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"The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion." ~Albert Camus


[Chapter 19]

“What happened back there was murder, plain and simple! How the hell do you justify killing someone in cold blood like that!?” After a sorrowful and silent ride back, Hal now found himself in a heated argument with his brother in the cozy top-floor office of the cathedral. Despite the comfortable setting, it felt like the argument could boil over at any moment. Vanir, Dubs and Miri all played spectator to the unfolding fight.

Marcus sighed, uncorking a bottle of fermentae and taking a sip before responding to Hal. “Hal, you're angry. I get it. I really do. But what was I supposed to do? Capture him? Risk more people discovering us? Start a whole big collection of captives to keep you and Miri company? I can't afford that, Hal. One slip up when we're this close, and everything falls apart.”

“God damn it, Marcus! He was my friend!” Hal couldn't restrain his outrage. “You could at least pretend to show remorse for all you've done!”

Marcus threw his hands up in exasperation. “Words can't change anything Hal! What's done is done. If an apology will make you feel better, fine, I'm sorry. I'm sorry it had to come to that. I really am. But I don't have the luxury of mercy under these circumstances!” Marcus set his drink down and leaned forward, planting both hands on the top of his desk. “Do you have any idea how hard I've had to work to keep the meteor's power hidden from the government!? To establish my power base? To finally reach a point where we're ready to strike? Years of deliberate and methodical effort: collecting data, buying influence over important officers and politicians, building a network of agents in key positions.” He shook his head. “I can't risk any rogue elements disrupting this delicate web, now more than ever!”

Hal stomped his cane on the floor “That doesn't make it right, Marcus!”

“Maybe not, but that doesn't mean I'm wrong either. Things just aren't that simple, and you know it.”

Miri spoke up from Hal's side, joining in. “How many more people need to die before it is wrong, then? How many more people need to die before you're done killing in the name of this cause?”

“If we're smart about it, hopefully not too many.” Marcus stepped around the desk, walking closer to the two of them. “If we want to save lives, in the end, then we need to strike hard and end the revolution on the very same day it begins. Quick and clean.” Marcus punched one fist into his other open palm. “Just think about it Hal. The tower isn't just a symbol of our oppressors, it's the nerve center of all of their operations! If we destroy it all in one momentous strike, they won't be able to resist us, and the people will finally learn to trust in the power of their own hearts rather than the power of the troopers and the Viscount!”

“Hmph.” Hal grunted and shook his head, but that didn't seem to do anything but embolden Marcus and his little lecture.

“Just look at you. Look at us, Hal.” Marcus placed a hand over his heart. “We are MIGHTY. We have within us a beautiful and tremendous power. It wasn't given to us by the goddess so we could just sit back and merely exist as slaves. It was given so we could free ourselves. So we can remove our shackles and finally learn how to live again!” Marcus laughed a little. “Why do you think they make it illegal for anyone to use their power? It's because they KNOW that they cannot keep us contained once we've tasted the strength of our own souls!”

Passion dripped from each one of Marcus' words, feeding the fire that crackled happily in the fireplace. Dubs seemed to be nodding agreeably to the little speech. Vanir stood quietly in the corner, her attention hyper focused on Hal and Miri.  

“Marcus...” Hal shook his head, feeling his eyes water a little at the edges. “Do you really think you're a savior? Heroes don't murder innocent old men because they're inconvenient.” Hal settled his weight on his cane, letting it react as much exhaustion as he could bear. “Dr. Kincaid taught me how to study the stars. He introduced me to Miri. He gave me patience, helped me start my life over again... and now he's dead. Dead all because of you and your bloody aspirations of revolution.” Hal took a deep breath, the next words emerging with the weight of finality. “I don't think I can ever forgive you.”

“I don't need your forgiveness, Hal.” Marcus hefted the freshly-retrieved meteor fragment, staring at its  center. “If you truly valued his life, then we should work together to make his sacrifice worth the cost.”

“No.” Hal shook his head. “I'm done with this. All of it.” Marcus appeared to be disappointed by Hal's stubborn refusal, but Hal didn't let that dissuade him. “We had a deal. You've got another meteor. Now let us leave. We don't belong in this nightmare anymore.”

Marcus sighed, staring into the fireplace while he idly turned the meteor over in his hands. “Alright.” He hefted the black stone and tossed it between his hands. “Give me 24 hours, and then you're free to go. You won't ever have to talk to me again, if you so choose. We'll all be free to live the lives we want by this time tomorrow.”

“24 hours!?” Miri wasn't happy. “We deserve to go free right now!”

Marcus' lips twisted downward into a bitter scowl. “We all deserve it. But you can't leave until we've struck the first blow. No rogue elements.”

“Come on, Marcus!”

“Don't even start, Hal! Don't you even start that 'come on Marcus' bullshit with me.” Yellow eyes narrowed, cutting through the protest. “I just need enough time to organize my forces, distribute the meteor shards, and launch the operation. You can afford to wait just one day longer.”

Marcus tossed the meteor to Dubs, who caught it in his massive paws with a cry of surprise. “Make sure it stays safe. We begin the ceremony of distribution as soon as possible. Everyone earns their shard tonight.”

“Sure thing Arch.” Dubs eagerly marched his way out of the room, cradling the meteor like a fragile child as he disappeared down the hall.

Marcus nodded to Vanir, who drew her pistol and held it pointed in Hal and Miri's direction. “I'm sorry to have to do this to you, brother, but it will all pay off with just a little more patience. You need to trust me on this.” Marcus placed his hand on Hal's shoulder, leaning in close. “You look like you could use some rest. Just relax. Spend some quality time with your girlfriend. Get some sleep. When you're ready to open your eyes again, you'll be able to look out onto a better world. I know we've been walking different paths, but we both want the same things. We always have.”

Hal wasn't happy. Marcus' words did nothing to assuage him. In fact, a bubbling pool of frustration and anger continued to simmer beneath his surface, one notch warmer than before. He was done letting people dictate terms to him. He wanted to return fire, offer a witty one liner about Marcus' definition of quality time if Vanir always has to use a gun, but said nothing. Vanir had a pistol trained on him, and she looked to be in no joking mood.

“Get moving, you two. It's time to call it a night.” Vanir's commanding contralto urged them forward with the wave of the barrel.

“This will never end the way you want...” Miri muttered under her breath as she started walking, grabbing Hal's free arm and helping lead him onward.

The three of them walked out of the office and down the hall in silence, leaving Marcus alone to plot the coming hours. Hal and Miri shuffled along in front of Vanir's steady aim, saying nothing to each other, nor to Vanir. They descended the spiral staircase and proceeded down another dimly lit hall. The stained glass windows watched them march on with twisted and shadowy shapes. No light shone through from outside to give life to the momentous events they depicted.

Hal and Miri shared a glance as they started to approach their room. Her brilliantly beautiful eyes shone with a determined fire he never saw before. She gave him a subtle nod. They both knew what they had to do.

“Hold up.”

Vanir's footsteps stopped and they all paused just in front of the bedroom door that served as their cell. Hal turned, and found that she was aiming her springer straight at his head. “I think this is far enough.”

“Far enough for what?” Miri asked, her voice mockingly indignant.

Vanir shook her head. “I'm not an idiot. And neither are you.” Her expression was dead serious and pinpoint focused on her target. “You're going to betray Marcus.”

“I just want to get some sleep. I'm not in any shape to fight.” Hal lied. Vanir was buying none of it.

“Please.” Vanir sighted the pistol in on Hal, shifted it to Miri, and focused it again on Hal. “You expect me to believe that you're going to play nice? After everything that's happened? Watching your mentor murdered like that?” She took a deep breath and brought the hammer to full-cock. “You're Marcus' twin brother, which means you're far too brave, far too stubborn, and wholly incapable of letting an injustice  turn into water under the bridge. I'm afraid that your story ends here.”

Hal held his hands up slightly in a gesture of half-surrender. “So... what? You're just going to shoot me? Here, in this hallway? Kill the last family member he has left?” Hal narrowed his eyes. “Marcus and I may not agree, but I promise you.... he will never forgive you for this.”

“Maybe not.” Vanir agreed with a sober nod. “But at least he'll still be alive. At least we will still have a chance to build something new. I can't let you take the future from us.”

Her aim settled over Hal's face. “I'm sorry.”

“NO!!!” Miri leapt into action, diving at Vanir in a desperate attempt to stop her. This took Vanir by surprise, clearly thinking that Hal was the one who would move first. Her aim shifted in that twitching half-second as she pulled the trigger, and the bullet whizzed by the edge of Hal's skull, missing by mere hairs.

Miri tried to get her hands on the gun, but Vanir turned her body and batted Miri to the side with a sharp, skillful strike. Hal didn't hesitate and dropped his cane and letting his power come alight. He reached into his jacket and drew his own pistol, training it on Vanir just as she was training her's upon him. Time seemed to move so slow in that moment, once again. History could only be destined to repeat itself.

Hal fired first, his aim missing her chest, but instead clipping her revolver with a metallic *pang*. It was knocked free from her grasp and spun across the floor, ending out of reach down the hall. They both seemed to take a sharp inhale of breath as time sped back up, snapping them into an accelerated reality. Hal cocked the hammer for his second shot. Vanir dove to the side. Guided by adrenaline, the bullet missed its mark, ricocheting off the wall.

“Shit!” Hal thumbed the breech release, and the barrel of his pistol angled down sharply as the back end hinged up to allow reloading of two new rounds. The spent casings and uncoiled springs shot out the back of the gun, nearly hitting Hal in the eye before falling onto the floor with a hollow metal echo. He reached into his pocket, desperately groping for fresh ammunition with trembling fingers. Every one of them was drunk on the intoxicating promise of survival.

Vanir rose to one knee and held her palms together. A shimmering blue halo erupted to light over her head. As she separated her palms, a crackling, humming, throbbing sphere of black-purple energy grew into the space, filling it with tremendous and terrible singularity of doubtless destruction.

“Shit, shit, shit, shit...” That looked bad. Hal muttered his way through the panic, struggling to load new bullets into the breech. His unsteady hand failed him, and a small handful of bullets fell from his grasp and clattered to the floor below.

“Look out!” Miri propped herself up and kicked at Vanir just as the orb of energy was launched forward. Hal dove to the ground, hitting the deck as fast as he ever had before. Gravity was barely strong enough to drag him down and out of the way of the projectile.

The orb sailed down the hall, crashing into a corner where the wall met the ceiling. It expanded in an instant, swelling into a massive black hole ten times the original size. It ripped at the universe itself, tearing fragments of matter in a final and irresistible implosion.

Wind rushed though the hall, sucked past them into the event horizon. Hal dug his talons into the floor, resisting the pull with every ounce of strength and will. The only sound he could hear was the high-frequency scream of molecules ripped asunder. All light seemed to bend, be absorbed, and rush past his shoulder into the roiling angry sphere.

Seconds later, after an eternity had passed, the sphere collapsed in on itself, leaving behind nothing but the perfectly round imprint of nothingness where clean walls, floor, and ceiling once stood.  The air dropped in temperature a couple of degrees.

Miri wrestled with Vanir, disrupting her from summoning forth a new singularity, and buying Hal a precious few seconds to come to his feet. As much as it helped Hal, it was a losing proposition for Miri, and quickly Vanir emerged for the better, knocking the wind out of Miri with a sharp knee and knocking her down to hit her head on the side of the wall.

Vanir was fast in neutralizing Miri, but not quite fast enough to be ready for Hal. His tail lurched forward and nipped at her with its fangs, creating the one opening that he needed to unleash a devastating combination of raw fury. The first strike caught her in the gut, liberating the air from her lungs and jack-knifing her buckling body. The second strike snapped her head back in a dazing blow to the temple. His hands grabbed at her arm, twisted, rotated, and exposed her to the final third attack. Hal's palm slammed into her already extended joint, snapping it in the wrong direction with wet, sickening scream.

She rolled there on the floor, writhing and howling in pain, effectively incapacitated. Miri was slow to gather herself up. Hal smiled and stood triumphantly, exhaling a deep cloud of vapor from his nostrils. His fingers, steadied now, easily loaded his pistol with two fresh rounds. He snapped the breech back closed with a sharp flick of the wrist and the sweet metallic sound of imminent victory.

“How does it feel now, huh!?” Colors shimmered in Hal's eyes as he stood over his oppressor. “It hurts,  doesn't it? It hurts having your life changed in an instant, dragging you down from the place you thought you stood!”

He grabbed Vanir by the throat and lifted her up high until her feet were barely dangling over the floor. “I never wanted to be here!” He slammed her into the wall, ringing her skull against the stone as his fingers tightened their grip. “I never wanted to die!” His free hand pressed the barrel of his pistol against her chest, aimed straight into her heart. “I only wanted to find peace! I only wanted to be happy!!!!”

“Hal...” Miri's voice weakly objected somewhere behind him, but he could hardly hear her. The pressure of the moment was deafening. Overwhelming. Inevitable.

Tears rolled down Vanir's face as she struggled to breathe. Her lips twisted and fought, struggling to form words to speak. Hal's tail leaned in close, bearing fangs that dripped venom in front of her face. “Do you know what it feels like to lose everything you love!?” He hovered his face inches from hers and pulled the hammer back with a satisfying *click*.  “Do you know what it's like to be given no mercy!!?”

“N-n-no.” Vanir gasped, her voice only emerging as a weak whisper. She was in tremendous pain, gasping for air, and struggling to move her body. More than all of that, though, she was afraid. Completely and absolutely afraid. Her eyes said it all. “P-please...”

Hal locked his eyes onto hers, drinking in her fear. “Let me teach you.”

The gunshot wasn't loud. It heralded the end of her life with a faint, meaty slap of metal slipping through flesh. A small fan of blood emerged from the gap between the barrel and her heart, and the sanguine droplets fell like rain into the suddenly still and silent air.

Hal released his grip and took a step back, letting her body slide down onto the floor. A trail of blood followed her down along the wall, ending where her back lay doubled over at an awkward and uncomfortable angle.

“Spirits, Hal!” Miri's voice was audible now: surprised, disbelieving, and sad. “ killed her.”

The warm and comforting glow of revenge faded quickly, cooling and condensing into the bitter pit of panic. Hal's lungs sucked in air with an ever growing greed, and soon he was hyperventilating, unable to escape the reality of an act that could never be undone. Vanir was dead.

“Oh gods.” Hal half-sobbed, unable to reign in the racing of his heart or slow the terrible forward progression of time. Alarmed shouts of others echoed through the halls, pursued by the sounds of hurried footsteps. There was no way to go back. The only course that remained, once again, was to go forward.

“We need to go, Miri.” Hal's panicked voice could not have echoed any truer in that hallway. “We need to go, now.”

[End Chapter 19]
The Wayward Astronomer: Chapter 19
I've had this chapter half finished since before Christmas, but haven't gotten around to it until now. Part of the reason is that real life was very busy, but I think part of it is I needed to work up the will to go through with it. This is officially the "shit just got real" segment of the story, for better or worse. The lead up and climax of this story should be quite the ride, especially for me. You don't know how many times I've lived through the last handful of chapters in my head. 

I hope you all enjoy the chapter, and I highly encourage any thoughts you may have or want to share. Thanks for reading and joining me on the rollercoaster.


Thanks so much for reading! 
Hi everyone!

2014 has been one hell of a year, but the good news is I survived it and I'm looking forward to ending this year right and starting the new one with a bang. After going home to visit my family in RI for Christmas, I'm starting 2015 with a two-week solo motorcycle tour of New Zealand. 

If anyone is interested in following along in my upcoming journey, I've created a little wordpress blog where I'll be posting to as the trip goes on. You can find it here:

I'm very much looking forward to the trip. I really need some time to get away, clear my mind, and enjoy my own adventure with a minimum of scripting and planned distractions. It will just be me, a BMW GS650, and an ending destination for each day. I expect to meet a lot of great people, see some fantastic sights, and hopefully not go down the wrong side of the road and crash into a ravine.

Looking back on 2014, I feel like I've learned a lot. I've accomplished a lot professionally, made decent headway on my book, and grown a bit as a person. I found a great girl who I dated for a while, and though we eventually did part ways, I think we both gained a friend in each other. It's funny, how different people come into our lives when we least expect it. You could spend your whole life looking for love, only to finally realize that it comes to us unbidden, of its own accord. Though sometimes things may end, I'm still left with a young lifetime of fond memories with people I held close, and that isn't a bad thing at all.

I cannot express how happy I have been to receive great feedback and support from people here on dA as I slowly post each chapter in The Wayward Astronomer. I know it's been a long road, and I'm still not at the finish line yet, but it's in sight. I cannot wait to share with everyone the ending I've had trapped in my head for so long. Without the encouragement of others, most of you who I have never met, I may not have had the courage to carry things forward this far. Thank you. 

I hope each and every one of you who reads this has also had a great 2014, with plenty of things to be grateful for, and even better things on the horizon in 2015. Until next time, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Godspeed.

  • Mood: Optimism
  • Listening to: Glory 3usi9 by Nanou feat. Hatsune Miku
  • Reading: Joseph Campbell - The Hero with a Thousand Faces
  • Watching: The Last Samurai
  • Playing: Star Citizen
  • Eating: A sandwich
  • Drinking: Pepsi MAX
[Chapter 18]

Hal zipped up his leather jacket, experimentally flexing his bad leg. His knee made a loud popping sound that solicited a grimace.

“Are you going to be ok?” Miri asked the question Hal wondered himself.

“I hope so.”

The two of them were now in the 'evil rec room' yet again, but this time the entire cathedral seemed to be buzzing with activity. The network of agents Marcus claimed to command seemed to be heeding his summons, trickling in by the hour, usually alone or in very small groups. All of them looked fairly hardened, as one might expect from an army of ex-convicts. Many of them seemed eager to act, and were kept busy arming themselves and preparing for the events to come. The air had a tension to it that was impossible to overlook.

Rather than sally forth right away, Marcus preferred to sit tight until later in the day, sending Vanir ahead of the rest of them. Though the university was over in Calypsa district, if they traveled by telepad, the excursion would be shortened considerably. According to the clock on one wall, it was almost time to leave.

“Hal. Miri.” Marcus approached them with a smile, genuinely beaming with delight. He seemed to be put in a chipper mood by the sense of imminent action. “Are you ready for a date with destiny?”

“Oh, I don't know.” Hal pretended to be shy about it. “How does my hair look?”

“It looks like a sarcastic asshole.” Marcus returned fire with a smile, seemingly taking Hal's sarcasm in stride.  Undaunted, he turned his attention to Miri. “Now, don't say I haven't done anything nice for you. You have your old clothes back, and I even had them washed for you. No more 'creepy ceremonial robes' for a day like today.”

Miri ran one hand through her hair. “Thanks.” She sounded at least partly grateful, though not particularly impressed. Hal caught her amused glance. Though it was more of a practical gesture than a generous one (robes weren't great for trekking through the city inconspicuously), it was still an important symbol.  Miri certainly seemed a little brighter, now that she was dressed in the comfortable and warm expedition gear the two of them wore just before all this began.

Marcus too was wearing new clothes. He eschewed his normal upscale clothing for a medium weight trench coat that was subtly styled with epaulets and brass buttons. Paramilitary fashion was something of a recent trend that was making its way through various cuts of society. Marcus seemed to be no exception to that rule.

“I want to introduce the two of you to somebody.” Marcus looked over his shoulder and called out to someone in the background. “Dubs! It's time.”

Hal recognized the man that approached as the same hulking bear that had been beating the living daylights out of the punching bag yesterday. He stood well over 2 meters tall, and his brown fur was interrupted in places with the stark line of a deep, healed scar. This man, whoever he was, had certainly not been a stranger to violence.

“Dubs, I want to formally introduce you to my brother, Hal. You already know Miri, of course.” The hulking beast offered one hand for a handshake that practically engulfed Hal's forearm. “So, you the brothah of the Arch. Respect.” Dubs spoke with a deep booming voice that nonetheless had the unmistakable accent of a man who lived his life in the inner city. Norvondire district if Hal had to guess.

Hal gave Dubs a sharp nod as he finished the handshake. “Dubs, huh? Is that a nickname?”

“Yeah.” Dubs seemed prepared to answer the question as if he had done it thousands of times before. “My real name is William W. Wilson the Third. But that takes way too much work to say, and I ain't no 'Willie'.”

“Dubs it is then.” Hal nodded and cleared his throat. No doubt Dubs would be accompanying them as a little extra muscle to keep Hal and Miri from entertaining thoughts of heroism. In a close in fight Hal normally liked his chances pretty good, but between Dubs' sheer size and his bad leg, it wasn't an experiment he cared to run.

“Let's get going.” Marcus stepped forward and waved for the others to follow. “We'll take the telepad to save some time.”

The four of them walked out into the city streets to find that the sun was settling slowly into the final moments of daylight. The sky was already beginning to fade from sky blue into pastel hues of pink, lavender, and gold.

“Wow, look at the colors!” Miri smiled at the sunset, basking in the evening's fragile glory. After being cooped up inside for so long, it must have been a refreshing sight to take in. “They're beautiful.”

“Yes they are.” Hal grunted his agreement, contemplating the view. As the sun descended to the west, the moon was already up and shining in the east, half obscured behind the immensely tall spire that was Sabbaton Tower. As they walked past one of the main radial avenues that led inward towards the tower and the center of Anduruna, he glimpsed the anchor point for one of the several tension cables that held the massive tower steady. The spiral-wound metal cables were thicker than some tree trunks, and even under tension they seemed to visibly sag under their own mass.

“Impressive isn't it?” Marcus seemed to take note of the direction Hal was looking. “That a structure so grand could be built and held aloft securely.” He chuckled as a gust of bitter wind swept between buildings to chill them. “What a perfect symbol of all we can achieve, if only we sit down, lay back, and submit.”

“You're a very cheery man, Marcus.” Hal scoffed. “Has anyone told you that?”

Marcus laughed out loud at Hal's comment. “Oh, but I am.” His smile had a cutting sharpness to it. “I'm no engineer, but I wonder what would happen if those cables were to disappear all of a sudden and something were to happen to the foundation...”

“A lot of innocent people would die. That's what would happen.” Hal narrowed his eyes. Was Marcus seriously bold enough to suggest toppling the Sabbaton tower itself?

“Oh it would be quite the destructive event. Tragic. It would be an event everyone would remember for generations.”

“You're insane.” Miri muttered, her mood now subdued as the topic of conversation changed quickly from her original comment.

“Am I really?” Marcus countered, seeming to relish in the debate. “When a forest becomes thick and overgrown, it begins to decay. New life cannot take hold because it is choked out, and the entire ecosystem falls into stagnation. Nothing changes, nothing grows, until one fateful day when a storm rolls through and strikes down with a flash of lightning to set the entire area ablaze. The fire is destructive, yes. It lays waste to the old forest, but in that same stroke it fertilizes the land and sets the stage for new life to rise up, grow, and flourish.” Hal's brother held his arms out to his sides. “Is the storm truly evil?”

“Good and Evil are words we use to describe the actions of people, not nature.” Miri was emphatic in her response. “The storm isn't good or evil. It just is. The lightning doesn't choose to strike the forest, and the trees aren't sentient creatures! It's just nature, and nature doesn't make decisions like we're capable of doing.”

“But are we not all creatures of nature? Subject to the same natural laws?” Marcus sighed, shaking his head. “I don't know why I waste my breath trying to illuminate you short sighted people. We need to look past the familiar and accept its removal in order to discover a better world waiting beyond it.”

“That makes for fine poetry, Marco, but that doesn't change the fact that you're suggesting the murder of thousands of innocent lives.”

“Someone has to have the courage to do what is necessary.” Marcus pulled his jacket tighter as they approached the telepad station, his voice matching the temperature of the air. “If no one else will do it...  Let it be me.”

Everyone fell quiet for a while after that sobering comment. Words weren't going to change the opinion of anyone present. Miri clung close to Hal keeping him on the windward side of her to fend off the cold. His tail wrapped around her and rested on her opposite shoulder.  

The telepad itself was an elegantly engraved circle of stone set into the center of a large plaza. It was large enough in diameter to fit several dozen people within its perimeter. The area was cordoned off such that you had to buy a ticket in order to get access to the inside, but for that nominal fee the average citizen now had near-instantaneous access to the center of any other district in the city. Telepad technology was relatively new, but in a short handful of years it had revolutionized intra-city travel, making the manekale-pulled groundcars more a utility item for distributing bulk goods, rather than people. As far as Hal knew, telepad technology was controlled tightly by the government of Anduruna and not available private use.

Marcus purchased tickets for the four of them and led them into the circle where they waited with a handful of other clusters of people. A bored voice emerged from a loudspeaker as a telepad attendant announced their jump. “Please keep all limbs and belongings inside the circle. This next jump is to Calypsa station. Calypsa station is the next jump.”

After one more repeat of the same message, the attendant counted down to zero and initiated the jump.

There wasn't any sensation in the act of jumping itself. Hal merely blinked and found now that he was standing in a new circle in Calypsa district, and the tower was at a different angle to his orientation than it had been before. The aftereffects Hal always felt though. While most people experienced no ill effects, or built up a tolerance, Hal always felt nauseated after using a telepad. As a result, he rarely chose to take advantage of the convenience.

“Ahhh... home sweet home.” Marcus waved them forward, stepping out into the now-darker city streets. “Let's keep going. Vanir should be waiting for us near the university.”

Once they were free from the crowd of people at the telepad, Hal started up the conversation again. “You've been awfully quiet, Dubs. How did you get involved in all of this?”

“Me?” Dubs chuckled a bit, but the low bass of his laugh caused it to carry deep into the alleyways. “It start with beating theshit outta someone who done me wrong and gettin' thrown in the lockhouse for a couple. Then they come to me, say I can get out if I join this new 'second life' program. I took the deal.”

“So you're behind all this 'down with the establishment, new world order' stuff?”

“Hell yeah.” Dubs nodded with certainty. “Like the arch said, if we wanna get ahead, we can't jus' play by the rules. You can't change the rules. That won' work. You gotta change the whole game.”

Hal tried to keep his poker face intact. “But if they catch you, you'll be tried for treason. They'll execute you. All of you.”

“Thats why when you go, you go all in and get it done befo' they have that chance. And 'sides, I ain't afraid of dyin'. The arch put a gun in my hand and say 'Dubs, you roll wit' me, ain't no one gonna step on you again.' I like that.”

“If this is just a political movement, why the veil of religion?”

“Hey, if you got a problem wit' the goddess, you got a problem wit' me, aiight? Not everyone might care so much 'bout that sorta stuff, but I do.” Hal was surprised by Dubs' response. “I don' know if she's like... real, and like, messin' with the world direc'ly and stuff, but she say she gave us our powers for a reason. She say we all got a purpose. An' we got her gift to give us power and to protect this world from evil.”

Dubs certainly appeared to have a passion hiding beneath his bulk. “Ever since I sign on, Vanir been helpin' me learn to read by teachin' me the scrolls. They ain't so easy to read, but they mean somethin', you know? I like to believe that they ain't no lie. That we be actually more than what we look like on the outside.”

Hal furrowed his brows, falling into contemplative silence. After a moment had passed, Miri hesitantly spoke up, her voice no more than a confused whisper. “ didn't know how to read?”

Dubs was quick to lash out in anger at her disbelief. “Don't you judge me, pretty little fox girl! You ain't got no idea what it's like, growin' up on the streets! When you fightin' every night just to make it to the next day!” Dubs made a disgusted grunting sound. “You ain't never had to fight for nothin'. You ain't never gonna know what it be like livin' my life.”  

“Easy Dubs. She didn't know.” Marcus reigned in his subordinate with a stern stare.

“Sorry, Arch.”

Marcus nodded his acknowledgment, proceeding to lead them through a few more side streets until they reached the circle in front of Calypsa University. Now that the sky was darkening, the tree lined avenue leading up to the main building had taken on a more sinister and foreboding appearance.

“Over here.” A voice spoke up from the alleyway to their left, and Vanir stepped forward from the shadows out onto the sidewalk. “Have our guides been any trouble?”

“No, they're behaving.” Marcus gave his lover a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “What about on your end?”

Vanir's bright blue eyes seemed to almost glow in the dim light. “No trouble so far. Not much foot traffic on account of the wind and cold. Little activity entering or leaving the building. I have a groundcar waiting in the alley for our extraction.”

“We're not taking the telepad back?” Miri sounded concerned.

“I don't know how big the meteor fragment is, but if it's the same size as the last one, it won't be easy to just carry through public transport; Especially if things go wrong and we need to get out quick.” Vanir didn't seem to be in a very hospitable mood today, and her tone of voice was curt and condescending. “Don't you worry about the details. All you need to to do is get us to the meteor without running into security.”

Marcus nodded in agreement, turning to Hal and Miri. “Well, this is your territory. Why don't you lead the way.”

Hal swallowed. “Ok.” A nervousness seemed to now settle over him, drying his mouth. “Our best bet is one of the side stairwells. No one really uses them.”

“Then by all means brother, lead on.”

Hal and Miri started forward, walking up the side of the lawn to the edge of the building. Even without using his power, Hal could sense Miri's uneasiness. “This is so weird, Hal. We shouldn't be breaking into our own school. I've got a really bad feeling about all this.”

“I know, but let's just get it over with.” Both of them were already whispering, a sense of tense caution present throughout the whole party. Hal tried the side door, and it moved only a tiny bit before being held up by the locked handle with a rude, sudden stop.

“It's locked.” Hal stated the obvious with a frown.

“Of course it is. Hang on...” Miri began to search the pockets of her recently-returned jacket. “Where is- Oh! Here it is. I still have my ID. I wonder if they ever deactivated it...” She slid the card through the little reader to the side of the door, and they could all hear a faint but distinct click as the lock temporarily disengaged. “...I guess not.”

Hal opened the door and stepped into the empty stairwell. The cold interior lighting matched the air now leaking inside as they all filed into the narrow ground floor landing. Hal could already begin to feel a weight pulling on his heart. They weren't far from the meteor. His tail looked straight up through the center of the spiraling staircase to the floors above, flicking its tongue rapidly.

Hal took a deep breath and looked at everyone around him. Dubs was following his tail's gaze, staring up the center column of the stairs. Marcus and Vanir were waiting with a look of impatient but fixated expectation. Miri bit her lip, looking as worried as Hal had ever seen her. He allowed himself one last exhale before activating his power and letting the unseen colors of the world wash over him.  

The static was here. The gravity was here. He barely acknowledged the prismatic kaleidoscope of reflecting light that surrounded him and quickly ascended the stairs. Every inhale added to the tingling sense of energy that drew him ever upwards.

“Hal, please slow down.” Miri's voice chased after him.

“Be quiet you fools!” A sharp whisper from Vanir also gave pursuit.

Every footstep echoed loudly in the confines of the tall but narrow chamber, barely registering in Hal's awareness as he passed each threshold. Second floor. Third floor. Fourth floor. The light was here. He stepped through the door into an empty hallway, and quickly paced onwards past doors to unlit labs.

“I don't think he can hear us.” Marcus' voice had an urgency to it, but it lurked close behind Hal, waiting just over his shoulder.

The placard to the next room read '409 – Geology Lab'. Hal didn't read the text so much as sense it, his eyes focused on the searing white orb of light that hid just on the other side. He pushed the door open, and the ceiling lights automatically turned on as a sensor detected motion inside the room.

Hal marched forward and came to rest in front of a long and deep work table. The light was coming from the center of a stone slab that lay in the middle of the workspace. Hal couldn't resist now that he was this close. He reached for the light, extending taloned fingers towards the source of his fixation... and touched only sandy, coarse stone. He blinked. This wasn't right.

“Hal.” Marcus' hand firmly gripped one shoulder, and his forceful voice shook Hal out of his power. He blinked again, drawing a ragged breath as he adjusted back to normal light.

“Wha?” Hal looked bewildered, but it quickly became clear what he was actually looking at. The stone tablet in question was a fossil, roughly one arms length wide and fairly thick. Visible on the surface was the well preserved fossil of two ryuu-nekos, partially entangled with one another in the shape of a rough circle. One appeared to have his jaws around the neck of the other, as if they had died together, still locked in combat. The entire fossil was not yet exposed, and there was clear evidence that the caretakers of this fossil had been slowly chipping and brushing away to reveal the remainder.

Miri saw the fossil and gasped in surprise, taken aback by the sight. Vanir spoke, an uncharacteristically unnerved quality weaved among her words. “What is this?”

“It's here. It has to be here.” Hal's tail flicked its tongue at the center of the circle between the two ancient creatures, kicking up a tiny cloud of dust as it tasted for his target. He looked around and found a miniature hammer and chisel sitting to one side of the table. He snatched up the tools and tapped away at the area where he remembered seeing the meteor-light. Normally fossil cleanup was a very slow and delicate process, but Hal perhaps was using a bit too much force, and after only the 7th or 8th tap, a large flake of rock chipped away, revealing beneath a dark and other-worldly core.

The second meteor.

“There it is!” Marcus eagerly watched as Hal continued to reveal it with the hammer and chisel, eventually freeing it from its prehistoric prison of rock and bone. “They must not have realized it was hiding within. I can't believe they came that close without feeling it.”

“Maybe only certain people can sense the meteor remotely.” Miri offered a hesitant theory, but her fear was tangible now. “Were those ryuu-nekos fighting over it?” She was struggling to hold back tears. “They died... battling over this?”

Everyone was leaning in close now to get a better look. Hal liberated the meteor from one last fragment of rock, and pried it free, holding the cold familiar weight in one hand. It was maybe the size of a grapefruit, and already tiring the one arm that held it tight. It reflected almost no light, appearing in the sterile walls of the geology lab to be almost as black as black could be. It leeched heat from his fingertips and palm with all too eager tenacity.

Marcus reached over and took the meteor from Hal's grasp, beaming with delight as he held it for himself. “Finally....” He wrapped one arm around his brother, giving him a tight hug. “I knew I could count on you, Hal. I always knew we were brought back together for a reason.”

“What in the world is going on in here!!!!”

A sharp alarmed voice startled them all from behind. Hal couldn't stop himself from instinctively jumping in surprise. Vanir and Dubs spun and drew their weapons in a flash, pointing them towards the unwelcome intruder.

“Doctor Kincaid!!!” Miri called out, relief intermingling with surprise. It was none other than their old mentor, who had just unfortunately stumbled into something he was never meant to see.

“Oh dear!” The aging cardinal gasped in surprise as weapons were pointed at him, and he held up his arms in surrender. His crimson feathers were fading in many places from deep red to a pale pink or even white, betraying his advanced age. He noticed his students not long after the weapons. “Miriel!? Halcyon!? You're alive!?”

Miri rushed forward, heedless of the danger, and engulfed the old bird in an emotional, tear-filled hug. “Oh, Miriel my dear, when you didn't return I feared the worst! We thought you had a terrible accident, falling from a cliff or getting swept up in an avalanche! We searched and searched, but never found you! I'm so glad to see that you're alive!!!”

“Step away from him, Miri.” Vanir interrupted the reunion with a sharp command. “Now.”

“No!” She defiantly held her ground, holding her arms out in a shielding gesture. “I won't let you hurt him! I won't let you hurt any more people!!!!”


The bear grabbed Miri with one massive hand and yanked her away, tossing her back like a weightless ragdoll.

“Nooo!!!” Miri screamed in desperation, but was powerless to stop from being torn away. She fell to the ground and slid across the waxed floor, coming to rest at Hal's feet.

“Get in the way again and I'll shoot you.”

“Hey!!!” Hal and Kincaid protested in unison, both angry at the manhandling. The old professor huffed himself up in indignation, still looking impossibly small in comparison to Dubs. “Stop this at once! Who are you people!? What in the world are you doing here? I demand to know what's going on!” He turned to Hal, anger and bewilderment clear as day. “Hal, who are these people?!”


“Hal, shut up.” Marcus pointed his own pistol in Hal's direction as a warning. “No one can know we were here.”

“What?” Kincaid took a half step back, holding his hands even higher in the air. The atmosphere was beginning to feel like fear and smell like panic itself.

“You can't just kill him Marcus!”

“Don't say my name, you idiot!”

Vanir's voice grew taut, to the very edge of breaking. “Now we have no choice.”

“No! Don't do this!” Miri was hysterical.

Dubs aimed his springer at Kincaid's skull.  

“WAIT.” Marcus cut through the mania with one authoritative word. Everyone held their breath as an odd silence fell upon the room. Marcus turned his yellow and gray eyes from Kincaid to Dubs, who stood like a statue, frozen in time one moment away from pulling the trigger.

“No mess.”

Dubs nodded, and the hysteria was set back in motion. Setting aside his pistol, Dubs marched up to Kincaid and with an engulfing grasp wrestled the old man to the floor, squeezing fingers around the small neck as he strangled him in a display of complete and brutal violence.

Miri screamed at the terrible sight unfolding before them, and Hal stopped her from running out by grabbing her and holding her close, pressing her head tight against his chest so she couldn't see. She wailed and sobbed at the top of her lungs, which was the only sound Hal could hear over the entire horrifying act.

A halo appeared over Dubs' head as the bear activated his own power, and arcs of blue electricity funneled down his arms and into his hands, where it delivered an intense electric shock into his victim. Kincaid spasamed  and convulsed beneath the onslaught, and at that point even Hal had to turn away to stop himself from having the entire murder indelibly burned into his memory.

It wasn't long before the deed was done, and the air started to smell a little bit like burnt hair. Miri couldn't stop crying. Save for her, the room was now dead quiet. Hal continued to hold her close, his back still turned to the aftermath.

“What now, Arch?” Dubs asked, his booming voice emerging without a hint of guilt or regret.

Marcus sounded disgusted and disappointed. “Hide the body in one of the closets. Then get ready to move out.” Hal heard the sound of something being dragged along the floor as his brother sighed in frustration. “What a fucking disaster....”

[End Chapter 18]
The Wayward Astronomer: Chapter 18
This chapter ended up almost twice as long as my average length, hence the moderate delay in posting. Actually tagged this one with a mature warning due to some violence so if you aren't able to view it here on dA, you can find it on

I really enjoyed this chapter for the variety it gave me to explore some new characters, debate ideals, and have tension and action as well. The snowball is now beginning to roll down that hill, ladies and gentlemen. It cannot be stopped. 

I always welcome anyone's feedback, now more than ever as I bring us into the decisive and defining moments of the story. Sharing this tale is very important to me, and I want you all to know that I appreciate your time and attention more than I can express.


Thanks so much for reading! 
[Chapter 17]

“It's just not fair.” Marcus scowled into the drink that he slowly swirled around in his glass. The potent amber liquid left lingering fingers on the walls, speaking only the whispered promise of temporary and intoxicating release.

“I know.” Hal leaned back in his chair, regarding his despondent brother with a sad smile. He tossed back the rest of his glass, swallowing the last mouthful of brandy and letting the slow burn fill his body with a short-lived glow of warmth and comfort.

The two of them sat alone as the sole remaining patrons of the bar on a cold and lonely All Spirit's Eve. The shutters on the windows clattered and clanked as the gusting northwest winds swept sparkling lunarous powder down from the mountains and into Calypsa. Nearly everyone else in Anduruna would be enjoying a happy and comfortable holiday with friends and family.

Not them.

Hal raised his empty glass into the air and shook it a little bit, getting the attention of the bartender. “Another round, Hector.”

“Comin' right up, amigo.”  

The old, weathered, but friendly jackal stopped wiping down the bar and brought them what remained of the bottle of vintage liquor. “Why don' I just leave this bottle here for you two to enjoy. It's the holidays, after all.”

“Thanks, Hector.”

“De nada.”

Hal pulled the cork and took the liberty of topping off Marcus' glass before refilling his own. Marcus barely even looked up, taking a bitter sip before returning to the pattern of scowling and swirling. “It's goddamned thievery, Hal. They can't just seize everything we had because of 'an ongoing central investigation'.” Marcus mocked the condescendingly dry and official tones that the special investigator had used. “It's fucking bullshit.”

“I know.”

“I mean, I figured they'd do this shit because of who dad was, but not how far they'd actually go.” He looked up from the brandy, his yellow and gray eyes alight with hatred. “All the money. The house. All of our stuff. The shit we grew up with. Just everything.” Marcus let out a sharp sigh of frustration and took another drink. “I mean, how the hell is the furniture part of a criminal investigation? Our photo albums? The pictures on the fucking walls?” He dug his talons into the wooden table which creaked and cracked under the stress. “They're not just taking our inheritance. They're taking the only memories we have left!”

Hal frowned, sighing into his own glass. Ever since the shooting weeks ago, everything had been a total mess. “That can't actually be legal. Did you talk with Sergio earlier today? What did he have to say about it all?”

Marcus laughed. “Sergio? Man, that lawyer isn't good for jack-shit. He just fed me a whole lot of legalese about how he can't do anything because city central authority is involved. Special laws and jurisdiction, blah blah et cetera et cetera.” The yellow eyes grew darker. “Bastard isn't worth the air he breathes.”

“It's not all his fault.” Hal disagreed. “Sergio's done a lot for us both over the years, but he's not a miracle worker. Sometimes a jam is too big to slip out of.”

“Yeah? Well one way or another, it's not fucking good enough, Hal.” Marcus sneered, looking down at the worn and tired floorboards. “It's just not fucking good enough, anymore.”

Hal didn't know how to console his brother when he was being this bitter. Hal was just as upset about the entire ordeal, but the circumstances didn't fill him with hate. His only prize was that deep and vast empty sea of regret. Regret that he couldn't stop his own family's destruction. Regret for not being a better son. Regret for not capitalizing on every single quiet moment when he could have let the people he held dear know exactly how much he treasured them.  For Hal, he knew that he would need to start the slow and difficult swim towards the surface, however slowly it might begin, or he would be trapped here in this prison forever.

“If there's at least one good thing that came of this,” Hal began, “It's that we both discovered our powers now. Somehow, the chaos of that moment unlocked the potential in both of us.”

Marcus' angry stare now locked onto Hal. “Our powers?” The well of outrage in Marcus seemed to go from a simmer to a boil. “You mean this joke of an ability!?” He reached out to hold onto the salt shaker and a shimmering purple halo materialized over his head. Slowly, and perhaps a bit unsteadily, the pepper shaker began to levitate, suspended in air by Marcus' limited telekinetic ability.

“Please, allow me to season your food using only the power of my MIND.” Marcus laughed an empty laugh as the pepper shaker sprinkled some of its contents onto the middle of the table. “Do you want salt too? Well you can't have any because I need to already be touching the same sort of thing that I'm levitating.” The halo disappeared, causing the pepper shaker to clatter gracelessly onto the table and roll towards one edge. “Practically useless....”

Hal caught the shaker before it reached the floor, returning it to its proper place by the napkins. Normally it was a terrible idea for any dreamkeeper to even think about using their power where people could see them and call upon the troopers, but Hector was an old friend of the Family and didn't seem to pay any mind. He simply kept his head down, focusing on cleaning up the bar before they closed for the night, maintaining his legal plausiblity that he saw nothing at all.

“At least you found your power. Not everyone does. Most people don't in fact.” Hal tried to stay focused on the benefits. “Besides, I'm sure it has its uses. You just need to get creative with it.”

“Whatever.” Marcus sounded like he wasn't in the right attitude to listen to anything Hal had to say. “Finding this power isn't worth the cost that came with it...”

“Maybe not.” Hal sighed, reaching again for the bottle and topping off both of their glasses. His head was buzzing with the comfortable hum of intoxication, but he wasn't so far gone that he couldn't share one more drink with his brother.

Inhibitions lowered, Hal leaned back and looked up, watching starlight spill in through the ceiling. It was a sight he kept coming back to again and again ever since he found it, not very many days before. A sip of spicy brandy complemented the view quite well.

“What do you even see when you do that?” Marcus asked, a twinge of envy hiding among the words.

“Spirits, Marcus. I don't even know how to begin to describe it.” Hal tried to think of a good metaphor. “It's like trying to explain the concept of color to a blind man. There are no words for what I see.” He started and stopped himself a few times, failing to find the right explanation. “I don't know how to share this sight with you, Marco, but... it's beautiful.” He locked eyes with his disbelieving brother. “There is so much more out there than anyone even dares to comprehend.”

“Well, isn't that just great for you.” Marcus' sullen voice echoed into his own glass, sounding a little slurred now as he inhaled a strong slug of the remaining brandy.  “I guess little old uncomprehending me will just sit here and contemplate this drink instead.”

The conversation stalled out after that, returning to silence. Marcus was clearly drunk and depressed, while Hal was drunk and disappointed that he couldn't do more.

“Last call, boys.” Hector spoke up from the other side of the room, interrupting the shared silence. “I'll be locking this place up at the end of the hour.” Hal nodded his acknowledgment.

Marcus exhaled slowly and sleepily, steeling his gut for the final swig. “Well... I guess if nothing else... we still got each other.” A wobbly glass raised to meet Hal's. “Cheers, brother.”

Hal reluctantly clinked his snifter with Marcus'. “Cheers...” Hal was beginning to feel pretty awkward. He cleared his throat. “Look, Marcus. There's something I've been meaning to talk to you about.”  

Marcus swallowed the last of his drink before letting his sharp yellow and gray eyes lock back onto Hal. “Anyone who starts a conversation with those words is about to say something shitty.” He frowned. “What is it?”

“So... I actually took the entrance exams for Calypsa District University a few months ago. Paid the fee with my own cash. Didn't tell anyone.”

Marcus just stared at him. After a pregnant pause, Hal took it as a sign to keep talking. “Well, the results came back a few weeks ago, and... I made the cut. Classes start in the new year. I made the first tuition payment yesterday.”

Suspicious confusion morphed into surprise on Marcus' face. “What? You've been planning on this the whole time?”

Hal shrugged. “I wasn't actually sure if I was going to go through with it. It was just an entrance exam. But then...” Hal sighed, gesturing to the empty room with his empty glass. “Then all this happened. Everything changed. And now that I've thought about it for a while, I think it's time for me to move on to something new.”

This should have been great positive news to share with anyone, but Marcus didn't seem too happy. In fact, it only seemed to increase his anger. “So you're going to just give up the life?” He snapped his fingers. “Just like that?”

“Pretty much. Yeah.”

Marcus' voice turned accusatory. “You think it's that easy? How the hell do you expect to even pay for that!? Central Authority locked up our family's funds. And even if they do miraculously release them, the estate tax will eat almost everything anyways!”

“I've been saving almost every lucre I ever earned running jobs for the Cordovas. It adds up after a while, and it's my own private account. It hasn't been touched by the authorities.” Hal shook his head. “It's already a done deal.”

Hal could see his brother's eyes begin to take on a watery sheen, despite the rage. “So what the hell am I supposed to do, huh? I don't have the cash for that, and I don't want to go to fucking school again.” Marcus clenched his hands into fists. “Our whole lives we've always done things together, Hal! We've toppled every obstacle side by side!”

“I know, Marcus... but this is something I need to do for myself, for once.” Hal gave his brother a serious stare, all levity, all illusions gone. “If you're smart, you'll quit the life too. I've seen the writing on the wall, and it's been painted with the blood of the family we loved. If we keep doing what we've been doing, someday it's going to be you or me, facedown on the floor, just like dad. Just like them all. And I won't accept that as my future.”

“But what the hell am I supposed to do? I don't have anywhere to go, Hal! You're the only person I have left that I can trust, and now you're running off in a direction that I can't follow!”

“I'm sorry.” Hal pushed his seat back and stood, pulling his arms through the sleeves on his jacket. “I don't have all the answers, Marcus. You and I will need to find them for ourselves now. It's the only way to move on.”

“You COWARD!” Marcus kicked his chair off to the side, violently toppling it to the ground. “You're just scared, running away, hoping that everything will just get better if you do! It's not right Hal and it's not fair!!!”

“It's also not your call to make.” Hal grounded his feet and his heart. Despite the alcohol coursing through his veins (or perhaps because of it), Hal knew that he was doing the right thing. “Look Marcus. You're drunk and angry, and honestly, just impossible to reason with when you get like this. Sleep it off, and we can talk about it tomorrow if you want.”

“Fuck you, Hal!”

Hal grunted, nodding in agreement. “Yeah. Ok. Good talk.” He pulled some crumpled cash from one of the coat pockets and tossed it onto the table. “I'll pay for the drinks this time, since I'm such an asshole and all that.”

He turned towards the door, prompting a more aggressive string of expletives to be hurled in his direction. He barely even listened to them. The cold and sobering gust of wind that welcomed him as he opened the door seemed to help keep the vitriol at bay. He hesitated for only a moment, standing in the middle of the threshold, letting the chill nighttime air leak into the building. He thought about glancing back over his shoulder, locking eyes with his brother one more time... but he didn't. Instead, Hal stepped forward into vast and winding streets, stared up at clear and endless skies, and shut the door behind him.

* * *

Hal awoke, returning once again to the real world with a blurred but rapid transition as his eyes focused on the room in front of him. This time, he had slept on his other side, and instead of a dark stone wall was greeted by the sleeping face of Miri. Once again she had done her best to curl up next to him and sleep close, avoiding falling off the edge of the narrow bed.

He had been having so many vivid dreams recently, they were getting to be tiring. This last one in particular seemed to linger in his waking mind longer than most. Some memories, it seemed, just wouldn't fade away.

Several strands of Miri's long violet hair rested delicately in front of her face, wavering ever so slightly as her breath kissed them with each exhale. In that small, still moment, Hal couldn't help but think of how beautiful she was.

Miri. He had met her not long after that dream, and through the years that followed, she remained his companion and friend. Despite all that had happened, and the differences between them, she was still here, resting peacefully at his side. If there was ever a person who deserved to live a happy life, surely it was her.

Hesitantly, he reached out and brushed the errant strands of hair aside, feeling the silky softness as his fingers slipped by. This caused Miri to stir, and soon she half opened her eyes, giving Hal a sleepy smile. “Hey you.”


She shifted her weight a little, rolling closer to him and closing her eyes again. If there was one thing that Hal knew, it was that he wanted to have more mornings like this. He would give anything just to hold onto this one.

The door to their room began to creak open, once again letting a sharp wedge of bright light spill into the room. Hal sat up, preempting the words he expected to follow. “Rise and shine lovebirds, so much work to do, big day ahead, creepy laugh, et cetera et cetera. Got it. We'll be ready soon.”

The door seemed to pause, frozen half-open for a moment before it closed again, without a single word being spoken. Miri propped herself up with a surprised laugh. “Ha ha ha, Hal! What has gotten into you this morning?”

His tail drifted over towards her and flicked at her face with its forked tongue. He simply shrugged and smiled.

“I guess I just woke up on the right side of the bed.”

[End Chapter 17]
The Wayward Astronomer: Chapter 17
It sure feels good to get on a roll, and here we are with another chapter, and no 3 month gap! I really enjoy the chance to go back in time and show moments from characters when they're at different parts in their lives. I can't flashback my way to victory as a substitute for real character and plot development, but it's fun to glance in and see an important moment from time to time. 

Buckle your seat belts boys and girls, because I'm ready to jump into the good stuff. These next several chapters are going to be fun to write!

As always, I welcome any and all feedback, and thanks again for reading. It means the world. 


TWA Character Sheet: Vanir Ahlstrom by Kafelnikov
TWA Character Sheet: Vanir Ahlstrom
The second completed character sheet done by Elson Wong, aka Darkspeeds here on dA :icondarkspeeds: I've really enjoyed commissioning him to do artwork because he is very talented and easy to work with. I highly recommend him to anyone who is looking to commission some art!

Vanir's Theme Song
Blackmill - Evil Beauty…

First Appearance: Chapter 3
Hi everyone!

2014 has been one hell of a year, but the good news is I survived it and I'm looking forward to ending this year right and starting the new one with a bang. After going home to visit my family in RI for Christmas, I'm starting 2015 with a two-week solo motorcycle tour of New Zealand. 

If anyone is interested in following along in my upcoming journey, I've created a little wordpress blog where I'll be posting to as the trip goes on. You can find it here:

I'm very much looking forward to the trip. I really need some time to get away, clear my mind, and enjoy my own adventure with a minimum of scripting and planned distractions. It will just be me, a BMW GS650, and an ending destination for each day. I expect to meet a lot of great people, see some fantastic sights, and hopefully not go down the wrong side of the road and crash into a ravine.

Looking back on 2014, I feel like I've learned a lot. I've accomplished a lot professionally, made decent headway on my book, and grown a bit as a person. I found a great girl who I dated for a while, and though we eventually did part ways, I think we both gained a friend in each other. It's funny, how different people come into our lives when we least expect it. You could spend your whole life looking for love, only to finally realize that it comes to us unbidden, of its own accord. Though sometimes things may end, I'm still left with a young lifetime of fond memories with people I held close, and that isn't a bad thing at all.

I cannot express how happy I have been to receive great feedback and support from people here on dA as I slowly post each chapter in The Wayward Astronomer. I know it's been a long road, and I'm still not at the finish line yet, but it's in sight. I cannot wait to share with everyone the ending I've had trapped in my head for so long. Without the encouragement of others, most of you who I have never met, I may not have had the courage to carry things forward this far. Thank you. 

I hope each and every one of you who reads this has also had a great 2014, with plenty of things to be grateful for, and even better things on the horizon in 2015. Until next time, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Godspeed.

  • Mood: Optimism
  • Listening to: Glory 3usi9 by Nanou feat. Hatsune Miku
  • Reading: Joseph Campbell - The Hero with a Thousand Faces
  • Watching: The Last Samurai
  • Playing: Star Citizen
  • Eating: A sandwich
  • Drinking: Pepsi MAX

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Add a Comment:
ezioauditore97 Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2015  Student General Artist
I don't have a wordpress account so I couldn't comment,but I've been reading your blog and all the entries have been really entertaining reads with some nice photography as well.

 Anyways hope you finish your trip on a high note!
Kafelnikov Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2015
Thanks Ezio! I'm glad that you've been reading and enjoying the blog! I'm constantly surprised by some of the shots I've gotten with this $90 camera. I have a lot of good memories to look back on and remember.
ezioauditore97 Featured By Owner Jan 18, 2015  Student General Artist
You're welcome! Photos are fun,but memories are even better.
ezioauditore97 Featured By Owner Sep 18, 2014  Student General Artist
Hey know you've been busy and understandably so ,but you'll make some time for the Halloween contest,right?
Kafelnikov Featured By Owner Sep 18, 2014
Absolutely. There will be a Halloween contest. That's a guarantee. There should be announcement soon once David gives me all the prize and category details. 
ezioauditore97 Featured By Owner Sep 18, 2014  Student General Artist
Excellent!I also cannot wait for that aforementioned Caption contest;maybe it got pushed back to Christmas like the one before?Regardless I've got a nice little something for the contest and I daresay it's one of my better doodles.
USBLynx Featured By Owner Jun 6, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Okay I just went to your website thats linked to your Deviant ID and I found a few interesting things... One: the plane is called a Lynx... you can guess why I noticed it. I just thought that was funny. Two: the Lynx is in your Deviant ID picture. I think that is really cool. Three: I see that the company that owns the website are hiring... is it entry level or experienced level hiring? Im looking for a new job, so I have been poking around.

By the way, I have a few sketches for chapter 8 of Wayward Astronomer. I have not posted them yet, Because I do not know where to go from this point on...
Kafelnikov Featured By Owner Jun 6, 2014
Sorry, I was slow to respond to your note. Feel free to post the sketches to your stash on dA (or some other site) and then you can link me to the sketches in a note. I'll take a look and give you my thoughts!

We are hiring at XCOR for several different positions, so read the job descriptions to get an idea for what each one requires. Most of them are technical jobs (engineering, machining, or technician)
R-Star97 Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you very much for the fave Kafel ^^ (If I'm allowed to call you like that)
Kafelnikov Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2014
No problem. A lot people call me Kafel. It's all good
Add a Comment: