The Lyrid Event

photography

© Ted Strutz

A small group of amateur astronomers had gathered at Ted’s farm outside Garden Valley to photograph the Lyrid meteor shower that year. It was late and just about everyone had gone back to Boise, taking their cameras and telescopes with them. Only Ted’s trusty old Nixon was on its tripod still aimed at the heavens.

Ted had a dark room in the shed out back but he’d never get to develop the film. Everyone had photographed something unusual from the farm’s unique vantage point that night and they all died within a week.

Ted was next.

I wrote this for the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields photo writing challenge. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. Mine is 96 words.

The camera pointing up reminded me of when I took Astronomy classes at UNLV during the early to mid 1970s. Sometimes we’d go out to the desert at night to look at different stellar phenomena through telescopes and to photograph some of them.

The Lyrid meteor shower is typically observed every April and this year will be best seen in the early morning hours of April 22.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

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Retrieval

nostromo

Promotional image of the landing module of the USCSS Nostromo spacecraft from the 1979 film “Alien”

“We’re going to have to delay exploring the base of the escarpment until Reggie and Austin repair the lander’s main engines.” I don’t want us to encounter anything out there we can’t runaway from in a hurry if we have to.”

Captain John Weiss was addressing the other four crew members of the freighter “Joseph Conrad” in the galley.

“Well what the screw is taking them so long, John? They’ve been at it for over six hours and if we don’t recover the Company’s lost probe, we’ll never collect our cut of the reward.”

“Calm down, Linda. You know this kind of work takes time.” His first officer was intelligent and competent but impatient which is why even with her service record, she’d never made Captain.

“They’re probably snoozing down in the engineering bay.”

“Not likely, Santiago. I just got a progress report from Reggie fifteen minutes ago. They don’t want to be down there any longer than necessary.”

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What Lies Beneath the Lateran?

arch of titus

Roman Triumphal arch panel copy from Beth Hatefutsoth, showing spoils of Jerusalem temple – From Wikimedia Commons

They were finally gone, sent away empty handed and believing the Priests of the Holy Roman Catholic Church were not latter-day thieves of their oh so precious Jewish artifacts.

Cardinals Angelo Vincenti and Francis Curia were not young men, but still strong enough to assist the eighty-four year old Pope down into the lowest levels of the Lateran, the residence of his Holiness. The party from the Israel Antiquities Authority were granted admittance even here in order to satisfy their suspicious curiosity. Of course none of the artifacts they sought were present. The Church was once again forced to feign friendship and good will to the nation of Israel in defiance of the law of Christ, but it was necessary for now. Once the Lord Jesus Christ returned from Heaven and the Church took full possession of both Rome and Jerusalem, the entire truth would be known. However premature knowledge of the true plan of the Popes spanning back to St. Peter himself would ruin everything.

They now faced a blank stone wall, presumably hiding nothing but tons of rock. “Cardinal Vincenti, if you would.”

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The Signal

full moon

Full Moon photograph taken 10-22-2010 from Madison, Alabama, USA – Found at Wikipedia

The lunar rock was about the size of a bowling ball and weighed almost eight kilos, one of the larger samples collected during the Apollo missions, but it had never been examined until now. Within weeks of it returning to Earth with the Apollo 17 crew on 19 December 1972, it had vanished from its storage area at the Lunar Sample Laboratory Facility in Huston, Texas.

Federal investigators were notified when, after the death of wealthy art and antiquities collector Lawrence Rodriquez, it was discovered in a private vault located under his Boca Raton mansion. It was believed to have passed from one private party to another between the mid-1970s and 2001 when Rodriquez acquired it and locked it away with other illegally obtained artifacts. That was in 2011. Now, four years later, Leo Warner requisitioned it for study by his team.

Unfortunately in the nearly forty years since it had gone missing, it had been carelessly handled and allowed exposure to air, contaminating the surface of the specimen. However, it was still possible that the interior was preserved and to that end, a small core sample was about to be taken.

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The Dossier

Trump and Putin

Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Aleksey Nikolskyi/Getty Images and Jim Watson/Getty Images.

Ex-KGB Chief Oleg Erovinkin was found dead in the back of his black Lexus just blocks from the Kremlin. The cause of death had not been revealed, but it was under mysterious circumstances.

Thousands of kilometers away, MI6 Agent Christopher Steele bought a “burner” phone and made a call to a number less than a dozen people knew about.

“Station Sahara. The line is secure.”

“This is Christopher Steele. I have the dossier. I want to come in.”

“Requesting identity confirmation.” The voice on the other end was deliberately distorted and Steele realized he had minutes before they traced his call.

“November three sixteen charter gulf forty-seven.”

“Identity acknowledged. Continue.”

“I want to be brought in by Adam Hunter personally. I will call this number again in twenty-four hours and will give the location of the meet only to him.” Being brought in from the cold by MI6’s Chief of Operations was a lot to ask, but they’d do it. The dossier was that important.

Steele didn’t wait for a reply. He broke the connection, threw the burner on the concrete floor of the basement apartment he had rented, and crushed it under his foot. In twenty-four hours, he’d be in a different country. He had to come in before the Kremlin reached him.

Ten minutes later, he had hired a taxi and was headed toward the Athens airport. He had the dossier on a thumb drive. Everyone, including his colleagues at MI6, believed it held incriminating evidence against America’s newly inaugurated and widely hated President Donald Trump.

The Russians had killed Steele’s confederate Oleg Erovinkin so he couldn’t reveal the truth and now they were after him. Steele found Trump as reprehensible as many others in the western nations, but he was not the subject of their exposé, and it was worth his life and the lives of anyone who he’d come in contact with to reveal his information.

Steele made the mistake of allowing himself to relax in the back of the taxi, so he didn’t immediately realize it was pulling over on a nearly deserted stretch of road.

“What?” Steele opened his eyes to see a silencer fitted over the barrel of an automatic. “Time for you to join Erovinkin.”

The taxi driver emptied his clip into Steele’s chest, relieved him of the thumb drive hidden in the inner lining of his jacket, dumped the body on the side of the road, and then drove away.

An hour later, the assassin was on a flight to Moscow, the dossier once again secure in Russian hands. No one must know President Putin’s true ally in the American government. Not until it was time to act.

This story, including the characters, is based on an actual news story published at a number of independent sources including this one. It strongly suggests that the Kremlin had former KGB Chief Oleg Erovinkin killed because he had helped compile a dossier implicating Donald Trump in illicit cooperation with Russian President Vladimir Putin. MI6 Agent Christopher Steele is currently in hiding, supposedly because his life is at risk as well.

I decided to twist the information into the realm of fiction for the sake of suspense and intrigue. I have no idea how true any of the information is at my original source, but it seemed worthy of a small, modern-day spy story.

The story is somewhat similar to one written by J. Hardy Carroll which was also based on a true event. Hopefully, my spin on the tale makes it unique.

TV Series Review: Containment

containmentI watched the last episode of a CW limited TV series Containment last night and it was powerful. In fact, the entire series is extremely impressive, and I don’t say that much about television anymore.

Here’s the series summary from Wikipedia:

Containment is an American limited series, based on the Belgian TV series Cordon. The show was officially ordered as a series by The CW on May 7, 2015, and debuted on April 19, 2016. The series follows an epidemic that breaks out in Atlanta, leaving a section of the city cordoned off under quarantine and those stuck on the inside fighting for their lives.

Oh, no wonder it seems original, it’s based on a television series from another country.

Actually, the Wikipedia description hardly covers it.

The show starts out at Day 13 of the containment with National Guard troops entering the cordon, the area is surrounded by barbed wire fences and stacks of cargo containers to form a solid barrier, to suppress a riot. Entry and exit to and from the cordon is controlled through certain of the containers guarded first by police, and then by soldiers as desperation escalates.

Jump back to Day One. Supposedly, patient zero, is a young Syrian man who has just arrived in Atlanta. Sick, he goes to a hospital emergency room but leaves against medical advice…but not before infecting his doctor. The doctor dies horribly hours later, hemorrhaging blood from every orifice.

Then our cast of characters are slowly introduced, a collection of individuals and families who, on the surface, seem to have nothing to do with each other, but a little at a time, how they are connected is revealed.

As the infection, supposedly a mutated flu virus that is 100% fatal in every case, spreads, Dr. Sabine Lommers (played by Claudia Black) from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) takes charge under federal jurisdiction, and orders a Cordon Sanitaire, around an area of Atlanta which includes the hospital. This traps 4,000 people inside with no way to escape, leaving them at constant risk of exposure and death. This was only supposed to last 48 hours, but then things go horribly wrong.

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