Outbound One: The First Starship

Chapter 1

Launch Euphoria

Matt Huston entered the ship’s bridge with an unusual sense of apprehension. His usually cool demeanor had been replaced with a feeling of excitement and pride he hadn’t felt since he made his maiden training mission at the academy. He knew it was his duty to control his emotions and display an attitude of total confidence. His crew snapped to attention as he strode to the commander’s chair and uttered his first official statement. “You all know the importance of this mission and the dangerous challenges we face. We’re embarking on an expedition of historic importance to the fate of the entire human race. As you probably know by now, there is no room for failure aboard a ship that I command. I am not interested in excuses, only total commitment to the tasks you’re assigned. You’ve all been screened, tested, and thoroughly trained to assure that you’re the best the Agency has to offer and are expected to perform accordingly. So I say to you now, good luck, comrades! Let’s go to the stars!” Since Matt was raised by former astronaut parents, who nurtured his early desire to follow in their footsteps, it was inevitable that he would undergo intensive training by the World Space Agency to be an interplanetary fleet commander. He had risen swiftly through the ranks and had proven himself in a series of successful campaigns to quell local wars between various factions in the outer colonies of Mars and the moons of Jupiter. The time was early in the twenty-third century. Earth has long since been declared a closed planet for further population growth by a Solar One world government due to severe economic conditions caused by depletion of available resources and continual battles between political and religious factions. Colonies had been established on the moon, Mars, and numerous moons orbiting the outer planets, but an attempt was now being made at traveling to a new solar system, the star system designated Gliese 581, some twenty light-years from Solar One. This system had been extensively studied by unmanned robotic orbiters that had been equipped with return capability. Since the colonizing ship, named Interstellar Outbound One, was such an immense scale-up of previous craft, it was not capable of making a return trip. However, it was equipped with the latest development in space travel, the Higgs wave drive, which was powered by the creation of a Higgs boson field that allowed the space-time continuum to be distorted into a wave form both fore and aft of the ship to allow faster-than-light (FTL) travel. Along with the two dozen crew members, the ship was carrying a payload of 200 passengers possessing skills considered critical to the new settlement. The civilian passenger list consisted of individuals proficient in such areas as farming, food processing, engineering, communications, defense, psychology, environmental systems, and health and safety. As the designated commander of Outbound One, Captain Matt Huston was not only responsible for directing the day-to-day operations of the ship but also of maintaining a communication log (clog) to serve as a means of communication with the home solar system during sub-FTL travel and as a historical document for future posterity. He personally had his doubts as to the true importance of the clog in the great scheme of human history, but at least it allowed him a vehicle to express his views of the challenging events that were eventually encountered. The initial phase of the journey is told by presenting the early chronological records as the commander recorded them in the ship’s clog during the beginning days of the voyage.

The Horny Paradigm: A Detective Story

Chapter 1

Mysterious Lady

“Never underestimate the power of a sexy lady”

I was about to wrap it up for the day when I was rudely interrupted by a knock on my office door. “Who the hell would be looking for me at this late hour?” I muttered as I jammed the scotch bottle back into my desk. It was already 4 o’clock, my secretary was gone, and it was well into my usual cocktail hour. Way too late for any serious business. “Enter!” I bellowed. The door slid open quietly. I rubbed my eyes in disbelief as I made out the form of a very sexy female. “Are you the great Dan Francisco I’ve heard so much about,” she purred as she came closer into the dimness of my low-watt desk light. “Yes, I guess I am,” I stammered. She was middle aged but well preserved. Her long flowing blonde hair fell in ringlets over prominent breasts exposed just enough to make any red- blooded man’s heart pound. She was dressed in a dark suit that fit tightly around her slim waist but allowed her shapely legs to be viewed well above the knees.

I hoped she wouldn’t notice I hadn’t seen such a comely client in years, as most of my customers were worn-out ladies attempting to discover their husband’s extramarital affairs. “What can I do for you?” I said as I finally managed to refocus on business. “I‘d like to hire you for a confidential assignment involving missing information that’s vital I recover.” Without revealing my personal thoughts involving some off-color remarks I could have used, I pushed forward with my usual incisive line of questioning. “What the hell are you talking about?” “I’m not at liberty to give you details at this time but I‘ll tell you I’ll pay handsomely for your time and expenses to get what I want.” “Well, you know I’ve got other pressing work to deal with before I can commit my full attention to your problem,” I said as I hid the wry grin at such a bald face lie. The truth was that she was my first client in days and I was on the verge of closing down due to some crazy policies requiring payment for minor commodities such as electricity, gas and telephone lines. “You must make this your sole project from now on or there’s no deal. I’m prepared to pay you $5000 up front and $100 an hour plus expenses. But if I find you’re not giving full attention to the matter I won’t only cut you off without further payment, but I‘ll see to it that you’re license to operate in this town will be pulled. You see, I’ve got connections with high- ranking officials here who owe me more than a shitload of favors. You get it?” “All right, already,” I said as I quickly gave in. “I got it. You’ve given me no choice but to agree to your terms. When do we start?” “Right now, Mr. Dan. I knew you’d see it my way. After all, I’m not known as Hard-Dealin’ Helen for nothin’.”

“OK doll. What’s your real name and where do we go from here?” “You can find me at this address, any time,” she said as she handed me a business card. The name “Helen Horny” was embossed in big letters at the top. “And don’t give me any smart remarks about my name. I’m very sensitive about that, although it‘s helped me many times to get what I want. “You’re first order of business is to find a man called Dr. Bob Bitchin. He’s a physics researcher who worked with my late husband, Dr. Harry Horny. He recently disappeared under suspicious circumstances. You’ll find his laboratory address and what we know about him on the back of my card. Please call me when you know something worth my time. Limit your use of email and text messages, as we want all of this to be strictly confidential. You understand?” “Yeah, I guess so. But I need to know more about the nature of the information you’re looking for. And what does Dr. Bob have to do with it?” “You’ll find out in due time. Right now it’s better you don’t know everything as it may come back to bite you.” “That’s not much help, dammit. I’ve got another question. When do I get my money? I’m a little short right now as some of my clients have decided not to pay.” “No need to lie about it Mr. Dan. I know you’re about to go under. This should tide you over,” she said as she pulled a wad of bills from her purse and tossed them on my desk. “If you need more, just call the number on the card.” Before I could unravel the bundle of scratch, she was gone. But it didn’t seem to matter at the time as the bills were all 100’s totaling close to 5 G’s. More than I’d seen in many moons. She must be dead serious about this mysterious job for reasons I hopefully would discover later. So what do I do now?

I spent the rest of the night trying to decipher the few facts the lady had scratched out on the back of her card. The man called Dr. Robert Bitchin had worked for a government contractor called Energy Incorporated located here in San Francisco. He was last seen with his girlfriend at Bangers Bar, one of the few joints in town I wasn’t familiar with. He was described as a bald headed middle-aged male with a fully- grown beard who wore dark glasses. Definitely not much to go on, but it was a start. Following my normal routine, I checked in with my loyal manservant, Awshit Sing. He made his usual report. No one had tried to contact me at my apartment that day. I told him I had a new assignment that would allow me to pay him some of his back wages. For the first time in weeks I slept like a baby knowing I could keep the business intact and settle up some bar bills. Authors note: If this opening chapter reminds you of previous novels you’ve read or old movies you’ve seen, you’re right! It’s my updated version of stories of the early ‘40’s & 50’s featuring such tough guys as Bogart, Mitchum, and Spillane! Don’t let that bother you. Please read on. It gets better.

Chapter 2

The Search Begins

“Don’t trust anyone in a $300 suit”

The place called Bangers was true to its name. Most of the clientele showed the effects of being banged up pretty good in their earlier lives. The bartender was a craggily faced old guy by the name of Frank. He was a stout, pot-bellied belligerent prick with short- cropped hair who carried a permanent scowl on his face. After suffering through some nasty remarks from him regarding my mother and my private parts, I decided his name had to be Frank Foulmouth. As I ordered my 3rd scotch on the rocks, I got around to business. “You know a guy by the name of Bob Bitchin?” “If I did, why the hell would I tell you?” “Cause it’s worth a sawbuck to me,” I said as I pulled an Alexander Hamilton out of my pocket. “Why the hell didn’t you say so, ass hole?” he muttered as he snatched up the bill. “Dr. Bitchin comes in once a night around ten and usually stays till we close. You got any more silly f*#!ing questions you want answered?”

“No sir. That’s it for today. But I’ll be back. See you in the funny papers.” As I downed what was left of my drink and turned to go, I felt a strong hand grip my arm. Before I could react I was dragged out the back door by what I perceived to be a large pre-historic ape-like creature. What I could see out of the corner of my eye was a very hairy individual over 6 feet tall with a strong stocky build and long stringy hair. Even though I was doing my damndest to resist, he literally lifted me off my feet, dragged me into the alley, and shoved me into the back seat of a waiting black Cadillac Escalade. “What the hell is going on?” I grunted as I struggled to free myself from the clutches of the beast. I was wedged into the back seat between this Neanderthal type and a slim pale-faced elderly man dressed in a dark suit and tie. I could barely make out his features, as the alley was pitch black and all the car lights were off. All I could see was his hook-nosed profile that narrowed to a sharp protruding chin. He was sitting stiffly in the back corner of the vehicle pointing a snub nosed .45 at my gut. His first words were “Shut the f*#! up or you’ll end up in the bay. I’ll do the talking. You got it?” “Yeah, I got it,” I said meekly as I sensed he wasn’t kidding since the .45 was now digging into my ribs. “I need to know why you’re interested in finding a man named Dr. Bitchin. You know, of course, he has no friends or relatives so don’t play games with me. You’ve nothing to fear if you give it to me straight. Otherwise, things could get rough. Bill Bigbasket here has a nasty habit of rearranging people’s faces if he gets a chance. And he hasn’t had many chances lately so he’s a bit on edge.”

Love Conquers Life's Challenges

Chapter 1

The Early Years

It was late afternoon on one of those exhilarating California spring days that made you feel glad to be alive. There was a gentle breeze coming off the ocean that seemed to cleanse your lungs as you breathed in the fresh salt air.

Although there was a slight chill in the air, their half naked bodies were warmed in the bright sunlight as they lounged on the motel room outdoor patio sipping wine and enjoying a spectacular view of the Pacifi c. Barely audible above the gentle lapping sound of the waves breaking on the beach was the soothing romantic music of Sinatra and the Count Basie Band.

“I’ll never get over the beauty of this place,” Reed said as he leaned back in his cushioned lounge chair. “It surely hasn’t changed that much over the years.”

“No it hasn’t, dear,” Joanie answered with a sigh. “I hope it stays this way forever. Or at least long enough for our kids to enjoy it the way we have.”

“They’ll be lucky to have just half the good times we’ve had over the years, don’t you think?”

“No doubt about it, dear. We’ve had a lot of fun, even through the rough times. I can’t believe it’s all gone so fast. It seems like only yesterday that we first met. Do you remember?” “I surely do, dear. Just like yesterday.”

“Anyway, happy 35th anniversary. And here’s to many more,” Joanie said as she raised her glass in a toast quickly met in mid-air by her aging but still loving companion.

35 years earlier

Joanie Houseman was totally infatuated with Paul Kramer, a cute young man who had asked her out to the high school prom. After all, he was the son of the owner of Kramer’s Department Store, an independent establishment that had challenged the dominance of the national chains in the southeastern Washington town of Atomic City. The Kramers were not only well respected members of the community, but were considered by some to be members of the local elites. And since her own family had struggled through some hard times after her father had become disabled, she was encouraged by both her parents and two sisters to “latch onto this guy”.

Since Joanie was a very wholesome good-looking young lady with a petite figure, wavy blond hair and a pleasing but somewhat subdued personality, she was quickly accepted into the Kramer family. Although she’d been an average student in high school, she had shown considerable singing talent as a soloist in the girl’s glee club. She was considered a tolerable addition to the Kramer line despite her family’s lower class status. In fact, Paul’s mother was overjoyed not only by the thought of eventually having grandchildren, but also having a daughter to share her feminine thoughts and desires that had so far been suppressed in her own all-male family.

It was not long before Paul popped the question and Joanie was faced with one of the most important decisions of her life. She had always admired Paul and especially his parents, mostly because of their gracious and warm acceptance of her and their seemingly enormous wealth. Compared to her modest upbringing, their way of life was completely foreign to her. She was constantly in awe of their beautiful home and what she believed to be their luxurious possessions.

However, there was one problem. Joanie was not sure she loved this man. He was certainly polite enough and always conscious of her material needs, but he lacked something that Joanie herself could not describe but was always in the back of her mind.

She would not recognize this flaw until years later, when everything would become much clearer and at the same time, desperately depressing.

But none of this seemed to be important as she became caught up in the excitement of the planning and preparation for her marriage into this wonderful family.

*******

Since his early days in high school in the largely government built city of Atomic City, Washington in the1950’s, Reed Kramer had become increasingly curious about the work that was going on at the local government reservation just outside of town. The plant was involved in the development of the first atomic bombs. It was now involved in the peaceful use of nuclear energy including the development of nuclear power.

Reed had studied hard at college to get his bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering at Washington State University and was awarded a scholarship to earn a Masters Degree. It was during his time as a graduate student that he was able to take several courses in Nuclear Engineering, which he knew would help him land a job at the Atomic City Plant. In fact, nuclear energy was becoming a very lucrative field since it was believed that nuclear-powered plants could produce electricity that was so cheap that “you would hardly be able to meter it”.

And even though he’d been very close to his brother Paul during their younger days together, they had slowly drifted apart when Reed went off to college. So it was a bit of a surprise when he received an invitation to Paul and Joanie’s wedding.

Although he knew Paul had been dating an unassuming, bashful, sweet young girl since high school, Reed didn’t realize they were that serious.

Chapter 9

A New Neighborhood

page 76, Before this crude display of vulgarity could reach its inevitable conclusion, Reed and Joanie agreed it was time to head for the nearest exit.

Chapter 13

The Good Life-Interrupted

page 117, “We’ve been worried sick about you,” were Reed’s first words to Joanie after a long and passionate embrace. “How are you feeling?”

2084 Mars, A New World

Chapter 1

Planetary Rule

“You can muffle the drum, and you can loosen the strings of the lyre, but who shall command the skylark not to sing?” Kahlil Gibran

The date was May 1, 2084. It was a typical northern California spring day in the Sierra Nevada foothills. The vegetation covering the preserved areas scattered between the neatly arranged public housing communes were proudly displaying their spectacular deep green hues that would inevitably revert to the typical golden carpeted landscape.

Gavon was aware only of the faint rocking motion of the maglev train as it sped noiselessly through this impressive scenery to his worksite at the Peninsula Center. He knew that the 70-mile trip from his suburban home through the NorCal Megatropolis would take no more than 30 minutes and was seldom behind schedule.

As he had done nearly every day for the past ten years of his assignment to the Planetary Governing Council (PGC) headquarters, he was using this interlude of relative detachment from his everyday concerns to doze off and dream. Invariably, his thoughts drifted back to his childhood, which he vaguely remembered as a much happier time. His memories of his great grandfather Fred Funtley and his grandfather Gary were especially vivid as he recalled the many times they had reminisced about the way of life before the Korean Bombing of ’09.

They had described it as a time of great optimism. An international consortium of nations had finally agreed on subduing the ongoing war on Islamic terrorism, and people began to believe that worldwide peace was achievable. In most of the rapidly developing countries, there was growing respect for free enterprise with minimal interference by the government. There was a measurable trend in the developing world governments to convert to democratic ideals with the resultant higher standards of living. Any industrious man regardless of his race, creed, or religion, could choose his own destiny and with hard work and perseverance, could expect to provide his family with a secure and comfortable life.

Gavon could visualize his life in such a world. He dreamt of developing his technical talents to be one of the best computer engineers in his field. His goal would be to start his own company to develop advanced software for use in the continually improving state of computer technology. After all, he was still young and vibrant with an impressive background in electronics and network communications.

He was in the midst of fantasizing that he was making a presentation to an audience of his peers describing a new three-dimensional holographic visualizer he had just developed, when he was brought back to reality by the gentle braking of the train at his station.

Upon exiting with the crowd, he made his way to the nearest transitube car and tapped the icon for PGC headquarters on the screen of his wireless communicator. In a matter of minutes, he was whisked to the headquarters entry-level ells that took him swiftly and quietly to his workstation on the 110th floor.

He suddenly had an overwhelming sense of déjà vu. He had followed this routine so many times that he knew what was coming next before it actually happened. The feeling was confirmed as he passed the workstations of his nearby co-workers. The same programmed greetings from each and every one ran through his head even before they were uttered.

“Welcome Number 101.” “Give us one more for the Council!” “Have a prosperous day!”

He could just as well have been in one of his own propaganda skits. Same old shit, every day, he thought as he entered his virtual cube.

As he put on his compu-glasses he was greeted by the familiar and increasingly annoying sound of his audio interface. “Good morning Producer Number 101,” the feminine voice squawked as he sat down. “Hope we can have an enjoyable experience together today.”

Without thinking, Gavon blurted out, “Go to hell, you damn bucket of chips. I don’t need any more of your crap today,” he murmured as he gave the audio override command. He knew he would be reprimanded for cutting out a required computer function, but he was in no mood to take any meaningless drivel from anybody, least of all his damn work terminal.

As he began his seemingly never-ending task of dictating news of today’s scheduled propaganda events, his mind wandered again to the stories he‘d been told by his great grandfather Fred about the life and times before the “Big War”.

It must have been very exciting, he thought. Everyone working toward their own goals, without the constant government reminder that each “Producer” had a duty to work for the good of the planet without regard for personal gain. He could imagine how exhilarating this feeling of freedom must be, and before he realized it, he began to dictate some of these thoughts to his terminal.

“We must regain our respect for individual thought and initiative if we’re to restore the principles the great countries of the world were founded upon. How can we expect to advance the cause of the human race if we blindly follow worthless, preset Council Rules and don’t allow each person to contribute in their own way?”

“Warning!” was suddenly announced as his compu-glasses simultaneously displayed a huge blinking red flag. “Use of these particular phrases is prohibited! Please delete and re-enter the last two sentences!”

Oh shit! Now I’ve done it, Gavon thought as he hurriedly told the terminal to delete all of today’s narrative.

It was inevitable that the terminal’s next screen displayed a summons to report immediately to his group leader.

I’m in for it now, he thought as he headed for the only enclosed office on the floor. The last time he’d been disciplined, Leader Stark had warned him that he was on the verge of being reassigned. Gavon could only hope that he could convince him that this was a harmless mistake.

After the usual security check and approval to enter, he reluctantly stepped inside as the office door quietly slid closed behind him. Leader Farley Stark was intent on the current task displayed over his terminal and made no move to acknowledge his presence in the room.

“What the hell are you doing you dumb bastard?” he roared. “Don’t you know this black mark will show on your record for the day? How the hell do you expect me to explain this to the Council? It’s the second time this week you’ve slipped up, damn it! So what’s your excuse this time?”

“Sorry sir,” Gavon stammered. “I just wasn’t thinking about my work this morning. I’ve had some personal problems I’ve been trying to deal with. I promise it won’t happen again.”

“Promises don’t cut it! This job demands discipline! You know the Council Directives. I can’t afford to have them continually pointing out our mistakes. And by the way, if you’re having personal problems, you know you’re expected to see the Council Help Desk. Have you done that?”

“No sir, I haven’t. But I’ll certainly take care of it as soon as I leave work today.”

“Well, you damn well better,” Stark said as he finally turned to face Gavon. “But I’m afraid I’m going to have to take action. I haven’t decided yet what it will be. But you can rest assured; it will be for the good of the group. Now return to your tasks. I’ll contact you later. That’s all!”

The full impact of what had happened that day didn’t hit Gavon until he returned to his commune quarters that night.

As he had promised his boss, he made an effort to see the Council Help Desk, but as usual, they were too busy to see him at this time. They had promised to schedule a meeting in the near future and he was told that they would post it on the Council Network in a few days.

His worst fear was a reassignment to an alien outpost on the moon or Mars where he’d be branded an outcast for the remainder of his service tenure. He had heard some very scary tales of horrendous conditions at these places that he’d never taken seriously, but now seemed to be real possibilities.

Although it was widely reported in the Council electronic media that there had never been any major incidents at these bases, it was well known by the worker class that there had been some serious accidents including major fatalities due to lack of enforcement of safety regulations.

Oh, well, it could be worse, he thought as he selected the icon for a stiff bourbon and water on his appliance wall unit. They could have made an instant example of his indiscretion and put him in the Council Renewal Program, which he knew meant a complete “brain washing” to “realign his thinking”.

After downing several drinks, he finally concluded that getting inebriated was doing no good, as he was becoming increasingly depressed and convinced he was doomed to some unspeakable inevitable disaster.

His usual sense of self-confidence was so badly shaken that for once in his life, he had to admit that he needed help. He instinctively muttered the code letter “S” on his communicator and was relieved to see the smiling face of Sylvy Saxe, his most trusted female companion, on the screen.

“Can we meet tonight?” he asked calmly. “I’d like to discuss a new assignment I’m getting at PGC. I need your advice on how to help me upgrade my efficiency to be a better producer,” he said as he shuddered at such a ridiculous lie.

He knew that Sylvy would understand the underlying message, as she was well aware that they would be in deep trouble if they disclosed any emotion or personal criticism of their work on the Council network. And his unique position at the PGC Propaganda Department had long ago taught him that all conversations were constantly monitored for “unapproved” phrases.

“Why certainly, number 101,” she answered. “I’ll do what I can to help you adjust. I know you’re dedicated to your work and only want to do a better job.”

Thank God, he thought as he nodded to shut down the communicator. She had responded with the correct approved code words that meant she wouldn’t be deterred by Council Security and would be at his door within minutes.

He quickly set the ambient controller to the “romance” mode. The harsh, white room lighting dimmed to a soothing rose color and the constant boring drone of the evening news being shown on the entertainment center switched off. The soothing background sounds of his favorite ballads provided welcome relief from the inevitable daily flood of Council propaganda.

As he waited in anticipation of Sylvy’s arrival, he began to reminisce about the first time he’d taken notice of her. It was during a group morale meeting at PGC headquarters. His initial attention was directed to her slim, well-proportioned body, but when he finally caught her attention, he was instantly mesmerized by her beautiful face and deep, penetrating hazel eyes that seemed to communicate an invitation into the inner parts of her soul.

Chapter 11

Encounter at Mining Outpost

page 107, "As expected, the startled androids quickly abandoned their tasks at the entry doors and followed the men as they ran outside the facility confinement. There, they were met by concentrated fire from the sand rovers and were swiftly dispatched into a melted heap of rubble.”

Chapter 20

Détente or Death

page 195, "It is not your place to question my statements! Council tribunals are obviously always fair and objective! You are treading on dangerous ground to doubt the sincerity of the Council! If you insist on challenging our well established rules of proper procedures and worker behavior, then I will have no choice but to employ our more severe Martian form of justice!”

Project Yellow Sky: A Korean Conspiracy

Chapter I

Assignment: San Francisco

The train screeched to a stop at Montgomery Station. Fred wedged his way through the humanity gathered at the exit doors and, as usual, just made it through as they closed hard behind him. He hurried up the escalator and jogged to his high-rise office building in time to jam his way into the elevator with the other “cattle” headed for work.

He knew he was running late, but he made his usual stop at the coffee vending machines before he headed for his desk. As he watched the cup overfill he grabbed it and burned his hand before he could retrieve it from the filling station.

“Damn! Did it again,” he muttered as he made his way to his cubicle. Hope they won’t notice I’m late again, he thought as he dropped in his chair and began digging through the stack of paper that littered his desk. Contrary to what the yokels in the business tabloids like to think, there is no paperless society in this world, at least not yet, he thought.

“You ready for the meeting?” Jeff Sanders asked from his next-door cubicle.

“What meeting?” Fred shot back.

“The one they just called to get an update on our progress.”

“Don’t the bastards know we’re busting our ass to get this damn report out of our here and get on with some real engineering?”

“Doesn’t matter,” snorted Jeff, “got to show the bosses we care about this thing, old man.”

The “report” was another Environment Impact Report concerning a project that everyone knew would probably not be built in its present form but could not be funded until all the environmental approvals were obtained. Most of the data presented in the report was “estimated” usually without a great deal of study to back it up. In fact, Fred himself had ginned up many of the numbers based on brief telephone talks or emails from company “experts” who had neither the time nor interest in the whole damn thing.

“Lets go Jeff,” Fred groaned as meeting time approached.

“OK buddy, you got your shit together?” Jeff asked as they met in the aisle.

“No, but I’ll come up with something.”

Fred knew the meeting would be a waste of time that would set back his progress at least half a day, but what the hell could he do. If he missed it, he would be asked to come up with an explanation, which would lead to more lost time. So, like the rest of the herd, he went to the damn meeting.

He knew that these sessions were important to the boss because it was one of the few times he felt he was contributing to the effort. And, as he expected, the boss, Al Connetti, was his usual congenial self, congratulating everyone on the great job they were doing. Most of this praise was not taken seriously as it was common knowledge that Al was quick to take full credit for the group’s accomplishments in his reports to management.

The usual people who enjoyed hearing themselves sound important made the usual boring reports and all was going according to schedule as the adjournment (lunch) hour neared.

Just as he was about to head for the door, Fred heard the dreaded words from Al, “Funtley, we haven’t heard from you yet. We all would be most interested in your current progress.”

Oh, oh, he thought as he perked up and tried to look serious. “Well sir, I’m ahead on the work you’ve assigned to me. I hope to finish the chapter on construction manpower this week. Hopefully, I can start on the expected emissions in the next few days.”

“Good, because I want you to tackle something else, if you would. We need a summary of our progress for the guys upstairs. By next Monday at the latest. I know you can do a good job. Meeting adjourned”

Fred’s jaw dropped as he left the room.

How the hell could he get this new assignment completed in time without working through the weekend? Impossible! To make matters worse, he knew that it was another administrative task that had nothing to do with engineering and should have been given to a non-tech person. Certainly not him!

What burned him the most was he wasn’t given the opportunity to state his case. This job is going to kill all my incentive to work for this company, he thought. That is, if it doesn’t kill me first.

Back at his desk, he checked his email, and as he waded through the usual company announcements, writing assignments, schedule updates, and management b.s., something interesting caught his eye.

It was a curious message from Brad Blazer, a fellow engineer he had worked with on previous nuclear processing projects. He had heard that Brad was now assigned as the company’s Project Manager for a range of projects at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, the local Department of Energy lab. The message asked if they could meet the coming Friday for lunch in the city. He knew the lab was involved in state-of-the-art government work including laser research, nuclear fission and fusion projects, nonproliferation studies, and nuclear weapons development and “stewardship” programs.

He immediately sent off a reply saying he would definitely be there, as he knew this was an opportunity to get assigned to a project that was actually challenging.

To say that Fred Funtley’s life was typical of a normal, eight-to-five suburban commuter would be an understatement. In fact, it was so routine that he sometimes felt as if it was originally scripted by some nerd in heaven who was seeking revenge for his own non-eventful stay on earth.

His daily schedule was set in stone; rise at 5 am, shower, shave and attend to his bodily needs in half an hour, drive to the local Bart train station, squeeze into the half-awake mass of humanity on the train, arrive at work in time for a quick cup of coffee before the boss arrived, startup his computer and begin the tedious task of completing the latest part of the project environmental report.

Chapter 11

The Straight POOP

page 94, "Michio described their primary goal is to restructure the world order by giving power back to the people by any means possible, including force. He left no doubt in my mind that they would use the threat of nuclear weapons to accomplish their goals."

Chapter 20

Getting Inside

page 180, "And by the way, I was instrumental in planning our operations here at the Yellow Sky Project and am told that the information we've gathered so far has greatly accelerated our weapons program. And since we now have the Taepodong-II missile, we'll be able to strike the major cities of Japan and the United States at any time."