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.

Advertisements

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.

GUEST STORY SHARE — Bridger: A Dystopian Serial — Episode 11

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 11: Clearance

“Venn?”

Venn kept his eyes closed a moment longer. He leaned into his deep stretch, pushing his weight into his hands on the cool concrete floor. A deep ache settled into his hamstrings.

“Oh look,” a female voice said. “He’s working out.”

Venn straightened, and stood still as the blood rushed from his head. The healer and the taller, dark-skinned soldier woman stood in the open door. “Hello, healer Seth. Hello, soldier woman.”

“Ah, Mr. Venn, I love it when you call me that.” The female batted her eyelashes at him and laughed. “Let me know when you want out, doc.”

Seth stepped in and the woman closed the door. “Her name is Leander,” he said.

“Leander,” Venn repeated.

“I see you’ve rested from your expedition yesterday,” Seth said. He crossed his arms across his chest.

“I have.” Venn got up slowly. “I’m testing my strength.” His garments were drenched with sweat even from his simple stretches. He suspected he was at about half-strength yet, perhaps as strong as an ordinary citizen of the city of Eskalon.

“How does it feel?” Seth looked him up in down with his dark, cagey eyes.

“I’m not as strong as I was,” Venn said. “But also, Director Greta Erwell spoke to me for much time. I am tired.”

“I’m sure she did,” Seth said wryly. He smiled. “Let me look at your leg.”

Venn removed his pants and lay down on the bed.

Seth went through his usual ritual of draping the body-parts he didn’t need to see, then bent down to examine the wound on Venn’s thigh.

“It’s healing well,” he said, finally. “Very nearly shut.” He applied a lighter dressing, rearranged his draping, and moved to examine the wound in Venn’s belly.

“Does it hurt?” Seth asked as he squinted at it.

“It pulls,” Venn said. Lying down he could just see the healer’s serious face and creased brow out of the corner of his eye. “Any use of my abdominal muscle pulls at it.”

“No pain in your gut?”

“No,” Venn said.

Seth dressed this wound also, then straightened. Venn sat up and surveyed the healer’s drawn face.

“Something troubles you, Healer Seth.” Venn said.

Seth met his eyes frankly. “How did the director question you? About what?”

Everything. Venn smiled ruefully. He had kept very little hidden from the director—just Jezeen, the location of his people, and the portal to Na’o, and much about their culture. She wasn’t interested in their culture.

“Everything about the atmosphere and terrain of Kaa,” Venn answered. “It was difficult to translate much of it, for my research has been in the numbers and figures of my people.” He paused. “She says your world is dying.”

“It is dying.” Seth folded his arms and frowned at his feet.

“Why?” He had seen nothing of this world but the white ground and the few plants, which seemed dead. He’d smelled the fetid air and felt the world must be at very least sick.

“We’ve sucked the life out of it.” Seth’s lip curled. “I suppose your people get around that by sucking other worlds dry?”

Click here for the rest of the episode.

GUEST STORY SHARE — Bridger: A Dystopian Serial — Episode 10

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 10: I’ll Lead the Team

PG-13 for language

episode10“Venn,” Char said as she stood by the door of his cell, ready to lock him in. “Be honest with me.”

Venn nodded and raised his eyebrows.

“What do you expect will happen if we pass through that portal?” Char folded her arms and glanced back at Linc.

Venn exhaled gently. “We’ll have to travel along the top of the mountain ridge to avoid the Kaa. They are dangerous.”

“If we travel down the ridge, we can avoid these Kaa creatures?”

Venn nodded.

“What about your people?” Char asked. “How will they feel about visitors?”

Venn tilted his head. “My people are a peaceful people.”

Char glanced at Linc. “All right then.” She swung the door shut and locked it.

“How peaceful can they possibly be?” Seth straightened with a handful of trimming from the sage plants. “Their civilization seems to depend on conquering and colonizing other worlds.”

“Yeah, exactly.” Char ran her fingers through a short clump of lavender and sniffed her fingertips to catchy the spicy, woody scent.

“Erwell’s on it like a shark on blood,” Leander said behind her. “I’m not sure she’ll see it that way.”

Seth leaned against the metal garden bed and met her gaze. “Do you think she’ll get clearance to go through?”

“Yeah,” Leander said.

Char nodded. Caution was becoming more and more expensive as the years wore on. They’d thrown two million soldiers at the Russo-Chinese federation, after all, and what had that got them?

“I’d bet that if she does get clearance, using private security soldiers would help erase the paper trail if things didn’t go well,” Seth muttered. He tossed the leaves into a compost bin in the corner. “You do want to go through that portal, don’t you?”

“Hell yes!” Char burst out. She raked her lavender-scented hand through her hair. “Of course I do. I just don’t want to drag all my guys into a death trap.”

 

Click here for the rest of the episode.