A Chance Encounter

Looking down at his hands they were covered in grease, bleeding at the knuckles, and straining to hold the large steel lever, Luke wondered how he’d gotten himself into this mess. The room was filled with massive dust covered industrial equipment from a bygone era that were now resting silently. Luke had no idea what purpose they had served but could imagine that when running this complex was extremely loud, something he could use right now to take his mind off the pain his muscles were feeling.

The silence of that large room seemed to act as a amplifier to his pounding heart. His ears were trying to listen to the other side of the heavy steel door while his body was straining to hold whatever was there at bay. Earlier that day while he sat at his computer debugging a data feed the last thing he would imagine he’d be doing right then was leaning into a lever thinking about everything he wished he’d done with his life.

Why did he listened his boss anyway? Go for a walk he said. Get out and see the sky, the clouds,the birds he said. Now he just wished he was still in the controlled secure confines of his pod in front of his clean bright 60″ 8K display. Instead he was standing in an abandoned complex of building, who knows how many mile from the city, covered in grease and sweat and regretting the entire day.

If only he hadn’t met her that afternoon. She was so rude to him cutting him off like that. Who just cuts someone off like that and doesn’t apologize? He sat there on the ground for about 10 seconds waiting for a hand up and an apology only to realize that she was already 50 feet ahead and oblivious to the entire incident. By the time he caught up to her to give her a piece of his mind he was too winded to say anything and instead he tripped into her and they both went tumbling down. Moments later they were both laughing about the whole thing on the wet cement curb. His knuckles were gouged and bloody from the two falls but he was happy to be laughing next to a beautiful woman.

After they exchanged some flirtatious words they decided to grab a coffee and just like that his day was beginning to looking up. What he didn’t realize was that there was a reason she was riding at that obscene pace in the first place, she was running from someone. He never did find out why they were after her but when she collapsed into his arms moments later he didn’t care. As she looked up at him he could see the sorrow and regret in her eyes.

Just like that she was gone in the blink of an eye. She wasn’t bleeding out but by the extreme heat of her back he sensed that someone had done something to her. He had thought about waiting for the authorities and maybe he should have but what would he tell them? Some strange woman bumped into him, they exchanged some choice words and then she died. Ya, that wouldn’t seem suspicious or anything. At least if he had waited maybe then he wouldn’t be in the predicament he was now.

His muscles were giving out from holding the greasy lever and his teeth were starting to chatter from the cold wet clothes he’d been wearing. Even with his heart pumping and adrenalin coursing through his veins he still managed to feel bitter cold. Was this what it was like to die? A chill spreading throughout your entire body despite the desire to be alive?

The desire to be alive, that’s it, he truly didn’t want to die today. He may not have lived the most exciting life but that didn’t mean he was expendable. There was no way he was going to just sit there any longer and die in this god for shaken warehouse. He was tired of running, and needed to do something to turn the tables and take them by surprise … and quickly.

Without completely thinking it through he relaxed his muscles and removed the heavy lever from the door jam. He picked it up and and felt the weight in his hand. Yes, he could certainly use this as a weapon. Assuming he was able to get in close enough to use it of course.

Just as he was about to find a more tactical position he was thrown back by the force of the door exploding outward toward him. He didn’t take the entire brunt of the explosive force but he did take enough to blast him back about 8 feet onto his back and to have his wind knocked out. As he was gasping for air he rolled under a nearby mechanical press of some sort and was now covered in even more grime and dust that before.

Fortunately for him the grime he was covered in and his low position on the floor meant that the people entering through the door didn’t see him. They burst through with amazing speed and seemed to bound through the room with military precision. As they flowed into the room, each covering the next, he realized he was seriously outnumbered. He counted 10 already and they just kept coming.

Putting his head down in defeat on the cold wet ground he let out a final submissive sigh and he reached into his pocket in an attempt to warm his frozen hands. There down in the bottom he felt something, something foreign, something he certainly hadn’t placed there. Pulling it out and looking at it closely Luke realized that this was exactly what he needed to turn the tables in his favor.

Word Count: 973

New Year In The Outer Ring

Ryder was just starting his shift on the observation deck. Some people thought he drew the short straw since it was New Years Eve but he knew better. Ryder preferred the solitude of doing observations over the crazy party goers on the orbiting platform.

It wasn’t as if they were celebrating the New Year on Europa or Jupiter, their nearest planetoids. It was the Earth Inner Ring New Year in England that they were targeting with their celebrations. Most people thought they had chosen England due to it being GMT +0:00, Ryder knew otherwise. He knew they’d chosen England, Somerset England to be exact as a tribute to Arthur C Clark the author of the 2001: A Space Odyssey. It was a nerd tribute of solar proportions but it felt right to everyone involved. He wasn’t sure how they passed the decision in the ORSA (Outer Ring Space Alliance) but they had unanimously and with little debate.

This was the 20th anniversary since the establishment of this outpost around Europa, Jupiter’s most controversial moon. The opening years were mostly working out the mechanical kinks, transferring supplies, and exploring the surrounding area for minerals suitable for fuel and water. Once established they were now doing serious science and Ryder was the chief Astrobiologist. His mission was the mapping and exploration of Europa’s water ice oceans in search of alien biology.

Ryder never planned on submitting to be a part of this science mission. He’d actually dreamed of being a part of the Epsilon Eridani inaugural voyage but with the operational and engineering delays he knew they were at least 20 years from launch. It’s not that this wasn’t an exciting opportunity but how many people get to say they were on the first human interstellar voyage?

Sitting in that quiet observation deck Ryder couldn’t help but think about his family and what they were doing 390 million miles away in Michigan. It’d been 20 years since he left Earth and every year that passed he wished that his brother was here with him and his family. He knew they weren’t much for exploring but with the state of affairs in the Inner Ring perhaps they’d be better off on this side of the Mars Jupiter Belt. Sometimes millions of miles are all that’s needed to separate politics from science.

After the mineral wars of 2120 the miners and scientists of the Outer Ring decided to create an old school blockade. Stopping the flow of water and minerals necessary to the population of the Inner Ring meant they could make demands with little concern for repercussions. Their demands were altruistic in nature and put in place a flow of goods that tightly controlled the exponential growth of the Inner Ring while leaving the Outer Ring to their own destiny.

The result was a society of scientists, engineers, and miners that were beginning to take humanity on a path toward the stars. Choosing to abandon all forms politics and financial systems they instead treated each person as equal. The potential for the Outer Ring was only just being realized and Ryder was glad to be a part of it.

To him the New Year meant more than most everyone in that Europa station. It meant his freedom and happiness as this was the 20th year since he’d illegally fled Earth, breaking the Ring Pact, and passing through the Main Asteroid Belt to join the Outer Ring. He never dreamed he’d become an illegal immigrant but with his extensive biology education he was able to quickly divert attention from his background and worked his way up the scientific ladder to his current station.

Few people in the Outer Ring questioned Ryder’s background because they believed their education system superior to that of the Inner Ring. Certainly someone from the IR couldn’t know as much or be as skilled as Ryder. What they didn’t plan for was the raw determination and motivation of someone looking to improve their position in life within the IR. With a few million well placed IR credits and thousands of illegally taped hours of Outer Ring courses he received his virtual accreditation under an assumed name. All that remained for him was a 400 million mile voyage between 3 planets, an asteroid belt, and countless military check points to take his exams.

Looking back on it tonight Ryder knew he had much to celebrate this and every New Year. Even if it was an arbitrary celebration of a random point in time on a planet most of the people in the Outer Ring had never set foot … he still embraced its significance. After 20 years of happiness he finally felt like he was a part of something bigger than himself, something bigger than them all.

Word Count: 795

Smooth Even Circles

Floyd could see for miles into the distance. The sun was just rising above the horizon and the air had a moist chill that caused his breath to fog ever so slightly when he exhaled. The animals around him were slowly waking to find an intruder in their midst.

As Floyd scanned the horizon he could feel his body reaching a point of perfect harmony. Much as the environment he was in was fresh and in perfect balance so was his body. His muscles were well rested and warming perfectly. His mind was clear and he was already feeling the stress of the week beginning to release.

All of the late work days, stressful meetings, short deliverables, and fast pace decisions were taking a toll on Floyd. He was beginning to feel every one of his 41 years. Moments like this were what kept him feeling alive and absorbed some of the weeks mental toll.

As he came upon a bend in the road Floyd could see his first big challenge, a steep rise about 100 yards ahead. This was a challenge he was ready for, his mind knew exactly what to do. The transition happened almost without thought, something his body longed for and felt at easy doing. A shift of weight, a change in force, a few adjustments and he was sailing upward with ease.

Breathing heavier now Floyd felt his body digging in and sapping a bit of energy. He knew this hill wasn’t long but it’s steepness was almost worse than if it had been a slow steady rise, at least for his body type.

Floyd had always been a big guy his entire life. He’d worked for years to lose weight and with some initial success he’d lost a lot but gained some back. The times he let the weekly stresses get in the way of his outlets contributed to that gain. Most people would look at him passing by and wonder why or how someone with his body type was doing it? They were certain that something would break or perhaps he’d topple over at any moment. But, he’d defy their preconceived ideas of what “being fit” meant and push onward ever stronger and motivated.

Cresting the hill he relaxed a bit, shifted up a bit to give his legs a rest and smiled from ear to ear. “Damn this felt great” he said to no one in particular. He was happy he’d chosen not to go too high tech with carbon and had instead chosen titanium for his frame. Under the load of climbing not only was his frame perfectly responsive to someone his size but his confidence, which is certainly more important, was high. It’s not about the bike right?

Shifting into the big ring in the front be began accelerating and preparing for a fast straight decent ahead. His weight was in the middle, he was spinning smooth even circles, and was dropping gear after gear in his rear cassette before finally ending in the smallest cog, his largest gearing ratio. He was speeding at close to 45 mph and still had room for a more, he felt in complete control. The decent was straight, the road was smooth and clean and there wasn’t a car or another person in sight.

He was in the zone now. Smooth even circles … no jitter or mashing on the pedals. Smooth even circles. Tucked and in the drops he must have been quite the sight, close to 300 pounds speeding down the road on a 15 pound titanium steed at 45 mph.

As Floyd reached the bottom of the hill he scanned ahead for his next challenge. It was a nearly flat road for miles ahead. There were slight undulations here and there thrown in every so often to remind your legs to stay ready for anything. It was the kind of road perfect for clearing his mind and just thinking about the things that mattered in life. The things that made him smile and happy to be alive.

That stressful week Floyd was seeking to release was the furthest thing from that strip of asphalt road right then. It was instead replaced by a zen like physical and mental state. His muscles were in a steady state of lactic acid buildup and release. His legs were spinning the smooth even circles he’d trained so hard to attain over the winter. Hours spent on his basement trainer trying to teach his body to find that pedaling balance. That zone where you’re not wasting energy mashing and feel in complete control of the energy potential of your body and bike.

Smooth even circles, an outlet which Floyd thought was ideal for all of life’s challenges and curveballs.

Word Count: 792

On My Writing Workflow

Writing going forward is going to be both fun and challenging. I thought about it a lot yesterday as I wrote for the first time and worked on setting up the website. I thought about what I would write and when I would write it. I thought about the tools I’d use to minimize the interrupts and distractions. I thought about a lot, mostly because I tend to over analyze things but also because I’m excited about writing.

I don’t really have the time early in the morning to write as I usually work out at 5:00 am and then head to work around 6:30 am. I do have around 30 minutes of time when I’m on the train in the morning and in the evening on the return trip home. I think that’s the ideal time to write uninterrupted with as few distractions as possible. What I’m hoping though is that the train time doesn’t force my writing into a particular direction or box.

Heading into work my mind is usually winding up for the day thinking about what needs to be done or what stressors I’m about to take on (insert demanding traders). Working in the financial trading industry as a programmer is very challenging and taxing mentally. This means that by the time I’m heading home I’m usually mentally drained and most nights just end up reading twitter, my RSS feeds, or a good book.

So between the winding up at the start of the day and winding down at the end I’m hoping to take some time to write. This leaves late at night to write as well but given the fact that I have a loving wife and kids waiting for me I don’t see that happening until well after 8 o’clock.

So before even starting this endeavor it seems I have some challenging goals … all the more reason I need to stay organized and focused on making this work each day. One of the things I’m doing to stay focused is creating a workflow that should make it easier for me to write, edit, and publish without thinking. Most of the time should be focused on writing and little to none on the other two steps. I’m not discounting the editing step, I’m just trying to focus on writing what comes to mind and less about making it perfect.

I’ll be doing most of my writing on my iPad Air, though I can’t rule out using my Macbook from time to time either as I can certainly type faster. For editors on the iPad I’m trying out a few (Ulysses, iA Writer, Byword, Editorial, WordPress, Plaintext, and WriteRoom). The best so far has been Ulysses (which I’m using right now) though it lacks the upload abilities I’d like to simplify my workflow. I can always copy & paste into WordPress and just hit the publish button though which is pretty simple. It’s also a markdown editor which means I can write everything in a nerd friendly format and yet it’s still rich when published.

I have yet to try out Ulysses on the Mac as it costs too much for this early stage in my project. It does have iCloud sync support which is awesome and the developers seem really responsive to users. Perhaps on month 2 or 3 when I’m certain this is going to work and want to try something new. I don’t want to waste a ton of time twiddling and toying with applications later though as that’ll likely eat into my writing time.

For my blog I’m going with my trusted use of WordPress. I’ve used it for years and can configure it pretty quickly. I’m trying to select (or tweak) a theme that’s focused on reading and nothing else. Again, I don’t want to spend the time twiddling and tweaking my blog, I’m doing that all now. I want to focus on writing and at most maybe approving comments or replying to them (assuming anyone reads this).

From time to time if I read something that inspires me I’ll link to it. It could be a blog post, a book, or something else. I’ll try to do the linking as a footnote in the piece or if it makes sense inline. Given the writing is the focus here and not the link I’m leaning toward footnotes.

Finally at the end of each writing I’ll be putting the word count. Mostly to stay accountable to the goal of 750 words but also so you can get a feel for the length of each piece.

Word Count: 765

First Words

Ever since I was little I wanted to be a writer. I used to spend countless hours volunteering at my local bookshop, Shelby Books. I’d read and reread so many Isaac Asimov, Greg Bear, David Brin, and countless other science fiction novels. I think that’s what made me start writing my first blog years ago, I wanted to write. To put into words all of my thoughts, ideas, and feelings but I never had the confidence nor the skills to do so. I say that because I was convinced by my teachers (and others) that I couldn’t write.

From my high school English teacher to college placement tests I was convinced I was behind in English. While this may have been true in one more form it didn’t lessen my creativity or desire to write, it just delayed the proverbial casting of the ideas and thoughts onto paper.

So instead of following a dream to write I took to programming instead. The mathematic (my second love) logic of programming gave me an alternate outlet to be creative. Programming has been a lot of fun and a very rewarding career but I’ll be honest, it’s not writing.

Programming has a logical flow and set of constraints that must be followed, without exception. There is no creative liberty, no blurring of the lines … there’s only rules. You can get creative putting patterns together and creating complex systems that seem to be “creative” but they’re nothing more than large and complex state machines or automata executing the patterns you’ve predefined.

Stories however, that’s a different thing entirely. Each story you write can be entirely different with new characters and ideas. It can take the reader on entirely different emotional journeys. As you define each part of the plot or character you color the readers vision of them. You can’t precisely control those feelings but you can certainly develop them.

In programming it’s as simple as chaining if/the/else statements to control flow. In writing you can’t say, if reader likes this then feel this and interpret this exactly like this. Imagine writing a novel about an experience you had or a character had in Italy. Now imagine how someone who’s never left their home town reading this story vs someone native to Italy. They’re going to have completely different impressions of the novel (especially if you get any facts wrong). That’s not how programming works, you’re either syntacticly correct or you’re not. You’ve either defined your programs logic flow correctly to solve the problem or you haven’t. Once compiled and running there isn’t anything left to interpretation that will change the flow (bugs aside).

So one has to wonder how someone who grew up in logical thought and programming is going to transition into writing. Your guess is as good as mine but that’s sorta the point of this writing I’m doing now. My goal is to write 750 words shorts as often as possible. To just write, to practice the craft of converting my thoughts into words. Break down gaps, learn how to develop characters, and sometimes I imagine just dump random thoughts or frustrations that are blocking me onto virtual paper. I’ll never write about my work, I’ve always kept that separation of personal from professional throughout me career.

So to get the other guidelines out of the way. I’m far from grammatically correct but if you want to give me constructive criticisms I’d be happy to take them. I’m hoping to get better as I write more. I’ll be researching and studying along the way. I don’t want to read like a choppy baboon and I’d prefer to master the craft rather than butcher it. This was one of the things that my teachers never helped with. I changed schools right in the middle of learning sentence structure. The school I left was starting to learn these things and the one I entered was finishing it up. From there it was all down hill and lots of feelings of being behind in English. So bear with me and please help me along the way if you’re up for it.

Think of this as an exercise in creative writing and author voyeurism. You may enjoy watching me fail, flounder, or who knows, you may be watching the beginnings of something interesting and worth reading … something completely unexpected and intriguing. Neither of us knows which path(s) we’ll traverse, which stars we’ll investigate, or what past skeletons we’ll explore in the name of creative exploration.

Word Count: 786