Pleasant Fiction and Painful Reality

Today was a fiction writing day.  I made some good progress on the plot.  But I was stymied on an aspect of the story that only recently occurred to me.  What I realized is that one of my main characters doesn’t have enough back story.  He has a reasonably well-defined personality but he’s floating alone in his little bubble of the story.  I need to tell the readers why he is the way he is.  So, I started making up this past in my head but then I realized I need a way to have him tell this info to the readers.  That’s an awful lot of exposition.  So, what I’ll do is come up with a situation where the protagonist and this character are involved in some scene where they’re trapped together and forced to wait for some crisis to pass and that’s when I’ll have them swap histories.  To make it more natural I’ll have them both talking about their pasts.  In the context of both of them not knowing if they’re about to be killed it makes it a little more likely, emotionally, for them to be talking about their lives.

And one other problem remains.  Where does the story end?  This will be a series of books and I want to end the first book with a bang but I have to make sure that the empire will be able to strike back.  So, I have to leave enough villains to allow them to regroup.  Maybe there’s more to this writing thing than I thought.

I saw a news article that said that the FBI took Trump’s passports.  Isn’t that just too cute of them?  Apparently, they’re pulling out all the stops.  I think that’s good.  November should be the perfect storm.  We should know for sure whether there’s any hope of fixing the system.  And if the Deep State commits themselves to every banana republic tactic and holds nothing back then we’ll have no doubt about whether this is our best-case scenario.  If the mid-terms aren’t a referendum on Biden’s incompetence and the Deep State’s unconstitutional behavior then there is no conceivable way, we’ll ever push them out of power.  And it doesn’t matter whether it’s an honest election or not.  A loss for us either way says to me that it’s all over.

And I don’t say that in a melodramatic way.  On Wednesday November 9th if the Democrats still hold the House and Senate, I won’t be donning sackcloth and sifting ashes into my hair.  I won’t even put a for sale sign up in front of the Compound.  But I will be weighing my options and making some changes.  After all, living in a country that is run by an oligarchy that is proven to have an unshakeable lock on the levers of power and is also clearly working to disenfranchise your family isn’t necessarily the best option, even if it is the richest and most powerful country on the planet and has always been your home.

So, I’ll think long and hard about what’s best for me and mine.  I’m sure I’ll have plenty of company in that contemplation.  The 2020 election fraud was a shock.  But with the COVID lockdown being used to allow all kinds of irregularities it left a question as to whether the fraud could be reined in afterward.  If it’s repeated this year then it can be repeated indefinitely.  If the Justice Department can run two kinds of “justice” then we’ve already ceased to be a legitimate state.  So, many people will be reflecting on these facts.

But, enough of that gloomy talk.  Tomorrow is Liz Cheney’s Primary Day.  I intend to enjoy that event to its fullest.  Maybe she’ll give a tearful concession speech or a defiant vow to be back on top someday soon.  But either way I will savor the moment.  Quoting Khan Noonien Singh (or actually Herman Melville) “to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee,” I revel in the spite inherent in punishing the RINOs.  It’s the only thing that we can do to redress the injuries these people inflict on us every day.  The least we can do is celebrate their defeat.

Here’s a Sample From My Unfinished Sci-Fi Book

Here’s a sample of a book I’m currently about a quarter of the way through.  If you look at the Header of the website there’s a new link to “Stuff to Buy.”  That where I’ll embed links to books and photogrpaphy I’ll have to sell soon.



The American Archipelago

Book 1 – The Sniper

Chapter 1 – An Object Lesson

Joseph Boghadair was set up at a loophole in a small prefabricated metal building at the top of a mountain that contained the Icarus Mine.  His .50 caliber sniper rifle was trained on the narrow road that led up to the mine.  He could see a line of black SUVs about a mile and a half down the road and he was getting ready to start firing on the convoy.  His first shots took out the engine of the lead vehicle thereby halting the convoy.  His second volley took out the engine of the last car in line thus trapping the rest of the vehicles between.  Then at a more leisurely pace he took care of the other eight vehicles.  By this point the passengers were crouching behind their disabled cars and randomly firing handguns and assault weapons in Joseph’s general direction with almost no discernible results.

After about half an hour a few of the men in black body armor attempted to reach a stand of trees about 300 yards away to their left.  Joseph put a few well aimed rounds in front of their path and they quickly retreated back to the supposed safety of their not so mobile autos.  Joseph snorted wryly at their shyness.

An hour after that a helicopter approached the mountain from the opposite direction to Joseph’s loophole.  Walking over to a window on the other wall he could see a distant Blackhawk approaching at relatively high altitude.  Joseph then began his preparations for their reception.

Between crew and troops, the Blackhawk had a dozen men on board.  And more importantly it had a couple of hellfire missiles.  From a very safe distance away it targeted Joseph’s position and fired.  The missile struck precisely on target and obliterated the steel structure almost completely.  All that remained was the foundation of the structure around the mine shaft, now clogged with debris.

The Blackhawk landed about three quarters of a mile from the mine entrance.  At this point the agents hunkered down behind their vehicles began to stream toward the helicopter.  By the time they reached the aircraft the troops had exited and were waiting for their rescued brethren to arrive.

FBI Special Agent in Charge, George Chastain assembled both teams and briefed them on the updated mission plan.  “We will proceed to the mine head and look for any human remains.  We will collect whatever we can retrieve for lab analysis and attempt to seal the mine head until qualified personnel can be assembled for recovery operations.  It is presumed that the target, Joseph Boghadair was killed by the missile strike but we will take no chances.  He was an extremely dangerous individual and should not be approached by anyone without backup and prior approval from leadership.  In addition to his war record it is believed that Boghadair is responsible for the shooting deaths of forty-six people in the last six months with thirteen of those people being FBI personnel.  No one enters the mine until remote sensing equipment is brought in.  Alright, proceed.”

The agents formed two groups.  Apparently, SUV agents and helicopter agents must not bond very well.  But before they were more than a hundred feet from the helicopter a series of incredibly powerful explosions shook the ground and knocked them off their feet.  And while they were holding onto the ground for dear life, they could see that the high ground where the mine head was located collapsed into the earth.  The roar of that collapse was more frightening than the initial earthquake and some of the agents hid their heads under their arms in abject terror.  When the mountain stopped shaking the men started to collect themselves and stand up.  When they looked around them, they were astonished.  A circular pit had opened up centered on the mine head.  It was a thousand yards in diameter and so deep that only blackness could be seen at its center.  Several cracks had formed outside the circular pit.  One of these had nearly swallowed the Blackhawk.  It was on its side and half buried in the crevice.  Its rotors were fractured and it wouldn’t be flying away from this landing.

Chastain went over to the edge of the crater and just stared down into the blackness below.  Then he went back to his team and started giving orders to begin a retreat from the stricken mountain.  He was trying to think of what he was going to tell his boss.  Nothing reasonable came to mind.

02DEC2021 – Dunwich Complainer – Local COVID Actions

Here in Dunwich as everywhere in America, COVID has been a scourge.  Of course, the spread and the symptoms in Dunwich are atypical and highly disturbing (as is everything here).  The disease is completely restricted to a one-mile radius around the historic home of Zebadiah Cobblestoner the legendary Whaling Fleet Magnate.

Zebadiah was known in the early nineteenth century as the whale prostate king.  His company sold pickled whale prostate throughout the New England region where its healing properties were much in demand.  And with the proceeds of this lucrative trade Zebadiah built a magnificent mansion in his native town Dunwich.  And there he lived in great opulence until the great whale prostate crash of 1841.  In that year the medical profession actually investigated the “healing effects” of whale prostate and discovered that its only effect on humans was to imbue its users with a decidedly bright blue coloration around their private parts.

Needless to say, Zebadiah’s fortunes fell on hard times.  In addition, a local witch named Hepzibah Goodbody was so outraged at the coloration she had contracted that she put a curse on Cobblestoner that not only killed him but rendered his mansion a nexus of contagion and miasma ever after.  At first this miasma was restricted to anyone foolhardy enough to inhabit Zebadiah’s mansion.  But over the years the contagion grew until now it had reached out to all the inhabitants of the formerly prestigious Toenail Hill area.  The malady starts out as general abdominal discomfort but in its terminal stage it presents as an exaggerated swelling of the lower abdomen followed by detonation of the prostate which usually leaves only the legs and upper body of the victim intact.  Surprisingly both males and females are equally afflicted in this syndrome.

Now you may be asking yourself how a nineteenth century witch’s spell that causes people to explode could be diagnosed as COVID.  Well, it turns out that the federal and state governments have provided, let us say, inducements to local governments for finding COVID cases in their areas.  And let’s face it, it’s not cheap cleaning up the biohazard when someone’s pelvic region explodes so First Selectman Cthulhu worked it out with the Dunwich Department of Health to sort of roll the Cobblestoner Curse victims in with the COVID census.

But with the recent state budget cuts the “subsidy” for the COVID cases has dried up and so the Board decided something should be done to clean up this problem.  I was contracted to do it.  And it was stressed that I could employ all means necessary.

Using satellite imagery, I was able to triangulate the source of the miasma to a corner of the Cobblestoner estate.  In fact, it turned out to be centered around Zebadiah Cobblestoner’s private cemetery.  I brought along one hundred tanker trucks, each loaded with 6,000 gallons of aqua regia which is a combination of saturated hydrochloric acid and fuming nitric acid.  My team excavated down to one hundred feet where we started to uncover a stone-like mass of enormous size finally we could see its shape was spherical with a diameter of over a thousand feet.  When we reached the bottom of this structure, we saw with horror that it was attached to the centuries dead but normal sized corpse of Zebadiah Cobblestoner.  We had uncovered his decidedly malign hypertrophied prostate bulging out of his body!

We climbed out of the excavation in a panicked rout but before following my team in a sprint for the hills I slammed the valve actuator that released the veritable lake of hyper-corrosive acid into the pit.  As I panted from the effort of escaping the scene, clouds of acrid fumes spread along the ground.  Earth tremors made it difficult to keep my legs under me but I finally reached a ridge about a mile off from the pit.  And there I witnessed a sight that has shaken my sanity and left me a shell of the man I was.

The ground around the pit convulsed and swelled.  The prostate swelled up to ten times its size and glowed a bright yellow.  Then the prostate shrank down and disappeared below ground.  But suddenly the corpse of Cobblestoner took its place swelling up to the size of the prostate and even larger.  Its face was distorted with pain and rage and I feared something truly horrible was about to occur.  All at once an enormous flatulence erupted from the nether regions of Cobblestoner.  A hurricane of unbelievably foul air stormed past me.  But almost as soon as it arrived it passed and a look of angelic peace suffused Cobblestoner’s face and then he slowly shrank back into the pit.

After a safe period of time had elapsed, I dared to return to the top of the pit.  There was no sign at all of Cobblestoner or his cursed prostate.  The area had been miraculously cleansed by the potent acids and the miasma was gone!  There are signs in the last few days that Toenail Hill is once again a healthy place.  I’ve notice that Zillow has quadrupled the value of all the local real estate and speculators have snatched up all the likeliest properties including the Cobblestoner mansion and gravel pit.

One other salubrious result of the exorcism is that for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic not a single COVID victim has exploded.  That means I’ll probably get paid for my efforts by the Town of Dunwich.  And I call that a win.

Thanksgiving in Dunwich

I’ve been so busy with my own personal Thanksgiving plans that I lost track of what the town of Dunwich was planning for the holiday.  Last year the COVID lockdown put a damper on this but this year First Selectman Cthulhu and the rest of the Board were determined to get things back to normal.  So, to get the ball rolling Cthulhu invited fifty of the wealthiest and most influential Dunwichians to his house on Monday for a sumptuous dinner.

Of course, there was a misunderstanding.  The guests assumed they were going to eat instead of being eaten but you can hardly fault the First Selectman for that.  He was specific that the menu would come directly from his favorite cookbook, “To Serve Man.”  When I spoke to him, he was still recovering from overindulging but after a couple of barrels of Alka Seltzer he was feeling much better.  He told me his favorite moment was when the guests walked through a doorway and after failing to find any light switches on the walls used their phone lights to determine that they were inside their host’s mouth.  Their screams of terror made the meal all that much more enjoyable.  Oh, that First Selectman, he’s incorrigible!

I read an advertisement in the Dunwich Complainer that a town fair was going to take place on Wednesday.  There would be the usual pie contests and a silent auction for the various crafts that the townspeople would donate.  There were also supposed to be games.  The one that interested me the most was the sack race.  In most towns this is a pretty straight forward affair but the twist that is employed in Dunwich is that Cthulhu alters the geometry of space in the playing field.  This makes moving in a straight line rather tricky.  Three years ago, Josiah Bishop ended up falling through a portal and landed inside of Azathoth’s gallbladder.  He reappeared three weeks later in pretty horrendous condition.  His ears had pretty much melted off and his hair was orange.  When asked what happened he said, “Outside the ordered universe is that amorphous blight of nethermost confusion which blasphemes and bubbles at the center of all infinity—the boundless daemon sultan Azathoth, whose name no lips dare speak aloud, and who gnaws hungrily in inconceivable, unlighted chambers beyond time and space amidst the muffled, maddening beating of vile drums and the thin monotonous whine of accursed flutes.”  A lot of people just assumed Josiah had just stomped off because he’s a sore loser and because Jenkin Brown took the prize and they’ve never gotten along.

But by far the oddest story I’ve heard this week was from Arthur Birdsong.  He was walking through some of the more overgrown areas of the northern hills of Dunwich when he was caught in one of the frequent thunderstorms.  Searching for cover he saw a very dilapidated house and ran to it.  The door wasn’t locked so he let himself in.  Finding a fire in the living room he warmed himself and then looked around at his surroundings.  There was a very old book open on a table and he saw that the book was describing cannibalism among certain tribes in Africa and an illustration showed a butcher’s shop with human body parts for sale.  Arms, legs and organs were grouped on tables.  Suddenly he heard a door open above and a white-haired man in 17th century garb walked down the staircase.  The man saw that Arthur had been interested in the book and he began a long meandering tale, the gist of which was that he had come to the notion that feeding on human flesh would enormously extend the human lifespan.  Just then a drop of blood from the ceiling splashed down in between the two men and Arthur looked up and saw an enormous spot of blood on the ceiling and realized that the horrid old man was a cannibal and had just been butchering of one of his victims upstairs.

At first Arthur was hoping that a bolt of lightning would burn the house and the cannibal in the righteous fire of heaven.  But when that failed to happen, he asked the old man what time was dinner.

Arthur had to admit that human pot pie wasn’t bad.  A little gamey and fatty but no worse than mutton.  And the old fellow even threw in some pretty decent hard cider.  So, they became pretty chummy and after dinner they stayed up late chatting and Arthur discovered that they had both gone to the same prep school.  So, they sang school songs and Arthur invited his new friend over for Thanksgiving dinner.  He had been planning to serve a turkey dinner but in light of his new perspective on health food he decided to invite his least favorite blue-haired feminist wine-auntie over and serve her up instead.  I told Arthur that was splendid and I hoped it became a family tradition.  He sadly informed me that he only had three wine-aunties so it would be a short-lived tradition.  I told him to cheer up.  I have dozens of relatives that need eating.  I told him I’d donate one of mine every Thanksgiving for the foreseeable future.  Well, this brought tears to Arthur’s eyes and he declared it a “Thanksgiving Miracle.”  I said, “Nonsense, it is always better to give than to receive.”

So, you can see we here in Dunwich have a lot to be thankful for; friends, family and meat tenderizer.  Here’s hoping your Thanksgiving allows you to enjoy your family as much as we intend to enjoy (parts of) ours.

15OCT2021 – OCF Update – This ‘N’ That

It’s funny.  It seems like even the Left is starting to admit that Biden has made a shambles of the country and maybe some of them are starting to sound kind of scared.  Still too early to say if it will effect the outcome of the congressional votes on the gazillion dollar reconciliation bill.  I assumed that all the skullduggery planned was a done deal.  Maybe I’m wrong.  We’ll have to see.

But we will be going through some extended bad times as I mentioned in my last post.  I’m starting to look at my own finances to see what cutbacks I should make.

I was listening to the ZMan’s Friday podcast.  It was on organizing and near the end he was talking about negativity.  And that clicked for me.  What we do has to be building things and living.  Just fighting our enemies isn’t enough.  It’s too long a battle to just hold your breath till the end.  We need to make our thing about living and enjoying our lives.

I’ve been writing this story about a sniper who is taking revenge against the FBI.  I have to admit it’s a lot of fun writing about revenge.  But I want the story to be embedded in a larger frame about building something bigger than revenge.  I want to have it about building a community that’s hidden within the current United States.  So this fictional story corresponds to how I think about the world I’m living in.  And that is helpful when thinking about real life.  The things I write about are larger than life.  We can talk about underground bases and new technologies and secret organizations but even the little things we do on-line can be positive and enrich our lives.  We talk to people and we share ideas and maybe we help each other solve some problems.  And if nothing else we act as sounding boards for people who don’t have one.

So today I am doing some story plotting and re-writing.  It wasn’t strong enough or tight enough.  I punched it up and cut it down and I like it a lot better.  It’s another beautiful day and I intend to go out and take some photos of the fall.  A couple of days ago one of the dogs found a big old Northern Water Snake sunning itself near one of the gardens.  I got some good shots of it and I will probably put it up later as a post.

Fridays are usually pretty quiet on the site.  I’ll put up a post later.  Maybe I’ll review another season three trek episode.  I’m getting impatient with them but considering Shatner’s recent trek into almost-space I guess I should do my part.

Camera Girl is an inveterate crime drama reader.  She reads about fictional crime fighters like Jack Reacher and Harry Bosch and Jesse Stone.  Well, we recently started watching a tv series about Harry Bosch and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how well it’s made.  Not everything is to my taste but it’s a quality series.  So at some point I’ll be reviewing it too but I must keep my nose to the Star Trek grindstone.  Duty is duty.

I’ve been listening to Larry Correia’s podcasts on fiction writing, “The Writer’s Dojo.”  and even though not all of the information is specific to what I do I find the experience of listening to these two writers talking about their mindset when they’re writing to be energizing.  For instance, they were talking about villains recently and it occurred to me I was wasting an opportunity by not beefing up the character of one of my villains.  After all good villains are sometimes even better than the hero.  Look at the Joker in Batman.

And this weekend we’ll have some grandkids coming around and that’s always fun.

So bear with me.  I’ll have some good stuff soon.

On Killing Off Fictional Family

I’m working on a fantasy story.  And I’m at the point in the origin phase where the protagonist needs a crisis to propel him into a new and horrible life.  And I’m wavering between some deus ex machina scooping him out of his normal life or a horrible injustice killing off one or more of his family.

And the funny thing is I feel bad about killing off his kin.  I mean, they’re good people and they’ve never done anything to me and all things being equal I might need them later.  So, I’m vacillating and trying to thread the needle.  Can I just kill off his father?  But I kind of need him for later.  How about his mother?  The murder of his mother would be a great catalyst.  There’s guilt and rage and despair and hunger for revenge and all sorts of mixed emotions.  That could work well.  But it feels like a cheap trick.

I could kill off his newlywed sister.  It’s going to happen at the wedding reception anyway.  But that’s even more conflicted.  There’s the bride groom and the other sisters and then the parents won’t be distracted by one of them dying so the protagonist will be dealing with all kinds of messy emotional baggage.  Everyone will be whining for a hundred pages and I don’t need that.

I’m planning some kind of mob hit.  I’m undecided between a shotgun blast coming out of the reception or a bomb thrown through the window.  Either way it’s not ideal.  Very messy.  Definitely not the beautiful death.

So, as you can see there won’t be any easy way to write this.  All kinds of angst and messy follow-on consequences.  But let’s face it, murdered family has been a great plot device since Cain killed Abel.  I’m already trying to work my way through a father with conflicted feelings about the son whom he loves but who is responsible for the death of his wife.  That’s got all kinds of possibilities.  As I said I need the father around later and his grudging cooperation in some plot devices would add a nice amount of resistance to some scenes that would otherwise lose all tension.

So, she has to go.  But I am grateful for her part up to this point and I will give her a nice close-up scene before the finale.  She’ll get to talk to her son and they will share something personal before I finish her off.  Then she’ll upstage her oldest daughter’s wedding.  What mother could ask for more than that?

So, as you can see, for me the characters in my story take on a life of their own and I have to think carefully before I bring anyone in.  The butterfly effect is in full effect and especially when my character has a very long-life span, I have to be careful about cutting off all descendants of present characters because I might need their grandchildren or even great grandchildren at some point.

And finally, this action is meant to cut off his normal life and send him forward into a future where many of his actions are going to appear to him to be pretty evil.  To make that happen I’ll need something to disorient his moral compass.  The random brutal death of someone who symbolizes normalcy and happiness to him is just about right.  Add in a feeling that he is culpable in the death and I think I can work that into a tragic figure.  Will Shakespeare, hold my beer.

Lectures in Quantum History for the Advanced Undergraduate – Volume I – First Contact – Part 3

So, on Thursdays I usually headed downtown for dinner at the Club.  The food was okay.  The service was slow.  The drink selection was limited.  The dues were outrageous.  But the company was never bad.  Not that it was always exceptional, but it was never annoying.  There was a rule against annoying.  You could be boring or quiet but if management saw you annoying one of the other guests you would be gone very soon, and you wouldn’t be back.  Or rather you might be back but the Club would be gone.  It was a by-invitation-only organization that could and did change venue seemingly at random.  If you didn’t show up for a week (or a month or a decade) no one would bat an eye when you showed up next.  But if you didn’t get a change of venue notice then your presence was no longer desired.  So, who was invited?  Well any member could recommend a new member.  But only the Owner sent out invites.  And if someone was brought along by any member uninvited then both men would not be returning.  Oh, and all members were men.  Also, a rule.  The first few times a new member attended he might mention the lack of women as an oddity (or even a relief) but soon it just became the norm.  Now you might think that such an arrangement would dissolve sooner or later due to the friction that such arbitrary rules would create.  Or that the desire to continue in such a seemingly mediocre establishment would not be strong enough to maintain a decent showing.  You’d be wrong.  On any given night twenty patrons would be in attendance.  Some nights there might be forty.  This popularity must be attributed to the ability of the Owner to pick men.  He had a profile that provided almost fool-proof selection.  His vetting process was scrupulous and thorough.  The selection failures were few and so far, the fallout from these had always been repairable.  Apparently, his damage control methods were effective and discrete.

So, what was the profile?  Married with children, wife raised the kids and made a home for the family, husband supported the family (employed or a businessman), over thirty-five years of age and intolerant of the presence of idiots.  Who decided what idiocy was limited to?  In this case the Owner.  He looked for signs and circumstances.  Negative evidence was probably more important than positive.  A lack of bumper stickers with slogans like Coexist and Tolerance was a given.  The absence of financial support for any organization that explicitly or implicitly supported involuntary redistribution of wealth was a bare minimum requirement.  Mostly he used second hand accounts followed up by field work.  He was very thorough.  There were no idiots.  Finally, the smoking prohibition.  You were prohibited from bothering anybody who wanted to smoke.  There was a no-smoking section but that was pretty empty most nights.

Oh, and once a year you had to be able to tell a truly interesting story.  So, either you were someone who had interesting things happening in your life or you had to be a great story teller.  Either would do.  Of course, how would you know if the story were true?  Well, you couldn’t ask (another rule).

So, it was a Thursday.  It was a warm night for early October.  Barely jacket weather.  No clouds and a bright moon.  When I arrived, I was greeted at the front desk by Dave and buzzed in to the main hall.  I could see it was a slow night, maybe twenty-five patrons were milling around and waiting for seating.  I noticed the Owner (Dan) standing in a corner talking to a new face.  I headed over to say hi and find out what was on the menu.

“Hey Dan, what’s good tonight?”

“If you ask me, nothing.  I’d stick with the chicken fried steak.  Unless you’re well insured, then go with the fish.”

“Wow.  That’s grim.  Maybe you should lie until the new members have ordered the special.”

“I’m not worried.  Have you met Jim?”

“Nice to meet you Jim.”

“Jim, this is John.  He’s a regular.  Guess his wife is sick of looking at him.”

“On the contrary, I’m adored and pampered by the missus.  I only come here to allow her a night to visit her family.  When she gets home from seeing her sisters, suddenly I seem like more of a catch compared with her brothers in law.  They’re quite a group.”

“Hi John.  Nice to meet you.  Yeah, I know what you mean.  My wife’s got three sisters and from how they describe their husbands I’m guessing someone’s going to be on a most wanted show sooner or later.”

Dan broke in:

“So, Jim here is new, can you introduce him around and find a spot for him?”

“Sure.  Jim, you interested in some penny ante poker before dinner?”

“I like poker, but I’m a pretty lousy player.  I tend to bet over enthusiastically.”

“Great, you’ll be the most popular guy here tonight.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of.  Seriously I’ve only got a few bucks in my pocket.  Will that get me through?”

“Sure, it really is penny ante.  We only use money to keep it from getting too boring.  Mostly we play to slow us down while we’re scarfing down cold cuts.  Come on.  I’ll introduce you to the boys.”

We headed over to a table of regulars that had a few empty seats.  I introduced Jim and we all got to talking about the latest travesty in D.C.  This proved very popular with everyone.  Within five minutes Jim was right in the thick of the grumbling and indistinguishable from the veterans.  A few minutes later the waiter came by and took our orders.  As I mentioned earlier the food was so-so.  But tonight, rib-eye was on the menu and the steak was usually very good.  I think it was something Dan liked so we benefited from his choice in that respect.  I ordered it along with a couple of baked potatoes and got back to the conversation.  Consensus had built to the effect that if Obama was not actually Satan then at the very least, he was a close relation.  The usual fifty-seven states and “corpseman” jokes were worked over again and everyone settled in for the dinner.  Someone asked Jim where he was from.  “I’m originally from Brooklyn but I’ve been living in various places in New England for the last twenty plus years”.  This elicited the obligatory “pahk the cah in Hahvahd yahd” responses and a few heartfelt shots at the Sox and Pats from the mostly New York City group.  He laughed it off and said he was a die-hard Yankees fan but that he didn’t pay any mind to the rabid New England fans.  “Mostly I just wait for the bad years and feign sympathy while they wallow in misery.  It really is fun to watch.”  Then I asked Jim if he had given his first annual story yet.  He looked troubled and confessed that he was dreading it.  “I’m not much of a public speaker.  It’s gonna be like getting a root canal without Novocain.”  “Hey, it’s a piece of cake.  First of all, have a couple of belts before you get started and we don’t get started until we move into the sitting room.  The chairs are very comfortable in there and really reduce the stress levels.  Concentrate on someone sitting next to you and it won’t seem like public speaking.  More like just a bull-session.”  After that we got caught up in an argument over whether “The Maltese Falcon” was a better Bogey movie than “Treasure of the Sierra Madre.”  This lasted about half an hour and introduced all kinds of heretical views and produced much heat but almost no light.  Luckily at that point the food arrived.  Sure enough, the rib eye was just about perfect.  By the time I was done with the second spud and was sopping up a little juice with a hunk of  French bread I had reached what I imagined Gautama must have been hoping for when he started sitting cross-legged under that tree.

The beer and wine were flowing pretty freely at our table and the dishes had been removed and someone asked if we should start the card game up again but there were no takers so we wandered into the sitting room and the group continued with a discussion on the latest movie.  It was a science fiction adventure yarn with Earth being invaded by super-intelligent lobsters from the Andromeda Galaxy.  Many rude comments were expressed over the lack of actual proof that shellfish had what it takes to invent a really convincing warp drive.  Interestingly, Jim was extremely quiet when disparagement of the idea that extraterrestrials might visit the Earth was being discussed.

Dan showed up and instructed the wait staff and the members to drag the chairs into the traditional half circle around the speaker’s seat by the fire place.  By this point I could see that the crowd was about thirty men.  And surprisingly Dan was leading Jim over to the speaker’s chair.  As he settled himself in, I could tell that he was pretty nervous.  Dan introduced Jim as a new member and applauded him for the courage to tell his story on his first night in the club.  Jim thanked him, looked around the circle nervously and cleared his throat.  Everyone expected him to proceed so a very noticeable silence built up for about two minutes while Jim seemed to be staring at his feet.  Finally I could see several men fidgeting in their chairs and scratching their faces in a sort of impatient way.  Then Jim cleared his throat again and began.

“As the subject of my story I’d like to tell you how I saved the Earth almost single-handedly from interstellar invasion.”

I could tell it was going to be a really good Thursday.

Lectures in Quantum History for the Advanced Undergraduate – Volume I – First Contact – Part 2

Professor Gordrow arranged his thoughts and began his lecture again.  “Now before I was interrupted, I was touching on the general topic of First Contact and I mentioned the classic Earth example.  But to provide the background for that remarkable event I will remind you neophytes of the underlying mathematics.  As anyone who has the intelligence to understand it knows Gordrow’s First Theorem of Quantum Chrono-Cosmo-Moiro-Dynamics states that when the probability of historical change uniformly approaches zero in a volume of space that continues to increase toward infinity then the quantum time-space probability reversal will be centered on the asymptotic fault line.  This theory in fact was proven following the First Contact we are considering.  At that time Earth was at the periphery of a rapidly expanding galactic civilization that had spread from the galactic core over the course of a billion years and was now so rapidly expanding that the odds of any possible combination of events halting its engulfment of the entire Milky Way galaxy was essentially zero.  What a perfect test of the theory!  Now if you inspect the terms in the denominator of the third term you’ll see …”

“But Professor Gordrow!” exclaimed Dorson Tendandren.  Gordrow radiated annoyance and shot back, “Why are you interrupting me now you idiot?”  Dorson continued, “Professor none of this is clear to me.  How could such a regression occur?  What possible sequence of events could reverse such an unstoppable force and in such a short time?  It seems inconceivable.  Can you show us the historical record?”  Gordrow was disgusted and his aura reflected it.  “Show you?  What is this kindergarten?  Would you like me to sing you a lullaby too?  Would you like me to count from one to a googolplex just to prove that there are numbers in between?  Wasting my time in this way is a sin against intelligence and a victory for entropy and just one more fatal step toward the heat death of the universe.  Neophyte Tendandren, I intend to see that you suffer exquisitely during my final exam.  I will recommend to the professional board that your truest vocational assignment would be as gravitational ballast.”

Professor Gordrow summoned his composure for a moment and continued.  “For the intellectually challenged who are very temporarily among us I will now play the historical record of the singularity event.  Those with normal intelligence are free to take a nap.  Dolts, attend!”

Lectures in Quantum History for the Advanced Undergraduate – Volume I – First Contact – Part 1

[I’m working on an outline for a series of stories.  Here’s a starting point for the framework.



Dorn had been daydreaming through the first period of his Quant class and now he realized he had lost the thread of Professor Gordrow’s lecture just as the professor called on him.  “Well, neophyte Dorn, I notice that your cortical penumbra hasn’t changed potential since the lecture began, so you must already know everything I’ve transmitted.”  “Yes, your sagacity, I mean no, your sagacity.”  “Well which is it?  Are you now conversant in the primary examples of the seven first order patterns of First Contact, or aren’t you?  Answer me, you vacuous waste of neutrinos.”

Hearing the question, Dorn relaxed, for he had spent last semester studying First Contact under the foremost Quantum Historian in the Multiverse, Banstat Fabobble.  For this reason, Dorn confidently answered, “Yes your sagacity I am.”  “Well then tell the class what you think is the most unlikely quantum outcome for any First Contact scenario.”  Dorn raised his transmission to the highest polite output level and declared, “As proven by Fabobble’s first theorem of interspecial dynamics, no species below the level of independent interstellar travel can ever compete successfully against a species above that level.  In fact, it’s axiomatic.”  Feeling very proud of himself Dorn allowed his cortical penumbra to pulse through the electrogravitic spectrum for a noticeable time.

Professor Gordrow replied, “Very glibly stated Dorn, and also utterly wrong!  Banstat Fabobble is a hack and a fraud who has made his reputation kowtowing to administrative nincompoops who wouldn’t recognize a quantum paradox if it swallowed up their own boring corner of the multiverse.”  Dorn’s penumbra shriveled up and he retreated to the periphery of the academic cloud and Professor Gordrow continued.

“Now attend to what I say.  Every First Contact is unique and the seven first order patterns account for barely 99.999999999% of all known cases.  This leaves an infinity of less probable cases, of which some subset, which itself includes an infinity of examples is composed of just the type that that fathead Fabobble claims is impossible.”

“If it please your sagacity, can you give us an example?” asked a nervous thought from the front of the class.  Gordrow was silent for a moment and then continued.  “Of course, I can.  In fact, I’ll use the most famous First Contact of all.  I’ll use Earth.”  “But Earth’s First Contact was a case of two advanced races meeting in neutral space” corrected the nervous interlocuter.  “Hah!” exclaimed Gordrow, “that is what we teach the dust clouds before they coalesce.  But you are ready for the messy truth.  Record this data.  Attend!”

Another Gear – Part One – Draft

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Here’s a fragment of a story I’ve been working on forever.  Maybe putting it up here will give me the push to edit it and finish it off.


I’ve got a bad habit.  I’ve gotta have my say.  A smart man knows when to shut up.  I don’t.  When I get mad I say stuff and it almost always comes back to bite me.

So, I headed out on Wednesday night after work.  I didn’t have any big plans.  Dollars were scarce so I didn’t head to the bar.  I’d heard there was going to be a gathering of disaffected types at the park at eight o’clock so at about that time I was across the street from there parking my Crown Vic.  I could see a pretty good crowd, maybe three or four hundred, and hear cheers and silences interspersed.  Someone must’ve been going pretty strong because the whole crowd was rooted in place and I couldn’t find a space to get through the throng to see who was talking.  I circled around until I was behind the speaker and about fifty feet away.  I could finally make out what he was saying.  The speaker had a strong deep voice and a pretty good speaking style.  His vocabulary was basic.  He didn’t sound like a college boy but he definitely knew how to hold a crowd’s attention.  “I mean how much longer do we have to wait for this country to wake up?  When the NSA, IRS and HHS get to decide what you can say and how much of your own money you can keep and who your doctor will be, don’t you think it’s about time to kick these bums out of office and bring in the other set of bums to see if they’ll do any better.  But honest to God, I’m starting to think we need to start from scratch.”  At this point a huge roar went up from the crowd.  I think I even let out a whoop.  This got the attention of the guy in front of me in the crowd.  He turned around and looked at me in a sort of mildly quizzical way.  I said, “Whatsamattafella, don’t like anybody griping about the dear leader’s shock troops?”

He absorbed my taunt, smiled faintly and answered, “I’m not familiar with the specific events in question but I believe the general tenor reflects dissatisfaction with an overreaching bureaucracy.”

I’m guessing my expression was more than just quizzical.  I was trying to figure out what was strangest about his answer.  So, I said, “Oh, so you think he’s dissatisfied?  Where have you been for the last five years?”

He gave me the same mild smile and said, “I’ve been away for a long time.  I’m hoping to catch up on current conditions.”

I was trying to figure this out.  He didn’t have a foreign accent but there was something odd about his cadence.  I started, “Well unless you’ve been trapped under the frozen surface of Ganymede… but before I could finish that comic gem a bright light dazzled my eyes.  A loudspeaker erupted into life, “Everyone stay in place.  This unauthorized assembly has been declared treasonous.  Everyone here is under arrest.  Anyone resisting will be subdued by whatever means is deemed necessary.  Escape is impossible.  Aerial drones have been emplaced.

At first, I was in shock.  It seemed surreal.  Presently I became annoyed.

I turned to my neighbor and said, “I don’t know about you but I sure don’t want to let these bozos take me in, especially without a fight.”

He hesitated and then replied, “The authorities indicate that they possess an overwhelming advantage in respect to available force.  Would it not be wise to acquiesce to their demands?”

I smiled back at him and said, “Only if you completely lack honor.”  This seemed to strike a nerve and I could see his facial muscles tense momentarily.

Then he relaxed and replied, “That is a very important distinction.”

“Okay then, let’s start fading back toward those trees over there and lose these morons.”

I put my plan into operation and my new friend fell in line without further discussion.  We managed to get about hundred yards between us and the crowd without any problems and I was breathing a little easier when we were hailed by a voice coming from behind us.  “Stop where you are and put your hands over your head.”  I put my hands up.

My friend looked at me and asked, “Where is the honor in this?”

“Well, if you’ve got a way of getting out of this without getting shot in the back, I’m with you,” I said.

Almost as soon as I said this a blinding flash dazzled my eyes.  This caught me completely by surprise and I was trying to blink some sight back into my eyes when a hand grabbed me by the arm and yanked me into motion.  Figuring there was nothing to lose I ran in the direction of the pull and hoped there weren’t any low hanging tree branches ahead.  Eventually my vision cleared and I could see we had come out on the far side of the park and no one was behind us.  We slowed down to a walk and found a diner to wait in.  Once the waitress had taken our orders and left, I started to talk.

“How did you do that?”

“It was a high-powered flash tube.”

“Yeah but why did you have it with you?”

“I sometimes find it useful in my line of endeavor.”

“Then which are you, a Stage Magician or a Ninja?”

“I am a type of researcher.”

“Alright we can go into our astonishing histories later.  Let’s figure out what we do now.”

“That is reasonable.”

“Okay so, uh…  Hey what’s your name anyway?”

“You can call me Joseph.”

“Okay Joe, I’m Jake.  That should be enough info to get us through this party.”

“I am pleased to make your acquaintance.”

I got the feeling that if he had been standing, he might have clicked his heels together and slightly bowed his head.  Something about Joe’s speech bothered me.  I think it was that he sounded unworried.  And that definitely seemed out of place to me.  Myself, I was pretty close to panic.  The police raid was a nightmare that apparently, I wasn’t going to wake up from.  Puzzling over our surprising success at avoiding arrest so far was the only thing that was keeping me from wallowing in a pit of despair.  I knew that the emergency powers that this administration was wielding had grown enormously in the last couple of years but I had had no idea how pervasive the loss of personal freedom had become.  Now I did.

I said, “It’s good to meet you too Joe.  I’d like to get my car and head home but I have a feeling they would stop me if I went back to the park.

Joe said, “I think that would be the likeliest outcome.”

“Well what if I just head home and wait this out?”

“I do not believe you can avoid pursuit.”


“When we were detected by the authorities I am certain I heard a biometric scanning sensor registering our profiles.”

“How could you know that?”

“I am very familiar with the model currently employed in this jurisdiction.”

“Oh come on!  Who are you?  Batman?”

A slight quizzical expression passed over his face and then he actually smiled.  “Jake, I can guarantee you that is not the case.”

Now I was getting really scared.  “Joe do you have any ideas at this point?”

“A tactical retreat would seem to be the most reasonable option.  This would provide time to gather more information for a more permanent solution.”

My mind was racing.  “Joe, I guess we have to, but I’m worried about what would go on with my family if I left them holding the bag.”

“I believe that staying out of custody represents your best option for modifying the status quo in your favor.”

“This is spinning out of control, what if I turn myself in?”

“Based on the current legal framework and our actions up to this point I would approximate the sentence to be one to three years.”

“For what?”

“Unlawful assembly, sedition, resisting arrest, assault on a peace officer and fleeing the scene of a crime.”

You forgot loitering and jay-walking!”

“Those are not significant charges and unlikely to be added to the indictment.”

“Never mind.  I’m sold.  How do we get out of here?”

“I have a vehicle seven blocks from here.  That will be the best means of exiting the immediate area.”

“Okay lead on MacDuff.”

I placed twenty bucks on the table and we quickly headed for the door.  The street was pretty empty and I expected at any moment to be challenged but we made the seven blocks without incident.  The street we were on was mostly lined with single-story commercial/industrial properties.  A third of the way up the block we stopped in front of an auto repair garage and Joe opened an office door with a key.  We entered and walked through an office and another door onto the floor of the garage.  It was a large space at least three hundred feet deep and it looked as if it hadn’t been used in a while.  The place was littered with junk and all of the lights and utilities seemed to be missing.  There was a gutted bathroom on one wall and I could see where the walls had been opened to steal the plumbing lines.  Joe walked calmly and quickly through the dark space until we were at the back wall.  A painter’s drop cloth was covering something there.  He pulled it off and I looked to see Joe’s ride.  I stared at it for a full minute.  “Joe, what the hell is that? “

“It is a custom automobile.”

“Oh, come on!  Where’s the windows, where’s the doors?  For God sakes it only has one wheel!”

“It is gyroscopically stabilized and the windows are modified for one-way viewing.”

“Oh, so we’ll just nonchalantly drive down Main Street and stop over at the Exxon for a tank full of plutonium.”

“This vehicle is not powered with trans-uranic isotopes.”

“Well, that’s a relief, for a minute I thought we were going to have a hard time blending in.”

“I believe our best chance of evading pursuit is to leave this vicinity as soon as possible.  Would you like to enter the vehicle now?”

“Like has very little to do with it, but let’s go before I pass out.”

Joe pressed a small remote control and the car surprisingly made that goofy noise that remote door openers make when they work.  I gave a nervous laugh.  “I expected a more Star Trek kind of noise.”

“I was trying to blend in.”


Joe got in on the left (which I guess was slightly comforting) and I got in on the passenger side.  I’ll give him credit for one thing, that was the most comfortable bucket seat I’d ever sat on.  I doubt the cockpit of an F-16 was any better for padding.  And he was right, once the doors closed (and don’t ask me how they opened, ‘cause I couldn’t see it happen) the front and sides of the car were mostly transparent.  And just to freak me out a little more, the damn things had some kind of night vision thing going on.  The garage looked like it was daylight.  I could see everything and I had barely been able to navigate that dark space when I was walking in it before.  “Alright Joe, you are Batman.”

“Jake, I do not understand your repeated references to this fictional character.  I am not fictitious and I am not employed in the field of amateur criminal justice, I assure you.”

“Look, what am I supposed to think you are?  A little green man from Mars or a super-genius working for the underground Kingdom of the Mole-men?

“I cannot tell you everything you want to know.  Would it be enough to tell you that I am a man just as you are and that I am only trying to help you?”

“Why do you want to help me?”

“I believe this began because you pointed out that it would have been dishonorable to surrender to an illegal display of force.  I agree with that conclusion and therefore find in you an ally.  Would you prefer to proceed alone at this point?”

So, there I was.  I had followed the white rabbit down the hole and if nothing else seemed clear at least I could hope Joe wasn’t working for the Obama administration.

“No Joe, at this point I can use all the help I can get.  Only let’s not pretend you’re a mild-mannered reporter working for a great metropolitan newspaper.”

“Agreed.  When we have time, I will answer as many of your questions as I am allowed.”

Joe drove the car to the front of the building, got out and manually cranked a garage door open.  He got back in the vehicle and we headed out onto the street.  The street we were on had a posted speed limit of 20 mph.  The windshield had a column of readouts and numbers and symbols abounded.  One display seemed to track with our speed and based on it, we seemed to be travelling at 19 mph.  This speed did not inspire me with confidence in our chances of escape.  We got about ten blocks before we stopped at a red light.  The stares of the people in the cars around us waiting for the light were truly comical.  One guy got out and walked completely around us.  I think he thought we were part of a prank show and wanted to be on TV.  Finally, about a block past the light a cop car put on his lights and began a pursuit.  Joe ignored the cop and continued to drive straight.  When the patrol car was right behind us we heard his PA system warn us.  “Pull over and turn off your engine.”  I got Joe’s attention and started talking.  “Joe, what are you going to do?”  He looked at me for a second and then turned back to the windshield.  “I plan to evade his pursuit.”


“I will exceed the velocity his car can maintain.”

“I don’t know about that Joe, those patrol cars have a lot of oomph nowadays.”

“Jake, please believe me when I say that this vehicle is highly capable.”

As if in support of his statement he accelerated up to 50 mph.  The cop followed suit and was right on our tail.  I could hear the siren wailing and pretty soon two more blue and white patrol cars joined the pursuit.  Two blocks up Joe turned onto the highway entrance ramp.  I noticed that he very politely used his right signal (despite its outlandish appearance this vehicle seemed almost street legal!) before the turn.  Joe continued to accelerate and soon we were going 95 mph.  At this point there were five cars in pursuit and they were attempting to get in front of us to slow us down.  Joe proved a very skillful driver and eventually we were pulling away from them at 120 mph.  At that point a couple of staties showed up.  Joe attempted to outrun them but they were right behind us and I could tell they were going to try some maneuver to force us to crash.  I yelled, “Joe, you’re gonna need another gear, these guys mean business!”  He replied, “Yes, another gear.”  There was a row of flip switches on the side of his arm rest.  The first closest to him was flipped to the right.  All the rest were to the left.  He flipped the second switch.  The engine which up till now had been virtually silent started to give off a barely perceptible hum.  Joe accelerated again and pretty soon his speedometer showed 185 mph.  The staties receded pretty quickly behind us and I was experiencing motion sickness as the landscape flashed by like a grand prix video game.  I should have expressed my admiration for Joe’s manifestly amazing driving skills (or those of his autopilot) but I was thoroughly dizzy watching the road whizz by.  By this point we were out in the country and the road was pretty empty but it was still a pretty harrowing sight.  I can only imagine what the other drivers were thinking.  Up ahead I saw some staties parked along the side of the road and I was too slow to warn Joe that they had probably set up nail strips to blow out his tires.  I could feel us go over something but we never even slowed down.  Whatever his tires were they must not have been rubber.  After that, at intervals, I saw cop cars but we continued unhampered.  So I looked at my watch and saw that we had been on the road for only thirty minutes.  It felt more like a month.  My mind was racing and I guessed that this breathing space would be the calm before the next storm.

“Joe, where do we go from here?”

“I am looking for a stretch of road that is shielded from aerial surveillance in order to exit this expressway undetected.  I believe the unorthodox appearance of my vehicle has invited undue scrutiny by the authorities.”

“You figured that out, did you?  Nothing gets past you does it?”

“The geographical database I use indicates that we are passing through heavily wooded areas that contain numerous logging roads that aren’t actively frequented at this time.  I plan to secrete the vehicle in this area for the time being to provide the opportunity for a more strategic analysis of our circumstances.”

“Lay low?


“Lead on Macduff.”

A few minutes later he slowed down to 100 mph and we slingshot off the exit ramp and disappeared into the inky blackness of an unlit secondary road.  At least that’s how it would have seemed to someone watching from outside the car.  But inside it might as well have been broad daylight.  I could see everything around, even the trees behind the other trees.  If I had thought about it I would have been amazed.  But at the time I was pre-occupied with thoughts of prison.  We drove for another hour and then stopped and Joe shut down the engine.

So, there we were.  Hunkered down amid the sylvan splendor of the forest primeval (or what passes for it today) and each separately reviewing the situation.  Joe was punching away at a strange keyboard and muttering inaudibly at the windshield while I played over in my head the events of the last few hours.  It would be an understatement to describe my mood as panicked.  I tried to imagine a scenario where I walked away from this intact and the only thing that came to mind was that it was a nightmare and I would wake up eventually.  But my natural pessimism wouldn’t allow me to kid myself.  Finally, Joe turned from the windshield to me and said, “Jake, I have completed my analysis and I can try to answer your questions.

“Yeah but let’s stretch our legs first.  I can’t sit anymore.”  So we got out and I tried to avoid poison ivy while making a pit stop.  Joe followed my lead on the other side of the vehicle and we reconvened in the front of his car.

So, I said, “Okay lay it on me Jasper, what in the name of all that’s undreamt of in my philosophy is going on here?”

“Jake, you have unwittingly become an accomplice to a criminal act.”

“No Joe, I kinda thought I was looking for trouble when I went to that rally and I definitely knew I was upping the ante when I decided to bug out of there.”

“You misunderstand me, the criminal act was not us going to the rally.  I refer to my subsequent actions.”

“I don’t get your point, we’re equally guilty in the eyes of the law.”

“I have not made myself clear, I am not referring to the local authorities.”

“Are the feds after you for something?”

“No a little more serious than that.”

“The Russian Mafia?”

“Jake, my status at that gathering was supposed to be as a passive observer.  In that capacity I am forbidden from altering the course of events in any meaningful way.  In addition, I have also garnered an embarrassing amount of attention from the local authorities and media reports.  This is even more serious than the initial interference.”

I winced a little and interrupted, “So you’re not Batman, you’re Captain Kirk?”  This time he laughed out loud and continued for several seconds.  When he had subsided, he smiled back at me and replied, “I find your fictional analogies very amusing.  I am glad that you can process this situation in a calm and measured fashion.  Many individuals would not handle these facts as well.  I have seen cases that required sedation and other problematic methods.”

“Joe you are mistaking sarcasm for nonchalance.  I’m scared out of my wits right now and all I keep hoping is I’ll wake up from a fever dream and all this, including you, will just have been a figment of my delirious imagination.

This sobered him up.  He replied, “I understand your trepidation.  But I do not have an easy solution for either of us.  You are involved with a very serious partisan vendetta that does not bode well for either your personal safety or the future of your nation.  I have compromised my status with several regulatory organizations which possess resources and authority that can threaten my freedom and existence at any time.  We will be hard pressed to avoid complete disaster but I have formulated a course of action which, if successful, might allow us both to escape relatively unscathed.”

“Well, look, don’t think I’m uninterested in your plan but what I really want to know is what the hell are you?”

I am a researcher sent to study the current political and economic events here.”

“Where is here?”

“Various localities.”

“Are all of them on planet Earth?”

This stopped him cold for ten whole seconds.  “Jake, why would you ask such an odd question?  Where else could I be working?”

“I don’t know Joe, but I notice you didn’t answer the question.”

He looked at me for a few seconds more and asked, “Are you sure you want to know?”

“Yeah, I guess I do.”

He was quiet for almost a minute and then began, “I am currently working with ten different cultures, four of which are human.  The cultures that do not reside on earth vary greatly in technology level, biological structure and social sophistication.  The nearest other spatial location is currently four thousand light years from earth.  That species inhabits a solar system for which the stellar component is a white dwarf nearing the end of its thermal stability.  The home planet has a surface temperature of minus 150 degrees Celsius.  Surprisingly, this species is going through a very similar political crisis to your own, even though if you could observe that world, you might not recognize the existence of a civilized race there at all.  The temperature there renders all their movements extremely slow.”

So now I was looking for the Candid Camera guy to jump out and tell me I was on TV.  I had insisted he tell me what seemed like the only possible explanation for everything that had happened.  But once he actually said it, it sounded nuts.  I didn’t say anything at first, I cleared my throat a couple of times but I couldn’t think of what to say.  Joe broke in, “I realize that this may be hard for you to reconcile with your previous assumptions concerning your place in the universe.”

“Joe, you’re gonna have to give me a minute.  I’m a little overwhelmed here.”

“It’s not unusual for disorientation to ensue after extremely anomalous data is encountered.”

“Alright Spock, shut up for a second or I’m gonna show you how accurate a haymaker from a disoriented son of a bitch can be.”

This seemed to work.  He remained silent and his expression became sort of blank.  I noticed that he took a couple of steps back.

There was an awkward silence and I took the few minutes to clear my head and figure out what my next move would be.  I felt it was just as likely that Joe was an agent of some foreign country as he was of being ET.  I couldn’t figure out what I could do to improve my situation but listing alternate explanations for what was going on helped calm me down.  I took a couple of deep breaths and turned my attention back to the local situation.  Joe was looking a little more anxious and showed relief when I caught his eye.

“Alright Joe, I’ve peeled myself off the ceiling.  I’m sorry for what I said before.  I’m not normally that belligerent but I was up to my eyeballs in adrenaline and needed a second to re-adjust my grip on reality.”

He nodded his head and said, “I am relieved to hear that you have adjusted to the information I provided earlier.  I was not sure that I should have told you the truth but I believe that the disorientation would have been even more disturbing if it came during a practical demonstration of the reality without being prefaced by a verbal explanation.”

“Okay, so Buck Rodgers has entered the 25th century.  What happens now?”

“I have accessed the online database for law enforcement.  They have not yet analyzed the scan to identify you from last night.  Also the description of our escape is sufficiently vague as to not immediately cause undue anxiety by the entities I work for.  My plan is to gain access to the database and erase our information from last night.  After that I will evaluate whether any other fallout has occurred and formulate countermeasures to either minimize the damage or protect us from the immediate consequences thereby allowing time to formulate further measures.”

“So, we’re going for a ride.”



“In two hours.  That will coincide with the shift change for the highway patrol in this area and the period of lowest surveillance capability in our immediate vicinity.  Also, the forecasted cloud cover will effectively eliminate satellite surveillance.”

“Swell.  By any chance have you got any food in that hot rod of yours?  I was gonna stop off after the rally to have a burger.  If we’re gonna be going all night at this I’m gonna need something to eat at some point.”

“I have some food stuffs.  You are welcome to them but I’m not sure if you will like them.  After all taste is variable.”

This got me thinking.  What kind of food would a spaceman eat?  It might be wise to hold off until we got to a store or restaurant.  Joe walked over to the vehicle and opened a compartment in the back.  He took out a small bag and walked over to where I was standing and handed it to me.  It was just an ordinary insulated lunch bag that you might get at Walmart and inside it had a bunch of candy bars, specifically Mounds bars.  Apparently, spacemen liked cocoanut.  And actually, so do I, so I ate a couple of them.

“Joe, isn’t junk food a little primitive for someone of your background?  I mean don’t you, spacemen subsist on amino acids and mineral supplements?”

He looked very quizzical.

“I told you I am as human as you are.  Now granted that a Mounds bar is not the most healthy item but why would I not eat this type of food?”

“Well after what you’ve admitted, I assumed that was a lie.  If you are human, how did you get involved with the groups that you are with?  Were you captured and forced to help them?  Or are you selling out your people for better treatment?”

“I want to assure you that I am not working against the interests of the human race.  In fact, most of my immediate associates are humans.  I was born and still reside on Earth.  We represent Earth with the organizations I alluded to.  My association with life-forms from outside our solar system is not sinister.  It is hidden knowledge but our association is mutually beneficial and one day it will be seen as such.”

“Well you seem to have an answer for everything but I gotta say Joe, there’s something you’re not telling me.”

“I said I would tell you as much as I could but you see that this information is disturbing.  I will not lie to you but I will only tell you as much as you need to know to believe me.”

“Fine, let’s table it for now.  You can convince me you’re a man in black later.”

When it was time, we got back in the car.  I wasn’t very enthusiastic about our mission.  I wasn’t sure what Joe was up to but I was starting to think I should bail on this deal and take my chances with the cops.  It was just becoming too weird.

“Where are we headed?”

“I am going to access the federal law enforcement database from a dedicated station that we set up in Arlington Virginia.”

“Wait, why can’t you do that remotely?”

“Because I don’t personally have the computer expertise to navigate the protocols necessary to access that database undetected.”

“Not very super-human of you.”

“We all have our limitations.”

“Apparently.  I was hoping you could take care of a few problems with my IRS file but I guess I’ll let it slide.”

“That was a humorous jibe?”

“Look at you!  Actually, I could stand for them to lose some of the stuff they’ve been hassling me with.  But I did enjoy the dig.  It helps to break the tension once in a while.”

“I will consider that.  I also have experienced excess levels of emotional stress.”

“You’d better start slow.  I don’t think humor is your strong suit.”

“In my community I have been described as droll.”

“Okay, Dangerfield.  When we get a break in the action you can try your stand-up act on me.  For now, let’s get this show on the road.”


We got back in the car and started down the road.  It was now about midnight.  When we got back on the expressway Joe cranked it back up to 185 mph and we headed for the D.C. area.  Even at that speed we were a couple of hours away.  I was wondering when we would start getting police attention and it wasn’t long before I found out.  About 10 minutes into the trip a couple of cruisers tried to catch up to us.  They quickly receded behind us.  Next, a police helicopter started shadowing us.  He had a spotlight trained on the car.

“Joe, how is this going to work?  I’m guessing you can’t let the copter follow us to your hidden lair.”

“That is correct.  But we have a more pressing issue.”

I looked down the road and swore under my breath.  The entire width of the road was blocked with cruisers backed up by jersey barriers.

“Joe this is bad.”

“Another gear.”  He reached down and flipped the third switch.  The engine hum got slightly louder and the pitch rose noticeably.  The speedometer shot up to 250 mph and just as we reached the front of the patrol cars we rose up off the ground and left the highway behind.  I distinctly recall the cops scurrying away from us and one guy looking back at us had the most comical expression of a man in uniform since Don Knotts.  Our speed increased until it read 400 mph.  We left the police chopper far behind and headed into the night.

I guess if that cop could have seen my face through the side of our car he would have seen an equally funny expression.  I think my heart must have skipped quite a few beats when we transitioned from land travel to air.  Once the excitement subsided and I started breathing again, I tried to frame a rational question to Joe: “Are we safe in this thing?”

Joe looked over at me and said: “This vehicle is extremely capable.  We will have no problem travelling to our destination.”

“How is it possible that this thing can fly?”

“Are you inquiring as to the general principles of aerodynamics or the specifics of this vehicle’s propulsion?  In either case I will have to plead ignorance.”

“I’m sure you must have a general idea how it works.”

“Do you know how an internal combustion engine works?”


“But do you know how your computer functions?”

“No, I guess I don’t.”

“I suppose that as the complexity of technology increases, the proportion of users competent to explain it varies inversely.”

“Okay, I guess that makes sense.  Is this thing expensive?”

“It is extremely valuable but I do not personally own it.  It’s a tool provided by my employer that I utilize for my work so I do not know its exact value.”

“Fair enough.  Joe, at this point I don’t think this incident will escape the popular press.  I mean this doesn’t seem like something that will be overlooked.  The highway patrols from several states are already involved.”

“On the contrary, your current federal administration has been very successful at sequestering information that it deems embarrassing or dangerous to its own interests.  I believe this incident would fall into both of those classes, at least temporarily until it has been analyzed.”

“Alright, you’ve convinced me.  Lead on Macduff.”

“And cursed be he who first cries hold, enough.”

Now I took a double take, “So they teach the Bard on Proxima Centauri?”

The same faint smile, “The Centauri super-system is uninhabitable, but William Shakespeare is studied both as art and as an historical source in many systems much farther away than that.  Would you believe me if I told you that there are students of Hamlet on worlds that are not even within the local cluster of galaxies that the Milky Way belongs to?”

“No Joe, I wouldn’t.  And I thought you weren’t going to tell me anything I didn’t need to know?  You know my delicate psyche can’t cope with nameless things from abysmal space.”

His face took on a pained expression.  “Jake, please do not quote Lovecraft.”

“What’s the matter, Cthulhu a close personal friend of yours?”

“Actually, the types of beings Lovecraft imagined is one of the least offensive aspects of his story telling.  Doubtlessly he had a vivid imagination.  But I find his prose style almost unbelievably bad and reading his stories almost painful.”

“Well he was probably getting paid by the word.”

“So was Dickens.  But Lovecraft never could have written A Tale of Two Cities.”

“Everybody’s a critic.  Look, literary criticism is all well and good but what I need to know is what I’m here for?  I’m guessing you won’t need any help hacking the government databases with your systems already in place.  Am I basically waiting for the all clear to head back home?”

He thought for a second.  “I don’t see that you have much choice.  If I am too late or unsuccessful in modifying our records you will not be able to return home at all.  If you come along you’ll find out soonest what your situation is and be able to act upon the result immediately.”

That was not a comforting thought.  I said, “Joe that was not a comforting thought.”

“There are very few real-world situations where absolute certainty exists.  We must always be prepared to analyze possible outcomes in order to optimize a result by means of interim actions.  We must not allow the perfect to become the enemy of the good.”

“I don’t think we’ll need to worry about that.  We haven’t even come within shouting distance of dismal yet.  I’ll definitely warn you if perfect shows up in time for you to put a stop to it.  But I wonder if maybe we can discuss what these backup plans look like.  Do they involve me becoming a space pirate?”

“There is no such thing as a space pirate.”

“Space pirate, space cowboy, space renegade.  Let’s not quibble over terms.  Will we be on the run from your people and travelling in outer space?”

“There are certain circumstances that might require non-terrestrial travel.”

“I knew it!  Well, fine!  Just make sure that I see something worthwhile.  How about we check out Saturn’s rings close up?”

“Jake, this is not a game.  Only under the greatest duress will we leave earth.  I am attempting to eliminate the need but I said I would not lie so I will not deny the possibility.”

“I know what that means.  If we do go off-world, probably the only thing I’ll be able to see will be ship hangars and non-descript buildings.  It’ll probably look like Bayonne.”

This reply seemed to give him pause.  For the first time I detected a hint of annoyance, “You seem quite quarrelsome.  Is this your typical behavior or a reaction to the present situation?”

“Reaction I guess.  I’m usually regarded as the gold standard of courtesy and cheerful good fellowship by all that meet me.  But I guess post traumatic shock has a way of extinguishing good manners.  If it makes you feel any better I’m sorry.”

“Yes, it does.  I find the local inhabitants here extremely rude and coarse.  I was hoping that you would be different.”

“What made you think that?”

“Your reference to honor seemed to indicate a more formal value system.  It was my interpretation that polite behavior was a value that aligned with your world view.”

“Joe, there is something in what you say.  And in my defense, I think there is a slight language barrier interfering with your full appreciation of the witty banter that you have mistaken for orneriness.  Tell you what, if we get out of this mess I’m going to have you over the house for a plate of broccoli rabe macaroni.  Where I come from that is the equivalent of killing the fatted calf and burying the hatchet.  What do you say?”

“That is a very gracious offer.  I will gladly accept your hospitality in the event of our success in overcoming our current circumstances.”

“Okay, now let’s get this show on the road.”

“I understand your repeated metaphorical usage of the travelling show but it is necessary to allow action to follow circumstance rather than risk some reckless move performed simply to avoid inaction.  We must adhere to a particularly rigid timeline if we hope to accomplish the desired outcome.”

At that point I let it drop.  There is only so much a man can take.

After a few minutes we slowed down and landed.  It was a rural area with fenced-in meadows surrounded by forested hills.  Maybe horse pastures.  We had landed close to one of those wooded areas.  We both got out and I followed Joe into the wood through what I hoped wasn’t poison ivy but turned out to be blackberry brambles.  Fun.  After about ten minutes of abrasion and swearing we reached a small clearing.  Joe took a device out of his jacket pocket and if it was an iPhone then he must have had access to some very esoteric apps.  After pressing a few keystrokes a loud tone sounded from somewhere near his feet and a light appeared on the ground and a solid surface elevated from the forest floor and essentially formed a lit work station at waist level in front of Joe.  I could see it wasn’t running Windows or displaying any earthly alphabet.  What might have been text was indecipherable for me.  If pressed for a resemblance I’d say braille.  Anyway, Joe got to work and worked the station at surprising speed.  After a few minutes of watching I got bored and started heckling him (yeah, I can be a jerk).

“So, Poindexter, what’s the verdict?  Are we screwed or saved?”

Joe looked up sort of disoriented as if I’d broken his concentration during some difficult operation.  Then he blinked and focused on me.

“That is a simplistic dichotomy that does not reflect the actual situation.  I have managed to access the law enforcement databases and records from the police action.  I have altered these records to mask any images that could have been used to identify us.  However, I can tell that these records have been copied into the NSA collection sweep.”

That sounded not good.  “So?  Just do your magic and slap Beevis and Butthead faces over ours in the NSA Funnniest Home Video Blooper Reel and home we go, right?”

“The NSA records are isolated, redundantly cached and physically protected by hardened bunker locations.  I can’t alter them from this data connection.”

That sounded very not good.  At that juncture I sort of got peevish.  “Look here, you intergalactic librarian, my tax dollars probably pay your salary so don’t give me that bureaucratic gibberish.  I don’t intend to spend the remainder of my life living like an extra from a Twilight Zone episode.  You just get in that George Jetson Yugo of yours and bust into the NSA and make this right.”

I think I finally hit a nerve.  He stood looking at me with an expression that I actually recognized.  I had seen that expression on the face of every used car dealer and appliance salesman I had ever tortured.  It was a combination of incredulity, exasperation and moral outrage.  To his credit, Joe didn’t punch me in the nose.  Instead he shot me.  I’m not sure what he used but the effect was something like a cop’s taser.  Anyway, I felt a jolt and saw a flash.  The next thing I knew, I was flat on my back and looking at the stars in the sky.  When I eventually got to my feet, I didn’t see Joe.  The work station was gone and I was trying to figure out how to get back to the car.  I got back to the field just in time to see Joe fly off.  I could feel the wind from the take-off as he shot past me.  I lost track of the car in the dark sky almost immediately.  I stared into this same sky for a while and pondered on the strangeness of life and the inaccurate portrayal of space men in popular culture.  After all Mr. Spock never shot Bones no matter how emotional and annoying he got.  The most he would do was raise an eyebrow and make an ironic comment.  Bones would never be left on the alien planet just because he had sassed the Vulcan science officer.  After a few more minutes I started thinking that I needed to come up with a plan.  I appeared to be in a pretty tough spot.  I wasn’t sure if I was a wanted fugitive and I was pretty much in the middle of nowhere without a car.  It wasn’t particularly cold out but I was starting to feel tired and sleeping on wet grass wasn’t all that inviting.  I started to walk toward the road with the idea of either hitching a ride or walking toward a store where I could get my bearings.  I reached the road, a pretty unimpressive two-lane piece of asphalt, and pretty quickly figured out that I’d be doing a lot more hiking than hitching.  No one stopped, because no one went by.  That road was empty.  I wondered if it was a dead end.  That got me thinking that maybe I was headed for the dead end.  And that made me wonder how long can a dead-end road be before it’s considered just a regular road.  After all, any road ends when it reaches an ocean or a cliff.  So, didn’t that mean that Interstate 90 was a dead end?  I mean it might be long but it ended at the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  So dead end, Q.E.D. right?

Anyway, after about fifteen minutes I stopped to try and figure out whether the road seemed darker behind me or in front.  I had just decided that it was darker in front when suddenly it wasn’t dark anymore at all.  What appeared to be a fireball crossed the sky above me and exploded above the horizon with a flash that lit up the world like daylight.  The flash only lasted a few seconds and was gone.  My eyes were so dazzled by the light that for at least a minute I couldn’t see anything at all.  Slowly my vision returned and I began to detect starlight.  But either my vision was still not completely restored or it was even darker than before the flash.  Now the road looked just as dark in both directions.  I decided to head back the way I came from.  And so about fifteen minutes later I ended up back at the field I started from.  And who do you suppose was parked on the road?  I slowed down before I reached the car and tried to figure out what to say.  Nothing came to mind so I just walked up to the car and knocked on the front where the windshield would be on a normal car.  The doors disappeared and I could see Joe getting out and standing against the side panel.  He was slightly illuminated by the interior lights so I could see his face.  He appeared calm.  His expression was neutral so I couldn’t tell where we stood.  But I took it as a good sign that he had returned and decided to apologize for my outburst.  After all, up until shooting me, he had been very helpful.  But before I had a chance to say anything he spoke.

“Jake, please forgive my violent attack upon you.  Your words were highly upsetting and triggered an unexpected atavistic response that I would not have thought myself capable of registering.  Worse still, I was sorely tempted to strike your face with my fist.  I extend my sincerest apology.”

I considered telling him that it was a good thing he hadn’t tried to slug me because of my street fighting prowess but I thought better of it.  He was a pretty big guy and I was going to need a lift out of this hayseed hideaway at some point soon.  No sense in riling him up again so soon.

“That’s okay Joe, I shouldn’t have needled you that way.  After all, at the time, you were doing everything that could be done.”

“I thank you for your magnanimity.  It is most gracious.”

“Okay good.  Now what are we gonna do about the predicament we’re in?”

Joe became quiet and seemed to be thinking what to say.

“Jake you are no longer being sought by the authorities.”

That caught me by surprise.  “That’s great!  What happened?”

“I followed your advice.”

“What advice?”

“I believe your exact words were, ‘You just get in that George Jetson Yugo of yours and bust into the NSA and make this right.’”

“You actually did that?”



“I employed a very powerful electromagnetic pulse to erase the databases that included the records involved.”

“How were you able to selectively destroy only the databases required?”

“Jake, an EMP is not a selective event.  It is a physical phenomenon that depending on its strength will disable not only electronic devices but even electromechanical devices in most present day civilian electrical equipment within a radius defined by its overall strength.  And because of the intentionally protected nature of the environment provided to these databases by their underground location it was necessary to generate a truly impressive EMP to provide 99.9999% assurance of success.”

“Hey was that flash I saw a little while ago?”

“Almost assuredly.”

I was now getting a little punchy.  “Joe, what else would have been effected?”

He considered this for a while.  “Basically, all of the government electronic records.  And a large part of the infrastructure for the District of Columbia.”

Now it was my turn to consider for a while.  Apparently I was off the hook.  But what had just happened was a huge event.  Potentially it could trigger World War III.  If a nuclear power thought the United States was vulnerable it might attempt to take advantage of the opportunity to launch a nuclear strike.

“Joe, have you just put this country in danger of nuclear obliteration?”

“Certainly not.  The Strategic Air Command and NORAD are completely unaffected by this event.  Only the ability of the President to order an attack is affected.  Naturally your military will go on high alert until confirmation that the event was non-military in nature.”

This was a lot to digest.  “Joe, I’m thankful that you’ve helped me out, but isn’t this a bit much?  I mean what’s going to happen when people figure out what happened”

“I do not anticipate any government or private agency identifying the correct cause.  They would consider it an impossibility.  Chances are they will assume it was an esoteric natural phenomenon.”

“Then we’re completely in the clear.”

“That is not so.”

“Whaddya mean?”

“My employers will know exactly what mechanism was responsible for the EMP.  Also, they will know exactly who caused it.  I will be held accountable for it.”

“What will they do?”

“I am not sure.  At the least I will be sent for mental adjustment.  Possibly I will be terminated as an incurable psychotic.”

“Well wait a minute.  Maybe you can explain the reasons.”

“You do not understand the circumstances.  I have as much as violated the highest law in existence in the jurisdiction involved.  It was no accident.  I did it to undo the damage I caused you by intervening when we met.  I could not allow you to suffer from my actions.”

“Joe, you mean I’m responsible for you committing suicide?  Why would you do that?  Why would you listen to me?  Nobody listens to me.  Even my dog doesn’t listen to me.

“You are a very strange person, Jake.  Even in my present predicament I am surprised at how contrary your attitude toward circumstances can be.  Adapting to the realities around you is how most beings maintain equanimity.”

I looked him in the face and realized he was calm because he had accepted his situation and was at peace with it.  “No.  No, no, no.  This will not stand.  If you think I’m gonna let you save me and then take the bullet you’re sorely mistaken.  I may be a lotta things but an ingrate ain’t one of ‘um.  Get ready to shuffle the deck.  When I get finished we’re either gonna walk away from this scot free or I’m gonna leave a hole in the infrastructure they’ll be talking about for the next couple of millennia.”

He looked at me with an expression that was hard for me to read.  I realized that what I said hadn’t made a lot of sense and he might decide that shooting me again and dropping me off back home would be the easiest course of action if he really was resigned to giving himself up.

“You do not understand what you are saying.  The technological advantage that I used against your government would not exist in any interaction between ourselves and the authorities who will be coming after me.  They have the same technologies available to them and force multipliers that are virtually inexhaustible.  What advantage do we possess?  Also I am the transgressor here.  I have violated codes of conduct that I have always obeyed because I considered them prudent and necessary.”

Ha, this would be easy.

“Look Joe, all this non-interference jazz is propaganda.  It’s strictly Star Trek OS vs NG.  If Kirk needed to eliminate Nazis he’d be perfectly willing to hand over new technology or go back in time to do it.  Your “authorities” sound like a bunch of commie progressive Picard types who don’t deserve to be running a lemonade stand.  Now, as far as advantages, I detect a certain rigidity of thought pattern in the behavior you describe.  I have been dealing with bureaucrats like that all my life and I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve developed a sort of expertise in dealing with such people.  Now granted some of these critters may seem more like zoo exhibits than law enforcement but with your familiarity with the set up and my, shall we say, knack for working the system, I don’t see why we couldn’t reset the situation to our satisfaction.”

Once again, he was quiet and he had a perplexed expression as he stared at the ground in front of him.  Finally, he looked up at me and said, “Jake, I’m not sure you understand what you are saying but I have several days before the response to this event is determined and I am summoned.  I am willing to discuss the details with you and try to make clear exactly how disastrous the situation is.  If by then you can convince me that an alternate course of action is possible, I will consider it.”

I smiled and said, “And a fairer shake I couldn’t ask for.”


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