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Geeking Science: Planet of Mystery

Logo from the Planet of Mystery GoFundMe

I am lucky enough to live in a small city with a planetarium – one which had an amazing astronomer named Jim Craig running its programming for over 20 years. This guy geeks science so hard he would go to writer’s conventions state-wide and be on science panel after science panel on his weekends off, because science. He has a tattoo of NASA. When he was let go from the day job, he immediately pounded feet to his computer and started making those astronomy videos he used to make for the planetarium and local school system at home. He named his new production company “Planet of Mystery” and started creating its first program “Red Planet Rising”. The aim is to have low-cost videos available to planetariums, science centers, schools, and other people and entities interested in life, the universe, and everything.

I think if you cut Mr. Craig, he would bleed starlight.

Unfortunately starlight doesn’t pay the bills, or, more specifically the computing power to crunch the videos in any meaningful time frame. If you’re interested in helping out a proven educator provide low-cost quality videos, please consider the Planet of Mystery GoFundMe campaign. Even $10 can make a difference.

The link for the GoFundMe campaign is: https://www.gofundme.com/planetofmystery

Flash: To Do List

Image from the internet Hivemind, adjusted with the symbol of the future military.

He took to the List an anger, a rage, he never felt before. Never before did he have people to protect. His people. Jonathan blazed through the crowded hallways of the Admiralty of the Green Fleet headquarters toward the courtroom where the List of Inquiry would be held, people unconsciously stepped back into the crowd giving him clear passage through the hallways.

“Captain. Captain Fairhurst.”

The voice behind him cut through the red haze driving Jonathan forward. No one would calling him that unless they were from his ship. His steward had given up desperately needed sleeptime to sew the bands on his surviving purples; the dress whites he was presently wearing were picked up from the commissary only an hour ago and were pinned with his last in-station approved rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade. So the combat-minted captain paused to look behind while a man taller than he, used the wake Jon had cut through the crowd to close quickly.

Jonathan did not recognize the man, and after the long trip in with the fatally damaged ship he knew his crew. Dropping his eyes to the man’s wrists where the green cuffs decorated the whites and held four thin bands of a full captain and a gold star indicating attachment to an admiral’s council, his more natural state of curiosity reigned in his anger. A captain of the List of the Green. Why would one of the genteel crowd want to talk to him?

Stepping to the side, closer to a wall, monitoring the closing captain and the door to the Inquiry, Jonathan waited. He twitched up his purple cuffs with the single gold band. The ill-fitting monstrosity the commissary had gifted him needed tailoring. The sleeves were too long, the shoulders too tight, and the legs not capable of an airtight seal with his boots if decompression occurred on the port station. The only fit he was sure was the high-neck collar into the purple cap’s emergency mask. The commissary petty officer had searched a precious quarter hour before finding a combination which sealed around his thick neck. A quarter hour he had set aside to arrive at the Inquiry in good order. Now he had five minutes before the Masters at Arms guarding the door to the Inquiry opened up the courtroom.

Glancing at the name tag once the man cleared the crowed, Jonathan acknowledged the thin six-foot, caramel-skinned superior officer with a barely regulation salute. “Captain Torres-Diaz.” His eyes ran over the pins on the whites, nothing from combat and only the single required year in space. Ah, one of those Torres-Diazs.

The other man returned the salute with perfect precision before removing the white captain hat and tucking it under his arm. “I’m to be your advocate for the inquiry.”

Raising his shaved eyebrows in surprised, Jonathan replied. “When an advocate did not show up with the summons, I assumed the Inquiry would be informal.” He hadn’t assumed anything of the type, and felt his rage return, reddening his neck and ears, fortunately mostly covered by the high collar. While the trip had given his twenty-year old temper time to be tempered, he had expected to be safe once in port and not thrown to the wolves. After four years and getting his crew back to human space, he had relaxed until the summons arrived last night two hours after they managed to dock.

Torres-Diaz nodded. “Normally it would be, but with the Green going out for a month of maneuvers tomorrow, they wanted get this done quickly to let your sailors go home without a cloud.”

“I can see that.” Fairhurst smiled. The other captain took a step back, changing his stance. Pushing away thoughts about the less than twenty-four hours summons and what that entailed in breaking the regs, Jonathan rearranged the smile and decided to test how bad the lynch squad waiting on the other side of the doors would be. “Well, I am glad to have you. You have had access to the ship’s log and records we squirted when we got into human space sixteen days ago. What do you want me to do?”

The green captain from a family of lawyers on the well-established colony of Sainte Teresa Avila tried to hide his wince by changing his stance to be more casual. “I received the records when I got the assignment this morning. I also have the List of initial Inquiry.”

Breathing in through the smiling teeth, the combat seasoned captain stared at the older, taller, and senior officer through eyes black with four years of hell. “What did you do to get this?” The lawyer had to have screwed up big time.

Brown eyes broke from his instantly and looked over the Jonathan’s broad shoulders. “The inquiry will start in two minutes.” He tapped the tablet he carried and Jonathan’s buzzed. “Those are the questions. Try to run your answers by me before responding.” Torres-Diaz dropped his eyes back to the black pits before him. “I will try to save you.”

“Sir, may I give you an order?”

The thin lips of the civilized desk-jockey navy man pursed.

“Save my crew.”

The masters-of-arms opened the courtroom doors and the crowd, which had kept conspicuously back from their conversation, moved.

The admiral advisor took his cap from under his arm, dusting the insignia on it thoughtfully. “I can’t save everyone.”

“To the deep with me, give me the words to save them. I got them this far, and I promised them home.”

The Captain of the Green returned his cap to his head and waved Jonathan toward the List of Inquiry.

(Words 942 – first published 9/17/2017; From a prompt – the story had to start with “He took to the list…”)

Flash: Mannequin

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Brandson approached the mannequin cautiously. Too many weird fucking things have happened recently. Things appearing to be alive weren’t, things that shouldn’t be alive were, and we don’t even describe what was happening with the dead things. But to get to the other side of the room … to get to the next door which may lead out of this mad house … he must pass within arm’s reach of the mannequin.

“Because of course the door leading out is located directly fucking behind you.” Brandson commented out loud. “No offense darling, you’re beautiful but I stopped dating blowup dolls a while ago.”

All the room’s illumination pointed to the mannequin, making her plastic face shine. Her arms, covered with long black gloves, wrapped around herself tightly in fear; a feeling Brandson was becoming more and more familiar with. An evening gown stretched downward, wrapping her legs tightly together, before spilling down the small dais located immediately before the door he hoped lead out of wherever he was. Threads flowed out, crossing the only lighted path available.

Behind him, he heard a thump and a wet screech. “Yeah, yeah. I know you’re still there you mother-fucking salad!”

He hoped the last nightmare couldn’t uproot from its planter.

Brandson considered taking a step off the well-lit area to avoid the unraveling threads. He peered into the darkness. The four spotlights, each hovering in seemingly empty air, destroyed any night vision.

He returned to studying the mannequin, and jumped seeing her hands had moved. Instead of hugging herself, she was now trying to pull her hair from around her neck. Her complicated coiffure started in a bun at the top of her head, secured with a few sticks topped with cut gems. Multi-color strands wrapped around her head, behind her nape and then again around her neck.

“Shit, are you alive?” he asked, staring. The plastic face and hands made no movement. The eyes seemed to focus on him, pleading rescue, screaming in fear.

Looking down, to make certain he didn’t step on a thread, he discovered the cloth had pulled back to dressy cocktail length. The hem now skimmed the top of her very sexy, plastic knees and her shapely legs continued down to strappy black heels. Her toe nails were painted the same exact bright shade as her lips.

The mannequin looked a whole hell of a lot better than the blow-up his brother bought him as a joke when he went off to college. Shit, if Old Susie had looked this good he may have stayed away from Psycho Miranda. How long ago was that?

The floor raised into a little meter by meter square for the mannequin to stand on. The lighted path only extended a decimeter either side of the step. He debated looking up again to see what the plastic being was doing, but decided against it.

Muttering “No guts, no glory.” he made a run for it. Keeping an eye on his feet and tapping peripheral vision to watch the black skirt and the dark shadow, he rushed by the podium.

A gloved hand grabbed him as he passed and yanked him hard enough one of his feet took a step onto the platform before he could regain his balance. Brandson looked up to see the mannequin’s hair was wrapped around the arm grabbing him. She had pivoted and now faced the door denied him.

As he watched, the multi-color strands writhed where they separated the fingers gripping his arm.

“Please, sir.” The plastic doll begged. “Leave while you can.”

The woman’s face still shined plastic, but now looked like a clear plastic mask glued over a human face. Her eyes no longer were glass orbs, but bottomless green lakes of fear and concern.

“Is this the way out?” He asked. Brandson tried to take a step back only to find her fingers were not letting go. In addition, something had snaked around the foot located on the dais.

“I don’t know.”

The hair crossed from her fingers and started to wind around his bicep. Brandson  yelped.

“Is This The Way OUT?” He asked, his voice getting louder and louder as he used his other hand to untangle the strands.

Tears pooled, turning her eyes pure jade. “I don’t know.”

He dropped his eyes to his foot and discovered his own jeans hand lengthened to merge into the wood platform. “Then what the fuck do you know?” He asked contemplating how to escape the second part of the trap.

Her voice changed, picking up speed from her previous slow cadence, and a gutter hiss punctuated each word. “Dolly dear in spider web, bite your mate so you can live.”

“What the fuck?” He asked, snapping his head up to look at her face. For a second, he saw hairy legs reach out from the bun on her head. Mulit-faceted eyes blinked once on their stalks before returning to their gem-like camouflage appearance.

He felt her free hand unbuttoning his fly. Brandson’s eyes widened in surprise.

“Help me push them down,” she instructed.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” He said as her hand stroked his dick, pushing the jean fabric apart. After a second thought, he started pushing the cloth down. They both worked the tight denim until gravity took over. He was almost ready for the killing kiss as a release by the time they were through.  He started to lean towards her.

“Sir, … I will not free myself at another’s expense.” Her plastic mask moved as her face tensed. Still staring into his eyes, she brought up her free hand and crashed it down on the arm held in place by the spider silk. The plastic shattered.

With the detached hand still gripping his arm, he fell backwards against the door. His jeans remained attached to the dias.

With her remaining hand, the woman was holding an arm ending shortly past her elbow. Plastic goo froze mid-drip from white shards. Her plastic face, returned to looking like a plastic doll, was twisted in pain.  Four feathered boas rose out of her bun as though supported by wires and bent inward to frame her face. Her gown was once again tight around her legs. The trailing loose fringe hem had all the threads stretching towards his jeans and him.

Reaching up, he used the doorknob to help stand. Keeping an eye on the woman and her captor, he whispered to her. “I wish I could help you.”

He opened the door and stepped through to discover what was beyond.

(words 1,096 – originally appearing at Sunday Fun on Breathless Press 4/15/2013, published on old blog on 4/21/2013; republished new blog format 9/10/2017) 

Book Review: Eats, Shoots & Leaves

Amazon Cover - Eats Shoots Leaves

Book Cover from Amazon

BOOK BLURB ON AMAZON

Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss

We all know the basics of punctuation. Or do we? A look at most neighborhood signage tells a different story. Through sloppy usage and low standards on the internet, in email, and now text messages, we have made proper punctuation an endangered species. In Eats, Shoots & Leaves, former editor Lynne Truss dares to say, in her delightfully urbane, witty, and very English way, that it is time to look at our commas and semicolons and see them as the wonderful and necessary things they are. This is a book for people who love punctuation and get upset when it is mishandled. From the invention of the question mark in the time of Charlemagne to George Orwell shunning the semicolon, this lively history makes a powerful case for the preservation of a system of printing conventions that is much too subtle to be mucked about with.

 

MY REVIEW

I laughed and laughed from preface where the author describes her reaction to producing a runaway best seller on punctuation to the final chapter describing how writing is changing from print to Internet medium leading to a flash on the Punctuation Murderer. Verily, I giggled, cackled, chortled, snickered, and tittered like a fiend: while she is not a disciple of the Oxford Comma, I will forgive her the heresy for the rest of her punctuation doctrine is sound.

You should seek out and read this book. Discover how the words “best seller” can and should be bestowed on a grammar book.

If the mene “I like cooking my family and my pets. – Use commas, don’t be a psycho.” tickles your fancy, this is the book for you. 

Note: Uses British grammar rules, not American.