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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Poetry+ Wrap Up for side projects+ plans for Freeflighting

On the Eating of Fudge:

I’d eat the fudge if I knew where it was-

But I don’t. So I won’t. 

-Me
(^This is an amazing poem I wrote once, by the way. Now you know what homeschoolers really spend their time doing.)



Hey all. That was an odd sort of in between. I did some fun stuff, wrote some odd stuff, wrote some really odd stuff. All good. I did put a lot of effort into Of Livestock. (And Mercenaries), probably more than it deserved, being a silly story that took a rather psychological twist in the second half. Not the best way of telling a story, surprising a reader like that. Oh well. Gotta just start writing somewhere, as they say on Writing Excuses.
Plus that means I probably won't do that kind of thing again.

Probably.

But on to the future.
Freeflighting will be returning soonish. I have sixish chapters of the second draft written, which means that once I hit ten I'll start on draft three, which will be published for all the world to see. It's gotten a lot different. A lot better in my opinion. (This whole system of doing it seems so confusing if you aren't in my head. I apologize.)
I'll be juggling format and stuff, moving things around, so don't be concerned if half of the posts disappear over the course of the next month or so. You might get some cool short stories, but all depends on if I can find the time. After school is over, I promise to get at least two funny stories out....

And there will be some extra special things going on this coming year. What kind of things?

More on that quite soon.

But not yet.


(Cue Evil Laughter.)

-Sam

Monday, March 31, 2014

Of Livestock. (And Mercenaries) Part Two of Two

Author's Note: This is part 2. Part one is unfortunately rather different in tempo and dynamic, so I won't blame you too much if you skip it. I'll still be kind of angry.
Read it first here.





Of Livestock. (And Mercenaries)
Part Two of Two
Of Priests and New Horizons.


Father Gregory seemed not fazed in the slightest when three wanted criminals burst in the door (the largest one dressed in nothing but bright red woolen long-underwear) and all three almost crashing into the high ladder upon which he perched, attempting to clean a window.
"Arnold!" said he. "I'm glad to see you again."
Gem made a strangled noise of disbelief at the introduction.
Dobs ignored him.
Dobs was not surprised that Father Gregory had recognized him after fifteen years of avoiding the place. The man's memory had been legendary. When Bobby Doughy had erased every single e-file of the school's demerits, Father Gregory had accurately reconstructed the entire thing from memory. 
The priest shimmied down from the ladder with a dexterity that no slightly round sixty-five year old should be allowed to have, and surveyed his delinquents.
The husky mercenary tried to catch his breath. Man, was he out of shape. He hadn't been chased by a horde of law enforcement officers in years. He drew in a huge breath and was rewarded with a big whiff of unscented ammonia. Father Gregory looked apologetic and closed the cap on his window cleaner bottle as Dobs gagged and coughed. 
"Could we borrow your Lower Subway passkey?" Dobs asked in his meekest voice upon recovery.
“Whatever for?” replied the priest innocently.
Gem opened his mouth to tell a great big whopping fib.
Dobs elbowed him in the ribs cheerily.
“We blew something up and need to get out of town.”
“Well. Let's start," Father Gregory said, "by getting you some clothes."
He dabbed at a spot on the window, and disappeared into the back of the church. Dobs wasn't sure they should follow or wait for him to come back.
"Your name is Arnold? I always thought you were a 'Butch' or 'Igor' said Gem unnecessarily and unhelpfully.
Dobs ignored him again. He seemed to do that a lot nowadays.
The Cathedral was the same as it had always been- he wasn't sure how Father Gregory had managed to keep the many stained glass windows from breaking over the years, or the statues from chipping and the paint wearing away. Somehow the diminutive man had maintained the place as caretaker for probably twenty years.
Dobs was suspicious that Galaxial had only chosen not to shut the place down -along with the rest of the various religious centers in the area- because of the high population of Catholics who would have gotten too riotous. Instead, they'd cut any funding and aid, and made sure that just one guy was assigned to taking care of the place, so it would die on the vine.
It hadn't yet.
Dobs figured as long as Father Gregory lived, it would stay that way, and when he finally worked himself to death, his ghost would keep the place tidy, providing God let him stay around.
Father Gregory resurfaced with a giant Christmas sweater and a pair of jeans. He smiled cheerily.
"Second, we sit down and have a nice cup of tea."
"I'mprettysurethatwedon'thavetimeforthatuhsir," broke in Gem uncomfortably.
"Nonsense! This is the last place that the authorities would think of looking for a couple of depraved lunatic vandals."
He seems to know a lot of the situation. Does he get real time news streamed to his com? thought Dobs.
Dobs again tried to seize the conversation. "They've been trying to find a way to shut this place down for years. This is the first place they would look."
Father Gregory thought for a moment. "Second."
"One and a half?" hazarded Gem.
"Can we just please get going?"
The priest sighed. "Put these on and follow me." He turned to the wall, casually opened a door that Dobs hadn't noticed, and trotted down a flight of suspicious looking stairs. The twins glanced at Dobs.
He started donning the jeans.

Fifteen, twenty, a hundred steps into the semi darkness, intermittently lit with protesting LEDs. Even as they rounded the bend at a hundred and fifty steps, Dobs still caught vague smells of septic, though he was sure that they had gone deeper than even the most embedded sewer.
"One seventy three," murmured Gem as they reached a door. It was as round as a manhole, fabricated from solid platewall, and firmly anchored into the bedrock around it. This was the entrance into the Lower Subway, locked away from the general populace. Galaxial had pulled off the incredible feat of making the doors completely inaccessible to anyone without a passkey, then followed it up with the blunder of giving passkeys to every single government employee.
The only thing even more remarkable was the fact that a single rule had pervaded the Lower Subway: Down there, you never got into any kind of trouble. It was the best way to get in and out of anywhere, provided you knew what you were doing, and no one wanted to lose that privilege. Gem claimed that Galaxial helped by leaking a passivity gas into the ventilation ducts, but Dobs had always dismissed the rumor.
Galaxial let the criminal elements stay around, and the criminals avoided directly messing with important parts of the government.
Or at least the more vengeful parts of Galaxial.
Usually.
Father Gregory casually swiped his passkey through the code locker, and the door slid open silently. On the other side, the lighting was a little bit better, but it smelled badly of motor oil and rust. The trio began to carefully make their way down.
Dobs felt Father Gregory's hand on his shoulder.
"Go on ahead," he said to the twins quietly. "I'll catch up in a minute."
Gem nodded and they vanished around a twist in the tunnel.
"Arnold, why now?" asked Father Gregory.
Dobs stared down the tunnel.
"I've been meaning to come back... for a while. It was my fault, everything was, to be honest. I guess I just didn't want to accept it. Why... why are you even helping?"
Father Gregory turned a laugh into a cough.
"Because I am a Father too, you know. Everyone calls me that, at least."
Something about the wording in that statement made a chill run up Dobs' spine.
"Do you know-"
"Just because you never came back doesn't mean that she never visited."
"So you do know."
"I hear things. I try to help out as I can."
Dobs took off down the tunnel, teeth clenched.
"Thanks," he called back over his shoulder.


Dobs caught up with the other two. They were about halfway down the tunnel, and the hewn rock slowly gave way to modern platewall and lighting fixtures.
They traveled the way down in silence.
Dobs had only been in the Lower Subway twice. He remained as unimpressed as before.
It was shabby, dirty, and unsafe.
The platform was so wide and ancient that Dobs felt crumbling concrete grind beneath his boots, instead of modern plateflooring, and the trains came through and completely random intervals. Galaxial may have appropriated it and restricted personnel at the entrances, but other than that, it still seemed to be one of those few things left over from a time before the Galaxial Union. Gem carefully stepped around a blackened chunk of the floor and over to a waiting bench.
Some kind soul had once placed them there so that the commuters would not have to stand while waiting for a ride out of the city. No kind soul, however, had kept them in good shape, and Gem fell through the rotten wood with an awkward thud.
Dobs ignored his complaints and slowly walked right up to the edge of the waiting platform. Lighting was poor, but good enough that he could make out the dusty words on the board nailed to the wall. After several minutes of trying to decipher the next time a train would come through, Dobs gave up and thwacked the board, which cheerily broke into a thousand pieces. Gem came up behind him, tenderly rubbing his injured behind.
"You broke it."
"So did you."
"Deserved it."
A train slid up silently beside them. The first sign something was wrong. Trains in the lower subway screeched like ninth grade girls at their celebrity crush concerts. Dobs turned and faced several armored men carrying what looked suspiciously like dangerous and illegal weaponry.
"You will come with us," one pleasantly informed them.
 Another jerked a finger towards the train. He didn't remove his other hand from the weapon.
As soon as he stepped into the train, Dobs lost consciousness.

They hadn't been separated. That was good. He tried to stand up. He could. He wasn't restrained in any way. That was good. The room was fairly nice. It had a large fireplace in one wall, several comfortable chairs, one of which he had been sitting in, and a large painting of St. Francis with a throng of animals.
Something rankled him about that picture.
Gem started, hopping up out of his chair and orienting himself. Beside him, Gemma began to do the same.
"Well," said Gem. "Kinda thought Galaxial would have waited till we were in the Asteroid Fields before letting us wake up."
That picture. Suddenly half of the puzzle fitted into place.
"They would have." Dobs replied quietly. "Galaxial didn't get us."
A door beside the fireplace slid open and a tall man in a white business suit and a black crew cut entered. Embroidered neatly in red over his shirt pocket were the letters E and S.
"Arnold Dobson, Gemini Petras, and Gemma Petras," he said briskly.
"The Committee of Ethically-minded Sentients will now see you.  Do not waste my time."
"What does E.S. want? We satisfied their goals." Dobs said.
In reply, the man merely gestured towards the door.
Oh well. Dobs thought. Why not confront the Committee?

The hallway was long, low, and smelled of wax.
They reached the Committee room.
They entered. Fifteen seats were situated around the outside in a U shape, five on each side. The inhabitants of each chair made no noise, simply staring at the trio. Dobs walked into the middle of the room, and instantly regretted it, since he could face no more than one row at a time. Gem and Gemma followed. Gem tried burning holes into the Committee's souls with his eyes, but unfortunately did not have superpowers.
"Well?" said Dobs. He was tired. It had been a long day, and he was about ready to just let it all out. He was getting tired of the games. That's what they were. Games. Games between Galaxial and the E.S.
The doors closed softly behind them.
A man at the corner of the table directly in front of Dobs coughed nasally. "You left something at the scene. Something incriminating."
The worksuit.
He could have cursed himself for being so clumsy. The glue glove had taken all of his tools, his com, and the suit. There was enough evidence in that to incriminate everyone to his third cousins. And with that realization came another one.
 He really did stink. He just wasn't up to this kind of work anymore.
"We, through a few contacts within Galaxial, managed to disable use of the evidence," continued the nasal man.
Probably had been cleverly tossed into an incinerator.
"While your objective was completed, the inefficiency will be counted against your record, not to mention that reptiles were released rather than the projected animals. We do not expect to require your services again for field engagements."
"Is that everything?" asked Gemma quickly, before Gem or Dobs could screw the situation up further.
"Yes. You are dismissed."
And they dismissed themselves. Back down the hallway, and into another room. The crew cut guard informed them that they would be notified shortly about transportation. Sure, why not.
The security guard left and Dobs sank down into his chair with a sigh. E.S. had been annoyed enough to make it clear they wouldn't get any more work in that sector. And with them out of the picture, there wasn't really any group that had massed enough capital and enemies to require his line of work. Plainly put, he was out of a job. 
Gem had clammed up and sulked after the ultimatum, but suddenly started violently.
"Your name is Arnold?"
"It means, 'strong as an eagle.'"
"Arnold."
"Gemini."
Silence.
"Arnold."
That wasn't Gem's voice.
"Father Gregory?" said Dobs with a small amount of incredulity. A few days before, perhaps he would have been shocked, but now he just didn't have the energy to be surprised.
The priest appeared in the entryway and joined them with all the energy of a trebuchet and all the speed of a snail. He dropped one of his smiles. Dobs just sighed. He might have guessed that the E.S. was full of Catholics. The picture on the wall in the other room, their whole social justice claims, how the disagreed with Galaxial on anything and everything. That, and that Father Gregory was openly wearing his cassock.
They were setting themselves up to take down Galaxial, one way or another. E.S. was a front for a religious confrontation with the government.
"What do you want?"
"Your soul. As usual in my line of work."
"Is that this?" asked Dobs sarcastically waving an arm around at the room. "Some kind of chaplain for an activist group that thinks it's a rebellion?"
"I actually am not religiously affiliated with the E.S. I do a little bit of financial work for them on the side. It is nice that they're at the heart a religious institution, though most people pretend to ignore it. In the mission statement and everything."
"Financial work," said Gem in a voice so flat you couldn't see it if it turned sideways.
"Budgeting, waste reduction, that kind of thing. I spent some time in the business world before seminary."
"Is it the financial world or the religious one you want my soul for?"
"A question quite worthy of an answer. I know as well as you do that you need a fresh start."
A fresh start.
 After she had died and Galaxial had taken over, something in him had just... left. He was no longer emotionally invested or completely lucid on a job. It was his own lack of enthusiasm and interest that had put him off guard, gotten Gem all nervous, and gotten them caught in the whole stupid business in the first place.
The idea just sort of sauntered in and smacked Dobs upside the head.
He hadn't really thought about it, but it was entirely possible that he was going through a midlife crisis. And after today, he didn't know if he would ever have the energy to go do that kind of thing again.
"Continue," said Dobs quietly, after a pause.
"Every summer since you were seven or eight, you would go out into the country and work on that farm for a month and a half with your cousins, correct?"
"Yes... where are you going with this?"
"A fresh start. The E.S. has a prodigious amount of land out of the urban centers. That is where their power really lies, not in the cities like Galaxial. They have plenty of room to do what they want, and people pay a premium for humanely and organically raised food.
You have plenty of experience working with this kind of thing. The pay would be enough to satisfy your needs, you'd be out of the way from any unpleasant colleagues, and you get to do something that probably won't get you killed or indefinitely incarcerated in the next two years."
Thoughts spun in Dobs' head. What was the cost? What was the catch?
He asked.
"The cost is you stop running and start caring for your family. Room and board on location is included in the job description, and there's enough for both of you."
Dobs opened his mouth and closed it again.
"Yes, your wife has passed, but you have a daughter. You spend all of your time avoiding the present because of painful memories, but you don't have that luxury. What are you doing here? Why aren't you spending time with her? A part of you understands that there's a problem, otherwise you would have never come back to me."
Father Gregory sighed, and then turned to leave. He half looked back over his shoulder with a glance at the twins. "You two," he said, "I can also keep out of trouble. Drop me a line if you want."
He tossed three small plastic business cards into Dobs' lap and left.
"It's past time to grow up, Arnold."

Brian Pearson rubbed his substantial stomach section. Those peppers the night before had definitely been a little bit more... expired than he'd believed at the time. Maybe he'd drink some seltzer water when he had a chance to get away from the front desk.
Real estate was a pain in the foot, ears, and everything in between. But as long as people continued to be willing to rent out those crummy apartments, he'd still be in business.
He finished up some paperwork regarding the eviction of one of his earlier tenants. It'd been a bit of a dicey situation, that one, but it had worked out as well as could be hoped.
The bell on the office door tinkled as the husky tenant at 17 entered. "Pearson," he announced. "I'm having a change in employment, and so must regretfully inform you that I will be vacating at the end of the month."
Pearson sighed and rubbed his stomach again. "Third one this week," he murmured to himself sadly. He'd have to start fixing the air conditioning units maybe. "Where are you headed, if I may ask?" he said to the man. (What was his name again?)
"Out west. I'm going to be working with livestock. Seems like a pretty good gig."

Thursday, March 13, 2014

So I'm a bad person.

I have, in the past month or so, gone through the worst period of writing block that I've had in a long time. It's awful. I think part of the problem was that I actually wanted to finish one writing project (Of Livestock and Mercenaries) before hopping into a new one. I just can't seem to write under that kind of rule, which stinks, because if I only write what I feel like, you readers will get a bunch of half finished stories and no closure. On a side note, my pleasure reading has also not been at it's all time high, and reading is part of what makes me want to write. It's a lot easier to get in a writing mood after having read an exciting adventure story than it is after having read Federalists and AntiFederalists. (Which I will one day burn in effigy. Seriously, it may have governmental value, but just the way they write is so... yea.)

Because of this, I've decided to force myself to finish up Of Livestock and Mercenaries. I've read a few psychological type articles that say you can get galvanized into finishing something by creating a risk or a theoretical punishment. (E.G. Nicholas finishes the latest draft of Nicholas Thornton’s Treatise on every conceivable way to set a table when one is serving fish, because his uncle threatens to throw him out of the house at the end of the month if he doesn't see a book deal or an unrelated job.)

I'm not sure if that's a good idea. So we will scientifically try it out. Yay! Science! I will have the final draft for Of Livestock and Mercenaries live on this site at the end of the month or else, um... not sure... what do I really not like? Oh, I know. I'll post all two chapters of Serving Fish, a terrible story I wrote a long time ago. And I won't explain it, so that everyone who reads that story when they first unwittingly fall into this site will receive a bad impression of me and never return.

Sound fair?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

This is a Shout-out.

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014, hundreds of thousands of people every age, size, race, religion, and worldview, witnessed to the belief that the human person is endowed with rights and equality from the moment of fertilization to natural death. 
I wanted to be there. Snow got in the way. A lot of snow. :( 

So I figured I'd do a double shout-out instead(not quite as impressive, but hey.) First, a shout-out to the March for Life. (As it is called.) 
Surprisingly or unsurprisingly, mainstream media coverage is pretty much nonexistent. Pro-life activism, despite the amount of support and people who have endorsed it, still seems to be considered a fringe right-wing activity. 
Oh well. 
I don't want to get into slamming, whether it is warranted or not, because one of the most problematic part of this to me is the fact that in the pro-life movement, there are hundreds of resources for people considering abortion, as well as post-abortive healing for both women and men.
That means that it's just that much harder to show people that there are other options, and people and organizations dedicated to helping them when they are in a bind of that sort. And that can be isolating. 
I'm not going to get into arguments about abortion here. I won't say that I never will, but this specific post isn't about that. I will say that if there is a choice about something, why are the majority of non-abortion options obscured? 
The March for Life is one of many ways people are saying "Hey look. This is a problem. We need to talk." 
Right now, not many seem to be listening. A lot of people don't even know. Perhaps this rally is news to you, and you're interested in the pro-life movement. Maybe you'll consider joining us next year, if need be. (And yes, we have a west coast one if you are closer to that side of the country.)

The other shout-out is in a similar vein. Check out this awesome pro-life picture by Olaf Tollefsen in Arabic Calligraphy. I've mentioned a few times that Olaf has been the awesome person behind the quirky and funny illustrations on some of the stories, and Unleavened Ministries is where he and a few other cool people put their talents to good use. 
I've tried to help some by writing, he by writing and drawing, and many people by simply marching. You don't need to be any special kind of person to be pro-life. Helping a cause can mean putting your particular talents to use.

How can you help those around you?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Of Livestock. (And Mercenaries)


Of Livestock. (And Mercenaries)
Part One of Two
Of Explosives and Used Cars

"This is not going to work."
"You mean the donkeys or the gunpowder?"
"I mean both. There is no way that we can pull this off. It'd be pretty bad if we mess up. We'd have to leave the Galaxial Union and hightail it to the asteroid fields, and that's assuming that the cops are the only ones who find out it was us behind it."
Dobs glanced around warily. While Gem tended to think things out long-term like being exiled to the Asteroid Colonies, he would forget about what was going on right now. Which, incidentally, was that they were standing in front of a giant pile of gunpowder flakes, about to blow a hole in the wall of an official Galaxial livestock food development facility.
It made him jumpy. He was being jumpy right now.
Dobs carefully placed his drill against the wall, according to the diagram, ignoring Gem's jumpiness.
The facility loomed over them, and over much of the city. The donkeys could be kept anywhere in such a monster of a building, but fortunately, Gem had managed to snag a copy of the layout. 
And someone had placed a livestock pen right up against the outer wall.
They crouched at the end of the narrow alleyway, its sole inhabitants. The featureless grey platewall lining either side of the alley did pose a bit of a problem. The sound of the explosion might reverberate across the metallic walls back to the road. 
Couldn't be helped though. At least there weren't many passers-by at five in the morning.
Seriously, this is the twenty-fifth century. Why don't we have some kind of silencing bubble or something. On second thought, we probably do, and Galaxial just doesn't want anyone to be able to use it. 
"And if we nail one of those donkeys by accident, E.S. will have our heads, which is even worse." Gem added.
"We don't have much of a choice. Let's hope that this works out somewhat O.K."
Dobs carefully finished drilling another hole in the platewall.
Gem started nervously again, glancing around. Times were tight, and trained mercenaries took whatever jobs they could, especially since the non-violence crackdown of '78. Even if it was working for the E.S. Gem probably thought that E.S. jobs were more dangerous than any pre-peace era assignments had ever been.
At least E.S. jobs paid well.
Dobs completed the pattern of holes. According to the diagram, this would weaken the platewall enough to blow a sizable chunk, but not enough to turn any donkeys into Thanksgiving dinner. He wasn't a hundred percent sure. The hefty mercenary sighed. He remembered the times when you could pick up some plastic explosive or super-acid to get a predictable result. Now they were reduced to using cannibalized toy noisemakers.
It had taken a lot of covert purchasing of pop rocks to get this much gunpowder.
That clerk at the fireworks store definitely didn't believe the story about a surprise birthday party for the niece.
Gem seemed intent on making himself as unnoticeable as possible, though Dobs couldn't fathom why. There was no reason anyone would come down the alley. It was just one of those many pointless dead-end roads that bureaucrats had subsidized into existence.
 Dobs wiped a single bead of sweat from his forehead. The only thing worse than having to use gunpowder cannibalized from noisemakers was the "borrowed" maintenance man jumpsuit he had forced himself into. Once-size-fits-all doesn't work on both a broad six foot four frame and a skinny four foot six frame, no matter how many times the manufacturers guaranteed the "patented elasticity."  They had opted for being able to suit up the shorter guys.
He had already burst three stitches, and had no idea what held the rest of the stupid get-up together.
Dobs scraped away the rough metal filings.
"Done," he said. Looks like supply in the donkey steak market is gonna take a serious cut. 
Gem shot out of the alley like a cannonball as soon as he heard Dobs' announcement- or would have if the bigger mercenary hadn't grabbed the back of his collar and stopped him. Fortunately, Gem didn't fit into his suit as badly, and the fabric held firm despite his legs pounding rapidly in one direction, and Dobs firmly anchoring him the in other.
"Don't lose it!" Dobs whispered fiercely. "Anybody seeing you bolt outta here 'll know somethin's up real quick. Focus!"
Gem had been like that for months now. Something had completely broken his cool under stress. It hadn't had any serious effects yet on the jobs-like getting them killed- but it was getting worse and worse. At least he did always snap out of it.
His partner shook himself once, and began to breath normally again. His heartbeat probably went from jackrabbit to near-normal human.
Dobs released his hold on Gem, and pulled out the matchbox, just the faintest sour aroma of sulfur escaping into the air.
Both slowly moved about halfway down the alley. They came to a stop where the fuse ended. It was just a faint trail of gunpowder leading up to the big pile.
Dobs remembered when he had been able to input a voice pattern into his com and release a series of flares to ignite an explosion. A powder fuse seemed so crude in comparison.
But you took what you could get.
"Gem," he said quietly. "Send the Panic."
"The Donkey Whistle?"
Dobs sighed. The guy was so intent on using his own terminology.
"Yes. The Donkey Whistle."
Gem pulled out his com and tapped in the sequence. You couldn't trigger explosives anymore, not with Galaxial proxies in place.
But you could still play a ringtone.
And if you knew the right sound engineers, you could synthesize something that would be undetectable by human ears.
And very, very, annoying to certain animals.
One of the holes that Dobs had drilled into the wall went all the way through to the enclosure on the other side. While the others were angled to affect the stability of the wall, that one was just to let their soundwave in.
Gem played the ringtone.
Faint sounds of distressed animals quickly echoed back towards them. It didn't seem exactly what Dobs had expected an annoyed donkey to sound like, but he had honestly not spent all that much time around animals.
Dobs lit the fuse.
Flames sputtered and hissed, dancing through the trail of powder towards the pile right next to the platewall.
Both men backed away and ducked behind a trash can, a safe distance from the blast.
Or what would have been a safe distance, a lifetime ago when explosives had been predictable.
The roar was unexpected.
The huge jet of flame was unexpected.
The torrent of metal chunks flying towards them was quite unexpected.
Dobs dove, bringing Gem to the ground.
They put stuff with this kind of power into party noisemakers?!
He stared in disbelief. A massive hole, ten feet across gaped where the wall had been. Dense smoke obscured the inside of the building. Everything smelled of molten metal and burned... something. Almost like an aquarium for some odd reason.
"Gem. Gem," he whispered urgently, shaking his friend. "You OK?"
Gem bobbed his head. A couple of cuts oozed. It looked nasty, but they had both gone through worse. He'd survive.
 Gem grinned feebly. "Good to go."
First aid was second priority right now.
"Time for part two."
Part two was the other ringtone. Dobs wasn't exactly sure what that one did. Either the donkeys would get really, really angry, or decide that the mercenaries were their pals, but the end result was the same. They would stampede back towards the mercenaries, and into freedom.
Well, freedom of an ES type.
It was better than the alternative at least. The ES didn't believe in donkey-loaf. They didn't actually eat donkeys at all.
"Dobs. Problem."
The big mercenary tore his eyes from the aftermath of the blast and glanced at Gem's problem. The com had been smashed in two by the combined weight of the two grown men dog-piling it. Wasn't going to play anymore tunes for a while.
"At least I backed up all the data onto the cloud. Knew I shoulda invested in the protective sleeve."
"Focus Gem. We still got plan C."
"Oh yes. Plan C. This is gonna be... fun."
Fun. Dobs shook his head ruefully.
Gem carefully drew three small plastic tubes out of his jacket. One was cracked, but fortunately the orange powder hadn't leaked out. "Now was it green and orange, or the blue and orange?"
"We don't have time Gem."
Gem made an executive decision, and smashed all three on the ground together. The resulting flare easily eclipsed the first. Fortunately, it was just light. Not heat and shockwaves of death blowing them to bits.
"Gem."
"Yeah?"
"Next time, we have time."
"Gotcha."
The smoke began to clear, and Dobs peered into the hole. Something moved inside.
"That is not a donkey."
The creatures that began to crawl into the open were small, round, and green.
The first one blinked a couple of times against the smoke, and noticed the duo.
The tortoise made a coughing sound, and began waddling towards them, quickly followed by its brethren. Some of the others were considerably larger.
"Somebody put the reptiles in the mammal section." Gem muttered.
"Turtles work. We just needed some kind of animal, right?"
"I don't remember. You're the one who pays attention at the debriefings. And those are tortoises, for the record."
"I don't care if they're kangaroos Gem."
Dobs began to back away slowly. They had just combined several chemicals that released a smell donkeys would chase after like carrots on sticks.
Apparently, tortoises liked that smell even better.
And the chemical now completely saturated their clothes.
"Time to go."
From the entry to the alleyway the two darted forth, followed by the cavalcade of rampaging tortoises, even as delayed alarms began to wail.
"This way!"
Fortunately, Dobs' com was still working, and he had the GPS route running. It was a winding and elongated trek through various circular streets and dead ends, but that was the city's fault. They just couldn't build straight roads. Politics.
Helicopters began to circle overhead, and something cold touched Dobs' back. He knew that feeling well. Glue gloves, called so for their hand-like shapes, had been implemented as a response to the violence crackdown. They had no harmful side effects, technically. They just stuck to you for several hours and rapidly sucked in compressed air until they effectively anchored you to the ground with the weight. Law enforcement liked the fact that they were compact enough that you could toss them from anywhere.
When you managed to blow something very important up, they would just try to immobilize everybody nearby for interrogation, so they hadn't necessarily blown their cover yet.
Fortunately, when they hit clothing instead of skin, you could twist really quickly...
With a snapping noise, the weight of the glove disappeared, and Dobs didn't stop to look around. Feeling free already, he doubled his pace. Gem had either avoided getting hit, or covered his suit in cooking spray beforehand, as he often claimed that it was an effective method of circumventing gloves. Dobs would have to grill him on that later.
Dobs pulled his flare-gun out of its holster. Or what would have been a flare-gun, a long time ago. This was a glorified flashlight.
Flare-guns wouldn't be that difficult to scrap together, but the comparative fifty years incarceration wasn't worth the trouble if you got caught. Just like a lot of stuff. That, and how most homemade ones blew up in your face.
Dobs clicked the flashlight on and off at the sky a few times.
Should work.
"Let's hope your sister hasn't gotten fed up with you and left for good this time," he muttered back to Gem.
The smaller mercenary just humphed and sprinted ahead.
Who knew tortoises could run so fast?
Lungs heaving and hearts pounding, the two made another left... left... right.... straight for a few blocks-
Dobs skittered to a stop fifteen feet away from creaming himself against a cargo van.
The thing was old. Old enough that it consisted of rusted steel and duct tape instead of platewall and still ran on some derivative of gasoline.
It was also their ultimate getaway vehicle.
Gem scooted past him and flung open the side door. Or he would have, except that one of the few extra bits that still worked on the van was the power door. So he just pulled on the handle and waited for it to work. He hopped up and down a bit as it groaned and slid open. As soon as the entrance was wide enough for him, Gem jumped inside.
"C'mon Dobs, we gotta go!"
Dobs hesitated for just a second as he glanced at the person sitting in the driver's seat. Then he glanced back behind him and remembered where he was.
Dobs jumped in the back seat also and started shutting the door. The driver didn't care to wait for it to shut. As soon as Dobs was inside the vehicle, it lurched forward with a sickly groan. The alarm for "door ajar began to whine."
"Don't worry." Gem assured him. "Takes a bit to get going, but once you're up to speed, we're home free."
"Yea," muttered Dobs.
"Also, I call shotgun." Gem casually crawled into the front seat, banging his head against the glovebox as they went over a bump.
Gem adjusted himself, unfazed, and turned towards the driver. "Thanks sis."
"You idiots," she snapped back. "Thought that it was donkeys this time?"
"It was supposed to be, but-"
"You can't tell the difference between a donkey and a tortoise?"
"Gemma, that's not-"
"Know what Gemini? Just shut it. I don't even want to know."
The engine coughed and spluttered in agreement.
Gem clammed up and sulked. He did that when you called him by his full name.
"Dobs," said Gemma presently. "Why are ya in your long-johns?"
Dobs looked down, and saw that he indeed was wearing nothing over the long wool underwear he had put on that morning... So that was what that ripping sound had been. In the heat of the moment, he had completely missed that the glue glove had kept the jumpsuit, even if it had lost the Dobs.
Dobs muttered vulgar idioms under his breath.
"What did you just say, in my car?"
"'Said 'Good riddance, that suit was crushin' the life outta me anyway."
"Vehicle Glue Glove," Gem added thoughtfully.
The mentioned object anchored itself to the car, and with a horrible sucking noise, began dragging them to a halt.
Dobs winced as the van seemed to sink into the ground from the rapidly increasing weight. Gemma managed to turn one corner into a side road before the motor sputtered one last time and the back tires popped.
"How dare they," she muttered, staring at the sky darkly. "This is an antique!"
"Come on sis," said Gem, popping out his side of the door after quickly looking up to make sure no more glue gloves were headed in their direction.
The power doors were now completely shot, so Dobs had to scramble through the driver side after Gemma had exited.
Gem surveyed the damage. Even a Vehicle Glue Glove wouldn't have been able to get heavy enough to crush a modern platestrut framed vehicle, but the van was not a modern platestrut framed vehicle. The entire rear was nearly flattened, both wheels squashed, and the whole thing much too heavy for the ancient engine to haul two feet.
"Was fun while it lasted," Gem sighed.
"I don't even have an insurance policy that covers that," fumed Gemma.
"We're still on the run, remember?"
"Oh yes. Pardon me, I forgot. A plan, Dobs?"
"Well, no, not really-"
Dobs cut himself off as he noticed the street sign. No way. 
But it was the same street.
Is it even still there?
"One shot. A long shot."
Helicopters hummed ominously overhead.
"We'll take it."
A left, straight for a block... he remembered despite a fifteen year absence. That kind of thing happened when you walked somewhere every day for a decade.
It's still there. And the lights are on. He always did get up early to polish everything up. He’s still here.
"In there," Dobs said, almost whispering.
"That," said Gem flatly, "is a church."
"A Cathedral actually."
“You gone religious in your old age?"
"An old friend."
"You were friends with God once?"
"Ack. Not what I was trying to say. I have an old friend in there, probably." Dobs grunted and started opening the door. It was locked. Side entrance, on the left. Forgot about that. 
Moving across the steps, Dobs grasped the handle of the smaller door that he had always used before. The hinges squeaked with rust that hadn't been there fifteen years ago, but it still opened.
"Don't they bring like, the inquisition down on you if you go inside without asking?" Gem was still avoiding the door.
Dobs sighed. "Just trust me."
Gem opened his mouth again, but a glue glove landed next to his shoe, and he darted into the building. Gemma moved up against the building and away from the open street, raising an eyebrow at Dobs.
He ignored the unspoken question and walked inside. She followed cautiously. 
Dobs wrinkled his forehead as he entered. It even smelled the same.
He probably won’t kick us back onto the street.

Probably.

End of Part One


Read part two!


Friday, December 13, 2013

Re-fried Tortillas

My eating habits are terrible when I'm sick. Because of being sick, I usually just lie around all day. Because of lying around all day, I don't pay attention to normal breakfast/lunch/dinner times. Because of this, I eat the wrong things at the wrong times, and regret it because my metabolism also is kind of broken when I am sick.
The last time I was sick, I managed to change what should have taken five minutes to eat into three hours and a brick.
 I found myself making a cheese quesadilla. (That is pronounced with a y sound for those two 11's by the way. Don't even go there.)
Someone had already made a gigantic pot of soup. I think at one point earlier in the day I may have said something along the lines of wanting soup, and it was interpreted as "let's make a gigantic pot of soup."
I did not want the soup then.
I wanted a cheese quesadilla.
I arrogantly spurned the soup, and heated up a pan to cook a tortilla. (Two technically, if we are going to go by the actual composition of a quesadilla.)
After I went through the arduous task of shredding the cheese, melting it into the tortilla, and then cutting it into quarters, (It's like cutting the grilled cheese diagonally, you can't just bite into that thing) I slapped it ceremoniously(I am very ceremonious about food, and it is definitely a bad thing,) onto a plate, and then got distracted.
Over the course of the day, though I had not done anything productive in terms of school-work, I had certainly gotten a lot done in regards to my blog. I made it actually look kind of nice, and added some quality content.(Sure.)
I was satisfied as I looked over my work and made a few last minute edits. It was looking great.
I took a bite of my tortilla.
I quickly looked at my plate to make sure that I hadn't had it switched with a piece of cardboard.
It took only a few seconds to realize that I had gotten lost in edits and revisions of literary masterpieces(yeah right), allowing the heat from the culinary masterpiece(yeah right here too) to mischievously escape into the great unknown.
Grudgingly I detached my rear end from the comfort of its seat, and returned to the kitchen to reheat my tortilla.
I went through the arduous process of modifying the state of matter in which the cheese was held, and when it had returned to satisfying temperatures and runnyness, I sat back down to continue writing awful limericks.
I picked at my tortilla, and wondered how it had so quickly increased its Mohs scale rating, until I comprehended that the same phenomena had struck.
Again I visited the kitchen, said hi to the sink for no reason whatsoever, and returned my lunch to the pan. The pan and the food were by now of course very good friends, and they chatted about life while I broodingly nibbled unsalted peanuts.
Now there is a funny thing about reheated food. I don't know the science behind it, but it is not the same as the first time you cooked it.
Ever.
Sometimes it is better. Or so my parents claim on leftover nights. I have yet to experience a positive turning of the event. At any rate, there comes a time when your cheddar has been heated and cooled so much that it refuses to drop its viscosity, no matter what you do. And flour has no laws against becoming granite, no matter how many times they tell you that alchemy does not work.
The third time I returned the food to my mouth, I quit. I was not going to heat it up again, only to forget and let it try to be the first object to hit absolute zero.
Now that isn't to say that I was going to waste it. That would be bad for the environment. And by that I mean that it would go in the garbage, and those dang squirrels would attack it and break their teeth.
I smothered it in hot sauce and began chewing away.
Like a proverbial beaver with a log I battled, except that I have human teeth, not beaver teeth, and I can't ignore splinters, even if they are from re-fried tortillas instead of willow trees. I don't actually know what kind of trees beavers chew, and am pretty sure that they don't swallow them. Or add hot sauce. They just make houses.
I probably should have made a house out of that thing which had once been food, but instead I tried to see if my stomach acid would dissolve it. I assume that it did, though I can't be a hundred percent sure.
For all intents and purposes, I ground the quesadilla into what could have been sand, or could have been flour that had been put past its breaking point. I'm no longer quite decided on whether there is actually a difference.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Book Review: The King's Gambit, by John McNichol.

Part-of-Brain-that-is-the-Editor's Note: This review was supposed to be published a long time ago, but I was lazy and never got around to it. I apologize. 

In our current world, there are not many good books for ten to twelve year-olds.
The King's Gambit, is one such book.
I am something of a fan of John McNichol's other book series, a steampunk alternate-history G.K. Chesterton as a teenager battling Martians alongside H.G. Wells, (Yep) and but I have to say, I've been waiting for something like this, something directly from his own ideas, rather than a mash-up of some other authors stuff. Not that that isn't good, but Mr. McNichol is quite a good writer, and I think that he should definitely branch out to more of his own worlds. Much potential do I see. (I don't know why I worded that sentence like a small green alien in a mildly popular movie trilogy.)
Gambit is definitely a tentative step into these waters, and I wholeheartedly endorse it. It isn't a perfect book, but it's a fun read, an enjoyable read, and definitely worth the time.
There are a couple issues( an illustration depicts a revolver as the weapon of an FBI agent, which doesn't make sense,) Edward King, the main character, acts just a little bit too old for his age, (Not that I have anything against his philosophy, but sometimes it feels that he just lacks a bit of that adolescent smarty-pants-ness that intelligent kids his age have,) and dialogue can get kind of cheesy at times. But the story as a whole is unique, quirky, and a light-hearted adventure story, which is something I truly love, and so should you, because these kinds of stories benefit mankind. (Really. I'l extrapolate on that sometime.)
In relation to his earlier works, the Young Chesterton Chronicles, Gambit is appropriate for a somewhat less mature audience, which is cool, (as I noted in the beginning, 10-12 year olds get the short end of the stick often as far as literature is concerned,) though a slightly older fellow like myself can still enjoy it as well. Where Catholicism is concerned, I also think his style has improved here. Mr. McNichol has stated at least once that he doesn't want to tone down the importance of Catholicism in his books, (which I understand and can agree with) but in his latest novel, he is more successful at integrating it. Rather than Catholicism being something that seems a little tacked on to the adventure story, everything seems rather more naturally part of the world, allowing narrative to move more smoothly as a whole. It still is a bit bumpy, but it's less jarring here than it has been in YCC so far.
EDIT: Oh, the book itself. I forget this. It's about chess and philosophy and perfect grass. And it's about Edward King. I would put it half in Sc-fi, half in Fantasy, but I don't really know. Fiction works. ;) I don't want to say too much, because when a review basically gives you a play-by-play of a book, half the impetus to read just disappears.
I like this book. It's good enough that it is on my "may re-read" list, which is fairly high praise as far as I am concerned.
Don't expect too much from The King's Gambit. It isn't a masterpiece, and it is oriented towards middle-schoolers, but it's better than 39 Clues Diary of a Wimpy Kid a majority of the books floating through the mainstream right now, and considerably better at that. So what to get for your literate, thoughtful, Catholic nephew in the fifth grade? Take a Gambit.*



*I will never apologize for any puns, ever.