Defensive Position

The next episode for Jamison’s Battlefields. Here are the previous episodes in order. Zilkas Asteroid Belt, Jamison’s Rescue,  Dinner with an Alien, Dibolocos Attack, Departure Orders, Homecoming, Into the Darkness, The Family BusinessJewel’s Place, ShanghaiedFirst Mark, and The Pirate’s Life. Like any story you will get the most out of it by reading it in order.

Tyler died in an attack on a CDF vessel, it surprised everyone and in the next few minutes Jamison began barking the familiar orders of their commander. He had to, if they didn’t stay organized they would all be killed. This vessel had more seasoned and higher ranking defenders. This fact and the loss of Tyler caused Jamison to go on a new level of rampage. He had killed nineteen and was leading his group into another heavily defended room.

Then he heard a sound, it was one of those quiet noises soldiers make when they are trying not to be discovered. He spun around ready to dispatch whoever had survived the battle, and he saw Captain Chambers. She was the MPO who had attended him at his failed homecoming. Her small frame was pinned under the body of a much heavier officer. He stared for half a second and realized that she still reminded him of Jenny, at least the old Jenny, before she aligned herself with the Dibolocos.

At that moment, everything in his thought processes shattered. There was no justifying killing Captain Chambers. He wanted to be the man he used to be. He didn’t want to be the murderous aggressor he had become. Neither did he want to be the skittish sniper who had suffered from isolation in the Zilkas Asteroid Belt. He wanted to be her defender. He was certain the choice would get him killed, but he didn’t care. Death would bring relief.

He didn’t exactly make a decision what to do next. He just did it, improvising a plan as he went along. The whole time he believed his situation was hopeless. He would die today and so would she, but he would die defending the young woman instead of killing her.

He ordered his men to the next room to continue the battle. No one asked about the woman, they probably all assumed he would rape her. Some of the men may have wanted to argue splitting up, but they were scared of Jamison. And at that moment they had every reason to be, he appeared fiercer than he ever had before.

When the men left he threw the corpse off of her and picked her up roughly. She tried to fight him off, obviously thinking similar thoughts to what the other pirates had thought. In the battle, she had not recognized him. Under the circumstances, she wouldn’t have trusted him even if she had.

But these facts mattered little, Jamison had the capability to completely master her and drag her back through the ship. He was looking for a defensible place to make a final stand. He found a room on the extreme side of the ship, he didn’t recognize it at first, but he chose it because it had one way in. He would turn that access tube into a killing field.

In the few minutes he had before his treachery was discovered by the other pirates and Lobokidos, he tried to explain to Chambers. At first she didn’t listen at all, then she stopped fighting and looked carefully at his face. Recognition and memory came slowly.

Jamison might have enjoyed a smile or a word of thanks. But instead she looked over his shoulder, out the window into space and screamed. The pirate ship had just launched a massive salvo of missiles at the mark. In a few moments the ship and everyone on it would be destroyed. Jamison, turned, recognized what was happening and stared hopelessly.

Chambers came to her senses. She slapped a button on the wall that closed the door and started a launch sequence.  She ordered Jamison to take one of the seats and strap himself in. About that time he realized his defensible location he had chosen was a survival pod. He strapped himself in just in time. They launched away from the ship and within a few seconds he saw it being ripped to shreds behind them. The pods survival display indicated there were no other pods.

He saw chambers starting to unbuckle. He yelled at her to stop, hang on for a few more minutes. She did so, and suddenly the pod was hit by the shock wave from the explosions. The pod had been launched away at a high rate of speed, but now they were going much faster.

Jamison continued to study the displays. He expected to see the pirate ship shoot them out space. They had no reason to let them live. But no shot came. Chambers must have had the same thought because she speculated aloud whether there pod was hidden among the wreckage.

Then Jamison figured it out. They were heading out into space with limited supplies and no chance of rescue. Shooting them would be a waste of energy. They had already chosen the slow painful death of starvation.

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Theology of Gratitude

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I might not know what the date is, but I know its Thanksgiving Day. So today for Theology Thursday, let me explore what I believe about gratitude.

I believe being thankful is realistic, beneficial, and spiritual.

Our lives are so full of blessings we cannot always see the next one coming. We are literally blessed to the point that we are drowning in our blessings. The main reason we don’t always feel like it is we try to measure our blessings compared to others. It would be wiser to compare them to what we deserve. This is a realistic look at our situation.

Gratitude is beneficial to us in that it keeps our attitude positive. Positive attitudes accomplish more, and better things. Gratitude’s benefits extend into our health, our relationships, and our potential. If you want to avoid the negatives of life, build your own positives by being thankful.

I believe thanksgiving is a spiritual activity as well. Rightly understood gratitude is an action of worship. It’s an acknowledgement that God is on the throne and the good things in life come from Him. If you cease to be grateful your worship will likely lose its depth and stop being as meaningful to you. One solution to this is to count your blessings.

Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning. James 1:17 (HCSB)

Great-tailed Grackle

Great Tailed Grackle

 

The great-tailed grackle pictured above is an immature male. When he grows a little older the tail will be a little longer still and the eye will become bright yellow. This species of grackle is fairly common where I live, gathering in roosting trees to make a ruckus or just hanging out in parking lots looking for easy meals.

Grackles have a habit I find fascinating. When they fly they will take their long tail and twist it into a vertical position. Like every other bird they hold their tail horizontally when they are sitting, and often when they are flying. In fact every other type of bird fly with their tails horizontal. But the mature males, which have remarkable tails, will often turn them into a vertical rudder after takeoff.

I have always wanted to get a picture of this behavior, but as of yet I have failed. Which is how you ended up with the picture above instead.

For a bird, flight requires cooperation with the air. There are certain patterns birds follow when working out this cooperation. I suppose you could think of this as the tried and true, safe way of accomplishing flight. But the Grackle tried something new and found a better way. I wonder what type of person it takes to come up with a completely different way to do something.

A Christ follower is what immediately comes to mind. Romans 12:1-2 (HCSB) says “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” This is just one of many passages indicating we are to do things in a different way than the rest of the world.

The Free Press

We live in a changed economy.

Not necessarily a good economy, but most certainly a different economy.

In our new economy companies have to behave differently in order to make a profit. For fast food places this might mean making everyone, including management, part time. For manufacturing facilities it might mean moving jobs to a country with less regulation and cheaper workforce. For media outlets it might mean eliminated investigative reporting, greater reliance on the wire for news, and a reluctance to risk telling unpopular stories.

We will miss the jobs. We will the made in America label. But what I expect will be even more disastrous is the lack of information and accountability the free press use to provide.

Instead we get whatever story is contrived at the top levels of the media carried down to all other media outlets. It doesn’t pay for the local outlets to determine if it’s true or false. They just need to be able to print something and stay in business. In the process they become enslaved to the popular story, without any time or money to check the facts.

It’s a function of the failing economy keeping the fifth estate from acting as a free press.

But the absence of a free press gives unrestrained control to policy makers who are destroying our economy, freedoms, and ultimately our country.

The Pirate’s Life

The next episode for Jamison’s Battlefields. Here are the previous episodes in order. Zilkas Asteroid Belt, Jamison’s Rescue,  Dinner with an Alien, Dibolocos Attack, Departure Orders, Homecoming, Into the Darkness, The Family BusinessJewel’s Place, Shanghaied, and First Mark. Like any story you will get the most out of it by reading it in order.

On that next attack their number was cut down by two thirds, and they would have all been killed except for a larger group of pirates were transported aboard trapping the defenders in a crossfire. So there were other boarding parties.  Jamison again used the stun setting, but as he counted the dead men around him, he made up his mind to stop this practice.

A couple days later he went on his first raid with the kill setting. It was a small barely defended vessel. He almost got by without firing a shot, but a stowaway in a cargo hold jumped out at him and fired a projectile between his arm and his chest. Without thinking he dropped the man. If the shot had been a little to the left or right Jamison would be among the dead or worse yet dying without medical assistance.

He spent a long time staring at the man’s lifeless frame. For Jamison it was a defining moment. Who knows how long he would have stayed but the signal to gather up for transport home was given. He didn’t sleep after that raid. But he spent the time awake recounting the reasons he had no other choice but to embrace the life of murder. He could enumerate them, but would he believe them?

His descent into the lifestyle and habits of a pirate had begun. He would go through a couple of dozen more raids in the next two months. Each time he became a little harder. Soon he began to embrace cruelty. He was beginning to wonder why he didn’t help himself to the women on the marks as other pirates had done. It just went with the territory.

With each raid the humanity of the victims became less and less real to him. He understood their terror, but he had his own to worry about. He understood their pain, but he had his own to worry about. He understood their desire to survive, but he had his own to worry about. The pirate’s life was becoming all he knew. Or all he allowed himself to know.

Even in this condition there was some distinct hints he was really not reconciled with his buccaneer’s ways. One night he startled awake in the middle of sleep cycle, he jumped to his feet and fired three random shots around the room before realizing what he was doing. After that incident Tyler had suggested he sleep without his weapon in his hand.  Jamison had indicated he would gladly kill anyone who tried to take it from him.

The men had seen his skills with a weapon and nobody was going to challenge him. In fact, his skills were beyond exceptional, and seemed to improve with each raid. On the first few raids he killed two or three people. But after a month or so the number increased to six or eight. Then in another leap of ability he might come away from a raid with over a dozen kills.

He had even been seen to fire backwards over his own shoulder and kill an opponent he had never faced, pinpointing the victim by sound. Stories about the pirate, who was such a remarkable marksman had begun to circulate among the shipping companies.

His skills were scary good. He scared the victims on the mark ships, he scared his fellow pirates, but most of all, he scared himself. But the defense mechanism he had chosen, never showing weakness forced him to internalize every bit of his anguish. So he slept poorly and sometimes, not at all. At times he barely ate anything, then he would binge, eating his portion and the portions of whoever else he chose. His insides were constantly fighting back with pains and spasms. The only time he was not aware of the pain was when the adrenaline of battle drowned it out.

So he began to long for battle. He fully expected that one day soon his lifeless body would be piled on the floor of some abandoned and newly derelict vessel. But he didn’t care, one way or another he would find relief in battle.

Prayer

 

One of the central aspects of religious expression is prayer. But what do you believe about prayer? The practice is radically different for a Christian than it is for a Moslem. Since I am Christian, and assumedly so is my audience, I want to help you think about prayer for the Christian.

I often describe prayer as talking with God. Conversation or communication is an important part of any relationship, and since our salvation is a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, our prayers become important in keeping the relationship strong.

Set times for praying are not necessary, but they do have some strong benefits. If you set a habit of praying when you wake up, praying for meals, and praying in personal worship, these prayers will anchor you to the habit of prayer and help you to remember to pray when things come up through the day.

Prayers can be prescribed, but I feel more comfortable with spontaneous prayers. This is because less is communicated of the one praying when they are not speaking from their own heart, thoughts and ideas.

Prayers will change the world. I am always amazed when I hear individuals who say God has it all planned out and nothing we do will ever change the plan. Scripture speaks of God redirecting history. Just because He already knows what is going to happen doesn’t mean He doesn’t take our prayers into account.  After all, He also knew you would pray in advance.

God may choose to communicate back to the person praying as a result of their prayers. The intention behind this communication may be clearly understood immediately or it may come through later from Scripture, life experiences, or any other way God chooses.

Eavesdropping at the Gallery

sean-fallon

I will never understand modern art.

This is the winning entry? What is artistic about this old mannequin; its head is broken off at the neck, it’s taken apart at the waist, and its legs don’t match.

Oh, the broken mannequin is the trophy? The art is the neglected doorway? What is artistic about a doorway?

So let’s see if I got this straight. It represents the blocked progress of humanity, littered by the detritus of our appetites—pizza symbolizes our physical appetites and graffiti portrays our intellection appetites.

Okay. If you say so. But I will never understand modern art.

This piece was prepared for Friday Fictioneers.  If you want to enter a story of your own, go ahead, it’s fun.