Updated: Oct 23, 2022
Tommy Sampson grew up in an endless war fought by a corrupt government that stretched across the galaxy against a group of intergalactic cannibal terrorists that could strike at any moment. Some days it was hard to tell which group was worse. Some days they were the same group. When the Belron War veterans came home, the war came with them. Tommy wasn't so sure he could survive another round.
Credits and Copyright
Third Edition. Copyright©2022 Divided By Zero Books
Second edition. Copyright©2017 Divided By Zero
First Edition Published as
Omnibus: Distant Travels: The Complete Saga
Copyright©2016 Divided By Zero
All Rights Reserved.
Written by Derwin Gerald Lester II
Edited by Cassie Poormokhtar and Travis Weik
Cover art by Derwin Gerald Lester II
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental
Book I: The Balad of Tommy Sampson
The future is quieter in space, and that's how Tommy Sampson like it. Less people to bother him, more time to himself in between worlds. But no matter how much Tommy wants to be left alone, inter-galactic terrorists, missing sisters and the need for gainful employment interrupt his quest for solitude. Good thing he has a trusty hologram assistant from the work release program to help him figure it all out.
From The Author
I spent nine months in Iraq. It was an easy tour, and I have no complaints. But one of the things that impacted me the most about the trip overseas was five days spent in Kuwait. There was a sandstorm, and we were stuck in Kuwait. I was in no particular hurry to go back, as sitting in an airport was much more relaxing that going back to Iraq. I remember sitting in a tent and I looked across to see a funny and charming woman, a fellow soldier, talking to her friend. I joined in the conversation. That funny and charming woman and I talked for the next five days. This story and Divided By Zero Books are what came out of it. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Thank you for reading it.
Derwin Gerald Lester II
Updated March 2022
“I had no idea I was short ‘til like six months ago,” I said to the girl to my left. We had been sitting in our chairs talking for the last six hours. I had met her five hours before and we were talking ever since. She was sitting facing me and cross-legged.
My left foot sat comfortably on my right knee, my body sitting upright while my head faced her.
She touched me on the shoulder and laughed, asking “How tall are you?”
“Five foot seven,” I said.
“How did you not know you were short?” she asked me, brushing her soft brown hair away from her eyes.
“I’m not sure,” I told her. “I just figured I was always around tall people. Like maybe there was a different spot for all the other people of natural height.”
“And by natural height, you mean short people like you,” she said, smiling with her quick wit. I didn’t know what to think at that, other than I wanted to introduce her to my mom. If mom wasn’t dead.
“So what’s your favorite color?” I asked, changing the subject to something childish and silly.
She gave me her smile, one that was worth a million, and asked, “Why?”
I stood up a little straighter and said, “A person’s favorite color tells a lot about their personality. Or at least that‘s what they say. But so far it’s been pretty spot on. Mine’s blue.”
“And what does blue mean?” she asked, curious where this was going. I didn’t have a particular direction since I was making it up as I went.
“Means I’m calm and level headed. Heroic,” I said. “But in a humble fashion that suggests a sense of importance that stretches beyond one’s self.” She laughed at that, just like I meant for her to. Then she brushed the hair out of her eyes.
“Alright smart guy,” she said. The interest in her eyes perked. “Mine’s pink. What’s that mean?”
“It means you have the ability to grant three wishes, and I have to rub your belly and say the special chant to get them. But I need to find the jade monkey first.”
I enjoyed seeing her laugh some more. I think I liked seeing people laugh because it showed joy on their face, a change in their life that was caused by me. I was always good at being funny.
She brought her hands to her face and sneezed in a soft, quiet way. “Bless you,” I said.
“Thank you. So you’re a giant dork, huh?” she asked. I smiled in agreement and reached in to dig through my backpack, grabbing a binder and putting it on my lap.
“So what do you like to do for fun?” I asked her, going through the book.
“You mean besides disturb total strangers?” she asked with a smile, masking her true question in a joke.
I shook my head and told her, “I’m not disturbed at all. Well, not by you. Although clowns do freak me out. And large groups of birds.”
“Birds?” she asked.
I shrugged and said, “Yep. When I was a little kid, I was traveling through Israel. I walked out of this coffee shop and then there were dozens and dozens of birds. Maybe it was the way they were all squawking at me, but I swear they were out to get me.”
I raised my right eye brow in a goofy dramatic way. It was my go-to facial expression when I met someone I was attracted to. It tended to put them at ease.
“Yep, they probably were,” she agreed, her body posture relaxed as she gave me a polite smile. Guess all my jokes can’t be winners.
“So what’s in the binder?” she asked.
I opened it up and said, “Just pictures and things. Stuff to remind me of home. I like to look at them a lot when I’m on the road.”
“Can I look at them?” she asked.
I nodded and handed the book to her.
“Was this your cabin?” she wondered, pointing to the photo.
“It was my grandfather’s cabin,” I told her. “That was up in Michigan, where I was born. We used to go up there in the summertime.”
“Any brothers or sisters?” she asked.
“One sister and close female cousin, but they used to fight real bad,” I said, losing myself a little in the picture. But that was the point of pictures, to lose yourself in happy times.
“My sister and my mom used to get into it real bad, so my cousin Heather and I would just run off. There was this lake by the cabin, so we’d grab my grandfather’s paddle boat and go out there. Some days we’d fall asleep on that little boat and wake up with the worst sunburn. Dad would be so mad at us and say we weren’t allowed to go on the boat, but he’d forget in a few days and we’d just do it again.”
I liked telling the good stories. Everyone had a bad story to tell, some sort of negative story that was to evoke pity for the teller. I hated that, it was so unoriginal. So I spent my time trying to remember the good and not think about the bad. Because if I thought too much about the bad I tended to get a little angry and closed off. I didn’t want to do that with this girl.
“So what about you?” I asked, wanting to change the subject.
“Well, my parents were from Africa, and my grandfather was from Spain. That’s where I get my eyes from. We moved to America when I was about three. I don’t remember much about where I grew up in Africa, just that it was a city in the middle of the desert. And kinda gloomy. Of course they decide to move us out to El Paso, which was another gloomy city in the middle of the desert. My father ran a dry cleaner service in the city. I didn’t have any brothers or sisters, but I did have a lot of cousins who lived in the city. My oldest cousin was a mechanic for fighter pilots at the base. I wish I had more time with him. He was like an older brother.”
“He die in the war?” I asked as she handed me the binder. I closed it and put it back in my backpack.
“He got shot down when he was in transit back home. They never found his body. After that, his parents got a divorce and everyone in the family kind of went their separate ways after that. I moved out about a year later. That was…six years ago,” she said, looking down. I decided to try to change the subject to something a little less gloomy than our families.
“So where are you going?”
As if by some sort of magic, a voice came out over the intercom and answered my question. “Attention all passengers, attention all passengers, all flights out today are rescheduled due to the storm. There will be complementary meals served at the dining facility at 1500 hours.”
“Apparently, I’m not going anywhere,” she said, annoyed. But not too much, by the looks of her smile. It was her smile that I liked the best, in the five hours I had been talking to her. It was her gift.
“Well, if we ever get out of here where are you off too?” I asked. She uncrossed her legs and then stretched her full body out. I thought about looking away, but I didn’t. I studied the tight curves of her body, and wondered what she would look like naked on a bed with her hair flowing over a pillow, anxious for my kiss.
“Well, I was going to visit my friend,” she said, smiling knowingly as she knocked me away from romantic fantasy. “There might be a job opening where she works. But I’m more doing this just to get away for a few days. You?”
“Much of the same,” I said, cracking my knuckles. “I’m on my way to my next job. I work as an Emergency Medical Technician for a company called Interstellar and I got a transfer. Better pay, big city, that sort of thing.”
A father with three children walked passed us as we talked. He looked tired. Each of the kids following him were holding hands. Every few minutes he turned to count them, pointing at each with his right index finger then gave himself a thumbs up.
The girl to my left smiled at the tired dad, then looked at me with genuine interest and asked, “So, what do you want to be when you grow up?”
I laughed and asked, “What do you mean? I thought we already were.”
She shook her head and told me, “No, we’re in our twenties. Now is when we make all our decisions on where our life is going to go. I’ve been going to school to be a hospital administrator through those distance learning courses.”
“Oh, that’s cool. Follow the money, right?” I said, nodding.
She disagreed, shaking her head and saying, “Well, money isn’t everything.”
I snapped at her a little, stronger than I meant to.
“No. Money IS everything,” I said, the two years of homeless shelters coming back. “And I’m here to tell you, when you don’t have it, there is nothing more important…except maybe love. And money is a close second.”
“But money can’t buy you happiness. Or love,” she said.
I nodded, but didn’t say anything. She was right, but only on paper. Love was relative, and even though all the toys in the world couldn’t make someone happy, at least the heat would be on.
“Maybe I should rephrase…,” she began, but I cut her off.
“No. Let’s not worry about it. Just cause I made mistakes a long time ago doesn’t mean you’re wrong,” I told her, reaching over and squeezing her hand.
She gave me her smile again to let me know we were ok and asked me the big question. “Where were you when it happened?”
I grabbed a piece of gum out of my pack, and then I grabbed three more. I chewed them all in a big gob. Day three hundred and forty nicotine free.
“I was on my way back home from the Army,” I told her.
She nodded and said, “Wow. Did you re-up when it happened?”
I had actually thought about it. Everyone else I knew signed back up.