I hired various freelancers for science fiction short stories. These stories are mostly backstories for various characters in my novella. To make my ~38000-word novella into a full-sized book, I am making an appendix in the book with hired short stories and science reports relevant to my novella. I plan to put the name of the actual author above each short story.
I read her story. It is Garth’s whole life story from a child to a doomed convicted criminal facing his second death sentence. I had it professionally edited for grammar, spelling, and clarity. One concern I had with her story is that it talked about specific and small USA dollar amounts, including cents. Nowadays, one US dollar is nothing, but the story takes place nearly 200 years into the future. I expect inflation would have made dollars even less valuable. So what should I do with her small sounding dollar amounts?
I didn’t want to alter the story because it was her story and I would be putting her name on it. Would she be offended if I changed her story?
I gave in to my temptation and added one paragraph to her story to explain away the dollar value. Maybe you can spot that paragraph below.
Meanwhile, I have finished my writing and am waiting around for hired help to finish the last short stories, for editors on those short stories, book formatting, etc. I am still on schedule to publish in December.
I was born into a family of ranchers and farmers in Provo, Utah. My father and his brothers inherited the ranch and farms from their father, and they looked to me, my brother, and my cousins to learn the value of hard work and, in due time, inherit the farms and ranch. I grew up shuttling between southern Utah and farms in southern Idaho.
From the time I was a kid, I always sucked at milking cows and feeding pigs. I was always a hardworking lad but hated those tasks, so inheriting the farm gradually began to sound uninteresting to me. My brothers and my father would try to talk me into being more hardworking on the farm, but I’d rather go out to the woods with a good old man who usually came to the hood to fetch boys. We helped him break felled trees into pieces, and he paid us in cash. Although, he paid in cents, I preferred having some cash in my pocket. I can still remember the first day I earned a dollar. I went out before anyone and continued the previous day’s work, and by the time everyone came around, I had worked forty cents worth. At the end of the day, I had a dollar and ten cents, a smiling face, and an aching back. My smile that evening was the last genuine one, until many years later.
The money was in new America Federation dollars from the newly combined nations of most of North and South America and a small part of Africa. It was a combination meant to rival the Eurasia Federation.
That evening I got home to meet an almost empty house and sad faces here and there. My Dad, his two brothers, and my cousin Allan had been involved in an accident on their way to southern Idaho. All of them, except my Uncle Scott, were still battling for their lives. Uncle Scott gave up on the spot. He was on the wheels, and he lost control and rammed their car right under a trailer.
After two days in the hospital, my father died from severe head injuries; Allan regained consciousness, but his father stayed in a coma for another month before kicking the bucket. Suddenly, everything had changed. All three brothers left the scene within the space of one month, and we young boys were left at the helm of affairs. I was only thirteen years old, and my eldest cousin was sixteen. It was too much on us. And, as if to take the burden off of us, officials came around flashing court orders and confiscating most of our properties. The entire large family was left to bask in a small, ancient house. Poverty took a whole new turn.
In those days my self-esteem, sense of identity, and school grades took a deadly blow. I clearly remember feeling lost and totally insecure. I basked in my soliloquy: “Is hard work really a great option?” My Dad and his brothers were the most hardworking trio I’d ever met, but they all died and left their families miserable. My brothers talked about working for other farms—“work hard” to save money and, one day, get ourselves a farm of our own that no one would seize. I just knew I would never be a party to that because I didn’t see it as a way out of this vicious circle of poverty.
As I sat alone one of those sad days, contemplating my next move, a stern-looking man walked in. He was a neighbor who sometimes visited my dad and his brothers. They usually spoke in a low tone and laughed loudly as they sipped little volumes of rum. He looked me in the eyes and said: “Real men don’t cry. Are you a real man? Don’t cry! Grow up!” Those words stuck in my head, especially the question, “Are you a real man?” I wiped my eyes and decided to “grow up.” Albeit in the wrong way. I stole the same neighbor’s car and attempted to drive to Salt Lake City. Far enough for me to breathe in fresh air and grow up. I set out in the middle of the night with Josh, my closest buddy at the time. I still miss that dude. We had ridden barely one hundred miles when we got caught and bundled back home. Back to the place where I felt I didn’t belong.
Eighteen months later, I left home. This time I didn’t leave in a stolen car or in the thick of the night. I left home in broad daylight, with my mother’s knowledge, my belongings, and fifty-five dollars in savings. My major aim was to get rich and liberate my family from poverty. I also craved influence, as it seemed the high and mighty in the society were untouchables.
Over the next few years, I landed myself in college while working several odd jobs: from construction to a menial job at the local skating rink. I also worked with a waste disposal company to make ends meet, and in those days, I felt like my body always smelled of garbage. While working at the construction site, my boss easily picked me out as the most hardworking guy on the crew and always called me out whenever he had a contract anywhere. Soon, I stopped working other menial jobs and concentrated fully on construction and schooling. It took an extra bit of motivation to not get overwhelmed with handling both tasks.
In due time, I had bagged a bachelor’s degree in criminology, finishing somewhere above the mid-point of my class. Fernando, the class topper, once said I would have been his major contender if I’d had the luxury to concentrate more on schoolwork. You might say Garth Knight is arrogant, but I think not only would I have been his contender, I’d have beaten him. It doesn’t matter now.
The college certificate was definitely a stepping-stone, as I ascended high above it. My construction contacts actually paved the way for me. Shortly before graduation, I was working hard as usual to settle some final bills when a top official came around. I guessed he was the owner of the facility, so I greeted him with a smile and continued my work. Soon I was called aside. He said he perceived me as a “sharp guy,” and my boss also recommended me. He had a few tasks for me, which I handled intelligently. I leaked classified information from my school’s database, and he was pleased. Hey, don’t roll your eyes on me; I was broke, and the pay was great.
After a successful execution of my trial mission, my new boss had some faith in me. My degree in criminology, alongside my intuition, was a huge boost, or so he thought. I was inducted into a league of ruthless spies, which was funded by a sect from the Earth’s Global Federation. We were availed some of the most sophisticated gadgets in the world, at the time. I started at small jobs within the league, and my success rate allowed me to rise in the pecking order. In no time, I was completing missions in several nations that were yet to be members of the Earth’s Global Federation. It became fascinating. I was raking in hard cash, and my family valued me as a top government official, so there was no going back this time. Once you taste real money, you can only crave more.
A master of disguise, I played several roles at a time and got access to information that I wouldn’t usually have access to. One time, I got caught in Russia; their only mistake was to arrest me like a gentleman. Two guards armed with nothing but Tasers sat by my side, and the driver had a pistol at his waist. I made for the driver’s gun, and my Taser deflector made their shocks ineffective. It was the first time I had pulled the trigger on someone, but I shot at their limbs, and learned later that they didn’t die. I heaved a sigh of relief.
Before long, however, accessing and disseminating information led to kidnapping and, subsequently, killing. Then I knew I was officially a bad man. I hadn’t planned to be a killer, but sometimes the mission read: “Make him disappear.” How else could I have done that? Kidnap him forever? I had to do what had to be done to keep business going. Soon I became ruthless in the art and act of pulling the trigger and bursting skulls open. The prick that I felt in my heart whenever I pulled the trigger grew fainter and fainter, until I could no longer feel it.
Renowned for ruthlessness, I was enjoying myself; my wealth and influence grew exponentially. That fateful day, when everything started sliding downhill, the mission was to torture a guy and extract information, but I did more than that. The information indicated that I was on the radar and might soon go down. I thought killing the guy would eliminate the issue, but things escalated. He was a defense minister and kidnapping him was insult enough, but his death? Forces rose against us, and I had to be sacrificed to calm things down.
My death was faked, and I was buried six feet below for twelve hours. Some political leaders had a caucus meeting and decided that I would be useful on Sonik. Some felt my intuitiveness and intelligence might help Earth and Sonik build a healthy relationship, while others worried that my ruthlessness would result in a bad image of “Earthlings” on Sonik. My faction had their way, and I was dug up, given a stern warning to be diplomatic, and then smuggled up to Sonik. Naturally, I would have opted to stay on Earth, but if it was discovered that my death had been faked, it might result in cataclysmic pandemonium. It was necessary that I should leave Earth or die. I chose the former.
I arrived on Sonik about fourteen Earth years later. Spaceships are now a little faster, and the journey can be made in thirteen years. There was total freedom for me. The influence I had craved since I was a boy—I had it in excess there. I was the number one human on Sonik and, arguably, the number one creature, because humans rank above the Sonik natives. Occasionally, I missed home during my early years on Sonik, but I soon savored being the much loved and much feared Garth Knight.
Everything was going really great until the day an Earth spaceship landed on Sonik. I smelled trouble when I first heard the name: Robert Vasquez. His mission, furthermore, didn’t appeal to my fancy. I enjoyed riding on the relative ignorance of the Sonik natives, and he intended to spread some education. I was determined to stand in his way with everything I had, but Robert’s determination coupled with wittiness was one of a kind. He constantly outwitted me on all fronts, I have to sadly admit. His activities resulted in my apparent downfall on Sonik. His enlightenment programs spurred a revolution, and he brought on board a fairy genius—Diamond-san—who had profound Earth knowledge. Diamond-san was the individual who wrote a perfectly articulated letter and sent it down to Earth; that brought about my replacement and deportment.
A new Earthling leader for Sonik was sent with some military personnel. I was taken unaware and bundled back to earth. It felt like the day Josh and I were caught, while on our way to Salt Lake City, and taken back home. I had settled in to feeling like a Sonik native, and Earth felt like a strange land.
Here I am on Earth, forty Earth years after I first left for Sonik. I have not been availed the opportunity to visit our old farm in Utah. I don’t know how my brothers have fared with their dreams of “working hard.” Maybe they successfully got themselves a farm, or maybe not. I doubt if my mother would still be alive—it wouldn’t matter much though; they all think I’m long gone. For now, I’m in custody, and all who were involved in my exit are being tracked down by the current government. Maybe this is the end of Garth Knight.