The d’anconia protocol

Life on Tyre station followed a very specific pattern: the scientists that manned the station woke up, collected the samples that the automated rovers dropped overnight, tested said samples, found nothing of interest, complained to each other about it, and then went to bed. Any deviation from routine was met with immense disapproval from the station’s residents.

It came as a shock to many when it word was leaked that one of the top scientists, Holden Graves, was whisked away in the night without a word. Holden was the stations leading biologist and was acting head of Project Phaethon, whose mission statement was to find life among the moons of Jupiter. It was long before the station was abuzz with rumors.

Alexander Howse never paid attention to rumors. He was there to find proof of life outside of Earth. Anything outside of that was a distraction.

“Alex, old buddy, you here about Holden?” Alexander’s fellow scientist, Jordan Pelios, held no such aversion to rumor mill.

“I heard he’s no longer on the station. Beyond that I haven’t heard anything.”

“C’mon now,” Jordan said. “I know you had to have heard something. You’re practically Holden’s number 2! I know you’ve gotta know something”

“I know nothing.” In the back of his mind, Alexander was praying that Jordan would pick up on his tone and leave him alone. He knew odds were low, but he could still hope.

“Well, if you’re not going to confess to knowing anything, I’ll at least tell you what I heard. The prevailing theory is that Graves actually found something, something big, and was carried off into the night to be debriefed before they let the whole system know.”

“What?! That’s impossible,” Alexander replied. While not official, Jordan wasn’t wrong when he said Alexander was functionally Holden’s second in command. The two of them had been out on the edge of space together for decades, and if one of them had found something they would have told the other.

“We live in a space ship that jumps from Jovian moon to Jovian moon and you want to talk about stuff being impossible? That’s a good one,” Jordan laughed at Alexander’s naivety.

“You know what I mean. There’s no way they could keep something like that secret from the rest of us.”
“Technically, if he did find something, they didn’t keep it secret because that’s all everyone is talking about.”

“Whatever you say,” and with a dismissive waive, Alexander chose to end the conversation and went back to his work. Try as he might, the nagging thought that Jordan might be right wouldn’t leave Alexander’s head.

Over the next several days the rumor mill began to burst at the seams: Holden had discovered alien life, Holden had discovered advanced alien life, Holden discovered advanced alien life that originated from outside the solar system, Holden found proof that the various governments that sponsored their endeavour were actually using their research to develop some kind of biological super weapon. All of these rumors found their way back to Alexander despite his best efforts to stay out of him. His friendship with Holden made him the prime target for anyone looking to get more information. After a couple days of practically screaming at people to leave him alone, he had finally had enough, he decided to commit himself to finding out what happened to Holden.

Inquiries to the shipmaster were met with stoic glares. Despite his assurances that he was merely concerned for the safety of his friend, the individuals in charge of the expedition refused to comment. Despite his best efforts at getting them to understand that their silence was only adding fuel to the fires of speculation, he was forcibly removed from the command deck and told to stop asking questions.

Against his better judgment, Alexander decided to visit his old friend’s quarters. As he rounded the corner, he saw the door flanked by two guards. Without a pause, Alexander kept walking. Being manned by mostly scientists, it was odd for the guards to actually be utilized. The only time they ever saw any action was when someone occasionally had too much to drink and were needed to break up a drunken “fight”. Hackles raised, Alexander went straight to Jordan.

“I need you help,” Alexander said to Jordan, catching the latter by surprise.

“Okay,” he said pensively. “What do you need?”
“I need you to try and access Holden’s logs. Look for anything that might shed some clues as to what might have happened to him.”

“I thought you said it was impossible that Holden could have discovered anything,” Jordan replied with a smug tone.

“I don’t know what to believe right now. I just walked by his quarters and they had guards stationed outside.”

“Are you serious?” Jordan asked.

“Unfortunately. I don’t know if he discovered anything, but he definitely didn’t leave the ship of his own volition. We need to find out what happened to him.” Alexander gestured to Jordan’s computer in an attempt to have him get to work.

“Alright, I’ll help. If they can make him disappear in the middle of the night, God only knows what they could do to the rest of us.” With that, Jordan went to work. Being the computer system’s architect, Jordan had full access to all the ships the logs. This wasn’t the first time he had gone snooping, but he knew that if he got caught, this could be the last. After a couple hours of fruitless searching, he resigned himself with a heavy sigh.

“I hate to say it, but I got nothing.”

“What do you mean?”
“I mean,” Jordan sat up, “that there is zero trace of what happened to Holden. There isn’t even a record of a shuttle launch that would have carried him off the ship! One day he was here, and the next he wasn’t.”

“Well, what about his research logs?” Alexander couldn’t believe that his friend had just disappeared.

“All up to snuff and nothing special in them. The only thing out of the norm that I could find was a message between captain and someone back on Earth talking about Holden and something called the d’Anconia Protocol.”

“d’Anconia Protocol? What’s that supposed to be?” Howse thought he knew all the different governing protocol’s that outlined their mission, but he had never heard of this one.

“You’re about to find out,” a voice behind the pair said. They jumped and turned around to find the chief of security and several guards now standing in the room.

“Chief! How’s it going?” Jordan tried to remain calm but the tremor in his voice gave away his bluff.

“Do not try to be friendly with me Mr.Pelios. You and Mr.Howse are several worlds worth of trouble.”

“Look,” Alexander said, “we weren’t trying to cause trouble. No one could give us a straight answer as to what happened to Holden and we were just trying to make sure our friend was okay.”

“That’s the problem with you scientific types,” the chief said. “You ask too many questions and don’t know how to leave well enough alone. Mr.Graves was unable to accept the chain of command, he constantly questioned decisions made by the leaders of this expedition. In his mind, he felt he could take over the ship. Sedition is not something that’s generally looked upon very kindly.”

“So what does that have to do with us and this d’Anconia Protocol?” At this point Jordan was no longer able to keep the fear out of his voice.

“The d’Anconia Protocol is put into affect when elements of the crew feel the need to take the burden of leadership upon themselves,” the chief said. “If any crew member begins to stoke anti-governmental sentiments, calls for a general labor strike, or just gets too uppity overall, we make sure that person is no longer a member of the crew. Guards,” with a waive of the chief’s hand, the guards raised their weapons and fired.

Alexander awoke to find himself drifting in the void of space. Years of spacewalks kept him calm, but he could feel his heart rate rising. Directly in front of him, Jupiter was visibly growing.

“I see you’re awake,” the voice of the security chief crackled in his ears.
“What’s going on?! What did you do?” Panic overtook Alexander.

“I merely did what was within my rights to put down a potential rebellion before it even started. We know how much you science types enjoy the gas giants, so we decided if the time ever came, it would be a fitting end to send you into their embrace.” With those words the comm went silent.

Alexander Howse struggled against the inevitable. His suit had no thrusters, no way to alter course. He flailed wildly as the king of the solar system grew larger and larger. After a time he accepted his end and stared calmly into the swirling mists of the rapidly approaching planet. As he hit the outer edges of the atmosphere, he could feel the temperature of the suit increase. After less than sixty seconds, he was no more.


The muse is a fickle mistress. Sometimes it hits hard, other times (like today) she’s quiet. I am drawing a complete blank and this is the best I can come up with as far as a short story is concerned. It is the story of my failure :(.


It creeps and stalks

the side of us we wish

didn’t exist.

All our doubts and fears,

a life given their own.

Deny it exits,

it’s given strength.

Embrace it’s existence,

and you become strong.

Tom’s Bad DAy

Tom was a relatively benign man. He paid his bills on time, kept his anger check, did everything in his power to not stand out in the crowd. All this was a conscious effort on his part because he made a very rash bet in his youth and spent years paying for it.

Born to an impoverished farmer, Tom spent his upbringing wanting nothing more than to get away. He always had a curious mind and wanted to know as much about the world as he could. One day, an old man showed up to his family’s farm looking to rest. Tom’s father was a kind soul and told the stranger he was welcome to stay as long as he pleased.

After a couple of rest and making himself at home, the stranger caught young Tom looking through his things.

“And just what do you think you’re doing?” He asked.

“I’m sorry!” The young boy jumped and almost dropped the stranger’s belongings. “You’re the first person I’ve seen that I’m not related to in as long as I can remember. You carry such odd items that my curiosity got the better of me. Please don’t tell my father!”

“Don’t worry,” the man cackled, “I was once like you. I take no offense, I just ask that you be careful with those. They were given to me as a gift and I hold them quite dear.”

“What are they,” Tom asked.

“Pieces to a game, one that requires great skill. Would you like to learn?” Tom nodded in enthusiastic agreement.

The next several weeks were spent with the old stranger learning the ins and outs of the game he carried. The man didn’t lie when he said it was a game of great skill, and it required a keen mind to learn to anticipate your opponents moves without leaving yourself open to their counters.

“I have a proposition for you, young one.” The old man said one day. “If you can beat me in the next game we play, I will grant you a great boon, one that no other human can posses.”

“You’re on!” Tom said with excitement. His skills had come to rival his guests and he was confident he could win.

For hours the two traded pieces. When one would start to get the advantage, the other would rally and make his opponent pay for any ground he gained. After several intense moves, both sides were down to their final pieces. Tom saw an opening and in a grand flourish delivered his final move. He cheered at his win over his mentor.

“Congratulations, boy. Hold out your hand and I shall give you your reward.”

Tom held out his hand and the old man took it in his own. After a few seconds, a sharp pain started in Tom’s hand and began to spread up his arm. His veins rose to prominence and it felt like his entire arm was engulfed in flames. Tom tried to wrench his arm free, but the man’s strength bellied his seemingly fragile form.

“I pass onto you a curse that was given to me,” the old man said as his appearance began to age rapidly. “You will watch as those around you age and turn to dust. You will beg and plead for a death that will not come, no matter what harms befall you. If you wish for freedom from this life, you must do as I have and find someone who can beat you in the game we’ve played today.” With his final words, the stranger grinned and turned to dust. As the fire spread through his body, Tom could do nothing but scream in pain and pass out.

Several days later he awoke surrounded by his concerned family. They informed him that they heard his screams and found him laying on the ground unconscious and their mysterious guest gone. When asked if he remembered what happened, Tom merely shook his head.

As the years wore on, Tom lived in constant fear of the strangers words. He noticed that age seemed to not affect him like it did everyone else in that, while he visibly aged to a degree, he didn’t experience the physical weakness or loss of faculties that most other suffered. By the time he was in his sixties his appearance resembled that of a man half his age.

With suspicion mounting, Tom made the difficult decision to leave the life he had always known behind. Spending centuries traveling the world, he was unable to find anyone that could match his skills in the game that became known as chess. There were a few times he tried losing on purpose, but that proved pointless as whatever power put the curse into motion required genuine effort. Realizing he couldn’t live with the burden of placing the curse on someone else, he resigned himself to a life of immortality.

Using his immortality to his advantage, Tom amassed a sizable fortune, but not one so great it would draw attention. He would spend his days reading, learning about the new advancements of the world, and romanticizing about the life he could have had. He would spend hours at the local park playing chess against any and all who would play him. After a few years people topped challenging him because they knew if they won, it was only because Tom let them.

One day, a young boy came up and challenged Tom to a game. The boy was young and brash, confident that he could beat the old man. Like thousands before him, Tom soundly beat the youngster. Not satisfied with being put in his place, the young boy vowed to come back every day and play against Tom until he won.

True to his word, the young lad began to show up every day. With every game his skills improved. After a few months he could bring Tom to a stalemate. Every time the boy showed up, Tom’s heart would practically beat out of his chest out of anticipation of the match to come.

One day the boy sat down and, with a stern look upon his face said, “Today is the day I beat you”.

With those words the match commenced. Both sides refused to give ground and, like all their matches before, the duo remained evenly matched. For every piece one side took, the other was repaid in kind. Each move was carefully plotted and a dozen counters developed in an instant. After several hours, and a foolish mistake, the young boy claimed victory.

Caught in the moment, Tom leaned over the board to congratulate the boy. It was only after his hand has taken did he realize he condemned the boy to a fate he was was unprepared for. He could see by the boy’s expression that he was beginning to feel the same pain Tom felt all those centuries ago. Tom stood silent as he felt the muscle beneath his skin wither and dry.

“I’m sorry,” were last words he could muster before he turned to dust.