Funny

How to get by in the Galaxy Part 9

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How to get by in the Galaxy Part 8

How to get by in the Galaxy

Part 9

By Jamie Burns

It was early Christmas morning, I woke up feeling awful and promptly ran to the bathroom to throw up. I felt a hand rub my back and then put a wet washcloth on the back of my neck. I expected to look back and see my mom but it was Nathan. I was only seven years old but then again so was he. When I was feeling ok to move he helped me to the living room, he put me on the couch, gave me a blanket, turned on the Christmas tree lights and made me a cup of tea. We sat there looking at the twinkle lights of the tree, some blinking slowly on and off, others steady. I drifted in and out of sleep. Nathan all the while sitting beside me making sure I didn’t need more tea or a bucket if I had another bout of sickness. Two hours later when my parents woke up they asked why we hadn't woken them and I remember saying “Nathan took care of me.” That’s all I can remember from that particular Christmas.

I hadn't thought of that in over sixteen years. As we sped in the Lamplight toward the rendezvous point the words stuck in my head. “Nathan took care of me.” Throughout primary school, high school and well into flight school Nathan took care of me. I helped him with homework, studying and even would cover for him with mom and dad on occasion. It was what we did. We took care of each other and I was determined to keep the tradition alive.

I landed the Lamplight a few miles from the rendezvous point. Clara and Lu both walked on to the bridge. Lu was dressed in some of Clara’s clothes and they had pumped up the volume on Lu’s blond hair. “Alright, this is the best spot.” I said to Clara and headed to the back of the ship expecting her to follow. When I realized she hadn't I turned back around. Clara and Lu faced each other awkwardly. Clara held out a hand, “Thank you for your help.”

Lu took Clara’s hand and gave it a firm shake. “You’re sure it’s worth all this?” She asked.

Clara said nothing just gave her head one firm nod.

Clara and I walked to the back of the ship, she opened the hatch to the cold air outside. We both looked out then at each other. “Remember watch your back at all times. She’s going to be a lot heavier than the Lamplight so don’t be timid. Don’t be afraid to push her around, just get her in the air and head to the place Lu setup.” I told her.

“It’s gonna work.” Clara said it as if she was trying to convince both of us.

I dropped the hard tone in my voice, allowing myself to be genuine and vulnerable for a moment. “Please just be careful Clara, I don’t want to have to come save you too, but I will if I have to.” I gave her a weak smile but it was all I could muster. Clara pulled me in for a hug. “We’ll get him back.” With that she turned and set off.

I closed the hatch and the moment it was sealed the Lamplight rose back into the air.  On the bridge I found Lu at the helm, looking confident and at ease.

“No wonder they could never catch you.” I said as I sat in the co-pilots seat. Lu just smiled and pulled back on the helm sending us higher into the gray clouds.

We arrived at the rendezvous ten minutes ahead of the dead line. How we managed that  seemed like an act of God or a lot of happy accidents all in a row. Either way I was grateful. Instead of landing the Lamplight in the spot that had been clearly left open for us it dipped low and I tossed the rope over the edge of the hatch and slid down to the ground. Once my feet had touched I raised my hands showing I was unarmed and the Lamplight quickly gained in altitude again. I walked to toward the crowd.

Turned out the rendezvous was yet another shipyard, but this one had far more security and was much busier than the one we had been in earlier that day. The ships in this yard didn’t look like the junk that was in the other shipyards.  Here they were larger, well built, with weapons, no rust and some I would even call shinny. It felt more like a showroom than a shipyard. I recognized the ship the crowd was gathered around. The last time I saw her she was flying away from the planet Cierra with the Thestrious flying away beside her as I could only watch from the ground.

Hands still up I kept walking toward the crowed. Some of the men had their guns raised while others looked on relaxed, in the middle of them was Cryton. He was wide in the shoulders and seemed fit for a man that looked like he was in his late forties.  All the others seemed to look to him for cues on what to do next. It made me wonder how bad a man you have to be to have others fear you on a planet like Exodus. I pushed the thought down because it made me more nervous than I liked. Cryton on the video had seemed charismatic and likeable for a kidnapper. That's what made me so nervous about him. He was a kind of bad man made worse by his good lies. Not that I didn’t have a lie or two up my sleeve.

“Well there she is boys, the little sister.” Cryton called out. With a flick of his finger the men with guns advanced towards me.

I watched as they encircled me. “Yep that’s me… where’s my brother?”

“Oh he’s close by.” Cryton said, him and his men chuckling at that. I instinctively took a step back.  Cryton eyes narrowed in on me, “What’s your little gal pal doing up there? Tell her to land.”

I had to laugh at this one. “So you can kill all three of us and keep the ship. I don’t think so.”

“You know I could just shoot that match box out of the sky if I wanted to.” He was getting more frustrated.

“I’m sure you could, but you don’t want to.”

He paused and let out a breath. “No, I don’t but if you’re up to something fishy I might just change my mind.”

“Where is Nathan?” I asked again.

He looked back toward his ship and waved to the men waiting there. A moment later two men dragged Nathan down the dock and dropped him next to Cryton. Nathan slowly stood to his feet, I was sure he couldn't see much with his face swollen to it’s current size.  I called to him. “Nathan it’s ok I’m here.” I walk a bit closer to get a better look at him. The sound of my voice didn’t put him at easy. If anything it seemed to make him angry.

“April? Why? I told you guys to leave.” He was scared and angry and I didn’t really blame him. He forced his eyes open and looked right to where I was standing. “Why can’t you ever listen to me?”

“Alright now little sis you tell blondie to put her ass on the ground now.” Cryton demanded.

“Give me Nathan, then she’ll land in the distance. You’ll let us go while you head to your new ship.” I called out sounding as confident and forceful as possible.

Cryton stared at me for a moment in shock, I guess at my demands. Then a slow smile spread across his face and he looked around. His men nervously looking back at him. He started to laugh, the men looked at each other, and started to laugh as well. Though it was clear they weren't sure why.

“I don’t think you understand little sis, this is not a negotiation.” He said then he pulled his gun from his holster and turned Nathan toward him. I knew I was to far away but I still lunged forward, Cryton pressed the barrel against Nathan’s shoulder and pulled the trigger.

I could have sworn that I felt that bullet. I felt the shockwave flow through my body and weaken my knees. At least that’s what I thought at first. Then I realized everyone was looking up. In the distance behind Cryton’s ship was a plume of black smoke. The massive explosion had socked all of us. I saw Nathan lying motionless on the ground my heart sank and I looked  back to the plume of smoke now lit by the fire that burn beneath it. My face must have been white as a sheet as I wondered where Clara was.

I Hate Plot Holes

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I’m not going to lie. I’m a person that has WAY too many pet peeves. Right at the top of my list of pet peeves is Plot holes! This hatred runs deep. Here is an example. Do you remember the Disney version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame? I do, well not the whole movie but here's what I do remember. At the end of the movie there is a big fire and Quasimodo almost falls to his death from the bell tower into the fire. Thankfully he is caught by... the blond guy. (I can’t remember his name, not important for the point I am making) After he is saved our three main characters come down from the bell tower and when they open the doors… the city looks totally fine, it’s a nice sunny day, nothing seems to be burnt, there is basically no damage from the crazy amounts of fire that had just been raging moments before. I remember sitting in the theater thinking, “Wasn't there just a fire? Why is everything fine now?”  That was in 1996. I was 6 years old. Movie mistakes, plot holes and things that just don’t add up in a story have been bugging me since I was 6!

Now, I tell myself it was just a kids movie, don’t worry about the magical non consuming fire, but the example just shows how deep my idiosyncrasies run. Flash forward 20 years from the questioning 6 year old to my current self. The person who decided to write a book heavily based around the most plot hole ridden subject of all time and I mean ALL time. TIME TRAVEL that is!

Plot hole problems slow my writing process way down. Because as much as I try to tell myself to just keep writing, I’ll go back and fix it later, I just end up stuck. I can’t stand to leave the tiniest potential plot hole in my book. I fall into those holes and I don’t get out till I solve them. This can be considered a good thing or a bad thing. Good for people like me that want all things to line up in the end and bad because it puts a heavy block on my creative writing process.

This is were a good outline comes in handy. Thankful I have a pretty good grasp on my story and where the plot holes are that I need to address. But those 3-4 unanswered questions are like giant gaping hole in my head. Things some people could just simply look past and write off as unimportant details. Not me though! Instead I sit and stare at the wall for what seems like hours trying to solve the problem. Don’t worry it’s not a blank wall, I have my entire plot outlined in color coded index cards on the wall I stare at. So not crazy at all.

I just don’t want to do the same thing that is constantly driving me crazy in books, movies and TV.  Don’t even get me started on all the plot holes that have developed in Doctor Who in the last 6 years. But I’ve digressed.

How do you feel about plot holes? Are you the kind of person that gets consumed like me? Or are you one to look past them and enjoy the story? If you are I’m jealous. Tell me your secrets so that I might learn. :D then maybe I’ll stop getting stuck in the hole.  

How to get by in the Galaxy Part 4

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How to get by in the Galaxy Part 3 

How to get by in the Galaxy

Part 4

By Jamie Burns

 

The “Security” around Michael's cruiser ship was laughable. I guess he thought no one on the outer rim would be crazy enough to steal from a major company that’s backed by the Universal Government. I usually wouldn’t be that crazy either but, I couldn’t resist crippling Michael’s ship and ego.

The two men he left to century the ship seemed to be pretty comfortable as they drank and sat around outside of the ship’s hull. The large ramp that lead into the cargo bay of the cruiser ship sat open. The men had used some of the cargo crates for a makeshift card table and chairs.

Clara, Nathan and I peered from around the edge of a nearby ship parked in the same hanger. “So, how do we get past them? Knock them out?” Nathan asked.

“We could,” I said with hesitation. “Or…” I looked to Clara and raised my eyebrows at her. Clara was confused for a moment. I looked her up and down, then nodded my head toward the men.

“You want me to…” Clara dropped her hands at her sides in a way that made me a little sorry I even asked.

“Fine it was just that it’s our best option.” I said. I looked back around the edge of the ship to start thinking of a plan B. Then I hear Clara take a deep breath and sigh.

“No, you’re right. It’s the fastest and easiest way. It shouldn't even be that hard by the looks of those two.” Clara said in surrender.

“Great! Maybe you should undo some of these buttons.” Nathan said as he moved his hand towards her chest. The sound of Clara slapping it away echoed in the hanger. I quickly looked to see if the men had noticed. Thankfully they hadn't and they still sat playing cards, laughing, and drinking.

Clara shook out her bouncy blond hair and gave it a tussle before she walked out into view of the guards. Nathan and I made our way in the opposite direction to circle around the ship. We moved toward the cruiser hidden from the view of the men. As we moved I could hear Clara’s footsteps as she shuffeled toward the men.

“Oh My, well look what I found.” Clara said, she made her voice higher than it usually was and much more playful. “You gentlemen wouldn't happen to know were a girl can find another drink would ya?” She finished with a soft hiccup. Playing drunk was easy for a woman that owned her own bar. The men quickly invited Clara to have a seat with them and poured her a drink. Nathan and I could have simply walked right inside the cruiser. No stealth necessary with Clara around them. But we still needed to move quickly, no telling what kind of men my slimball Ex employed. So best not to leave Clara for too long.

Michael might have been the all star, golden boy at flight academy but he was never very good at following common procedures. The ship was totally devoid of any crew. Any captain worth their salt would know, you never leave a ship this big with zero crew abord. Alway have men that patrol the corridors. There’s too many places to hide, you end up with stowaways, assassins, or like us thieves. I guess I should just be greatful Michael was a bad student. We made our way to the engine room and I pulled out the list of things I needed to scavenge. Nathan was mostly there to hold things and be my lookout. I yanked the last part we needed from it’s home and tossed it in the sack we brought.

“Ok, let’s get out of here.” I said.

“Wait, what do you mean? We can’t leave yet.” Nathan looked at me in shock.

“What are you talking about we have to go?”

“If you think we are leaving before we pay a little visit to the captain's quarters you’re crazy.” Nathan said with a wild grin on his face. He grabbed my hand and pulled me out of the engine room. Moments later we were standing in Michael’s quarters. Nathan handed me something from his pocket. It was a plastic bag with some kind of white powder in it.

“What is it?” I asked.

“I got it from a herbalist in town this morning. It’s supposed to make you breakout in this crazy itchy, scaly rash anywhere it touches, so be careful when you pour it.” He said.

“Pour it?” I wasn't totally following my twins line of thought here.

“In his sheets.” Nathan said and threw the blankets off the bed.

“Nathan! That’s childish. I can’t do that.”  I said it to myself as much as I did to him.

“April, it’s not like it’ll kill him or anything, it’ll just knock him off his high horse for a couple weeks.”

I stared at the bag of powder. All of a sudden I felt like we were 9 year old again, when Nathan convinced me to eat a piece of my cousin’s birthday cake before the party even started. Mom was not happy. I wrestled back and forth with my conscience. As much as I loved the thought of Michael covered head to toe in a hideous rash it was a little too crazy Ex-girlfriend for my style. But a smaller scale would be nice.

“No, not the sheets, it’s too much.” I tossed the blankets back on the bed.  Nathan sighed in disapintment, only to have the widest grim spread across his face a moment later, when I opened the compartment to the captains privet restroom. I left a nice thin line of the misterious poweder around the rim of the toilet seat, and with the grease left on my hands from the stolen parts I left a message on his mirror.

"Thanks for all the memories.

                                 Love- AN"

 

 

Copyright 2016 JAMIE BURNS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

How to get by in the Galaxy Part 1

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How to get by in the Galaxy

Part 1

by Jamie Burns

I guess I should just be glad they left us on a planet with air, or an air-like sustaining atmosphere. I just watched the sky as the little black dot got smaller and smaller. This is what I get for trusting my brother. Never trust your brother when he says “Don’t worry, I have this totally under control.” Ok maybe your brother, but never mine. Nathan, the brother in question stood next to me. He too was staring up into the sky watching my ship fly off in the hands of a moronic, unwashed, asshat.

Once I couldn’t make out any trace of my ship I couldn’t keep it in any longer. “Well that was really impressive.”  I said to him in the driest tone of sarcasm I had.

“I’m not gonna lie. It didn’t go exactly according to plan.” Not even looking over at me to say it,  his head was still pointed at the sky. I lost it…

“Not according to plan!!!” I proceeded to scream in rage at everything around me. It wasn't much, between the sand, hills and bushes it was less than satisfying. After I was done stomping on a bush that I had been imaging my brother’s face on, I took a deep breath. Walking calmly back over to him. I held his shoulder for balance as I took off my shoe to remove the rocks that infiltrated it while I was throwing my sissy fit. Nathan hadn’t moved, still looked about at our surroundings.

“Are you ok?” He asked as I pulled my shoe back on.

“I’m fantastic.” I felt much better than I had two minutes ago at least. “But I’ll feel even better once you tell me how you plan to get my ship back.”

“About that, I’m not….” he started but I cut him off quickly.

“Don’t even try Nathan, I don’t care how much you owe or who you owe it to. I have bailed you out enough times in our lives. You will make this right, and get me my ship back. I don’t care if they break both your legs. Hell, if they told me right now to cut off your right hand in exchange for it back, I would!”

Nathan brought his right hand up to his chest and squeezed it at the wrist with the other as if to protect it from my rage. Like that would help.

“Now is there even anyone else on this rock? Is there a town or, I don’t know, a farm or something close by?” I asked looking around.

Nathan looked too, first for a long time in one direction then slowly turning his head to the other.

“What’s our exact location?” He asked. I looked at my wrist unit. It displayed the current time on earth in bright green digital numbers. I pressed the button to scroll through the menu till I got to the start location, basicly a longitude and latitude but for the whole universe.

“09.1.103.21. I think this planet is called Ciera.” I told him.

“Oh good.” He said in a chipper voice and started to walk off in a direction I took to be north because of the sun's place in the sky.

I grabbed my knapsack and followed after him. We walked for three and half hours before we saw the edge of the town. A time in which I switched back and forth between wanting to beat my brother over the head with any stick I passed and plotting the ways I would destroy the douche that took my ship, once we finally caught up with him. Step one of every plan was getting off the damn planet.

We walked through the town and you could tell they didn’t get many visitors. Nathan kept waving to the kids that peeked around the corners at us. Making our way farther into the town, we found a busy street that seemed like some type of commerce area or more likely a flea market, emphasis on the flea. The hustle and bustle, people bartering and trading, this was where we would find our way out. We still got some sideways glances from the locals, but for the most part people on this street were busy conducting their business. We turned down an alley that lead off of flea street, then through an open doorway. It was a bar. Of course it was a bar. I was following my brother.

No sooner had we walked in when we heard a woman. In what, on earth, would describe as a deep southern voice, call out “Well hot damn. Nathan Norien, comes back into my establishment. After I specifically and in no uncertain terms told you that I would personally cut off your favorite parts, if you ever came in here again.”

The woman walked right up to him. Her outfit much nicer than any of the other townspeople's I had seen, in fact I kinda wanted her boots. I was getting ready to make a run for it when the woman, who had been looking into Nathan’s face with a hard somber expression, relaxed and her face because almost sympathetic.  

“Must be real bad then.?” She said, Nathan nodding in confirmation.

Once we were in the back room behind the bar the woman shut the door and locked it. I wasn't sure I liked being locked in a room with one of my brother’s ‘associates’. “Well sugar, who’s the whore?” The woman asked him nodding her head towards me.

“HEY!” I exclaimed, I've taken too much crap today to deal with this.

“She’s just my sister.”

“And not a whore.” I said loudly, then under my breath adding “You’re one to talk, looking like a Madame at a bunny ranch.” I didn’t really mean it, but like I said, too much crap today.

The woman seemed to relax a bit more once she found out I was a relation and not a concubine.

“We need off this rock, Clara. I was hoping I could persuade you to give us a ride.” Nathan appealed to the woman. Clara evidently, not that he bothered to introduce me. Sure introduced me to the guys that would steal my ship though, didn’t he. How in the galaxy were we twins?

“Why on Ciera would I help you? You still owe me 400 credits Nathan.”  Clara had her hands on her round hips now.

“Of course he does.” I say with my flat tone. For the first time since calling me a whore Clara seemed to notice me.

“Are you as worthless as your brother?” She asked.

“Well I don’t owe anyone in the universe money if that’s what you mean. BUT I do owe SOMEONE a boot in the ass for losing my ship!” I said looking at Nathan. Clara's look of disappointment toward him made me smile.

“Not even your own family is safe.” she said.

“Least of all his family.” I replied.

“So what is it you're wanting from me? From the looks of ya, you can’t pay for the ride you're asking for. I don’t know where you’re looking to go, but with your previous balance plus a ride to the next nearest planet you're looking at 4,000 credits, and I know you're not good for it Nathan.” He opened his mouth to speak but nothing came out, after a moment he just closed it again. I guess he had been having a long day too. I didn’t really want to feel pity for him but God help me I did.

“I’m good for the money.” I said with me eyes shut tightly. There's no way I was staying on this planet.

Clara raised her eyebrows at me. “You're sure, sister?”  

“Yes, I hate owing people so I’ll make sure you get your money, once I get my ship back.”

“Plus his 400 credits.”

“Fine.”

“You do understand that for that kind of money I have people to make sure you pay?”

“I understand, but it won’t be necessary.” Clara and I looked at each other for a long moment, sizing each other up.

“Should I leave you two alone?” Nathan said jokingly.

“Shut up.” Clara and I said in unison.

“Do we have a deal?” I asked

“Ya sister, we have a deal.”  We firmly shook each other's hands.

“My names April by the way.” I told her, hoping to avoid being called ‘sister’ the rest of our time together.  

“Oh and we don’t need to go to the next planet over.” I said. Hopping from planet to planet making deals and getting into debt wasn't going to get me my ship back.

“Alright, but change of destination will change the price. Where do you need to go, sister?”

I didn’t want to tell her; I knew it might be a deal breaker. I even considered if there might be a way to wait till we were already off the planet to tell them. But my stupid morals wouldn’t let me lie. Well not about this at least.

“Exodus.”

I waited for a reaction, Nathan stood there blank in the face. Then I looked to Clara, a smile broke a crossed her face. Yes, we had our ride.

 

How to get by in the Galaxy Part 2

 

Copyright 2016 JAMIE BURNS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

"I Have No Idea What I'm Doing"

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“I Have No Idea What I’m Doing.” We’ve all felt that way. It’s one thing to have an idea for an interesting character, or even better, an idea for an interesting story. It’s a completely different thing to able to take that idea and make it into something others want to read. That’s all I had, an idea. Along with it a vague idea for a lead character. I was set, right? That's all you need, right? Like the “Pro” that I am, I started writing. That was five years ago.

Got over 8,000 words deep before I looked up from my computer. With what I’m sure must have been a shocked look on my face. I had NO CLUE where my story was going! What was the point? What was my character trying to achieve? At the end of the story where would she be?  I shut my computer and walked away. (Smooth, real smooth.)  I didn’t look at that document again for two years.

I was working the kind of job that is probably important, but mostly just makes you wonder what on earth you're doing with your life. (Much like I felt about my story’s character) So on my breaks I was looking for an escape so I started rereading some of my favorites. Enter “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”. All the books in the series are amazing. (Really don’t get me started) The third one in particular ways got my mind turning. Where did my mind go? Yep! Back to my dead in the water story. So pulled up the metaphorical dusty old document and started writing again! Learning basically nothing from the last time. (Like an Idiot) I planned out nothing and got another 2,000 words. Then, because everything in life goes my way all the time, my computer's motherboard decided it was sick of my nonsense, and killed itself. (Perfect) I used the fact that I had no money to replace it as my solid excuse to stop writing again.

THREE YEARS! Work stayed the same except for the part where it got worse. I started listening to audio books. You know, as an alternative to actually talking to people. Once again my favorite authors made me want to create a world of my own. Just like that Tolkien's words awakened the dream again. I got the long awaited replacement for my computer. Since my last computer went down in flames the only thing I had left of my original work was a hard copy of the first twenty pages. Transcribe, Transcribe, Transcribe. I spent a month transcribing and rewriting the 20 pages. I didn’t love my story. I loved parts of it, but it was touch and go, mostly go. I finally opened my eyes. After groping my way in the dark grasping at anything that felt like a plot I wasn't going to take another step till I turn on a light.

Valuable resources, Pinterest! Yes, that is where I turn to for answers. Because I’m a 20some female in 2016, don’t judge me. What do those pins lead to articles and (drum roll……) Blogs! I read about a hundred articles and blog posts on plot development. (I’m using the word hundred loosely here) That’s when my hero arrived. I knew what the 3 Act Structure was but I never looked too hard at it till then. The beautiful concept that could save my story.

Pretty simple Act One: Introduction, inciting incident, rising action and first turning point. (Things get bad) Act Two: Obstacles, more rising action, second turning point (Things get REALLY bad) Act Three: Climax, descending action, and resolution. That’s basically the over simplified version. Isn't it glorious!  I’ll be talking about this more in upcoming posts. For now just know that I have a literary crush on the 3 Act Structure.

I stopped writing, but this time it wasn't just a stop it was a time to regroup. I would get my plot together and really find out what my character was doing with her life. (At least then one of us would know). It took me five years to figure out I’m not the kind of writer that can work without an outline. You don’t have to have an outline to write, but boy does it help. Especially if you're writing science fiction with overlapping time lines.

Basically that’s how the 3 Act Structure became my new  BFF.