Friday, December 25, 2015

End of 2015 Administration Post

I hope that you all enjoyed the free fiction I've posted here since I launched this 'blog back in 2009. That's over now.

Over this past year I began the transition from being a hobbyist writing and posting whatever to becoming a professional author. All of these posts? I wrote them in November of last year and scheduled them to go live on Fridays at Noon (Central Time). Since then I've come up with four novel-length manuscripts, all of which need serious revision and rewriting, and I intend to publish at least two of them this coming year (2016) via Amazon (epub via Kindle and POD via Createspace). These are speculative fiction novels.

So, the Chronicles is going to become my writing blog.

I may rename it, but not right away. Instead, this is going to become where I talk about writing and my projects. It's the space where I account for myself, keep you up to date with what's going on, and otherwise become where I and you go back and forth.


Friday, December 18, 2015

The End Began in the Middle-12

As I write this, that girl's mother stands by. I am indeed very old now, and it hasn't been long since that wedding. Ken came and went a few times since, and he's back now. This is it. He knows it, and so do I. When I finish this, the last of my memoirs, I will go to bed that night and I will not wake up. I will expire, peacefully, in my sleep. As soon as the point of death is had, Ken will prevent my turning.

I don't know exactly what that means, and I don't want to know. I can't really stop him from eating my body, so I never bothered to argue that he shouldn't. Maybe he will. Maybe not. It's irrelevant for me to speculate. All I know for certain is that the one concession to convention about kingship--a worn thing symbolzing who is king, a crown--will be taken from my head and placed on my son's head. The mother of my grandson's wife will do the placing, and Ken will pronounce my son as king. "The king is dead. Long live the king." being traditional, that is what I expect will be the ritual phrasing.

Word went out of my approaching death and my son's succession. The households under my sword, as it were, are awaiting the news. Fortunately, they appreciate my son much as they do--did--me so I don't expect much trouble out of them after I'm gone; if there is trouble, it will be after those great-grandchildren are born and they turn out to be boys. Being ruled by mutant corpse-eaters may be a bridge too far for many of them, and they'll have to be dealt with.

I did not expect to live to 100, nevermind past that, and yet here I am- barely. The high technology I once took for granted is long gone now, and the digital world I once expected to be my Heaven has vanished. Instead I struggled--when not butchering men or monsters--to retain all the useful knowledge I could, and pass on that and the importance of its preservation to those after me. With an illiterate woman birthing my future heirs, I am concerned that they will be unable to read these words and thus come to understand the man that made their inheritance possible- or the world he came from.

Yes, I survived. Yes, I brought down a corrupt and degenerate world. Yes, I built up a robust and sustainable kingdom out of those ashes, but I am unsure that whom I pass this wealth down to will appreciate it or be able to preserve it against the threats that now exist. The end for me comes, and I have made my peace with that. What I cannot--will not--accept is that my legacy will be as easily reduced to ashes and dust.

All men die. Yet only when a man is forgotten is he truly destroyed. "Christopher I, King of Laketown" is far better than "Christoper Holm, some guy who wrote books and shot traitors" at being remembered.

Remember me.

Friday, December 11, 2015

The End Began in the Middle-11

I had the word about the wedding put out to my people, commanding the attendance of the households, and they did as I expected: grumble, but comply. All that butchery left a lasting impression, and they did appreciate my aggressive efforts against The Necromancer, so they sat down and shut up about my ties to Ken and his people- amongst other things. Soon I got replies and when the date got settled that too went out, and when the date came my people showed up to witness the future of my kingdom come into view.

It was, for the most part, a good wedding. Food (for those of us that could eat it) and drink (ditto) aplenty, a respectable turnout of household heads or their agents (some took ill; I verified that), toasts and boasts and games to cheer and thrill one and all. The bride had the time of her life, which was not hard to do: she could not read or write, and spent her life to this point in the middle of the woods living in a cabin that had no heat or electricity so my "castle"--a run-down lakeside resort hotel repurposed into a fortified manor--seemed like an enchanted palace of gold and diamonds to her eyes, but she knew her wifely arts well and thought my grandson to be a true prince out of the stories her mother told her.

That talk about women would be coming after the wedding night. At least my son and I had prepared him that much.

The cost for this wedding came with taking in the girl's mother also, and she I installed as my caretaker to keep her out of my son's way and keep her influence over my successors to a minimum. I knew how to handle a woman like this, so I did just that; it helped that I had secrets of my own that I kept all these years, including the means by which I kept folks just down enough to prevent them from using my sleepy time to meddling in my affairs. (Sure, I used it also way back when to keep bothersome folks asleep while I did what I needed to do to properly put them down where they deserved to be, but fortunately that was a rare occurrence- but it was also very lucrative.)

The wedding came and went. The feast came and went. I did enjoy myself, as best I could, in both happenings. My new grand-daughter-in-law even smiled at me, as only a truly innocent young girl just married could, and kissed me on the cheek. "I promise, sire, to be the very best wife I can to him." she said, as only a girl like that could. For a moment, I remembered a better tomorrow that never came. Heh. Even now, after it all, I still want to believe.

As for the girl's mother, she too turned out better than I expected. That night, as she helped me to bed, she engaged me in idle chat.

"Well, I didn't expect my girl to end up here."

"How so?"

"Ken said you were a hell of a man, a butcher, a pig-headed bastard, and terrible with women."

"All true." I said, "Still. You're just behaving well."

She laughed, and I could tell that she got exactly what I meant.

Friday, December 4, 2015

The End Began in the Middle-10

"Everyone can see that you're setting up that boy of yours to be your successor." Ken said, "Your own son is okay with that?"

"He'll play seat-warmer for a while. He'll officially be the first successor, but he's really just finishing the training I began. When Jeremy is ready, he'll take the throne; this marriage is meant to cement that future."

"You're banking on the rumor about my genetics."

"That your sons, and their sons, turn out to be just like you and your daughters carry that trait to give to the sons they bear? You got it."

Ken chuckled. "Your descendants will not go hungry."

There was not more to say after that. Ken knew the real reason that I had him come to me: to fulfill the other favor I won from him all those years ago, which was to prevent my reanimation after I died.

One thing I knew for certain is that everyone alive at the time of the apocalypse who survived that would, inevitably, become a zed when they died unless they somehow got around being a normal man or woman. (Ken, for example, would not because he's a corpse-eating mutant freak.) What I came to suspect is that those born after that wouldn't automatically turn into zeds, but it was useful to keep up the practice anyway just in case so I did not ever tell anyone this suspicion other than Ken.

"Well, at least you can enjoy one more wedding before the end."

"Yeah." I said to the big snow-white man with no hair and sunken yellow eyes, "Just one more."

Friday, November 27, 2015

The End Began in the Middle-09

Eventually I sent my son off to sleep also. I stayed up; being king has its perks, even in the most primitive of conditions.

So many dead at my hands over the years. I didn't bother telling either of them about the fighting and killing I did as a youth; after all the epic slaughter before and after the apocalypse, a handful of shankings when I was a kid doesn't merit inclusion outside of my memoirs- not that writing means much anymore, but I do it anyway.

I got bored and slept in short order. The next day, over breakfast, my son and I broke the news to Jeremy. He took it far better than we thought.

"So, you want me to go look up old Ken, see about a daughter, and then bring them back here?"

We nodded, and that was that.

Now, being old and such, I really can't say for certain what it took to get that done. What I know is what Jeremy and Ken told me, which goes something like this: Jeremy took a man with him and they set out for one of the regular haunts that Ken would visit at that time of the year. They arrived to find a woman roughly his mother's age and a girl a few years young than himself tending to a cabin that wasn't there when I was there last, which was many years ago. The woman was one of Ken's concubines, put there to be a custodian year-round, and the girl was his daughter by that woman. It turned out that Ken arrived with a few others in his train the next day, and when the two had their sit-down Ken altered his plans right away to come see me.

So, all told this errand had the boy away for a month and most of that was evading zeds too troublesome to take on. The marriage was agreed to, and thankfully--again--the girl took a liking to my grandson. While my son and her mother negotiated details, Ken and I had a nice little reunion of sorts after many years going our own way.

"You're dying." Ken said, "I can smell it."

"I'm old, you corpse-eating freak. It happens to normal men."

"What do your people think of this marriage?"

"I don't care. They'll go along with it or the zeds will eat them, and then my progeny will eat their animated corpses."

"Now that's the right bastard I remember."

Friday, November 20, 2015

The End Began in the Middle-08

"Father, I heard you talking about the limits of what a hard man can hold. I think we're at that limit given our own band of men. We have control over all the lakes and our base here on Mille Lacs allows us to feed from the lake's fish year-round as well as take advantage of the fresh water. We're not likely to do much better than this, not with the pressure coming from the Necromancer to the south. I think we should reconsider future plans."

"You're reconsidering whom to marry the boy off to."

"We're not going to make it as just ordinary men. We can't keep up the numbers, or the material, for much longer. As soon as whatever it is that consumes The Necromancer's attention is done, he'll turn again north and come at us with a tidal wave of zeds to wash us away. We need to take any advantage we can get if what you carved out of the ruins is to endure well into Jeremy's lifetime."

"To what do we turn then?" I said, "We sell ourselves to some witch? That will go well when Ken hears of it. The natives fled deeper into the wilderness, those that survived, and that meant going further north so they're out. Are we to produce nuclear weapons out of tinfoil and beer? Come on, son! There is only one option of that sort open to us."

"Yes. One."

"We'll tell the boy tomorrow after breakfast. It'll give him time to prepare."

"For what?"

"The journey. He's got to be the one to go bring Ken back. You're going to be too busy keeping the place going to go running around the field."

"You know what else that means, Father."

"Yes, and I know that some of the homesteads aren't keen on Stalkers. Too bad. It's join Ken's people or die out, and I'm not one for dying out- even if I don't have much longer myself to live."

"It's decided then?"

"Hell yes it is. Ken's got to have a daughter by now. Jeremy's marrying her and breeding heirs, like it or not."

Friday, November 13, 2015

The End Began in the Middle-07

"You talk a lot about men, Grandfather."

"That's because men have depth to them. Women don't. Women are simple creatures, and should never be trusted to be anything but a woman. That's how I stayed with your grandmother for as long as I did."

"That's harsh."

"Only because it's gotten a lot better since the Old World died in fire. The women that survived had to clean up and get back in line if they wanted to live, and the girls born since--like your mother--weren't allowed to degenerate into the wretched whores that their mothers were. For all that got lost, what's come in its wake proved to me that this was the best thing that could have happened to Mankind. The natural order is back for good."

The boy nodded, but I knew he didn't get it yet. Fortunately, he didn't have to get it just yet- and I'd be deciding on his wife anyway, so all he had to do was follow orders until he grokked it. It's not like there's a lot of available women around to mess him up in the head or otherwise make a mess of things.

"Enough. Bed. Now."

Jeremy did as I told him, and off he went to bed. Shortly thereafter my son came in with a mug of brew and sat in his place.

"Telling him stories again, Dad?"

I cupped him for his manners.

"Sorry, Father."

"Better, and yes- because he asked, and he has a need to know now that he's coming into manhood. He's got to know why things are what they are if he's to rule well when the time comes."

"I don't recall you ever being that dismissive with Mother."

"Because your mother, at the time the world ended, was still a child. Her parents got eaten by zeds, and Ken took her in thinking he could groom her for a mate. He traded her to me in return for taking him in and healing him up after that incident with the witch in the lighthouse and the crazy cult that arose in her wake. When she was ready, I took her as my wife and that ensured that I didn't have to clean out bad programming."

I saw on my son's face that our age difference never crossed his mind. She was born on the cusp of the millenium, and I took her as she came of age. Well, after the end of the Old World no one in their right mind balks at young women married to mature men. Sure, I put three children to her in five years; we needed numbers, and that's why I married her. Love had nothing to do with it at all; I needed a loyal wife who I could train to be a competent wife and mother, and she did just fine.


"Yes, son, when I made that deal for your wife I had the exact same thing going in my mind: getting a young woman that could be readily trained to be good at the jobs needed of her. It helps that she actually liked you. Your mother respected and appreciated me, but that sort of thing never existed."

"Widowers both we are now." he said.

Friday, November 6, 2015

The End Began in the Middle-06

"So everything was coming together to blow it all apart?" he said, and I nodded.

"Yeah, that's it exactly. While it still held together, I took as much as I could from the dead and used it to prepare for this." I said, waiving around the room we sat in, "Not that most of those cultists had any sense to prepare for anything like this, so looting their corpses and then their accounts was a lot easier than I expected. Soon I had all of this land, the buildings, the stores, and so on ready and waiting for the shit to hit the fan. All I had to do was get out of the Cities and make it here, and I knew I had it made."

"How long?"

"Ah, now we're moving from 'How did I destroy a social cancer disguised as a movement?' to 'How did I found a new kingdom out of these ashes?' A good time for that transition, since there's not much else to talk about in terms of how I contributed to the burning to ashes of the Old World- and why it deserved to die screaming for its mother like the pathetic bitch it was."

He chuckled.

"Well, as dramatic as hacking my way through a sea of zeds would be, that's not how it happened. I got a tip from someone I knew who went into the Spook world that something big was due in three days, and I should bug out. I took that warning seriously, cleared out my place in town, and then I fled the Cities and came here. I didn't warn anyone else, because fuck them. Whomever managed to not get eaten and still made it I'd consider letting in."


"Twenty got here. I put half of them down because they got bit and lied to me about it; that's where the bone pile started. After that first winter I started going around to the others nearby and gave them the choice, and that's when I began building the kingdom that you have been born into."

"And become king of in time."

Now I chuckled.

"If you live long enough to succeed your predecessors. For all that your father and I made of our killing powers we are still mortal men- we do have limits. Don't be like the dumbasses who thought that words had power by themselves; real power, real ruling, relies on hard men ready and willing to kill and kill and kill to get and keep that power. That means that there is only so much that one hard man can rule; to do more than that you need loyal men, and that means finding men worthy of your loyalty. That, my boy, is the real hard part. Kingdoms rise and fall by the power of the king to find and keep good men at his side."

Friday, October 30, 2015

The End Began in the Middle-05

"So much killing went on in the months before the end, Jeremy." I said, "Lots of it was simple and crude, much of it done incompetently and opportunistically. I didn't care for that stuff. It was all amateur hour antics, and yet even so they got far more done than generations of bullshitting ever did. The best part was that the Internet covered all of it pretty much as it happened, sometimes with the killers streaming the killing as they did it."

"Dad says that it seemed like a madhouse."

"At first, sure, but that's because most people had lived so long in that illusion of permanent peace that they couldn't deal with the real world when it shattered those illusions and proved to them just how wrong they were. The stronger ones adapted quickly and did one of the smart things: ran or fought back. Most of them knew enough about themselves to know that they couldn't really fight back, so they ran like hell and got out of wherever they were in favor of someplace else. Those small groups that got rolled by roving gangs, or zeds, or anyone else with the good sense to not be pussies? Born of those thinking that they could always run and hide."

"What about the police?"

"They didn't like dying anymore than anyone else did."

"Really? It's that simple?"

"After just enough people lost their fear of the cops, due to seeing just how incompetent all but the best of them were, the slaughter of anyone in a cop uniform was catastrophic. The ghettos, where the street gangs had their presence, turned into killing fields overnight once that happened and it happened after I'd already swamped them with my own work. City cops, then deputies, then state patrol, then Feds- and man, the cascading effect once the people saw that the Feds were just dudes with suits and guns and so on turned already bad scenes into total collapse. Governments big and small dropped all pretense of being 'for the people', and just took care of their own openly- like that made it better."

"So the end began in the middle of the country?"

"Yeah." I said, showing some pride, "I guess you could say that it did. Long overdue, by the way. Too many folks forgot the way this shit really works; too big a claim of turf, and too little real power to make it stick. Collapse like this had to come sooner or later, and it was on its way even if I didn't start clearing out the crap."

"How so?"

"The world's economy was about to fall through the floor, and World War 3 was already shaping up."

Friday, October 23, 2015

The End Began in the Middle-04

"The freakouts were fantastic to witness. All the screaming about people being gunned down in places where guns were already banned, knifed where knives were banned, and so on only to scream that the bans need to be made worse- as if that would solve the problem! Morons. Fucking retards, the lot of them!" I said, "In their desperate, yet futile, attempt to make their feelings the law of all they abandoned all reality and embraced their collective insanity- as if they were nothing more than overgrown children. Reaping them like wheat before a thresher was more than punishment- it was judgement."

"But there had to be more than that?"

I smiled again. "True, there were plenty more, and after I executed that first gang at that convention more took up my path on their own- I never met them, never knew who they were, and never heard from them. They just picked up the gun and began executing the enemies in their neighborhoods as I did to those trespassing in mine. Most of them would get caught by the police state, and gunned down themselves in time, but those who--like me--showed their quality by staying inside the enemy's minds and thus avoided the traps set for us, quickly came to clear out their neighborhoods."

"A purge, then?"

"The likes of which no one then alive in this land had ever seen."

"The ones buried deep into the power structure proved hardest to take out, as they expected people to try killing them, so they took some work to handle. I resorted to using them as secondary targets when I went after more available targets, like the dumb twats trying to ban everything. I'd also picked off some opportunity targets, and settled some long-standing scores, as I went about the bigger business."

I looked again at the boy. I looked deep into his eyes, as I did when I gave the watered-down version to his father years ago. I saw there what I expected out my own son, that he got it, that he comprehended what all of this killing meant- why it was needed, and better than the alternative.

"Is that how you became king?" he said.

"Not directly." I said, "But it was the start of how I became king. I killed all of the invaders, the liars, the whores, the crooks, everyone who dared step foot into my land and mess with what is mine- I killed them all, and I am damn proud of all that butchery. When the apocalypse came, I knew that I would not be one of the weak pussies that got eaten by the horde. I knew--well before the event--that I would become one of the masters of that world, and when it came I became one of the happiest men in the world."

"Ken would be the other?"

"Yep. We got along fine for that reason."

Friday, October 16, 2015

The End Began in the Middle-03

"The entire community where I worked could not believe that someone not only exposed them, but delivered judgement. The government promised to 'find the killer', but never did. In part because I knew how to ensure that none of their investigations would amount to anything, and in part due to me knowing how limited their resources were. I buried them in corpses, so to speak."

"Dad said that once something got you mad enough, you couldn't be stopped."

"Your father doesn't know the half of it." I said, satisfied with myself, "It's something I figured out when I was a young man: the secret to killing your way to victory is to outpace the other side. That's very hard to do when the other side is a bunch of dead shamblers, but next to them is an omni-present police state. Same skills needed, however."

He gave me that look.

"If I overwhelmed the ability of the cops to keep up and investigate, then I could proceed with impunity. So I did just that; I kept stacking the corpses like cordwood, executing one or more of the enemy every day and ensuring that the continuity continued. Five in a game studio's offices, three at a movie party while the party went on, a dozen at long range with a rifle when they wandered off in a big park, several home invasions, and so on. I got a weekly count of 100 once during this period."

Now the realization came over the boy as he saw his aged, elderly grandfather as the experienced and remorseless manslayer that I really am.

"How long did you keep it up?"

"I started on the first weekend of July that year. I won by the end of August. Eight solid weeks of daily killing, the latter part including me taking the fight to them across the country. Generations of social infiltration and degeneration wiped out in two months. Two months, my boy! All my life I'd been lied to about the power of killing, and I proved them all wrong--permanently, eternally wrong--in just two months! Had the world not come to an end when it did, my part of it would have been able to stage a counter-revolution that would've cleansed the country by the end of the following year. A flood of blood so great it would have sated the thirst of the worst of vampires."

The boy looked at me with a mix of awe and fear. Good. You respect your elders for a reason: they've spent a lifetime mastering skills that you barely know exist.

"Do you know how-"

"One thousand, four-hundred, fifty-six." I said, "The last one I did live on global television, and I still walked away as if no one saw me- and that's because no one did. I shot one of the leading mind-fuckers, a high priestess of this cult, as she gave an interview to one of the major media networks' prime-time news anchors. Her head exploded like a popped balloon and got brain, blood, and bone all over the newscaster."

I chuckled. I had a livestream of that interview going, muted, to ensure that I dialed in the target properly without taking any shots so I saw that I got it right when the chick's headless corpse flopped to the floor like a sack of cement and the chatroom's collective freakout got me rolling with laughter. Right then, I knew beyond any doubt that victory in this culture war was mine.

Friday, October 9, 2015

The End Began in the Middle-02

"You killed two guys-"

"No, lying whores. A pair of lying, thieving, gold-digging whores playing the men like fiddles and laughing about it all the way to the bank."

"Bad girls?"

"As far too many were at the end. My execution of those two is my contribution to the catalysts that would set off the end."


I could not contain my glee. Finally, I get to tell it all: "No one ever expected an outright execution to happen to two popular whores in a St. Paul hotel near the airport, so when their corpses got found a few minutes later--remember, zeds didn't exist yet--the reaction was a total freak out. Yet, by then I found the hotel room this gang shared. I had a key, so I let myself in and executed the rest of the gang in their room. In and out in moments."

I paused a moment. "Let that sink in, boy. To start fixing a problem caused by liars, thieves, and predators corrupting good people into being more of the same a good man had to get mad and start popping those bad folks right in the brain. Sound familiar?"

Jeremy chuckled. "I thought you said zeds didn't exist?"

Good boy! You got the point! "Not literally so, but when the apocalypse hit I found those habits and practices worked just as well with the dead as the living."

He laughed, and that made this easier.

"You remember that we had newspapers, TV and radio places that told the news, and all that?"


"Well, my assassinations so shocked everyone that they led the news for a week- and shut that convention down for good, along with all of the others run by the same group."

He gasped.

"So, as I continued to track down and execute the rest of the leading crooks in the area, never getting caught and leaving the same signs behind to show continuity, I had everyone of them freaking out- and me, hiding in plain sight, planning which of them to take out next."

"Like when Ken the Stalker is around the smarter zeds?"


Friday, October 2, 2015

The End Began in the Middle-01

"Grandfather, how did the Old World end?"

My son's son, a boy by the name of Jeremy, was a curious boy. Curiosity in a land where flesh-eating zombies have been a reality since I sired his father upon his mother is not a good thing, and I'd told my boy so many times- but to no avail.

I sighed. "There aren't many of us left that remember the Old World. If you managed to ask all of us that question, you would get as many answers as you would people. That's because what brought about the end is not just one thing, but instead a lot of little things coming together and having a big effect when together."

"Like when streams and creeks flow into rivers?"

"Like that, but bigger. Flood-like, really, if it really gets going."

The light of the fire in the hearth briefly reminded me of being that boy's age, when my own grandfather--who grew up without electricity--told me about how everything could change like a flood overnight.

"So, what did you do?"

This was now, again, a harsh world like my grandfather's was in his youth. No need to keep him from the truth; the sooner he knew what he'd need to do, the better he'd get at doing it.

"My part began in an elevator, at a convention, in the summer just before everything went wrong. This was long before I met your grandmother. I'd been pulled into the center of a long-running conflict, one I'd had to deal with all my life, and over the winter before I received proof that the people I'd been fighting had committed all sorts of crimes against me and my people for longer than I'd lived through lies and other bad things."

"So, what did you do in that lift thing?"

"This convention had a small gang, part of the larger group of crooks, do a very big get-together every year. They stayed in the hotel where the convention took place. I followed the two leaders into an elevator and waited for everyone else to get off. As soon as the doors closed, I drew my gun and shot them both--one shot, each, to the head--and got off on the next floor. They never saw it coming, as they both assumed that no one had a real gun due to the gun bans in place. Both died instantly."

"No zeds?"

"No zeds yet. Just living targets, all deserving." I said as I patted the old CZ-82 sidearm in my lap. "Yes, my boy, with this very one." I smiled. Well over 60 years later, and I still feel the greatest satisfaction from those first two kills.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Administration Post for Q3 of 2015

As this post, I've finished my first novel-length manuscript. My first choice for a publisher passed on it. I am now resorting to my backup route, and furthermore I'm taking the 100K word (and more) manuscript and breaking it up into three smaller books--novellas or short novels--because each third is a distinct entity in its own right. It works better as a trilogy than a single stand-alone novel.

Which means that readership here is still below the threshold required to maintain this blog as it has been. I'm setting up at Amazon. By the end of this year I'll have at least one, and may well have three, books available through via Kindle- and later POD via Createspace. This blog will (a) go into archive mode for a time in 2016, followed by a cleanup and relaunch once the backlog is cleared.

The new version of this blog will be to include elements of the milieu that necessarily gets cut from the books I publish because they do are not fit for the purpose of efficient delivery of a literary narrative. In addition, I will use this blog to promote my books and related work. If you like the stories, get them now; after the turn of the year they're going away until I can clean them up and republish them as either entire books to themselves or part of an anthology.

Expect something more concrete when I get to the End of 2015 admin post.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Harp Incident-12

The second fallout was the transformation of medicine and medical technologies due to the confirmation of epigenetics as a thing. Once that became known as a thing that could significantly transform an individual due to psychological factors, that got suppressed by the governments worldwide right away; they wanted super-soldiers that they controlled, and not free superhumans doing as they like. Epyon wasn't having it; he organized his nascent department to break this information loose, and they did- and without Control saying so. The results were that this too soon got online and embedded into the Darknet, making it impossible to erradicate without destroying the Internet worldwide- a thing that was never going to happen.

The combination of cheap power soon turned into cheap and good Internet access worldwide. That undermined corporate and government centralization through the proliferation of things like easy 3d printing and other technologies of that sort. The Agency picked up on this trend early and used it to our advantage to exert leverage against the enemy organizations we discovered, mapping out and rolling them up in turn- but far more quiet and with far less fanfare. By the time I became Control, Epyon and the other super-soldiers we recruited worked to transform the world into a place I once believed only could ever exist in the more hopeful of science fiction stories.

More than that, I can't say for certain. Once I retired from the Game, and Epyon took over as Control, the Agency had become a true peacemaking organization. Sure, the shadow aspect remained; there remained a need for things done discreetly, and early intervention often nipped problems in the bud well before the super-soldiers became necessary, so the only real thing to worry about now was the possibility of infiltration, either by enemy actors or (more likely) complacency and decadence.

But that's another story.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Harp Incident-11

The first fallout was that a lot of heretofore secret information had to be revealed, warts and all, to the public. The Squids--The Order--were by no means a Johnny-Come-Lately organization. We had to screw the Establishment to get this out because public knowledge of Squid deeds would be good for the population and the Establishment in the long run, even though many Establishment players and institutions would get hit or destroyed in the short run for reasons both fair and foul alike. The technologies that they produced, kept secret by Squid agents in Establishment institutions, had to be released and spread far and wide so that other long-term threats both to the population and to the Establishment could be readily sorted.

We had to provide information, albeit through cutouts, to public inquiries such as various Congressional committees as well as to their many state-level counterparts and even to many media outlets. Interviews, presentations, and many books had to be rushed out the door; fortunately we had a lot of friends and assets in place to handle this, which meant that not only did we have the chance to vett what we released beforehand but that we also turned this into something that allowed us to generate the necessary revenue required to keep our operations going. All this technology, top talent, and so on doesn't pay for itself you know.

Our people watching for alerts from our other enemies--and we had more than the Squids--also put in their work as they watched distinct patterns of interference symbolizing actionable intelligence that we could investigate. We found out about the reality of many other enemy organizations in the Great Game by watching for these things; this would lead to Epyon's rising through the ranks, and also to the proliferation of super-soldiers as well as other augmentive technologies necessary for otherwise ordinary operatives to be able to compete with them. A new arms race in the shadow world, which would ripple outward into the mundane world, broke out as fallout from this incident.

This also meant that the Agency had to reorganize. We couldn't return Epyon truly to the shadows; like the comic-books that he resembled, and took cues from, we had to recognize that Epyon could be a covert operative but never truly secret and that meant forming an entire department around him and those would come in his wake. When we needed something done, and we could afford to be noisy about it, Department Epyon handled it here on out. Several agents I knew--but none of my team--would transfer over to this department because they were more like him in temperament and would be far better for the Agency there than where they were.

But the biggest change to come would be the revelation that there was a proven, ready-made power technology that made fossil fuels pointless; oil remained a thing due to plastics and other polymers, but Big Oil fell over and died overnight once the patents hit the Internet and immediately got spread throughout the world, especially in the Darknet where fools could not touch it. That was a hard call for Control, but it proved to be best; it screwed a lot of enemies out of key advantages. Those transmitters required power production and transmission far beyond what was heretofore allowed to be known; now that the real limits of such technologies were out there, the geopolitical game shifted away from the Middle-East and the oil-based global economy. Yeah, the Establishment was not happy with the end of the petrodollar, but the new technologies allowed that shift to be a soft landing and the new economic system relied on a balance of major currencies--U.S. Dollar, Euro, Pound, Yuan, and Yen--which held out for the rest of my days.

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Harp Incident-10

Epyon's superhuman power is what made our assault on the Squid's HAARP network a success. We exploited his healing power to ignore the usual limits of human effort that requires bodily rest and therefore the need to pace themselves to ensure that he had about 10 minutes every eight hours in one of our rest tanks to rest his brain enough to keep up with his body. Our teams could act as an anvil and he as the hammer upon which we beat the Squid into submission, and we did just that.

Our assets in the media got into line right quick, both mainstream and alternative, and ensured that we got the message out that the Squid agents were just that and they suckered the U.S. Establishment into being their pawns. This gave the Establishment an out, and they took it en masse, as our people came for Squid operatives deeply enmeshed into various agencies and programs throughout the Federal government as well as that of the several states.

There were hostage incidents, running gunfights, car chases, bombings, and many other incidents that revealed the Squid to be a criminal syndicate dedicated to terrorism as a fallback tactic when the shit hit the fan. Lots of innocent folks died, and they died in horrible ways. Fortunately we saved far more than otherwise would be killed due to Epyon's intervention at the last possible moment- a fact we ensured got into the narrative we put forth into the media.

Control, of course, put my team on the coordination and reserve unit detail. Rolling up this long-running enemy organization, now that we had its entire network revealed to us, was an opportunity that we could not pass up. It took a week of this, but we destroyed all of their arrays and put down or captured all of their members and assets. The governments and corporations comprising the Establishment, since they had that out, gladly complied. The holes in their organizations got filled within a month, barring special elections, so no lasting damage was done.

What did get noticed was the almost instantaneous reversion of weather patterns heretofore used to manipulate the population, especially government and corporate entities, into doing their will. The drought in California? Broken. The "polar vortex"? Gone, for good. The ice caps iced over, and any threat of a massive methane release ended within weeks. The threat of catastrophic climate change had ceased to be a thing, thanks in large part to Agency release of Squid intelligence regarding how this worked and why.

Control also authorized the release of all of the Squid technology that wasn't also held by us, pretty much to seal the deal with the Establishment that cooperating with us was better than not, and we got to retain our shadow status- Control even managed to maintain his own anonymity. Beyond the alphabet soup we remained, now that we made our deal; it had its bad sides, but we didn't care much for the current Chinese regime anyway and we knew that Russia was due to collapse soon also- no point in butting in there.

That said, there was significantly fallout and therefore cleanup operations to be had.

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Harp Incident-09

We kept Carrano under while we went over the intelligence. The arrays, known in the fringe world as "HAARP", turned out to be a Squid operation. Before we turned him over, we hooked him up and scanned his brain using the backup technology otherwise reserved for Special Branch operatives; I'd later argue that this breach of protocol was justified- and get away with it. The reason? Once we finished running through his brainmeats as if he were a miniaturized Internet to himself, we got actionable intelligence about the very arrays in question.

The arrays were weather-control operations, coordinated by deep-cover Squid operatives networked throughout the U.S. Establishment, but not at all intended to be used against other populations. Instead, they were used to manipulate the U.S. itself- a loophole in the array of treaties that did address such things (but they thought it was about cloud-seeding and old crap like that). By keeping various parts of the nation in varying levels of environmental stress, the base players cashed in on insurance fraud at a scope and scale heretofore impossible while the Squids got to set up a global environmental threat through the melting of trapped methane gas in the poles- and they had a super-fast remedy ready to go as soon as they had de facto global power in their hands.

We handed off Carrano and then mapped out the full array of the operation, thanks to Carrano's memories telling us all we needed to know to act on it. As we realized that our jet intended to have us go over the Bohemian Club in California, we knew that this was by no means a subtle operation; this was a combat op from the get-go, and we were air-dropping into a forest. Not an easy thing at the best of times, and this was nothing of the sort. Our goal was simple: to nab a known and well-connected Squid during his visit to the club.

What we figured, but had not confirmed, was that this was a Squid front. Since everyone was a Squid, we were in a free-fire zone and we took that opportunity to cull the opposition significantly. We bagged our prey, and cut a bloodly swath through the rest of them to get a car and get away; we knew where the jet awaited us, so we were in the air once more by the time that Squid-controlled cops and Feds could get to the Club and make any effort to do anything about it.

Once we got back to the Oubliette, we already debriefed the prisoner; the weather manipulation information we got from Carrano got independently confirmed (which would back me up at the discipline hearing after the fact), and we got a better picture of what the Squids intended to do with their plan. Specifics--people, places, properties, etc.--filled in the holes that we had in the information to date made Control a happy enough man; the Agency went on Apocalypse Protocol as we moved against the Squid and moved for the long-awaited extinction of that enemy organization.

Getting everything into place took moving Heaven and Earth, but the Agency has the means and the people to do just that. Even so, we could not do a globally-simultaneous assault due to--of course--the weather ensuring that just enough time disruption occurred that some part of their network did get a heads-up. Some of our teams ran into unexpected resistance, which forced us to deploy our trump card early: Epyon, fully-certified and ready for action. He turned the tide single-handedly, as they could not counter him without countering themselves, and he could be--and was--rapidly deployed and redeployed to where we needed him.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Harp Incident-08

Whatever the subject's life was before, it's over and so was his legal identity. Control had him declared dead; his new code-name was all that was left for him now: "Epyon".

Epyon trained hard, his powers allowing him to push himself further faster than anyone else possibly could. Under Agency guidance, and control, he acclimated quickly; Jan's preliminary profile of him served as the basis for a complete and comprehensive profile through which Control ensured the loyalty of Epyon to our cause.

Meanwhile, the others and I headed out to track down Carrano and his fellow Squid. Carrano came up in Argentina, so off we went. We caught up with him at the home of a major drug cartel head, so we assumed covers as FBI and DEA agents using international treaties and other agreements to pull off a covert operation in a foreign state in a manner deniable to the Agency. That wasn't the hard part; the hard part was to keep our operation under wraps in a country with notorious corruption issues- amongst other known issues.

Jan and Aaron did the talking, again. As the lead agents, they handled the local officials and bullshat U.S. assets into assisting us- with Matt backing them up on the electronic end. Eric and I did the heavy lifting, as it were; we had to clean up some local messes to buy assistance from the more reluctant--but otherwise friendly--assets, and do it cleanly, but that didn't take long and we kept our shirts tucked in while we did it.

The operation, once we had what we needed ready, went as I expected. We came in at dusk, when we knew that the host would be hip-deep in women while partying with other guests and otherwise playing the Good Host expected of a high-rolling cartel kingpin. Jan worked her way through the crowd to get to the host, while Aaron networked his way towards Carrano. Eric stood by with the getaway, Matt monitoring by way of a drone in the sky overhead, and I was well away watching Jan and Aaron with a rifle trained on the scene.

The play was simple enough. The cover operation was a blackbag job. Jan slipped a tracker on the host; he would later get killed by a missile fired from the drone. I popped one of the high-profile guests, the son of another high-roller gangster there to work out an arrangement from the Golden Triangle to Argentina--heroin for cocaine, as I recall, w/ some guns mixed into it--and in the panic Aaron would taze and take Carrano.

Hours later, as we took off back for the Oubliette with Carrano in custody, taking pleasure in a well-executed plan we got word from Control.

"Debrief from Epyon incidents a bigger problem regarding the arrays. I've sent a flier to take your package; you and your team will proceed to new coordinates."

Well, that escalated quickly.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Harp Incident-07

Eric and Aaron harried Carrano, wounding him twice, but had to break contact once he dove out a window and into a pool far below. As they linked up with us, I got the heads-up: "Carrano made a scene. Security's on its way up."

Jan, wisely, kept close to the subject and thus under control. Eric went ahead with Aaron and retrieved our car; we piled in and made our way out.

"It's okay." Jan said, "My people and I have a safe place to hide near here." and then kept his head buried in her chest while we returned to the safehouse so he wouldn't know the way.

"We can't keep him under." Matt said, "Not if he recovers that fast."

I put the shield up to divide the passenger seats from where Eric and I sat up front. "Change of plans. Eric, airport. Matt, call Control and let him known we have an Emergency Package to drop off at the Oubliette, then bug out of there- link up with us later. Jan, keep him occupied; you've got to go the distance."

We got to the airport and Jan kept him from paying too much attention. "My friend called in some favors." she said, keeping him close, "We're going someplace where they can't find us- but once we're there, you'll be able to call home."

That was enough. He may be superhuman in body, but between his ears he's still a naive college kid with little real world experience. Jan played him like a fiddle.

We got up into the air, and Control confirmed the Package so we got priority in airspace. We arrived a few hours later, without incident (for which I was thankful) well into the Canadian wilderness at a hidden airstrip where Control met us at the hangar.

"Welcome, son." Control said, shaking the man's hand, "We're sorry to have you out in the middle of nowhere, but things are very dangerous right now and until we've got a handle on the situation you remain a target. While you are quite capable of taking what's thrown at you, that's not so for everyone else- like all the innocent people that tend to be around the places you want to be."

"How long?" he said.

"That depends."

"On what?"

"On how soon you become ready for action." Control said, "You're in the Great Game now, son. Welcome to The Agency."

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Harp Incident-06

Jan successfully got a hold of our subject, and she met him at the Excaliber. Making him talk was easy; keeping him away from Squid Carrano and Dr. Goro long enough to get him talking was the hard part, and that's where Aaron and Eric made their part of the plan work. They kept Dr. Goro talking about himself, and Carrano bragging about how awesome he is, while Jan demonstrated why she's one of our best honeypots. Pillow talk revealed what I suspected: the professor tagged him as an easy mark to recruit, got him alone just often enough to turn his head, and then manipulated him into a situation where he'd be away from family and friends for an extended period of time. The reason? To monitor the weather tracking station in Baja California.

Remember, this kid wanted to be a weather man. He had no idea what was going on there. What he found was a massive array of power transmitters that directly affected the atmosphere in a targetable manner. In short, he found a HAARP array; no, the one in Alaska is not the only one. It turned out that he was there when the last mission I led--which was to take that array out--blew it up while he was present. He had already been subjected to a medical cocktail of untested treatment candidates, and enduring the effects thereof, when the power banks blew up and some of that power surged through the place. That much electricity should have fried him to a crisp, but between his fear of death and his bewilderment at his situation he found himself alive and able to walk--stumble, really--out on his own.

Then he wanted more fun time with Jan. Jan obliged.

Meanwhile, Aaron kept Dr. Goro talking as Goro got back the results from the DNA sample he took from the subject. The long-story made short is that a lot of "junk" DNA got turned on somehow and that not only turned his healing ability into something out of a comic book (which means he's never going to age again), he's been made into a brick outhouse akin to other sorts of comic book heroes.

"We have, gentlemen, the first truly superhuman individual in known history." Dr. Goro said, smiling, "And soon he will be the sole property of The Order."

Carrano cheered. "Hail!"

Aaron and Eric nodded at each other. "Boss, time to break up the party." Matt said, and I broke into the room with my Browning Hi Power in hand- and, of course, with a suppressor attached.

"The Order has expelled you both." I said, and I shot Dr. Goro dead where he stood. Eric and Aaron drew their own suppressed pistols, but Carrano fled out a side door.

"Follow." I said, and they did. I went to Jan- "Get dressed!" I said, "The hitmen are here. We have to go."

Friday, July 31, 2015

The Harp Incident-05

We got into the air before our subject and his Squid handler did, thanks to a quick maneuver by Matt to cock-up their flight plan filings. Only took half an hour to fix it, but that was enough to get on the Agency jet and ahead of them. I authorized the use of restricted airspace to get us there faster, and with Eric on the stick we had no incidents getting to Las Vegas well ahead of the opposition. Matt and Aaron ensured we had the gear needed at the hangar when we got there, and Jan took the flight time to dig deeper into the subject's past to figure out a new approach angle.

Once we landed and got into the Agency safehouse there, we got the tracking up and running. The subject and Squid Carrano landed just as we got online in the safehouse, and their communications revealed that the subject was about to meet a Dr. Goro in a penthouse suite at the Excaliber. While the hotels in Las Vegas are, for the most part, clean of any group tied to the Game that doesn't make them wholly untouched; they'll cater to any high roller, and I do mean "cater" and "any". Dr. Goro operates out of Malaysia, and he specializes in genetics and epigentics- he's renown as a researcher into the genetic elements of disease, looking for treatments and cure. He is also known in my world as being responsible for super-soldier research.

Either this kid's going to end up vivisected, or indoctrinated into being a super-Squid. Neither is acceptable to the Agency.

"Jan, you got an angle yet?" I said, hoping she'd deliver.

"Yeah." She showed a picture of a former teacher of his from university. "Turns out our subject had a questionable relationship with one of his professors, and she disappeared on sabbatical shortly before he made his trip to Baja."

"I found the woman. She's turned up in a Mexican prison, convicted of trafficking." Matt said.

"Drugs?" Eric said.

"Girls." Matt said, "The woman also had ties to NGOs and charities dealing in that stuff. Hell of a cover. Not a known Squid, or for any other enemy org."

Jan sighed. "Well, that explains a lot. This kid already had the recruitment angle worked on him. The best thing I can do is turn it."

I nodded. "Do it. It looks like neither Carrano nor Goro know about the woman yet."

While Jan moved to the other room and began changing, I brought up a presentation: "This is the play. Jan's going to make the first touch, getting us in the door. Eric, you're the wheelman that got her here. Aaron, you're the cartel asset that got her out. Matt's on coordination, as usual."

"And you, boss?" Aaron said.

"I'm her handler." I said, "We're committing to turning this recruitment angle against the Squids. Carrano's likely calling in muscle to back him up; any others on site are Goro's men, and he probably travels with just the acceptable entourage to keep up appearances."

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Harp Incident-04

We entered the Carrano residence under the guise of being Treasury agents. Treasury, of course, because that's where the Secret Service resides and we like to abuse their wide powers- any threat against the President of the United States goes to them, and they check it out. Handy shit for when we need a go-to cover that will work on Fridge Logic.

Jan and Aaron, doing their best Fed impression, handled face contact; I monitored from around the corner, doing the reading-a-thing-while-on-a-bench routine and Eric as the silent and implied threat of force. Matt, having real-time taps on hand, fed Jan and Aaron information as they needed it.

"I've identified the subject. He's in a side room with our Squid friend." Matt said into my ear, "It looks like Mr. Squid is keeping him calm, as he's buying into the ruse."

"Good." I said, "Jan, Aaron- keep the brother on tilt; Eric, mind the side room."

Jan and Aaron work well doing Good Cop/Bad Cop, and the fact that the businessman Carrano has dodgy financials as well as political arrangements make a Treasury visit viable as a cover. While Aaron and Jan kept the man and his staff on hand busy attempting to avoid arrest, Eric--under Matt's direction--scanned the place and did his best Suited Thug work.

"Squid's slipping subject out a window." Matt said.

"I'm on it. Finish the show, and let the fish go." I said, and I caught the subject and Squid Carrano coming out a side entrance. "Got them; fixing."

"Tagged." Matt said as they made their way to a parked car down the block, "So long as we have access to the grid, we have tracking."

Jan, Aaron, and Eric ended their show and left without incident. It wouldn't be until a few hours passed that they'd get any idea that they'd been had.

"Squid's calling his brother." Matt said, "Brother knows what's up with the subject. File appended."

"I'll tail them first." I said, and rolled after them as they drove away. Eric and I traded off several times as they made their way to one of the local airports to board a private jet. One check later: "They're for Las Vegas."

"Stall them. We need to buy time and get ahead." I said, "Then call the caretaker and get going. Everyone to the tarmac."

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Harp Incident-03

The team and I quickly got real-time intelligence on the businessman's residence, and then found out who was inside. Matt used the backdoors in the phones to access the microphones and stream their audio, monitoring movements and access their social media accounts. It turned out that our man was there, and his name was Brian Johnson- a University of Chicago student majoring in Meteorology. At that point, Matt chimed in with some needed information.

"There was a secret transmitter array in Baja."

"Was?" I said.

"Blown up last month, in a raid that the FBI had classified for national security reasons. Something destroyed the entire facility instantly, and the report says that only a single man--our subject--walked out. Doctors at the nearest clinic took him in, but he healed to perfect health within a day and he left."


Matt caught my hint. "He was in good health previously, but nothing like the peak-human condition he soon assumed. Open wounds, scar tissue- all healed away within hours."

"He was then seen pushing himself in exercise routines, collapsing, recovering within an hour and then going again. Same with his martial training."


"Cuba. Havana."

"With whom?"

"Our businessman's brother, a mercenary and former Foreign Legion soldier: Raphael Carrano."

Carrano. That name I knew. "He's Squid." I said, referring to one of our enemies, "It's likely that he's already doing what we want to do. Swap to Fed covers. We're busting them."

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Harp Incident-02

I took a nap on the private jet the Agency used to ferry me to Miami, and from there I met the team at the safehouse the Agency established there for operations involving Cuba years ago. Nothing fancy, of course, but it's good enough for our needs.

Waiting there were the four agents I called for: Mark Decker (my IT guy), Jan Falcon (a great honeypot), Erik Redman (wheelman), and Aaron Jackson (my fixer). They had already made themselves at home, and Jan wasted no time in greeting me as I entered the house; she took my bags, handed me a drink, and pointed me to our ad-hoc conference room. While she sorted the baggage, I went to said room and shook hands with the others. Jan then came in, and I had them take seats.

"Six hours ago, an unknown subject single-handedly broke every prisoners in Guantanamo Bay out. The subject is a white man, approximately 20 years of age, blond hair and blue eyes, as indicated in the footage that the Agency provided to you. Our job is to track him down and bring him in."

Just then, Control came on the line. "Good, you're all there. A profile of the subject is complete and now pushing to your clients."

Mark, having set up his control system, immediately took up his end of the matter. "I'm listening. Just keep going."

"Our subject has no prior record of criminal activity and political action has been harmless and useless to date. This incident, therefore, is his debut as an actor of substance. We have reason to believe that his recent month-long excursion to Baja California is the catalyst for this change; however, we want you to engage him and bring him in- and that is why you are in Miami."

Jan signaled. "Ah, I see what the play is; show me his last girlfriend."

I looked over to Matt, and he nodded. Jan got a look at the ex-girlfriend: girl-next-door appearance, rich girl attire, left the subject while he was in the hospital for an older--and much richer--friend with a lock on a corporate position. "Well, it's doable, but if we can't locate him in short order I'm left with outright recruitment as the angle."

"You're authorized." I said, "We can't subdue by force. Guile's required for him- the muscle is for other interested parties."

Aaron, looking on with Jan, piped up. "Mostly normal in his interests, apparently, and politics is under-grad fashionable; something recently put him into a place to go radical like this."

"The story online is contained to the fringe areas, but it's viral within them." Matt said, not looking away from his bank of monitor, "However, I do have his phone's GPS now. The phone is here in town; I presume he's with it. The location has him at the home of a local businessman with ties to Miami's man in the House of Representatives."

I rolled my eyes. Not eight hours in, and already complications. "Jan, Aaron, get ready. Eric, get dressed. Matt, you're holding this down here; I'll take the second set of wheels as backup. 20 minutes."

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Harp Incident-01

It began with an emergency recall from my holiday in Colorado, and no sooner did I get on the helicopter than I get a tablet shoved into my hands.

"The Agency apologizes for the interruption, but this is a Black Swan event at Code Black severity." Control said, "I've taken the liberty of clearing your schedule, as this matter is now your top priority."

That meant trouble, severe trouble. Now, "Black Swan" isn't Agency jargon; that's mainstream talk for "an unforseen event of significance". "Code Black", on the other hand, was jargon and it meant "Crisis Event of Clear and Immanent Danger"- the sort of thing that you'd see James Bond sent in to handle.

"The video provided to you occurred four hours ago, and it would have come sooner but it took that long to recover it and get it to us." Control said, and I watched a video out of Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. I watched a 10 minute long video montage from the camp's security cameras of a blond-haired, blue-eyed young man wearing blue jeans and a plain T-shirt attack the camp and bust out all of the prisoners held there. He got shot more times than I could count and didn't even blink, let alone react or suffer apparent injury. When guards closed to bring him into melee, he tossed them aside like rag dolls- and gently so. He broke secured doors with inhuman ease. He wore no armor, used no tools, and walked out as casually as he walked in.

"Part of the reason for the short duration is that, as part of his assault, he found and destroyed the security command center. That included the hardware that recorded the camera footage. We have a partial reconstruction, and more is in the work. However, review of the attacker showed that he has an online presence exhibiting hostility to U.S. foreign policy, and recently disappeared in Baja California for a month before returning from wherever he went- and has not said anything concrete about that month of missing time."

"Do we have a profile on this kid?" I said, curious to see if Control's done the homework.

"Compiling, and should be ready soon."

"What's the objective?"

"Bring this kid in." Control said, "The cleaners are already on site. You're going to Miami, as we expect the young man to depart from Cuba right away. Make your personnel selections within the next five minutes; they will meet you there."

Friday, June 26, 2015

Administration Post for Q2 of 2015

As of this post, I'm deep into the novel manuscript. I'm on the final draft before I start doing the submission lottery (and, simultaneously, get on with the self-publishing option). Overall statistics remain steady, which is Not Good Enough; if there isn't a significant uptake in audience or engagement by the end of the year I'm shutting this blog down.

The other option, which I am considering, is a wholesale reformation. Now that I've been made aware of tools for self-publishing that are within my grasp (and thus cutting down the need for outside funding), I will consider over the latter half of this year taking this blog down for a time so I can complete reformat it as a front for self-publishing my work.

It's an option, should no traditional house or literary agent care to take up the novel manuscript. One way or another, I will get into this game; if I have to build up from ashes and dust, so be it.

As for this year, the next serial--The Harp Incident--begins next week.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Lord of the Arena-12

The launch bays in Duluth were far more evenly spaced, and the arena's layout forbade immediate firing upon opponents, so they came out at speed looking to engage right away. Twenty, some of them fighting their way into this event from beating previous undercard challenges, began the match and the fighting went fierce within moments of contact. Eric's car, this time, favored a new miniature railgun again mounted in a pair up front; this made itself felt by taking out one of his rivals in a single shot- catching the target across a corner in a snap-shot, piercing the armor on that quarter-panel and knocking out the powerplant, compelling the crippled car to crash into a wall and stop. The driver, an unknown, signaled his concession by hand and got out on foot via a nearby service door.

"First blood to The 30 Second Ace!" the arena announcer said.

The field quickly winnowed after that. Most of the kills were mobility kills; incoming fire compelled the driver to lose control and come to a halt due to a collision or being upended by a roll. As with Eric's first kill of the match, most of these drivers were themselves unhurt and surrendered to take advantage of the regulations requiring them to leave the arena in return for free passage from the remaining drivers. A few got injured or killed due to the collisions sustained, either of their own car or an opponent's loss of control taking them out. The others eliminated died due to enemy fire directly killing them; the suborned rival's car, as well as Eric's own, did this on a few occasions without malice- it is acknowledged that this is a known risk, so unlawful killing statutes don't apply.

"It's down to The 30 Second Ace and Milwaukee Red!"

The two circled and jockeyed like fighter aces for several long minutes, firing snap-shots and missing each other, and it was then that Eric recalled the report about Red's car. This lead to Eric using a wrecked rival's car as a ramp, one that launched him into the air as Red's car passed by below, and as Eric passed the peak of this arc he targeted Red. Red's car had come about hoping to get a shot off from the rear guns, but he missed the mark- Eric's car was just out of reach by elevation; Eric's car, seeing clearly the weak top section, unloaded the miniature railguns and ripped through that armor into the driver's compartment- killing the ringer instantly and ending the match. What remained of the car crashed into the far wall, and the remaining ammunition detonated to the joy of the crowd.

Eric landed hard, bruising himself something fierce, but managed to keep control and come to a stop. He waved over the medics, who helped him of the floor, but not before showing his fans his trademark victory sign: a fist raised to the north.

"There's your winner, Duluth: Eric Anderson, The 30 Second Ace- Lord of the Arena!"

Friday, June 12, 2015

Lord of the Arena-11

The Duluth arena soon found its underground bays filled with arena teams and their staff, preparing for the weekend card of arena matches. Scouts walked about the place, observing international regulations regarding what arena teams can disclose to rival scouts and speculating on the rest; the media hype escalated as the time drew near, and the local hospitals had ambulances on hand to deal with casualties- and representatives for one or another of the cloning corporations set up next to them. Arms merchants large and small set up their booths and representatives began hawking their wares to the public while liasons with the various teams met to dispense the material benefits of sponsorship: free armor, ammunition, arms or whatever they manufacture.

When Saturday came, the ticket-bearing fans came in their thousands to fill the stands as they do in arenas around what once was the United States and enjoy the 21st century revival of gladiatorial combat. No maritime combat today, alas, but instead a full and promising card of car-centric combat that began just after the lunch hour and went on well after dusk- with intermissions for fans to fill themselves on the food offered by the arena's array of carts, kiosks, and short-order restaurants (the last of which also having beer and ale on tap; this is Brewing Country, after all) so no time (for the fans) or revenue (for the arena) is lost.

The undercard events featured private disputes settled in the arena, the final Amateur Night fight, and even one fool taking up Trial By Combat against the State Patrol's best autoduelist. Some events were short and sweet, some long and exciting, some tedious, some disappointing, and in any event lots of money changed hands over bets informal and formal won and lost. All the while, Eric remained segregated from it all preparing for a Main Event match that had more at stake than fame and a fat purse.

When the last of the undercard matches concluded, and the arena organizers called over the intercom for Eric and his fellow competitors to report to their assigned launch bays, Eric's mind totally focused upon the arena match immediately before him. All thoughts of assassins, hitmen, the price on his head, and related treachery washed away. Eric sat in the driver's seat of his arena car, minding the lights and listening to his man up in the team's booth give the final pre-match situation report.

Most of it was nothing out of the ordinary: this team configured for high-speed ramming, that team installed a turreted laser, and so on. What got Eric's notice was that one of his opponents was not at all seen, even by his own team, without a helmet on since two events before the Main Event- and prior to that, he met with a well-dressed middle-aged man with a New York accent.

"Ringer." Eric said, "What's his car again?"

"Full-sized, paired anti-tank guns forward and again rearward. No gunners. Armor is standard grade, thin on top and standard beneath. Maneuverable but not speedy."

Eric punched a few keys into his car's computer. "Marked. Noted."

Friday, June 5, 2015

Lord of the Arena-10

The next couple of days seemed normal. Eric's staff went over his arena car, preparing it for the main event on the weekend by reviewing who else got into that match and scouting out the competition. Eric and his man split their attention between preparing for the arena match and checking up on the hitmen trying to work their way up to get him. There was no discussion over whether or not to eliminate them beforehand; they just did it- and the stronger of the two found his car's weapons failing to fire in a critical match the night that they arrived. The other succumbed to a far more basic problem of choking to death on his food. Duluth law enforcement, knowing who these two were, declined to do more than the minimum that statutory requirements put to them; they had easy outs to close the case, and they took them.

After Eric's man got off the phone with the lead detective and the local prosecutor, the two sat down to chat over lunch.

"Well, now that we closed that door, what's next?" Eric said.

His man poured them both coffee. "I already warned the arena staff to check for explosives and incendiaries. That should end the 'blow up some or all of the arena' approach."

"So, that leaves a sniper or a honeypot."

"No stick-up kids or turncoats?"

"You wouldn't let that happen."

Eric's man gave him that look.

"You wouldn't because there is no way you'd be able to stop the databomb with all your secrets coming out if I died and stayed dead for more than 12 hours. Keeping me alive keeps you alive."

And by "12 hours", Eric meant two. Driving and shooting weren't the only skilled honed in the rural roads of Minnesota.

"No women. Easy enough." Eric's man said, "That leaves a sniper. Minimizing exposure cuts things down to the actual match, again."

"Wait. There's one more option: one of the others gets bought off, either to make the hit or let a hitman go in his place. We can't control that."

"So they have to face you on your turf, on you terms, where you are at your strongest? Harsh." his man said, laughing.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Lord of the Arena-09

The post-engagement breakdown went by the numbers. No one wounded, not even injured; some bruises and such, but that's it. The rigs and auxilaries need their armor patched up and the magazines for their weapons topped off, but all of that is expected- routine, even. All of that got sorted by the time they reached the expected ambush point, but the road report held true: the State Patrol and National Guard out of Duluth already engaged them and handled the matter. The way to Duluth had been cleared.

Eric and his staff rolled through Duluth and toward the arena down on the shore of Lake Superior. In addition to automotive gladiatorial events, the Duluth arena could open to the Great Lake and host maritime events, which was quite a hit in the summertime. This was one of the bigger arena in Minnesota and Wisconsin, feeding into the big ones in the Twin Cities and Milwaukee, so the smarter major players--like Eric--came to arenas like this often to keep up his fame and seek out new talent.

These arenas, in the smaller cities and larger towns, were the mainstays of the "Amateur Night" tradition. Cheap cars, owned by the arena, driven by newcomers and other wannabees early in an evening's roster of events to bring in fans and occasionally discover a new arena fighter worthy of the name. Eric once did such a thing, and so did all of his peers and rivals; few did not, such as Manhattan Matt, and they were always marked by it- "cutting in line" is how old-timers compared it.

Such events also provided an avenue for the more cunning contract killers to prepare a perfectly-deniable hit on a target. It involved significant risk, so only those already skilled as road warriors tried it, but those willing and able to prepare identities without a reputation as an arena fighter could reliably enter into such events and fight their way up to the usual open slot in the main event card. Most of the time, such a man would be knocked out early in the match, but if he survived and acquitted himself well he'd attract a sponsor and be given a shot at going pro. It is just this Cinderella story that a couple of professional hitmen attempted to do in the Duluth arena, which had a more developed Amateur Night system that most places.

When Eric and his staff arrived, the initial rounds had already concluded; four professionals infiltrated the ranks, and by now only two remained- and those two were due to face off in a midweek main event match, the winner (if he could continue) being seeded into the big card's main event on the weekend. While the staff, by and large, got to the work of setting up in their assigned arena bays and taking lodging in the attached hotel it was Eric's man and himself who--thinking this to be the case--reviewed the last few days' events here in Duluth's arena.

"Yep, pros." Eric said, "I figured that they'd want a deniable kill."

"One is a lifer for the New York Mafia. The other is a contract killer, a true mercenary, who takes bounties between bigger jobs." his man said, "If the scouting report is accurate, count the made man out. Even if he survives the match, he'll be unable to continue; he's bound to be put into the hospital."


Friday, May 22, 2015

Lord of the Arena-08

A massive gang of bandits, swollen by wanna-be hitmen and a few actual hitmen, descended upon the caravan shortly before the turnoff to Hinckley. As they reached the outer range of their weapons' range, the bandits and less-disciplined hangers-on opened fire on the caravan.

"Forty hostiles, most of them small cars or motorcycles. The larger ones appear to be professional models." Eric's man said, "We're looking at a running fight."

"Shift deployment to the other side. Auxilaries, go hot." Eric said, and he powered up his car's systems to full. The deployment rig shifted to go out on the left side, facing the other side of the divided Interstate, and out Eric went in his road car. No sooner was he outside the rig than he popped loose from the bolts holding his wheels his place and brought the car up to highway speed. He turned his car's turreted guns on a motorcycle trying to paint his rig's backdoor, ripping through its armor shell and exploding the bandit's torso. The bike fell and flipped; the rider's corpse separated and landed in two parts along the shoulder.

The rigs and other auxilaries also quickly cut down the cyclists, as they were fools driving by liquid courage and foolhardy delusions of their own abilities. The small cars, on the other hand, had some skilled men behind their wheels; they were road warriors, experienced raiders, hitmen that actually got a job done, and similar desperate men who hadn't managed to get himself killed- until now.

The front and rear rigs did not shy away from using their tank guns. Multiple cars got wrecked utterly by those cannons directly hitting them or the car next to them, forcing those near that sad sack to lose control and crash into something or someone else- taking them out of the fight. Eric and the other auxilaries roamed as needed up and back alongside the rigs to cover gaps and watch blindspots; targeting weak points in the enemy's armor, focusing down targets when they could, and so on.

The second wave soon collapsed and the handful left broke off and fled the Interstate.

"Let them go." Eric said, "Auxilaries return to base. Start damage assessment and repairs."

Once back in the rig, Eric got on a private link with his man: "The third wave will come in an hour; they'll want to take advantage of what the survivors know before liquidating them."

"No, I don't think we'll get a third. Duluth reports an engagement with some bandits. That's likely the wave."

Eric looked at the report and data. "I concur, having seen that."


"The real hitmen will be there already, working to get on the card and win their way into the main event."

Friday, May 15, 2015

Lord of the Arena-07

150 miles up I-35 to Duluth should be an easy three-hour drive. Go in a group that looks like it can handle bandits and you'll be fine. That's the routine; even the State Patrol and National Guard do that. The nightly road wrap-up and forecast routinely displays the corpses of fools who didn't alongside the stripped wrecks of their cars.

It was nothing that Eric didn't know well, on both sides. Rare is the arena champion who didn't arise out of the vicious road warrior subculture, and Eric spent plenty of time dealing with and in latter-day banditry. Now, as he and his crew pass through the outer wall of the Twin Cities and go north on I-35, he sat in his road car--which, in turn, sat in one of the rigs in a quick-deploy bay--as he fully expect some fools to come at him to see if he's still hard enough for the open road.

It did not help that his killing of Manhattan Matt the night before put a $10 million bounty on his head by the gangsters and other outraged fans who supported Matt in his own career- and not just by buying his stuff. Extra-legal and quasi-legal actions were common place now, and no one in government gave a shit about anything beyond the reach of their enforcers' guns; people were on their own.

"The first wave will come after we leave the limits of the Cities' guns, around the point where line of sight of that point is lost." Eric said, quietly, as he examined the radar. His man thought likewise; the caravan went to General Quarters, and staff zipped up their armor as they strapped into their positions. Helmets snapped shut, and the veterans double-checked their personal weapons should boarding be necessary.

"Contact, quarter-mile ahead." came over the intercom.

"The second group will close in from the rear in 30 seconds, with whomever remains deploying on our side once we break through."

The front and rear rig in the caravan sported salvaged and rebuilt main guns taken from Abrams tanks, mounted along the spines of the trailers; the front rig fired at the barracade of bandit trucks and vans blocking the road, hitting the middle van with its side panel open. The anti-tank guns' exploded, popping the van like an over-pressured pimple and sending shrapnel across their ranks. As Eric expected, a second group came down from a frontage road and formed up on their rear. The rear rig fired its rear-facing gun at the trunk forming the point of their formation, exploding it into so much confetti; smoke followed, covering mines dropped in their wake and eliminating the group entirely by mobility kills. The lead rig's tractor opened fire with its shorter-range machineguns and cut down the roadblock's wings. The caravan easily burst through and kept on going.

"The second wave will abandon the usual toll-based tactics and bring their better fighters to bear." Eric said, and he got on the intercom, "All auxiliaries prepare to deploy."

Friday, May 8, 2015

Lord of the Arena-06

Interstate 35 still existed, even after the collapse and the Second American Civil War, and it remained the primary road connecting Duluth and next-door Superior to Minneapolis and St. Paul. In those 150 miles (roughly) lay the remains of small towns and First Nations bands, ravaged into ruin first by the global economy collapsing and then opportunists using the war that followed to settle scores going back to the 18th Century (in some cases) while trying otherwise to survive. It was, therefore, something that had to be regularly patrolled and caravanned in force to ensure a traveler's safe passage- bandits were hardly uncommon.

As Eric arrived at the garage, he listened to the daily road report provided--in part--by the Minnesota State Patrol and the Minnesota National Guard. "Bandit activity is light, confined to solo travelers in weak vehicles. Caravans are advised. Patrol response time is 15 minutes." Eric knew what that really meant: they're preying on the side roads that feed into I-35 and they're avoiding both fortified towns as well as the Twin Cities as well as Duluth entirely, so look like you can gank them and you'll be okay.

Eric sighed. This report never took into account deliberate and deliberating trouble-makers, such as bounty-hunters, and neither the Patrol nor the Guard cared much so long as they didn't disrupt traffic too much; a brief fight on the Interstate would be tolerated, but not a long one and not a fight that messed with key commodities or VIPs making the rounds. For all his fame, Eric was not yet important enough to merit official favor of that sort; he and his crew would be on their own once beyond the range of the Cities' artillery.

His tactician and security head welcomed him with a handshake. "I got an update on the bounty. It's crowd-funded, but even that's dodgy; most of the pledges are from locations known to be full of gangsters, and I don't mean punk kids with wardrobe issues. I mean the syndicates, and out that way you know what that means."

"Too much." Eric said, "Matt's always been less than subtle about his ties to the old-time organizations in New York. This also means that we've got a good chance of attracting international attention."

"Italian hitters in supercars stand out here." his man said, "I'd expect more low-class hired hitters, and plenty of wanna-bees looking to make a name for themselves at your experience. That we can handle easily. This is our turf, after all."

Eric had an idea. "Has this hit the feeds yet?"

His man looked at Eric, and nodded. "No, but-"

"Do it. Make those local bandits into assets."

Friday, May 1, 2015

Lord of the Arena-05

After the match, after the post-match debriefing and brain massage--a nice way of saying "10 minutes in the mind-cleaning machine"--Eric relaxed in his home. His tactician, who is also his security head, insisted that he have one of his men on hand until the morning. Eric relented, thinking the man a bit overcautious, but not wanting to gainsay one of his key staff.

Just after 2 a.m., the man awoke Eric.

"Sir, the boss figured that you taking out Matt would cause problems, so he put the word out to his network to keep a lookout for such things. We just got one."

"Price on my head?" Eric said, curious.

"$1 million U.S. Dollars, or its equivalent, for your head brought to a location in New York."

"I just backed up my memory, again. They're wanting more than just a body's severed head."

"Correct. It's $10 million if they also do away with the backups and the clone."

"Aside from turning on the top-tier security measures, what?"

"Get on the road, first thing tomorrow. The boss is already organizing the caravan."

"I want the road car ready. He knows better than to fight me on it."

The night then went without further interruption, nevermind incident, as Eric's staff rotated through the night to get the rigs loaded and ready to roll early in the morning. Duluth expected a good show, and neither they nor Eric could let a credible death threat stop them from appearing at the arena there.

When Eric's man got the order, he sighed but relayed it away; his boss was also an expert road warrior, and his best chances for surviving would be at the wheel of his own road-fighting car. That it's currently kept in one of the rigs made making it ready easy to do; if the arena car was a well-oiled, high-tuned race car of old then the road car was a rough-and-tumble rum-runner from a century before, back when morons decided to make booze illegal. The car that made Eric what he is remained with him, and with it Eric the Arena Ace shifted back to Eric Anderson the Road Viking.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Lord of the Arena-04

The dozen now reduced to two turned a brawl into a duel, the very thing that the hardcore fans in the stands hoped for, and with one of those two being their own hometown hero and the other from the long-hated home of arrogant asses this promised to be a final that kept everyone talking for years. The arena promoters counted on this result, and they got their wish.

Eric the 30 Second Ace and Manhattan Matt kept circling and jockeying attempting to set up the other for a decisive kill, and the arena promoters were not the least above interfering by way of manipulating the mobile obstacles to thwart those attempts until they felt good and ready to let it happen.

"Keep making the moves, Eric." his tactician said, "But focus on wearing him down until I give you the go-ahead."

"Copy that." Eric said, and he shifted to short bursts of fire from the miniguns to wear away at Matt's car while using the mines and flamethrower to disengage when Matt got too close or near his blindspot. Matt kept going for the kill, and as his frustration mounted he let loose on the arena obstacles as they popped into his line of sight at the last moment to spoil the shot.

The arena crowd got louder and louder as they cheered at each of Eric's escapes, and jeered just as loudly for each of Matt's thwarted kill shots. Eric clearly saw that Matt did not remember that, as arena fighters, the shot--not the fight--came first; his years as a road warrior, one he still revealed in openly, served him badly here as it messed with his good judgement.

"I think the promoters are ready to let it end, Eric. Get ready."

Eric saw Matt cut past him again, trying to take his blindspot one last time, and he punished Matt with a blast from his flamethrower. That served to taunt the arrogant ass from New York City, and he spun about in a wide turn with plenty of drift; his targeting laser flashed out, but when the laser-guided rockets fired they just missed their mark; one got a glancing hit on Eric's right-rear quarter and the rest went just high over the rear and hit the wall.

"He's blown it. Finish him!"

Eric brought his car around, lined up for a maximum angle to strafe, and spun up the miniguns. With the last of his ammunition, he burned through Manhattan Matt's front and right side armor. He hit the rocket launchers' magazines, touching off the solid fuel and causing them to detonate. The explosion blew up Matt's powerplant, and that in turn blew up Manhattan Matt. His car ignited into a fireball and crashed at high speed into a wall- and the crowd erupted as one to cheer on their hero's great victory.

"The 30 Second Ace Wins! The 30 Second Ace Wins!"

Twelve entered. Eight left. Six walked out. Of the four that died, only one had a clone- and it was not Manhattan Matt. This had consequences.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Lord of the Arena-03

The dozen competitors quickly winnowed down to six, and the six cut out two more. Eric remained in the running, along with Manhattan Matt--the New York City duelist routinely touring to cull up-and-coming talent that's said to threaten him--and the perennial Midwest arena regulars: The Chi-Town Twins, Aaron and Adam Lagoon. The Cowgirl Princess had her back tires shot off by the aforementioned twins, double-teaming her without any warning; she crashed into a wall and did not get out.

"Best bet is to join the twins against Matt."

"If they don't triple-team me." Eric said.

"Too late."

The three of them turned and jockeyed for position, with many of the obstacles recessed into the floor. Eric increased speed, popping the capacitors to dump power into the drive train and boost himself up to the cap, knowing that only thinking like an old-time dog-fighter would save him now. The Twins and Matt didn't adjust for Eric's sudden speed boost, missing with their rocket and cannon fire. Eric saw one of the Twins get behind him and the other coming around to directly intercept from the front, while Matt moved to box him in from optimal distance.

"Count it down!" Eric said.

"Five, four, three, two, one- GO!"

Eric simultaneously dropped his mines as he spewed fire from the rear flamethrower, and he spun up the minguns a second later. On the go mark, he threw up the handbrake and turned the wheel, drifting around a curve as he spin about in a Bootlegger's Turn. He did so on a long patch of oil left by The Cowgirl Princess previously, accelerating his turn by decreasing the friction, and instead of a 180 degree turn he spun a nearly-full 360 instead. The miniguns flared to life, tearing up the front Twin's armor, and then ripping up Manhattan Matt as well as the backside Twin; against the Twins he also nailed them with his flamethrower, and as he stabilized he turned just aside the front-side Twin and passed him by like knights at the list ages ago.

The flamethrower's burning fuel stuck to the Twins' cars, obscuring their vision just enough to cut into their reaction time as they dealt with Eric's unbelievable maneuver that should not have worked. It got them to collide head-on, killing them both instantly, leaving a 12-man field down to two.

"We're down to the real fight!" the arena announcer said, "The infamous Manhattan Matt, and our own boy-done-good- The 30 Second Ace!"

Friday, April 10, 2015

Lord of the Arena-02

Eric brought the powerplant out of its resting state, bringing it to full power and charging the capacitors as he sat through the countdown to the match's launch. He woke up the heads-up display in his helmet, displaying information from the car's computer and through it came a voice along with a situation report.

"Kid," said the familiar voice of his tactician, "the floor runs dynamic obstacles, receding and deploying at unknown intervals, so mind the floor- I'll call out shifts if I can see them. You're looking at compacts and mid-sizes, most running rocket launchers or small cannon and looking to do maximum burst in snapshot attacks and slicks or smoke on the rear to break contact. Laser Larry, of course, has his Ginsu Beam arrays instead up front but even he's likely to have them set up for burst over beam fire."

"They're wanting the higher ratings that come from crashes, without doing a demolition derby event." Eric said, "Typical."

The map came up, indicating where he rested in the arean- in the Northwest corner, next to Laser Larry. Well, that settled his launch strategy.

The doors opened, and the light turned green: the match began. Eric didn't rocket out of his bay, knowing Laser Larry's bloodthirst would let him ignore this moment in the hopes of an early kill from across the way, and Larry did not fail to deliver. Eric saw the lasers burst forth in a big blue-white flash, and then again, as he lay on the throttle and the hum of the powerplant picked up as power moved through the transmission to get his car going. Larry rushed out the bay, hoping to quickly get that kill and not thinking that he had an opponent right next to him, and Eric hit the fire button; the miniguns spun up while Eric moved the reticle over the nearest tire. A short, but loud, burst of fire later and the armored tire fell apart- something Larry did not register until he attempted to turn and lost control, striking one of the obstacles and immobilizing him.

"And the 30 Second Ace gets the first kill! Laser Larry can't move, and with no offensive weapons available he's out of the fight!" the arena announcer said.

Eric rolled his eyes, knowing that it should never be that easy, but it is so often just that- and he hates it. He rolled out of his bay and got out into the larger fight.

"We have our second and third kills! The Cornfield Princess popped English Harry square in the rear left quarter with a volley of rockets and got his powerplant, and it looks like he's hit also. Winnnipeg Greg T-boned The KC Kid and then blew through him with that anti-tank cannon; I hope The Kid backed up his brain before the match, because his clone's going to need it."

Eric locked on to Winnipeg Greg and came up around his rear, catching the Canadian off-guard as Greg backed up and turned around. Eric timed when to fire just right, spinning up his miniguns and unleashing a burst that pierced his weakened front-side armor and tore through Greg's compartment.

"Kill #4 goes to the hometown boy! Goodbye, Greg!"

Friday, April 3, 2015

Lord of the Arena-01

"Well, this match is certainly going to show up on the recap for 'Gearhead Gladiators' tonight."

This is the moment that 50 thousand people paid $50, minimum, for a seat in Minneapolis' North Star Stadium to see: a Division Alpha free-for-all match between a dozen of the best road warriors in North America. Amongst those title card heroes was a local boy done good: Eric Anderson, "The 30 Second Ace", originally out of the Brainerd Lakes area and coming out of the post-collapse feuding that happened in the wake of that collapse over 20 years ago. He became an overnight sensation when, at one of the regular Amateur Night events conducted as undercard events sanctioned by the International Autoduelist Association (and its regional and local subsidiaries), he took out the other five competitors in 30 seconds- something never before done.

Now, with 11 other veterans and champions, he's looking to win another main event and take home another big purse. So do the 50 thousand fans in the stands. In a world where most people, once again, live outside the cities farming, ranching, or doing vital work in small towns having one of their own fighting in the arena is a big deal. Anderson's become a folk hero to an entire region, and the expectation to win is huge.

On the livestreams covering the event, marking time before the match starts, are the usual talking heads--including peers not competing tonight, for one reason or another--going over recent events and things like the cars that the fighters chose to use. "...and Anderson's debuting a new variation of Mills Motors' Wolf line of cars. This is an arena-optimized mid-sized car, featuring a pair of miniguns recessed into the forward compartment ahead of the power plant, and a flamethrower mounted aft over a minelayer. The responsiveness is top-quality, with great braking and acceleration, making this a car inspired by fighter jets instead of minitanks. That Bill's Gun Shop sponsorship is making itself felt with this one."

As for Eric, he--along with his opponents--sat in the launch bays arrayed around the arena, waiting in their cars. He could hear the crowd out there, despite the doors being closed. He had no idea what configuration of obstacles would be present in the arena--standard practice for such events--or what elevations levels would be present (ditto), and neither did the others. All they knew for certain was what the promoters told them in the event briefing: "No three-dimensional interactions." (i.e. no need for turrets or thick armor top and bottom), "No open floor." (requiring a mobile vehicle), "No long distances" (favoring short-range weaponry and rear-mounted arms), and "No personal pre-match inspections." (you go into the match blind)

Under those constraints, and knowing what the arena could do, Eric and his team decided to go with maximum dogfighting capability and play to his strengths- at the cost of playing into his reputation. Neither he nor his team could be certain as to what his opponents would do, but Eric kept one of the best tacticians on staff and that man would be in the team's box watching the action as it happens.

Eric saw the ready light go on, and the announcer begin the ritual of introductions. Soon the bay doors would open, and the match would begin.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Administration Post for Q1 of 2015

So, we've come to the end of the first quarter for the year. A review of the statistics shows that, thankfully, you folks remain loyal and as engaged as things currently allow.

This matters. I'm now writing a novel, and I'm submitting other stories--heretofore unreleased anywhere--to the surviving magazines that publish science fiction and fantasy short stories. I am not, however, earning any money from this 'blog and no one has so much as donated a cent since I launched this thing over five years ago.

Put frankly, I am going to monitor this 'blog's analytics through this year. If there is no significant improvement then 2015 is the last year for this 'blog; it's about time that some return on my investment of time start showing up, and if I don't see it by the end of this year, then I'm cutting my losses and doing something else.

If you like what you see, then it's time to do something other than read it. If you have anything to suggest, then say so in the comments section.