Ensign’s Log

Photo by Jacub Gomez on Pexels.com

Today is Star Trek Day, honoring the anniversary of the first time it was broadcast, fifty-five years ago. This is a short story I wrote that is, let’s call it Star Trek adjacent. I’m a big fan and this is my way of paying tribute. With the serial numbers filed off.

Live Long and Prosper and… Engage!

Ensign Edward Park’s Personal Log-StarDate 8720.73

I have been tasked with transporting Atlas, favorite pet of Captain Buhle of the U.S.S. Centurion. While some of my shipmates have dismissed this is as a dull errand, I see this as an avenue into the Captain’s good graces. I’ve wanted to serve on the Centurion since I was a child and read about their exploits.

I don’t see this as brown-nosing, (Lieutenant J.G. Pillington I’m looking at you!) but rather as an opportunity to show Captain Buhle that I’m a responsible officer with much to offer. She apparently dotes on Atlas so this can only help my career.

Hard to believe that no one else volunteered for this.

End of Log.

Personal Log Supplemental-StarDate 8721.11

Have arrived at the Altairian outpost and taken possession of Atlas. The name must be ironic as the case he came in was very small. Some sort of miniature dog? Atlas is sleeping now so I can’t really tell. The Lieutenant who passed him along to me advised me to not fly too fast in such a small craft. Apparently, it would upset up Atlas, which he said was dangerous.

I’m supposed to rendezvous with the Centurion tomorrow so I have plenty of time to make it. Atlas, you are in the safest of hands.

This is easier than I could’ve imagined.

End of Log.

Personal Log Supplemental-StarDate 8721.56

This is bad, very bad. I’m currently fleeing from a Gorgorian Rapid Raider. There’s supposed to be a cease-fire after the conference at Mantok-Prime. I hailed them to remind them of that fact but frankly, they were more interested in mocking me and firing upon the shuttle than in any real diplomatic solution.

Shields are holding but since they gave me a shuttle with no weapons, I will have to outfly them. Why don’t our shuttles have weapons? Right now it feels like they should.

End of Log.

Personal Log Supplemental-StarDate 8721.89

We escaped! I suppose that’s obvious since I’m here to record this log, but it’s kind of a miracle. The Gorgorian Rapid Raider had hammered us, alarms were blaring to tell me the shields were about to fail, and then Atlas began to whine. Honestly, I couldn’t tell right away, as he was harmonizing with the alarms.

Then suddenly, he stopped. Then the Gorgorian Rapid Raider exploded. We, and by we I mean the shuttle, started spinning out of control. Fortunately, I am a fully trained star pilot and had no trouble steadying the flight path. Eventually.

Sensors indicated that the Gorgorian Rapid Raider suffered a massive quantum engine failure. Maybe the Gorgorian Rapid Raider passed through a micro singularity. Those Gorgorian Rapid Raider need to hire some more qualified engineers.

Am I saying Gorgorian Rapid Raider too much? No. An Ensign’s logs need to be thorough and accurate. I mean, a Gorgorian Rapid Raider is a formidable foe.

That ought to be worth a commendation. Fingers crossed.

End Log.

Personal Log Supplemental-StarDate 8722.24

Well, the engines are damaged and I had to drop to sub-light speeds. This is very inconvenient. If I can’t repair the problem I won’t make my rendezvous with the Centurion. I’m reluctant to send out a distress signal as it might attract more attention from the Gorgorians.

Also, it would reflect poorly on my abilities as an officer and damage my chances of getting assigned to the Centurion. That, I refuse to let happen. Time to roll up my sleeves and get working.

End Log.

Personal Log Supplemental-StarDate 8722.73

Well, that took longer than I anticipated. I ran half a dozen level one diagnostics, realigned the crystalline shunt, and hand cleaned thirty-seven isotronic chips and the damned thing still didn’t turn over. It wasn’t till I re-polarized the power coupling that it worked again.

At least now I can get back on schedule. Apologies to Atlas but I am NOT going to be late.

End Log.

Personal Log Supplemental-StarDate Unknown

A good officer has to be ready for the unexpected. That’s what they taught us at the academy. It’s the first thing they say on the first day. Be ready for the unexpected. It’s a fine sentiment. Except how in holy hell can you be ready for the unexpected? That’s crazy! CRAZY!!!!!!!!!!!

(Log Paused)

Okay, I screamed and feel a little better. Not a lot, but I’ll take what I can get.

We were flying at top hyper factor, at least as fast as this shuttle can go, when Atlas started to howl. Except it wasn’t a howl, exactly. More like a keening wail. I tried to get him to stop. I sang him a lullaby, then tried talking to him in soothing tones, telling him that we were on our way to his mommy, and finally, I shouted at him to just shut up!

I’m not sure why I thought this creature would understand the Galactic Standard tongue, because it did not. The sound it made got higher and higher pitched until there was a burst of bright light and then I passed out. I dare anyone, ANYONE to not pass out in these circumstances.

Upon awakening, I found the familiar sight of rushing stars outside my forward viewport replaced with a swirling sea of colors and fractals. The navigation computer has thus far failed to locate where we are. But it gets worse.

Atlas is missing.

End Log.

Personal Log Supplemental-StarDate Still Unknown but later

Having searched this tiny shuttle fore to aft, I have found no sign of Atlas. I’m not sure what is worse, being trapped in an unknown region of space or losing Captain Buhle’s beloved pet. If I can’t find a way home, I’ll never know. That’s not better. Probably worse.

Time to start scanning and see what I can find out about where I ended up.

End Log.

Personal Log Supplemental-StarDate Who The Hell Knows

So the sensors were no help. Outside the shuttle is what the computer calls a “Pocket, pan-dimensional matrix of unquantifiable energy readings.” Thanks. For. Nothing. In other words, you have no idea. Also, no sign of Atlas. Ugh.

At least the nutritional dispenser is still working but all it can produce is a chicken sandwich and coffee. Some good news, that’s a perfect lunch.

I’m going to see if I can find a way out of this “Pocket, pan-dimensional matrix of unquantifiable energy readings.”

I mean, how big can it be?

End Log.

Personal Log Supplemental-StarDate Who Goddamn Cares At This Point?

So, a pocket dimension can be pretty damn big. I’ve been flying for what the computer tells me is one week, three days, seventeen hours, and forty minutes. I have no choice but to believe it.

Why would a computer lie?

Why indeed…

End Log

Personal Log Supplemental-StarDate No Idea

My Chicken sandwich was a little dry today. That should be impossible, given it is made from a static formula. But I swear it tasted like it had been sitting out on a counter for a bit too long. Strange.

On an unrelated note, my beard is coming in nicely.

End Log.

Personal Log Supplemental-StarDate Infinity Plus One

While time seems to stand still, I have not aged, for some reason, my hair and fingernails have continued to grow. Does this make any logical sense? Nope, not at all.

While I have perfected my braiding skills, I fear that this is some sort of personal hell. There are no Rigellian monkey bears with my father’s voice, forcing me to sing in public. Still, it feels pretty personal.

While I sleep, the sounds of Atlas echo through my mind. I try to find him but I find myself stuck in a pool of butterscotch. Let’s be clear, in my dreams. I would kill for some butterscotch right now. Anything except for damned chicken sandwiches and coffee.

All scans have yielded no life sign reading. I’ve lost the Captain’s pet and I can say, with a high degree of certainty, I’ve had lost my mind as well. Log entries that back that up have been deleted. No one needs to read all those quantum limericks. Honestly, not my best work.

In retrospect, I should’ve sent out a distress signal. That’s on me.

Also, whatever Atlas is, I hope he’s lost in his own personal hell. I’ve no idea what that is, but I wish with all my heart he’s there.

So, since I have nothing to look forward to, except more of this endless nothing, I have chosen to employ the self-destruct protocol. If anyone finds these logs, please think kindly of me.

Wait. If I self-destruct, no one will ever read this. So suck a singularity Atlas. You are the worst.

End Log.

Captain Buhle’s personal Log StarDate 8722.67

I am relieved to find the shuttle transporting Atlas intact. He is alive and in good spirits! I was worried about him traveling on a shuttle, it disagrees with him so, but it seems to have worked out.

Unfortunately, Ensign Edward Park has suffered some traumatic side effects from his trip. It will take a few days for him to get his synaptic responses in sync with normal reality. Doc says with some rest, he’ll be right as rain.

The engineering team has told me that the shuttle gave off pan-dimensional radiation but that that was well below any danger levels. In another piece of bad news, all logs were corrupted by the radiation.

When Ensign Park recovers, he can file a report about the incident. He must be a remarkable young officer to have made it through in one piece and keep Atlas safe. I have already requested his transfer to the Centurion, which the Admiralty approved immediately.

And on a personal note, it seems Atlas has taken quite a shine to young Mr. Park, when I visited sickbay, the little fella got quite excited. If I can trust anyone to look after Atlas, it is Ensign Park.

End Log

Live Life Fast, Die Food

This is a short story that combines three of my passions, food, super spy espionage and quippy dialogue.

Svetlana Cortez Abramowitz, agent of B.R.E.A.D. (Baking Restaurant Elite Alliance Division) and noted mannequin model hung by her arms above the giant fondue pot filled with deadly Emmental cheese. She had begun that evening at the underground sudden death clam roll eating tournament under the last Howard Johnsons in Pyrenees mountain range.

With nothing to do but literally dangle, she lost herself in a flashback.

***

Her contact, the Marquise Du Fromage, whose family, ironically, were all lactose intolerant, was nowhere to be seen at the tournament. If her training as a secret agent had taught her anything, it was when in doubt, go to the bar. They usually had peanuts.

“I’d like a Dirty Shirley please, extra cherries,” said Sventlana.

“Right away, Ms,” replied the bartender.

“How do you know I’m not married?” she snarked.

“I don’t, that’s why I used Ms,” said the bartender as he mixed grenadine and vodka, “I didn’t want to presume.”

Taking a sip of the drink, she nodded, “You’re very woke for a bartender.”

“Part of the training.”

“Can I buy you a drink?” said a voice from behind her.

Turning, she saw a tall blond man with piercing earlobes. He had no physical scars but she was sure that he had emotional ones. Guys like him always did.

“I already have one.”

“Did you pay for it yet?”

“No, I was about to open a tab.”

“Then I could still pay for it.”

“I suppose so.”

“Put this on my Dinner’s Club card.”

“Dinner’s Club or Diner’s Club?” inquired the bartender.

“Both.”

“Yes sir!” 

Svetlana regarded the Stranger with a discerning eye, which was her left one.

“If you’re going to buy me a drink, you could at least introduce yourself,” she said eating one of her extra maraschino cherries.

“Why do I owe you something for buying you a drink?”

“How about I try to guess your name,” she suggested avoiding the issue.

“Have at it.”

“Hubert Hucklebean.”

“Do I really look like a Hubert Hucklebean?”

“I suppose not, but if I meet three Hubert Hucklebeans before the end of the year I win a free sub.”

“Meatball or the underwater kind?”

“Underwater that serves meatballs.”

“Then I’m sorry I’m not one then.”

With a flourish, the bartender placed the second drink in front of her. Taking it in her other hand, she toasted herself.

“Why don’t I try to guess your name?” offered the Stranger. 

“Please,” she replied as she sipped from the second drink.

“Myrtle McKenna?”

“Funny you should say that my college roommate wanted to be named that.”

“Did she ever change her name?” 

“Only in Delaware and Guam.”

“Smart. I’ve got another guess.”

“Shoot.”

With the ease of a Nutri Ninja pro, he flung a drugged-tipped cocktail umbrella into her neck.

“I think you’re Svetlana Cortez Abramowitz, agent of B.R.E.A.D.,” he whispered as the room swam around her. She recognized it as a Bulgarian butterfly stroke as everything went black. 

***

“I see you’re lost in thought,” said the Stranger, bringing the narrative back to the present.

“I was,” she said irritably.

“The infamous agent Abramowitz, at last, we meet.”

“We met just before, at the bar.”

“Fine. Technically that’s true.”

She smiled, one of the true joys of life was to be technically right.

“I suppose you’re wondering who I am?”

“Niles Montrose, assassin for hire and failed saucier.”

Flushed, Niles shouted, “A sauce CANNOT be too rich!”

“That’s not what your instructors at the C.I.A. thought.”

“They lacked vision. Especially the ones who were too lazy to get a new eye exam. Most places will do it for free.”

“If you buy from them.”

“It’s a good deal!”

“Only if you don’t have insurance.”

“Lots of people don’t! It’s a real problem. Much like how you are about to be dipped into the world’s largest fondue pot.”

Those problems seemed unrelated but she did have to admit to herself, she was in trouble.

“Dipping an agent of B.R.E.A.D. into a giant cheese fondue, a little on the nose, isn’t it?”

“It’s a lot on the nose and I think you know it. But look over your shoulder, you’re not alone.

Indeed she was not. The Marquise Du Fromage was also chained above the bubbling caldron.

“Why didn’t you say anything?” Svetlana inquired.

“You two seemed to be in the middle of something. I didn’t want to interrupt,” said the Marquise.

“Agent of B.R.E.A.D dies with lactose intolerant nobleman. If anyone still read newspapers that would be the headline.”

“Let’s table the discussion about the state of print and get to what your master plan is,” said Svetlana.

“And why should I tell you?”

“The Julia Childe Accords stipulate that when culinary operatives are captured the opposing agent must reveal their plans in detail. Section seven, subsection-”

“-Eighteen,” finished Niles, “Very well, rules are rules. Have you noticed how food trends have surged recently? It all started with bacon. It wasn’t difficult, bacon is delicious. Even when it started getting ridiculous, bacon milkshake and bacon sushi no one batted an eye. But then we popularized kale. Kale! It’s disgusting but people couldn’t get enough!”

As Niles monologued on, Svetlana pressed a tiny button on her clunky bracelet that was comprised of butter cubes held in stasis. The heat of the bubbling cheese quickly melted the shortening and allowed her to slip free of her shackles.

“-and quinoa! Because of us, rice was shunned like it didn’t come back from rumspringa!” declared Niles as Svetlana leapt down behind him. 

“Variety is the spice of life but how about a little salt and pepper?” she asked as she tenderized him with both fists.

They exchanged blows and recipes as they fought in the fondue dungeon until the Agent of B.R.E.A.D. jumped up, and kicked off her very pointy high heel shoes. Embedding them into the wall and trapping him.

“You’ve lost!” she said.

“I noticed. Because you have me immobilized.”

“That’s how it works. So tell me, who are you working for?”

“Oh, you’ll find out soon enough. Not because I’m going to tell you. But because of reasons. Sinister reasons.”

“You’d like that.”

“Yes, I’m actually pretty excited about that part.”

“I can tell because your face lit up when you said ‘sinister reasons’.”

“I feel seen.”

“If we could circle back to my original question about who you’re working for.”

With a smirk, Niles dropped out of his evening jacket, the shoes hadn’t pinned him, pulled out a small envelope and bottle of dark brown liquid from his pants pocket, and downed them both. A hideous crackle was heard, followed by a muffled explosion.

Pop rocks and Pepsi, she thought. The final retreat of culinary killer. Niles was moving his lips and she leaned in to hear his epitaph. He whispered, “Would you like fries with that?” and then expired.

“What does that mean?” she asked aloud.

“Pardon me,” said the unfailing polite Marquise Du Fromage, “If you could lower me down, away from the cheese caldron, I would be ever so grateful.”

“Of course,” Svetlana replied as she worked the winch, “I think now it’s time for some… dessert.”

“Is that an attempt at seduction or do you mean literal dessert?”

She unlocked his shackles and said, “I mean sweets, cake, maybe some gelato.”

“I’ll stick to the cake, gelato makes me gazeux.”

“Very delicate.”

“I wish it was,” the nobleman said ruefully. 

“Then we’ll pass… on the gelato.”

“Can I please just give you this microfilm?”

Taking the information, she said, “Right. I’ll get that that dessert… to go.”

“I’m just going to leave now.”

Just before he exited the room, the Marquise Du Fromage turned and asked, “Do you need a ride somewhere?”

Svetlana smiled and said, “In fact I do.”

“They have taxis out front. You should get one.”

“Oh, I will.”

The nobleman left, as things seemed socially awkward. Svetlana waited a few minutes. Partially to ponder Niles’ last words and also to avoid having to make more small talk with the Marquise Du Fromage who was a bit of a drip.

Would you like fries with that would later return in a most ominous way, but tonight, was all about confection.


Read or Write

I love books but I’ve read very little of late. You may be asking, “If you love books, why aren’t you reading them?” A fair question. I will address it in a roundabout manner.

There must be at least a hundred unread ones on my shelves and in various piles about my home. Both my parents loved to read so I have them to thank my deep affection for the written word. Books are, in my opinion, the perfect gift, both to give and receive. The heft, feel and smell of books are intoxicating. Especially, old books.

Used bookstores are rarer and rarer these days. I’m sure it’s due to the rising rents, and the advent of selling books online. In the interest of honesty, I buy books online. Though I miss the thrill of going into a used bookstore, inspecting the shelves, and finding a gem. On the other hand, it’s comforting to be able to find that one volume you were looking for with a bit of typing and clicking search.

Back when the world was… I was about to say normal but what the hell does that even mean? So let’s just say when we could venture outside unmasked and could sit close to each other. In those halcyon days when I went back and forth to my job, I would read on the subway. If I was going to travel anywhere, a book was the first thing I would pack. There was always a book or two in my bag. After all, what if you finished a book and had no other book to read? Unthinkable!

Nowadays I am in between jigs and am unlikely to take any long-distance voyages. With all this copious free time I must be reading nonstop. It is with chagrin I must tell you that I have not. There are two reasons why. Here’s the first.

Media. By which I mean TV and the internet. When you are told not to do something, you instantly want to do it. Such as going out and seeing people. If you’re sensible, you will listen to Doctor Anthony Fauci and mask up, and take all necessary precautions. That still leaves a missing element in your life.

So you watch the news and then when you can’t stand that anymore, you watch everything else. Maybe it’s the hot new show that just started streaming, so when you chat with your friend over Zoom or Discord, you don’t want to be behind the curve. Or maybe you go back to a show that gives you comfort. Consuming episode after episode like a bowl of salty deep-fried treats. BTW, all pre-pandemic shows are now science fiction/fantasy because the characters do fantastical things like go out to eat and hug. Crazy!

The other reason is I was writing. I recently finished a novel called the Arrondissement, you can read it on this site.

https://jenicek.wordpress.com/category/arrondissement/

Am I a shameless self-promoter? Hell yes. If I’m not for me, who will be?

Back to the writing. I started it before the beginning of the pandemic and finished it before it ended. That might say more about the state of the world than my productivity. Nonetheless, I managed to complete a full-length novel, so that’s something.

I began this blog because I had written another novel, Chosen, which you also read on this blog.

https://jenicek.wordpress.com/category/chosen-novel/

See, I told you I’m shameless! Once I put up the last chapter I continued to post every Monday. It is a self-imposed deadline that I have met for the last seven and half years. Sometimes it’s my thoughts on random topics, like why isn’t “Happy as a dog.” an expression? If you’ve owned a dog and come home you know what I mean.

In my past, I’ve spent long stretches without writing, all the while calling myself a writer. I had written so I think I’m in the clear. However, having to post something new every week has made me a better writer. Well, I certainly hope so.

Once, I friend of mine asked me and another writer friend, “How often do we think about what we’re writing?” The answer is “All the time.” I find that before I set pen to paper, or more accurately fingertips to keyboard, there is a lot of musing going on. Or wrestling with demons, depending on the day. Outwardly it looks like I’m just going to the store to get some supplies but inwardly, there’s a lot of stuff going on.

I believe that you cannot write if you do not love to read. Technically you can. I’m not sure it’ll be worth reading. All writers must, in my opinion, have a love of language. Talented writers can paint a picture and invoke deep emotional reactions with an expert application of their vocabulary. Every wordsmith has a voice, some are more pleasant to hear than others. Milage may vary of course.

You might be asking yourself, “Where the hell is he going with all this?” I remind you that I said this would be roundabout. While I used to read on average, a book a week, #humblebrag, my stats have dropped severely. This is not to say I’ve read nothing, just not nearly as much as I used to.

At the end of the day, part of my lack of reading is pure laziness on my part. Damn you golden age of streaming content! But I’ve found myself being more focused on my own writing than others. Which is not terrible for me, but it needs to be addressed by me.

For my birthday, it’s in December in case you missed it, I received a much-anticipated book. Ballistic Kiss by Richard Kadrey, the latest installment in the Sandman Slim series. I’m a big fan of his work and this setting in particular. Did I read it the day I was gifted it? No. I’ve been holding on to it, saving it like an expensive bottle of single malt scotch. Partially because don’t want to inhale it like a bottom shelf whisky while on a bender. I want to savor it like the aforementioned single malt.

However, that is a bit of a lie. I’ve just not been reading as much and I’m the only one who can change that. I started it last night, as of writing this, and I’m enjoying it immensely. If you like hard-driving, rock and roll urban fantasy, check his stuff out. See, I can promote someone else’s work too.

I think if I want to be the best writer I can, I need to read more. Make time for it. I’m never disappointed and if I am, I’ve got plenty more read. Remember, hundreds of unread treasures to open up.

Thank you for reading this. I hope it inspires you to read more if your book count is low. Or maybe to write more. Both are excellent choices. Now back to Ballistic Kiss.

[Travels and Fun Times] 4 Underwater Adventures to Add to Your Bucket List

Why not turn your next trip into an underwater adventure?

Escape to this archipelago nation, where vanilla-sand beaches glitter like amber jewels at sunset, and coconut-scented breezes cascade through palm trees and turquoise seas. But on these islands, the best-kept secrets lie under the sea.

Dive into the ocean, and you’ll find five-star spas, seafood restaurants, and other surprises. Sip champagne at clam-shaped bars, and twirl on underwater dance floors bathed in cobalt light.

But don’t go home yet. The night is just starting.

See full post here.

[AoB] Should You Go Hyperniche?

We now live in a world of constant information overload. Content creators are sharing millions and millions of articles, podcasts, social media posts, and videos every single month.

This, in turn, changes the dynamic of how we create content, how we distribute it, how we promote it, and even how we monetize our blogs.

The main issue? Broad topics lack focus, direction, and are becoming less and less appealing.

The most lucrative niches are overcrowded and ultra-competitive, and a general blog that tackles a main topic (or a multitude of topics) has little to no chance of standing out from the crowd.

[irevuo] Hello Rejection, My Old Friend

Whenever we submit a part of our soul that we translated into words, we do so armed with nothing but the hope that the person reading our work will understand it.

Sometimes they do. Most times they don’t.

Rejection scrapes the heart. But, well, there’s nothing to do about it. In fact, rejection is as much a part of being a writer as punching those damn keys. It’s as much a part of being a writer as the edits and the rewrites and the social media marketing.

[irevuo] Should You Self-Publish? These Questions Will Help You Decide

So, you have a finished manuscript, and now you’re ready to share it with as many readers as possible.

In order to do that, you must choose one of two paths: either self-publish your book yourself, or go the traditional route and try to find a publisher.

Deciding on which route to take means that you’ve got to figure out a couple of things about yourself first, about your book, and about your ability to effectively market (and enjoy the process) both yourself as an author and your book.

Now, let’s discuss the essential questions to ask yourself if you’re trying to decide if self-publishing your book is the best available option for you.

[AoB] Most Blogs Fail. Why?

At least once a year someone out there publishes a long article announcing the imminent demise of the blog. More bloggers than ever are giving up, content saturation is alienating a lot of readers, and the rise in popularity of different mediums will be the final nail in the coffin.

The truth?

It’s always been like this.

Out of all the bloggers I’ve networked with when I launched my first blog in 2012, only a dozen or so still publish regularly.

Out of all the bloggers that I’ve personally coached, only a dozen or so still publish regularly.

And out of all the people who decide to start a blog this year, only a small percentage of them will still publish new content regularly by the end of the year.

But why?