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Paradise WIP – Chapter 22

Chapter 22

Chet was not one for conversation. He pointed to a table and then disappeared through another door at the far end of the room. Slowly, conversation started up again, though in hushed tones.

“Who is that?” I finally was able to ask.

“That’s Chet. He leads the rebellion against the Hyatt. He thinks they are more dangerous than the Plax,” Sam told me

“More dangerous? How can he possibly think that a group of humans are more dangerous that aliens that are trying to eradicate the human race?”

“It’s personal,” Sam whispered in a low tone. “You’ve seen him. He augmented more than anyone I’ve ever seen.”

Chet was a large man. I couldn’t remember seeing another man even close to as big, though that wasn’t a big deal with so few memories.

Paradise WIP

“So, what’s next?”

“Chet will let us know,” Sam said.

“Let us know?” I was not happy with that answer. The mission was dangerous enough. I needed to be the one calling the shots.

“Since we went underground, Chet has become the unofficial leader above ground. You’ve been incapacitated for too long. Someone had to fill the void.”

“But I’m back now.” As I said the words, I realized how wrong they were.

“You may be back, but you’re not the general we all were following. You will always be the face of the rebellion, but until you regain your memories, you  won’t be  the general we need to lead us.”

The words stung. Anger toward Sam welled up inside me, but I knew she was write. I couldn’t remember things like tactics or battle plans. The weapon I held felt like a foreign object. There was no way I could lead effectively.

A few minutes later, Chet came back into the main room and walked over to our table.

“We do this today,” he stated. “We leave in an hour.”

Review: Working Stiffs by Scott Bell

* * * * *

Chet gathered us exactly an hour later. A platoon of twenty soldiers joined him and our group of four.

The long walk to the rebels bunker had not been too bad, but the walk back up the base revealed just how steep the incline was. I started to struggle early on. My legs burned and breathing was harder than it should have been. I was determine, though. If Sam was going to die on this mission, I was going to die beside her.

“Mechs have been spotted about five miles south of here,” Chet told us when we were back in the military base. “That will be our best chance.”

“What’s a mech?” I whispered to Sam once we were outside. Chet immediately spun around and glared at me. He put a finger to his lips and it was clear there was to be no conversation on our journey.

It wasn’t long before I would find out. Chet walked with a stride three times the length of an average man. Most of us were jogging to keep pace with him. My legs were on fire, but I refused to stop.

Along the way, we passed crumbled building and abandoned vehicles. Sam explained to me later that the Plax had disabled most vehicle through persistent electronic pulses that fried electronic equipment. It was the same reason we didn’t carry communication devices. Our energy weapons still worked, but their guidance systems did not. Fighting relied entirely on the skill of the soldier rather than on any help from the weapon.

I couldn’t help but not that while much of the military base was standing, most of the other building were either completely destroyed or missing at least one exterior wall making them virtually unusable. I thought back to the time in the bunker when I had seen a wall crumble before my eyes and shuddered.

The mech came into view as we were entering a clear. Later I learned that the clearing used to be a park where people gathered on weekends to play group sports. I couldn’t imagine that world looking at the dead foliage and abandoned vehicles that now filled much of the area.

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Not much farther in front of us, I notice one building still standing. The rest of our group noticed it at the same time. Like bugs scurrying away from light in the middle of the night, everyone quickly found cover. I was slow to move, but Sam grabbed me by my body armor and pulled me down behind an abandoned vehicle.

“What’s going on?” I asked her.

“Mech,” she answered.

I was confused. I hadn’t seen anything. Are they small?  I asked myself.

Learned around the corner of the vehicle, I looked into the clearing to see if I could pick out the object that had brought so much fear to our group.

Just then, the building I noticed turned and began moving in our direction.

“What the…” I couldn’t help myself, but Sam silenced me by slapping her hand over my mouth. I saw fear in her eyes as she shook her head from side to side.

So, this is where I’m going to die, I thought to myself.

The building, it turned out, was actually a mech, a large Plax robotic creature that destroyed buildings and captured humans. Nearly as tall as a two-story building, it moved with surprising speed and agility.

My eyes were glued in fascination. How could I have forgotten such a thing?

From my side view, I noticed Chet’s hands were moving. Soldiers in groups of two started to make their way to nearby vehicles. The plan appeared to be to surround the mech.

It wasn’t clear if the mech had noticed us, but it did continue moving in our direction. I watched as Sam disabled the safety on her weapon and pointed at mine. She pulled three balls from a pocket near her should. I imagine they must be some sort of grenade.

Book Review: Contained by S. L. Harpel

The grenade were blue and perfectly smooth, with the exception of a small round button at the top.

“Press and hold it for three seconds,” she whispered to me. “The button will sink deeper into the grenade once it’s armed. Throw it as far as you can. The explode on impact or in five seconds.”

She handed one to me. I looked over the Chet expecting him to be red with anger, but he only nodded in our direction.

“Come on,” Sam said, “He wants us to head around to the West.”

Quietly we hurried from vehicle to vehicle.

“Why didn’t Chet silence you?” I whispered to her when we reached a point she thought was far enough.

“It knows we’re here,” Sam informed me. “There’s no need to be completely silent now, though loud noises will review our position.

A sizzle pierced the air and the vehicle we had just been near turned to ash. Every hair on my body stood up to take notice.

“If I say run,” she whispered again, “Don’t think about it. Run, and with every ounce of energy you have.”

Author Interview: S. L. Harpel, Author of Contained

Chet’s team was now firing at the mech. The goal seemed to be to disable it by destroying the legs it was walking on. Every soldier was making short, controlled energy bursts before quickly moving to another barrier. I watched in horror as two of Chet’s soldiers were too late to run and turned to dust in a flash of light.

“Get ready,” Sam told me. We both armed and tossed our grenades and then sprinted to another vehicle.

Grenades exploded as we exchanged weapons fire with the mech. Then, all at once, the firing stopped. Shaking, I cautiously started to look around the vehicle we were currently hiding behind. The mech had stopped firing and was slowly rotating to the right. First one of the four legs broke off, and then another. The rest of the unit dropped hard to the ground. The force of the impact shook the ground so hard that I lost my balance and toppled on to my back. All was then quiet for a second until we heard one of Chet’s soldiers cheering.

“Let’s go look at the spoil,” Sam told me, but I grabbed her arm.

“Sam, no,” I stopped her.

“What’s wrong?”

“This was too easy,” I told her. “Something is wrong. I’m sure of it.”

She squatted back near me. Sam kept her eyes on the fallen mech, but I scanned the area behind us. There was two concrete pillars standing not far from us, the remains of a building. With my hand still around her arm, I started to pull Sam up and started to run toward the pillars.

“Roman, what?” She looked at my face and we ran toward the pillars. Far away from us, I saw Menton and Benjamin running away from the clearing as well. Chet himself was moving away, but five or six of his team had gone close to inspect the mech from a closer vantage point.

“Move!” Chet yelled out. Most of his soldiers responded, but the ones closest to the fallen carcass kept going closer.

Sam and I had no more than reached the pillars when white light filled the air. I squeezed my eyes tightly closed, but the light was still too bright. We were knocked to the ground as the ensuing explosion robbed us of our sense of hearing.

Lights continue to flash around me for several minutes after the blast. Sam was up and saying something, but I couldn’t hear anything. I rolled to my side and looked toward the clearing. Where the mech had been was a large burning crater. Of his group, only Chet and five of his soldiers remained.

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Sam was screaming at me, but I still couldn’t hear anything. I tried to read her lips, but the flashing lights made it difficult. Menton was there and picked me up and threw me over her shoulder again. I could see Chet waving his hands, but my group was unwilling to go to him. Instead, we were running back north toward the military base.

Menton most have run a mile before any hearing started to come back.

“Put me down,” I yelled out to her. “Put me down.”

She set me on the ground and Sam and Benjamin came running up from behind us.

“Why are we running now?” I demanded. “There’s nothing left.”

“We were stupid,” Sam said. “We should have known the mechs would self-destruct. Why didn’t any of us know that?”

It was a reasonable point. I wondered myself. Even without my memories, my instinct was to get away from the fallen enemy.

“But it’s gone now,” I demanded.

“The mech is gone,” Menton corrected me, “but now more will be coming. The blast will register for miles.”

I was mad at myself again for not realizing that.

“The Plax will descend on that area,” Sam agreed. “They will make sure none of their tech is left behind.”

“Nothing could have survived that explosion.”

“We did,” Sam said. “That’s probably why Chet didn’t run. They are probably looking for tech.

“We should move,” Benjamin offered. “There’s no safety in these streets.”

He was right, so we continued on at a rapid pace.

We were within one hundred feet of the door of the base when something dropped from the sky right in front of us. We all froze in place. There was no doubt it was a Plax, and we were possibly the first humans to see one.

The creature was a goldish brown color and looked like a large insect. it’s triangular head had four gold eyes and a jaw that opened from side to side. There were six legs on its lower long body and four arms on its upper body. The back of the upper body had two sets of wings. Another one dropped from the sky as we stood there, blocking our online route to the safety the base would provide.

As we stood our ground, I couldn’t help but think, There’s a reason why no human has ever reported back about seeing on of these things.


Book Review: Contained by S. L. Harpel

Contained is S. L. Harpel’s debut novel. It is a young adult, science-fiction tale built around a young girl, Ella, who finds herself torn between two worlds. Ella was born in the Outskirts, the barren wasteland that covers most of the planet after man has destroyed it with biological weapons. While still a small child, she is chosen by a wealthy couple and taken into one of the Communities. There are nine Communities and each is dome-protected and full of life and abundance, but very few humans have the chance to live in one.

Ella faces a difficult choice because she wants to be loyal to her sister, Beaunca, who stayed behind in the Outskirts. However, there are many, many good things to life in the Community, from good food to advanced medical care, and Ella starts to be able to see the world from two points of view.

Contained is told from Ella’s first-person point of view. The writing style allows you to feel what Ella feels and do some self-examination as you decide which choices you might make in a similar situation. The book is reminiscent of the time when social standing and civil liberties were determined on where you were born. Had she not been chosen, Ella would not have the options now before her. She must choose to support the Community, find a way to elevate the lower classes, or find a positive middle-ground between the two.

The dystopian nature of the book is a possible future that is all too likely. Seeing a glimpse of how the world could evolve if we continue to destroy the planet was both fascinating and chilling.

What I Liked

Contained has a fast pace with rich characters. Since it is told from the first-person perspective, you feel what Ella feels as she faces each choice and decision. Ella faces a struggle with not only the world she has been forced to live in but a secret that she is forced to keep hidden inside. The story does a good job of not getting bogged down in unnecessary details and tells you what you need to know when you need to know it.

The character development was also well done. Each main character is a solid and fully fleshed out individual. Well not too much time is spent describing each character, you are given enough to see the whole person and their personality.

Book Review: Tokyo Story by Tereza Mackova

Where I Struggled

The only thing I had a hard time with in Contained was the abundance of characters. So many characters were described and named that I had a hard time keeping them all straight. At times, I was a little confused as to whether I really needed to know about a character or not. The plethora of characters introduced is the only reason I did not give this book a five-star review. That said, for the most part, the story sticks to the important characters and you learn who they are and what’s important about them. This minor negative did not detract from the excellent storytelling.

The Review

To me, Contained was a quick read that I had a hard time putting down. I was drawn in from the first few lines and am looking forward to reading Book Two. There were a few minor imperfections in the book, but none so much as to interfere with your reading enjoyment. The only reason I am not giving this book a five-star review is that I got confused more than a few times due to the sheer number of characters that are introduced and developed.

In conclusion, if you like dystopian science fiction and/or young adult literature, you will enjoy Contained. The book builds believable worlds that draw you in, and you find yourself invested as to which world or social group will or should prosper. There is definitely plenty of substance for this series to go on, possible through many more books. I highly recommend this book.

Final rating: 4.9/5.0 Stars

Learn more about S. L. Harpel is her author interview.

Contained by S. L. Harpel Book Review | #BookReview #IndieAuthor #SciFi #sciencefiction

Paradise WIP – Chapter 21

Author’s Note: Welcome to another week of Paradise, a science fiction work-in-progress. If you have just stumbled upon this site, each week new chapters are posted as they are written. This is a first draft so please keep in mind that there will be mistakes and possible inconsistencies.

Last week, the chapter ended with Menton jumping into full flight mode. Let’s see what happens next.

Read the story from the beginning by clicking here.


Chapter 21

Everything blurred past me as Menton bounded along down the hall with gazelle-like strides. She had seen or heard something to make her run but wasn’t willing to take the time to clue me in. She was running in the same direction we had been walking, so at first, I wasn’t sure if she was running to safety or running into battle.

The wait for an answer was short as just as swiftly she swung me down from her shoulder and set me down against a wall.

“Don’t make a sound and don’t move,” she commanded me. In another second, she had bounded so much further down the cave that I couldn’t see where she went.

My headlamp was still shining, but the cave was wider where I was sitting and the light did not penetrate the dark far enough for me to see the opposite wall. A chill caressed my spine as I imagined what could be in the dark.

Chapter 21 alien invasion, science fiction work-in-progress is now available to read online for free . New Chapters are posted each week. | #scifi #sciencefiction #firstdraft #amwriting #amwritingscifi

The shriek of weapon fire soon startled me into the reality of our situation. The orange light flashed in quick bursts far ahead of me in the tunnel. Frantically, with my heart in battle mode, I began to search the wall behind me for an opening. I was sure there was a reason why Menton had put me down where she did.

Crawling forward a little, I did find another opening in the rock. It was a little bigger than the last one I had to crawl through and not near as long. My head was clear of the wall before my knees had entered the opened.

It was dank and musty on the other side. Water was running down the far wall and in a stream that cut a path at the base of the wall. The “far wall” is a bit of a misnomer because the opening was so small I could almost reach it from where I stood. A quick inspection of the other three walls revealed nothing but a few cave crickets. I huddled close to the entrance after taking off my chest plate armor. The only weapon I had been carrying had disappeared during Menton’s epic sprint. I decided that if anything stuck a head or anything else through the opening that my armor would be enough to chop its head off.

Weapon fire continued far up the cave but the sound was muffled from my new vantage point. Moments later the firing stopped and an eerie silence enveloped me. There was some comfort in the trickle of the water running down the wall even if the water might be poisoned. At least I wasn’t in total silence.

It seemed like a long time before I heard movement outside the opening. I readied my shield to bash anything the came through.

“Roman?” came my name in a whisper. A wave of relief washed over me as I realized it was Sam’s voice.


“Yeah, it’s me. It’s safe now. You can come out.”

I clung tightly to the shield as I slithered back out of the opening. Sam was the only one there to greet me.

“Where are Benjamin and Menton?” I asked, fearing the worst.

“Up ahead,” she nodded. “Don’t worry, they are fine. Whatever was here is gone now.”

“Gone where?”

“If I knew that, I wouldn’t be here getting you.”

“Nice,” I reproached her.

“Of course, I’m kidding.” I was looking at her but I was sure she was smirking at me.

“I lost my weapon,” I told her, changing the subject. “It must have fallen when Menton was carrying me.”

“Menton has it,” she informed me.

“Menton has it?” I was incensed. “What was I supposed to use to defend myself.”

Sam laughed out and then caught herself because she was still trying to be quiet.

“Roman, she knew this part of the cave was clear. She took her stance at a bottleneck to make sure nothing got past her. You were never going to need your weapon.”

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I wanted to put faith in her words but would have felt more secure with some form of defense in my hands.

Menton and Benjamin were standing guard at the choke point.

“Did you see anything?” I asked them.

“We never do,” Benjamin replied. “And that’s the problem.”

“So, what do we do?” I asked.

Menton turned to me and I was sure there was a hint of disapproval in her eyes.

“Um, General, sir,” she started, “I don’t hear anything. It should be safe to move forward.”

“What did you hear?” I wanted to know, still unsure as to how she knew there was trouble ahead.

“Enhancements,” Sam muttered, gesturing to her ear.

“Ah, okay.” I dropped the subject.

Our pack trudged forward and soon came to a large metal sliding door. It took all four of us to slide it open far enough that we could get through it. On the other side was the interior so large that I couldn’t see the other side.

“Where are we?” I asked just inside the door.

“They used to build airplanes here for the military,” Sam informed me. “Everything has been long since scavenged, though.”

For reasons that weren’t clear to me, Sam insisted we close the sliding door behind us. The stubborn door insisted on the strength of the four of us combined before it was willing to budge. I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if one of us did not make it back from our mission.

Read Why You Should sometimes Drop Back And Punt


The hangar led to a number of builders that once had been a military base. Every room and hallway was strewn with debris and years of collected dust and cobwebs. I couldn’t help but notice that every so often there was a glass box on the wall with a red button inside.

“Sam,” I finally started, “what’s the deal with the red button.”

“Blast doors,” she told me. “They still work as far as I know.” She pointed to a metal seam that ran vertically up the wall near one of the buttons. “Press the button and a metal door instantly seals the corridor. Be careful, though,” she warned. “The doors are propelled by explosives. If you are not clear before you push the button, you will lose a hand or worse.”

I made a mental note, “Stay away from the red buttons.”

Deep in the base, we entered a small room just big enough for the four of us to lie on the floor.

“We’ll stay here tonight,” she told me. “Nothing can get into this room once we seal the door. Tomorrow we meet our help.”

“Who exactly are we meeting?” I asked her.

“You don’t want to know,” was her only reply.


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Exhaustion pulled me quickly to the floor. It seemed like I had no more than closed my eyes when there was pounding on the door. My heart began to race, but Sam was confident that the Plax would not knock and she sprung open and opened the heavy door.

Standing outside the door was a mountain of a man that would have made even Peadar appear small. With a sour grimace on his face, he only said two words, “Let’s move.”

I was able to learn that his name was Chet before his harsh stare told us that he did not want any talking. Not far from where he had found us, we came to what appeared to be a dead end. The wall in front of us began to move and gave us a view of a long, downward sloping corridor. We walked down the corridor for at least twenty minutes before we reached a door. Along the way, there were the dangerous red buttons every fifty feet or so.

The room we entered was large. At least thirty people turned to look at us as we entered, and the room fell silent.

“Volunteers?” Chet barked out, and all the hands in the room went up with the exception of the four of us from the bunker. There was a distinct impression that “volunteer” did not carry the meaning we were used to. Something told me it was going to be an unforgettable day.

Author’s Note: Thank you for coming along with my on this journey. I would love to hear your thoughts.

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Paradise WIP – Chapter 20

Author’s Note: Hello, readers! I don’t know about you, but these summer weeks seem to be flying by. That said, I have set the goal of finishing the first draft of Paradise by the end of August. I will continue to post a new chapter each week, but hopefully by fall, you’ll be able to have a copy of the finished book. More news coming soon!

Last week, we left Roman disappointed that he was not able to communicate with Jasmine like he had planned. I’m not giving up hope, though, and neither should you. This week, we’ll learn a little more about Peadar, Menton, and the Hyatt. Enjoy!


Chapter 20 of the dual-reality, science fiction work-in-progress is now available to read for free online. New Chapters each week. | #scifi #sciencefiction #firstdraft #amwriting #amwritingscifi

Chapter 20

I went to sleep that night trying to formulate a plan of how I might be able to reach Jasmine, but the next time I opened my eyes, I was back in the caves. Someone was dragging me along the corridor.

“Stop!” I called out. I couldn’t see who it was because they were pulling me by the back of my body shield.

“General?” It was Menton’s voice. She let go of my shield without warning, and my body fell hard against the ground.

“Where are we?” I asked, struggling to get myself up.

“We’re heading back to the bunker. You’ve been unconscious again.”

I thought back to the event that had sent me mentally to the compound again. A rush of gratitude swept through me as I realized I would not have to make my way out through that tight passageway.

“How long was I out this time?”

“Less than eight hours,” she told me, and that gave me some relief. I hoped it meant that I could trust that the compound really was the construct and that I was back in the real world.

“Good. Where are Sam and Benjamin?”

“They continued toward the surface.”

“Without us?” The mission was going to be dangerous enough with four people. There was no way two people on their own could accomplish it.

Read the story from the beginning. Click below.

Paradise WIP

“Sam didn’t want to give up. You were unconscious, so she decided it would be best for me to take you back. You may still have bots in your head.”

“I’m pretty sure I do,” I agree. “But there is no way Sam and Benjamin can do this on their own. How much of a lead do they have?”

“A couple hours. We didn’t come out into the corridor until this morning.”

“Good. That means if we move quickly, we can catch them. How far are we from the surface?”

“Not far,” she told me. “They should reach it in the next couple of hours.”

“Then we better hurry.” I started walking in the direction of the surface.

“Sir,” Menton was beside me in a flash and took hold of my arm. “You’re not well. You’ve been very weak and were just unconscious. I have orders to take you back to the bunker.”

“I’m alive,” I told her, a bit more brusquely than I intended. “The success of this mission has much better odds with more people. Even if my only asset is to serve as bait, it’s still better to have four rather than two.”

From her face, I could see she was considering my words strategically, but I also knew what instructions Sam had probably given her. She would have been told to ignore me no matter what I said.

“But, sir,” she finally said. “Sam ordered me…”

“I’m sure she did,” I cut her off. “It’s all well and good for Sam to give orders if I’m unconscious. However, when I am awake, I am still the general. Then I give the orders.”

It didn’t feel right for me to say those words. Everyone kept telling me I was the general, but I wished I had the benefit of years of memories and experiences to back up my rank.

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Menton was a good soldier. There was one thing the Hyatt did well, and that was to ingrain the importance of hierarchy into their soldiers.

“Yes, sir,” she replied letting my arm free, and we started walking at a brisk pace.

She was right, I was very weak. It was only a matter of minutes before I started to feel the drain of fatigue and my legs seemed to grow heavier with every step.

“What happened to me?” I asked her in an attempt to distract myself.

“We’re not entirely sure. You got stuck in the entranceway to the saferoom. I had to pull you through the rest of the way, but you were unable to talk and were shaking and rocking back and forth. Sam tried to calm you down, but in a few minutes, you were just unconscious. You didn’t move again until a few minutes ago.”

“Do I have a history of claustrophobia?” I didn’t really want the answer. It wasn’t a great trait for a general to have.

“Sam says that you’ve never liked tight spaces, but she’s never seen anything like it. She thinks there might still be bots at work, struggling to regain control. That’s why she wanted me to get you back to Max.”

The fact that I’d been back in the compound made that likely true, but I decided not to share that part of my episode with Menton.

“We’ll go back soon enough,” I assured her. “But not without our prize. This mission will be a success.”

“Yes, sir.”

We walked on in silence for several more minutes. The distraction had not been enough. Fatigue continued to pull down on me.

“Menton?” I started some time later.

“Yes, sir?”

“Could you talk to me?” I felt like a child asking a parent to read a book.

“Sir?” She stopped and looked at me.

Sometimes, the best you can do is step back and try again. Read Lesson 15 for more.

Why You Should Drop Back And Punt

I didn’t want to appear weak, but I knew there was no way I would be able to keep going for very long without something to think about other than the weight of my legs and body armor.

“I’m struggling,” I told her honestly. “I’m weaker than I want to admit, but I don’t want to go back. Maybe if you talk to me, you can distract me.”

“I could carry you,” she offered. The option was appealing, but I wanted her to save her strength to protect Sam when the time came.

“I’m not there yet,” I told her. “I just need something else to think about. Something to concentrate on other than the weight of my legs and body armor.”

“Okay.” We started walking again, but many more minutes passed without her saying a word.

I glanced over at her face. She appeared to be perplexed but wasn’t saying anything.

“Menton?” I said after more minutes passed.

“I don’t know what to talk about, sir.”

I chuckled in spite of myself. She was unfazed or at least appeared to be.

“Tell me about Peadar,” I finally said.

“Peadar? But you remember Peadar.”

“I only know what I’ve seen of Peadar in the compound. I don’t know if any of it is real, but you knew him well, didn’t you?”

Even in the darkness, I could see the hint of tears develop in her eyes. They shone like crystal on her otherwise stone face.

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“Yes, sir.” There was sadness in her voice.

“Tell me about him, please.”

“What would you like to know?” she asked me.

“Whatever you want to tell me.”

She didn’t speak again for some time. I was about ready to give up and just ask her to carry me when she finally started talking.

“We met when we were with the Hyatt. Neither of us had been there for more than a few days. Peadar was kind. Most of the other kids were already soldiers or had the soldier mindset. Peadar was different.”

“How so?”

“Fights were common in the barracks, especially among the fish.”

“The ‘fish’?” I didn’t remember that term.

“Yes, sir. That was what they called us, those of us that were new. We were fish because we had been recently captured.”


“Yes, sir. You know about the Hyatt, right?”

I knew a little from what Sam and Peadar had told me, but I didn’t remember anything about “fish.”

“Let’s say I don’t,” I told her ambiguously.

“Yes, sir. The Hyatt’s recruitment process isn’t one where they ask people to join them. Instead, they go out to areas, or at least they did when there were more of us on the surface, and look for kids that have lost their parents or become separated from their families.”

I struggled to remember the world on the surface, but no memories were forthcoming.

“Once they find one, or several, they start tagging them.

“What’s ‘tagging’?”

“Tagging is done with a type of dart. They shoot the kids with the dart. There’s a toxin in the dart that makes the kids pliable, almost like zombies, except something in the toxin makes you obedient to orders. There’s also a tracking bot in the dart. Once you’ve been tagged, the Hyatt can always find you. Even strong kids, like Peadar’s brother Mical, who might be a little less responsive to the toxin, can’t escape. The Hyatt wait for you to stop running and then surround you. Once captured, they take you back to one of their camps. They call the new kids, ‘the catch of the day’ or ‘fish.’”

“That’s terrible!”

“Yes, sir,” she agreed with little emotion in her voice. “But most of us wouldn’t have fought if we could have. We were living on the streets, constantly running. Sleep was rare because you never knew when the Plax would show up. The Hyatt offered food and a safe place to sleep. Most of us would have gone with them without the tagging.”

“But you later felt it was important to escape?”

“Yes. Mical saw it first. The Hyatt aren’t much different than the Plax. They did feed us, clothe us, and give us a place to sleep, but we were nothing but tools to them. If one of us was captured or died in the street, they just left us. Even if you were badly injured, you were left behind. I was not a small girl to start with, so it was pretty much guaranteed that I would be on the front lines with the big guys like Mical and Peadar. Mical knew we could have something better. He believed in you.”

“But I was a kid myself, wasn’t I?”

“Yes, you and Mical were the same age, but you were different. Even in the streets, you would share what you had. You wouldn’t eat so that others could. The Hyatt didn’t target you because you weren’t big enough physically. You watched over the other kids that were left behind. Many would have died without you.”

I wished I could remember more of my past.

“I had been alone on the streets,” she went on. “I didn’t have siblings, and my parents just disappeared one day. I was living in the shadows but didn’t escape the Hyatt’s notice. I wasn’t little, but I also wasn’t a fighter. I had been in the barracks for a few days. There was plenty of food, but the bigger kids often took whatever they wanted. They would take your food even if they weren’t hungry, just for the sport of terrorizing other kids. The rough kids usually became the troop leaders.

“Peadar said he had been watching me for a few days. I was keeping my head down, so I really hadn’t noticed anyone. Evening meal was delivered and the kids flocked to get what they could. I waited until most of the kids were gone and went up and got some small portions for myself. I made my way back to a dark corner, but a group of bigger kids followed me. They demanded I give them my food, as they had each of the days prior. Peadar was at the back of the group, and I figured he wanted something from me as well.

“I clutched the little food I had taken. I knew the kids wouldn’t let me go back to get more, and I was so hungry from days of not eating. Just then, I saw a kid fly across the room.”

“Fly?” I asked.

“Yes. Peadar decided he wasn’t going to watch them torment me anymore. Peadar was a big guy before the augmentations started. So, he picked up a few of the kids closest to him and tossed them as far as he could. It only took four before the rest of the kids scattered. I almost ran myself, because I wasn’t sure what Peadar would want with me, but he just came and sat on the floor next to me. He handed me his food and said, ‘Eat.’ Mical came a few minutes later and sat on the other side of me. They protected me from that day forward.”

I felt anger rising inside me as she spoke – anger against the Hyatt for stealing and abusing these kids and anger for the Plax that they had tried to steal Peadar’s memories away from him.

I’ve Learned – Lessons 1-10

“Peadar was very kind,” Menton went on. “Mical became a troop leader and got all three of us assigned to his troop. Peadar kept me safe, kept everyone safe that he could.”

“And were you…” I stopped. I got the feeling there was romance between them, but I wasn’t sure if it would be appropriate for me to ask that question.

There was silence again for some time. I was reviewing the memories I did have of Peadar when Menton suddenly spoke again. Her voice was barely a whisper.

“I wanted it,” was all she said, and I was fairly sure the words weren’t meant for me.

Suddenly, Menton’s arm shot up with a tight fist, and she froze in her tracks. Instinctively, I froze as well. She closed her eyes and listened for a moment. I listened, too, but didn’t hear anything but the sound of water dripping in the distance.

“Someone’s close,” she whispered, and in a flash, she had scooped me up and over her shoulder. There was to be no debate this time.

Author’s Note: Thank you for coming by to share another week in my journey of writing this book. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or through the contact page.

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If you are enjoying Paradiseplease share it with others and on social media. I thank you in advance.

See you next week!

Chapter 20 of the dual-reality, science fiction work-in-progress is now available to read for free online. New Chapters each week. | #scifi #sciencefiction #firstdraft #amwriting #amwritingscifi

Paradise WIP – Chapter 19

Author’s note:

Hello readers! Thank you for coming back to the next chapter in my science fiction work in progress. If you are new here, Paradise is a tale of one memory dealing with no memory and living in two realities. Last week, Roman had returned to the compound, though that shouldn’t have been possible after the surgery Max performed. This week, something new is discovered in the compound.

Please keep in mind, this is a first draft, and it is being shared as it is written. If you notice inconsistencies or glaring errors, please let me know. Thank you for joining me on this journey. Enjoy!

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Chapter 19 of the science fiction work-in-progress is now available to read online. New chapters posted every Tuesday. Come join in the fun! | #scifi #sciencefiction #wip #novel #firstdraft

Chapter 19

The next morning, I again woke in the compound. It didn’t make sense that I should be back there, but I decided to make the best of it.

I was sure that the key to figuring out what was going on could be found in the reconditioning center. Whether the compound was real or not, that center was important to that reality.

It was clear I couldn’t immediately go back to watching the door to the center. They would be watching me. Likely, they had been watching me for some time.

However, they were playing the game differently this time. Not only had they let Peadar come visit me, even telling him I had been injured, but they also allowed us to continue talking. We were even able to sit together at mealtimes.

Peadar was not impressed at the new way I was devouring large amounts of food, but I didn’t care. Real or not, I wanted to enjoy every morsel for as long as I could.

Paradise WIP

For several days, a group of barn workers sat around Peadar and I. It wasn’t clear who among them was the spy or if they all were, but we took the hint and spoke only about things in the compound.

The group quickly grew bored with us and soon let us sit at one of the fringe tables by ourselves.

“What happened?” Peadar asked me one day.

“What do you mean?” There were strawberries on the menu that day, and I was enjoying eating them in small, blissful bites.

“In the center. I know you didn’t fall.”

“No, I’m sure I didn’t fall,” I told him. “But I can’t tell you what happened. The whole time I was gone, I was back in the bunker. I don’t know what happened here.”

“And I’m still not in the bunker?”

I paused from my strawberries for a moment to look at him.

“No, I’m sorry. You’re not there. You died protecting me in that reality.”

“So, if this isn’t real?” He wasn’t really looking for an answer, and I offered none.

He looked down mournfully at his plate. “And we’re sure this is the construct?”


He looked back up at me. “Yes, sir.”

“I can’t say unequivocally. I thought for sure the bunker was real. Max found bots in my head and removed them. Life felt normal there, although awful most of the time. The people in the bunker seem just as real as anyone here.”

“So, this might be reality?”

For a moment, I imaged Peadar as a young boy, and I was having to find a way to tell him that his favorite pet had died.

“Again, I can’t say. I don’t know how to figure it out.”

He didn’t say anything for some time.

“Well, then, sir,” he finally said. “Perhaps that should be our new mission.”

It was then that I noticed a girl walking our direction from the barracks. My mind didn’t register anything at first, but it did pick up a hint of familiarity, so I did a doubletake.

“Who’s that?” I asked Peadar, nodding my head in the girl’s direction.

“That’s Jasmine,” he told me.

“Jasmine? From the center?”

“Yes. You really don’t remember?”

I was confused. “Remember what?”

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“The night we saw Gregg and Todd come out of the center, Gregg was carrying something.”

Yes, I remembered that. It had been too dark to see what it was.

“It was her,” Peadar went on. “They let her keep her name, Jasmine, but not much else. They really did a number on her.”

“What do you mean?”

Peadar paused for a minute like he wasn’t sure how to convey what he meant. “She’s not right,” he finally said. “Not upstairs. Something isn’t working right.”

“Still,” I replied, turning my head so no one would notice me paying attention to her, “she’s been in the center. That makes her our best ally.”

“Maybe.” Peadar did not sound as enthusiastic as I felt.

Jasmine didn’t have a work assignment. Instead, she seemed to be just wandering aimlessly around the compound. She didn’t wear the smile that most people did. In fact, she didn’t wear any expression at all.

I watched her much of the afternoon as I was working in the vineyard. There was no discernable pattern in where she walked or when, and I didn’t notice her interact with anyone.

When it was time for evening meal, I watched for her to come in to the dining area, but she never did. After feasting on corn, okra, and candied carrots, I set out to search for her. As luck would have it, I found her near the barn where Peadar worked, and no one else was around.

“Jasmine!” I called after her, but she continued walking at her slow pace.

“Jasmine,” I called out again softer as I got closer. Still, no response.

Finally, I caught up to her and grabbed her gently by the arm. She turned to look in my direction, but I got the clear impression that she wasn’t seeing me.

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“Jasmine, it’s me.”

“Hello,” she said methodically, but her stare and expression remained unchanged.

I lowered my voice to a whisper. “It’s me, General Roman. I need your help.”

No response.

“Jasmine, you’re the only one that has been in the center. I know it’s the key to everything here. I need your help.”

“Hello,” she said again in her monotone way.

Peadar was right. This definitely wasn’t the girl I had talked to in the center.

Just then, Vann appeared from nowhere just behind us.

“Rick,” he said with the smile I wanted to rip from his face, “I see you’ve met Jasmine.”

I didn’t say anything.

“I’d prefer you let her go.” It was clear that Vann was giving me an order, though his smile remained unchanged.

“We were just talking,” I told him.

“Really?” His tone was sarcastic. “Jasmine doesn’t talk a lot, and not usually to people she’s just met.”

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I wanted to confront Vann, but after my conditioning, I wasn’t supposed to remember Jasmine or the center. I also wasn’t sure what they had done to me in the two months I’d been in the bunker, so instead I stood there silently.

“Jasmine used to work in another part of the compound,” Vann started to inform me. It surprised me that he said that because everyone had always said there was nothing other than the part of compound we saw every day.

“She was a very good worker, but one act of carelessness, and she was unavoidably hurt. We’re doing what we can to help her, but I fear she may be forever altered.”

I let go of Jasmine’s arm. It shocked me what Vann was saying. He was giving me a warning. I had a choice to confront him or to pretend like I knew nothing. There was no doubt that Vann couldn’t be trusted, so I opted to remain silent.

Vann came closer and put his arm around Jasmine.

“Come on, young one,” he told her. “Let’s get you back to the barracks.”

“Wait,” I stopped them. I knew it was a mistake, but Jasmine was one of my people. She needed my help.

“Jasmine, has someone hurt you?”

Nothing changed in her pretty face. Her eyes stayed unfocused and fixed forward, looking right through me. After a moment of silence, she muttered another monotone, “Hello.”

Vann’s pleasant smile changed to more of a smirk. “I told you, something unfortunate happened to Jasmine. She’s a dear sweet girl, and we’ll do what we can to help her. In the meantime, she’s a good reminder for all of us as to why we need to follow the rules.”

If I had any doubt that I was being warned, that doubt was now erased. Vann may not have been sure if I remembered Jasmine from the center or not, but in either case, he was letting me know, if I failed to play nice, there would be serious consequences, to me and my people.

Author’s note:

Thank you again for stopping by today to read the latest chapter. What do you think so far? Leave your comments below or send me a message through the Contact Page.

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Chapter 19 of the science fiction work-in-progress is now available to read online. New chapters posted every Tuesday. Come join in the fun! | #scifi #sciencefiction #wip #novel #firstdraft

Continue to Chapter 20

Paradise WIP – Chapter 20

Paradise WIP – Chapter 18

Author’s Note: Hello, friends! Welcome back for this week’s installment of Paradise. When we left off last week, another belief was brought into question. Even though Rick was sure that the bunker was the real world, in the last moments of last chapter he woke up back in the compound. I promise at some point it will all come together.

I appreciate each and every one of you taking this journey with me. Please share this story with others and let me know what you think.

Paradise WIP

Chapter 18


“Pea…” Peadar grabbed my arm to stop me.

“Rick,” he said the name forcefully. “Do you know where you are?” His eyes weren’t blinking.

“Um, I think,” I tried to sit up, but something was holding me down.

“Don’t try to move,” Peadar said. “You’ve fallen and hit your head. We need to make sure you’re okay.”

Gregg and Todd stood expressionless as centurions behind Peadar.

“Fell?” I asked, but I didn’t really expect a response.

Nothing made sense. The compound was supposed to be a construct of my mind. It was created by microbots in my brain. Max had performed surgery on me and removed the bots. I shouldn’t have been seeing anything from the compound.

Something in the hall caught Gregg’s attention. He nudged Todd and the two left the room.

Peadar leaned in close and started to whisper in fast, eager words.

“Sir, we may not have much time. Remember, you have to call me Paul. I don’t know what happened to you. They told me you fell. You were in the center for several days, and when you came out your head was bandaged, as it is now. You’ve been unconscious for two months. We all thought we had lost you.”

I tried to make sense of what he was telling me, but my mind was clouded. I had just been in a cramped, awful place in a dark cave. Now I was in a bright, open and comfortable room.

“Sir, they are going to make me leave in a minute. They don’t like that we are friends. It was supposed to stop after the last time they reconditioned me. I don’t know why they came to tell me about your accident. They have let me come sit with you for about 15 minutes each day.”

I looked at Peadar, with fear obvious in his eyes. I wanted to hug him. It didn’t seem likely I would seem him again, and yet here he was. At the same time, I couldn’t grasp the meaning of what was happening. If the compound was a construct created by bots, then it wasn’t real. Peadar wasn’t real. I couldn’t make sense of what I was seeing.

In addition, I had never lost time in the compound before. Several times I had been unconscious in the bunker, but never before had I stayed unconscious in the compound. Something had changed. Someone had changed the rules.

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My head was pounding, but I ordered Peadar to help me up. Standing was out of the question, so I pushed myself back to lean against the headboard.

“I don’t understand,” I told him. “I shouldn’t be here.”

“Speak softly, sir. I’m sure they are trying to listen.”

I glanced to the door. From my limited vantage point I didn’t see anyone in the hallway outside.

“Peadar.” He glared at me. “Paul, I shouldn’t be here. Max said I wouldn’t ever be here again.”

“What do you mean?” he asked. “You’ve not been anywhere.”

“I was back in the bunker,” I whispered to him. “For a long time. Max found bots in my brain. Sam and I were just setting out on a mission to capture a Plax.”

I swear Peadar’s dark skin turned white for a moment as he glanced toward the door.

“You can’t talk about them,” he whispered. “Not here. You’re not supposed to be remember them. Especially not now.”

“Why not now? What’s happened?”

“Sir, I don’t know for sure. What I do know is that you were in the center for several days. There’s no way they didn’t try to do at least some reconditioning while you were there. Even if someone came to your aid again this time, you have to pretend like it worked.”

I nodded slightly. I turned my head to the right and could see the vineyards off in the distance through the window. Irony struck me for a moment. Even though the compound was open and beautiful with every attempt at simplicity, it was far more complicated to live in than the bunker.

“Time’s up.” Gregg appeared in the doorway again. There was no attempt at a fake smile on his face. In fact, his contempt for me and Peadar was clearly evident.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Peadar told me, and he obediently got up and left my room.


I improved quickly. The first day I woke up, I couldn’t even get out of bed. By the end of the second day, I was able to get up and move around some. The third day, I was able to take my meals in a communal dining area.

I knew the food wasn’t real, but after months in the bunker, I savored every bite. There seemed to be no need to restrict myself to three bites, so I ate with fervor, devouring everything I could get. Fruit especially garnered my attention. There was no way to have fruit in the bunker.

The fourth day, they removed my bandages. I saw no evidence of any damage to my head and wondered why it had been bandaged. Vann came by that day and attempted to tell me that advanced medical techniques had allowed my head to heal in such a way there wouldn’t be scarring.

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“How did I fall?” I asked him.

“Oh, I’m sorry, we don’t know.” His fake smile never wavered. I imagined smashed the lamp on the bedside table over his head.

“How do you know I fell, then?”

“Gregg found you.” He nodded to the brute behind him. I remembered watching him change from a tiger into a man and a cold chill ran up my spine.

“Where?” I asked them.

“Not far from the vineyard,” Vann told me. “We think maybe you were climbing a tree.”

“Climbing a tree? Why would I do that?”

“Isn’t that the question?” he chuckled, but he was the only one in the room that found it funny.

I may not have remembered the details of my past, but I did know how to read people. The look on Gregg’s face told me that not only had I not fallen out of a tree, but I had also not been in any accident.

“You’re doing much better,” Vann went on. “You can return to the vineyards tomorrow if you would like. Or, if you prefer, you can continue to rest for a few days.”

As comfortable as I found my bed, I was ready to get up and set about discovering just what was happening.

“Tomorrow sounds good,” I told him.

Vann and Gregg started to leave, but then Vann stopped in the doorway and turned to me. He was still smiling, but there was no warmth in his voice.

“It would be best, Rick,” he spit my name out like something that tasted bad, “if you stayed close to the main buildings. Go to the dining hall, the barn and the vineyard, but only those areas. There is no need for you to go exploring. It would be awful if you had another accident. We might not find you in time.”

If there was any doubt in my mind, it was now gone. Vann’s words confirmed, not only that they had done something to me, but that they knew I had been exploring the area around the compound.

Chapter 18 in Paradise, the science fiction work in progress by Wolfe Butler. New chapters posted on Tuesdays. | #WIP #scifi #sciencefiction

Continue on to Chapter 19

Paradise WIP – Chapter 19

Paradise WIP – Chapter 17

Author’s Note: Hello, dear readers! Thank you for coming back to read the next chapter in Paradise, my science fiction work-in-progress. Each week I share a chapter of the saga as I write it. The entire story so far is available online. Please keep in mind that this is a first draft, and be kind as to any errors or inconsistencies you might find.

Last week, we left off with our four soldiers, Roman, Sam, Menton and Benjamin, heading out on their mission to capture a Plax. Let’s see how far they got.

Chapter 17

Much to my embarrassment, my strength gave out long before the others. Sam was intent on making it to the first bunker before anyone slept. Had Benjamin slung me over his shoulder, it would have been awful enough. When Menton said that she had plenty of energy and would happily carry me first, I wanted to disappear into one of the small cracks in the cave floor.

“I can go on,” I grumbled, but I knew I didn’t have many more steps in me before I would collapse.

Sam nodded to Menton, and before I could object, she swung me up and over her shoulder.

“Don’t worry, Sir,” Menton whispered to me. “It’s an honor to carry you as long as I need to.”

Happily, I passed out from sheer exhaustion a few minutes later.

When I next opened my eyes, we were back in the first bunker. They had decided the medical bay was the safest place to be. Sam and Benjamin were both asleep, and Menton was standing guard.

“Have you slept, soldier?” I asked her.

“No, sir.”

“Then it’s time for me to take watch.”

“I’m fine, sir,” Menton objected.

“Perhaps you are, but you still need to rest. That’s an order.”

I had a feeling she was not going to sleep, but she did acquiesce and took a place on one of the beds.

The bunker was too quiet, and I was too jumpy. I kept picturing the Plax that had almost gotten Max and me the last time we were in that room. Every little sound sent me into high alert. None of us had been in the bunker in weeks, so it could easily have been infested with Plax soldiers.

When Sam woke up she told me that Menton had done a preliminary survey of the bunker before she or Benjamin had gone to sleep. That knowledge might have made me less jittery had I known, but then again, I wasn’t sure it would have helped at all.

My intention was to stay in the bunker a few days, so I could regain some strength. I had insisted on coming on this mission. The limited strength I had was making me a burden on the rest of the group, and the mission was stressful enough already.


Paradise WIP


We spent a full day in the bunker. We split into teams, Sam and Benjamin worked together and Menton got stuck with me. Methodically we searched the entire bunker, but ultimately did not find anything.

The next day we set out early toward the surface.

“How long will it take us to get there?” I asked Sam. Nothing in the caves was familiar to me.

“If we hustle, we could be on the surface by tomorrow night. It’s better that we don’t come out of the caves exhausted, just in case we meet up with the Plax right away. There are a couple relatively safe places to rest along the way, so we’ll plan on three days.”


Lifting my heavy boots off the ground was becoming increasingly difficult, when Sam suddenly said, “We’ll rest here for tonight.”

“Here?” I looked around to find the entrance to another bunker. Instead, all I saw was the dark passageway we’d been marching through all day.

“Not here exactly,” she smiled at me. “There.” She pointed her headlamp toward the floor of the cave a few feet from me. I didn’t notice it at first, but then a small opening came into view.

“There?” I asked in disbelief. “That’s barely big enough for me to get my head through.”

“It’s a little snug,” she laughed at me, “but you’ve done it before.”

Menton took off all her gear and got on the floor to inspect the area we would be entering.

“Looks like the opening’s clear,” she told us. “Let me inspect the other side before you follow me.”

Then she rolled onto her back and stretched her arms out straight above her head. Slowly she inched her way into the opening. I couldn’t help but think of a snake eating its prey as I watched her. Something dark twitched in the back of my mind, but I quickly dismissed it.

“She’s not going to make it,” I whispered to Sam after some time. She laughed at me in response.

“I’m serious!”

“I know you are.” She patted my arm condescendingly, which only served to anger me further. “Peadar has gone in and out of this spot several times.”

“Peadar?” I pictured the mountain of the man I remembered from my time in the compound. “He must have been much smaller in real life.”

“How big was in he in the Plax world?”

“At least two heads taller than me and probably three times as wide.”

“Yep, that sounds about right,” she said.

I looked back at Menton. She had made very little progress.

“There is no way.”

“It’s bigger than it looks,” she told me, but I got the distinct feeling that she was lying.

What Sam didn’t tell me was the reason why Menton entered the opening by laying on her back. For one, if there were Plax in the opening, she had a weapon help firmly in her right hand. Two, the length of the opening was longer than my body and slanted upward the further in you got. Laying on my stomach would have bent me in an awkward position as I worked my way through.

Menton gave us the all clear and Sam put Menton’s gear in the opening ahead of her.

“Keep alert,” she told us, and then she started the entry process.

Since Sam was much smaller than Menton, it took her only a fraction of the time. Her feet had barely entered the opening when Benjamin started putting my gear into the opening so I could push it as I slithered along.

Jagged rocks poked me and dragged the length of my body. It was a horrible feeling being in a space so tight with my arms above my head. I could feel that my feet were finally in the opening, as I was able to push myself along better by using the sides of the tunnel for leverage. Yet my hands had still not reached the exit.

Suddenly I was very cold. My heart started to race and sweat sprung up everywhere on my body. I needed desperately to move my arms, but there was no way as they were pinned above me.

“I can do this,” I told myself, but for a few minutes, I couldn’t move, and the fear intensified.

Breathing became difficult. Air came in and out in short jagged breaths.

“Move, soldier!” I commanded myself, but I couldn’t. The sensation of a white shadow started to envelope me as my heart pounded faster and faster. My head felt disconnected from my body and my legs were numb.

“Move,” I told myself with less enthusiasm. “You can do this.”

Then my hands started to tingle like they were asleep, and the feeling was slowly creeping up my arms. Against my will, tears started the stream from my eyes, and consciousness started to escape me.

My heart was drumming so loud in my ears that I could hear the whoosh of my blood coursing through my body. Just when I was sure I had lost the fight, two strong hands grasped my wrists and yanked me the rest of the way into the next opening.

Once free, I immediately curled into a ball, hugging my knees tightly against my chest. Sam sat beside me and placed my head in her lap.

“Roman, it’s okay,” she tried to console me. “You’re okay.”

Breathing was still difficult, and the sense of panic only strengthened as I realized I still couldn’t take enough air into my lungs. I squeezed my hands into fists as my chest started to ache.

“Breathe, Roman,” she told me. “You’re free now. You can move. Breathe. Just breathe.”

I could barely hear her for the noise pounding in my ears.

“What’s… what’s happening?” It was all I could do to gasp out the words.

“You’re okay, Roman,” was all she would say to me.

I didn’t feel okay. In fact, I felt the furthest thing possible from okay. I squeezed my eyes tightly shut and tried to imagine open spaces, but the only open spaces I clearly remembered weren’t real. The illusion of the compound offered no comfort now that I knew it wasn’t real.

“Roman.” Sam started to blow softly in my face. “Roman, you have to breathe.”

But breathing was not possible. The vise around my chest grew tighter as the white shadow took complete control of me. I felt myself slipping further away.

“Sam!” I cried out, but I wasn’t sure any sound escaped me. At least, I didn’t hear anything above the drum of my heartbeat, and there was no air in my lungs to breathe out the word.

“Roman, breathe.” Sam’s voice was muffled, hanging disconnected in the air above me.

I was losing the fight. Terror completely encased me and took my consciousness away in the process.


I’ve Learned – Lessons 1-10


“Rick?” someone said my name. Whatever had happened was finally over. My mind was coming back to life. Exhaustion weighed on me like a lead blanket.

“Rick, wake up.”

Something was wrong. I sensed it before I opened my eyes.

“Come on, sir, return to me,” someone whispered. I knew that voice.

Peadar! It was Peadar talking to me. Had I died?

“Wake up, Rick, please.”

I tried to shake my head, but it was too heavy. Slowly I was able to open my eyes ever so little.

In the blur that greeted me, I could see that I was in a bright room. It was Peadar talking to me. He was sitting next to me on the edge of my bed.

Gregg and Todd stood guard behind him.

Author’s Note: That’s it for this week. What do you think so far? I would love to hear your comments.

If you are enjoying this tale, please tell others about it or share it on social media. I greatly appreciate it.


Chapter 17 of the science fiction work-in-progress, Paradise, is now available. Our team has set out on their mission to capture the Plax. What happens next? Read to find out. | #WIP #sciencefiction #scifiContinue on to Chapter 18

Paradise WIP – Chapter 18

Paradise WIP – Chapter 16

Author’s Note: Hello, dear readers. Thank you for continuing to share in my journey of writing a new science fiction novel. This week’s chapter picks up the continue conversation in the med bay between Roman, Max and Sam. Decisions are made and a new mission is started. If you are new to this story, you can read all 15 previous chapters online. Please keep in mind that this is a work in process and that the first draft is being shared as it is written. Please be gentle in regard to any mistakes or inconsistencies. Let’s jump in.

Paradise WIP

Chapter 16

The Plax war had been going on for years. Though I couldn’t remember most of those years, it seemed impossible to me that not one Plax had been captured in all that time. Our side had suffered lots of casualties. There was no way that we couldn’t have caused at least some casualties on the other side.

Sam confirmed that I was partially right. We had blasted their ships out of the air. We had destroyed their large mechanical monsters. I made a mental note that I would ask later what she meant by that. We had bombed locations that we thought they were using as a base or staging area. Through all the fighting, not one place had even been captured. Not a single corpse had ever been found. Worse still, no human had clearly ever seen a Plax.

“That’s impossible!” I couldn’t control myself. “Utterly impossible!”

“Have you seen one?” Max was all business.

“In the other bunker we saw one!”

“Really?” Max crossed her arms and sat back in her chair. “Tell me, General, what did you see?”

I thought back and felt a shudder trying to run through me. It had been very dark. We were in the other medical bay. Max had grabbed me and pulled me into a storage cabinet.

“They have glowing eyes,” I told her, feeling a little vindicated.

“And?” She was completely unmoved.

That's impossible! I couldn't control myself. - Paradise a science fiction work in progress

I thought hard but no other details seemed to be in my mind.

“I’ve got amnesia!” I finally blurted out. “But I am not the only soldier that has been fighting the Plax. How could it be that no one has ever seen one?”

“Think about what you remember.” Max wasn’t willing to give me an inch.

“It was too dark. I didn’t see anything but those four glowing eyes. Gold eyes.”

“And then?”

“And then what? The next thing I knew it was gone. I want to say it jumped to the ceiling.”

Max stood up with a smirk on her face. “And that, dear General, describes virtually every confrontation with the Plax.”

Sam was a little kinder to me. “They only attack when it is very dark. If there is power, they always disable the power before they attack. When the fighting is over, there is never anything left behind.”

“That’s impossible!” It was difficult but I got to my feet so I could pace the room. “There has to dead ones somewhere. Not everyone of the infernal creatures can possibly escape every time. They can’t be immortal.”

“No, if they were, they wouldn’t be here.” Max didn’t really direct her comment at anyone.

“And what does that mean?”

“There has to be a reason they are here,” Sam told me. “They wouldn’t have come to the planet and started a war for no reason. They are technologically far advanced over us. They could have easily have wiped us all out already if they only wanted the planet. But instead, they have taken the time to learn how to interact with and control us. There is something they need or want. We spell some solution to whatever problem they are facing.”

“That’s what he said.” I thought back to hiding in the brush with Peadar when we saw Gregg and Todd talking.

“That’s what who said?” I had inadvertently gotten Max’s attention.

“Gregg or Todd. I can’t remember which one said it. When Peadar and I were watching them, one of them said something about needing us.”

Max and Sam locked eyes.

“We have to go today,” Sam said. Max nodded in agreement.

When Peadar and I were watching them, one of them said something about needing us. - Paradise a science fiction work in progress

Though neither one of them thought it was a good idea, I insisted that I go along on the mission. Max decided she would stay behind but insisted we take one of her burly nurses with us in case anyone, meaning me, needed medical attention. I didn’t object. Benjamin was a big, muscular man and didn’t look like he would have any trouble carrying me if the need arose.

The fourth member of our party was Menton. She was the only person that Max and Sam could agree upon that they both felt could not possibly be a Plax. I tried arguing with them that if there were any Plax amongst us we would likely all already be dead or prisoners, but the two of them talked on as if I wasn’t there. In the end, I found my way to one of the beds and took a nap.


“What’s the plan?” I asked. The four of us had cleared the section of the cave that was narrowest and the section we had to crawl through. The section we were in was wide enough that Sam and I could walk beside each other. Menton insisted on taking point and Benjamin had evidently been ordered to stay in the back. I decided it wasn’t worth arguing with him.

Sam glanced at Menton and then nodded slightly to Benjamin.

“Sam, seriously? If they can’t be trusted, then we are already done for.”

“Fine,” she was irritated with me but didn’t put up any fight. “We have a new potential weapon.”


“It’s not been tested yet.”

“That instills me with confidence.” I mumbled.

“Roman, if we didn’t have something new we wouldn’t even try. Or did you forget that we have never captured a Plax before?”

“I’m sorry.” I wasn’t really, but the words were out of my mouth before I thought about them.

She ignored my platitude and continued. “Ideally, it would be great if we could catch one alive. Since that has never happened, we’ll have to be satisfied with killing one and hope there is something we can bring back to Max.”

“That seems like a tall order for four people, especially since I am barely half a person right now.”

“We weren’t sure who we could trust,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean we will necessarily be alone.”

“No? How did I miss this part of the plan?”

She shot me a disapproving glance and another “I’m sorry” slipped out. She had me well trained.

“The thought process,” she was gritting her teeth as she spoke, “is that a small party might be able to get around easier without getting noticed. If we can surprised one that would be are best chance at success.”

“And if we can’t?”

“If we have to go all the way to the surface to find one, there are people we can contact to help us.”

“The surface?” I stopped walking. I had neither considered meeting up with the Plax in the cave nor venturing all the way to the surface to find one. “I didn’t think there was anyone on the surface.”

If we have to go all the way to the surface to find one... - Paradise a science fiction work in progress

“Probably not many in the immediate area. Most everyone that was left went down with us when we found the first bunker. A few brave souls chose to stay above to serve as watchers and to keep tabs on any possible changes.”

“What if they are all…” I didn’t want to finish my sentence. “Gone?”

“I can’t imagine we are the only humans alive. It might take a little longer, but we can always contact another cell. Worst case scenario, we contact the Hyatt.”

“The Hyatt? I know I don’t remember much, but isn’t that an incredibly terrible idea?”

“It’s not my first choice, that’s for sure,” she said. “If what you said is true, we have to find out. No matter what it takes. The Hyatt may be a necessary evil to reaching our goal.”

I imagined men larger than Peadar taking us captive. The Hyatt was not an option I wanted to rely on.

“Come on,” she nodded ahead. “It’s still quite a distance to the other bunker so we need to keep moving. With only four of us, I would rather not sleep in the caves.”

“Agreed,” Benjamin chimed in from behind us. I had forgotten he was there.

“Very well,” I said, and we trudged on.

Author’s Note: That’s it for this week. New posts are uploaded every Tuesday, so be sure to check back next week. I would love to have your input. Please share your comments below or send a message through the contact page.

Keep reading:

Paradise WIP – Chapter 17


Paradise Chapter 16 - a science fiction work in progress by Wolfe Butler. #scifi #sciencefiction #WIP

Paradise WIP – Chapter 15

Author’s Introduction: Welcome to the next chapter of the science fiction, work-in-progress, Paradise. Last week, we were left with the thought that everything had to change. That conversation continues this week.

If you are new to this story, chapters 1-14 are all online. The tale is being shared as it is written. That means it’s a first draft with very little editing. If you are enjoying it, please share with someone else or on social media.

Chapter 15

Neither Sam or Max spoke for several minutes. I was weak and made my way to a chair to sit down. Nothing that was happening made sense to me, but the look on both their faces told me that they thought this piece of information was game changing.

Another few minutes passed in silence. Then, suddenly, Max was back on her feet.

“We have to wake everyone.” She was back in emergency mode and headed toward the door.

“No,” Sam grabbed her arm and swung her back around. “What if?”

Some new realization hit Max and she reached out to grab Sam like the room had suddenly been tipped and she needed stability to keep from falling.

“No, we can’t.” Max nearly whispered.

More silence.

Finally I couldn’t stand it.

“What is going on?” The words came out much louder than I expected.

They both turned to look at me. Max walked over and closed the med bay door, turning the wheel on it to make sure it was locked closed. Her action send a chill up my spine, though I wasn’t sure why.

Sam came and sat next to me while Max grabbed a chair from across the room and sat it in front of us. The chair was so close that our knees touched when she sat down.

Max opened mouth, but the words that she spoke were so soft that I had to read her lips to understand. “Who have you told?”

“Told what?”

My normal voice volume turned Max’s face into a fierce expression. Sam put her hand on my arm.

“We have to be quiet,” Sam whispered. “Just in case.”

“Quiet?” I was flabbergasted. “We are in a bunker. The walls are concrete and steel. The door is solid metal. Who could possibly hear us?”


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My speech brought further rage to Max’s face.

“If you weren’t the general,” she hissed at me.

“I…,” I stopped and lowered my voice. “I don’t understand what is happening here.”

My honest truth seemed to soften Max a little.

“Roman,” Sam started slowly. “The implications are enormous. If they can be anything, they can be anywhere.”

“It wasn’t real!” I chuckled out loud in spite of myself.

“There is nothing funny about this!” Max was back on her feet and walked to the other side of the room. Something told me she moved to keep from hitting me.

“I’m sorry. I really am. But, Sam, really. You told me the compound was a construct created by bots in my brain. Why would anything in that world trouble you? It wasn’t real.”

“Oh, Roman.” There were tears in Sam’s eyes. She turned and looked at Max and Max visibly relaxed. “We sometimes forget that you don’t remember.”

Max made her way back over to us and sat down. “This is how a construct works,” she began. “The Plax know that our brains will reject anything that isn’t possible. For that reason, the construct is carefully crafted to create a world that will feel real, a world where the subject won’t question the new reality.”

“Yes?” I still didn’t understand.

“The brain can accept certain new stimuli, but in the end, everything must be believable. Probably part of the reason your construct failed was because your brain knew that paradise wasn’t possible. Part of your brain could not reconcile the devastation you have seen in the real world with the wonders of the unreality.”

“That part I understand.”


“The Plax are not creative,” she went on. “Their initial constructs didn’t work because the subject immediately knew it wasn’t real. The subjects that survived described an endless room that was either white or black. No walls, windows, floor or ceiling. No objects. It was immediately clear it couldn’t be real.

“What the Plax miss in creativity they make up in ingenuity. They didn’t know what the Earth had looked like before we destroyed it. Not really. So they figured out a way to access our dreams. They turned our dreams into a weapon.”

“How would I have ever dreamt of paradise if I’ve never seen it?”

“They don’t have to use the subject’s dreams. Any dreams that they harvest can be used. Dreams are effective because our brains are designed to accept them. Even impossible things are acceptable in a dream because our brain instinctively knows that dreaming is essential to mental health.”

“Okay?” I was still a long way from understanding. “How does a dream change anything in the real world?”

“It goes back to their inability to be creative.” It was Sam’s turn to try to explain. “The Plax can create worlds that we will believe in, worlds that our minds can accept. Our dreams gave them that power.”

Still no lights were coming on.

“The dream data can help them to create our worlds.” Her voice stuck a little and she paused before going on. “We… we have never imagined the Plax. No one ever dreamed of them or what they might be. They knew they had to be part of any construct because that is the only way they can control and improve the construct. They have to be part of the construct so they can manage what happens and improve it for future victims.”

“I think I understand, at least some,” I told them. “But I don’t understand why the fact that I saw shapeshifters upset you so much.”

“No creativity,” Max barked. “They couldn’t change what they are. That means that most likely they inserted themselves as they actually are.”

“But that would mean…” A cold chill was creeping up my spine.

“That would mean that they are shapeshifters. It also means they can be anywhere. Or anyone.”

“There’s only one way we can know.” Sam was looking at Max as she spoke.

Max understood perfectly. “We’re going to have to catch one.”

Author Note: That’s it until next Tuesday. Again, please share this story with others. I’m also interested in your input. Let me know your thoughts below. Thank you!

One man trapped between two realities with no memory to guide him. Paradise is a science fiction work in progress. Chapters 1-15 now available. #SciFi #ScienceFiction



Paradise WIP – Chapter 14

Hello readers! I am happy to present chapter 14 of my current work-in-progress, and also happy to report that I have been writing actively. That means that the next two chapters are complete and the third is well under way.

If you are new to this series, Paradise is the working title of my sci-fi WIP. It’s the story of a man named Rick in one world and Roman in another. Plagued with memory loss, he can’t be entirely sure which world is the real one. Chapter 13 gave him hope that maybe he was finally starting to put the pieces together. Let’s see what happens next.

Chapter 14

Max moved me out of the med bay the following day. She said she was sick of my smell stinking up the place. Maybe that was her attempt at humor, but Sam was happy to move me into our private quarters. She found a small office near the center of the bunker and turned it into a home for us.

To say it was a home wasn’t a fair description, at least not as far as creature comforts were concerned. They had been able to find some mattresses in the complex, though they barely qualified as mattresses. About the thickness of two of my fingers and wreaking of mildew and years of dust, they provided little relief over lying directly on the cold cement floor.

Sam said I was too quiet, and for several days I am sure that I was. Peadar hung heavily on my mind. My only memories of him were from the compound, but none of that had been real. I couldn’t remember the real Peadar and that truth was devastating.

“Were we close?” I asked Sam late one night. We had both been pretending to sleep. There wasn’t much to occupy our time in the bunker. No one had ventured out since the last of us arrived for fear they would lead the Plax back to our new hiding spot.

“You were closer to his brother. Mical stood witness when we were married.”

Married. Another memory I didn’t have.

“Tell me about Mical.”

“There’s not much to say. I never did know him well. He was bigger than Peadar.”

“Bigger?” I interrupted her. Peadar was huge.

“Yes,” she laughed a little. “He was at least a head taller than Peadar. Something about the Hyatt treatment reacted differently with him. He was scary smart and had no trouble picking up us normal mortals with one hand.”

“The Hyatt made him bigger?”

What I Learned From the Cider House Rules

“I’m sure he was big to start with,” she told me. “The Hyatt didn’t bother to invest time in small or weak individuals. The bot infusion made him grow bigger. He would have been very uncomfortable in this bunker, if he could even get here at all. Some of those passageways were pretty small. If he were here, he’d have to always walk a little hunched over or he’d be constantly hitting the ceiling and lights with his head.”

It didn’t seem possible that I could forget such a mountain of a man.

“He was very protective of you,” she went on. “He even tried to stop you from marrying me.”

“He did? Why?”

“Mical wasn’t sure I could be trusted. Though really, I don’t think he trusted anyone outside of you and Peadar. The Hyatt had broken him and that made him suspicious and paranoid.”

“Paranoid and smart. That doesn’t sound like a good combination.”

“No, it definitely could have been very different. Had he not been intent on protecting Peadar, I shudder to think what the Hyatt would have turned him into. Had he come after us, none of us would have been able to stop him. In the end, even the Plax had a hard time.”

The Plax. I hadn’t thought about them in a while.

“In the compound, they were shapeshifters.”

“They who?” she asked me.

“The Plax.”

“Shapeshifters?” She sat up to look at me. Even in the dark I could see a new fear in her eyes. “What do you mean?”

“Um, that they could change shape.” I did my best to sit up. “Vann, the leader in the compound. He was Plax. So were Gregg and Todd. They were also the white tigers I kept seeing.”


She was still looking in my direction, but I got the distinct impression she was no longer talking to me.

“Relax.” I reached out to touch her arm. “It wasn’t real. It was just some sort of construct.”

“I have to find Max.”

“Wait. What’s going on?”

Sam was already on her feet, but I was still struggling to sit upright.

“This could change everything.” She was oblivious to me.

“Sam, stop!” She was already out the door but stopped and looked back at me.

“Roman.” She said my name and stopped. It didn’t make sense what was going on. She decided it was a good idea for me to go with her and helped me to my feet.

Review: Working Stiffs by Scott Bell

Max was asleep in the med bay. No one had ventured out of the bunker so there were no injured filling the beds. I realized she wanted me out so she could have some privacy.

“Max, you gotta wake up.” Sam walked up to her and shook her awake.

“What’s wrong?” Max sprung to her feet ready for any emergency.

“What if they’re shapeshifters?”

Max shook her head as if to clear it. “Shapeshifters?”

“Yes!” There was an earnestness in Sam’s voice that I did not understand.

Max looked at me. “What on earth is she talking about?”

“The Plax,” I told her.

Something clicked in Max and she sat back hard on the bed where she had been sleeping. “Then everything..” she didn’t finish.

“Changes!” Sam shouted. “Everything changes!”

“Everything,” Max repeated.

Closing author note: What do you think of the story so far? I am eager to hear your comments! Please keep in mind this is a first draft that I am sharing as I write it. Please be kind as to editing and inconsistencies. Everything will be fixed before a final version is made available.

Until next week…