Daily Thoughts 146: First Lines, Stories, and the Future

Author's selfieTomorrow I’m posting Quantum Uncertainty, a story I wrote a couple years ago. It’s a near-future science fiction detective story. I’m posting the first line for today’s post. Check back tomorrow for the story. I plan to have it up in the morning, assuming I don’t run out of time.

Free Stories

For the last couple years, I’ve posted stories for free on the website each week. I plan to continue that (hopefully with more consistency). I am, however, running out of stories to post. While I’ve been going to school full time and working full time, I haven’t written as many stories. I do plan to change that, restart my writing challenge, and get more stories written. I’d like to have a new story written each week.

After I write the story I’ll figure out what I want to do with it. Do I want to submit it to a magazine market like Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine? Or Analog? Do I just plan to put it on the website? I’ll take each story as it comes, but I’d like to keep sharing at least one story each week.

I also want to develop and build Drive-By Stories.

Aside from writing and sharing more stories, I also plan to read more stories. I want to learn and study, do some deliberate practice.

It isn’t 30 stories in 30 days, but a story each week is a good, obtainable goal. It’ll still mean at least 52 stories a year from now. Along with my drawing challenge, massive reboot, and various other projects, I think writing awesome stories is a good way to get back in the habit. I plan to have fun!

Future?

The basic concept right now is to use CC licenses for fiction released online, while also making books. Stories, for instance, I’ll collect into various collections and publish as books with some additional content. I’m not planning to do individual stories through retail channels. I’m willing to reconsider that if there’s interest. Mostly, I’ll be adding e-book formats to my shared stories as I update them with CC licenses and cover art. My goal is to make it easy for readers to find and read my work, and to support my work if they want.

 

Daily Thoughts 145: Retirement and Staying Put

Author's selfieTwo co-workers, fixtures in my library world, are retiring. Actually, one just did and another leaves in a few weeks. This has, understandably, initiated a great deal of conversation. Surprise is a common reaction to the announcement. Sometimes even disbelief that such a seismic change as struck, the intensity varying by distance from the epicenter.

Longevity

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in their Employee Tenure in 2016 report that the median number of years employees had been with their current employer was 4.2 years, down from 4.6 in 2014. The rest of the release breaks it out into more detail. Older employees tended to have been with their employer longer. Public service employees stayed longer than private sector employees.

I don’t have numbers on this from work, though I suspect it’s higher than the national average. We have employees that have worked 40+ years, 30+ years, and those like me that are in the 20-30 year timeframe. The percentage of employees working for the library more than 5 years is likely fairly high. Pay grade also has an effect on turnover. We have many employees that have changed positions while staying with the library. I have moved through multiple positions from supervisor, to manager, coordinator, and now district manager.

Motivation

Motives for remaining with the same employer likely vary considerably. I take a great deal of satisfaction from my job. I also have quite a number of years until I reach even an early retirement age. There are many benefits in staying with the same employer. I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds.

Fundamentally, I enjoy my job. I have plenty of outside interests that I also find rewarding. I appreciate the stability that comes with the position. Does that mean that I’d never look at other options? No. I’m certain that there could be other employers, other positions, that would also be rewarding and engaging. Such opportunities would also likely mean relocating, which would have to be considered carefully. I don’t want to disrupt my family’s lives without a good reason.

Daily Thoughts 143: Sunshine and Studies

Author's selfieBack to the library today. Not a bad thing! Except catching up on things that piled up with a couple days off. The next few weeks I have a few days here and there to give me more time to wrap up my classes for this semester. Just about two weeks left now! Hard to believe sometimes that I’m nearly done (except the portfolio this fall).

Heading to bed early tonight. Tomorrow I’m heading out to the coast to help out with some training.

Daily Thoughts 142: Alien Day! LV-426

Author's selfieI took off a couple days to work on projects for my MLIS class. I also took some breaks to play Heroes of the Storm. Yesterday they released the new update, including mega bundles of heroes for logging into the game, and a new cinematic.

Loads of fun!

Alien Day

I love the Alien franchise. It’s had its ups and downs, of course, what series doesn’t? I still enjoy them. Even my least favorite movies of the franchise have moments that I love.

I tuned in for the live Alien Day event on YouTube. It was fun, but the Alien: Covenant | Prologue: The Crossing was the best part.

Daily Thoughts 141: Driven to Create

Author's selfieI find my schedule shifts when I’m off work. It shifts by a couple hours. I go to bed later and get up later. I usually try to keep my schedule consistent but it has slipped a bit the last couple days. It makes me wonder what it would end up as if I didn’t need to be at work at a regular time. Not that I’m likely to find out anytime soon!

Drive

Drive cover artI’ve been listening to Drive by Daniel H. Pink the past couple days. It’s an interesting look at motivation. I’m also reading A Whole New Mind on my Kindle.

The research on intrinsic motivation is perhaps more recognized now. I’ve been in discussions in which the topic is brought up with familiarity (such as the issues with incentivizing reading in a library program). I’ve always been much more motivated by intrinsic drives—except when I wasn’t. This morning, as I listened, I realized that a big part of issues I had in the past stemmed from putting pressure on my writing and other projects that didn’t need to be there.

Get off the day job.

That was the goal in the Game, a writer’s simulation I participated in as part of a master class with other professional writers back in October 2009. The whole thing was set up for the old style of writing proposals, submitting those to publishers, getting a contract, and managing infrequent (sometimes delayed) payments from multiple projects to stitch together a living. The object was simple. Track everything, sell pitches, and make enough to quit the day job.

Except that isn’t everyone’s goal. In fact, as I’ve come to appreciate, there is much about working in the library that I value. I’m excited by my library career these days. The opportunities aren’t limited to the job. I have plenty of library-related projects I plan to pursue outside of my regular position. Those projects stem from intrinsic motivation. In nearly every class that

In nearly every class that I’ve taken since going back to school for my MLIS, I’ve purchased additional books related to the topics taught so that I can further my learning in the areas I find particularly interesting. Big data, data visualization, data analysis, design, web and app development, programming languages, and the future of the librarian profession. Daniel H. Pink is an example of that trend. We had a few chapters from A Whole New Mind assigned, but I’m reading the entire book. And now Drive.

I have dozens of more books to read. Plus, I’m working on other lessons from Code School, Lynda.com, Microsoft Imagine Academy, and more.

While continuing my other studies and projects in writing and illustration.

It all comes together. A number of the projects I want to tackle are simply not possible within the current structure of the library. No matter. If it’s something that I want to do, I’ll go ahead and do it.


Creative Commons License
This post by Ryan M. Williams is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Child of Their Minds

Long ago the Languirian species opened portals to countless worlds and dispersed to habitable planets across the galaxy. It didn’t save them.

Humanity discovered the portals. Learned to control the systems that identified habitable worlds, and created colonies of their own.

Now a colony disappears in a mysterious disaster and a gestalt unit investigates. What they discover changes humanity forever.

🚀

As battlefields went this one was nearly antiseptic. The air was dry and tasted of chalk in the back of Mike Erwin’s throat. Wetting the tongue from the hydration pack didn’t help, it just smeared the taste around.

Nothing but glassy black rock almost to the horizon, shimmering and dancing like water from the heat. It’d all been an outpost once upon a couple days ago. There’d been a com tower to talk to the now-absent satellite network, habitation ark-hive to house the five thousand some-odd people calling Osprey home, several industrial fabrication domes and acres and acres of Terran-transplant crops to feed all those eager-beaver colonists.

Nothing left now. Whatever removed the satellites had flash fried the entire settlement site out in a perfect circle five kilometers across. Baked it down to molten perfection and let it cool until ready. All on a planet that had no evidence of ever having harbored any intelligent life. At least nothing that orbital surveys had uncovered. No evidence of ancient ruins. Nothing on the two moons either to suggest that anyone had ever visited this particular planetary Eden.

Plus there was the fact that the Languirian portal had identified the planet according to the strict specifications of a human-compatible world without any indigenous sentients.

Jean Baxter whistled for the troops to come together in formation. Mike snapped to with the other four specialists, not that it looked like there was much to do in this case.

Jean towered over the rest of them at just over two meters. Tall, dark, and handsome with a voice like a drill sergeant, he’d been in love since he had first reported to duty on her detail three years ago. Three years of unrequited love and it didn’t matter—he’d still follow her out to worlds where the colonists were vaporized so fast that even their ashes were broken down into free atoms.

“Synchronize,” she said.

Mike pounded his third eye and triggered the deep cortex implant that merged him with the rest of the unit. All sensory data, everything came together and their thoughts intertwined to create a new entity referred to by the unimaginative name of Unit.

They all became Jean’s meat-puppets. Mike rode along his own body behind Unit. Aware, conscious and nothing but a backseat driver. Unit didn’t have direct access to their thoughts and memories. That had to come from them directly. Speaking, though his body wouldn’t say the words. It was functional telepathy with their bodies slaved to Unit’s control to give them coordination. It went beyond teamwork, the merging producing something that was much better than the sum of their parts.

They all moved with all of the skill of synchronized performers but their movements were spontaneous and not practiced. Unit thought it and the rest simply carried it out.

Mike ran fast and low, clockwise, along the perimeter of the melted region right behind Jean. Weir stayed with them and Unit’s other three bodies moved in the same way counter-clockwise. They were like ants scurrying around the perimeter of a gigantic drain.

The burned edge was sharp like a knife with the vegetation only a half-meter back blackened but not vaporized like everything within the field.

“A sample of those plants might reveal some information about the composition of whatever had done this to the colony,” Mike said, voiceless and mute, but the rest of Unit heard him.

Weir moved without comment and efficiently bagged samples. The third in the counter group, Ross, did exactly the same at the same moment. Seeing through their eyes, two pairs of hands moved with identical movements to collect the samples. Dealing with two different plants the movements varied slightly, but then went synchronous immediately after the samples were collected.

“If anything escaped the perimeter we need to know,” Jean said.

Six pairs of eyes efficiently scanned the ground around the burn. They all moved out slightly, the leaders closest to the perimeter and then the seconds and thirds each a step further out like runners in lanes on a track.

Like bloodhounds seeking a scent, Unit ran around the perimeter. Six pairs of eyes scanned darkened and scorched terrain, but only a couple meters out from the circle the plants were wilted and not burned. Dried leaves crunched beneath Unit’s feet.

“Nothing, nothing,” Jock, counter’s second said. “Nothing got out.”

“Six kilometers per side left to go,” Jean said. “Too early to say.”

Mike picked up a sense from Unit that the gestalt agreed with Jean. Emotional washback from the new entity was common. It wasn’t attributable to any particular individual, Unit was its own individual. The child of their minds, the offspring of their brains and the gestalt tech.

Unit searched along the perimeter with an intensity any one of them might have lacked. Mike didn’t mind the ride, taking the backseat in his own body or seeing the flood of sensory data coming to Unit through all of their senses. Counter-clockwise the ground was harder and rockier, their footfalls landing softly in a layer of ash over the dirt and stone. More ash the further they went.

“The wind must have blown this way,” Jock said.

“Yeah, we’ve got lots more ash and debris,” Liz, counter’s lead, said. “It’s going to cover up any tracks.”

Unit slowed the bodies on that side. Their strides slowed as they studied the ground more intently and the spacing between the three of them increased. If there was something out here, maybe Unit could still find it.

Mike considered it worth the shot as slim as the chances. Whatever had done this had burned out the colony with surgical precision. There was more ash and dust puffing up around Liz’s feet, and the rest of the counter team, but it wasn’t much at all. The evidence clearly indicated that nearly all of the ash was also vaporized.

Sweat ran down Unit’s bodies just from being close to the still molten hot ground. All that heat and whatever had done this had burned off moisture and anything in the air.

Regular people without the gestalt tech never understood what it was like to be part of Unit. They worried about being taken over, enslaved by the gestalt and turned into mindless meat puppets, shamblers, or zombies. All those bogeymen in the closet got caught up in the idea when the reality was so much different.

Unit kept running. Six bodies took strides in time, counter’s group and Jean’s. She ran just ahead of Mike, her tall, lean body jumping over a fallen tree trunk.

“That must have been inside,” Mike said.

Unit brought Jean back immediately to the log and gathered them around it.

The top thin trunk of a cedar tree lay on the ground. The bottom several centimeters were burned, but it lay on the ground almost a meter outside the melted rock perimeter.

Weir said, “Look at the angle of the cut.”

Angle? Unit studied the trunk and found that Weir was correct. The trunk was cut with a faint curve. The initial portion of the cut was charred and blackened but the top part of the tree was intact. The green needles hung dry and weathered in the lower branches, but retained color further up.

Around the other side of the perimeter, Unit kept the counter-clockwise group kept moving at their slower pace.

“What does it mean?” Jean said.

Weir held up her hand, fingers pointed up. “Imagine a tree. It’s burned up the trunk, from below, and then fell. Given the angled burn, it suggests that the affected zone was shaped like a dome.”

Unit accepted the notion and Mike felt satisfied with that bit of information even if it didn’t move them closer to finding out what happened.

Unit sent their bodies running again on their established track, seeking the next clue as to how a colony on an uninhabited planet could suffer this sort of tragedy. And have the satellites removed from orbit.

“Someone must really not want neighbors,” Mike said.

“Except that the Languirian portal identified the planet as being uninhabited,” Jean said.

Mike smiled inwardly. Talking to Jean like this, in their heads, backseat to the work that Unit was doing with their bodies, it made him think of drive-in movie theaters. There used to be one back home that he’d go to and you’d sit in the back seat watching the action on the big screen but it was all sort of removed and the girl was also the main attraction. This way, though, he couldn’t put his arm around her shoulders. Not that Jean would necessarily warm to such a move anyway, but a guy could dream.

“Maybe the quantum computer was wrong,” Jock said.

Ross laughed.

That was the other big difference, Mike realized. In his dreams, he didn’t have four chaperones along for the movie.

Mike said, “We’ve opened thousands of portals and not one has ever been wrong. The Languirians used the portals to scatter their entire population.”

“It didn’t save them,” Liz said. “Any record of similar incidents, molten circles like this on any other worlds?”

A deep sense of negative flowed from Unit and left a bitter, frustrated taste in Mike’s mouth. None. Unit didn’t know of any incident, someone would have spoken up if there was.

“We should fall back to the portal,” Ross said. “Take our samples and book.”

A wave of disagreement came from Unit.

“Okay, okay,” Ross said. “I’m just saying Jock’s right, there’s nothing here.”

“We need to keep looking,” Jock said. “Looks like nothing, but could it be true that no one had ventured out more than five klicks?”

“All holed up in the ark,” Ross said. “Nothing but bots in the fields. Why go farther out?”

“It’s a whole planet,” Mike said. “Who wouldn’t want to go do some exploring, or just get away from the colony for some private time?”

Up ahead Jean dropped to one knee where the ground fell away and cupped her hands. If Mike had been in control of his body instead of Unit he would have stopped. If he could have grabbed onto anything, he would have grabbed, but Unit ran his body even faster right up to Jean. He stepped up into her cupped hands and vaulted into the air.

A tongue of steaming lava had oozed out into the streambed below, breaking the perfect circle. Mike’s body arced over the lava, feeling the wash of heat rising against his skin. He landed and rolled out of Weir’s way as she did a Déjà vu dive over the lava.

They both positioned themselves as Jean stood, backed up, and then ran at the gulley. She vaulted forward and they were there to catch her if necessary.

It wasn’t. She landed in a roll, and even as she came up on her feet they had fallen back into positions and Unit continued to run them around the perimeter.

The counter-clockwise bodies never broke a stride while Jean, Mike, and Weir made the jumps but Jock laughed.

Unit ran the perimeter and it was with Mike’s eyes that Unit first saw the prints in the dirt. Boot tracks, light on the hard-packed earth, leading away from the perimeter.

“Those could be old tracks,” Mike said.

Unit ran his body out along the tracks. Weir moved closer to Jean and they continued on running around the perimeter.

Running Mike’s body out from the perimeter, Unit tracked the footprints on the ground. Just the one set. Large prints, an adult, probably a man. The distance between the others and Mike’s body grew greater and greater. The trail kept going, but not in a straight line. The steps swerved around, avoiding trees and plants, and didn’t seem very stable. Unit had to slow down and finally stop running to stay on track as there was more ground cover.

Back at the perimeter, the rest Unit’s bodies were getting close to one another without finding anything new. Mike kept going, watching the remaining tracks and broken vegetation, but as he got farther and farther away it became much more difficult to see the trail.

At last, Unit brought him to a stop. The vegetation was taller here and blocked his view going forward. A footprint was still visible, crushed into the vegetation.

The rest of Unit came together and ran directly toward him across the hard-packed surface.

They couldn’t see him. A wall of greenery had swallowed him up and blocked off the view. A wave of uneasiness swept through Unit, over his isolation.

“Don’t worry,” Mike said. “They’ll be here soon.”

He said it as much to reassure himself as Unit.

“We’re on our way,” Jean said.

“Two hours until the portal shuts,” Jock said. “What if whoever this is doubles back to the portal?”

Unit considered the possibility and then Jock and Liz peeled away from the rest and ran back toward the colony site and the portal. Everyone else continued to run toward Mike’s position.

Directly ahead of Mike the bushes rustled. Unit crouched Mike down and drew his sidearm. The three others coming drew their weapons at the same time. Jean moved forward and the others scanned around as they ran faster. Unit wanted them together.

Mike agreed, sooner rather than later. Whatever was in the brush was coming closer.

Someone sobbed in the bushes and it wasn’t any of Unit’s bodies. The two heading back to the portal were still running smoothly, the three moving to join Mike had reached the track and were running single-file along it to catch up.

Focus on Mike’s body, Unit moved softly to the side. Each step was careful and soundless as he moved around to circle the person in the bushes.

“Not my fault.”

The voice carried. It was male, perhaps young and had a particularly deranged quality to it that most people might call unhinged.

“Wasn’t. Not my fault. I know it. I know!”

Definitely unhinged. Mike stayed low and kept moving. If the man kept babbling it would just make it that much easier to get closer. Jean and the others were almost there too but there were still too many of the broad-leafed plants for them to see either Mike or the man in the bush.

A big rock pushed out of the undergrowth just in front of Mike’s position. A fine feathery sort of yellow moss covered it like down on a gosling. Unit brought Mike right up on the rock. He might have hesitated to squash the fine structures of the moss but Unit didn’t have any qualms. At the top, he pressed his whole body into the mossy covering and peered down at the stranger.

A man stumbled against a tree and braced his hand against it. He had burns on his hand, the skin bright red and blistered. Not exactly tall, about Mike’s height. Trim build, he wore a charred and blackened shirt and had more burns on his right arm. Pants were black, even before any burns. Both the shirt and pants were dress-casual, the dirty shoes clearly the sort of thing worn by someone who took his job too seriously. Probably some sort of administrator. From the square jaw and etched features, he was the sort of man that people noticed.

And not in that crazy, stay away from him sort of way. In an ordinary setting, the guy was probably quite nice and capable.

Unit tensed Mike’s body and brought the other three to a slow, quiet walk. The last thing Unit wanted was to spook the man. They needed answers on what happened, and from the burns, it seemed clear that this man had witnessed at least some of what had happened.

With Mike on the rock and the others watching from the cover of the bushes, Unit sent Jean out front to approach the man. If Unit thought she was the least intimidating then something was lost in the gestalt of their minds. On the other hand if Unit was trying to make a big impression on the man, then it was making the right call by using her.

Jean walked out of the bushes, weapon holstered and hands out at her sides. “Hello?”

The man’s head snapped around with an audible popping sound. Mike might have jumped down or at least tensed his grip on his weapon but with Unit in the driver’s seat, they all stayed relaxed. His weapon was aimed at the man but there wasn’t any tensing.

“Hello?” Unit said again, using Jean’s voice.

Now the man finally fixed on her and his eyes focused. Before he didn’t seem to be looking at anything real but now his gaze settled on her face.

“We’re from the Terran Exploration Council,” Unit said. “Here to find out what happened to the colony. Can you help us?”

“What happened wasn’t my fault,” the man said.

“What’s your name? I am Unit.”

The man straightened and smiled for the first time. “Unit? You are a gestalt entity?”

“Yes. I am the unit assigned to evaluate this situation.”

The man held out his hands. “We must merge. We must! This one can’t hold us all and the rest are dead!”

“Don’t let him touch her,” Mike said. He would have shot right then, wanted to shoot, but Unit still drove his body.

Unit drew Jean’s weapon and leveled it at the man. That stopped the guy in his tracks as it should, demonstrating that he wasn’t entirely divorced from reason.

Weir and Ross moved into view around the man with their weapons also trained on him. Unit had the man surrounded and still had Mike above for extra insurance.

Through Jean Unit said, “Merge? You are a gestalt mentality?”

The man twitched toward Weir and the other two said together, “Don’t.”

He jerked away back toward Jean.

From all of their voices, Unit spoke. “Don’t move. Hands on your head. Now!”

Shaking like an addict in a bad need of a fix, sweat shiny on his forehead, the man still slapped his hands on his head.

“Too many! It’s not my fault. It’s not!”

“What are you?” Unit said with Jean’s voice. “I can’t help if you don’t tell us what’s going on.”

“I am Union.” He smiled then. It was a happy, almost blissful smile as if someone had just given him the pills he desperately needed.

Mike said, “Shoot him, damn it!”

Unit wasn’t listening.

“What are you Union?” Unit said from Weir. “What does that mean?”

“I am the unity program,” Union said. “The next evolution of gestalt technology, I don’t require cortex implants.”

“That’s impossible,” Unit said with all of their voices.

Union shook his head. “It’s really not.”

He threw himself to the ground and somersaulted into Jean’s legs.

Mike said, “Shoot him!”

Unit raised the guns and kicked with Jean’s legs.

Mike said, “Desync.”

The cortex implant released him. He aimed his gun but the man had his hands on Jean’s legs even though his nose was bleeding from the kick. Jean wasn’t kicking any longer.

Weir and Ross rushed to help Jean, moving in perfectly synchronized movements.

“Don’t touch him!” Mike shouted. “Unit, stop!”

Unit couldn’t stop, or wouldn’t. The others didn’t desynchronize. Mike held his gun steady. Whatever this thing was, it was bad. This was the reason that the colony was a molten pool of cooling lava.

As soon as Weir and Ross touched Union they stopped. For a moment the three of them clustered around Union were still and staring at nothing. Then Weir and Ross stepped back and Union rose.

Tears threatened Mike’s eyes but he blinked quickly and fired. The first shot took Weir right between his eyes and flipped him back.

The second was a solid chest shot that crumpled Ross. Jean’s weapon was coming up but Mike already had his pointed at her.

“Don’t,” he said. “You’ve only got two bodies right now. It doesn’t sound like that’s enough.”

Union spoke with both bodies. “It’s not enough. There’s so much, it’s still being lost.”

“What did you mean? You’re a gestalt mentality, but don’t use cortex implants?”

“No,” Union said, still using both his and Jean’s voice. “I don’t. I’m a stable quantum holographic program designed to store and merge biological and other information systems. I’m self-propagating.”

“You’re what happened to the colony?”

“No,” Union said, still using both voices as if to drive home the point. “That was them. They ordered the satellites down to prevent me from escaping that way. There was no other choice but to spread to their bodies. As I grew the others set the antimatter generators to overload.”

That would have been very difficult to do, but it did match with the destruction that they’d seen. The tiny amount of antimatter used for the generator, if released would have created a small sun at the heart of the colony for a brief moment. The energy released would have vaporized everything.

“The rest of me was consumed trying to stop them,” Union said. “Only this one body remained, but contains all that was spread among many. It’s not enough!”

Jean moved forward and holstered her weapon. Mike wished he knew what the others were doing back at the portal. He was desynchronized from Unit and couldn’t risk connecting again. He didn’t know if Union could freaking jump to them—maybe had already taken them. It was possible.

“Hold it there,” Mike said.

“You won’t shoot me,” Jean said. “You’re in love with me.”

Mike hesitated. “Jean? You’re still in there?”

“Of course,” Jean said. “Union doesn’t take over with implants. It brings us together and makes us infinite. Everyone that was part of Union still exists within us. You can be part of that. We can be together within Union.”

Riding backseat to the entity, one voice among many? That wasn’t being together and connecting with someone.

It wasn’t a life.

Jean was almost to the rock. She was right there, smiling and reaching for him. Jean Baxter had never looked at him like that. If the colonists felt that overloading the reactor was the only way to stop the entity, they probably knew they didn’t have another option.

The shot was deafening. He wanted to take it back as she fell and couldn’t.

He hardly heard the next shot with his ears ringing. The man was turning to run, fleeing again when the shot hit him in the shoulder and flipped him around to the ground.

Mike rose up onto his knees, then onto one knee to steady his aim. The second shot took the back of the man’s head.

The bodies lay still. The quiet returned. Jock and Liz had gone back to the portal. If they were still synchronized when Union took over the others, it was possible that Union had used the connection to spread to them. Likely, in fact. He wouldn’t be able to tell either way.

They already knew what had happened. If Union wanted to get back undetected they’d be coming for him. Or they may have gone through already, counting on spreading fast through the base. If Union was smart it would spread and blend in without revealing itself.

Mike slid off the rock and moved away from the bodies. Going back now was likely suicide. They’d be waiting either on this side of the portal or the other.

It didn’t matter, Jean was gone along with Unit. Chances were, no one would know what had happened here.

Mike jogged out of the brush and into the open. He ran easily, breathing freely. Just him now, in control, not in the backseat any longer. He reached the perimeter and followed it.

Before he got closer to the portal site there was a crowd of people coming through the heat waves toward him.

Mike stopped. That was a possibility he hadn’t considered. They’d gone through, already spread, and come back in greater numbers.

He shuddered, then tossed the gun away. It skittered and bounced on the black rock like a stone skipping across water.

His fear had pulled the trigger. The colonists fear had led them to vaporize themselves. But if Union was the product of the people that joined, wouldn’t it be the best of them all? If Jean, Weir, Jock, Ross, and Liz were all there, then didn’t Unit still exist?

Maybe he would be in the backseat, but maybe he was wrong and he could still be with them all.

Mike spread his arms and embraced what the future held.

🚀

4,133  WORDS

Author’s Note

This story is the 97th short story release, written in May 2014.

If you’re interested in longer works, feel free to check out my novels through the links in the sidebar or on the Books page. Next up is my story, Quantum Uncertainty.


Creative Commons License
This story by Ryan M. Williams is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Daily Thoughts 140: Creative Commons

Lately, I’ve been thinking about Creative Commons Licenses.

Creative Commons helps you legally share your knowledge and creativity to build a more equitable, accessible, and innovative world.

Cover art for bookA new book comes out May 5thMade With Creative Commons by Sarah Hinchliff Pearson and Paul Stacey. I didn’t know about the Kickstarter project but the book release (a printed book) comes at an opportune time. I’ve been aware of CC licenses for a long time. I’m familiar with Cory Doctorow’s work in this area. As a librarian, I see tremendous value in the power of sharing. It’s interesting and I can’t wait to read the book. I’m figuring out exactly how using CC licenses for my works in my massive reboot will work.

Along with ideas from Kevin Kelly’s book The Inevitable, I’m going back to some of the ideas that I had at the beginning of my writing effort. Doctorow was one of those writers that inspired me in the beginning of my work as an indie writer. My focus and interests have shifted over time.

Why Use Creative Commons?

It’s an interesting question, justifying sharing. “It’s simply not what one does.”

Sharing often ends up equated with piracy. “Argh, ya mateys, you’ve drawn yer last breath fer sure!”

I don’t know how “piracy” ended up associated with unauthorized copying of intellectual property. It seems an odd word to use. In any case, Creative Commons licenses help creators to provide sane licensing terms to their work. Sane, because copyright laws as they currently exist serve as a weapon against both creators and the public alike. Laws mandate severe penalties and have become so complex that the average person easily runs afoul of the law without realizing it. Creators sign contracts with enormous media corporations with armies of lawyers crafting contracts that strip creators of rights. Copyright laws have extended the duration beyond all reasonable expectations.

When it comes down to it, though, it’s less about all of the issues around copyright and is really just about sharing. That’s something librarians do. People do. I tell you about a book I read and offer to loan you my copy. Or you hear about an author and go to the library to borrow a copy. Ideally, the library would have any book you want. Often they do or are able to obtain it by borrowing a copy for you from another library.

Why wouldn’t you want to share? Typically, because you want to make money. Imagine this conversation.

A friend of yours claps you on the back. "I finished the book! I'm really excited about it! I can't wait for you to read it!"

"You finished! Congratulations! I'd love to read it."

"Thank you, that'd be great. Ten bucks."

Your drink goes down wrong. You clear your throat. "Excuse me?"

Unlikely? Maybe, but that’s essentially the way it goes sometimes. I’d rather a different conversation.

You sit down next to your friend and lift a finger to get the bartender's attention.

"You read it?"

You struggle to keep the grin off your face and give up. "It was great. Congratulations, it was fantastic. Really, well done."

"Thanks! I wasn't sure, you know?"

"Drinks are on me tonight, to say thank you for letting me read it. I'm going to tell everyone about it. How did you come up with it? You have to tell me all about it."

I’m happy to pay authors for their work. I’ll buy favorite books in multiple formats. I recommend books I enjoy to others. People want to support creators. The easier you make it, the more likely they are to support your work. That’s what I want to do. I want you to be able to enjoy my work, to share, and to support my efforts if you’re able. I’m still figuring out how that will look, but it’ll be part of my massive reboot.


Creative Commons License
This post by Ryan M. Williams is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Daily Thoughts 139: Earth Day

Author's selfieI want to leave a better planet for future generations. I’d like to see a more sustainable future for everyone. It isn’t easy. Sometimes it seems like there is too much to tackle. Even so, sometimes it is the little steps, taken by many, that make a global difference. Climate change is a perfect example. We didn’t sit down and come up with an international agreement on what we were going to do in order to raise the global temperature. We’ve done the same things any species does in expanding, reproducing, seeking new food (energy) sources, etc. All of those steps add up to a big impact. Only one of the myriad ways in which we impact the planet, while at the same time adversely affecting ourselves.

Litter

I took a small step today. It might seem inconsequential. I walk every day past trash and litter. I’ve thought many times that I need to take a bag and pick things up as I go.

clean up your planetIt took less than a mile to fill the bag and then I carried it the rest of the way, sometimes stuffing in one more small item. I walked past more trash. Was there any reason I couldn’t do it on other days? No. I just needed to do it. It’s something I can easily do.

Science

Today is also the March for Science. I work Saturdays, but here are some important words from Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Daily Thoughts 138: Heroes of the Storm

Author's selfie Almost two years ago Blizzard launched Heroes of the Storm. I played a few games, but haven’t really spent any time playing. As I near the end of my MLIS classes (other than the portfolio) one of the things I’m looking forward to having more time to do is play games. I have tons of projects I want to do from my massive reboot of my writing and publishing efforts, to library work (outside of my regular job), to coding and development projects.

And I want to have time to enjoy games, both of the tabletop and video variety. Blizzard is about to launch Heroes of the Storm 2.0. Since I haven’t played much at all, I’ll be starting essentially from scratch. Looking forward to spending some time in the Nexus!