Diamond Stars and the Galactic Heist – Chapter 11


Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12


Chapter 11

“Where did they go?” yelled a voice. It was the Black-Sun encrypted frequency and either this was the greatest actor in the galaxy or our trick had worked.

“If we move, they’ll shoot us down,” said Diamond, looking perplexed.

I shrugged and said, “We’d better hope they give up or search somewhere else for us because this emitter can’t handle our disguise for more than another ten minutes.”

Sphene made a little squeaking sound and said, “I get that this was the plan and we didn’t expect it to work.” Her brother gave her a surprised look and she continued, “Oh, come on, Diamond had her ‘we’re going to die’ face on. And there was the whole proposal from Garnet.” She turned back to me and Diamond and finished, “We need a next part of the plan.”

Diamond shook her head and said, “Youth today. Always in a hurry. I’ll be glad to retire. Anyway. The moon behind us is hiding a jump gate. We just have to figure out how to use it without alerting the giant, super advanced fleet of psychics.”

“Sounds easy to me,” Flint hooted from the front.

Diamond nodded and asked me, “Can we switch from our disguise to the cloak without them noticing?”

“If anyone is looking at us or any scans pass by us, they’ll notice. You wouldn’t have another distraction up your sleeve?” It was a long shot, but I had to ask. She shook her head and we all paused for a second. 

I’ll never forget that second. It’s when my whole life changed. One moment, I was a deserter turned mechanic, turned thief; the next, I was flooded with images, sounds, smells, thoughts, and emotions. It was all extremely overwhelming and I needed to sit down.

“What just happened?” Onyx asked. He must have asked a few times because he looked worried.

I wasn’t sure how to answer him so I just said, “I feel like I just watched a hundred movies at once.”

Flint turned around and looked at me wide eyed. “Did you see anything about what’s going on right now?”

An image of us going through the gate and the moon exploding popped into my memory and I explained it to the group. When I was done I added, “I think there’s a self destruct in the gates. If we send an altered code just as we go through, it’ll blow up behind us.”

“What are we talking about here?” Diamond asked and then added, “Are we destroying the whole fleet?”

I shrugged. “It wasn’t that specific.”

“Well, dang. Little grease monkey here’s a baby Sun Speaker,” Flint sounded both reverent and highly amused.

We moved slowly towards the moon like a toddler trying to be sneaky, switched from disguise to cloak, and went through the gate at a speed that was completely reckless. I punched in the code myself and we watched as the entire fleet shot at us.

Once on the other side of the gate, it exploded moments before some of the missiles would have come through. We all whooped with joy and hugged. When I got to Onyx, I took his beautiful face into my hands and leaned forward to kiss him. He smelled of cooking, disinfectant, and sweat. I hesitated and he said, “Yes, please.” 

Our kiss started off soft and gentle and progressed to hungry. I lost all thought of the horrors of Black-Sun or the worries of being a Sun Speaker.

Diamond’s gleeful laughter pulled us out of the kiss and when we gave her a confused look, she said, “I bet Flint you’d kiss before we made it to home base.” Flint pulled out some credit chips and passed them over. We all laughed a little and Diamond asked, “If I get you to Viol, would you have the parts to build a ship-sized version of the anti-Sun Speaker tech?”

“Wait a second,” Sphene said. “If you had that thing on, how did he get that vision?”

“Each Sun has a separate frequency,” started Flint. “Ours is blocked by the tech and whatever Sun is talking to Garnet is not. You must be in contact with some sort of Rebel Sun.”

“Right. Why else would it want us to send this information out?” I added. Another image from the flash jumped to mind and I added, “There are other Suns and most of them are not on our side.” I then remembered Diamond’s question and replied, “Yes I can, but we’ll have to hurry. They might not be able to track us, but they certainly can figure out where you’ve been from flight and docking records.”

We hurried to Viol, where I had thought I’d spend the rest of my life, and everything felt smaller. Like when I’d visited the training academy after my first tour. 

I built the device and installed it on the ship. I also upgraded the holo-emitter and brought my favourite tools on board.

“So, you’ve decided to join us full time?” asked Onyx, obviously trying to look casual and failing.

“Yes. This may have started as a kidnapping, but you make really good spaghetti.” 

 “Even though I add too much garlic?”

“I never said that, I just said it was more than the military or galactic police put in theirs.”

We smiled at each other and he took my hand as I brought my stuff on board. We might be getting ready to destabilize the system by exposing the horrors of Black-Sun and we were about to become the number one most wanted by an army of psychics, but I was happy. That might sound selfish, but love is a wonderful motivator for hope.

“Alright. Let’s get to home base and finish this,” Diamond said. “Who’s ready to pick a fight with the biggest, baddest jerks in the galaxy?”

Read Chapter 12 (December 2021)


While you wait for the next chapter, check out the previous serial stories:


Want to learn more about what Sun Speakers are? Check out what the one in our solar system is up to.

Sun Speaker

In the distant future humanity has spread to the other planets in our solar system. These stories follow Hal (a prophet for a godlike entity that lives in the sun), and his friends, as they try to make the solar system a better place.

Hal The Sun Speaker

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

The Assassin

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to my Funeral

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Gladiators in SPACE!

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Ghost Ship Robinson

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7

Special Edition of How I Taught my Dragon: Stop-Motion Movie 2021

We offered to let our Dragon (now 5 years old, in Sr Kindergarten) have a day off from virtual school this week if she wanted to create a stop-motion movie.

She, of course, jumped at the chance. I think it was her favourite activity from last year.

So we did the entire project on Monday (October 25, 2021), from writing the script, storyboarding, making the props, recording the dialogue, sound effects, and soundtrack, taking the pictures, and stitching everything together to make a complete stop-motion movie. (Thank you to Éric for all the technical help!)

I’m so very proud of her. She worked very hard.

Diamond Stars and the Galactic Heist – Chapter 10


Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12


Chapter 10

“What the hell did you two steal?” asked Flint. We were all looking out the window at the fleet of ships.

“Are they hailing us or just sitting there threateningly?” Diamond asked.

“The second,” answered Sphene. She looked scared and it made her look her age, young.

Diamond reached down to her belt and pressed a button on the holo-emitter. “Built into this is a jammer that causes Sun Speakers to not be able to see what’s going to happen. That’s how we got out and how we got away. I turned it off just before they showed up. Figured we were free.”

“We need to look at the data that I got,” I said and sat at the last place on the bridge. It was a basic computer console.

I loaded up the files and there was nothing in the folder about the replicators other than the basic specs. This tech would change the way the system worked. The great thing was that it was simple and easy to reproduce. “I’m not convinced this is worth an armada,” I said, glancing nervously out the front viewport. If any of those ships so much as sneezed, our atoms would be dispersed across the galaxy.

“What about this one?” Diamond pointed at the files marked, “Operation Black-Sun.”

I opened the file. I wasn’t sure how a two hundred year old file could help.

What was in that file seemed to be a simple memo from one of the Sun Speakers to the heads of the military. It detailed the discovery of a ship filled with people from a planet called Earth that came from outside our system. It was filled with advanced tech. I recognized names for everything from propulsion to weapons we currently use. The research facility had been in charge of reverse engineering all the tech.

Past the tech, there was a description of what the Sun Speaker called a False god. The people were escaping a society that had rejected materialism for the teaching of a Sun god. This god sounded a lot like ours but the Sun Speaker in the files described it as a rebel who would be massing a fleet to come with an army to collapse our sun and kill everyone.

The file continued with a series of recommendations. The first was rapid recruitment into Black-Sun, converting more than half the military, of that time, to Black-Sun control. The second was to set up research stations across the system to study and re-create the tech. The third was to introduce Project Black-Sun.

The project was meant to swell the numbers of recruits by recruiting them from birth. Black-Sun demanded the Galactic Government give them half of all children born to be genetically altered and trained as Black-Sun operatives.

“That’s sick!” growled Diamond and I couldn’t disagree with her.

In the past two hundred years, the people had been told that there was a physical condition called Toxic Radiation Syndrome caused by an alien asteroid that had brought with it a radiation that altered our DNA to make it much more likely to give birth to a stillborn child. 

Because of TRS, all birthing parents had to be sedated and the only other people allowed in the room were the doctors and the priests of the Sun God.

This memo said that TRS was made up to create an army to fight a god.

Attached were the current statistics for the standing army of Black-Sun. It numbered almost as much as the entire system. It also wrote that with the deciphering of the replicator, the last pieces were ready for Black-Sun to preemptively attack the rebel god in a system called Sol, nearly three million light years away.

“We have to warn people,” said Onyx.

“Who? How?” I asked.

“Everyone and we need to get home,” Diamond said.

I scoffed, “You’d need an array of massively powerful transmitters and a hacker better than any I’ve ever heard of. And I have no idea how to warn the Sol system.”

Diamond smirked, “We have that and we can transmit this across the system, but we have to get home first. Do you have any bright ideas?” She looked at me and tapped her holo-emitter absentmindedly.

Smiling widely, I replied, “I do. But first, do you have anything explosive on board? Oh, and I’ll need your holo-emitter.”

They did and I had a plan. The holo-emitter and the Sun Speaker blocking tech was based off of what they’d found on the alien ship but altered in a very clever way. Whoever was the original Diamond Stars was brilliant.

I hooked the emitter into our shields and programmed it to show the illusion that we were one of the Black-Sun ships. I then did the calculations to jump us across the fleet to the other side.

The last part of my plan was trickier, but thankfully Diamond had stretched the truth when she had told us the ship had no weapons. It had a collection of older plasma bombs. They were bright and they made lots of messy radiation.

I programmed the bombs to explode and then took the controls of the ship as Flint and Diamond jettisoned them. 

Alone on the bridge with Onyx and Sphene, I asked, “Did you know?” 

“Know what?” Onyx sounded genuinely confused.

“Did you know about Project Black-Sun? You are a doctor.” I couldn’t keep the disgust out of my voice at the word doctor.

His brown eyes grew wide and he shook his head violently. “I had no idea. You have to be an initiate of the Sun Temple to become an obstetrician. I was all about emergency medicine.” Something about his panic made me believe him. Or maybe it was the relieved look on his sister’s face.

I took his hand and kissed it. “If we get out of this, I want to spend a long time in bed.”

“Okay…” Again he sounded confused.

“With you!” I exclaimed, smiling.

“Ew!” Sphene teased.

The bombs went off between us and the fleet at the same time as I activated our jump. When we dropped out of the jump, I activated our new disguise and hoped.

Read Chapter 11


While you wait for the next chapter, check out the previous serial stories:


Want to learn more about what Sun Speakers are? Check out what the one in our solar system is up to.

Sun Speaker

In the distant future humanity has spread to the other planets in our solar system. These stories follow Hal (a prophet for a godlike entity that lives in the sun), and his friends, as they try to make the solar system a better place.

Hal The Sun Speaker

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

The Assassin

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to my Funeral

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Gladiators in SPACE!

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Ghost Ship Robinson

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7

Diamond Stars and the Galactic Heist – Chapter 9


Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12


Chapter 9

“Do you think the whole station just lost life support or just this room?” I asked.

“Depends on how lucky we are.” For a woman chained to a wall in a high military research station who was trying to outsmart a Sun Speaker who could tell the future, she sure sounded confident.

“Assuming this room is airtight, I guess we have about two hours worth of air. Seems like we failed this mission.” I tried not to sound too defeated, but it was hard. I’m not sure if I was more disappointed to be dying or that I hadn’t had a chance to kiss Onyx yet. No, it was definitely the second part.

“You’ll get a chance to kiss the handsome doctor. Don’t worry,” Diamond said with a chuckle. Just when I was about to ask if she was psychic, she replied, “I’m not psychic, but I recognize attraction when I see it.”

“Too bad. It’d be nice to have a psychic on our side. It might counter the Sun Speaker.”

I sat down and Diamond said, “I realize we’re in the dark and all, but would you mind picking the locks on these chains?”

“Tired of hanging out with me?” I asked as I found my lockpicks. Maybe ‘lockpicks’ is a generous term for a small cutting torch and various tools.

I’d cut through the shackles around her ankles and one hand when I heard a deep rumbling. I hurried with the last wrist and Diamond pushed me towards the door.

“Did you know this room is on the outside of the station?” she asked.

“Sounds like a dumb place for a jailcell,” I replied, needing to shout over the sound of metal grinding.

“Where’s a prisoner going to go, into the black? They’d rather protect the experiments from stray asteroids and radiation spikes.”

I started to see sparks and then all noise stopped. I stepped forward and Diamond stopped me. The wall blew outwards and what was left of our air followed right behind it. We were sucked into the cold dark of space and for a moment I felt like every part of my body was being pulled and pushed in all directions. It wasn’t a fun feeling. 

I thought my lungs were going to explode and suddenly strong hands were pulling us into the Revenge. 

When the airlock recompressed, I was shivering so hard I thought I was going to chip a tooth. Onyx ran in with blankets and wrapped us both in them. “When you two can walk, I need you to get fully checked out.”

Diamond stood up, something I found extremely impressive since I wasn’t sure what part of me did that. She said, “I need to be on the bridge. We need to get out of here.”

She managed three steps before collapsing into Flint, who’d finished taking off his space suit.

I looked around and counted when I finished, I counted again. I was definitely suffering from oxygen deprivation. I said, “Piloting Sphene the ship is?” That didn’t sound right and I tried again, “Ship is Sphene-ing the pilot?” Nope that wasn’t it either.

Onyx smiled, it was much too distracting a smile, and said, “Yes, and I think you need some oxygen.”

Time passed and between the oxygen, blanket, and his smile, I started to feel better. 

“They’ve got to be following us,” I said, suddenly panicking. I got up and headed towards the bridge. Sphene was sitting in the co-pilot chair and at some point Flint must have taken over the pilot’s chair.

“How many?” I asked.

“No one’s following us,” Flint said with a small drawl. “I’ve used four jump gates and switched our transponder twice. It would take a psychic to follow us.”

From behind me, Diamond said, “Even then they can’t track us. Flint, get us to home base and then we’ll talk. Garnet, I need you and me to head to medical and get checked out.” 

I wanted to protest, but she was right. I needed to make sure this ringing in my head was just stress and the cold of space and not something worse.

Onyx gave me a quick check and then put me under a scanner while he checked on Diamond. 

“You could improve that holo-emitter by using a stronger power source and using a small engine capacitor to stabilize the image. It would make it harder for someone to know.”

With a slight chuckle, Diamond said, “That sounds good. I’ll write that down for my replacement.”

Both Onyx and I said, “Replacement?” at the same time.

“Yes. This is my last job. I have enough money and my heart’s not in this anymore. I’m going to settle down with Ronnie and retire.” She looked us both over and said, “I’m retiring, not dying. Diamond has always been a mantle and it’s past time to pass it on.”

I didn’t know what to say. The idea of retiring was completely alien to me. I spent my life expecting to die in combat, fighting the great war that was coming, and when I ran away, I assumed I’d be hunted and killed.

“Good for you,” I said awkwardly.

“Let’s just get to home base and send these plans out. You did get them, right?” Diamond asked.

“Yes. Why didn’t you ask earlier?”

“You’re not the only one with issues right now,” she said.

Onyx clapped his hands and said, “You’re both going to be fine. You need some food and rest, but you’re healthy otherwise.”

“Talking about food, do you have any of that spaghetti left?” I asked.

Alarms went off and Flint’s voice came over the speaker. “We’ve got company. There are three dreadnaughts and a lot of destroyers between us and home base. All Black-Sun.”

Dreadnaughts were the largest ships in the Black-Sun fleet, averaging six kilometres long, with a crew manifest of over thirty thousand. I’d never heard of three of them ever being deployed, other than in training missions.

Read Chapter 10


While you wait for the next chapter, check out the previous serial stories:


Want to learn more about what Sun Speakers are? Check out what the one in our solar system is up to.

Sun Speaker

In the distant future humanity has spread to the other planets in our solar system. These stories follow Hal (a prophet for a godlike entity that lives in the sun), and his friends, as they try to make the solar system a better place.

Hal The Sun Speaker

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

The Assassin

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to my Funeral

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Gladiators in SPACE!

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Ghost Ship Robinson

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7

Cinderella (2021) – JenEric Movie Review

How This WorksRead Other Reviews

Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2021 film Cinderella.

Story

The story is pretty standard. I liked the additional backstory on the evil step-mother and the addition of a dream for Ella.

That being said, it was very surface level and didn’t add much to the original.

Score: 0.5

Characters

The characters were fun, but not deep. It was a playful movie with witty banter. I liked that they joked about Pierce Brosnan’s singing.

Score: 0.5

Dialogue

The best way to describe the dialogue is mildly witty. It’s not bad, but it’s not great. There’s no double meanings or witty back and forths.

Score: 0.5

Music and Visuals

Nearly everything in the movie was anachronistic and it works to bring a sense of whimsy to the film. From the Baritone Sax to the impressive range of styles. It’s all in fun.

I truly appreciated the use of colour after so many colourless period films of late.

The music wasn’t Moulin Rouge level, but was a lot of fun. The duet dance to Ed Sheeran’s Perfect lived up to its name.

Score: 1

Fun

It had a good beat in both the music and the pacing. Little to no awkward moments and the actors could sing. Everyone seemed to enjoy it. We had the main song stuck in our heads for the rest of the night.

Score: 1

Overall

Cinderella is a story that’s been told so often that it’s no longer a story as much as an archetype. This movie doesn’t add anything original to the story, but instead re-mixes it with fun music. It’s fun and will have you tapping your foot.

Final Score: 3.5 Stars out of 5

Diamond Stars and the Galactic Heist – Chapter 8


Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12


Chapter 8

After a few hours of being in the conference room, I started to wish I’d taken up the Sun Speaker on his offer of food.

The door finally opened and Diamond was shoved through. She looked rough, like she’d been in a fight. Whatever had hit her had left a dark bruise over most of the left side of her face.

When the door closed, I asked, “What happened?”

She took a deep breath and sat on a chair. “They must have figured out our plan. We have to warn the others.” There was a breathiness to her speech, like she’d been punched in the throat. There was definitely something wrong.

“What plan?” I asked, using my best confused voice.

“The jig is up Samuel. They know what we’re going to do. It’s like they have someone on the inside.” She gave me a sidelong look before resting her head on the conference room table.

The thing about this plan was that I had no idea what came next. I suspected that neither did Diamond, but I couldn’t tell. The woman seemed to be part genius and part ridiculously lucky.

“Oh. The plan!” I said, trying to buy some time. Either Diamond was trying to send me a coded message or this wasn’t her. “Well… Nice job testing me. There is no one else.”

“Right. Of course. Now how about we get out of here?” Diamond said, standing and going to the door. She pulled a pass out of her sleeve and flashed it at the door. It had a little picture of the guard that had brought her to the room. “I nicked it off the guard when he shoved me.” There was a proud mischievousness to the look on her face. It looked right on her face, but not right based on my experience. It was a face she’d fake around others, not one she’d use with the crew. She was definitely trying to tell me something, or this wasn’t Diamond.

“Remember that we need to turn off their outside sensors and long range communications,” I said. It wasn’t part of the plan, but it sounded like it should be and even if this wasn’t Diamond it could be useful.

“I saw a server node when they brought me in. This way.”

I followed until we got to a door that indicated it was a server node. We went in with the help of the purloined pass and found a tiny room. The computers took all the wall space from ceiling to floor on all three sides that didn’t have the door. With both of us standing we would bump into each other as we worked. “You do the long range coms and I’ll do the sensors,” I said.

We worked in silence as we hacked our way into the system. While I worked diligently with my right hand, my left took out a hidden drive and plugged it in. I had just deactivated the sensors when Diamond said, “This is harder than I thought. I need more time.”

“We don’t have much, I’m almost done with the sensors,” I lied.

I looked at the bottom screen and transferred any files related to Project Replicator. The transfer finished and I saw another folder called Operation Black-Sun. Even though it was dated from almost two hundred years ago, I still took it. I placed the small drive back into the tiny hidden pocket in my hip. Onyx had made it and when I pressed the right way, it sealed so that the only way to know there was anything in it was an x-ray.

“I’m done,” Diamond said. “We should get out of here.”

“What about the plan?” I asked.

“Shove the plan into the vacuum of space, they have a Sun Speaker. We need to get out of here. No pay is worth this.” That’s when I knew it wasn’t the real Diamond.  

I needed to make sure whoever this was believed that I didn’t get what I wanted. “We need that prototype weapon. Our buyers aren’t going to take failure well.” I felt like I was getting pretty good at lying.

“Right. I looked at the floor plans while taking down the coms and I think the labs are this way.” Once again I followed her and when we got to an unmarked door she said, “The labs are in there. I just have to get this door open.” The pass didn’t work when she tried it, so she forced the door open. It was completely dark inside. She grunted and said, “I can’t keep this open for long. Get in there and unlock it from the inside.”

Walking into a dark room that I knew was a trap wasn’t fun, but I did it and when I did, the door closed behind me. Over the door coms I heard, “Thank you for telling us everything we needed.” It started out as Diamond’s voice but faded into that of the Sun Speaker.

“Wow, he does a great impersonation of me,” said a voice in the dark.

The lights turned on dramatically and I could see Diamond chained to the wall by her hands and feet. I was starting to miss the conference room. This one was all metal walls and uncomfortable rust coloured stains.

“I didn’t realize you were into this sort of thing,” I quipped, hoping her answer would tell me if this was another fake out.

“Yes, yes I am. But I usually prefer leather or silk. Metal is so unyielding.”

The lights went out again and then so did the hum, which I’d started to tune out, of the air support system.

Read Chapter 9


While you wait for the next chapter, check out the previous serial stories:


Want to learn more about what Sun Speakers are? Check out what the one in our solar system is up to.

Sun Speaker

In the distant future humanity has spread to the other planets in our solar system. These stories follow Hal (a prophet for a godlike entity that lives in the sun), and his friends, as they try to make the solar system a better place.

Hal The Sun Speaker

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

The Assassin

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to my Funeral

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Gladiators in SPACE!

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Ghost Ship Robinson

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7

Vivo – JenEric Movie Review

How This WorksRead Other Reviews

Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2021 film Vivo.

Story

The beginning was a little predictable in its “Pixar” style twist. The rest was a usual road trip buddy story. It was a fun story.

Score: 0.5

Characters

We don’t see a lot of Cuban or Cuban-American culture in animation. It was nice to see the art, music, and accents take centre stage. The characters were all motivated by relatable emotions.

The character of Vivo is sassy, funny, and filled with heart.

Score: 1

Dialogue

The running commentary by Vivo is both adorable and refreshingly funny. I appreciated the music, situational, word, and absurd humour.

I liked that they treated parts of the dialogue like motifs in music. They repeated or altered certain phrases to create more of an emotional impact and to pull the various parts of the movie together.

Score: 1

Visuals and Music

The movie was absolutely beautiful. It might not have been up to Pixar or Disney quality but they captured the Cuban art and colour style fantastically. There are a few times that the face and perspective in that art style didn’t translate well to a 3D animation, but over all, it was great.

The music was Broadway with the Lin-Manuel Miranda twist and a large dollop of Cuban influence. It’s a little reminiscent of his other work, but that doesn’t detract from how good it was.

Score: 1

Fun

The movie was colourful, never wallowed too much, and had multiple levels of humour. It was poignant and had a pretty good message, plus both kids loved it.

Score: 1

Overall

It takes a lot of elements that we’re familiar with in animated and musical movies and mixes them together with a Cuban-American influence making it feel fresh and vibrant. The visuals, music, comedy, and heart warming story make for a wonderful film.

Final Score: 4.5 stars out of 5

Diamond Stars and the Galactic Heist – Chapter 7


Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12


Chapter 7

“Rainbow, please identify yourself.”

“This is Samuel 1701 and Ganis 1031. We are deserters who’ve had second thoughts.”

“Deserters? Normally we need to go find you, not the other way around.” The station’s com officer sounded pretty suspicious. That just showed he had some sense. Unfortunately for us.

“We managed to capture Diamond Stars and his crew. We’re willing to trade for a pardon,” I told the lie we’d agreed on, but I expected them to just shoot us out of the sky and save everyone trouble. I had my hand on the jump button in case. It might end us inside the sun, but I liked my chances better than with a missile.

The com was quiet for much too long and I thought maybe they were on to us. How did Diamond look so calm? That woman was amazing.

“Alright, dock at dock 3. Open the airlock with arms up and no weapons,” the voice said. Definitely military and not Black-Sun, or he’d have demanded we tie our hands behind our backs and lie on the floor.

As we waited for the airlock to open, I asked, “Do you really think this will work?”

“I’m hopeful, but I have four other plans just in case.”

The door opened to show two soldiers in full uniform with their side arms drawn. “Keep your hands where we can see them and walk slowly into the hall.”

We did what we were told and they cuffed us, almost gently, against the wall. Where had these guys learned to deal with prisoners? 

“Now where are the others?”

“What others?” asked Diamond.

“Diamond Stars and his crew?” the soldier asked with a smirk having expected it and didn’t bark back at the sass. Something was off and it was making me nervous.

“If we brought them right away you’d have killed us all and called it a good day. We stashed their bodies in cryo-pods.”

The soldier doesn’t seem surprised, but instead seems pleased. “Alright, we’ll take you to talk with General Maxime. He will decide what to do with you.” That was a good sign. There were no generals in Black-Sun. Only soldiers, commanders, and speakers. I always thought it was strange that the highest echelon of authority was called speakers, but since I never met any, I never got the chance to ask why.

“You’ll be in this room,” one of the soldiers said and pushed me into a small meeting room. The table in the middle was round and would seat four or five people. The walls were covered in whiteboards that had been meticulously cleaned or never used.

I was alone. It was a smart tactic. Get our stories separately and make sure we’re telling the truth.

I was feeling the walls to see if there were any back passages when a man walked in with a brown paper bag. He wore a lab coat over a grey shirt and black pants with bright red sneakers.

“Sorry. I didn’t realize this room was taken,” he said, not really looking at me. When he finally did and saw I was handcuffed he relaxed and added, “Oh you’re one of the prisoners. Mind if I have my lunch here?” He was handsome in a nondescript way.

It was a strange request, but I shrugged and replied, “Sure, unless you have something stinky.”

He laughed and said, “Naw. Just this tunafish, truffle, and banana sandwich with blue cheese.” He paused for a second and laughed at his own joke before adding, “Not big on jokes huh. Well, you were Black-Sun. Don’t worry, I just have some cheese, crackers, and an apple.” The food was fresh looking and impressive this far out in a secret base. How did they get fresh produce and dairy? Either they’d perfected the device we were here to steal or he was more important than he let on.

He ate mostly in silence. He was neat to an impressive level. He offered me a piece of cheese midway that I politely declined.

“So what are you in for?” he asked in a jovial tone.

“Bit of desertion,” I replied with a smirk I hoped looked more charming than dangerous.  

“Ouch. Black-Sun normally just kills you guys. Why do you think the military is going to protect you?”

“I have someone they want. I’m Samuel 1701, mostly go by Garnet.” I didn’t ask his identity. I’d already figured it out, I hoped.

“Where are my manners. I’m Echo.” His eyes searched mine for recognition. I must have faked ignorance well enough because he said, “Physicist and researcher.”

“Nice to finally meet you, Sun Speaker Echo, sir,” I said dropping the pretense.

He smiled and his eyes glowed black for a moment. “So you saw right through me. You’d make a good Sun Speaker.”

“Why the ruse?”

“You respond better to casual conversation and I needed to eat,” he chuckled. Standing up, he headed for the door. As he passed through, he turned and said, “Sun Speakers are able to see the past, present, and future. You can’t lie to us and you can’t trick us. The gods are on our side. We are the righteous and I’m glad you’ve found your way back to us.”

He left and I deflated. What he’d said was normally told in whispers after too many drinks. How could we possibly out-maneuver a god-powered psychic?

I paced and tried to calm my breathing. My heart ached if I thought about the plan and what might happen to poor Onyx.

It wasn’t until I thought of him that I was able to distract myself enough to process my conversation with the Sun Speaker. If he was all knowing, he’d have shot us out of the sky the moment he saw us. That meant he didn’t know everything, and that meant, maybe, we had a chance.

Read Chapter 8


While you wait for the next chapter, check out the previous serial stories:


Want to learn more about what Sun Speakers are? Check out what the one in our solar system is up to.

Sun Speaker

In the distant future humanity has spread to the other planets in our solar system. These stories follow Hal (a prophet for a godlike entity that lives in the sun), and his friends, as they try to make the solar system a better place.

Hal The Sun Speaker

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

The Assassin

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to my Funeral

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Gladiators in SPACE!

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Ghost Ship Robinson

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7

Mid-Year review of Éric’s 2021 New Year’s Resolutions

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

It’s a good thing that my wife reminded me I made these cause I had completely forgotten. The past sixish months have been a roller coaster of emotion and a study in lack of sleep.

Here are my resolutions for this year.

Let’s get right into this and see how I did.

Writing

1. Write a Monthly Serial Story (Succeeding)

I’m pretty proud of this year’s story and impressed with how easy it is to write. Check out Diamond Stars and the Galactic Heist now.

2. Start and write half of SUPER MYSTERY BOOK PROJECT Assassins! Accidental Matchmakers. (Success)

Oh my. This went so much better than I could have hoped. We managed 100k words and Jen went a step further and wrote most of a short story collection to go with it. We submitted the book to Renaissance Press in May and are planning on writing the sequel in the Fall.

3. Write Another Hal Story (Failing)

I haven’t written another Sun Speaker universe story, unfortunately. However, I have written over 20,000 words in short stories for the short story collection that follows Assassins. That counts for something right?

JenEric Designs and Coffee

4. Ensure 5+ days of updates (Succeeding)

So far so good. What I’m most struggling with is the movie reviews. Not writing, but watching. We’re watching too much television and not enough movies.

Editing and Marketing

5. Start Editing Dinosaur Road Trip (Fail)

I’m going to call this now. I don’t have the motivation to do this. As much as I love the story, there are other stories to work on.

6. Keep Working on FADDS (Succeeding)

I’ve reworked tables into accessible columns and added a whole new power section to the rules. My playtesters are fantastic and things are going well.

Personal

7. Read 15 Books (Failing)

I was reading at night before bed, but since writing Assassins at that time worked so well, I’ve been doing it for Elizabeth 4 and short stories. That means I’ve barely finished 2 books this year. I doubt I’m making this.

8. Play more games with the kids (Succeeding)

We haven’t done enough board games, but that’s mostly because the 2 year old can’t follow. We bought a Nintendo Switch and both kids play Mario Kart and I’ve been playing Yoshi Craft World with Dragon. I’ve also been playing Link’s Awakening, which both kids love to watch.

9. Be More Patient (Unsure)

I still yell a little too much and I’m a little too stressed. I need to chill. I’m doing a little better but I still need to work on it.

10. Keep pressing my doctor to find out what those attacks were in November (Fail)

In November I had some serious health issues. I had massive cramping in my lower left abdomen, fever, weakness, nausea, and fatigue. It happened twice in November and both times faded away.

So I haven’t pressed on this. I probably won’t. It hasn’t happened again and when I started to feel something similar I made sure to de-stress and relax a little and it helped. I don’t know what happened, but at this point I’ll see if it happens again.


Results

Well it’s not great but it’s not bad either. I’ll call that roughly 50%. I’m not going to add anything to this since I already have my hands full trying to improve this score.

  • 1 Success
  • 4 Succeeding
  • 2 Fail
  • 2 Failing
  • 1 Unsure

What do you think? How are your resolutions going?

Éric

Luca – JenEric Movie Review

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2021 film Luca

Story

An interesting mix of coming of age and fish out of water (pun intended) stories. It had me wondering how they were going to resolve the plot with a happy ending. They managed a satisfying ending and I’m impressed with how heart warming it is.

Score: 1

Characters

The characters acted and reacted like they were in a stereotypical kids story. The parents didn’t listen, the kids didn’t know what they were doing, the stakes felt high, but in a well obviously nothing’s going to happen, kinda way.

There wasn’t one character I didn’t get annoyed with at some point for doing the most dramatic thing possible.

Although I felt for the trio, I didn’t really like them or feel they were in any kind of trouble.

Score: 0.5

Dialogue

Although played out both in fiction and in reality, the boisterous exaggerator who is covering for trauma, is still relevant and we all knew a kid like that when we were young. It’s done in such a believable way with the dialogue that it shows the writers have dealt with kids.

The rest of the dialogue ranges from silly to hilarious and I was quite impressed.

Score: 1

Visuals and Music

This movie was typical Pixar beauty. The backgrounds, textures, and world were absolutely gorgeous.

The music was good accentuating and enhancing the story and made the kids want to dance.

I was also ridiculously impressed with the voices underwater being a little muffled. That was a nice touch.

Score: 1

Fun

The movie had some awkward angst that I found forced and made me lose interest, the relationship with the parents was uncomfortable to watch, and the entire thing with the uncle felt like a gross out joke gone to far.

That being said the kids were riveted, as were the other adults. It was exciting, cute, funny, and satisfying.

Score: 0.5

Overall

Pixar creates another wonderful story filled with beautiful animation. Despite a few forced moments and some awkward jokes it’s a fun movie with something for everyone. Warning, you might want a Vespa afterwards.

Final Score: 4 stars out of 5