Days were lost in the vibrant hum of machinery. Rings floated from paper, chained in a pleasant melody of different shapes and colors. Purples, blues, and reds churned into new concoctions. The feint sound of Vivaldi wafted from a set of speakers in the corner of the lab as equations burst forth in a crescendo of exuberance only to fall quickly in the sense of quiet reality. Suspense and anticipation rose with every test. Nothing was more beautiful than discovery, fatherhood of abstraction and eternal life.

‘Heather,’  the sense of enchantment faded slightly. ‘Is the shaker ready?”

Julian’s lab partner, an equally passionate and intelligent woman grabbed the test tube from the table without prompting. Both were enchanted composers.

“Let’s do this.”

Julian chuckled.


Heather smiled warmly. The work continued to enthrall even after months of perseverance. Research was a measured master.

The shaker rattled. Chemicals turned into potions before the alchemists eyes. Perhaps this concoction would be better, this tweak would be satisfactory. It would be another day before the two could even start to understand their new compound.

Testing day. The coffee tested same. The routine never changed. Julian pulled up to the loud speaker of his favorite fast food restaurant.

“I’ll have an egg sandwich.”

The soft texture and warmth were comforting. Park, grab the badge, walk into the stark interior of the university laboratory. It was just another day. Julian hated how confident he had become in the continuation of his research. He needed something to keep him on edge.

Heather was always early.  She became accustomed to waking up with the sun while growing up on a farm. A few students scattered throughout the lab prepared monitors and cages for the test subjects.

On a hunch, the rats were split into three groups. Aside from the control group and one afflicted with Huntington’s disease, a group of healthy rodents was also set to receive the new elixir. Hopefully, the diseased rodents would show signs of improvement in the coming days. . It would take at least a weak for the data to form a pattern.

Every Thursday, Julian sat at his laptop responding to emails and taking care of clerical work. He monotonously plodded on. It seemed that undergraduate students would do anything to get out of actual work.

The door to his office, slamming against the wall.

“Jesus!” Julian turned to see who had entered, half expecting to see a student.


“You’re going to want to see this. It is working.”


“It’s better than expected. They want to try it on humans!”


“The afflicted group is showing massive signs of improvement. There is a catch. It seems to improve cognitive awareness equally well.”

“Dammit. One of our grants is with the military.”

The DARPA grant was one of the main reasons their research continued.

The desert was an inhospitable place. High temperatures, hostile civilians, patrols in heavy, somewhat useless clothing. Joe kissed a a picture of his wife and brother with Huntington’s disease whom she took care of. They couldn’t afford in-home care or the new medicine that promised to help temporarily reverse cell degeneration. The actual concoction was supposed to be the cheapest on the market but his brother would likely be dead within a few years.

“Ready sergeant?” A scrawny private asked.

“Let’s go. Command gave us some pills that are supposed to help with.”

“Have you tried them?”

“Yes.” Joe lied but took his pill anyway. The rest of the marines followed suit.

Baijah was a backwards place. The buildings were easily comparable to the beaten down one room shacks found in the back woods and ghettos of Arkansas. Everyone was on edge. Poor, desperate, and indoctrinated. These were the perfect people to turn into hostiles. The soldiers eyed the walls and roofs suspiciously.

The barricade wasn’t surprising. A few burning buses, enough to stop the convoy of joint light tactical vehicles. Bullets pinged off the specialized plates. The company specialized grabbed the controls to the remote turret and started to suppress the enemy.

Room clearing. Joe barked orders. Something felt different. Even with the instinct instilled by basic and continual training, everyone was more alert.

The group entered the third building intact. The entryway was pitch black but something was amiss. Out of the corner of his eye, Joe spotted a small slot no larger than a can of Bud. He took aim as his soldiers walked into the room. The first shot from the AK-47 whizzed off of the side of a privates helmet and Joe fired a perfect salvo at the hole. The tip of the gun protruded loosely from the wall.

The private, who would normally be seriously wounded shot Joe a quick glance.

“Freaking pills.” He blurted out.

Julian’s new vehicle was somewhat of a spectacle at his new gig. Headquarters was set in an old industrial building not unlike a strip mall. Julian and Heather were a success story to the newly graduated PHDs. The university was happy to take a portion and let their work continue.

The chemist’s parked in his front row spot, grabbed his breakfast sandwich and walked into Paladine Enterprises where Heather stood talking to a potential employee.

“Julian, we have another order from the army.”

The candidate’s eyes narrowed with keen interest.



An examination of modern tribalism from the perspective of a middle of the road outcast. The main character was chosen as a good representation of how far this country has gone towards separation in some regards and not of myself, obviously.

The alarm roused Kelly to another summer day in Tuscon. June was always cringe-worthily hot.

Kelly looked longingly at her pillow longing for the connection of a relationship. At 30, she could feel the need for a human connection and her chances sinking further into the deep. All she wanted to do was sleep.

Her roommate scuffled down the hallway towards the bathroom.

“Again, Jennifer?”

Outside, steam wafted from the streets and sidewalk despite the illusion of neatly pruned trees supplied by water from another state. People hustled to their air conditioned vehicles.

Kelly glanced quizzically at her phone, a slew of rescheduled interviews and questions having nothing to do with their related job postings filled the screen. She could find work in a matter of weeks only a few years ago. They praised her veteran status and pondered why a former MP would not join the police. Now, she started to wonder if her friend’s idea of starting a consultancy was  a good idea.

At last, she heard the bathroom door open and gradually pulled herself into the monotony of another day.

“Happy pride, ” Jennifer smiled,


Kelly looked down at her new uniform. After writing systems for six years, graduating from college in two, and serving another two in the military, this was her fate. She had far surpassed some of the skills desired by her first employer but, because of perception, was given the option of severance or termination.

Of course, aside from one last visage of her past, the mirror did not show a man. Her less than chiseled face and figure were a sense of relief.

Work  itself was another reprieve. Kelly picked up her loaded van, not missing her days as a loader, planned her route, and plugged her phone into the cigarette lighter. Static-X’s Destroyer blared from her headphones. Get the slip, run, repeat, destroyer. No one seemed to notice.

The day flew by with barely a glare until six p.m. when her phone started to reverberate with the intensity of a bumble bee.


“I need a drink. You in?”


“30 minutes, same old spot.”

Jennifer always seemed to know the exact time she returned her van, clean of course. It was practically annoying.

The Stoic was a typically quiet LGBTQ hangout. Most people kept to themselves except for the occasional flirtation lobbed at Jennifer. The bar’s low profile, stately rounded green doors, caged windows, and beaten wooden sign kept most of the night club scene away. On this day, however, the Stoic was bursting at the seems with the addition of a few extra patrons scattered around the establishment.


Jennifer sat at the partially full bar sipping a whiskey, the dim light partially obscuring her face.

“Any plans for tonight?”

“Ultra-Sonic is playing downtown. Want to go?”

“Yep.” Kelly turned to the attentive bartender. “Vodka tonic.”

“Drinking today?”

“Just the one.”

No one seemed to notice the loud thud of the bar door.

“You don’t belong here!”

Kelly shot a glance at the bartender who looked as puzzled as she was.

“Your kind are going to hell!”

Jennifer slowly mouthed the word shit, grabbing Kelly by the arm. The entrance was blocked by several men with shaved heads, wearing white suit shirts, ties, and black pants. Their flamboyant leader was a tall, large man with the look of the devil.

“Fuck.” The bartender reached for the phone. “LEAVE!”

Kelly made out the typical cries of the alt right just outside the bar. Their love of hellfire rang up from half the block.

“We have a right to be here. This is America!”

A few younger patrons stood to confront the men.

“Why do you need to do this!”

“Cuck! You have no right to wear that. We’re sick of this horseshit!”

The Nazi pointed to the young patrons antifa armband.

“If you wouldn’t have worn that. We might not be here!”


“If you weren’t such an ass, I wouldn’t wear it!”

This set the neo-Nazi off. His eyes filled with rage as he grabbed the younger man.

“Get your hands off me, ape!”

“Who are you calling ape!”

The large man swung at his nimble target as more people joined the fray.

Kelly was visibly shaking. The back exit was clogged with uneasy patrons. There was no escape.

A large baton emerged from a holster at the brute leaders side and something clicked in the woman’s head. Kelly raced to intervene before she could think, a holdover from her days subduing drunks and rowdy marines. Grabbing the baton she kneed the large man in the groin, causing the antifa member to subsequently fall to the floor as she placed the assailant in a well timed four point arrest. The other Nazis stared in disbelief.

“Damn Tr…” one started to blurt out before Kelly could stop him.

“We all just want some peace. Leave us alone.” Part of her glare veered towards the mess on the floor. “Let us do our thing and you do yours. This, this is America. Don’t hurt us, we won’t hurt you. That is freedom.”

The men didn’t seem to understand but the police were already making their way into the Stoic.

The same peaceful neighborhood awaited Kelly the next day.  It seemed odd how the stairway of her two story brick apartment was always much cooler than her room.

“Kelly?” A gentle voice asked. “We saw you in the news. That took some guts.”

Her elderly neighbor, a person whom a few years ago might have scorned her, pointed at the front page of the Tuscon Sentinel.  “Let us do our thing” the headline stated in bold letters as if placed for maximal effect.

The title was completely out of context. Kelly blared angrily at the misappropriation.

“That didn’t seem like you.” Her neighbor stated reassuringly. “It’s those damn fools with money. They ruin it for the rest of us.”

Kelly smiled.

“We all just want the same thing.”

“Don’t become that.” Here neighbor offered a stern warning.

Doodles: Encounter Part One

The explosion shook James awake as his ship rocked dangerously from side to side causing the bedside lamp to fall to the floor with a loud clang.

What the hell?

Another explosion forced the USS Swarm to sway even more violently. Were the Chinese finally attacking Taiwan?

The stealth destroyer’s automated turrets sputtered in the background, destroying what appeared to be dozens of incoming missiles.

James hurriedly pulled on his pants and grabbed his glasses before dashing into the hallway where the entire ship was in a panic. Sailors spilled out of their quarters, clinging to railings, some visibly sea sick. Others scampered by, barely noticing their commander as they hustled to their battle stations.

There wasn’t any sign of water coming from the bulkheads, yet. No wounded or cries for help.

James pulled himself up the ladder towards the bridge, preparing for whatever lay ahead.


The duty officer staggered forward grabbing at the steering console as another explosion rattled the hull.

“Are we hit?” James asked.

“No, not yet, we have a single hostile firing at us.”

James shot a glance towards the radar operator whose puzzled look was not reassuring.

“What have we got?”

“Unidentified object, within range of our rail guns. Maybe 50 miles out.”

That was too far for a cannon or torpedo.

“The helicopter didn’t report anything and the channel was too shallow for a submarine.”

Unless the Chinese were using cruise missiles, the chance it was the obvious war dwindled.

“Six more projectiles! Closing fast.”

“Dammit! Brace!” The duty officer screamed.


“Brace, sir!”

James grabbed the console as the turrets started to whine again.

How the hell are they within range already?

Again, James shot a look at the radar officer as if to ask what was happening. The lieutenant’s eyes filled with fright.

The force of five more explosions threw James against the console, knocking the wind out of him. He could feel his ribs as he slowly regained his composure, wheezing and nauseous but only with a dull ache. Desperately, he struggled to his feet.

“Counter-measures.” He coughed grabbing at the ships radio.

“This is the commander to the gun deck. Get the rail guns ready.”

The ship couldn’t take another impact. There was no time for rules and regulations.

“Target that object. Hit it with the rail guns. Ten shots!”

The tips of the twin electromagnetically propelled guns appeared in the bridge windows at a nearly perpendicular angle.

The radio cackled.


“Send One and Two”

The sound of thunder was proceeded by a plume of smoke and a directed jet of flame as the projectile burst out of the gun.

The process repeated.

“Send three and four…. send five and six….”

Even at mach 9, the projectiles took a moment to impact. Only as the last few projectiles were launched, were the first explosions visible.

“What the,” the duty officer pointed towards the sky. A large glow emanated from within a cloud in the direction of Hong Kong. “That’s not lightning”

The glow grew into a brilliantly blinding white light. A large slab of metal protruded from the cloud, falling to the sea like a feather. Secondary explosions rippled like lightning as more metal began drifting towards the ocean floor.

“Contact one, two, three, four…..” The radar officer trailed off.

“I think that is a splash.” James muttered in awe. “Get me a situation report. Are we able to make it to port? Get me Kao-hsuing harbor!”

It was then that another report came over the radio. The accent was unbelievable.

“Unidentified ship, this is Hongze Lake. What the hell was that?”

It was a Chinese voice, the English was not terrific but the cursing was real enough.

James grabbed the radio knowing that it meant his encrypted frequency was hijacked. If the Chinese had owned the ship they gave up a truly great advantage just to contact him.

“You tell me!”

“I assure you it was not us. Was it Indian? It was hovering near Hong Kong but it was not us.”

The Chinese commander blamed the only other country nearby with enough clout to build anything of such magnitude. Neither side could contemplate the physics required to build such a monstrosity. Even now, pieces rained down from the heavens in both Chinese and Taiwanese waters.

The duty officer tapped James on the shoulder.

“How are we looking?”

“Apparently a turret destroyed a projectile just above the ship. I think we need to get to port. 5 wounded, no dead, a large amount of damage to the bow. We won’t sink but it isn’t great.”

They would need to get to the newly leased naval base at the edge of the harbor.

Already, questions were floating through James’ head.

Were those aliens? Do they want the world’s two super powers to annihilate each other in a nuclear holocaust?

For years the United States and China jockeyed for position in the South China sea. Tensions were high but neither side wanted to compromise the lucrative yet fragile economic balance. The new cold war was barely even cold. It was a fight between two egos that, as before, would not risk nuclear conflict.

The only thing that was clear as the commander wrangled his ship to port was that someone wanted war.

The harbor base buzzed with life. Soldiers ran back and forth preparing for anything. Every sandbag bunker teemed with anxious, shaking soldiers. Trucks flew by. Tanks backed into prepared positions.

A group of marines spoke between short frantic breathes near the base commander’s office.

“I bet they can take us out with one strike.”

They shot a glare towards James, not knowing he did not instigate the current situation. Everyone, it seemed, saw the light show.

The commander’s office was dark. Radio dispatchers in the adjacent room brought the noise level to that of a stadium.


A stout old man approached James. He was a colonel.


“Not of this base. What the fuck did you do?” The commander blurted out in the least apropos way possible.


“The brass is here. Whatever you did, you’re going there.”

An even older colonel approached with a slightly more appropriate demeanor backed by an admiral.

“Commander, you stirred up something, I think.”

“We had to do something.”

“We will deal with that if we live through this.”


“We don’t know.”

“One of their ships claimed it was not them.”

“We know, which is why you are going to check this out. We don’t think it came from anywhere on this planet.”

The colonel’s demeanor was as puzzled as it was professional.

“You are the only person who knows what took that … that ship down. If it was Chinese, we are already trying to avoid a war so you better work on your explanation as well.”

“Colonel,” The admiral stated. “Take James to the chopper.”

He turned to James.

“We have ships on site. On our side. Try not to stir anything up. The Chinese are doing the same thing.”

The helicopter ride was tense. Everyone knew that each side was ready to jump at the first sign of conflict.

This same feeling translated directly to the crash site. The different navies clustered along a well defined line. There were no large ships present but an assortment of submarines from both nations likely lay ready to play a dangerous game of cat and mouse over scraps of intelligence.

A navy diving vessel started to materialize near where a large triangular mass stood out of the water. It was made from a material that would not be out of place at NASA. White panels of aluminum and heat resistant material covered it’s length. Attached to the ship seemed to be a large sheet of copper foil.

“Radiation?” James asked.

“Oh yeah, we’re never having kids again.” The colonel quipped.

“Do you think we are at war?”

“I hope not. I don’t think this was the work of humans.” The loud whop of the helicopter blades obscured any emotion.

A detachment of marines stood ready to extract the vessel’s new guests from the helicopter but a staff sergeant ripped James and the colonel aside. They were likely the highest ranking officers on site.

“We found something.”

Expeditionary Force Book One: An Audio Only Book

Funny but with unbearable in terms of literary prowess, Expeditionary force by Craig Alanson is an audible delight and an unreadable mess all at once. This book is perfect listening for your own voyage to another planet or long day at the office.

Nice Comedic Twist on an Old Story

Summing up the plot in a single line, our species is blindly led into a war with a supposed enemy after a tragic mistake.

Dropped on a fertile world aptly named Paradise, humans serve as both pawns and peacekeepers. In the ensuing mess, our unlikely hero Joe Bishop blunders his way into power and a setup for several books chock full of helping the furry Ruhar fight our former lizard-like masters.

The novel is fairly similar in plot to other works of space-based military science fiction but our hero acts more like the pizza guy from Brooklyn than a doctor or colonel. In a sub-genre bursting at the seems with derivative works, Alanson strives to be a Jonathon Swift.

Whether you are an adolescent or adult, the plot and themes make at least the audible book a good match for the politically astute. Alanson’s writing is staunchly ati-war.

All of the plot elements of a typical science fiction novel are present and yet there is something refreshing about the satiric nature driving the plot. Space travel utilizes wormholes. There is the typical spaceship and yet there is a space elevator serving cheeseburgers.

Technical marvels often found in other stories take on a light and realistic twist. Marvels such as translators are terrifically bland. The sentient AI is an arrogant jerk.

Even non-technical elements add to the tone. That seemingly outdated purple monstrosity of the 1990s known as Barney takes on symbolic meaning.

Alanson manages to encompass the debate surrounding war in a satiric and enjoyable way. For the non-Social Justice Warrior crowd who were not raised under a rock as children, the book is worth investigating.

Hamster Love, Reading Nightmare

While the plot is well thought out and the comedy well donee, this is not a book to be paired with Jonathon Swift.

If Craig Alanson writes the word hamster one more time, I will personally drop a box of the rodents in his home. Repetitive, nearly droning, and overly explanatory, this book is unbearable from the perspective of a writer.

Alanson fails to grasp basic storytelling principles, going out of the way to explain instead of show. The writing does slowly evolve into a novel instead of a news story.

The writer’s style is not terrible when considering a young adult audience. However, if the book were a movie, it would be rated R. There is not a single graphic depiction of violence or sex but the language, metaphors, and descriptions of force would garner the rating.

RC Bray Shines on Audible

RC Bray is the perfect voice actor for this book. Available, on Audible, Expeditionary force is a terrifically amusing audio book suitable for headphones at work.

His personality, voice, and comedic portrayal of different characters is superb. Bray deserves a full 10 of 10 for his performance and it is surprising that he has not risen to the level of R Lee Ermy for his voice alone.


As a book, this is something I would avoid. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the audible version read by the gruff RC Bray. The poor writing and journalistic style destroys some scenes but the piece works well as background noise for repetitive tasks.

I will admit that I thoroughly enjoyed the AI Bishop stumbles on three-quarters of the way through the book.

6/10 in book form

8/10 on audible


World Building in Adelphus: Building a Bar Scene and Grit of a Western World into a Space Faring Novel

Anyone seriously interested in science fiction remembers the bar scene in Star Wars. The desert pub filled with miscreants of all shapes and sizes captivated young and old alike. Even having been born over a decade after the initial release, I still remember the first time I gazed upon the fine establishment.

What was it that made the atmosphere so enthralling? Surely, Harrison Ford cannot just transform a scene. Perhaps it was the miscreants around the bar? Bizarre aliens melding with poor humans in a post-modern Western scene. Perhaps it was the music? The strangest band making a novel scene even more novel. Perhaps it was what we assumed? The bar was full of potential criminals in a small enclave probably not unlike Arizona in the days of the West. Perhaps every piece of the diorama made it a masterpiece of film.

A backwoods desert bar in the mining section of the Adelphus’ only human inhabited island is more like the old west compared to the capital resembling Bangui more than Tombstone, Arizona. This setting is not far from that of the backwater bar in the Star Wars saga. Here, though, the story melds a more realistic science fiction with the same true grit as any western. Adobe walls contain a group of weathered miners, farmers, cowboys, old timers, and rabble rousers. Mead and whiskey flow freely, dust plumes fill the air; blues or perhaps dark country pours from a back room. The bar itself is caked in the sticky syrup of bad memories and hard days.

What, though, makes a Western? Corrupt officials, freedom, rebellion, dust, crime and all manner of things beyond cows. Sorry, Corb Lund.

It is here that, not unlike the titulating story from the Nixon and Carter years, a key plot element takes place.

Aiming for that feeling of entering the bar in Star Wars feels like a bit much but maybe, with enough spit and elbow grease, I can come close.


World Building for Adelphus by John Pen (my pseudonym)

Adelphus, meaning brother or of the same womb in Greek, is an exciting tale exploring concepts from human behavior and the politics of discovery on a distant planet to revenge and romance. Explore a mystical new island settled by the offspring of voyagers from earth who have a much different view of colonization then their predecessors. After all, are we that different from our predecessors?

Follow me as I continue on a journey to self-publication.

The World

Welcome to the world. Adelphus is a luscious land with breathable air only slightly altered from our own atmosphere. Humans settled on the largest of many islands dotting the planet with an eye to expanding. Coastal beaches of sand and rock give way to farmland and rain forests with a desert interior not unlike the Australian outback mixed with the Sahara. The characters in this story explore every inch of the terrain. After all, what lurks beneath the waves of the surrounding sea?

At one end of the world is the garden city capital. On the other, a mining colony serves the industrious needs of the new civilization.


The animals of Adelphus range from sentient to downright feral, reptilian to tadpole like. They are anything but human in physique with unique traits and capabilities.


Humans traveled over a century to reach the planet, some perishing along the way. Humanity has not developed faster than light travel or fast space travel. Instead a multitude of pressures on the species led to a more scientifically plausible voyage with more people following over time and the promise of faster travel. The failure of faster than light or convenient travel to materialize is key to the plot.


A massive war erupted after human’s landed on Adelphus. Two factions remain from the many that fought. The original governing structure no longer persists. Instead, two factions led by the Eaton’s and monarchical Everwood clans struggle to maintain power with the Everwood’s in control.


At this point, the characters are developing into full fledged beings. Several chapters of development yielded only several members of this vast ecosystem.

Meet Dane

Dane is a mercenary who survived the civil war following settlement. He is a greedy, motivated, weathered soldier powering through Adelphus. His entire world falls apart within the first chapter. A man of average intellect, he must build from the ground up while avoiding the perils of

Jill the Scientist

Jill took advantage of the moment to open a new frontier beneath the sea. She is smart and ambitious. Her scientific prowess outweighs her political savvy. She and Dane open critical parts of the plot and are introduced in the first few chapters.

The Brute

The brute has no name at the moment. This may not change. He is critical to the plot and works for the Eaton’s. The brute is a loyal enforcer and bastard child of one of the Eaton patriarchy.

The Everwoods

The Everwood matriarchy controls nearly everything with the brutality of Queen Elizabeth but is in a guerilla battle with the Eaton’s. They maintain complete control over the capital but are fighting for the mining colony. Sexism is overrated.

The Eaton’s

The Eaton’s are fighting to retain ground given up from the civil war and take control of at least half of the island from a lair at the top of a dormant volcano.


His hands trembled, his heart fluttered, her deep blue eyes, radiant warmth, and lustrous curly red hair that shimmered like the wavelets on a lake in the early morning son had him perplexed. He did not care for the chaos surrounding him, nor did he notice it. For now she was everything, the woman who haunted him when he closed his eyes, an object of fixation for some time after leaving her company. He had her, in all her glory.

He leaned in gradually, caressing the back of her neck. An explosion rocked the air. Neither seemed to care. Her smile turned to acceptance, her demeanor to preparation, not of their impending doom but of something more primal and deep. He knew he had won her over. He did not know how a simple boy could win such an amazing woman. Perhaps it really was love. He leaned his slightly taller frame ever closer to her, slowly so as not to rouse suspicion. Could it be?

Her eyes did not close, she was an experienced lover. He nearly broke as the building around them swayed and buckled, the air filling with dust. The world was ending. The buildup was over. The slight smiles, the intense feeling of his head splitting in two. Her constant knowledge of everything he liked and held dear. She had built a palace in his mind. Not insurmountable but not without its challenges. Her seemingly teasing behavior had only led him to throw his rope towards that window, to pine so loudly he screamed silently for Juliet on her balcony. This was nothing now.

Just when the emotions reached fever pitch, when gratification was locked lip to lip, the dust spilled over. Everything went black. For centuries they stood as fragile statues, a reminder of something almost obtained, of humanity at its best. A triumph despite its ugliness.

The anthropologist smiled. She knew the feeling. Love was the same in the year 4000 as it was in the terrible eruption of 2173.


Just a mere hundred feet to go. The feeling of rejoice overcame the mountain climbers. For days they trekked to reach the summit. It was a task that not many people in the modern world understood.

Jake’s watch beeped and a hologram appeared. It was the GPS in his smartwatch. He set it to notify him every 1000 feet. The bright blue sky obscured the reading as the sun bounced brightly off the snow. He was no pioneer but it was the love of the mountain that kept him going. Only the other hikers could understand. Some still clung to the pioneer feeling, glazed over the hard truths by advertising. Those people did not get this far.

The mountain claims respect or it claims you. Jake looked up over the gleaming, cold black wall. His axe pinged off hard granite. He swung again, it cracked, he slipped. Hard rock fell off to the side below

‘Heads Up!’ By then the rock had passed. Jake sighed.

This was the laborious part. Jake’s modern shoes made it easier but his modern life was truly catching up to him. Every few feet seemed to take forever, breathes came faster, he could heel the harshly soft sting of his labor bathing his lungs in its ink.

Five feet, Jake paused, his adrenaline and excitement going.

Four feet, the pitch mellowed he didn’t need rope anymore.

A burst of energy. Three feet, two feet, one foot.

The burst forced Jake to stop. He couldn’t stop. His legs thrust forward as if on command from his desperate and growing need to reach the summit.

Jake collapsed with a smile remembering for a slight moment he still needed to get down.