GUEST STORY SHARE — Bridger: A Dystopian Serial — Episode 7

Bridger is a dystopian serial story about Charlane, a disgraced career soldier leading a security team at a remote research facility. When Char encounters a humanoid creature who claims to come from another world, she sees a chance to save her career—and the dying earth.

Char, a strong, career-driven woman, is fighting to overcome crippling self-doubt after she lost everything in a military scandal. She’d given so much to that career, including her marriage. Now she is starting over. Char doesn’t know that her value as a person doesn’t change based on what she accomplishes. Can she accept the unconditional love of those who care for her?

Our social media and celebrity culture has placed enormous value on beauty, fitness, and lifestyle. Our work culture pressures women to continually rise up the ranks and press for better jobs. All of these are worthwhile things, but they are not markers of personal value. A person is valuable because of who they are, not what they produce.


Episode 7: Taylor Bay

 

It was at least four hours before dawn when Char left her room. Seth had called her on the comm and told her it was minus forty degrees outside, and his snowmobile, parked inside an unheated shed, wouldn’t start.

“I’ll have it running in half an hour,” he said. “Stay inside where it’s warm.”

For once she’d taken his advice and curled up under the covers for another ten minutes.

When she marched out into the yard, the fort was still conserving power by keeping all unnecessary lights off. The headlight of Seth’s sled illuminated her path. Seth stood beside the snowmobile, every inch covered with thermal gear. He handed her a helmet.

“Are you re-thinking the snowmobile?” Char asked.

“Yes,” Seth said dryly. “You can tether your comm with the helmet so we can talk if we need.”

“We won’t,” Char said. “It’s five in the morning and I have nothing to say to you.”

Char slid behind Seth on the seat and considered if she could get away without hanging onto him. She really didn’t want to hang onto him, but she kind of did.

“Ready?” Seth’s voice crackled through her helmet.

Char nodded.

Seth called over the comm for someone to open the gate and cracked the throttle. She had to grip his waist to not be thrown backward. The snowmobile spit snow behind them as they left Fort Situk behind.

Seth carved the snowmobile up through the passes through the treeless mountains by the light of the headlight. Every time they reached a high point, the bluish glow in the east grew brighter. Finally, as they approached the valley rim where the village of Taylor Bay was, the rim of the sun peeked over the horizon.

The wind had shifted again to the west. The sun rose red-tinted, suspended in smoky air.

They’d been travelling through a barren wasteland of rock and snow for an hour. Suddenly there were trees. Mostly small, waist-height trees with the odd, gnarled, tall pine protruding from the crowd like an adult among kindergarteners.

The town was a loosely arranged group of small houses and mobile homes with packed snow paths between them. Char scanned the edge of town for Seth’s parents’ cozy timber-frame house she remembered so well. Where she was certain it should stand, there was only an empty space. He drove right past it, over a small rise and toward a square house, surrounded by scrubby evergreens, clad with deep red siding and smoke rising from the chimney.

Seth’s uncle’s house. Char tucked her head behind Seth again.

The door opened, and a dark-haired man with a flashing smile stood in the entry, waving.

Char released Seth’s waist and fumbled with cold fingers to undo her helmet. Seth swung off the snowmobile and pulled off his helmet.

“I brought a guest, Uncle Will,” he called.

“Good. Come in and have some coffee.” Uncle Will disappeared into the house and shut the door.

Inside the house, Seth pulled off his toque and his braid fell out. “Uncle Will,” he said, gesturing to Char, who was climbing out of her snowmobile suit. “You remember Charlane?”

“Yeah.” Uncle Will eyed her with the faintest crease between his eyes. “You still like coffee, Charlane?”

“Sure do.”

“It’s the real deal,” Will said, turned and hobbling to the two-burner stove to poke at the tin percolator. “I’ve been shepherding along the stuff you brought me, Seth. Tastes so good compared to the synthetic stuff.”

“Yeah, perks of living with government folks.” Seth glanced sheepishly at her.

“Hold your hands over here, Charlane,” Will pointed to the stove. “It’s shit-cold out there, yeah?”

“Your trees are coming along pretty well,” she said.

“Yeah, seems they’re making it.” Will pulled two miss-matched mugs out of the cupboard over the sink. “We’ll put in some more in the spring if we can.”

They made small talk over cups of black coffee and gluey mass-manufactured bread with cheese spread. Sometime during the conversation, Seth made mention of going to visit the grave. A strange sense of dread came over her.

Charlie and Lisa Thompson had always been good to her. She wasn’t sure they liked her, but they’d been good to her when she and Seth came to visit. She had good memories of sleeping with him under real down duvet in their guest bedroom and waking up to open gifts on Christmas morning. Charlie had given her a hand-tooled leather belt that she still wore occasionally. Real leather cost a fortune these days.

Sometime during the conversation, Seth made mention of going to visit the grave. A strange sense of dread came over her.

“So now…” Will got up, threw two more slices of bread into the toaster and depressed the creaking springs. “This ring planet that you mentioned.”

“Yeah, do you remember the story?”

Uncle Will sat down and steepled his hands beneath his chin. “Well, the whole ring planet thing didn’t ring a bell.” A grin split his weathered face. “But I was thinking about a totem pole I saw down in Handler Falls. It has this creature with kind of big ears and a smooth face like you said. We could go down there and speak to the elders.”

“Yeah, we should,” Char said. She glanced at Seth. “Right?”

Seth took a gulp of coffee and nodded. “Once Char’s thawed out.”

Char flexed her toes down in her thick socks. “I miss the military-grade socks. They have those filaments in them that keep you warm.”

“Private security can’t afford that?” Seth asked.

“The military hoards the material,” Char said, bending down to examine the developing hole in her toe. No wonder a chill had snuck in. “What don’t they hoard? They won’t even guard their own goddamn research base. Too busy fighting.”

“Wasn’t you in the army?” Uncle Will raised an eyebrow.

“I was, yeah,” Char said. “I, um…” she glanced at Seth. “I couldn’t do it anymore.”

The toast popped. Uncle Will got up to get them. “Who could blame you.”

Who could blame her? Just a few parents of a few dead kids, that’s all.

For the rest of the episode, click here.

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GUEST POST: Understanding After the Fact — A Message about Sex and Romance by Callen Clarke

CALLEN

Callen Clarke, author and musical composer

        In or around the year 23 A.D. in a territory just north of the Roman Province of Judea, a man who worked as a teknon, that is, a contract house-builder and general artisan, began the first anti-political movement in the history of the world. He lived in a world poisoned by politics, where corruption and vice were actively sought and dispensed as the rewards for office, where murder, massacre, enslavement and deadly riots were a regular feature of current events. He risked his life to preach a message that used the Holy Scriptures of the Jewish People to invert every facet of the violent revolutionary movement taking shape among his people. He set himself to the task of destroying once and for all the power of evil and death to dictate the tenets of human ideals. And he succeeded.

       Jesus of Nazareth, unlike every other revolutionary voice before him, deliberately avoided political power. Unlike every other revolutionary voice, Jesus taught that violence and power-seeking was the problem, not the solution. When people asked or demanded that he passed judgement on them, or on their enemies, he refused. When they tried to make him king by force, he escaped them. And in the moment in which he made the ultimate sacrifice for his unique and world-changing message, no one understood what he was doing. We need to be quite clear on this point, because the Gospel is quite clear on this point: no one understood what Jesus was doing, not his enemies, his family, or his closest friends. Understanding came after the fact.
I’m gonna say that again: understanding came after the fact.

      young coupleWhat is God’s purpose for love between men and women? The science is clear on this question: as men, we have a biological drive to find and mate with as many women as possible. Young men’s blood is saturated with biochemicals that compel them to display strength, take risks, seek out female companionship, and push that relationship to its natural biological conclusion. And the science is clear on the other side as well, the blood of women is flooded with chemicals that make them emotionally and physically receptive to men who seek them out. History, society and literature are full of examples of men who conceive of women as a sexual object for male gratification. And the feminine nature is equally present: that women conceive of men as companions and advocates who will continue to bond and emotionally support them throughout their lives. Thus men and women are naturally constituted to misunderstand each other. All of this is natural, inevitable, and in most cultures and most eras, disappointing.

          But if we, as believers invoke God into this scenario, we must concede then that this is by design: God intended for this to be the case, or rather, God has given us the means to correct the basic flaw in our motivations; and that means is Love. Remember that I said that in the moment when Jesus gave himself up for the sins of the world, no one understood what he was doing? That understanding came after the fact? The same is true of love between men and women. Jesus, in a sense, co-opted the violent revolutionary politics of his era into a mission for the redemption of humanity, and the pursuit of righteousness and reconciliation. In the same way, God’s plan for our lives as men and women is to co-opt our natural sexual impulses into his program of mutual life-long devotion, as companions, and advocates, and parents.

        black coupleThe Christian man inducted into the conventions of marriage suffers the same biological imperatives as any other man, he is culturally and genetically preprogrammed to see women as sex-objects, to be polygamous, not monogamous. The Christian man experiences sexuality in the same way as any other man, but with a difference: he is commanded by his faith to love his wife as Christ loved the Church. And the consequences of this cannot be overstated. Christ’s Love is a total love, a total commitment of the whole being up to and including the ultimate sacrifice, and it is a love that most young men are neither capable of understanding nor implementing. Romance is, as C.S. Lewis once said, ‘the effort to imprison in ceremony the most unceremonious thing in the world.’ We, as men, are led like bulls with nose-rings into an arena of emotional commitment that we, in our natural state, are quite incapable of fulfilling.

It’s a curious facet of literary history that the whole notion of romance, as we understand it, does not emerge until the Christian era, and it emerges within the context of Christian Civilization. Why should this be? Women in the ancient world were sold like slaves, used as breeding machines to enlarge the man’s family, and therefore his estate, and cast off when they failed in their sexual or procreative duties. In many places today not much has changed. In a few instances in the Ancient World certain women by means of their natural cunning were able to acquire for themselves positions of power and authority. Nerfertiti, Semiramis, Boudicca, Zenobia, Bilqis. These are famous names, and justly so, but these are the exception, rather than the rule. It is only with the advent of the Gospel that the full humanity of the female human is predicated:

 

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
                                                                                                                        — Galatians 3:28
And the aforementioned admonition:

 

“Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave himself for her.”

                                                                                                                        —Ephesians 5:25

The Gospel constituted Humanity as we understand it today, and all that proceeds from that basic concept that human lives are sacred: humanism, feminism, civil-rights, liberal democracy…and romance.

Romance?

      Yes, Romance. Make no mistake: Romance, is a Christian invention. Pagan peoples neither loved nor were loved by their gods the way that Jesus taught the love of God. Nor did they love their wives as we are commanded to love our wives by Scripture. It is only with the revelation of Feminine Humanity in the Gospel and the Pauline Epistles that the union of disparate souls, feminine and masculine, can be proposed, and true romance becomes possible.

Feet of couple in comfortable bed.          What is the difference between Sex and Romance? The difference is that the former ends with consummation, and the latter has no end. Romance is the idea that someone other than me, apart from me, and sexually disparate from me, can yet complete me and ennoble me with her companionship and her devotion. Romance says: I am captivated by who she is, I desire the totality of her personhood with a desire that I myself cannot fully understand. I am truly myself only when I am truly hers. Life with her is that life which I have always sought and never known. Apart from her, I am in exile wherever I go, and in want, no matter what I have.

These thoughts were not possible prior to the Gospel. And there is a tension here, because Romance, taken to its ultimate extreme, is itself a distortion of the Gospel. Ultimately, only the love of Christ can complete us and inspire us to our full spiritual potential. Yet Christian Marriage and Christian Love can induct the mind into the deep emotional and spiritual commitments which are beyond the means of the natural human, but also prerequisite and foundational to true Christian Love. The married Christian man, by haps, learns gradually to sublimate the animal energy of his sexual bond into the higher purposes of service: husband-hood, and fatherhood.

            In every Christian marriage there comes a moment when the Christian Man must face the truth: I will not find the sexual satisfaction I desire in this relationship. She is now too familiar to arouse in me the delight and discovery I once felt with her. And this moment must come, however perfect the body of his mate. For in sexual matters, more than any other, familiarity breeds contempt. In that moment of dissatisfaction he is given a choice: he can pursue sexual gratification outside of marriage, to the destruction of his family, or he can make the decision to set aside his own desires in the interests of his loved ones. At that point, if he can make that decision, he has successfully transitioned from mere human love, to Godly Love. For such a man there is no longer any question in seeking pleasure for himself. He sets himself to the task of honoring and cherishing his wife for the rest of his life, knowing full well that he is turning away forever from the delights of romance, the sexual discovery of a new and delightful partner in pleasure. In every Christian marriage, there comes a point when the man must consciously set aside pleasure. In doing so, he may discover that most beautiful insight of Christian Marriage, that mutual submission and devotion ennobles lover and beloved far beyond the power of physical beauty to excite and arouse.

          old senior coupleThe octogenarian husband who sits hour upon hour in the waiting room of the hospital, patiently enduring until he can hear the outcome of his wife’s operation, has long since set aside his own gratification. He is invested in the deeper love of mutual devotion, which neither age nor trial or even death itself can tarnish. These little dramas play out all around us every day, and they receive scant recognition from our self-centered society. We extend an ignorant pity to the old man waiting on his dying wife in the hospital, but perhaps we shouldn’t pity him too much. The very fact that he sits there waiting for her is testament to the depth of the love which he has achieved with her, a love which has surmounted every possible impediment. That man sitting in that room knows what true love is.

            Rose on tombstone.Some of these men, I think, might reflect back on the whole of his relationship with the shriveled old woman lying on the gurney in the operating theater. There was a time when she was so beautiful, he could think of nothing else, every obscene part of his mind and body yearned to possess her, and sate himself with her. Yet he knows that he loves her so much more now than he did then, and that this love has made him a better man than he could otherwise be. Understanding came after the fact. I don’t think the kind of man I’m describing frets over the women he didn’t ravish, the lost sexual opportunities that he turned away from in the many moments of his life when he knew he could if he wanted to. We live in a world beset by a lack of love; sex, on the other hand, is plentiful.

            But I sometimes see an expression in their face, a resignation that seems to say: How could you possibly understand? I can’t explain it to you. When I was you, I didn’t know. And now that I do, how could I begin to tell you? You’ll have to learn, or not learn, on your own, that is the Grace you’ve been given, if you’ll take it.

            Understanding comes after the fact.

GUEST STORY SHARE — Bridger: A Dystopian Serial — Episode 6

Bridger is a dystopian serial story about Charlane, a disgraced career soldier leading a security team at a remote research facility. When Char encounters a humanoid creature who claims to come from another world, she sees a chance to save her career—and the dying earth.

Char, a strong, career-driven woman, is fighting to overcome crippling self-doubt after she lost everything in a military scandal. She’d given so much to that career, including her marriage. Now she is starting over. Char doesn’t know that her value as a person doesn’t change based on what she accomplishes. Can she accept the unconditional love of those who care for her?

Our social media and celebrity culture has placed enormous value on beauty, fitness, and lifestyle. Our work culture pressures women to continually rise up the ranks and press for better jobs. All of these are worthwhile things, but they are not markers of personal value. A person is valuable because of who they are, not what they produce.


Episode 6: Explorer of Worlds

 

episode6Seth set down the comm and glanced at his patient.

Venn opened one eye.

“Ah,” Seth sighed. “You are awake.” He poured a glass of water and carried it over to Venn’s bedside.

Venn gulped down the water. “Your water is good here,” he said, his mouth dripping.

“So there is water in your world?”

“I haven’t yet found a world where it was not,” Venn said, “but in Kaa it tastes like…” he pressed his lips together and squinted into the distance. “There is no word for this. It is a—“ he waved one long hand in the air “—a metallic element that has a strange taste.”

Seth pulled a chair over and straddled it, facing Venn with his arms crossed over the chair back. “You do this a lot, then?”

With a perfectly straight face, Venn nodded. “It’s what I have done since I was young.”

“Why?”

Venn’s face worked for a moment. Seth could imagine whatever his translation implant did going on behind his eyes.

“It is what my people do,” Venn said slowly. “We explore other worlds.”

“And do what?”

Venn lifted a hand. “We… study them and if they’re inhabited by sentient species, and if they have resources that are useful, we try to create trade alliances.”

Seth narrowed his eyes. “You colonize them?”

“We don’t set up colonies. We set up exploration bases which become trade bases in time.”

“Yeah, same diff,” Seth muttered. “I’m sure Erwell will be all over that. New resources from other worlds? For sure.” Seth slapped his hands on the top of the chair. “Get your story straight because she’s going to grill you.”

“Grill… me?” Venn sat up straighter. A faint flush came into his pale face, the first sign of emotion.

Seth turned his face, hiding a grin. “Question you. She’s going to question you.” He turned back. “If there is a portal, could you take people back through it?”

Venn’s eyes narrowed. He regarded Seth for a few moments. “Yes.”

“Prepare to be asked to test that, then.”

“It is what my people do,” Venn said slowly. “We explore other worlds.”

“I don’t need to test it,” Venn said quietly. “It will work.”

“Right,” Seth said slowly. At any rate, Venn didn’t seem to by lying on purpose. He might have to do some tests.

He picked up the comm. “Director? The patient is awake.”

“Coming,” Erwell replied within a second.

Seth punched in Char’s code. “Cap… Char. Director Erwell is coming to interrogate Venn. Would you like to sit in?”

Her voice came over the comm, breathless and distorted by wind. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

Seth paused, holding the comm. He was beginning to get used to hearing her voice again, even starting to look forward to having her pop into the infirmary. Yesterday she’d slid into the bench across from him while he was eating dinner in the cafeteria. Sure, it was to ask for an update on Linc, but she’d voluntarily talked to him. Five years ago, she wouldn’t even come to the door when he tried to apologize to her one more time.

God, I thought I was done being bitter.

Erwell breezed in the door, for once without smiling at him and trying to chat him up. She whipped back the curtain around Venn, only pausing once to glance at the handcuff locking one of Venn’s wrists to the metal bed frame.

She tugged a chair over. “All right, Mr. Venn. It turns out there is some weight to your story.”

Seth eased himself between Erwell and the wall and helped Venn sit up.

Erwell didn’t miss a beat. “I found evidence to suggest that the Na’odani have been here before.”

“That is possible,” Venn replied, settling back against the pillows. “When?”

“Thirty years ago. It was a female Na’odani. She arrived in Arizona, that’s quite far south of here.”

“This means nothing to me.” Venn’s face remained placid. “But time passes quite differently in Nao than it does here, and so it is possible.”

The infirmary door swung open. Char clumped in, tracking snow. She dragged a chair toward them.

“What do you mean?” Seth interjected before Erwell had a chance to sweep past that statement.

“Well,” Venn’s grey brow furrowed. “By watching your clock, I’ve determined that one minute is equal to 2.654 Na’odani ea, which multiplied by the Eskalon constant suggests that your time moves at approximately four times the speed of Na’odani time, however since an ea on Kaa is equal to three Na’odani eas, your time in fact moves at two-thirds the speed of Kaa time… approximately.”

“Oh geez,” Char muttered. She sat down and pulled off her toque.

“Fascinating!” Erwell whispered, leaning forward.

“But that was timing your clock instrument to my pulse,” Venn said, “and doing the math in my mind, so it is hardly exact.”

“Right.” Erwell shook her head as if dislodging the thought. “What I’m saying is that I’m open to believing you.”

“Yes,” Venn said, deadpan. He stared unblinking at Erwell.

Erwell leaned in. “Can you prove to me that there is a portal to another universe near this base?”

“I can hear it from here,” Venn said.

“You can hear it from here,” Erwell repeated.

“Yes.” Venn tilted his head slightly. “It has three distinct tones.” He pursed his lips as if whistling, and after a moment, Seth heard a high, dog-whistle note.

“I didn’t hear anything,” Erwell said. “Right. So if they produce sounds, we’d be able to pick that up on a sound metre?”

“That’s an instrument that measures sound waves,” Seth added.

Venn nodded. “I’m sure you could.”

“Could we pass through it?” Erwell’s tone took on urgency.

“No,” Venn said. “Not without Kemzog stones.”

“Are those what you have embedded in your chest?” Seth asked.

Venn’s silver eyes darkened slightly. “That’s correct, but without the correct equipment or simple experience, it’s unlikely that you could calculate the exact point of the portal—“

Erwell jerked her chair back and stood. “But you could take someone through?”

Venn’s eyes lightened to silver. “I could.”

Click here for the rest of the episode

GUEST STORY SHARE — Bridger: A Dystopian Serial — Episode 5

Bridger is a dystopian serial story about Charlane, a disgraced career soldier leading a security team at a remote research facility. When Char encounters a humanoid creature who claims to come from another world, she sees a chance to save her career—and the dying earth.

Char, a strong, career-driven woman, is fighting to overcome crippling self-doubt after she lost everything in a military scandal. She’d given so much to that career, including her marriage. Now she is starting over. Char doesn’t know that her value as a person doesn’t change based on what she accomplishes. Can she accept the unconditional love of those who care for her?

Our social media and celebrity culture has placed enormous value on beauty, fitness, and lifestyle. Our work culture pressures women to continually rise up the ranks and press for better jobs. All of these are worthwhile things, but they are not markers of personal value. A person is valuable because of who they are, not what they produce.

Rated PG-13 for language


Episode 5: The Ring Planet

episode5Greta Erwell broke her long stride just long enough to run her hands over her chin-length grey hair and straighten her jacket before she burst into the infirmary.

You know, I had hoped to have an hour to drink a cup of coffee and just… put my feet up.

Her meeting with the higher ups had not gone anywhere near well. She could still feel the sting of getting ripped a new one after she’d told them that the last round of fission experiments had failed.

Smile at me, Doctor, and everything will be fine.

Erwell pushed open the door.

Seth and the security woman stood facing each other, both with arms crossed. They looked up. The doctor’s handsome face was tight.

“Ah, Char. You’re here too,” Erwell said. “What have we got?”

Seth took a step over and slid open the curtain around one of the beds.

Erwell leaned in over the bed. The man was at least six and a half feet tall, flagpole-thin. His skin was so pale that she could see bluish veins beneath the surface, like grass in muddy water. The only colour on him was short, silky black hair.

“Okay,” she said.

“So,” Char began, glancing at the doctor. “This fellow told Seth quite the story.”

“Oh?” Seth, was it? She’d worked with him for a year now and he was still Dr. Thompson.

Seth cleared his throat. “He claims to have come from another world through what he calls a ‘bridge.’” He made air quotes.

Erwell raised both eyebrows. “Do go on. What else did he say?”

Seth smiled wryly. “His name is Venn. He is a Na’odani from the ring-world of Nao, and apparently these bridges form where the multiple universes touch.” He took a deep breath. “With the aid of some kind of metal or stone thingy, they’re able to pass through the bridges into other worlds.”

“All right,” Erwell drawled. “And he came here why?”

“He was fleeing these creatures called… Kaa.”

“Kaa.” Erwell nodded slowly. “Hmm.”

“In his defense—“ Char reached over and picked up something from the counter “—we did pull this out of his leg.” She held up an eight-inch, knitting-needle-like object.

“Oh, shit.” Erwell reached for it. Char handed it over and Erwell held it close to her face. It was perfectly smooth and tapered to a sharp point. “It’s like a giant mosquito proboscis.”

The doctor nodded. “Apparently they suck out your insides.”

Erwell screwed up her face. “All right, the proboscis is a problem. Otherwise I’d say he’d French-fried his head on drugs. I do hear drugs are quite the problem in the communities around here.”

“That’s true,” the doctor said dryly, “but he’s definitely not Tlingit.”

Erwell felt a faint burn in her cheeks. “Right. But did you check if he has drugs in his system?”

Seth nodded. “He’s clean.”

She sighed, folded her arms and said to Char, “you didn’t call this in to Juneau?”

“No, uh, I could though,” Char said.

“Don’t,” Erwell said. “I’ll figure this out. I wish you’d called me sooner, though. I should have heard about it as soon as he was spotted.”

“Yeah,” Char mumbled. “I was preoccupied with saving him.”

“If he was Russo-Chinese, saving him wouldn’t matter.”

“Yeah,” Char said again.

What she would have done if she’d been told sooner, Erwell could only imagine. She’d just left a marathon meeting session in Juneau. The fact that she had almost no results whatsoever after two years of energy experiments hadn’t sat well with the board. Telling them they had a security breach of some kind would send them off the charts.

“There is, uh, actually something that came to mind.” Seth began to pull the drapes back around the bed where the stranger lay. “The part about the ring world.” He turned. “I’m trying to recall this legend I heard from an elder once. Something about a man from a world shaped like a hoop. I can’t recall the details.”

They moved over into the waiting area of the infirmary. Erwell hunched over and furrowed her brow. She didn’t want to admit it to the doctor, but something about this was striking a chord with her.

“Well, can you look into that?” Erwell added belatedly. “The legend.”

The doctor nodded.

“Char, maybe cuff this guy to the bed,” Erwell added. “If he’s crazy, we don’t want him taking off. If he is Russo-Chinese, we definitely don’t want him to bolt.”

Char nodded. “I’ll have Linc bring you some, Seth.”

Erwell turned to go. “Char, will you walk with me?”

When the infirmary door had shut behind them, Erwell turned to Char. For a second she just looked her over.

Char was wearing the same utilitarian, multi-pocketed black pants and figure-obscuring layers that the whole security team wore. The other two women on her team had long hair that they wore up at all times. Char had a short, mannish cut that made her small chin and high cheekbones stand out in sharp angles. At least her face looked like a woman’s face.

“Do you know Doctor Thompson?” Erwell asked, finally.

Char half-smiled. “He’s my ex-husband.”

“Oh!” Erwell laughed in genuine shock. “Did you know he was here?”

Char shook her head. “I hadn’t seen him for five years.”

“Your divorce must have been even worse than mine.” Erwell started walking down the curving hall. “Should I be concerned that this will affect your job?”

“No,” Char said. “We’re professionals, and already have agreed to be cordial.”

Click here for the rest of the episode

GUEST STORY SHARE — Bridger: A Dystopian Serial — Episode 4

Bridger is a dystopian serial story about Charlane, a disgraced career soldier leading a security team at a remote research facility. When Char encounters a humanoid creature who claims to come from another world, she sees a chance to save her career—and the dying earth.

Char, a strong, career-driven woman, is fighting to overcome crippling self-doubt after she lost everything in a military scandal. She’d given so much to that career, including her marriage. Now she is starting over. Char doesn’t know that her value as a person doesn’t change based on what she accomplishes. Can she accept the unconditional love of those who care for her?

Our social media and celebrity culture has placed enormous value on beauty, fitness, and lifestyle. Our work culture pressures women to continually rise up the ranks and press for better jobs. All of these are worthwhile things, but they are not markers of personal value. A person is valuable because of who they are, not what they produce.



Episode 4: Survive Long Enough

episode4A choking scream echoed through the cavern. Venn jerked at the viscous webbing with all his strength.

It had released—just a little it had released. Venn strained with all his might. The web began to stretch. His arm extended further and further from his body.

“I’m coming,” he grunted.

A long way off, his fellow explorer cried out again.

Venn’s face contorted with effort. The membranous binding stretched thin. Soon it would break.

His arm reached its full length. The thread was only a hair now. Ven jerked his hand down. Suddenly the webbing snapped back, and his own hand slapped him in the face. He tasted blood.

The scream rattled him, thinner, weaker. Suddenly it cut off.

Venn lay pinned beneath the web, willing the man to scream again. A minute passed in silence.

“No!” Venn cried. “No!”

“Hey. Hey!”

Something touched his arm.

Venn’s eyes snapped open.

The healer creature stood over him, gazing down with pity.

Venn suppressed a scream of rage. Here he was in this unknown place, safe indefinitely and completely alone in that safety.

By Eskalon, he’d rather be dead, but he was not dead and therefore he had no choice but to go on and take this creature’s pity.

“I’m sorry,” Venn said. “It was a dream.”

“I guessed as much. I could give you something to help you sleep.” The healer gazed down with eyes as dark as Kemzog stones. For a moment, Venn was distracted by the shiny, black tail attached the back of the creature’s head. It was hair, wasn’t it?

“But on second thought, there’s no guarantee it works with your body chemistry,” the healer continued.

“You are likely to be right,” Venn said. “Thank you.”

Venn rolled carefully onto his side and pulled the spare pillow toward him, wrapping his arms around it. His eyes shut and he willed himself to filter out every ambient sound—a gusty roar of some sort of ventilation system, every swish of clothing from the healer, every breath, voices far away, the gusting wind outside. Gradually all of them fell away and he heard it: the three melodic tones of the portal. It wasn’t that hard to home in on them. He’d lain in the Kaa lair listening to them for three nights.

Once his leg was healed, perhaps he could get free of the healer and whoever else was in this building. He could leap through the portal, and maybe without the others he had a chance to make it back to base.

He’d face his leader, but he would also have the chance to make his peace with Jezeen.

Gradually all of them fell away and he heard it: the three melodic tones of the portal.

Jezeen! Venn’s throat thickened as he remembered their last night together, back to back instead of in each other’s arms. How unfortunate that he was right—Leader Ryn should not have sent him into uncharted territory with such inexperienced bridgers. Jezeen would regret her words to him now, but he was certain he regretted his just as much.

Venn stuffed his face into the odd-smelling pillow and tried to imagine it smelled like her. When that failed he just tried to remember what she smelled like—her sweat, and the flower oil she dabbed behind her ears. He shut his eyes and imagined his arms were around her long, muscular body.

He had begun to worry she was tired of him. She was the natural explorer, a strong woman who’d actually wanted to be a bridger. He was forced into the position by his father, and while he was known for his skill in locating portals and in translating indigenous speech, he was also known for his incredible caution. She was known for her courage and instinct.

We just have to finish this mission. Don’t be a coward, she’d said. Just do as Leader Ryn says.

Finally, she spoke her true mind, Venn had accused her.

In hindsight, he knew differently. Leader Ryn was wearing her down. He was a harsh taskmaster and their lack of progress with the Kaa was only causing him to push harder. Jezeen just wanted it to be over.

After all, it was their seventh and final bridge. When this mission was complete, they were supposed to return to their homeworld of Nao and retire. They’d lain together at night dreaming about it for the last two missions.

Emotion burned in the back of Venn’s throat. He had to survive long enough to get back to the portal.

GUEST STORY SHARE — Bridger: A Dystopian Serial — Episode 3

Bridger is a dystopian serial story about Charlane, a disgraced career soldier leading a security team at a remote research facility. When Char encounters a humanoid creature who claims to come from another world, she sees a chance to save her career—and the dying earth.

Char, a strong, career-driven woman, is fighting to overcome crippling self-doubt after she lost everything in a military scandal. She’d given so much to that career, including her marriage. Now she is starting over. Char doesn’t know that her value as a person doesn’t change based on what she accomplishes. Can she accept the unconditional love of those who care for her?

Our social media and celebrity culture has placed enormous value on beauty, fitness, and lifestyle. Our work culture pressures women to continually rise up the ranks and press for better jobs. All of these are worthwhile things, but they are not markers of personal value. A person is valuable because of who they are, not what they produce.


Episode 3: Venn

episode3“You can see the blood in the snow there.” Linc pointed at the drifted snow a few yards away. “He was crawling before we saw him, I guess.”

They came alongside the crimson patch. Char squinted at the smears in the wind-packed snow, which was flecked the ash and soot that blew in the wind. “He was dragging the one leg.” They followed the tracks down the slope away from Fort Situk.

“He fell here.” Char squatted down beside an imprint in the snow, speckled with blood, and eyed the clear handprints in the snow.

“The footprints stop here,” Linc said from a few yards away near a scruffy bunch of trees.

“Stop?” Char stood and walked toward him.

“Yeah.” Linc turned around and pulled off his sunglasses. His eyes were bloodshot with dark bags beneath them. “I guess they blew shut?”

They spread out in a ten-yard radius, searching for the tracks to begin again. They found nothing.

“So he fell from an airplane?” Linc said wryly.

Char sighed. “Look in the bushes. Maybe he holed up in there.”

“They don’t do human experiments here, do they?” Linc muttered as they circled around the little bluff, spreading the tree branches and searching for any sign the man had spent time there.

“Do you think they’d tell me if they did?” Char asked. “I mean, they told me that they’re trying to find new fuel and energy sources, but I don’t know.”

“If only they could power cars with snow, right?” Linc said. He scanned the barren landscape. “Anyway, it doesn’t look like he was here.”

Char shook her head.

As they turned to hike back to the base, the whopping of a helicopter made them both look up.

Erwell’s bird.

“You’re in for a grilling now.” Linc grinned at her.

Char rolled her eyes.

<>

The pillow crunched under his head as Seth rolled over on the thin infirmary mattress. His strange patient lay on the next bed over in exactly the same position as Seth had left him.

Seth licked his dry lips and threw his legs over the side of the bed. The bedframe groaned as he stood up and reached for his stethoscope.

As he checked the patient’s vitals, his brow furrowed. They weren’t great, but they weren’t worrisome, either.

He leaned over the bed and stared into the man’s face—at the long, oval face and high, sharp cheekbones. Seth squinted at the ears, which lacked the ordinary folds and ridges. They reminded him of oyster shells.

Everything about the man was long and narrow, including the rib cage with two extra bones.

Seth pressed his lips together. He picked up his comm and carried it over to the desk. “Captain Lee-Thompson, come in?”

The comm crackled. “Yes, doc.”

“Has your team investigated where our guest came from?”

“Yes,” Char replied. “Nothing conclusive to say. Any change in the patient?”

“No, ma’am.”

“All right.”

Seth grimaced.

You have to talk to her.

Ah, God, why now?

He could almost imagine the Man Upstairs saying, “You prayed for a year to get her back.”

Click here for the rest of the episode.

GUEST STORY SHARE — Bridger: A Dystopian Serial — Episode 2

Bridger is a dystopian serial story about Charlane, a disgraced career soldier leading a security team at a remote research facility. When Char encounters a humanoid creature who claims to come from another world, she sees a chance to save her career—and the dying earth.

Char, a strong, career-driven woman, is fighting to overcome crippling self-doubt after she lost everything in a military scandal. She’d given so much to that career, including her marriage. Now she is starting over. Char doesn’t know that her value as a person doesn’t change based on what she accomplishes. Can she accept the unconditional love of those who care for her?

Our social media and celebrity culture has placed enormous value on beauty, fitness, and lifestyle. Our work culture pressures women to continually rise up the ranks and press for better jobs. All of these are worthwhile things, but they are not markers of personal value. A person is valuable because of who they are, not what they produce.


 

Episode 2: A Blast of Guilt

 

 

episode 2picChar stood in the center of her room for a whole minute, staring at the blood smeared down her front, willing herself to move.

Panic was rising up inside her like a fast-incoming tide. Vague visions of a ditch, soldiers dead around her.

She stood there staring at her trembling hands.

“Get it the hell together,” she muttered finally. “It’s just blood.”

She unclenched her hands and pulled her sweater over her head. She dropped it in the corner and sat down on the bed and took deep breaths until the anxiety passed.

They’d worked well together, she and Seth. Who’da thunk it?

She was surprised he hadn’t said anything about it, but then she’d been at Fort Situk for a week and the ice remained unbroken.

She shut her eyes and recalled the moment she saw him.

“The infirmary wing is on the other side of the command module.” Site director Greta Erwell didn’t point or wait, she just kept walking.

Leander rolled her eyes in Char’s direction. Char smirked.

Their footsteps echoed down the curving, concrete hallway as they followed the silver-haired director. They came to the juncture where the module joined with the central hall of the living quarters, and Erwell swung open a door labeled “infirmary.”

“It’s a four-bed facility,” Erwell said as the door closed behind them, leaving them in a square room lit with bright white LEDs. A few chairs were clustered in one corner. Four beds stood empty and waiting, ready to be partitioned off with curtains.

“There’s an exam room through here,” Erwell continued as she led them forward, “and then there’s actually a small greenhouse that the doctor uses to grow medicinal herbs.”

“Oh!” Leander smirked. “That kind of doctor?”

Erwell smiled tightly. “Mostly for his own interest, as I understand. He’s very capable, I assure you.”

She led them down a short passage, which opened up into a tiny greenhouse made of thick plexiglass. The wan Alaskan sun shone down on rows of plants. A man stood at the back, stooped over a bench of what looked like grass. A dark braid hung between his shoulders.

“Doctor?” Erwell said.

He lifted his head, and his smile faltered.

Char felt as if someone had dumped icy water over her head. Her pulse spiked.

Seth Thompson.

How had she gone through the whole contracting process of bringing her security force to Fort Situk without coming across the name of her ex-husband on a roster somewhere?

Click here to continue the episode.