Linda Maye Adams

The Writings of Linda Maye Adams


I fell in love with fiction long before I started writing.

My mother and I would make a weekly trip to the Sun Valley Library and come back with stacks of books.  I always had Nancy Drew or Trixie Belden books, because I liked the idea of solving mysteries, but I ventured into Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov with the discovery of Star Trek.

Fiction Writing

I started writing fiction when I was eight years old, inspired by a friend who was writing a school play.  My stories were wanted I wanted to see in books: people like me–girls–having adventures.  That’s in my stories today: women having adventures.

Fighting monsters.

Meeting aliens.

Maybe even solving a mystery.

Private First Class Linda Maye Adams, U.S. Army

And I’ve had adventures of my own.  I enlisted in the Army and ended up going to war.  Story adventures are much more fun!

I just follow the front of the story like an explorer and see where it takes me.

 

Contact me at LindaAdams900 AT outlook dot com.

 

 

A Veteran/Writer Looks at History: Fort C.F. Smith


I went to Fort C.F. Smith the same day I did Fort Ward.  It was such a nice day, and it was near the library, so I stopped over.  I really wanted to get some more of the sunshine.

First up, this Civil War fort is hard to find.  For some reason, the state or county inexplicably has a sign that points to a right turn, and then no signs indicating where to turn again unless you coming from the opposite direction.

The fort is smack in the middle of a suburban area, so it’s on a shady little street.  Without the sign, I wouldn’t know this had once been a Civil War fort.  It’s a basic park.  Green grass, trees.

Map of Fort C.F. Smith

So here’s the handy dandy map of what it used to look like.  Farmland was used to build the fort in 1863.  This was one of three forts that protected the Aqueduct bridge of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.

Fort C.F. Smith was named after General Charles Ferguson Smith.  He was commandant of the the U.S. Military Academy while Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman were there.

It was a lunette fort, which was apparently pretty unusual.  I had to look the word up to see what it meant.  It’s a fort that that has two faces.  This fort’s two faces are on the southern and western side.

The fort came with:

  • Barracks (got to have some places for the soldiers to stay)
  • Mess hall (that’s the place the soldiers eat)
  • Officer’s quarters (that would have been a little fancier than the barracks)
  • Barn (probably for horses)
  • Headquarters building (where the officers did their planning)

Two stone pillars mark the entrance to Fort C.F. Smith Park

This was one of the entrances to the park.  It’s not the entrance to the fort.

Off for a bit of walking.

Park area marking the original entrance of Fort C.F. Smith

This is the original entrance to the fort.  Can’t really tell much looking at it.  in the upper left third of the photo, there’s a post sticking out of the ground.  That marks the entrance.  It’s just a numbered post–if you visit this park, download the brochure before you go or you will have no context whatsoever.

Meadow of flowers and butterflies

There was a bench here so I sat down and looked at the flowers.  This is a meadow as it might have looked to the farmers of the time.  You can’t see it in the photo, but there were little yellow butterflies bouncing above the flowers.

As I sat here, I could hear the freeway on the other side of the meadow.  The roar of jets drowned out the thrilling of the birds.  The park was under the flight path of Ronald Reagan Airport.

Cannon

This was one of the cannons.  There were supposed to be eight, but it looked like the others had been removed.  The hill was a ramp to help move the equipment around.  Artillery is heavy!  During Desert Storm, we hauled shells for artillery to the front line and the trucks were always running on fumes because of the loads.

Stone well

The land was turned back over to the original owners after the fort was decommissioned and they used this well for their water.  I’m from Southern California, so I’ve never seen a well in person.  How I would picture it is those illustrated drawings that make them look rickety.  This was about 30 inches high (measuring by where it hit me on my legs), and the top was sealed up.

Can you imagine lowering a bucket with it’s own weight into that well, then getting filled with water, and hauling it back up?  Takes some serious muscle!

As you can see, there’s not a lot left here.  Why wasn’t more preserved?

The answer is the military.  The buildings were removed when the fort was decommissioned in 1865.   We’re lucky to have this much preservation because it could have disappeared as the world changed.

More of the story about this fort is on the park website.

Writing in Public: Story #4, Chapter 22


Cover for 49er PlanetCHAPTER 22

Graul paced in front of the plot table on the bridge, his steps impatient, while he gulped down caffeine and wondered if he could just apply it directly to his bloodstream.

Lieutenant Parker watched him, uncertain of the skipper’s mood.

It was oh-four fifteen, and the computer had already started the subtle shift in lighting towards dawn.  An image of the planet floated above the table, harsh in the red night lights.  A yellow dot marked where the landing party was.

And it was slowly moving away from Kangjun.

Marotta strode in with short quick steps.  Her uniform was rumpled; she’d thrown on yesterday’s uniform.  “Got it!”

Graul lit up.  “The research?”

“Yes.  Your gut was right.”  She stepped in at the table and called it up from the computer.  The image of the planet disappeared and was replaced with a text view on the desktop. .

Graul and Parker gathered around Marotta.

“Let’s have it,” Graul said.

“It was a hundred years ago, so I think the 49ers forgot that records even existed,” Marotta said.  “They were written by one of the leaders, who quite boastful of his cleverness.  The two aliens were similar, but the other ones had a verbal language and no taste tenacles.  We’re still working on the translation, but we think the problem was some kind of political dispute.  But the 49ers wiped out the other aliens.  Quite systematically and in a very military way.”

“What’d they do?” Parker asked.

Marotta straightened up, her face grim.  “They picked them off, one by one.  Apparently, when they have a ‘conversation’ with you, they mark you.  Much like a dog peeing on a fire hydrant.  After that, they can find you.”

That explained why 49ers had gotten so angry when Hope had refused to allow them to taste her.

Graul was pretty sure Mel had let them taste her.

“Damn it,” Graul said.  “I wish Mel had gotten this translated before she went down to the planet.  I wish we had before we sent the landing party.”

“Is that a standard procedure for Alien Affairs, sir?” Parker asked.

“No,” Graul said.  “They only go back twenty years.  Even we don’t often check much more than what’s currently going on.”

“It also isn’t normally needed,” Marotta said.

“How long before the landing party can get off the planet?” Parker asked.

Graul folded his arms across his chest, the uniform pulling at his shoulders.  “They have to clean the site.  We can’t leave any equipment or notes back.  That’s going to take some time.”

That had become standard procedure in GALCOM after an emergency evacuation.  The group had left behind notes and logs, which the planet had used politically to attack GALCOM.  There hadn’t been anything untoward in the notes, but the government had put such a negative spin on it that it poisoned future relations.

“May I make a recommendation, sir?” Marotta said.  “Let’s send the stand-by teams now.  If we don’t need them, we’ll just bring them back.  If we do, they’re already on their way.”

It was not an answer Graul wanted.  But it was the best he was going to get right now.

A Writer/Veteran Looks at History: Fort Ward, Virginia


I’ve been disturbed at the attempts I’m seeing to destroy history.  In Baltimore, there’s talk of removing statues.  Remove history and you take away who we are.  Since Virginia has a whole lot of historical sites, I thought I would visit them and talk about them.

First up is Fort Ward, which is in Alexandria, Virginia.  I like places where I can walk the area and try to picture what it was like for the people who were there.  Plus I get some good walking in.  The weather was nice and sunny, so it was pretty fun checking everything out.

This was a Union fort during the Civil War.   Today, it’s a park where you can walk around with your dog or even have a picnic.  The buzz of cicadas do battle with the sounds of cars racing by just outside the park.  It’s like an island in the middle of busy.

Fort Ward was an earthen fort built to defend Washington DC during the Civil War, though it never actually saw an action.  Construction was completed in September 1861.

This is a picture of the original design.

A diagram of the 5 pointed star shape of Fort Ward.

Time’s now worn down the earthen walls, and it’s hard to picture.  But this design was so that on the star’s points, soldiers could catching approaching enemy in the crossfire.  Very old military technology.

Gated entrance to Fort Ward
Starting at the entrance to the fort.  You can see what a nice day it was out–that sky is a pretty blue and clear.  Warm, but not muggy.

This gate was the only entrance to the fort.  The fort was surrounded by a dry moat.  I can imagine this being a guard post with two Union soldiers on duty, watching for arriving visitors.

Dry moat surrounding Fort Ward.

This is where I start imaging what the soldiers did.  This is the dry moat.  The picture doesn’t show the height really well, but it’s actually pretty steep.

Imagine running up to this berm and dropping down against it, your muzzle loader rifle at the ready and the enemy coming on the other side.  The berm would stop any bullets headed your way (hopefully), but you would still have to stick part of your body up over the berm to fire back, making yourself a target.

Rear view of Fort Ward

I wander on and come up to the fort itself.  This is from the rear view, from inside, so it’s what the Union soldiers themselves would have seen.  That white wall has a shelf in front of it for guard duty.

I get up and walk along it and this is what I see:

What I might see on guard duty from Fort Ward. All grass and bushes now.

And I stop here and think about being a soldier on guard duty.  It’s cold out, because whenever I was on guard duty, it was always cold!

And I’m scared because I don’t know what’s coming, except that I know that my enemy might be coming over that next hill to kill me.

War is both very personal and very impersonal.

Defensive position with cannons at Fort Ward.

Back down the stairs to check out what we in the military calls the “defensive position.”  This position was set up to defend Little River Turnpike (which turns into Duke Street) and Leesburg Pike (which turns into King Street,  Obviously named after General Lee).  All those streets are still here, but it’s hard picturing how it must have looked in 1861.

Time to get closer.

Cannon

This is one of the bigger cannons.  War then was definitely not for short people!  I can barely see over the cannon to where the enemy is coming.

So I try a smaller cannon.

Following a cannon's line of fire.

Cannon fire is very loud.  I was on Fort Lewis, walking on the sidewalk across the street from the parade field.  Someone was test-firing the cannon.

Boom!

I jumped and was going, “What the heck?”

I’d been in front of the cannon, so it was much noisier.  If you ever go to a cannon demonstration, make sure you are on the side you see in the photos above.

The door to Magazine No3

This was where the ammunition was packed with black powder.  It was very hazardous duty.  Then the military didn’t have the safeguards to protect the soldiers, so people often got killed.

Door labeled "Filling Room No5"

And this is where the ammunition is stored.  Also not a particularly safe place to be.

The front of Fort Ward, though bushes

Then I walk around to the front of Fort Ward.  If this fort had seen action, this is the view the approaching Confederates would have had.

More of the fort is visible at winter when the plants die off, so I can’t see much now.  But there’s that trench I’d have to cross if I were on the Confederate side, with cannons pointed down on me and probably soldiers with muzzle loaders.  Look on the left for a cannon poking out.

The last part of my trip I don’t have any pictures for, because there’s nothing left other than the story.  After the war ended, the African Americans who had been freed established what became known as “The Fort” around the remains of Fort Ward.  It was their home and a place where they raised their families.  They emphasized faith, education and moral codes.

As the Civil Rights Era kicked off, they were displaced by time.  All that’s left is a sign and a graveyard of a church in the area.  But some of the new generations still live in the area, and the street names mark the location (Seminary Road).

Here’s the link to the Fort Ward site.

I’m thinking of hitting Leesylvania Park next (you guessed it–named after General Lee, who lived in Virginia).  It’s a pretty area, a bit of challenging walk, and some interesting history that involves–of all things–gambling!

What do you think?  Is there anything you want me to wander off and check out (safety permitting)?

 

 

 

Writing in Public: Story 4: Chapter 21


Cover for 49er PlanetCHAPTER 21

The dust kicked up from the weapons fire from Kangjun still floated in the air, along with the acrid stretch of burnt sand.  Brooks pulled the jeep in front of the scientists’ tents, cut the engine.  The silence was startling.

Jian hopped out of the jeep.  The gunny was already doing a range walk in her direction, stopping with a crisp salute.  Jian returned it.

“Anyone hurt?” she asked.

“No, ma’am.  But Ms. Hagen is unhappy.”

“Well, she’ll be even more unhappy.  Got the official word from the skipper.  We evacuate everyone.  Pack it up.  All scientific equipment and notes.  Leave the tents, cots, and the jeeps.”

The gunny was gone, just like a lightning bolt, off to accomplish the task.

Behind Jian, Hope struggled to get out of the jeep.  “What do you want me to do?”

“Come with me to talk to Ms. Hagen.  Sergeant, report to the gunny.  See what he needs.”

“On it.”  Brooks dashed off, his devil blaster rattling in the holster.

Jian was ready to launch into her range walk, then reminded herself to slow down so Hope could keep up.  Mel met them before they had gone far.  Her face was set with a mulish tension.

“We are not evacuating,” Mel said.  “I just need to go back in town and talk to the 49ers.  I can smooth things out.”

“No.”  Jian ticked off the reasons this was a bad idea off on her fingers.  “One: We have no capabilities for defensive positions if you can’t do that, and they already came after us with weapons.  Two: We’re out in the open.  We don’t have place we can run to if something does happen. Three: Kangjun’s orbit will take it out of position to help us if we run into trouble.”

Hope said, “Mel, no matter what you think, I can’t do what the aliens want.  I’m not even sure it’s possible.  But if it was, I’m not going off killing anything.  That’s just plain not right.”

Mel gave Hope a look like she hadn’t gotten with the program.  “Hope, translation is always tricky.  We probably misinterpreted what they said.”

Hope stepped up to Mel, which was hardly intimidating, given Mel was so tall and Hope was so short.  “I did not misinterpret the way they looked at me.  I did not misinterpret how angry they were that they couldn’t taste me.”

Jian toned down the harshness in her voice.  “All we need to do is get out of their sight for a little while.  That should calm things down.  Otherwise, we’d put you in danger and the translators.”

She knew that was a negotiation technique—call for a break for everyone to cool down.  Granted, it was a break with a long distance.

Mel paced, tight, quick steps.

“Damn him,” she finally said.  “Opening fire on the aliens.”

“Colonel Graul did not open fire on the aliens,” Jian said.

Hope added, “He just cooked the sand.  Mel, the aliens fired their guns at me.  They don’t need to be close to kill any of us.  And I don’t want to ever be telling Colonel Graul that I talked to your ghost.”

***
Writer’s note: Because I’m pantsing this, I hit this chapter and realized that I needed to add some POV scenes with this character earlier in the story.  The nature of the beast.

Adventures Around the Web August 12-18, 2017


Fall is continuing into Washington DC.  Last week, I saw the first fall squash at the farmer’s market.  I’ll be visiting an end of summer tradition, the local county fare, today, and I decided to take the day off for the eclipse, in case everyone goes nuts.  In DC, you never know . These are the same people who, when a single drop of a sprinkle hits their windshield, goes into full panic mode.

The Military Yearbook Project

USA Military Platoon and Personal Photos

This site takes the concept of a school yearbook and puts up the group photos from Basic Training.  Some great history here.  One of the earliest photos is 1934!.  Mine’s not on here, but I would have been Fort Dix, 1989.  From Tracy Jordan, Desert Storm veteran.

K. Gitter on Do You Remember?

These Vintage Photos Show the History of the Supermarket

Shopping for food has changed quite a bit over the years.  I found it fascinating to see that in the early days, it was a series of small shops specializing in produce or fish, not a general store of everything.  I also remember in Los Angeles the grocery store, Mrs. Gooch’s, which was also a precursor to Whole Foods and got bought out when they started growing.

Joanna Penn on Creative Penn

Writing Christian Fiction and Success Over a Long Career with Jerry Jenkins

(Link Corrected) Under the process question, he describes how he cycles through his writing to get a clean first draft.  He calls it revising, but it is a form of cycling.  I used to call it revising when I write, but that leads to thinking it’s actual revision, which isn’t, so I’ve just called it moving around in the story.

Harvey Stanbrough

Why Do You Write?

This is an interesting look at the different categories of people coming into writing and all their reasons.  When I first got on the internet and joined up with writing communities, I ran afoul of what I call hobby/lottery writers–people who wanted to write a best seller so they could quit their day job.  I thought everyone was like me–wanting to write full time, always wanting to improve as a writer.  It ended up being the reason I dropped off writing communities, because they were also the same people passing around a lot of bad information.

Melissa Ragsdale on Bustle

7 Things People Who Use Bookmarks Will Never Understand About People Who Dog Ear Books

Waves!  Yes, I dog ear my books.  Don’t know why. Just always have.  Might be that, being an INTP, it’s easier than tracking down a bookmark.  If I had one.  The writer of this might be able to find free bookmarks, but I usually don’t see that many around.

And since I mentioned dog ears, here’s a dog doing a Marilyn Monroe imitation.

https://giphy.com/embed/l98iCrT6lEQDK

via GIPHY

Writing in Public: Story 4 (Novella): Chapter 20


Cover for 49er PlanetCHAPTER 20

Graul, Jian, and Brooks launched into a rapid planning session.  Hope watched in both amazement and fear.  They were business-like, efficient.  All the parts worked together without any questions or arguments.

Graul’s image above the jeep flickered.  “Comm’s already contacting the Marines in camp.  How many weapons do you have?”

“Just me and Brooks,” Jian said.  “Devil blasters only.  The Marines have the rifles, and we have them in our shuttle.”

Hope hugged herself, reminded that she had no weapon, no way to defend herself.

“Do you have the capability to be a distraction?” Graul asked.  “Give us a little time?”

“We have an old-style jeep, sir,” Brooks said.  “We can drive right through them like a bowling ball if we need to.”

“We’re moving Kangjun into firing position,” Graul said.  “I’m going to lay out a stripe of weapons fire in front of them.  Twenty percent strength.  Should be flashy and frightening.  Hopefully, it will make them turn around.”

Evil fingernails scratched at the inside of Hope’s belly.  What if the aliens didn’t turn around?  She wanted to ask, but Jian and Brooks were already forging ahead.

“One distraction coming up, sir,” Jian said.  She cut off the comm link and slipped it back over her wrist.

“What about me?” Hope asked.  If they left her here alone, that would be even more frightening than not having a gun of any kind.

Brooks grinned in spite of the situation.  “Don’t worry, Hope.”  We’re not leaving you behind. Just get in the back of the jeep and stay as low as you can.  The aliens might open fire on us.  The CTU will protect you from a lot of weapons fire, but it’ll still hurt a lot.”

He took the driver’s seat, and Jian the passenger.  She took her devil blaster out of the holster and laid it on her lap, resting her hand on the grip.

Hope clambered into the back seat, trying to scrunch herself on the floor as much as possible.  As short as she was, there still wasn’t enough room!

Brooks mashed the accelerator.  The jeep lurched forward, engine screaming.

He began honking the horn.  Beep!  Beep!  Beeeeeeeeppppppp! Beep!

The jeep followed the outside of the barrel road, staying on the side where the camp was.

Hope risked popping her head up enough to see where the aliens were.  A lot of them.  They must have emptied out their town. They were on foot, approaching in an irregular line.  Close enough that she could make out the weapons: guns that fired bullets.  The triggers were big, so they could fit their shovel hands on them.

Coming up on the other side, the camp was already ready for the attack.  They had nothing to hide behind, so the Marines were on the ground, devil blaster rifles ready to fire.

She wouldn’t want to tangle with any of them.

Brooks continued to blare the horn.  He and began a chorus of singing—out of tune—the Army song.  Jian added in her version of the Navy song.  Together, it was a horrible mess.

The closest of the aliens stopped, staring at the jeep puzzled.  Then one raised his rifle.

Crack!

Something whizzed above Hope’s head.  She squeed and tried to flatten herself to the floor.

Then another sound, like an electrical short.

“Here it comes!” Jian yelled.

Brooks swung hard to the left.

The wheels came off the ground on the right side.  Hung for a moment, then dropped back with a bounce that made Hope’s bones rattle.

The electrical sound grew louder.  A weird blue light illuminated the air.

Hope covered her ears.

A blue beam shot out of the sky.  It sliced a line through the sand.

Smoke and dust made Hope cough.

When the dust cleared, a ten foot wide hole had been carved into the sand.

The aliens were running in the other direction.

Brooks stopped the jeep.  “Skipper sure puts on a show.”

But did it give them enough time?

Writing in Public: Story 4 (Novella) Chapter 19


Cover for 49er PlanetCHAPTER 19

The morning had started out hot and got hotter by the time the jeep arrived at the pointy rock.  This time, Brooks drove, Jian sat in the passenger seat, and Hope in the back.  It was noisier riding in the backseat, and she wished she sat in the other backseat.  The exhaust was pretty bad.

Hope had only looked at the rock from a distance.  Now Brooks parked in the rock’s shadow.  Only slightly cooler.  She unscrewed the cap to a bottle of water and unclogged her throat of dust.

While Jian went around to the front of the jeep to contact Kangjun, Hope and Brooks got out and walked to the base of the rock.  Hope craned her neck back and looked up.  She pressed her hand against the rock.  Even in the shade it was warm.

“For a rock,” she said, “it doesn’t look rock-like.”

Brooks tapped on it with a knuckle.  “Feels like a rock.”

“You aren’t going to taste it, are you?”

He laughed.  “No.  But you know, I saw photos of the Sphinx in Egypt, before they restored it and put a preservation field around it.  The erosion reminds me of that.”

Hope remembered that.  It had been a big job, and no one had been sure it would work.  The statue had been eroding for years because of the rock bed it was carved out of it.  Limestone, or something like that.  Water had gotten up into it from underground.

Then she stepped back, and back again until she could see it better.  “Maybe this is manmade.  If it, it must mean something to the ghost.”

She found herself turning a circle, looking for the ghost.  For once in her life, she wished a ghost would show up.

The only ghost she saw was the ghostly shape of Graul hovering above the jeep’s hood.  Jian had taken off her wrist comm and laid it on the top of the hood.  About time they finally got through.

Graul was saying, “—Is a statue.  It fell over and was covered up with sand.”

Hope looked up at the pointy rock again.   “Be an awful big statue.”

“It is,” Graul said.  “Your camp is sitting on the back end of it.  Looks to have once been a marker for ships coming into port.”

“Water here?” Brooks said in amazement.

It was hard to imagine that all this dry, purple dirt was once a waterfront.

“So this is a really old ghost hanging around?” Hope said.  That’d be cool if she could talk to such an old ghost.  It’d be like seeing the Sphinx and talking to the ghosts of the builders, or even one of the pharaohs.

“We’re still translating the records,” Graul said.

“Any estimate on that, sir?” Jian asked.

“No.  We don’t know where to look.  It could be five hundred years ago or a thousand years ago.”

Jian pressed her lips together in deep thought.  “It has to be recent. I think the aliens know exactly what the ghost is.  If it was five hundred years ago, that gets lost with time.  Try a hundred years.”

“And check on the other aliens who died off,” Brooks added.  “The ones nearby couldn’t have created that statue.”

“Good idea.”  Graul’s eyes focused on Hope.  “I take it you haven’t had any luck.”

Hope shook her head, looking down at her feet.  “No.  The ghost isn’t cooperating.”

“Maybe the ghost doesn’t want to talk to you.”

“Then why did it tear up the camp, sir?” Brooks asked.

“Because sometimes you get so angry that you get stuck and don’t want to talk to anyone.”

That was interesting.  Hope worked through it in her head, thinking she’d have dig around the ship’s archives for Earth history.  There were places where the ghosts couldn’t could to rest, because what had happened to them was so horrific.  They were stuck there, locked to Earth in misery and anguish, unable to move on.

It would be awful to be stuck in anger like that forever.

“We have to be ready to pull the plug,” Graul said.  “Your call, Ms. Delgado.”

“Mine?” Hope squeaked, exchanging glances with Brooks and Jian.

“What about Mel, sir?” Jian asked.

Graul shook his head, giving them a rueful grin.  “Mel does know what she’s doing.  But she’s like everyone else in Alien Affairs.  Thinks there’s always another chance to work the problem out.  Sometimes there isn’t.  Ms. Delgado, you know ghosts.  What do you want to do?”

Hope hated this. What if she was wrong?  She clasped her hands behind her back to hide her trembling.

But as she spoke, she knew there was only one answer.  “We need to get out of here.  The aliens don’t want me talking to the ghost.  They just want me to kill it, whatever that means.  I can’t give them what they want.  They already weren’t happy with us when we met in town. It’s only going to get worse.”

Something caught Graul’s attention, and he looked off screen.  Hope thought she heard a muffled voice.  But it was Graul’s body language that frightened her.  He’d instantly gone into alert mode.  Both Jian and Brooks were mirroring it now, like some military switch had been turned onto high.

Graul disappeared from the image for a moment, leaning over—Hope guessed—to look at the computer on the table top.  Then a new image sprang up in his place.  It showed a computer generated overhead view of the scientist’s camp.  A line of figures was approaching the camp at a rapid pace.

“Looks like we just went to worse,” Graul said.  “They’re armed.”

Writing in Public: Story 4 (Novella) Chapter 19


Cover for 49er PlanetCHAPTER 19

The morning had started out hot and got hotter by the time the jeep arrived at the pointy rock.  This time, Brooks drove, Jian sat in the passenger seat, and Hope in the back.  It was noisier riding in the backseat, and she wished she sat in the other backseat.  The exhaust was pretty bad.

Hope had only looked at the rock from a distance.  Now Brooks parked in the rock’s shadow.  Only slightly cooler.  She unscrewed the cap to a bottle of water and unclogged her throat of dust.

While Jian went around to the front of the jeep to contact Kangjun, Hope and Brooks got out and walked to the base of the rock.  Hope craned her neck back and looked up.  She pressed her hand against the rock.  Even in the shade it was warm.

“For a rock,” she said, “it doesn’t look rock-like.”

Brooks tapped on it with a knuckle.  “Feels like a rock.”

“You aren’t going to taste it, are you?”

He laughed.  “No.  But you know, I saw photos of the Sphinx in Egypt, before they restored it and put a preservation field around it.  The erosion reminds me of that.”

Hope remembered that.  It had been a big job, and no one had been sure it would work.  The statue had been eroding for years because of the rock bed it was carved out of it.  Limestone, or something like that.  Water had gotten up into it from underground.

Then she stepped back, and back again until she could see it better.  “Maybe this is manmade.  If it, it must mean something to the ghost.”

She found herself turning a circle, looking for the ghost.  For once in her life, she wished a ghost would show up.

The only ghost she saw was the ghostly shape of Graul hovering above the jeep’s hood.  Jian had taken off her wrist comm and laid it on the top of the hood.  About time they finally got through.

Graul was saying, “—Is a statue.  It fell over and was covered up with sand.”

Hope looked up at the pointy rock again.   “Be an awful big statue.”

“It is,” Graul said.  “Your camp is sitting on the back end of it.  Looks to have once been a marker for ships coming into port.”

“Water here?” Brooks said in amazement.

It was hard to imagine that all this dry, purple dirt was once a waterfront.

“So this is a really old ghost hanging around?” Hope said.  That’d be cool if she could talk to such an old ghost.  It’d be like seeing the Sphinx and talking to the ghosts of the builders, or even one of the pharaohs.

“We’re still translating the records,” Graul said.

“Any estimate on that, sir?” Jian asked.

“No.  We don’t know where to look.  It could be five hundred years ago or a thousand years ago.”

Jian pressed her lips together in deep thought.  “It has to be recent. I think the aliens know exactly what the ghost is.  If it was five hundred years ago, that gets lost with time.  Try a hundred years.”

“And check on the other aliens who died off,” Brooks added.  “The ones nearby couldn’t have created that statue.”

“Good idea.”  Graul’s eyes focused on Hope.  “I take it you haven’t had any luck.”

Hope shook her head, looking down at her feet.  “No.  The ghost isn’t cooperating.”

“Maybe the ghost doesn’t want to talk to you.”

“Then why did it tear up the camp, sir?” Brooks asked.

“Because sometimes you get so angry that you get stuck and don’t want to talk to anyone.”

That was interesting.  Hope worked through it in her head, thinking she’d have dig around the ship’s archives for Earth history.  There were places where the ghosts couldn’t could to rest, because what had happened to them was so horrific.  They were stuck there, locked to Earth in misery and anguish, unable to move on.

It would be awful to be stuck in anger like that forever.

“We have to be ready to pull the plug,” Graul said.  “Your call, Ms. Delgado.”

“Mine?” Hope squeaked, exchanging glances with Brooks and Jian.

“What about Mel, sir?” Jian asked.

Graul shook his head, giving them a rueful grin.  “Mel does know what she’s doing.  But she’s like everyone else in Alien Affairs.  Thinks there’s always another chance to work the problem out.  Sometimes there isn’t.  Ms. Delgado, you know ghosts.  What do you want to do?”

Hope hated this. What if she was wrong?  She clasped her hands behind her back to hide her trembling.

But as she spoke, she knew there was only one answer.  “We need to get out of here.  The aliens don’t want me talking to the ghost.  They just want me to kill it, whatever that means.  I can’t give them what they want.  They already weren’t happy with us when we met in town. It’s only going to get worse.”

Something caught Graul’s attention, and he looked off screen.  Hope thought she heard a muffled voice.  But it was Graul’s body language that frightened her.  He’d instantly gone into alert mode.  Both Jian and Brooks were mirroring it now, like some military switch had been turned onto high.

Graul disappeared from the image for a moment, leaning over—Hope guessed—to look at the computer on the table top.  Then a new image sprang up in his place.  It showed a computer generated overhead view of the scientist’s camp.  A line of figures was approaching the camp at a rapid pace.

“Looks like we just went to worse,” Graul said.  “They’re armed.”

Writing in Public: Story 4 (Novella) Chapter 18


Cover for 49er PlanetCHAPTER 18

Hope was glad Jian reviewed the scientist’s notes first.  The officer marked off the entries she thought were the ghost, and it was a pretty good job.  She’d eliminated some of the obvious not-ghost entries.

It was just Hope, Jian, and Brooks eating breakfast in the shuttle.  Mel was with her Marines., and the pilot had gone over to join them. The scientists were still in bed.  Must be nice to be able to sleep late.

The clatter of silverware against the bowls annoyed Hope this morning.  She still had to eat with her fingers and she was tired of being sticky.

Over oatmeal, she scanned through the notes.  The scientists had been quite through, including dates and details, and even where it had happened.

Not one of the incidents had happened near that big meteor.

All of them had happened in camp, some weeks before the meteorite fell..  Had the aliens even been here?  If not, how did they know about the ghost?  Hope doubted that any of the scientists would have gone gossiping about ghosties.

Did ghosts gossip?

She slouched down in her seat, rubbing her eyes.  Eyed a glop of oatmeal that had landed on her CTU shirt.  The CTU was trying to figure out to change color to match the oatmeal.

“You all right, Shrimp Woman?” Brooks asked, his tone gentle.

“Thinking about this makes my head hurt,” Hope said.

Jian glanced at the door, then skipped over a seat to get closer to Hope.  “Be honest: Are we going to be able to do anything?”

Brooks shifted, very uncomfortably.   The tension in the compartment thickened.

Hope’s tone was careful when she spoke. “I’m not going to be able to give the aliens what they want.  I can’t wave my hands and make the ghost go away.  Ghosts are ghosts.  I can ask him why he’s here, but–”

Hope stared down at her oatmeal, wishing she had better answers.  Or for that matter, any answer.

Jian glanced at the doorway again.  “I want to try to contact Colonel Graul while we’re out at the rock.”

“No Ms. Hagen?” Brooks asked, startled.

“I’ve run into Alien Affairs on and off during the last fifteen years.  Mel’s better than most of them—at least she has a Marine escort.”

Hope ducked her head to hide her smile.  “Probably the Colonel Graul influence.”

“No doubt,” Jian said.  “Most of the others come by themselves, with a couple of aides.  They don’t like the military.   They’re about going in and working out an agreement.  The military…”

“Kicks the doors in to stir up the roaches,” Brooks said.

“Spoken like Army,” Jian said.  But there was only understanding and warmth in her voice.

This was making Hope’s headache worse.  “I’m sorry.  I guess I’m confused.  What are you talking about?”

“Mel’s got a blind spot.  She thinks she can fix this problem.  I know enough about ghosts that I’m not sure this is fixable.  We might have to evacuate everyone.”

“The scientists will just love that,” Brooks said.

Hope wondered if it was going to be the first time she failed at something with ghosts.

Writing in Public: Story 4 (Novella) Chapter 17


Cover for 49er PlanetCHAPTER 17

Graul was on his way back from the officer’s mess after lunch when Marotta caught up with him at a run.  He turned back against the bulkhead as a crew member stinking of aftershave rushed past.

“Dial the smell down,” he bellowed at the crew member, who tossed over his shoulder a quick, “Yes, sir.”

Marotta waited for the ship’s intercom to finish an announcement—they’d managed to stop under one of the speakers, so it was quite loud.  “The drone’s in.  Our tech already found something.  Very interesting, he said.”

“Well, we should be able to contact the landing party soon,” Graul said.  “Mel tried to get through earlier, but we lost her in the interference.”

“She seem upset?”

“No.”

“Maybe your gut’s wrong.”

“Gut’s never wrong.”

They went three flights down to the executive conference room.  The tech, a wiry dark-skinned fellow with hair dyed blond, already had an image up over the table.  It showed an overhead view of the scientist’s camp, with people walking around.  It was too high up to recognize faces, but the movement of one figure…

Mel.

Graul resisted the urge to reach out and touch that figure, like he’d done in all the messages from her.  He clasped his hands behind his back.

“What did you find?” he said.

As an answer, the tech did a dance across the table top, pulling up a new image.  It was the same area—that big rock in the background marked the spot clearly.  But there were lines crisscrossing underneath, forming squares and rectangles.

“The data shows that there used to be a river that ran through here,” the tech said.  “Probably dried up due to draught and the desert took over.  But there was a city there once.  Those are the ruins.  That rock is a statue that collapsed.”

“Hope’s ghost,” Marotta said.

“A ghost from a long dead civilization,” Graul murmured.

“Can you tell when this city died out?” Marotta asked.

“No, Chief,” answered the tech.  “That’d be in the history records I ‘pect.”

To Graul, Marotta said, “I’ll add more people on that, sir.”

“Have them look at the aliens who died out.  It’s got to be them.’ Graul leaned close to look at the lines that had once shaped a civilization and wondered what secrets the ghost was hiding.

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