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Thread: Fit for Life

  1. #1
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    Fit for Life

    Introduction

    This isn't the story I teased about when I asked the question "How Gay Does It Have to Be?" If anyone has been waiting for that one, sorry -- it's still locked on my old computer, though I have a plan in mind to deal with that.

    The focus isn't erotic -- if you just want sex scenes, again sorry; some may happen along the way, but none are planned. I do intend however, to explore some other aspects of human sexuality -- hopefully profoundly. (Yeah, right, says my muse -- make promises you can't keep!)

    The title describes the story in three ways I know of -- as Neil has shown us all, stories have their own way of taking on life, so the tale itself may develop another, or two. In fact, just while writing that, another twinkling of an idea popped a synaptic watt or two in the back of my head.

    I often wonder -- why "in the back of my head"? Is there a special "idea zone" back there? A delivery dock from the universe of concepts, where Swerve's counterparts travel about dropping off bits to a multitude of minds? I really don't know, but that's not mere musing: that, too, has its place in the tale.

    I don't promise romance, or passion -- though I don't forbid them; if they come, let it be with a vengeance! -- but I will promise a princess or two, and of course princes, with perhaps dragons of sorts from which they must by all means be rescued, and their hearts must, in the end, be won (if only in another story).


    I don't aim for this to be short, nor for it to be long. When I write a story, I envision a beginning, and a goal, a sort of Emerald-City-like place I'll know better when I get there, but to which for the nonce I may, gathering up the characters, forces, and all manner of extras, point and declare, "Onward!" From there, it's a matter of spinning an entry into this other world, setting out a scene, and wrestling the whole menagerie onward toward the goal. How long it takes can surprise me; sometimes a tale I was sure would require twenty thousand words finds a climax in far less than half that; other times, something I meant (not unlike Neil's Watching Brad) for a short hike into the unreal world and back becomes a saga. And then, sometimes when I get to the goal to which I aimed us all, I find it wasn't the end, just a place to see the end from, and the word-wagons roll on, dragging dreams into letters for me to marvel at as they emerge, and you, hopefully, to enjoy.

    Please, critique and lambast as you will; please don't lampoon. This is taken from memory of a story I began once, which hit, according to a friend with a warped sense of humor, 71,683 pages -- though I counted them as 124, in pencil on tablets of lousy, yellow, hard-on-the-eyes paper. I can find only scraps of the manuscript; with my luck, the rest got scooped up and are packed now in storage with other things in a box labeled "Summer Crafts" or some such thing.... at any rate, I'm left with a few concepts, a handful of characters, and the incredible itch to be telling a story where it can get feedback. With that disorganized base, I'm sure it will provide plenty of opportunity; I invite you to exploit whatever pops up.

    With that, I have a few polishings to do on the first piece. Don't get your hopes up; the opening may be something only a geek could love. It's going to lack something in my eyes, because JUB doesn't have the cute font tricks available that I can play on my computer. You judge the result.


    Until then.....


    Kuli

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

  2. #2
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    Re: Fit for Life

    p r o l o g u e



    [alert : hold scan : poll]

    ?
    <intersection>

    *up queue*
    ?
    <intersection>

    *up queue*
    ?
    <intersection>

    *up queue*
    ?
    <intersection>

    *up queue*
    ?

    -pause-

    ?

    -pause-

    ?
    <approximate>

    *up queue*
    ?
    <intersection>

    *return*

    [poll: end]

    -pause-

    >QUERY: energy?<

    {sufficient}


    >QUERY: flux?<

    {within parameters}

    >QUERY: destination targeting?<

    {uncertain}

    >>>evaluate<<<

    -pause-


    >INITIATE TRANSFER<

    {transfer initiated}

    {transfer successful}


    transfer confirmed


    resume scan

    {scan resumed}


    locate subjects

    {subjects not found}


    *
    > reset <*

    locate subjects

    {subjects not found}

    -pause-


    initiate full grid search

    {search initiated}


    >>>analysis<<<


    >>>evaluate<<<

    -pause-


    initiate extraordinary measures

    {initiating}















    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

  3. #3
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    Re: Fit for Life

    15

    possibly

    15

    probably

    15

    nah.......for sure

    30


  4. #4
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Kuli,
    I'm Sooooo Confused!

    I thought I was reasonably tech-geek, but I guess I'll have to wait for the translation. lol


    And I know, if I'll only be true, to this glorious quest . . .

  5. #5
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    Kuli,
    I'm Sooooo Confused!

    I thought I was reasonably tech-geek, but I guess I'll have to wait for the translation. lol
    Dang!

    I worked for hours on that to try to get the flavor onto paper.

    Did you at least get that the lines in big System font are command lines, like in/for a computer? Look:

    [alert : hold scan : poll]

    The System font is supposed to clue you that this is computer-type stuff. I didn't really want it that big, but with the size control JUB uses, it was either that or this:

    [alert : hold scan : poll]

    which just didn't have the right impact.

    So you're supposed to see that, think "computer", and imagine a computer/program interrupting whatever it's normally doing with an alert. The alert is immediately followed a command to freeze a scan of some sort, and then to poll... something.

    It's been a while since I did any computer programming, but back when I did, in a printout the indentation which follows would have signaled entering into a subroutine/subsidiary area.

    Does that help?

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

  6. #6
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Kuli,
    I understand the simulated computer running.
    Scanning, trying to find something but coming up empty.

    As I was re-reading it, I can "see" the "system" zeroing in on a desired target early, and "initiating transfer" - I could have gotten into the whole sex scene, I think, if the Up Queue, Hold, had a corresponding Down Queue, Hold alternating pattern, maybe --
    While re-reading I could picture it looking for the whole but not finding it, then processing transfer - cumming inside, If that's what you meant.

    I'm sorry. It was a little too nebulous for my tired brain.

    I guess I'm just dense today.


    And I know, if I'll only be true, to this glorious quest . . .

  7. #7
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    Kuli,
    I understand the simulated computer running.
    Scanning, trying to find something but coming up empty.

    As I was re-reading it, I can "see" the "system" zeroing in on a desired target early, and "initiating transfer" - I could have gotten into the whole sex scene, I think, if the Up Queue, Hold, had a corresponding Down Queue, Hold alternating pattern, maybe --
    While re-reading I could picture it looking for the whole but not finding it, then processing transfer - cumming inside, If that's what you meant.

    I'm sorry. It was a little too nebulous for my tired brain.

    I guess I'm just dense today.
    LOL

    There's no sex scene -- it's just a complex computer/brain/thing talking within itself.

    It noticed something, called an alert, polled a number of subsystems, took action....

    and the stage is set.



    I know it won't help, but here's the next piece....

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

  8. #8
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Intersection



    Idiots, police lieutenant 'special section' Davis Davis muttered to himself as he wound his way through the barriers around the accident scene: no one seemed to have any sense of order, so plastic tape, traffic cones, and wooden barriers thrown up to keep out curious noses turned authorized approach into a maze for access. And why they needed him, anyway! He could see the Dodge van, a 2004 job with all the goodies, the passenger's-side sliding door hanging on only by its lower corner, still stuck to the monument in the middle of the traffic circle, and nothing about it looked anything out of the ordinary.

    He stopped briefly, one leg on either side of a wobbly wooden section labeled "City of D" -- the rest of the city name obliterated by damage -- looking around for the Lexus. He saw it, frame bent and body twisted, on the sidewalk just outside the town's newest fitness center. He wasn't immune to irony; the eight of a mangled car from which five bodies had just been taken blocking foot traffic in front of a huge window that declared "Fit for Life", made a sad commentary on the lives of young people who should have been inside staying in shape, not in traffic having their bodies reshaped by forces beyond the capacity of the human frame to survive. Five dead college kids, just the age of his nephew Logan. He didn't know the count from the van -- anywhere from one to fourteen was possible, with the size of the thing -- but assumed he was about to find out.

    With a sigh he swung his right leg over the barrier and went over to where the county coroner had just driven up.

    "Hey, Lush -- they called you in, too?" Davis hollered. Lucius Dominguez, "Lush" to those he out-drank regularly after particularly ghastly autopsies, waved him over. "And you got to drive in."

    "This is where the ambulance was", Dominguez responded absently, staring at the wreckage. "Let's look at the Lexus first."

    "You got it, compadre." Davis, built like an NFL quarterback, swung in slightly behind his friend, still built like the runner who fifteen years earlier had pounded to victory, all alone out in front, at race after race in collegiate cross-country -- no one tried to keep even with Lush, Davis had learned the first day they'd met; psychologically, it threw him into race mode. The police lieutenant chuckled; he'd once volunteered to go on a morning run with the man, only to discover that what for a highly fit police officer was a race pace was what the former trail champion considered a relaxing pace.

    "So why are we here, looking at a wreck that killed a dozen people?"

    Dominguez looked at him oddly. "Thirteen. Because it didn't, Squared -- they didn't fill you in?"

    Davis Davis -- thus "Squared" to friends -- frowned back. "Nothing but the five dead in the Lexus. But what do you mean, 'it didn't'? Those cars are mangled as I've seen."

    "Because it didn't. They were already dead before the first impact."

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

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    Re: Fit for Life

    Kuli,
    NOW "the sauce gets more binding" as my mother in-law used to say!

    5 dead BEFORE it crashed in the center of town.

    It will be interesting to see how you work back to the computer scanning in your prologue.

    Glad I gave you a chuckle as I anguished over your intro! lol

    You've certainly got my attention, Mickey Spillane.

    Thanks - I think!


    And I know, if I'll only be true, to this glorious quest . . .

  10. #10
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    Kuli,
    NOW "the sauce gets more binding" as my mother in-law used to say!

    5 dead BEFORE it crashed in the center of town.

    It will be interesting to see how you work back to the computer scanning in your prologue.

    Glad I gave you a chuckle as I anguished over your intro! lol

    You've certainly got my attention, Mickey Spillane.

    Thanks - I think!
    I'd let you in on part of it, but I'll say this instead: you'll learn as fast as the people in the story do.

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

  11. #11
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    Re: Fit for Life

    We Didn't Wreck


    Rigel Stefanos Fitzhue-Winchester smelled crotch. He knew it was crotch; he'd passed out drinking and woken up with his face in enough, in his day. He wiggled his nose. Yes, here he was again, waking up with the world of his senses defined by crotch. Male crotch, to be precise; recently showered -- there were still hints of gel -- but unmistakably male. He repressed the urge to sneeze. Ah, yes: It was Ryan's crotch; he recognized the shower-gel smell, with its hints of sage and alcohol, from showering at his buddy's place often enough.

    Alcohol, now there was a thought: he didn't remember there being any alcohol, so why had he passed out in Ryan's crotch? Not that it was a bad one to land in, if one were going to pass out, not at all. But his memory offered no recollection of a party, nor even anything in the cupboard. There was going to be a party; in fact, they'd been on their way to--

    He sat up straight, remembering: Rita, driving, had gotten frustrated with the traffic backed up near The Maw, a great five-way intersection where the old river highway dumped into the old wagon road where they met the old quarry road just as it bumped into the trace that had become Main Street, a situation not so bad when the vehicles had been preceded by horses and no stop signs were needed, but when five converging lanes had become twelve, and too many people thought that amber meant "go very fast".... So she hooked right on Kennedy and was gunning it to dash into a spot on the Vortex, officially known as Monument Circle.... Right: there'd been the Dodge van, faces peering out of the windows, and then the jar of mayo had popped out of that cyclist's backpack; the Dodge hit the mess it made and slid, wheels greased, and Rita couldn't turn fast enough; she screamed--

    No, the screaming was real. Rigel reined in his brain and looked around. Not Rita; she was awake, too, curled in a little ball and rocking herself side to side. The screamer was Lumina, a chick he'd made it with the year before and never gone back when he discovered that she was as orderly and methodical about sex as she was about organic chemistry. Blonde -- glowing, rich blonde, that made heads turn -- and slender, she stood bolt upright, topless, hands out in front of her as if to stop from hitting something.

    Devon figured it out and got to her first. "Hey, Loom -- open your eyes; we didn't crash." It was going to take him a minute to get her calm, quite obviously.

    It was a minute Rigel used to spin on his knees and shake Ryan. "Hey, bud, wake up."

    "Go 'way. I don't want to see the blood. Just let me die."

    Ryan's shirt had risen up onto is chest, leaving him bare to the waist. Rigel took a moment to admire the few, before slipping his hand down behind the band of Ryan's pants behind the belt buckle, and tug. "Open your eyes. We didn't wreck."

    "Lower", Ryan responded, wiggling his hips a bit. He opened one eye. "Whoa." Surprise spun him off his back, away from Rigel, and onto his knees. "Dry climate, grassland -- no, savanna with wooded hills. No wreck -- and we aren't in Kansas any more, tutu."

    "That's Toto", Rigel remarked absently. He hadn't really taken in the scenery until his friend described it. They were, indeed, surrounded by very gently rolling land that would have been plains had it not been for the scattered clusters of trees, with hills rising here and there, every one of them wooded. Almost directly to his left one of those clumps of hills had small companions, and beyond those rose more -- a sort of finger of hills pointing at them across the countryside. "Hey!" he protested, notcing Ryan had taken off to examine the nearest tree, and took off after him.

    "Quercus garyana!" Ryan exclaimed delightedly as Rigel caught up. "Oregon oak -- sometimes called Oregon white oak." He thrust a set of leaves into his friend's hands. "Rye, these don't grow anywhere near home!"

    "So we're not at home. Where are we?" Rigel caught his upper lip in his teeth and gnawed at it as the shock of the situation began to get to him. Ryan shook his head. "Not yet. C'mon." He summoned Rigel with a toss of his head as he jogged over to where Devon sat with Lumina and Rita -- between them, actually, almost protectively. Rita wore Devon's shirt. Both girls were trembling, but had their eyes open. All three looked up at the others' approach.

    Ryan motioned Rigel to sit with the others while he dropped to his knees, plucking a low vine out of the grass. "Fragaria vescana", he observed, plucking at the small flowers and leaves. "It should be fragaria vesca, the wild woodland strawberry, growing out here, or fragaria virginiana, the wild North American strawberry. This is a cross between the woodland one and the one farmers grow, which is.... but that means", he went on with a frown, "that somehow.... Look", he said to four puzzled faces. "That tree over there is a quercus garyana, an Oregon oak. All this" -- which he indicated by a wave of his left arm all around as he held a small green strawberry in his hand and looked at his friends -- "is an oak savanna."

    "Mostly level grasslands with scattered trees, only rarely close and thick enough to call woods", Lumina offered. "Characterized by seasonal wildfires, often maintained by humans. I took biogeography last term", she added in response to the puzzled look Rita gave her.

    "Bingo", Ryan agreed. "Savanna is often maintained by humans setting annual fires to drive wildlife; otherwise the trees have a chance to start forests before another major fire comes through. That suggests there are people here. Now", he continued, holding up the berry, "we have something else that says 'people': this is a crossbreed, and it can't be done in the garden; they come out sterile. It has to be done in a lab -- okay, it might possibly happen by accident if someone got outrageously lucky, but, well, what it means is that wherever this is, it isn't home, but there are probably people here."

    "Yes", Rita said, pointing. "There".

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

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    Re: Fit for Life

    Reminds me of a coule of book series I'm reading - time travel between 21st century and 13th or 19th, depending on the series.

    Scotty, Beam me up ~ we're definitely not in Kansas anymore.

    Curiouser and curiouser. Our friends find themselves teleported from near certain disaster and death in the traffic circle, to a remote Oak Savanna with hybrid strawberries that wouldn't produce in the wild . . .

    Very Interesting sayeth the Artie Johnson in me - for those old enough or Cable TVLanded enough to know Laugh In.

    You are making this intriguing.
    Thanks.


    And I know, if I'll only be true, to this glorious quest . . .

  13. #13
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    Reminds me of a coule of book series I'm reading - time travel between 21st century and 13th or 19th, depending on the series.

    Scotty, Beam me up ~ we're definitely not in Kansas anymore.

    Curiouser and curiouser. Our friends find themselves teleported from near certain disaster and death in the traffic circle, to a remote Oak Savanna with hybrid strawberries that wouldn't produce in the wild . . .

    Very Interesting sayeth the Artie Johnson in me - for those old enough or Cable TVLanded enough to know Laugh In.

    You are making this intriguing.
    Thanks.
    But so far I only have one fan.

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

  14. #14
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    Re: Fit for Life

    If anyone is paying attention...

    I finished the third chapter a few hours ago, but as I just finished editing it I realized that it isn't the third chapter after all; it may be the fourth or even fifth. So now I get to write what I now know comes between.

    There will be something before I turn in tonight.....






    [write]

    {initiating}

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

  15. #15
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Count me in as a fan as well. This is very intriguing, and I will now be watching carefully for Sci-Fie with botanical sex side effects.

  16. #16
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by wyndhampaul View Post
    Count me in as a fan as well. This is very intriguing, and I will now be watching carefully for Sci-Fie with botanical sex side effects.
    Are you trying to give the writer ideas?



    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

  17. #17
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Others


    Lumina reacted first. "Omigod that's the chick from the van!" she screamed, and headed down the rise they were on toward the next, where a group of people hardly moved, some sitting motionless, others standing similarly, one slamming his head over and over into the dirt....

    "Shards", Ryan swore, and started after her.

    "C'mon, all -- let's go with", Rigel said after a moment. He looked at Rita. "You okay?"

    She shrugged. "Better than I was. I know I killed us all, but I don't feel dead, so I can live with it." She frowned briefly, then laughed at herself. "If we are dead, can I 'live' with it?" Her laugh got a hysterical edge, but only for a moment. "Maybe this is punishment for people who die in car wrecks -- no pavement in the whole world."

    Devon snorted; Rigel just shook his head. "Whatever. We're here, anyway. Now let's go there", he concluded, motioning toward the other group where Lumina was just arriving. They went, Devon leading with a brisk jog.

    Rigel stopped to take in this new batch, while Devon went straight to a girl just standing and staring, and began talking quietly to her. Rita did the same. He saw that Ryan had a hold on Lumina's arm; was he restraining her? It was as good a place to begin as any.

    "... watch out for bicyclists, bitch!" he heard Lumina screech. The way Ryan's body braced suddenly answered his question: he was holding her back.

    "C'mon, let's chill, huh?" he suggested quietly, pushing between Lumina and her target. The latter, blond and thirty-something, stood with tears running down her cheeks, wincing as those on the left crossed fresh, bloody scratches. "What's the deal?" he asked her, shushing Lumina with a wave.

    "I was driving my van. Hauling the new kids. It was dinner. I had to rush. That biker. He was going to clear. No problem. Then a jar... splat.... No control. Couldn't swerve. Hit a Lexus. Not my fault." She practically hissed that last at Lumina. "I tried. We're dead anyway. Epic fail." Rigel couldn't help reaching out to offer comfort at the sight of the total desolation on her face that came with the last phrases; it got him close enough to catch her as she collapsed, into tears and onto the ground.

    Ryan helped catch her. "She said her name was Ocean. Want we should stay with her?" he offered quietly, looking at Rigel.

    Why am I suddenly in charge? Rigel wondered, answering with a tiny shrug. "Yeah, you and Lumina. I'll go... um, meet the others, I guess." Lame, Winchester, he told himself. But he went.

    He had no luck with the first person he came to: he smelled urine before he got close, and the kid just stayed curled in a ball, muttering and whimpering, no matter what. Rigel tried shaking him by the shoulder, feeling foolish as he did what was in the Red Cross training videos, saying "Hey, are you okay?" over and over; he tried jabbing the guy to bring him out of it, too. He quit when an attempt to pry a hand from over one eye got him slammed by a knee.

    Standing, he saw that Devon was doing better, as was Rita: Devon had the other two girls in this group sitting, holding each other and him, sobbing but talking. Rita stood behind a guy, wrapped around him, rubbing his chest and speaking into his ear. One of the guys in the van group -- it was who they all had to be, Rigel figured; they all had died, or maybe hadn't died, in the same wreck (a dark fear started to boil up from deep inside at the thought of his own death, but he squashed it. Later, he said to that inner self) -- had wrestled the one who'd been pounding his head against the ground onto his back, and those two were talking. The last member of their bunch was off by himself, standing, and Rigel decided to gather him in.

    As he approached he saw a slender, even skinny teen he guessed at seventeen. His skin was almost pale, his hair practically black but with golden flashes when the young head moved in the sun. It was moving, too, animatedly, and Rigel soon learned the reason: the kid was talking, his hands moving as well in gestures sharp and animated, all close to his chest so Rigel hadn't noticed -- he'd thought the wiggling of the half-cape the guy wore was due to a breeze, but it was really caused by the pair of active elbows moving along with those hands.

    When Rigel could understand words, he stopped, planning to listen. But the guy turned to him, a broad smile on his face. "Brother oak says your spirit is sturdy, though more like that of the spruce than of his own. You will provide support in the storms." Two quick strides brought the teen almost nose-to-nose with Rigel. Deep, deep green eyes searched Rigel's, then dropped as the guy knelt and took Rigel's right hand. "I am Anaph, the Branch, and I am yours."

    Part of Rigel wanted to laugh at the lunacy of it. But as Anaph finished his words, heat rushed through Rigel, setting him afire -- energy, exuberance, celebration, joy, and lust filled him, and a deep conviction arose that if he dropped to the gras here, now, to fulfill the matching lust he felt from Anaph, the world would explode with life, and they would stride as conquerors wherever they went. He trembled as with is left hand he stroked Anaph's cheek, and Anaph's began to slide up inside his thigh.

    Images thundered into his mind: Jake, his best friend in seventh grade, whom he found hanging from his aunt's apple tree after no adults would believe that his 'baby sitter' from church had molested him, introducing him to all kinds of sex; the funeral, where a distant uncle of Jake's, who hadn't heard that part till he got into town for the funeral, pulled out a sawed-off shotgun, put it to the crotch of that 'baby sitter' and pulled both triggers at once; Jake's parents divorced, his dad killed later in a drug bust by a SWAT team that wasn't taking surrenders, his mom alone in the house becoming a ghost of herself, wandering the streets, brought home by the police for stalking kids who looked like Jake, until she kidnapped one and vanished; Jake's sister turning promiscuous at college, his older brother in Afghanistan turning into a cold killing machine without mercy, a risk-taker who'd earned three medals....

    Something from a school play slipped into his mind, and Rigel grabbed at it for deliverance. Wrestling back control of his own left hand, he seized both of Anaph's between his, forcing them palms-together. "Do you, Anaph, make yourself my man of life and limb, to serve me, and obey me", he began, trying to get the words the way he remembered them, stumbling over it, but then the words came smoothly, "with all the life is that in you, to serve mine with yours, for the sake of life, now until rebirth?" And where did those words come from, a cool, rational part of his mind asked through the still-raging passions to reach the sharply-forged bit of will and awareness that was the only part of Rigel that he, Rigel Stefanos Fitzhue-Winchester, commanded. But there was no time for any questions; words were coming back from the kneeling teenager.

    "By Oak and by Ash, by thorn and all that lives and is strong, I, Anaph, the Branch, surrender to you my life and will, and become your man faithful and true; to serve you as you require and need, to obey you gladly and in faith, for the sake of life, until my last breath returns my spirit to the great All, and beyond."

    As hot as the energy before and the passions it lit, now came a wave of cool and calm, of peace and wholeness. Agony and fury over the line he had almost crossed filled him; he stood trembling for a moment, then jerked Anaph roughly to his feet, pulling their eyes closer than they had been before. "If you ever", Rigel growled, "touch me in that way again without permission, I will thrash you until you can't sit, or walk, or lie down. Do you understand me?"

    "Your will", was all that Anaph said, quietly. When Rigel let him stand freely again, he made an addition. "It wasn't my wish, but the spirits."

    Rigel snorted. Spirits were for superstitious dims. Though... he pushed the itch of thought aside. "Then tell your spirits to behave themselves."

    Everyone else was gathered, a half-circle watching them. "What was all that?" Ryan asked.

    Not knowing how much Ryan had seen or heard, Rigel decided to not answer. Instead, he looked around the group: everyone was there, and all at least moving. "Everyone okay?" was what he finally asked.

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

  18. #18
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Well, I promised it before I turned in, and there it is.

    Hopefully I'll dream the next chapter -- the one that was supposed to be next still isn't . . .

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

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    Re: Fit for Life

    Kuli,
    This is proving to be a very interesting tale, indeed. Some think they are dead, for, what else could it be? The whole greater mother nature, great Oak, spirituality is also very intriguing.

    Thanks for bringing us this interesting tale. I look forward to seeing how you develop it further.

    It looked like the branch was trying to "take root" and latch onto something to provide liquid nourishment and protein.


    And I know, if I'll only be true, to this glorious quest . . .

  20. #20
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    Kuli,
    This is proving to be a very interesting tale, indeed. Some think they are dead, for, what else could it be? The whole greater mother nature, great Oak, spirituality is also very intriguing.

    Thanks for bringing us this interesting tale. I look forward to seeing how you develop it further.

    It looked like the branch was trying to "take root" and latch onto something to provide liquid nourishment and protein.
    The whole "by Oak and Ash" thing wasn't planned. When I got to the last kid from the van, all that was planned was that he was a little off, and talking to the tree. But with the recoil of Rigel's withdrawal from the passion/lust thing, it just sort of flowed out. But it fits perfectly into the story world, though it tugs at the story line as sketched out.

    BTW, I hope you noted Anaph's age. Rigel certainly did.

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

  21. #21
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    Re: Fit for Life

    I have two chapters arguing over which is next. When the dust settles, I'll have to edit so the sequence fits; then one will get posted.

    Soon....

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

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    Re: Fit for Life

    I see the assumption of 17 - best keep no sex there, then, not on this board.
    I was reading and IMing a friend, so I may have missed a few of the finer points. Not a good thing to do, sorry.


    And I know, if I'll only be true, to this glorious quest . . .

  23. #23
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Concession


    Davis Davis sighed and looked to his right at Lucius Dominguez. He opened his mouth, then closed it again and shook his head. The state medical examiner twitched a brief smile. "T B S", she said.

    "Tired Brain Syndrome", Lucius supplied for the police lieutenant. "So, look, doc -- we've covered everything three times or more. You've seen everything we have, from pics of the wreck to the autopsies. You know what we do."

    Dark grey-green eyes met his for a moment before dropping to look at the HP laptop Alicia Swizer, state medical examiner, had perched on one knee as she sat cross-legged on a lab stool in the autopsy room where they'd settled after her examination of yet another of the bodies from this bizarre, and already notorious, incident; somehow the story of a wreck with people who'd died before they crashed had made the internet... and already generated a movie script purporting to tell the story.

    "All right; let me summarize, then", she conceded. "One car, five dead -- three male, two female, ages nineteen through twenty-three. One van, eight dead -- five male, three female, ages sixteen through ttwenty-two with an outlier at thirty-five. Sidewlak, Four dead -- three male, one female, ages fourteen through sixteen. The van skidded out of control, slammed into the car, which slewed and then rolled to a stop on top of the four youngsters." She looked straight at Lucius. "And you, coroner, have put down in your report that all seventeen were dead before any trauma to their bodies."

    "Blast it, doctor!" Davis stood suddenly, knocking over his own lab stool. "You've seen everything Lucius has. You did your own autopsy on three of them. Your results completely matched his. So what do you want from him?"

    "Simple: revise the report."

    "I will not lie!" retorted Dominguez.

    "You don't have to. If you state that they died in the crash, you will be completely truthful."

    "A lie by omission is still a lie."

    Swizer closed her eyes a moment before responding. "Doctor, the state does not want a report out that implies some alien power can kill people as they merely sit in their cars. The public is not capable of receiving such news without causing all sorts of wild notions and possibly panic."

    "You underestimate the public, doctor", Davis responded. "Sure, there will be stories of aliens sucking their lives out. But there will be people pointing out that they were about to die violently, and the aliens, if there were any, did them a favor by letting them avoid that. It will flare all over the internet, China will even let it in because it will have an angle to make us Americans look ridiculous. Paranoid people will devise conspiracy theories. But it will all flare, and die, except for some residual ranting that any subject attracts. People will give up trying to figure it out, and forget it.
    "So let it be, before I start wondering if there's something illegal, and not just unethical, about asking a county coroner to forge a report. Their glares became a stare-down. Davis won.

    "If you won't cooperate, you won't", Swizer conceded after a long, uncomfortable silence. "Doctor Dominguez, will you at least be careful in the language you use? What you wrote would be wonderful copy for the Inquirer or that new rag, 'What You Want to Know'."

    Davis Davis decided to play conciliator. "Lush, think of it as applying a bedside manner: the patient is the public, and you don't want him upset."

    Lucius Dominguez snorted. "The public needs more than a bedside manner. Doctor Swizer, I don't like writing in any manner that isn't straight-up and straightforward. But since Davis seems to think there's some merit in the notion, I'll go along -- for the public copy. I will also file a confidential report that is even more pointed than my original, and I will recommend further investigation."

    "And I'll back him -- as will the Captain", Davis said. "He doesn't like the idea that something can kill seventeen people without leaving a trace except an accident they were going to die in, anyway."

    Alicia Swizer nodded. "All right. I'll have to settle for that." And you'll get your investigation, she thought, more than you may want. At that, they shook, agreed to keep in touch if anything helpful came up, and aimed their minds and bodies at their various duties.

    When Alicia got to her car, she sat a moment going through the photos, stopping at a very good-looking young man identified only as the seventeenth victim of the incident. What she knew, but Davis and Dominguez didn't, was that the boy's real father was the governor, now running for the U.S. Senate. Old college friends, she'd called the governor the moment she saw the victims' photos, and he'd been adamant about what she already figured: this can't get out. No, the governor didn't want anyone knowing he had an illegitimate son, not while he was running for the U.S. Senate. It just might be the thing to tip the race against him -- a sitting governor with a son by the wife of his first campaign manager, both of them married at the time.

    Sad enough, she thought, that seventeen young people had died -- to her, at fifty-four, even the oldest was young. She got depressed reading of traffic deaths, anyway, but this one hit hard, very hard, this loss of an old friend's gay son.

    She kissed the forehead of the image, thinking, Wherever you are now, I hope things are better for you. May you find a father who isn't ashamed of you.

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

  24. #24
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Okay, We're Dead


    "Sure we're okay, we're just dead". The response came from the guy Rigel had last seen being held by Rita.

    "What's your name?" Rigel asked him.

    "Tanner. What's yours?"

    "I'm Rigel. You really think we're dead?"

    "Of course we're dead. Out vehicles crashed, there was no way for us to get out, so our bodies are back there bleeding and mangled." Two of the girls heard this and collapsed to the ground in tears.

    Ryan cut Rigel off. "Our bodies are here", he objected.

    "Copies", Tanner replied. "Definitely copies."

    "Why would they be copies?" countered Ryan.

    "Because these are." Tanner held up a set of keys. "They're bad ones, too -- the metal's crappy." To prove his point, he snapped one of the keys with two fingers. What looked like an ordinary car key shattered, pieces falling to the grass. "And it isn't metal all the way through -- it's clay on the inside. We got copied from there to here, but not everything copied very well." He glanced around at the others. "Check your stuff -- see what I mean."

    "My cell phone buttons don't work" was the first reponse. "It opens, it shows bars, but there's nothing,"

    "What's it made of?" Ryan asked.

    "Um... " the boy scratched at it. "Feels like plastic, but... underneath it's clay." He turned the phone and tugged at the battery compartment cover. It didn't open; it popped off and broke. Underneath was a dirty gray clay reproduction of two AA alkaline batteries. "Don't look like Energizers".

    "What's your name?" asked Rigel.

    "I'm Oran, Oran deLambert."

    "Thanks, Oran. Everyone, when you say something, tell us your name -- we need to get to know each other." He pointed at the next person after Oran in the semicircle, moving clockwise. "How about your stuff?"

    "I'm Vic. My iPod is crap" -- he demonstrated by holding it up and flicking pieces off -- "bit look:" -- and he held out a Gerber folding hunting knife, one of those with a frame that isn't solid, so it can't trap dirt and also weights less, and unfolded it, refolded it, tapped it on his boot, stabbed the ground and pulled it out -- "my knife's real."

    Ryan tossed him a small piece of fallen oak branch. "Can it cut this?" Vic caught the piece of wood deftly and proceeded to shave off three strips. "Yep -- sharp, too", he added.

    "I've got shuriken, and they're real too." All eyes went to a Hispanic guy standing between Lumina and Ocean. "My keys were clay, but these are real." To demonstrate, with a flick of his wrist he sent one slicing through the air to stick into the oak tree Anaph had been talking to. It made a very musical hum, and 'thunk'. "Me llamo Antonio."

    "Weapons. I'm Chen. Weapons got duplicated. Useless stuff didn't." The speaker was clearly part Chinese, but not full. His dark skin testified that neither parent had been white, though.

    "Everyone check all your stuff!" Ryan cried out excitedly. "See what counts as 'useful' and what doesn't!" What had been mild yet nervous interest rose to earnest interest, and pockets began emptying. It was enough to enable Devon to finally calm the two girls from the van, and he got them to join in.

    Ten minutes later, Ryan had everyone sitting in a circle, each with two piles: near each one, his or her stuff that was fake-copied; an arm's length away, what had copied faithfully. One by one, they showed the rest what they'd found.

    "Knives, shuriken, all real", Chen noted when Anaph set his last item down, completing the circle. "All the weapons we had are real."

    "Also glasses, rings -- all jewelry", Ryan corrected himself, "are real. Fingernail clippers, a nail file, a miniature screwdriver set, three screws, a roach clip, and other stuff that's a tool of some kind."

    Oran finished the summary. "But no cell phones, GPS, iPods, or anything else that's tech-ish."

    "But my make-up kit is fine", a rose-wood colored sort of redhead, face streaked with tears, said. "I'm Crystal. I'm in drama at Lincoln, and I carry my make-up kit. It's all fine. Brushes, too. Isn't that 'tech-ish'?"

    Tanner waved a hand for attention; Rigel nodded to him. "Yours was made with high-tech, but it isn't, really. There have been makeup kits for ages, like even the Egyptians had them. But that's not why it got copied right." He stopped, grinning slightly.

    "Okay, tell up", Ryan told him. "What's your theory?"

    "You don't see it?" Tanner shifted his position to sit cross-legged. "Cell phones don't work, prolly 'cause no cell towers, so they didn't get copied right. iPods don't work; probably no batteries available, so they didn't get copied. No cars, so keys didn't get copied. See it?" he asked hopefully.

    "Go on", Rigel said.

    "Anything that won't work here, didn't get copied", Tanner summarized. "Or if it won't be useful. So the stuff that got copied right, they're all things that will work here and be useful. We've got knives, lighters, matches, Ryan's field lens, things we'll need.
    "That's what survived -- what we'll need."

    "So why would I need shuriken?" Antonio had been sitting quietly, polishing his little weapons repeatedly; now he stopped, flipped on up into the air and caught it on the way down between his palms with a smack, and held it out for everyone to ponder.

    "For when we get hungry." It was the first thing the smallest member of the van group, a bronze-haired girl not even five feet tall, had said. "There's no stores. You have to hunt for us." Antonio turned away from the intense gaze she fixed on him. "And I'm hungry."

    "Ocean said your name is Breeze, right?" asked Devon. The girl nodded. "That's a good point -- here we are like on a camping trip, with no gear. We need to plan, Rigel." All eyes swung back to their de facto leader, or at least chairman.

    "Could someone explain why that means we're dead?" Lumina called out. "I mean, we aren't all hurt and bloody and stuff."

    "You mean, like we weren't really in an accident?" Tanner responded. "I know. Well, if they could just move us from home to wherever 'here' is, all our stuff would have just moved along, too. But stuff got copied, and some of it badly. The badly part means that what we won't need, didn't get much attention. We need our bodies, so they got those right. So our original bodies are back home, broken and dead. They just moved us, and copied the rest."

    "They called our spirits, and built bodies back around those", Anaph offered, with delight and wonder in his tone.

    "Who's 'they'?" demanded Ocean. "And how do you know there is a 'they'?"

    "Selectivity implies intelligence", Chen replied. "No mere accident could distinguish between our things as has been done."

    "It could just be that those things don't work here", Ryan argued, playing devil's advocate.

    "How would any natural force or something 'know' what a car key is, and that it would not 'work', while 'knowing' that a screwdriver that is also just a stick of metal was of value?" Chen countered.

    "Okay", Ryan agreed with a grin. "And besides -- any change in natural law sufficient that electrical devices wouldn't work at all would be sufficient that we would be dead anyway. So, yeah -- it wasn't a 'that', it was a 'they'."

    "I get it", Oran chimed in. "Our stuff is copies, which means we're copies. If we're copies, our bodies -- um, original bodies -- are still back home, in the wreck. See?" he asked Lumina.

    She frowned, seeming to puzzle through it. "Okay, we're dead", she concluded finally.

    And then, "My mom is going to be so pissed."

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

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    Re: Fit for Life

    Kuli,
    You are crafting a very intriguing tale. An interesting perspective on "death", if it is as they presume.

    A keen imagination and good writing skills combine for an interesting read.

    Thanks for continuing to share your talents with us.


    And I know, if I'll only be true, to this glorious quest . . .

  26. #26
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    Re: Fit for Life

    What, no comment on the last part of Concession (two chapters up)?

    I've almost got another polished -- hit a hot streak today. I churn out material that way, but often it really needs polishing.

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

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    Re: Fit for Life

    Discoveries


    Rigel sighed. He didn't think he was cut out for building a wall out of half-rotten branches and chunks of sod. Lumina was right, though; the only way they were going to have shelter was to make it, and the only things they had to use were in this cluster of oak trees, where one fallen giant provided a good beginning. But that 'wall' faced wrong to shield them from the wind -- more of a breeze, so far, though Ryan and Rita agreed that evening could bring stronger force. So they were putting another wall where one great branch had crashed into the ground and another hung above it, providing a framework to build on. Others were doing well, but the pieces Rigel put in place seemed rebellious; it was like every other time he turned his back, one or another part fell. What he needed was an excuse to do something else, like Anaph had: the kid was good at plants; he'd found three different things they could eat so far Antonio was turning a tree that their fallen one had fallen against into a lookout; along with his shuriken, he had a wicked-looking knife with a 9-inch blade that worked tolerably well as a machete, which he was using to trim branches and carve handholds to make a way up as high as he could. Ocean and Chen were scouting close by in search of water -- he'd heard them talking about having to dig a "seep", whatever that was, or fashion condensation traps somehow. It turned out that Oran was an Eagle Scout, with survival training -- and practice! -- in Pioneering, which Rigel guessed was some kind of advanced scouting; so he was working on getting them fire. Rigel, though, with everyone else lacking special skills or equipment, though, was doing his best to make a wall. He reached for his fallen chunk of sod.

    "Rigel?" Ryan dropped to his knees to Rigel's right, socking a chunk of half-rotten branch in along the bottom of Rigel's wall section. "Smack your sod on top." He dropped back on his heels and looked at his friend's work. "You're trying to make it too vertical."

    "You came over to criticize?" inquired Rigel with a wry grin.

    "No, to help -- and to talk. No dodging this time: what was that about with... that kid?"

    Rigel regarded his dirty hands, wondering if he even knew. He'd never been dishonest with Ryan, so he decided that was a good place to start. "I'm not really sure", he began. "I went to bring him back to the rest of us, but when I got there....." The memory was sharp: a kid talking to a tree, Rigel's worry they had a basket case on their hands -- a worry that hadn't gone away even now.

    "He was talking to the oak tree. His body was straight and still, but his face -- well, he talked with his face and his hands, not just his voice. The quick, jerky way he moved made me think of Paul -- remember him?"

    "Yeah", Ryan answered. "The guy who tried every drug in the book, and tried inventing new ones. It killed him, too."

    Rigel shuddered at the memory: it had been Paul's senior year in high school, and he'd made it to the state track meet in spite of all the drugs, because he'd never been caught. It was the 'mile' relay, four 400-meter legs, and Paul was anchor. Rick Geiger had been five meters back from the lead when he slapped the baton into Paul's waiting hand, a perfect handoff, and Paul had exploded down the track like he'd just discovered it. On the back stretch, he ground his way past the leader, then pulled away. On the corner, it became clear that the former leader had burned up too much trying to stay in front; Paul's lead when he reached the final straight was nearly ten meters.

    With two meters to go, Paul had raised his hands in victory, grinning enough for any three people, and he practically leapt over the finish line, grabbing the ribbon and wrapping it around his shoulders. After twenty meters of 'coasting', he'd slowed and looped back to check with the official scorer -- a formality, really. Then he'd seen Lisa, who'd promised him herself if he won, and sprinted toward her....

    It all came down to the drugs, the doctors had said: he'd done too many different things, many of them with bad effects on his heart. He'd just run harder than he'd ever run before -- a new state record for a leg of that relay, even. He was cooling down, and then kicked back into high gear, and his heart just quit. He'd gotten a surprised look on his face, Lisa had said, and just tumbled forward. The board of review had been kind; the doctors said that the drugs in his system weren't anything that would help his performance; if anything, they would have done the opposite, so the board let the victory stand. Paul got buried in his track uniform, all his medals and ribbons stuck to the inside of the coffin, and the medal for that race around his neck.

    And then some group had shown up at the funeral to cheer Paul's burial -- because he'd been gay. They'd shown up at the awards assembly where Paul's memory was going to be honored by the other three relay members, but the wrestling team had taken care of that, so there was no disturbance.

    "Yeah", he said to Ryan, "that guy. Anaph was moving like he used to sometimes. And remember the assholes at his funeral? Looked like they thought they were God's own gift to the world, and we should all just thank them and kiss their feet for telling us Paul was an abomination and the heart attack was God's judgment?" Ryan nodded, so Rigel went on. "When he turned and looked at me, he looked like them -- crazy, maybe possessed or something. What he said to me...." Rigel shook his head, then suddenly rolled off his knees to sit leaning against his recently improved wall.

    "He told me that the tree said I'm sturdy, like a spruce, and would provide shelter in storms -- ha! I can't even build a wall right!" The two friends shared a grin. "That's when he grabbed my hand and dropped to his knees,and then he says, 'I am Anaph, the branch, and I am yours'." He felt lust stir again, and shook it off. "Rye, I swear he was going to blow me, and I wanted him to! It was crazy -- I wanted him more than I wanted my first girl!" Rigel stopped, his jaw clamped shut; he stared into the distance.

    After a few seconds of silence, Ryan asked softly, "What stopped it?"

    Rigel jumped up and walked off a few paces. Ryan went to him and put a hand on his shoulder, and waited.

    "Did I ever tell you about my buddy Jake?" whispered Rigel.

    "Your best friend -- before me? But he died, right?"

    "I guess I didn't tell you." Rigel turned to face his friend. Ryan felt him trembling, and grabbed his other shoulder. After a deep breath, Rigel started again. "He didn't just die -- he hanged himself. I found him. He was so cold...." Rigel squeezed his eyes tight against tears. "He had a baby sitter. They got him through the church, the Seventh-Day Adventists. When he was little, it was all fun. The guy let Jake do anything, and then helped clean it up or fix things. One day they got really, really dirty, so the guy threw their clothes in the washer and they took a shower together. Jake already had crotch hair, and it turned the guy on." He looked his best friend right in the eye. "He molested him, Rye. Not just then, but a bunch. Jake said some of it felt good and some of it hurt, but none of it was fun, and he wanted it to stop. He told his dad, he told my dad, he told the preacher, but no one believed him; the baby sitter was too convincing. So one day, when he found out that his folks were leaving for a week and the guy would be staying with him, he waited until his parents were gone, and he went over to my house but I wasn't there, so he went over to my aunt's house looking for me. When I wasn't there, either, he couldn't take it, and he went out to the apple tree and hanged himself." Rigel looked at his feet for a moment, then back up.

    "That memory came in, just filled my mind, when Anaph touched my leg. I remembered Jake, how he died, why he died. I remembered I wasn't there for him. And I knew Anaph is only seventeen. I wanted to stop, but my body was on auto-pilot." Rigel took a deep breath before continuing. "But him on one knee like that reminded me of the school play in tenth grade -- I can't even remember its name, but I remembered, well, I kind of remembered the oath the knights took when they pledged themselves to the king. So I did the king part the best I could remember, and...."

    Again he broke away, but after a moment turned back and continued, softly. "I was running out of words, but all of a sudden I wasn't. They weren't any words I remembered, they were all new. I asked him to serve 'with all the life is that in you, to serve mine with yours, for the sake of life, now until rebirth'. Ryan, I didn't think of those words: they came to me."

    What Ryan wanted to do was ask, "Who from?", but he knew Rigel was asking himself the same thing, and he also was sure that they both knew the best answer: whoever had snatched their souls from certain death in Monument Circle and plopped them into copy bodies here... wherever here was.

    What he said instead was, "And you felt used."

    Rigel shook his head. "No, not really used, just... like a pawn, I guess, put here to play a part, and when I needed something, the prompter off-stage fed me lines."

    "You mixed your metaphors."

    "Yeah, well, I still feel pretty mixed, and it wasn't metaphorical."

    "Now you're mixing your tenses. You're stressed, bud."

    Rigel burst out laughing. "I needed that! 'Stressed', he tells me. Heck, I died in a car crash I didn't experience, I'm here with a bunch of other people who did, too, I have a kid getting religious experiences and swearing loyalty to me, I'm trying to build a wall for a shelter tonight with just dirt and rotten wood, I'm hungry and can't do anything about it, I'm thirstier than that -- why would I be stressed?" The two grinned at each other like a pair of maniacs.

    "Let's get a log", Ryan said after a half minute of face-muscle stretching. So they did that, and worked on the wall for a while.

    "You could have let him, you know", Ryan said quietly when they'd topped the section with a decaying branch. "We're dead, this is a different world."

    The thought had occurred to Rigel, too, and he had his answer. "No. It's a different world, but we need to stick with what's familiar. We follow the rules we know, until we get settled somewhere and have the luxury to sit around and debate changing them. There may be nothing immoral, really, about a guy that's twenty-two and one who's seventeen having sex, but back home that's the rule, and for now it's the rule here, too." Then he got a mischievous grin. "Besides, I don't think I could have come with an audience."

    Ryan laughed at that. "But you're actually serious about the rules, aren't you? That's why your mind coughed up the memories -- it's what you believe, deep down."

    "Yeah, it is. Even though I think it's a dumb rule -- any guy who's seventeen can make up his own mind about sex. But it's the rule we've got for now."

    Ryan nodded. "Agreed. I'll stand with you on that." He wouldn't have thought of that on his own, but Rigel was right: things were going to be hard enough without throwing their common background to the wind, too.

    They meant to go back to work, but it wasn't to be: Anaph was waiting to show him some kind of fern they could eat tips from, and after him was Oran. Rigel wasn't thrilled by the flavor of the fern, but he praised Anaph anyway, and told him to get someone else to help gather whatever they could, before the sun started getting too low. "Sleeping in a strange place is bad", he told his -- what? follower? -- "but sleeping in a strange place with an empty stomach is wretched."

    Then it was Oran. "What's up, fire-master?" Ryan quipped.

    "Look at your money", Oran said without preamble. "The coins". Ryan and Rigel reached into their pockets and pulled out their loose change.

    "Yeah? It's money -- quarters, nickels, dimes, pennies", Ryan observed. "So?"

    Oran sighed. "Look close."

    Rigel was the one who got it. "Oh. My. Fucking. Hell." He whistled and looked at Oran. "No layers."

    Ryan whistled in turn. "They're real silver, all the way through!"

    "The quarters and dimes, yeah", Oran agreed. "And the pennies are real copper, so I guess the nickels are real nickel. But do you guys have any of those new dollars, with the Indian chick on them?" Both shook their heads no. Oran pulled reached into his left pocket and brought it out. "I think they're kool, so I always have some. This morning I stopped by the C-U and got a new roll, so I have a bunch. And look." He opened his hand to show a shiny pile of George Washington U.S. dollars. "Take one."

    "It's heavy", Ryan observed.

    "And soft." Rigel had bitten his. "You're not saying they're pure gold?"

    "Why not?" Oran asked.

    Rigel had seen Antonio jogging their way, and now waved him over. "Join us. What's up?"

    "You found out about the coins, huh? You think those dollars are real gold?" Antonio asked, standing between Rigel and Oran.

    "We were just wondering that", Rigel told him. "But why'd you want me?

    Antonio looked around before answering. "We're not alone here. I don't know if it's someone or something, but we're being watched. I thought I saw something on our hike over here from where we, um, landed, so I've kept an eye out. Now I'm sure -- I saw movement, from up in the tree."

    Ryan frowned. "Best guess?"

    His grimace showing his uncertainty, Antonio replied, "Someone -- people. They're too clumsy in hiding."

    "Animals in their own habitat, who stalk other creatures, wouldn't be seen by amateurs like us, huh?" Ryan asked. Anotio nodded. "So, do we alert everyone?" They all looked at Rigel.

    "Chen and Ocean are still out there", Antonio pointed out.

    "Think you can find them?" Rigel asked him.

    Antonio shook his head. "On foot -- no. But I can go higher in the tree -- maybe I can see them."

    Rigel didn't like it, but there weren't any options. Back home he could have hopped on his Honda and zipped across the grass -- though back home he didn't know of any place where the grass just kept going like this. It was unnerving. "Take something bright with you, to wave if you see them. Maybe they'll get the idea to hurry."

    "If I see them, and get their attention, I'll go join them." Antonio tossed a shuriken pointedly, then vanished it back into wherever he'd plucked it.

    "Good. And thanks." Rigel had a sudden thought. "Hey -- you have some gold dollars, too?"

    Antonio grinned. "Yep -- seven of 'em." He turned and jogged back to climb the lookout tree.

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

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    Re: Fit for Life

    Bargains


    She knew she wasn't going to enjoy it, but Alicia Swizer dialed anyway. She didn't have the governor's private number just because she was a friend; she also worked for him, and he expected to be kept up to date.

    She was lucky; he answered on the third ring. "Sorry, I gave at the office", the governor's voice intoned, then, "Hi, Alicia. I presume you're not just calling to chat?"

    Indirect as always, she thought. "John, he didn't go for it. He brought a police lieutenant with him, a special duty man--"

    "Davis Davis? He's a good man."

    "Well, he was helpful, a bit -- thanks to him, the coroner will tone down his language, but he plans to file a scorching confidential version. I told him that would be fine, but to be very careful in the official, public version. I think you can keep this under wraps."

    "We'd better keep it under wraps! You keep on that doctor. If any of it gets out, I could be ruined."

    Only with your rabid core, she wanted to say. "You don't have any feelings for your son in this, do you?" she challenged.

    "I have relief! And annoyance -- Austin was headed for Hell anyway, nothing was going to change his mind, so the only bad thing about him dying now was it's bloody inconvenient!"

    "No grief -- you don't wish he was still alive." Why did she bother? Whatever John Templeton had once been, he was now a calculating, conscience-less machine. He didn't care that his son had died without pain, before the Lexus rolled on him, he was just upset that it had happened while he was campaigning.

    "He was an abomination! He wasn't fit for life! None of them are!"

    "Why don't you say that in your next campaign speech, John? Engage in some of that honesty you always praise so highly." She was pushing it, but she was angry, not just at a governor who put votes over family, but at an old friend who'd somewhere along the line stopped thinking and started running programs instead.

    There was silence for at least a dozen heartbeats before the governor spoke again. "Don't overestimate your value, Alicia."

    "You can have my resignation any time." They did this bit every four to six months.

    There silence wasn't quite as long. "All right, I need you, Florence Nightingale. But don't presume too much on an old friendship."

    She was tired of that line -- what was it, four times now, and his term not half up? Alicia decided to push back. "John, that works both ways. Don't you presume I will keep working for a sour, rigid hypocrite out of old friendship, if he gets much worse. Whatever you believe about where he is now, Austin was your son, what your favorite book calls 'the fruit of your loins', and only the inhuman could see the violent passing of their own and not grieve. If you're really as cold as you seem, you don't belong in the U.S. Senate."

    First came a deep sigh. "Alicia, that's why I need you -- I lose my humanity in this job. Hell, we all do, all elected officials! We have to sell our souls to get nominated, and re-mortgage them to get elected, and then everyone who bought a piece wants to attach a string."

    He didn't, she realized, claim any feelings, still.

    "John, take a vacation. Go on a retreat. See Father Stavropoulos. Get back in touch with yourself." She knew it was pointless, but....

    Alicia...." The voice trailed into silence that lasted a full minute. "Maybe I will. Look -- you go see what you can do to help that doctor get his report acceptable, and I'll take that little retreat. Deal?"

    Trapped, she thought. But if it might do him some good... "All right. But I'll be in touch with Father Staff." Use of their common mentor's nickname, a play on both the beginning of his surname and his given Greek name, Rabdos, came with purpose: she hoped it would remind the governor of a time when they both had been far less certain of their infallibility, hoped that would help him remember the need to actually think.

    "Father Staff -- that was years ago, wasn't it? I bet he still runs a klick every morning."

    "See him, John. Warm up your soul again."

    "All right, I will. But I'm not changing my mind about these homosexuals."

    "More's the pity. God made them, too, you know."

    "But they chose to be that way."

    "If they did, not very many of them remember such a choice. John, I'm behind on reports after this little effort. I'll call again when there's something new." And if you can't cry for you own son then, you may learn that bigotry can kill an old friendship, she lectured silently after she'd hung up. Who's more 'fit for life', to use your words -- a son in need of love, or the father who won't give it?

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

  29. #29
    HA! ;-)
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    WOWF!!! Clicked on the link in your "Post Whorehouse" thread. "Fell" into this story! Haven't read anything like it since Stephen King's "The Dark Tower" series!

    I'm LIKING this, Kuli!! You've warped my brain! It's feeling Good! I want MORE!!



    And then you submitted "Bargains" while I was reading and replying!

    I'm truly digging that last paragraph!

    Onward, my Cap'n!

    Keep smilin'!!
    Chaz
    WISDOM is the Knowledge you've gained ... After you could have used it! _Me

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    The "Next Post" feature and I seem to be leap-frogging a bit. I missed it when I clicked on it. Must have skimmed as I was getting ready to log off at one point, sorry.

    It is definitely an "Artie Johnson" of Laugh-in fame moment - "Verrry Interesting". Alien life forms killing them - or beaming them up - or, the more spiritually based members of the reading audience might ascribe it to a Higher Power taking an active hand in saving the lives, or at least the pain and suffering of a horrific death, of seventeen people whose time was not yet supposed to have come.

    I won't push that on you, but I may leave a liberal interpretation of Higher Power on the table for a bit.

    Wow! You got prolific this weekend. I'm not thru Bargains, and I have to get gone to work.

    All the coins are now pre-1964 in their minting characteristics - no sandwich coins, pure silver, copper, nickel. And, Gold Dollars - that's WAY before 1964 - we've been off the Gold Standard since the depression.

    Who are the people watching them from the distance? Friend or Foe? People in a similar situation of recently departed undead and no knowing what to do?

    Here's hoping my tired arse mind remembers to back up and read the rest of what you've posted before continuing when I get a chance to come back and finish.

    Thanks for you efforts - this is definitely an interesting saga.


    And I know, if I'll only be true, to this glorious quest . . .

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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    WOWF!!! Clicked on the link in your "Post Whorehouse" thread. "Fell" into this story! Haven't read anything like it since Stephen King's "The Dark Tower" series!
    I'm being compared to Stephen King!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    I'm LIKING this, Kuli!! You've warped my brain! It's feeling Good! I want MORE!!
    You mean I warped your mind more -- it's been warped for a long time.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    And then you submitted "Bargains" while I was reading and replying!
    "Bargains" has been banging around in my skull since the end of "Concession". I knew that Alicia Swizer didn't share her old friend's views, and needed to get that out.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    I'm truly digging that last paragraph!
    Tanks -- it's got a bunch of me in it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    Onward, my Cap'n!

    Keep smilin'!!
    Chaz
    [onward]

    {initiating}

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

  32. #32
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    It is definitely an "Artie Johnson" of Laugh-in fame moment - "Verrry Interesting". Alien life forms killing them - or beaming them up - or, the more spiritually based members of the reading audience might ascribe it to a Higher Power taking an active hand in saving the lives, or at least the pain and suffering of a horrific death, of seventeen people whose time was not yet supposed to have come.
    Ooh, speculation! I love it!

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    Wow! You got prolific this weekend. I'm not thru Bargains, and I have to get gone to work.
    It happens. I've hit fifty pages in a day when the Muse strikes.

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    All the coins are now pre-1964 in their minting characteristics - no sandwich coins, pure silver, copper, nickel. And, Gold Dollars - that's WAY before 1964 - we've been off the Gold Standard since the depression.
    Ah, but their coins still look exactly like what they had in their pockets!

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    Who are the people watching them from the distance? Friend or Foe? People in a similar situation of recently departed undead and no knowing what to do?
    We'll get there.
    Actually there's enough information provided for a good solid guess -- it's just not all in one place.

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    Here's hoping my tired arse mind remembers to back up and read the rest of what you've posted before continuing when I get a chance to come back and finish.

    Thanks for you efforts - this is definitely an interesting saga.
    Is it 'gay enough' for this forum?

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

  33. #33
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    Re: Fit for Life

    I just finished Bargains - a very nice installment, and a piece of mind sharing that I wish I could do in other areas on occasion.

    I like her style. I hope he finds his missing humanity, and has and enema that cleans all the way up to between his ears.
    It's unfortunate that there are people of that narrow, horse-blindered mindset.

    As to the last question you posted - I may be the wrong person to ask - I have a wide tolerance/appreciation in literary matters. I think you're getting there - it's definitely got a bit of a crusade tone coming through.

    I knew the coins were the "same", just different. I was just thinking back for relative points of reference. I was looking at a Morgan Silver Dollar over the weekend - a bit heftier than today's version of "silver" dollars - and one of the reasons they lost popularity - too damned heavy.

    Thanks for the continued installments, and the active banter.

    I'm definitely looking forward to the continuing saga.

    Glad Kyanimal has joined us.


    And I know, if I'll only be true, to this glorious quest . . .

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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    I just finished Bargains - a very nice installment, and a piece of mind sharing that I wish I could do in other areas on occasion.
    That's me talking, through her.

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    I like her style. I hope he finds his missing humanity, and has and enema that cleans all the way up to between his ears.
    It's unfortunate that there are people of that narrow, horse-blindered mindset.
    He's also me, though exaggerated. However much I had been convinced that sex was of the devil, and gay sex even worse, the pounding my seventh-grade civics teacher gave us on "all men are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights" remained a solid grounding for me, such that I couldn't conceive of one person being worth less than another.

    He's "flavored" by some people I knew in college, including perhaps the strangest couple I've ever met: she a high-church Lutheran feminist activist, he a Congregationalist right-wing dominionist. Both were of the opinion that God was too easy on gays, and that the Bible should have said "Thou shalt not suffer a homosexual to live".

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    As to the last question you posted - I may be the wrong person to ask - I have a wide tolerance/appreciation in literary matters. I think you're getting there - it's definitely got a bit of a crusade tone coming through.
    LOL

    I had a different title in mind, one that had the word "Crusade" in it!
    I threw it out as one that gave too much away. I like titles that tease, and then I like to tease with the titles (quick: in how many contexts has the title appeared in the text so far?).

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    I knew the coins were the "same", just different. I was just thinking back for relative points of reference. I was looking at a Morgan Silver Dollar over the weekend - a bit heftier than today's version of "silver" dollars - and one of the reasons they lost popularity - too damned heavy.
    I like heavy money -- it feels like money!


    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    I'm definitely looking forward to the continuing saga.
    I've got some other stuff clamoring to get written, so no worries yet. My problem is that what's clamoring is major-plot stuff, and I still haven't finished the groundwork!

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    Glad Kyanimal has joined us.
    Ky is always fun.


    A question: do you guys think this is sci-fi enough to interest anyone in the tech forum?

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

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    Re: Fit for Life

    Maybe - but tech forum is more a Hot topics than a story thread, isn't it?

    You could double post at Nifty.org, too - they have a lot of categories.

    Some started there, moved here, others who are here, like HR, have also posted there.


    And I know, if I'll only be true, to this glorious quest . . .

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    Re: Fit for Life

    Author's confession: I have a problem.

    Back at the start I had a WordPad file I used for listing the characters and important things to remember about them. Then my computer had a power failure, and since I hadn't saved the file, I lost it all.

    So I went back and reconstructed it from the chapters -- or so I thought. It turns out that I've got fourteen characters here, not just thirteen.

    For fun... while I wrestle with how to deal with this, let's see if any of you can find the extra. Hint: the person is found only in one chapter.

    <tearing-out-hair emoticon>

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    Maybe - but tech forum is more a Hot topics than a story thread, isn't it?
    I was thinking in terms of posting in there and inviting people to read.....

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

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    Re: Fit for Life

    Big Man


    The fire Oran had started was the only thing that kept their spirits up once the sun went down. Anaph’s best efforts had only gotten them a handful of food for the evening; another scant handful apiece was set aside for morning. Antonio had demonstrated he could hunt with his shuriken by killing some creature that looked like a cross between a ferret and an opossum when Devon had disturbed it while heaping up grasses for an attempt at beds, so there were hopes of meat for the future, but hopes didn’t help with hunger. Ocean and Chen had discovered a plant that caught water naturally; there weren’t any in their grove, but one nearby with a tangle of fallen trees provided enough that each person at least got a mouthful. For more, the two agreed they needed to travel north by northwest; they were certain there were streams that way, though their reasons seemed weak and confused to Rigel.

    Antonio hadn’t seen any further sign of who- or whatever was watching and following. To be on the safe side, Rigel decreed that two people would be standing watch at all times, with staggered shifts through the night. Antonio claimed he could sleep on a big branch in the ‘watch tree’, where he’d be able to threaten any intruders from above. It wasn’t much, but it was what they had.

    After the meager dinner, some went off to try to sleep. Around the fire, the discussion turned to the discovery about the coins. Rigel had asked Oran and Antonio to keep quiet about their gold dollars; they weren’t the only ones with any, though: Devon had one, and Tanner had three.

    “So I’m rich”, Tanner had said. “Awesome.” Breeze had argued that all their stuff should belong to the group, and off it had gone, back and forth.

    Finally Ryan decided he’d had enough. “Look – first, we don’t know we’ll even need money–“

    Tanner laughed, and got shushed by Crystal. “Okay, I’ll keep it down!” He feigned ducking from her. “Ryan, if we weren’t going to need it, the coins wouldn’t have changed. They probably would have been crud, like the car keys. They aren’t; ergo, we need them.”

    “Point conceded”, Ryan responded. “But we aren’t faced with the problem yet. And there’s an easy solution, too: exile. Anyone who won’t pull with the group, leaves the group.”

    Crystal objected. “How would they survive?”

    “That’s the point”, Tanner said slowly. “The argument is that we need each other, and that means everything. If there’s money, we share it.”

    “Like Anaph and that funny cape thing – he let the girls sleep on it to keep from the bugs”, Ocean noted. “That way they can actually get to sleep.”

    “That’s one weird dude”, Crystal declared. “He talks to the plants.”

    “If they tell him where to get more groceries, let him.” Chen patted his tummy. “That was hardly an appetizer.” No one had anything funny to say; they were all suffering from rumbling stomachs.

    “In the morning I’ll tell everyone the policy”, Rigel decided. “We have to move, and we all have to be together in things when we do.”

    “North by northwest?” inquired Ryan.

    Rigel shrugged. “What else? Our water team is certain that’s where we’ll find water, so that’s the way we go. No one else has any better ideas.”

    “Every direction looks the same to me”, Tanner agreed. Nods came from all around. They sat silently for a time, staring at the flames.

    “I’m for bed, then”, Chen announced quietly. “Ryan, wake me for third watch?”

    “You got it. Later.”

    “Later.”

    Ocean went next, taking Breeze with her. Rigel, Ryan, Tanner, and Crystal remained. After a while, Crystal slid over next to Ryan and leaned on him. Rigel watched, expecting he was going to have to make a certain announcement earlier than he’d planned. Sure enough, the girl’s hand began rubbing his friend’s abs, then moved to his thigh. When a finger wandered across his crotch, Ryan took hold of her arm and pulled it to him, and looked pointedly at Rigel.

    Rigel sighed. “Crystal, how old are you?” he asked.

    “Seventeen. So? I’m old enough to fuck, and I want to. You all can.”

    “No”. Rigel shook his head firmly. “There are really good reasons for sticking with the rules from home, until we make a new one – then we can talk about changing them. But until then, under-eighteen means no sex with over-eighteen.”

    “That’s a stupid rule!” She tried to free her arm from Ryan, but he didn’t budge.

    “Yes, it is”, Rigel agreed. “In a truly civilized world, there would be classes and some kind of test, and if you understood the business and showed you could make your own decisions, you’d get a certificate or something and you’d be able to do what you wanted.”

    “Let’s do that now!”

    Ryan chuckled and used his grip on her arm to pull and twirl her to between his legs, where he pulled her back against him. “Girl, stress and danger can make people horny. But it isn’t what you really need. How about we just spoon, and I’ll hold you?”

    “Well... okay.”

    “No tricks”, Rigel warned her. “Ryan isn’t setting up to slip around the rules.”

    “Definitely”, Ryan agreed. “Just being together.” Crystal didn’t look happy.

    Rigel decided to try explaining. “Crystal, a lot of rules and laws aren’t fair. But we have rules to hold things together. And this one will protect you – look around; you girls are outnumbered. That means guys could end up fighting over you, which means you could get hurt. That’s not going to happen, because we’re keeping the rule.”

    “Who made you our leader?” she demanded.

    “We all did”, Ryan told her. “I’ve been watching all day, and every single one of us, when there’s a problem, has gone to Rigel. Antonio, Chen, and Oran looked at him as being the leader right from the start. Anaph made it very formal. I’ll follow Rigel anyway; we’re best buds. But none of you from the van had any reason to take him as your leader – yet you did anyway.
    “I don’t know why that is, because Rigel’s never been a natural leader. He usually ends up helping the leaders, but I’ve never seen people turn to him like this. Maybe in this situation we all see something in him that our conscious minds can’t figure out. Maybe the situation changed him somehow and now he’s a leader and we can just tell that.
    “But none of that matters. What matters is we’ve all voted for him by our actions. We’ve made him the leader. Arguing that could really screw up the group, because we really do all have to pull together. And I say that anyone who can’t go with that can leave.”

    Rigel saw Crystal go stiff. “That’s not a threat, Crystal. Look – how long till your birthday?”

    “Four months.”

    “Okay – in four months, you can pick any guy in the group for your birthday. If anyone says no, I’ll be yours.”

    “Or me”, Ryan offered, though his eyes were on Rigel.

    “You’ll order them to fuck me?!”

    Rigel snorted. “I won’t order anyone to do anything. But I’ll say that since you’re just turning eighteen, we should all give you the gifts you want, if we can.”

    Crystal giggled. “I could have everyone.” She snuggled into Ryan’s embrace. “All the guys will fuck Crystal.” The thought seemed to make her happy.

    “Well, I’m outa here”, Tanner said. “Crystal, I’ll be your birthday present if you want. Night, all.”

    “Later”, Rigel called softly.

    “I think we’re outa here, too, Rye”, Ryan said, standing and drawing Crystal with him. See you next watch.”

    “Quiet dreams”, Rigel wished them. When they’d disappeared into the dark, he looked up and tried to memorize the positions of the stars, so he could estimate when his watch was over. A tap on his shoulder broke his reverie – Antonio stood looking down at him.

    “Not our stars, are they, big man?” he asked.

    “I never really learned our stars”, Rigel admitted. “But I don’t see anything familiar.”

    “Nothing is. No Orion, no Big Bear, nothing. But there’s a north star – c’mon, I’ll show you.” So Rigel followed, out of the grove into the grass. “Up there” – Antonio turned him to aim him – “that really bright blue one with the fuzzy red companion.”

    It was bright blue, a brighter and bluer star than Rigel had ever seen – easy to find, not like the dim little thing back home, he thought. “Nice – I can find that no problem. How do you know that’s north?”

    “All the other stars turn around it; that means it’s right above the north pole”, Antonio explained. Hey, I thought you college guys knew this stuff.”

    “I never took astronomy. That makes sense, though. How long have you been watching?”

    “Since it first appeared. It was the second one out – I think the first one is another planet, a really bright one. This one’s been right between the same leaves since I saw it a couple of hours ago. It isn’t moving.”

    They’d watched for ten or fifteen minutes when Rigel realized something. “There’s no moon.”

    “Might not be up yet, or might be dark tonight”, Antonio guessed.

    “It’d be weird not having a moon.” He searched the sky, but found no trace of anything but stars. “Antonio?”

    “Yeah?”

    “Don’t tell anyone about the sky yet.”

    “No problem, big man.”

    “Why ‘big man’?”

    “You’re the boss, the head guy – the big man.”

    Rigel said nothing for a minute. “I guess I am”, he conceded finally. “I guess I am.”






    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

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    Re: Fit for Life

    Kuli,
    First, as I wrote the note about Tech, I almost included that thought, too.

    On to the story - you continue to do a nice job developing it.
    Our baby "bunny" (a la Hugh Hefner!) definitely has her emotions and hormones on super high.

    I dont' have enough time to scan through the story and gather up all of the characters right now - almost time to head back to work from lunch.

    I am enjoying our Robinson Crusoe (of the dead?) "family" saga.

    Thanks for investing the time in it that you have to enterain us.


    And I know, if I'll only be true, to this glorious quest . . .

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    Re: Fit for Life

    This next one doesn't end where I meant it to, but when I got to where it is now, I just had to quit with that line.

    Don't peek ahead; wait till you get there, and I think you'll agree.

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

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    Re: Fit for Life

    Four More


    A girl screamed.

    Rigel was awake in an instant, on his feet and looking toward the source of the sound. Light flared from the fire; he was aware that someone had dumped a small heap of dry twigs and grass on, to make light. It lit two figures under the watch tree. What he saw kicked Rigel into a sprint toward them.

    “Antonio, what the–“

    “Let her go!” The voice was confident, young, and hard. “Let her go or I’ll shoot!”

    Antonio, standing naked behind a girl Rigel guessed at fourteen, held something to her throat and had her stretched up standing on her tiptoes. At the edge of the grove stood a boy with long hair, about the same age, in a stance that said to Rigel he knew what he was doing. And beyond him Rigel could see two more figures.

    On a level he couldn’t have explained even if he’d been very aware of it, Rigel realized a number of things at once: these were the ones who’d been following them, the kid with the gun meant business, and the way to calm things was to step between that firearm and its intended target. He had slowed only to a jog, and it only took two more strides and a jump to get where he’d decided to be.

    “Back off!” yelled Antonio as Rigel was finishing the second stride and readying himself to jump.

    “Let her go!” Was the voice a little shrill? It was definitely angry.

    Antonio yelled “Back off!” again as Rigel’s left foot hit the ground and he waved his arms and yelled, “Wait!”

    The gun swung his way. Rigel order himself not to panic, and to his surprise, it worked: panic didn’t vanish, it just sort of hit a wall and stayed there, where he was aware of it but it wasn’t all that important. He stepped right to finish putting himself between the kid with his gun and Antonio with his captive. It was time to say something....

    “What kind of gun is that?” he called to the kid.

    “What do you care?” came the response.

    Rigel choked on a laugh. “I don’t. But I wanted your attention and that’s all I could think of.” The kid didn’t say anything. “Antonio, let her relax a little”, he called over his shoulder. Sounds of a sudden deep breath followed by a small cough told him the girl could at least breathe easily. The kid took two steps forward, but he didn’t look as tense.

    Ordinarily, Rigel would think later, when someone with a gun steps closer to you, and the gun is pointed at you, your attention would be on the gun, right? But in the flickering light the fire cast on the kid even though reflections off the metal showed the gun to be a silver-finished revolver, and the muzzle looked very lethal indeed, what caught Rigel’s attention were the kid’s shoes: one of those hybrids between a hiking boot and an all-terrain running shoe, with reflector strips built in – and one of those reflectors on the side of the shoe was a very familiar swoosh shape’

    “You’re wearing Nikes”, he observed, and as he said it things fell together.

    “So?” The kid sounded confused.

    “What’s your name? I’m Rigel.”

    “Austin. Your thug has Melanie, and he’d better let her go.”

    Antonio was smart enough to let Rigel do the talking. What Rigel said was, “This may sound dumb, but where were you before you came to all this grass and trees?”

    “What difference does that make?”

    “Just answer”, Rigel replied with all the firmness and sense of command he could muster.

    “We were sitting on the sidewalk in front of ‘Fit for Life”, on–“

    “Monument Circle”, Rigel finished with him. “Antonio, let her go. You other two, come on out of the grass.” He was walking while he talked. “And you saw an accident?” he asked, his eyes on those of Austin.

    “Fuck, yeah! Stupid bicycle guy’s carry latch popped, some jar flew out, landed right in front of a big Dodge van, made it skid, it bounced a Lexus and they both went out of control.” Austin paused and licked his lips. His voice was hoarse when he went on. “Then the Lexus flipped, and rolled, and we couldn’t get out of the way.”

    Rigel had closed the distance; he reached out his right hand. “Let me have the gun, Austin, and I’ll tell you how we got here – from the Vortex, right where you were.”

    Austin looked at the gun, then back at Rigel, uncertain. “How do I know I can trust you?”

    “How do we know we can trust you?” Rigel changed his approach. “What was Melanie doing, that got Antonio to drop down and grab her?”

    “She just wanted to be warm.”

    “Well, you can come be warm at the fire, all of you. But if you do, you’re going to be surrounded by people who will want to get that gun away from you because they don’t know you. Let me have it, and they’ll all be kool.” Austin was plainly struggling. Rigel lowered his voice. “Austin, it won’t do you any good anyway. You really don’t want to shoot anyone, and if you tried there’d be a couple of knives and other sharp things sticking in you before you could pull the trigger, and then I’d have a hard time stopping them from using it to shoot you.”

    “You’d want to stop them?” Austin’s voice carried confusion more than doubt.

    “Definitely. You’re just scared and confused – and so are we. You don’t really want to hurt anyone, you just want to feel safe.”

    “Yeah”, Austin agreed in a whisper. His arm lowered; Rigel intercepted it and easily slipped the gun away and into his own hand.

    “Ruger, .357", he read off the side. “It looks silver.”

    “It’s an alloy”, Austin told him. “Stainless steel with lots of nickel and platinum and stuff. Won’t rust, cleans easy. Good on the streets.” He stopped as if he’d said too much.

    Rigel chuckled. “Where you were, or lived, or what you did don’t matter now, Austin. We’re here, and what matters here is that we all get along and work together to survive. Hey – you got ammo for this?”

    Austin gave him a look like he was an idiot. “What good is a piece with no bullets?” he asked. Rigel could here the unspoken “bonehead” or “moron”. Instead of answering, though, Austin turned to his companions who were standing protectively by Melanie. Antonio had vanished – up the tree for clothes, Rigel hoped. “Dmitri – you got my pack? Bring it?”

    “Yah” was what the answer sounded like to Rigel. The accent and the name made him think “Russian”. Seeing the kid when he handed Austin a rather stuffed backpack didn’t help; he didn’t really know what Russians looked like.

    “Look – I got four boxes of fifty, a box half-full, and three quick-loaders all full, three more in my pocket, and the piece is loaded. Good enough for you?” Austin’s voice had a sort of “Are you done prying into my business?” tone to it.

    “Awesome. Hang onto it – and don’t let anyone else know how much you have.”

    Austin shrugged. “Sure. Whatever.”

    Something else Rigel had seen sank in just then. “Dude, was that water in there?” He couldn’t keep the excitement out of his voice.

    “Yah”, came the answer, from Dmitri. “So? We have lots.”

    It felt like a gift from heaven to Rigel. “If you’ll share some of that ‘lots’, you’ll be very, very popular. We’ve each had about a handful of water all day.”

    All four newcomers were standing by Rigel now. They exchanged glances, and after a moment Austin nodded. “One bottle”, he offered.

    “One of mine”, the other boy said. “They’re getting heavy.”

    “Why did you have all that water?” The question came from Ryan, who’d walked up quietly. “I’m Ryan”, he added.

    The kid laughed. “I’m Casey. We went to Fit for Life for a free day trial, right? We figure, like, they’re going to let us in free, but when we get thirsty from sweat, then they get us for like five bucks a bottle of water. I bought some, and Austin brought some, and Dmitri did, too. So we gots us all this water, and inside they don’t just have water, but it’s free, and flavored!” He grinned. “We came out with more water than we went in with.”

    Ryan laughed along. “Why bring more out?”

    Casey looked at him like he was missing a circuit or something. “Because we could, smart boy.”

    Rigel slapped him on the shoulder. “You brought a treasure. Maybe you saved all our lives.” He took the bottle of plain water that Casey held out. “Right now, this is worth more than gold.” Inspiration struck, and he handed it back. “You take it to share. C’mon.”

    A minute later everyone was awake and sitting around the fire. One bottle of water may not seem like much among fourteen people, but when all you’ve had for the day was a sip from a leaf, another mouthful was huge. Rigel watched the bottle make its progress; Casey had appointed himself judge of consumption, and carefully watched each person drink. When it came back around, he handed the bottle to Rigel.

    “Kill it”, he said.

    “That’s more than my share”, Rigel objected.

    Casey shook his head in disagreement. “You’re the leader – I can tell. So you sweat more than us. It’s your share.” To his right, Rigel saw Ryan, and Ocean, nodding agreement, so he stifled his objections and drank. When he realized there weren’t any envious or jealous looks directed at him, he decided Casey was right, and everyone just accepted it – and he swore to himself to not take it for granted.

    “Thank you”, he told Casey, including Austin with a nod. “You guys joining us?”

    “Fuck yeah”, Austin declared. “You got fire, something to keep the wind off, better beds than we thought of. We stick with you, maybe we make it.”

    “Welcome, then. Listen: tomorrow we start hiking. Two of our people know about finding water, and they say we have to go north by northwest. They don’t know how far, or how long. I don’t know how fast we can go – we’re used to streets and sidewalks, not grass and trees with bumps and maybe holes.” To his left, he heard and saw Chen smack his forehead, jump up and grab Antonio, and head off into the grove – something to find out about later, he figured. “Until then, what you have is all the water, except little trickles that collect on some of the plants’ leaves.
    “So you’re the water-masters. You don’t let anyone know how much there is, In the morning we’re drinking off leaves again, but tomorrow sometime you pass around another bottle. Until we find more, that’s what we have for staying alive.”

    “What if person try take bottle?” Dmitri asked.

    “Stop ‘em. But I don’t think they will. Us from the Lexus, we’re all in college, and we’re smart enough to know the water has to last. At least a couple people from the van are, too. And everyone pretty much does what I say, anyway.”

    “You got us killed!” Melanie screeched – for the second time, Rigel realized.

    Oran had one of her arms, and was trying to control her; all at once, with incredible speed, he had her in a half-nelson and arm-bar. “Chill, girl”, he ordered, loud enough for everyone to hear – which wasn’t all that loud, since everyone had fallen silent when the girl began screaming. Rigel decided to let Oran handle it.

    “We didn’t get you killed”, the Eagle Scout explained calmly. “We were just along for the crash – and we were dead before the car even flipped, because we don’t remember that. Ocean and the van didn’t get you killed, either; they were dead about the same time we were, and they were just along for the crash, too. What got you killed was an accident.”

    “A stupid bicycle carry bag and a busted strap”, Austin agreed. “Melanie, we’re dead, okay? They’re dead, too. None of us did it, it just happened.” What he said next didn’t carry very far, but Rigel caught it: “Bet my dad wishes he’d arranged it, though.” That made two things on Rigel’s list of things to find out about later.

    Oran let Melanie go. When he did, she spun around and fell into his arms, crying. Oran held her for a while, then led her off away from the fire. That turned into a signal, and others began heading back to their spots.

    When the crowd thinned out, Rigel had a question for Austin. “Why the gun?”

    The kid didn’t hesitate. “In case my dad sent someone to make me dead.” His tone was matter-of-fact, like to was just one of those things that made up life.

    It was nothing of the sort, to Rigel. “Oh, come on – what kind of father would want his son dead?”

    “Mine would. He thinks I’m going to hell anyway, so I should hurry up and go.”

    Rigel was trying to grasp such a thing, but failed. “Why does he think you’re going to hell? Who would be like that?!”

    Austin looked at him like Rigel was the kid, and naive as well. “He says I’m going to hell because I’m gay. He wants me dead because I’m gay. He wants me dead because he was married when he made me, and so was my mom, but not to each other. If anyone found out he had me as a son, his career would be gone.”

    “Who’s your father, Austin?” asked Breeze, quietly, her eyes troubled. She scooted sideways on her bit of log for Oran, who'd come back.

    “Governor Johnson Argyle Reagan Templeton.” If words could have sizzled and burned as they emerged from a human mouth, those would have. From Austin’s tone, Rigel almost expected to smell smoke and ozone.

    Breeze’s jaw dropped. “You’re ‘Pure-Heart’ Templeton’s kid? And Mister ‘Family Values’, Sir ‘Honesty is My Policy’, Lord ‘Moral Behavior Makes the Man’ wants his own son dead?!”

    “Your father is the cruelest evil bastard in the world”, Oran swore, in a colder, angrier tone than Rigel could have imagined from the even-tempered youngster. “We had the best assistant Scoutmaster in the world. He never did anything to any of us. He wouldn’t even get in the water when we went skinny-dipping. There wasn’t anything we couldn’t tell him, and he never passed anything on. But District Attorney Templeton heard he was gay. The bastard found someone to testify that he’d molested some of us. It was all lies. Some of our leadership corps testified; they were Eagle Scouts and seventeen or eighteen, but Templeton convinced the jury they weren’t reliable, because a molester threatens everyone so they lie for him. He didn’t do a thing wrong, and that bastard sent him to prison for eight years.
    “If anyone should be dead, it’s your dad. But he’s running for Senator now, isn’t he?” Oran asked, bitterly.

    “Yeah. That’s why I got the gun. If he could get me killed quietly, he wouldn’t have to worry. His illegitimate son would be in a box. In the grave, no one can tell you’re gay.”








    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

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    Re: Fit for Life

    Kuli ...

    I've been enjoying the latest chapters immensely! And, yeah! It still reminds me of, has the flavor of, King's "The Dark Tower"! (Have you read it? If not, I have no doubts that you would like it!)

    That's quite a cast you're assembling. I'm quite curious to see how you handle them all, and look forward to reading more about them.

    I'm glad you brought Austin into the group. When I read of him before, the only correlation to the characters I could make was that maybe he had "translated" into Anaph. And, then, I was thinking that everyone, except Rigel and Ryan, had maybe "transported" with new names more appropriate for their new "world". Most of their names seem to be of an "etherial" nature ... Orion, Ocean, Breeze, Anaph, even Tanner. Guess they were all from the West Coast, huh?

    And, why was Antonio up in the tree without his clothes? I mean ... if everyone is wanting to be near the fire ... uh ... maybe he was ... uh ... Never Mind! You can never be too sure about those hot blooded Latinos!

    Also, I think that last line worked quite nicely for a chapter "close"!

    In short ... "May I have MORE, Please, Sir?"

    Keep smilin'!!
    Chaz

    (I also noticed that Austin's gun "transferred" intact!)
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    Kuli ...

    I've been enjoying the latest chapters immensely! And, yeah! It still reminds me of, has the flavor of, King's "The Dark Tower"! (Have you read it? If not, I have no doubts that you would like it!)
    The only "Dark Tower" I'm familiar with is a trilogy by (IIRC) McKinnen -- it's fantasy, but nothing like this (which is, whatever it looks like, science fiction).

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    That's quite a cast you're assembling. I'm quite curious to see how you handle them all, and look forward to reading more about them.

    I'm glad you brought Austin into the group. When I read of him before, the only correlation to the characters I could make was that maybe he had "translated" into Anaph. And, then, I was thinking that everyone, except Rigel and Ryan, had maybe "transported" with new names more appropriate for their new "world". Most of their names seem to be of an "etherial" nature ... Orion, Ocean, Breeze, Anaph, even Tanner. Guess they were all from the West Coast, huh?
    They're all their original selves. I think there was enough information in the "back home" chapters to figure out the people following and lurking was the final batch of dead from the accident (dead out of the accident, not dead due to the accident -- English can be very imprecise at times [if I could, I'd write this in ancient Greek, which was very precise, but then I'd probably only finish a line a day, and get little else done]).

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    And, why was Antonio up in the tree without his clothes? I mean ... if everyone is wanting to be near the fire ... uh ... maybe he was ... uh ... Never Mind! You can never be too sure about those hot blooded Latinos!
    I'm not sure where that came from, except he has this image of himself as a commando. Waybe he had a sleeping bag we don't know about?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    Also, I think that last line worked quite nicely for a chapter "close"!
    Then I'm glad I ended it there.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    In short ... "May I have MORE, Please, Sir?"
    I'll consider the request.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    (I also noticed that Austin's gun "transferred" intact!)
    Observant of you.

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

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    Re: Fit for Life

    This is a great story Kuli. Thank you
    I, too, thought the last chapter ended very well.
    Please tell us more
    Harry

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    Re: Fit for Life

    I'm not really happy with this next chapter, but here it comes anyway -- my brain is already opening windows on what's coming, which means new chapters demand my attention.

    Enjoy.

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

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    Re: Fit for Life

    Moving and Changing


    There was good news, and bad news, in the morning, Rigel learned on waking: the good news was that everyone in camp had heard of his rule about sex, that there was a gun in camp but Rigel had it, that Austin was governor Templeton’s son and gay – and no one was terribly upset about any of it. The calm acceptance seemed strange to him, but he wasn’t going to question his luck. The bad news was that Melanie, Dmitri, and Casey had been caught in a threesome off away from camp.

    “Well, they’re all under eighteen”, Devon observed as he munched on some fern tips seasoned with an herb that tasted rather lemony – the combination was sour, but better than fern by itself. “So they didn’t break the rule.”

    “Half the group is under age”, Ryan noted, “and half over. But if people are going to be grouping for sex, and some are left out....”

    “Tensions”, Rita concluded.

    “Yeah, tensions”, Rigel muttered. “Great.”

    “This is why marriage was invented”, Ocean said. “So everyone would know who belonged to whom, and no one would cross the boundaries.”

    “But they do anyway”, Rita reminded them. “Affairs, strings of marriage and divorce, free sex, wife swapping – fun and games.”

    “The other option is a totally open arrangement, but that doesn’t work, either”, Ocean said. “Some people are naturally possessive. Some people are naturally monogamous. Some people commit and stay that way.”

    “And some people are naturally promiscuous”, Devon agreed, “so no system will work.”

    “Something’s got to, though”, Ryan countered. “Even temporary marriages or whatever.”

    “Bonding”, said a new voice. They all turned to see Anaph; they all blinked and took in the sight.

    What he wore had been different anyway, with a dark brown half-cape that had a half-dozen shades of color in it, tall boots that reached almost to his knees, heavy denim cargo shorts with extra pockets sewn on, a billowy shirt of some advanced camouflage pattern, several rows of beads – necklaces and chokers – and a beret in a camouflage pattern of fall colors. Now it was even stranger: to the pair of copper bracelets on his wrists there were now ones made of strawberry vines, still fresh and flowering, and others woven of something like a tiny woodland clover, three different bracelets on each wrist; in his left hand he bore a tall, shining white oak staff a good arm’s length taller than he was; his half-cape had been extended by the addition of ferns that were also still fresh... and those were just the obvious alterations. He looked more refreshed and energetic than any of them, yet how he could be, when it must have taken the entire night to weave and tie his ‘accessories’ was inexplicable.

    “Bonding what?” Ryan asked, with Devon nodding his agreement with the question. But it apparently didn’t seem strange to Ocean.

    “Many cultures had something between permanent monogamy and open relationships”, she explained enthusiastically. “They got called ‘bonding’ a lot, because they were bonds between people that everyone recognized. No one involved any gods saying ‘until death do you part’ or anything. The partners could agree on how long it would last, or leave the question open. Everyone knew that while they were bonded, they were off-limits. Well, they could make a bond that allowed others to join under certain circumstances, too.
    “It wasn’t like being ‘man and wife’, or even ‘man and man’ – the Hawaiians had that, did you know? It wasn’t a ‘the two become one flesh’ or ‘entwine we these spirits unto the ages’, but a partnership. It’s more civilized than all the laws the Puritans gave us, which are contracts for abuse or legalized rape.”

    Rigel cut in when she stopped for a breath. “And you think a bonding thing would work?” She nodded vigorously; Anaph nodded solemnly, his face almost aglow.

    “A bonding would declare that they are partners, that none else might intrude, and that their joinings be respected and honored. Life would be served.” The staff balanced itself for a moment as Anaph spread his arms, fingers wide apart, almost like a prayer.

    “Uh, yeah”, was Ryan’s comment.

    Devon was more helpful, from Rigel’s perspective. “I like it, big man” – Rigel hoped that wasn’t going to become his official title – “It covers the possibilities people might want, it’s flexible, and if we make them official, it should give the stability we need.”

    “But one girl with two partners?” Rigel asked. The idea seemed too strange to him.

    “For stability, it’s a good start”, Devon argued. “Look – we’ve got what, six ladies and eleven gents? Doubling males with one female helps.”

    “Don’t forget that Austin is gay”, Ryan offered. “That helps the odds.”

    “Whatever. What would be difficult would be a gent and two ladies”, Devon stated.

    “Unless more of us were gay”, Ryan quipped.

    “I need to think”, was Rigel’s conclusion. “I don’t need to sit for that – let’s get walking.”

    People were already falling into roles where their talents could be used: Tanner’s talent for spotting patterns was useful for making them, too; he had already organized everyone by time Rigel ended the “council” by the fire; Oran recruited all the guys to pee on the coals and kill it – “Boy Scout style”, he called it, for extinguishing fires. Them Oran and Chen led off, acting as scouts; Tanner and Casey led the main group; Dmitri fell in with Antonio as read guard; Devon took a middle position with all the girls – he’d become sort of the official chaperone, Ryan had commented to Rigel; Rigel ended up near the front, walking with Ryan, Anaph, and Austin.

    Rigel settled on a limited goal this first day, a grove about the size of theirs that Antonio, Chen, and Oran had agreed looked like it was a little short of twenty kilometers away. The three of them had come down from the watch tree laughing; all they’d said to Rigel and Ryan was, “You had to be there” – he guessed it has something to do with three guys all trying to share a small perch up high, and shrugged it off. Rigel feared they’d need to do more than that, but on a first day, when so many of them were far from athletic, he wasn’t going to push it.

    Mostly they walked in silence. What little talking they did consisted of comments on the scenery, which became monotonous really fast; it was just oak savanna, mostly level with a few low rolling ridges that came in little bunches. At first everyone kept eyes open for anything that suggested water; lack of luck tired them of that.

    Rigel called a break when the sun was about a quarter of the way to noon. Chen urged everyone to stretch, even teaching an impromptu class on why to stretch and how. Those who paid attention agreed they certainly felt better when hiking resumed.

    When Rigel kept them hiking past noon, there were grumbles. He’d picked a small cluster of oaks, hardly enough to call a grove, as a place to rest, but they weren’t moving as fast as he’d guessed. The argument that made him stop short of that goal was simple: Crystal just stopped, sat down, and began to cry. Lumina dropped down with her, then Breeze and Melanie.

    Rita touched Rigel on the elbow. “We have to rest.”

    He nodded. “I know. We’re not going very fast.”

    “But if we don’t rest, we won’t be going at all”, Ryan pointed out.

    So they rested. The stop came with a treat: Anaph had found a plant that had its seed pods just under the soil, a little bit like a peanut, and had been quietly harvesting as he hiked. The things tasted a bit like a cross between a walnut and an apricot, which pleased everyone – though after eating fern tips and roots, even something flavorless would have been welcome – but the biggest pleasure was that there was a small handful for each person.

    Ryan was frustrated. “I don’t even know what family to put this in”, he complained. “A real peanut would be Fabaceae, but look at this – it has leaves like a vetch, but the flowers look like they’re out of Rosaceae!”

    “So we’re not in Kansas any more, R2-D2", Rigel teased.

    “Kansas? Bro, we ain’t even on Earth any more!” Ryan started to throw the sample Anaph had brought him onto the ground, but caught himself, and instead hooked it into his belt. Rigel raised an eyebrow. “Maybe I can publish, and be famous”, Ryan told him with a straight face.

    Anaph had been watching a beetle dismantle a wildflower. Suddenly he erupted off the ground and dove toward Rigel. “Danger! Use your weapon!” It caught Rigel off guard; he stared for a second before his brain connected “weapon” with “the gun in my pocket”. He stood up and fumbled for it.

    “I’ve never fired one”, he admitted. He didn’t get a chance to remember whatever he knew about that, though; slender, artist’s fingers took the gun from him. Protests came to his lips and died: Austin had dropped to one knee, revolver in one hand and the other up and holding that wrist, and he was bringing the gun down to line up on something – something that had just launched itself out of a lone oak about fifteen meters away, coming at them.

    Anaph screamed, but it wasn’t a scream of fear. Later, Rigel and Ryan agreed it sounded like some predatory animal challenging another. That’s how it worked, too: the beast charging the group shifted its course and was coming right toward Anaph, who stood right behind Austin. Austin was calm, steady; Rigel saw as in slow motion as the boy’s hands came down, slowing, freezing, and the right index finger snaked inside the trigger guard to squeeze once, twice... then Anaph was diving aside, rolling, aiming again as he rolled and squeezing once, twice, three times. With the second and third shots, dark spots blossomed on the side of what looked like a big cat. It turned, shrieking rage, to face Austin again, and Rigel watched the finger tense on the trigger – then not move, because the animal, with two holes in the side of its chest and two up front just under its neck, tried to launch itself... and fell over. Its last act of defiance was another screech, which gurgled as blood came with the breath. Then it was still.

    Antonio was the first to speak. “Where did you learn to shoot like that?” he asked admiringly. “That rocked!”

    “One of my dad’s bodyguards. He was gay but he got married to keep his job. He felt sorry for me, ‘cause of my dad.” Austin was triple-tasking: answering Antonio, emptying the revolver cylinder of used casings, and watching the cat for any signs of life. He reached in his pocket, froze, relaxed, and turned to Rigel.

    “Do I get bullets?” His tone conveyed the message that any other answer than “Right away!” would be ridiculous or foolish. Rigel understood his perspective immediately: he was the one who knew how to shoot, so he should have the gun, so he should have it loaded....

    “Yeah – here.” Rigel reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of loose rounds and two full quick-loaders. Austin didn’t take his eyes off the cat; he merely stuck a hand out and caught what Rigel offered, then loaded and checked the cylinder without looking.

    “Save the brass”, he said to no one in particular. “And clean the live one and give it back.” He stood up, gun still trained on the cat. “Anaph – poke that thing with your stick.”

    “It’s a staff”, Anaph corrected, but held it by one tip and jabbed the cat with the other, ready to run. The beast just lay there bleeding.

    Antonio moved in and deftly cut its throat, making sure it was very dead. He sat watching the blood run out, looking a bit sad. “I’d like its talons”, he said.

    Everyone was standing in a circle around the carcass; now that it was dead, fascination overcame fear. Oran knelt and looked at it. “I can skin it”, he offered. “Cat is lousy meat, though. It can have diseases, too.”

    “Skin it”, Rigel ordered. Antonio, we’ll worry about the claws later.”

    “And its teeth”, Anaph added. “Bring the whole skull.”

    That’s how the guys in the group ended up taking turns carrying a bloody, bug-infested cat pelt the rest of the day.

    “It’s teeth are wrong”, Ryan commented. They’d resumed their hike; Rigel was carrying the trophy, Ryan took the chance to examine it. “The body looks like a Puma concolor – cougar, puma, mountain lion – but these extra long teeth on the sides are like the old saber-tooth, and that’s been extinct for like nine million years.”

    “Back home”, Rita inserted. He scowled at her, then winked.

    “It’s got quills around its neck, too, like a porcupine, and I don’t think any cat ever had those. Then look at the head – it’s longer than a regular cat; the skull is bigger and it has a bigger brain.”

    “You mean it’s smart?” asked Rigel.

    “Smarter than what we’re used to, but that’s still not a huge brain. It’s part of a bigger message, though: the sabers mean it’s got real competition, the quills mean it’s got serious enemies, the brain means those enemies are tricky.”

    “So how big are the dogs?” Oran joked.

    “Bigger”, Ryan replied with a wink, yet quite seriously. “Guys, equipment like that on this beast means getting in on the food chain around here is more like brawling your way to the counter in a bar than walking into your seven-eleven,”

    Rigel ran the words through his mind again. “You mean this place is dangerous?”

    “‘This place is dangerous’ for two thousand, and the Daily Double”, Ryan answered. “Come on, Rye – we knew to expect something like this last night! Think about it: the things that have come through copied well have all been things we’d need. That Austin’s toy was still itself said there were things here we’d want it against.”

    “I’m glad it was something in daylight”, Crystal commented.

    “Uh, girl?” Ryan responded. “This is just one.” He paused. “I think it was a very good idea to have a fire last night.” Crystal’s face went white.

    “Yeah.” That gave Rigel an idea. “Time to walk again. Oran, Anaph, Chen, Antonio, walk with me.” When they were all moving, he picked up his train of thought. “Anaph, where’d you get the staff?”

    “Brother oak supplied it.”

    “Okay, put that in terms like we were seeing it happen”, Chen told him, irritated.

    “I was walking from tree to tree, listening to them. From one a branch leaned down, wounded high up. A long piece was nearly broken off, and was straight. Brother oak offered it to me, so I grasped it and tugged, and this came free.”

    Rigel didn’t buy that, but he wasn’t going to argue. “Not something you can just do any time, huh?”

    “No – the tree must offer.”

    “Blast. Look, what I want is a way to make more staffs, plus spears, and bows and arrows. We need weapons; Austin won’t always be in just the right place at the right time.” He looked at his chosen weapons committee.

    “Oak doesn’t make good bows”, Chen replied. “Spears we could do, though, probably short ones.”

    “Harden the tips in the fire”, Oran added. “And a short spear is better than no spear.”

    “So tonight when we look for fire wood, we look for pieces to make spears with.” Looking at Rigel, Ryan made it nearly a question.

    “Right. And we work on them”, Rigel affirmed.

    Their stop came sooner than Rigel had hoped. Their pace wasn’t quick, but the real problem came when Oran came jogging back from scouting. “There’s a cliff ahead”, he reported. He turned and pointed to where they could see Chen standing and waving. “The ground isn’t real solid there.”

    Rigel stopped them ten meters from Chen and went for a look. It was indeed a cliff, an almost vertical drop with a reddish-brown color, rounded rocks of gray to white peeking out here and there. At the bottom was a sort of beach of rocks like them, fallen over the years. “Why doesn’t the dirt fall and bury those?” he asked.

    “Wind”, Ryan guessed. “The rocks fall and stay put, the dirt dries out to dust and gets blown away.”

    “Who cares? We have to get down there”, Austin said.

    “No way”, Oran told him. “Not by climbing, I mean – we have to walk until there’s a way down that won’t break bones.”

    The edge of the cliff led west by northwest. Looking along it, Rigel didn’t see any groves, and after the cat encounter, he wasn’t going to risk not having a fire. But not too far along there was a fair grove a hundred meters or so back from the cliff. He pointed it out to Ryan.

    “Best I can see”, his friend agreed. “Let’s.” About two hours later they reached it, and started looking for a spot to camp.

    Ocean settled the matter. “Water-catchers!” she cried, her name for the plants they'd found and got water from before. Rigel knew that water at hand would raise spirits, so that’s where they settled.

    Nightfall came to a quiet camp where the females of their little tribe went to sleep, and the males got lessons from Chen and Oran in making spears. Rigel turned in when Chen handed him the first finished one, a fairly straight stick that reached to the middle of his chest, with a rough, nasty point burned a deep brown. It was the first thing they’d really made in this new world, and it was a weapon. He wondered where it would lead.






    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

  47. #47
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Kuli,
    I don't know why you didn't like the chapter - you covered a lot of ground, group-wise and trip-wise.

    Discussions on formalizing relationship boundaries, killing a big cat, starting to make tools from the natural habitat.

    I found it a good read.

    Thanks for your continued efforts.


    And I know, if I'll only be true, to this glorious quest . . .

  48. #48
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Kuli ...

    I agree with DQ! My only guess about why You may not have been "happy" with that chapter is that You know what your original intent was, and, perhaps, didn't quite achieve what you had in mind. But, WE are not that privy to the inner workings of your mind, and therefore don't have that intimate perspective. I liked that chapter Very Much!!

    Your story is becoming even more Interesting with each new "phase" that you are showing us!

    Keep smilin'!!
    Chaz
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  49. #49
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    Re: Fit for Life

    It didn't have the feel of flow to it that the rest have had. The others have just sort of tumbled out, like each step made the next necessary.

    It did have something about being gay in it, though.



    edit: actually, it had two things about being gay

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

  50. #50
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    Re: Fit for Life

    The appearance of a new fan inspired me....

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

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