Tag Archives: Fiction

Powerhouse and the Pastor, Part Seven

Continued from Part Six

In Jones’ study, the officer read over the report and grimaced. “Powerfreak was right. This is poison. It would have killed you if it’d hit you.”

Jones smiled. God was so awesome. “Praise the Lord, Powerhouse was there.”

“Yeah, but somebody wants you to go to your reward early.”

Powerhouse burst in. “He won’t if I have anything to say about it.”

The officer sighed. “You gonna cover him all day?”

“I can most of the time, anyway.”

The officer shook his head. “We don’t have the resources to give you proper protection unless you want to stay in lock up. I guess Powerjerk is your best bet.”

“It’s Powerhouse.”

“I know.”

Jones said, “I’m in God’s hands.”

The officer glanced at Powerhouse and then back to Jones. “May He have mercy on your soul.”

Continued next Tuesday

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Tales of the Dim Knight, Part One

Superman fell from the sky, crashed on a building, bounced off as it toppled, and hit a green dinosaur. Mild-mannered janitor Dave Johnson set the building upright again then sent a scolding glance at his dimpled nine-year-old. “You shouldn’t have dropped him like that, Derrick.”

Derrick scratched his head. “But, Dad, you said Superman got hit with a missile.”

When would his son learn?

At least Derrick still cared. His older brother had sided with his mother. Naomi insisted mastering pre-algebra was more important than those brave souls that saved the world. “A missile isn’t going to knock him out of the sky, son. He’s invulnerable. He might be fazed, but he’d pop right back up.”

Derrick nodded. “That makes sense.”

“All right, so get him back in the sky.”

Derrick lifted Superman back above the cardboard model of Metropolis.

Naomi called, “Dinner!”

“But, what’s going to happen to Lois Lane?” asked Derrick.

Dave mussed Derrick’s hair, black like his own. “We’ll find out tomorrow, Champ.”

Upstairs in his bedroom, Dave stripped off his vintage Superman PJs and changed into the stone gray coveralls Naomi laid out for him. His gaze swept over the ten red milk crates filled with comic books waiting to join the rest of his collection in storage. Where was his government-issued navy blue baseball cap?

Ah, there. Atop his collection of every super hero DVD box set known to man.

After setting his baseball cap askew on his head, he patted his breast pocket and hit thin plastic. Good, he had his security pass. Not only would it be embarrassing if he lost it a third time this month, he’d incur another $25 fine and Naomi wouldn’t let him buy the Wonder Woman action figure he needed to complete his Justice League collection.

He opened the door. Naomi stood outside. Trouble brewed in eyes nearly the same color as his wife’s favorite Starbucks brew: a half-caf, non-fat grande latte with sugar-free chocolate syrup and exactly four packets of Splenda. “Dave, we need to talk.”

In other words, she had an irresistible yearning to nag. “What about?”

She folded her arms. “How about our life and supposed marriage?”

Dave grunted. Sometimes, he hated being right. “I don’t have time for this.”

“You never have time! You get up after I leave for work and leave yourself a few minutes after I get home.”

Dave walked down the stairs. “Wait up for me and we’ll talk when I get in.”

“At 2 a.m.?”

“That’s as good a time as any.” Dave fled to the kitchen and grabbed his X-men lunchbox from the fridge. He headed for the door to the attached garage.

Naomi ran ahead and blocked his getaway. “We talk now.”

He looked at his watch. She was making him late. “Fine, two minutes.”

“I’m concerned about the kids.”

Dave stiffened. “What? You don’t think I’m a good father?”

“You’ve been great teaching them to be little boys, but you can’t play Superman with them forever. They need someone who can help them through difficult times. Someone who can show them how to be men.”

Dave scowled. “And why can’t I?”

“Look at yourself, Dave! You make me pack your dinner in the same lunchbox James used in kindergarten! You don’t buy all that superhero stuff for the kids.”

Dave crossed his arms. “I work hard for this family!”

“You’ve been at the same job a decade. You’re not twenty-three anymore. You need to grow up for the kids’ sake and for me.”

“And for you?”

“Yes, and for me! Do you know how long it’s been since we’ve been together? Nine months. It’s like all you wanted were James and Derrick and as soon as you got them, you forgot all about me.”

“I’m the same man you married. You’re the one who’s changed. What happened?” He glanced over her navy pantsuit and pink polished nails. A sandy-haired Mary Jane met him at the altar twelve years ago, so how did he end up married to Lois Lane?

“I grew up, Dave.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow.”

She took the hint and moved out of his way. “This isn’t over!”

Dave slammed the door behind him in reply. Why couldn’t she understand? These heroes did things he could only dream of. He wasn’t just playing silly games; he was sharing his dreams with the kids. It wasn’t like the dream kept him from working. He always brought home his paycheck, and he never complained about the tight hold Lois-er, Naomi-kept on the purse strings.

Continued…Next Tuesday

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Crossroads, Part Six

Continued from Part Five

A few days later, the bugle blasted reveille. Snyder groaned, turned over in his bunk, and looked at his watch. 0300? What the heck? Reveille wasn’t supposed to be until 0500. Sergeant Cutler burst in fully dressed.

Does that guy ever sleep?

“Up and at ’em, soldiers. We’re having a special assembly at 0530 hours. Required attendance.”

The female soldier in the bunk above Snyder groaned. Cutler said, “Soldier, give me five push-ups.”

What a pushover. Didn’t he even remember his own basic training?

After breakfast and the morning exercise, the recruits from his company entered the assembly hall. A giant portable holovision “picture window” filled the entire stage. Inside said holo-window, a larger-than-life colonel stood at a lectern preparing his notes. “Please, take your seats.”

Snyder found a seat with his platoon four rows from the back. His shadow sat beside him naturally. At times, he couldn’t tell whether she wanted him to protect her from certain other guys in the platoon, or wanted him to break one of Sergeant Jirel Cutler’s cardinal rules: no hanky-panky.

The Colonel at the lectern said, “I am Colonel Leopold Lewis. My apologies to recruits in the Pacific and Mountain Time Zones and for our friends at the Naval training center in Hawaii. I’m sorry to get you out of bed. However, I think you’ll find what you’re about to experience worth the disturbance. Here to explain the core values of our Imperial Armed Services, we have our commander-in-chief.”

Snyder stood and cheered along with virtually everyone else.

Lewis continued. “The World knows him as a winner of the Noble Peace Prize for his work on human rights. America knows him as Time’s Man of the Year for two years running and People’s Sexiest Man Alive for the past three.”

The females scattered in the audience cheered, apparently at all locations, from Lewis’ pause. But only his shadow’s squeals threatened to leave him deaf.

It took a minute, but the female recruits eventually remembered they were supposed to be tough-as-any-guy soldiers, not groupies.

Colonel Lewis said, “I know him as a good soldier, a great statesman, and a faithful prince, Earth’s  future King, Donovan the Steward.”

The twenty-one-year-old world leader entered the picture in dress uniform and with his raven hair tied back in a ponytail he’d grown out in belated rebellion. Donovan took the place of the exiting Lewis. “Thank you, soldiers, sailors, and Marines of the Empire and thank you, Colonel Lewis for that fine introduction.

“Perhaps the greatest change I’ve introduced as Steward has been in the core values of the military. My predecessor defined the core values as KILL:Know who’s in charge, Insure the death of terrorists, Loyalty to the Steward,Laziness means death. The KILL model had some interesting ideas, but produced great enmity between reasonable Americans and the Empire that could have been avoided.

“Because of this, I’ve introduced the LEAD model.” Below the Steward, words appeared as he spoke them:

Loyalty to the people of your province, and to the Empire as a whole.

Achieving personal excellence

The Steward delivered an inspirational speech on the LEAD model. It was different than other speeches he’d seen the Steward give. The Steward seemed ready to pound the podium like Mama Borden’s pastor.

When the Steward got to “Ethics,” Snyder leaned forward.

“During my predecessor’s reign, ethics were never discussed. It was considered of little importance, which is why he felt free to betray America and the Empire. We’ve had to correct many of his errors. You are the new army, an ethical army that will understand its ethical obligations.

“An ethical soldier is the pride and glory of the Empire. An unethical one is the greatest friend terrorists ever had. I want my army—make that our army—to be loved, respected, and honored across the globe. If we’re to do that, ethics must be our first priority, and it must be a way of life.

The Steward held up a spiral-bound book. “Your ethics handbook is your guide to life, your source of truth in all situations. It was put together by the finest minds in the world from the disciplines of philosophy and religion. I want us to be proud of what we do, and we’re not going to have that if we do not have an ethical base.”

“Should you run into any ethical problems that you cannot resolve at the local level, feel free to contact my military affairs office, and we’ll make sure that it’s resolved.”

Snyder made a mental note of the number flashing in the air, as if to remind him this was only a live holovision feed. This would be a real change, a huge change, in the way the Imperial Army operated. He could hardly wait to tell Mama Borden.

When the speech ended half an hour later, Snyder spotted Sergeant Cutler frowning in the corner. Cutler called out, “Everyone report to your drill sergeants. Thank you for your time.”

Cutler spent the next hour drilling them on the handling of their weapon. Cutler had them use rubber guns so an idiot wouldn’t kill anyone if he mishandled it.

Cutler said, “All right, good work, men. We’ll meet in 15 minutes in Classroom 12C and review the sexual harassment policy. Until then, you’re dismissed.”

Everyone but Snyder broke off to enjoy a few moments of free time. Snyder walked after Cutler. “Sir, can I have a moment of your time, sir?”

Cutler said, “What is it, Snyder?”

“I was wondering what you thought of the Steward’s presentation, sir.”

Cutler looked upwards for some reason and walked a few steps. “It was interesting. There’s one area it could have used improvement on.”

“Sir, what was missing, sir?”

“Everything he wants you to do, he wants you to do for you. Be ethical, because it will make you feel good. Achieve excellence, because it will make you look good. But Armies are made to fight battles, and in the midst of a battle, will you risk your life so that you look good? Will you die for a promotion? Where I come from, we were taught about love and putting others before yourself. And if a soldier can’t find that love for others, they’re not worth a dime.”

Man. And he thought the Steward had sounded like a preacher.


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Crossroads, Part Two

Continued for Part One

Crunch, crunch. The dry, sparsely buttered toast disappeared slowly as Jirel nibbled on it in his booth in the cafe’s darkly lit and almost deserted back corner. How many days had he been left waiting here? 100? 200? In all that time, the divine nod to do a good deed had been sorely infrequent.

How long, Lord? How long?

Sometimes, the silence deafened. Others, it whispered. Steady, steady.

So, he waited. And lamented.

Ding-a-ling! An old man entered, walking with a slight limp, and headed straight for Jirel.

The man settled into the booth across from him. “Jirel?”

He wrinkled his nose and nodded. Who told the man? “And you are?”

“Jonathan Smith.”

Jirel coughed. Lies smelled so rotten.

At least he could still smell them. A most unfortunate deception; Smith probably felt he had good reason. “All right, ‘Mr. Smith’, what are you doing here, and how do you know my name?”

“I’ve come with a Word for you.”

What have I done to deserve this humiliation, Lord? Why send a mortal to speak to one who has stood before Your throne? “Speak on.”

“God is not punishing you, Jirel. He’s brought you here on a mission.” The old man pulled a manila envelope from his vinyl jacket and placed it on the table. “You’re a sergeant in the Imperial Army.”

Jirel swallowed. “What?”

“There’s a boy who needs your help to become a man.”

Jirel arched his eyebrows. “What do I know about being a man? I can hardly teach him to be what I am. He’d sooner learn how to be a bird.”

“You don’t have to know, you just have to help him.”

Ignoring the messenger, Jirel petitioned Heaven. “Why, Lord? What am I doing here, cast from my proper abode and trapped in this tent? Are there no saints available in all of Heaven and Earth?”

Smith sighed. “It may be my fault. Thanks to my Ecumenical Patriots’ Council, it’s against most churches’ doctrines for Christians to serve in the Imperial Military. A few serve secretly, but either in such low ranks, or they are so badly compromised by the oppressive environment, they’d be useless for this assignment.”

Jirel swallowed. And also beyond the general perimeters of the host’s commanders. Their mansions, like the King’s, were visible to mortal eyes, but not meant to abide in this world. “I see. Who is it?”

Smith pushed the envelope towards him. “Open it.”

Jirel slit the top off with a fingernail and pulled out a picture of a male human about sixteen years of age with a ragged dark blond mop of hair and aquamarine eyes.

The waitress came to the table. “Sir, will you want something?”

Smith waved away the menu extended to him. “Two egg whites and grape juice. You do take American, I trust?”

The lady smiled. “We prefer it.”

“Thank you kindly.”

After she walked away, Jirel gestured to the boy’s picture. “As you were saying.”

“That’s Annunciation Leslie Snyder.”

Smith chuckled. “But don’t think of calling him that. Snyder goes by his last name only. I knew his grandmother. A dearer saint and a dearer patriot has never graced this earth.”

“More saintly than Teresa of Calcutta and more patriotic than Betsy Ross?”

Smith laughed. “So hyperbole is out. She’s as dear as anyone I knew. Rescued her grandson from a breeder and devoted herself to raising him. A couple years back, her daughter euthanized her and kidnapped the boy, but he got away and fled to his surrogate mother and her son Cerulean-faithful Baptists his grandmother willed him to. He’s been staying with them until recently.”

Jirel rested his back against the red leather of the booth. “What changed?”

“Snyder reached the perfectly rational conclusion that the police today are corrupt and incompetent, especially in regards to the city’s gang problem. So the lad took matters into his own hands and formed his own gang. Sometimes, they worked with the police, but when the police refused to work with them, ‘justice was done.’

“The problem Young Snyder has run into is that his brand of justice the law considered a hate crime when he tried to hang a local child molester. The Imperial prosecutor wanted to hang him, but the arresting officer felt sorry for Snyder and had enough leverage with the prosecutor and judge to get the case suspended. Rather than being executed for a hate crime, he needs only finish three years in the military and he walks away a free man with no criminal record.”

Jirel nodded. Most Gracious and Holy Lord, how great you are to lay up mercy in the human heart towards whom you will to favor.

The waitress brought out the egg whites and the grape juice. Smith nodded. “Thank you, ma’am.” He cut his eggs into bite-sized pieces. “This time in the military will include some of the most important decisions of his life.”

Like the most important one. “Where does his soul stand?”

“Until a couple years ago, other than being bored to distraction in class and getting into scuffles in the schoolyard over his given name, Snyder was the model Catholic lad. Since his grandmother died, he’s withdrawn from God and the Church. I’ve heard him around town, talking with other boys about how great things will be once the old coot-that’d be Emperor Herald-keels over and Prince Donovan can rule justly.”

Jirel grimaced. “So, he’s fallen into worshiping the prince?”

Smith took a sip of grape juice. “He’s grabbing onto hope wherever he can find it. So, Jirel, are you in?”

Jirel pressed his lips together. Why did he not feel God directing him? Maybe, this man was not really of God? What if Smith had consulted with the enemy, and that was how Smith knew him? Perhaps this was yet another attempt to make Jirel fall.

No, he would have smelled the enemy’s stench. Smith had to be a saint who had not yet traded his corrupt tent in for the mansion awaiting him in eternity. Only the Blood could get a mortal smelling this clean. Fear and self-pity were getting better at sneaking up on him unawares, but divinations were among the least subtle of evil’s breeds. His senses couldn’t have become that dull.

But the man could have come on his own, and somehow guessed, perhaps misused a gift of the Lord.

Jirel looked up to Heaven. Master, please. I need direction. Show me what to do.

A quiet rumbling came, a slight affirmative nudge. Jirel looked down. “I’ll go.”

“Splendid, I have your uniform in the car, along with your identity papers, and bus tickets. You’re Staff Sergeant Jirel Cutler of Army Intelligence. You’ve been sent to Fort Columbia on temporary assignment to take recruits through basic training.”

Cutler. To be given one name had been honor enough, but two? The Lord abounded in generosity.

He lowered his head respectfully to the child of the Most High. “Sir, I have no training in the Imperial Army and no experience training soldiers. Who am I to teach? Who am I to give men orders? Where I come from, it is the other way around.”

Smith finished his egg whites. “Don’t give in to doubt. God will show you what to do and how to act. Submit yourself and He’ll guide you as He always has. Now, come, let’s get your gear, Sergeant Cutler.”

Cutler and Smith went to the front counter and paid their bills.

Out in the parking lot, Smith opened the trunk of his red hybrid hatchback and pulled out a suitcase. “Given that this place is friendly towards American currency, I’d recommend changing into your uniform at the next stop on the bus. Now, give me your strong hand, Sergeant Cutler.”

He extended his left hand and stared at the bulge in his wrist indicating a microchip “tag” tied to an International Commerce Account. To obtain it, humans had to deny God and pledge allegiance to that impostor, Emperor Herald.

Jirel trembled with the urge to claw it out. “What’s this?”

“An untagged Imperial Sergeant would be quite suspicious, but you’ll never have to sign anything. It’s one of our bypass chips.”

Smith pulled out a black rectangular device. “All right, the chip is programmed with your data. Your ICA balance is $2350.12, in international dollars, of course. Every two weeks, you’re paid $1100 plus benefits, with $600 left after taxes.”

Jirel swallowed. “I see.” He touched the lump in his tent’s wrist. Lord God Most High, I don’t understand what you’re doing to me, or why, but I will do as you command.


The Devil’s Fool, Part One

Dark Mystic soared over Philadelphia, defying gravity by the sheer force of Jalzabel’s rage within him. He swooped down, clawed his two dark-suited tormentors, and darted back into the smoggy, twilight sky.

The older of the men in black, Carden, fired a dart that hit Mystic’s shoulder.

Strength sapped from his body, hurtling him earthward. He kicked to break free of gravity’s relentless grasp.

The young newcomer fired another dart.

Jalzabel’s bestial howl tore from Mystic’s throat. Hit again. Dark Mystic raised his hands and unleashed a pair of black fire-balls towards the younger.

The older man threw the younger to the ground, then stood. “Demon, descend!”

Jalzabel snarled. “Carden, you can’t drive me out! Ian needs me!”

Before Dark Mystic could protest the use of his true name, the ground smashed into him and knocked the breath from his lungs. Gray sparkles filled his vision as he pressed a button on his metallic green belt.

The sparkles solidified into fog. Only one man could save him from these misguided exorcists: the Sword. “My friend.”

Jalzabel spoke in Ian’s ear as the fog turned to black. “The fool.”


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