Comments made easier! Feel free to try!

Sunday, 29 April 2012


This is a zorse.  A zebra stallion, domesticated mare crossbreed.

I had always wondered.  Apparently these have been bred in Africa since about 1895.

Genetics has fascinated me for a few years, not that I know anything about it.  What fascinates me is what they do with it.

Crossbreeding especially.  Things like beefalo (beautiful, delicious meat by the way), or zorses, or my pick, savannah cats...

That's ridiculously tall for a cat.  But they are, apparently social, and very loyal.  When I get another cat, I'm going to look for one of these, I think.  That's just too cool.  These are domestic cats cross bred with the African Serval.  I wonder if they can do the same thing with Lynxes.

Ligers are the biggest cats in the world.  Hercules is the largest known Liger, and he weighs in at 410 kgs.  That's nearly 1000lbs.

I don't think I'd want to mess with that.

Youth Vs. Age

I am old and fat, especially when compared to the young charges at the boarding school where I work.  I maybe 42, but my hair has, since I was 21, been turning white, and now it virtually is. 

So I am slower.  I know there is no point in chasing the boys around.  They can out run me, easy.  That will get me no where except out of breath.  So I adopt a more, well, sinister approach.

I know where they sleep.

In fact, I have to wake them up in morning to go to school.  If behavior is good, I wake them gently.  If its not, I'm not so gentle.

I did get in trouble for using loud noise to wake them- they complained to my boss.  Poor little darlings.  I had to wake up to a loud noise every morning- my alarm clock, especially when I was their age.  But my boss put the kybosh on that.

But there is more than one way to kick the can.

I now use water.  Cold water, straight from the fridge.  I just dribble some on the little precious' head.  They hate it.  So much in fact, that problems in the morning have almost completely disappeared.

Score one for me.  Management knows about it, and they haven't told me officially to stop.  Not even unofficially..

So The kids may get one over on the other supervisors.  I don't know how some of the kids get away with it.  But they are wary of me.  And around here, that's a good thing.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Xenophobia: Backward Thinking

This day and age, we can't afford this.

Throughout history, there have been periods of of cultural xenophobia.  This has almost always led to stagnation or being conquered.

Nazi Germany is a prime example example of the latter, as is early 19th century Japan.

In Germany's case, virtually everything non Aryan was seen as inferior.  So much so that campaigns of extermination were begun.  The war they started to "prove that truth" backfired horribly and resulted in the complete conquest of Germany by foreign powers.  Powers that proved that mixed race societies have the moral high ground and will to prove it.

Japan in 19th century- before Matthew Perry sent the mission to open the country- the island nation had more or less sealed itself from the world, trading only to select traders in restricted ports.  This came at cost.  By 1854, when Matthew Perry's flotilla sailed into Edo Bay (Tokyo Bay now), belching smoke and stacked with cannon- of a type never before seen- the Japanese were forced to consider an awful truth..  The world had left them behind.  They were no longer in a position to even defend themselves as their technology simply was obsolete.  The rush to modernize Japan began, and by 1905, their fleet and technology was comparable to any European power.  50 years to catch up, but somehow, they did it.

On the flipside, countries that have opened their borders to trade, either through conquering or aggressive trading have enjoyed enormous success.

Holland in the 17th century was the richest country in Europe.  They had an unrestricted trade policy that saw their influence spread across the globe, India, America, Indonesia, Africa, South America, even Australia was once called New Holland.  This tiny nation went on to fight three separate wars with Britain, including raiding London, before the population difference finally showed itself.

For about 200 years, Britain, largely through trade with her colonies, became the ascendent nation.

Trade brings wealth.  The USA grew that way, despite two world wars, into a very successful economy- but it has taken China 60 years to modernize, and now they, with an economy based on trade, are number one.

With instant communication, free flow of information, and access to it essential for a nation to remain sovereign in today's world, there is no place for Xenophobia.  Globalization on this basis is inevitable, and likely necessary in the evolution of human politics.  Especially if we are to expand our horizon and look to the stars.

I just hope they don't stamp out individual rights in the process.  There is a very real danger of this happening.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Words From a Ghost

Interestingly, it’s a conversation between some lone traveler and a spectre of some former ferocity.  Of course, at the end the ghost laments that he is no longer a power in the material sense.  When he, himself, recognizes Satan’s call the ghost fears it not.

I fought for glory,

The glory of the Empire,

I was born a soldier

And I fought for the Empire.

I fought on horseback,

I fought on foot.

Over half a thousand battles

And as many corpses I’ve stood.

I’ve killed peasants,

I’ve killed kings.

I’ve spilt much blood,

Entrails and things.

I carried scars on my chest,

And scars on my back,

I have been very rich,

I have been on the rack.

But to you the traveler,

At these crossroads,

I should not have spoken,

Nor unburdened my woes.

For now I am called,

To Satan’s fiery Gate…

You see he is angry,

No longer will he wait.

A final message,

To you, O man,

Could I kill,

I would again.

VS Commodore Wagon: A Driving History pt 12

She was big.  She was comfortable.  And, she was my "converted coupe".  To get the car roadworthy, I had to remove the backseat because I couldn't find a specific part for her.

Lowered, she was powered by 5L V8 with cold air induction and 3.5inch exhaust.  The car rumbled down the road.  To buy her, I had to go to Bundaberg.  Not that I minded.  Bundaberg.  Home of the famous distillery, and where I had my first taste of that nectar of the Gods, Bundy Royale liquor, a chocolate/coffee masterpiece.

The story with this occurred shortly after the purchase.  She did only cost $5000.  But she was also high mileage.  That didn't bother me.  She looked good.  Heavy tinted windows.  Fancy mags.  It was okay.  But the owner was trying to fit a rear differential to the car when I got there.  And given that it delayed my return journey, I probably should have walked away from the car, right there.  But, I didn't.  The car did get fitted, and the paperowrk was filed, and I drove home.

The Wife and I were not long out of of Bundy, when I picked up a tail.

"Uh-oh," I said, and as she turned to look at me,"Coppers."

"Are you speeding?"  I wonder what she was trying to say about my driving.

"No.  just under the limit."  Actually, I was surprised too.

The followed for a time.  And then, because of the loudness of the car, the tinted windows, and it being lowered, the coppers proably thought, "Hotrod.  Its not legal."

Their blue and reds started flashing in my rearview mirror.  Sure as a bear shits in the woods, (maybe I should now say a roo shits in the outback) they wanted me to stop.

I pulled off the road and into a parking lot of some kind, for a park I think.  I was careful not to rev the engine.  I wasn't sure it would pass a noise test, and didn't want to give them any more fuel for the fire they trying to light.  I wasn't far from Yellow Glen- these were small town coppers.  You know how they are. 

They walked over to the car.  I rolled down my window.  The face of the one on my side did a double take- I'm grey haired and older, not a young hoon.

"Can I help you, officer?"

Well, I'll say this, having made the decision, they were determined to find something wrong with the car.  Out came a light meter.  They put that to the tint.  It passed.  They ran hands over the tyre tread.  It passed.  They checked the interior, it passed.  Ran a noise test, the car passed (I was a little surprised at that, but I certainly wasn't going to argue).

About a half hour went by, of these tests, in the hot January sun.  They couldn't find anything wrong.  They let me go.

It was a hot drive home.  The air-con didn't work.  But the car made it.

For the short time I had the car, I enjoyed driving it.  I brought it up from Charters Towers when we first bought this place.  It was useful during the move, even if my driveway tore the crap out of my bodykit.  But I had a job that required me to drive 1100km per week.  The wagon cost me, at the time (it would be more now) $35/day.  I switched over to the Audi 80 (next installment) which I had for even less time.  But the car was still useful until the fire.

I was lucky.  where it was parked, it actually didn't take too much damage.  But the key for it was destroyed, and the body kit melted.  I sold it to a bloke for $1000 cash not long after the fire.  I needed the money and I couldn't prove that it ran.

Unification War: Essential History on the Empire setting

I know its late.  Sorry.

In the near future, the crops, worldwide began to fail.  It happened so fast, it was hard to say exactly where the blight began.  Some thought it to be Europe, but the blight problem spread.  Attempts to contain it failed.

Sources of the blight included terrorism, though no group would take credit, or pollution- a likely culprit.  One of the most widely touted was failure of genetic manipulation, a complete breakdown of the crop which affected the soil.

A darker, more fanciful theory, was magic.  That somehow the laws of the universe itself were changing, realigning, forcing certain artificial creations to fail.  This is the closest to the truth.  Soil that, without chemical fertilisers, would be dead, died.  Crops failed.  The few remaining food sources pushed the cost of basic sustenance well beyond the reach of all but the most privileged.

Civil wars flourished, people rose and took up arms.  This, coupled with the rising price of oil, crashed the world economy.  People formed gangs in an attempt to take as much of the remaining food stores as possible.  Life became cheap.

The situation began to stabilise three years after the failure.  Certain technological research facilities forced a breakthrough in the development food production.  Algae and lichen were modified, and the research was stolen, for the betterment of the situation.

In northern Alberta, there was reliable sources of meat, and critically, oil.  Foreseeing a return to some sort of stability, either through the hard way (massive population reduction through famine, disease, and regionally, cold) or through alternative development.  A man developed a plan even as the world crumbled about him. 

In the early days of the crisis, he procured weapons, a significant cache, and moved to take the production facilities at Fort McMurray- the major production centre of the oilsands.  Even as the Government collapsed, he was moving, and before lawlessness could completely dominate the mines, his men and his guns ensured continued production.  In return for safety, and food, the engineers modified a portion of the processing facilities for onsite refining.  Using spare metal, he armoured the heavier cars, and had explosive weapons installed.  He built an army.  Infantry.  Armoured cars.  And like a winter storm, rode out of the North and into the gang torn streets of the provincial capital.

His resources and knowledge allowed him to dominate the streets of the city in very short time.  And to the civilians, he brought food, peace, and warmth.  They flocked to him.  Small scale cottage factories constructed everything from weapons to basic computer parts.  The more advanced technology was scavenged.

From the city, to the province.  The storm moved south.  Mary Blacke, was the strongest gang leader in Calgary.  He entered quiet negotiations with her, she became a general, and a baroness- becoming the first of his nobility.  And so, to, the other cities.  The warlord, Takashi of Vancouver was made Daimyo, equivalent to Baron.  The feudal structure of his government began to take shape.  From province to the region.  But this did take time, and others did similar things.  His empire would stretch from Vancouver to Duck Mountain, from Helena to Tuktoyaktuk.

Borrowing from History, he created the NWMP (North West Militia Police), the military force that represented the His Law.  The nobility, too had their own local troops, but command in invasion would go to NWMP officers.  Most of the Generals in the NWMP were nobility.

A side effect of the armoured up cars became known as the lists.  Sometimes referred to as autojousting.  This sport would see armoured and armed vehicles face each other for the entertainment of the crowds.  It is an often fatal sport.

But tales of magic, and of spirits grew.  Relics could heal, or beget abilities to people.  He took the stories seriously, and a special branch of the NWMP was born.  The retrievers.   These people have the task of obtaining the items.  It is a branch of the Militia only known to senior members.

And so, there you have a brief history of the Empire.  Mark of Death is set during the Empire's creation.  Old Medicine is set well after continental stability had been reset.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Tobbacco: The Wonderful Evil Weed

Much to The Wife's disappointment. I have, after an eight year absence, started smoking again.

The desire for tobacco has never left me, not since I quit back in 2004.  I would dream about smoking.  And the smell of a freshly lit cigarette in particular was a powerful memory trigger.  My dad remains a heavy smoker.  He'll be 75 this year.

The catalyst for starting back up was my father's visit last year.  He smokes about 50 a day, and when he came to visit me for two weeks last year, I didn't want to make him feel left out so I bought a couple packs of these lovely cafe creme cigars.  And they're nice, too.  A great smoke.

And then, it was on.

The sad part is, I enjoy it.  The flavour, the aroma, and the feeling.  For me, it makes some of the difficult elements of my life a easier to bear.

I switched to the cheaper cigarettes a couple weeks ago, but I'm not liking it as much.  The biggest thing, I think, is that they're not as strong.  They're simply not as nice as the cigars.  But you get that for which you've paid.

I know the health risks.  I have also seen what it does to people.  I should quit.  I know all these things.  So, will I?

When I'm ready.  But I suspect that will be sooner rather than later.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Sitting Bull: Old Medicine, Conclusion

Sitting Bull is a great historical character, and his tribe spent time in the Cypress Hills in Saskatchewan immediately following the Battle of Little Bighorn.  He crossed the border in order to avoid the extermination of his people by the American Cavalry.  For an indigenous American, he had an excellent grasp of White Man Politics, he understood that safety lay in the Canadian side of the border.  Still, he remains something of an enigmatic person in history.  A great leader by any standard, his visions he had before Rosebud make an excellent legend.  I felt that legend could be made into a story.  I know this reads like a first chapter, and maybe it is.  But I need to write more of this setting before the rest of this will ever come to light.  Enjoy.

             The woods came alive with movement, and warriors moved into the clearing.  They brandished the antique carbines, revolvers and tomahawks.  They were painted for war, yet they moved in silence.
            “Join with us, mighty Sitting Bull,” Louis said,” and perhaps we can avoid bloodshed.”  Louis’s spirit burned with an inner fire.  At that burning, the advancing warriors stopped, and looked uncertain.
            Then, from the woods, a figure appeared, in full war regalia, Sitting Bull.  Two others flanked him.  Crazy Horse and Fool Bull, the Medicine Man, followed their chief to the fire where the Riels remained seated.  In the darkness, hundreds of forms moved.  The great leaders of the Sioux Nation sat cross-legged near the flames, joining the Riels, not one had yet spoken.  Warriors sat around the fire, filling the clearing, yet leaving a respectful distance around their leaders and those that dared parley with them.
            Marie handed Louis the peace pipe.  Louis was surprised to find he was able to handle the pipe as though he were physically present.  Louis lit the pipe and passed it around the fire.  When members of the circle had smoked, Fool Bull spoke to Sitting Bull in their own language.  Marie couldn’t follow it.  Sitting Bull translated.
            “He says that while you,” and he gestured to Marie, ”belong in this time, he,” gesturing now at Louis,” is like us, a product of the past.”  Crazy Horse scowled.
            Fool Bull spoke again and Sitting Bull raised a hand, quieting him.
            “He says that both of you possess great medicine.”
            Crazy Horse spoke to the Great Chief.
            “And he advocates killing both of you, to protect what is the Sioux’s.”
            The Riels remained quiet.
            Sitting Bull gazed at Marie’s black and silver uniform.  He recognized the coat of arms, and the lettering.  “However, I would like to know more before doing anything.”  His gaze rested on Marie, “Who are you?  And what do you here?”
            “I am Marie Riel, an officer in His Majesty’s North West Militia Police, here on the order of the Commander of Fort Walsh.  This is my grandfather, Louis Riel, Metis leader.”
            Sitting Bull smiled.  “I know of him.”
            Louis returned that smile.  “As I know of you.  Your victory at Little Bighorn helped convince me that victory was possible for my own people.”
            Sitting Bull’s smile vanished. ”I won a battle, and lost a war.”
            Louis spoke, ”It appears I’ve lost both.  We are here to talk to you about the future of your Talisman.”
            Sitting Bull translated back to his two most trusted advisors.  As Sitting Bull reached the end, Crazy Horse was angry, and spoke in heated fashion.  Fool Bull nodded at Sitting Bull’s words, and said nothing.
            Sitting Bull said, ”You probably know Crazy Horse as an honourable man.  However, he hasn’t been the same since that last betrayal led to his death. Its infected his spirit.”
            Louis said,” My granddaughter tells me that there is some danger of it falling into the wrong hands, like those of Deseret.”
            “I know of the Mormons.  They would convert us all, and use that which we protect to further their own God’s ends.”  He spat into the dirt.  “What of this Great White Father?  Is he any better?”
            Marie licked her suddenly dry lips.  She considered the question carefully.  She could lie, or exaggerate, but she felt that would be recognized for what it was.  She decided on the truth.
            “Some.  The First nations that were powerful enough to oppose him, he made as allies, and accepted their leaders into the ruling class.  The Northern leaders run virtually autonomously, he bothers them not, collects his taxes, and has treaties to repel invasion.  The areas that were well settled at the time of his rise to power tend to have others as leaders.  He, himself, is European, a white man.  His laws, for the most part, tend to be just, but as in all such systems, there is bias to the ruling class.  He opposes Deseret ambition.”
            Sitting Bull laughed.  Some of his braves echoed the laughter.  He translated for Fool Bull and Crazy Horse.  Crazy Horse gripped his rifle.  Fool Bull said something in reply.  Sitting Bull nodded to it.
            “We will reveal what you have called the Talisman, which is my Medicine bag.  My medicine will test you.  You will be asked a question, and my medicine will determine the truth of your heart.  If you are found wanting, you will be killed by my braves.”
            Louis started forward, but Marie waved him back.  “I will accept your test,” she said.
            Sitting Bull raised his hand, and chanted something in his tongue.  The grass on the ground exploded outward.  An obviously ancient, ornately decorated bag rose from it, made from buffalo hide.  Sitting Bull’s outstretched hand caught the worn strap.  Fool Bull leaned close to the old chief.
            Sitting Bull placed his hand in the bag and withdrew a small handful of small grey fragments.
            “Are you ready, half-breed?”
            Louis frowned at the term, but Marie accepted it as if it were an award.  That surprised Louis.  Marie nodded to Sitting Bull.
            “To whom is your greatest loyalty?”  As he asked the question, Sitting Bull jerked his hand, releasing the fragments.
            Marie hesitated, and as she hesitated, the grey fragments hung unmoving in the air, as if waiting for her answer.
            Finally, in small whispered voice, and registering surprise on her own face, she said,” My people.”
            Her answer released the fragments.  They fell to the ground.  Fool Bull and Sitting Bull leaned close and studied the fragments, engaged in a whispered conversation.
            Louis looked at his granddaughter, with renewed interest in her.  When Fool Bull and Sitting Bull ended their conversation, Riel turned back to them.  He already knew the results of their medicine.  He wanted confirmation of it.
            “She is the one I have prophesied all those years gone,” said Sitting Bull, surprised. 
            There was an absolute stillness in the clearing, and then the braves stood up, and began to disperse.  A decision had been reached.
            “Our Medicine is now yours.  Be careful with it.  In this bag are hundreds of finger bones of the chiefs and Medicine men of my people.  I place my ancestors in your care.  My tribe may rest.  We are needed no longer.”
            With those words Fool Bull and Sitting Bull rose and faded from the clearing.  Crazy Horse, however, leaned across the fire, one hand in a fist.  At first Louis thought he would strike Marie, but he merely placed a single finger bone in her lap.  In Cree, he said, ”I would follow him into Hell, but my spirit’s work remains unfinished.  We will meet again, you and I.  Until that time comes, you must have this.  His bone.“ He gestured to where Sitting Bull had sat in the clearing.  He turned to Louis,” You have raised a warrior.  If you think you have done nothing here, know that your presence saved her life.  Without you, we’d have killed her like the others.”
            And with that, Crazy Horse whistled.  A skeletal stallion galloped into the clearing.  With a laughter that chilled the marrow of her bones, he leapt upon the back of it and rode it away.  Horse and rider vanished before reaching the edge of the clearing.  His laughter, like ice in winter, lingered in the otherwise still and silent air.
            Marie looked at the sky and realized the sun would be up shortly.  It was time her Grandfather left.  Louis sensed this.
            “I know I must be leaving shortly,” he said in French, “but I would like to say something, granddaughter.  Whatever road you embark upon, know that I am proud of you, and if you need me, look to me.  Somehow, I’ll be there.”
            She nodded to him, a tear creeping out of her lone eye.  She couldn’t remember the last time she cried.
            Louis went on, “How did you get that scar on your face, granddaughter?”
            “A Daemon clawed me on a mission, a year ago.”
            “You are of my blood.”
            Louis reached a hand out to touch the scar, and Marie screamed in pain.  Just as quickly, the pain was replaced by warmth.  She hadn’t realized she had closed her eyes to his ghostly touch, but when she opened them, her tears ran from both. 
            Riel’s spirit form collapsed.  He was exhausted.  As the sun crested the horizon, he began to fade, going back to the Hell that would become Batoche, so long ago.  “My gift to you….” His voice faded, even as his image did.
            She wept for a while, freely and without restraint.  She felt she finally knew her inheritance.  She had got to know her ancestor, and somehow an emotion she’d thought dead within her, love, was alive in her being.
            When she had recovered, she grabbed Sitting Bull’s Medicine.  The Bones that he had tossed were nowhere in evidence on the ground, and a quick search proved it.  She thought they must be in the bag; perhaps a ghost used ghost bones.  Gingerly, she opened the Medicine bag, and placed Sitting Bull’s bone inside it.  For an instant, she thought she could see the Sioux chiefs welcoming Sitting Bull among them, but that image, like the ghosts of the night, was gone in less than a heartbeat.
            She gathered her pack, swinging it over one shoulder, and picked up her laser rifle.
            As she walked back to the road to await the patrol, she wondered what she was going to say to Alvarez, and later, Retriever Commander Van Keldt.  This Medicine belonged to her people.  She must ensure that it would remain in the First Nations.  Its destiny was tied to hers.  She embraced it willingly.
            She stepped to the side of the road, and awaited the first leg of this new journey.  Despite being awake for over 30 hours, she felt remarkably refreshed.  She smiled.  The hills, unburdened of one secret, silently watched.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Riel: Old Medicine pt. 2

There are an handful of people in Canadian History that are completely pivotal to the Shaping of Canada.  Louis Riel is one of the most important figures in Canadian History, and certainly, between 1867 and 1886, perhaps the most important.  His legacy continues to influence Canadian Politics today.  I do not believe I have done him injustice.  Enjoy.

            And the scene changed.
 The sounds of sporadic gunfire echoed in the distance.  She was standing in front of a white 18th century frontier Roman Catholic Church.
In the distance, she could see the redcoats of the Canadian Militia, firing on the Metis entrenched positions.  She knew where she was, and she knew roughly when.  Batoche, hundreds of kilometres north of where she knew her physical body lay, deep in ritual chanting, in the heart of the Cypress Hills and over a hundred and fifty years in the future.
            She approached her grandfather.  Louis Riel’s arms were outstretched at his sides and his legs were together, forming a living cross.  There was fire in his heart, and strength in his soul that she had never before encountered.  A man she recognized from family photos to be Gabriel Dumont stood near him.  He was pleading in French to abandon this place while they still could.  Riel was deep in prayer, his strength of will coursed through him, proud and erect.  His voice was faint, hoarse from days of constant prayer.  His lips were dry and parched from days of exposure.
            Dumont moved off, shaking his head.  He knew what needed doing, but he believed in his friend, and was loyal and so, would not do it.
            She approached her grandfather with some trepidation.  This was the man she had come to see.  She moved with impunity, no one around seemed to notice her.  Those that intersected her path passed through her.  But as she approached her grandfather, he looked up and at her, though even in his surprise he broke not his chanting.
            “Grandfather, greatest of our line, ancestor, I need you,” she said.
            He shook his head, never breaking prayer.
            “Grandfather, the time has passed here.  This battle is near finished.  Dumont knows Middleton’s forces gather to storm Metis positions.  Grandfather, come with me and make a difference in the world for a third time in your life.”
            Again he shook his head.
            “Come with me, grandfather,” She reached out and touched him.  His eyes widened in fear and then in gratitude.
            For even as she touched him, he felt it, not on his skin, but in his soul.  His faith had granted him an angel.  He came willingly, out of his body. 
            Physically, his arms seemed to slack and his knees weaken, but supporters reached his body before it fell, and held it for him, arms out.  Still his lips never stopped, his voice yet whispered prayer.
            As Riel’s spirit stepped clear of his body, the scene once again changed.  Marie was snapped back into the physical sensations of her body.  Her heart beat, and pulsed raced.  Sweat ran from her body, icy cold in the night air.
            Across from her, on the other side of the dying fire, sat Louis Riel himself, gazing about him in wonderment.  Of course, he was still spirit.  His body was in the heart of a battle for a Metis nation, at its capital, Batoche.
            “Who are you?” Louis asked in French.
            “Grandfather, I am your granddaughter, Marie.”
            “Granddaughter? I have no granddaughter.”
            “Your family survived Batoche.  Your children had children, and so it goes.”
            “You are not an angel.”
            “No.  I am your descendant.”
            “What year is this?”
            His eyes widened in the fear of a pious man.  “Devil’s work!  Holy Mary, mother of God..”  He began, handling prayer beads that were identical to Marie’s, only newer.
            “Louis!  Louis, I do not lie!”  She picked up her laser rifle clicked off the safety and squeezed the trigger, a single pulse smashed a tree branch behind him with a resounding C-r-r-r-rack!  It shocked him to silence.  “Grandfather, please, I need you.  In a few moments, I believe, Sitting Bull will be here and I need you at your Manitoba best.”
            “Do you work for those Bastards in Ottawa?” Louis demanded; his spirit radiated the raw power of his people, a people far closer to the land than she.
            “No.  Ottawa has lost its power over the land.  And you, your legacy, had something to do with it.  Be proud of that, grandfather.  In fact, we skirmish with Ontario over the border still.”
            “Was I, then, successful at Batoche?”
            “No.  In a matter of days, perhaps hours, Middleton’s men will overrun your positions and arrest you.  You will be taken to trial and hung, yet your hanging will serve to divide further the French and English, and weaken Ottawa’s governance.”  She thought, perhaps, she shouldn’t have told him.  But then she realized that for him, it wouldn’t matter.  He would be taken for a madman at first, and hung anyways.  She wouldn’t tell him that, however.
            “Ahh, Dumont was right.”  The news seemed to settle him.  Her bringing him here piqued his interest.  That and Sitting Bull, a man of his own time.  He knew he had been brought here for reason.  The least he could do was humour her.
            “Why me?”
            “Because, I suspect that you can deal with him, and his Sioux.  We need the Talisman he used against Custer.”
            “Again, why?”
            “Because if Deseret forces find it, they’ll destroy it, or use it against us.  The Emperor has decided that the latter is unacceptable.  I have decided that the former is.  It holds meaning for all First Nations people; it should be taken intact.  Grandfather, we might not agree on matters of faith but we are of one bloodline.  Besides, Grandfather, things have changed since your lifetime.  The land once again holds power.  Spirits can once again be heard with volume.  The magic of our ancestors is again available.  Even the buffalo are returning.  The land is again what it must have been before the white man.”
            “I will help you, blood of mine, as I may.”  He knew that Deseret meant the Mormons, and he knew they had little love of his people, as many still clung to the old ways.  Riel, himself, was a devout Roman Catholic.  But this, he believed, was God moving, and through his Faith, began to accept the words his granddaughter had spoken.  He could feel the Riel heart that pumped her blood and knew her as a distant part of him.
            Louis looked up, into the pine trees.  “There are many ravens about, granddaughter.”
            “They’re here.  I think they might be trying to work out your presence here, grandfather.”
            Riel just looked at her, and then to the surrounding woods.  His next words were in English.  “Come forth, mighty Sioux.  We wish to talk, and smoke pipe.”  He nodded as Marie produced a genuine peace pipe.  He turned to Marie and spoke softly, “Remember, while Sitting Bull will undoubtedly be accompanied by a Medicine Man, he is also a Holy Man.”

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Quotable Quotes

Featuring fictional characters and historical people:

Ending a sentence with a preposition is something with which I will not put.
Winston Churchill.

Donuts.  Is there nothing they can't do?
Homer Simpson

What is steel compared to the hand the wields it?  Flesh is Power.
Thulsa Doom, "Conan the Barbarian"

If you must break the law, do it to seize power, in all other cases observe it.
Julius Ceasar

I don't look upon myself as the kind of person who craves attention but I've never been to therapy so there's probably a lot about myself I don't know.
Weird Al Yankovic

Dickens is one those authors who are well worth stealing.
George Owell

Astronomy compells the soul to look upwards and leads from this world to another.

All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling.
Oscar Wilde

There comes a time when jewels cease to sparkle, gold loses its lustre, when the throne room becomes a prison, and all that is left is man's love for his daughter.
King Osric the Usurper, Conan the Barbarian

Use the keyboard? How quaint.
Engineer Montgomery Scott, Star Trek 4

Get three coffins ready (breif shootout) My mistake.  Make it four.
Fistfull of Dollars

You want a friend?  Get a dog.
Gordon Gecko, Wall Street

All warfare is based on deception.
Sun Tsu, The Art of War

Tuesday, 17 April 2012


Mercifully short post today.

Caught in convulsions,

Remaining in a still life,

Owned by the sad clown.

And what of dreams?

The kind when the lights are out

Morning becomes dusk,

Twisting memories turned foul,

Brought by the gnarled hand,

Of decayed innocence.

Note: The first stanza is a direct reference to Sarah McLachlan's song "Sad Clown" from her 1987 album "Touch".

Monday, 16 April 2012

Opening: Old Medicine part 1

            The sun glinted on the silver maple leaf as the NWMP helicopter came into view.  It shimmered in the heat off the arid plain.  The sun hung, hot and blinding, in the summer sky.  The black on the copter seemed to absorb the heat instead of reflecting it.  Its skin was made using the finest stealth technology available in the Empire.
            The air in the valley remained still and stagnant until the whirling blades of the helicopter came closer to the ground, as it approached to land.  An officer of the Militia came out to greet the descending chopper as its wheels hit the tarmac of the landing pad.
            The hills seemed to silently watch the copter’s door open and a lone female get out.  She wore the standard uniform of a captain in the NWMP; it was high collared, with the twin arrows of rank on it.  Upon her right breast an etched silver scroll denoting her forces branch, intelligence.  The uniform was the standard non-operational black, with silver.  The uniform resembled the flag.  She was armed; she had a non-standard laser rifle slung over one shoulder and a standard 10 millimetre machine pistol in her hip holster.  On her left hip was a long, wicked looking dagger of intricate design, complete with silver handle..
            Even as she grabbed her pack off the floor of the chopper, the engines revved up.  The sliding door closed from the inside.  Slinging the heavy pack over one shoulder, she turned to face the officer coming hurriedly across the tarmac.
            He had clearly shouted something to her, but she couldn’t hear it over the noise of the lift-off.  She started towards him.
            Getting no response, he continued towards her and waited for the noise to abate some before trying again.  “Captain, welcome to Fort Walsh.  Major Alvarez has been expecting you.  I am Lieutenant Miller.”  He held out his hand for her to shake, pronouncing it ‘leftenant’.  She accepted it.
            He was surprised three fold by the handshake.  The first thing was the obvious strength in her hand.  He counted himself a strong man, yet it was all he could do not to wince.  The second was the feel of her hand.  It was calloused by rough use.  The last was when he looked into her eyes and noticed that one was white, damaged by something that left a scar three centimetres long, crossing the eye midway.  The scar was an ugly mark on what otherwise was a beautiful face, if a bit weathered.  The remaining eye was ice cold. He looked her up and down, and wondered at her unit designation symbol, it was a dog, in, what was uncharacteristic of the NWMP, gold.  It looked like a Labrador.  Despite his knowledge of the Militia, he couldn’t place the unit. 
            She smiled at his double take, saying only,” We mustn’t keep the Commander waiting.”
            The lieutenant regained his composure swiftly.  She pretended not to notice it.  She was used to the reaction on the first meeting.  That scar was memoir from her first mission, only a few years ago.  She put that thought from her mind.  That was then, this was now.
            He led her inside the building, out of sight of the hills that rose on either side of the fort, higher than the guarding stone walls.
            He led her down a short flight of stairs and then down a long corridor.  At what she surmised was the heart of the keep, he turned and stepped through an open door.   She followed him inside.   Apart from the guards on the walls, she had seen no one else.  It gave the stone construction the feel of a mausoleum.
            She stepped into a small anteroom, complete with computer terminal and efficiently organized work area.  He opened a second door.  “Major, she’s arrived.”
            “Show her in, Miller.”
            “Captain,” he said, using the universal one-handed gesture to proceed.
            “Lieutenant.” She said walking through the portal. 
            She stepped through the door and saluted, “Major Alvarez, Captain Marie Riel reporting for duty.”
            Alvarez returned the salute.  “Are you..?”
            “Great-great-great granddaughter of Louis Riel?  Yes, Major.”
            “I see why they sent you.  Miller, please bring us a drink, coffee, Captain?”
            “Water, please, as cold as you can get it.”  Her voice, not high pitched, carried a trace of a French accent.
            “Coffee for me, Lieutenant, and please close the door.”
            Miller saluted and left, closing the door behind him.
            “Please sit, Captain.”  She sat on a small leather couch.
            “Lord General Kowalski in Regina said you have a situation.”
            He explained the unusual events that caught the attention of her unit commander, Major Van Keldt.  “Two weeks ago, an amateur archaeological expedition, looking for First Nations camps moved into the area, basically seeking arrowheads and the like.  As this is a high bandit area, we kept a fairly close eye on their activities and location, making sure one of our patrols would swing by every couple of hours or so.  Team 4-1 visited their camp at 1015 hours on Tuesday, and all was well.  They expedition was digging and sifting at an old First Nations campsite.  Team 6-3 patrolled the area at 1236 hours to find the expedition wiped out.  They were all dead.  Our forensic team identified a few of the bullets and ammunition used as being that of ancient Springfield carbines, and other antique weapons.  Many had axe wounds.  Their equipment was hacked to pieces.  There have been no sightings of any First Nations style banditry in the area, nor were there any tracks, footprints or other bodies found at the scene.  The expedition, was, after all, armed.  That is what we know for sure.”
            Just then, the Lieutenant returned with the drinks.  He set Riel’s ice water down on a small side table.  Miller placed Major Alvarez’s coffee upon his desk.
            When the door closed, he continued.  “There is a legend told by Metis and First Nations people that has been told for one hundred and sixty years.  A legend of something powerful left here.
             “Sitting Bull’s victory at The Little Bighorn was a direct result of using this Talisman.  Legend says that this Talisman is a very ancient relic, with its origins lost in the depths of time.  The Sioux knew the exact date and time of Custer’s attack weeks before it happened.  Before the Battle of Rosebud, Sitting Bull used this Talisman to have a vision.  He even worked out the vision he had was not Rosebud, but another battle yet to occur.  One week later, Custer’s 7th Cavalry goes down in defeat.  Consider, they knew the disposition of Custer’s command, and were prepared for him.  In fact, Sitting Bull’s Sioux took few casualties, especially considering the weapons they used.  That’s the legend of the Talisman in battle.”
            Captain Riel’s interest was piqued.
            “The legend of the Talisman, however, continues.  The Sioux brought it to Canada when they fled, and to keep it out of American hands, left it in these hills.  Buried.”
            Alvarez paused and sipped his coffee.
            “I believe the expedition may have found that Talisman.” Alvarez concluded simply, taking another sip.
            She smiled.  It was a sinister smile, made more so by the missing pupil and jagged scar. “If its there, I’ll find it.  How far away is the site?”
            “Its about an hour’s drive over rugged terrain.  Miller will take you there.”  She finished her water and stood up.
            “Yes, sir, Major.”  She saluted him.  He returned the salute and pressed a button on his desk.
            The door opened, “Sir?”
            “Take Captain Riel to the archaeological site.”
            “Yes sir.  Captain, if you would follow me, please.”
            Riel shouldered her pack and followed him.  He led her out of the keep by a different route.  This time there were a few more people about, all in the NWMP black and silver.  They approached the motor pool through an underground passage.  They emerged into a large building that had about twenty large and heavily armed and armoured off road trucks.  There were also a few tanks.  A full third of the parking stalls were empty.  Riel presumed they were the regular patrols.
            Miller presented a paper to the officer in charge of the facility, and that officer gave Miller a set of keys and pointed at a truck.  As they walked towards it, Miller pressed a button and the tailgate opened.  Riel threw her gear inside.
            The truck itself was standard NWMP issue.  It had side mounted rocket launchers, mounted on the hood were twin .50 calibre air-cooled machine guns.  In the turret, the truck had twin heavy lasers.  It also had a rear facing smokescreen and mine dropper.  When he turned the key, Riel knew that the vehicle was a newer model, for it was powered by a fuel cell.  Inside the truck, the equipment was excellent. Radar, jamming, and electronic controls for the turret were laid out in typical fashion.  IR capability and a high-resolution targeting computer for the weapons made these vehicles formidable for gangs and street punks.  The truck was even equipped with an emergency recharge kit, a portable solar system.  Riel strapped herself in.  These days, those that rode or drove without the safety harness were as good as dead.
            As Miller pulled out of the parking area, he keyed a code into the dashboard nav unit and the hangar style doors opened wide enough for the truck to leave.  Once into the compound, the Lieutenant stopped only to display a pass at the gate.  Once through, the truck sped down the gravel road and then turned onto a dirt track. 
            Before long, the truck was bouncing over a dirt trail well away from any evidence of civilization.  These were the Cypress Hills.  They rose above the surrounding plains, and even now were a haven for water, forest and wildlife.  On either side of the track, twenty-five meter lodge pole pines rose off the forest floor.  The forest was beginning to reclaim the area.  Miller forded a narrow stream.
            Riel checked her watch, as it was nearing 5 pm.  She made a decision.
            The ride took another hour, she knew they were in the heart of the Hills.
            Miller checked the equipment, using the IR systems (radar wouldn’t be terribly useful, given the forest) to determine that there was no threat in the immediate area.  He popped the back of the truck as Riel unlocked the restraints and opened her door.  By the time he had done the same, and moved around back. She had already shouldered her laser rifle and her pack.
            “You’ll find the site about 200 meters that way,” said Miller, pointing southwest.  
            Riel nodded,” Would you have a patrol swing round here an hour after sunrise tomorrow to pick me up?  I don’t think you’ll be needed further.”
            Her lone eye had a far away look about it.  Miller blinked and didn’t question it.  “Yes sir,” he said, and saluted.
            She returned the salute.  He closed the back end the truck and got back behind the wheel.  She took two steps back and the truck drove off.  When it disappeared from view, she moved off in the direction indicated.
            She walked the distance and entered a clearing.  She could see the site well enough. The grass was still stained in blood.  Wrecked equipment was everywhere.  She looked around, and then up into the sky, overhead, a raven circled.  She cleared the ground around the main fire pit, and cleared out the fire pit itself.  She then went into the surrounding forest, looking for deadfall from the lodge pole pines.  It wasn’t hard to find.  She brought what she found back to the camp in two loads.  She then prepped some kindling and went into the forest to hunt.
            It took an hour to get the rabbit in a snare. She caught the rabbit by flushing it out and luck guided its flight to the snare she had made.  She couldn’t shoot it, she needed the blood for the first part of a ceremony.
            She cut the rabbit’s throat over the fire pit with her dagger.  The blood seemed to temporarily fill the shallow pit .  Once done, she said the words in an old native language, words that had little equivalent in the known tongues.
            The blood sank into the soil, disappearing.  She made a fire, and sprinkled tobacco into the flames, repeating the appropriate phrases.  With the fire so consecrated, she cooked her meal over the fire, thanking the Great Spirit for providing it.
            Then she waited until nightfall, busying herself with camp chores.  If all went well, she’d have the Talisman by morning.  She reached into her pack and removed prayer beads.  The prayer beads were worn, old and had the look of heavy use.  They once belonged to that most infamous ancestor.
            As the last rays of the day’s sun caressed the hill, she began to build up the fire.  She sprinkled Kanikanik and tobacco over the flames and again delved deep into ritual.  She began the phrase running her hands over the prayer beads with each counting, inhaling deep the smoke that floated up above the orange and blue flames.  The sun sank below the invisible horizon, and the flames changed in colour, from orange to blood red.  Still she chanted.

Part 2 will be posted as the letter R- for Riel.