Outwitting Emperor Palpatine

The power of the Galactic Empire was never in question while Emperor Palpatine ruled. Every aspect of its public face inspired awe and fear: the bone-white armor of the ever-present Stormtroopers; the crimson-robed Imperial Guard; the massive Star Destroyers; the heavily armored AT-ATs; the severe gray dress, and faces, of the Moffs; the terrifying Death Star; the towering and ruthless Darth Vader; and the hideous cowled face of Emperor Palpatine. Yet despite all these symbols of power, the real might of the Empire came entirely from the quadrillions of oppressed beings who allowed the Emperor and his minions to take away their freedom. Continue reading →

Fulfilling the Prophecy

The peace of the Republic meant security for the Jedi. As an unchallenged part of the galactic government, they saw no cause for concern. No threats remained in the galaxy to menace them. Most Jedi could pass a lifetime without thinking of the Sith, the dark warriors who once opposed them. Those rare few who warned that the Sith may not be eradicated were dismissed. The Jedi were everywhere, and saw everything. No Sith could arise without the Jedi noticing. Even if one did, an ancient prophecy said the Chosen One would destroy the Sith and bring balance to the Force. They never imagined that the one spoken of by this prophecy would leave the Jedi Order a smoking ruin. Continue reading →

In The Gaps

Aphelion’s soot-stained blizzards allowed atmospheric travel only a few days every year. The planet’s residents called those days “summer”. It had been the furthest world mapped during the second great galactic expansion, but each new wave made the name increasingly ironic. That it was inhabited at all was a testament to the stubbornness of mankind. The planet’s distant sun warmed only a small band around the equator, and surviving for more than a few days outside of one of the planet’s metal citadels was impossible. Satellites allowed for intergalactic communication, but only if the signals could reach them from the ground. Since the atmosphere was constantly polluted with smoke from volcanic eruptions, it was not uncommon for the planet to go for days in radio silence. Continue reading →

The Mountain

In my land there is a mountain that everyone is forced to climb. Its slope is treacherous, and enemies lie in wait to attack any who try to reach the summit. I went to the mountain, I overcame its challenges, and was crowned king of the mountain. I returned the next day, free to travel its face without fear. I watched others attempting the climb, and saw them fall, defeated. One boy was almost to the summit, climbing a vertical rock wall, when his fingers slipped. He was close enough that I could see the fear and disappointment in his eyes as he fell. I heard his cry for help, and watched him crash into the rocks below. I abdicated my throne that day. I climbed down the mountain, placed my crown on his head, and carried his broken body to the top. I patrol this mountain now, protecting the weak and carrying the defeated. They mocked me. “That’s not how the mountain works,” they said, but I am changing the mountain.

Santa Baby

Dear Miss,

I don’t make a habit of responding to all of the correspondence we receive here at the North Pole, but in this case I feel I must make an exception. You appear to some misapprehension about what it is we do here. In case you have forgotten, I have included a copy of the text from your original letter below, with my own comments at places I feel need clarified.

Santa baby, just slip a Sable under the tree for me;
Been an awful good girl, Santa baby,
So hurry down the chimney tonight

I am glad to see that you understand that good behavior should be rewarded. However, our target audience dictates that we specialize in toys rather than luxury goods. It is also against our ethical guidelines to deal in animal pelts.

Santa baby, a ’54 convertible too, light blue;

Here at the North Pole, we build all items from scratch when requested. Vintage items are not kept in stock. Once again, I must mention that our focus is children, particularly the disadvantaged.

I’ll wait up for you, dear; Santa baby,
So hurry down the chimney tonight.

It is against our policies to enter a house while anyone remains awake. We feel it keeps everything simpler.

Think of all the fun I’ve missed;
Think of all the fellas that I haven’t kissed;

I’ll admit, this one stumped me. However, I had a team of my best elf investigators look into it further, and they were able to come up with a list of twelve possible names.

Next year I could be just as good… if you check off my Christmas list

Christmas gifts are given as a reward for good behavior in the previous year, not as a bribe to ensure good behavior in the next. I realize this concept may be new to you, as my records indicate you have never held a job.

Santa baby, I want a yacht and really that’s not a lot;

Actually, it is.

Been an angel all year; Santa baby,

I have checked my list twice, and feel there must be an accounting error on your side. According to our records, you have been vain, abusive, and manipulative all year.

So hurry down the chimney tonight.

Santa honey, one little thing I really need…

Given all the children around the world who are actually in need, I feel that I must disagree with your using that word in this context.

The deed… to a platinum mine, Santa baby,
So hurry down the chimney tonight.

Platinum? You strike me more as a gold digger.

Santa cutie, fill my stocking with the duplex and checks;
Sign your ‘X’ on the line, Santa cutie,
and hurry down the chimney tonight.

We do not use any currency here. Bringing joy to children is all the riches we require.

Come and trim my Christmas tree with some decorations bought at Tiffany’s;

Decorating your tree is your own responsibility.

I really do believe in you;
Let’s see if you believe in me…

While belief is important, gifts are not given solely on that basis.

Santa baby, forgot to mention one little thing… A ring…
I don’t mean on the phone; Santa baby,
So hurry down the chimney tonight

Very clever.

Hurry down the chimney tonight
Hurry, tonight!

With the large number of deliveries required in one day, I assure you haste will not be lacking. However, your requests for this year have been declined. I would encourage you, in the coming year, to spend more time looking to the welfare of others, and less time increasing your own material possessions.

Finally, the photograph you included with your letter was unnecessary, as my elves can identify the sender of every letter based solely on handwriting. Also, I ask that you not soak your next letter in perfume. It sent several of the elves in the sorting department into asthmatic fits.

Yours Truly,
Santa Claus

The First Christmas

It was late in December, and shoppers were busy finding last minute gifts for all of their friends and relatives. Mary, though, had no time for the seasonal bustle. She had to travel to the little town of Bethlehem for taxes or something. The weather forecast called for snow, and she was nine-months pregnant, but taxes don’t care about that kind of thing. So Mary, and her husband Joseph, got on their donkey and were driving to Bethlehem on Christmas Eve.

Of course, finding a hotel room on Christmas Eve proved tricky. Everyone’s out-of-town relatives were in for the holidays, and they had filled up every room, even at the shady-looking motel run by the Pakistani family. By then, the snow was starting to accumulate, and Mary’s water had broken. In desperation, they sought shelter in a barn with no front wall, a cow on one side, a horse on the other, and a manger in the middle. There was just enough space for one of them to stand on each side of the manger.

Out in the mountains, sheep were searching for grass in the snow. One of them said to the shepherd boy, “Do you see what I see?” The boy looked, and noticed a choir of angels, playing harps and singing Christmas carols. He asked what was going on, and they told him that Jesus was in Bethlehem. He got the other shepherds, and the sheep, and they went to the address the angels had given them.

Meanwhile, things were dicey at Herod’s castle. Three oriental kings had shown up and demanded to see baby Jesus, because they had heard about him from a star. The guards lowered the drawbridge and let them in, but no one could find Jesus anywhere in the castle. Finally, they asked some people who had paid attention when the Christmas story was read at church, and  they said that baby Jesus was supposed to be in Bethlehem.

The three kings got back on their camels and drove to Bethlehem. They had to drive slowly, due to all the snow, and so they arrived  after the shepherds and the little drummer boy. Fortunately, the star turned into a spotlight that pointed at Jesus, so they found him easily. They went in and saw baby Jesus in the manger. There was a glowing circle around his head that lit up the whole barn. By then, Mary had completely recovered from childbirth and was standing next  to the manger. The kings gave gold and some other stuff to baby Jesus. Then they all bowed down around the manger and prayed to him.

They stayed at the manger to watch the ball drop on New Year’s Eve, and then the shepherd went to tell it on the mountains, over the hills, and everywhere. And they all lived happily ever after.

The Murder of Glenn Beck

Cast:

Reginald Winchester – Self proclaimed “World’s Greatest Detective”, he has an unflagging thirst for the truth and the ability to take any set-back in stride. The only element missing from his detective’s toolkit is deductive ability. Occasionally adopts a fake British accent, especially when saying something he considers to be of great importance.

Caitlin Axelrod – Talk show host bumped by Glenn’s show. She is stable and methodical, a no-nonsense type, and her style has won her leagues of fans and enemies.

Justin Harding – Arms manufacturer supported by Glenn. A true professional in every sense, he is never out of control, and constantly on the lookout to expand his company or his influence.

Gary Lexington – Eager fan impersonating honored military veteran Dan Jacobs. Overwhelmed at the prospect of meeting Glenn Beck, he is in way over his head.

Tabitha Reed – Socialist who broke into Glenn’s compound. A true child of Reddit, she was raised in a conservative home, and sought the liberal elite as a form of rebellion in college. She has never looked back. She views her role as one of bringing freedom and transparency to the evils of the right wing.

Therese Fischer – Glenn’s faithful maid. She moved to the US from Austria as a teenager and still speaks with a noticeable Austrian accent. Seemingly simple, because that is what people expect her to be.

Jess Thomas – Glenn’s publisher, about to be dropped by Glenn. She is frazzled and overwhelmed, but trying to make the best of everything. She constantly has too many irons in the fire and worries that any misstep may ruin her future.

Officer Daniels – Police officer called to investigate the murder. Jaded at the world, but efficient and effective in most situations.

Setting:

Glenn Beck’s home in Westlake, Texas. In particular, a lounge area in the house. It has, among other furniture, a large desk with a red phone, a chalkboard, a dresser with a lamp near the door, and at least six chairs spread out around the room. (The audience is seated around a table in the center of the room) Continue reading →

The Perfect Garden

A man decided that he would make the best garden there had ever been. He bought a beautiful plot of land on the top a mountain, with picturesque views in every direction. He brought in truckloads of the finest black mulch and laid it out in perfectly straight rows. He gathered the most expensive seeds he could find, and carefully hand-painted intricate designs on each of the shells. He set each seed on its own white pedestal with a bronze nameplate and a large glossy picture of the fruit it could grow. Finally, he built walls and a ceiling over his garden to keep it safe from the weather. It was an amazing thing to behold, and he spent many hours admiring it.

The man visited his perfect garden every day, observing his seeds carefully. If he noticed any seed starting to crack, he would throw it out and replace it with another. No imperfection was allowed in his garden.  As the weeks passed, the thrill of his new garden began to wear off, and his visits became less frequent. They became weekly, then monthly, and eventually yearly, though at each visit he was sure to rid his garden of any seeds that had cracked or had odd green or brown things growing on them.

One night a terrific storm rocked the mountain. The wind shook the walls of the garden and the frame creaked. A massive gust ripped the roof from its place and sent it spiraling into the valley. Pounding rain poured into the garden for the first time, turning the carefully planned rows of black mulch into a sea of mud. Winds whipped through the garden, knocking the beautifully painted seeds from their white pedestals. They sunk into the watery mess. The perfect garden was ruined.

After the storm had moved on, the sun rose over the remains of the perfect garden. As the weeks passed, green sprouts began to appear in the black soil. Eventually the man returned to see his perfect garden, but he found a shocking sight. The beautiful order he had spent so long creating was gone, and in its place, plants of every variety filled the damaged garden.

Monster Patrol 1.01

“Monsters should remain in the shadows, Greyfang!”

The words echoed through the empty Jefferson Memorial before being lost in the distant rumble of freeway traffic. James Stas crept around the columns, careful to keep his heavy boots from making a sound. The hem of his black coat swung freely an inch above the white stone floor. His hand gripped a large nickle-plated handgun, glowing slightly from the light of the full moon.

“My boss wants to know why you’ve decided to pay a visit to Washington, D.C. Come in peacefully and this won’t have to turn dangerous for either of us.” James carefully cocked his pistol and slid into the massive doorway. A piercing howl erupted from inside the memorial. A massive hairy form barreled toward him. James squeezed off a few shots of tranquilizers into the beast before it crashed into one of the pillars.

The force of the impact cracked the pillar and sent it tumbling down the entry stairs. The beast pulled the darts from its hide. A werewolf lord was not so easily taken. Another howl split the night. James pitched his handgun away and pulled a shotgun from under his coat. He sighted in on the glowing red eyes and pulled the trigger, but the beast dodged sideways, spittle flying in the air. A large section of white pillar disintegrated under the shotgun barrage.

As the deafening echo died away, James retreated into the center of the memorial, his back to the bronze statue of Jefferson. Greyfang’s silhouette filled the entryway. James chambered a second shell and fired into the center of the dark shape. Greyfang lurched, but continued lumbering forward. He slashed at James’s head. James ducked under his arm and fired another shot into the werewolf’s chest. The beast growled in fury, towering over James. He lunged for the kill. “Gotcha,” James thought.

As Greyfang attacked, James rolled sideways, for the first time revealing the rocket launcher hidden under the folds of his black coat. A rocket spiraled into the air and a massive explosion smashed through the enclosed space. James covered his head with his arms. The werewolf’s sensitive ears were his weak point. Greyfang cowered in shock as the massive bronze statue and a shower of marble pinned him to the floor.

The extraction team was late as always, and the first hints of dawn revealed smoke rising from the severely damaged landmark. Finally an unmarked helicopter descended and came to rest near the Potomac. The pilot removed this blue and red helmet and surveyed the devastation. He’d ran extractions for James before.

“What happened here?” he asked.

“The werewolf lord has agreed to our terms. He will come with us for questioning. You’ll find him inside.”

The crew of the helicopter pulled their supplies for restraining a werewolf and rushed into the building. James climbed into the co-pilot’s seat and relaxed. His record of successful negotiations continued.