GUEST STORY SHARE — Bridger: A Dystopian Serial — Episode 21

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 21: The domes

Char stood squinting at the scuffed dust where the three Trea-Ess had stood moments before.

Message received, Na’odani.

Damned if she was going to show it, though. She turned to her alien escort. Beside Jezeen, Venn’s brow had a deep furrow down the middle. Char paused and took note of this. Jezeen’s face was placid and unconcerned as she turned to meet Char’s gaze.

“Now that this is done,” Jezeen said, “Jai will show us the city.”

Char raised her eyebrows. “Um, yeah. Okay.”

They exited the star-shaped compound via the large front gates that, like the other doors inside, opened without any door handle or lock. It revealed a wide thoroughfare made of the same yellow dust. The thoroughfare was bounded on either side by high, black metal walls with periodic round portholes. The walls curved inward over the street.

Venn caught Char’s eye and pointed to the windows. “Living quarters. This is new. The city has grown.” A faint frown crossed his face and disappeared beneath its placid surface. He dropped back and fell in step with Char and Seth.

Jai, a slightly shorter, bright-eyed Na’odani walked alongside Jezeen, talking in long strings of unintelligible syllables.

“How many people—uh, Na’odani—live here?” Seth asked.

Venn shrugged. “Many.”

“Is this the largest city in Na’o?” Char tucked the tail of her scarf into her collar and took a deep breath of the hot air.

“It is the only city,” Venn said. He frowned again. “It covers half of our world.”

“Half!” Leander caught up to them. “For real?”

“Yes,” Venn said tonelessly.

They were still passing along the flat black wall. Seth went over to the wall and laid his hand against it. His brow furrowed. “It’s cool,” he said. “I thought it would be warm.”

“The city has grown so large that the planet can’t sustain itself anymore.” Venn’s voice rung hollow. “This is why we bridge to other worlds.

Click here for the rest of the episode

GUEST STORY SHARE — Bridger: A Dystopian Serial — Episode 20

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 20: The city of Eskalon

The lights came on, and a moment later the door to the room opened. Char sat up.

“Leader Char, please get up. Leader Taig has called for you.” Venn glanced from Char to Seth and met her eyes without a hint of surprise. “I will wait for you outside.”

The door shut.

“I told you they’d barge in,” she groaned. She swung her legs off the bed and peeled off Seth’s shirt. She had her back to him, but she could feel his gaze on her body. Char smiled.

Knobby knees and skinny ankles be damned, an ass was an ass.

Char ate breakfast with Leader Taig, Leander, and Seth in Taig’s apartment. It was just a slightly larger version of her own room with a table and a window that looked down over the red valley. They drank a hot, sweet, creamy beverage that had a floral taste to it. Their food looked like army rations to Char—items that seemed like dried fruit, and a hard, savoury bread.

After a white-robed Na’odani cleared away the breakfast, Leader Taig pulled a thin, letter-sized sheet of metal from her robe and lay it on the table. She tapped it, and the dark surface shifted. Some kind of markings appeared.

“A message came from my superiors in Eskalon,” she said. “You will state your case to the high council.”

Char swallowed. “I-I’m not authorized to make deals. I’m just an envoy.”

Taig stared at her stone-faced. “You may state your case, and the high council will decide if we will negotiate or keep you prisoner.” She folded her hands. “Venn tells me your people intend to come into Kaa.”

Damn it. Why did we let Venn hear the protocol?

“Yes,” Char said.

“We will bridge to Eskalon soon. Go to your team and prepare them.” Leader Taig got up[N1] . The door opened and Jezeen and another Na’odani stepped in.

“Take Leader Char to her people,” Leader Taig said. “I will call for the aircraft.”

<>

“You slept with him.”

Char sat pinned in the corner of the packed aircraft with Leander beside her. Seth sat on the opposite side of the triangular craft talking to Callum.

Leander drilled her with a stare. “Did you?”

Click here for the rest of the episode

GUEST STORY SHARE — Bridger: A Dystopian Serial — Episode 19

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 19: I’m improvising

“You’re walking,” Seth said before the door slid shut behind him.

Char looked down at her feet, which were in some kind of boots that were soft as slippers. “Yeah. They have magic bone-healing things, it seems.”

“Magic. Fun.” Leander dropped onto Char’s bed. “Nice digs.”

Char sighed and swung her gaze around the little apartment. It was as Spartan as her quarters in Fort Situk. She had a narrow bed made of the same material as the ones in the healer’s room. It looked like stone and then molded to her body. There was a smaller room off to the side where Char had found a toilet—she knew the hole in the floor with the lid was a toilet because Jezeen had told her—and a what was essentially a shower. She pulled the lever and suddenly rain fell from the ceiling. Warm rain.

“Apparently since I’m ‘Leader Char,’ I get special treatment,” Char sighed. “Listen, I told Taig—that’s the female that’s in charge—that we wanted to make a trade agreement.”

Leander’s eyebrows shot up. “Oh?”

“Yeah,” Char said. “I know I’m above my pay grade here, but we need to get home safely and we need to be allowed back into Kaa.”

Leander nodded tightly.

“So, here is what I figure. We say we want to set up a meeting, bring in our superiors. We’ll gather as much information as we can. Seth, you and the scientists can keep gathering data. We’ll go back to Greta and give her the goods and hope to heck she cooperates.”

Seth folded his arms across his chest. “I don’t like this at all.”

“Well, Erwell wouldn’t put it in the protocol,” Char snapped. “I’m improvising.”

“No,” he said wearily. “Splitting up Kaa like it’s Czechoslovakia.”

Char paced away from them. “I’m just trying to get us home.”

“Yeah,” he said softly. “I know, Char.”

She told them that Taig would be contacting her superiors in Eskalon.

“We’ve got six days,” Leander said. “How long will that take?”

“They can regrow bones. You’d think they’d be able to send instant messages back and forth.” Char ran her hand through her hair. “I don’t know, Leander. I’m making things up as I go.”

“You’ll work it out,” Leander said. “I guess I’ll go back and tell everyone else.” She grinned. “I have semi free run of the place now, and I’m going to use the heck out of it.”

“You do?” Char glanced over at Seth.

He gave her a half-smile. “We’re both second in command, apparently.” He turned to follow Leander out the door.

“Wait,” Char said softly. “Seth, can you stay for a moment?”

He turned, and so did Leander.

Leander met her eyes and gave her a dirty look before backing out and shutting the door.

Char rolled her eyes. Seth stood rigidly.

“You okay?” Char took a step toward him. He had dark circles under his bloodshot eyes.

He met her gaze. “I didn’t sleep much. I was just… wondering where you were.”

“Seth,” she breathed.

He closed the distance. Their bodies collided, and he wrapped her tightly in his arms. His lips pressed into her neck and then against her mouth.

“You scared me,” he muttered against her mouth. “When you were deployed, I knew you were in danger, but I never got to see it. I…”

“I’m fine, Seth.” Char pulled back gently and laid her palm against his cheek.

“I know, but I—“ his mouth followed hers.

Char turned her head. “Seth, I don’t know if we should…”

Click here for the rest of the episode

GUEST STORY SHARE — Bridger: A Dystopian Serial — Episode 18

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 18: I’m here now

Leader Taig was not in her quarters when Venn entered. Jezeen sat on the low bench by Taig’s desk. She jumped up when she saw him.

Venn rushed to her side and pulled her close. He buried his face in her silken hair and breathed in the floral scent.

“You smell like the Mangan trees in Eskalon,” he sighed.

“You don’t even remember what those trees smell like,” Jezeen said.

“No, I’m certain they smell like you.”

She laughed huskily.

“Why is Leader Taig here?” Venn muttered into her hair. “What happened to Ryn?”

“After your team disappeared,” Jezeen began slowly, “Councillor Hya made an inquiry into Leader Ryn’s orders to send you with the trainees so deep into the Kaa valley.”

Venn exhaled, half a moan. “And?”

“They found he had done wrong.” She paused. Her voice came out tight with emotion. “Venn, I’m sorry. I—”

The door swung open. Venn and Jezeen leapt away from each other as Leader Taig came in.

Taig clapped her hands together. “Now then, Bridger Venn. Let us talk about these Americans.”

“B-bridger Jezeen was telling me of Leader Ryn,” Venn said as Taig circled her desk and sat down. Indeed, the last time he was in these quarters it was to plead with Ryn not to send him with the trainees into the valley.

Leader Taig fixed her steel-grey eyes on him. “Then you know of the circumstances under which I took command of this base?”

“He knows the beginning of it,” Jezeen said quietly.

Taig folded her long hands. “But you are returned now, and will be required to give account.”

Venn bowed his head in acknowledgement.

“But the Americans are my first concern, and you have effectively brought them to me. Tell me how this has happened.”

Leader Taig sat back and opened her hands in the Na’odani gesture of listening.

“I drew them here,” Venn said. “I knew no other way of returning to you.”

Venn told her the abridged version of how he’d come to escape from the Kaa burrow, how he’d fled up the mountain and through the portal badly injured. He told them about how the American world was dying because they had used most of their resources, and how Director Greta Erwell had been determined to go through the portal to look for resources. Then he told his leader that they had taken one of his kemzog stones.

Her face grew very serious. She folded her hands. “It cannot remain in their hands.” She paused. “Forgive me, Bridger Venn, but from Hya’s perspective the stone is worth as much as your life.”

“I know,” Venn said quietly. “Kindly recall that if I’d stayed in Alaska, they would have possessed six stones.”

“I do note this. I will inform my superior,” Taig said. Her voice lowered. “Before Leader Ryn was reassigned, he personally supervised a mission to retrieve the kemzog stones from the dead bridgers.” She sighed. “They killed many Kaa but did not find them, nor any remains. I’m certain we shall be sent on another search for them.”

Venn took a deep, quivery breath. Jezeen laid her hand in the small of his back.

“I don’t think the Kaa knew what the stones were for,” Venn said. “The Americans do, and they are testing it in their laboratory.”

Taig leaned forward. She spread her hands again. “Venn, what do they really want with us?”

For the rest of the episode, click here.

GUEST STORY SHARE — Bridger: A Dystopian Serial — Episode 17

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 17: The Na’odani Emerge

 

The aircraft dropped out of the rainy haze to land smoothly in the center of a compound shaped like an eight-pointed star. The rain-slick walls gleamed black in the waning light. The brackish Kaa rain blew up in gusts from the silent engines.

Between the pain and the medication Seth had given her, Char was fighting to keep her head clear. The moment they landed, the ramp dropped open and the two Na’odani picked her up from her place, slumped against the wall of the aircraft. Another took Venn. They carried Char and Venn toward a door. The other Na’odani herded the rest of the Americans in the opposite direction.

“Hey!” Char bucked against the Na’odani holding her. “Where are you taking me? I need to stay with them.”

The Na’odani with the blue sash came alongside her. “Venn tells me you are injured. We will take you for medical care.”

“I want to stay with my soldiers!” Char barked.

“They will be safe. I give you my word.” The Na’odani bent down and met Char’s eyes with its silver ones. “I am Taig, the leader of these bridgers. You are the leader of these Americans, yes?”

“Yes,” Char said.

“If you come in peace, no harm will come to any of you,” Taig said, straightening. “We are a peaceful people.”

“So I’ve been told,” Char said wryly.

She went with them. The Na’odani brought her into a black-walled room with brilliant white lights built into the wall. They deposited her gently on what looked like a solid black metal table, but when she lay against it, it was warm and molded to her body.

A new Na’odani dressed in white robes sidled over and threw a thick, fluffy blanket over her. It was made of a silvery, shimmering material and reminded Char of building insulation.

Leader Taig circled to opposite of the white-robed Na’odani. “Healer Kaz cannot speak your language. Tell me what your injury is, and I will tell him.”

“My ankles are broken,” Char said. “The solid forms around them are casts to keep the bones in place.”

Leader Taig relayed all of this in the melodic Na’odani tongue.

Healer Kaz squinted at them and replied.

“He will take them off,” Taig said. “We do not use these things.”

Venn lay on the plank-bed next to her. He turned his head toward her and met her gaze. His face was tight with concern.

“Venn,” Taig said. “You will translate for Healer Kaz. Explain to Leader Char what the healer does so she is not afraid.” Taig turned to Char. “I will go speak to your soldiers. Who is leader in your absence?”

“The one called Leander… or Seth,” Char added.

Taig nodded and swished from the room.

“If you come in peace, no harm will come to any of you,” Taig said, straightening. “We are a peaceful people.”

The healer produced a small, shiny instrument. Char steeled herself, but the instrument slid through the solid cast like butter, bisecting it. He made a quiet clucking noise when he saw her ankles and looked up at her with a gentle smile. It needed no translation.

He rubbed some odourless salve over them that instantly made her ankles go numb. She gasped.

“It is just for pain.” Venn’s eyelids drooped. “Perhaps Healer Kaz will condescend to give me some yet.”

The healer strapped Char’s legs into two clear cases that enclosed her legs from foot to knee. Suddenly, a warming sensation went through her legs.

Char jerked her head up to look at them. “What’s he doing now?”

“It stimulates bone growth,” Venn said softly. “In Na’odani. Perhaps it will work for you, too.”

“Great,” she muttered. “A bone grower.”

Her pain had left completely. She was warm after being very cold. Her eyes drew inexorably shut.

Some time later, an animal screech woke her from her sleep. Char sat up. Her legs jolted in their casements, provoking shards of pain.

Venn, with the healer bending over his leg, had sat up straight. Another black-robed Na’odani rushed in, practically tossed the healer aside and leapt onto Venn’s bed.

“Jezeen,” Venn groaned. He wrapped his arms around it and buried his face in its robes.

Char stared. Seth had said something about Venn having a wife or something, right?

Jezeen rocked Venn back and forth, stroking his silky dark hair. Venn’s body quaked.

It felt too private to witness. Char lay back slowly and turned her head away. She lay listening to Venn’s choking sobs and the soothing sounds of the beautiful creature with him.

GUEST STORY SHARE — Bridger: A Dystopian Serial — Episode 16

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 16: A narrow miss

 

When Seth, Leander, and Callum pulled Char’s limp body from the Kaa’s pit, Seth steeled himself against the sight. Moments before, she’d been firing the assault rifle still dangling from her shoulder. She was alive.

“Take this.” Leander ripped the rifle from Char’s body and handed it to Jesse.

Seth quickly assessed Char’s thermal-clad form and prodded at her legs. “Both broken,” he said to Leander.

A wail echoed up the tube and washed over them.

“Quickly!” Venn hissed.

Seth and Leander met eyes. “I’ll take her,” he said.

Seth threw Char’s arm over his shoulder and flipped her into a fire-fighter’s carry.

Suddenly a Kaa burst from a burrow in front of him—a long sinewy, eel-like body and a toothy, sucking mouth, about four feet long.

Leander fired a burst into it. It flopped to the ground.

Seth felt Char twitch and stir.

“That’s a small one,” Venn said. “Go!”

They plunged forward, winding their way through the dens. Another Kaa, twice the size of the first, launched itself into the air a few feet in front of them. It flipped in mid-air as all seven soldiers open fire. Fur and slime splattered the ground before the creature landed with a heavy thump.

A moment later another one, much smaller, sprang from the burrow right in front of the unarmed Jeff. Venn swung Jeff around by the handcuffs, putting himself between them and the Kaa, and flipped into a graceful kick. He drove his boot into the Kaa’s head and, anchored by Jeff, swung himself around and caught the Kaa again with his other foot.

The creature landed hard on the ground, and Callum leapt forward and jabbed his knife into it. Its teeth let loose of the leg and it fell, streaming pale fluid.

“Go!” Venn shouted. He dragged Jeff forward.

They pressed on. Finally they reached the slick, rocky slope of the mountains. Seth stumbled under the load of Char’s light weight. Callum caught him from behind and boosted him up. They climbed up to a small plateau and stopped. As they did, a splat of thick, oily moisture hit Seth’s face. He had no free hand to wipe it away. Another hit his nose, and in a moment a steady rain of fat drops were falling.

“Is that rain?” Marlene asked. She dropped to her knees and fumbled for a vial in her pack.

Seth laid Char down. She stirred and opened her eyes, snapping to alertness.

“Woah, no, no. Don’t sit up.” He pressed her back against the slick rock. “We’re across the valley.”

“My legs are broken,” Char said.

For the rest of the episode, click here.

GUEST STORY SHARE — Bridger: A Dystopian Serial — Episode 15

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 15: The Valley

 

episode15

The next long Kaa night arrived without incident. They’d worked their way about five kilometres down the ridge, aided by the lighter Kaa gravity. Char had walked alongside Venn as he explained the calculations. She didn’t follow the math, but she understood the conclusion. Venn’s eyes darted toward the valley as he talked. They’d dropped in altitude considerably since they’d emerged from the portal. They were low enough now to see the tops of the red plants. Up close, they reminded Char of bamboo—tall, narrow, but tapering to a sharp point.

Venn told her, although she already knew, that the ridge was coming to an end. It would meet a bend in the valley soon, and either they could turn back or they could cross the valley right there where it was narrower. His breath came quicker as he said this. Char wondered about the trauma he might be carrying, probably not unlike her own.

Their new camp was squashed under a small crag a few feet above the tops of the plants. Char took a post at one end of the camp, alone this time. Venn was tethered to Callum. She leaned against the rock wall out of the wind and donned her night vision goggles. As the others crept into the tents, Seth sidled over to her.

Char pulled down her goggles. In the deepening twilight, he was mostly a dark mass. He tugged down his frost-covered face mask.

“Leander has been harassing me because we were, quote, ‘snuggling’ this morning,” he said softly. “Apparently if I hurt you she will, quote, cut off my balls and feed them to me.”

Char burst out a laugh. “That sounds like something she would say.” She turned and adjusted her gun. “It was cold, okay?”

“Yeah.”

Char tugged one glove off and ran her bare fingers over his cheekbone. “I know we promised to talk this over.” She stroked his cheek, and his eyes flickered shut. “But I’m supposed to be on watch right now, which also means ‘on listen.’”

“Yeah,” he breathed. He opened his eyes and smiled weakly. “So I shouldn’t worry about it right now?”

“No.” She touched his lips and dropped her hand. Her fingers tingled as she tugged her glove back on again. “Go to bed, okay?”

He walked away, and Char blew her breath out in a long, cloudy gust.

A crawling sensation came over her, like she was being watched. She’d felt that way ever since the wind died down and they were able to travel down the ridge.

Intuition said the Na’odani knew they were here. Char wasn’t about to go off-protocol yet, but that hadn’t stopped her from thinking about what she’d do if they showed up.

Lie. Lie through her nose. Something about them being envoys, maybe setting up a treaty. Maybe that would actually get them somewhere. Somehow this had to work out.

Click here for the rest of the episode

GUEST STORY SHARE — Bridger: A Dystopian Serial — Episode 14

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 14: What if it’s sentient?

 

 

 

Venn watched the healer and the two scientists picking their way across the stony plateau from his vantage point above them. Char stood beside him, surveying the landscape in silence. They were cuffed together again. Her weapon, a stubby sub-machine gun, dangled from her other hand.

The healer sat cross-legged on the ground, holding a tiny plant near to his face.

Char chuckled.

“Those plants grow all over the mountains,” Venn said softly. “They’re not edible nor useful for anything else as we can tell.”

Char turned to him. “You’ve already spent months exploring Kaa. You’re not going to give them any hints, are you?”

Venn shrugged. “How do I know what they look for?”

“Are there any useful elements here?”

Venn shrugged again. “The plants in the valley make good building materials.”

She laughed. “You’re a bastard.”

Venn squinted at her and wondered if this was a euphemism, since he certainly was no bastard. His pedigree was pure, though Leader Char could not have known this he supposed. The Americans seemed fond of vulgar-sounding phrases.

Char shifted her gaze to the winding valley, which from their altitude, looked like a rippling red stream. “What kind of plants are they?”

Venn screwed up his face, searching for an analogy and the English words he needed. “They’re like… tall… thick… grass.”

Char let her gun hang by its sling and cupped her hand to her mouth. “Seth! Venn says that’s a useless plant!”

Seth looked up and grinned. “I like it,” he yelled back. He pulled a sampling bag from his pocket, slipped it in, and deposited in his backpack.

Venn eyed the gun slung over Char’s shoulder.

All night before they bridged he’d considered whether it was better to steal a gun while they were all still incapacitated by the bridge and run off without them, or if he should lead them down the ridge to the narrowest point of the valley and convince them to cross. The Na’odani base, if they were still in Kaa, was tucked behind a ridge on the other side.

But he’d been cuffed to small, wiry Char. And she had not been incapacitated by the bridge, and the gale-force wind sealed his decision. He had an inkling he could still overpower the slender woman, but he’d begun to favor the idea of taking them across the valley.

He still needed to reach his people, and it was not in Char’s protocol to engage the Na’odani. He needed to find some way of drawing Na’odani attention. 

They spent the day that way, slowly working their way down the ridge of mountains collecting samples. Venn was cuffed to Callum for a while, then back to Char. She seemed not to mind his company.

The scientist Marlene, who in Venn’s mind bore striking resemblance to a Na’odani with her thin frame and face and black eyes, caught some kind of creature that she thought was an insect. Before Venn could stop her, she’d placed it in a vial.

“What if it’s sentient?” he asked. He grabbed the vial from her hands.

Her face registered shock. “What? It’s a bug.”

Venn peered into the container at the creature. It was perfectly elliptical, and appeared to be made of black metal. Its wings were paper thin and seemed too small to propel its body.

Char glanced over at it, and then away again.

It’s not a bug.

Click here for the rest of the episode.

GUEST STORY SHARE — Bridger: A Dystopian Serial — Episode 13

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 13: The Bridge

The persistent beeping of his alarm tugged Seth to wakefulness. He raised his head and rolled over to hit the snooze. As he did, he encountered the warm form in the bed beside him.

Ohhhh, no.

He flopped back. Char raised her head, started and pushed herself up on her elbow.

“Today’s the day,” she mumbled.

“I wasn’t drunk,” Seth said. “Were you?”

“Huh?” Char stared at him for a moment. “Oh! No, no I wasn’t drunk.” She lay back down, keeping wary eye-contact.

He sighed. For better or for worse, what had happened had happened. She was his wife. He hadn’t done anything wrong.

Seth leaned over her and dropped a peck on her lips so she wouldn’t feel that he was regretting their night together. He wasn’t—not really.

She cupped his cheek and kissed him again. “This was nice.”

He nodded.

“But now we have to be professionals again,” she continued. “Can we do that?”

He nodded again.

She kissed him one more time, then rolled away. She sat up and dug around on the floor for her clothes. Seth sat up. His head had that balloon-like feel of two hours of sleep. He found his shorts from the night before and put those on and then sat there, semi-stupefied, watching Char get dressed.

“I’ll see you later,” she said softly and disappeared out the door.

“Get up,” he muttered to himself as the door clicked. He got up and woodenly pulled clean underwear out of his dresser. He pulled on the military-grade thermals he’d been given and layered his usual flannel shirt overtop. Seth tugged open the drawer of his nightstand and pulled out a bundle of letters—notes to Will, Brett, and Shania, and some of the others saying goodbye. He took out a sheaf of little wallet-sized pictures: him and Char on their wedding day, him and Char with a moose they’d shot near Taylor Bay, and finally a picture of his Mom and Dad, taken only weeks before they’d died. He slipped them into a little waterproof bag and tucked it into the inner pocket of his thermals.

His throat tightened.

God, I’m scared.

Click here for the rest of the episode.

 

GUEST STORY SHARE — Bridger: A Dystopian Serial — Episode 12

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 12: Maybe there’s Still a Spark

 

The whopping of a helicopter made Char glance up as she approached the bottom of the corner tower. A big black aircraft descended through the bronze-toned sky. Char squinted at it for a moment before she climbed the ladder into the roofed parapet.

“Incoming,” she said to Linc and Leander, who were leaning out and gazing at the landing chopper.

“Good times,” Leander said. She raised her binoculars. “Are these the bigwigs? Considering what we’re doing tomorrow, you’d think the place would be crawling with them.”

Linc laughed. “Seems fortunate to me.”

As the chopper wound down and fell silent, Char sighed. “Erwell is being very tight-lipped. It’s suspicious, I’ll give you that.”

Leander laughed.

Char sighed. “I’ve been trying to get them to bring in more of us instead but that will take expediting their security clearance checks—“

“Interesting enough, those checks didn’t illuminate the fact that your husband was working on base,” her friend said.

“Or it’s just not a big deal.” Char scowled at her. “What are we, fourteen?”

Linc’s eyes dodged away uncomfortably.

“Yeah, you’re a Seth sycophant. Sorry, Linc.” Leander jabbed him with her elbow.

“Geez, Leander. I came here to get away from assholes, not to find another one,” Char said. “Anyway, Erwell will brief us tonight at 1900 hours. Be there or be square.”

“Should be fun,” Leander said, deadpan.

<>

The conference room was too small to fit both Char’s team and Erwell’s team and but they were in there anyway. Char escorted Venn, cuffed, into the midst of the standing-room only crowd and felt him freeze.

“Easy, there, Venn,” she said softly. “This circus is almost over.”

“What is a circus?” Venn whispered back.

“I’ll explain later,” she answered.

“All right, let’s quiet down,” Erwell called, even though they were all mostly quiet. She had a strange, skull-like grin on her face. “I’ll start going through the protocol.”

Char spotted Seth in the corner, leaning against the wall behind her team. She sidled Venn through the group to stand beside Seth and tucked herself in beside him.

She glanced over at Seth’s tight face and crossed arms. He met her gaze and gave her the barest hint of a smile.

“How are you holding up?” he whispered to her.

“I have a headache.” Her head ached from a potent combination of fatigue, noise, and caffeine.

“I’ll give you something after,” he said.

Erwell flicked on the projected display against the wall and began going through the protocol. They had a week, Alaska time, to complete the scouting mission. Venn’s calculations said that would equal nine and a half days in Kaa.

They’d be measuring everything from the oxygen percentage in the atmosphere to the force of gravity. They’d take samples of the water and every element and plant they could find and carry.

Conspicuously absent, any mention of the Na’odani. Char had brought this up with Erwell the first time she’d read the protocol documents at a table in the corner of the cafeteria.

“Your job will be to avoid them,” Erwell had said.

Char had blinked. “Avoid them? What if we can’t?”

“Avoid them at all costs,” Erwell said. “They’re peaceful. Venn said so. Just stick to taking samples.”

A pit had settled in Char’s stomach then.

Click here for the rest of the episode.