Chapter Ten: Hatching a Plan

Mentally shocked, Mendin kept his composure rigid in the sector commander’s presence. How could the probe still be operational? It had imploded.

Where did it go?

“We scanned the planet repeatedly,” the sector commander continued. “Nothing. The Terran cruisers must be doing the same.”

She glared at a Terran cruiser’s projection. Her eyes narrowed. A snarl exposed long incisors.

“They must be tracking it.” Mendin mused.

“We don’t know how. We can find no trace.”

Mending looked at planet’s projection below them. The wreckage of the artifact lay there. In theory, during the implosion, a piece of it escaped the destruction. Did it phase? Yes. There would be a merry chase if the probe were still in normal space. That was how it vanished every other time the Terrans approached it. Terrans could only track it from system to system if—

“The Terran’s are tracking a phase space signal.” Mendin mused aloud.

The sector commander growled.

“Where else would the artifact go where we couldn’t track it?”

Firehoon nodded. “It is the only conceivable option, as impossible as it sounds. Unless, the brain of the artifact is still somewhere on the planet.”

“If that were the case, I think the Terrans would already be down there, searching. After they tried to chase us away.”

“I’m not sure the Terran cruisers want to fire at us,” Firehoon said.

“No, they are not aggressive.” The sector commander growled. “They possess weaknesses they accommodate for with their alliances. We do not have such a concern.”

Mendin raised an eyebrow, but stayed focused on the projections. He avoided looking toward the sector commander with doubt on his face.

“All of these vessels may have the technology to track the probe. We need only one of them.”

The sector commander walked back to the desk. Projections of Terran ships and the space around melded into a tactical battle map of the system, zooming on a lone Terran vessel near the edge of the star system.

Mendin smiled. The Theseus. Still limping after the Curtani had first engaged it.

“That is our target,” she said.

Firehoon stared at the blinking target on the 3D map. “For the moment, we are trapped between two Terran cruisers. Even with surprise, we may not win that confrontation. They likely have their weapons trained on us.”

“True.” The sector commander said.

“They could outrun us, if we attempted to intercept the Theseus,” Mendin said.

“Also, true.”

“Do we have reinforcements arriving?”

“No. We need that ship. I cannot risk the Terrans intercepting any message we send out of the system.”

Mendin turned and bowed his head to keep from looking at her. “Commander, you are risking your life on a hunch, the hunch of a simple soldier. Please, reconsider.”

“Please, your opinion matters little. The artifact and the Terran phase space tracking technology are out priorities. If they can track through phase space, they may have command of any battlefield. If they collect the artifact before us, well, we really don’t know what advantage that gives them.”

Her voiced boomed over the PA system, “Crew, battle stations prepare to engage the phase drives on my command!”

Mendin swallowed. The Terran vessels were too close.

Firehoon eyes widened. “A bluff?”

The sector commander growled. “A promise.”

Mendin’s legs weakened. Fear. He had sensed fear few times in his life: his first drop onto a battlefield, his first command on a drop, and now, phasing so close to enemy vessels. If the Terrans did not move in time, or if they fired in response, it was over.

“Helm, coordinates have been sent. It will be a quick jump. Do not fail,” the sector commander’s voice continued to boom throughout the room.

Do not fail, Mendin thought. A planetary system was a landmine for phase splashing.


Mendin felt the sector commander’s breath across his neck.

“Mobilize a team to board the Theseus. We will have to be quick.”

Mendin lifted his head and stood straight with pride. “Yes, commander. I live to serve and to die in service.”

© 2019 C.J. Staryk. All Rights Reserved.

Start at the beginning of this story here.

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Returning to a Family Curse

Hello Echoes,

The thing about experimenting on this website is the ability to change things when they didn’t quite work out. Just Another Family Curse was one of the three serials I started on the website, but I never liked how it turned out. A family curse felt like more of a hot mess, but I like the idea and the theme. So, I kept it on the site and decided to try a second pass at it. So, I reworked the first chapter and I already think the direction is greatly improved. Let me know what you think.

Stay Awesome.

So check out the new improved Chapter One for Just Another Family Curse.

As also check out my FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for your story needs.



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Just a Creek

Hey Echoes,

During the winter, I head back home to see the family. I also visit the place that would always give me a sense of calm from the outside world and the theater of lunatics in my head. It is a county park wrapped around the local reservoir. It’s modest, but it’s my spot. I thought I would share a couple of those pictures. Also, south Texas is getting humid and warming up, so here is something to remind me of cooler temperatures. I was also playing with different shots of the same stream. It’s always something about bodies of water that gets me. A small stream to the wide ocean, it does not matter.


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2019 Updates

Hello Echoes,

I hope everyone is well. I have been okay and I am crawling out of some unfriendly places. I was deep in a science fiction short story that I want published in a local short story anthology. So that is exciting! I am also doing some last edits for my book, while working on the second one. However, I haven’t forgotten about all of you. I have a new chapter in The Artifact ready to drop and I’m rewriting Just Another Family Curse.

I also plan to publish more of my photos, even if they will not be part of a Vagabonding story. Just a little blog post here and there to stay active when I’m deep in writing or editing.

I am contemplating making a journal about my struggle with depression, but it’s so personal that it’s daunting. Mental illness needs more voices and there does not seem to be a lot of male voices (or I haven’t seen much of it inside my bubble). I am interested what you may think of that. It would help me write something, even when I feel I don’t have the strength to do it.

Anyway, these are just some updates/awesome. Stay awesome and I will see you around.

CJ Staryk


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History in the Trees


I returned to Virginia during the winter and visited a few parks where I spent a lot of time growing up. These pictures are from a park in Newport News, VA. It’s the city park that surrounds the city reservoir. Not only does it serve as a natural buffer for the reservoir, but it has historical significance as well. All of these leaf and water filled trenches are earthworks from a Civil War battle that was fought here. There is always a strange feeling walking through an area with evidence of war. The earthworks are now populated with trees and the trenches between them are reservoirs for rain water. How I feel when walking through these areas is indescribable. People fought and possibly died around these earthworks, and the area is now replaced with the serenity of nature surrounding a reservoir that supplies water for the living. I just wanted to share the pictures and these thoughts with you.

© 2019 C.J. Staryk. All Rights Reserved.

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Missed the Mark

A glitzy sphere is lowered on a rail.
Elation swells,
confetti clogs the street:
a paper mâché fog.

Far away,
I sit in a chair,
aware that the New Year
will be greeted by the same
folly from the year before.

Changing the kitchen calendar
does not lead to metamorphosis.

I rise from my chair,
resolve to do better,
but can I?
I am the past.
The glitzy sphere decreed it so.

Memories, insecurities, dreams,
Fears, hopes, beliefs still survive,
Polluting the nascent temporal waters

I stand near a mirror.
A reflection returns my stare.
How I wish to shatter that image.

Its pathetic, stern face
prophesies a consistent state of failure.
Though it has no skill in divination,
its unflinching stare
can push me to my knees.

In earnest, I say “Someday.”
It is a deception.
I cannot flow through eternity
By waiting.

© 2019 C.J. Staryk. All Rights Reserved.

Happy New Year, Echoes! May the switch to a new calendar lead to interesting times. I have plans for this site as well as other aspects of my writing that, I hope, will lead to interesting times for all of us this year. See you around!

You are invited to follow me here for more updates:






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Instagram Update

Hey Echoes,

In a weird attempt to increase my social presence, I have joined Instagram. I’ll be posting photos taken on my trips there. It will be a preview for whenever I am working on another vagabonding story or a trashy story. It will also be a repository to remind me what I should be writing about. So, come join in on this awkward social experiment!

CJ’s Instagram


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Twitter Update

Hello Echoes,

Well, I did it! I have joined twitter, so you have more ways to connect and interact with me. It’s also another way to get news about the work I’m doing when I don’t have time for a lengthy blog post. See you out there!

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Red Touch Yellow

It was a foggy morning. It was still, but I heard the murmur of the city just beyond the low tree line. The fog isolated me from the residential area not too far away from the wetland trail. Fewer people were out on this gray day to enjoy nature. I was out here and I photographed an animal I had hoped to stumble into again. I thought I saw a coral snake on a bike trip in the area earlier in the year, but I was moving quickly and only wanted to avoid running it over. This time the little snake was stretched out on the trail, and I was only hiking. So, I got a few pictures, before it disappeared into the foliage. The close pictures are a little blurry, but I took them quickly, before I lost my model.



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A Shout Out

Hello Echoes,

I would like to take this opportunity to give a shout out to a dear friend who runs Five Day Photography. He recently returned from a cross-country road trip. He took some amazing pictures, building up his portfolio. Check out his journey and give him a like.

Just Laugh,

CJ Staryk

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