Archive for month: March, 2014

Monday Fiction – Avalon – Chapter 21

31 Mar
March 31, 2014

Erik

“So that’s all you he said to you?” Erik asked Anne as they pulled up to the safehouse. As soon as she’d climbed into the car, Anne related to Erik about her encounter with Arem at the Brown Hat. He could see why she was a good detective. She remembered everything, including the small details most people missed.

“At that point, Jason pulled me out of the restaurant,” Anne said, “That’s another thing. Do you guys have anything on him?”

“Not that was in the file,” Erik answered, “Why?”

“He seems to know more about what’s going on than he’s letting on,” Anne said, “Nothing concrete. Just a gut feeling from talking to him. Things he said.”

“He could be one of Lady Maritza’s assets, and she’s not bothered to tell us,” Erik said.

“Wait, like a spy?” Anne asked. “You guys have spies? In the city?”

“What exactly do you think Lady Maritza does for the Emperor?” Erik said, with the barest hint of exasperation leaking into his voice. How could someone so sharp also be so naive about the world?

“I thought she managed people like Kurt, not actual turncoat spies!” Anne said. Erik could feel the betrayal and rage burn through Anne.

“We don’t know for sure that he is one of Lady Maritza’s,” Erik cautioned. He needed Anne in the right frame of mind. The raid tonight was going to be chancy enough as is. He did not need one of his shooters distracted.

“If he is, I’m going to kick his ass,” Anne said.

“Anne, I appreciate that the sentiment, but I really need you to focus right now,” Erik said. “We’re going to take down your killers tonight.” Anne’s head snapped over so fast her blonde hair circled her hair like a halo.

“What, how?” she asked. “Veronica found them?” Erik told her about what happened at the lab.

“So, the five of us are going to take them down?” Anne asked, her skepticism rising. “Why not ask Mrs. Holland for more people? She has armed security.”

“Because I do not trust them or her,” Erik said plainly. “I trust my team. I trust you.”

“What is it between the two of you? She’s always so nice to me,” Anne commented.

“It’s not just one thing,” Erik admitted, “Part of it is institutional rivalry, part of it has to do with some things that happened back on Avalon. I’m quite sure she would keep you safe at all costs, but I don’t trust her to protect my team beyond what is ordered.” He fell silent.

“Isn’t all of that unprofessional?” Anne asked.

“The only reason I’m telling you this is because I’m about to ask you to risk your life with my team,” Erik asked. “I wouldn’t even do that, but you do deserve to be in on the strike. That much I understand from my own experience. Also, as much as it pains me to admit it, if things go south tonight, Lady Maritza is the one person in this city you can trust.” Anne looked at him askance. He could feel the confusion in her mind.

“Look, let’s put it like this. Let’s say you and another officer have such animosity between each other that you wouldn’t trust him to back you during a raid, but you know that you could send a victim his way and he’d do his best to help them. It’s kind of like that,” Erik said.

“That is seriously screwed up,” Anne said. “What the hell did you do to her?”

“When we get you to Avalon safely, I’ll tell you,” Erik said, “It’s a long story.”


Anne

“I have my own body armor,” Anne complained as Veronica tugged the heavy Kevlar vest tighter. It wasn’t even cut properly and was squashing her chest. Veronica seemed to understand her discomfort and said something that sounded like ‘Adjust’. Except, it didn’t sound right. Instantly, the armor seemed to mold around Anne like a wetsuit.

“Do you want to get your own body armor now?” Veronica asked mischievously. Anne marveled in the mirror. “I had to use that nasty one to get the proper protection. Plus, this one also has some magic protection in it. Just in case a nasty spell gets thrown your way. Not great, but it should keep you alive.”

“Do I just say ‘Adjust’ again to get it off?” Anne asked. Veronica froze and her smiling face went neutral. “What did I say?”

“I didn’t say ‘Adjust’. I said Tai’in,” Veronica said flatly. “Which is the elven casting word for the adjustment spell.” Veronica came close and peered into Anne’s eyes for a long moment. “I don’t know how you can understand elvish, but do not tell anyone outside of the team.”

“Why, is it like being a Parselmouth?” Anne asked. Veronica looked at her blankly. Anne gave a weak smile. “Sorry, Harry Potter reference. Is it something looked down upon?”

“Let’s just say it might confirm some very dark theories about you,” Veronica answered, “Erik was one of the few that argued strenuously against just having you assassinated once we found out about the Dark Towers’ interest in you. He even told Prince Harry that if he ordered the assassination, Erik would make sure he would regret the orders. If others found out about your sudden abilities with elvish, they may take it out of Blackguard’s hands and have Erik killed.”

“What?” Anne asked.

“Don’t worry about it, Anne. Erik will be just fine. So will you, once we get you back to Avalon,” Samantha said coming through the door. The brunette shot an angry glare at Veronica. The smaller woman shrank down further and bolted from the room. Samantha muttered darkly as she approached Anne.

“Is that why Erik is trying to protect me? So he won’t get killed?” Anne asked.

“If that’s a concern of his, it’s way down on the list. He’s never shrunk from doing anything that might get him killed in the line of duty,” Samantha said, with a tinge of bitterness. The Avalonian shook her head and gave Anne a warm, if slightly insincere, smile.

“Right now, you need to focus on tonight,” Samantha said.

“You don’t think I should be going,” Anne said, examining Samantha’s face.

“Just do me a favor and follow Erik’s orders,” Samantha said, sidestepping the comment. “He’s actually very good at this sort of work.” Samantha helped Anne put on the gray fatigues and MOLLE gear.

“Is there something between the two of you?” Anne asked.

“Let’s finish your story before we go delving into mine,” Samantha answered with a smile that the experienced detective couldn’t read.

Friday Quote – 3/28/14

28 Mar
March 28, 2014

Some people’s idea of free speech is that they are free to say what they like but if anyone says anything back, it’s an outrage.

Sir Winston Churchill, prime minister of Great Britain

It’s Scary That You Actually Believe What You’re Saying

27 Mar
March 27, 2014

One of Slate’s writers did a cute little animated video on why we shouldn’t worry about the debt.

I’m sorry to tell you this, but the government can’t indefinitely print money (ask the Weimar Republic) and our inflation rate is missing two key indicators (food and energy). You’re also missing something in the neighborhood of $200 trillion in unfunded obligations (Social Security, Medicare, federal pensions).

Update: Reason has a better article on what’s wrong with the video.

Slate, please go talk to a real economist and try again.

Check Your Ammunition

26 Mar
March 26, 2014

Saturday I went to the gun range with my mom and my friend Rush. When we got to the range, Rush showed me this:

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Looks like a normal .45 JHP bullet, right? Then he tipped it on it’s side, and we saw this:

2014-03-22 10.10.03

No primer and all of the powder had come out. Out of a factory box.

So, before you load that bullet into a magazine, do a quick inspection to make sure everything is good.

Happy Birthday Norman Borlaug!

25 Mar
March 25, 2014

You would have been a hundred today.

A person who probably saved more lives than anyone else in human history should be better known.

Even by me.

H/t Borepatch

Metal Tuesday – Sabaton – Panzer Battalion

25 Mar
March 25, 2014

This week’s Metal Tuesday is Sabaton’s “Panzer Battalion.”

The song is about the American blitzkrieg during the invasion of Iraq.

Lyrics

Under this sun no shadows will fall
piercing our eyes as we charge
an armoured battalion on course to the east
closing the end of it’s march

This time we’re here to finish a job
started a decade ago
driving the animals out of their holes
to bury them 6 feet below

Armoured tanks of mass destruction
killers in the east
rats who dares to stand before us
feel our guns go live

Death in the shape of a panzer battalion
insect of terror don’t run face your fate like a man cannot outrun our panzer battalion

Thousands of tons of armour and guns making it’s way through the sand our panzer battalion is back for revenge
artillery sweeping the land

First strike is ours no mercy is shown
there’s rivers of blood in our track
breaking their lines of defence with our tanks
infantry watching our back

Blow their SAM sites clear for air strike
ready for the storm
minefields swept there’s no surrender
feel our napalm burn

Under this sun no shadows will fall
piercing our eyes as we charge
an armoured battalion on course to the east
has reached the end of it’s march

Kevin Trudeau Goes to Jail!

24 Mar
March 24, 2014

As a skeptic, big wins are often few and far between, which makes those big wins so much sweeter.

From the HuffPo:

U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman blasted the 50-year-old Trudeau before the sentencing, saying that for decades he “steadfastly attempted to cheat others for his own personal gain.” Guzman called Trudeau “deceitful to the core.”Minutes before, Trudeau apologized to the court and said he was a changed man. Trudeau has been jailed since November, when jurors convicted him of criminal contempt for defying a 2004 court order barring him from running false ads about the book. Despite the order, Trudeau aired the infomercials at least 32,000 times, according to prosecutors.

There were anecdotal reports of the infomercial running even when Trudeau was being sentenced.

:

Monday Fiction – Avalon – Book 1 Chapter 20

24 Mar
March 24, 2014

Erik

The lab belonged to some bio-medical facility owned by Lady Maritza’s husband. Wit the stainless steel table, countertops, and sinks, the set-up reminded Erik of the morgue back in Avalon. There was other machinery that Erik didn’t recognize and his team had been told rather pointedly not to touch. Erik didn’t care. His team wouldn’t need any of those technological marvels. They were just going to be doing a basic locator spell. Or more to the point, Veronica was going to be doing the spell.

The charred bones of the bargainer were arranged on the steel table to form a skeleton. The spell Veronica used on the bargainer had incinerated most of the flesh off the body, but Erik could see bits of crispy here and there on the bones. Veronica was carefully picking off some to use in her spell. Thankfully, the air purification system in the lab kept the burnt flesh scent to a minimum. When they’d first opened the body bag, Erik nearly gagged on the smell. That part of his job never seemed to get any easier.

“Are you going to be alright?” Erik asked Sam. She looked up from behind the laptop and gave him a weak smile.

“I’ll be fine. As long as I keep busy, that is,” Sam answered. Erik marveled at his friend and colleague. He could barely sense the bargainer’s horror from its “ghost,” or the psychic imprint left on the body. Sam could feel the entire ghost, including the last few images of the bargainer. All of the horror, the pleading, the desperate grasping for life as death bore down on the bargainer. Everything that flashes through the mind in the last second of life.

“If you want to go back to the lobby to collect your thoughts, I don’t think anyone would have a problem with that,” Erik suggested.

“Thanks, but no,” Sam answered. “I’m fine, but when we get back home, you’re taking me to your family’s resort for a whole fortnight.”

“Only a fortnight, Sam?” Erik asked playfully, “I thought Aunt Maria said you could stay there for a month the last time we were there.”

“Oh yeah, she did. Okay, a whole month,” Sam said, tapping away at the keys. “Seriously, Erik, it’s not as bad as I thought it would be. There’s something odd about that bargainer.”

“Like it’s human, but not?” Erik suggested. Sam nodded.

“Veronica said that it has wild magic bound in it. Actually bound in the body. Have you heard of that before?” Sam asked.

“No, but magic’s not really my thing. It’s why we have Veronica,” Erik answered. Sam gave him a flat look. “Yes, I know that all agents are supposed to have a basic understanding of how magic works.”

“How did you get to be team leader again?” Sam asked, and then looked as she could take back the question. Both knew why Erik had been selected by the Saint to run the operation. He waved it off before she could apologize. Sam had been there for him during the entire fallout from the Commandante Affair, even risking her own career. The pair fell silent as they watched Veronica work.

The petite sorceress was currently pouring a ring of salt around the skeleton. Kurt was following behind Veronica with a box of sea salt. For some reason, Veronica couldn’t pour the salt directly from the box. It had to go through her hands before hitting the table. Sam would know, but Erik wasn’t about to ask her. She’d just roll her eyes and complain that he should know.

Completing the circle, Veronica picked up the small metal bowl with the burnt bits she’d picked off the skeleton. She sat down on the tile floor and spread a map of the city out in front of her. She scattered the burnt flesh on the map, and then poured another circle of salt around her. Seeing that the spell was about to start, Kurt strode to the door of the lab.

Veronica started chanting in elvish. Unfelt winds made her black hair dance as the two circles glowed an eerie, warm white. The chanting changed cadence and the two circles pulsed. The burnt flesh slid around the map in a chaotic pattern. Then the skeleton itself glowed with a brilliant amber light. From Sam’s sharp intake of breath, Erik knew the spell wasn’t going as planned. Unfortunately, he couldn’t stop it. Once a ritual spell was started, it couldn’t be stopped without at least killing the caster. With that much power, it could kill all four of them. There was a blinding flash of light and Erik felt Veronica being hurled at him. Instinctively, he reached out with some power and caught her.

As his vision cleared, he could see the skeleton was gone. No, there was some charred powder on the table. The map was also a charred ruin. The two circles were fused into single, giant salt crystals. Well, that didn’t happen often.

“Give me a map!” Veronica demanded. Sam spun the laptop around for Veronica. Veronica frantically scrolled through the Google map of the city. Finally, she brought up the street view of a dilapidated warehouse a few blocks from the docks.

“That’s where those bastards are,” Veronica said. Fear and rage were radiating from the small woman. There was also a strong undercurrent of certainty.

“Slow down, Veronica,” Erik said, “Kurt and I will go check it out after we clean up here and get you back to the house. If we find something, we’ll figure out how to deal with it then.” Frustration bubbled up in Veronica.

“No, you don’t understand. All of the others are there now!” Veronica said, almost shouting, “It’s a place of power, and they’re preparing it now!”

“And you know this how?” Erik asked. Locator spells were only supposed to tell where the subject was, or in this case, had been.

“That wild magic that was bound up in the body. Part of it is used as a bond between each of the members. They’re like a pack of dire wolves, or something,” Veronica said. “I hit one of the bindings, and I could see where they were.”

“Did they sense you when you broke that binding?” Sam asked. From the look on Sam’s face, she must have picked up a stray thought from their sorceress. Veronica stopped and became very still. Her lips pursed into a single line.

“I think so,” Veronica said.

“Open your mind,” Sam said and concentrated on Veronica. The room was deathly silent for several long moments. Expressions of pain crossed Veronica’s face, but she didn’t utter a word. Sam broke eye contact and both women started gasping for breath.

“They know,” Sam said, “They know Veronica found them, and they seem really happy about it. They’re waiting for us to attack.”

“How many?” Erik asked.

“About ten, I think,” Sam said. Erik nodded as he mulled it over.

“Sam, pull up everything you can about that area and the building while we clean this mess up. Once we’re done here, we’re going to pick up Anne and then Kurt gets to break out the assault gear. We end this tonight.”

How Do You Know You’re Winning the Propaganda War?

21 Mar
March 21, 2014

When the opposition appropriates one of your symbols to prop up their signature failure.

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Friday Quote – 3/21/14

21 Mar
March 21, 2014
A Smith & Wesson does more for empowering women than feminism ever could.

Gregg Gutfield, host of Fox’s “Red Eye”

Firearms are called “equalizers” for a reason. A woman armed with a gun does not have to belong to a man simply for protection against other men.

I swear Red Eye is the only program worth watching on Fox News.