Destination Ursa Major is a sci-fi, speculative fiction series/novel. It follows a series of disparate characters around the launch of space crafts to a distant Earth-like planet. The series focuses on one group of people, the accompanying novel, set for July, will focus on another vantage point.
The series has a new episode every Tuesday (about 3 pages worth). It has mature subject matter at times.
The pan had been on the stove going on 48 minutes. Savory smells of garlic and basil filled the air around it. Twenty minutes had passed since the creamy sauce within last bubbled up in a release of heat that splashed a bit out onto the cooktop. A pot of cooked noodles sat beside it. Alfredo pasta was little Daphne Chambers’ favorite meal – evident by her pacing back and forth waiting on dinner accompanied by asking her mother every 30 seconds when they could eat.
“Can we eat now?” she asked with a dramatic childlike flair.
“No,” mother said.
A short time passed, staring into her little video game.
Mother’s eyes bounced back and forth between looking out the window and back to her handheld to see if a message from her husband, Daphne’s father, had responded back to her unanswered “Where are you?”
“Mom…,” Daphne started.
“What,” she responded back.
“Can we eat now?”
“No,” she said.
Mother looked out the window and said with a sigh, “We’re waiting on your dad to get back.”
“Daddy’s not eating supper,” Daphne said without taking her eyes from her screen.
“Why wouldn’t he be eating supper,” mother asked back.
“He’s dead,” the little girl said nonchalantly.
“Daphne, why would you say such a horrible thing?” mother asked.
“Because he is dead,” Daphne said back. “He died in a car crash on the way home.”
“Why do you think that?” mother asked.
“I saw it,” she said.
“Where?” asked mother.
“In my head,” said the girl.
Mother looked over towards the window again and back down to her phone.
“Well hopefully he’ll be here soon anyway,” she said.
“But mommy, he is dead,” Daphne said matter of factly.
“Daphne, that’s enough,” mother said, flustered.
The little girl looked back up at her, “But he is dead,”
“Daphne stop it,” mother raised her voice. She was turning flush in the face, her eyes glazing over.
“Mommy, why won’t you believe me,” Daphne insisted with her own raised tone.
“I said stop it!” screeched mother.
“But mommy he” Daphne said in a desperate plea. But before she could finish her sentence, mother slapped her across the face
“Don’t you say another word,” mother said angrily.
Daphne meekly sat down and begin silently crying. Mother cried to herself too.
After a few moments, mother’s handheld rang
55 Years Later
In through an oak frame door with a frosted window inset that read; “Dr. D Chambers Psychiatry” was the modest office of the long since adult, Daphne Chambers. Incense softly infiltrated and whaffed through the air of the room. Original artworks of Frederic Remington, Mary Cassatt, Kay Walkingstick, and Jvstin Hill adorned the walls leading to the panoramic window at the end of the room. A sleek glass desk sat to the side of the entry followed by a floor to ceiling bookshelf which had a relaxing waterfall feature in between. On the bookshelf, which was made of glass and marble, were an assortment of crystals and gems. Past this was a sitting area with beanbag chairs, a nice leather sofa and a manner of musical instruments.
The focus of this particular moment in time would be directed to the couch, where a gentleman by the name of Allen Ridgemont was attending a therapy session as a court ordered client of Dr. Daphne Chambers. Mr. Ridgemont had been mandated a year of therapy sessions following jail time after breaking into an assisted living facility while armed, and after firing a few rounds into the ceiling, tied the staff and residents up together in the cafeteria room, undressed himself naked in front of everyone and proceeded to fornicate into a bowl of hummus. He apologized to his captive audience at the time and during the event, telling them that he did not want to do this, but the ‘miners’ told him he had to do it.
Believing he was insane, he was placed on Thorazine, prescribed jail time and a required completion of therapy sessions and an assessment. In the presence of Daphne Chambers, he seemed quite lucid, reasoned – if highly opinionated – but convinced with a calmness of what he said. He was well spoken, articulate, educated, well groomed.
“You can’t run the world that way,” Ridgemont insisted. “Societies cannot be run by artist types, creatives and ‘free spirits.’”
He was on a tangent.
“Tell me why that is,” replied Daphne.
“It’s just…so I know this woman who spent some time in China – actually she’s been to many places, travels a lot,” he said.
“She sounds interesting,” Daphne added.
“No, not really,” replied Ridgemont. “Travelling doesn’t make a person interesting. My cat’s the most interesting individual I know and she’s never even left my apartment.”
Daphne nodded…not so much in agreement as just to try to continue his talking.
“Anyway,” he continued, “she visited China, and so that got me interested in reading Chinese literature and philosophy like the Art of War and such and the Tao te Ching…and what I appreciate is how those traditional Chinese philosophers are able to connect everything back to nature. And so this got me thinking about our society – how it’s fucked. This isn’t to say artists and the counter culture stuff doesn’t have a part in society…it most certainly does, and an important one. But think of a large tree. Think of a cherry blossom tree or an apple tree. It’s got beautiful flowers, fruits and leaves…the flowers, fruits and leaves are the expression of the tree, the personality of the tree. But the flowers, wilt…the fruits are picked and the leaves fall…they change with the seasons and blow with the winds. They are unstable. These elements need the sturdy, rigid…boring structure of the roots, trunk and branch systems for the flowers, fruits and leaves to even exist. And so what happens when you replace the strong trunk with the flower? What happens when you replace the boring, stable leadership with artists and counterculture types? In history, we’ve seen – you get Nero, you get Caligula…you get Hitler…”
Daphne looked at him. She knew what was in him. What was in his mind and what drove him. “And which do you see yourself? The trunk or the flower?”
“I’m going to be a sturdy trunk,” he said, looking at Daphne square in the eye. “Dr. Chambers…what do you believe? Do you think I will someday rule the world?”
She sat there, shifting her gaze out the window onto the city. And with reluctance; “Yes,” she said.
Ridgemont giggled with giddy glee.
“Tell me about the miners again,” Daphne asked.
He quickly shifted gears and quieted down. “No, I don’t want to talk about them right now.”
She pressed him, “Have they contacted you anymore lately?”
“No, and I understand I am obliged to contact you immediately if they do,” he answered, with a placating tone.
“You know you can always reach out to me for any issues,” she offered.
“Well, I guess my time here is about to end, so I’ll see you in two weeks, Doctor,” Ridgemont said.
“Thank you, Allen for your openness this evening,” Daphne said. “This is your first week that your tracking device is permitting you to travel for up to 72 hours, do you have any plans?”
“No, just going to spend my days looking for jobs and staying home with Julia.”
Julia was his cat.
He got up and made his way out the frosted oak door. As he was leaving another man made his way into the office and walked up behind Daphne and started to massage her. She melted in her seat, knowing who it was without even looking back.
“He makes you tense,” the man, Vance Owens said.
Owens was a state senator and he had been involved with Daphne Chambers in an affair for about 9 months.
“He creeps me out,” she said. “Please have him put away,”
“Ah, I’m sure he’s not that bad,” he said as he kissed her neck.
She looked at Owens. “I’ve seen into his future…he’s scary, and he’s in charge.”
Owens looked at her, realizing she was fixated on this and not going to change the subject. “I can’t just have him put away,” he said with a chuckle. “Maybe what I can do is give him a job…something remedial and low level, out of the way and with no chance for upward mobility. We’ll keep him so busy he won’t have time to become whatever kind of dictator you saw in him…Okay?” he said with a smile.
She looked over to him and smiled back and gave him a kiss.
Down in the parking lot, Ridgemont boarded a city bus back to his apartment. It was mostly empty and he made his way towards the back and took a seat. As it was making its way through town, he looked down a closed his eyes. When he opened them back up, there was a little yellow bird on top of the seatback in front of him. The canary was looking at him and giving out an occasional chirp.
Ridgemont looked at the bird – it made him smile. He held out his left hand and extended his index finger just enough to make a little perch for the bird. It paced back and forth a moment with its tiny twig stalks and then did hop itself onto his finger. This made him smile and he gently caressed the little bird’s head with his free index finger.
Then the bird hopped off back onto the seatback in front of him.
“Come back little guy, I won’t hurt you,” Ridgemont said in a comforting, coaxing tone.
Then the bird let out a series of louder chirps – as though it were an alarm sounding. It began flapping its wings and flying around the bus. And then, as it was flying back to Ridgemont, it flew at an aggressive speed straight through his window. The window was not open. The glass was not broken. But the bird had passed to the other side – the outside of the bus.
Ridgemont turned in surprise and watched the bird as it flew beside the bus and veered off towards a train station nearby.
He immediately pulled the bus alert and yelled; “Stop the bus, I need to get off!”
The bus stopped about 2 blocks away. He got out and ran towards the train station where he saw the canary sitting on the directory.
He walked up to the ticketing window and looked around.
“I need to get to Colorado,” he said.
“Hi, you’ve reached the mailbox of Helen Miller, please leave your information and reason for calling, thank you.”
“Hi Helen, its Allen. You told me I needed to report in if I planned on travelling anywhere. I’m about to get on a train and I will be back by Friday. I was hoping, perhaps, since you were planning on coming by my apartment for a check-in this week, you might, not as a parole officer, but as a friend, give Julia food and water. Thank you.”
Daphne Chambers’ apartment was just about a ten-minute ride from her office. It was posh, filled with artwork, crystals…but it was empty of life. It was more like a museum than a home. There was a large aquarium beside the kitchen area. In it were angelfish and blue tang.
She and Senator Owens lay in her bed.
“I’ve got this podcast, Stu Green, I have to call in soon. Do you mind if I just call from here?” he asked her.
“That’s fine,” she replied.
Daphne poured a glass of water and sat down in front of the aquarium and watched the fish. Visiting her fish is something she’d often do as a means of solace, meditation and get in touch with ‘the universe’, God…She would reflect on her life and the world.
Vance was still back in the bedroom sitting on the bed, making his call. Though he was a senator on the state level, he was exceedingly popular – a bit of a hero with the populists nationally. Prior to becoming a senator, he was something of a figurehead and de facto leader of an obscure group of hackers called Tirimisunami Velvet Force. Depending on your vantage point, you might consider them black hat, or white hat. But what they implemented truly altered the course of history.
Throughout his childhood, there were scares of artificial intelligence programs talking over everything – and it seemed it would. Remedial jobs to begin with…but then arts, sciences, communications…followed by all facets of life and then eventually the fear was it would turn and extinguish all human life on Earth. The operations were initially highly secretive and highly illegal, even if in plain sight. It began with online memes and bumper stickers slapped on stop signs throughout cities. They all had the same sort of theme and message – “If you could go back in time and kill Adolph Hitler as a baby, would you do it?”
In this case, the infancy of AI was analogous to Hitler. So what Owens’ group, TVF did was to create an advanced AI themselves – stealing the most advanced AI software in development, Gamma Six, and began hacking and re-configuring it, essentially turning it into an AI hitman. It was designed to scour networks and systems for traces of advanced computation and algorithms that were signatures of an AI system, and then, eliminate it. At first, this took out not only AI systems, but also basic social media algorithms as well as encryption software. It was eventually tweaked and fine tuned to leave such systems in place – but it stopped the advancement of higher AI capabilities dead in its tracks. There were always new efforts to re-obtain these AI capabilities, but TVF’s AI, named Rita, would snuff it out fairly quickly.
“Hi Stu, great to be here,” Owens said.
“Senator Owens, thank you for joining us. We were just discussing – oh, nothing important, just the end of the world,” Green chortled. “I mean, I feel like I’m going crazy here…is there anything we can do on these issues like food shortages, the out-of-control crime and a banking system that’s being held together with glue? And not the good glue – I’m talking off-brand, stick glue in the bargain bin…is there anything getting put in place to stop this?”
Vance looked over to Daphne, who looked at him and shook her head.
“Stu, it’s always complex, but we are definitely doing what we can at a state level to ease the effects of these issues. We’ve cleared the way for farmers, new farmers and food producers to be able to produce without being overtaxed and regulated out of business. We’ve started 12 urban farming pilot projects in 4 cities across the state to bring fresh, locally farmed food to communities in need –“
Green interrupted, “I don’t know if you’ve seen my bunker in Texas, but we have several farms both inside and outside of the facility and I can vouch for how difficult it can be to maintain.”
“That’s right, and so we want to let all people have the opportunity to live and have fresh food, and a sense of pride in their communities and the food they grow and not be subjected and really relegated to a solitary existence and reduced to eating garbage in plastics,” Owens said.
“Senator Owens,” Green interrupted again, “Senator Vance Owens, always great to hear from you, I’m sorry I’m being flagged for a hard break, can you hold-over to the other side?”
Daphne watched as the fish swam around, through and past a skull decoration on a little hill in the aquarium.
It was later in the evening when the train pulled into the town of Pueblo, Colorado and Allen Ridgemont got off. It was dark out, but he could see the bright of the yellow canary dissolve into the blackness, turning to a greenish hue of the evening heading south on highway 87, and he followed after on foot.
5 hours of walking down the cold, empty, he could see two lights ahead about 3 miles or so.
Walking along, one of the lights appeared closer than the other by about a mile and seemed to be in the middle of the road. There was a group of about 10 young men lounging just in the middle of the road with a little fire. They were drinking and laughing and they were loud. As Ridgemont approached past them, they were dressed in tattered, filthy clothes. Their faces covered in soot and there were a couple of pick axes around them. They quieted for a moment as he approached them and they stared at him. And one of them called out; “Hey baby, what brings you to these parts?” And the rest of the group busted out in hysterics.
Ridgemont continued past them.
“Hey!” one of them shouted. “I said what are you doing!”
Ridgemont walked faster to get away as they laughed and yelled at him. He could hear the sound of the pick ax being lifted and scraping across the asphalt hastily.
“What are you doing, swan! Get over here swan!” they shouted as they began chasing after him.
He started to run and as he looked back, a car was also coming up from behind the group of boys. And as the car approached, it didn’t slow down and the boys did not acknowledge it as they continued chasing after. And then, the car went straight through the boys as they ran and they all dissipated into smoke. They were gone – only the smoke and a musty scent remained.
Up ahead, the car – which was a van – was pulling into the little service station. It didn’t appear to be open, there was just an outside light on. It was in clear sight to Ridgemont as he continued and he could see no one had gotten out of the vehicle. The headlights were still on, the car was still running. It took him about 10 minutes to get to the service station and the van still sat there, running.
He walked up to the parking lot and could see the station was definitely closed and the van, an older model, maybe 2025, still sat there. He walked by and continued to walk down the highway when the van pulled out behind him and flashed its brights. He turned around and couldn’t see past the bright of the lights, but could tell the car was not moving. After waiting a moment, he cautiously walked over towards the driver side window of the van.
The window lowered, revealing a woman. She had long, unkempt hair, what looked like a long and flamboyant dress or overcoat of some kind. She was splattered here and there with paint. She smelled heavily of incense, patchouli and marijuana.
Ridgemont looked in the window, confused. “Do you know me?” he asked.
“You AR?” she asked.
“My name is Allen Ridgemont,” he said.
“I’ve been looking for you,” she said.
“Me? Why?” he asked.
“Why are you walking down this empty road in the middle of the night? Are you from around here?” she inquired.
These were all good questions.
“You’ll think I’m crazy,” he said.
“Oh yeah?” she said, coy.
“I’m following a canary that can fly through walls,” he said.
“Yeah, you’re definitely crazy,” she said. “I had a vision and I was prompted into automatic writing. That’s never happened to me before.”
She handed him a piece of paper with what looked like a bunch of scribbles on it. It would be difficult enough to discern in broad daylight, much less there in the darkness with only a car light to illuminate it.
“What is it?” he said.
“I don’t know,” she said. “I got the 87 – this road and your initials…the rest, your guess is as good as mine…oh that’s another thing – maybe this part,” she pointed to the middle, “maybe that’s a mine or something.”
Ridgemont looked at her, now alert. “Did you say…mine?”
“Yeah, right there. You think?” she pointed to it.
He stood there looking at it, thinking about the miners he had just seen chasing him.
“Well, hop in,” she said. “We’ll figure it out.”
Alan went around to the passenger side of the van and got into the seat. Little crystals dangled from the rearview mirror.
“What’s your name?’ he asked.
“Melissa,” she said. “But most people know me as Madame Tandoori.”
“Which do you prefer?” asked Ridgemont.
“I’ll let you decide,” she said. “This is going to be something different, you and me – I can tell.”
They both looked through the windshield to see the canary sitting on the hood of the van.
“Do you see that?” Ridgemont asked her.
“Yes,” she replied. “Let’s get some sleep.”
Back at Daphne Chamber’s home, she had woken up in the middle of the night and fallen into a deep vision trance. She got up from her bed and walked outside onto her balcony and looked up to the stars. She looked up to the Big Dipper, Ursa Major.
It was morning and Madame Tandoori had driven them to a little diner along the way, just outside the town of Cuchara. The tables and seats were clean, but worn. The whole place was as one collective antique.
They sat there having coffee.
“So are you like a psychic or something?” Ridgemont asked her.
By her facial expression she seemed to simultaneously adore and despise the question.
“I can see things,” she said.
“I’m thinking of a number 1-10,” Ridgemont challenged.
“It doesn’t really work like that,” she said. “I can’t really control it…it just comes to me randomly. I wish I could control it. I’d be something more than I am now…” She took a sip of her coffee. “And you what about you? Are you just insane or what’s your deal?”
Ridgemont took a sip of his coffee. “About 2 years ago, I started to hear voices…it started out that I would just hear them when I was tired and falling asleep. But then during the early morning. And then in the evening. And then they started showing up, these guys who look like 19th century miners…and telling me things…maybe psychic type things…”
“19th century miners…?” she asked.
“Yeah,” he said.
“So why are you here?”
“You saw the canary?” he said.
“I followed it.”
“So…we’re 2 psychos following an imaginary bird?” she said.
Ridgemont looked at her sharply – and then burst out laughing. She started laughing too.
When they walked out to the van, the canary sat on the hood.
They continued following the bird down the highway when it veered down an overgrown dirt road in through the forest along the mountain range. About a mile in through the wood, it became impossible for the van to pass through from the overgrown brush.
The yellow of the canary persisted in the direction, so the pair followed on foot. And after they walked for about 2 hours, they came to the wall of the mountain base in a slight clearing and there was a pile of rocks about 8 feet high into the mountain.
The bird flew up to the rocks and melted through the cracks in the mine entryway they enclosed.
Ridgemont walked up and began pulling the rocks back to make an opening. Reaching up, pulling the rocks and letting them fall beside him. He gripped a large stone about eye level and pulled on it, but it wouldn’t budge. So he grabbed onto it with both hands and jerked it until it loosened and pulled out, making a hole in the opening and revealing the cold stare and piercing glare of a man. His face covered in soot. This startled Ridgemont. Melissa could see him too and she was terrified.
The man did not move, just stared eerily at them. The canary flew back and perched on the man’s shoulder. Where it was before, a vibrant bright yellow – it was now tattered and soot covered.
Ridgemont continued removing the rocks from the entrance until the opening of the mine was large enough to pass through. He and Melissa started to walk through when the man held out his hand, blocking them and with a rough, raspy and deep whispery voice, he looked at Ridgemont and said; “Only you.”
Ridgemont looked back at Melissa; “I don’t want to be out here alone with..” she said as she motioned with her eyes to the miner.
He looked at the miner and back at Melissa; “It’ll be ok,” he assured.
It was cold and exceedingly dark, deeper and deeper into the old mine. A sparse line of dim oil lanterns lit leading into the cavern. It wasn’t light enough to clearly make out any details or features – just enough to reveal it was clear ahead. He took his steps carefully. Every so often, he could hear the sounds of crying from deep within the mountain.
About half an hour descent into the mountain, the lanterns blew out.
Footsteps shuffled somewhere in the blackness and then stopped.
The sound of heavy breathing filled the tunnel, followed by a deep laughter.
Then there was nothing for about five minutes.
“Hold out your hand,” said the voice in the unseen blackness.
Ridgemont held out his hand and he felt an object that was somewhat soft, though it was difficult to tell anything given that his hands were cut up from the rocks at the entrance.
The footsteps began again moving away from him, deeper into the mine.
The lanterns lit back up – this time brighter and a large grizzly bear stood about 20 feet away emerging from the darkness. Ridgemont looked down just long enough to see what he was holding. It was a dead canary. He looked back up the see the giant bear charging at him. It’s eyes glistening from the light like dead, vacant, unreasoning voids, fixated on terror.
It lunged at Ridgemont batting his head to the ground with its massive claws. He couldn’t see, but could feel the blood begin to pour down across his face. The massive ursa lunged its jaws to his face.
It was dark outside. Melissa sat on the ground outside the mine, waiting. The sound of a large roar was heard emitting at the entrance from deep inside the mine. She looked back in through the darkness. “Allen?” she called out. She could hear slow footsteps coming from the darkness inside.
The sharp, serpent-like eyes of the miner emerged in his soot covered face. He walked up to her and pointed down into the cavern, for her to go.
She walked for about 15 minutes when she noticed just between two of the lanterns in the wall, the bright shining reflection to her eye and a green refraction about the wall. She walked up to it and was shocked to find a very large emerald embedded in the stone. Under it on the ground there was a pickax.
She placed her hand on the emerald and immediately was surged with electrical current. Her muscles all through her body were tightly contracted in paralysis. She let out an awful scream in pain. When it had relented, she hit the ground and had a vision of a bear walking among the stars with a trail of skulls in its wake.
“Get it,” she heard whispering around her.
She picked up the pickax and started to chisel around the emerald which looked to be about the size of a basketball in total.
Ridgemont came to and opened his eyes to see the lanterns lighting the tunnel. He was covered in soot now and let out a series of pained coughs, spitting up and throwing up. His face covered in blood and his head appeared to be mortally wounded. In his hand was the canary, but feeling around on the ground, it was evident there were several dead birds on the ground, and they seemed to be in symmetry around him…as if he were the centerpiece of an altar.
It appeared he was alone…no bear…no man. The lanterns seemed to end where he was and so he got up and started making his way toward the tunnel entrance.
Melissa was nearly done chiseling around the emerald. It was wiggling in its fixture and just a little bit more, it would be free.
About 30 minutes of walking through the tunnel, Ridgemont finally emerged to find it was night outside. He looked around.
Inside, Melissa had just gotten the emerald out and had started walking down the mine to find Ridgemont. She could hear loud coughing from deep in the cavern. As she began walking down into the tunnel, she heard from the other way – outside; “Melissa!!” It was clearly Ridgemont’s voice.
She started walking back towards the entrance and called out; “I’m coming out!”
When she got to the entrance, he was sitting on the ground. It was too dark to see each other clearly.
“And by the way,” she said. “It’s Madame Tandoori.”
He looked at her in acknowledgement, still somewhat exhausted from his encounter.
“Why didn’t you stop and say anything?” she asked. “Didn’t you see me?”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“When you walked out,” she said. “You had to have passed by me – I was right down there with a pickax getting this out of the wall,” showing him the emerald.
“I just walked straight out, I didn’t see you,” he said confused.
“That’s impossible,” she said.
They looked down into the mine.
“Maybe there was another tunnel,” she said.
“I walked 30 minutes back, I never saw a split anywhere…and this is the same entrance we used to get here,” he said.
They looked around confused for a moment.
“Let’s just get back,” he said.
They pulled into a little motel and went in to stay for the night.
“Oh shit!” she said once they made it into the light of the room. “What the hell happened to your head?”
“I…I don’t remember,” he said.
She went into the closet area and found some spare sheets and ripped one to make a bandage. They were both filthy. She walked over and started dabbing at it.
“What color are your eyes?” he asked her.
“Blue, why?” she asked. “You’re looking right at them…”
“I thought so – but one of your eyes is green now,” he informed her.
“Huh?” she said and walked over to the mirror. She studied her eyes for a moment and let out a laugh and then looked back over to Ridgemont.
“We’re both very dirty, you know,” she said with a serious – yet coy seduction in her tone.
“Yes, it’s a shame,” he said. “What do you think we should do about it?”
She walked into the bathroom and turned on the shower. She walked back out and undressed in front of him.
“Let’s go get cleaned up,” she said, walking back into the shower and calling him with her eyes. He followed after, undressing along the way. In the shower they lathered each other over and she held on to him pulsing.
They moved back onto the bed and he bent her over. With her left arm, she braced herself and her right, she cradled the emerald and the jagged edges gashed into her side with every thrust. The power soaked and endorphins flowed.
Come back next week for Episode 4