The Hero’s Journey

(Original Link: http://www.thewritersjourney.com/hero’s_journey.htm)

The Hero’s Journey Outline

The Hero’s Journey is a pattern of narrative identified by the American scholar Joseph Campbell that appears in drama, storytelling, myth, religious ritual, and psychological development. It describes the typical adventure of the archetype known as The Hero, the person who goes out and achieves great deeds on behalf of the group, tribe, or civilization.

Its stages are:

1. THE ORDINARY WORLD. The hero, uneasy, uncomfortable or unaware, is introduced sympathetically so the audience can identify with the situation or dilemma. The hero is shown against a background of environment, heredity, and personal history. Some kind of polarity in the hero’s life is pulling in different directions and causing stress.

2. THE CALL TO ADVENTURE. Something shakes up the situation, either from external pressures or from something rising up from deep within, so the hero must face the beginnings of change.

3. REFUSAL OF THE CALL. The hero feels the fear of the unknown and tries to turn away from the adventure, however briefly. Alternately, another character may express the uncertainty and danger ahead.

4. MEETING WITH THE MENTOR. The hero comes across a seasoned traveler of the worlds who gives him or her training, equipment, or advice that will help on the journey. Or the hero reaches within to a source of courage and wisdom.

5. CROSSING THE THRESHOLD. At the end of Act One, the hero commits to leaving the Ordinary World and entering a new region or condition with unfamiliar rules and values.

6. TESTS, ALLIES AND ENEMIES. The hero is tested and sorts out allegiances in the Special World.

7. APPROACH. The hero and newfound allies prepare for the major challenge in the Special world.

8. THE ORDEAL. Near the middle of the story, the hero enters a central space in the Special World and confronts death or faces his or her greatest fear. Out of the moment of death comes a new life.

9. THE REWARD. The hero takes possession of the treasure won by facing death. There may be celebration, but there is also danger of losing the treasure again.

10. THE ROAD BACK. About three-fourths of the way through the story, the hero is driven to complete the adventure, leaving the Special World to be sure the treasure is brought home. Often a chase scene signals the urgency and danger of the mission.

11. THE RESURRECTION. At the climax, the hero is severely tested once more on the threshold of home. He or she is purified by a last sacrifice, another moment of death and rebirth, but on a higher and more complete level. By the hero’s action, the polarities that were in conflict at the beginning are finally resolved.

12. RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR. The hero returns home or continues the journey, bearing some element of the treasure that has the power to transform the world as the hero has been transformed.

The Hero's Journey

The Hero's Inner Journey

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The Heroine’s Journey (adapted from Maureen Murdock)

STAGE

1. SEPARATION FROM THE FEMININE

2. IDENTIFICATION WITH THE MASCULINE & GATHERING OF ALLIES

3. ROAD OF TRIALS, MEETING OGRES & DRAGONS

4. FINDING THE BOON OF SUCCESS

5. AWAKENING TO FEELINGS OF SPIRITUAL ARIDITY: DEATH

6. INITIATION & DESCENT TO THE GODDESS

7. URGENT YEARNING TO RECONNECT WITH THE FEMININE

8. HEALING THE MOTHER/DAUGHTER SPLIT

9. HEALING THE WOUNDED MASCULINE

10. INTEGRATION OF MASCULINE & FEMININE

THE ARCHETYPE

ARCHETYPES are recurring patterns of human behavior, symbolized by standard types of characters in movies and stories.

HEROES

Central figures in stories. Everyone is the hero of his or her own myth.

SHADOWS

Villains and enemies, perhaps the enemy within. The dark side of the Force, the repressed possibilities of the hero, his or her potential for evil. Can be other kinds of repression, such as repressed grief, anger, frustration or creativity that is dangerous if it doesn’t have an outlet.

MENTORS

The hero’s guide or guiding principles. Yoda, Merlin, a great coach or teacher.

HERALD

One who brings the Call to Adventure. Could be a person or an event.

THRESHOLD GUARDIANS

The forces that stand in the way at important turning points, including jealous enemies, professional gatekeepers, or your own fears and doubts.

SHAPESHIFTERS

In stories, creatures like vampires or werewolves who change shape. In life, the shapeshifter represents change. The way other people (or our perceptions of them) keep changing. The opposite sex, the way people can be two-faced.

TRICKSTERS

Clowns and mischief-makers, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy. Our own mischievous subconscious, urging us to change.

ALLIES

Characters who help the hero through the change. Sidekicks, buddies, girlfriends who advise the hero through the transitions of life.

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“The Memo That Started It All” by Christopher Vogler

From time to time people ask me for a copy of the original seven-page memo that was the foundation of THE WRITER’S JOURNEY. For many years I lost track of the original version and could only offer to send people the longer versions that evolved later, or point them to my book, where the memo was embedded in the first chapter, but they weren’t satisfied with these solutions, apparently believing there was something almost magical about that original terse, blunt statement of my beliefs. They had to have the “legendary seven-pager” which I had called “A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES”, but I was never able to lay hands on the original short version. Until now, that is.

After upheavals of home and office, and sifting through many files and boxes, I have finally come across the raw, original text of The Memo, and I offer it here to you, with the hopes it will have some of the magical effect on you that people attribute to it. But first, I’d like to share some of the context around the creation of this little document.

It was written in the mid-1980s when I was working as a story consultant for Walt Disney Pictures, but I had discovered the work of mythologist Joseph Campbell a few years earlier while studying cinema at the University of Southern California. I was sure I saw Campbell’s ideas being put to work in the first of the Star Wars movies and wrote a term paper for a class in which I attempted to identify the mythic patterns that made that film such a huge success. The research and writing for that paper inflamed my imagination and later, when I started working as a story analyst at Fox and other Hollywood studios, I showed the paper to a few colleagues, writers and executives to stimulate some discussion of Campbell’s ideas which I found to be of unlimited value for creating mass entertainment. I was certainly making profitable use of them, applying them to every script and novel I considered in my job.

Eventually I arrived at Disney where a strong corporate culture and a string of hits were being created by executives Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg. Memos were a big part of that corporate identity, a means of persuasively communicating concepts and attitudes, and all of us who worked at Disney at that time had to learn the memo art form, following the example of Katzenberg, an absolute master.

I suppose the discipline of writing succinct development notes, story coverage and research memos kindled in me a desire to express the exciting ideas I had found in Campbell in a clear, concise way. I wanted to once and for all get them down as creative principles, a set of reliable building blocks for constructing stories, a set of tools for troubleshooting story problems.

So I took time off from my story analyst job and spent a week in New York City with David McKenna, a good friend I’d met years ago while doing theatre in San Antonio in my Air Force days. We’d followed parallel paths in film and theatre, and eventually converged as story analysts and consultants. He is a great film buff and a good guy to bounce ideas off of, and together we shook out the details of the Hero’s Journey as it seemed to apply to movies. We worked out terminology and discussed scenes from films in every genre to demonstrate the variations of the Hero’s Journey pattern. We wore out his VCR looking at old movie clips. At the end of this intense phase I went back to L.A. and pounded out the seven–page memo, sending the first copy to McKenna.

I gave copies of The Memo to my story analyst friends and to key Disney executives including Ricardo Mestres of Hollywood Pictures and David Hoberman of Touchstone, both divisions of Disney. “Interesting,” was all that most people said, at first. But I knew, I sensed somehow, I was on to something. I had the vision that copies of The Memo were like little robots, moving out from the studio and into the jetstream of Hollywood thinking all on their own. Fax machines had just been invented and I envisioned copies of The Memo flying all over town, and that’s exactly what happened.

Feedback started coming in that suggested I had hit a nerve. I heard young executives buzzing about it, telling their friends about it. It became the “I have to have it” document of the season at talent agencies and in studio executive suites like that of Dawn Steel at Paramount. And in the sincerest form of compliment, it was promptly plagiarized. One instance was right under my nose in the studio. A junior executive had taken off my title page and substituted his own name as author, and then submitted it to Jeffrey Katzenberg, who read it and pronounced it a very important document at a meeting of his development execs, making it required reading for the entire staff.

Fortunately someone at that table had already read The Memo and knew I was the true author. I heard about it on the studio grapevine within minutes and immediately sent off a letter to Mr. Katzenberg, asserting myself as the author of The Memo and requesting deeper involvement in story development. He called me right away and put me to work with Disney’s Feature Animation division, where I began doing research and development work on THE LION KING and many other projects. When I arrived I found The Memo had preceded me, and the animators were already outlining their story boards with Hero’s Journey stages.

The Memo served as a handout when I began teaching story analysis at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. And that’s when it began to grow, as I developed the ideas more fully and added more examples. Eventually I included material about the archetypes and soon there was enough material to contemplate a book, and thus THE WRITER’S JOURNEY was born from a humble seven-page acorn.

But people continue to attribute special importance or powers to the original seven-pager, especially those who had been around when its impact was first felt. At one point, a museum dedicated to screenwriting requested a copy for a display of what they considered the milestone documents and books in the history of the craft. And so I give you The Memo, thus releasing many more little robots to distribute these ideas far and wide, to influence movies, computer game design, or whatever field where they may be useful.

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“A Practical Guide to Joseph Cambell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces” by Christopher Vogler
© 1985

“There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.”
Willa Cather

INTRODUCTION

In the long run, one of the most influential books of the 20th century may turn out to be Joseph Campbell’s THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES.

The book and the ideas in it are having a major impact on writing and story-telling, but above all on movie-making. Filmmakers like John Boorman, George Miller, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Francis Coppola owe their successes in part to the ageless patterns that Joseph Campbell identifies in the book.

The ideas Campbell presents in this and other books are an excellent set of analytical tools.

With them you can almost always determine what’s wrong with a story that’s floundering; and you can find a better solution almost any story problem by examining the pattern laid out in the book.

There’s nothing new in the book. The ideas in it are older that the Pyramids, older than Stonehenge, older that the earliest cave painting.,

Campbell’s contribution was to gather the ideas together, recognize them, articulate them, and name them. He exposes the pattern for the first time, the pattern that lies behind every story ever told.

Campbell, now 82, is a vigorous lover of mythology and the author of many books on the subject. For many years he has taught, written, and lectured about the myths of all cultures in all times. THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES is the clearest statement of his observations on the most persistent theme in all of oral traditions and recorded literature – the myth of the hero.

In his study of world hero myths Campbell discovered that they are all basically the same story – retold endlessly in infinite variations. He found that all story-telling, consciously or not, follows the ancient patterns of myth, and that all stories, from the crudest jokes to the highest flights of literature, can be understood in terms of the hero myth; the “monomyth” whose principles he lays out in the book.

The theme of the hero myth is universal, occuring in every culture, in every time; it is as infinitely varied as the human race itself; and yet its basic form remains the same, an incredibly tenacious set of elements that spring in endless repetition from the deepest reaches of the mind of man.

Campbell’s thinking runs parallel to that of Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, who wrote of the “archetypes: — constantly repeating characters who occur in the dreams of all people and the myths of all cultures.

Jung suggested that these archetypes are reflection of aspects of the human mind – that our personalities divide themselves into these characters to play out the drama of our lives.

He noticed a strong correspondence between his patients’ dream or fantasy figures and the common archetypes of mythology, and he suggested that both were coming from a deeper source, in the “collective unconscious” of the human race.

The repeating characters of the hero myth such as the young hero, the wise old man or woman, the shape-shifting woman or man, and the shadowy antagonist are identical with the archetypes of the human mind, as revealed in dreams. That’s why myths, and stories constructed on the mythological model, strike us as psychologically true.

Such stories are true models of the workings of the human mined, true maps of the psyche. They are psychologically valid and realistic even when they portray fantastic, impossible, unreal events.

This accounts for the universal power of such stories. Stories built on the model of the hero myth have an appeal that can be felt by everyone, because they spring from a universal source in the collective unconscious, and because they reflect universal concerns. They deal with the child-like but universal questions: Who am I? Where did I come from? Where will I go when I die? What is good and what is evil? What must I do about it? What will tomorrow be like? Where did yesterday go? Is there anybody else out there?

The idea imbedded in mythology and identified by Campbell in THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES can be applied to understanding any human problem. The are a great key to life as well as being a major tool for dealing more effectively with a mass audience.

If you want to understand the ideas behind the hero myth, there’s no substitute for actually reading Campbell’s book. It’s an experience that has a way of changing people. It’s also a good idea to read a lot of myths, but it amounts to the same thing since Campbell is a master story-teller who delights in illustrating his points with examples from the rich storehouse of mythology.

Campbell gives a condensed version of the basic hero myth in chapter IV, “The Keys”, of THE HERO WITH A THUSAND FACES. I’ve taken the liberty of amending the outline slightly, trying to reflect some of the common themes in movies, illustrated with examples from contemporary films. I’m re-telling the hero myth in my own way, and you should feel free to do the same. Every story-teller bends the myth to his or her own purpose. That’s why the hero has a thousand faces.

THE STAGES OF THE HERO’S JOURNEY

1.) The hero is introduced in his/her ORDINARY WORLD.

Most stories ultimately take us to a special world, a world that is new and alien to its hero. If you’re going to tell a story about a fish out of his customary element, you first have to create a contrast by showing him in his mundane, ordinary world. In WITNESS you see both the Amish boy and the policeman in their ordinary worlds before they are thrust into alien worlds – the farm boy into the city, and the city cop into the unfamiliar countryside. In STAR WARS you see Luke Skywalker being bored to death as a farm boy before he tackles the universe.

2.) The CALL TO ADVENTURE.

The hero is presented with a problem, challenge or adventure. Maybe the land is dying, as in the King Arthur stories about the search for the Grail. In STAR WARS, it’s Princess Leia’s holographic message to Obi Wan Kenobi, who then asks Luke to join the quest. In detective stories, it’s the hero being offered a new case. In romantic comedies it could be the first sight of that special but annoying someone the hero or heroine will be pursuing/sparring with.

3.) The hero is reluctant at first. (REFUSAL OF THE CALL.)

Often at this point the hero balks at the threshold of adventure. After all, he or she is facing the greatest of all fears – fear of the unknown. At this point Luke refuses Obi Wan’s call to adventure, and returns to his aunt and uncle’s farmhouse, only to find they have been barbecued by the Emperor’s stormtroopers. Suddenly Luke is no longer reluctant, and is eager to undertake the adventure. He is motivated.

4.) The hero is encouraged by the Wise Old Man or Woman. (MEETING WITH THE MENTOR.)

By this time many stories will have introduced a Merlin-like character who is the hero’s mentor. In JAWS it’s the crusty Robert Shaw character who knows all about sharks; in the mythology of the Mary Tyler Moore Show, it’s Lou Grant. The mentor gives advice and sometimes magical weapons. This is Obi Wan giving Luke his father’s light saber.

The mentor can go so far with the hero. Eventually the hero must face the unknown by himself. Sometimes the Wise Old Man/Woman is required to give the hero a swift kick in the pants to get the adventure going.

5.) The hero passes the first threshold. (CROSSING THE THRESHOLD.)

The hero fully enters the special world of the story for the first time. This is the moment at which the story takes off and the adventure gets going. The balloon goes up, the romance begins, the spaceship blasts off, the wagon train gets rolling. Dorothy sets out on the Yellow Brick Road. The hero is now committed to his/her journey and there’s no turning back.

6.) The hero encounters tests and helpers. (TESTS, ALLIES, ENEMIES.)

The hero is forced to make allies and enemies in the special world, and to pass certain tests and challenges that are part of his/her training. In STAR WARS the cantina is the setting for the forging of an important alliance with Han Solo and the start of an important enmity with Jabba the Hutt. In CASABLANCA Rick’s Café is the setting for the “alliances and enmities” phase and in many Westerns it’s the saloon where these relationships are tested.

7.) The hero reaches the innermost cave. (APPROACH TO THE INMOST CAVE.)

The hero comes at last to a dangerous place, often deep underground, where the object of the quest is hidden. In the Arthurian stories the Chapel Perilous is the dangerous chamber where the seeker finds the Grail. In many myths the hero has to descend into hell to retrieve a loved one, or into a cave to fight a dragon and gain a treasure. It’s Theseus going to the Labyrinth to face the Minotaur. In STAR WARS it’s Luke and company being sucked into the Death Star where they will rescue Princess Leia. Sometimes it’s just the hero going into his/her own dream world to confront fears and overcome them.

8.) The hero endures the supreme ORDEAL.

This is the moment at which the hero touches bottom. He/she faces the possibility of death, brought to the brink in a fight with a mythical beast. For us, the audience standing outside the cave waiting for the victor to emerge, it’s a black moment. In STAR WARS, it’s the harrowing moment in the bowels of the Death Star, where Luke, Leia and company are trapped in the giant trash-masher. Luke is pulled under by the tentacled monster that lives in the sewage and is held down so long that the audience begins to wonder if he’s dead. IN E.T., THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL, E. T. momentarily appears to die on the operating table.

This is a critical moment in any story, an ordeal in which the hero appears to die and be born again. It’s a major source of the magic of the hero myth. What happens is that the audience has been led to identify with the hero. We are encouraged to experience the brink-of-death feeling with the hero. We are temporarily depressed, and then we are revived by the hero’s return from death.

This is the magic of any well-designed amusement park thrill ride. Space Mountain or the Great Whiteknuckler make the passengers feel like they’re going to die, and there’s a great thrill that comes with surviving a moment like that. This is also the trick of rites of passage and rites of initiation into fraternities and secret societies. The initiate is forced to taste death and experience resurrection. You’re never more alive than when you think you’re going to die.

9.) The hero seizes the sword. (SEIZING THE SWORD, REWARD)

Having survived death, beaten the dragon, slain the Minotaur, her hero now takes possession of the treasure he’s come seeking. Sometimes it’s a special weapon like a magic sword or it may be a token like the Grail or some elixir which can heal the wounded land.

The hero may settle a conflict with his father or with his shadowy nemesis. In RETURN OF THE JEDI, Luke is reconciled with both, as he discovers that the dying Darth Vader is his father, and not such a bad guy after all.

The hero may also be reconciled with a woman. Often she is the treasure he’s come to win or rescue, and there is often a love scene or sacred marriage at this point. Women in these stories (or men if the hero is female) tend to be shape-shifters. They appear to change in form or age, reflecting the confusing and constantly changing aspects of the opposite sex as seen from the hero’s point of view. The hero’s supreme ordeal may grant him a better understanding of women, leading to a reconciliation with the opposite sex.

10.) THE ROAD BACK.

The hero’s not out of the woods yet. Some of the best chase scenes come at this point, as the hero is pursued by the vengeful forces from whom he has stolen the elixir or the treasure.. This is the chase as Luke and friends are escaping from the Death Star, with Princess Leia and the plans that will bring down Darth Vader.

If the hero has not yet managed to reconcile with his father or the gods, they may come raging after him at this point. This is the moonlight bicycle flight of Elliott and E. T. as they escape from “Keys” (Peter Coyote), a force representing governmental authority. By the end of the movie Keys and Elliott have been reconciled and it even looks like Keys will end up as Elliott’s step-father.

11.) RESURRECTION.

The hero emerges from the special world, transformed by his/her experience. There is often a replay here of the mock death-and-rebirth of Stage 8, as the hero once again faces death and survives. The Star Wars movies play with this theme constantly – all three of the films to date feature a final battle scene in which Luke is almost killed, appears to be dead for a moment, and then miraculously survives. He is transformed into a new being by his experience.

12.) RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR

The hero comes back to the ordinary world, but the adventure would be meaningless unless he/she brought back the elixir, treasure, or some lesson from the special world. Sometimes it’s just knowledge or experience, but unless he comes back with the elixir or some boon to mankind, he’s doomed to repeat the adventure until he does. Many comedies use this ending, as a foolish character refuses to learn his lesson and embarks on the same folly that got him in trouble in the first place.

Sometimes the boon is treasure won on the quest, or love, or just the knowledge that the special world exists and can be survived. Sometimes it’s just coming home with a good story to tell.

The hero’s journey, once more: The hero is introduced in his ORDINARY WORLD where he receives the CALL TO ADVENTURE. He is RELUCTANT at first to CROSS THE FIRST THRESHOLD where he eventually encounters TESTS, ALLIES and ENEMIES. He reaches the INNERMOST CAVE where he endures the SUPREME ORDEAL. He SEIZES THE SWORD or the treasure and is pursued on the ROAD BACK to his world. He is RESURRECTED and transformed by his experience. He RETURNS to his ordinary world with a treasure, boon, or ELIXIR to benefit his world.

As with any formula, there are pitfalls to be avoided. Following the guidelines of myth too rigidly can lead to a stiff, unnatural structure, and there is the danger of being too obvious. The hero myth is a skeleton that should be masked with the details of the individual story, and the structure should not call attention to itself. The order of the hero’s stages as given here is only one of many variations – the stages can be deleted, added to, and drastically re-shuffled without losing any of their power.

The values of the myth are what’s important. The images of the basic version – young heroes seeking magic swords from old wizards, fighting evil dragons in deep caves, etc. – are just symbols and can be changed infinitely to suit the story at hand.

The myth is easily translated to contemporary dramas, comedies, romances, or action-adventures by substituting modern equivalents for the symbolic figures and props of the hero story. The Wise Old Man may be a real shaman or wizard, but he can also be any kind of mentor or teacher, doctor or therapist, crusty but benign boss, tough but fair top sergeant, parent, grandfather, etc. Modern heroes may not be going into caves and labyrinths to fight their mythical beasts, but they do enter and innermost cave by going into space, to the bottom of the sea, into their own minds, or into the depths of a modern city.

The myth can be used to tell the simplest comic book story or the most sophisticated drama. It grows and matures as new experiments are tried within its basic framework. Changing the sex and ages of the basic characters only makes it more interesting and allows for ever more complex webs of understanding to be spun among them. The essential characters can be combined or divided into several figures to show different aspects of the same idea. The myth is infinitely flexible, capable of endless variation without sacrificing any of its magic, and it will outlive us all.

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Prelude

He touched her picture once through his fatigue shirt pocket as he finished checking his gear, the plane’s engines lulling him into a state not quite sleepy, but not quite alert either. The last order of business was the freshly oiled and loaded Thompson that he unslung from his shoulder. He gave the weapon a once over before replacing it around his neck. His .45 automatic side arm was safely ensconced in a left belt holster. It was dark outside the Skytrain’s windows, the people below using their blackout curtains to their full effect.

The craggy and scarred face of his platoon sergeant broke through his reverie. “Five minutes to Drop Zone, LT.”

He nodded, standing up as tall as he could in the cabin. He swallowed hard, clearing his throat to get attention. “Troops, listen up. We have a job to do so let’s get it done. The sooner we finish, the sooner we go home.” The overhead lights blinked once, then twice. “On your feet.”

He gave his parachute one final check as his sergeant opened the plane’s door. A whistling wind entered the cabin, teasing them with promises of glorious victory…or agonizing defeat. He stepped forward and placed his hands on both sides of the doorway and took a deep breath. Now or never, Virgil, he thought.

He pushed himself through the doorway and into the black.

Corona Print Cover Reveal

Man, talk about a busy blogging day!

I finally got the finished print cover for Corona earlier and I’m back to share it with you while the friendly folks at Createspace chew on it for a while. In addition, I received some promotional graphics that I thought would be fun to include. Enjoy. 🙂

1 2 3 COPY FOR YOUR RECORDS

Upcoming: Past Prologue

While Lights and Shadows is my main project right now, there are tons of others waiting in the wings. This is one of those projects that I have scheduled for some time next year. Enjoy.

Dust and darkness was his world as Mabry felt the truck rumble under his seat. They had been moving him around from camp to camp due to drone attacks for so long that time no longer had meaning. The mission was supposed to be a simple in and out, gathering intelligence on a terrorist cell operating in the Malfour Province of Eastern Calonistan, a small country bordering Afganistan and Iran. Most people traveling through it barely paid it a second thought. Another line on a map, the mission controller told him, how hard could it be?

He was to meet his contact in the village called M’Leod while acting as a helper for the relief mission stationed at the primitive hospital the settlement hosted. His cover held up for about two weeks before he was grabbed outside the local bazaar while shopping for supplies. One minute he was haggling with a round shopkeeper and his portly wife and the next a hood was thrown over his head and he was shuffled off to a vehicle.

He coughed under the rough burlap hood that the militants had, placed over his head that blocked his vision but not the dust that seeped through the fabric’s pores and into his throat. He worked at the rope that bound his wrists together and silently thanked his luck that they hadn’t picked up on using the new nylon wrist ties that were becoming more and more popular. Still, the ligatures bit into his skin as he wiggled his hands and he stopped as he felt the truck stop and hands force him by his elbows to his feet.

He felt the oppressive heat ease as he felt himself being led indoors and shoved into a chair and the hood removed. His blue eyes hurt as they adjusted to a set of bright spotlights that shone down from atop a light bar fixed to an expensive video camera that appeared out of place in the hovel. Behind him, a large blue and white flag was tacked to the rear wall. Mabry recognized the banner symbol for the Cloud Brigade and realized the purpose of the set. His cover story as a Canadian independent journalist covering relief efforts had held up for the most part, but the whispers from across the room told him that his cover had been blown. But by whom?

His captors wore black hoods with holes cut out for eyes and mouths. He blew strands of brown hair out of his eyes and made a random mental note to get a haircut once he was free. A small battered coffee table was brought in and set in front of him. His chair was pulled up to it as a sheet of paper was slapped down on the table top. Mabry looked up at the figure and studied the brown eyes behind the hood. “I’m not your enemy,” He said in Arabic.

The figure tapped the paper before leaning close to his ear. “I speak for the Cloud. You’re worse than our enemy. You’re a spy for the American Government here to destroy our lives. We will use you to send a message to your handlers that we are not to be trifled with.”

“Ending a sentence with a preposition?” Mabry replied, hearing chuckles from behind him before the Speaker backhanded him with a slender gloved hand, snapping his head back. He caught a glimpse of tinted eye liner around the eyes as the stars cleared. Eye Liner? “Struck a nerve, did I?”

The Speaker raised a hand and then moved it to adjust it around something at her throat. Mabry recognized the distinctive oval shape of a portable voice changer as his ropes were cut under the watchful glare of automatic rifles. She tapped the paper again. “You will read this statement or you will die. This is not a negotiation.”

Mabry picked up the paper and read it, listening to the click of a cigarette lighter as the leader put a filtered cigarette to their lips. The statement was crudely written in English and he fought off the urge to suggest corrections to spelling and grammar. “If I read this, I’m fairly certain that you will kill me anyway once I’ve served your purpose.” He shook his head as he put the paper down and pushed it away. “I’m no spy and I’m not worth a ransom. You’d be better off just killing me now.”

He felt the heat of the cigarette as the tip was brought close to his right cheek. “There are many ways to die. Our only choice is how and when.”

He twitched, his skin coming into contact with the burning coal. He jerked his face away as the Speaker dropped the cigarette and cursed as a stray ember landed on her dark Battle Dress uniform. She brushed the offending spark away and pulled a pistol from a holster on her belt. She made a show of slapping him across the face with the butt end before replacing it. She waved her comrades from the room and leaned in close to his ear. “I know who you are, Mr. Mabry,” She whispered in perfect English. “Consider your options carefully.” She turned smartly on one heel and walked away, the only sound behind her was the sound of the hovel’s door creaking shut.

Mabry groaned silently as he rubbed his jaw. Whoever was speaking for the Cloud Brigade here was smarter than what he had come up against so far and that scared him more than the prospect of death. Still, there was a way out of any trap and he had to find it. Consider your options carefully, she had told him. In English? It became obvious to him that she was dropping him a clue but what? As she was whispering in his ear, her compatriots were oblivious to the language change so what she was saying had to have been meant for him alone. Was she on his side? Lack of proper nutrition and sleep for weeks had dulled his reflexes, but he sensed an opportunity. A twinge in his back reminded him to conserve his strength and wait for the right moment. He sighed and continued to scan his surroundings.

The video camera caught his eye. Rising slowly out of the chair, he studied the Panasonic AG-AC90 in detail as it rested on its custom mounted tripod. Though a few years old, the black camera with the wide hood surrounding the lens was still regarded as state of the art and obviously set the Cloud back at least a couple of grand. He overheard voices outside and for the briefest of moments, wondered why they had left him alone in the room. He traced the audio/video patch cable to a small recorder and let out a frustrated sigh as he noticed another thinner cable that snaked its way behind the unit and up the wall. He traced the cable with his eyes until it ended at a small web cam that had been crudely mounted in the ceiling. He shook his head and trudged back to the chair. A section of the worn flooring creaked under his feet. He pressed down and felt the wood give under the pressure. He heard movement outside and took his place back in the chair as the door flung open and his captors reentered the room.

Mabry felt his options slip away as the statement was slapped back down in front of him. He watched as one of the terrorists took their place behind the camera and switched on the recording lamp. “Well, here we are again.” He said as he picked up the paper. “You do realize that no one watching your video will believe that I wasn’t coerced into this?”

The camera operator nodded and made a gesture to the two standing behind Mabry. Battered but deadly AK-47 automatic rifles appeared, their muzzles trained at the back of Mabry’s head. “Mr. Mabry, Minion of the Great Satan, You will now read the statement in front of you.” He recognized the pistol that appeared as a Glock 17, an efficient and deadly nine-millimeter weapon. It had been custom fitted with a noise suppressor and as she raised it level with his forehead. “Have you considered your options?”

Mabry nodded and raised the paper. As he read the prepared statement, he noticed the camera’s recording lamp blink several times in a familiar pattern. He didn’t catch it at first but as he read, his mind analyzed the flashes. Two long flashes followed by one quick, another quick flash, and one long flash. He kept on reading aloud while his mind processed what he was seeing. Get? Get what? When the lamp flashed out the letter D, he realized the message and dropped to the floor. The Glock made a sound like a large dictionary being slammed on a table top and the two terrorists fell to the floor. Another shot disabled the web cam in the ceiling and the video recorder. The remaining terrorist put her pistol away and held up her hands. “We don’t have much time. If you want to get out of here alive, you need to follow my instructions.”

“Why should I believe you?” Mabry looked down at the bodies. “If you were so willing to kill your own people, how do I know that you won’t just shoot me once my back is turned?”

“If I wanted you dead, you’d already be in the ground.” She walked over and rummaged through the dead men’s pockets. She retrieved a set of car keys and tossed them at Mabry. “Moustafa’s car is parked around back. Take it and go. There is a landing strip about four kilometers from the highway. There will be a plane waiting. Get on it and leave.”

Mabry eyed the keys. “Why are you helping me?”

“We don’t have time for this.” She stalked over and with the edge of a combat knife, cut off one of the spare buttons sewed to the inside tail of his shirt. She held the button up to him before slipping it into a pocket. “This is a GPS targeting coordinator. You were planted with it before you were inserted in-country. You needed to be a prisoner in order to throw off suspicion and get this device to me. Now that I have it, your part is done and I can pick up where you left off.”

“I was set up.”

“Grow up, Mr. Mabry. You were utilized as any other intelligence asset. Central Command needed the locations of those camps.” She looked around the room. “Now we need to get you out of here. You can’t leave through the door because the Cloud has snipers stationed at several points overlooking the street.” She tapped her hooded chin. “How can we get you out of here?”

Mabry gestured toward the floor. “What about through the floor? The boards seem loose enough to remove. If there is a crawl space, I might be able to fit through it.”

“You have no idea what’s down there, do you?” She reached down and pulled the loose section of flooring away. Underneath, in a slit trench, a thin stream of human waste flowed under the house.

Mabry watched the stream of waste flow by and shuddered. “I really don’t want to jump down there. There has to be another way.” He pointed. “It’s shit.”

Even through the disguise, he could see her nose wrinkle from the stench that made its way out of the hole. “This is the only way out and we’re running short on time. Get in.” She put a hand on his arm. “There’s one last thing I need you to do to make this believable.”

“What?”

“I need you to knock me out.”

“That’s crazy,” He said. I’m not hitting a woman though after that pistol slap you gave me earlier, I’m sorely tempted.”

“If you don’t, you’ll blow your cover and neither of us will get out of here alive.” The door began to shake and angry voices thundered outside. “There’s no time for arguing.”

“I hate this job,” Mabry said, swinging his fist into the side of her face. The pistol fell from her hand as she crumpled to the floor. He scooped up the pistol and dropped into the trench. He barely had time to pull the wood flooring over him and crawl away when he heard the door smash open and angry footsteps stomped around above. Holding his breath, the best he could, he began combat crawling along the trench until he reached the open air. The battered light blue Mercedes was right where he was told and after dispatching an unfortunate stranger who happened around the corner, he got in and drove out of the town as alarms began to ring out. The countryside was devoid of large vegetation along the deserted highway as he sped to the rendezvous point. Ditching the car near the roadway, he hiked up a gravel road until he reached the landing strip. After that, it was a small matter of getting airborne and exiting Calonistan airspace.

The DeHavilland Twin-Otter didn’t have much in the way of amenities but there was a bathroom and he found wet wipes in the first aid kit. He cleaned up the best he could, but the smell of human waste was one that he felt he could never completely scrub away. He returned to his threadbare seat and fought to push out the sound of the turboprops as they chewed through the air at five hundred eighty pounds of fuel per hour. At that rate, they would land in Bahrain in just under four hours barring any interference from Iran during the overflight. The Twin-Otter had the range to make the distance but with little margin for error and if a mistake was made, that’s all she wrong. He mentally calculated the range in his head and the result did little to ease his apprehension as he watched the desert sands of southern Iran fill the horizons. A few fighters from the Iranian Air Force flew alongside for several miles to get a look at the plane, but they lost interest and flew off after jotting down the tail numbers. If they only knew, he thought as he pulled down the window shade and reclined his chair back. Four hours under threat of fighter and SAMs would be an eternity. He closed his eyes and cleared his mind.

When he woke again, the Iranian coastline was receding behind him in favor as the blue waters of the Persian Gulf as radio chatter from Bahrain filtered out from the open cockpit door. Mabry took a moment to exhale as the pilot turned around and flashed him a toothy smile. No doubt, Langley would have notified the Bahrainians to wave him to land and he longed for a shower and a hot meal. It didn’t take long for the airport at Galali to give them landing clearance. Once the plane had come to a stop and the doors opened, he stepped out into the cool evening air and used the pilot’s cell phone to make a call. Within minutes, an unmarked van from the Embassy in Al Manamah came to pick him up and although he had to deal with the disgusted looks on the driver and escort’s faces, they were courteous enough to take him to see the Ambassador.

Mark Carter had been the Ambassador to Bahrain for eight years and the former Georgia Governor had not lost a bit of his Macon accent. He shook his graying head as he handed Mabry a double scotch and bade him sit on the standard issue couch in his office. Unlike his predecessor, Carter wasn’t influenced by largess and insisted on replacing all the ‘gifts’ that the host government had seen to bestow on them with the original furniture that had sat in storage. Everything was cleaned, refinished and polished to a bright sheen before set up and organized according to Carter’s wife, who was well known, and very vocal, about her dislike for the posting. Carter wore his dark suit like armor and reminded Mabry of a relic of older and more genteel times. “Jesus, Tom, you look like Hell.”

Mabry took a quick gulp from his glass. “Thank you, Sir, it’s been an adventure.”

“I know you’ve been through the mill, but Langley wants you checked out by the medical staff here before we send you back to the States. In the meantime, I made all the usual calls and got you a place to stay overnight. Come back at Nine in the Morning to pick up your plane tickets home.” Carter reached into a drawer and pulled out a small leather wallet that he tossed to Mabry. “That was Express Mailed to us this morning. I figured you’d want that to pick up some new clothes.” He took a few steps toward Mabry and stopped. “Tom, I’d burn that outfit. The address to the hotel is in your wallet.”

Mabry forced a grin as he shook Carter’s hand. “Thanks, Mark, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

The Ambassador watched Mabry leave the office before he picked up his desk phone and dialed. “He’s on his way.”

Mabry felt insecure as he trudged across the polished lobby and checked in at the Bahrain Carlton. Checking into a high-end hotel looking like a beggar from the bad part of town with no luggage and a slight odor emanating from his dirty clothes earned him more than his share of disdaining looks as he signed the register and presented his ID to the desk clerk. The clerk, an officious older man, clucked his tongue as he pulled the reservation up on his computer and handed over the room key. Mabry gave him a quick smile and bid a hasty withdrawal across the black and white star burst pattern on the lobby floor and into the nearest elevator. He got off on the seventh floor and made his way to Room 706 where he opened the door and took a moment to collapse onto the bed. He was so tired that he didn’t notice the figure sitting in one of the cream colored chairs with the back facing the balcony.

He lifted his head from the soft comforter. “Seriously? You couldn’t give me a moment’s peace?”

Colonel Miles Dawson smiled as he lit a cigarette, the gold Zippo lighter glinting in the dim lighting. “Thomas, you should know by now that The Company prefers to be expeditious when it comes to debriefing an agent coming from a prisoner situation.” He waved a hand across his thin nose before switching on a nearby lamp. “Of course, waiting until you’ve had a chance to shower and change into clean clothes might have helped.”

Mabry rolled off the bed and glared at Dawson, his fists balling up and his anger replenishing his strength. “I should punch you in the face for setting me up, Dawson. You should have told me that I was your drone beacon for hunting down those Cloud Brigade camps. There was no contact to meet.”

Dawson shook his head. “Ah, but you did meet your contact. That young lady with the left hook was your contact. It just took a while to get you into the position we needed you to be in order to make the meeting.” His smile was as practiced as any Mabry had ever seen. “All in all, I think you did quite well. We had to make your capture seem as real as possible so we couldn’t tell you everything. Thanks to your efforts, the Cloud Brigade’s presence in Calonistan is finished. They can’t go west because the Revolutionary Guards in Iran will have them for lunch and our forces are waiting for them east in Afghanistan. Either way, you’ve effectively destroyed a very dangerous terrorist organization.”

“Thanks to me.” Mabry echoed. He stepped up and pulled Dawson to his feet while removing the officer’s pistol from the inside of his gray pinstriped suit. He brought the pistol’s muzzle under his chin. “I’ve given fifteen years of service to The Company and the US. Give me one reason why I shouldn’t empty this magazine into your skull right now.”

“We’re one block away from Bahrainian CID Headquarters.” Dawson’s voice wavered, his brown eyes pierced Mabry’s soul. “One sound of gunfire and this place will be crawling with Internal Security and they won’t think twice about killing a violent infidel like yourself who has no diplomatic standing whatsoever.” He pushed Mabry away and smoothed out the wrinkles in his jacket. “If you would please return my sidearm, I’ll finish what I came here to say.”

Mabry pulled his trigger finger out of the gun before handing it over. “Fine, speak your piece.”

Dawson replaced the weapon inside his jacket and picked up the cigarette that had fallen to the carpet. He took a quick drag on it before stubbing it out in an ashtray. “The Director’s very pleased with your work, Thomas. So pleased in fact that he wants to promote you to the Domestic Desk. Once you’re back in the States, you are to assume your new post in Washington DC, after taking two weeks of mandatory leave.” He clapped Mabry on the back. “You have a bright future ahead of you.”

Mabry wasted no time thinking. He shook his head. “No way, I’m done. I quit.”

“You know as well as anyone that no one ever leaves The Company,” Dawson said. “Think very carefully about your next words.”

Mabry paused before bending his head back to laugh. “You don’t think I’ve thought about this before you stuck me in that shit hole country for two months of bad food, eating with my fingers, and slit trenches for toilets?” He said, the pent up rage thundering out through his voice. “As much as you want to believe otherwise, this is still just a job and I am just an employee who has had it.” He grabbed Dawson by the lapels and swung hard, catching the older man in the jaw with a fierce upper cut. “Consider this my resignation. I’ll find my own way back home and if you think about coming after me, I have copies of every classified operation that I’ve been involved with over the past fifteen years and it’s all set to be released to a select group of reporters and politicians would like nothing more than to crawl up your ass with a microscope over the next hundred years.” He shoved Dawson back. “Now get out. I still have the room until the Morning.”

Dawson adjusted his tie, but his expression never changed as he stared at Mabry. “I can see that you need time to relax. I’m going to pretend that this is all the result of PTSD and simply advise you to return home as scheduled. Once we all sit down, cooler heads will prevail.”

“In a pig’s eye.”

Dawson smiled. “Perhaps. Good Night, Thomas. I look forward to your return.”

Mabry woke with a start and found himself slumped over in the front seat of an unfamiliar car. Outside, he watched as a pudgy man dressed in casual clothes was busy setting up a tripod on a cliff rise overlooking a desert floor that could have come from any roadside art stand. A digital camera with an impressive array of long range lenses attached to it had been screwed down onto the tripod’s mounting bracket. Arizona, he thought as he spotted the fenced off perimeter of either an industrial park or a military base. His memory rushed back to the present as he realized that he was here to take pictures. He wiped accumulated sweat from his forehead as he stepped out of the vehicle and turned his baseball cap around on his forehead. Four years later and he was still practicing his old skills. Good Morning, World, he thought.

Announcement: Parallax is In Final Review

Well, Guys, Parallax is in Final Review with Amazon KDP and should be available for purchase and download within the next 24 hours. I’m very proud to have gotten it out and I hope everyone who reads it enjoys it as much as I did writing it. It is now currently available through Createspace as a print option.

Now, I can either take a break for the next few months before I have to write the Sequel or knock out Lights and Shadows in the interim. Of course, we all know what I’m going to be doing but it’s fun to have options. 😉

New Project: Lights and Shadows

I’ve never been one to stay idle for too long. Let’s face it, a writer who isn’t writing isn’t much of a writer. That being said, I went into my Idea Folder and dug out a new project to work on.

This project is Lights and Shadows, a story that shares the same universe with Parallax, but with a different set of characters. While Parallax’s cast deals mostly with Space, L&S is ground-based, meaning that these characters spend the majority of their time down on planets chasing bad guys and fighting whatever monsters are unlucky enough to cross their path.

Here is the synopsis for L&S. Enjoy:

ZACK MOREAU is a cop, a cop whose beat takes him all over the Alliance. He’s bold, he’s experienced, and he gets the job done, though his methods often give his bosses in the Stellar Alliance quite a bit of heartburn. However, times are changing at the Alliance Investigative Service and he finds himself paired with an attractive and brainy partner, MARLA FINCH, who brings a new dynamic to his solo career and with over thirty worlds in his jurisdiction, that extra layer is going to come in handy. Finch is young and new to the field but her enthusiasm and optimism is infectious and though they get off to a rocky start, she and Moreau develop a working relationship that makes them an unbeatable combination.

Their first assignment together takes them to Planet Tarson near the start of the planet’s annual Sandstorm Season, where rolling sand storms make travel and commerce difficult to both the Alliance Settlements and the native Tarsonian population. The storms are a fact of life on Tarson but when Research Outpost 19 goes silent during preparations, the AIS Office on Conrad Station is contacted for assistance.

Moreau and Finch are reluctantly dispatched to investigate Outpost 19 and after a contentious briefing with the settlement’s Administrator, they are provided with equipment and transportation to travel to Outpost 19. Moreau has some history with Tarson from the War with the Locknar Hegemony and when the alien leader, KRAG UDULA, is mentioned, he expressed mixed emotions over a reunion.

When they arrive at Outpost 19, they find a station under lockdown and evidence of a conflict but no clear cut explanation of what killed the skeleton crew assigned to secure the facility. Shortly after starting their investigation, a rogue storm strikes the facility, knocking their personnel carrier out of commission and forcing them to take up temporary residence until they can call for help.

Unbeknownst to them, Alliance Intelligence Agent CARTER STEIN has been watching their progress in secret and though his agenda parallels theirs, his mission is decidedly different. He’s a curator of secrets and his job is to keep them protected, even if it jeopardizes Moreau and Finch’s investigation. When they stumble upon the first clues to Project Shattered Glass, Stein takes it upon himself to go to the facility personally.

Moreau and Finch continue to piece together the events leading to the Outpost’s blackout despite several life threatening brushes with a hologram that appears to learn from every encounter. The records they recover from the outpost computers area heavily encrypted but Finch’s skill allows them to read several references to Project Shattered Glass and the arrival of Doctor GEMINA BURKE, a noted physicist and AI specialist with a checkered past. Burke’s story would have ended there except for the war with the Locknar Hegemony pressed her into service developing weapons that were later condemned for being exceptionally cruel to their targets. Burke escaped prosecution for war crimes with the help of Alliance Intelligence and dropped off the collective radar to pursue black projects under their supervision.

Their efforts with the computers lead them to the main Research Lab where they discover Dr. Burke and PIERCE MONROE in stasis pods and unharmed by the recent carnage. Lieutenant Monroe is grateful for the rescue but like Burke, he is tight lipped about what happened. While he displays the classic symptoms of situational shock, Moreau isn’t buying his story of an accident and is more determined to get to the truth of the matter. Before they can evacuate the facility, a ground quake triggered by the sand storms topside knock all their repairs offline and they are forced to find an alternate way out.

The group now leaves the outpost after discovering an excavated underground tunnel. At first, salvation appears at hand using the tunnel’s ventilation shaft until the holographic being reappears as a fully formed Alliance soldier, who identifies itself as JOSHUA BLUE-24. Moreau doesn’t spot the fake until it refuses to recognize his AIS credentials and attacks. A running gun battle ensues, forcing the group to escape down the opposite end of the excavated tunnel.

The hologram pursues them only to stop and glare as they cross to a catwalk structure that overlooks an ancient alien city that extends to the horizon. They marvel at its tall crystal spires, its extensive road networks but the eerie quiet that blankets the area forces Moreau to comment that not only was the city old but something bad happened here based on damaged vehicles and buildings he observes while the group travels toward a golden light that has appeared over the tallest building, an obelisk shaped tower ornately decorated with Tarsonian symbols. Following the light to its source, they explore the building and discover evidence that Burke and Monroe had been there before, complicating their story of an accident gone wrong. When Moreau presses them, the two scientists explain that the city was discovered during a routine expansion of the outpost facilities but a complete exploration had been suspended due to Sandstorm Season. Finch pulls Moreau to the side for a private talk and tells him that the equipment she’s seen is more than typical archaeological fare. Moreau agrees and tells her to find out everything she can while he examines a second staircase carved into the rock that he had noticed from the catwalk. He notes a cleverly hidden exit hidden in the rock face, its presence betrayed by a sunburst design topped by a small clear crystal. His first attempts fail at activating the exit so he returns to the makeshift encampment in the golden tower.

Moreau returns to a three way shouting match between Burke, Monroe and Finch. Once he establishes order, he learns that while Finch was studying the equipment that Monroe had activated an alien device that was believed to be producing a dampening field that was preventing communications to the outside world. He remembers the hologram stopping just outside the city and surmises that there must have been remote holographic projectors planted in the tunnel and that the dampening field had blocked further passage. Attempts to reengage the field fails and he begins ordering the main entrance be fortified against attack. Finch pulls him to the side and informs him that she discovered that a key piece of equipment that that the Alliance was studying is capable of transferring neural energy into special storage crystals. But what was the Alliance doing with it? Finch also found another reference to Project Shattered Glass and is convinced that the device is a crucial clue.

Further investigation of the tower reveals an archive of Tarsonian history dating back thousands of years. Records of war and devastation had forced the last of the native population to build a massive city underground where they hoped to wait out the damage they had wrought. However, the damage had shifted the planet’s original orbit and changed the weather patterns. The stress of living underground caused factions to form and a civil war to erupt, forcing the losers to be exiled to the surface. They discover that the sunburst emblems are locking mechanisms designed to keep the losers out.

Finch puts together the final pieces of Project Shattered Glass and realizes that Alliance Intelligence was trying to create holographic soldiers as a secondary security force for remote bases. The discovery of an old AI template left over from Earth’s AI Rebellion provides the flaw in their experiments. The anti-human template was unstable by its very nature, causing the holograms to be homicidal and virtually uncontrollable.

Before Burke and Monroe can be confronted, Joshua Blue-24 attacks the encampment, forcing a hasty defense and Monroe heroically sacrificing himself in order to give Burke, Moreau and Finch time to escape to the stairwell. Monroe sets off an explosion that delays Joshua and allows the hidden exit to be opened. The survivors escape to a tunnel that leads to a chamber inside the mountain.

The chamber was well lit and bore similar decorations to the city but before they could get their bearings, they are set upon by the Tarsonian inhabitants, led by their leader, KRAG UDULA. The Tarsonians are tall and grey skinned with only a brightly colored Mohawk hair fringe as a means of determining individual differences. Wearing a copy of the sunburst emblem around his neck as a symbol of his leadership rank, Udula is a proud member of his race and he is not pleased with seeing humans in his home. However, a contentious argument with Moreau soon convinces him to shelter them until arrangements can be made to return them to the Alliance Settlements. Udula’s opponents, KORAL and DOHREN do not agree and a new confrontation breaks out between the three aliens.

Joshua Blue-24 breaks through the doorway and attacks the encampment. The human and alien weapons used against him appear to be ineffective until a flash from Udula’s sunburst dissipates the hologram and the threat appears to be over. The aliens want retaliation against the humans until Moreau and Udula come to a compromise, agreeing to return to the city, and restore the dampening field that originally kept Joshua at bay before returning to the outpost and shutting down the Shattered Glass experiment down for good. Udula’s advisers prevent him from joining the expedition and Koral refuses to go but volunteers Dohren to go in his place. After a brief but guarded repast, the group gathers itself up and reenters the tunnel.

They return to the city and find that the dampening field generator cannot be reactivated due to lack of power from the ancient power sources. After Joshua reappears, kills Dohren and threatens Burke, Finch and Moreau devise an improvised weapon to use against Joshua Blue-24. They manage to drive off the hologram but questions still remain. Why is the hologram still appearing after they had shut down the Shattered Glass equipment? After a fierce debate, the decision is made to return to the outpost and put an end to the threat once and for all. Burke is reluctant to return but firm persuasion by Udula and some of his warriors forces her to reveal that a hidden backup system was installed in one of the engineering areas and set to trigger if the main projector controller was shut down without proper authorization. Another attack by Joshua is driven off, cementing the decision to return to the outpost.

The makeshift army returns to a quiet outpost and begins their search for the backup projector controller. With Udula’s help, the blocked areas are cleared until the controller is located. Burke tries to interfere with the shutdown and is batted aside when Joshua appears and attacks the group. A desperate move by Finch ends the encounter by transferring the template from the controller into a portable data storage unit. Moreau places Burke in restraints and a messenger is dispatched to bring Koral to the outpost. Later, Moreau and the two alien leaders confer on the status of the city and they agree on formally charging Burke with the crime of mass murder.

The storms abate long enough for repairs to be made to the personnel carrier but when Burke is being led to it for transport, she manages to break her restraints and holds them at bay with a small detonator keyed to explosives hidden on her person. She threatens to blow herself and everyone around her up unless she is provided with a way off the planet. However, when Finch challenges her, the detonator fails to go off. Finch confirms that she detected the wireless signals from the device and sent a canceling wave from her tablet to render the transceiver useless. Burke is re-restrained and the personnel carrier heads back to the Alliance Settlement.

As they ride back, Burke pleads with Moreau for his protection, claiming that her knowledge of Alliance Black Projects makes her very valuable and she’s willing to cut a deal if Moreau doesn’t turn her over to Stein. When Moreau asks about Stein’s involvement, she refuses to say anything more unless Moreau agrees to take her off the planet and to a secure cell at Conrad Station. Before Moreau can agree, an escort converges on the carrier and accompanies them the final way to the Settlement, where Burke is taken away under Militia guard. When Moreau protests, Stein appears and informs him that Burke is a special case and he has been assigned to take personal control of the situation.

The next day, Moreau and Finch, attend a ceremony inaugurating the opening of the Tarsonian and the signing of a new agreement between Blankenship and the new Co-Rulers of the Tarsonian Nation headed by Udula and Koral. The new rulers demonstrate their good faith by unveiling an ancient yet untested device they discovered in the city. The device is activated and for the first time in thousands of years, the planet’s weather systems are adjusted to counteract the sand storms, ending Sand Storm Season forever.

Moreau and Finch watch as the prison shuttle with Burke and Stein lifts off. Finch tries to console Moreau to have faith in the Alliance legal system. Moreau doesn’t agree but there’s work to do back at Conrad Station. They turn and head to their shuttle.

Stein congratulates Burke on her progress with Shattered Glass but she has become a liability and must be “retired” for the good of the Alliance. After he gives her a friendly pat on the shoulder, she notices the needle on his ring and find she cannot speak. He speaks gently to her and explains how the poison he administered to her was fast acting, painless and after the bomb he planted on the shuttle explodes, there won’t be any trace of her left to fill a teacup. With a small wave, he retrieves the materials recovered from the outpost and follows the flight crew to the escape pods.

Two days later, Moreau and Finch are relaxing at Conrad Station when the report of Burke’s shuttle accident reaches their screens. Neither believes the accident story but a new case diverts their attention.