Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Sunday, September 25, 2016
Attached with the email was a pamphlet on how to cope with the death of your spouse while millions of miles from Earth. Bonaparte decided against reading that and deleted the email and several others after it. The door to his office slid open and a statuesque woman walked in. She was in a uniform and was carrying several clipboards.
“Sir, here is the itinerary for the terraforming. We are within 12 parsecs of the planet and the terraformers are getting ready as we speak,” the woman said.
“Very good, Captain Fielding,” Bonaparte took the clipboard from Fielding and glanced over it. “I assume everything was good for you in stasis.”
“It was, sir. How was yours?”
“I’ve been in stasis more times than I can count and I always wake up with a cramp in the back of my leg,” he bent down and rubbed. “Why do you think that is?”
“Maybe it’s because you’re old, sir,” Fielding said with a smile.
Bonaparte smiled back. “Who’s going on the terraforming today?”
“Rizzo and Cardy. Under the command of Cpl. Rizzo,” Fielding answered.
“The brother and sister? Do you think that’s wise?”
“Cpl. Rizzo needs the experience of leading and Ensign Rizzo is one of our best terraformers.”
“Alright,” Bonaparte said. “I just hope they are okay with it.”
“Hey, Cardy,” Lester Rizzo said as he went into the quarters he shared with Manford Cardy. Rizzo had just finished taking a shower and was scrubbing his ears out with his towel. “What’s happening?”
“Just checking my mail. My girlfriend broke up with me, got married, and had three kids while I was in stasis,” Cardy said.
“If she broke up with you then why did she keep you in the loop about all that?” Rizzo asked.
“The girl is crazy about me,” Cardy exclaimed. “Have you checked your mail?”
“Oh, no. Not right now. Too many bad things could be there and I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life,” Rizzo walked into his closet. His robe that he was wearing when he walked in was tossed out onto his bed. “Besides, Sabrina will tell me any bad news we receive.”
As if on cue, Corporal Sabrina Rizzo ran into Rizzo and Cardy’s room with tears in her eyes. “Rollo is dead,” she cried. “He died three years ago.”
“Of course he did. He was a nine-year-old cat when we left Earth,” Rizzo came out of the closet dressed in his Ipomoea uniform which consisted of blue slacks, a blue shirt, and the wrist computer that everybody wore. “Nine plus fifteen equals 24 and cats rarely live to be 24, Sabrina. But 21 is still a pretty damn old cat,” Rizzo acknowledged.
“I guess,” Sabrina said quietly. “Ooh, you got your terraforming manifests. Did you see who all is going?”
“Well, clearly Cardy and I since we got the manifests,” Rizzo said.
“Did you see who your C.O. is going to be?” Sabrina smiled big.
“Oh, no. Not you.”
“Yes, me,” Sabrina’s happiness disappeared when her brother’s disapproval came. “I told you that this might happen but you didn’t care. You just had to follow Lisa Yates though.”
“Who’s Lisa Yates?” Cardy smiled, finally interested in one of Lester and Sabrina’s family squabbles.
“Nobody,” Rizzo snapped back.
“Lisa Yates is an old high school crush who works in the medical unit. Lester, here, applied when he dropped me off for my first day of work. He saw her and thought that maybe being on the same ship with her and 1,300 other people would make her love him.”
“So how is your relationship progressing?” Cardy asked.
“Right now, we’re at awkward passes in the corridor. I’m hoping in a couple of months that we can move up to awkward smiles and a ‘Hey’,” Rizzo said.
Sabrina chuckled. “I will see you two at Dock Number 3,” she left the room.
“I like your sister,” Cardy laughed.
“You want her? Take her.”
This was Rizzo’s third terraforming excursion but it was his first long-term excursion. His first was the Moon--a simple event that was hailed by numerous countries. Soon, he was sent to Pluto in a year-long event. Rizzo was then asked to do the Walbach Planetary Cluster, a triplet of planets in the habitable zone in the AA-20918 System. It was the furthest excursion that North American Civilization Administration commissioned but with the sparseness of habitable planets, they felt it was something they had to claim.
Cardy was a mechanic who mainly made sure that the vending machines and other machines that made life easier ran smoothly. Terraformers were required to have a mechanic with them just in case the ship they took broke down or the terraforming units died. No one wants a terraformer to be stranded on a desolate, inhospitable planet for the rest of their life.
Rizzo, Cardy, and Sabrina stood on the loading dock next to one of the personal ships, Blue Dwarf 2; Blue Dwarf 1 was currently getting its fluids changed. “Are we ready?” Sabrina asked.
“All the terraforming equipment is loaded into the Dwarf and Cardy’s tools are too,” Rizzo said. “Who’s piloting?”
“You can,” Sabrina offered. “But I have to ride passenger.”
“Just don’t criticize me. I am a much better driver than anyone give me credit for.”
“You drove the family car into a ditch,” Sabrina brought up.
“That was one time and everything was fine once the tow truck pulled the car out of the ditch,” Rizzo shouted.
“How did you drive a car into a ditch? You should’ve had your eyes on the road and ditches are so huge,” Cardy said.
“The car was a stick shift and this is a family argument,” Rizzo stormed off into Blue Dwarf. “Why do they even still make those kind of cars? They are an abomination…” he muttered, getting quieter and he walked into the cockpit.
Within minutes, Blue Dwarf was heading toward the cluster of planets while Ipomoea drifted silently along the rim of the system. “We have a problem, sir?” Capt. Fielding said, coming into Bonaparte’s cabin where he was monitoring Blue Dwarf’s voyage.
“We just started? What could possibly be wrong?”
“The Ipomoea is about to enter a wormhole,” Fielding said. “We’ve looked at trying to stop, turn around, and just avoid but there is no way we can do either of those things.”
“Why didn’t it show up on our monitors or scanners?” Bonaparte was furious but kept his cool.
“A wormhole gives off very little radiation or heat or light so unless you are very close, you can’t detect them. Also, wormholes are generally black and the thing about space is that it’s black, as are our monitors, so it’s really hard to see a wormhole,” Fielding tried explaining.
Bonaparte sighed. “So what do we do? Just fly head first into a wormhole?”
“That’s the only viable option. Best case scenario, nothing happens, everything turns out fine. Worst case scenario, the whole ship and everyone inside is ripped apart and scattered among millions of time periods and dimensions,” Fielding said matter-of-factly. “Should we tell the crew?”
The whole terraforming excursion took six hours and by the time Rizzo, Cardy, and Sabrina was returning to the Ipomoea, changes could be seen happening to each of the planets. Storms were clearing, fog was lifting. In about ten years, all three planets would be able to sustain life and be similar to Earth.
The Blue Dwarf landed softly on the loading dock and Rizzo, Cardy, and Sabrina got out and began walking across the dock. They noticed the small piles of ash on the floor but didn’t think anything of it. As they walked through the corridor they noticed more piles and how quiet it was.
“What’s going on?” Sabrina stopped walking and listened. “There is literally no noise on this ship. There’s also no talking.”
“It sounds like we’re in low-power mode,” Cardy said.
“Where is everybody?” Rizzo asked. He took his fingers and dipped them into a nearby pile of ash. He sniffed what got stuck to his fingers and licked them.
“Ah, you made it back safely,” an android began walking up to them.
“Robot-2? What’s going on?” Sabrina asked. Rizzo kept touching and eating the ash pile.
“Cpl. Rizzo, the Ipomoea had no choice to but to fly through a wormhole. While only seconds passed in this dimension, millions of years passed in the other one. The entire crew is now dead. Have been for millions of years,” Robot-2 explained.
“So where are all the bodies? And what’s this powder all over the ship?” Rizzo asked, taking another fingerful.
“The bodies all broke down into their basic chemical components over millions of years and became ash. That pile you’re eating is Second Navigator Trentus Ericksson,” Robot-2 said.
Rizzo began spitting and rubbing his fingers over his tongue in a panic.
“So we’re the last survivors on this ship? We’re the only ones alive?” Sabrina asked.
“I’m afraid so,” Robot-2 confirmed, sadly.
Sabrina looked at Cardy and Rizzo, who was still rubbing his tongue. “What are we going to do?”
I would stop raking my leafs but if I just leave them there--especially if it is after I stop mowing for the season, the leaves kill my grass and end up leaving barren patches of dirt in my lawn. The thing is, Bruce Tinsley doesn't need to write and draw and color an entire Sunday strip just to justify to himself or his neighbors why he's not going to rake his leaves anymore.
The Born Loser
Saturday, September 24, 2016
Dad unlocked the door and then went to the moving van where two guys were getting out of the cab. Melvin went into the house, a blast of cold air hitting him. He went upstair to the room he had chosen as his own. He sat his stuffed bear on the floor and went over to the windows in the corner of the room.
"It's a nice room," a voice behind Melvin said. "It'll be better once your bed and other things get in here."
Melvin turned to the voice. His stuffed bear was now a 750 pound, four and a half foot tall brown bear. "I know, Helu. I worry about the floor though in a two-story house what with your size and all."
"Well, I have been eating more," Helu chuckled and patted his stomach. "You want to explore the neighborhood or something. Get out of the way of the movers?" he asked as he heard the movers grunted up the stairs. Helu reverted back to a stuffed animal and Melvin picked him up, waited for the movers to pass by and then went down the stairs.
"Helu and I are going to explore the neighborhood," Melvin said to Mom and Dad.
"Okay. Check in in a couple of hours. Be safe," Dad said.
As they got away from the parents, Helu was back to being a full grown bear, walking next to Melvin on all four legs. "I wonder if there are any other kids on this block," Melvin questioned out loud.
"More than likely. This seems like a neighborhood that won't let you live here unless you have at least 2.5 children," Helu said.
"Don't remind me. Why would Mom and Dad want another kid? I should be all they need."
Helu rolled his eyes. "Oh, I know."
The two of them heard a loud gasp. "You have a bear, too!" a voice squealed with delight.
Melvin looked down into his left arm where Helu had reverted back to his stuffed animal persona. He then looked back at the girl, maybe a year or two younger than him, who was playing with a stuffed panda and a kids table with a couple other dolls in the chairs. The girl grabbed her panda and ran up to Melvin.
"I have a panda. What kind of bear do you have?"
Melvin was confused. "A brown bear. A Kodiak bear."
"Ooo. My panda is named Mrs. Precious Panda. I just call her Mrs. Precious. What's your bear's name?"
"That's a strange name. I'd call him Mr. Brownie Bear. My name is Peggy Paulen. What's yours."
"That's a strange name. We should play Bear House. We can have Mrs. Precious and Mr. Brownie get married and raise children."
"Yeah, maybe. Or not."
"I've never seen you before. Did you just move here?"
"Yeah, I live..." Melvin started to point to his house but stopped himself. "Yeah."
"Cool. I'll see you around then. And you, Mr. Brownie Bear," Peggy cooed at Helu, in Melvin's arm.
Peggy bounded off, grabbed Mrs. Precious Panda, and went inside her house. She waved at Melvin and Helu before closing the screen door.
"If her name is Mrs. Precious Panda, wouldn't that mean she's already married?" Helu asked.
"She's a six-year-old girl, don't think too much about it," Melvin said.
"Maybe we could do, like, a tea party or something," Helu said. The two of them had started walking again down the street again.
"Are you serious?"
"I'm just trying to be polite. She seemed nice and she was friendly. The least we could do is be friendly back."
"You are too nice sometimes, Helu. Where do you get that from?"
"Clearly not you," Helu sighed. "Did you notice that Mrs. Precious Panda had only one eye? The other was just a button sewn onto her."
"Probably lost it during the war," Melvin said. "Are you having second thoughts about tea now that you know Mrs. Precious Panda is deformed?"
"No, but it does make you wonder what happened. What did Peggy do to her?"
"Same thing that happens to a lot of stuffed animals. They get loved too much," Melvin looked at Helu and smiled. "Come on. Let's see if there are any lizards in that creek, Mr. Brownie Bear." Melvin and Helu ran off down the street toward a small creek that ran between the houses in the neighborhood.
Although to be fair, it looks like Boog looks like he knows the score and was just trying to get his mom to 'penis' or 'vagina'. It didn't work this time, darn it.
Thursday, September 22, 2016
|Dashiell, named for Dashiell Hammett|
|and Ngaio, named for Ngaio Marsh.|
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Tom Batiuk's blog.
Shoe: "When...When are they going to get naked?"
Girlfriend: "...They're not."
Shoe: "I'm gonna try to get our money back."
Monday, September 19, 2016