Story Post: Fanta Claus

Studio Concert is finished.  They all deserved the harvest of applause, which was pretty great.  :-)  And now I’m listening to another concert – the frogs in our garden.

 

Please accept my apologies for two neglected Friday Story Posts. As a compensation, here is one on Saturday night.  I wrote this story on this blog a few years back.  Seeing that Christmas is practically upon us, I think it may be an idea to repost.  I’m also planning to set it loose on Smashwords some time soon, but not before we have released “Pourne Identity”, by Douglas Pearce.

Years back when my oldest was a toddler, she was terrified of Santa Claus – the big, fat, bearded man in the shops who wanted her to sit on his lap and tell him her Christmas wishes.  All she did was scream and run away.  (Healthy instincts?)

Fanta Claus

A commercial Christmas story

It’s a little known fact that Santa has a younger brother.

While Santa is the well-behaved, responsible one who carries out his duties with admirable efficiency and unstoppable enthusiasm and cheer, Fanta Claus was spoilt as a child and just never quite reached the same moral heights. While Santa brings children gifts, Fanta used to shadow his big brother’s footsteps and nick cookies, and a small prezzie here or there. Santa set up a workshop with twelve elves helping (the numbers of which grew as the work pressure increased); Fanta bumbled around the workshop knocking paint pots over and getting the pliers jammed. Santa donned his honourable Coca-cola suit only on Christmas Eve, wearing his more functional but less glamorous heavy fur mantle for the rest of the year; Fanta hung about in his Fanta Orange, Fanta Grape and Cream Soda suits all year round, getting them dirty and creased and the seams unravelling. Fanta, in short, was a disgrace. It was therefore no wonder that at some point kind Santa retired his brother from the factory and paid for him to have a long, in fact permanent sabbatical on a paradise island, where Fanta got into trouble scaring the residents with his bloodcurdling “hee-hee-hee” and decimating the local bird population for their colourful feathers, from which he fashioned himself swimsuits.

All this came to a head one Christmas though.

I

Santa hadn’t been feeling too well all week. He sat down often between rounds of overseeing the manufacture, and when he put his finishing touches on hand-made toys (which he always did personally), he huffed, out of breath, and could hardly move his right arm. He broke out in a cold sweat when thinking of Christmas Eve – and the night was approaching at a terrible pace.

Around noon his current head elf, Dwelf the Umpteenth, brought him some ginger tea. Santa eyed it with suspicion but drank it on the elf’s advice. It helped lift his mood a bit as it burnt its way down his gullet worse than any Christmas brandy had ever done. When he thought of all the mince pies and brandy he’d have to sup, he felt nauseous.

The elves were very worried. They called an emergency meeting in the tearoom of the factory, away from where Santa sat hunched on a small wooden tripod, and whispered amongst themselves.

“Santa is dying,” said one.

“It’s the children,” speculated another. “They don’t believe in him anymore!”

“It’s the nasty rumours going around about him being the Devil,” whispered a third.

“I’m sure it’s the mince pies,” said Dwelf resolutely. He wasn’t going to have any of this voodoo nonsense. “Let’s call a doctor.”

A young elf by name of Misty was sent as delegate to the world of humans, riding Prancer. Misty found a small house on a hill in Greenland, and knocked on the door, her green pointy elf-cap respectfully in her hand. A middle-aged woman opened the door.

“May I see the doctor who lives here please?” Misty muttered shyly.

“That would be me,” said the woman. “I’m Doc Vera. How can I help you?”

“I need to take you to the North Pole,” explained Misty. “Santa Claus is not well. I understand you are the last human medical doctor who still believes in Santa?”

“I am?” replied Doc Vera, surprised. “I do? Well, certainly! Never really thought about it much. Poor Santa.” She checked her watch. It was one in the afternoon. “We had better hurry then, Elfkins. He can’t have much time left before tonight!”

She packed her briefcase and mounted Prancer behind Misty, and they set off through the dark, polar afternoon, surrounded by spectacular polar lights.

Back at the North Pole, Doc Vera marched straight into the workshop and zoomed in on Santa, who was hunched over on the little tripod, his head on his arms on the workbench, an in-line skate missing its final gloss abandoned in front of him. He opened his tired eyes.

After a thorough medical examination Doc Vera’s first suspicion was confirmed. She called a meeting with the elves.

“There is good news and bad news,” she explained. “The good news is, our beloved Santa is not dying from a lack of belief. Thanks to Coca-Cola and rampant materialism, a lot more children and adults believe in him than actually ever did before. But,” she added with a warning frown just as the elves were ready to cheer, “the fact is, Santa is indeed very, very ill. He has a heart condition. The reasons people believe in him are all the wrong ones. They believe out of greed. He is also hopelessly overworked. Isn’t that so?”

The elves had to admit that they’d had a particularly busy year, and that consumer demands had risen where the intricacy of toys was concerned, too. Plain wooden rocking horses didn’t satisfy parents of toddlers any longer. All sorts of electronic gizmos were expected. The toddlers played with the carton boxes and ignored the toys, but their parents then played with the toys.

“There is no way,” said Doc Vera, “that I will allow Santa to go on a crazy round servicing billions of children and squeezing through chimneys – or even throwing bags of gold through windows, tonight. The ride alone will kill him. As of now, Santa, I’m booking you off. Two week’s bed rest and special fruit-and-veg only diet; after that, a year’s holiday on the South African Wild Coast. I’m prescribing daily activities: Surfing, hiking, boogie-boarding. Walking and swimming are amongst the only exercises suitable to a man whose heart is in such a state.”

The elves agreed heartily.

“The good news,” said Doc Vera, “is that I can practically guarantee that within a year we will have Santa back here and fit as a fiddle, if he sticks to my prescription. Surgery will not be required.”

The elves cheered.

Santa stuck up his hand. “But, Doc…”

Doc Vera turned to him and lowered her glasses.

“Dear Santa,” she said sternly, “the alternative is that you carry on as usual tonight. I predict that you’ll be dead before midnight.”

The kindly old man sighed deeply. What a fiasco!

“Get a stand-in,” ordered Doc Vera, aware of what he was thinking.

“But whom?” replied Santa despondently.

“What happened to the Christkindl?” challenged Doc Vera. “It’s His birthday anyway! Doesn’t He usually help you?”

“Baby Jesus does accompany me, to the houses of Believers,” said Santa. “But He doesn’t distribute material goodies. He spreads Christmas spirit, Love, Peace and Blessings. That is something quite outside my scope. I wouldn’t dream of dumping my workload on Him! You’ve got to understand who is the boss and who is the servant!”

“What about your manager?” asked Doc Vera. “Can’t he take it over just this once?”

Dwelf, who was the child of an elfin father and a dwarven mother, shrunk a bit shorter than he was already. Santa smiled.

“Poor Dwelf! No, Doc – the elves are mortally scared of humans. Rightly so.”

It had to be Sunny, the smallest, youngest apprentice elf of them all who had to stick up his hand and pipe up: “And what about Fanta Claus?”

*

 

 

 

Using depression like a katana

katana-154550_960_720Watched Iron Man 3 last night.  Besides the idea that watching a man iron is sort-of irresistible to me, it was a pretty good movie.

Except for one detail.

The first time he has a “panic attack”  I thought he was acting, to get the annoying kid to shut up.  I was cheering for him, thinking, “yay!  What an idea!”  The second time he has a panic attack, I realized he was not kidding.  He had a genuine, PTSD, panic attack.  A panic attack in a superhero movie.  Uh, huh.

EDITED

So I was going to offer my opinion on how the movies have changed to appeal to viewers who see themselves reflected in the hero only if he has a psychological condition.

But somehow I don’t think my opinion is really in demand today.  So instead here’s a story post (that features a person with fear of heights).


 

(From:  “The Assassin”)

“Come, little luv.  It’s time.”
Paean shot Federi a desperate glance.
“The alternative,” said the gypsy rationally, “is that Federi goes alone, and you stay here and return with Little John to the base.”  That was in fact a brilliant plan.  She’d be safe; her as yet innocent soul wouldn’t have to be corrupted with assassinations, and Federi wouldn’t have to look after an inexperienced newcomer on this critical mission!
Her frightened blue eyes wiped all of that out.  “Federi…”
He dug a small light-pod out of his parka pocket, clicked it on and set it down on the bomb bay’s floor so he could see what he was doing.  He strapped a parachute onto his back and zipped his parka closed.  And then he put his Antarctic neolaminene gloves back on.  She had never taken hers off yet.
“Don’t send me back,” she begged.
Federi’s eyes narrowed.  “What are you afraid of, little luv?  The dark?”
“Scared you won’t come back,” said Paean, tears brimming.  “Federi…”
Rats.  Of course he was not coming back!  Should he tell her to give him two months and if he hadn’t returned by then, assume he were dead?  So she could carry on with her life?  It was what he ought to do, anna bottle…
Her little brother was in a coma.   Her older brother had turned his back on her.  Her mother was dead and the father non-existent.  This was a shay without a familia!   And her foster father had thrown her to the dogs.  What was there for her to return to?  He was all she had now!  Federi cursed softly.
“If you come with me, I’ll turn you into a killer,” he warned.
“I know.”  She glanced down through the opening hatch, clinging onto the empty bomb fastening hooks inside the cargo bay, and naked horror ran up and down her spine.  It was a long way down.  “Why Haiti?”
“Where would you start?”
“Manhattan!  The President!”
“Why would you want to take out the President?” asked Federi quizzically.
She was puzzled.  “No?”
“No!  ’s a good president!  Personable, has a good smile, well-spoken… does as he’s told…  we’ll keep him, what do you say?”
Paean giggled.
“Don’t want a dictatorship, see,” added Federi seriously.  “Need the President!  Still has to be a democracy!  The People voted for him!”
Paean laughed.
“Are you two ready, Federi?” came Little John’s voice over the com.
“One second, John,” replied Federi.  The hatch closed again.  The Stealth circled indecisively.
The Romany gazed at Paean, imprinting her freckled face in his mind.  Rats, she was making this difficult!  “Be sensible, little songbird.  You’ll be safe at the base!”
She shook her head, eyes desperate.  Federi took his headset off and placed it on the floor of the bomb bay.  He strapped on goggles and pulled his parka’s hood over his head.
“Don’t leave me behind, Federi!  Please!”
“Then come!”  Federi strapped the second parachute securely onto her back.  It would just have to go the way it wanted to go.
“Have you ever done this before?” asked Paean as she watched him check all the straps of her parachute.
“If it doesn’t work we’ll just have to try again!”
“Aargh!”
“If we get separated, meet me at the police station,” said the gypsy.  Paean gasped.
“The police station!”
“Audacity wins!”
He gently took her headset off her and fastened pilot’s goggles over her eyes.  And placed the parachute’s chord into her gloved hand.  His hand failed to release hers as it clasped that chord.
“John,”  Federi shouted into his wrist-com, “we’re ready.”
“Read you.”  The Stealth circled and came back over Haiti.  The hatch started opening again.
“Last chance,” said Federi.  “Want to go home instead?”
Paean vehemently shook her head.
“Remember we’re immortal,” said Federi.  “And no screaming!  Stealth -!”
He clasped her tightly with both arms and pulled her off the plane.

Paean clung to him in terror.  Long moments passed as the wind whistled past their ears and froze their faces.  Federi pulled her opening line for her.  The parachute opened with a jerk.  Federi lost his grip and slipped away and plummeted down, away from her.  She screamed…
And then his parachute opened too, spreading out below.  Paean held onto her lines, panting, trying to get her racing heart under control.  The barely visible outline of her friend’s parachute drifted like a faint rectangular blob in the darkness, brushed by the rays of the half moon.  She couldn’t remember a thing he had told her about steering; right now hers was basically going forward and down.   The wind was – exquisite, actually, if she could stop this feeling of terror!
Be calm, she heard his stern instruction in her mind.  Nothing can happen.  We are fine.
It was almost like flying.  Federi was right.  She had no fear of heights!  She gazed down at the amazing lights, the white trails of breakers heading for the Haitian beach…
The closer that beach got, the more worried she became.  They were coming down with such speed!  She followed all the instructions Federi had given her.  She had no fear of heights; she had a terror of the landing…
Shawney’s fall from the rigging flashed before her mind’s eye.  So they were going to die the same way…  She bit her lip, white with fear.  And then she crashed down in a crumpled heap, the parachute folding over her.  She lay there breathing, merely being alive.  Immortal.  Like a roach.

 

The Assassin (Solar Wind 2)sw2flat400

 

Rated 5.00/5 based on 1 reviews

“Remember who you are!”

Two data capsules tell an evil story. Both the Unicate and the Rebellion want those capsules – but they are in the possession of Radomir Lascek of the Solar Wind. Hunted by both these forces, Lascek scrambles to keep his Solar Wind alive. But things explode in his face, and he is forced to move. Shattered, Lascek launches his own Master Plan – too early.

Friday Story Post: “Vampolf” – 2

As promised, the story post.

https://skrikvirniks.wordpress.com/2016/10/28/friday-story-post-vampolf/

What’s happened so far:  Dr Jerry Butterfield finds a very strange patient having made a complete mess of the blood bank.  Now she is in his car.

 

2. Inviting the Devil

As Doc Jerry opened the front door to his bachelor flat on the eighth floor, he became, simply, Jerry.  That wasn’t to say that all his medical knowledge deserted him, not in the least; only, he stripped off the persona of permanent responsibility and relaxed.

He moved to the fridge and fetched himself a beer, and then glanced back at Nadia in puzzlement.  She was still waiting in front of the door.

“What’re you waiting for?” he asked.
“You have to invite me in,” she said patiently.
Jerry frowned.  “Course!  Where are my manners?  Do step inside!”  He ticked one more item off a mental list.  Psychiatric patient stuck on little rituals.  He didn’t know enough psychiatry to be able to place the symptom into the correct cluster; but he’d be mentioning it to Dr Manning.
“Too kind,” purred the girl and stepped daintily across the threshold.

Jerry felt as though the temperature in his place had suddenly dropped, by a degree or two.

“Like some coffee, or a beer?” he offered.  “I don’t really have much else, I was planning to…”  He petered off.  There was no way he could drag a case into his sister’s house on Christmas Eve!  She’d potentially endanger the children; at best she’d be an inconvenience and an embarrassment to his sister.
“Planning to…?” she prompted.
“To go out,” he completed.  “But I think we’ll have a little Christmas in, don’t you?”  He took a second beer out of the fridge and opened it for her, and handed her the can.  “Please, Nadia:  Make yourself at home.”

She glanced around the single room with the fold-out bed and three beanbags – that was because Dr Jerry had two best friends who’d come over and play cards with him quite regularly, or just spend the evening chatting and joking.  And she selected the black beanbag, the one his young niece Danielle, who was only sixteen, usually picked.  And she curled up in it and idly studied his abode.

Jerry toasted his beer at her and took a sip, trying to find the entrance to the conversation in his head.

“So, Nadia, where is your family tonight?”
“Out hunting,” she said.  “Like every night.  We don’t do Christmas.”
“Hunting,” he repeated.  “At night?”
“Of course.”
“Hunting what?”
She smiled and inclined her head.  “Let’s just say… they are quite savage.”

He shrugged in irritation.  Fine, so she was living some sort of fantasy.  He was not going to encourage it by making her elaborate!
“Nadia, you’re part of some sort of cult?”
She shook her head.  “No need for that.”
“So what were you doing in the blood bank?”
“Having Christmas dinner,” she said.  “You interrupted me.  I’m still a bit hungry.”
“What were you eating?” he asked quizzically.  He had cleaned the mess up, but there hadn’t been any kind of food amongst the splatters.
“Are you daft?” she asked.  “I was drinking the blood!”

Doc Jerry shuddered.  He couldn’t help it.
“That is disgusting!  Girl, do you understand what is meant by biohazard?”
She shook her head innocently.
“Any human product, from blood through to sputum or urine samples or anything that comes off a person, is highly dangerous.  People harbour diseases.  You could catch a dread disease and die!”
“That is funny,” she commented.  “You keep the blood bank specifically for putting that blood into patients!”

Jerry’s speech went missing for a moment.  “Yes, but not for drinking!”  he burst out then.  And noted her cynical little smile.  She was toying with him.
“So how many pints of the stuff did you drink?” he asked sternly.
“Six or seven,” she said, making puppy-dog eyes at him.  “Sorry.  I was thirsty.”
“Next time jolly well drink water!” he snapped.
“It’s not the same,” she said.

Doc Jerry got up and vanished into his bathroom.  He actually felt sick.  But after a few deep breaths he decided that in all likelihood she was the one who would be sick soon, so he located a bucket and returned to his one-room room.

“What’s that for?” she asked, pointing at the bucket.
“For in case,” he replied.  “Nadia, I have to get you home to your family.  How old are you anyway?”  She looked just too old to be in school but too young to be in the work force.
“Three hundred and fifty-seven,” she said.
He groaned and reminded himself why he hadn’t bothered studying psychiatry, and why the clinic was paying through its nose to have the specialist, Doc Manning, as a functioning staff member.
“That’s nothing,” elaborated Nadia.  “You should see Uncle Vassja.  He’s over a thousand years old.  One can see it.”
“Look, Nadia!  If you’re not going to tell me where your family is…”
“They’re out hunting!  I said so!”
“… then I’ll have to take you back to the clinic with me,” completed Jerry.  “My break is over. In the early hours people will come in from road accidents.”
“You don’t do Christmas either?” she asked, surprised.
“I was going to,” said Doc Jerry irritably.  “But clearly I’m not.  Come on, drink up your beer…”

She pulled a face and took a careful sip.  And another one.
“This will give me a sore stomach,” she predicted.
“It will not. Did you know that beer is the oldest human beverage?  They made it by chewing the grasses and spitting them back into the pot.  I suspect the original fungus that helped to make beer was Candida.”

Nadia eyed him suspiciously.

“And I’m sure here and there someone bit his tongue and his blood got into the beer too,” Jerry added, fed up with her little fantasy.

She glanced at the beer and downed it, and burped.

“Of course today that’s all different,” said Jerry maliciously.  “No human hand even touches the hops and malt.  It’s all machine-made, and chemical.”

She used the bucket then.

*

Doc Jerry arrived back at the clinic with a washed-out Nadia in tow.  All the pints of blood she had swallowed back at the blood bank, had been washed up along with the beer.  She didn’t only look sick; she looked drained, even paler than she had before.  So pale she almost looked blue.

He made her lie down on one of the beds in the ward.  Mike came closer, curious about this patient.  Doc Jerry took him aside.

“Mike, you go home to your fiancée and celebrate Christmas.  I’m taking over here.”
“But your family, Doc…”
“Don’t worry about it.  I’ll call them.  They’ll just have to understand.”

Half an hour later when the first Christmas casualties came in, Nadia lay dozing, with a drip in her arm, transfusing, in a strange twist of irony, blood into her veins.  Doc Jerry had also infused her with a strong sedative.

Two further hours later Doc Jerry was too inundated in setting casts and taking X-rays to realize that his patient had escaped.

Four further hours later when he noticed this, at dawn as his first nursing staff arrived back, the first thing he checked was the blood bank.  It was still locked, and when he checked inside, it was clear that it had not been disturbed.

Annoyed, he waited around until the day-intern put in his appearance, then headed off home to catch some sleep.

He opened his apartment’s door a half-hour later.  And closed it behind himself, automatically locking it, and made a straight line for his bed.  And stopped in his tracks, nearly howling in exasperation.

There she was, sleeping quietly in his bed…  looking dead, in fact, so much that he checked her temperature.  Her skin was cool to the touch, but she was breathing.  There didn’t seem to be any further symptoms, so he placed the clean bucket next to her bedside and pulled two extra blankets out of the cupboard, draped one on the floor between the beanbags and lay down on it and covered himself with the other.  Luckily it wasn’t cold.  Christmas wasn’t a winter issue here in the Southern hemisphere.  And he went straight to sleep, exhausted.

*

“Vampolf” is a first draft, a manuscript in the growing.

nadisda_sml

To find more stories by gipsika, click here:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/search?query=gipsika

For the Solar Wind series, click here:

sw-serieshttps://www.smashwords.com/books/byseries/24238

Suzie_cover_sml

For a bunch of free shortstories, click here:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/byseries/24715


…Enjoy!

gipsika…

 

‘scuse me

There’s such a lot of nonsense online at this point that you’ll have to excuse me.

While America’s liberals wail because they didn’t get their way this time and while their spoilt-brat Millennials on both ends of the scale do unacceptable, trashy deeds (flag-burning and trashing things on one side, tasteless graffiti and victimizing of minorities on the other) we in South Africa are having Weird Weather.

I had to cancel and move our Studio Concert because of storm warnings.  (You don’t understand.  To me, the Studio Concerts are almost more important than Christmas!  They are the climax of the year, where every student gets to shine and be glamorous for a magical evening before returning to being a normal kid the next morning.  Every student gets a chance at being a star, shining eyes and flushed cheeks…)

Here’s a scene from “Freedom Fighter” to keep you inspired.


(Federi briefs the Island Base on how to ward against a Unicate attack.)

This was going to take long. Paean wandered off, leaving the village and its children and cobbled town square in the jungle. The sea was calling her. She drifted along the beach, picking up large shells that had thankfully had another fifty years to re-establish their colonies. The notorious shell fishers who’d raided the limnopod colonies until almost nothing was left, had gone with their government of the day, so she had read in Sherman’s files. The Unicate had no time for small enterprise.

There were no sunken buildings on this beach, she noted and decided to look that up in the Sherman files too. She drifted all the way to the end of the bay, where the rocks started, wondering idly about some three-toed animal tracks she spotted there, a bit larger than her hand, where the sand met the jungle. She’d look those up as well. And she strolled back towards the village. Sheesh, Federi was taking long catching up!

Island Base.

The fate of Solar Wind sailors who started families: Be marooned here! And somehow here it was all too narrow, too cushy for her liking. She needed to know that there was more of a world out there than just the village and possibly the other side of the island. The gypsies had caravans that could be pulled by their horses and bashed-up solar cars, fuelled by Tequila if necessary; nothing could move the houses of this Anaho village. Somehow the sense of adventure was missing from this place. And the sense of movement, the migratory element that had become such a part of Paean’s nature. The sea under her feet.

“Oh yeah,” she laughed bitterly to herself. “I can just see Rush and Ronan raising their little Donegals in a tame place like this! Gosh, it’ll drive those kiddies nuts!”

“Some parents like it safe for their kids,” said Federi next to her. She turned, startled.

“Didn’t know you were there, Federi,” she said sullenly.

“What’s wrong, little luv?”

“Och, I don’t know. Just feeling yuk, I suppose. ‘s all so pointless.”

Federi stared over the endless sea.

“It hits some of us that way. It’s too domestic,” he said. “It’s a sweet little paradise. What do you think the world will be like when ‘s all peaceful?”

“Boring,” said Paean. “And we’ll all be criminals. We’ll be the bad guys.”

“Ha! No news there!” Federi took some sandwiches out of his pack, handing one to Paean. She bit into it, only realizing now how hungry she was. It was fresh – probably someone in the village had made it minutes back.

“Captain’s perfect world can’t be achieved by people who are internally peaceful and law-abiding,” the gypsy said. “But once it’s established, there’s hardly any place for the likes of us.”

Paean uttered a bottomless sigh. Federi’s arm sneaked around her shoulders.

“So where do we go then? The Federis and the Donegals of this world?”

“That’s why I’m investing in the gypsies,” said Federi. “Little luv, over-regulation and legal cages aren’t good for the human spirit. Funnily enough, one of the most-lamented topics of songs, movies and art is freedom. Our souls want to fly, we need to experience the rush of great waterfalls and the fear of jumping out of a plane, we need to immerse our senses deeply in this world, that’s what we’ve landed on Planet Earth for.”

Paean looked at him in surprise.

“You’re a poet, Federi! And a philosopher!”

“ ‘m not!” he protested. “Federi is nothing. Just Tzigan.”

“Wonder if Ailyss has reached Hiva Oa yet,” muttered Paean. “You know, Federi, my place is on the Solar Wind. But if we ever get thrown off the ship, I’d like to go to the gypsies too. But I’ll go wherever you go. Actually, my home is wherever you are.”

Federi smiled broadly.

“Now, Marsden,” said Paean thoughtfully, “he’s a good guy. He won’t have this challenge. Law-abiding citizen in triplicate, all over.”

“Jon!” Federi sat up straight. “Paean, I thought that once Doc Larry is at G1, we’re done, but I was wrong! There’s another urgent mission. Got to help our buddy.”

“Is there a problem?” asked Paean, alarmed.

*

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/619116

Freedom Fighter (Solar Wind 3)

“Keep an eye on them, Federi!”
Radomir Lascek, Captain of World Peace! While Captain Lascek implements his grand Master Plan to bring the warring parties together into a coalition and negotiate a new world constitution, someone has to captain his Solar Wind and his motley and damaged crew of survivors to one of the safe bases – Prime Oil. This task falls to Lascek’s daughter Rushka, trained and groomed for years in captaining. With her crew of teenagers however the enigmatic young woman has a problem. It is Federi who has to ensure they show her the due respect, and Federi who has to pick up after everyone, finishing every job and keeping it all running – under fire from a hot-headed Ronan who considers himself as temporary First Mate as the gypsy’s superior.

But all these petty problems fade when the Solar Wind comes across real disaster – Prime Oil has been attacked and is sinking.

Amidst attacks from an unknown enemy force, sudden extreme terrorism hitting the world capitals, and something decidedly strange lurking deep under the surface of the sea circling them, Federi dances a fandango to keep things from going too far wrong. In the middle of this, young Paean slips out under his control and signs on as Captain’s Freedom Fighter. She is out-Tziganing him, outslinking the fox. Federi’s fight against his own ego begins… just in time a beautiful villainess in a tasteless leopard-print cat-suit appears on the scene to give the entire leadership of the Solar Wind a run for their money.


 

Unvarnished Story Post: A Friday Fairytale

Dear Bloggies, please recall that this story is still in its experimental pre-edit mode.

Here is a link to what happened so far:

nadisda_sml

15 – Awakening.

Nadisda found her grove, but recoiled from it as too many gamers were swarming all over it. It had lost its feel of safety. It had been usurped.

She needed to create herself a new grove. It all became clear. She couldn’t be based in the game any longer, where Mike could control her powers as he wished. She had to find her code and duplicate herself into another program.

She returned to Connor’s apartment, finding it sealed off and criss-crossed with yellow tape denoting a crime scene. His computer system had been looted. She suddenly understood how Mike’s team had felt, on the run like that. But it was Mike who was taking her powers away, and for nothing else than being with Connor. Mike was a hybrid. His AI saw things crisply as either for or against him; his underlying, damaged brain carried a deep hatred for everything that was part of the system, and everything that supported it. That would include her by now, because she supported Connor. He had replaced the fairy with a wizard, turning poor Faff into human form.

It was weird. Connor had programmed Mike, and Mike had programmed her. Did he also program himself further? Of course he did. Conner had said it: A self-learning AI. But then again – if she were also an AI, then so could she! Except that Connor had said she was only a program.

But wasn’t an AI also merely a program?

She was more than that, blast! She reached inside and tapped into the streams of white light that were pure, raw elemental magic, her birthright from the universe when she, a shooting star, had come down from the skies and turned into herself. She felt them ebbing and flowing through her. She didn’t need a grove in a computer program. She needed to sink roots into some of the magic streams that ran through this world. There were places on the globe. She jumped out of the window of Connor’s apartment and flew up into the clouds, to take a good look.

It was a long, long flight before she found a suitable place to land. Everywhere was so peopled over, she didn’t dare touch down. But amazingly, up here in the clouds her magic seemed to be recharging, from the sunlight and wind. That was good news.

Eventually she was far enough south that she could dare a landing. In the rainforests of Venezuela. Where for miles and miles there was nothing except trees, mosquitoes and alligators. If she’d been human, she would have died there. She created a glade between the trees, a bubble for fending off most of the blistering heat, and touched down on the ground. It was soft, damp and warm. She preferred cool, but that was too bad. She curled up on a bed of moss that grew up for her, and soaked up the green vibes from the trees as she slept. In her dream, the Moonstone hung bright and clear in the air above her. And in time, a circle of wisps collected around her.

*

Detroit. A dilapidated house with a rare black rosebush in the garden. A knock on the door.

Positions!” hissed Nancy.

We’re clean,” Mike reminded her nonchalantly, and Jen went to open the door.

Her jaw dropped.

Nadisda!” She spontaneously embraced the fairy. “Welcome back, little sister! I’ve missed you! I think we all have! Come in!”

Nadisda smiled as she entered. “Hi, my friends!”

Nancy came over to give her a stormy hug. Ben stood up, and came over too to hug her – he looked troubled. She made a note to speak to him later. And eventually Mike got up too from his workstation, and endowed her with a slightly formal embrace and a reserved smile.

Valentine,” she said and gifted him a brilliant fairy smile.

I’m taken, fairy,” he replied, amused, and glanced at Nancy who was watching in suspense.

I know.” Nadisda laughed softly. “Congrats, you lovebirds!” She made a circle of birds twitter around Mike’s head for a moment.

Can I talk to you alone for a moment, Nadisda?” asked Mike.

With Jen,” she specified. “Must include Jen. It concerns her too.”

Hey!” said Nancy. “Don’t you trust me anymore?” Ben just sat back down at his computer, getting back into his game.

I want to chat with you too, one-on-one, sweet sister,” replied Nadisda and conjured another wreath of sweet-scented white flowers around Nancy’s head. “About your engagement.”

Nancy gasped and went quiet, eyes wide. Mike led Nadisda and Jen into the bedroom where the fairy had first lain recovering from the shock of the real world.

With a gesture Nadisda closed the curtains and lit a soft glow over the place. Her Gothic black rose-ornamentation was still all over the walls; she was glad to see that spell had been permanent.

You’ve gained power!” said Jen with admiration. Mike scowled as he closed the door.

Alright, fairy,” he challenged as they all sat down on the various mattresses on the ground. “How is it possible that your power could increase while I was decreasing it for you in the game? Where were you? Supping with the enemy?”

Jen stared at her brother in shock. “You what?”

I’m not a program,” Nadisda said seriously, catching his eyes. “Mike, the Realms are real. Magic is real. I am real. You controlled me for a little while, thinking I was your brilliant idea. But I’m not. I’m a being of pure raw magic and cannot be controlled by anyone.”

This is McNaught’s fault,” spat Mike. “He somehow hacked into your programming and -”

Valentine,” interrupted Nadisda, “let me put you in the picture. You have done a lot of damage. But you didn’t realize. Because you don’t understand who you are. And you don’t understand who Connor is. Wait a moment.”

She got up and placed her hands around Jen’s head. The girl relaxed and sighed; she seemed to go into a trance.

Such a lot of pain here,” muttered Nadisda bitterly. “I can only try. Jen, stop me when it becomes too much.”

Tears started streaming down the cheeks of the blonde girl. Nadisda tried climbing into the memories to remove the terror from them. She nearly couldn’t bear it herself. She took a deep breath, seeking for and finding the magic currents that spun faintly around this house. A lot of them were generated by her own garden. She used them to wash and heal those bitter, torn and fragmented memories in Jen’s head, and to help her put them back together.

Stop,” said Jen eventually. “I don’t want to remember our parents. It would kill me.”

Oh Jen!” Nadisda gave her a tight hug. “I’m so sorry. But you see? He kept his promise.”

We must talk alone after this,” replied Jen.

Maybe,” agreed Nadisda. She turned to Mike.

The young hacker had scrambled to his feet and was holding a sword – a heavy, metal sword, fending off the fairy.

Don’t touch me!”

Valentine…”

Mike, don’t you want to remember?” asked Jen. “You’ll understand everything better.”

I’m not giving him any memories back,” said Nadisda resolutely. “Jen, you tell me. Was your brother the same character before and after the… procedure?”

Jen nodded. “Same kid. Except that he could program. Connor promised to rescue his character and his identity, and he did. Even managed to rescue his intelligence.”

What?” Mike listened in disbelief. “That pig saved me somehow?” He shook his head. “Sis, she’s somehow reprogrammed your memories. I don’t know how she does it. Don’t trust her!”

Connor had a different name back then,” said Jen. “It was… wait, I’ve almost got it – Hector Sanderos.”

Wow,” said Nadee, thinking about it.

McNaught,” added Jen pensively. “Why would he have reset his identity to McZero?”

Because he feels he is nobody,” said Nadisda softly. “He never stopped lying low. And Connor because he didn’t feel like a hero anymore. Just another cop.” She smiled. “Shows you he doesn’t know much of Celtic lore.”

I remember that day,” said Jen, her eyes moist again. “They had called me in because I had to say goodbye to my brother before the procedure. He was basically already dead. Hector saw me sitting there going to pieces and he bent down to me and promised me that he’d bring him back. If it was at all possible, and he was going to push boundaries to make it possible. He was a state convict. In stripy uniform.”

You two are freaking me out!” said Mike, never lowering his sword. “Hector! Give me a break! What am I, some sort of Frankenstein monster?”

I overheard them talking, before they called Hector in,” Jen kept the memories rolling. “They didn’t want to, because he was a cyber-crook. But they said he was their best bet, probably their only bet.”

I still don’t understand,” said Nadisda. “If one more medically kidnapped kid had died and disappeared – what could the system have lost? What risk?”

Nothing. They were experimenting. That’s also why they turned us out into the streets instead of putting us back into foster homes. After brainflushing me of my memories so I couldn’t go straight to the nearest lawyer. They wanted to watch and see how their experiment was running.”

What?” asked Mike, exasperated. “What, already? I’m a medical experiment? What rubbish is this?” He started scratching his arms frantically. “Even the thought makes me itch!”

It should,” said Nadisda. “I have another mission with you two. I must take you to the Well of Life, and I’m not kidding when I say it is somewhere on this planet, in this world. It’s a pure mineral spring where the magic flows as thick as the water, and it can purge you of all the rubbish they put into you.”

But not the implant,” said Jen urgently. “That would kill him.”

Not the brain prosthesis, no,” agreed Nadisda. “That is there for a reason.”

You’re driving me crazy!” exclaimed Mike. “Damn, fairy! Spit out what intel you have gathered!”

Jen?” asked Nadisda. “Could you handle this for me?”

I think I should,” said the blonde designer. “It’s my right to tell him first.”

Then I’ll be in the front room with Ben and Nancy,” said Nadisda and excused herself.

Nancy made some outstanding coffee and started asking Nadisda a question, but the fairy held up her hand. She was listening.

Sounds of heavy objects falling and crashing into things came from the bedroom. Nadisda dashed back to the door and opened it.

Jen, are you alright?”

Mike’s sister was unharmed, still sitting calmly on the mattress; but her brother was holding the last leg of what was formerly a cabinet, in his hands. Splinters and shrapnel lay strewn around.

He’s just taking it out on the wall,” said Jen calmly. “He’s my brother, Nadee. He’d never hurt me.”

Damn straight,” raged Mike, advancing on Nadisda. “But you, fairy, I’d like to strangle!”

Mike, leave her alone!” called Jen. He turned away and bashed the last leg of that piece of furniture in two against the wall, but the fire was gone from it.

Nadisda nodded and closed the door again, leaving the two of them alone. A dandelion came up out of the mattress next to Jen. She picked the flower and turned it in her hand, gazing at it. A message. Dandelions. The toughest of all survivors. Like her.

Nadisda returned to the front room, reaching for that outstanding cup of coffee. And the touch came, around her heart. Connor needed her, right now.

She rounded up Nancy and Ben.

Listen, I have to go. But handle both Jen and Mike with care tonight. Jen is fragile and Mike is borderline. They both have reason. Just be supportive, especially of Jen. She can control Mike.”

What have you done to them, fairy?” asked Nancy in shock.

Given them back some memories,” replied Nadisda. “Don’t pry, don’t ask, but if they want to talk, let them. Focus on nothing else tonight, just be a good support team. I need you two strong. You may want to go offline if it helps.”

She put her hand over her heart, thought of Connor, spread her wings and disappeared.

*

He was hunching on the floor in that same dread cubicle. Not looking up. She could see that he was in extreme pain. He had thrown up from it, and lost control of every intestine he had. But he was alone now.

I didn’t want you to see this, fairy,” he groaned, knowing she was there despite her invisibility. “But I have to see you one more time before I die.”

Nadisda rallied her powers. There was indeed an incredible drain on magic in here – and on hope, and everything else. The building itself was imbued with evil.

She knelt down and took him in her arms. He clung to her like a drowning man.

They’re not even asking the right questions, damn them,” he rasped. “They’re just taunting me, breaking me. They want that I scream it when I tell them what they want to know. And I will. Everyone does, Nadee.”

She felt the broken bones in his skeleton. Peripherals. Fingers, toes. Two ribs. Nothing that would kill him yet; everything that would hurt him most.

I restored Jen’s memories,” she said. “She told Mike.”

When was this?” he gasped.

Minutes back. They’ll take a while to recover.”

And after that, they will try to break the system,” said Connor. “You must try to stop them. The system will only break them.”

I’m breaking you out of here,” she said resolutely. “Connor, you were wrong. I’m not a program.”

He smiled through the pain.

I’m a being of raw magic,” she said. “And there is enough raw magic in this world. Harder to find, true, but it’s there.” She cast a gesture in a circle around them.

Metal briar roses grew out of the ground, fusing and creating an impenetrable hedge. Deep moss came up out of the terrible floor, absorbing and purifying the mess and lifting them both onto a soft base. An alarm went off; Nadisda motioned to her metal roses and they found it and killed it, and disconnected the eye, and obscured the mirror-window completely. She’d had it.

The thorns and hooks on the rose hedge would tear anyone apart who tried to enter – if they could get the door open; the roses had also spun tendrils around the outer doorknob, entirely obstructing it from reach.

Inside the metal briar hedge circle, green ferns and dandelions sprung up out of the ground. Nadee helped Connor lie down on the moss that had grown as thick as a mattress under him, and placed a hand over his eyes.

Get some rest. I need one more ingredient.”

She teleported away, and followed the lead of the tree energy to that one specimen she was looking for.

She found it nearby, in a small park. It grew out of the rock, its powerful roots finding places to cling to in the most unlikely crevices.

The Forest Fairy placed her hands on the bark of the rock fig.

Fig tree, will you allow me one of your offspring?”

A branch fell down right next to her. A limb, rather than a child.

I thank you and honour you, mother tree.” She picked up the branch and flew back with it, invisibly, to the unimpressive building where Connor was held.

They had put their torture house into a secluded spot, outside of town on a farmland. Instead of an old farmhouse, a metal bunker stood there, eyeless and forbidding. It looked a bit like a grain silo, if you didn’t know how to look. Nadisda couldn’t fail to see the pain and suffering bleeding from it though, and the haunted ghosts of people who had breathed their last here.

Once they had Mike’s location out of Connor, they’d kill him. No further use for the most brilliant natural hacker on the planet. And they would put Mike to their own use, reprogram his chip; make him into a spy machine or a killing machine or whatever; and kill Jen and Nancy and Ben as those three knew too much. Nobody won from this deal.

Who else was being held in here? How many more? She would have liked her team around her for this. She gathered as much magic as she could from the air currents outside, and then walked to the entrance.

Because even this hellish place had an entrance, if you knew how to look. She rapped on the door with her fig staff, a branch as thick as her arm and longer than she was tall, and still crowned with leaves. The heavy metal door exploded into shards.

*

 

America, the show’s over

Dear American friends, please realize this:

Political campaigns & elections are a show, a theatre, to entertain you and make you believe you are participating in a democracy.

Was there election rigging?  I cannot almost imagine there could be an election without it!  Both sides rig, all they can.  I don’t even doubt it.

But the biggest rig in this whole show was this (and the dead giveaway that it’s only a drama, staged for You:)  There were only two parties.

Psychologically, targeting the good/evil narrative in people.  More options?  Nope.  Not seriously.

It was, on the emotional and publicity level, the equivalent of a showy duel between two highly versed sword-fighters,  Captain Barbossa vs Captain Jack Sparrow.  (Enter the background music.)  Both candidates were no doubt aware of what they were doing.  It never was a real battle to the death; it was only supposed to look like that to the audience.

Jab, stab, parry.  You talk locker-room-style dirty about women; I call your voters “deplorables”.  Both made some strategically brilliant moves; both made strategic mistakes.  In the end, they congratulated each other. Good sportsmanship.

Shockingly, some of the voters did not display the same sportsmanship.

http://metro.co.uk/2016/11/09/rioting-breaks-out-in-the-us-in-reaction-to-donald-trumps-shock-victory-6246293/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2016/11/09/student-protesters-burn-american-flags-at-confrontation-over-trump-victory/

http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/Protests-Erupt-in-Bay-Area-After-Trumps-Presidential-Victory-400509211.html

trump-proteststrump-protests.jpg

I am reminded of this (currently here, in this my own country – university “protest”) :

south-africa-student-protest.jpg

Flag-burning, rubbish-burning, car-burning…  Is that American?  Is this how Americans protest a political development?   Really, America?

It wasn’t a take-over.  It was a democratic vote.  The People Have Spoken.  It may have surprised many what The People have to say;  believing The People to be some sort of unified mass is a mistake many of us make.  I think, setting aside the possibility that the entire show was nothing but distraction, people underestimate how many people live below the breadline in desperate conditions.  Maybe that was the most shocking revelation in this whole effort.  America, are you ashamed of your poor?

Come on now.  The show is over; time to get back to work.  You will not overnight be out of a job (unless you get yourself locked up for flag-burning).  Nobody wants a “World War 3”.  Oh, except the oil-grabbers.  You’re saddled with those no matter who sits on America’s “throne”.  In essence, people:  You will be fine, as long as you make sure (and not by burning stuff, that’s really civilized, now isn’t it) that your petitions reach your government’s ears, that you can have referenda etc.

Good luck, stand strong, and stay blessed.

 

Cover Reveal: “The Pourne Identity” by Douglas Pearce

Aboard “Le Petit Cochon”

 *

mysterous ship-1713299_960_720.jpg

The six crewmembers of Le Petit Cochon were in the galley playing Le Monopoly.

Le Petit Cochon was a small fishing vessel which, in the main, caught small fish and was named in honour of the captain’s second wife. He had that sort of relationship with women. Pernod did not help either.

Remillard, the boat’s cook, served up that most well-known of French dishes, le beef burger avec les chips then resumed his seat at the table. He rolled a four and landed on Le Champs-Elysees.

‘Five thousand francs!’* yelled the first mate, a grizzled old salt named Le Guerre.  [*It was a vintage Monopoly set.]

Remillard, who wished everyone would call him Rem after his favourite pop group, was out. That meant as the first player to lose all his money he was obliged to go up on deck and take watch.

‘Merde!’ he swore, as he left the galley carrying a bucket full of potato peelings.

Rem began singing something about the end of the world as we know it.

The rest of the crew repeatedly warned him since his first day aboard not to sing this song as they considered it bad luck.

‘Remillard!’ someone yelled.

‘Pardon!’ he called back.

‘Squawk!’ acknowledged an albatross that landed on top of the wheelhouse.

It was a dark and soon to be stormy night – well it would be, wouldn’t it?

The sea was choppy and heavy clouds were rolling in from the west. It was raining; a freezing, persistent drizzle. As Rem emptied the contents of the bucket over the side he thought he saw something in the water. An intermittent flash caught his eye. It looked like a small red light. Yes, there it was again. Pulling a torch from a pocket of his oilskin he shone it at the dark object floating less than twenty metres from the boat.

‘Merde!’

 

*

The Pourne Identity

by Douglas Pearce

A man in a wet suit is found floating half-drowned in the Mediterranean by the crew of a small fishing boat. He is suffering from amnesia and has no idea who he is or why is he wearing a silver locket with a Viagra tablet inside.

His only clue: the words Pharmacie Coulon. Nice stamped on the tablet.

And so begins a most interesting chapter in the life of Jensen Pourne, marine biologist and soon to be the most wanted man on the planet.

 

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A novel by the inimitable Douglas Pearce, who brews the coffee for photo-and-controversy-blogger Arkenaten.  You can view The Ark’s blog here – when the mood takes him he publishes excerpts and short-stories by Pearce.

This jewel of a book is scheduled to be released in e-book format on Honeymead Books, in the next few weeks – in time for Christmas.  Get ready for a good, fun read.

Banting and the Anunnaki

What does the Banting cult have in common with the Anunnaki?

Simple:

Both start their theory by discrediting everything science has developed so far in the two respective fields and call on the reader to discard everything they already know, in favour of something so outlandish “it must be true”.

Ardent disciples of the new “banting” diet (spelled small because the original diet William Banting followed, was low-calorie, high alcohol – up to 7 glasses of wine per day – high in fat and moderate in both protein and carbohydrates – unlike today’s “banting” diet) will tell you that medical science is all paid off by the food industry and your doctors and dieticians have been lying to you all along about crucial issues, such as cholesterol, the LDL/heart disease connection, diabetes vs fat and sugar intake, etc.

Ardent disciples of the Anunnaki theory will try to convince you (and discard you in frustration if you’re skeptical) that all along, scientists have been lying to you concerning human evolution, dinosaurs etc; that the agencies in America and the Vatican are actually in contact with aliens;  that we have already found the “tenth planet” Nibiru and that humans are actually spliced with Anunnaki DNA.

Both base their “science” on misunderstood half-information from the medical / archaeological and astronomical fields, shouting “conspiracy” the second the conventional knowledge deviates from what they are trying to achieve.

To date, I’ve only seen the banting salespeople cash in…  please let me know if the Anunnaki salespeople are making target or missing out? 😀