Friday, December 20, 2013

Captain's Log, Day 118: Detailing Decoration Dilemmas

          "Grab the end of the lights!"
          "I got what?"
          "Now you get in the bucket, I lift you up to the roof, and you put them on!"
          "Wait...I gotta be in a bucket with him??"
          "Ohh, just do it..."
          With some slight pushing and shoving, Nemesis and I climbed into the bucket of the tractor. Dad throttled up and raised the bucket towards the roof. I maintained a death grip on Nemesis and the bucket edge. Nemesis gave me a quizzical look. "Why--?"
          "If he tips us out and I die, you're coming with me," I told him.
          "You really think that's a good idea? If I'm there, I'll tell St Peter the truth, you know," Nemesis pointed out logically.
          "Good point." I laughed and let go of my brother.
          We lurched to a stop in front of the roof. Nemesis held up the lights and I started strapping them into place. After a couple minutes, Dad re-positioned the tractor so we could continue down the edge of the roof, a move prompted by me almost falling out of the bucket trying to reach the next section.
          Fortunately, it didn't take too much longer to hang the lights, which was good because it was COLD out. When we were done, Dad lowered Nemesis and myself down towards the ground. When we were halfway there, he tipped the bucket. Nemesis and I were wise to his ways, however, and opted to bail out. We took off for the house before he could start chasing us with the tractor.
          Inside the house was crazy. Girls were running back and forth with lights, greenery, stuffed Santas, and cookies. Nemesis and I helped them put away a few cookies. We made quite a dent in the supply before we were discovered and forcibly ordered out of the kitchen. Pragmatically, we departed to untangle more lights and steal a few strings for our room.
          "Hey, guys, we need to set up the Christmas village!" Quill yelled at us a few minutes later.
          Nemesis and I returned from our now-glowing room (glowing because of lights, not nuclear waste, although the second guess would have been just as likely) carrying half of the Christmas village in one go because we were competing to see who could carry the most boxes the longest. Mom intercepted Nemesis just before his stack would have collapsed. "I won!" I yelled gleefully.
          "No fair!" Nemesis complained. "Mom interfered!"
          "You should have avoided the obstacle," I pointed out.
          "New rule: you're limited to three or four boxes each," Mom informed us, graciously ignoring the fact that I'd just referred to her as an obstacle. "You need to be able to see coming up the stairs."
          "Vision is overrated," I muttered, accidentally knocking my glasses off my face and then stepping on them when I tried to find them. Being used to such occurrences, I bent them back into shape and stuck them back on my face. "I'll set up the table!"
          As always, it was my duty to set up the Christmas village, a duty I defended fiercely. The final results usually looked pretty good, so I was never ousted. Everyone helped, but worked under my direction. Squirrel tried a hostile takeover once; the rebellion was promptly quashed when I hurled a box at her.
          Then, after dinner, it was time for decorating the Christmas tree. Everyone had their own box of ornaments that they put up, with only the traditional squabbles occurring.
          "Radar, that's my bird!"
          "Squirrel, you do this every year. This is my bird. Paws off!"
          "Quill, tell him it's my bird!"
          Quill looked up from where she was meticulously organizing her ornaments by size, unlike the rest of us who were just throwing ours on the tree without thought to order. "Actually, Squirrel, it is his. We do go through this every year."
          "Mom!" Squirrel appealed to the higher authorities. The higher authorities held up her hands in the universal signal for "Don't look at me; I'm staying out of this one." Squirrel huffed. "Fine, you can hang it up this year."
          "And next year, too," I pointed out, laughing before I faceplanted the tree trying to reach a high branch.
          "Mom?" Nemesis peered around the tree. "Radar's hanging all of his ornaments on this side of the tree again."
          Mom peered over her glasses at me. "Could you spread them around the tree, please?"
          "Nope," I replied cheerfully. "This way, I don't have to hunt for them when we have to take them down!"
          Mom sighed, giving up on a lost cause. "He's his father's son," she announced to the world in general, with a pointed look at Dad, who was doing the same thing with their ornaments. Dad thought for a second before moving one of their ornaments to the other side of the tree, commenting, "I don't do that! See?"
          Everyone laughed. "I'm done!" I announced.
          "You're kidding." Nemesis stared at me in disbelief.
          "Does anyone need help?" I asked.
          "Sure, I do," Quill told me. "Can you hang this up high?"
          "No problem," I told her. "Which side is yours?"
          Quill rolled her eyes. "I'm a sane person. I don't have a side. Just put it up high, please." She picked up four or five ornaments and began walking around the tree, looking for good branches.
          A few minutes later, we were done. We all paced around it for a few moments, admiring our work.
          "You know what we have to do now?" Quill finally asked at length.
          "Way ahead of you," I announced proudly, running to the closet to pull out my presents for everyone else. I placed them under the tree proudly. "There, now it's a Christmas Tree!"

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Captain's Log, Day 117: Christmas Morning Tradition!

          Traditions are fun. Christmas traditions are always the best. Goofy Christmas traditions win hands-down.
          I'm not sure when this started, but it was a fact that by the time I was twelve, we Midway siblings had created our own tradition regarding Christmas morning and how it should be spent. A typical Christmas for me went something like this...
          IT'S CHRISTMAS!!! my brain screeched at me, jolting me awake at 6:30 in the morning. I snapped my eyes open to gaze around the room, noting the distinct lack of light, and gave a happy wiggle. Rolling over, I braved the Kracken under my bed to reach an arm down and fumble around on the floor for my glasses. I snatched them up an instant before a tentacle curled around my arm. An active imagination was a fine thing.
          My younger brother, Nemesis, must have already been up. He poked his head over the side of his bed, looking down at me. He occupied the top bunk, due to the facts that 1) I was lazy and didn't want to climb up there, and 2) I'd fallen off the top more times than I could count due to inherent clumsiness. "Merry Christmas, Radar!" he stage-whispered.
          "Merry Christmas!" I replied, grinning broadly and high-fiving him quietly. Nemesis' hair, like mine, was an absolute rat's nest in the morning, and his glasses were making him look like a rumpled owl. "What time is it now?"
          "6:32 and 14...15...16..." Nemesis told me, glancing at the wristwatch he had strapped to the rail on his bunk.
          I sighed. "I suppose we should let Mom and Dad sleep in."
          Nemesis looked about as happy with the path of patience and virtue as I felt, but nodded dutifully. "I wonder if the girls are up yet?"
          I gaze up at the slats on the underside of Nemesis' bed. "Probably," I mused, raising a foot and pushing up on his mattress. Nemesis made a small squeaking sound and rolled away from the sudden lump that appeared in his mattress. For some reason, that struck me as immensely funny, so I buried my face in my pillow to suppress the laughter that was dying wake the household. When I had caught my breath, I sat up. "Hey, Nemesis, I have an idea for a game!"
          The next thirty minutes passed pleasantly enough, with a quiet yet rousing game of "Avoid the Mattress Moles." Nemesis and I both had our faces buried in our pillow to suppress our maniacal laughter when the door creaked open. I poked my head around the side of the bed to peer at the door.
          "Oh, good, you're awake," Quill whispered, Squirrel squeezing under her arm and entering the room. "Merry Christmas!"
          Both girls had the same hair problem we did, multiplied exponentially by the amount. They looked a bit like angels who had gotten caught in a wind tunnel, the frilly nightgowns that were currently their favorite sleeping apparel probably restricting their walking more than they would appreciate for a pillow fight. I threw a pillow at them to test that theory. "Merry Christmas!"
          Quill caught the projectile with all the deftness of girl stuck with two brothers. Nemesis and I leapt eagerly out of bed. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" I asked everyone. There was much nodding and grinning, so I led the way out of the room and to the stairs.
          This is where the tradition really starts. There is a hard and fast rule that you DO NOT PEEK AT THE TREE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, with the rest of your siblings ready to quash the slightest temptation. We don't even go downstairs where the tree is, but instead wait on the stairs for Mom and Dad to wake up. Sometimes, we facilitate the waking up without ever actually admitting that we do so. There's a lot of whispering about what we think might be under the tree, and what our presents to each other might be. Nemesis tried to sneak down the stairs, but I put him in a headlock. Despite the muted thud that was created when we hit the banister, there was no sign of movement from the parents' room.
          I was getting hungry. Quill didn't help. "Dinner's gonna rock."
          "Lasagna!" I grinned.
          "Lasagna!" Nemesis repeated, finally shaking my headlock and heading back up to take his place at the top of the stairs.
          This, of course, sets off a chanting session, whereby we try (albeit in a lowered voice) to wake the parental unit by singing "Lasagna" in as many different styles as we can think of, but even our off-key whisper-yodeling isn't enough. I fell down the stairs to see if that would help. Nothing.
          "Nice," Squirrel congratulated me. I made a face, rubbing my shoulder. "Ow."
          "That didn't work?" Nemesis complained.
          "I think I should go now," I suggested, with a nod towards the bedroom.
          "No, not yet," Quill protested. Everyone else groaned. Nemesis' groan was louder than everyone else's, so I shoved him. He shoved me back, and we started wrestling on the stairs. Quill suddenly capitulated. "Okay, Radar, go ahead," she announced. "Make us proud."
          I leapt off my brother, saluted, and ran for the bathroom, which was right next to Mom and Dad's bedroom. I flushed the toilet several times before washing my hands with both the hot water and cold water turned up all the way. I walked back out with a huge grin on my face. "That oughta get their attention."
          We waited for a while, but nothing happened. It was almost 8:00 by this point, so we decided to send in Squirrel, as the youngest but second noisiest. She beat my record, though, when she accidentally (or so she claimed) sideswiped an open drawer with a resounding crash. We all high-fived her.
          "That was awesome!" I announced.
          "Shh! I think I heard something!" Nemesis hissed.
          We all froze. Nothing. I belched.
          "RADAR!" everyone hissed at me.
          "Sorry," I snickered, trying to figure out how I was able to pull that one off since I hadn't eaten anything yet.
          "Nemesis, do you want to try now?" Quill suggested.
          "How about if I just peek to see if they're up?" Nemesis returned, obviously not wanting to follow a performance as awesome as Squirrel's.
          "I guess so," Quill decided.
          "Maybe they've wised up to us," I suggested.
          Nemesis snuck towards the closed door. The second his hand touched it, we all heard Dad announce, "Come on in. I know you're out there."
          The three of us still by the stairs almost flattened poor Nemesis on our way into the room, yelling "MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!" at the top of our lungs.
          Like I said....traditions are fun.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Captain's Log, Day 116: DESOLATION OF SMAUG

          THIS CONTAINS SPOILERS. You have have been warned.
          And yes, I did go see part two of the Hobbit tonight. Given that my normal venting buddy decided to go to bed (LAME), I decided to use this as an opportunity to brush up on my writing skills. And to vent. All kinds of venting.
          First--and this cannot be understated--the movie was awesome. I pulled a Thor at the end of the movie, standing up and announcing, "I like this movie. ANOTHER!" I thought it stayed pretty true to the spirit of the book, and even the additions that were added *cough*Legolas*cough* were freaking amazing. To tell the truth, I was originally kind of ticked off that Legolas got added, but after seeing his fight scenes, I was sold. They were almost as good as Ironman's fight scenes (and from me, that is high praise indeed). My favorite part about them was that, unlike most fights, he didn't rely on just one weapon, nor did he stay in roughly the same ten feet of space. He was all over the freaking place, using his hands, feet, knives, and bow depending on where he was and what his surroundings were. Given that I try to practice combat like that, I can appreciate the level of difficulty involved in trying to even imagine such a fight, let alone do it or film it. (I don't care if they used CG and photoshopped Legolas' face in, it was brilliant.) The female elf that was introduced with Legolas, Tauriel, was pretty good herself.
          I will say one thing about Tauriel, though--I don't really know what the point of having her there even was. I thought originally that she was going to have something going on with Legolas, but there appear to be hints of some cross-species romance going on between her and one of the dwarves, which I think is unnecessary and kinda stupid. It also eats up WAY more screen time than it should--I mean, come on, we could either have a few more minutes of freaking DRAGON BREATHING FIRE or we could watch two different species try to sort out romantic feelings. Granted, I am a guy, but still. Useless much?
          Back to awesome: words can't justify how amazing Smaug was. Honestly, I can't imagine how he could have possibly gotten any better. Kudos to his designers. He was basically almost exactly as I imagined him, except that in my imagination he had front legs separate from his wings. A minor detail.
          Hmm, let's see...oh, right. I know the producers wanted this to be a big lead-up into the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but they probably could have just left that part of it alone. They introduced Sauron (or at least his eye) and Gandelf got trapped again...seriously, that guy needs to invest in some jailbreaking spells. I seem to recall him being slightly more capable in the books. Also, I spent a considerable portion of my time yelling at Bilbo for being stupid, mostly when dealing with Smaug. I mean, come on dude--you are facing down a fire-breathing dragon that really wants to eat you, step on you, char-broil you, or in some way reduce you down to your component atoms, and the first thing you do is take the ring off for a CHAT?? I mean, maybe you get some courage points for that, but you then spend the rest of the movie pretty much forgetting that you have it with you? IT MAKE YOU INVISIBLE. THAT'S KIND OF AN ASSET THAT YOU NEED, BUDDY. PUT THE RING ON. It's not scheduled to corrupt you until the first Lord of the Rings movie, anyway.
          Also of note: I think the dwarves should NOT have charged out for a death-or-glory confrontation and then retreated AWAY from their exit. Bad tactical decisions, guys. On the other hand, you made up for it in the furnace room (I'm a sucker for mechanics).
          Oh, and interesting tactical the producers, to end the movie on a cliffhanger like that. It's a good thing I read the book and know what's gonna happen next, or I would have probably hurled something at the screen. Like the chair I was sitting on. I don't care if it's bolted to the floor--I HATE CLIFFHANGERS.
          And the spiders were amazingly scary. I about crapped myself. Well done, animators. That's gonna haunt me in my nightmares.
          Still, overall, it's a great movie. Go watch it. And I don't want to hear ANYTHING about me spoiling the movie for you, because I warned you at the beginning of this article and you're still reading.
          "I like this movie. ANOTHER!"

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Captain's Log, Day 115: Current Events and Momentous News

          So today, this is going to be a legit log where I ramble on about what is currently going on in my life, verses stuff that happened eons ago that I had to write down before I forgot them to make room for all the math equations. (I know, I know, I used legit wrong, but I don't care. I'm not an English major, for cryin' out loud.)
          Actually, I have no idea when I last wrote about current events. Probably a few years ago. I'm too lazy to look it up though.
          Let's see...interesting semester, for sure; there were some good times which I will have to write down at some time, there were mediocre times with I already forgot (it's a really shame most of them occured during my classes!...just kidding) and there also happened many horror stories that I refuse to write about because I don't want to remember them, and besides they were all overshadowed by one very exciting event.
          Yepp, you read that right. This kid is only a few days away from getting his Mechanical Engineering degree. Future plans? I'm heading straight to grad school in January with plans to knock that out of the way in a year/year and a half, so for those who are doing the math (and who can still do math without a calculator--Calc 3 fried my brain a few years ago and I've never recovered), that means that I will have a Master's Degree in Mechanical Engineering before I turn 23 and potentially by THIS TIME NEXT YEAR. Depends on how many classes are offered during the summer and how industrious I am.
          THE END IS IN SIGHT. I shall soon be unleashed onto the unsuspecting world, which I will conquer with my army of robots!! MWAHAHAHA--sorry, pretend to never heard that. Apparently finals are getting to me. It's always a bit stressful. I also am kinda tired--it's 10:30 pm here and my brain was fried by noon this morning.
          I WILL SURVIVE.
          And in other news, I finished my Christmas shopping...okay, most of it anyway...and am packing up to get ready to go home. I may be stuck moving all this stuff myself, since I can't risk inquisitive family members accidentally or on purpose stumbling into their Christmas present. Also, as always, I plan to booby-trap my brother's present, since this is an ongoing tradition and it would be a royal shame to break with tradition...especially with one that could end with a Nerf dart to his face, depending on how I build it this year.
          I wonder if he reads my blog. Probably not.
          Actually, I'll bet not many people read this, which means my ranting will quietly die somewhere in cyberspace while I spontaneously combust from excitement, stress, and root beer.
          But it's probably better that way!
          I declare this log ENDED.
          Live long and prosper.
          And may trolls never steal your socks.
                    --Radar Midway        

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Captain's Log, Day 114: Trees of Summer

          I thought it was going to be another ordinary day in the woods. I mean, all the signs were there. I was loaded up with enough gear to set up camp for the foreseeable future (even though we were going to be back by lunch), my siblings were squabbling with me over weaponry rights (the bow was mine) and I'd managed for the upteenth time to smuggle the ax out of the shop and hide it at the edge of the woods (Mom didn't think I was mature enough at twelve to use it, so all operations with it had to be kept secret). I'd even purloined the junk drawer's entire selection of twist-ties, even though there was honestly no practical purpose for them--I just liked twisting them into random shapes and sculptures.
          "I already called dibs on the bow!" I finally yelled at my sister Quill.
          "But I called dibs yesterday!" she shot back.
          I sighed, then, with inspiration born of utter obviousness, whipped my sword out of my belt. "I'll duel you for it!"
          Our swords were our pride and joy. I'd made them out of thin fiberglass fence posts, with duct tape hilts and amazingly-crafted hand guards. (Trade secret.) Despite the fact that she knew she would lose, Quill drew her sword and attacked. Within the space of ten seconds, I was able to poke her in the stomach.Quill reluctantly conceded both the fight and property rights.
          "I'm challenging you next," my brother Nemesis announced.
          This was a bit more of an issue, as he was almost as good at I was and, moreover, was adept at smashing my hand hard enough to make me drop my sword. Today, though, I wanted to try out the new basket hilt that I'd added to protect my fingers.
          It worked well. I was the undisputed master of the bow. I slung it over my back with the arrows, stuck my sword back through my belt, and added a rubber band pistol and a cap gun to the array of weaponry I had strapped to my waist. I picked up my rubber band rifle and announced my intent to depart.
          "Hold on--Squirrel can't find her boots," Quill admonished me, indicating the youngest member of the family whose sole contribution to the party was the massive delays she usually incurred. 
          Nemesis and I shared a look of mutual frustration, threw up our hands, and stormed outside barefoot to vent our feelings with several more duels. Finally, though, the girls joined us outside and we made tracks for the woods, pausing only so I could snag the ax. 
          All four of us firmly believed that we could have survived in the woods for as long as we wanted to, pleasantly ignoring such trivial things as food and shelter. We spent almost every waking moment during the summer in the five acres of forest behind our house. It had everything we could ever want, up to and including a pleasant creek meandering its lazy way through the valleys that we particularly enjoyed pushing each other into.
          Today's itinerary was the same as every other day: explore the woods, pretend that we were lost, play Robin Hood, hunt for treasure, collect a bunch of dead sticks to start building a fort with, get in a fight, and go home for lunch...and that was just the morning's agenda! We loved summer.
          The whole plan came to a screeching halt when we got the grove with the young saplings in it.
          "These are bouncy!" Nemesis announced, snagging a tree and bending it over. Hanging on to the top, he began jumping, the tree's natural springiness giving him an extra couple of feet to each bounce.
          Of course, we all had to try it now. The grove echoed with shrieks, laughter, and a brief bout of crying when Squirrel let go of hers at the apex of her jump. Nemesis and I had to try that as well, but a combination of expectation of the inevitable results, studious callousness towards personal dismemberment, and a resilience that rubber would envy enabled us to survive the experience without waterworks of the sort Squirrel displayed. 
          The next trees that we selected for bouncing were too close together. Quill and I collided, the branches of our trees meshing together. We started to argue about who needed to switch trees, but as I glanced up, I had a brainwave.
          "Wait! Keep holding on!" I yelled, digging frantically into my pocket with one hand while maintaining a death grip on my tree with the other. Pulling out a couple twist ties, I quickly secured two branches from my tree to two from Quill's. 
          "Don't hurt the trees!" Quill shrieked, letting go. I rolled my eyes at her and let go of mine, too. The trees quivered and rose a little, but stayed locked together. I yelled with triumph. "YES!!!"
          "What was that for?" Quill questioned quizzically. Nemesis wandered over, smelling triumph and wanting to share in the spoils. Squirrel was collecting acorns and ignoring my outburst.
          "Watch!" I ordered, quickly choosing another sapling not too far away. I bent it down towards the first two and twist-tied it to the original pair. I scurried over to the other side and repeated the process. "See?"
          My siblings studied my creation doubtfully. I gave it a couple seconds as I surveyed the tangle of leaves over my head, forming a nice, natural roof...with the four trees forming a dome-like structure...
          Nemesis whooped. "A HOUSE!! NICE!! I WANNA TRY!!!!"
          I distributed the twist ties and helped get them started before returning to my "tree house" and adding some more saplings to it. I quickly discovered that I could weave branches together to hold the trees together, so I gave the rest of the twist ties to my less talented siblings and continued weaving trees together. The area soon began to resemble a village, with houses dotting the hilltop. I had another brainwave and wove another cluster of trees into a second dome, which I then attached to my house by weaving branches together to make a hallway. And then we all decided to make a few guest houses for our imaginary friends. 
          That pretty much set the stage for the summer. Nearly every day, we went out to the village. It stayed together for almost nine years; my house finally split apart in the summer of 2013, the trees having grown enough to pull themselves apart. We practically lived out there for the next three summers, until I discovered a briar patch that I decided to hollow out and convert into an impenetrable fort--
          ...but that's another story.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Captain's Log, Day 113: Song of Silence

          "Havocs, what are your targets?"
          I itched my nose, sorely tempted to just mute the freaking comm. Today, though, I was tired and privately admitted to myself that I wouldn't mind a little backup on my mission. I keyed the comm. "I'm going for the bridge."
          Electro came back almost at the same time. "Bridge."
          Guaran jumped on the bandwagon, but with a slightly different approach. "Pizza."
          I shook my head. "You have got to be kidding me."
          "Finally, someone who has his priorities in order!" Callan joked.
          I snorted, checking my HUD. I had taken off a bit late. "Electro, you can have first crack at the bridge; I'll cover you from the east."
          "Thanks. You're gonna have to blow it if I miss. Why the heck do these things not have freaking bomb sights?"
          "I dunno. That used to be one of my favorite things about the Havoc, but the last round of upgrades removed it for some reason," I replied. "I think the Havoc got reclassified as a fighter."
          My A-20 Havoc, christened the Song of Silence in a rather unnatural and vaguely poetic moment of mine, was a powerful twin-engined weapon of destruction. My three favorite features in no particular order were her speed, her firepower (six 12.7mm machine guns in the nose, two in a dorsal turret and one in a ventral turret), and her resilience. I'd flown the Song missing half a wing, dogfought with a missing engine and (most notably) greased in a crash landing while missing the entire tail section. There was a definite bond with my aircraft; the same bond the probably formed between the other pilots in my squad and their planes.
          Not that I knew any of them. The aircraft scrambled for this mission were chosen randomly, and I didn't think I had flown with any of them. I probably would have remembered Guaran.
          New mission, same parameters as last time. Not that I minded too much; I loved flying in the mountains. It was also easier to shake pursuers than over plains; since I knew my craft so well, I was absolutely fearless at taking the Song between the tightest peaks and sending her hurtling low over ridges, barely 20 meters above the ground.
          Electro coughed. "Coming up, bridge in sight."
          "I'm on your six high," Guaran confirmed.
          "Three low," I called back.
          "MISSED!!" Electro cursed. "Radar, you're up!"
          "Lining up now," I confirmed, positioning myself carefully.
          "Radar, watch your six high--three bandits on your kiester!" Guaran yelled.
          "Three?" I switched to turret view, swearing as I saw the squad closing in for the kill. My Havoc was resilient, but there was no way she would survive a three-fighter attack. Still, there was no way we were going down without a fight. I abandoned my bombing run and lined my turret sights up on the lead plane as he opened fire, hauling back on the joystick as his bullets ripped through the air underneath me. My finger tightened convulsively on the trigger.
          There was no way I could have hit him, pitching and rolling as I was, but hit him I did--squarely in the fuel tank, if the explosion was anything to go by. I couldn't quite believe it, and kept the bullets streaming through the center of the blast. His wingmate, following close on his tail, was ripped apart by my bullets as he flew straight into my line of fire. The third fighter swooped in from five high, but he was now a lone fighter against the might of the Song of Silence. I cut both his wings off and pulverized his engine for good measure. He plummeted towards the ground.
          I checked the intel. Our side had taken off with eight planes; seven were still in the air. The other side had matched us, so, with my victory, I had removed almost half of the opposition. More than half, actually, because the first two fighters shot down were the most advanced the enemy had to offer. The rest would be easy prey for the other hunters of my squad. The Song was unmarked; not even a stray bullet had hit her.
          "I got the bridge!" Guaran cheered.
          "And I'm still alive!" I yelled back, swooping low over enemy tanks and unloading all four bombs over them. Two vanished in the ensuing explosions. Electro, the other Havoc pilot, had joined Callan's four-man squad and were harrying the enemy fighters back towards their own base. They were being bracketed by anti-airgun fire, and as I watched, two enemies fell to Callan's guns just before he was shot out of the sky by AA fire. He bailed out as the remaining four planes of our team's hunters broke formation and began zig-zagging across the sky.
          "Wanna give the AA something to think about?" Guaran suggested.
          "Darn straight," I agreed, lining up for a strafing run.
          Enemy fighters fell from the sky as, with the AA's gunfire concentrated on me and Guaran, the hunters above were free to kill. I made two successful strafing runs and was lining up for my third when a battery got lucky, shearing through my left wing just past the engine and killing my engine for good measure. I made the run anyway, avenging my wing, and fought to keep my A-20 on a course back to the village we were protecting, notifying Guaran that I was out for the duration. The Song twisted madly as I struggled to hold her on course; as low as I was to the ground, any miscalculation would be deadly. Finally, just past the boundaries of the village, the wing gave up the ghost and parted company with my wounded A-20. I slammed down hard on a street in a rather ungraceful belly landing, spinning madly until friction robbed the Song of momentum and she skidded to a halt.
         I pried my shaking hands off the joysticks and sat quietly for a moment before calling in rescue teams. My Havoc would be returned to base within the day, repaired within a few days and out for blood by the end of the week. I grinned suddenly.
          "Three kills at once! I'm an ace again!"

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Captain's Log, Day 112: Warriors of the Air

          I checked out my A-20 Havoc idling on the runway before entering the cockpit. Both powerful engines were idling, begging for a chance to take off. I scanned the instruments quickly before throttling up and powering down the runway. The Song of Silence was ready for combat.
          My hands settled on A-20's joysticks, fingers resting on the triggers. Mission parameters flashed up on the head's-up display (HUD), followed by the chatter of my squadmates trying to form up and organize our attack. I tuned both distractions out. Normally I flew the Song as a lone wolf, and today would be no exception. My personal mission was to destroy anything in red that showed up on my radar. The gear retracted, and I banked hard, barely a hundred meters off the ground. My speed plummeted, almost putting me into a stall, but I kept the engines red-lined and the Havoc managed the turn, placing it disturbingly low above the river threading its way through the mountain range. Keeping low, I sent the Song hurtling through the valley, building speed as she went. The mission was underway.
          I spared a moment to flick over to my HUD over to intel. There were a few aircraft fielded by the enemy that the Song wasn't a match for, but most of them were easily within my combat capabilities. I grinned tightly, anticipating the dogfights to come, and red-lined the engines again. The Song thundered low over the treetops, leaping eagerly over mountain peaks and easily outpacing my teammates, all climbing to what they deemed the relative safety of the clouds. I grinned again. I would be on my own for the long minutes it would take them to catch up, but I wasn't too worried.
          My A-20 screamed out low over the beleaguered town that our squad had been sent to save. Ground troops, tanks and suchlike, were advancing towards the bridge over the river that led to the town. I beat them there easily, dropping two bombs to take out the bridge and throwing the remaining two down onto the advancing troops. My HUD informed me that the bridge was down and that I had taken out a tank and damaged another, but I didn't care. Enemy airplanes were in the air and out for blood.
          AA fire bracketed my Havoc; I dove for the ground, pulling up sharply just before I crashed. A few of the faster and better fighters took a few potshots at me, but all  of them had been caught off-guard by my unorthodox maneuver and overshot. No one came back for another round, since the main body of my squad was rapidly closing. I pulled a tight loop and prepared to make them pay for their negligence.
          My first target received a shredded wing, courtesy of the Song's six 12.7mm machine guns mounted in the nose of the aircraft. He jinked away, more sharply than I could follow him. My radar tracked him heading back to his base; I debated about finishing him off, but more targets beckoned. I twisted the joysticks and banked after my next target.
          The distance between us closed slowly; as I drew nearer, I saw he was a biplane. Frowning, I throttled up my engines; the biplane was unusually fast. It strafed a line of AA batteries and began rising. My fingers tightened on both triggers before remembering that I had no rockets and let up on my left hand. The plane began disintegrating, the pilot banking hard and sliding out from under my gunsights. I cursed. For all its strengths, the Song of Silence was not exactly a quick turner.
          The Song shuddered, HUD lighting up with the news that I was under fire. I switched to the turret view, using the dorsal turret to find my victim's wingman opening fire on me again. I returned the courtesy, twin machine guns shredding first his engine, then his wings. He veered away and exploded, probably courtesy of an incendiary bullet to the fuel tank. I punched the air before returning to the HUD and assessing the damage.
          The schematic of the Song appeared in the left side of the HUD, left wing and tail pulsing a gentle pink. The damage wasn't terrible; I'd ridden out far worse in the Song. I twisted the Havoc into a tight left turn and reacquired my first target, fleeing for his home base. I throttled up again and followed.
          It took long minutes to close the distance. I held my fire until he was about 250 meters away before I threw my engines into idle, dropped my combat flaps, and opened fire. He jinked desperately, but my speed was now slower than his and I could keep him in my sights as he twisted back and forth across my field of vision. A few bursts later, and his wings crumpled, spiraling away from the plane as it plunged earthward.
          I headed back to the town and was making a few strafing runs over the enemy's ground troops when my A-20 shuddered again. I flipped back to the gunner's turrets in time to see one of the enemy's aircraft line up for the kill. I poured fire from the turrets into his engine, causing him to break off his attack, then one of my squad mates dropped in from above for the kill.
          My HUD noted that all enemy aircraft had been shot down, so I peeled off and headed back to base. Score: 2 kills, 2 assists, 31 hits, and 3 ground units destroyed. I patted the Song of Silence's console and spoke aloud. "Let's get you back to base and patched up. Maybe some new engines; it's the least you deserve after saving my rear." The Song was a tough bird; but even after taking so much punishment in this last fight, she seemed reluctant to leave the battlefield.
          I grinned and looked out at the horizon, relaxing my grip on the joysticks. "Don't worry, girl. There's always more missions to fly."

The Song of Silence

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Captain's Log, Day 111: Experiments in Rocketry

          It was an ordinary summer day on the Midway farm--if by "ordinary summer day" you meant "the 4th of July," "night," and "the Midway brothers were loaded with enough explosive ordinance to take Guadalcanal."
          Actually, that last line was fairly ordinary, at least for them.
          Radar, tired of launching his modified bottle rockets by hand, had decided to build a rotating-barrel rocket launcher. Unfortunately, events had conspired to limit his time to design and build said launcher. Fortunately, he was a master of duct tape, and soon had a rig that utilized his dad's good drill and a propane torch to fire off a salvo of 12 rockets before it needed to be, as Radar pointed out to a skeptical Nemesis, if you were really fast you could conceivably load the new rockets on one side while the other side was firing. Nemesis withheld his objections and graciously offered to let Radar be the first one to test that theory. Radar ignored the sarcasm and informed his brother that darn straight he would be the one to test that theory, because Nemesis was going to be the cameraman. Nemesis inquired whether or not he could upload the video of Radar's demise to YouTube so the paramedics could identify his various body parts. A small debate ensued.
          After the bandages were administered (and ammo for both of their BB guns was exhausted), the brothers took to the driveway to put fresh burn marks on the cement. Radar was sporting a baseball cap, which he had grabbed for no reason on his way out of the house and insisted that he "could totally pull it off." Nemesis inquired when he would pull it off, because he looked stupid. The ensuing debate trampled the hat underfoot when it fell off Radar's head.
          The bandaids were brought outside in case of eventualities, and also because their mom was getting annoyed about all the blood in the house. Radar set up the rocket launcher, Nemesis started the camera, and Radar loaded the rockets. The rocket launcher promptly collapsed.
          Nothing daunted, Radar ignored his brother and, grabbing some nearby branches, duct-taped the sticks to the back of the drill and launch plate to brace the launcher. He reloaded the rockets, ignited the torch, and inserted the flame into the ignition hole.
          The rocket launcher promptly collapsed.
          Radar made up a few cuss words and duct-taped some more sticks to the launcher. He reignited the torch, inserted it into the ignition hole, and switched on the drill. The drill spun at roughly three million revolutions per minute, causing the barrels to extinguish the flame of the torch solely with the wind it was generating.
          The rocket launcher promptly collapsed.
          Radar punched his hysterical brother and set up the launcher again. By this point, most of the launcher was silver, owing to the amount of duct tape used (roughly one full roll). He readjusted the drill speed, loaded the launcher, lit the torch, inserted the flame into the ignition hole, and started the drill.
          The rocket launcher promptly fired.
          Radar danced around jubilantly as rocket after rocket arced into the sky. Nemesis recorded each rocket as it fired and exploded, but missed the one that jammed and blew up in the barrel. Radar was, predictably, annoyed. "That was the cool one!" he yelled.
          Eventually, Dad came out and decided to curtail further launches, mostly because his drill was involved. By this point, the brothers had fired off roughly 25 rockets, so they agreed with no more than the traditional token protest. Besides, there were bigger rockets to fire now!
          And, of course, the Roman candle war to be had.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Captain's Log, Day 110: Excuses, Projects, and Summer Stuff

          It's been a while since I've written anything, but there's actually a reason for that--other projects have been eating up my life to an extent never before seen (except maybe at school). This summer, I've...
          --worked at a processing plant
          --taught Taekwondo
          --reprogrammed my computer and edited various heads-up-displays for it (I've been trying to make my own from scratch, but a lack of any good CGI programs is providing an insurmountable obstacle for the moment)
          --mowed the lawn countless times
          --ran into a bee's hive (literally)
          --built a multi-barrel revolving rocket launcher which eventually backfired and blew itself up (cool while it lasted though)
          --raked the pond for weeds after building a 4-wheeler drag attachment because I was too lazy to do it by hand
          --edited my first book Indestructible and began work (I'm almost a third of the way through it!) on the sequel, Stargazer
          --helped Nemesis with his webcomic
          --held numerous Nerf and Airsoft battles with Nemesis (the girls declined; aka, they were wusses)
          --chased various retarded fowl around the farm, because they won't STAY WHERE THEY'RE SUPPOSED TO
          --led two parades
          --got a Stetson (I wear a Stetson now. Stetsons are cool)
          --played some Halo (won) and Mariocart (lost) with siblings
          --designed maps for Halo
          --attempted to organize my room (but as it is also my workshop, I kept giving up in despair, much to my mom's disgust)
          --built a laser obstacle course in the basement
          --navigated the laser obstacle course, with varying degrees of success
          --applied to, and was accepted in, grad school!!! (I graduate college in December and will be starting grad school in January)
          --learned how to cook, with varying degrees of success (some food turned out to be recognizable)
          --survived the dreaded Family Photo Shoot
          --designed a mobile surveillance camera mount for outside my room
          --romped through cornfields (and killed billions of mosquitoes)
          --did NOT kill the little yapping rat-dog that now inhabits the premises over my strenuous objections (although I was tempted to punt him like a football a few times, I never did)
          --wrote a few articles ("Mission Improbable"A New Frontier?, and Never Too Old for Lava Squids were all written during summer vacation)
          --and, somehow, managed to find time for a little sleep here and there.

My dual-monitor computer setup, with the heads-up displays.
          FYI, I packaged my desktop configuration should anyone want to duplicate it. If you want the source files, hit me up! (They're really easy to modify.)
          Also, if anyone wants to read the draft of either Indestructible (completed, needs a little editing) or Stargazer (incompleted, definitely needs editing), let me know. I'd like to get some feedback on either or both of them. My email address is in the "Contact Me" section.
          Peace out!

          P.S. And I'll try to write a bit more before I go back to college. I can think of one good story about the family doghouse that I haven't written about yet...

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Captain's Log, Day 109: Never Too Old for Lava Squids

          "Ahh, it's good to be back...WHOA!!! CAPTAIN DOWN!!!"
          These words were uttered by myself as I wiped out while climbing up the slide of the park we were visiting. "We" consisted of myself and my siblings, Quill, Nemesis and Squirrel; and once again, we were joined by the sisters Princess and Chipmunk, who were visiting us for the week. It was by popular, nay unanimous, vote that we decided to reenact some of our favorite games from last summer. After multiple games of tag at multiple parks, we arrived back at the "Blue Park" to play "Lava Boat" until we "got sick of it" and devolved into "shoving" each other off the "playground."
          Allowing sanity to take a brief leave of absence was--and is--a key ingredient in all our games.
          "I'm the captain," I announced.
          "Princess is the cook!" Quill announced, probably due to the fact that Princess had just made a very professional batch of cupcakes back home. "I'll be the doctor!"
          "Hey, Quill is supposed to be the first mate," I protested, then relented. "Fine. Nemesis can be my first mate."
          "Can I be helmsman too?" Nemesis inquired, pulling out his Swiss Army Knife to make adjustments to the steering mechanism.
          "On my boat, the first mate is the helmsman," I informed him. Appeased, Nemesis went on with his adjustments. 
          "I'm the official squidmaster, and Chipmunk is my helper!" Squirrel snickered.
          "Let's go ride a squid!" Chipmunk proposed. Both girls bolted off the boat in search of a squid.
          "I'm just gonna ignore them," I muttered. 
          "Hey, Radar, what was this called again?" Princess asked.
          I checked where she was pointing. "Oh, that's engineering. Check the fuel levels and prepare for startup--Nemesis? Thrusters."
          Princess agreeably clambered down to the engineering level to report that it was all good as Nemesis abandoned his post in favor of debating the potential for a horrible disease with Quill. It was eventually concluded that everyone was in danger of immediate death unless we could procure an antidote immediately. Quill dashed off to see about the ingredients while Princess and I kept the boat running and Nemesis watched for trouble. For some reason, he failed to see the Terrible Two off to starboard, and was thus surprised by their cries of "Giddyup, squidie!!!"
          "What are you doing?" I demanded to know.
          "We're riding a lava squid!" Squirrel announced with glee, bouncing up and down.
          Quill took the opportunity (and possibly revenge) to announce that we had all the ingredients except one, which was "Extract of Lava Squid." I jumped on the bandwagon by announcing that the plague was so severe that we needed the ingredients right now. Nemesis left the boat to try to talk the girls into removing themselves from the squid.
          Needless to say, he was unsuccessful.
          Upon his return to the boat, he offered to help me collect the "Extract of Lava Squid" by holding onto my ankles as I went head-first down the slide to collect it. My mission was successful, only running into a small snag when he tried to pull me back up. First, his hands slipped, almost hurling me face-first into the lava; second, when I was almost back up, Squirrel and Chipmunk returned, loudly announcing that they would "pick out the best and fittest lava squid" for us, to which Nemesis departed to debate lava squid fitness and left me hanging by my toes halfway down the slide.
          "You're a dead man, Nemesis," I informed him when I finally pulled myself back up, proceeding to chase him across the boat.
          "I have the cure!" Quill announced, beaming proudly from the upper deck. Everyone ignored her; even Princess, who was laughing too hard to hear her anyway.
          When everyone had settled down, we began effecting repairs to our grossly maltreated lava boat. Nemesis and Quill went to the helm; Princess and I worked on the engineering cage; Squirrel and Chipmunk wandered off. I can't speak for anyone else, but the conversation at my end went something like this:
          I climbed into the engineering cage. "Hmm, a screw is out. I need the driver."
          Princess handed me a stick. I frowned and returned it. "No, the Philips-head screwdriver."
          "Oh, right." Princess quickly handed me another stick.
          "Thanks." I "tightened the screw" and handed the "tool" back. "We need to weld this section. Welder?"
          Princess searched through the pile, handing me another stick. I eyed it. "That's not the--"
          "Yes it is," Princess explained. "See?" She gestured at a feathery piece of bark hanging off the end. "There's the flame."
          "Ahh, it's an oxy-fuel welder," I nodded, to cover my blunder. "I thought you were going to hand me the arc welder. This will work."
          "Hey, I think it's about time to go home and eat," Quill announced.
          I itched my nose with the "welder." "Real or imaginary?"
          "Real," Quill clarified.
          "Alrighty, let's go," I agreed.
          "After we swing," Quill finished.
          "Okay. Nemesis and I will be on the lifeboat," I informed her.
          "It's a LAVA SQUID!!" Squirrel yelled. I ignored her.
          Nemesis and I had a fine time on the tiny teeter-totter, culminating in a shoving  war to try to knock each other off...then, on the way back to the car, Princess and I had another camera war.
          I won.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Captain's Log, Day 108: A New Frontier?

          Hmm, I seriously think we should put more effort into trying to explore the universe, and putting people in more non-terrestrial areas.
          Sadly, that's probably not going to happen for a while...but that's why we had science fiction!!
          This the the sequel to Indestructible (formerly called Wizard's Discovery, from which I posted an excerpt in Captain's Log, Day 80: Preview of a Book--the Club). I've already tried to write part of the sequel before (see Captain's Log, Day 91: The Sequel!) but I really didn't like the way it was going, so I decided to fast-forward a few years in the life of the protagonist and start over. Those of you who are bored enough to actually read both versions of the sequel, which I plan on calling Stargazer for reasons I plan on NOT revealing at this point, please give me feedback on your thoughts--is my new version better? Is the old one better? Are they both worth turning into books? (I did skip a few years, so I could do that...) Is my writing so horrible that it burns the retinas? Could you pull someone out of a black hole with a rope? Does the drag coefficient of those little rat-dogs improve if you shave racing stripes down their sides?
          Ahh, the questions that plague a writer.
          Anyhoo, here's the beginning of Stargazer. Good luck!

          There comes a time in every rightly constructed human boy’s life when he has a raging desire to be a soldier, or to fight aliens from another. That boy would be incredibly envious to see the line of armored, four-limbed soldiers marching down the hill towards him.
          For me, it was a huge security issue.
          My visor lit up with specs as I snapped target locks onto every vulnerable spot I could find with the oncoming Scorics, hands clenching into fists. I’d fought these beings on several worlds across the Milky Way, humanity’s galactic domain, and I had a great respect for how deadly they were. I was one of the few soldiers who had managed to survive the battle at Sorro’s End, so here I was, honor guard for a parley.
          “This is ridiculous.”
          I grinned, full-face visor shielding my expression from the oncoming aliens. That was Hyatt, my second-in-command and best friend, voicing my unspoken opinion. “Yeah, I was more comfortable back on Kora,” I agreed, glad the facemask also hid our rather unprofessional chatter. “At least then we had our weapons ready before they attacked.”
          “Soldiers, can the small talk,” Sergeant Wilcon barked.
          I rolled my eyes, as I’m sure Hyatt did. Sergeant was a self-important weenie who had never seen battle and enjoyed throwing his weight around. “Stuff it, Wilcon,” I retorted. “You don’t want to hear it, get off our private freq.”
          “Hey, did Leftie there power something up?” Hyatt broke in.
          I zoomed in quickly. “Oh, nah, he’s disengaging his overarmor. Must be the delegation leader, or whatever the equivalent title is in Scoric.”
          “I hate having to stand like this,” Hyatt muttered. “I’m all jumpy.”
          I silently agreed. Being in parade-ground formation looked impressive, but it was about as useful as a stop sign as far as effective fighting went. All the commanders and delegates insisted on armor locks, which make all the soldiers ramrod straight and still as a bunch of rocks, but should anything go down, it would take a few critical milliseconds to disengage everything and power up. Right now, all ten of us soldiers were in passive sensor mode only, which ticked at least two of us off.
          The delegation from Earth passed between us to sit at the table in the middle of the field, joining the Scoric leaders. Both parties of soldiers, human and Scoric, stood rigidly at attention, staring each other down.
          “Greetings,” one of the Earth delegates began. “We appreciate this truce—“
          [May we skip the formalities?] a Scoric demanded. [We are met to end this senseless violence, not bandy words like little] shransn.
          “Shransn?” I muttered, trying to remember what that meant. I’d learned scorachatt, but that word was a new one on me.
          “I think the equivalent word is children,” Hyatt informed me. “Specifically, those just gaining sentience. I’ve heard they can talk your ear off.”
          Our delegates managed to find their voices. “Of course,” Devonius assured him smoothly. “Maybe you could start by explaining why you started the violence in the first place.”
          He should talk. I gritted my teeth. Caught up in the Scorics’ presence, I hadn’t even noticed him at the table. He’d led two bloody revolutions, then claimed to only be trying to promote defense of Earth. His warning and leadership had led the Earth leaders to give him a pardon and a place in the delegation, but that didn’t mean that I had to trust him.
          [Do not play us for fools,] the Scoric said contemptuously. [Your forces fired the first shot.]
          “When you invaded our galaxy,” Devonius pointed out.
          [You have no use for it.] The alien waved a hand, a gesture he’d obviously been practicing for the express benefit of human interaction. It came off as rather robotic. [Your people have not yet begun to branch out, perhaps never will. We need the territory as an expansionist race. We will have it.]
          “Galactic law states that home galaxies are off-limits to expansion,” Devonius reminded him.
          [Exceptions will be made.]
          “No, they shall not. We have a right—“
          [You shall die defending a non-existent right.]
          “Our forces have been holding yours off quite well so far.”
          [They shall fall. We have come here to spare you unnecessary death, and you think to threaten us?]
          I snapped on my speaker, clearing my throat. [Thirty-five eighty point five hundred and sixty three by forty-seven point oh-one by twelve hundred and thirty-two clicks, delta-v point five light on seventy by sixty by five point five.]
          Everyone (well, except the human soldiers) turned to look at me. [What is the meaning of this?] the Scoric demanded.
          “Spatial and vectoral numbers, from this plant’s coordinate system,” I clarified. “3580.563 by 47.01 by 1232 clicks, delta-v .5 on 70 by 60 by 5.5.”
          The Scoric snarled. [Do you thus allow your soldiers to presume to address us?]
          “Stand down, soldier,” Devonius ordered, voice laden with threat.
          I ignored them both, unlocking my right arm. “You want territory,” I mused, pointing at the Scoric. The alien’s troops immediately locked all their weapons on me, causing the Earth bodyguards to unlock themselves and train their weapons on the Scorics. I rolled my eyes, my expression lost behind my visor, and continued, “And we want to keep it. So check out the territory I just gave you and get out of our galaxy.”
          The Scoric leader eyed me, if such a thing could be said to be done by a being with multi-faceted eyes. It was usually hard to tell what they were concentrating on. [How do you know this place is unoccupied? You could merely seek to lead us into a trap.]
          I shrugged, a futile movement with my armor locked. “I wound up there on an equipment malfunction, flicking out of the Kora system. I had enough time to scan it before my return. It’s unoccupied, probably leading out past what we call the Andromeda Galaxy. Gives you a bit more room, and you can leave us alone while you explore out there.”
          [But your galaxy, it goes to waste.]
“Right,” I agreed. Devonius shot me a look that could have frozen a supernova (figuratively, anyway; the wizard wasn’t that powerful). “Which is why we need to determine who on our planet is ready to receive the truth about the universe and move off Earth, set up some interstellar trade, et cetera. But—“ I pointed to the Scoric again, “that means you guys need to get your butts out of here.”
          The Scoric had gone oddly still. [Who are you?]
          I dropped my arm. “I’m Captain Ryan Phoenix of the 567th Tactical Squadron.”
          [Ah, the True Human Leader.] The Scoric stood, gesturing to his troops. They all lowered their weapons.
          I blinked. I wasn’t a xenolinguist, but I was pretty sure he had just said that in capital letters. “What?”
          [The True Human Leader,] the Scoric repeated, now completely ignoring the diplomats (who looked about as confused as I felt). He began walking around the table.
          “All units, keep your weapons off,” I ordered, briefly switching frequencies so the aliens and diplomats couldn't hear me.
          “He’s coming at you, Cap,” Hyatt protested.
          “With no weapons of his own—you saying I can’t take on a lone Scoric? Especially after Kora? I didn’t even have armor there.”
          “You’re going to be in some seriously hot water for this, Phoenix,” Wilcon growled. I ignored him.
          The Scoric stopped in front of me. [In our culture, our leaders—I believe you call them diplomats—indeed begin wars, as yours do. However, they must also direct that battle, as your generals do, and fight on the front lines with the soldiers they command. This keeps them honest and less ready to start futile conflicts. It was interesting to see that your leaders are distant, treating their soldiers as pawns.] He paused, contempt obvious in his voice. [But in monitoring your communications, we noticed a warrior on the front lines, who reprimanded his commanders and bravely led his forces into battle.]
          I almost laughed. I had yelled at my commanding officers for their stupid decisions and usually ignored most of what they said. Ironically, it was the only reason I had a command—my methods resulted in huge successes, and the top generals figured the best thing to do with me would be to stick all of the troublemakers into one group with me and turn them loose with vague objectives. That way, we could keep scoring victories, and if something imploded on us, they’d only loose the non-conformers. Win-win.
          The Scoric continued. [That was true leadership, and showed a brilliance that gave us pause. After the battles of the Fifth Quadrant and our subsequent losses, we agreed to this conference in the hopes of sparing such an admirable leader. We surely would overrun humanity, given time, but your loss would be a sad blow to the universe.] He gave me a Scoric-style salute, arms crossed over his chest and tilting his head. [It is my honor to meet you. I accept your proposal, and look forward to better relations with the human race.] He turned back to the diplomats before I could respond. [Use your resources well. Procure a treaty and I shall sign in blood here.]
          “Sign in blood?” Hyatt muttered.
          “Scoric thing,” I responded, still trying to process what the Scoric had said. The only thing that kept running through my mind was Devonius and the diplomats are gonna be mad.
          “You have more chutzpah than anyone I’ve ever even heard of,” one of the soldiers from Wilcon’s unit told me.
          “Can it, Kirra, or you’ll be on KP for a month,” Wicon barked.
          The treaty was finished and signed an hour later, officially ending the war. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Captain's Log, Day 107: "Mission Improbable"

          It started like any normal evening...dinner, random games, threat of violence from the parental unit unappreciative of food fights...but then Nemesis and I went downstairs to look for something to do, and I stumbled across the 30 small mirrors that I had left over from a school project (long story) and had a brilliant idea.
          Not that Nemesis could recognize brilliance if it walked up and kicked him in the rear, of course.
          "You want to do what with your laser?"
          I sighed. "Make a laser obstacle course!"
          Nemesis frowned. "How?"
          I held up my giant, 1-watt laser. (For those who don't know the capabilities of such, it is powerful enough to burn through most objects on the "full power" setting, leading to some interesting incidents with both my clothes and my hand; my clothes, because I forgot that it was on, and my hand because 30 seconds after I received the laser, I doubted its capabilities and tried it out on myself. Let me to be the first to announce that yes, it works perfectly.) "We use this and the mirrors to bounce the laser beam back and forth across the area at the base of the stairs and have the beam terminate in a light sensor--uhh, you still have that electronics kit, right? I destroyed my light sensor last summer."
          Nemesis nodded, warming up to the idea. "Then we try to get through the laser maze..."
          "And if one of us breaks any of the laser beams, an alarm goes off!" I added happily. "It will be like breaking into a bank!"
          Nemesis started humming the "Mission Impossible" theme music, then paused. "Doesn't that laser burn stuff, though?"
          I rolled my eyes. "Despite the amusement factor inherent in having you run around with your pants on fire, I promise that I'll leave the laser on low power." I thought for a moment. "Besides, on high power I would probably burn out the sensor."
          "Excellent! Now, to work," Nemesis announced, sounding spookily like Megamind.
          I started taping mirrors to the walls, floor and ceiling at various angles while Nemesis began working on the light sensor apparatus, wiring it up to an alarm while following schematics from a book. Things went smoothly for about the first five minutes, at which point Nemesis discovered a problem. "Uhh, Radar?"
          "Kinda busy here, what?" I grunted, trying to hold up a mirror while simultaneously cutting tape, trying to reach for a piece of cardboard and wishing I had more hands. Like, six of them.
          "This circuit board design only turns the alarm on when light hits it," Nemesis announced.
          Down went the tape, cardboard, and myself. "Well, that could be annoying," I agreed, scurrying over to the circuit board and studying it. "Oh, wait, it's not that bad--we just move the speaker hookup to the other terminal on the relay and we're set."
          "Oh...well, but if we do that, the speaker will just click," Nemesis pointed out, studying the manual. "This circuit was designed to turn on a light when it gets dark--running a constant circuit through a speaker just makes a click when it turns on and off. We'll need to add this sound unit in somewhere, but I don't know how to--"
          I snatched the unit and plugged it in, using guesswork to determine where everything went. Immediately, a loud wailing split the air. "Hey, nice," I yelled.
          "It shouldn't be on, though," Nemesis yelled back. "What if we moved this terminal over here?"
          "That might work--wait a sec!" I grabbed Nemesis's small laser pointer and shone it at the light sensor. The wailing cut off abruptly. "It works! See?"
          "Ahh yes," Nemesis agreed happily. "Now what's left?"
          "Hand me tape," I ordered, throwing the roll at him. "I don't have enough hands."
          A few minutes of taping and calibration later ("WHO KNEW MIRRORS WERE THIS FINICKY??" I freaked out at one point), Nemesis and I flipped off all the basement lights and prepared to test our genius...and Dad wandered down. "What's this?" he asked, in the same tone reserved for little kids experiencing eggplant Parmesan for the first time. (Yuck.)
          "It's a laser obstacle course," I explained. "You have to get through without breaking any of the beams or else--"
          Dad walked straight through it. The alarm flipped out. WAAA WA WAAAA WAAAAAA!!!!
          "Right. That," I finished.
          "Hey, nice," Dad nodded. "Light sensor?"
          "Yeah, wanna try?" I offered.
          "Your loss." I started to make my way through the maze (with Nemesis humming "Mission Impossible" in the background), but forgot about a low-level laser beam and broke it with my foot. The alarm startled me so much that I sat down on the beam, which didn't help much with the overall noise level.
          "Couldn't break into the vault?" Nemesis inquired teasingly.
          "Shut up," I informed him. "Like you'll do any better."
          He didn't, ending up headbutting one of the higher beams. I hummed "Mission Impossible" for him, joined at this point by all the female members of the family who had wandered down to find out what the air-raid siren was about. Quill and Squirrel were eager to try, but I insisted that I have one more go at it first. This time, I made it through.
          Squirrel went next, duplicating my first attempt by sitting on a laser beam. Quill went second, did some sort of fancy dance as she lost her balance, and fell through most of the beams. Nemesis almost made it, but forgot about his left knee and dragged it through a beam. Anyone not currently attempting the course offered helpful (or not-so-helpful) advice about what to do or hummed "Indiana Jones" or "Mission Impossible" theme music. Mom even got into the act, taking her own turn through the course. She broke three beams, but we let her finish anyway; it was entirely possible that having four kids and a husband yell directions and hum theme music might be a little distracting and counter-productive. I demonstrated the "easy" way to get through--I locked a laser pointer on, aimed it at the light sensor, and just walked though the maze, to which Nemesis cried "Cheater!" and threw cardboard at my head.
          Eventually, everyone made it through the maze (except for Dad, who was adamant in his refusal to try--he preferred the spectator's position). Nemesis and I were ordered to remove the tape and mirrors from the walls without damaging the paint, under pain of death. We got to work with a will, discussing and laughing over attempts made. and joking about protecting our rooms with this technology. Then...
          "Hey Radar!"
          "We should do this again! Like, make it go across the whole basement this time, and around the pool table, and then try to play pool!"
          "Good gravy, Nemesis, why don't we just play Nerf Wars in the maze then?"
          "That's another great idea!!"
          "Well, I was kidding, but now that I think about it..."

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Captain's Log, Day 106: Trenches, Dams, and Tractors

          It was a rather gray day when the family woke up. The eldest of the siblings was rather expecting to have an easy time of it and was halfway through mental calculations on the blanket fort he was planning on constructing with his brother (after he smacked Nemesis for using up all the hot water in the shower, of course) when his mom knocked on his door.
          "It rained last night and the barn flooded," she announced. "Dad is going to need your help draining the water out of the barn and cleaning it out. I think he also wants you to dig trenches in the ice to divert water flow away from the barn."
          Displaying the kind of analytical thinking that usually led to hospital trips, Radar bargained, "Can I use the tractor?"
          "Ask Dad," Mom replied as she left Radar to his cold shower.
          Dad was (surprisingly) just fine with Radar using the tractor. After breakfast, Radar and Nemesis prepared for the morning's work by running for the mudroom in an attempt to retrieve the non-leaky pair of rubber boots. They were about to come to blows...when it was discovered that all the boots had nice holes in them. Nemesis managed to squeeze into a pair of non-perforated rubber boots two sizes too small, while Radar disregarded convention and stuck his feet into a pair of snowboots. "What the heck," he remarked, "I'm going to get wet anyway."
          Dad went to town to see about a pump for the barn after giving Nemesis and Radar the instructions on where to make the trenches to divert water. He also added, "If you can dig out that snowdrift behind the chicken house so the water can flow that way, that would be great...I doubt you'll be able to manage it, but give it a shot if you have time."
          Radar and Nemesis grabbed a shovel and an ice pick respectively and started chipping. It took only about a minute before Radar got bored and threw down his implement. "Be right back, Nemesis " he announced. "I'm going to get the ax."
          After returning with the ax and--bonus!!--a sledgehammer, the brothers got back to work. True, the sledgehammer was quickly discarded when it was discovered that an impact resulted in an ice-cold spray of water being launched up one's legs (leading to a rather high-pitched yell from a nameless party), but the ax and the ice pick worked well together. It worked so well, in fact, that by the time Radar got bored again (50 seconds; he also got hot and took off his hat, hanging it on the fence by the pasture), water was already flowing merrily down a nice trench, draining the lake in front of the barn door.
          Nemesis pointed over at another lake over by the end of the driveway. "I bet, if we cut out that drift, we could just drain that down into the valley."
          "Good idea," Radar agreed. "But let's get out the tractor."
          One dinged-up barn door later (not entirely anyone's fault; the tractor had about an inch of clearance on either side), Radar was driving the tractor at full speed towards the drift, bucket in shovel position. He quickly cut through the drift and accidentally took out the top of the drain pipe that was supposed to help drain water.
          "Oops," Nemesis winced.
          "It's all right," Radar shrugged. "I'll fix it later."
          Nemesis helped chip out the trench, and soon water was flowing away down the hill. Radar did a few donuts with the tractor for the fun of it before driving into the pasture (and into the new lake that was about 6 inches deep) and attacking the snowdrift by the chicken house. Nemesis opened the trench by the barn up a little bit more; a dangerous operation, since the area he was whacking at tended to get filled with manure. Radar remembered this fact when his ears got cold and he went back to retrieve his hat. Nemesis had accidentally shoveled horse manure on it.
          "YUCK!!!" Radar yelled, holding it at arm's length and trying to determine if his ears were cold enough to justify wearing it anyway.
          "Sorry," Nemesis apologized, backing away in case Radar decided to hurl the maltreated hat at him.
          "I will end you," Radar threatened, hurling a snowball at his brother's head before retreating to the house for some new headgear.
          Upon his return, Radar immediately soaked his jeans when he sat down on the tractor; preoccupied with his hat, he had neglected to notice the advent of rain and thus had not protected the seat of the tractor, a seat which was now home to a lake of its own. "Great, now my rear's gonna itch," he complained.
          His brother, predictably, ignored him.
          Nemesis attacked the leading edge (a small one) on the outside of the fence; Radar demolished the huge drift on the inside of the fence with the tractor, using the displaced snow to create a dam to prevent further water travel to the inside of the barn. He drove back outside the pasture to help Nemesis with his portion of the drift, creating a nice, wide canal for the water to drain out of the pasture and forgetting to close the pasture gate--an oversight which one of their horses, Dakota, decided to take full advantage of. He vanished into the hay storage area (which they had also neglected to close).
          "Nemesis..." Radar began.
          "I'm on it," Nemesis sighed. "I'll get him out, you herd him with the tractor."
          Once they had shooed out errant horse back where he belonged, Nemesis jumped on the back of the tractor and the brothers drove into the pasture to have some fun. By dropping the bucket of the tractor and charging the canal they had dug, they essentially "swept" the water from the lake and sent it shooting through the canal, into the trench, and over the hill. Fifteen minutes of this (they were easily amused) and the brothers were able to see a significant drop in the water level in the pasture.
          "Alright, I think we're done here," Radar announced.
          "Hey, do you remember that one day, that one summer, when we drained the hot water from the house to flood the driveway and made dams and creeks and stuff?" Nemesis asked.
          "You bet," Radar nodded, wiping his nose. "Good practice, huh?"
          "Those were the days," Nemesis agreed, sounding like an old guy.
          Radar thought for a moment. "Too bad we didn't have the tractor back then. We could have gotten in even more trouble...hey, do you think I could build a huge snow fort with this thing?"
          Nemesis wasn't listening. "Hey, Dad's back," he announced.
          "Guess not," Radar admitted.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Captain's Log, Day 105: The Chameleon Project

          This is a new concept for a book that I came up with when I was sleep-deprived on a plane ride last Friday. Does anyone have any thoughts on this concept? I titled this one The Chameleon Project. That's not to say that I'm abandoning my other book(s), I'm just considering a new title while I think of where I want to go with my other ones.

          “Mark Three Interceptors coming about through Quadrant 4,” Commander Riley came through over my audlink. “This is it, gentlemen. Breakout on your captain’s marks.”
          I clenched my fist, feeling the plasarc barrel push gently against the skin between my knuckles. My HUD came alive with specs on the Mark IIIs, but that was pure reflex on my part—I’d been studying them for almost a year now, and fighting simulations for half that.
          It was good to finally see some action.
          “Captain?” Justin asked softly. “Now?”
          I narrowed my eyes, letting my vision zoom in on the incoming fighters, making a routine sweep of the streets. Like anything ever happened here; Earth had been pummeled into submission for a while. There was no way these things would be ready for anything, much less Chameleons. “Give it a few. Patience is a virtue.”
          I couldn’t fault him, though. My four squadmates had every right to be impatient. I flexed my legs and took a last sip of my coffee, setting the cup carefully down on the table and throwing down a generous tip. There really weren’t enough good outdoor cafes around, and I wanted to keep this one running. “Breakout in five,” I muttered. “Lock targets and don’t squabble over territory. There’s plenty of marks to go around.”
          My HUD lit up with the countdown as I snapped target locks onto the front two Marks. I tensed slightly, feeling both my enhanced muscles and hydraulics respond. I did a quick diagnostic; everything came back positive.
          The countdown ended. I snapped my arm out straight, plasarc barrel ripping through my skin and spitting the superheated plasma in twin arcs straight at the visor of my first Mark as I exploded up from the table. The plasma punched through the visor with little effort, hopefully cooking anything behind it. I flipped in midair to slam my right heel into the second Mark’s chest-piece, sending the heavy machine careening backward. It couldn’t keep its footing and crashed to the ground. I planted, spun and leapt back at the downed fighter, extending my fingers and locking them in place as fluidknives extended out my fingers, joined, and locked. The monomolecular cutting current snapped on moments before both of my hands drove straight into the machine’s neck, completely severing the head. I pulled the fluidknives back into my hands, the nanomites that had opened my skin efficiently sealing it back into place behind the departing metal as I quickly looked for another target lock.
          There were none. My team had quickly and efficiently taken out an entire squad of ten battle machines without a single casualty in our ranks. I checked my hands for blood; I’d heard tales of early Chameleons bleeding to death due to faulty nanomites. I didn’t appear to have that issue at the moment; but then, my boys and I were the tenth generation of Cammies to be developed. And the first to see combat.
          It felt good.
          “Cannons ready!” I barked, locking my knee in place and feeling the two halves of the armor-buster cannon implanted in my left leg join together. I’d wished several times in practice that the cannon could always be ready and activated, but the length of barrel required for dumping excess heat from the super-powered laser meant that it had to take up my entire leg. In order to bend my knee, the cannon separated into two halves on either side.
          “Cap, I got Mark IIs coming over the hill, 30 targets,” Brandon reported.
          I knew that, of course; we all did, HUDs supplying us with the radar movements of the incoming fighters; plus, we already knew there was an outpost on the other side of the hill. Brandon was just nervous. “Lock up on your targets as soon as you get visual confirmation,” I ordered unnecessarily. Target locks only worked visually, and the other side of the hill was decidedly not visual.
          We all raised our legs, balancing in guard positions. Peripherally, I saw civilians either staring at us or the downed machines or running indoors. The ones who stared had a right to; we’d just made history. Humans (and unarmored ones at that) had just taken down battle machines.
          I did some quick mental math. Five of us, thirty targets…we each got six locks. The battle machines came pounding over the ridge, sending civilians running. I snapped locks on the first six, or I would have if Skyrin hadn’t locked onto one of my targets first. At least I got five of them. I scanned the ranks and locked onto the only one remaining.
          Laser fire erupted from our heels as we scythed our aim across the formation. My onboard computer directed my muscles and hydraulics flawlessly, ripping the laser across the quickest paths to the vulnerable points I had targeted. My squad and I were so fast that only one Mark II got off a shot—a missile that my computer locked onto and destroyed with a plasarc burst almost before I realized it was there.
          I dropped my leg, letting the cannon separate and unlocking my knee. I felt the nanomites already closing the exits from the weapons on my heel and hand. “Well, I think that was an overall success. Strip the plasma guns and lasers off the Mark IIIs and dump them in the storm sewer. Underground should be in place now to pick them up. After that, let’s go to ground—and Andy, please quit with the combat stance every time you stop. The whole point of our existence is to blend with the civilian population.”
          “Sorry, Boss,” Andy apologized, already using his finger cutter to slice off the plasma turret on a Mark III.
          I strode over to the decapitated Mark III and ripped off its weapons systems, quickly throwing them down the drain. Before I left, I turned and knelt down next to the discarded helmet, curiosity causing me to slashing it open. I saw then what I’d only ever seen in recs before: the face of our oppressor.
          The still, scaled features of the Trix’axi stared blindly at me.
          “Step one,” I muttered. “You may not know it yet, but the revolt has started.” I tipped it a mock salute as I stood back up. “Alrighty, boys, let’s get out of here. Mission accomplished.”
          Cutters and fluidknives retracted, irises spiraled back down to normal size, nanomites closed skin. We stepped out of the street and lost ourselves in the alleyways of Detroit. Overhead, a repcraft blocked out the sun as the reaction from the Trix’axi finally came. Too little, too late.
          “Hey, Kitch, how did the other teams do?” Andy asked.
          “We’ll find out when we get back to base,” I replied, shrugging. “We can’t run audlinks anymore—Underground pushed it a little too much setting us up. Any more comms and the Trax’axi will be able to triangulate base in a heartbeat. The only reason we got away with it before was—“
          “Right, the element of surprise,” Andy finished for me. “Seriously, if you say anything about our element of surprise, I’ll take a swing at you myself.”
          “You won’t make it, because you just lost your—“ I caught his glare and conceded. They didn’t need a lecture today. “Alright, fine. Great job, all. We made history. Let's get some more coffee."