What mischief can Debbie and Becky get into when they’re grounded

Under the Sea

This is one of a number of short stories I wrote (part 1) that chronologically would belong early in Demeter after they reach the planetoid, but after they started to learn to fly.  I will bring in the other parts of the story over the next couple of days.  I looked for some artwork that reflect the look and feel I envisioned for the Stringray (above).  It has been a good weekend for the Demeter series.  All three books, Demeter, Return to Demeter, and Defending Demeter have been in the top 100 books in their category at Amazon this weekend so I felt like celebrating :o).  Enjoy

After two separate incidents with Slick security, and starting a bureaucratic battle with the meteorology division when Debbie grazed an outcropping causing a landslide, which in turn caused the pencil necks to have to recalculate an entire quadrant of the weather patterns, Captain Jonas White was facing a dilemma.  When it came to flying Debbie was a natural, but when it came to judgment, he paused, well she was only fourteen.

Two girls were approaching from the monorail station that bordered the tarmac at Europe.  Both girls sported pony tails, one blond, and one light brown.  Becky, the girl with the brown hair was sensible and methodical.  “She’ll be a good quality pilot, and she’ll probably outlive Debbie by a hundred years,” Captain White reflected.

“So, can we try out the flyers today?” the blond girl began.  “I studied the manual last night; they don’t look much harder to fly than the hoppers; maybe even easier.  I bet I could fly one without even getting any more instructions.”  She paused, as she took in the sober expression on the flight instructor’s face.

“Debbie, you aren’t even cleared for hoppers yet.  And after that incident yesterday,” Jonas began.

“It was their fault,” Debbie erupted.  Turning to Becky, “Wasn’t it?” Turning back to Captain White, “We were just minding our own business, and bang, out of nowhere they were shooting at us.”

Becky stood straight with her arms behind her back, and said nothing.

“The flight recorder indicates that you had violated Sagittarius League space on three separate occasions, before they fired warning shots,” Captain White responded flatly.  Then looking skyward, he continued, “What am I going to do with you?”

The sky of Demeter was, as it always was during the day, an opaque shade of blue that shifted into a haze the more one looked at it.  If the sky were clear, and a person could look straight above their heads roughly 847 miles from Europe, they would see the ice fields that were the counter balance to what most people thought of as the surface of Demeter.

Demeter was an asteroid/planetoid hundreds of light years from Earth.  The surface was barren, with no atmosphere.  But the interior, which could be accessed through one of seven active lock systems, was very much alive.  The Sea of Demeter stretched from the capital city of Europe at one end, to Kuu’Aali Falls at the opposite end of the interior.  One side of the interior, and the ice fields were governed by Terrans and Cryellians, but they were still under the protectorate of the Sagittarius League, privately referred to as the Slicks.  The Slicks maintained roughly half the habitable surface perimeter with four active military bases, protecting three of the lock systems providing ingress to Demeter.

“I think we need to let things settle down from a boil to a simmer before I put you back up in the air,” Captain White continued.

“You can’t do that to me,” Debbie’s voice rose as she tried to get in Captain White’s face, which was comical as she was a foot shorter than the Captain.  “I won’t let you!”

“You … won’t …. let… me?” Captain White stiffened.

Becky interceded, “I think what Debbie means is that we’re just starting to get the hang of this, and it would be a pity for us to slide backward in our training.”

Captain White grinned with a lopsided smile, “Miss Creer, I know exactly what Miss Ryder meant.”  He paused for effect, “but your training isn’t ending, we’re just going to take a different approach for a week or two.”

“What?  What are we going to do?  Are we going to fly on the exterior?  Train in the fighters?  Are we going to be gone long?” Debbie showered a series of questions.

Jonas White had the little devil now.  “Just follow me and I’ll show you.”

The trio returned to the station, and took the next train out that turned right at the beach, and continued through several stations.  They had traveled for half an hour, when without another word, Captain White, who had remained totally silent through a non-stop torrent of questions and speculative statements from Debbie, exited the car, and started walking toward the beach.

An outcropping of rock, a quarter of a mile wide, and a narrow sandbar created a natural harbor.  Three long wooden piers running parallel to each other supported a number of water craft.  Captain White walked toward the last pier, then walked down the pier to the last moored vessel.  “This is your new trainer,” he smiled sardonically.

“What is it?” Becky looked down.

“This isn’t a flyer?  I’m not going to fly a boat?  This doesn’t even float.” Debbie exploded.

Captain White ignored Debbie and looked Becky in the eye, “This is the Stingray.  Notice the resemblance?”

Becky nodded looking down at the long, almost flat design of the vessel whose top barely cut the surface.

“The Stingray,” Jonas White spoke loud enough to cut Debbie off, “Is my personal vessel, and one of the best trainers in Demeter for young pilots.”

Having Debbie’s attention he continued, “The Stingray was built for speed and maneuverability,” he paused, “under the sea.  However, its functionality is very much in line with learning to fly.  Let’s take her for a spin.”  As if by magic the craft began to rise level with the pier, and a gangplank emerged from an opening in the vessel.

“Cool,” Becky quickly followed Captain White aboard.

Debbie hesitated but a moment, and then rushed aboard, “Can I drive it?”

“Let’s test the system first,” Captain White pulled out an old clipboard with several sheets of paper beneath the large clip.  “Read these off to me,” he handed the checklist to Becky.

“Power on?”

“Check,” the Captain responded.

“Fault detection unit green?”

“Check,” Jonas replied.

“Stabilizer Trim green?”

“Check,” Captain White continued.  Jonas White had done this checklist hundreds of times.  He not only had it memorized but could also see it on his microcomputer lens in his eye, but he wanted to make his point.

Debbie started to twitch, but remained silent.

After all 67 items had been confirmed to be on, and or in the green, Captain White ordered, “Take your seats, put on your restraints and let’s see what this old tub can do!”

Rather than screens, the protective shields cranked down, and a broad series of apertures or windows provided an actual view of the exterior that gave them a 180 degree view.  As always, during the daylight period, the sky was clear and the water was a milky turquoise on a calm sea.  The Stingray’s magnetic attachment to the moorings released and the craft eased out into the bay.

The cabin of the Stingray was roomy for four, but had seating for eight.  A small head occupied a corner less than four steps behind the captain’s chair.  A door was centered on the back wall.  Debbie assumed it was for storage, as the cabin occupied the front third of the craft.  The seats were comfortable, and oversized, but she detected that the front seats were beginning to show some wear.  The low purr of the engine was beginning to make her sleepy.

“I’m not sure how this is going to help train me to be a better pilot,” Debbie complained.  “Unless I’m piloting slow freighters across the universe.

“We’re still in the harbor”, Captain White stated flatly.  “It is important to pay attention to landings and takeoffs in all environments.  In a harbor you must use extreme caution.”

“Why?” Debbie moaned.

Captain White swiveled around, keeping one eye ahead, while managing to stare at Debbie with the other, “You tell me.”

“I suppose you could run into another craft entering or leaving,” Debbie replied, trying to escape the staring eye of Captain White.

“Yes, much like you have to beware of other craft entering and leaving the tarmac at Europe or any other landing pad.  That’s why we make flight plans, and follow them.”

Debbie blushed sheepishly.

“What else?” he turned to Becky.

Becky jumped at her name.  “Something about waves?  My uncle took us on his boat once and I remember him talking about that as we passed the buoys to the entrance of the harbor.”

“Exactly,” Captain White nodded.  “When we are in a confined space, such as a harbor, the wake we create causes waves that continue on to the shore and back again.  I once tried to watch the waves on a pond when I threw in a rock.  The waves don’t stop.  Once they hit the shore or another object they continue back out, back and forth.  Your wake might tip over a row boat you don’t even see.”

Debbie was sitting back in her chair with her arms folded, but Becky noticed that she was listening.

“Demeter itself is a sort of harbor.  Your actions are like waves.  The bigger the action, the bigger the wave.  And, you never know what that wave might topple.  In Demeter, creating a landslide creates a shift, ever so small to the ecosystem.  That means individuals and teams have to work to resolve the problem it has created.  Who knows what ripples that causes to their lives beyond work.  When you bait the Slick admiralty, the ripples may affect negotiations on something totally unrelated.”

“Then what you’re saying is we shouldn’t do anything, or have any fun,” Debbie snapped.

Captain White turned to her fully, as they had exited the harbor.  “No, but little waves in a harbor are better than big ones.  Meanwhile, once you get into open waters, the rules can change,” he pushed a lever forward slowly, and the pitch of the engine rose to a roar.  The craft jerked forward pushing everyone back in their seats.

The Sting Ray flew through the water like a jet ski, but faster.  It plowed a giant furrow across the mirror calm Sea of Demeter.  The white foam spraying on either side of the boat brought laughs and giggles from Captain White’s two passengers.  For the next hour he demonstrated the controls and computer screens, and how they worked.

“They’re almost like the one’s on the Pegasus,” Debbie beamed.

Captain White pulled up the charts on the two main screens on the far wall.  “And if you can read these, learning to read star charts will become second nature.”

Becky was scratching her head as she looked at the charts, “There’s something odd about these charts, they seem to project three dimensions rather than two.”

“Oh did I forget to mention,” Captain White smirked, as the front panel opened, and a wheel emerged.  “This is not just a surface craft,” and as he pushed forward on the control wheel, the Sting Ray dove into the Sea of Demeter.

It was late in the afternoon when the trio returned to the harbor.  Both Becky and Debbie and captained the craft both on the surface and in the depths of the Sea of Demeter.  Captain White indicated that at its greatest depth the Sea of Demeter bottomed out at 1200 fathoms.  The he had to explain what a fathom was.  Even Becky got confused.

“So it might be five feet, or five and a half feet or six feet, but its really 6.08 feet?  But that sort of depends on whether you’re a fisherman, or a freighter, or in the British navy?  Where in the world did you come up with 6.08 feet?” Becky looked puzzled.  “This is screwy.”

Captain White looked apologetic.  “I probably shouldn’t have gotten into the history of the term.  If the depth is under 30 feet, we still say feet.  But on Demeter a fathom is exactly six feet.  Simple as that.”

Debbie laughed, “Yeah sure, how many hand lengths, how many arm lengths from the elbow to the tip of the fingers.  It’s a weird concept, and you’ve convinced me it’s a kooky way to measure things after you explained it.  Why don’t we just use metrics?”

Captain White laughed, “I asked the same thing of the Director-General a few years ago.  Remember the waves?”

“What has waves got to do with it?” Debbie looked like she was about to lose interest.

“The ripples of everything we do,” Jonas smiled darkly.  “We were first invited to come to Demeter over 600 years ago.  Units of measure were derived from that period.  The Cryellians have their own units of measure.  The Slicks have their own units of measure, much like metrics I might add.  So if we change from feet to meters, it will mess up all the translation of the relationship to their measures that has evolved over centuries.  So it’s not even just what we want to do.”  He then laughed, “Besides, I don’t want to learn a new way to calculate things after this many decades.”

Debbie captained the Sting Ray into the harbor, at harbor speed.

As Captain White, Debbie and Becky hiked back up to the train station Jonas asked, “So can you see how piloting the Sting Ray can help you become better pilots for hoppers, flyers, and yes,” he paused, “even fighters?”

“Yes,” the girls chimed in unison.

While waiting for the next train he turned to Debbie, “I’m going to do something I pray I will never regret,” he looked like he was about to shoot his own dog.  “I’m giving you and Becky full access to the Sting Ray.  You can pilot and study the charts for the next two cycles, which is twenty days on Demeter.  Can you take care of my baby without wrecking her?”

“You bet I can!” Debbie responded enthusiastically.

Turning to Becky, “Can you promise me that you’ll keep her under control?” Jonas added.

“I’ll try,” Becky replied hesitantly, then more forcefully, “I will do my best.”

“Open your channels and I’ll pass you the codes.  Twenty days should be enough time to get the powers that be to settle down, and we’ll get you back in the air.  Meanwhile, good sailing.”

“Sailing?” Becky queried.

“Figure of speech,” the old man smiled.

Watch that left hook

Aloha – If you have followed the antics of the some of the characters in the Demeter series you’re aware that Debbie’s character is a fun character that tends to react, sometimes without thinking.  Meanwhile, Becky’s character is the quiet character that likes nothing better than a corner and a good book.  The following provides a bit of role reversal in Haumeah that we’re moving toward final editing (third party) on.  Enjoy!

“It’s going to have to do,” Ryder responded.  “I anticipate a reaction from the Sagittarius fleet within five days.  I don’t think they’ll move faster than that after the fiasco with Admiral Jaeckel, but no more than seven days.  That’s too soon.  I have an idea for some delays, but seven days is it.  We still need ten days.  We won’t even have all the light cruisers in for training for another two days.  I’d like to put a permanent sock in Derval Sochal’s mouth,” he finished.

“Probably won’t fit right now,” Debbie commented as she and Becky entered the drawing room.

Becky blushed brightly.

“I assume I know why you’ve summoned us,” Debbie responded jauntily.  “Vaughn’s big-mouthed sister was bragging she’d toppled your house of cards.”

“What did you do?” Ryder asked morosely.

With an over dramatic flair Debbie pointed at herself with both hands, “Me?  I didn’t do anything,” she affirmed.  Smiling broadly she finished, “Now slugger over here I can’t say the same for.”

All eyes turned toward Becky.  Ryder looked at her closely.  Guilt was written all over her face, as she looked down at her hands.  He noticed that the right hand was scuffed up as if she had taken a fall, then he gasped, “You didn’t!”

Becky looked him in the eye, “I’m afraid I did.”

“I waited for her left hook to finish things up, but that Sochal girl fell like a rock as soon as Becky smacked her in the mouth.  It was amazing.  I wish I’d thought to record it, but it happened so suddenly.  Big mouth spouting off, then whammo,” Debbie smacked her closed fist into her palm with an echoing effect.

“I’m surprised they let you go,” Barry interrupted, while Joel stood with his mouth agape staring at Becky.

Becky finally spoke, “I don’t think they knew what to do.  About half the people in the crowd cheered, and the other half looked like Joel does now.”

Joel closed his mouth with a snap.

“It helped that Vaughn’s dad and Vaughn got in a war of words with Vaughn and Derval’s mom.  The scene was a bit chaotic when we left.” Debbie added.  “I can’t wait to tell Cynthia about this, pow” she swung her arm into the air again for effect.  “Wish I’d thought to do it first.  I bet she’d still be unconscious if I had.”

Ryder fought to keep a grin from creeping back into his face as he visualized over and over again timid Rebecca Creer punching out Derval Sochal.  “Okay, anyway, you can probably guess why I need to see you then.”

“Slick reaction,” Debbie and Becky said in unison.

“Afraid so,” Ryder agreed.  “We have ten days left until the Orion Task Force arrives, if I’m counting my days correctly, and I know that I am.  We have five to seven days before the Sagittarius fleet responds by the most probable scenarios I’ve been able to run. ”

“Won’t they be here tomorrow?” Debbie interrupted.

Ryder’s grin widened to a painful smile, “If you were commanding the Sagittarius League fleet I suspect that you would be here tomorrow.  But keep in mind, Admiral Jaeckel ran out of the Haumeah belt in fear of a sizeable Orion fleet already in the belt.  I’m sure the debate over what kind of force we have here already is a point of serious contention.  So five to seven days.  This is a better scenario than Demeter was.  We know the fleet will be here and when.  We don’t have to hold out for weeks, we just need a few days.  Unfortunately, you also only have a few days to organize the Haumeahan fleet with Vaughn, who should be here shortly.”

Northern Lights and Tithe Day

Aloha – About ten years ago I was in southern Alberta, Canada for a family reunion.  I did not have a camera with me one late night/early morning as I did a six hour round trip to pick up some extended family members who had arrived in Calgary for the reunion and being an in-law I volunteered to make the drive to pick them up.  The trip was well worth it.  My understanding is that it is very unusual to enjoy the northern lights in the summer, but that particular night (between midnight and 2am, I caught the glimmer of something odd in my rear view mirror as I drove south.  It was probably three or four minutes before I realized that I was getting a first hand northern lights experience.

When writing the dawning chapter, entitled “Titheday” the northern lights are what I was thinking of regarding the unusual way that daylight was created inside the world of Demeter.  The picture above is a good representation, but the video of 12,000+ photos is a much better way to enjoy the entire sense of the lights.  You can get to the video and story at

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/26/earth-from-iss-time-lapse_n_6377322.html?ncid=txtlnkusaolp00000592

Happy Boxing Day

Fun Science Fiction Novel available for free this weekend

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MZFH8R6

There is an obnoxious commercial that I often see at science fiction movies (and those rare other movies I see) for a company called PC Laptop.  The pitch man has the most irritating way of saying “Free, Free, Free.”  Meanwhile I cannot help but quote him as I remind our readers that we are promoting the release of Defending Demeter, the third volume in the Demeter series this week with a free copy at Amazon of the first e-book in the series, Demeter.  Just click to buy on the Amazon picture and you can have to first book “Free, Free, Free.”

Coming back to the new release, the following excerpt actually is derived from an actual event (though not quite as dramatic) in the long series of such events from my own children.  Enjoy the teaser…

The caverns that surrounded the lost city of the PerSian League dwarfed what had been their last stronghold in Demeter.  Randy and Joel Porter were not as interested in the ghost city as the archeologists and linguists who were still packing up records.  The two brothers had happened upon their own discovery near the edge of the vast chasm the butted the city on one side.

The young Porter brothers had led the team that finished the mapping of the tunnels near the surface of Demeter, and were taking a breather before returning to Europe and their training in the new K-17 robot units.  After three days, non-stop in the K-15 units, they were delighted to be “out of uniform” and in jeans and sweaters, instead of wearing a ton of metal.

“You can do this,” Randy oozed with confidence.

“Why don’t you do it?” Joel retorted skeptically.

“I need to control the zip line.  If it comes loose I can still keep the thing under control.”

“I think I can control that zip line as well as you can,” Joel shot back.

“Well, we can just skip it I guess.  I thought you wanted to see what’s down there.” Randy shrewdly replied.

Joel looked sidewise down the canyon.  He had spotted a narrow trail at the back of the city that descended fifty feet to a small landing.  There he and his brother had found a running cable, descending at a sharp angle for 500 feet to what looked like a cave entrance.  There were also a number of tired looking buckets about the size of a fifty-five gallon drum sitting on the ground near the cable.  Randy had come up with the idea of rigging a bucket to the cable in order to create a makeshift passenger vehicle for the zip line.

Joel looked at the cable and the bucket, and then looked at the 500 foot drop to the darkened mass.  His mind raced as he descended, Was it a cave?  If it was a cave, what might they find inside the entrance.  It could just be an impression in the rock.  The impression or cave was only a third of the way down the canyon.  The bottom of the canyon was lined with jagged tooth-like rocks nearly 1500 feet below.

“Are you sure this is safe?” Joel looked back at his brother.

“Safe as jumping,” Randy smirked, referring to their frequent weekend trips to the surface where they challenged each other to see how far off the planetoid they could launch and safely return to the surface in K-15 robot units.

Joel stared back at the rock impression.  “Do you think it’s really a cave?”

“I think so.  Why else would there be a cable between here and there?  You know, we could just order up a research team.  They could check it out.” Randy’s lip curled up on one side giving away how he thought Joel would respond to that.

Joel missed Randy’s smile.  “No,” he responded hesitantly staring at the rock face.  Then more strongly, “I want to see what’s down there, and Baron would probably send some of his favored DDF security folks to look at it.  Let’s do this.”

Somewhere in the back of his mind Joel realized he was being played.  For some reason his older brother Randy always seemed to know how to push his buttons.  He looked over the cable again, and pulled hard on a section of the wire-like substance.  It felt strong enough to hold a hundred times his weight.  Would it be that strong all the way down? he wondered.  He was actually more concerned about the bucket.  Randy had fastened the bucket to the cable in a manner that it should slide easily down the wire, and had attached a thin DDF line to the bucket that looked more like a fishing line than a rope, but Joel knew it could support the 2,000 plus pounds of a K-15 unit.  They had actually pulled a disabled unit out of a gully with that line.

Trying to look more confident than he felt, Joel climbed into the bucket, and Randy started pushing the container toward the edge.  Joel looked over the precipice with nothing but a bucket between him and the canyon floor far below.  Suddenly a nauseous feeling of vertigo swept over him.  Clinging to the arms of the bucket, he turned to Randy and started, “I don’t think…”  At that same moment Randy gave a tremendous shove, and the bucket started gliding slowly down the cable.

“What was that?” Randy yelled.

“Nothing,” Joel returned in a loud voice as the bucket started gaining speed.  He now was focused on the squeaks and squeals of the bucket as it shifted back and forth along the cable.  His fears disappeared as he concentrated on keeping the bucket upright on the tenuous link.  As a few seconds passed the squeaks were gone, but the squeal of the connection to the thin strand of support his bucket was riding on grew louder and high pitched.  He was moving too fast and he knew it.

Joel glanced up as the aperture grew in front of him, “Yes it’s a cave entrance,” he whispered out loud.

“Good,” a tiny voice came into Joel’s ear reminding him that he was connected with Randy through his bug. The bug was a miniature communication device that looked suspiciously like a small six legged beetle that was attached inside his left ear.  “What else can you see?” Randy inquired.

Joel again took a quick second to take in the mouth of the cave, and the fear returned, “I can see that I’m moving too fast and going to crash you idiot.  Hit the break!”

The tension on the DDF line strained against the bucket from the top of the ridge.  The canister swayed, and then turned to a ninety degree angle as Randy responded by trying to slow the progress of the now speeding bucket.  Joel was not ready for this and nearly toppled from the container that was trying to pour him out.  “You’re going to kill me!” he shouted.

Demeter Series launch party T- a couple of hours

Aloha – We are having a launch party in celebration of the Demeter science fiction series.  Volume 3, Defending Demeter is available now at Amazon.  Hint:  You’re welcome to buy a copy of Return to Demeter and Defending Demeter, but don’t buy a copy of volume 1, Demeter tonight :o)

Return to Demeter is available at

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OKMZ5TK

Defending Demeter is available at

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00R1XMYL2

Kidnapping little sisters is not a good idea

Mark December 18th on your calendar. Meanwhile, more insights into Debbie’s character. Debbie, Cynthia and Becky are kidnapped (or re-kidnapped depending on how you look at it. Debbie of course tried to escape and was rewarded with a concussion. As she regains consciousness the following discussion occurs:

“Either I’m still woozy or the raft is making a big turn,” Debbie whispered.
Becky joined the two girls in a tight circle. “They are turning. I can feel it. I believe that we’ve turned around and are headed back the way we came. I wish I could see outside to get my bearings.”
“Maybe we can jump out,” Debbie suggested.
“That might work if we weren’t locked in this crate,” Cynthia responded.
“So what do we do?” Debbie asked, staring at the wall.
“Sit tight,” Becky and Cynthia harmonized.
There was a pause, then Becky and Cynthia said, “We’ve been talking,” in unison. They giggled. “Go ahead,” Becky whispered to Cynthia.
“If they wanted to kill us, they would have already done it,” Cynthia began. “We know this has something to do with Ryder, but we’re not sure what. We also know that they expect Ryder to find us. So if this is a game of chess, I’d bet on Ryder to be smart enough not to run into a trap. The best response is to sit tight.”
Debbie flushed. “If you think I’m going to sit around and wait for Ryder to rescue me, you’re nuts! I’d never hear the end of it.”