Star Trek Ship and Crew Idea: USS Providence

Regular readers may remember a post I did last September, where I shared some ideas I had not only for the casts of TNG, DS9, and Voyager, but I also threw in a movie plot. In addition to familiar characters, it involved new crew members on two ships — USS Titan and USS Destiny. So, you shouldn’t be surprised that over the years I’ve also come up with ideas for other ships and crews. Of course, lots of fans do this, especially those who write fan-fiction or, more often, play Star Trek Online and other games. But, I don’t do either, so this is my only outlet for such ideas. So…

This week, I decided to share the ship/crew that I’ve developed the most. As before, the timeframe is the Earth year 2380s….

USS Providence
— Note: I originally envisioned this as a Nebula-class ship. But, I eventually realized that a ship of that size probably wouldn’t have room for anything like Ten Forward. So, if I wanted to keep my bartender, Farlin, I needed a bigger ship. I decided to go with something familiar, the Galaxy-class, which we know has the requisite recreational lounge area. It is also typically used for primarily exploratory & diplomatic missions, while still having in impressive array of offensive and defensive weaponry. Perfect.

Captain Nicodemus ‘Nico’ Chavez (Human male)
— of Spanish descent; 6′, 175 lbs, 41 std years
— married (w/o children), but his wife Michonne is a botanist assigned to the scientific research vessel USS Linnaeus
— very no-nonsense style while on-duty, but likes to play games & sports and joke around when off-duty
— comes from long line of Starfleet officers, of which he is quite proud
— this is his 4th ship assignment, 2nd as Captain (1st captaincy was on the Miranda-class USS Farrell, a scientific research vessel, on which his wife was also assigned; prior to that, they met and were married at the Ghellmer Science Institute on Betazed, where he was Chief of Security)

First/Executive Officer, Commander Venda ke’Prell (Orion female)
— 5’9.5″, 140 lbs, 32 std years
— escaped slavery at 17 (killing her brutal owner, though she rarely talks of this), worked odd jobs for 3 years and educated herself, applied/accepted to Starfleet Academy
— excelled in Communications and earned Sato-Uhura Award for Excellence as Lt. j.g. while assigned to DS6
— occasionally has nightmares & flashbacks about her youth as a slave which can be quite unnerving, but she is otherwise normal, somewhat reserved but well-liked among officers & crew
— this is her 3rd ship assignment but 1st as Commander & F.O.

Science Officer, Lt. Thaksin Chiang (Human male)
— of Thai descent; 5’9″, 160 lbs, 28 std years
— son of Federation Ambassadors Nahkon & Mei-Lo Chiang
— mathematical prodigy who also expertly plays 8 musical instruments, including Vulcan harp
— has a somewhat sarcastic tongue, though never nasty
— good friends w/ Farlin and Chag, and collectively they are referred to by others as the “Three Musketeers”

Chief Medical Officer, (Lt. Commander) Dr. Bazil Tamm (Trill male)
— 5’11”, 170 lbs
— Bazil is 35 std years old and 4th host to symbiont Tamm, who is 200+ std years (exact same birthday as Counselor Shellen)
— has been good friends with Shellen for half Tamm’s life
— very calming and compassionate demeanor
— specializes in epidemiology and gene research

Chief of Security/Tactical Officer, Lt. Commander Tresh (Andorian male)
— 6’1″, 170 lbs, 45 std years
— slim but strong, quick, and a master of several hand-weapons & martial arts; in fact, only Gralk has ever beat him in a match, but not often
— strict w/ his subordinates, but not harsh; normally cool-tempered
— enjoys 20th century Earth vids

Ship’s Counselor, Lt. Commander Val Shellen (El-Aurian male)
— 5’10”, 170 lbs, 200+ std years old (but looks 40-ish)
— exact same birthday as the Tamm symbiont, whom he has been good friends with for half their lives
— widowed and has one adult child, with whom he is estranged
— feels guilty over the circumstances of his wife’s death (he was among those rescued from the SS Lakul by the Enterprise-B in 2293, but she died there)
— used to run a private medical practice on Auria Prime before the planet’s destruction by the Borg, then spent a few decades as a professor and researcher before joining Starfleet in 2368 (i.e., roughly 12 years prior to being assigned to the Providence)

Communications Officer, Lt. Sithik Nerriss (Hrithi male)
— 6’2″, 195 lbs, 22 std years
— his race is reptilian humanoid, with leathery, dark-greenish skin; 4ft, tapering tail; slitted eyes w/ nictitating membrane; superhuman strength, reflexes, & sense of smell
— member of noble family on Hrith and first to serve offworld
— tries to downplay his family’s status on their homeworld and sometimes overcompensates in friendliness, agreeableness, & eagerness to please superiors
— picks up knowledge & skills quickly and was recommended for the position by Lt. Com. Tresh, with whom he had worked on Deep Space 11 during his first assignment (as an ensign)
— Note: Hrithi mature faster than most humanoid species, and he graduated Starfleet Academy at 18 std years

Chief Engineer, Lt. Chag (Ferengi male)
— 5’2.5″, 150 lbs, 43 std years
— joined Starfleet at age 35, for reasons yet to be revealed; previously served on Ferengi transports and marauders
— very resourceful, reminiscent of Rom
— often pretends to be more annoyed/irritable than he really is
— has an unusual fondness for “hoo-mons”, and his personal hero is Montgomery Scott
— is an amateur historian of advances in physics & engineering on various worlds
— Farlin and Chiang keep trying to get him to take up a musical instrument, but he doesn’t have the patience for it

Astrogator, Lt. Sandra Whitestone (Human female)
— of British descent; 5’8″, 135 lbs, 27 std years
— quite attractive but rather “bookish”, hard to get to know, and uncomfortable in social situations
— has a twin brother who teaches Earth Literature at a major university on Alpha Centauri IV
— in addition to scientific journals and technical papers, she reads fiction voraciously and is particularly fond of Earth’s 18th & 19th century romantic novels (which her brother teases her about incessantly but good-naturedly)

Helmsman, Lt. Ramon Calabrese (Human male)
— of Italian descent (1/8 Sicilian); 6’3″, 175 lbs, 29 std years
— a stereotypical Latin “ladies’ man”, very charming and romantic but somewhat shallow
— alternately teases and flirts with Lt. Whitestone, who never responds to his advances
— very talented pilot, despite his somewhat cavalier manner
— quite the “card shark”

Transporter Chief, Lt. j.g. Sana Shrinivisthani (Human female)
— of Pakistani/British descent; 5’4″, 125 lbs, 26 std years
— comes from a well-to-do family on Alpha Centauri IV (her mother is the Federation ambassador and her father a wealthy shipping tycoon) and was rather spoiled before being sent against her will to Starfleet Academy
— her favorite rotation was in astro-cartography, and she spends a lot of free time studying the charts and talking with those currently assigned to the A-C lab

Chief Recreational Officer (civilian or non-com?), Gralk (Klingon male)
— 6’8″, 320 lbs, 37 std years
— NOT surly, belligerent, or condescending to non-Klingons
— enjoys studying other cultures, especially their games, sports, & martial arts
— muscular and skilled in martial arts, but often relies too much on his size in combat
— a quick wit, deep voice, and hearty laugh
— certainly not your typical Klingon, but a person of great honor & integrity nonetheless

Bartender (civilian), Farlin (Bolian male)
— 5’7″, 350+ lbs, 43 std years
— uses antigrav mobile-chair to get around and hand-extensions to reach things
— quite jovial & optimistic, despite his physical hardship
— has a degree in music, plays several instruments, tutors children part-time, and enjoys discovering new musical styles/traditions from different worlds

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The Hero Within

I’ve got an original fiction idea for you this week. Haven’t done one of these in several months. This one was sufficiently developed that it might work as a “pitch” for either a novel or a TV series. Well, maybe I’ll let you be the judge of that….

“The Hero Within”
(or, possibly something else, ‘cuz I’m not totally sold on this title)

Subject #1: Rich, cultured, and very physically fit man in penthouse suite discussing the day with his valet and joking good-naturedly. Remarks are made about certain “extracurricular activities” and long term plans and “making a difference” and such, but nothing specific. The impression, of course, is that he is a mega-wealthy, playboy type who fights crime in his spare time.

Subject #2: Unkempt man wakes up nearly naked on the couch in his messy dump of an apartment, empty beer bottles and leftover food strewn about. Turning off the TV, he talks to himself while stumbling about the place, obviously hungover and cranky as he gets ready for work (or perhaps to go looking for work). What little we “hear” is laced with expletives and alternates between self-pity and anger/frustration over events in his life (e.g., divorce, bankruptcy of a business and not being able to hold a job since, etc.). As he leaves, yelling at the neighbor’s noisy dog, he mutters to himself about “fixing things” and “making things right”. The assumption, of course, is that he is either an average joe with a streak of bad luck or possibly a small-time criminal who is planning a crime (probably a heist), which he thinks will solve his problems.

Revelations: The reality of it is that Subject #2 was indeed a wealthy businessman at one time, but he let other matters distract him, which allowed Subject #1 to engineer a hostile takeover. Those “other matters” were his obsession with fighting crime — secretly, of course — as a masked adventurer (a la Green Hornet). Having a lot of personal capital tied up in his “extracurricular activities”, he soon went through personal bankruptcy, which then led to his divorce. Between that and the takeover of his business, he also no longer has access to the properties which housed (or had secret tunnels which led to) his crimefighting HQ and related stores of weapons and technology. What he doesn’t realize, yet, is that the unscrupulous Subject #1 discovered these secret locations and equipment and has begun (subtly and small-scale, so far) to use them for nefarious purposes — i.e., to illegally increase his wealth and power, from straightforward theft and back-alley assault to industrial espionage, corporate blackmail, and shady business deals. As soon as Subject #2 discovers what #1 is up to, he will take it personally and make it his mission to stop #1. Meanwhile, #2 just needs to stop drinking and figure out how to get his life back on track….

The revelations about who these two characters actually are/were and how they got to this particular stage in their personal and professional lives might occur within, say, a pilot episode of a TV series or the opening chapter or two of a novel. Subsequent developments — e.g., #1’s creative uses for the “hero tech” he now has, one or more personal confrontations between the two, #2’s other activities as he gets his life together while fighting inner demons, #2 adopting a new adventuring persona and becoming a gadfly in #1’s plans, etc. — would be spread over the course of one or more seasons or books. The story might be played either totally serious or with a strong mix of humor — and, here, I’m thinking #2 would be someone like Bruce Willis as ‘John McClane’ in the Die Hard movies. Similar vibe, anyway.

End of pitch.

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2018.

From the Mind of Mr. Zeus, part 14

File #: 2018Q2
Subject: new issue of quarterly ‘Official Mr. Zeus Fanclub Newsletter’
Purpose: readers’ enjoyment/entertainment and (occasionally) education
Author: Mr. Zeus (aka <name unknown>; formerly known as Jacob Szymanski, aka “Hacksaw Jack”)

“What Super Privilege?”

I heard one of the most ridiculous things the other day. You’ve heard of “white privilege”, right? Somebody wrote an opinion piece in a major metropolitan newspaper recently claiming that superheroes have something similar, which he dubbed “super privilege”. (Of course, rather than the privilege of a light-skinned majority, this would be the privilege of a (sometimes) super-powered minority.) Apparently, those of us with superpowers or other such talents that we put to use as costumed adventurers are guilty of taking unfair advantage of this “privilege” to get fame and fortune and who-knows-what. What a load of baloney!

Look, some people who get powers are lucky, no doubt. People like myself have been able to use them to make a decent living. Others don’t get any sort of monetary compensation. Yes, we often achieve a measure of celebrity from it, too. Sometimes, it also results in special treatment at certain establishments who appreciate the attention our presence brings their business (e.g., a restaurant, nightclub, boutique store, sports arena), so we occasionally get a free meal or access to an event, for example. A few of us have been paid to promote products or businesses, and there have been a few who had opportunities to parlay their fame and/or fortune into a business of their own — anything from movie stardom to entrepreneurial ventures (see below). (Heck, I’m doing that now.) But, all of this is no different than what celebrities of all colors and creeds do in the sports and entertainment industries. (Believe me, I know firsthand.) And, as soon as you’re no longer A-list, the offers and opportunities get fewer and farther between.

However, there are those who fear, hate, or distrust us “supers” and call us a menace. (Very similar to what Spider-Man, the X-Men, and other characters experience in the comics.) So, we sometimes get treated quite poorly. I should also mention that not everyone who gets superpowers has it easy. The general public doesn’t usually hear about them, but some people’s powers end up killing them. It may take hours, days, months, or years, and sometimes it is very painful. Those of us who survive the changes usually still have problems to deal with, too. This could be anything from loss of limbs or senses, physical deformity, hypersensitivity to light (or something else), emission of radioactivity, development of cancer, or any number of other conditions that prevent one from having a “normal” life. As for me, my skin became thick and leathery, with a diminished sense of touch. Plus, there are those massive migraines that I wrote about several issues ago. In comparison to others I’ve seen and known, though, I count myself very fortunate.

Super privilege? Hah!

The cold winds of fortune don’t care if you have powers or not (or what sacrifices you might have to make), and neither do the fickle media. The thing to remember is to make wise decisions and take advantage of whatever opportunities you have, regardless of where you come from or what your abilities are.

“Super Barbecue”

Last month, Bravado and I organized an all-day barbecue for superheroes around the world and their significant others. Well, it took more than a month to put the whole thing together, but it was held last month. We rented out a 10-square-mile section of a U.S. national park with a river on one side, flew in a band, had all sorts of games and (literally) tons of food. Heck, Leviathan ate at least a couple tons just on his own! People came and went throughout the day, as some had to deal with emergency calls and previous engagements. (We had a couple people with teleporting abilities lending a hand with “transportation”.) And, naturally, a few couldn’t make it. (For example, half of Vanguard Prime was somewhere in Siberia dealing with a new threat. Olympia had to leave a bit early to give them a hand.) But, I’d guess we had close to 50 heroes show up, plus assorted spouses, children, boy/girlfriends, and we even let a handful of agents/managers join in. There was no baseball diamond, of course, but we improvised a game that spanned half our rented area. We limited use of superpowers to select ones — e.g., strength, flight, elasticity, enhanced vision, telekinesis, etc. But, superspeed had to be kept subsonic, and use of any powers that could damage the park (e.g., fire or other energy beams) were forbidden. (We had a half-dozen park rangers on hand all day to keep us in line.) BrightFire set up an energy-net to keep everything within the agreed-upon 5 square miles (and a thousand feet up), which worked surprisingly well. I’m happy to say, a good time was had by all.

“At the Superhero Retirement Home…”

An added benefit of the barbecue was seeing old friends and associates, including four who are fully retired from crimefighting. Not many of you will remember The Blue Mask, but he was a boxer back in the ’50s who became a part-time, street-level hero in New Jersey. (StormFire introduced us about 10 years ago.) He had to retire after a decade in the biz following a serious injury, but he mentored a couple heroes of the next generation, and we all hold him in high regard for what he was able to do back then — without any powers, yet! He owns a bar and a gym back in Jersey, but I haven’t been able to pop in much since I semi-retired out here. So, it was great to see him. He’s pushing 90 and is wheelchair-bound, but he’s mentally sharp as a tack. Reminds me of a cross between my grand-pops and ‘Mickey’ from the Rocky movies.

I got to hang out with my old buddy, Fazerfist, too. I enjoyed working with him back in our days in the Alliance. I always told him he was too “pretty” to be in that line of work. Then, one day, he lost his powers, and suddenly he didn’t have a choice but to find a new profession. He was pretty bummed out for a few weeks, but after a little counseling and talking with a couple pals (like me), he found his calling. He changed his name and appearance and started taking acting lessons. Now, the world knows him as the movie superstar ‘Gideon Chamberlain’! I kid you not. (I’m not betraying any secrets, either. It’s in his new book being released next week.) That’s right. I am personal friends with last year’s “World’s Sexiest Man Alive!” 🙂

Of course, you have all probably heard of TechKnight and Cyber-Witch, right? If not, TechKnight (aka Randall McCrae) was the armored hero that was popular back in the late-’80s and ’90s. When he retired from superheroing, he was replaced in that superteam (which name escapes me at the moment) by Major Tech. That guy was killed a couple years afterward and the cyborg Cyber-Witch (aka Amanda Johnson-Ruiz) took his place. Meanwhile, McCrae had used his creative engineering genius to build a successful high-tech firm, McCrae Engineering LLC, and some in the crimefighting community were/are his clients. Cyber-Witch consulted on a project a several years ago, and Randall effectively swept her off her feet. (Not easy, since she’s a lot heavier than she looks!) Long story short, they’ve been married for 7 or 8 years and became friends of mine through mutual associates. Great couple!

Time to sign off for this quarter. Stay strong, everbuddy!

‘Til next time…

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2018.

From the Mind of Mr. Zeus, part 13

File #: 2018Q1
Subject: new issue of quarterly ‘Official Mr. Zeus Fanclub Newsletter’
Purpose: readers’ enjoyment/entertainment and (occasionally) education
Author: Mr. Zeus (aka <name unknown>; formerly known as Jacob Szymanski, aka “Hacksaw Jack”)

“Keepin’ Busy”

Hmmm, what have I been up to over the past few months that you might be interested in?

Well, I’ve been involved in a few rescue operations lately. Y’know those forest fires that were raging for several days in the Northwest a couple months ago? Well, I have a friend with connections in the firefighter community, and when they were looking for volunteers from around the country to go join the effort, my friend thought I might be able to contact some superheroes that could lend a hand. Unfortunately, none of my contacts with weather- or fire-based powers were available. (One was off-world, one went missing a couple weeks earlier (and still is), one was injured and in the hospital, and the other two were occupied on other missions around the world.) But, I grabbed my buddy Bravado (who doesn’t fly but he’s almost as strong as I am) and we flew up to help. I also called my Canadian friends WinterHawk and SummerHawk, and they met us there. Part of the time I worked with Bravado digging and clearing firebreaks and doing other dangerous work where our strength and fire-resistance were advantageous. The rest of the time I joined the Hawks in the air, doing aerial searches for stranded people, etc. I also dumped a few vats of water on some spots. We couldn’t stop the fires, but we were able to save people and property before the rain finally came and put them out.

Last month, I aided in the search-and-rescue efforts after terrorists blew up that office building in Tennessee. I’m sure you heard all about it on TV or other newsmedia. Some anarchist nutjobs decided to “make a statement”, and 73 innocent people lost their lives for it. I’m just glad we were able to find the other 16 in (and under) the rubble and dig them out. (Btw, that baby the cameras caught me flying with out of the crater and over to the EMTs? She and her mother both survived with minimal medical issues. (I don’t have permission to mention names or specify their injuries.) A couple weeks after that, I heard about a pair of 5-year-old twins who had gone missing, and I volunteered to aid in the hunt for them. Turns out they’d been kidnapped by some psychopath who was preparing them to be sacrificed to Molech (or maybe it was another one of those ancient pagan gods). Anyway, the FBI Behavioral Science team worked up a profile, then the local LEOs got a hot tip, and — long story short — I joined the FBI team in an assault on the freak’s lair. It was in an old wine cellar, and I got to bust the door down and shrug off some bullets, before the rest of the team took him down. We saved the kids, too, though they’re going to need some counseling.

Beyond that, I’ve been doing my usual mix of reading, writing, working out, and helping to train young superheroes. Yep, that’s right! The ILEAD Superhero Virtual Training Program is already underway, and we have our inaugural batch of (seven) students from across the U.S. taking courses in basic forensic sciences, physics, and human physiology, to be followed by military strategy, electronics, and macroeconomics. I’m the program’s co-administrator and serve as a sort of “guidance counselor” for the students. So far, so good!

“What’s up, Doc?”

Speaking of counseling, I may need some myself. Yes, I have a therapist, though I don’t see him much anymore. He is one of a handful who specialize in helping superheroes, though they help with more mundane stuff as well. (I tried to get Major Bad@$$ to see my doctor for anger management, but he wouldn’t go.) Lots of people go to therapy for a variety of reasons, not just “serious” mental issues. Sometimes, you just need someone who can help you think through stuff, process issues, give you constructive advice, etc., without being judgemental. (And, of course, the professionals are required to keep everything confidential.) I know for a fact that several superheroes go to counseling for regular and/or superhero-type issues. Believe me, some of the evil and suffering we see can be pretty traumatic (just like for those in the military, law enforcement, medicine, etc.), and sometimes it helps to have a therapist to confide in and keep you “sane”. That guy I mentioned above who was going to kill those kids in some ritual sacrifice? He had a lot of nasty stuff in his hidey-hole, and the whole incident was quite disturbing. Maybe I’ll give the doc a Skype-call….

“Q & A”

Ready for some Q&A? Okey-doke…

Q: Have you ever been really scared or freaked out when fighting someone? (Greg T. from Washington, DC):

A: Not often but, yeah. I mentioned the injuries I got while fighting the Gargantosaur. I mean, that thing is literally Godzilla-size, and I was getting pretty banged up before the other heroes arrived. I was afraid it might kill or seriously injure me before it was over, but I lucked out. Phobius and Hysteria once used their weird drugs to make a couple colleagues and I freak out, have hallucinations, etc. When I confronted some Satanic cult a few years back, their leader was one evil, creepy dude and his black magic was so oppressive that I could actually feel a demonic presence. (Don’t know how else to describe it.) Scared the crap outta me! There have also been a couple times when I was racing to beat the clock before a bomb blew up or some poison gas was released, and I was <real> scared I wouldn’t make it in time and people would die… but I somehow stopped them with seconds to spare both times.

Most of the time, though, I have enough confidence in my own knowledge and abilities, and those of my hero colleagues, that I don’t really fear much of anything. (Sorry if that sounds cocky.)

Q: How do you feel about animals? (Thea M. from Sandusky, MI):

A: Love ’em! I grew up with dogs and cats in the house. (Well, one of each at any one time.) I had cousins that lived on a working farm, which I visited some summers, with horses, cows, pigs, and goats. I had a golden lab named “Goober” back when I wrestled, but he got sick and had to be put to sleep shortly before I quit that biz. I like reptiles, too, and used to visit the reptile exhibits at the zoo. As a full-time superhero, I couldn’t be sure I’d be able to take care of a dog, especially since they are such social animals, and we have to be ready to leave for hours or even days at a time at short notice. (The staff at A.S.H.A.’s Atlantia Compound adopted a couple stray cats, though.) Even now, I hesitate to get another dog. But,… I have a very independent cat (“Samantha”) and an iguana (“Chumlee”) that are very low maintenance and keep me company.

Q: Do you ever go off-roading? (Jason K. from Oklahoma City, OK):

A: When I was still wrestling, I used to go off-roading with friends some weekends. I had a Ford Bronco that I customized a bit, and I’d take that baby over sand dunes and creek beds and all over tarnation, as they say. Loads of fun! Then various things took up more of my “off” time, and I didn’t get out to do that much anymore. When I was superheroing full time, I only managed to go off-roading with friends a few times, but it made me realize how much I missed it. (My Bronco was long gone, but my buddies had Jeeps, Land Rovers, and a Ford F-150.) Nowadays, I have a customized Humvee that I take out once in awhile, but I’d also like to try dune buggies and ATVs some time. Those things look like a lot of fun, too!

Q: What is your favorite kind of ice cream? (A.J. from Oshkosh, WI):

A: Just about anything with chocolate, peanut butter, and/or mint, as long as there are no nuts, raisins, etc. So, right now I’m on a Chocolate Moose Tracks kick; before that was Peanut Butter Cup/Swirl. Next I’ll probably start adding some Mint Chocolate Chip into the rotation. Yumm!

Great questions, everyone!

Stay strong, y’all! (Or, should that be “all y’all”?)

Anyone reading these Mr. Zeus posts? If so, is there something you’d like to know or want me to (have him) write about? Lemmeknow below….

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2018.

The Director

It has been awhile since I posted one of my “original fiction” ideas. I came across this concept that I’d forgotten about and decided it was fleshed out enough to share. It would really work best as an ongoing series, whether novels, comics, or TV, so that there is time to really develop the characters and watch them connect the dots on the big conspiracy, plus other ideas.

“The Director”

Over the past decade or so, there have been a large number of disparate and seemingly unrelated “events”/incidents — some public, some private; some known to police/feds, some not. They have included various crimes (e.g., arson, burglary, kidnappings & strange disappearances, murder & assassination, fraud, terrorist bombings, etc.), as well as car accidents (some during car chases), a downed plane, and a few accidental deaths. Some of these have been solved, others have not. There have been other things as well, such as people suddenly “going crazy” or discovering documentation that either explicitly implicated someone in a crime (or cover-up of a crime) or was at least suspicious (like a piece of a larger puzzle). There are also links (though not apparent at first) to events in the corporate world — e.g., mergers and takeovers, stock manipulation, corporate espionage, class-action suits, et al. Other than in a couple obvious instances — e.g., insurance fraud and one of the arson cases, and deaths resulting from the downed plane & a couple car accidents –, no one has successfully made any connections between the various incidents. Until now…

A small-time private investigator and his bounty hunter associate encounter some lowlifes that turn out to have information about two other cases — one current and another closed but unsolved — which links all three together. A city police lieutenant has an unusual dream that inspires her to look for links between two seemingly unrelated cases; not only is she successful, but when she relates her discovery to a retired mentor, he remembers something similar about an old case of his that also turns out to be related. A former profiler for the FBI (now teaching criminal psychology at a college) reluctantly helps local police on an unusual case and unintentionally gets involved in something that leads to clues about an old, unsolved case (a child abduction/murder) that has haunted him for years. And then, there are the Men-in-Black (for lack of a better term) who begin to show up, either in the shadows or in a less-than-public confrontation and warning our protagonists to “back off” or slightly more politely “It’s our case and we’ll take it from here.” They always claim to work for one federal agency or another, but the names they give either aren’t in any federal databases or they are so highly classified that not even our heroes’ contacts can get access.

While it would not be revealed until some time into the series, the idea is that these prima facie independent events, spanning roughly 15 years and all over North America (but occasionally elsewhere), are all due to behind-the-scenes machinations of an extremely powerful individual and his/her efforts to cover up some of his/her activities. Obviously wealthy and/or in a position of influence, this person’s ultimate goal is to secretly take control of the U.S. government, while leaving not only the general public but most government officials and law enforcement thinking that everything still functions as normal. S/he has managed to fly under the radar, with very few in government, law enforcement, or the corporate world having an inkling of how much power this person wields. S/he is a master manipulator, who accomplishes his/her goals — from stock fraud to homicide to legislation — by directing actions through various intermediaries, sometimes several levels of them.

Eventually, our heroes discover and/or are contacted by a group calling itself ‘The Network’, who have begun connecting the dots on these cases. Their members include representatives from law enforcement, government officials, business/industry leaders, and various “lesser” members. They are just starting to get a handle on the magnitude of the conspiracy and have hypothesized the existence of ‘The Director’ (as they have dubbed him/her, though ‘Maestro’, ‘Kingpin’, and ‘Big Cheese’ have been suggested, too), though obviously not his/her identity or ultimate motives, and are doing what they can (with limited knowledge, despite their resources) to thwart The Director’s plans and build a legal case. Perhaps a later plot thread would be to see efforts to convince/recruit others into The Network, after we’ve spent some time with the above group.

I see this as an amalgamation of ideas from various comics, movies, TV shows (e.g., X-Files, but less UFO-centric) with elaborate plots and constant new revelations and conspiracies within conspiracies. Feel free to ask questions or make your own suggestions to expand on this concept….

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2018.

From the Mind of Mr. Zeus, part 12

File #: 2017Q4
Subject: new issue of quarterly ‘Official Mr. Zeus Fanclub Newsletter’
Purpose: readers’ enjoyment/entertainment and (occasionally) education
Author: Mr. Zeus (aka <name unknown>; formerly known as Jacob Szymanski, aka “Hacksaw Jack”)

“Big Guy Blues”

First order of business is a shout-out to the guys-n-girls of Sensei Custom-Tech and Electronics Innovations. As you might imagine, guys my size and larger sometimes have trouble using or operating devices meant for more average-size people. I might have mentioned before that I had some furniture and a few other things custom-made for me. (Also, my personalized gym & equipment, but that was more due to the particular needs of working out with tons of resistance rather than a few hundred pounds.) I have trouble fitting into most vehicles, which is why I love big trucks. Electronics — phones, computers, coffeemakers, essentially anything with a manual interface — can also be a little trying at times, ‘cuz my fingers are so big. It’s hard hitting those small buttons! Anyway, my buddy Bravado turned me on to Sensei, and they were able to customize a computer keyboard for me that is not only ergonomically-designed, but the keys are all 33% bigger and the materials are extra-strong, too. So, they can take a “beating”, and I don’t fat-finger nearly as much as I used to! 🙂 They also made me a bigger mouse of the same material. Very cool! These are actually prototypes that Sensei is developing for a line of products for people of various special needs — whether being extra-large and/or superstrong like Bravado and me, or a “little person” who needs smaller-than-average stuff, or someone with other physical challenges. I’m sure I’ll be using Sensei again, and if you have or know anyone who has special needs, I’ll bet Sensei can help you/them out, too.

“Where’s The New Book?!”

Book Update: You may remember that I told you last year about my new book deal for the fiction market. The first project is co-writing a novel with Phil Prendergast; well, he’s doing most of the actual writing this time around, but it’s based on my concept and plot idea. It is a murder mystery involving… well, here’s the summary pitch I gave to Phil, which was also enough to interest the publisher:

“Sherlock the Autistic, Albino Detective: Twenty-year-old Nathan Sherwood is a brilliant savant with an eidetic memory and intuitive mind for higher math & physics. He is also an albino and a high-functioning autist with a mild case of OCD. Having a fascination with detective mysteries, Nathan gives himself the professional pseudonym “Sherlock” (which is Old English for “white-haired”, after all) and hires himself out as a private investigator. After a shaky start, Sherlock’s successes in a couple of high-profile cases gain him a little fame and a growing reputation as a top-notch investigator, despite his social awkwardness and, er, eccentricities. Nathan/Sherlock is assisted both personally and professionally by his caretaker/aide, Emily Baker, a former high-school teacher and EMT whom he insists on calling “Watson”. His other near-constant companion is a very smart, well-trained, pure black ferret named “Nyxie”. (Inspired by “Monk”. Could also be thought of as a cross between Rain Man and a modern-day Young Sherlock Holmes.) Serious subject matter but with doses of humor.”

Phil had some health issues earlier this year that delayed work on the final draft, but he just sent it off to the publisher a couple weeks ago. That’s why the book hasn’t come out, yet, as I had hinted at in an interview or two. (Would’ve been a nice stocking stuffer this Christmas. Alas!) As it stands now, ‘Sherlock’ Sherwood and the Phantom Killer will likely debut in Summer 2018. I’m excited! Meanwhile, I’m organizing my notes for the sequel to my autobiographical The Rise of Mr. Zeus.

“Q & A”

The Q&A section went so well last time that I decided to do a few more this time, too. Maybe I’ll make it a (semi-)regular feature?

Q: Who is your favorite superhero to work with? (Charlotte T. from Shrewsbury, PA):

A: Olympia from Vanguard Prime, of course! 😉 Seriously, even aside from the fact that we’re now dating, I’ve always liked working with her, since I admire her both personally & professionally, and we seem to “mesh” well in our battle tactics and general outlook. Doc Matrix is pretty cool, too, once you realize that he doesn’t intend to sound arrogant or act standoffish. His social awkwardness is the result of being a supergenius and on the Autism Spectrum. And, of course, I’ve worked a number of cases and fought in battles alongside Bravado, and we just seem to always have fun together beatin’ on and roundin’ up supervillains and their minions.

Q: Do you look up to any other superheroes, and did you have a mentor when you first started out? (Ryan C. from Cherry Hill, NJ):

A: While I respect many in the superhero community, the top two that come to mind are both retired (or deceased) now. First is American Ultra. He was (and still is) such an icon of American ideals and patriotism — sort of an amalgam of Superman and Captain America, for you comics fans. I never got to meet him before he retired a few years ago (supposedly to an island retreat somewhere), but from everything I’ve read, he is/was simply one of the most honorable and selfless men to put on a uniform, military or otherwise. He has also been lauded by military experts as having one of history’s most brilliant minds for both tactics and strategy. After serving the United States and the world in general for nearly 60 years, A.U. deserves our thanks a thousand times over. The other “older” hero I most look up to was indeed my quasi-mentor during my formative years as a superhero — StormFire. Apparently, he silently observed me during a few of my first outings as Mr. Zeus, assessing my skills and demeanor, until he finally approached me and gave me a few words of sage advice. He had, of course, been “in the biz” for nearly 20 years and was well respected in the international superhero community, so I listened to whatever he had to say. (He had some good “war stories”, too!) We became friends and colleagues. In fact, he was the one to later sponsor me for membership in the Alliance of SuperHuman Adventurers. When he sacrificed himself during the Pakistan Incident of 2012, I lost a close friend, colleague, and teacher. Btw, I can neither confirm nor deny the popular rumor that StormFire was an extraterrestrial. However, I can tell you that his daughter, BrightFire, is just as powerful and just as stoic and “mysterious” as her father.

Q: Why did you change your alias when you started superhero-ing, and do you ever miss wrestling? (Manesh V. from San Francisco, CA):

A: My reasons for changing my nom de guerre were twofold, Manesh. First, “Hacksaw Jack” didn’t really seem like a good superhero name. Second, it was a big life-change for me, both personally and professionally, and I wanted to make a clean break. Changing my name — along with my look, of course — was as much a marketing thing as it was to aid my own mental transition. As for missing wrestling, some parts of it I miss (e.g., good friends, good memories) and other parts I don’t (e.g., some guys (and gals) were real jerks, plus there is a “dirty” side of the business that really made me uncomfortable).

Q: What size shoes and shirt do you wear? (Kong-Lei D. from Tulsa, OK):

A: Well,… that’s an interesting question. Being a man of unusual size (as mentioned above), I often need to have my clothes custom made. My boots range from size 20DD to 24E, depending on the maker. My shirts are probablly XXXXL, or something like that, since my chest is over 60 inches (biggest it has ever been).

Stay strong, my friends!

Done already?! Whew! Another newsletter out the door for mass consumption….

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2017.

Ideas for TNG, DS9, and VOY Crews

“To boldly go where [many] have gone before…”

Yes, I realize this is the TOS logo

Everyone’s talking about the new Star Trek show, but I haven’t watched it, yet. So, instead I thought I’d share my ideas for some familiar “old” faces. A few years ago, I started jotting down where I thought the various crewmembers of the Enterprise-E might go or what they might be doing, following the events of Star Trek: Nemesis. Then I did the same for those from DS9 and Voyager. And, since I was filling out rosters for new ships, I created some new characters, as well. I also came up with a movie plot — well, the basics, anyway — which would bring most of these characters together in a big, sweeping adventure.

Now, I realize that there is a ship-load of non-canonical material — primarily novels and online/computer games — that has provided stories for these characters over the years, including some that are post-Nemesis. Maybe multiple, even conflicting stories for a few of the more popular ones. But, I haven’t read (or “played”) them, and even if I had, they are considered “apocryphal”. So, except for where mentioned, I wasn’t too concerned with my ideas contradicting someone else’s. I have checked a few things via Memories Alpha and Beta, but I never got around to investigating other things, so forgive me if I got some background detail wrong. (Feel free to give me a friendly heads-up in the comments, though.)

Ready? OK, let’s begin with a roll-call….

USS Titan
— Note: As per the end of Nemesis, Riker’s new command is the Titan. But, the movie didn’t establish what class ship it was. There is a Luna-class Titan, but a non-canonical source declared Riker’s ship to be a brand-new Prometheus-class vessel, and I decided that was fine by me. Also, since the scene with the Titan‘s First Officer was deleted, I created my own character for that position.

Captain William T. Riker (Human male)
— married to D. Troi

First/Executive Officer, Commander Suresh Jacobsen (Human male)
— of Indian and Swedish extraction; parents were representatives from ethnically pure conclaves whose lives were threatened when they left their respective communities to marry and have children
— also supervises xenobotany lab
— will eventually learn he is distant cousin of Annika/Seven

Ship’s Counselor, Commander Deanna Troi (Betazoid/Human female)
— married to W.T. Riker

Chief Medical Officer, (Lt. Commander) Dr. O (Oalian male)
— from little-known planet/race (humanoid), just admitted to Federation
— on “loan” to Starfleet, much like Phlox was
— also, he’s a cyborg; unknown to all but Riker, Troi, Chekov, & a couple others on board, the real “O” is actually a tiny, fragile, humanoid creature within the chest-cavity of the “O” cyborg (like in MiB)
— cyborg body looks like a heartier version of the real O and has great strength, durability, and “enhanced” senses

Chief Engineer, Lt. Commander Antonin Chekov (Human male)
— descendant of Pavel Chekov, of course
— generally surly, but with wicked/dark sense of humor

Science Officer, Lt. Commander Ramon Ramirez (Human male)
— doctorates in quantum physics and virology
— suave, Latin stereotype on the outside, but an insecure and tortured soul on the inside

Chief Weapons Officer, Lt. Harry Kim (Human male)
— following Voyager‘s return to the Alpha Quadrant, Ensign Kim was soon promoted to Lt. junior grade; he was promoted again to Lieutenant just prior to being assigned to the Titan in 2380

Chief Navigator (also Second Officer), Lt. Commander Strek (Vulcan male)
— background in astrophysics and astrocartography
— accomplished pilot of many ship classes and expert in ancient weapons from many planets/cultures
— was CWO of another ship, which he left under mysterious circumstances, and has something to do with his taking the Navigator position
— has taken it upon himself to unofficially “mentor” both Harry & Annika, whether they want the advice or not

Chief Communications Officer, Lt. Thelas (Andorian female)
— like many Andorians, still has a semi-racist distrust of humans
— usually civil, but has a quick temper

Chief Security Officer, Lt. Minda N’Gele (Human female)
— martial arts afficionado
— befriends Annika/Seven

Transporter Chief, Lt. Jasad Kell (Cardassian male)
— uncharacteristically shy, like his famous relative, architect/artist Tavor Kell
— very musically talented and well-read
— befriended by Harry Kim

Astrocartographer, Lt. j.g. Annika Hansen (Human female; formerly Borg-designate Seven-of-Nine)
— upon Voyager‘s return to the Alpha Quadrant, Janeway got Annika “Seven” Hansen accepted into an accelerated Academy training program; she began with rank of Ensign (given her experience) and graduated as a Lt. junior grade

USS Destiny

USS Destiny
— Note: Originally, I called this the USS Archer, and it was the prototype for a new Archer-class. But, Star Trek Online has the Excalibur-class Archer (from Nemesis) still active in 2409. There is also a novel that establishes an Archer-class in service since at least the 2260s. So, although I’m not too concerned with contradicting non-canon sources, I opted to change it here. I was going to go with USS Herakles, until my research reminded me of the Sovereign-class Destiny, where Ezri Tigan was serving as assistant Ship’s Counselor, before she became the emergency recipient of the Dax symbiont and was re-assigned to DS9. I thought it would be cool to have her return as Ship’s Counselor, with Sisko replacing Captain Raymer (who was referred to but never seen).

Captain Benjamin Sisko (Human male)
— yes, in my version, Sisko has returned from visiting the Bajoran “Prophets” in the Wormhole

First/Executive Officer, Commander Melia Merridan (Centauri female)
— great grand-niece of Vendik Merridan (see below)
— background in Communications and Astrocartography

Science Officer, Lt. Commander Enrique Takeshi Sulu (Human male)
— descendant of Hikaru Sulu, of course
— primary training as physicist, specializing in warp-drive theory

Chief Medical Officer, (Lt. Commander) Dr. Julian Bashir (augmented Human male)
— just pleased as punch that he and his wife can serve together and under Sisko’s command once again
— married to E. Dax

Ship’s Counselor, Lt. Ezri Dax (Trill, female host)
— though Ship’s Counselors on large ships usually have minimum rank of Lt. Commander, Sisko made an exception when the previous Ship’s Counselor requested a transfer planetside due to family issues
— married to J. Bashir

Chief Engineer, Lt. Commander Talen Vreen (Bajoran male)
— large & muscular (bodybuilder), jovial
— originally a novitiate to the priesthood, until an unknown event during the Cardassian occupation caused him to lose faith in the Prophets; this makes for an “interesting” relationship with Sisko

Chief Tactical Officer (and Second Officer), Lt. Commander Tuvok (Vulcan male)
— offered but refused promotion to Commander (and assignment as First Officer) until such time as he has fully recovered from the “unspecified degenerative neural condition” he developed toward end of VOY; as it is, he is on temporary medical leave and preparing for Fal-tor-voh

Chief Navigator, Lt. T’Vrel Duchamp (Human/Vulcan hybrid female)
— raised on Earth; sometimes tries to be “too human”, which she realizes is an overcompensation & she struggles with it
— uneasy relationship w/ Tuvok, who naturally thinks she should strive to be “more Vulcan”, following the way of Surak

Chief Communications Officer, Lt. Mal-ven Thrasq (Carvinian male)
— lupine humanoid with excellent hearing; affinity for linguistics
— encyclopedic knowledge of pre-Federation Earth history

Chief Security Officer, Lt. Rik McGinty (Centauri male)
— cocky SOB but a natural leader and quite adept at weapons, hand-to-hand combat, and tactics
— drummed out of the Centauri Marines but given second chance in Starfleet as favor to his uncle, an important military contractor

Transporter Chief, Lt. Tamara Applewhite (Fellurian/Human female)
— stunningly beautiful, w/ gentle cranial ridges and long platinum-blonde hair usually pulled back in ponytail
— knows how off-putting her beauty can be; has been burned in the past both by lovers and others who betrayed her or just wanted to be associated with her
— very professional, amiable, but afraid to let anyone get too close

Member of security detail, Lt. j.g. Nog (Ferengi male)
— quite competent but a little too eager to please
— has a crush on Lt. Applewhite

Other Familiar Characters

Chakotay
— independent security consultant for traveling dignitaries & such

Crusher, Beverly
— either Captain of U.S.S. Marcus (a medical research ship) or professor/administrator of Starfleet Medical (which I think was either stated or hinted at in Nemesis)
— a pet project has her consulting with Dr. J. Merridan (see below)

Crusher, Wesley
— according to a deleted scene from Nemesis, he finished at the Academy and had just been assigned as a Lt. j.g. to Engineering on the Titan; for my purposes, though, Wesley is either still “traveling” or assigned elsewhere.

Data
— physically destroyed in Nemesis, though memories & personality matrix were downloaded into his less-advanced predecessor, B-4, who was still struggling to process/integrate all that data
— perhaps it could all be downloaded into a separate, positronic computer network, allowing “him” to function as an independent, interdisciplinary researcher and instructor (e.g., engineering, history of various cultures, philosophy, computer architecture and A.I.), occasionally guest-lecturing (either in a temporary body or as a hologram) at Starfleet Academy and various professional symposia

Garak, Elim
— keeping his eyes-n-ears open and probably up to no good

EMH/Holographic Doctor
— now named Dr. Jonas Merridan (see below), after Dr. Jonas Salk (Human, developer of polio vaccine) and Vendik Merridan (Centauri, pioneer in advanced holography)

Janeway, Kathryn
— Starfleet Vice Admiral in charge of research operations or ???

Kes
— still in energy-state?

Colonel Kira Nerys
— commanding Deep Space Nine (renamed?) station

LaForge, Geordi
— retired from Starfleet
— co-founder & head researcher at Cochrane-Scott Research Laboratories, developing new technologies in engineering and improving old ones
— personally working on joint project with Starfleet Engineering

Merridan, Jonas
— instructor & researcher at Starfleet Medical
— a pet project has him consulting with B. Crusher

Neelix
— married w/ children and running a restaurant on some planet

O’Brien, Miles
— engineering instructor at Starfleet Academy
— wife Keiko teaches elementary school nearby

Odo
— still merged with Founders?

Paris, Tom
— interplanetary, commercial shuttle pilot
— married to B. Torres

Picard, Jean-Luc
— retired from Starfleet and doing volunteer work at an archeological dig on Vulcan

Quark
— still tending bar on DS9 and giving Kira a hard time

Rom
— Grand Nagus, based on Ferenginar
— married to Leeta

Sisko, Jake
— journalist/writer & documentarian
— based on Earth, but often travels off-world
— keeps in touch with his father and Nog on the Destiny

Torres, B’elanna
— working on experimental technology at Cochrane-Scott Research Laboratories
— assisting LaForge on joint project with Starfleet Engineering
— married to T. Paris

Worf
— Federation Ambassador to Qo’noS or Qo’noS Ambassador to the Federation?

Movie(s)?

OK, now… the story idea for a movie is still rather barebones (like most of the above characters). But, I’m thinking it might be expanded into two movies or a TV mini-series. (Well, if this happened in 2005, maybe.) The timeframe is the Earth year 2382 (i.e., roughly 2-3 years after the events of Nemesis and ~7 years after “Deep Space Nine” ended).

Plotline 1: The elderly Ambassador Spock becomes ill and dies shortly before negotiations are to begin for an important peace treaty with a new planetary system. For reasons to be revealed (and possibly connected to events in an old episode), the only “logical” replacement is Jean-Luc Picard, and the Destiny is ordered to pick up & deliver Picard (who, as a VIP, is escorted by Chakotay?), as well as remain nearby as a reassuring presence. Meanwhile, Drs. Merridan and Crusher are kidnapped from a ritzy party for reasons TBD.

Plotline 2: An experimental piece of equipment is stolen from Cochrane-Scott Research Laboratories. Evidence initially points to Klingon involvement (cameo by Worf?), though the group responsible turns out to be composed of members of several races. Other than its primary purpose in a warp core, the only other conceivable use for this particular component is for a particularly nasty WMD. With Torres assigned by La Forge as CSRL consultant, the Titan is dispatched to hunt down and retrieve the stolen device. Meanwhile, perhaps a sub-plot involving Janeway, Paris, and/or Data/B-4?

That’s all I have, for now. Maybe I’ll flesh it out more in the future. (No pun intended.) Thanks for indulging me….

From the Mind of Mr. Zeus, part 11

Here’s the latest issue of the quarterly ‘Official Mr. Zeus Fanclub Newsletter’ for your (hopeful) enjoyment and entertainment. (For the first 10 installments, follow the ‘Mr. Zeus Posts’ link at the top of the page.)

“Close Call!”

I have mentioned in the past that I work out in my basement, both for exercise and as a stress-reliever. I have also mentioned that I sometimes will change things up by flying — very fast — to the middle of nowhere and letting loose — punching, pounding, digging, stomping on very large rocks, the ground, etc. I’ve even been known to carve large objects into a hillside or rock quarry. On one occasion, though, I got sidetracked and never made it out to the “badlands” for my “work out”. And I’m very glad I didn’t, ‘cuz I met my “neighbor” (though he lives a couple hundred miles away) for the first time, and he has been a good friend ever since.

I’ll call him “Joe” in order to maintain his privacy. Joe is a rancher with many acres of property out in Texas. (Montana, too, but he rents that out.) On the evening we met, he and his ranch hands were rounding up some cattle, and I hovered above (and out of sight) to watch. A thunderstorm was rolling in, and they were trying to get the animals — at least 1000 of them — back to the barns before it hit. I kept an eye on the stormclouds and realized that they were moving pretty fast. I also noticed that the cattle were being led across an old, dry creek bed at the foot of some hills with some leftover snow at their tops. I’m no outdoorsman, but something I’d read or seen made me think that the cattle were in danger of being caught in a flashflood, if they didn’t get well away from that creek bed.

I landed around the bend so as not to spook the animals or the men, then I walked up to the nearest hand and asked him who was in charge. Joe rode over and I quickly explained who I was and what I saw. I suggested that I probably had enough time to fly all the cattle — two at a time — at superspeed back to the barns. But, after two trips, I could see that the poor critters were really freaked out, and Joe agreed that we shouldn’t traumatize them if we could help it. The storm was thundering and almost on us, and I suddenly got an idea… Long story short, I managed to dig a big trench half-way around the two nearest hills, buying Joe and his men enough time to get the rest of the herd across the creek bed and around to the other side of another (large) hill before my makeshift moat overflowed and the water rushed down the creek bed. It was raining pretty hard by then, but the barns were only a half mile away, and the lightning & thunder gave everyone — including the cattle — extra incentive to move faster.

Afterward, Joe invited me inside to dry off by his fireplace. We shared a couple of beers and really hit it off. In fact, I drop by his place whenever I can, now. Weather permitting, we typically sit on his porch and admire the view, while talking about whatever’s on our minds. Sometimes it’s business (his or mine), sometimes it’s personal. We talk about sports, politics, religion & philosophy, law enforcement, current events,… whatever. Joe is about 20 years older, so he treats me sort of like a son, which is fine by me. (His son died of cancer as a child, but he has a daughter in grad school.) I love listening to his stories about ranching and serving in the Army and just life in general. He’s a common-sense kind of guy, and very sharp — streetwise, which is an odd term to apply to him, since he doesn’t care for the city. I’ve spent many evenings with Joe, just “jawin'” and listening to his wise words. (Btw, his wife Judy is an awesome cook and a smart, terrific lady, too.) When Joe’s 80-year-old father, Big Jim, joins us, that’s the best! Jim is a real trip, very funny, and also one of the wisest men I know.

“A Man of Many Words”

Someone asked me the other day about my reading tastes and habits. A bit of an odd question for someone like me, since most people assume I don’t have much brains — or intellectual curiosity — to go with the brawn. I’m no genius, but as most of my fans know, I do read on various topics. It’s a practice I started as a kid, slacked off on for a few years, then resumed when I became a superhero. In the past, I have recommended that superheroes get a foundation in various subjects to help with solving crimes, perfecting one’s abilities, dealing with tech, etc., and that involves reading.

I still do some reading along those lines, though I’m not at the moment. I’m pretty busy (see below), but I always try to set aside time to read during lunch (assuming I’m not eating with someone else) and for an hour or so before bed. I also long ago developed the habit of keeping a book with me — either hard copy or audiobook — when running errands or going to an appointment of some sort, when I might have a few minutes of waiting around. Why waste time twiddling my thumbs or flipping through magazines when I could be reading a good book, maybe even learning something? In addition, I usually listen to an audiobook or an educational lecture/podcast while working out in my gym.

What do I read? Well, on the non-fiction front I typically have at least a couple books in progress, sometimes three or four. Topics include American and world history (including biographies), politics & culture, theology, philosophy, popular science, and recently some on writing fiction. Right now, I’m reading a biography titled Churchill: A Study in Greatness by Geoffrey Best. It’s a tad dry in places, but any history buff will enjoy it. Churchill was a fascinating guy! I’m about half-way through a collection of essays by renowned economist Thomas Sowell, too. (Can’t remember the title at the moment.) It’s not as boring as it sounds. Sowell was a columnist for decades, and he wrote about all sorts of political and cultural issues. Very smart man! (His books on economics are actually pretty good, too, and geared more for the average reader.) I’m also just starting a book by Christian speaker/apologist Greg Koukl called The Story of Reality: How the World Began, How It Ends, and Everything Important that Happens in Between. Rather bold and intriguing title, eh? Koukl has a very engaging style and conversational tone, as he explains the basics of the Christian worldview as a picture of reality. So far, I’m impressed.

As for fiction, I read a mix of crime, spy thriller, mystery, action/adventure, sci-fi and fantasy. Over the past couple years, I’ve been re-reading some classics from Isaac Asimov, Philip Jose Farmer, Larry Niven, Arthur C. Clarke, and other science fiction legends, as well as getting into some newer stuff — at least, new to me. So, for example, I recently read Asimov’s The Naked Sun (second time) and Haldeman’s The Forever War (first time), and I started series by David Weber, Robert Sawyer, and Kevin J. Anderson. I am now reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows for the first time. (Yes, I occasionally read young-adult fiction.) I’m a bit late to the party with the whole Harry Potter craze, since I’m finally finishing the series 10 years after the last book came out. Gotta say, though, I find them highly entertaining! Meantime, I am listening to an audiobook edition of Rules of Vengeance by Christopher Reich. It’s my second book by Reich, and he’s a nice addition to my “collection” of favorite authors. However, my other new discovery, which I enjoy even more, is Gregg Hurwitz. The first book of his I read — well, listened to — was Orphan X, which was excellent. It spurred me on to try one of his older works: The Crime Writer. Very different plot and protagonist, but also very good. If you like the above genres, then you’ll probably like Hurwitz’s stuff, too.

“Q & A”

You might remember an earlier issue of the newsletter where I answered a few questions that people at cons and book signings had been asking me. Of course, people (like, you guys) ask me questions by mail, too. So, I figured I’d round out this issue by responding briefly to a few of those here for everyone’s benefit….

Q: What do you do in your “down time” to relax? (Peter S. from Chattanooga, TN)

A: To be honest, I don’t have much down time, lately. I’ve told you about some of the activities I’m involved with (e.g., part-time crimefighting, working on ILEAD’s Hero Training Program, writing, public appearances, etc.), and they keep me pretty darn busy. But, as I explained above, I do quite a bit of reading — both fiction and non-fiction. My gym workouts are “down time”, I suppose, but hardly relaxing. Occasionally, I find time to chill out with a movie or TV series. (Confession: I own every single Star Trek series and movie on DVD. Also, Babylon 5 and Battlestar Galactica.) In fact, I have been known to host movie parties with friends at my place.

Q: Do you do any work for the environment? (Warren Z. from Portland, OR):

A: I assume you are talking about ecological stuff, protecting wildlife and things like that? Well, I have been involved in a number of clean-up operations following natural disasters — from hurricanes to oil spills. I am concerned about some ecological/environmental issues, but I’m not an activist, by any means. Also, my position is more conservationist than environmentalist. (See this brief explanation of the difference.)

Q: What injuries have you sustained while “adventuring”? (Kelly P. from Fort Hood, TX):

A: Several, but most mend within seconds, minutes, or hours (depending on severity), thanks to my enhanced healing ability. Also, my near-indestructibility makes is pretty darn difficult to damage me. So, for example, high-caliber bullets or explosives at close range might slightly bruise or scorch my skin, but not enough to slow me down, and that stuff heals really quickly. The more serious injuries were a few broken bones (e.g., 3 toes, left ulna, both femurs, 3 fingers, right thumb, 4 ribs) and some internal bleeding/damage from doing battle with the strongest and most powerful foes (e.g., CrimSun, Visigoth, Summerset, the Gargantosaur).

Stay strong!

Another issue hot off the presses!

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2017.

From the Mind of Mr. Zeus, part 10

Guess what time it is, boys ‘n girls! Time for a new issue of your favorite super-zine, the Official Mr. Zeus Fanclub Newsletter. Let’s see what our semi-retired hero has been up to….

“Joy of a Child”

I did something fun the other day! Okay, okay, big deal, right? But, this was special.

You remember me mentioning last year that I was friends with an ILEAD agent and his son, Jason? Well, Jason’s 10th birthday was last week, and, super kid that he is, Jason decided he wanted to do something different this year. Instead of having a regular party and getting presents, he went to a pediatric hospital to play with and hand out presents to the kids who are patients there. (His Dad, “Agent Mike”, helped him raise money for the gifts by having a fundraiser in their neighborhood, supplemented by donations from Mike’s co-workers — a great group of guys ‘n gals!) Jason a bunch of friends dressed up as their favorite heroes — real or fiction — before showing up at the hospital. (Jason went as me, of course.) What none of the kids knew was that, when “Agent Mike” told me a couple days before what they were going to do, I decided to make a surprise visit — in full costume, of course.

I didn’t want to take away from Jason and his friends surprising the patients, so I gave them an hour to make their entrance, pass out presents, and get a couple games going. Mike and his wife caught it all on camera, which I watched later, and it was really sweet to see Jason & friends handing out toys and befriending the kids with cancer and other conditions, some quite serious. They really brought a lot of smiles! Then Mike called to give me the go-ahead, and I flew up to the big, bay windows, smiling and waving to the kids eating cake & ice cream in the 3rd-floor cafeteria. Seeing those kids’ faces light up even more when they saw me, I’m honestly not sure who was more thrilled, the kids or me. Then I went inside, where I talked to the kids, making sure to visit every one, signed autographs, and flew several around (slowly) either in my arms or riding on my back.

Seeing so many kids suffering with terrible diseases and injuries was heart-breaking. But, seeing and hearing how brave they were, listening to them talk animatedly about “regular” stuff, and being able to give them a few minutes of added joy, was also heart-warming. Sweet kids, too, and I felt really blessed by the whole experience. I’ll definitely be going back on a (semi-)regular basis.

“Big Relief”

I suppose the visit to the pediatric hospital might have been particularly meaningful for another reason, too. I haven’t said anything publicly until now, but I was recently hospitalized myself. A couple years ago, I told you all about my migraine headaches that I’ve been dealing with since getting my powers. I only have a truly bad episode two, maybe three, times a year, but they are whoppers! Neurologists couldn’t make any specific diagnosis, so I’ve just had to live with them, like 37 million other migraine-sufferers in the U.S. Of course, my extra-large body size and modified metabolism (which is at least partly to blame) mean that I have to take extra-large doses of painkillers. Other than that, I ride it out like anyone else. Until now…

You might also remember that my super-headaches started being accompanied by nausea — not unusual for other migraine-sufferers, but it was for me. Long story short, after brainstorming with Doc Matrix and a couple other big-brains, my regular neurologist (Dr. Beni Vaniswaran) came up with a new device to perform some new tests — ask him, I don’t understand it. In fact, I was visiting Dr. V’s office in the hospital, where he was going to explain their plans for the device, when I had my latest migraine attack. He was able to get me admitted, called in Doc Matrix, and the two of them worked 24 hours straight to get the prototype built. They put me through a battery of tests over the next few days — even after the migraine subsided — and figured out what was happening to me.

As it turns out, my unusual migraines are caused by sudden surges of some mutated hormone causing the blood capillaries in my brain to spasm. The nausea is a side-effect of my body’s immune system trying to neutralize the hormone, which was causing tiny cysts to form here and there in my brain. Fortunately, the cysts degraded naturally and were flushed out of my system. So,… the good news is that they now know what is going on in my head to cause these symptoms. The bad news is that they don’t think they can stop the hormone surges, because it has to do with my weird metabolism, which they don’t understand very well, yet. So, I’ll be going back for more tests, giving samples of bodily fluids, etc., every few weeks. On the other hand, the (second piece of) good news is that Dr. Vaniswaran and Doc Matrix have developed a nanite-based drug that greatly improves the effectiveness of my body’s delivery of the natural hormone-neutralizer. This should mean that the migraine episodes will be shorter, hopefully less severe, and the nauseous side-effect should be a thing of the past. Yeah!

“Spielberg Would Be Proud”

Here’s something you all might find interesting…. I met that mysterious new “hero”, Star Seraph. Not his real name, of course, but that’s what the media are calling him. (I even saw one news headline that read: “There’s A New Seraph In Town!”) For those of you who haven’t followed the sightings, his first known public appearance was when he stopped that nuclear meltdown in the Ukraine 6 months ago. Two months after that, he showed up in Italy to rescue hundreds of people during the earthquake. And, of course, last month he quite suddenly appeared in The Hague, Netherlands, where he made short work of the terrorists who were plotting to blow up the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court. In each case, he just pops in, does his thing, and pops out without so much as a “Hello there. Happy to help. Bye, now!” And, since he teleports, no one has been able to track him. No one knows who he is, where he comes from, etc. We all appreciate his work so far, of course, but his deadly dispatching of the Hague terrorists has some a bit worried.

No one has gotten a clear, up close image of him on camera, either, partly due to his speed and partly due to the bright glow that always surrounds him. He did appear to be fairly humanoid in appearance, though. Since I have now met him, I can confirm that he does indeed look basically human, yet what some might call “exotic”. He is slightly shorter than I am (maybe a little over 6’6″), less bulky but still quite muscular, alabaster skin, angular face and almost non-existent ears. Not sure if he has any hair.

How did I meet him? He just showed up one evening, hovering over my backyard. For whatever reason, his glow was toned down, allowing me to see him, and I think he was wearing white, form-fitting “pants”, but no shirt or footwear. I cautiously walked up to within maybe 30 feet of him, tried talking to him, but he just watched me and listened. (Felt like I was being… assessed.) After about five minutes, he uttered one word, “Good”, before floating up and then teleporting away with a soft “Pop!” sound.

And that, my friends, was my “close encounter of the odd kind”. Probably won’t be the last….

Stay strong, amigos!

Finito.

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2017.

From the Mind of Mr. Zeus, part 9

Time for a new episode… er, I mean, issue of the Official Mr. Zeus Fanclub Newsletter…

Anyone else think Thurman looks like this guy?

Anyone else think Thurman looks like this guy?

“Here’s Hopin'”

What do you think of President-elect Thurman?

You may have noticed that I don’t talk about politics or my own political beliefs much in the press or in this newsletter. Ever since my wrestling days, my friends, mentors, and agents all advised me to avoid talking about politics and religion, ‘cuz people are often very passionate about those topics and comments tend to touch off discussions that can get heated very quickly. Some people will go from mega-fan to anti-fan in a heartbeat! Best just to keep my semi-informed mouth shut. (Of course, sports is the third topic you’re supposed to avoid, but since I was a wrestler, people sort of expect it and don’t mind comments on that.) Well, I’m about to violate that rule just a little bit.

Truth is, I’m not a big fan of either of the big two political parties here in the good ol’ U. S. of A. Sure, my positions — those that I bother to think through, anyway — lean more one way than the other. But, I have no party affiliation and remain proudly Independent. Now, I’m not one of those who says there’s no real difference between Democrats and Republicans. Ideologically, at least, there are some quite obvious differences, which is why the true-believers on both sides knock heads so often. The problem is that too many politicians on both sides become more worried about prolonging their political careers than about doing much good in Washington. They make empty promises, go along to get along, and tax & spend without really solving the big problems. Same old, same old, every dang year. Aargh!

Thurman, though, seems to be enough of an outsider that he might be able to shake things up for the better. So, while I wasn’t a huge fan of his and couldn’t bring myself to vote for him, I do want to give him the benefit of the doubt. He’s unconventional (pardon the pun and the understatement) and has some fresh ideas. I think he does have the best interests of this country at heart, and we should probably reserve judgment about his competence, etc., until he’s had some time to implement some policies and make a difference. God knows, there are enough opportunities for improvement in Washington and in the nation in general. I’m willing to put most of my doubts aside and see what happens. It’s not like we have much choice, anyway. The electorate has spoken, and President Thurman will be in the Oval Office very shortly.

Besides, he’s on record as being generally pro the superhuman community and supports ILEAD and the new educational program that I’m co-developing with them. So, that’s a good start! Maybe we’ll get more funding….

hpdseal“Hangin’ with the Local LEOs”

Speaking of law enforcement, here’s something you might find interesting. Several weeks ago, I was called in to consult on an unusual case with the Houston Police Department. Somebody was robbing wealthy citizens of jewelry and other items in their supposedly-secure home safes. After 3 months of such thefts occurring every couple of weeks, they had no helpful evidence and no suspects. Oh, they had trace evidence from most of the scenes, but it was weird and inconclusive. Plus, the perpetrator often managed to avoid or somehow neutralize electronic security measures (e.g., CCTV cameras, pressure-sensitive alarms, laser grids). In half the cases, the cops weren’t even sure how the guy(?) got in and/or out.

For example, in one instance the thief had apparently entered the house through a 3rd-story window; he tripped a motion-sensor alarm on his way out and was trapped in a storage closet. Except, when the cops got there, he had disappeared, leaving only — get this — a small pile of dead skin. (Eewww!) Another time, some cops chased him into a dark alley. They thought he was trapped, ‘cuz there was no way out but past them. Except, he vanished. The only thing the CSI guys found that was out of the ordinary was a strange, slimy substance of unknown origin along the edges of a drainage pipe.

The local LEOs realized they could use a little help but didn’t want to risk the Feds taking over the case. And, since I have a couple friends in the governor’s office, they called me. It took awhile, but eventually I remembered why the case seemed familiar. One of my last cases prior to retiring involved some guy who had recently acquired superhuman powers, but they kept changing every few days, and he had no control over those changes. He managed to figure out how to control each ability just long enough to commit some crime with it, then he’d wake up the next day with a different ability. My friends and I caught him by booby-trapping his three next most likely targets. When he showed up an one of them, he was shot with a dart containing some sort of “mutagenic neutralizer serum” that Doc Matrix cooked up. It stopped his mutations for roughly 72 hours, so we could capture him and ship him off to Stratford Supermax.

As it turned out, the same thing was happening to this guy in Houston, too. His name was Jeremy Craine, and he was a very talented cat burglar who recently relocated from Canada. Somewhere along the way, Craine had been tricked into getting injected with some mutagenic concoction that was rewriting certain parts of his DNA — those that researchers are finding connected with the emergence of superhuman abilities in many cases –, giving him a new ability every couple of weeks. The dead skin we found was a side-effect of using his teleportation power. The slime was something he secreted when he morphed into a slug-like form, so he could escape through the drainage pipe.

Anyway, since I had a hunch that our suspect was experiencing something similar to what that other dude did, I contacted Doc Matrix. Doc used the skin and slime samples to customize a neutralizer serum for Craine, which we injected him with when he fell for a trap we laid. Despite all the money and stuff he’d stolen, Craine was really freaking out about the uncontrollable mutations by then and was actually relieved when we caught him. Another crime spree stopped and another bad guy sent to prison. Doc is a consultant at the research lab at Stratford, and he agreed to make sure they have a regular supply of the serum. As long as Craine gets regular shots, his DNA should remain stable and (mostly) human.

menorahcross3d“Old-Fashioned Values”

A few days ago, I was interviewed for Action Magazine, and they asked if I was dating anyone. Fortunately, Olympia and I had discussed the fact that this would inevitably come up in the press, and we agreed to reveal our relationship to the general public when the time arose. (Of course, you guys-n-gals already knew.) So, I told the interviewer about our odd, long-distance romance. I mentioned that we went on three dates before I even kissed her, and the interviewer was really surprised. When I implied that we haven’t gotten any more intimate than that, and we even kept separate bungalows on our recent weekend getaway, the interviewer couldn’t believe it.

*** PARENTAL ALERT! ADULT SUBJECT WARNING! PARENTAL ALERT! ADULT SUBJECT WARNING!
The fact is, Olympia and I are both what some might call “old-fashioned” when it comes to stuff like that. We believe in self-restraint, personal responsibility, and that sexual intimacy is *not* necessary for a healthy, pre-marital relationship. So, we’ve agreed to take things reeeaaal slow. It sure takes a lot of the pressure off of us, and we don’t have to be pre-occupied with wondering about that stuff on our oh-so-infrequent dates.
***

The reason we both feel this way is due to our somewhat religious upbringings. For my part, I was brought up nominally Christian, with both Catholic and Baptist relatives. I never fully accepted all of the theology, but the conservative, Judeo-Christian values stuck with me. As for Olympia, her immediate family and a few cousins are from the Lutheran and Dutch Reformed strains of Christianity. She spent a couple of her rebellious teen years embracing old Germanic paganism, then became agnostic, until returning — sort of — to her roots while in her 20s. Like me, she’s still trying to figure our exactly what her spiritual/metaphysical beliefs are. But, she has decided to adopt the conservative, Judeo-Christian values instilled in her during her youth.

So,… there ya go! By the way, I am told that my interview will appear in the March 2017 issue, print edition, so keep an eye out!

Look at that! I talked about politics and religion and no fights broke out! No one unsubscribed, either! (I hope….) Stay strong, dudes and dudettes!

Das Ende.

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2017.