Lights and Shadows Update #6

When in doubt, do a story update…hehe. Anyway, enjoy. 🙂
“On my way.” He replied. Damn it, he swore silently, I could be making a lot more headway without her slowing me down. No, no, you’re part of a team now. Play the hand you’re dealt. Reluctantly, he stepped away from the door and turned back toward the main laboratory area.

When he ducked through the lab’s watertight door, he didn’t expect to have one of his own weapons pointed at his head. He looked at Finch’s shaking hands. Even from the angle he was looking, he could tell that the pistol’s twin safety interlocks were still engaged. “Listen, if you’re going to shoot me, you may want to take the safety off. It works better that way.”

She pulled the weapon back. “Sorry, I heard some strange sounds and thought that monster was coming back.”

Moreau finished climbing through the doorway. “Yes, because monsters always announce their presence when coming after their prey.” Inwardly, he breathed a sigh of relief. If I die here, it’s really going to suck, he thought. The lighting had increased since his expedition and he noted the central computer cluster was brightly lit and humming with power. “I see you’ve made productive use of your time.”

“The Research Lab has a self-contained power supply and computer system.” Finch explained as she led him over to the main computer console. “It took me a while to access it, but the information I discovered was exceptional to say the least.” She sat down and pulled up a screen. “You seem to have a knowledge of things that you shouldn’t, so let me ask you this question. What do you know about a project called Shattered Glass?”

Moreau searched his memory. “There were rumors floating around for a long time about something that Alliance R&D was working on involving backup security systems for outposts and stations should they be compromised by disease or whatever. Everything I heard suggested that they couldn’t make it work and the program was scrapped. Why do you ask?”

Finch tapped the screen. “Once I got past the encryption, I found several references to Shattered Glass and to Gemina Burke.”

“Gemina Burke.” Moreau felt his hands clench to fists and then relax as a memory forced itself to the surface. A bad one. “It took me a while to remember why that name was so familiar.”

“Would you like to share with the rest of the class?”

“Goddamn war criminal whose specialty was designing weapons that targeted specific genetic markers. A lot of people compared her to Mengele and Shafon-Assad for her inability to empathize with her test subjects. After a while, the body count got so high that even the Union-Controlled media outlets couldn’t keep it spun under wraps. Personally, I thought she was dead by now.”

“Obviously not if she paid a visit.” Finch cycled through the records without a word for several minutes. When she finished, she looked up with wide eyes. “Zack, according to every record I’ve found, she never left.”

Moreau nudged her out of the seat and pored through the access logs. He absorbed the daggers thrown from Finch’s eyes as she stood silently fuming beside him. “This doesn’t make sense. Entry and Exit Logs are hard-coded into every Alliance facility, public or private.” He pulled up Burke’s file picture and studied it. Long black hair, deep blue eyes, a hint of mixed European and Arabic racial ancestry in her features. “Hard to believe that someone who looks like this could pull off so much evil.”

“Roberta Black was considered by many to be quite physically stunning.” Finch remarked. “Well, until they dropped an arsenal on her from orbit.”

Moreau relinquished the station. “We need to confirm whether she’s dead or not. We have a lot of ground to cover.” He felt the floor tremble under his feet. “Those tremors are getting worse and we have a lot of ground to cover.” He went to another terminal and pulled up an outpost schematic. “Correction, way too much ground to cover by ourselves. Once we get Topside, we’re going to need your technology prowess to get us into a Utility Vehicle.”

Finch nodded, picking up her data tablet. “It’s about time.”

“About time?”

“Yeah, to be honest, this place gives me the creeps. I’ll do my job, but I’ve had enough of dead people and monsters lurking in the shadows.”

“Agreed.”

They packed up what records Finch could download and headed to the elevator. Moreau watched the ceiling flex as they waited for the car to arrive. The movement was barely noticeable at first, but as fatigue lines began to form in the metal plating amid an ever-increasing snowfall of fire retardant material and chipped paint. A fatigue line evolved into a full-blown fracture above Finch’s head, forcing him to pull her to safety. Seconds later, a duet of an emergency access door popping off its frame combined with a very large, very heavy piece of machinery from one of the upper decks pushed its way through the fracture and landed almost dead center to where she was standing.

Finch looked up at Moreau as the lights faded. “I guess this means we’re going to be staying a little longer.”

Moreau nodded, though he knew that she couldn’t see him in the darkness. “Someone up there does not like us.” He fished around in his belt pouches until he found a small flashlight and turned it on. A quick scan of the elevator panel and emergency access door confirmed his suspicions. “Well, that’s that. It looks like we’re going to have to find another way out of here.”

“I didn’t figure you to be the God Fearing Type.”

“I hedge my bets, just to be on the safe side.” He felt around until he felt her right arm and led her back toward to the work stations. “Did the subject of emergency lighting come up in your analysis?”

She waved away the light in her face. “I’m sure they have a backup system for this sort of situation, but I’m going to need to hunt around to find it.” She used the glow from her data tablet to light her way as she wove through the lab equipment. “By the way, what did you find in the other sections?”

“A room full of stasis pods and a door that shouldn’t be where it is.” Moreau said. “My gut tells me that we’ll be finding out where it leads soon enough.”

Finch didn’t answer as she explored to the far wall. As she followed it around, she passed through a door into a small room. The room was half the size of the main laboratory and filled with a work bench and machining stations. She continued to fumble her way along until she stopped at a large square power terminal with a heavy old-fashioned padlock locking the handles in place. A quick downward thrust from a wall-mounted fire ax put a end to the padlock’s career and she opened the terminal box. Switches and dials filled the interior, more than what she assumed a simple circuit breaker setup should have, though thankfully, everything was clearly labeled. As she flipped switches and pressed buttons, her suspicions grew as her mind drew pieces of her perception together to form a new theory. But how to prove it? She pressed the final button and was rewarded by the overhead lighting coming back to life. She started to smile when a section of wall to her right slid open to reveal two large shapes. “Zack?”

“Yes?”

“There are two stasis pods over here.” She wiped away some condensation from the viewing ports. “And they’re occupied.”

Moreau couldn’t see much beyond “Don’t touch anything else. I’m coming over.”

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Live Your Example

I’ve never seen myself as any sort of inspirational example to others. After all, I’ve made my share of mistakes, pulled my share of blunders and at times, royally screwed myself over during times where it should have been smooth sailing. I freely admit that.

But you know, that’s Life, and no matter how many books you read or how many pieces of advice you may receive, in the end the learning tends to be the hard way. I’m not saying that there aren’t times where a problem is avoided by recognizing that it’s coming and taking steps to avoid it.

We’re often stubborn monkeys, we Humans, but we have an incredible capacity for adapting and changing. Speaking for one particular primate, I tend to follow a basic Leadership Tenet that I learned in The Navy which is to “Lead by Example”. Leading by Example is living the qualities that you most wish to have those who follow you to emulate. Like it or not, people watch what we do.

I prefer to build people up instead of tearing them down. There’s enough strife and discord in the World already without adding to the pile.

What does this have to do with Writing? Not a whole lot, but I suppose you could tack it on to Character Development (both fictional and real), or merely the ramblings of someone who is bogged down in a dark story plot and needs to occasionally stick their head up and interact with the Real World.

Either way, thanks for your time. 🙂

The Aftermath

Some of you know by now that I had a recent computer crash and it took a day or two to sort out the resulting mess. Thankfully, I’ve learned enough about computers over the past few decades where I could work a little magic and keep the damage to a minimum. Now, I’m back in working order and it got me thinking…

Whether we like it or not, nothing brings out our best (and worst) as when things go South. Computers crash, paper files get lost for one reason or another, and the frustration mounts to a point where you want to lash out at the closest someone.

When your everyday activities come to a screeching halt, there is a tendency to stop, scratch your head in confusion, get angry, and then roll up your sleeves and figure out how to fix the situation. If you’re me, that is. If not, then your mileage may vary.

One of the things that I pride myself on is being able to gift others with the benefit of my mistakes and how I overcame them so that, hopefully, they won’t make the same missteps that I have. I gain nothing by doing these things, but I don’t lose anything either. I’m a strong-willed guy, but I’m also a compassionate guy and while I work very hard to keep my emotions in check (suck on that, Spock), I also recognize that it bothers me when I see people making mistakes that I’ve made in the past and coping horribly.

Now, what did I learn from this experience?

1) Backups! Backups! Backups! I can never stress this enough. I keep two sets of auto-backups on Google Drive and One Drive in case of this kind of thing going down and that redundancy has paid off in spades. Don’t ask what the exchange rate is on Spades because I have no idea. 😉

2) Keep Your Cool. Getting upset and freaking out does nothing to solve the problem except demonstrate that you’ve stared too long into The Abyss, saw what was staring back, and then gave it a wave. There is no such thing as a problem that can’t be solved, only solutions that aren’t to our liking.

3) Don’t Take Chances With Equipment That You Need. The computer crash was my fault entirely because I was screwing around with Windows 10 on a machine that I knew I needed for my writing. The first time (yes there another time before this one) I got lucky because The Computer Gods were loving me. This time around, not so much…hehe. Bottom Line, don’t play Russian Roulette with resources that you can’t easily replace.

4) Resolve to Learn From The Experience. There is no shame in making a mistake. Hell, we’re human so it’s somewhere in the job description. But, learning from a mistake helps to not repeat the experience or at the very least, come up with new and better mistakes to make later.

Well, that’s about it. I could probably list a dozen more, but I have nine invisible Greek Chicks whispering in my ear to get back to working on a certain story involving intrepid investigators prowling around in an outpost full of dead people and holographic monsters. Thanks for your time and special thanks to those who wished me well. Love you guys. 🙂

December Apathy

I don’t know what happened…

It seems like only yesterday when I felt like I was riding high and hard charging with Lights and Shadows, but when the calendar changed to December, I began to spend more and more time staring at Scrivener and sighing. I mean literally sighing. The story is going well and I know what to say and how to say it. But…

The words just won’t seem to come out…

I’m sure it’s a temporary thing, but damn if it isn’t frustrating as all get out to hit a wall. Not really a wall per se. More like a thick sheet of Nerf material and the problem with that is no matter how hard you try to punch through, it just absorbs the impacts and stands there mocking you.

I’ve been taking a number of small breaks here and there, but I know that unless I want another “It took almost two years to finish this book”, I have to get it in gear and make some progress. No one I know aspires to do absolutely nothing and I am no exception. I could blame this situation on the Holiday Season, but I’d just be copping to a lie.

I believe my main problem is the schedule I’ve set, which admittedly is pretty strenuous, but it has to be that way because if I allow myself too much leeway, I’ll procrastinate until Satan begins ice skating to work…hehe.

As you probably figured it, this is one of those “Oh My God, the Sky is Falling!” sort of articles and I’m blowing off some steam in print. Thanks for indulging me. 🙂

Well, back to writing. 😉