Christmas on The Orcus, non-poem style

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Christmas, Somewhere in the Galaxy.

The Magnatar class ship held in orbit around the “Super Earth” at forty-thousand meters above the ground.

Well above the traffic lanes for aircraft that flew from hither and yon. The crew of the large ship parked it with great care while the pirate King strode around his command center at the top of the ship.

The Orcus was a powerful ship that logged many hours in trips between planets for negotiations for trade and peaceful coexistence in the United Confederation of Pirates. A label put on the outlying colonies by the Empire. They were all self-governed and traded with each other with no control or supervision by the Momo Empire. No one could be happier than the colonists.

After negotiations, the crew was tired. They had stopped at a half-dozen planets, secured agreements with every one of them.

Delivered gifts of the one time of year that was held onto by the humans to bring out the best of each other.

Still, the bachelor King, Ruu’ta O’Danu. From a long line of scofflaws, scallywags, rogues and leaders stood with his arms crossed in thought.

One crewman, the weapons and flight space officer, his daughter was just born, it was her first Christmas for this family.

Another, her mother died in the last month (Against the Kings mandate that no one dies during this time.) but she stayed at her post. Even when the King performed his duties as Ruu’tan she acted stoic. But, the king noticed the trickle of tear from one eye that traced down Chief Sharan Nayaan’s cheek in quiet moments.

They were too far away for her to go home to bury her mother, weeks out at maximum speed.

Sigh The crew was beyond their limit. Each member of the dozen ship’s crew had needs to go home. Even if it was to make contact over the holidays.

He took a position on the bridge, behind his chair and had a thought.

“Chief, ship-wide communication to my station please.”

The surprise announcement. Everyone had a five-day pass. Two days before, the day of and then two days after the time on earth where everyone sang, and felt a little nicer.

King Ryan O’Danu saw everyone off, transporters operated full-time, three drop pods took the teams down to their hub points.

One lieutenant had a sky-surfer he had modified himself, and, to the laughter of the red-headed master of the ship, flew it off of the landing pad that he ordered deployed from the side of the ship.

From there, the crew all went to their homes.

Last on the ship, a Magnatar class heavy cruiser, was the leader of the planet himself.

King Ryan O’Danu, his line of leaders went back to an age of sail and wooden ships. The first pirate, family legend had it, was a child that was kidnapped by the government. The child became a king of the sea and started a family dynasty.

Today, the king was simply a man alone on board of a flying battleship. He strolled about the empty ship, the quiet undertone of electronics his only company.

Standing on the landing pad, he watched until Lieutenant Antares was no longer visible. When the King turned back to the ship, he noted a blemish on the hull. A meteor impact when they orbited the mining colony that suffered a storm of flying rocks when two ‘roids collided nearby. The teams that mined the raw materials needed their shields repaired and King O’Danu brought the royal ship in as a blocker until the colonists and ship’s engineers got the system up and running again.

It had been a busy time for the run-up to these days of family and reaffirmation of life and love. They had worked hard to renew contracts, deliver gifts and assure that peace would last for at least another month.

Now it was over, other than the pit on the side of his ship, painted to look like a Killer Whale of earth. The ship was a well known force, and it the pride of the master of the ship, never shot any of its weapons in anger.

He tapped on a palm-held display and a ladder built by the Rose Suchuk company rolled out on its own wheels.

An hour later, he finally finished. He’d leave the ladder out to climb again later and inspect the fit and finish of the repairs. (He was picky like that.)

“Computer, Celtic traditional drums.” He said when he made his way to the lounge of the ship. “Collapse ladder, but leave in airlock for further use. Seal Airlocks.”

He sat at the table in the lounge, drinking an eggnog with rum from Lats-Ute mining colony. Finger foods, from Gray Kitchens on his own planet.

He laughed. If the ships chief medical officer saw what he ate now, Lynn McCoy M.D. would issue a health report on him and make him do extra physical training.

His cup was empty, but the view was grand. King O’Danu shook his head, he was not about to give up his view and poured another jigger of rum, shrugged, then just filled the cup with the dark liquid.

An hour passed while he read novels of distant lands and other worlds when his eyes started to droop.

“Computer, nightwatch. Sensors on passive scan. Environmental shields only.” He sighed. “I might want to go out later for a view of the stars.”

The king thought about his telescope, he’d like to do some stargazing later.

It was important that the shields would keep a layer of warm, pressurized air around the ship for him to breathe if he used the pad outside.

Whooo… I’m buzzed. That was potent stuff. He rubbed his eyes, they felt dry. He had been up and going for twenty-hours straight today. In the last few weeks, he slept only three hours out of every twenty-four. They may live on a ship, but the force of his circadian rhythm still forced him to hibernate a few hours per day.

In the captain’s quarters, Ryan peeled off his carbon fiber body armor and crawled into the bed and pulled the dense, heavy blanket up to his head.

He liked a cool room with the a blanket.

His mind drifted, the ship was secure, he set the systems and he was safe. No one would dare approach a Magnatar class, fully armed battleship with evil on their minds.

Then.

The unthinkable!

Alarms sounded.

Ruu’tan and King of Garnet-4, then leader of the council of the Pirate Confederation. Ryan O’Danu lept out of bed like a cat spooked on Halloween.

Proximity alert Proximity alert Negative response on IFF

Lights were at full bright, which dazzled him for a moment. Ryan ran to his desk were basic control systems were active.

“Computer, display sensor contact.” He rubbed his eyes, but not out of fatigue.

On the display, the contact was small. Only enough room for, maybe, four people.

“Overlay readings with Orcus in relative center.”

A hundred-thousand feet lower but climbing rapidly. He thought.

No one is scheduled to come back for four more days.

The display glowed with a 3-D overlay.

“Magnify.”

Then he gasped.

The speed at this target tracked, it approached the ship, cannon and defensive systems came online.

Phased energy weapons locked on.

Crap!” King Ryan knew what the targets was. He had to shut this system off at the command center. The weapons command and control had not been transferred, only navigation. ran down the gangway and hung a hard right, skipping the lift, he climbed the emergency ladder next to it and flopped over onto the floor.

The main display showed with detail not available to him in his bedroom.

“Computer, display HD display on holograph map of 3-D space, overlay Orcus as relative center and give readout on altitude and direction.” He thought a moment. “Speed and mass.”

“Working. Speed is thousand meters per second, mass of two-thousand two hundred kilograms. Reading ten life signs. One biped humanoid, nine quadruped of the Rangifer tarandus.”

“Rangifer. What is common name of Rangifer whatever you said.”

“Rangifer Tarandus, common name reindeer.”

“Reindeer? Rein…” his eyes grew big. “Oh Jeeze!”

“Computer, disable defensive systems.” King O’Danu yelled. “Stand down shields, stow the guns.”

“Power down. Alert, target is tracking to landing pad.”

“Oh good.”

“Danger, there is an obstruction in on the pad.”

“I requested the ladder in the airlock.”

“Manual override engaged on brakes, ladder is stationary.”

Ryan slapped himself in the forehead and ran down the stairs, taking them two at a time. At the bottom of the stairs, he tripped over the automated janitor and ended up in a pile next to the door.

Outside, clatter and noise of a landing.

“Computer, send warning to contact, danger on…”

A voice sounded through the intercom.

“Ahoy in ..oh balls!” and the sound of a body hitting the deck.

King Ryan ran down the gangway, slipping on golden elf-dust and overshooting the doorway and ended up, for the second time, in a pile on the floor. This time near his quarters.

“Sorry, Nicholas! I was fixing a meteor hit and left it out for inspection later.”

“Yeah, you left a trap for me. I know!” The shaggy white mane shook as he laughed at the joke. “I have some deliveries to here. Special ones.”

“I don’t have anyplace good to put them, over in the lounge on the bar would work well enough.” Ryan said.

“What’s this? You don’t have a tree.”

“Trees on Garnet-4 are all protected, this is one barren rock, you know.”

“This planet is, but Sapphire isn’t, nor is Palindrome Prime.”

“Yeah, but with PP you can’t tell which way your going.”

“Ryan.” The old elf turned around. “I can take these all back and assign you a Cadet Elf. Her name is Moonbottom.”

“Eh… Moonbottom?”

“She sent a gift to the wrong person, supposed to send a puppy to one boy named Brighthill in the Carolinas of the US on earth. Instead, she sent the pet to a Miss Elisabum in London who had coal coming.”

“Coal? From you? She must have been quite bad.”

“No no.” He pulled out another gift from the bag he carried in. “She is very poor. A lump of coal could warm her for the season.”

“Must be some lump.”

“About a ton.”

“OH! Well, in that context, I can see that.”

“Now for your tree.”

“You do not have a tree in that…” He went slack-jawed and silent.

“An Immortal tree. Sequoia Sempervirens. It is rooted on the bottom, too. When you get this craft on the ground, plant this tree. It’ll grow. You also have a warehouse full of these to plant along the coastal areas as of now. You have perfect zones for it.”

“How did you get these trees? They are protected and endangered.” Ryan stroked the green, feathery growth that served as needles for the evergreen tree. “I didn’t think the government would allow them off world.”

“Yes, actually. They are spreading them everywhere. So you have a hundred-thousand seedlings, ready for planting.”

“Thank you, I will have people on it after Christmas. You are a saint.” Ryan paused and thought a moment. “How many gifts are you leaving?”

“You have quite the shopping list. Why do you ask?”

“Ooh, nothing. I am having alerts, the ship is compensating for the weight of your deer and sleigh.”

“Reindeer.” Nicholas corrected. “Oh, my back. I have another billion stops to do tonight.”

“How do you do that? You cannot even go a second per stop, that’d take you longer than thirty-years.”

“Thirty-one years, nine-months, one and a half weeks and one hour. Roughly.” Nicholas groaned again as he stood. “But we have the Einstein Time Exception Device. The rest of the universe slows to a crawl, while me and anyone nearby is sped up. Elf Bernard came up with using the formula eons ago.”

“Oh, one more thing.” He handed Ryan a box. “This is a special request. It keeps all the good wishes for you, nice and safe.”

He turned and the old man nearly fell to a knee again.

Yeah, he gets some medicinal drink. The King of Garnet-4 thought to himself.

“Nick, have a seat. I’ll make you something ot warm the cockles of your heart.”

Nick sat back in a chair with a sigh.

“I’m a little tired of milk and cookies tonight. I’d take a carrot.”

“Carrots are…” Ryan called from galley. “For the reindeer! And I have a whole bag for them.”

“As you wish.”

Ryan brought out a pitcher of hot water, a mix he had created a few days before of maple sugar, vanilla, butter and cinnamon, hot water and rum.

They talked far into the night, each comparing notes with the other.

“You might have been told you are autistic as a child, King O’Danu, but you have done such good things with other people. You have shown other people who there is no label that you cannot overcome. You should be proud of all the negotiations you have done.” The white beard shook as the eyes crinkled behind the glasses in rum-warmed humor. “That said, I have a lot of stops to do and I am going to have to do something special. I must go.”

King O’Danu picked up the heavy bag, it felt nearly empty, but if he shook it, it made a sound, as if boxes rubbed together.

“Don’t shake that.” Nick smiled. “At the rate you are going, you’ll have my job someday. You are a good man. Ruu’tan Ryan O’Danu, King of this planet.

Ryan walked with the older man out to the landing pad of the ship, where he climbed up into the ancient anachronism. The conveyance was a throwback of nearly five-centuries. But the antlered reindeer were muscular and, quite literally, glowing gold.

Adjusting his had, he slurred his words slightly.

“Good rum. Keep up the good work, Ryan. Merry Christmas.” He pulled at his beard for a moment and then said softly.

“Ho ho ho.” And Santa was gone.

Watching the old man disappear from sight. He felt an old familiar pain.

King O’Danu walked back into the ship and hit a button and the landing pad withdrew into the ship, and he heard an old familiar refrain.

“Merry Christmas to all, to all a good night.”

Ryan laughed as the airlocks were sealed.

“Good night to you, too, old man.” Ryan said to the 3-D map as it tracked the small target, accelerating up and away, already at the edge of sensor range at relativistic speeds. “Merry Christmas to you too.”

Ryan O’Danu, descendant of Keegan O’Danu, the first pirate of the family, turned off all the lights. And set the defense systems to alert status and went to bed. The rum had definitely gone to his head.

When he woke up in the morning, he would laugh as he got out of bed. He was so drunk, he dreamed that Santa came and visited. Which everyone knew was a figment of his booze addled imagination.

Which made the existence of a pile of gifts all the more difficult to explain in the morning.

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Married by Mistake Chapter 52. Kaylee! Turn On The News!

MbM
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Chapter 52. Kaylee! Turn on the News!

In the week that followed the crazy phone call from Melanie , Kaylee’s thoughts spun like a tornado in her head and the idea to stop at the airport to check on when Tom might return seemed more like a good idea every day.

After two weeks of nag texts by her sister, Kaylee took Melanie to the airport to find when Tom would be scheduled to return.

Melanie’s eyes reflected bright surprise when her older sister drove past the commercial airline terminals and followed around Earhart Street to a gate marked ‟Restricted Access”.

‟Now where?” Melanie asked as they rolled up to the gate.

Kaylee just smiled and punched in a code on a keypad mounted on a steel post.

The gate opened slowly with no more drama than if they had pressed the remote for the garage door at home.

‟Oh my god!” Melanie laughed. “You have access!”

‟You know, you say that a lot?” Kaylee chuckled. Sister’s, were the best friends.

‟Well, when did you get Secret Squirrel access?”

‟Tom gave it to me when had the Wizard’s hull cleaned and serviced here.”

‟Cleaned and serviced?”

‟Yeah, things grow on the hull if he leaves it in the water too long and he had to have it cleaned for travel to different places.” Kaylee blinked then covered her face with a hand. ‟Oh crap, I sound like a snob plane owner.”

Melanie laughed harder as they drove around the parking area to the big hanger and parked next to other private cars.

Their car was decidedly out-of-place, even the pickup trucks that were there, were new and expensive looking. Kaylee’s beat-up, creaky import car, in comparison, appeared rather sad among the upscale cars from the ‟Big-3” American builders and one European exotic car that the girls suspected as a compensation for someone’s ego.

Kaylee led her sister to the human sized door in the moving wall and tried the knob and found it unlocked.

They opened the door and walked inside the fluorescent-lighted interior. Several planes sat around while technicians turned wrenches and climbed on ladders as the doctors-with-wrenches went about and serviced their winged patients.

‟This way to the office.” She told Melanie. ‟We’ll ask about the Pacific Wizard.”

Ten-minutes later, they walked out of the office, disappointed.

‟That was a lost cause.” Melanie ground her teeth in frustration.

‟What gets me is that they didn’t even know who he was.” Kaylee answered quietly.

‟Ask the guy with the clipboard?” Her sister pointed to a stationary man in a white coat.

‟It might get us kicked out, but yeah.”

Walking up to the man with the board he was tapping on. It was a tablet computer and he was calling it every vile name in the book.

“You useless piece of electronic equipment, your mom was a pocket calculator and rode in everyone’s pocket…”

‟Excuse me.” Kaylee said, she recognized the man as one of the techs that worked on the Wizard.

“May I help you?” The tech seemed both irritated and relieved at the interruption.

‟The Pacific Wizard, you worked on it last month?”

‟You’ll have to be more specific than that.” Without looking up from his infuriating tablet. ‟Check in the office for the status of the plane.”

‟No, I mean the flying boat that you steam-cleaned and painted the hull last month and did some checks?”

‟Oh yes. Tom’s plane.” Tablet man looked up. ‟Say, aren’t you the woman that lived on it, too?”

‟Yeah, I’m back at school now.” Kaylee blushed. ‟Do you know when Tom will be back?”

‟No sorry, I don’t expect him back. It was the first time he had ever been here for service.” He pulled off his hard-hat and rubbed his bald head. ‟I heard his plans were to go to England, but he was hurt in an accident. So I don’t know if he went but I know he picked up his plane here and left with a full load of fuel a few weeks ago. I was in the office when he paid up. First time I have ever seen a black signature card.”

Kaylee thanked him and began to walk back to the car with Melanie when he called after them.

‟Miss?” He pulled at his salt and pepper goatee. “He mentioned plans about business in Japan and Singapore then to Australia, or the other way around, I don’t remember.”

‟Thank you.” Kaylee smiled sadly.

In the car on the way out, Melanie watched her sister.

“He will never be back.” Kaylee said with a sob after they got on the highway.

‟Maybe you can find him in the email?”

‟I never emailed him, I was always with him. I don’t know how to get ahold of…” Then her eyes got big and said one name. “Lettie.”

‟Who?”

‟Limo company owner in Northern California, Tom’s supported her in the past. They’re friends.” Kaylee sounded pleased remembering Lettie’s name.

Back at the apartment, Kaylee called Lettie’s number and she picked up on the first ring.

‟Kaylee ! I had a thought about you the other day.” Her smile could be felt through the phone. ‟I didn’t want to have you as a lost friend. How are things?”

Kaylee updated Lettie while Melanie made some tea.

‟Tom has an itinerary to go from Japan down to Australia in his new jet.”

‟New jet?”

‟The Pacific Wizard.”

‟Oh, I didn’t know it was new.”

‟Oh yeah, less than a year old, he got it to replace the Sea Dragon when his novel got picked up for a movie.” Kaylee could hear Lettie coördinate her business operations and tell her cousin ‟Limo-3 got requested for this.” A sigh and the sound of papers and the tap of keys. ‟Sorry, Kaylee .”

‟No problem.” Kaylee smiled. Lettie was an awesome person. ‟I just want to find out how to get ahold of Tom again.”

‟You did the deed and now want it back. The normal answer is ‟no”. A pause as she typed again on the keyboard of her business. “But I like you and I think Tom would like me to help. The only contact information I have is through his agent.”

‟Yeah, that is not a good email anymore. He fired her.”

‟I recall. Sorry Kay… Uh, Kaylee ? Do you have cable tv? You might want to turn on a headline channel. Tom’s in the news.” Lettie sounded alarmed. “It looks like he’s been arrested!”

“What!” Kaylee stood up from the chair she had settled in.

She pointed and waved at Melanie to get her to turn on the TV they flipped around the channels until they found a headline news station and there, in an Asian airport surrounded by armed guards, was the Pacific Wizard.

‟Lettie, I gotta go!” Kaylee gasped out. “Thank you for all that you have done for me!”

Kaylee hung up the phone and both sisters stood in front of a television transfixed by a news reporter who spoke in even tones of a news story about a reclusive man who insisted that people call him by his first name where ever he went.

They had found Tom.

Short (okay more medium), Sweet (okay, maybe not so sweet) and a Grumble.

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TWO-hundred mile drive, a promise made to Dads are as important as a promise by a dad to a child.

I said I would be there for the meeting with Mama Dash and her new oncologist.

When I arrived, about 3:30 pm local time, Papa Dash and I were talking and he said that about 2:00 local time, the Drs office called him and wanted to move the meeting up an hour.

He said no. 1. People (me) were coming from out-of-town and were currently out of contact. (All that line-of-sight stuff with phones and mountains)

2. Just no. Transport has been arranged, again, people from out-of-town and chemo is on the schedule for tomorrow. (Thursday) and they require her isolation for two days afterwards.

Yes, forty-eight hours after treatment, she is forbidden to have physical contact with anyone or leave her room. People cannot touch her, if they do, they must wash, surgeon style before they move anywhere out of the facility.

As I sit there and check on things, get updated by Papa Dash and help Mama out of the bed into a wheelchair (needing to use the lady’s room) I paged for the nursing assistant to do the other end of the job, I can move her, but the lady’s room has a line I won’t cross.

3:55 rolls around, we are getting all our plans planned. Questions written down, and I said that the transport unit had arrived.

Then it left.

“Um… Dad, it’s not out there anymore.”

4:00 PM. Meeting is at 4.15. Drive time is 10 minutes.

That is not a lot of time for loading, driving, offloading and such.

Rehabilitation center calls the transport company, transport company says they never got the call from the Dr’s office. A call to the Doctors office?

They moved the meeting up to 3:00.

No one was notified.

What?

Long story short… well…medium…

Doctor’s meeting now is on Thursday at noon.

“noon? When the office is closed normally?” A-yuh.  So it seems.

We’ll find out. So now I am sleeping on my sisters sofa, and not drive 200 miles home, then 200 miles back in the morning.

I am being entertained by the 11-year-old, sitting and talking. But now she has gone to bed. Leaving me with two cages of hamsters. One with a dozen BRAND new baby hamsters. (anyone want a couple?)

They don’t squeak loud, but they do squeak.

Papa Hamster is on the wheel trying to run away.

This is going to be a long night.

Meeting in the morning, record all the doctor has to say, ask questions and then we do a family “Round Table” discussion afterwards to weigh our options.

My only thought now.

If YOU as a patient call THAT MORNING to your doctor and request to change the appointment. They will, but they will charge you for the missed visit.

Or if you DON’T call and unilaterally change it. You get charged.

This is wrong on many levels for the thought that the office in turn can just dismiss the appointment and, in this case move it UP by over an hour without people knowing.

Will the office now charge for a missed appointment?

I realize that sometimes MD’s get emergency calls.  But a specialty like oncology, emergency response from the MD is not a common issue.  Not like a trauma surgeon, or an active cardiologist that might be in surgery longer than expected or has an emergency call.

So why move it up by an hour? or… Why move it up and NOT tell ANYONE? Rehab center, transport company, …patient?

Maybe we should charge that office for our time wasted. Fortune has it, of course I did budget for the fuel for this trip. But not for the time lost for tomorrow.

Ah well. Tomorrow is another day.

Update on Mama Dash:

She is getting stronger, quickly, but it still looks like at least another week of weakness to overcome before she can come home to a house that she would have trouble navigating around in.

Upside:

I have practiced some archery “magic” for the 11 and 16-year-old to watch.

I can shoot a smiley face into a target using about 10 arrows.

But I do it upside umop and then turn it over so it appears familiar.

“Have a nice day.”

I do enjoy being the “cool” uncle. Just as I do being the “Cool” dad. (Drives Princess #2 crazy, a lot of HER friends have broken homes, parents hate each other and fight in courts. Then the kids come over to our house and tell her she has cool parents. She has nothing to complain about.)

So that is my blog for the night. Not long, but not short. I am still annoyed with the Dr’s office for unilaterally changing the meeting without confirmation by ->anyone<- that they are even aware.

But I am pleased to be a part of this family, we are awesome- (Well, they are awesome, I am just “okay”, working on fine, good, great and then awesome). We might take it in the shorts and we still pull it together.

Fiction is delayed for a few days, but I will keep you updated on the RL adventures of the prince of unpublished, undiscovered, unknown un-novels!

Dash

 

 

 

Dear Universe: Chapter 2. Be Continued

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2. Be Continued

Smoke was heavy as the ‟helo” came in for a landing on the mountaintop. Winds were unpredictable, but the hand crew deployed quickly as they expertly handed out the tools of their trade.

Brush hooks – a kind of curve-bladed ax that looks like a shepard’s staff with a razor’s edge that they used to cut and drag brush out of the fire break

Pulaski grubbing tools – An ax on one side and a trenching and grubbing tool on the other. Looks like a cousin to a pick.

McLeod – a hoe and rake combination built on the toughest proportions. Probably the least favorite tool that the crews used, but the most useful.

The R-5 Fire shovel. A short-handled round nose shovel with a sharpened edge for cutting through roots and digging quickly. Used for scraping ground and throwing dirt on fire for direct suppression. Often used to do final clean up by the firefighter crew and are last in line of a firefight often called the drag shovel.

Firefighter bodies were ready for this. Trained, hardened by repeated morning abuse called ‟Physical Training”. The team of men and woman would perform a series of stretches and aerobic exercises that ended with a five-mile run. All before sunrise and breakfast.

All summer, they would sweat more before breakfast than most people did all day. Polishing and sharpening their tools, checking equipment, then a half hour after breakfast they would load up and head to scheduled  projects for inspection or maintenance of brush clearing on roadways in the back-country. Gloves and hard-hats worn, they would test or inspect construction areas. There was little area of the mountainous terrain that they did not step foot in, a thousand square-miles that they protected with their brethren of other operational bases or centers. Dad often called her “Princess” and told her of things he did during the days he was away in his letters.

‟Continuing: It is twelve-hours later, we have cut almost five-kilometers of line in an area that is too hazardous for bulldozers. I’m seriously tired, but we need to eat here in a bit, the sun has gone down and we are now in a parking lot-sized area where the helicopters land. I see a comfy rock that we are going to sleep on in a little while. In the meantime, my meal is cooking in a can. Someone brought some spam (Yes, I know, but when you are hungry and tired, everything is a banquet!) and we are cooking it over a candle powered stove in its own can.”

‟We need to eat and then get back to the line, we are to join up with another crew that is cutting towards us. The fire is about two miles off.. probably you use metric when you are reading this so that would be a little over three kilometers and moving in our direction. We are cutting this line below the ridge top and backfiring as we go. (That is, we are burning it up to the ridge.) Food! Be back later. Don’t go away.”

She laughed. Writing on paper and he puts her on hold. ‟Don’t go away.” Once again, reminded that he was always next to her in her heart.

She remembered and loved his sense of humor.

‟Back! It is now another ten-hours later, I’m making a hike out with the rest of the crew. We had crews airlifted in, but we were out of position to get a ride, so… While we are on a break from our walk out I need to catch you up, quick. We cut a line around this old hill and hooked up with the Pine Mountaineers crew, your mom’s old party station. My crew, Iron Canyon Kings were with them when the USFS did a backfire that became a giant operation. It was not planned. (HAHAHA!) the small backfire kinda backfired. But it stopped the main front in the end. It was USFS’s game plan, but the vegetation was dryer than predicted and a bit of an uphill wind did more than expected. No one was hurt, but I don’t think the US Forest Ranger will handle a drip-torch like that again. HAHA! The backfire flared a bit more than planned and there were a few moments of a significant pucker-factor.”

She laughed. His stories of the fireline were always an adventure.

‟Anyway, we’re hiking again. We have three hours of steady walking to go, after that? I get on a bus and head back to the deployment area. We have been out here for two-weeks now and I expect the fire  will be fully contained by the end of our down-time. Three days before this all started, your mom said we were expecting you to join us in less than a year. This is simply awesome! Anyway. Not much to write as far as a letter goes. This little bit o’paper will get stuffed into a file somewhere along with many others I hope to write. Anyway. Love you, (baby boy or baby girl!) Dad.

PS. Need to get used to that now, don’t I?”

She missed him, wherever he was. The advertisement in the magazine for wildland firefighters to go to a third world country that was suffering from a severe drought and fires that were threatening to devastate the ecology and economy.

The large salary offered was too tempting to pass up. So Dad went when it was winter in the northern hemisphere to fight fires at the bottom of the world for six months.

And never came home.

A year later, a the government sent a half-dozen boxes back. The helicopter transporting firefighters crashed with only one broken radio call for help. The helicopter identifier called with ‟Mayday!” then silence. Destruction of the air transport was complete, some of the local war-clans had stripped the damaged aircraft and burned the rest without thought of reporting or even admission of involvement.

Of a dozen-firefighters and two pilots in the flight, the charred remains of the only ones that could be identified were in coffins.

The search and rescue reported that the area around the Blackhawk transport was:

‟Complete combustion of airframe and personnel.”

Official speak for nothing was left.

So she stood with a file folder of hand-written letters tucked into a handwritten book of spells, looking over the rail of the bridge and the (now empty) jar of ashes that an investigator liaison had collected at the scene and sent to the families. Five years since the helicopter went down, mom still talked as if he were just about to walk through the door. 

When she was younger, it made an odd sense of being closer to him and she was wishing she was a witch practicing “white magic” and had said a spell over a few hairs she had recovered from his bristle brush he used and some glitter that she scraped from the family portrait frame he made years ago. She and mom had a huge fight over that.

It was disrespectful, mom said through her tears.

It was the last time she tried any kind of magic, until now.  Now it was in the water, the final act of the complex spell.  She had one last thing to do, it was an immature effort, perhaps, but it was all she had.

Cassiopeia O’Danu dropped a yellow rose into the waters as they flowed out into the Pacific ocean with the second part of the complex spell spoken in Old Irish.

While Cassi watched the rose of remembrance float away to its destination. She included one wish after she finished with the spell she had read from the pages of her book. 

The wish? She had said it before, but anything to help increase the force of the spell of return.

‟Dad, come home.”

Dark Heart, Pure Soul Chapter 19. A Nightmare Of A Possibility

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19. A Nightmare Of A Possibility

Twitching, the world took on a surreal color pallet.

She slept with her arm over his shoulders, cuddled up to his back like two spoons in the flatware box. This world faded away and another one slid forward on soft cat-paws in his mind.

A nightmare invaded Kane’s slumber. A violent dream.

He was angry. He was fighting and he was fury incarnate, down to his core, he was… He was…

He was Orcus the avenging demon of wrongs. The angry imp that struck in an instant.

The black-soul that would invade a lover’s heart and turn the loving soul into a murderer in a moment for minor wrongs, bringing new slaves to the Dark Lord for his bidding.

And found – Not an angelic minion, a nameless adversary. It was… It… was… even in his dream, he stammered.

It was HER!

He defended his Angel.  It played vividly in his mind, he was again there when the Hoard attacked. For his heart focused only on one soul ever. A heart properly motivated would do anything. In defense of his deepest mote of love, that one spark never lost, did he do the unthinkable.

But the hesitation brought the unwanted attention of the Dark One who did not believe in such deep thoughts – Backing up his best, his most infernal, the one who brings the most of the new souls in for the Satan, Emperor of Hell to torment for his pleasure.

The Great Angel of the Pit arrived and struck her a crushing blow, pushing the smaller imp out of harms way, attacking the crimson haired angel delivering a huge slash across her arms and with that single blow of his clawed hand, he knew her name.

Bronwyn they called her. In that instant he knew it was her human name. Somewhere in time there was a candle lit for her. But that mattered not, this soul, that forestalled the killing stroke of the best of his warriors, one who commanded a legion. The Emperor’s best and brightest, the most savage, one of the most feared of all.

A blow stung him to the core as she struck back, a blessed sword of holy crystal! With a mighty roar of a thousand damned hearts, and struck at her with claw and fang, to tear out a new soul. Not one that would be returned to this little Angel’s lord. Her flesh would be ravaged, spirit would be torn and body broken as he pounced on her like a savage raptor of hate, of the dark side and he struck with a blow to shatter souls; it was the law of things in battle. The mighty overwhelm the weak.

But this angel did not read the rule book.

The bright, pure soul of the host, drove Hell’s Master backwards the flash of a moment as she struck him with the might of the host. Michael would not have struck as hard. Silver chain mail over her torso resisted the power of darkness, for this was for this was one of the great warrior archangels. Fitting her like a wet shirt, it guarded against  the savage horde. However, it was not on par with the supreme demon of the darkness.

The battle ensued, he was savage and she as a blinding light against his dark, claw to armor, fist to fang. The whole of the lands shook with the fury of battle. Master against Angel, there was no turning back, Bronwyn was fighting for her immortal soul and there was no mercy, no plea that would be heard. This was a battle to the end of it all, to the death of two immortal beings.

She struck with enough power and heart to knock him to his knees, enough power to break a demon. But not this Dark Lord, almighty in his satanic powers, he was beyond her dreams of power. He took his measure of her strength, weighed her power and compared it to his own. She who had gotten a few hits in, her light was as a small lamp in the pitch darkness of night. Bright as she was, she was found wanting, and he retaliated.

That little blessed knife of hers,  broken and thrown away, hummed feebly in the dirt.

And the Devil struck with the might of Hell – again and again the great dark fist of the Emperor shattered her body, her shield of faith. Her soul would taste like a sweet grape on his tongue after he tore it out of her and consumed it, never to return to the adversary of her Lord of Light. To hell with an angel.

Beaten, weaponless, on her knees, held by one wing he beat her again and again. She screamed one name.

“Orcus! HELP!”

Her screams echoed in the cold, dead heart. Somewhere in the dust of ages, among the dead and heavily scarred flesh that wound around the blackened and charred whole of his soul, a spark that was hidden was found and it heard – the spark flared, burned and ignited something within the emptiness that was the heart of a demon.

A rage that grew, fanned to flames by the winds of memory that rushed back, an awakening of a promise once made to a pure soul. The spark that remembered once promised to protect.

And failed.

But not this time.

Not again.

Never again.

Shall not. Ever again. Fail.

And a single word, born from the very core of fury.

“STOP!”

Corruption was who he was, a body covered in hideous scars of ages of combat, unholy visage of a beak-like face, horns for hair and red-rage that glowed in his eyes. Orcus, a name known only to Bronwynn, had in that one moment, that blistering rage that erupted and attempted control of in a futile effort, the Emperor of Hell saw and knew.

One brief shining moment of longing crossed the angry face of the warrior-demon. Of passion’s fire kindled in a heart that had long gone to cold ash. A history that was once forgotten, rose again in the demon once thought soulless, an ember of passion rose and the testimony of that one quiet hot mote arose to live again in the being that was Orcus. A soul, blasted and scarred with self-hatred and anger.

“You wish this female? Take her soul then. Use the battle-ax, the Claw of Hades and cut it from her.” The terrible eyes of the Emperor turned on the General of his legions. “Strike her sacred body, cut off her wings, cut out her soul and you will stay together for an eternity! You will command together. Whole legions of demons that would respect you both, you will the power second only to mine, you both will be in Hell forever.”

The dark countenance of the Dark Lord was that of savage pleasure, to have her struck down without her fighting back. A total defeat of an angel and the stealing of a soul as pure as this.

“Power and love of your mate for all time. Fear and respect from others, none shall dare not stand up to you.” The Dark Master spoke to the smaller demon.

On the battlefield the three stood, all demons had stopped their corrupt actions and watched the drama, would an angel switch sides for love? Would the great Gardener stand up and save one of his own. A warrior angel, the best and brightest, one that had once turned her back on heaven to live a life with a love. One where her heart once rejoiced so much that it echoed in heaven.

The Dark Lord held her by a copper-colored wing, this angel, one who had given her heart to Orcus so long ago with the blessing of her Enlightened One. The long scarred and hideous arm held her out as if to offer a meal to the demon for his abuse, for the cut to come. To take her into the darkness and drive out doubt in the host.

Once an old affable gardener with wisdom unmatched and told her to go to the Imp and love him good and well.

“Raise him up, love him all the days on that little spot that you claim your own.”

This moment she hung helpless in a giant’s clawed hand. On a finger an ebony ring of an apple surrounded by a snake on the hand, he squeezed and smoke billowed from her wing and Bronwynn screamed in pain. The battle between the light and dark over for the moment.

But there was no fight left in this angel. Her crystal sword broken and the angel’s battered and bruised body hung limply from combat against the one called Satan. She was out of energy. With not enough strength to fight, she hung in his mighty grip and cried. Holy chain-mail hung off her in tatters and shreds. Plates of armor, harder than diamonds, tougher than a heart of a warrior crushed like foil lay on the ground.

Defeated, no weapons left, too weary to lift her arms.  Bronwyn hung there, broken and beaten.

A flick of the wrist and she was flung across the battlefield at the feet of the demon of retribution, vengeance and pain.

“Cut her soul from the angels body and you will have her forever.” The Dark One spoke. “How deep is the love you have? What would you do for that passion that burns in your chest? Do you believe you have a love for this small one?”

“She pleases me.” Orcus looked at her.

The old rage was there, ruby-red eyes of a savage demon. But… something else and it did not go unnoticed.

“DO you love her?” The question was more of a statement by Hell’s Master.

“I…” A hesitation. How does one give up a weakness? Never a good idea to do so to anyone that has power over you… but… “Love her.”

“What sweetness.” Satan laughed. “Would you do anything for her love?”

“Yes.” Orcus was watching her, greed in his wholeness. Cultivated consciously, lust for power. Turning away from love. Lust for a mate. Not love. To use her for pleasure. NOT love.

“I love her.” Damn it all! Orcus thought. Not what he wanted to say.

“Sweet indeed. Love for an angel. Does the small demon wish her with him forever and ever?” The Emperor said softly. “I can give her to you.Just give her the stroke, take her soul and bring her to you. Live forever in each others company in the beauty of your world. Can you do that? Can you love her enough to bring her to you?”

Orcus nodded.

“I can do that. The soul of an angel, power untold. I can do that.” A grin from the lips that split with the evil of his own words.

Savage anger glowed from his eyes, the Claw of Hades, an old friend, a battle-ax whose blade had ten points for piercing of armor in his hands that caressed its polished surface as if it were a sexual device. The tip of the main blade pressed against the bare flesh of her chest, an unprotected gap of her rent and destroyed armor.

Bronwyn looked up into the eyes of the one she loved most in all the worlds, all the universes that existed, anywhere she ever lived, anyplace she had gazed upon — she had given him her heart.

The tip of the ax rested against the curve of her throat, where it joined her torso, she had nothing more to give this demon, the imp that held her heart. Trying to tell him, never did he fail her. For she loved him greater than all the souls that were in heaven.

An evil laugh as the Master knew what would come. “Would you do anything for love?”

“I would do anything for power! I would do anything for love.” Orcus cackled now.

Bronwyn gave him her best, most vulnerable spot, knowing the pain of the cut coming. Not fighting any longer, she arched her neck back, offering her soul, she gave up all that would be her history, her love, her passion.

She would give up her heaven.

Her lord and her soul.

For him.

And waited for the cut that would take her from the light and plunge her forever into the darkness of the pit of the abyss.

She then heard the last time he would speak to her in this world.

“I’ll do anything for love.” His breath was hot on her cheek.

His breath coming in deep ragged gasps of blood lust, she knew. The tip of the cursed battle-ax, a gift from Hades to Orcus in another long ago age, pressed against her throat dimpling the flesh.

“I would do anything for your love. ” He said again, softer. “I will have you as mine forever.”

She could feel the muscles of the battle-scarred body tense, the winding up of the moment, he was ready and the blow was moments away.

“I”ll do anything for love!”

A pause…

Bronwyn closed her eyes, waiting for the first sensation of pain that marked the end of her heavenly life as she gave herself to her love, her heart, and the one that brightened her soul even from the darkest of realms.

She closed herself off to the view of the one with the weapon that had her at his mercy. The him through time and realms that they had traveled. Through dimensions, ages, together they had once loved laughed and had light of the universe in their hearts.

“I’ll do anything for love…” He drew a deep breath through sharpened and savage teeth…

*I love you.* It was her last thought.

“… NO! I WON’T DO THAT!”

Turning in an instant, Orcus hurled the cursed ax, the Claw of Hades at Satan himself, launching into an attack against the Emperor of Hell, this demon of legend, the First Emperor of all things of evil intent, action and temptation.

A simple flick of the Lord of the Demon’s hand and the ax flew away over his shoulder, landing uselessly in the battlefield beyond the reach of the smaller demon.

“TRAITOR!”

“I knew you! Traitor! You shall live forever as a slave to serve us all! Torment by those being tormented, undying life of slime, never-ending pain is all yours forever. I shall enjoy consuming your angel, she is MINE.”

“NEVER! You will starve!” The Demon screamed.

Savage was Orcus’ attack, the crushing blows he delivered was with every mote of his being, all sound, all battles, all conflict stopped as the host of heaven and the hoards of hell halted their battles and watched this ballet of destruction played out.

Watching the fight that suddenly became center stage of a battlefield, Asmodeus turned to Lucifer. “One-hundred on Orcus.”

“You’re on.” Lucifer already had plans to tell the Emperor how the odds were. Who bet on the outcome.

“I’ll take some of that.” The Beelzebub stood near the arch-demons. “I’ll take the Master.”

“Roll your own dice Beeze?” Leviathan laughed, the giant put down his vote for Orcus. Calling him “The once and future Emperor”.

Savage orange fire from the mouth of the Emperor for the chest of Orcus as he folded his wings around for protection and laughed as the flames enveloped his body.

“Time to fall!” A scream from the beak-like face as the demon went claw to talon, fang to fire as Satan did battle with the best and darkest of his demons. Green fire from the clawed hands of the demon that shattered the confidence and wings of the Emperor. The tail of the once-Emperor, whipped through the darkened atmosphere of war, a weapon unto itself, the prehensile appendage wrapped itself around the throat of the Dark One.

“To slime, to torment, to slavery with you! For LOVE I shall strike. For her soul I shall beat you into the ground.” Orcus screamed as his tail tightened against the armor-scale of a neck as he looked into the compound beast-eyes. Sixty-six and six-hundred pupils that he saw his reflection framed by the horned face.

“For my angel’s heart, you will suffer!”

Satan’s quad-lipped mouth opened up and exposed too many teeth as the Emperor of Hell choked on a grip tighter than steel that squeezed ever tighter. The Devil’s mouth tried to bite the scale covered hide of traitorous demon.

Twisting about in the noose of a tail, the Dark Lord landed a blow that registered on earth as an earthquake. Scientists explained that a previously unknown fault shook the humans. The same blow nearly obliterated the demon, but Orcus fought back with the power of love. The demon was unstoppable as Satan was relentless. Again they collided head on, claw to claw, fang to tusk. Each blow measured to inflict the greatest damage, each block meant to waste the energy of the opponent.

Never had there been such a challenge to his power. Victory was not assured, for the fist time in an age – Satan, the Emperor of Hell, felt fear.

Fire and fury, hate versus love. A Dark-Heart against the power of darkness, the energy of both opponents took a toll as they gave their all for victory.

One loved power, the other loved.

Suddenly a misstep, a missed moment in a battle against an implacable enemy and Orcus was flung backwards by a titanic blow, one wing broken, the other wing torn, horns broken, eyes unfocused. The right arm lay useless under his body.

Tired and out of breath, the Emperor of hell moved towards the demon that dared to choose love over immeasurable power, lust and greed. This Satan, wheezing and blinded in half his eyes, all the fingers on the right hand missing and the Emperor of Hell walked on his hands, swinging his leg forward in an ape-like walk, trailing black ichor that served as blood, towards the traitor, a stump where the left leg was missing. He struggled to tear with his remaining hand, to finish the demon, to turn him into the lowest of the slime of hell – Better! To consume the dark soul until it was no more, to digest and spit out that which they called “Love”.

As the Emperor got close to the puny and broken imp, close enough to strike with what was left of his claws and fangs, Orcus held his left hand outstretched towards the Emperor…

Was this beseeching? That thought was entertaining.

A plea for mercy? A laugh at the thought rose in Satan’s mind.

A plea? Hardly.

It was a call, a command to a part of the demon’s own wholeness, a call to an old friend, a gift from the Emperor that followed Orcus to the throne. The call to the Claw of Hades, a call that the ax must answer. Return to its owner no matter the obstacle.

Behind the Dark Lord, the Claw of Hades lay in the filth of the battlefield, forgotten in the rage of battle. Tossed so easily away by the more powerful demon and never given a thought after.

A mistake.

A fatal mistake.

The weapon, as much a part of Orcus as his tail was, answered its call. The ten-pointed ax trembled, slightly at first, then turned blade first and raced through the air to the Master of the Ax in a straight line, regardless of what was in the way.

The Dark Lord became aware of the whistling noise, the disturbance drew the great demon’s attention, but too late.

Too late!

Returning to Master of the Ax, the cursed weapon drove through the through the forehead of the Dark Lord on the way to the hand of Orcus. The look of surprise was entertaining to the old demon as for one brief glorious moment as Orcus nearly laughed, the Great Devil himself, the destroyer, He who defeated Hel who gave her name to the kingdom that He then ruled. He who defeated Hel held his hands up in frozen stark surprise…

And imploded without a sound, like a shadow banished from view when a light shines into the darkness.

The Dark Lord was no more in one last anticlimactic, quiet, mundane moment.

All that was left, an ebony ring of an apple surrounded by a snake that fell to the ground. Frost formed where it bounced until it stopped moving. A  freezing fog formed around the ring, curling over the ground as it rested quietly in the dust.

Panting, barely strong enough to stand, pain was his second world, a second life of passion drove him to stand. Shredded and torn, his right-wing broken, dark blood oozed through dozens of new wounds that covered his body as he knelt next to his angel.

Lifting her up in his arms, she reached up and caressed his face. His broken hand held hers gently. There were too many wounds on his immortal body, he was weak beyond description. The immortal demon was weakening further, the great heart had begun to beat, now faltered. He caressed her face with a blood-stained finger tears leaked from his eyes as dark blood leaked out of him into the dirt.

“I’d do anything for you.” He whispered softly and nodded, “I would do anything for your love, but I would not do that. I could never do that.”

“Come with me.” Bronwyn whispered. “Come back home. You are free.”

A soft cough from a few steps away interrupted.

“Hell needs an Emperor.” The Lucifer said, standing behind Orcus. “It is advancement by assassination in Hell. He must take his place on the throne.”

“NO!” The Angel refused to accept this! Orcus sacrificed it all for her life.

“NO! Stay with me!” Bronwyn argued. pulling on Orcus’ arms, her own hands too weak to grip tightly.”Turn away from all this, come home. I will not have this!”

“He could do anything for love. Fight the old Emperor,” Asmodeus nodded, frowning as he handed the ebony black ring of an apple surrounded by a snake to Orcus. “and win. He has changed the course of a war, changed a thousand hearts. He has altered the universe in uncountable ways. He did that all for love.”

“He did it all.” Lucifer nodded. “He did it all for love. But he cannot go with you.”

“He can’t do that.” Beelzebub whispered as he shook his head and bowed to the new Emperor.

The cool hand of Bronwyn touched him in between the shoulder-blades. “Orcus”, the name echoed in the webs of his dream, his face was wet from tears, Kane had cried out in his sleep.

Kisses on his cheeks as the hands of an angel cupped his face.

“What makes you cry?” She frowned with concern in her eyes.

“I dreamed I had lost you. Our time together was over and I had to use my powers to save you. I also remember my name, from so long ago. Orcus.”

“I remember that name. Punisher of broken promises and oaths. No wonder you do not break promises to children.” She smiled at him. “You are the children’s guardian of promises. You keep the promise of the gift giving when the days grow short and life begins anew. You are the one to shape a child’s view of the world.”

He shook his head, “I still lost you and I will not allow that. Ever.”

She slid her arms around him as she kissed her husbands tears away.

“We can change the future.”

Together they slept the rest of the night, no further dreams intruded.

But Kane had his doubts.