Saturday, June 30, 2012

Post Supreme Court Health Care Decision Brain Droppings

In the aftermath of the very unexpected decision upholding the constitutionality of the law commonly referred to as “Obamacare” I have frankly enjoyed the spectacle of conservatives gnashing their teeth and acting as if the Mayan December 2012 doomsday prophecy had come early. My overall favorite reaction exemplifying a supreme ignorance of world are the conservatives proclaiming their intentions to leave the United States since “socialized medicine” was going to be allowed and move to say Canada, Costa Rica, or Australia. Of course, the joke is on them being that for decades all three of those countries have had some form of the very health care system that sends tremors of cold terror down their backs.   

There is a bit of a quandary though in my observations that generally defies any explanation of logical, or dare I write, rational behavior.  Since my wife is an attorney I have the opportunity to view her white-collar professional world many times and while it is chalked full of its own special and unique nuts nothing beats the blue-collar types I have worked around all my life.

Since I left college back in 1992 I have carried around in one form or another the sanctimonious title of “electronic  technician” when in fact I am closer to a bruised knuckle wrench turner. Do not get me wrong, I cannot complain because in terms of salary I am doing pretty good and have the added benefit of actually enjoying my job. Would I like to be making heaps of money as a professional author? You bet your ass but I would also like to win the lotto but I am not holding my breath on either ever coming true.

Nevertheless, I have spent the last twenty years listening to a vast majority of my fellow blue-collar types complaining about both the falling standard of health care and the exploding costs of a simple visit to the doctor’s office to the financial ruin associated with sudden illnesses or traumas. Each and every one of these people understood the pre-Obamacare combination of employer sponsored health insurance along with the laissez-faire attitude of many that for various reasons was leaving tens of millions of Americans without any health coverage was not working.

The last thing I want to do is offend anyone but from my point of view watching these people bitch and moan about the health care problem but resist any attempt to fix the issue to the point some call for armed insurrection is sub-moronic behavior to me. The most unconscionable conduct comes from those who have some form of health care and simply do not give a damn about anyone else, all they truly care about is that their premiums stay manageable. While they might have some empathy for their next-door neighbor a stranger and his or her family are shit out of luck if they have to deal with a pre-existing condition, sudden devastating illness, or simply cannot afford health care for some reason.

I would be wrong not to point out those dedicated American individualists of varying forms who chose not have health insurance figuring the emergency room is always open along with others whose lifestyles make them poster children for cancer and heart disease. The committed maverick who chafes at the idea of anyone telling them what to do and the fast food connoisseur for whom a daily Big Mac and gallon of soda are rights guaranteed by the Constitution are both candidates for the annual Darwin awards because of their stupidity. Now if both these types were willing to forgo emergency medical care and do what former-congressman Alan Greyson said was the republican solution to the health care issue (Die Quickly) when their behaviors finally caught up with them everything might even out. The problem there is that both the proud individualist and the fast food connoisseur usually have a health care coming to Jesus moment and realize they want to live when suddenly faced with their own mortality.

Now considering all of this, I am happy to state that I have personally seen how an old and purposely ignorant and narrow-mined individual can learn from their mistakes and change. All it took in this case was a loaded shotgun.

This story begins the day I entered college way back in August of 1990. Yes, it was a glorified community college with a student body primarily made up of freshly graduated high school kids who had been given the choice by some parent over the summer of getting in the fast food career field or going back to school.  A minority of the students were adults like me returning to school to drink from the educational waters of higher learning. I had just finished a four-year enlistment in the active army but others were single moms looking for a better chance for themselves and family, a few old congers desperate for a new, non-backbreaking career, and then there was Ben.

I had the misfortune to be sitting next to Ben in the main auditorium during orientation. As the different department heads informed the new students about the nature of our community college Ben began a running commentary on how they looked and acted on stage. The comments were meant to be humorous and for Ben, he believed himself to be a laugh riot, for me I was mildly irritated at his incessant talking but being a former soldier I had the ability to tune out his country bumpkin-inspired diatribe.

Much to my surprise I soon found out that Ben was going to be a fixture in my life because, like me, he was enrolled in the electronic technician curriculum. Making matters even funnier in an attempt to get to know the guy better I found out he was a born-again, redneck, Bible thumper with political views that placed him on the far right-wing of American politics even in 2012 terms. Ben especially despised welfare which he believed was something close to criminal since it took hard earned money from those with “real jobs” and gave it to lazy bums. He actually used much stronger, racially inspired terms but I will not go down that route. Since my objective was to earn an associate’s degree so I could get a decent job, I quickly learned to get along with the guy in an attempt to avoid trouble.

The one thing that pushed me to the limit was that since he lived in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, directly along my daily driving route between home and school. Not really owning a dependable car he offered me five bucks a week to catch a ride to and from the campus. Needless to say, I said yeah, but he did not ride with me for very long. About two months later, I got a curious phone call from his wife one day saying he was dropping out of the electronics course and that he would not be riding with me anymore.

Fast forward to my final semester in March of 1992 Ben returned to school and it was clear why he had suddenly dropped out. As Ben approached me in the hallway, I noticed he had a severe limp and since he was wearing shorts, I soon saw the reason why. Ben was sporting a massive array of scar tissue on his right leg that made him look like he had gotten in a fight with some sort of shredder. See what happened was that a couple days before I received the phone call from his wife Ben had been driving his daddy’s truck down a bumpy dirt road with a loaded shotgun sitting on the seat next him. One inconveniently placed bump allowed the shotgun to go off leaving his right leg barely attached to his body. I was not particularly happy to see the guy given his attitudes but as he further explained his situation it was clear he was a significantly changed man.

Before Ben almost shot off his leg, he worked primarily as a construction laborer for close to minimum wage and without any health benefits. After his sudden, massive, and idiotic injury, it was food stamps that kept his family from starving and Medicaid that paid most of his hospital and rehabilitation bills. Having to jump through so many hoops for the aid changed his mind about government health care and the usefulness of programs like welfare. While far from joining the liberal/progressive cause, he no longer thought such programs were commie inspired attempts to overthrow America. Even this modified and reformed Ben was still too obnoxious for me and luckily, because of our different schedules, I never had to deal with the guy again. But, I could not help but think that maybe God does work in mysterious ways.

Listen folks, I will be the first to state that Obamacare is not perfect. Frankly I would have gone the single-payer route but given the Hell the president went through to get his bill passed I will go with what we have and hope the situation allows it to be expanded as time goes on.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Final Parting Shots of Hilton Head - I swear

The family and I have long since returned home and jumped back into the normal routine of daily life. Because I work night shift from 11:00pm to 7:00am I will tell you its been like getting hit with a sledgehammer for me. The first two nights back I felt like a certified zombie, even though I was sporting a nifty tan. But anyway wanted to post a few more pictures and I swear to God these are the last. Above you will see Broad Creek Marsh at high tide. It was so easy to get back in tune with the tides after living inland for so many years. I know it has to do with the smell of the marsh at lowtide. It puzzles me to the extreme to hear people complain of that "bad smell." Low tide to me is one of the best examples of life.

The family and I have visited Disney's Hilton Head resort many times over the years and this little sailboat has always been in the same place. For several years it was covered with a film of mildew making it look almost abandoned but this visit I could tell someone had finally cleaned it some. I will admit that everything else looks like it is in the same position so I doubt the owner has taken it away from its marina berth. During the visit in 2007 when we took a dolphin excursion the pilot of the boat taking us to see the dolphins showed us a segment of Broad Creek where sailboats had been anchored and then abandoned. At the time there was a "relatively" simple process to file a claim with the county to take ownership of an abandoned sailboat. If I understood the tour guide abandoned sailboats were "cheap" to take over but the costs to get them back up to decent shape was where the poop hit the fan. But I read a newspaper article last year that Beaufort county got fed up with the number of abandoned boats and passed an ordinance where they take possession of  such boats and quickly sail them off.

My last day on vacation I went walking before Dragonwife and Darth Wiggles woke up and found a bunch of trash washed up on the beach. It highly pissed me off since I am a treehugger and ocean lover. Besides the empty oil bottle I found a bunch of food wrappers and one plastic six-pack holder that is infamous for killing sea turtles who think they are pieces of jellyfish, which they like to eat. What pissed me off even more was that when I finally turned around and started walking back to the Disney beach house the people I passed were looking at me like I was crazy for carrying trash in my hands. One old guy, probably a republican, started to say something but since my normal facial expression has been compared to that of an angry Army drill sergeant he very quickly turned away. 

Half-assed picture of a sunset over the marsh. Truthfully Hilton Head is a little too snobbish for me. Its overly filled with uppity conservative golf types who think the world is one big American playground. I prefer the loose and easy going Keys but a beach bum like me will take what he can get when the other choice is to remain marooned in a landlocked suburbia. Be that as it may, I did meet a lot of fantastic people and the vacation itself was very relaxing. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Dare Mighty Things

For me it is impossible to pinpoint the exact date Americans became a herd of placid sheep more than willing to accept the crap shoveled in our faces on a daily basis. Somehow, we have consented to the idea of diminished expectations from our elected officials, journalists, and ourselves to the point that as our nation slowly grounds to a halt from ineptitude, apathy, and greed we resign ourselves to this new standard because while it has gotten bad for some, the credit cards still work for most.

Instead of working to expand the horizons for everyone, something we once assumed was encoded in the American DNA, we increasingly huddle in smaller groups to guard our precious belongings from those we believe might try to take it from us. Fearful of those with less we have begun to listen to contemptuous little men and women, with their own agendas, as they stoke our suspicions to even greater heights to the point fools begin to walk around talking about “Second Amendment remedies” and taking the country back to how it was during the era of the Founding Fathers.

Because of this attitude otherwise decent people react like frightened animals and begin to strike back egged on further by those whispering in their ears that the boogiemen is still stalking them just outside their window. The results of this are scared and ignorant people passing laws taking away the right to vote from certain groups whose participation in the democratic process others find inconvenient. Feeling that tax dollars are wasted public schools become increasingly crowded as teachers are laid off making it even harder to educate, a very neat self fulfilling feedback cycle. Pushing these fears to the very edge of sanity some states openly talk about breaking away from the rest of the country to form their own currency and army. A certain state has even made plans to form its own navy, even though it is landlocked.

Where once the news media would quickly jump on these clear faults and expose them, they have become tepid at best to show where we are going wrong. Sure, exceptions exist but people skilled in the art of spinning information to their benefit will just as quickly point out some character flaw of the journalist or other person seeking to correct an issue. Confusing things further as a nation our news media and entertainment has become intermeshed to the point it is hard to find where one ends and the other begins. Instead of bad or inconvenient news the producers will often offer up something about the lifestyle of some ever so naughty celebrity.

Of course, none of this would be possible if we still gave a damn about anyone but themselves. This is not the nation I was taught to love and respect. That nation felt an obligation to those less fortunate while others swam in money and power. That nation funded schools, libraries, the sciences, and the arts without hesitation because it served the public interest and lifted everyone up. You can forget about the usual pious and incorrect platitudes offered up by sanctimonious preachers about the United States founded as a “Christian nation” because we are the farthest thing from it. The teachings of Christ have been largely abandoned in favor of the power and glamour of money.

 Everything these days has to be looked through the prism of the profit motive. Waste and mismanagement exist at all levels, even in corporations but that is called a tax write off, but a government official cannot shit without some Norquist-like slug whining about the cost of the toilet paper he or she used, heaven forbid a library or school want to buy updated books or equipment. Finishing up this rant I will just restate this is not the nation I was raised to believe in where capitalism is a religion and American pride comes from the bomb tonnage the newest bomber can drop on some primitive village. My America dared to do great and mighty things, it’s a tired attitude in this modern era of easily entertained sheep but hints of what once were are still out there if you look.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Nature and Angry crabs at Disney's Hilton Head Resort

When you last heard directly from me I was enjoying a nice laid back vacation at Disney's Hilton Head Resort. I now return to amaze everyone with my latest boring and inexcusably bourgeois tourist exploits.  Dragonwife, Darth Wiggles, and I did the kayaking thing Wednesday on Broad Creek, which splits the island almost in half. Wiggles and I shared a double kayak and as I expected I did all the paddling with her doing everything in her power to hinder my efforts. The tide was going out and there were a couple of times I suspected we would be swept out to sea. Saw several dolphins along the way and each and every time had to prevent Wiggles from jumping out to go swim with the aquatic mammal.

Did a little crabbing and caught several. Since we had nothing in the way of cooking the mean little crustacean we had to throw the guy back.
A momma bird in the marsh taking her youngins' out for a breakfast of small fiddler crabs. You could see them scramble from cover out to where the fiddlers were above the surface. Sucked to be the crab that morning but momma and all six of her chicks ate well.

Very beautiful house in Beaufort, South Carolina. Did a carriage tour and have more pictures than I can even hope to post at one time. All had some sort of history behind them and I will release them piecemeal.

A blue heron wanting a handout. I did not like the look in its eye and quickly gave it my remaining shrimp.

Beaufort Armory built a few years before the Civil War by a bunch of slave owning assholes. With a couple of windows boarded up and secured it will be a great refuge from the bath salt inspired zombie Apocalypse.

Hi, this is yours truly resting his fat ass on one of the awesome park bench swings at the Beaufort waterfront park.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

F3 Cycle 83 "A Small Price for Paradise"

F3 Cue: Write a story of gripping suspense, with a “ticking bomb” of some sort.
Genre: Suspense (may be mixed with fantasy, western, SF, horror… any)
Word Count: 1500

For some unknown reason Camilla Island was never discovered by the mega-real estate developers that plagued the Caribbean like rampaging locusts all through the second half of the twentieth-century. Sitting just a few miles off the southern coast of Jamaica and being about the same size as the American Virgin Island of St. Thomas it boasted an Eden-like serenity of beautiful tropical foliage, pristine sandy beaches and peaceful fishing villages. Because Camilla missed out on the huge all inclusive resorts, championship golf courses, and duty-free shopping areas the mass migration of tourist hordes seeking escape from their mundane existence never materialized. 

Those very few Americans and Europeans lucky enough to discover its existence and wanting something off the beaten path quickly found out that accommodations never rose above old-fashioned boarding houses and small, locally owned cottages. Despite lacking modern amenities, Camilla nonetheless had an intoxicating allure for many who stepped off the seaplane and onto the concrete pier, which acts as the official gateway to this isolated paradise. That was what happened to me, I came here in June of 2001 for a vacation wanting to run away from a failed marriage along with a stalled career as a cop for a couple of weeks but I ended up staying.

Becoming a member of the expatriate community, I traded my Atlanta apartment for a two-room shack and a worn out laptop to pursue my dream of being a full-time writer. My expat dream was far from perfect with food being an issue, groceries imported from the mainland were very expensive. So, I had to adjust to local environment by learning to fish and throw a cast net along with devoting myself to my writing. It took some time but I adapted and became at least moderately successful writer selling crappy boilerplate novels and short stories. While the name Roger Harper would never grace the literary bestseller list, I at least made enough money to import a few items and buy my favorite beer on a regular basis. For eight years, Camilla Island was paradise everyone dreams of finding, but as the cliché says, everything good must eventually end.

It began in 2009 with the construction of the small resort on the west end of the island called Blue Oasis. Both the local officials and developers said it was only thirty rooms complete with two pools and small eight-hole golf course but for the expats like me, we could smell the blood in the water. With the discovery of our hidden Eden, everyone figured it was only a matter of time before other developers came and turned Camilla into another theme park.

The one advantage I found to the deteriorating situation was the small tiki bar Blue Oasis setup on the beach in front of their main buildings. I quickly became something of a regular because it was quaint, served cheap cold beer, and allowed a fifty-one year old man to scope out the hot young babes that believed they were doing something slightly dangerous by visiting an island away from normal tourist sites.

The little tiki bar quickly ran through seven or eight bartenders before Scott Norris showed up. He was a mystery to me right from the beginning but despite that, we became friends. Scott was a good looking kid in his mid-twenties and clearly very intelligent although he did his best to hide it from everyone. I eventually learned not to push the subject of his past despite my writer’s and ex-cop curiosity wanting to learn more. For two years, Scott and I settled into such an easy rhythm I began to believe my paradise had received something of a reprieve. However, when the woman in white appeared all that changed.

She appeared late one night walking the beach like some ghost searching for her lost love. Scott was putting things away preparing for the cleanup crew to pick up the trash when we both saw her. She was walking in the ocean up to her ankles dressed in a flowing white gown that along with her blond hair were both caught in the wind blowing freely adding to the ghost-like affect. She seemed oblivious to us both up until the last second when she turned her head our way and smiled. Her beauty entranced me but incredibly, my young friend was not and I followed her until she once gain disappeared into the night.

“Oh, my God, Scott,” I exclaimed feeling the lust rage all the way to my bones, “just who was that? I think I am in love.”

Scott always liked my overactive reactions to the women showing up at the Blue Oasis. “Slow down old man,” he said, “she’s way out of both our leagues. According to the grapevine, she’s the wife of the resort owner and has moved into one of the three beach houses the resort built last year for the elites. Word from the property manager Patrick is to leave her alone unless she speaks to you, then move heaven and earth to get whatever she wants.”

“Ah damn,” I said, “another sign of the impending apocalypse. They’ll turn this island into one huge amalgamation of a golf course, parking lot, and gated neighborhoods if it kills them.”

Scott barely said anything but we had talked plenty of times worried Camilla would be turned into something fake and so exclusive it became another corrupted copy of any number of other islands that were once something close to paradise. When the cleanup crew arrived, Scott closed the bar and we parted ways. He drifted back to his small bungalow provided by the resort and I slowly walked the path back to my small shack promptly forgetting about the woman in white.


The next morning I rode my trusty scooter down to Logantown, the only real town on Camilla, heading to the only place with internet access so I could email my latest trash adventure novel to my publisher. Sitting in the cramped internet café waiting for my email to go through I nursed a warm beer and a bad attitude about all the daytrippers riding the ferry over from the Jamaica to jam the streets and business of Logantown making it look like tropical version of Tokyo or New York. I realized that the business brought more money to the people of Logantown but I could already see the stress on the local infrastructure and pollution brought on by wealthy Americans and Europeans wanting the exotic but their usual conveniences as well.

Despite the fact that I had a fat American couple in front of me arguing with one of the locals who sold woodcarvings to tourists like them, I spotted Scott sitting across the street at one of the new fancy restaurants talking with the beautiful blond who we had both saw the night before. My old cop senses were registering some massive strangeness because it was clear these two were old acquaintances. Besides the fact they were holding each other’s hands from the looks on their faces they were talking about something very important. Maybe it was the pseudo-father and son relationship I developed with Scott but I had always figured the kid to be popular with the ladies so seeing him with a beautiful women made me proud. The two problems with that idea was the fact I had never really saw Scott making the moves on anyone and primarily, in this case, the woman he was with was the resort owner’s wife.

Realizing it might cause stress in my friendship with Scott I actually planned to walk over and introduce myself to the beautiful mystery lady but my email finally went through and as I should have expected my agent wanted to chat over my next novel. My need for money to feed myself taking priority, I spent the next fifteen minutes looking at his ugly face on my laptop screen. By the time I was done both Scott and the woman were gone.  

Later that night at the bar, I asked Scott several roundabout questions if he had seen the lady in white anymore since the previous night. He said no on all counts and restated his advice to avoid her at costs. I almost believed him about staying away from the woman until a little man appeared at the bar wearing an expensive suit and carrying a very bad attitude.

“Mr. Norris,” he said through his nostrils, “I’ve watched you all night and I strongly feel you are not providing enough in the way of a friendly customer service to our guests. Please realize I do not care who recommended you for this job, I will fire you if I believe it is best for the resort. I have big plans for this place that no one will disrupt.” He then turned on his heels and disappeared into the night. It did not take a rocket scientist to realize we had just seen the resort owner.

“Yes, Mr. Banks,” Scott said, “I will do better.” The look of utter hatred on Scott’s face spoke volumes, you did not develop something like that working for an asshole for just a couple of years.


The next morning I hung around a gas station that made ice for the locals as well talking with a few other expats who use it as a gathering place to shoot the shit and drink beer. It had the advantage of being close to Scott’s bungalow so I could see him ride off on his motorcycle obviously heading back towards Logantown. It was easy to sneak away from the small group of nearly drunk Americans and even easier to break inside Scott’s place. At first, it appeared like any other bachelor pad, dirty clothes and trash all around but after a few minutes of experienced searching, I found other things quite disturbing.

Turns out Scott had quite the collection of books on organic chemistry and poisons along with notebooks filled with information on the usual dietary choices of a Mr. Thomas Banks clearly written by a female. The most telling were the pictures of Scott and the beautiful woman together. The pictures were taken in public and somewhat formal making the two look like close siblings or even lovers but it was hard to tell. What had my ex-cop senses buzzing was that Mr. Banks appears to be the target of a murder. I quickly left Scott’s small house and returned to my own shack to think things over. A better person might confront Scott and the woman but with the island I love clearly threatened, the death of one asshole in a world full of them is microscopic in the greater scheme of things. So if it works out like experience suggests it will be a small price to pay to protect paradise.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Fun At Disney's Hilton Head resort

We arrived Sunday afternoon with me quickly finding the nearest hammock to be all lazy and useless. Dragonwife and Darth Wiggles were suppose to have gone shopping at one of the nearby outlet malls where they could act all American and buy a multitude of junk we did not need. Of course, since the Universe likes to play mind games with me they returned after only being away for thirty minutes. While it boggles my plebeian mind they found nothing of interest and proudly returned without spending any money. I could comment about Hell having a snowstorm but that might be pushing it just a little.

Went to the beach this morning and hung out all day. Hilton Head's beaches are more than a little overcrowded in my mind since I am use to my little-known and semi-isolated sanctuaries around Georgetown, South Carolina. The good side of having a crowded beach was that Darth Wiggles had plenty of friends to play with all day. In fact we had a small issue with getting her back to the room when it was dinner time. 

We continued with our horrible culinary habits by partaking lunch at the small grill located at the beach house. Wiggles munched on a nutritious hot dog filled with all sorts of pork and beef by-products. Since I do have a microscopic sliver of some commonsense I resisted the urge to take a picture of the very attractive lady setting at the table just to the left of Wiggles who had a near total wardrobe malfunction with her bikini. Why pray tell am I bragging about resisting my instinctual male urges? Because Dragonwife was sitting in the chair directly across from Wiggles and was carrying a very heavy bag which she could have used to target my head faster than a Hellfire missile. Going back off the grid, more pictures later.   

Thursday, June 14, 2012

On the Eve of Hammerfall: Chapters three and four

Chapter Three

We did not know it at the time but while the various peoples and governments of Earth scrambled around like ants whose mound had been disturbed by some force so powerful it was beyond their comprehension out near Saturn a huge predator cruised by the ringed planet. The alien ship was a little over three miles long with two conical structures attached on opposite ends of a sphere. Running out perpendicular of the central sphere was a structure made up of engines that twisted space-time allowing the ship to move across the stars. To the humans who would watch it enter Earth orbit a little over a year later it looked sleek and deadly. How the aliens, who humans would come to call “squids”, would describe their massive ship was a thing of debate for many long and difficult years.

The most accurate way to describe what they thought of their ship can be summed up by the fact that to them it was nothing more than an efficient way to cross the distance between the stars. They did not even give the vessel a name; the very idea to them would have been insane. But that mindset was consistent with their normal behavior and view of everything else not part of their species.

During their invasion of Earth all sorts of urban legends quickly sprung up about squid behavior but the one that was completely true was that they were a very practical race not prone to romantic notions or creative artistic thought outside of science. While they were building an industrial civilization, the same time humans were in awe of fire, there is not one shred of evidence they ever admired a sunset, wrote a novel, or painted a landscape strictly for pleasure.

After the dust settled with humanity the winner in a war of interspecies genocide and the surviving squids either being hunted down or carefully examined in isolated locations across the globe all sorts of questions about them were finally answered. The first question answered by the now far more accommodating squids were their reasons for crossing interstellar space and trying to take our planet away from us.

From interrogations of surviving squids and what computer records we could gleam from their ship both the squids and humans emerged on their respective worlds about the same time after millions of years of evolution. While we were largely copying their behavior in many aspects, the squids had a substantial head start on us and had exploited every resource on their world to the point it was becoming impossible for it to support a complex technological civilization. Unlike humans, none of their species ever raised any alarms over what they were doing, to them planetary resources were there to be used as soon as technology allowed them to be reached. You might think this attitude would have lead to conflict and wars between the squids, and it did early in their history but their excessively rational minds viewed such endeavors as wasteful. By the time squids developed a technological civilization on par with our twentieth-century they had united under a central global government.  

This global government and the society it oversaw was essentially based on extreme self interest with an emphasis on each individual proving their worth before having some influence in the governing of the civilization. It was social and economic evolution to the extreme with no room for empathy or compassion of any kind.        

When it became apparent to the squid hierarchy that their planet was dying without possibility of being salvaged discussions ranged on the proper actions to save their species but none were cost effective given the teeming billions that now lived on the home world. Other planets in their star system had been colonized to allow access to their resources but none had the capability to handle even a small fraction of the home world’s population.

Being vicious social Darwinists the one plan that made sense to the ruling elites was to take the best and brightest and migrate to another star system that had at least one planet capable of being developed like the home world. Interstellar probes were quickly sent out to hundreds of star systems searching for a planet meeting at least the basic requirements to allow the squid species spread across the galaxy.

As the years passed the squid leadership waited patiently for the probes to radio back data of what they found. The home world situation was becoming increasingly critical with millions of lower caste squids regularly dying. For the leaders and economic creators the losses were acceptable, even something to be hoped for, but the trends were clear, if a proper planet was not found quickly the accelerating collapse of infrastructure and growing scarcity of resources would make the endeavor impossible.

Decades later the first reports from the probes were received, they told of thousands of different worlds all bearing at least some small type of life. The scientists involved in the project had to consider hundreds of different parameters of both the possible target planet and the star it orbited. After everything was considered one candidate planet stood out, it was not a perfect match on several levels but the biochemical makeup of the planet’s lifeforms very closely matched that of the squids. This would require the minimum of expendable resources to establish a proper foothold, possibly enough to allow the ship to proceed to another star system to begin another colony.

The biggest problem with the planet though was that it was already inhabited by an intelligent species, not a show stopper in itself but the squids did have enough sense to realize the locals might put up a fight when they appeared endangering the project’s possible success. Further analyses of the data showed the native sentients to be very primitive and after several computerized scenarios were played out the squid leaders and scientists felt they could handle whatever issue the native inhabitants might cause. So, when everything was considered the real reason the squids crossed lightyears of space, invaded Earth killing billion in the process was because our planet was the most cost effective target in their complex calculations. Such was the logic for what amounted to a species of interstellar accountants and venture capitalists.

Chapter Four

Long before humans had first contact with an extraterrestrial species it was endlessly speculated by scientists and philosophers that the event would bring about profound and deep changes in how the human race behaves. Anyone who would have made that optimistic bet would have badly lost. Six months after three alien spacecraft were shot down the world had remarkably returned to its usual state of affairs.

The typical and very tired array of national, religious, and ethnic conflicts resumed less than a month after the fact as if nothing ever happened. The nations of the Middle East actually took special care into launching a regional war amongst themselves with the United States, Russia, and China caught up in examining the wreckage from the spacecraft each had destroyed over their airspace. Making matters worse, tensions dangerously rose between India and Pakistan over territorial disputes, scores of churches, mosques, and synagogues were down in bloody riots all across the globe along with several incidents of ethnic cleansing in Africa.      

Upon initial news of the aliens being shot down the world’s stock markets had gone into free fall for several weeks but at the half year mark they had long since recovered with corporations eagerly awaiting the release of recovered technology like hyenas looking at a fresh zebra carcass. The dust had not even settled after the bloody close encounter before corporate executives were twisting the arms of their political lackeys demanding to be first in line at examining the alien technology so it could be reverse engineered.

What was even more disconcerting was how the general populations in the developed nations reacted to first contact. All across Europe there were massive demonstrations protesting the belligerent actions of the three military superpowers. These people believed the aliens had to be peaceful since they were far superior to primitive humans. In China and Japan, they at least had the good sense to largely discuss the issue rationally although there were isolated incidents of panic.

In the old United States hundreds of religious groups thought the aliens who emerged from the UFO shot down in Norfolk, Virginia were demons of Satan out to herald the arrival of the Antichrist. For several week suicides skyrocketed as fire and brimstone evangelical preachers and their congregations became disillusioned when the Rapture they were certain was imminent failed to appear. For me personally, the most dismaying spectacle as I daily worked on the crashed spacecraft were the reactions of those who felt the entire first contact incident was some elaborate hoax orchestrated by shadowy and sinister organizations for some nefarious reasons.

I tried not to dwell on the idiots that unfortunately made up most of humanity by throwing myself into analyzing the workings of the downed alien spacecraft. In the six months since I was literally forced back into the Air Force, my team had made huge progress not just into discovering how the craft was powered and flew but learned monumental insights in theoretical astrophysics and cosmology. Some of the more clever boys and girls from MIT and Caltech were working on a paper that would unify all the four forces of the universe along with a fifth force that explained dark energy. The final result was humankind on the threshold of developing something very much akin to antigravity technology.

Even more astounding was the power source of the spacecraft, along with room temperature superconducting coils we had deduced it was powered by a form of cold fusion with the reactor the size of a Doc Brown’s “Mr. Fusion” from the “Back to the Future” movies. That discovery sent the team from our own massive and barely workable experimental fusion reactor down in Princeton University into abject depression and good old-fashioned hissy fits over the years they spent on what now amounted to a huge obsolete piece of junk.

For Cynthia Parker and her team working on the physiology of the aliens they had a tougher time working from the remains left after the Apache helicopters ended their bloody and destructive rampage in Norfolk. The 30mm automatic cannons on the two choppers that opened fire had reduced the aliens to ham loaf-sized chunks of meat. The exobiology team still learned a lot from the cell samples. The aliens were carbon-based lifeforms that breathed a very similar mixture of oxygen and nitrogen making up the Earth’s atmosphere. More troublesome was the discovery that the alien cell structure was made up of proteins closely built along the lines of terrestrial life. The alien DNA was even double helix-shaped like terrestrial life even although it possessed several base pairs never seen before on Earth. In other words, the workings of their cells would have allowed the aliens to munch on a Caesar salad and chicken marsala entrée from the local Olive Garden restaurant just outside Andrews Air Force base Cynthia and I frequented when we needed to get away. However, the nutritional value of said meal was just as questionable for them as it was for humans.  

Where we were getting nowhere was unlocking the computer systems of the alien spacecraft which had tried to tap into very sensitive and secret national defense information networks. Even though the aliens had used basic binary code to gain access into the human computers the cyber-security system wizard Roger Clarke could not find a way to cross over into the alien software. We did develop a very rudimentary understanding of their computer hardware finding it based on both on photonic and electrical systems. Roger eventually turned over his team to new leadership while he poured himself into the alien code trying to discern some sort of Rosetta Stone out of the data we had so he could learn their programming language.

The one enemy every team faced was the normal nationalistic paranoia and the incredibly short human attention span. With no further UFOs zipping around Earth, the initial fears produced by the events died away. Realistically having the general population return to their reality shows and sporting events did not bother me. What was really chapping my ass was the butt kissing politicians that had once again boiled everything down to scaring votes from the Marching Morons.

Several members from both houses of congress wanted all information learned from the alien technology classified and even turned over to the private sector, which they believed would be better able to develop it. A clear violation of the agreement reached between the American Joint Chiefs of Staff and their counterparts in Russia and China. Other members, the more religious, wanted it all tucked away in some top-secret storage area and forgotten about. In some ways I admit, that given how things unfolded, it might have been nice to do just that allowing me to return to my desert cabin but fate and the squids would not permit anyone to make such a decision.


Cynthia and I had settled in for the night when I saw flashing red and blue lights pull up in front of the bedroom window of our small apartment. We both looked at each other with a sense of dread wondering what shoe had dropped this time.

“You didn’t go and make good on your promise to stuff the junior senator from South Carolina into the nearest wood chipper did you?” Cynthia asked jumping up to slip on a robe.

“No,” I said trying to think what might have really brought the base security police to our front door. I grabbed my fatigue pants and shirt still feeling somewhat strange at the sight of the eagle sewed on the collar, a huge jump in rank many would have bet money never would have happened.

Feeling at least presentable, I opened the front door to see an Air Force captain along with two security police waiting for me. “Colonel,” the captain said, “I have news from the command post and General Mitchell requests Ms. Parker and you report as soon as possible.”

Cynthia was out the door and getting in the huge SUV sent to retrieve us before I could say anything. Needless to say, the déjà vu was strong but at least my curiosity was satisfied without the need of a transcontinental flight like the one that brought me back east.


The building housing the command post for research into the alien spacecraft had originally been a hanger built to store one of the spare presidential 747-doomsday planes. The end of the Cold War saw the expensive plane sold for scrap and the hanger itself largely abandoned. 

The hanger and the attached support buildings had gone through a rapid modernization from the very minute the alien spacecraft was transported from Norfolk. After six months, it sported the most modern and complex array or communication equipment second only to the White House. The security police dropped us off in front of the main door and ushered us inside the communications room, which looked exactly like the now defunct Cheyenne Mountain NORAD base from the 1980’s.

General Mitchell was already sitting in front of one of the displays talking with his Chinese counterpart. Just to the left of the Chinese general another screen showed the planet Jupiter in the background with a huge but obviously artificial construction that looked uncomfortably shark-like in appearance passing in front of the gas giant. Cynthia standing close beside me peered at the detailed picture and unconsciously grabbed my arm. Never one to mince words she took a deep nervous breath and said, “We are so screwed.”

General Mitchell, a good and honest guy I had served with in Operation Desert Storm as a young lieutenant fresh out of the Academy, concluded his conversation and turned off the screen and turned to us. “About twenty-four hours ago the Chinese probe orbiting Jupiter took a picture of the alien ship you see now. They instantly relayed the information to both the Russian Federal Space Agency and NASA. Our people down at the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico along with others across the globe have been bouncing radar signals off the thing since then. Its three miles long, decelerating, and on a direct course to Earth set to arrive in about six months.”

Mitchell looking tired and forlorn just stared at us both; I honestly wanted to say something profound but as usual said what first came to mind. “I’ll be a son of a bitch, guess who is coming to dinner after all.”

(Author's note: There will be more sometime in the future. But I have played this out for at least a couple of months. Will be on vacation Saturday and will next be boring you poor souls with pictures from Disney's Hilton Head resort. )

Saturday, June 9, 2012

On the Eve of Hammerfall: Chapters one and two

 (Author's note: Just having fun here, for those poor souls who might be interested there are two other stories in this series. "Falling Up" and "At the Turning of the Page".  As I have noted at the other stories, this series is inspired by two fake documentaries concerning what we would do if aliens did invade, like I said, I'm just having fun. Oh yeah, chapters three and four already exist.)

Chapter One

Despite centuries of nicely crafted and self-centered assumptions about how wonderful and intelligent we humans are our only real talent has been the ability to slaughter each other like mindless insects while our various tribes believed they were the chosen people of some invisible god. This existence served humanity well as long as our numbers stayed small and our technology little better than primitive muskets. Unfortunately, as our numbers increased and weapons made quantum jumps in efficiency our morals and principles stayed the same as those we had while living in caves forever fearful and ignorant of everything that lurked just outside the light of our fires.

In modern times decades of space exploration by various national governments sought to expand humanity’s knowledge of what lay out in the dark beyond our world but only a very few took notice of the hints that the universe might be filled with life. In underdeveloped regions of the globe, the greater mass of people had a daily struggle to survive; they had little time for such abstract notions of life beyond the Earth. For those who lived in the First World the majority chose to submerge themselves in banal pursuits that gave them a narrow view of anything outside their interests.

All that began to change in March of 2024 when the military of the Russian Federation, People’s Republic of China, and the United States became aware that not was their territory being violated by UFO’s but that they were attempting to remotely tap into highly classified computer networks. The incidents were each slightly different but the militaries of those nation reacted the same. Unfortunately for the intruders, they were caught inside the boundaries of strategic military facilities and they paid a heavy price as computerized defensive systems trained sophisticated radars and missile batteries on them.

The UFO over a Russian strategic rocket base was utterly destroyed with the use of a tactical nuke leaving them just radar and video images to study. The Chinese, using newer systems were luckier and brought theirs down but the craft was heavily damaged and the crew killed. The United States through sheer chance was able to shoot down their intruder down without severely damaging the vessel and were rewarded with two aliens emerging and destroying several blocks of Norfolk, Virginia before two Apache helicopters put an end to their rampage.

How did humanity handle this less than advantageous first contact situation? For several days, there was a certain panic but when no further alien ships appeared to beg forgiveness or seek revenge humans incredibly went about their business as if it was nothing but a movie. Sociologists were not really surprised, years later after all the dust was settled and the alien menace defeated they published countless papers on how it was implausible to expect humanity to adjust their myopic view of the universe so quickly. They further explain that what we as a species survived was nothing less than a massive evolutionary challenge that ultimately changed us all for the better and that each individual had to adapt in their own way. I cannot speak for anyone else but for me it began with a phone call in the middle of the night. 


When a phone rings at four o’clock in the morning, the possibility of it being good news is extremely low. If you want to get technical about the best it can be is a wrong number with the caller lost, broke down, drunk, in jail, or some combination of the four. Unfortunately, for me there was a strong chance that the person on the other end was one of my family members back home in Alabama calling me for those very same reasons wanting money. During those years after my retirement from the Air Force and before the invasion, I had disentangled myself from both them and civilization in general.

For several seconds I laid in my comfortable bed looking at the phone on my nightstand hoping it was the theoretical wrong number and that the caller would realize he or she did had not dialed their best friend, brother, wife, or parents but some poor fool who did not want to be bothered with their problems. When the chirping stopped, I breathed a sigh of relief only to hear it start back up ten seconds later. Sitting up in bed, I reconciled myself to answering it, already contemplating how to nicely tell whatever family member on the other end that I was deeply sorry about whatever situation they were in but I frankly did not give a rat fuck. When I glanced at the number on the small screen and saw no name or organization associated with it, I automatically knew the situation was far worse than a simple family problem.

“Hello,” I said sheepishly after raising the phone to my ear.

“Major Andrew Jamison?” the caller asked in a business tone that suggested nothing good.

“I’m retired but yeah, that’s me, what’s the issue?” The caller remained silent for several seconds, enough to raise my opinion to a near certainty that a major load of shit had hit a huge fan.

“I have been instructed not mention the issue over the phone but is your location ten miles west of Vidal, California on Old Parker Road?”

“I figure you already know the answer to that question but yes, you’ll have to make a right off Old Parker and go two miles further down a dirty road to reach my cabin. When can I expect you?” I finished already planning on what I was going to pack.

“We will be there at sunrise, be ready for an extended period of time away from your home. Have a list ready for a follow up team to take care of your belongings.  As of right now per National Emergency Act 2001 you are officially back on active duty.” The voice said before abruptly hanging up the phone.

Resigning myself to dealing with military assholes again, I sat on the side of my bed for several minutes trying to figure out what the Hell the United States government had done now that it was having to reactivate a tired old man back into the Air Force. Had I not been a curmudgeon I could have turned on my television or radio and heard the news that two days before a real unidentified flying object had strayed too close to Langley Air Force base, been shot down only to have two aliens then emerge and go ballistic with their weapons before being killed themselves. 

Sick of the unadulterated propaganda of lies and neatly spun half-truths offered up by the news media and nauseous of what passes as entertainment I had spent the last six years since my retirement limiting my exposure to the outside world to a few hours a month. It was a deeply engrained habit by the time of the phone call. I had cocooned myself in numerous activities like writing for scientific journals, exploring the desert area I lived, along with spending nights under the stars with my telescope.

Not that I would have believed the story to begin with, I had spent the last few years of my military career part of a secret investigation into supposed alien spacecraft doing all sorts of crazy shit in American and allied airspace. I remember reading the orders at my desk after receiving them thinking it was a punishment for bucking the neatly structured system of graft and outright fraud. Despite the cliché of the squeaky wheel getting the grease in reality what happens is that it gets replaced and tossed aside.

For most of my career, namely after my one marriage ended disastrously, I had pissed off numerous congressmen, lobbyists, and corporate execs with my bitching about how they were the tail wagging the military dog. My protests had crossed too many lines first getting me knocked off the list for astronaut training, then busted from flying F-15 Eagles, to permanently pushing intelligence report papers at an earthbound desk. Only my combat duties from Bosnia to the first Persian Gulf War along with a series of well-placed friends with higher rank and far better attitudes had allowed me to make it to retirement.

Much to my surprise I found out that the UFO assignment was not punishment but one of my friends pushing me into a position that was sure to keep me safe until I crossed the twenty-year line. My Air Force Academy doctorate degree in theoretical physics got me the job and along with some advice to enjoy the expense account. For once, I obeyed and traveled all over the world interviewing assorted hoaxers, freaks, and the truly delusional.

During my years chasing alien gooses I had never investigated one incident that shown any evidence of extraterrestrials visiting Earth. But for once I did as I was instructed and kept my mouth shut, lived off Uncle Sammy’s paranoid tit, while traveling to some fantastic locations all across the planet. In fact, I so enjoyed the assignment I  stayed an extra two years  until some bean counter cut off my funds and the fun. After that I bought my cabin in the middle of nowhere and told the rest of the world to kiss my ass.

As I puttered around my small home waiting for the sunrise and getting ready for unwanted visitors I was so convinced that the mysterious phone call had something to do with world war three I did not once even consider the possibility little green men from some damn place had finally showed up.  When you believe the United States government is nothing more than a mentally challenged bully suffering from paranoid delusions and control issues you tend to discount its constant need to find a boogieman to scare Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public into going along with all sorts of crazy shit.

As the sun began rising over the nearby mountains, I sat at my kitchen table sipping a cup of coffee while reveling in my nicely nurtured cynicism about institutionalized overreaction and stupidity. That was about the time I heard the thump of a helicopter landing in my backyard, which suggested I might have underestimated the possible problem we faced. I had expected a nondescript military sedan pulling up to my front door with some underachieving and nervous lieutenant knocking on my door asking if I was ready to leave.  What I got was a HH-60 Pave Hawk stirring up a ton of dust and dirt with two heavily armed Air Force pararescue guys running for my backdoor.

If I had not gotten up and met them at the door I swear they would have kicked it in. “Major Jamison,” the senior ranking PJ said to me just off my doorstep, “we have to leave now. Where's your duffel?” I pointed to it sitting in an old rocking chair and before I realized it the senior PJ was physically pushing me to the chopper while the other had my small collection of belongings. After I was thrown inside the Pave Hawk, it immediately lifted off and turned northward. Looking at the two PJ’s and seeing the real fear in their eyes I finally had to find out just what in the hell had happened.

“Sergeant, just what in the fuck is going on?” I asked the senior PJ after slipping on a flight helmet and connecting the cable running from it to the on-board intercom system.  The two Air Force special ops guys, who had already done the same, looked at each other with utter astonishment replacing the fear I first saw on their faces.

“General Mitchell said you had taken yourself off the grid,” the Technical Sergeant said as he opened up a nearby bag mounted to the interior fuselage of the chopper, pulled out a computer tablet, and then handed it to me. “He prepared this so you could be brought up to speed. He also said to get ready to use that rocket scientist degree Uncle Sam bought for you because the shit has really hit the fan.”

I didn’t hear the PJ’s last words because I was already reading the reports and watching the videos wishing like Hell I disconnected myself from the world far better than I had.

Chapter Two

Our destination was Nellis Air Force base in Nevada with the Pave Hawk pilot landing the helicopter very close to a small Air Force passenger jet waiting for my arrival. My two PJ buddies quickly hustled me inside the jet then ran back over to the chopper and were gone in under a minute. I barely had to time to buckle my seatbelt before the jet was speeding down the runway and in the air taking us towards Andrews Air Force base outside of Washington. The flight was real fun because the small jet was packed with West Coast civilian eggheads all clucking like overactive chickens about the downed spacecraft and the dead aliens. I kept mostly to myself, except to bitch to the crew chief about the lack of liquor on board. The enlisted twerp just smiled and offered me a coke, which forced me to tell him where he could shove the damn soda can.

 “You seem less than impressed at recent events.” A voice next me commented.

I turned in the direction of the voice to see a nice looking forty-something lady with brunette hair, blue eyes, and dressed in a classy business suit sitting across the center aisle of the plane. “Sorry,” I said while shrugging, “I was in charge of Uncle Sammy’s investigation into little green men for several years and before that I was deeply entangled with that paranoid bunch working out of the Five Sided Funny Farm in DC. Excuse me if I withhold judgment on what could be a genuine interstellar incident with a very advanced technological civilization.”

“So you prescribe to the theory that we attacked what amounted to a stealthy reconnaissance of our planet before a possible first contact?” She said looking at me with eyes so full of intelligence I felt uncomfortable for the first time in years.

“Yeah, if I were to bet money right now I’d say we probably shot down and then killed Spock and his science team.” I replied honestly then briefly introduced myself.

The lady smiled with little real emotion and reached out to shake my hand. “I’m Cynthia Parker, I was part of NASA’s theoretical exobiology team until two wars and tax cuts for billionaires forced budget slashing to the point they had to fire my team and me.”

“If you don’t mine me asking where does a person go after losing their job guessing what E.T. looks like and eats?”

Cynthia smiled at my question, “I packed up my belongings, including my PhD and linked up with several others on my team and started a genetic engineering company. That was back in 2007 but last year we made close to two-hundred million selling weight reduction drugs that barely work. I’d rather be working for NASA but I guess I can’t really complain. I do still harbor a serious grudge against the military and most politicians.”

“For what it’s worth I’m sorry,” I said. “If it’s any consolation I cussed out a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee right after the Iraq War started.”

Cynthia seemed amused by my statement, “What happened after that?”

“Well, various ass kissing friends of the senator tried to kick me out of the Air Force for my remarks but the worst thing that happened was that a huge group of morons nominated the senile old goat for president in 2008.”

Cynthia opened up after that and we began talking about the implications of the bloody first contact incident. She did not share my cynical attitude that the American, Russian, and Chinese militaries had let their terrestrial-based paranoia overrule commonsense by firing on a vastly more advanced species. If their intentions were peaceful, she suspected that each of three events could have been avoided if only the aliens had kept away from very sensitive military bases.

I countered by saying that the aliens may have been testing us. A more intelligent and peaceful species probably would have thought better before letting the missiles fly. Especially the Russians who I discovered from the information on the computer tablet the two Air Force pararescue guys had given me had shot down their interloping flying saucer with an air defense missile equipped with a tactical nuke.

Cynthia and I were wrapped tightly in our own conversation when the guy in the seat in front of me turned around interrupted us with some news that neither of us knew. “Sorry to butt in,” he said, “my name is Roger Clarke, I’m a cyber security systems specialist from Oakland but I just learned something before I boarded the plane. Each of the alien spacecrafts were trying to break into the computer networks at the bases they came close to. They tapped into the wireless networks at each base paying special attention to weapons capability, biological warfare defense, and command structures. The main reason the aliens were discovered was because they had to get very close to the wireless servers to tap into the networks.”

Well now, without even trying the computer geek had just stopped all the talking in the plane with every clucking egghead acting like a chicken that had just seen the front door of the Kentucky Fried Chicken processing plant. All the time I had been talking with Cynthia she had seemed confident and very assured of herself even though she believed the aliens were hostile from the start. When I looked into her eyes after Roger told us what he had learned I now saw real fear, even worse, I felt it myself down to my bones. I wasn’t the only one, the little crew chief twerp heard it as well and was upset enough to break out the hidden stash of bourbon.

After landing at Andrews we were quickly rushed off the plane by a squad of Air Force security types decked out in full combat load and carrying M4 carbine assault rifles with rounds in the chambers forever answering the question on the proper way of herding uncooperative cats. A large bus was waiting for us on the runway that after the eggheads, Cynthia, and I boarded rushed everyone to a nearby building. All the while, I watched the security forces riding with us and saw several fearful glances out the bus windows directed towards the sky. After years of watching the American military strut around believing their shit not only smelled like roses but that everyone else in the world should want to rub their bodies in the stuff it was very disturbing for me to watch them visibly shaken to their core.

(Just because I already have it on my hardrive this story most definitely will be continued.)