Jack hardcock: Christian detective- a quick aside

My motivation for completing this story about a right-wing, ex(and now anti)FBI agent in Ohio has been depleted after some presumed MAGA dude was killed after trying to infiltrate the Cincinnati FBI field office.

It kinda sucks the fun that I was trying to have with this.

I know you don’t give a shit, but I need to say this to get it off my chest: I am not trying to make a statement with this story. My position with this blog has always been anti-political. In fact, I will continue to argue that our current political environment is indistinguishable from religious dogma and I want no part of it.

Furthermore, if you champion people getting killed to make a political statement, you are a part of the problem. You can waste your life arguing about some imaginary supernatural or metaphysical force that you want imposed on the world, OR you can live your life, create art, fall in love, and make the best of the short time we have on this extraordinary planet.

As an aside, my two biggest influences for much of my writing is Paul Verhoeven and some guy in rehab that tried to explain the plot of Momma Mia! Verhoeven’s schtick, particularly with Starship Troopers, was to tell the story from a fascistic perspective while simultaneously letting the audience in on the joke.

That concept blew my mind, so I picked it up and ran with it.

I’m intrigued by the idea of giving an audience the illusion of truth, but in actuality there’s nothing behind the curtain. It’s all dick jokes and insanity.

This is probably why I was so taken with the film We Are The Flesh. The review that I linked to in my last post called the film “anti-art.” And that’s essentially what I’m doing here. And that’s the motivation behind all of my writing.

There’s nothing behind the curtain. So embrace the madness while you can.

Jack Hardcock will return…

who wrote the rules?!

I don’t know if I’m just bored sitting in class for the last two weeks, but something’s crawled up my ass and I just feel like arguing with people. On Instagram no less!

This time I’m arguing with stuck up Christians trying to present their arguments as some sort of academic debate because they think atheists are too dumb to understand their beliefs. Now don’t get your panties in a wad, these are just the people who are pissing me off RIGHT NOW. There’s no telling who I’ll argue with next week.

I’m a sophist at heart.

But if there’s one type of person I can’t stand, it’s the stuck up “I’m smarter than you cuz I read academic shit” guy. Fuck those people.

In fact, I say it’s your DUTY to pointlessly argue with these folks. They expect everything to be a structured debate and demand strangers online follow the rules.

But I will not. If I want to “straw man” you, use “non-sequiturs”, create false dichotomies, etc. I am well within my right to do so and there’s nothing you can do about it.

So Who the fuck are you? The “logical fallacies” police?

Black roses (1988)

When a movie informs you that it’s a Shapiro-Glickenhaus production, you’re in for a ride. And Black Roses did not disappoint.

I’ve always been intrigued by the psychological/political dimensions of the 80s. Poltergeist kind of touches on this in the most subtle way, how family dynamics were altered during this decade. Black Roses picked up on this concept and ran with it.

The film shines a spotlight on the contradictions within Reagan-era politics: parents being appalled yet titillated by youth culture (and a complete lack of awareness that these tensions exist). The story of Black Roses centers on some “heavy metal” band coming to small town USA and corrupting its youth. The youth become demon-possessed and start killing their parents. Only a mustached English teacher stands in their way.

Of course, the band is entirely blamed for the “corruption”. Despite the shitty parenting throughout, the adults never once ask themselves: “are we to blame?”. But I guess parenting styles in the 1980s didn’t include things like paying attention to your children. Additionally, because parents were unable to take responsibility for themselves, we now have “culture wars”…which stem back to this decade…on which adults can use as a scapegoat for why they have shitty children.

Now I’m probably giving the filmmakers WAY to much credit for this analysis. They probably just wanted to show rock n’ roll and boobs with a few demons thrown in for good measure. But all good art is a reflection on the time it was produced. And Black Roses certainly pulls back the curtain on Reagan’s America.

what is a reel ass dude?

Definitions vary. But in short, it’s any person that rides a fine line between being insane…or criminally stupid…and a total menace to society.

Which leads to a bigger question that I get asked everyday of my life: how does one get inducted into the Internet Ruined Everything’s Hall of Fame of Real Ass Dudes (IREHOFRAD)?

Because this is such an elite club, one must meet the following criteria:

1. Demonstrated clear excellence in insanity or stupidity. But their eccentricities can’t lead them to be perpetually in jail. Remember, being a menace to society is a clear disqualification for being a real ass dude. Serial killers, mass murderers, and Harvey Weinstein will never qualify.

2. That being said, there are bonus points for criminal activity. DUIs, robbery, minor drug trafficking, embezzling, manslaughter, fraud, etc, are perfectly acceptable. Sex and hate crimes, however, are an automatic disqualification. OJ Simpson totally rides the line here.

3. Have outstanding achievements in the fields of entertainment, business, sports, politics, technology, etc, that will stand the test of time REGARDLESS of their insanity, stupidity, and criminal activities. A prime example here is Bobby Knight. The man had no business coaching a college basketball program who nevertheless won three national titles. This is why Knight was the first inductee into the HOF.

Basically to get into the Hall, inductees must exemplify, or outright facilitate, the decline of society’s collective super ego.

Have someone you want to nominate? Let me know in the comments.

On the ballot next year is OJ Simpson, Brett Favre, Lyndon Baines Johnson, and Donald Trump. Only one can get in.

anywho…

I tried Tiktok again.

I don’t know what it is, but that place makes me sick. LITERALLY. Every time I use that app, I feel like I ate nothing but Skittles during a 12 hour road trip, and when I arrive, I feel queasy and restless.

I’m sorry but no more Tiktok.

So I probably won’t be expanding my social media presence anytime soon. Mostly because we’re entering into another political season and everyone with an asshole is giving a prediction.

I mean, these jerkwads do understand that there are algorithms right? Google, YouTube, Meta, Tiktok, Twitter, etc, they just confirm what you already believe based on your search history. So it’s impossible to to gauge how people are going to vote by simply looking at the internet.

Look, I’m not usually for bullying, but the internet would be a much better place if we bullied these folks off the web.

Just a suggestion.

😐

What happened to the days on TV when a man could walk into a grocery store Benny Hill-style, hand in pocket, and he’s just YANKING his crank furiously underneath his sweatpants? Meanwhile he thinks he’s being so cool about it but everyone refuses to make eye contact with him.

Why can’t we make TV like that anymore?

That’s the worst thing about politics becoming serious entertainment: nothing’s funny anymore.

Every joke is the same tired crap: shitting on transgenderism, “cancel culture” ruining everything, conservatives are brainwashed, blah blah blah….

Remember that terrible painting of Jesus guiding the pen of Donald Trump? Chuckle all you want, but that painting best represents the absurdity of our times and it will almost certainly be in a prestigious museum 500 years from now where smart people will dispassionately evaluate its historical significance.

Nothing can be stupid and pointless for the sake of being stupid and pointless anymore.

Thanks anyway jackass forever, but too little too late.

according to Simon (part iii)

“What happened to your face?” Jacob asked as I met him at the Cyrene’s inn.

“I was attacked by one of Herod’s thugs,” I said. “They’re onto us. So watch who you talk to.”

“You didn’t tell him anything did you?”

“I told him I was a friend of Joseph’s. After that, he left me alone.”

“Shit,” Jacob said and rubbed his face. “Well good news is I met with Ananias and his wife Sapphira. Remember them?”

“The one’s from Rome?”

“Yeah. They sold some of their property in Judea. They gave the money to John to distribute to the widows outside of the city walls. It’s finally happening Simon!”

“Don’t let it get to your head!” I told him. “You still need to lie low.”

Just then a big burly fellow with six other men busted through the door. “Χαιρετίσματα Jacob,” the booming voice said.

“Hello Stephanos.”

“You’re Stephanos?!” I exclaimed.

Stephanos looked over to me and back over to Jacob. “Who’s dis?” the man asked in his Greek accent.

“Relax, he’s Simon,” Jacob replied. “He was a good friend of Yeshua’s.”

Stephanos looked me up and down. “I heard you were arrested,” he said to me.

“No, it must have been another Simon,” I replied. “I’m from Bethsaida.”

Stephanos was confused. He looked back to Jacob. “I was told that Ananias gave you money. Our women and children are starving too-“

“Now Stephanos,” Jacob interrupted, “I know where you’re going with this. But Ananias was very clear: he wanted us to use this money to help the widows of Jerusalem.”

“Because we’re Greeks we’re not as important as the Hebrews?”

“I didn’t say that. Please listen to me. I’m only respecting Ananias’ wishes.”

Stephanos was furious. “We’ve been in the streets for days while you Hebrews have been coward up in your homes! Do you support us or not?!”

“Of course I support you!” Jacob yelled then took a deep breath. “I get how you feel, Stephanos, I really do. But you gotta understand our situation. Herod and Pilate aren’t too concerned with the Greeks right now. But they are after us. We can’t be out in the streets and we don’t have the money to spread around to everyone. I’m sorry. But Ananias is a very successful man from Rome and a diaspora Jew just like yourself. If you go to him and explain your situation, he can probably provide you with some assistance.”

Stephanos stood silent for a moment then muttered something in Greek. He walked up to Jacob. “μη με σταυρώνεις,” he said. Then him and his six men left the room.

“You should’ve stayed away from him Jacob,” I said.

“I know.”

“And Stephanos is a convert. To Ananias, he’s still a Gentile. He’s not giving him the money.”

Jacob began rubbing his temples. “I need a drink,” he said.

We went down to the tavern where Levi was scribbling something down. “What are you doing?” Jacob asked him.

“The Greeks wanted something to tell the people back in the Decapolis. Something about Yeshua.”

I looked over the writing. He didn’t write much but it was all in Greek. I couldn’t understand a word of it. Jacob was puzzled. “Where did you learn to write Greek?”

“In school, here in Jerusalem” Levi replied, “I had to learn it along with Hebrew.”

“Maybe we should drop the subject of Greeks for the time being,” I said.

We sat silently drinking our wine for a few minutes. There was a commotion on the streets. Andrew came running up. “They’re about to stone some of the Greeks!” he screamed.

Jacob and Levi instantly got up. “Aren’t you coming along?” Jacob asked me. Against my better judgment, I put down the wine cup and followed them.

A few blocks away, a crowd was gathering. Some were shouting. Others gawked out of morbid curiosity. Moments later, Temple guards began dragging out seven Greeks. One of them was Stephanos.

Behind them followed a few members of the Sanhedrin, including Joseph. Standing beside him was Ananias.

“Thief! Thief!” Ananias shouted. “These men conspired with Yeshua to rob the Temple and overthrow the Romans!”

My heart began to sink. This was a setup.

The guards threw the Greeks in front of Herod’s black-cloaked mercenaries who had their spears ready. Meanwhile, the Roman guards stood back smiling at the whole affair.

A judge from the Sanhedrin stood among the crowd and faced the accused. “Conspiracy, sedition, robbery of Ananias,” the judge said, “are these accusations true?”

It didn’t matter what Stephanos said. And he knew it. From his knees, he laughed and looked at the crowd. “You stiff-necked people,” he said, “your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him—”

“God help you,” the judge said.

With those words, the mercenaries plunged their spears into the bellies of the Greeks. A pool of blood formed in the middle of the crowd.

Levi screamed in horror and ran away.

But the crowd was just getting warmed up. They picked up stones or any disposable object and began hurling them towards Stephanos. He got bruised and battered and knocked in the head a few times but kept crawling forward.

Among the mercenaries, I recognized a familiar face: The scars….the scabs…the wiry frame. It was him alright. It was the man that attacked me a few days earlier.

And Stephanos kept crawling towards this man as the stones were raining down on him. When he reached his feet, Stephanos grabbed the man’s cloak and got to his knees.

I was too far away to hear anything, but Stephanos was clearly saying something to this man. Judging by his face, the figure was stunned by what was being said. But before the figure could react, a member of the crowd smashed a rock into Stephanos’ skull.

The man in the black cloak stood back with blood and brain matter splattered all over his face. He was in a daze.

Before the crowd could mutilate the bodies, Joseph stepped in to quiet them. That’s enough!” he yelled. “The perpetrators of the Passover sedition have been caught and punished! This matter is closed! Please return to your homes!” As the crowds dispersed, the Temple guards started dragging the bodies outside of the city walls.

Jacob and I returned to the inn in silence. We didn’t know what to make of what just happened. “Do we leave Jerusalem?” Jacob asked.

“Why?” I replied. “It looks like Joseph and Ananias took care of our problem.”

TO BE CONTINUED…

according to Simon (part II)

“Simon saw Yeshua come back from the dead!” Andrew said.

“I didn’t see Yeshua!” I replied. “How did you get to be so stupid?”

Andrew and I were meeting with Jacob and Levi at the Cyrene’s tavern after returning to Jerusalem. “What did you see?” Levi asked me.

“Look,” I said, completely ignoring his question, “I only came back to Jerusalem to bring Jacob back to Galilee. I already got Yeshua killed, I can’t let the same thing happen to his brother.”

“I’m not going back,” Jacob said.

“Why not?”

“This might come as a surprise to you Simon, but people actually believe the Message. You thought the Romans could never be driven out of Judea, but everyone took notice of Yeshua. Including the Greeks!”

“The Greeks? We were only in Scythopolis for a few days. We barely spoke Greek!”

“Yeshua made quite an impression on them.”

“Yeah, they’re saying that he did all kind of shit,” Levi said, “healing the blind, casting out demons and sending them into pigs, making the lame walk…”

“Are you sure they’re not confusing him with one of the thousands of other lunatics that wonder around the Decapolis?”

“I’m telling ya Simon,” Jacob exclaimed, “these Greeks have some goddamned imagination. They think he’s some wandering miracle worker! There is some guy named Stephanos who followed us all the way from Scythopolis. He’s been screaming in the streets! He’s pissed about the crucifixion!”

“You guys didn’t talk to him, right?”

“Well…”

Right then, Mary walked into the tavern. She had the look of death on her face.

“What’s wrong?” Jacob asked.

“He’s gone.”

***

All of us ventured outside of the city walls to Joseph’s tomb near the Mount of Olives. The women were weeping. I walked inside the tomb and Yeshua’s body wasn’t there.

“The Greeks?” I asked Jacob.

“How would they have known where his body was?”

Joseph was stomping down the hill up ahead. I looked over to Jacob. “Let me handle this,” I said.

Joseph was only a few yards away when he started yelling. “You guys have been an epic pain in my ass!”

“Now Joseph, calm down,” I said. “I’m only here to collect Jacob and bring him back to Galilee. I swear. I’m not here to cause trouble.”

“Like hell! All the Jews are gone but now the streets are crawling with Greeks! Ever since Passover ended, they’ve been piling into the city!”

“I know, but we have nothing to do with that.”

“Bullshit! This idiot here…” Joseph cried, referring to Jacob, “has been seen screaming on the streets with that lunatic Stephanos. And now all of you are grave robbing!”

I shook my head as I looked over to Jacob. “Joseph, we didn’t take Yeshua’s body. Mary came here this morning and it was gone. As for the Greeks, I don’t know what to tell you. We’ll leave Jerusalem and maybe this will all blow over in a few weeks.”

“Too late. They’ve been threatening the Sadducees and Pharisees because apparently, Yeshua was railing against them in Scythopolis! I know you were there Simon. So this IS your fault!”

Damn it, I thought. I looked over to Jacob. “This has gotten out of hand. We’re leaving.”

“If all of you are leaving, you better do it quick. The Sanhedrin wants this fire put out now! Herod is bringing in mercenaries from all over the empire. A few of them might be here now. You’re probably as good as dead,” Joseph said.

“Then that means you too,” I told him. “You’re as guilty as the rest of us.”

Jacob spoke up. “It doesn’t matter where we go. Do none of you see what’s going on here? The moment Yeshua spoke against the Romans and their collaborators, we had a target on our backs. We knew the risks. And we accepted them. Because look around you: lepers, beggars, widows, children sleeping on the streets. We can’t continue to live like this. Even the Greeks agree! Yes Yeshua is dead, but that doesn’t mean the Kingdom of God is dead too. We continue to fight for it or we die in the streets.”

Joseph was silent.

“It’s time for you to take a stand Joseph,” Jacob continued. “You’re either with us or you’re with Herod.”

Joseph looked down to the ground and thought for a moment. “I have no love for the Romans,” Joseph said, “but I want no more bloodshed. So I ask all of you: stay away from the Gentiles. They aren’t our problem. Let them take the fall for this Yeshua situation. If you can do this, I can keep the Sanhedrin off your scent.”

“But Joseph,” Jacob replied, “a lot of them are Jewish converts. We’re in this together.”

“Listen to me Jacob: stay away from them. And please, for the love of God, lay low!”

With those words, Joseph walked away. Jacob was beside himself. “What does he expect us to do?” he said to me, “we can’t just wish the Romans away!”

I put my hands on his shoulders to calm him down. “Jacob, he may be onto something,” I said. “Let’s face it: we don’t have the power to get the Romans out of Judea just yet. Our only choice is to play the long game. Alright? Now you might be safe in Jerusalem for the time being, but you’re gonna have to live to fight another day. Also, keep quiet about being Yeshua’s brother. Okay?”

Jacob nodded. “Are you going back to Galilee?” he asked.

I smiled. “No. I gotta keep you out of trouble,” I replied.

All of us went back into the city walls individually. As I was returning to the Cyrene’s tavern, a strange man in a black cloak pulled me into an alley and put a dagger to my throat.

“I got money in my satchel,” I said to him.

“I don’t want your money!” the man replied. He was a short, wiry figure with rashes and scabs all over his face. “I recognize you!”

“Well I don’t recognize you.”

“Don’t play with me! I saw you with that man in Caesarea.”

“What man?”

“Yeshua you fool!”

“Who?”

He punched me in the stomach and I fell to the ground. “Why are you in Jerusalem?” the figure asked.

“I’m just a fisherman. I’m here in town because of Passover. I’m leaving tomorrow, I swear!” I said as I was gasping for air.

“Liar!”

“Why would I lie about that?!”

He kicked me in the face and I fell flat on the ground. The man continued his interrogation.

“Who do you know here?”

I crawled back to my knees. “Joseph, alright! He’s from Arimathea! He’s on the Jerusalem Council!”

“Can you confirm that?”

“We can go talk to him now!”

The man put his dagger back into his cloak and he helped me off the ground. He also dusted me off. “I’m sorry about the confusion,” he said. “There’s a lot of insurrectionists around. They always cause trouble around Passover. Can never be too safe, ya know?”

I wiped the blood from my mouth. “Indeed.”

“Alright, well you take care now,” the man said.

He walked up to the edge of the alley, looked to his left and right, and disappeared back into the city streets.

TO BE CONTINUED…

according to simon (part I)

Time to shit or get off the pot.

I’ve had this story in my head for awhile and just now acted on it.

I originally wrote an introduction but then said fuck it. All you need to know is that this is historical fiction, perhaps my least favorite genre, but this blog is all about challenging myself as a writer. So I’m giving this a go.

Just imagine if you were some nobody that got caught up in an incident that you believed had little significance, but it was actually the most important event in all of Western Civilization. I want to explore how reality turns to myth. I guess that’s the impetus behind this story.

I dunno, we’ll see how this goes…

Ain’t promising nothing.

***

Jerusalem, Circa 30 CE

Roman Judea is under the governorship of Pontius Pilate. Yeshua from Galilee has amassed a small yet devoted number of followers as messianic fervor sweeps the region. After causing a ruckus at the Jerusalem Temple during Passover, Yeshua is tried and sentenced to death by crucifixion.

With their leader dead, the followers of Yeshua await their fates…

…one such follower, and childhood friend of Yeshua, is Simon, the fisherman of Bethesda…

Joseph (of Arimathea) knocked me on my ass. He continued to berate me as I laid out on the ground.

“Do you know how hard it was for me to not turn you over to the Romans?!” he screamed. “All of these young ones,” Joseph then pointed to Thomas, John, Andrew, Levi, Jacob, and Mary, “…you and that idiot friend of yours could have gotten them KILLED!”

I leaned up and wiped the blood from my lip. I couldn’t feel a thing. I was too drunk. “Don’t worry Joseph,” I said, “you’ll never see my face again.”

“You’re damn right I’ll never see your face again! You have until sun up to get out of Jerusalem. If you’re not gone by then, so help me God YOU’LL be crucified next!”

Jude spoke up. “What about Yeshua’s body? Surely you didn’t leave him at Golgotha. It’s the Passover.”

“Do you know what I had to do Jude?” Joseph asked. “I had to talk to Pilate. Yeah! Face to fucking face! Luckily for all of you, he barely remembered this morning’s fiasco so I was permitted to take him off the cross. As for the Sanhedrin…they’re PISSED and will probably be looking for you guys. Which is why you better get the fuck outta here!”

“Just tell me where he’s buried,” Jude replied.

“I’m not telling you!” Joseph said.

Levi spoke up. “Just tell him father.”

Joseph took a deep breath to cool himself. “Because my idiot son here was an admirer of Yeshua,” he said, “his body has been placed in my family tomb TEMPORARILY, at least until all of this shit blows over. Then I will remove his remains. Now: please leave the city.”

Joseph departed the tavern and took Levi with him. The rest of the group stood around aimlessly. Jacob helped me off the ground. “Do we go back to Galilee?” he asked.

“I sure as hell am!” I replied.

“But…what about…”

“What about what?!”

“The Kingdom of God?”

“The Kingdom of God? Jacob, your brother is DEAD! He’s not coming back! If you know what’s good for you, you will return to Galilee and kiss your mother and tell her how sorry you are for your older brother’s death.”

Jacob began to weep and I instantly regretted my words.

He was only a kid.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “this was all my fault. I shouldn’t have agreed to come to Jerusalem. All of this could have been avoided.”

“I can’t go back,” Jacob said. “I can’t face her.”

He told me that he was staying in Jerusalem. I didn’t know what else to say to him. So I patted him on the back and he departed the Cyrean’s tavern. I thought I’d ever see him again.

“I’m going to Damascus,” Jude said, “I’ve got some connections there. Maybe now just wasn’t the time. I….”

“Let it go Jude,” I interrupted.

“But Simon, maybe this was just the beginning of something big…perhaps the end for the Romans.”

I laughed. “Are we experiencing the same reality? We just got our asses handed to us. Do you really think we can bring down the Romans?”

“Why are you here?! Did you not see all of those followers in Capernaum? In Cana? In Caesarea?!”

“I was his friend, Jude. I knew all of this was getting to his head, but I said nothing. I let the rest of you talk him into coming to Jerusalem. I said nothing. I let him go to the temple. I knew what he was going to do. But I said nothing. Well now I’m telling YOU something: go back to Damascus or wherever you’re from, and forget all of this happened. And I will go back to Bethesda where I will regret for the rest of my life that I was never able to bring Yeshua’s body to his mother.”

“And what of the Romans? What will you do if they ever find out what you did here?”

I laughed again as I drank another cup of wine. “They don’t care enough about me,” I said, “but if they did ever find me, I will tell them to send me to Rome so that I can tell the Caesar to kiss my ass.”

Jude shook his head. “Goodbye Simon.”

“So long Jude!”

As I was filling the wine skins, Thomas approached me. “Should I go to Egypt?” he asked.

“The world is your oyster, Thomas,” I said, “I’m going home.”

The two of us embraced for the last time. I thanked the Cyrean for sheltering us then my brother Andrew and I left the tavern. Maybe it was the wine, but as we were leaving Jerusalem, I was seeing Yeshua’s face everywhere. The guilt was unbearable.

Andrew wasn’t at all affected by the day’s events. As we traveled the road back to Galilee under the cover of night, he was cackling. “Boy, Joseph licked you good,” he said.

Andrew was a simple man.

“That’s because he’s a member of the Sanhedrin,” I replied, “if they ever found out he provided aid and cover to us, they’ll stone him for sure.”

As we stopped along a creek bank for the night, I laid out my bed. As I walking away towards the tree line, Andrew asked where I was going.

“Gotta take a shit,” I said.

As I got out of earshot of him, I kneeled down behind a tree and vomited. I closed my eyes for a few moments. All I could envision was Yeshua’s smiling face. Then I wept uncontrollably.

Finally I stood up and walked back to the camp where I found Andrew picking his nose. “Boy I can’t wait get back to fishin,” he said.

I laid down on my bed, looking up to the sky. “We’re not going back to Bethesda,” I said. “We’re going back to Jerusalem.”

TO BE CONTINUED…

2051: a space monstrosity (part vii)

“It is the King’s wish that your three female crew members join his harem. In exchange, we will grant you land rights on Ishnar, allowing you to remain here permanently,” Hazov declared to me in front of the Royal Council.

“What if they deny the King’s wish?” I retorted.

“Then you and your crew will be asked to leave.”

“Hazov, I can’t make them do anything. Those three crew members are distinguished women in their own right. I do not own them.”

“Those are the conditions on which you may stay on Ishnar.”

“Unacceptable,” I said, “I am responsible for the safety and well-being of my crew. Under no conditions would they submit to this demand.”

Hazov then whispered to one of the advisers. They convened privately for a few moments. “Alright,” Hazov finally spoke up, “then the King will accept one of your female officers for his harem: Commander Mwangi.”

I tried to hide the anger boiling beneath. “Under Space Fleet guidelines,” I responded, “we are ordered to respect the customs of extraterrestrial cultures. But I cannot submit my crew these demands, not without discussing it with them first. Please allow me to return to the Sagan where I will meet with my crew.”

“Of course, Captain.”

I was bluffing. I knew the crew wouldn’t agree to these terms but I needed time to find other options.

When I returned to the Sagan, Dr. Jackass pulled me aside. “Valdez is indeed pregnant,” he said, “we ran a DNA test and the father is Smashhouse. Yah was correct.”

“Fuck me running!” I replied.

***

I went underground to meet with Yah again. The guards refused to let me through. “Look,” I told one of them, “Hazov has granted me unrestricted access to Yah.”

“We need an explanation for your visit,” the guard said.

“I just need to go over with Yah the court proceedings on Earth should he stand trial,” I replied. “That’s all.”

“I need to confirm this with Hazov.”

“Don’t waste your time, Hazov’s time, and my time. You’re being ridiculous.”

We had a stare down for a few moments before he let me through. Another guard escorted me to Yah’s chamber.

“Can we have some privacy please?” I asked the guard. When he was out of earshot, Yah spoke up.

“I knew you’d be back,” he said.

“Of course you did.”

“We got off on the wrong foot Captain. But I can help you with your problem.”

“What is my problem?”

“Your ship doesn’t work and you can’t stay on Ishnar.”

“So? Maybe I can find another corner of this planet for my crew to live on.”

“The King of Ishnar rules this entire planet. If he ever found you and your crew, he would kill all of you. Face it: the customs of Ishnar is incompatible with Earth’s. You know this to be true.”

“How can you help me then? Can you fix thrusters, hydrogen drives, and hibernation chambers?”

“Through me, all things are possible.”

“Do you agree to do this?”

“You have my word, Captain.”

“What about Earth? It’s gone. Can you help us rebuild the planet?”

“I’ve only ever wanted what’s best for humanity.”

“Okay then. If you go back on your word, I will not hesitate to eject you into outer space where you’ll spend eternity in your chamber.”

“My powers are limited in this chamber. The only way I can repair your ship is if you release me from it.”

Son of a bitch, he was right. I knew he was right. And he knew that I knew he was right. We were playing each other. I had to make a choice.

I called the guard over. “Bring Yah’s chamber to the surface,” I ordered. “We’re bringing him back to Earth.”

TO BE CONTINUED…