiting at the dock for us.”
Phread refrained from sending his response across the monitor and instead chirruped his reply.
Stev stood, “I may not understand tribble, little buddy,” he said looking down at his companion, “but after all the years we’ve been together, I do know sarcasm when I hear it.” Ignoring the tribble’s approximation of a human raspberry, he laughed and walked from the control center of his ship towards the entry hatch.
Stev listened to his ship as the passive security measures cycled into active mode. To the uninitiated ear the sounds would be mistaken for the normal noises associated with a ship preparing for opening its sealed atmosphere to the environment. He stepped out of his ship as soon as the hatch opened and looked carefully at his supposed contact. He was momentarily startled by a familiar face. His Kolinarh training kept him from betraying his surprise. This was not the first time the Vulcan was thankful that he did not allow himself to be ruled by the emotions he chose to experience. If this person was his contact, the passersby did not need to know he knew her. If she was not his contact she didn’t need to know why he was here claiming to be someone other than the person she might remember. One could never be too careful and he did not need to have his cover broken.
“The price of Romulan Ale has gone up recently,” he delivered the first half of the code phrase in a casual tone as stepped out of the ship and onto the deckplate of the starbase.
“Yes, but Klingon Blood Wine is always reasonably priced,” she replied completing the code looking deep into his eyes as if searching for something she thought to be there.
“Atropos?” he stated more than asked.
USS Ghost Rider, Stardate: 2316.07.09
4 years before Stev was rescued by the USS Thunderchild
Decrypt protocol Scarecrow Gamma:
Retinal scan confirmed:
Scarecrow, your mission is to contact a possible source of information within the underground unification movement on Romulus. The Hobgoblin is requesting our assistance in this matter in case it is a smoke screen from the Tal Shi’ar.
Neither the Hobgoblin nor his contacts on Romulus are convinced this new recruit can be sufficiently trusted. The Hobgoblin does not want to prematurely reveal his presence on Romulus. Neither do his contacts want to reveal their presence within the unification movement.
Again, contact this new recruit; confirm through any means necessary his or her veracity. If authentic, contact the Hobgoblin and pass along the recruit. If it is a Tal Shi’ar trap, you are authorized to liquidate with extreme prejudice. Mission data has been downloaded to your crow. As usual, these orders will decompile after playback.
End of File
Stev sat in the pilot’s chair of the Ghost Rider. His fingertips were pressed together with the index fingers resting on his lower lip. He looked over at his pet tribble, codenamed crow, and blew a breath out between his teeth.
“Phread, do we have any Romulan ships in the camouflage database?” he asked the little ball of fur.
“Yes an independent trader vessel, as well a military scout,” the tribble’s reply scrolled by on Stev’s monitor.
“Well I don’t think we need to ask for trouble by impersonating the Romulan military do we?”
“Agreed. So we’ll need a Romulan trader cover that’ll pass muster with the Tal Shi’ar?”
“Maybe, check the mission data packet; we might be able to bluff our way in with the Teven ID.”
The legless mammal meandered across the console as it broadcast it’s reply, “As usual you and Frankenstein are thinking along the same lines. There’s a shipment of Terran Bourbon waiting for us at Deep Space 3. The regular courier is an October agent; she’ll be coming along to get us through the Romulan border patrols.”
Stev let his little friend wander up his arm to the crook of his elbow and began scratching one spot on its back, “Great, set course for Deep Space 3.”
Stev exhaled deeply, stood and walked back to the living quarters compartment of his tiny craft. It was not a long walk from the command center past the data hub and then through the transporter bay/engine room. Stev hated this next part but if he was going to get through Romulan security his genome was going to have to register as Romulan and not Vulcan.
One of the augmentation surgeries that the October doctors had performed on him was a “cloaking field” for his genome. Working from the theory that the Vulcan genome and the Romulan genome were similar, the doctors had devised a way for any Vulcan, but Stev in particular to mask his genome for a period of no more than seven standard days, the time it took the body to completely “cleanse” the system. Injecting himself with the “Jekyll compound” (Stev didn’t like the name but it was what it was called), caused his genome base pairs to transpose from Romulan to Vulcan. The pain was incredible, especially when the Romulan brow ridge began to form.
The Vulcan put the tribble down on the counter. Picking up a hypospray containing the “Jekyll compound” he placed it against his neck. Mentally calling on his kolinarh training, Stev pressed the activator button. He could feel the formula burn its way into his system. Every cell in his body seemed to implode and then just as suddenly explode. His arms shook as he grabbed the sides of the water basin but he made no sound. He paced his breathing as the cartilage began collecting at his forehead.
Finally, the procedure was done. Stev looked up from the water unit and into the mirror. His Romulan counterpart looked back at him. He scowled back at the reflection and grunted in a Romulan manner.
Satisfied with the results, he looked down at the tribble, “Phread?”
“Yes, Stev?” its reply scrolled across the monitor on the wall.
“Are we still on course for Deep Space 3?”
“Even if I had turned off the auto-pilot, I’m not that bad of a pilot that your screams of pain would throw us off course,” it teased.
“Okay little buddy. I’m going to lie down. Wake me when Deep Space 3 is in scanner range.”
“Wouldn’t it be easier if October made it a less painful procedure?”
“Yes. I really hate this stuff but if it keeps me alive, it’s worth it.”
A lot has happened since I last wrote anything for this blog. Where do I start?
The Pirate and I moved all of the important stuff (except #48 fan and his belongings) to the Ozarks right at the end of October. I’m discovering that enough of Springfield Missouri (ca. 1985) remains that I’m not completely lost. It’s strange seeing trees out my window instead of cornfields, but I’m getting used to that.
Ashya and I got married on Oct 29th. We’re realizing that there are more differences between us than Coke vs. coffee, but that’s not a bad thing. Things like how I fold laundry, sort the DVD collection, wash the dishes (yes I do laundry and dishes) are all foreign concepts to the new members of my family.
The Pirate has been enrolled in school. He’s liking the new environment and is making new friends. His reservations about moving down here are lessening each day. He’ll be ok.
We’re all adjusting to the new reality. But we are working on it.
The biggest thing I’m facing is still no job. It’s not like I expected the Ozarks to open wide it’s doors and say “Here Stev, take your pick of employment.” I’m just not used to sitting at the computer in a Library looking for work and calling it a productive day.
We can’t seem to find anyone who can give us unlimited net connection at the house. Plenty of companies are willing to hook us up but with three boys wanting to play internet games and me looking for work, we need unlimited DSL.
I’m on ye olde Book of Face when I’m at the library. I’ve still got plenty of posters in the works, but job hunting comes first. I’ve got an invitation from members of the old gang for a game night. I’ll be taking them up on that in the near future.
I will get back to regular posts. I promise you that. Life just hasn’t allowed me much of an opportunity to do so.
It’s currently raining outside. I’m listening to Toby Mac on the new iPod I bought for the puppet team. #48 Fan is standing over my shoulder reading this as I type. The Pirate is being a tween and is outside running around in the rain. I’ve been looking over some links that Ashya sent me. We’re making our plans for the future.
I am a father to six kids. The only thing preventing me saying I’m husband once again is a ceremony and a piece of paper. I’m gainfully employed as the ad man for a small-town Iowa paper. I enjoy my job. I am a son, a brother, an uncle. I have lots of acquaintances and am blessed with the friends I have. Are these who I am? Are any of these my defining characteristic?
I used to spend my evenings sitting in my chair watching whatever was on the tube. More recently, I’ve been spending my evenings on the phone (thank you whoever invented unlimited calling and unlimited texting). I don’t miss the TV I’m not watching. I can’t wait for next spring when Ashya and I are no longer separated by 400 miles.
I’m a geek. The Wierd-Al song “White and Nerdy” could’ve been written with me in mind. I’ll be playing D&D on Saturday with my homies.
I just realized that I’ve been rambling. Who am I? I am the sum total of my experiences. I believe that God has a plan and purpose for the man known as Vulcan Stev. Where am I going? I don’t know but I do know that its gonna be an interesting ride.