Sunday, June 29, 2008

Space Pirates, episode 11

This scene marks the end of Chapter One (kinda like the season finale of a television show). Still no title for the story. Any ideas?
Wyatt fidgeted with the pencil, flipping it over and over in his thin, nervous fingers then tapping the eraser against the nearest crate. “Now, captain, those two fellas. I can’t be easy about them. Nor that woman, neither. Something ain’t right about her.” He traced the government stamp branded into the side of the crate. “Awful big shipment. Hate to lose it ‘cause we had to babysit some crazy passengers.”

Kristoff agreed but didn’t say so. No use repeating the obvious. This cargo, stacked audaciously among the legitimate freight, could make their fortune or see them hanged.

But, then, most of the cargo over the past five years was liable to send the crew of the Vega to the scaffold.

He pried open one of the cases and checked its contents—and felt an annoying twist in his gut. It had become a familiar sensation of late. He hadn’t identified it yet. It wasn’t the stomach flu or something he ate. It started about six months ago, when he first agreed to ferry weapons and medical supplies to the Provincial Militia, a group of colonists in the Riva Mountains who were supported by a few wealthy sympathizers posing as government loyalists.

Nothing pirated. Just a standard smuggling job. No cause for fret.

Kristoff tapped the lid back into place. “Find any of Zoltana’s devices down here?”

Wyatt flipped back the corner of a tarp. Five disks the size of government pennies heaped together like tiny metal spiders. He gestured to the blinking light over the cargo hatch. “Alerio’s new jamming device should take care of any others I didn’t find.”

Kristoff picked up one of the spiders, turning it over in his palm.

“Corrigan and Ezra found more and took ‘em to the engine room so Alerio can recalibrate ‘em.”

“I’ll take these to him. Keep looking.”

“Aye. You know I will.” The ship’s steward dumped the rest of the spiders into Kristoff’s hand. “What I think, captain? There’s more than bugs on this ship. I reckon one of our passengers ain’t what he seems.”

This, I believe, will be the last episode. There are three or four more chapters ("seasons," if you will) extant -- and unlike the execs behind Jericho or Moonlight, I can be persuaded to bring back the series -- but I think it's time to move on to other things.

c. 2008, Keanan Brand

Sunday Challenge

This being Sunday, here's a link for those not afraid of in-your-face Biblical truth.

The speaker, Paul Washer, warns at the beginning that he will say things that will anger, things with which people will disagree.

My response is this: Only those who are afraid of truth or of the necessity of change, or are confronted with unwelcome truth, will be angered. There is no lie in the message.

So, that said, if you have a little over 45 minutes to devote to a spiritual challenge, go here.

--- --- ---

Washer is affiliated with HeartCry Missionary Society.

I went to Bible college in 1989-90, and majored in Missions and in Music. Didn't graduate, but always wondered what directions my life would have taken if I did.

I do know that it is only in this direction I live now that the writing has been possible. I might have been caught up in trying to excel in areas where I had no real talent -- in music, that is -- and been frustrated and useless. With writing, I know I have contributed something worthwhile in the lives of other writers.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Get Smart

Watch this movie!

Find out more on or at the Get Smart movie website.

(Caution: There is one use of the middle finger, and some rude humor. And Maxwell Smart is not quite as bumbling in the film as he was in the television show, but that's a good thing.)

all images courtesy of Warner Brothers

Kid Poets

Lately, in this massive band of bloggers, I've only been marking time while others contribute to the symphony. In the past, my first reaction might have been an apology, but life makes its own demands on all of us, and we owe no apologies for that.

The youth organization where I work hosts a poetry contest every summer, and each location is required to submit at least 25 entries by the deadline (this year, July 3). That puts the pressure on the staff to get the kids enthusiastic about something that smacks not of summer fun but of school-year work. Sometimes, we are reduced to small acts of bribery: "Finish your poem today, and you get a free ice cream!"

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon helping young poets start and complete their work. The theme is "What is Beauty?"--difficult enough for adults, more so for kids.

We have the following:
a haiku about the birth of sea turtles;
a free verse reminding us that actions and character make us beautiful;
a description of summer, comparing the faint smell of barbecue to an elusive whitetail deer;
a list of beautiful things, such as a puppy's soft fur;
an immersion in the senses that ends "Beauty is in me";
and the one that gets me the most, though when the boy started working on it, it was just a description of flowers that left me flat:
a free-verse poem about the roses and sunflowers in his adoptive mother's garden, with tulips as pink as his birth mother's dress, and how beauty is mixing the soil and the fertilizer to help his new mom's garden grow.
Sometimes, I wouldn't trade this job for anything.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Space Pirates, episode 10

The conclusion of the first meeting between the mysterious female passenger and Finn, the pilot:

The white hand fluttered downward like a pallid leaf. “Oh, my. Please pardon my presumption, but that hair—those clothes—it’s no wonder I might be mistaken.”

This is what men wanted? This stuck-up, perfumed scrap of humanity that couldn’t take care of herself? She was a parasite, just like Finney’s mother, sucking all the intelligence out of menfolk until they waited on her, hand and foot, and never giving anything back but wan smiles and demure looks under long lashes. A few breathy sobs and a sweet voice, and a man was robbed of his good sense. Finney would be hanged if she were forced to witness all this insanity for the rest of the voyage.

“I don’t know your name, miss, but mine’s Fiona Grace, and I don’t fool easy.”

“Whatever do you mean?” That pale hand lifted to rest against the lacy breast.

“I mean, ma’am, that two men beat each other nigh to death over you, and a young boy's all swoony. Even the captain has a special interest in you.” Finney leaned closer. “A governor’s daughter doesn’t just head into the black on a whim. Nor does she wander about with men. What’s your game?”

“Game?” Now the hand dabbed a transparent handkerchief against the shadowed throat. “I’m afraid I just don’t understand. No well-bred lady turns down an offer of hospitality, lest she offend. By accepting the generosity of your crewmates, I am simply being a gracious guest. As for the ruffian who brought me aboard, I assure you, Miss Grace, I did not come willingly.”

Finney stood upright and turned in a slow circle, surveying the small but comfortable cabin, the Martina Vega’s best. An open trunk displayed neatly folded garments; on the washstand marched a line of toiletries in cut-crystal bottles and jars.

“A considerate ruffian. He gave you time to pack.”

“A man may smile and smile, and be a villain.”

Finney snorted. “Yeah, I read Shakespeare, too.” She crossed her arms and studied the woman. “What’s the story on the other fella?”

“Why all these questions, Miss Grace? In what way have I offended you?”

“Ain’t offended me. This is my ship. I need to know exactly into what kind of space I’m piloting her. I don’t want trouble we can’t afford.”

The soft, cultured voice thinned to a razor’s edge. “If you’re trying to threaten me, Miss Grace, I make a much better friend than an enemy.”

Finney chuckled. “Now, that’s what I call a true threat.”

In the passageway, Kristoff still propped up a wall, the scowl on his face deepening when Finney beamed her best smile up at him. “I hate it when you look at me like that,” he growled. “Means I’m gonna regret something.”

She brushed past him and ascended the stair. He didn’t follow her.

Finney stalked the rest of the way to the wheelhouse.

c. 2008, Keanan Brand

Thursday, June 26, 2008

An Arkansas Backyard


Just got the word from Dad that there's an opening at his church for someone to lead the children's ministry on Sunday mornings. He asked if I'd be interested.

Considering the fact that I don't want to ever attend that church again, one might think my first and immediate response would be a resounding NO.

But I'm trying to remain open to wherever God and life might lead. I just might go ahead and submit my name for consideration.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Space Pirates, episode 9

Here goes Finn, meeting the mysterious female passenger on her ship:

Men. The captain’s heavy tread thudded behind her. Always on the lookout for trouble—not to avoid it, but to leap smack into the middle of it.

An itch fretted Finney right between the shoulder blades. She wasn’t about to scratch it, though. Wouldn’t give him the satisfaction.

Port Nora governor’s daughter, eh? Rounding the corner and descending the companionway to the passenger cabins, Finney realized she didn’t know which one was the girl’s.

Then she saw Haldis backing out of a doorway, bobbing his head as if bowing to royalty, a sloppy grin on his young face. “Yes, ma’am. I will, ma’am. Sahir’s the best cook in the sky. I’ll bring your tray back directly.”

He backed right into Finney, stumbling over her feet, but he might as well have been floating on a nebula. His vacuous gaze barely grazed her face before he wandered in the direction of the galley.

Finney slanted a disgusted look ceilingward before landing a crisp rat-tat-tat on the door.

A breathy, sensuous voice replied, “Come in.”

Finney glanced back. Arms folded, Kristoff leaned one shoulder against the opposite wall. He did not look happy, but he made no move to stop her. She pushed the door open and stepped inside, closing it behind her.

The only light came from the porthole. A soft pale glow skimmed the side of the woman’s face as she sat beside the window. She lifted a slender hand. “Another of the captain’s excellent crew. I’ve never met such accommodating fellows in my life as the men of the Martina Vega.”

“That’s all well and good, miss”—ignoring the outstretched hand, Finney planted one boot on an empty chair and leaned forward into the light, resting her crossed arms on her upraised knee—“but the pilot of this here fine freighter just happens to be a woman.”

c. 2008, Keanan Brand

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sunday Garden

These are the leaves of a callas lily along the rear border of my backyard. These plants are hand-me-downs from family, and they've been a long time greening. For a time, I wasn't sure they'd survive.

This foray into gardening is teaching me trust and patience. I've never been good at keeping plants alive; this time, however, I've been doing what I can--planting, fertilizing, watering--then stepping back and letting God do the rest.

So far, I've lost three plants out of dozens. I've transplanted two of the lost plants, hoping the innate hardiness of nature will take over and resurrect what appears to be dying.

Yesterday, I watched a show in which a father left his adult son on the steps of a courthouse and drove away, and I wondered what that character would be thinking when he did that. What did my parents think when they left me at school, at college, at the airport on my way to a foreign country? What would they think if I left the area where we all live now?

Uncertain health has made me rely on them more than I would have done otherwise. Dad and his wife are over here all the time. Mom checks in often. I am grateful. I love them. I also want to leave.

Could they trust that the hardiness of nature would take over, and that they--the gardeners--had done all they could; the rest is up to God?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Space Pirates, episode 8

Resuming the conversation between Captain Kristoff and the pilot, Finney:

Finney folded her hands across her stomach and propped her feet beside where he sat on the console apron, the portion with no switches, buttons, or other controls.

Kristoff rested an arm on the toes of her crossed boots and leaned forward. “Seen the beauty that sent those two young bucks into a fever?”

“Heard about her.” Finney’s brows twitched downward. “Haldis is smitten, but he’s still a boy.”

“Meaning what?”

“Meaning nothing, sir.” Wickedness gleamed in her enigmatic eyes.

Kristoff studied her with narrowed gaze, but Finney did not yield.

“Turns out she’s from Port Nora. Governor’s daughter.”

Finney shrugged. “So?”

“So she’s worth some money.”

“I thought we didn’t do ransom.”

“We don’t.” Kristoff tapped the side of her boot. “But we do arrange things when they suit us.”

Finney squinted in speculation. “And what exactly do horrific honesty and the governor’s daughter have to do with these change of plans you mentioned?”

He hated when she did that squinty thing. It meant she was scheming on top of his scheming, and her ideas were generally better. Not that he was jealous of her mind. Not at all. He was downright proud to have such an intelligent crew. But—still—a man didn’t like to always be bested.

He sat upright and crossed his arms. “Well, I, uh, thought we’d notify the governor, tell him the circumstance, and offer to make it right. For a fee, of course.”

“Of course.”

“Well? What do you think?”

“We have cargo to unload.”

“Couple of days, and we’ll be needing new work. The girl’s been compromised already, just by being with that fella. Way I figure it, Poppa Governor will be more than happy to send us some money for evidence that his daughter’s married and respectable. That way he can tell folks it was a quiet wedding, and that he knew all about it. And”—Kristoff leaned forward again—“we make friends in high places.”

“Pirates can always use another important politician in their debt.”

“That’s what I figure.”

“You forget: This particular governor already does business with us.”

“True”—Kristoff held up one finger—“but is he in our debt?”

Finney dropped her feet to the floor with a bang, slapped her thighs, and stood. “Well.” She hooked her thumbs in her belt. “I think I’m gonna go see this paragon of beauty for myself. Probably more looks than brains. Why else would she head for space with a jerk and a moonling?”

Alarmed, Kristoff followed her out of the wheelhouse. “Now, Finn, you’re not gonna make any trouble.”

She didn’t turn around.

“Finn. Finn.” Blast that woman! Kristoff stomped after her. “C’mon, Finn! No messin’ with the plan!”

c. 2008, Keanan Brand

Friday, June 20, 2008

Captured in Their Native Habitat

Took this on Thursday, outside the gym at one of the youth centers run by the organization for which I work. This scene makes you wonder what the story is, doesn't it?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Interesting (Probable) Autistics

This random post was inspired by a couple things: myself, and a recent viewing of Season Four of Monk on DVD. Sure, Adrian Monk is a character plagued by multiple phobias and quirks, but his way of thinking and deducting makes me think his creator and writers may have given him a
definite bent toward autism.

Below are some writers, musicians, and artists whose work I enjoy and who displayed traits indicating autism/Asperger's Syndrome:

Isaac Asimov
Vincent Van Gogh
Jane Austen
Mark Twain
Ludwig van Beethoven
Henry Thoreau
Emily Dickinson
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Thomas Jefferson (more than a politician, he was a writer and an architect, and so finds a place on this list)

I'd like to learn about more people who might fit this list. Know any?

Space Pirates, episode 7

Captain Zoltana crossed her arms and pursed her mouth. Kristoff almost smiled.

Heads, faces, chests, and arms bandaged, broken ribs bound, the idiot and the lover lay in their bunks and didn’t meet Zoltana’s gaze.

Like a counselor with two recalcitrant young campers on summer vacation, Kristoff had put them in the same cabin.

“So,” Zoltana demanded, “you just stood by and let them continue their archaic male-dominance barbarism while the crew watched?”


“What does the doctor think of this—this unnecessary violence?”

“She’s impressed that two skinny fellas were strong enough—and passionate enough—to do so much harm.” Kristoff tapped his bandaged face and let loose a grin. “Gives her hope for Alerio.”

Zoltana, with a derisive suck of the teeth, turned on her heel in a sharp about-face and marched down the passage.

The inspection crew returned to the Orpheus, and Kristoff bounded into the wheelhouse. Finney didn’t turn around but kept one hand on the controls and another leaping over the console, setting course and speed, and communicating with the engine room. Alerio did not sound happy.

Nobody was, not when an abrasive slice of sandpaper called Captain Iona Zoltana scraped across one’s posterior.

“Slight change of plans, Finn.” Kristoff perched on the edge of the console and rested his boots on the arm of the captain’s chair. His chair, but his butt rarely occupied it.

“Don’t tell me.” Finney frowned. “She found the cargo behind the cargo.”

“Close, but no.”

“She’s sending along a couple of babysitters to make sure we deliver our legitimate cargo to the destination on the manifest.”


“As entertaining as this is, Kristoff, I’m in no mind for games.”

“You’re no fun.”

“Pilot of a big ship. No time for fun.”

“Ah, she’s not all that big.” Kristoff caressed the panel above his head. “Kinda cozy, actually.”

“Big enough.”

The uninjured corner of his mouth pulled up in a smile, Kristoff turned his head and watched the stars fly at them as the Martina Vega accelerated away from the Orpheus.

“This change of plans”—coordinates set, Finney locked the wheel and leaned back in her chair—“what does it involve?”

“The worst kind of honesty.”

“Oh, the horror.”

c. 2008, Keanan Brand

Note: For the literalists among us, I am using a literary device when I write that the stars flew at the Vega as the craft accelerated. In truth, what is happening in such a case is a visual version of the Doppler affect, in which the space bodies would only seem to be approaching the ship.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Attempting a Course Correction -- Again

Several weeks ago, I posted something about trying to get this blog back on track, to where it used to be, but the focus is still--well--unfocused.

"Adventures in Fiction" started out being about writing, by a writer, for writers. It's wandered into other paths since then. It's okay to branch out, explore. That's part of fiction.

And all this wandering has introduced me to many other bloggers who share some interests besides writing. I can be almost too focused sometimes; a broader horizon forces me to stretch the brain.

Yet, in the interest of focus, I'm considering backing out of a few things.

* * *

I rented Season Four of Monk, the television series, and one episode in which Mr. Monk goes undercover in an office reminded me of why I do not want to work ever again in a corporate office atmosphere.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Space Pirates, episode 6

This scene is an introduction to Alerio, ship's engineer, and a further acquaintance with Corrigan, the scary mechanic. (Back into the main action with the next episode.)

Alerio took a pencil from behind his ear, steadied the clipboard, and squinted at the readout. “I told him to blow out the hydraulic lines,” he muttered, pulling the spectacles from the top of his head, rubbing one lens on the pristine sleeve of his lab coat then settling them on his nose. “I could just design a new system.” He chuckled to himself. “Wouldn’t that fry Corrigan’s potatoes.”

Footsteps thudded along the passage, and three men entered the engine room, led by the Martina Vega’s giant of a mechanic wearing stained overalls, the arms tied around his waist, and a once-white t-shirt streaked with grease and colored fluids.

“Hey, Al.” Corrigan grimaced. “Company.”

Splendid. Alerio propped his spectacles once more on the top of his head and didn’t even attempt Corrigan’s grotesque congeniality. “Gentlemen, there are cloth gloves in one box, and artificial ones in the other. Please do not touch any instruments or surfaces with your bare hands.”

The blue-uniformed men complied, one of them looking around and saying, "For an old boat, the Martina Vega sure has a pretty engine room."

A growl rumbled deep in Corrigan’s massive chest. The man quickly added, “A real pleasure to inspect such a fine, clean room.”

It was a limping conciliation, but it worked; Corrigan nodded once.

Alerio crossed his arms over the clipboard, and watched the Orpheus crew note the gauges, poke through the contents of parts-and-tools lockers, probe any space that appeared even remotely usable for hiding illicit goods. Even the in-use parts were checked for the tax stamp that declared them legally purchased—a stamp easily duplicated by an intelligent engineer and a skilled mechanic then branded onto smuggled or pirated parts.

One of the Orpheus crewmen, crouched beside a locker, closed and latched the door, removed his gloves, and stood. He paled, as if lightheaded from rising too quickly, and put out a hand to steady himself.

“No—!” Alerio lurched forward, but too late.

Bare skin, with its oils and other contaminates, met the gleaming, sensitive surface of the air intake grill. The purifier’s faint healthy hum became a whine.

“I—I’m sorry.” The Orpheus crewman leaned over and used his wadded gloves to scrub at the handprint that had already tarnished the grill.

The whine became a wheeze.

Alerio held up a hand. “Go.”

“The Vega is just this side of a wreck. Modern tech is a lot less touchy, and far more durable.”

“Get. Out. Of. My. En. Gine. Room.”

Corrigan wagged the wrench that seemed permanently attached to his fist.

The inspectors stripped off their gloves and dropped them into the cleaning bins on the wall near the door.

Corrigan followed the men, but only after slapping a screwdriver into Alerio's palm. “New grills in the top locker. Forgot to tell you.”

c. 2008, Keanan Brand

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Tagged Again: 10 Questions

I missed this tag on Wednesday over at Bachelor at Wellington's blog: ten questions that help people get to know me.

So, tardy though I may be, my answers are below.

1) What I was doing 10 years ago: working my way through a new job (which I still have), helping Dad with major repairs and remodeling of my house, and taking a new direction with my life.

2) My 5 favorite snacks: (Do drinks count?) Coffee, ice cream, baked potato chips, jerky, and I can't think of a fifth right now.

3) Five things on my to-do list today: feed Dad and Gayle's dogs and chickens, mow the yard, transplant a tomato plant, go to the post office, wash dishes. (I've only accomplished three.)

4) Things I would do if I were a billionaire: (Some of mine resemble Bachelor's.) Pay off all my bills and those of my family, set up a better retirement fund than I currently have, give money to various charities with which I agree and ministries I trust, open a bookstore in my small town, start a literature and art appreciation program for young people, quit work and write for an occupation, travel a bit, finish further repairs on my house.

5) Five jobs that I've had: pet sitter, laborer for Dad's construction/remodeling business, cook at a fast-food restaurant, department store clerk, program director at a youth organization.

6) Five bad habits of mine: too much coffee, too many movies, too many books, too little sleep on work nights, and too little exercise (despite all the walking and lifting I do at work).

7) Five places I've lived: Long Beach, California; Albany, Oregon; Sweet Home, Oregon; LaPine, Oregon; Springdale, Arkansas; San Diego, California (and more).

8) Five random things people wouldn't know about me: I want to ride in a hot air balloon; I'm tutoring two children in reading this summer; I want to visit Sweden and look up relatives on my mother's side of the family; I'd like to quit my job, sell the house, and wander the country; I'm short (not quite 5'5").

9) Five CDs I'd have to have on a desert island: (I'll just list artists.) Aaron Copland, Bryn Terfel, Rich Mullins, Steven Curtis Chapman, Mozart.

10) Five people I want to know better: Some have already been mentioned by Bachelor, but I will include one on this list, anyway. So there!

For the People
Charlotte Rose (who has already included on her blog a very long, cool list of stuff she's done)

Writers Group and Stealth Editor

Second week of Summer Program down, seven to go. (Summer Program is like day camp.)

The days being busy and long, I've written little, so when I listened to the answering machine Wednesday night, I was unprepared for the news there was a writers meeting the next day. I had nothing to share--not nothing written, just nothing ready or copied to pass out to the group. I went anyway, because I rarely have a chance to gather with friends, and these people are a rowdy bunch, known to laugh too loud in the library or at restaurants. Party animals. (laugh)

One person shared the final chapter of her first book -- whoo hoo! -- another read a short essay she's entering in the latest Guideposts contest, and yet another read the first draft of a poem.

When asked if I had something to share, I dug in my briefcase-like bag and found the small spiral-bound notebook in which I'm writing a short fantasy book for kids, and read the first four or five handwritten pages.

It was well-received, except by one writer. I should know by now: Never read my work unless 1) it is mainstream, or 2) a particular writer is absent. This person has no complaints about my style, characters, dialogue, or the basics of storytelling, just about the subject matter or the fact that I don't dump a bunch of details right at the beginning. My work ends up irritating both of us.

* * *

Several weeks ago, I wandered through the local site of national chain bookstore, and looked for certain titles that I had helped edit in some way, either as a proofreader or as a down-and-gritty, find-all-the-weaknesses-I-can editor. I felt like a stealth contributor to the literary world. Kinda cool.

Yesterday, after working late at the Club, I had to stop by the post office, purchase stamps from the vending machine, and mail forty-five letters out to baseball players. I heard a door open on the other side of the building and then the distinct sound of my mother's footsteps down the row of boxes where she receives her mail. I almost called out to her, but then thought better of it, just in case I was wrong. This is a small town, but--

She cruised around the corner, smiling, and we talked while I stamped envelopes then checked my post office box.

Inside was a key for a parcel box, and inside the box was a package. It had the distinct hard, heavy weight of a book. I flipped it over, and looked at the return address: a writer whose mystery/thriller I'd edited a year or two ago.

He included a letter, but Mom wished he'd signed the book. I'm happy that he's at work on book number two--and you can bet I'll be looking for it on the bookstore shelves.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Brief Update

Went to a writers meeting last night. Will post more about that when I have time.

I'm taking five minutes at work to respond to the comments in the previous post, and then I'm out the door with a small group of kids for an hour or so of photography around the neighborhood (saves fuel costs and permission slips).

One of our kids is up for her possible second national win this year. Whoo Hoo! We won't know the results, though, for another couple of weeks.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Space Pirates, episode 5

Sorry, y'all, but I've little to report about my life/work/family/writing at the moment -- still acclimating to the summer work schedule -- so here's the next story installment. The text is twice as long as I'd like to post, but it completes a segment. Enjoy!

(The first speaker is Captain Zoltana, the second is Captain Kristoff.)

“Why do you keep flying this old bucket?”

“Keep your voice down. Martina might hear you. She’s a mite touchy about her age.”

“One of these days, she’s gonna fall out the sky, and then what’s a crew of hardworking pirates to do?”

“Pirates, ma’am? We’re honest freighters. You oughta know that, Zoltana, as many times as you routinely search our cargo.”

“Just doing my job.”

“You keep doing that job so thorough and so often”—Kristoff strode toward the stairs—“a fella might think there was more on your mind than duty.”

In the corridor between the passenger cabins and the infirmary, he met a woman in a white lab coat, blonde hair streaked with white, faint smile lines fanning the corners of her eyes. She stuck her hands in the broad, square pockets and leaned one shoulder against the wall. “So. How’s it feel to be the object of a constable’s crush?”

“Don’t start.”

Mercedes chuckled. “Come on in. Let’s check that cut.”

The doctor pushed a stool toward him across the gleaming white floor. He straddled it while she pulled on a pair of ugly orange gloves and gathered disinfectant, clean gauze, and a pair of small, sharp scissors. Mercedes viuda Oliverio de Lazaro was a better doctor than the Martina Vega deserved. After her husband died of a long illness, she’d had her fill of hospital corridors. “Feels like I’m suffocating,” Mercedes had said the day she came looking for passage. “I need to stretch out and breathe again. I need adventure.”

“You’ll sure find it here,” Corrigan had answered for the captain, grinning at her in his best welcoming smile that would have sent small children screaming for their mothers.

In the past couple of years, she’d grown quieter, more content, as if the greater the danger the greater her calm. And, Kristoff suspected, there was something going on between her and Alerio. A doctor and an engineer. Well, they were the two smartest people on board—except for maybe Finney the pilot.

Finney. Now, there was a woman he could talk to, when she wasn’t being prickly or standoffish. Not overly pretty, so she didn’t make him tongue-tied. Smart, but not stuck-up about it. Finney was just herself. She pushed him. She made him laugh. Pretty much every time they talked, he walked away mad—but he always came back for more. Why was that?

Mercedes pulled the old bandage away from his cheek. He flinched. “Easy, Doc!”

“Looks clean. There’ll be a scar, but I don’t suppose that bothers you much, being a pirate and all.”

“I told you not to start.”

“Aye-aye, cap’n.”

“No respect. Absolutely no respect.”

Mercedes leaned close to apply the fresh bandage and murmured, “Pirates,” as if that explained everything.

Then she looked past him, and her smile disappeared.

Captain Zoltana’s crisp voice sounded behind him, scraping along his ear-bones like claws on metal. “Keeping animals, pets or livestock, is not allowed without the proper license, Captain Kristoff. The fine is steeper for animals kept for slaughter.”

Touching his cheek, wincing at the pressure on the bruise around the cut, he stood to face her. “Can’t think what you mean. All our meat’s in cold storage near the galley—just ask Sahir—and you oughta know by now this crew don’t have time nor patience for pets.”

Her blue eyes were flat ice. “An awful lot of blood in that cage on the cargo deck.”

Mercedes pulled off the ugly orange gloves and tossed them into a hazardous-refuse bin. “If your men had taken the time to use their test kits, they would have found the blood to be human.”

“Illegal fighting for wager or profit means two to five years in the brig—”

“Now listen here, Captain Zoltana—!”

Kristoff laid a hand on Mercedes’ arm. “Don’t waste your breath, Doc. What we need is a visual aid.” He shouldered past Zoltana and strode along the passage toward the catwalk. “Come with me.”

c. 2008, Keanan Brand

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Space Pirates, episode 4

Just inside the passenger deck airlock stood a tall woman in a crisp, dark blue uniform and sleeked-back, straight blond hair that stopped short of touching her collar. She inclined her head as he approached. “Captain.”

“You didn’t have to dress up on my account.”

Kristoff plucked at his freshly ironed white shirt. “What? This old thing?” He’d smile, but it made his face hurt. “What brings the Orpheus to these skies?”

“Routine random searches.”


“Well, in your case,” she smiled slightly, her hands still clasped behind her back, “more routine.”

“Welcome aboard, Captain Zoltana.” Kristoff stood aside. “My crew will cooperate.”

She turned her head, and the men standing behind her fanned out to search the cargo deck. Zoltana didn’t move from her place. Nor did she watch her men. She watched Kristoff, who watched her from the corner of his eye.

He didn’t play chess—good thing, too, ‘cause he’d probably lose every game—but so far he’d never been outmaneuvered by Zoltana or any other duly sworn constable.

There was a first time for everything.

Wyatt, the little high-strung steward who preferred an abacus to a group of people of any sort, but who still seemed to charm passengers in spite of himself, led one trio of men to inspect the freight lockers while Corrigan, wrench in hand, led another to the engine room. Ezra, cultural liaison and sometime housekeeper, escorted yet another trio up to the passenger deck.

Kristoff stood with his hands resting lightly on his hips and pretended to be interested in the catwalk opposite the airlock.

“You know, captain,” Zoltana’s voice was heavy with sarcasm, “if you lie real still, this’ll all be over in a few minutes.”

“Doesn’t mean I have to like it.”

“Never knew a man to turn it down.”

“Ah, I bet you say that to all the boys.”

c. 2008, Keanan Brand

Friday, June 6, 2008


Tuckered out. Way over 40 hours of kids, craziness, and feuding staff members.

First week of Summer Program down, eight more to go.

Gonna need to upgrade the medicine cabinet.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A/C Solved, Computer Unsolved, and Goofy Family Stories

Whoo Hoo! The a/c is fixed, so the house is cool--fantastic, now that 90s are going to be the norm for the next two or three months.

I'm a geek in many ways, but not so much in the computer realm. I've been using a program that will find and delete index.dat files, but anybody know how to eradicate those stubborn DAT files that are unnecessary yet impossible to delete because (supposedly) they are in use by Windows or some other program? I am not a happy camper.

* * *

Gotta be up on your Loony Toons for this one:
When I visited family in Tucson in May, my mother was assigned the nursery as her sleeping quarters (hey, the baby hasn't used it yet!), and our luggage and various clothing and grooming items were stored on some shelves in there.

One morning, I was the first in the household to waken, so I snuck (sneaked?) into the nursery a couple times to get this or that. Mom shifted once, and another time she muttered something, so I asked her later if I'd woken her. She looked at me in surprise. "Didn't hear a thing."

I dropped into my best Elmer Fudd crouch, an imaginary shotgun in my hands, and did an exaggerated cartoon tip-toe across the living room. "I'm hunting wabbits."

Mom laughed, head back, then imitated me. "Be vewy, vewy quiet."

Next day:
As we neared the base gate on the return trip from Phoenix, a few cars got between my brother's car and Mom's, so he and his wife and Niece #2 were at home by the time Mom and Niece #1 and I arrived.

That was a good thing.

Bubba noticed we weren't behind him--"Looks like we've lost Mom"--and then got distracted by the moon behind a palm tree, and wished he had a camera handy to capture it. Then he points across the road. "Look! A bunny!"

His wife: "Uhm, you just drove past the house."

And the day after that:
After taking orders for everyone's favorite flavors, Bubba and I went to the Shopette for Icees all around. On the way, we saw a truck that sported a sign: "Makes Frequent Stops."

"Guess it just gets a wild hare, and stops." Immediately, he and I stomp on imaginary brake pedals, lurch in our seats, and make squealing-brake noises.

Then one of us--I can't remember which--points across the road. "Oh, look! A bunny!"

Sh! Be vewy, vewy quiet. I'm hunting wabbits.

Welcome to my insane little world.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Hot and Humid and Progress

The air conditioner went out last night.

Wouldn't be so much of a problem, I guess, except that I live in the Arkansas River Valley. In summer, the American South is notorious for its soul-sucking humidity.

Strong thunderstorms are expected this afternoon, too, so no opening of the windows (which I'm now closing before the temperature rises any further).

On the writing front: Though no real progress this weekend on the fantasy novels, I've been at work on the sideways modern novel set in the Southwest. I can't tell much about that novel; it's so different that I've never read or heard of a storyline quite like it, and I don't want to give it away before 1) it's finished, and 2) a publisher buys it. Then I'll promote it like crazy.