The Universe, simplified.
Math has proven that there are 46 billion light years between our speck of dust - known as Earth - and the edge of the universe. Or has it? What do we really know? Are we so arrogant to think that we know where the edge of everything that exists, ever, ends? Universe means all of space and time. But we, humans, defined it. How do we know? As stated, it would take 46 billion years, traveling at the speed of light, to discover if you've reached the end of everything that ever existed - based on math. No telescope is powerful enough to see that far. If there was, telescopes simply capture light. Who are we to think that visible reflections define everything that may or may not exist in a universe, or even multi-verses?
You can really go crazy trying to ask yourself if the best and brightest minds who have ever walked on our planet concretely found an answer to this particular mystery. But next time you look up and wonder, while looking at the visible balls of gas burning millions of miles away, if that's all there is... stars, planets, galaxies - think of the following perspective:
There are ants that live in my yard. My third of an acre, of a big subdivision, of a suburb, of a major city, of a country that takes 5 hours to fly across in a jet, which is 1 of 7 continents of 1 planet, contains hundreds of thousands of ants. Of those, maybe a couple of hundred live between the first and second section of sidewalk outside of my front door. No doubt, there is a city built by these ants within this small span. It goes deep into the ground, with tunnels and nests among other ant-like structures. An ant, as we know, isn't exactly an intelligent being when compared to a human. But yet, they have managed to survive and thrive in my yard, and just in this small span of my sidewalk. They have created food lines at times, marching to and from discarded droppings that my kids have dripped after hailing the ice cream man on a hot day. They work together to build passageways in the ground, the exit of which is visible by the mound of dirt from which they make their way into the sunlight. On a sliding scale, they have some level of intelligence. Are they aware that their existence is more than my sidewalk's one stamped section? I'm not sure. If they are, then I wonder if they know about the other colonies at the far edge of my yard. They may. Hell, maybe they've even made a trip out of it to visit a grandparent or two. But I doubt the ants' travel capabilities or life span allows them to experience another yard simply within my eyes' sight, up the block from me. I know that yard exists, but they may not. They definitely don't know that if I get in my car, I can be in another major city within a few hours. And lastly, they're definitely not aware that there are other ants living in countries all around the world, just like they are. I know this because of my human intelligence. When put on the same scale with an ant, there's no comparison.
Yet here we are, the human race, believing that we are the end-all, be-all, know-it-all because of math and what we can see through Hubbell. I assure you, what we see and where we think the universe ends is just our ant-eyed-view of something greater.
Raptor high above
Gliding in the wind currents
Perfection in flight.
Dichotomy of beauty
And lethality in one.
Special Agent Year, Summarized.
Travel - cars, planes (civilian, military), armored, unarmored.
Office - Desk, chair, computer; or, different states, hotel rooms, or; foreign country, command post, motorcade.
Equipment - Radio, earpiece, ballistic vest, sidearm, magazines, flashlight, Blackberry (yes, Blackberry!), suits, sunglasses; or, jeans, tee shirt, hat, running shoes.
Mission - protect personnel, property and information; or, solve puzzles, look for suspects, make arrests.
Family - Concerned, supportive, patient.
Friends - Impressed.
Me - Tired, but satisfied.
Not literally going to kill you.
If I hear one more airhead use, or see one more post about someone "literally" doing or wishing something that's clearly incorrect, I'm metaphorically going to kill them.
Like a glove.
From the top shelf of my small bedroom closet, my father exclaimed, "got it!" after fishing around among winter sweaters and boxes of photographs and produced the most beautiful thing I had ever seen - his childhood green baseball glove. The webbing was circular, reminding me of the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon. Inside was a weathered baseball, keeping the pocket's form perfect, despite however many years the leather receptacle had been dormant.
"You ready?" my father asked, as he blew away the layer of dust. I think he knew my answer, even though I said nothing. I didn't have to, as the smile on my six year old face must have said it all. He handed me his glove and I immediately put it on my left hand. I can't remember if it fit properly, but I remember the smell. I took the ball and held it in my other hand, ready to give it all I had.
We went down the hallway, through the living room, past the kitchen and into the back yard. He immediately knew something was wrong when I threw the first ball his way. "Umm, that's right," he said. "You're a lefty. We'll have to get you one of these for the right hand, literally."
That day started my lifelong love - some may say obsession - with baseball. Little League, J.V., then high school Varsity, followed by numerous tournament teams, then college. There was even an invitation for a Cleveland Indians tryout mixed in the timeline.
To this day, I play in a men's league among other good players, all past our "prime." But it's a love that we all share and refuse to give up. That smell is still there, even if the 90 mph fastball may be long gone. Thanks Dad.
Big, empty house.
Sometimes I throw a pity party when I'm home alone. Kids are with their Mom. Wife is still living out of state, both of us anticipating our next weekend together until she can move here for good. It can get lonely, even with two dogs and a cat looking at me, failing to interpret my soliloquy of solitude. I may not be alone in the truest sense of the word; after all, in today's world of technology and social media friends and family are quick to reply to a text or Facebook message. But what do you say? "Hi, I'm just writing because I feel like a loser tonight?"
"Not cool. Quit your bitching. Suck it up, buttercup," are all thoughts and feelings that run through my head. So, no, I'm not alone. I'm luckier than most to have people to miss - and to miss me back.
But I'm human too, and those nights suck.
60 million reasons to hate him.
God damn John Writer. That SOB invests in one measly parcel of this town 20 years ago and gets Google Fiber to buy the whole damn thing from him. He sent me a post card from Bora Bora with a drawing of a middle finger.
"They start construction on my block yet? Tell those boys thanks again."
I hate that guy.
It was beyond cold.
“This can’t be good for me,” Jon thought, as the 737-700 started its descent into Long Island’s MacArthur airport. That thought was immediately followed by an “I got this,” albeit to himself. No one else would be crazy enough to go along with this idea, even if he had proposed it to his small circle of friends, which he wouldn’t since he only worked with one other person.
He had heard of people stowing away in wheel wells of jets before and, although he knew the dangers involved – hypothermia, asphyxia, et cetera, he was certain he would survive the trip. He wasn’t quite sure how he knew; after all, he wasn’t super-human. But he was prepared, at least in his mind. Jon had weighed the pros and cons of this method of transportation and made a quick determination that the good outweighed the bad. Good: get to Long Island from St. Louis in about two hours. Bad: get caught, get arrested, die; or worse, let word get back to his father, mother, and step-mother. Can someone say grounded? Not to mention the pointing and laughing he would inevitably get from his sister when she found out that her big brother was restricted to his room. So, yes, of course shorter transit time over hitch-hiking was way more beneficial than the downside of death. But the thought of being in trouble at home, ugh.
The roar of the next-generation CFM56-7 turbofan engines was deafening, even while the wheels were up. He had a pair of earplugs in, but they were barely doing their job. Even the custom form-fit foam noise reduction earplugs he had opted for had only been slightly more beneficial than the ones they give out to everyone inside the cabin, he guessed. The noise was getting more tolerable as the pilot pulled back on the throttle to initiate their decrease in altitude. It was getting warmer too, even though warmer was a relative term. Going from below freezing to the temperature of a thawed out chicken breast was of little comfort. By curling up in the fetal position within the one square foot area into which he had contorted his body, along with the insulation blanket he brought along from his father’s first-aid kit, allowed Jon to maintain just enough body heat to survive. That, along with his self-taught meditation process, of course.
The landing gear rotated out of the wells in the aircraft’s belly and in an instant Jon was looking down at the terra below. He managed to brace himself between the hydraulics and the bulkhead for the remainder of the drop. Matchbox sized cars started growing exponentially and before he knew it, a loud screech of rubber on concrete accompanied a much more tolerable air temperature. He could breathe much easier than he did above 10,000 feet too. Luckily his oxygen system worked during the harrowing flight. He had utilized his invention once before while evading rent-a-cops back in Missouri while hiding in a retention pond. It worked so well they had no idea they were looking right down at him. He figured his rebreathing system led them to believe that lack of bubbles meant he was either not there or dead. But for $7.50 per hour, they didn’t really care.
Before the free ride came to a stop, Jon ensured he had his running shoes laced up and his motorcycle apparel covering all of the places on his body that he didn’t want grated like cheese.
Most twelve-year-olds didn’t have a set of riding leathers, but Jonathan David Thorper wasn’t like most kids his age. He loved to ride on the back of his Dad’s 2015 Harley-Davidson Street Glide, along with other adrenaline-inducing activities. The open road, the rushing air, and the Mountain Dews at the biker bars were part of what gave his body a super-charge. He couldn’t wait until he could get one of his own and ride next to his old man. But for now he’d have to settle for stowing away on a one-way Southwest red and blue painted 737. The Wright brothers were smiling down on him, no doubt.
After the initial jolt of the jetliner hitting the runway, Jon waited until just after the cloud of rubber-burnt smoke cleared and the crew started to deviate from their heading onto the taxiway. Then he made his move. In one perfectly choreographed push off of the landing gear’s shaft, Jon flipped his torso 180 degrees to position the back panel of his armored jacket flush to the hard surface below. Like a turtle sliding and spinning down the highway whirled from an SUV flying by while trying to cross the road, Jon rode out the rest of his own landing. Before coming completely to rest, he managed to get one of his legs into the same position he took to slide into second base. Using his knee like a pole vaulter would stick their pole into the planting box, he maintained enough momentum to seamlessly get to his feet and start a dead sprint towards the barbed wire.
He encountered the six-foot chain link and sprang over it like a gold-medal gymnast, although he had never even taken an introductory class at his local gym. Once he was safely over the perimeter’s security fence, Jon found a cluster of bushes in which to hide, making sure no big vehicles labeled “Homeland Security” or “Airport Police” were speeding his way. Then he took inventory: head, check. Arms, check. Legs, check. So far, so good. There were some other things he needed to make sure he didn’t drop, break or forget. His Samsung Galaxy S3 was securely in his jacket pocket.
He extracted the device, opened up the back panel, and inserted the battery. To his delight, it fired up immediately. He was mad at himself when it played the nice little Samsung tone letting him know it was operational, but since no one was within earshot, he forgave himself for that oversight. While he didn’t think his radio signal would cause interference with any of the cockpit’s instruments before takeoff and landing, he knew that anyone looking to track him could only do so with the battery inserted. Despite his self-written encryption program that was installed on his old device, he took no chances. The ability to remove the battery on the old model was part of the reason he didn’t upgrade to an S7 – or heck –an S4, 5, or 6, for that matter. But he knew that his phone, with all of the things he did to it, was a better piece of hardware than anything his peers were having their parents get them from Best Buy. Next he felt down his leg for the cargo pocket in which he kept some handcuffs and an expanding baton. The ASP could be a rather lethal weapon if he ever had to defend himself to the extreme of deadly force; although, he hoped it never came to that. He didn’t keep a key for the ’cuffs since most of the people onto whom he applied them had to wait for the locals to find them. By that time, they earned a free ride to the clink and an extra set of ankle bracelets.
Jon dialed the 636 area code that was pre-programmed in his S3.
“Yo,” greeted Jon with the excitement of paint drying.
“Casey? It’s me. I’m here. I’m alive.”
“Shut up, Casey,” Jon shot back.
“Bro, did you really think I saw your number and thought, ‘oh damn, maybe he’s dead and this is a baggage handler calling to tell me’?”
“Whatever. Listen, get online, fire up the crypto and call me back.”
Casey took a dramatic pause, waiting for his best friend to panic just a tad. “Already done, brother.”
“Do you have the new keys loaded onto the KG?”
“Yup. Uploaded them today. But dude, we gotta talk. It’s getting harder to get into the NSA’s database every day. It’s like they’re starting to hire people who actually know what they’re doing.”
“Fine, we’ll talk about that later. For now, make sure the encryption codes you borrowed from them aren’t being traced back to us.”
“Jonny, dude, I know you’re the ‘brains’ of this operation and I’m just your super-awesome, not to mention good with the ladies sidekick, but I swear if you don’t stop questioning my abilities…”
“Ok, I get it. My bad. You da’ man. Better?”
“Yup," Casey smirked to himself.
“Alright. So, like I was saying… since you are ‘da’ man,’ and since we’re good to go, go ahead and send those NGA images of the place.”
“See ya," Jon said, not fazed in the least, as he was used to his buddy's shenanigans.
The National Geo-spacial Agency, otherwise known as the NGA, was the only reliable source of the most up-to-date imagery with which Jon would work. Yeah, Google was pretty good, and they were getting better every day. But Jon knew nothing beat an NGA satellite image when he needed to get into and around a place. Heck, sometimes he would get lucky and depending on the time the birds shot their photos, he could get a good idea of assets on the ground and adjust his plan of attack.
In this case, the target, Real Gaming Technologies (RGT), was the biggest place he’d ever encountered. He knew with the popularity of the biggest video game creator it wouldn’t be an easy task getting in. Finding the schmuck who was responsible for the leak would be even harder. But Jon was up for the task. He was the best, and his clients paid well for his bite-sized services, making his six-figure fee a drop in usually a multi-billion dollar bucket.
The light from a tear slowly rolling down her right cheek refracted through her almost empty wine glass, catching my eye from two tables over. Sitting across from this perfect, natural blonde with her form-fitting little black dress was her strikingly handsome boyfriend? Husband? I couldn't catch a glimpse of her left hand, but it didn't matter.
He leaned in and spoke in a whisper through perfectly aligned, white gritted teeth. I wish I could hear what this guy had to say. Then again, the discomfort she was feeling was evident and I instantly felt selfish relief that I couldn't. She sat frozen, as if trying to scream and run, but caught in a nightmare in which she could only stare into the face of her abuser and take yet another tongue lashing while trying to numb the pain with fermented grapes.
I continued to ignore my co-workers and their stories about the day's successes. I didn't care right now how much their clients made, and in turn how much they profited on commissions. Instead, I took my business card out and stood up.
I excused myself from the table while slowly gathering the courage to do what I knew I had to. Slowly, I walked over to her table and hovered above the centerpiece as both of them hardly noticed my arrival.
"Excuse me, sir?" I said, hoping my interruption would come at just the right time. "Sorry to bother you during dinner, but I always live by this silly rule of mine when I'm on a business trip. You happen to be wearing the suit that most of my clients choose to have in their wardrobe. When I see it on a stranger, I know they must have good taste; and thus, know they need to be with me."
The muscular, mid-thirties male species who I decided must have been a model stood up and wrinkled his brow. "What the fuck did you say?"
I maintained my confident demeanor and reiterated, "I said that you need to call me, you just didn't know it. See, I work with multi-million dollar clients, which I just assume you are. The reason I make my clients money in the market is that I know a good thing when I see it." I said the last part carefully, glimpsing to my left, catching the eye of the most beautiful face I've ever laid eyes on.
He looked at my business card. Robert F. Wellingston, Certified Financial Planner. With his attention now on the small advertisement, my eyes remained locked with the angel across the table and said the next words to her, albeit with her companion thinking they were for him. "See, you deserve better." I nodded slightly.
Holding her wine glass in a way she thought would shield her smile, she nodded back and another tear rolled down her left cheek. I turned back to the man holding my card. "Again, sorry to bother you, but I couldn't leave here tonight without coming over."
I returned to my table, knowing I did all I could for the night. As I sat down, I saw the two of them stand up, him quickly followed by her, hesitantly. I read his lips, "I'm gettin' the car, meet me outside." He left my card, as anticipated. Her eyes followed him away from the table, out the door. Once he was out of sight, she snatched my card off the table and held it like a drowning swimmer holding a life ring. She looked over her shoulder, slightly back to the right. "Thank you," she mouthed, as the remaining moisture left her eyes and she hurried towards the door.
My Life (ML).
I feel the need to abbreviate My Life (ML) as it seems as if it's made up of too many acronyms already.
ML consists of working for the DSS, a bureau within the DOS, where I write ROIs, MOIs and frequently view BOLOs published by the FBI, DEA, and other agencies and PDs. I work my PF or VF cases with the AUSA. I cover the EDMO, WDMO, DKS, and SIL. After an arrest, I bring the SUBJ to the USMS office. Sometimes I get assigned to PRS where I have to put on all of my SPE and act as either the AIC, SHFL, LD, RR, LR, or L/ADV. Afterwards I have to write reports in IMS after searching LEXNEX for my UNSUB. Trips with SD are the best to KL or AUS. AFG, not so much.
What's your 20? ETA? 10-4. Get here ASAP. After all, I'm the lead SA for this detail, according to my SUP, the SSA in the office. Sorry, I can't make it in today. I'm taking AL for a few days. Not feeling good? Take some SL. Or maybe it's time to drill with my reserve unit in the USNR. I'm a LCDR. So, I need to take MIL/L for two weeks.
Shifting gears, I need to report to the CO, who defers to the XO. Get with LOGS and see if he needs any help. ROG that, sir. Two weeks, done. Back to STL.
September rolls around and it's time for the UNGA in NYC. Good times. Fancy RON for a week. At least I am on per diem.
If you didn't get all of that, it's OK. :)