Vald’s Vampire Diary: Black Holes and Cats

Vald’s Vampire Diary: Black Holes and Cats

Dear Diary,

It is Yule season and there is still a pandemic happening. We must be careful, even though we are Vampires. 

This evening my friends Constantine and Randolpho dropped by for a small gathering. They are part of what is called a bubble. That means we stay inside and limit our exposure and pretend we are not Vampires. 

Randolpho came in first and put a case of spiced blood from Dave’s Bottle Shop on the kitchen counter. “When I was at Dave’s I heard the most interesting conversation. A couple of guys were talking about string theory and time travel. They said it wouldn’t surprise them if time travelers showed up before 2020 is done. It was sort of a joke, but hey, nothing would surprise me right now,” he said as he took off his coat but kept on his ridiculous hat. 

I had no idea what he was talking about. “What is string theory?” I asked. 

“From what understand, string theory means we’re not sure if if time travel to the past is physically possible. Time travel to the future, outside the usual sense of the perception of time as we know it, or maybe even time as we can’t truly perceive or understand, is an extensively observed phenomenon and well-understood within the framework of both special and real relativity. I guess that means it is all relative. Ha.That said, making one living being advance or delay more than a few milliseconds compared to another living object is not possible with current technology. As for backward time travel, that is time travel into the past, it is possible to find solutions in general relativity that theoretically allow for it, for example something like a rotating black hole. Traveling to a random point in spacetime has very limited support in theoretical physics, and is usually connected only with quantum mechanics or wormholes,” said Randolpho.

“Wormholes? What do worms have to do with anything? I do not understand.”

“Worms make long twisting holes that transport them from one place to another. It is like an expressway through the universe, or a secret passageway.”

“What about just being in a parallel universe rather than traveling in time over one straight timeline?” Constantine asked.

“What is a parallel universe?” I asked.

“A parallel universe is a concept that suggests therecould be other universes besides our own, where all the choices you made in this life played out in alternate realities. It is facet of the astronomical theory of the multiverse. For example, in our universe it is a fact that you were locked, against your will, in a crypt for 300 years, thus skipping the 18th– 20thCenturies. In another parallel universe you might have not been locked in the crypt and continued to live as the Vampire King. In another universe there are no Vampires and you’re just a regular guy,” said Randolpho.

“I feel like I am in a parallel universe right now,” I said.

“You never know,” said Randolpho.

“What do you mean I never know?” I asked

“You wouldn’t know what you’re doing in another universe,” said Randolpho.

“Of course not, that would be too easy. What about cats? Would my cats be there? Tell me that,” I said.

“I don’t know. The laws of physics don’t apply to cats,” said Randolpho.

That was one point we could all agree on.

~ Vlad

Dear Diary,

This morning my beautiful Vampire lover Gillian told me to be quiet because she had a Zoom meeting.

I was not making noise.

“What is a Zoom meeting?” I asked her.

“An online meeting. We can’t meet in person anymore. With Zoom we can all meet on and see each other.”

“What is the purpose of this Zoom meeting?”

“My book club. We’re reading Great Expectations.”

“I would imagine you would have great expectations when starting a book.”

“Vlad, darling, Great Expectationsis the title of the book. It was written by Charles Dickens. Remember? He wrote A Christmas Carol. You know, Scrooge, Tiny Tim, the Christmas ghosts.”

“As you recall my dear, I missed the entire 19thCentury.”

I kissed my lovely Gillian and sent her to her Zoom meeting. I went into another room so she would not hear me. I am a Vampire. I am quiet. I do not know why she is concerned I will bother her during her meeting. 

I went to my comfortable chair and started to read A Christmas Carol again.  I wonder if in a parallel universe this story has Vampires in it.

After Gillian’s meeting she came in and told me all about it. She is a woman so she must always tell me all about it but I do not mind. 

“Lydia’s computer was hacked,” she told me. Hacked? 

“That is odd her cats would vomit on her computer,” I said, trying to show some sympathy (something else females like.)

“No Vlad. Not that kind of hack.”

“Someone hit Lydia’s computer with a hatchet?”

“No, they got into her Facebook account.”

At that point I decided not to explore this subject anymore. 

“That is sad for Lydia,” I said.

“She changed her password. Everyone else is doing ok,” said Gillian then she continued to tell me all of the news from the ladies in her book circle.

Suddenly my two cats started to run all over the house. They ran up and down the stairs, then around the downstairs meowing and racing about.

Gillian laughed. “They have the zoomies.”

I was confused. “The cats have a meeting?” 

Gillian just smiled and kissed me. “You’re so cute. I love you Vlad.”

“I love you too Gillian, always and forever,”

Zoom

Hacking

Cats

It always comes back to cats.

Time Travel, String Theory, String Cheese, cats… everything in the universe all ties back to cats.  

Now I will go put up a string of Christmas lights on the front of my house in honor of the Yule Season. The cats will no doubt come out with me to watch and try to knock down my ladder. 

I wondered if I could travel back in time and change anything. Would I skip being locked in a crypt for 300 years only to find myself in the 21stCentury? Would I take back my title as King of Vampires? 

I picked up the lights and called the cats to join me. 

I think I shall stay right where I am, at least in this universe.

~ Vlad

Kissed by a Vampire

After being trapped in a crypt for three hundred years, Vlad the fierce and powerful Vampire King is now learning how to live in the modern world, and learn the true meaning of the word “cute.” This has been the 66th installment of Vlad’s Vampire Diary. Click here to read his entries from the beginning.

Randolpho and his ridiculous tall hat which he rarely takes off.

Black Holes, Vampires, Oak Island, and Other Phenomenon

The other night Teddy and I were just chilling (as Vampires often do) and watching  How The Universe Works on the Science Chanel.

So I made some observations that made my husband Teddy laugh out loud. 

Wow. I was trying to wrap my head around quasars and black holes.

For those who aren’t quite sure what a quasar is (and who is) here is a description: a quasar is a massive and extremely remote celestial object, emitting exceptionally large amounts of energy, and typically having a star-like image in a telescope. It has been suggested that quasars contain massive black holes and may represent a stage in the evolution of some galaxies.

I love science but I also love to put things into my own creative universe. Hey, I’ve met time travelers, so I know how crazy things are out there. I also know that sometimes it is easier for me to put scientific data into everyday terms.

Quasars might lead to things like wormholes, parallel universes and time travel. 

I believe there is life on other planets. It would not surprise me if every rocky planet in our own little solar system had the chemical building blocks for life in their rocks and dust. 

We, as in our solar system, and Earth, is out in the sticks of the Milky Way Galaxy.  I’m trying to find a cute way to describe it. If Earth was a galaxy we would be a possum on the beach at Crystal Cove, CA, or even a hermit crab, or more like a single grain of sand. We are that small and that obscure.

Radio waves that tend to fly across the universe are being watched in order to find like on other planets. But what if other life does not use radio waves? What if video killed their radio stars? What if…. What if they saw what assholes we are and decided to leave us alone?

I can hear them now saying, “What a beautiful planet, too bad it is covered with violent, hateful, destructive beings.”

“But what about the kittens, and dogs, and possums, and whales, and other cute creatures?”

“No problem. We’re taking some of them with us to help spread joy across the universe.”

I made the observation that black holes are sort of like the garbage disposals of the universe. You don’t want to put your hand down in one.  Teddy laughed out loud at that one.

I asked my husband how exactly gravity works. I had forgotten, as if I ever knew. He said it was centripetal force. But what if we stop. Will we all just fly off? Teddy laughed again. I’m seeing a pattern here. I should have gone into science comedy stand-up. 

Over the years I’ve blogged a lot about science, life on other planets, the beauty of the night, time travel, and other related subjects. I’ve even written science fiction stories. Seriously, look it up. I know this post isn’t that serious on the surface but if I still had any patience after the first eleven months of 2020 it could have been.

The Curse of Oak Island started on History Chanel again. Once again the boys draw out two hours of information into an entire TV season. At this point the only reason we watch the show is for the big crazy equipment and Gary’s accent. 

For those who might not know what Oak Island is I’ll give you a quick run down. Oak Island is a small island in Canada. For the past hundred or so year’s people have thought there are networks of tunnels underneath Oak Island, 

Rick, Marty and the Oak Island team are back for Season 8 in their quest to solve the 224-year old treasure mystery. They’ll do seismic testing, look for sunken ships and treasure, go diving in swamps, off the coast, and in tunnels, they’ll dig, they’ll be shocked and surprised. After eight years and who knows how many millions of dollars they’ve found a lot of wood, a bunch of structures, some buttons, lots of metal scraps such as nails, old hinges, and a few coins, plus a Templar cross made of lead. Last night they found an old Chinese coin. 

I told my husband that if I dug a huge hole in my backyard that I would also find buttons, an old Chinese coin, pieces of iron, nails, and maybe the Holy Grail. 

I’ll drop in occasionally to see if they do find anything this year but I won’t be a rabid fan. Sorry boys but this is turning into a bad date if you know what I mean. OK you don’t know what I mean. Just use your imagination. I’m bored watching a bunch of rich guys play in the mud.

Covid 19 is still raging on making things difficult for everyone, including Vampires. We just had an election and now are dealing with the most insane fall out since the atomic testing in the 1950’s. Museums in my area are closing back up tomorrow after a brief two month opening. Tragically the people in Paradise and other fire disasters still aren’t getting the help they need. But like the aliens who don’t like us said, “they still have cute, and some pretty good music, and great food.”

  • Have fun
  • Wear a mask
  • Stay safe
  • Stay curious
  • Don’t be a dick
  • Don’t embrace ignorance
  • Talk to your kids
  • Listen to your children
  • Check in on those who might need extra help
  • Kiss a Vampire
  • Embrace cuteness

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Random Survey #2: Leisure Time

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Welcome to RANDOM SURVEY TIME.

What do you do in your leisure time? Do you have a hobby? How about an activity you enjoy?

Answer today’s RANDOM SURVEY and feel free to leave your own answer in the comments.

Do me a favor and PLEASE answer the survey. Your answer and name won’t be sent to a secret data base or be sold to vile people who call you randomly saying they’re from the IRS.

So let us know if you like to bake, or hike, or do something else interesting.

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habit-5-6

How about making the shooting range a leisure time habit?

Remember to answer the survey, leave a comment, and go have fun.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

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Short Story Sunday: The Time Travelers

Tangled Tales

The Time Travelers

Carefully opening the package, Theo discovered a formerly unknown packet of love letters between Thomas Jefferson and the wife of one of his best friends. Unknown to the modern world. Everyone back then had known, well almost everyone who knew the couple. They were just too polite to say anything.

The paper was still in good condition and the ink strong. “Very good,” he said to himself. Dealing in old documents and antiques could be tricky if you didn’t know what was real and what was not. He always knew what was real.

As he gently lifted the old letters back into the box there was a sudden flash of light and a beautiful woman in jeans and a sweater suddenly appeared before him.

“Theo? Darling, what are you doing here?” The woman seemed surprised to see him. Well damn, he was equally surprised. It was almost 3:00 a.m. and his shop was closed for the Thanksgiving holiday week.

He looked her up and down. Tall, pretty, sort of out of place. No, really out of place. “This is my place of business. Do I know you?”

“You’re… are you a time traveler too? You didn’t tell me? Did you get here on the Tardis?” She gave a little laugh like they were old buddies with an inside joke.

Theo was not amused. “What are you talking about? What is the Tardis?”

She rolled her eyes and smiled. “Dr. Who. His time machine. You know the 250th Anniversary.”

“Oh right. The 50th anniversary or something like that. I don’t watch it. Never did. You need to leave.”

She stepped towards him and smiled that dazzling smile of hers again. “How did you get here?”

Theo was not amused. “I’m sorry, I thought I made it clear that I’m no fan of Dr. Who. You need to go right now. I’ve had enough of your deranged game.”

She took another step forward. “Then how did you go from being in 2318 back to 2018? That’s three hundred years.”

“So I know you in the future?”

“We’re lovers. Don’t you remember?”

He didn’t remember. But it suddenly dawned on him where she had come from and why she was there. “I haven’t been there yet,” he quietly told her.

She wasn’t the first time traveler he’d run across in his 465 years, but this is the first time he’d encountered her.

“What is your name?” He asked her as he stepped closer.

“Laura. How could you not know?”

“This is as far as I’ve come my dear. I can’t travel to the future.”

She looked confused. “You’re in the past Theo.”

“My present. You don’t know do you? In the future we’re still hiding who we really are. Laura are we in a relationship of the heart or is it just a physical thing?”

Her eyes watered up. “Theo, don’t do this.”

“Laura, do you know what I am?”

“You’re the man I’m falling in love with.”

“I’m the man who will take what he needs and either leave you or kill you. My advice would be to change time and let me be.”

A tear rolled down her beautiful face. “No. How did you get here.”

“The question should be how did I get THERE. Laura.” He whispered her name and stepped closer. “I’m sorry it has to be this way.”

He kissed her than moved to her neck. He could taste unknown drugs of the future in her system, no doubt something to help with the effects of time travel or stress. He could read her memories of their affair. It was a strange time. Time Travelers always had memories that were confusing and somewhat ignorant. What they knew of the past was almost always based on fantasy and what they wanted it to be, not what it really had been.

Looking down on the sleeping woman, Theo thought that she must be intelligent to be part of a Time Travel program, but emotionally she was like a teenage girl all full of fluttery ideas and dreams of romance. He’d never fall in love with her.

Yawning, he looked at the clock to realize dawn was almost here. Time to sleep. “I’m the ultimate time traveler. A Vampire dear. I only go forward. Until we meet again.” Then he kissed her gently and left her alone to return to her own time and his future.

 

End

Antique Pocket Watch With A Heart

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

The Big Picture

When my daughter was about five or six years old she came up with a practical approach to Time Travel.

“When I grow up I’m going to invent a time machine. It will be red, and it will fold up flat so I can take it with me wherever I go. Nobody will be able to steal it,” she said.

Little Clara always saw the big picture, even as a small child. She is in college now and still gets the big picture, but now finds herself right in the middle of the big picture. Yes, she is registered to vote. All of her friends are registered to vote. All of their siblings are registered to vote. They’re young but they get it. They see a world outside of their college classes, friends, romances, and family.

We’re all in sort of a one way time machine, especially if you’re a Vampire or other long lived person. We can’t change the past but the opportunity to learn from it is always there. On the other hand the opportunity to be extremely embarrassed is also there but that is another blog post.

My Great Great Great Great Great Grandmama Lola is staying with me for the next week. She usually lives in a cottage along the Sacramento River Road, but it is in a state of renovation at the moment. I don’t mind. I love my Lola. She raised my father, along with countless others who needed raising, including her own long gone children.

Lola was born on October 25, 1343, the exact same day and year as Geoffrey Chaucer. She isn’t the oldest Vampire around, but she is one of the most interesting. I don’t even care anymore if her stories are the truth, half truths, or even lies. Even with the lies there is always some truth in there somewhere, a fact that separates old Vampires from politicians.

“I never go back into the past. I only move forward”, said Lola as she sat at my kitchen table. She was wearing jeans and a sweater, with her long wavy hair over her shoulders, looking like a stylish young women in her mid-twenties. “Things get too ugly and troublesome, and dirty. Yes, dirty. The world used to be such a dirty place. Still is in some aspects, but when you don’t have running water…” She stopped and took a sip of coffee. Rubbing her leg where the Vampire Hunters burned her about six years ago she looks up at me. “You allow me to move forward, even when everything in my past, and everyone in my past tends to pull me back. You don’t consider anyone obsolete.”

“We grow, we change, we reinvent ourselves and if we’re smart we hold tight to the fire and passion that burns inside of us, deep down in hidden away small spaces,” I said.

“You’ve become so…profound,” she said sitting up and holding her coffee cup again.

“Only when I’m not making bad puns,” I said.

She has seen horrors and experienced so many bad things. When I do bring up things it is only the good things, unless she wants to talk about not so good things. But for the most part we look forward.

If Time Travelers do poke around with their stolen technology and brash arrogance we will deal with them, and keep off of their weird machines. In the meantime, I think it is time for more coffee and maybe even some gossip, far away from the Big Picture and far away from the past.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

Short Story: Hollow Heads

Hollow Heads

A Science Fiction Story

 

Sure we all volunteered with a capitol V but we didn’t know we’d be stuck a billion miles from home with a bunch of assholes.

Our plan was to stop at Planet 2387 before we made communication with our target planet. 2387 is an uninhabited wasteland. There might have been the rudiments of life there at one time but that ship had come and gone.

So we land at what was left of the Emile Hanson Memorial Outpost, otherwise known as Hanson’s Hole. I looked up Hanson’s name before we left home. He’d been the captain of the third Mars mission. You know, the one whose head exploded when he ran into a couple of guys from Europa, but that was a long time ago. That was almost three hundred years ago, long before I was born.

On the wall of the main building of Hanson’s Hole the words, “Welcome to Hell” were scrawled in what looked like blood.

Junior Potemkin, the communications officer, if you could call him that, started to hyperventilate. I slapped him in the back and told him to stop it. Captain John Finch our leader, rolled his eyes, and told us start testing for signs of life. I called my lead science officer and went exploring.

We’d only heard of this place. Nobody was sure even who’d been here in the past, or exactly what their mission was. We were looking at a ghost. And while the rest of the crew stood shaking in their gravity boots I started to explore. I didn’t travel twenty light years away from home to pee my pants over some extraterrestrial graffiti.

I’ll tell you, when I signed up for this gig, last minute of course, I found myself with the lamest group of space travelers ever assembled. Sure they were all smart and looked good on paper. Everyone had advanced degrees and shit loads of experience. But the experience was in the lab and on paper. Nobody had field experience or people experience aside from the Captain or me.

Potemkin was an expert in written communications but couldn’t carry on a conversation if his life depended on it. Our lead engineer Thomas K. Morgan was one of those insidious geeks who corrected everyone on every single word they said. Morgan’s favorite line in any conversation was, “actually” fill in the blank with his expert opinion, which was usually bullshit or worthless trivia. After we were out of the solar system Captain Finch told Morgan that he’d throw him out into space without a suit if he didn’t cut it out.

The rest of the group included a guy called Boof who thought he was channeling Flash Gordon, an antisocial hermit of a physicist who asked to be called X, and a pair of identical twins I called Satan’s Daughters. The twins, Vera and Meera, were sneaky little shits who talked at the same time and were never seen away from each other. They were brought on as some sort of geology experts, you know, dirt and rocks as they liked to remind everyone as they cackled like witches as if that was funny. They were dirt and rocks as far as I was concerned. The rest of the crew was bland, mean spirited, and aside from the Captain had no imagination what so ever.

So I’m looking at the writing on the wall and wondering what in the world, and who in the world had written it. I felt someone rub my shoulder and looked over to see Boof standing there expecting me to be Dale Arden to his Flash Gordon. Give me a break. He looks good but no. Absolutely no.

“Boof,” I said looking up at the leafy blue green canopy of plants (I assume they were maybe once plants) around the building. “Let’s take a look inside.”

He gave me a great big blinding white smile and knocked the door open with his foot. Boof wasn’t carrying a ray gun, but it wasn’t because we’re a couple of scientists with seven degrees between the two of us. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t like scientists or people with degrees can’t be badass. We just didn’t have any weapons with us.

The interior was dark. Not like no lights, because there was a skylight, but because obviously the interior decorator of this forgotten outpost either had a stack of 1980’s Architectural Digest Magazines handy for inspiration, or he was into all things Gothic.

“Looks like vampires live here,” said Boof.

I gave an uncomfortable laugh and tried to be serious, that is until the music started to play. I couldn’t figure out where the music was coming from. The sound was sort of like it was coming out of a metal tunnel. A man was singing in sort of a strange high voice, but it sounded kind of nice.

 

You’re just a little bit of sunshine when it’s raining,

You’re just a little bit of gladness when I’m blue,

You’re just a little bit of love light that keeps shining,

And when it’s cloudy, you’re a silver lining.

 

“Radio Franks. You’re Just A Little Bit of Everything I Love,” said Boof.

I looked straight ahead at a slowly moving shadow. “How do you know that Boof?”

“I like early 20th Century music,” he answered, his eyes also on the shadow.

“Sing me something from the late 21st Century. You know the one, about the alien romance, ruby skin.”

Boof started to sing quietly in a surprisingly beautiful tenor.

 

Your DNA plays around,

Like a silken ghost,

Worlds apart are we.

 

Flying higher

Flying higher

Flying higher

Reach the stars

 

Ruby skin, emerald eyes,

Heaven between

Hot alien thighs.

 

Flying higher

Flying higher

Flying higher

Reach the stars

 

“I hate that song,” I said taking a slow step forward. “You changed the lyrics.”

“Yes, I did change the lyrics, and yes I hate it too. Do you sing?”

“Only in the shower.”

“Can I join you?”

“Only in your dreams.”

“Let’s sleep then, shall we,” Boof said in almost a whisper as we slowly walked towards the shadow.

 

The shadow moved, in what looked like the shape of a human hand, then stupidity happened. A tremendous scraping sound, sent us turning backwards to see Garland Holbright, one the Earth’s most famous journalists, come along to document our journey for the ages. Every living Earthling knew who the man was, and Garland never let us forget.

Garland had opened the door in the wrong direction, throwing it off of it’s tracks.

“Find anything yet?” Garland called out loudly as he propped the door up against a wall.

The shadow vanished.

“God Damn you Holbright. You’re such an asshole,” said Boof, as I grabbed him by his jacket and held him back.

Garland Holbright was what we (not me, everyone else) called a Frank, short for Frankenstein. He was one of those kids who’s parents had custom ordered him from a cocktail of perfect DNA so he’d be brilliant and exceptionally good looking. Sure his IQ was off the charts and he was good at taking tests. Sure on a scale of one to ten in looks Garland was a seventeen, but where he excelled in trivia and Prince Charming handsomeness he lacked in creativity and personality. The guy was an insufferable bore with an ego the size of Jupiter.

Sure we’d all had genetic modifications for long term space travel. Our respiratory systems, muscular growth, and bone density had all been tweaked. A few of us, including me, had a few personal tweaks as well. My eyes are now a little brighter shade of hazel, and my hair is finally grows model perfect. That said, I’d like to think that you always get better babies with natural random DNA selection.

Boof and Garland had gotten into it the night before. Garland had convinced a friend to hack into the personnel logs and found out that Boof was created by a couple of teenagers one hot summer night in the back seat of a self driving solar convertible.

“Silence,” I said in one of those loud mom-like whispers. “Both of you. Garland, we are not alone.”

Garland formed an O with his mouth in surprise. I knew the guy was deathly afraid of aliens. Go figure. He goes on a space mission but he is afraid of anything that isn’t human, or maybe a dog.

While I was getting ready to rip Garland a new one Boof grabbed my arm.

“Timothy Leary is not dead,” he said right in my ear, so close I could feel his hot breath. I shook my head to get him away from me.

I wondered why Boof was making a reference to the 20th Century Philosopher. Thank goodness he didn’t start singing that song. What was that group? Moody Crew? No, I think it was Moody Blues. I’d been spending way too much time with Boof. I swore between Boof and Garland I felt like my head was going to explode.

Then I turned around and there before us stood Pilot Tim Leary from the Space Explorer 23 Dog Star Mission. According to records, and Wikipedia, he’d died years ago, before I was even born. When I was a kid he was one of my idols.

Leary held out his arms in a welcoming gesture and with a wide grin said, “Welcome to Hanson’s Hole!”

“Captain Leary?” I asked, stepping forward to introduce my team and myself. “Chief Officer Gwendolyn Ward of the Research Ship the DeGrasse Tyson. These gentlemen are Science Specialist First Class Boof Errikson, and Garland Holbright, a journalist for International Geographic.

“An award winning journalist,” said Garland holding out his hand to Leary.

I kicked Boof in the ankle to prevent him from doing anything stupid. I let Garland have his bit of ego masturbation before I found out what was going on with Leary.

Leary took me by the arm as he walked and talked me into a much larger room that resembled an intergalactic art museum with comfortable seating. “I see your ship was named after the 48th President of the United States. A good omen there. My ship was called “The Dog Star.” I like dogs and all, I have a couple around here somewhere, but, I’ll tell you, it was a dog of a ship. Holy space shit, that thing was as bad as 2213 GM Sasquatch. Remember those? Do you like to be called Gwendolyn or Gwen?”

“Gwendolyn please. You’re alive.”

“Yes, very much so,” he said with a dashing smile as he patted my arm.

“But your body was found. DNA matched yours. There was no mistake. There is a huge memorial in Washington D.C.”

“And I’m honored at the thought, but obviously I’m still alive. I am indeed Commander Timothy Leary of the Dog Star.”

“But…” I started

“Do you know much about clones Gwen, Gentlemen?”

“Holbrook is a clone,” said Boof.

“I am not a clone,” said Garland.

“Gentlemen…” I hissed at them.

“You’re a freak Holbrook,” said Boof.

Garland threw his shoulders back. “You’re nothing but degenerate pod shelter trash.”

I’d had enough. “Boof, Garland, NOW.” I turned back to our host, “Captain Leary, the time line wouldn’t make sense. All of your bodies were found and brought back to earth. How do you explain that?”

Leary smiled again. “None of us wanted to go back so we cloned ourselves.”

“If you cloned yourselves, wait, your bodies were found a month after you landed here. It would have taken at least twelve years to have a fully grown human body.”

Leary motioned to the plush red chairs in the room. “Sit and make yourselves comfortable. I’ll tell you all about it.” We sat, and Leary told us an extraordinary story. “Once we had the Time Machine it seemed like we could steal anything we needed. Where do you think all of this art came from? Anyway, we stole an advanced cloning lab from the Dingus V Planet Chain. Nobody there has had fertile sex in centuries. They can’t, so they clone. Sad story, but shit happens.

Listen, none of us wanted to go back to our mission or Earth. We also didn’t want anyone looking for us. With the technology from Dingus V we were able to clone fully formed human bodies in thirty-six Earth hours. Thirty-six fucking hours. Unheard of. We programmed our clones to be without working brains. We called them the hollow heads. Once our clones were grown we smashed their empty heads in and called it a day. No brains, no souls, just lab grown flesh.”

“Wait,” said Garland. “You had a time machine?”

Leary smiled and shook his head in a definite yes. “I knew you’d ask. It is an amazing machine that jumps both time and space.”

“Space portal travel I can believe, but Time Travel is illegal universally, said Garland.

“That doesn’t mean it I can’t do it. I went forward because I don’t like the people I was with. I’m only here at Hanson’s Hole because I needed an additional respite from, well, everything. What are you doing here? Space Jumping I assume, but what is your mission. Nobody stops at Hanson’s Hole.”

I explained our mission as Leary listened intently.

Holbrook held up a finger and gave an artificially inquisitive look. “Why does it say Welcome to Hell in blood on the door of the compound?”

Leary shrugged. “I have no idea. It was there when I got here a few weeks ago. I just haven’t had the time or the paint to fix it.”

After more discussions about Leary’s adventures we returned to our own ship. I knew exactly what Leary was talking about when he said he was tired of annoying people.

Vera and Meera, the evil twins, came giggling and snorting into my office.

I motioned for them to sit. They both sat down and crossed their bony legs in unison. “Do you have the updated geology reports?”

Vera was the first to respond. “The soil acidity has doubled from the last time measurements were taken fifty years ago.”

“Fifty years ago,” said Meera.

Vera continued. “We also detected new volcanic activity. Are you having sex with Boof?”

Meera then spoke again, right on the tail of her sister. “Are you having sex with Boof? Was it good? Positively volcanic?”

“Volcanic. We know you are,” said Vera.

Meera started to laugh, a high pitched crow like cackle, then she started to snort. Then Vera joined in.

“Insubordination is not to be tolerated on this ship. If you ladies continue your immature behavior I will make sure you’re dropped off at the next supply station. You will receive no letters of recommendation, and I guarantee you will have to find your own way home, at your own expense. Capiche?”

“Yes, of course,” they said in unison. It almost sounded like they had an echo to their words.

“Thank you for the report. I’ll review it thoroughly.” I said motioning with my hand for them to leave.

After they’d Holbrook put his head in the door. “Do you want to have dinner later? This isn’t romantic, of course…”

I cut him off. “No.”

“Is there something going on between you and Boof?”

“No. Jesus, Garland, I’m having dinner with Caption Finch. A working dinner.”

As soon as he left a message came on the screen from Boof.

Hey Baby, do you want to see stars tonight?

I deleted the message.

The entire trip had been like the set-up from a bad bodice ripper romance, but without any sex or bodice ripping. You know the story. The heroine is caught between two potential lovers. One is dark haired, gorgeous, with impeccable breeding, and insanely rich. The other is blond, gorgeous, insanely smart, and grew up more or less a street urchin in a block of government run shelter pods. Who should our heroine choose? One will eventually betray her as the other one rescues her, but she won’t know until it happens. Screw that. I didn’t have time for it.

I took the clip out of my hair and shook out letting it fall to my shoulders. Thank goodness for planets with normal gravity. I remember reading about the days when the idea of women being in space seemed ridiculous. The excuse was always something about hair, periods, sex, temptations, strength and peeing. Seriously, one does not need a penis, or a hairy chest to travel in space. Thank goodness for Nichelle Nichols. I was so glad to see her on the one-dollar coin last year. I remember reading the emails of my great-great-grandmother telling my father about when she met Sally Ride. I can’t even imagine.

Over the next few days Captain Finch and I tasked our crew with collecting data, and ship maintenance. Our engineer Morgan questioned everything we asked him to do. He claimed inspections were not necessary. He went on about how his qualifications were better than anyone on the ship, and bragged about his superior intelligence whenever I requested a progress report.

Our physics team, headed up by a guy named Dex Harland, who insisted on being called just “X” decided that we were all going to be eaten by mutant aliens and refused to leave the ship. They spread the word through the crew that Timothy Leary was going to drug them and feed them to giant spiders or some sort of shit along those lines. It was as if the entire crew had gone insane.

I asked one of our two our medical officers about it and he told me that he was writing a screenplay about a murder on a space barge couldn’t give a rat’s ass about our mission. His name was Dr. Charles Young. He only took the job to get out of paying child support for four different women and six kids on three planets. Our sane medical crew member, Dr. Sashie Vern, took my arm and asked if I wanted to get coffee. In the empty crew lounge she begged me to keep Dr. Jay away from her due to his incompetence and creepiness.

On our last supply stop, Hawk Donaldson, a popular member of our Engineering group had a one night stand with a Trasidain female. Trasidian’s are beautiful human like creatures with iridescent pink skin, and several more pleasure seeking orifices than Earthlings. Unfortunately Trasidains also have horrible parasites, which there is no cure for except the death of the host.

Hawk contracted a large number of the parasites and was in excruciating pain as the bugs ate him from the inside out. On his request Dr. Sashie put him into a medically induced coma until his death thirty four hours later. His body, along with the bugs, was cremated and blasted into space.

After Hawk’s death Dr. Sashie wondered why most of the crew members refused to see her for regular check ups or even acknowledge her existence. I should have guessed what Dr. Sashie told me. Dr. Jay had told everyone that Dr. Sashie was incompetent and had caused Hawk’s death.

I went back to confront Dr. Jay and he just smirked.

“I’m entitled to my opinion,” he said with a shit eating grin. I wrote him up for spreading false information and confined him to his room when he was not on duty. The following day rumors spread that I was sleeping with Captain Finch, which was odd considering Finch is gay. I knew it was Dr. Jay.

As I made my rounds that day I realized that our crew, due to the nasty mix of passive aggressive cockroaches and over inflated egos was completely shutting down as a functional team.

The Engineering Group all shaved their heads and wore goggles because they decided that they did not want Garland Holbrook writing about them. Their reasoning was that if they all looked alike then Holbrook would get confused and leave them alone.

Poor Junior Potemkin, our painfully shy communications officer was being bullied by a Data Wrangler named Bambi Von Grob. She would sit next to Potemkin and make snorting noises, suck up snot in her nose, cough, loudly chew crunchy food hours on end, pound on her work station. In retaliation to his complaints she innocently told everyone on board that she was a victim of Junior Potemkin’s bullying.

I could go on for hours about the adolescent behavior of the crew. It seemed that most of my day was spent listening to complaints, breaking up fights, and telling crew members to act like adults.

With six months into our mission, and five years to go, I didn’t know how Captain Finch and I were going to handle this. I loved my job. I loved exploration. I loved the science, but I hated almost everyone on board of our ship.

Boof and I continued to visit Tim Leary. He told us a lot of tall tales but was stingy with any technical information. He said he’d always been more of a manager rather than a scientist. He’d joke that he should have been a stand-up-comic, even thought he didn’t really say anything funny.

One night at dinner, with a nice view of the three aligned moons of the planet, the Captain vented for about an hour about the crew. Boof, Garland, and Dr. Sashie Vern had joined us as the highest ranking crewmembers.

Captain Finch had an announcement for us. “I’ve done some research and come to a realization that we were given a crew of rejects of the highest order.”

“You think?” Boof said with a disgusted look.

“Our mission is longer than usual with extensive isolated periods and difficult Space Jumps. I asked for an experienced crew of individuals with solid science experience, and technical expertise. What I ended up with was a crew of people that nobody else wanted,” said Finch.

I added to his thoughts, “We asked for the best of the best, and in turn, present company aside, we got the worst of the worst. Come to think of it, Boof, Sashi and I were the only three you personally interviewed.”

“Sad but true,” said Finch.”But we’re stuck with what we have. We’ll make the best of it.” I noticed Captain Finch looked unusually tired and sad, as if someone had died.

“Now what? Behavior modification or bull shit team building at the next supply spot isn’t going to fix anything,” said Sashie.

Garland Holbrook poured another glass of wine and smiled. “Clone most of the crew and leave them there. Then we can have a perfect crew. They have the facilities right here for high speed clone creation.”

“How would that work?” Asked Dr. Sashie.

“Leary and his crew stole the technology from the Glanidians who use semi-brainless clones for off planet mining and prostitution. It’s cheaper than robots, and biological clones are more reliable,” said Garland.

“But you have to feed them,” said Boof. “How can that be more reliable?”

Garland smiled. “No, they eat themselves. They don’t even know it. You know, Clone Nuggets.”

“That is horrible,” said Sashie.

“Yes it is but it isn’t what Leary and his crew did,” said Garland. “Not Clone Nuggets, but clones. They made clones of themselves. We could make clones of our crew.”

 “Eventually we’d have to land somewhere and we’d be found out,” said Captain Finch.

“You don’t get it. We will clone the crew, but tweak the genetic codes so that they’ll have more pleasant personalities. We’ll make them brilliant but downright sweet, and completely bland. I know Gwendolyn and Boof could do it,” said Garland. “You both have studied genetics and personality modifications for violent and anti social prisoners on off planet penal colonies.”

I had to speak up. “It will take an extra week depending on how many clones we’re going to make. I spoke with the Evil Twins today and they estimated a major volcanic explosion within the next month. If it blows it will take out all life within five hundred miles of Leary’s clubhouse.”

Then we all sat, nobody asking the questions we all wanted the answer for.

There was a knock on the door. Tim Leary stood there in a black tuxedo, holding three bottles of wine in his arms.  “Your mission reminds me of a story my Great Great Grammy used to tell me. A long time ago when she was a little girl there used to be a huge store called Ickyah. People would flock to it to be unassembled furniture because it felt good if you built stuff yourself. The buyer would get home with instructions that said it would take two hours to build your bed frame and nightstand. Fifty hours later maybe the bed would be done and the nightstand drawer assembled. Another twenty hours everything would be complete with the help of additional duck tape and a lot of swearing.”

“Leary,” I said. “What does that have to do with your mission?”

“That’s what it is like living here. Everything was supposed to be easy. Self contained they said.  But it wasn’t. Fortunately I have a lot of duck tape. I still have that fast acting cloning machine. I’ll let you use it.”

“That is out of the question. We all took ethics oaths to protect our crew,” said Captain Finch.

“I didn’t,” said Holbrook.

 

We spend the rest of the night bitching about the rest of the crew. After everyone realized that we had more shit-for-brains stories than we could tell in one night. My brain was so agitated that there was no way I could get any sleep so I took a stroll under the three moons of Planet 2387.

“You need a real name,” I said aloud as I scanned the horizon.

“It has a name. Atropos.” I turned to see Garland Holbrook standing next to me. I didn’t even hear him coming. “She was one of the three Fates. Atropos was the one who would decide how long one’s life line was. She’d also choose how one died,”

“Why’d you come on this mission? You could have any job you wanted,” I said.

“Captain Finch is the best. None of us could have predicted the bait and switch with the crew. Think about it. If we had the original crew this would be a perfect science mission.”

This was new to me. “Original crew? Garland, what are you talking about?”

“You don’t know do you? They were finishing up in Florida on their last mission. This was before you and Boof were interviewed.”

I was almost in shock. My entire body went numb. Over a thousand souls were lost in a terrorist attack at the National Space Science Research compound. Religious fundamentalists fire bombed the place. No wonder Captain Finch took whatever crew was assigned him. The man must have been in deep mourning. Why didn’t anyone tell me? Why didn’t I figure it out?”

“Garland, could we get Tim Leary to go back in time and…”

“You know it doesn’t work that way. When you go back in time you can change whatever you want but it won’t change the future. Your changes spin off into an alternate thread of time that eventually fades away.”

“Sure, I forgot. I knew some of the people who died. I had no idea they were signed up with Finch’s next mission. No idea.”

I turned and headed off towards the Welcome to Hell door. I wanted to talk to Leary.

As I took my first step Garland grabbed my hand, twirled me around and kissed me. If I thought my head was spinning before, it was spinning even more now.

“I know you’re attracted to me. I know you’re attracted to Boof. May the best man win, and you know I’m the best man,” said Garland as he kissed me again.

“Let’s go talk to Leary,” I said as I tried to catch my breath for the second time .

 

Three weeks later we left Planet 2387. Leary took off in his time machine a week before we blasted off. From our ship we watched (at a great distance) the massive volcano blow up a good portion of the planet’s crust.

Junior Potemkin came into my office and thanked me for helping him out. I wasn’t sure what he was talking about.

“Everyone is so nice now,” he said slowly choosing the words. “It is as if they were all replaced with clones, or something.” Then he laughed uncomfortably. “That would have been weird.”

I smiled and told him that I was glad he was happy now. I truly was.

~ end

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman