Monday Fiction – Avalon Chapter 7

Anne

“Wow, you look like you had a rough night,” Anne said as Jason flopped down at his desk. The normally meticulous agent’s suit was rumpled. In fact, Anne was pretty sure it was the same suit he’d worn the previous day. Jason looked up at her with dulled eyes and heavy five o’clock shadow.

“Someone attacked the task force’s offices last night,” Jason replied, with a hint of hostility. “We think it was Arem and a couple of unknown actors. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about it?”

“Why would I?” Anne asked, her own anger rising.

“Well, the team decides to work with Arem, and suddenly he’s attacking us,” Jason answered, “Plus, I know that Lady Maritza asked to see the task force’s intelligence and was told it was an internal matter. So, I’m wondering if our two unknowns were Erik and Kurt.”

“Well, I can tell you that Kurt wasn’t involved last night,” Anne shot back. Jason gave her a knowing look, and she felt her cheeks heat. “Well, he wasn’t.”

“Fine, but what about Erik?” Jason asked.

“Honestly couldn’t tell you,” Anne said, “He’s in and out at all hours anyway.”

“Was he out last night?” Jason pressed.

“Like I said, I honestly couldn’t tell you,” Anne answered, “I was kind of occupied all night.”

“Listen Anne, there are good reasons for the task force to do things the way that they do, so if you know anything, I need you to let me know,” Jason said, and then held up his hand, “Sorry, I’m not saying you’re holding anything back from me right now, but if you find something out, you need to let me know. The Avalonians are generally nice people, but they aren’t Americans. Their allegiance is to a foreign power whose interests don’t always mesh with ours.”

“Fine, Jason, I’ll let you know,” Anne said, letting her anger cover the conflict brewing inside her. She intellectually understood what Jason was trying to tell her, but it was hard to believe that any of the Avalonians – even Erik – would do anything to harm her or her country.

“So why did Arem attack the task force?” Anne asked, “That doesn’t make any sense.”

“Leading theories are to get us out of the way, or to steal something from us,” Jason answered.

“Was something stolen?” Anne asked.

“I can’t tell you that,” Jason answered, “Sorry, but that’s classified.” He did look contrite, so Anne didn’t push it. “So what do we have on the docket for today?”

“Besides getting you some coffee?” Anne asked, “I figured we’d swing by the Korean market again and ask around. I’m still not satisfied that the uniforms did a sufficient canvass. Then, maybe go talk to Mrs. Reynolds about those odd transactions.”

“Let’s get moving before the captain sees me,” Jason said. “You said there was coffee involved, right?”


“That wonderful smell had better be dinner, because I’m famished,” Anne announced to the group as she stepped through the door. Anne and the Avalonians lived in a converted hotel that was owned by Lady Maritza. Although everyone’s rooms had a small kitchenette, the group tried to eat at least one meal together. It helped that Lady Maritza sent some of her staff out to the apartments to “look after” the group.

“Let me guess, you missed lunch again,” Kurt twitted her as he held out her chair. She was getting used to all those small gestures, and wondered why they didn’t bother her when Kurt did them.

“We were busy,” Anne said, “Just before we went to lunch, we caught another case. We were there for less than an hour before some damned rookie came up with our suspect in cuffs. Seems the kid saw our suspect dump the gun and still had the victim’s wallet on him. Then it was just type everything up and send it over to the DA’s.”

“It’s a shame all of your cases don’t go that well,” Samantha said, handing Anne a plate of roast chicken. “I bet Jason was happy.”

“Yeah, about Jason,” Anne said, “Did you know that the task force was attacked last night?” She watched Erik as she asked the question. Anne wasn’t sure what she was hoping to see on Erik’s face, but the man’s blank expression never wavered.

“By the outsiders?” Erik asked.

“No, they think it was Arem and two others,” Anne answered.

“Why would Arem attack the task force?” Veronica asked.

“Maybe to steal something,” Anne said, still watching Erik. God, sometimes the man was worse than Kristen Stewart when it came to facial expression. They locked eyes for the briefest moment before Anne looked down at her plate.

“You think I was with Arem during this attack,” Erik said flatly, almost as if he could read her mind. No, he was just probably guessing based on her emotions. He was scary good at that.

“Let’s say the possibility has been broached,” Anne said. She was expecting an uproar of outrage from the Avalonians, but they all acted as if she’d accused him of buying the wrong kind of pop instead of committing an act of espionage against a government agency.

“Lady Maritza would never countenance such action,” Erik answered, “Such an act could have the American government telling us all to leave.”

“So, where were you?” Anne asked.

“I was meeting with an asset to see if I could find out more about the outsiders,” Erik said. “Hopefully, we’ll have something in a day or so.”

“Jason told us that we’re supposed to stay out of it,” Anne said.

“Yes, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to stop our investigation,” Erik answered, “It just means we’re going to have to use more subtle means. The Americans may be satisfied that this has nothing to do with you, but my responsibilities are to make sure.”

“We know this puts you in a bad spot,” Samantha said, shooting a harsh look at Erik, “I promise, if we find anything that can help the task force, we’ll turn it over to them.”

“What about Arem? Are you going to turn him over?” Anne asked.

“We have a truce for moment, so no,” Erik said, “Of course, if they catch him on their own, we’re not obligated to help him.”

They ate the rest of the meal discussing minor things. Anne barely paid attention. She knew Erik wasn’t telling her everything, but to be fair, he never told her everything. Still, there was something nagging her instincts about the way he answered her questions. Part of her wanted to press him, but she was scared of the answers he’d give. What would she have done if Erik admitted to being with Arem on the attack? Could she turn any of these people at the table over to Jason and the task force?


Erik

Erik watched Anne during dinner. He could feel the tumultuous mix of emotions roiling around inside her. Erik knew this time would come when Anne would be put between his team and her birth nation. He’d hoped it wouldn’t happen for a bit longer, but he was professional enough to know that fecal matter sometimes impacted the turbine.

Erik worked very hard never to lie to Anne. If he and his team were going to protect her, they needed her to trust them. He was going to have to walk the tightrope until the outsiders were dealt with. He was hoping that then the Americans would go find some other shiny toy to occupy them, and he could go back to dealing with the immediate threats to Anne. Maybe Lady Maritza could talk with her. Anne trusted the woman and Lady Maritza was a gifted politician.

His phone buzzed at his side. The package is ready for your inspection. Joseph. There had better be something useful from the Americans’ files. Erik hated to think he’d risked so much for nothing.

Metal Tuesday – Brother’s Choice – Samael’s “Jupiterian Vibe” & Lamb of God’s “Redneck”

We’re back again my friends for another pair of “good video”/”shit video”. I like to start off with the crap video so the good one washes it out of your eyes.

So, there are three general kinds of videos:

  1. Art Pieces – These are frequently shots of the band doing the song cut together with either vintage footage or little clips to provide an “art-house film” vibe. I don’t get these. Maybe I’m just dense.
  2. Live/Roadshow – Pretty common, these are shots of the band playing the song in a room or at a concert. Often there are scenes of set up/tear down or traveling from one show to another. I like to think of these as “safe” videos.
  3. Storytime – Here. Here is where things usually go off the damn rails. Sometimes for good and sometimes for oh-holy-crap-why-was-this-filmed?

“Art Show”

The first of today’s videos is an old one from Samael. Samael started off as a black/death metal band and eventually mutated into an electronica/metal band. Today’s song comes from the album Passage, which was their first major change from the death metal band they were and into the band they’d eventually become.

Passage however, Passage was special. Pretty much an entire album of epic, symphonic, and most importantly really good songs.

And for a video they do this:

A blue art piece for one of the weakest songs on the album (though still a damn good song). But why the hell didn’t they do a video for Rain or The Ones Who Came Before?

The world will never know…

Delightfully Off the Rails

Here is an example of a “Storytime” video gone completely off the rails. Hilarious in concept and excellent in execution I present Lamb of God‘s Redneck.

As a final note, OMFSM that riff… that riff says “Someone is about to get fucked up“. The closest I’ve ever heard to that riff for screaming “there’s about to be a fight” is ZZ Top’s La Grange.

Physics Gives Lazy People Another Reason To Be Late

Scientists over at Boulder, Colorado, have developed the what looks like the most advanced and accurate clock. Plus, it will keep precise time for five billion years (5,000,000,000 yrs). That’s amazing engineering.

Unintended side effect:

But this new clock has run into a big problem: This thing we call time doesn’t tick at the same rate everywhere in the universe. Or even on our planet.

If you took two of these clocks and put one higher even a few inches, the two clocks would start reading time differently. Not much, but that difference would build up.

Why? Gravity. In fact, one of the proposed uses of this kind of device is to measure gravity to help get a better picture of the make-up of the planet.

Science is cool.

Monday Fiction – Avalon Chapter 6

Erik

Erik paced around the warehouse impatiently and swore under his breath. Why couldn’t any elf ever be punctual? It wasn’t like he could afford to wait around all night waiting for Arem to show up. He looked down at the luminous dial of his watch. Eleven o’clock. He swore some more. It was at that point that the circle opened up in the middle of the warehouse.

“You’re late,” Erik snarled as Arem stepped out of the gate. Another man stepped out of the gate. Like both Erik and Arem, the new arrival was dressed in dark business casual clothing. Slung across the new arrival’s torso was a leather messenger bag. For most people, this man would look just like another professional, but Erik had his psi-scent. This man was a professional, but there was a streak of violence hiding just below the surface. Erik recognized it from years of being around Imperial Security agents and freelancers.

“Jaegar, this is Joseph,” Arem said, “He’ll handle the extraction.”

“What do you need from us?” Erik asked Joseph.

“From what Arem described, I’ll need at least ten minutes inside, with access to a computer hooked to their network,” Joseph said, “After that, it could take anywhere from four hours to four weeks before I can get you any data. Best estimate is twenty to forty hours.”

“Then let’s not waste any time,” Erik said, motioning for the two to follow him. Outside the trio got into the car Erik had procured for the night’s activities. They discussed the plan as Erik navigated the city’s streets. The American task force had set up shop in the federal building. Erik’s contact in the building told them that the new agents were using some “swing space” on the fourth floor and managed to procure a master keycard. Arem produced some identities for an IRS field team and even some official-looking paperwork for an audit of some business in the city. Damn, it was good working with professionals on a thrown together operation.

As they got off on the fourth floor, Erik walked to the suite’s doors and waved the keycard. As they stepped through, the trio was met by two stern men in business suits and cradling MP7’s.

“Who are you?” the shorter one asked. Erik held out the ID’s that Arem had passed him on the ride over. The man scrutinized the documents against Erik’s face.

“Kevin Yeagar, from the Cleveland office,” Erik said in his best Midwestern accent, “What’s with the guns guys?”

“Nothing you need to know about,” the tall one said with a menacing look on his face. Erik did his best to look cowed.

“Sure, no problem,” Erik said, “Look, we just want to set up in our office, finish the last of our documentation tonight so that our boss won’t bitch, and then go get checked in with the hotel.” Shorty examined the paper Arem handed him that stated the trio were supposed to have one of the conference rooms assigned to them.

“The problem is that we don’t have anything about an IRS team coming in,” Shorty said, “Wait here while I call this in.”

“Whatever you want, officer,” Erik said. As soon as he felt the two men’s emotions spike, Erik knew that he’d made a mistake. He didn’t wait for them to act. Two blasts of power knocked the men off their feet. Arem placed hands on the two men, and they went still. Erik could still feel their emotions, so Arem had just knocked them out.

“Alternate plan,” Erik said, “Arem, fake an attack. Don’t kill anyone. Give us at least fifteen minutes, then extract back to the car. We’ll meet you there.” Arem nodded and picked up the submachine guns. As the elf walked back into the suite, Erik motioned for Joseph to follow him. “As soon as Arem starts causing havoc, we’ll get you into one of the offices.” It didn’t take long before shouts and gunfire to fill the suite. Erik felt around for an office without any emotions. He kicked the locked door open and ushered Joseph inside. Joseph was busily pulling out wires from his satchel as he made a beeline for the office’s computer. Erik braced the closed door with just a bit of power.

“For future reference, you might want to refrain from calling a federal agent an ‘officer,'” Joseph said as he tapped away at the keyboard. Erik let out a stream of profanity. It was always something small. Joseph chuckled. “Have you ever worked in the Latin America countries?”

“No, why?” Erik asked.

“There’s so many ways to screw up down there,” Joseph said, “Tiniest mistake with the local dialect, which of course sounds like every other dialect, and suddenly you’re in front of some narco death squad.” Erik chuckled. Then, he let Joseph get to work as he plotted their escape. The office window looked out onto Bridge Avenue. There was too high of a chance of being spotted by a passerby going out that way. Erik reached out with his empathic sense. Arem was keeping the agents busy at the far end of the suite. Why not walk right back out the way they’d come? They could go down a couple of floors, and then use the masterkey on that suite, which would allow them to go out the window-.

“Time to go!” Arem said, appearing in the office through a gate.

“I don’t have everything,” Joseph said.

“No time,” Arem replied. “They’ve got a pair of sorceresses that are far better than any human has a right to be. Especially on this planet.” Joseph yanked out a pair of portable hard drives and then typed in a command.

“That should give their IT people some fits,” Joseph said, before jumping through the gate. Erik followed Joseph. The gate opened back into the parking garage. The trio piled into the car and Erik casually drove them out. Four blocks from the federal building, they switched to another car. Arem magically scoured the vehicle. A half-hour later the trio split up to go their own ways.

Metal Tuesday – Brother’s Choice – Apocolyptica’s “I’m Not Jesus” and Clutch’s “The Wolfman Kindly Requests”

Well, I’m back again with a round of metal that my dear brother wouldn’t normally touch, much less share with you wonderful individuals. And as always, I cheat.

I noticed while going through videos that there aren’t a lot of good metal videos. A lot of great songs, but the videos are complete shit. But I found some good ones, so I figured I’d do a series of good vs. bad videos.

Both the songs are good, it just the videos with varying (subjective) quality.

Good Song, kinda crappy video:

First on the docket for this year is the most radio friendly pair of songs starting with Apocalyptica‘s I’m Not Jesus.

Apocalyptica started out doing covers of Metallica songs on cellos but have grown past that to writing wonderful songs that sometimes they get really good singers to join them.

Here’s I’m Not Jesus starring Corey Taylor of Slipknot and Stone Sour fame.

Why the hell is a kid in swim goggles spitting water at me? I… what?

Good song, sweet video:

How the hell has my brother never shared the glory that is Clutch?

Paddlin'

Anyways, here’s a fan-made video that is so awesome that the band made it the official video.

I present The Wolfman Kindly Requests.

Monday Fiction – Avalon Chapter 5

Anne

Anne admitted to herself that the meditation room was pretty cool. The soundproofed walls were a warm pink. Anne could detect the faint scents of flowers. She sat cross-legged in one of the circles drawn into the thick beige carpet. Veronica was in another circle across from her. Between them on a small table were a quartet of lit candles arranged in a diamond. Those helped amplify the weak streams of wild stream that managed to make it into the meditation room.

“Do you think you can try to sling the spell?” Veronica asked.

“I think so,” Anne answered, focusing on the simulcrum that Veronica had summoned for the exercise. Anne looked at the streams of wild magic. There was barely enough earth and dark streams in the room for the complicated binding. Anne reached out with her mind and started to pull the streams together. Her head throbbed as she made one binding and then another. She could feel the block in her mind pressing against her. It was the same anytime she did complicated magic. A spike of pain lanced through her head just as she was trying to finish the last binding. She lost concentration and the spell fell apart. The simulcrum danced at the colorful sparkles as the streams of wild magic went back to their natural positions.

“What happened?” Veronica asked patiently.

“The damned block is what happened,” Anne answered. She stood up and started pacing back and forth. “I should have been able to do that. I should have been able to unravel it when Arem cast it on me.”

“Cast, probably,” Veronica said, “Unravel, I’m not so sure. Especially when you’d never seen it before.”

“You did,” Anne said.

“I also knew of that kind of spell as well as having a significantly better understanding of the basic elements of magic,” Veronica said, primly, “Would you expect an officer just out of the academy, even a gifted one, to know how to properly run a murder investigation?” Anne stopped pacing and grimaced.

“No,” Anne answered, sitting back down in her circle, “It’s just I know that there’s more power and ability behind that block. I just can’t figure out how to unravel it. I wish Samantha could just rip it apart.”

“The mind’s a dangerous place to do that kind of thing,” Veronica reminded her.

“I know. I do. It’s just frustrating,” Anne said, “Samantha can’t even figure out what’s causing it.” A soft knock at the door interrupted them. Almost as if she’d been summoned, Samantha stuck her head into the room. Veronica and Anne traded an amused glance.

“Jason’s finally here, and Erik wants to talk with all of us,” Samantha said.

“Well, we shouldn’t keep him waiting,” Anne said, standing up. Veronica nodded, but looked slightly put out. Well, she never thought Anne had enough practice. Anne followed Samantha down the hall to what had been dubbed the “Crisis Lounge,” much to Erik’s annoyance.

Anne picked up one of the tablets scattered about the room. It read her fingerprints and immediately configured to her preferences. Six big plasma monitors hung around the room were showing feeds from around the city. Anne sat down next to Kurt on one of the two couches. Kurt handed her a mug of coffee, which she rewarded him with a quick peck on the cheek. Jason was ensconced on one of the overstuffed chairs with a bottle of beer in one hand as he looked at the tablet in the other. Samantha poured herself a tumbler of scotch from the bar while Veronica availed herself to a soda. They sat down on the other couch before picking up tablets. Erik was standing next to one of the plasmas.

Erik pushed something from his tablet onto the screen. The picture looked like some of the medieval manuscripts Anne had seen at the art museum. If you discounted the fact that everyone in the picture had pointed ears and that they were fighting a creature unlike any she’d seen before. Just looking at it made her head throb a bit. From the looks on everyone’s faces, they were feeling the same discomfort.

“Erik, why are we looking at the Tableau of Seran?” Veronica asked.

“Because it’s the one surviving account of the last time the elves had to battle the Outsiders. From all accounts, it took the combined efforts of every sentient species on Avalon to stop the Outsiders, and even then the losses were horrendous,” Erik answered. He focused on Anne, Jason, and Kurt. “That headache you feel is extreme cognitive dissonance as you look at something that shouldn’t exist. At least, not in our universe. The story is that the artist went insane after finishing the painting.” He wiped the screen and threw up Reginald Browne’s obituary from the paper.

“Thank you for taking down that picture, but what does these Outsiders have to do with Reginald Browne’s death?” Jason asked.

“Arem and his mistress are convinced that Browne’s death was caused by the Outsiders, or their minions,” Erik answered.

“That’s nice, but one, how can we trust anything Arem says, and two, what does that have to with us?” Jason asked.

“Arem, at the very least, believes he’s telling the truth,” Erik answered, “He’s not immune to my empathic senses.”

“Moreover, no elf, not even a dark elf, would ever joke or mislead using the Outsiders. It just isn’t done. The event was just too terrible,” Veronica said.

“Okay, fine. Give me everything you have on these Outsiders, and I’ll turn it over to the task force,” Jason said. “I’m sure they’ll appreciate the help.”

“Jason, these Outsiders aren’t something that the American government can handle on its own,” Erik said, “You are going to need our help.”

“That will have to be decided on by higher level decision makers,” Jason said, “For the time being, they are the concern of the task force. Your efforts should be focused on making sure that Arem doesn’t use this as an opportunity to snatch Anne.” Erik started to fire back a reply, but he caught the look on Sam’s face.

“Everything we have on the Outsiders is on the network,” Erik said. “It’s not much. You should be able to download it to your flash drive.” Jason nodded and started the download from his tablet. “With Arem back, we’re going to need to tighten your security circle, Anne.” As expected, she grimaced. Erik let Kurt and Sam take over that part of the conversation.


Erik

As the others talked about Anne’s security arrangements, Erik tapped a quick message to Lady Maritza.

“Jason refuses to push for our involvement in the Outsiders,” Erik sent to Lady Maritza.

I told you that would happen,” Lady Maritza replied, “The Americans do not understand the gravity of the situation. What are your plans now?

The less you know, the more you can deny,” Erik tapped out.

Be very careful of how you handle this,” Lady Maritza answered, “Not even the Saint can protect you if the American government decides to expel you. Or just kill you.