Sometimes you come across some good stuff on the interwebs…
February 10 – 11 you can download a FREE Kindle edition of the award winning story Three Righteous Souls on Amazon.com.
Please enjoy the story, and leave a review.
With the launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket on February 6, 2018, Elon Musk sent his personal automobile into space, and paid tribute to two Sci-Fi memes that truly deserve it.
On the dashboard of the roadster is a plaque that reads “Don’t Panic” in large friendly letters. Most Sci-Fi enthusiasts recognize this being from the book/radio/TV/Film “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. (The book and the old BBC TV versions BURY that abomination of a film from 2005. )
But why the car…?
Two words “Heavy Metal”.
Best known as an “Adult Illustrated Fantasy Magazine”, Heavy Metal is a comic book for grownups.
In 1981 HM released a feature animated film under the name “Heavy Metal” featuring the voices of John Candy, Harold Ramis, John Vernon, and a number of other major Hollywood stars.
WARNING! This is NOT a kid film by any means, but it is well worth the time of animation aficionados.
The tie in to Mr. Musk’s roadster comes in the opening credits in a scene called “Soft Landing”.
Hang on, it’s a wild ride!
Big News Fellow Scots!
The Texas Scottish Festival and Highland Games is moving to Decatur.
From the REAL NEWS page:
The 32nd Annual Texas Scottish Festival & Highland Games at Wise County Fairgrounds in Decatur, TX! SAVE THE DATE – May 11 – 13th, 2018!
Image courtesy of Texas Scottish Festival & Highland Games
By Michael Morgan
Copyright 2017 All Rights Reserved
This is the continuing story of Emma Pitts after the end of Three Righteous Souls, now available in the Amazon Kindle Store.
— 4 —
LULU troops, if they could be called troops were massing in the warehouse down the street. Rousing speeches, a machete, and a shot of tequila to fan the flames of righteous indignation against the gringo capitalist bastardos that had been looting their countries, and leaving them the scraps for generations. Poor people pushing north in waves to take back their rightful homeland from the Yankee invaders. Find them! Kill them! Reclaim what rightfully belongs to the people!
Emma watched through the junky pair of folding opera glasses picked up in some forgotten house liberated somewhere between yesterday and a hundred years ago when she got off that bus in a dark field. It was impossible to count the number of LULUs down there, so she settled for counting the number of people passing through the door each minute.
Tango Nine-Oh was scattered about on the top floor of a twelve-story high-rise in downtown Houston, Texas. Their official mission was to scout for LULU activity and call in airstrikes, but the airstrikes never materialized. ‘Too many civilians in the way.’ ‘No available aircraft.’ The excuses rolled on and on. What never seemed to end was the number of Militia lives The Powers were willing to sacrifice in brutal urban combat.
“Roger that,” Silas closed the flip phone and stuffed it into his pocket. He raised an extended finger in the air and made a circular gesture while calling out, “Huddle!” The troopers close enough to hear, stayed at their positions while the other scattered about the office cube farm hurried closer.
Once everyone was settled, Silas spoke, “Air…”
“Strikes are unavailable,” came from someone unknown.
Silas glared around the group, and finally continued, “We have new orders. The warehouse next to the one the wogs are occupying was owned by a pool supply company. We’re going to infiltrate and burn it.”
“How did this become a priority?” Murphy asked.
Mulvaney looked at Murphy, and shook his head, but Silas seemed to be in an indulgent mood, “Pool shock is concentrated chlorine. Burning it releases that chlorine as well as several other noxious chemicals.”
“We’re going to gas them,” Emma heard her own words and still refused to believe them.
Silas smiled, “Give the smart lady a prize! HQ is afraid LULU will find the warehouse and use the chemicals against us.”
“Does anyone remember the phrase WMD?” Mulvaney looked around the group. “As I recall there are some stiff legal penalties for that kind of thing.”
“I have been assured we are on solid legal ground because we are not intentionally exposing LULU to the chemicals. We are destroying strategic stockpiles of US property to prevent its eminent capture by the enemy. If LULU happens to be in the area,” Silas paused for dramatic effect, “It sucks to be them.”
Mulvaney looked disgusted, “You’re willing to risk a Hague trail over this?”
Silas’ smile turned ugly as he stared Mulvaney in the eye, “I’m willing to draft your wife if I hear anymore resistance from anyone.”
Emma knew Mulvaney’s wife was still nursing their youngest, and it was Silas’ favorite threat to draft someone closest to whomever was questioning him. You can only get shot for mutiny once, but the pain dished out to loved ones could go on forever. Suicide was no answer because the person you were trying to protect would be drafted to replace you, so you took it, and kept going trying to stay alive because as long as you were alive, your people ‘back home’ in the refugee camps would stay alive.
Murphy reached into his pocket and unfolded a map. Spreading it on a nearby desk, he turned on a shielded flashlight, “So how do we do this? There must be a thousand wogs in that barn.”
Heave, two steps, down. Heave, two steps, down. Each time the hundred-pound bucket of pool shock hit the ground the hollow thunk echoed down the sewer tunnel. Four hundred feet was the estimated distance between the door of the pool supply warehouse, and the occupied warehouse across the street. Four hundred feet beneath a parking lot, a four lane divided road, and another parking lot. Heave, two steps, down. Heave, two steps, down.
Ten troopers carried sloshing buckets of gasoline mixed with diesel fuel. The odor making the air in the tunnel feel even closer as Emma stacked her bucket next to the open fuel bucket and stepped back to look up at the faint glow from the iron grate far above. Suddenly, liquid came cascading through the grate scattering into fine rain on its way down. The odor left no doubt of its character.
“Everybody out except Murphy,” ordered Mulvaney as he passed along the line gathering each group in turn. As soon as they were past the final stack of buckets, they started jogging. By the time they arrived at the ladder to the Pool Supply it was a frantic rush to get up the ladder.
By Michael Morgan
Copyright 2017 All Rights Reserved
This is the continuing story of Emma Pitts after the end of Three Righteous Souls, now available in the Amazon Kindle Store.
“Alright you wogs! Off the bus! GO! GO! GO!” The unidentified voice screamed its way down the aisle. Cries of pain and the crackle-pop of a Taser dragged Emma out of her nightmare into nightmarish reality just as the screamer passed by her seat again. Pain stabbing into her thigh slammed her forehead on the back of the seat ahead of hers, but the screamer forgot to trigger the electric shock before he turned his attention elsewhere.
“Bend over! Touch your toes!” Screamer yelled at the uneven line of people standing in an open field in front of the bus’s headlights. “Get to it! Grab those toes!”
Emma glanced along the line as her fingertips just barely reached her shoes. An obese woman half-way down was dragged out of line by her hair and thrown to the ground.
“Get up wog!” Screamer kicked the sobbing woman. “You’re gonna get ground up and fed to the troops piggie!” Another kick as the woman struggled to her feet and almost fell again.
“You cain’ treat people like that!” a man stood and made to help the staggering woman gain her balance.
“Who’s she to you?” Screamer demanded. “Yo’ wife?! Yo’ girlfriend?! Yo’ mama?!”
“She’s nobody to me,” the man said. “But she don’t deserve to be treated like that! None of us do!”
“I see,” Screamer sounded almost reasonable for someone still yelling to be heard. “We have ourselves a HERO! Ever’body look! Here’s a Gen-u-wine HERO comin’ to the aid of a damsel in distress!”
A pistol appeared in Screamer’s hand, and the man crumpled to the ground before the sound of the shot registered on Emma’s consciousness. The second shot dropped the woman before she could protest.
“I better see everyone looking at their toes and nothing but their toes!” Screamer paused for breath, “Those people were mutineers! They were dealt with the way we deal with ALL mutineers!” He walked to the end of the line furthest from the bus, “As I walk this line, I will give each of you a number! You will remember your number!” He tapped the first person in line with his shock baton, “Two!”
Emma watched and listened as the numbers were shouted out. Each person who could get close to touching their toes got a One. Between knee and ankle got a two. Knee or less, Three.
“One and Twos back on the bus!” Screamer ordered. The bus drove away leaving the Threes milling about in the dark field.
— 2 —
“Knockers! Front and Center!”
The order snapped Emma awake. She had almost dozed off leaning against the splintery wood siding that cloaked the deserted farmhouse they were assaulting. Knockers, the nickname made her grind her teeth as she sprinted around the corner of the house.
“Knockers! Door!” Patrol Leader Mulvaney ordered as Emma reached behind her head and dragged the sledgehammer from its sling on her back. Taking the handle in both hands, Emma braced herself, and swung. She was barely able to dive off the porch before the eight-man stick followed the door inward. Shouts of “Clear!” emerged as Emma retrieved her hammer and slung it. Every patrol had someone that carried the tools. Sledgehammer, crowbar, and a shotgun with special breeching rounds. Female, male, or not quite certain, that person was called Knockers.
The indignity of the name came with few perquisites. You always got to be last in line, until of course, something had to be forced open. Then it was your ass standing in front of the door, vehicle, or whatever hoping your next action was not going to get you killed. Emma had been “promoted” when the previous Knockers triggered an IED by testing a doorknob to see if it was unlocked. Emma used the hammer.
Of course, Knockers was never truly the last in line. That spot was always occupied by Screamer, otherwise known as Commissioner George Silas, whose job it was to insure everyone in the patrol showed the proper amount of enthusiasm when engaging the enemy. Silas had worked his way up through Red Militia movement, and he was committed to see this war through to a successful conclusion. What constituted a “successful conclusion” seemed to vary, but he wore eight black stripes on his uniform sleeve. A stripe for each “mutineer” or “deserter” he had executed personally.
Mulvaney walked out of the house, “Building secure.”
Silas clicked the stopwatch behind Emma making her eye flinch slightly. The sound too close to the noise of a safety being released. “Very good, patrol,” Silas sounded pleased. “Especially you Knockers. Got that door on the first try.”
Emma turned to face him, “Thank you sir.”
Silas looked at the gathered patrol, “Alright you wogs! Police up this area! No signs we were ever here! Kockers, get that door back in place for the next team, and…make it a challenge for them.”
“Ten hut!” Mulvaney and the rest of the patrol snapped to attention and saluted as Silas strode away. Once he was out of earshot, Mulvaney dismissed the team, “You heard the man. Git ‘er done!”
— 3 —
The second hammer blow opened the door. Emma had time to recognize a very large gun muzzle before a sledgehammer smashed in her chest and pitched her over backwards. The teenager holding the gun died as she was stitched from groin to collarbone by Murphy’s AK.
More shots rang out as the stick fanned out through the building. Emma lay on her back gasping to recover the air knocked from her lungs. Finally, the shouts of “Clear!” faded out, and Mulvaney appeared at the edge of her vision offering a hand up. “C’mon, upsy-daisy,” Mulvaney said as he helped her get her balance.
“Thanks Mully,” Emma touch-checked her gear before bending stiffly to retrieve her shotgun.
“Thank DuPont for Kevlar,” Mulvaney joked. “And be glad that bitch didn’t have an AK.”
Murphy came out of the building with a fistful of plastic cards. He handed the deck over to Mulvaney, “Typical LU-LU ID cards. This group was Honduran.”
“Weapons?” asked Commissioner Silas as he joined the group. Emma stifled the urge to cringe away from the man as he placed a comradely arm around her shoulders.
“Usual. Machetes, hatchets, a couple of pistols,” Murphy nodded to Emma. “And a shotgun.”
“Supplies?” asked Mulvaney.
“Dried rice, beans, and corn. Some cans with US labels, and what was probably a dog cooking in back.” Murphy answered. “In pretty good physical condition. No obvious wounds or disease. LULU-NOOB types.”
“Survivors?” Silas snarked.
Mulvaney did not wait for Murphy to answer, “No survivors. Our casualties?”
“Knockers the only one hit,” Murphy said. “She didn’t sing out, so I guess she’s OK.”
Mulvaney looked Emma in the eye, and she gave him a weak thumbs-up. Mully put on his best British accent, “Right! On to the next one!”
Basic, or what they had called Basic, lasted three weeks. Just long enough to weed out the rebellious hot heads and terminal weaklings. Emma only remembered one lesson from Basic. The US was in a war with all of Central and South America. The cause of the war was never quite explained, but what was clearly explained was the US Military was otherwise engaged overseas, and she had been drafted into the Federal Militia. Their job was to push back the invasion of Latinos Unidos troops.
If they could not hold their ground, a general call up of every able-bodied person between age twelve and seventy-five would be necessary to assure victory. Emma had two very important reasons to hold her ground, and those reasons were locked up in some government relocation center. Somewhere.
I have to say the lady in charge of the Winkel Ranch operation has a well-oiled machine moving hunters through her office. Unfortunately, that was the best part of the experience.
I can’t make any claims to being Billy Dixon or Jim Bridger. I do know about scent control, noise discipline, and how to be still for hours. All of these things have allowed me success on hunts in other places like Moseley hunting Camp just down the road in Castell, TX.
Check-in at the Winkel Ranch Office was at 11:00AM on Friday (12/1/17). Dad and I were the only 2-man team around that day, so we got the smallest section of the 4,000+ acres Winkel leases. That becomes important later in the story.
The rules were laid out as:
1 Buck each – Spike or 8+ Points only (Wow! That narrows down the opportunities.)
1 Doe for the two of us. (Meh, no big deal. I hunt meat, and don’t care about trophies.)
2 Feral hogs each (Now we’re talkin’! But most places don’t limit your hog take. Hmmmm.)
1 Turkey each (OK. I can live with that.)
All of the coyotes we could eat – Llano County was offering a $70 bounty on coyotes, so we had a chance to earn back some of our expenses, or we thought we did.
Now the catch: No night hunting, and no lights.
For those who don’t know, feral hogs and coyotes are mostly nocturnal…Bummer.
Well, you pays your money and takes your beatings.
The section we were assigned to was rough and I do mean rough.
The “road” has probably not been graded in 5 years making 4-wheel drive mandatory.
The only water was an algae covered pond. No moving water on the section.
Only 1 feeder on 200 acres, but it was throwing corn.
The stands/blinds were a real puzzle. Normal practice is to set them up to cover an attractant (food, salt lick, water) or one of the game trails between one of the attractant locations. Of the 4 stations on the section NONE of them were anywhere close to one of the aforementioned attractants or trails. None, zero, zip, nada. When we checked out after our weekend, we were told the stands had been in the same spots for “a long time”.
Obviously, this plot is just a way to bleed off a hunter’s hard-earned cash.
Hunting from the blinds on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning allowed us to listen to turkey hens clucking in the brush. Nothing else was moving, so we abandoned the blinds and sat on the water hole.
Saturday afternoon was not looking promising either until a lone coyote came along. Once Mr. Coyote was safely in the bag, we tried a distressed rabbit call to see if any other coyotes wanted to stop by, but we had no takers.
Sunday morning we still hunted most of that property and found some scat that was at least a week old (dark black pellets), some chewed prickly pear fruit (dried out), and nothing bigger than a cotton tail rabbit, so back to the water hole. We finished out the hunt with just the 1 coyote.
The most telling thing over the course of the entire weekend was the lack of gunfire from adjacent parcels. When we were chcking in, we were told a party of 10 hunters was going to be on the adjacent section of Winkel land, but it was pretty obvious they did not see any deer either.
As we were checking out on Sunday, one of the Winkel hands came around to do the bounty paperwork on the coyote, and he told us that nobody had taken anything out of our section or the adjacent section in two weeks.
Thoughts on Conservation
I’m not beating up the Winkel Ranch people because I had a bad hunt. I’m holding them up as an example of what I consider poor business management. Back in July, I had a similar experience hunting hogs near Bridgeport, TX. Two nights in the blind and not one hog as far as the night vision could see.
Llano TX makes a ton of its money from Whitetail deer hunting every year, and I have to wonder if they have been too aggressive in their marketing efforts to the detriment of the deer population. Over-leasing the ranches is going to kill the local economy because hunters will take their money elsewhere.
I encourage hunters to be more selective in their choices of hunt packages by demanding to know how many animals have been harvested on a given plot before they put their money down. If the claims are not back up by photo evidence, then call another outfitter. Personally, I think I’m going to switch to hunting exotics and feral hogs, and take my money along with me. The best part of exotics and pigs is they are non-game species, so no off-seasons giving me more hunts per year.
If the land owners start losing revenue, then improvements will be made, but as long as hunters keep passing over the cash and taking whatever we get, we won’t be getting much.
Local Wild Life
Since we could not hunt after dark, we go the chance to enjoy some of Llano’s local restaurants.
By far the best food we have had in several trips to Llano was Rosita’s Mexican Restaurant (101 E. Grayson St. llano Tx 78643). They recently expanded from a hole in the wall to a very nicely decorated and airy venue. The restaurant is family owned and operated, and they serve generous helpings of quality Tex-Mex at fair prices. If you go through Llano, Rosita’s is worth your time.
We tried the Hungry Hunter for the first time. It had all of the “country” and none of the “goodness”. Consider yourself warned.
Llano Feed & Supply is where we buy our corn and alfalfa pellets for bait. They are a bit off the beaten path (3 blocks south of Highway 29), but they are good folks to deal with. Make sure to say hello to Thomas, and tell him you read about him on the Internet. He’ll appreciate that.
Reasons for Everything
Dad and I had a great time together. We talked. told stories, and debated the world crises. Mostly we enjoyed each other’s company, and that’s what these trips are really about.
Sometimes a special occasion or person comes along that requires a truly unique gift.
When Boss’ Day came along this year, my team was stumped on what to do for our Fearless Leader. A co-worker presented us with an idea for a custom comic book cover.
We took a chance, and the results could not have been better.
Portraits By Swains really came through. Give them a thought the next time you’re not sure what that special person really deserves.
…just add water?
I saw the video on towel pellets, and it looks like a potential lifesaver for people who like the outdoors, have kids, & etc.
They may seem a bit pricey, but the space/weight savings over traditional handi-wipes and toilet paper make them seem very attractive.
by Michael Morgan, Copyright 2017, All rights Reserved
The weather report from the surface was horrifying unless you had been on the station for a while. No storms expected in the next few days. Sergei adjusted the harness that kept him from drifting away from the console, relieved the station would not need to be moved while #8 was misbehaving.
The eight massive plasma jets kept the beanstalk platform in a stable orbit and altitude just above the jovian atmosphere while the miles long siphon whipped and swayed in the 325 kph winds of Jupiter. The station could remain in orbit with only four working thrusters, and with six, Sergei could escape the gas giant’s gravity. Assuming the working thrusters were more or less evenly distributed around the octagonal spider web of girders, solar panels, centrifuges, and storage tanks.
Cloud mining was not a particularly dangerous activity as far as exo-careers went. Sergei had been working for KozmoGaz for twenty years. The last three and a half sitting quietly on Station 23 watching the siphon vacuum Jupiter’s atmosphere into massive centrifuges that separated it into hydrogen and oxygen, the gasses that made life possible in open space. The liquefied “gold” was pumped into storage tanks, and the rest was fed to the thrusters. Periodically, a passing ship would take up a geosynchronous orbit. Sergei would lift the station to meet them and transfer the vital fluids.
At least they cannot ask me to clean the windows, thought Sergei as he scanned the status board. Lately, #8 had been “wandering”, and pulling the station out of position. A little drift was expected as the fierce winds pulled the siphon around, but a little unexpected drift could be catastrophic when docking to another ship. Sergei keyed the intercom, “Hey lovebirds, take five and pick up.”
“You mad bugga!” the intercom crackled. “T’was just gettin’ interestin’.”
Sergei could hear Jina cracking up behind Muldoon’s fake Aussie accent. She was the latest arrival, and the first woman on the station since Sergei’s rotation began. A long limbed Ethiopian goddess, if Sergei had been a betting man. “#8 is pulling again. High card goes outside?”
“No need,” Jina offered. “I need a stretch. Give me twenty to get prepped. Muldoon, help me zip up?”
“I don’t get it,” Muldoon passed the tablet back to Sergei. “Full gimbal rotation with manual control and the automated test routine. Faulty control module?”
Jina drifted through the hatchway, “I checked those at the thruster end. All green.”
“The fiber?” Sergei suggested.
“I ran that all of the way out and back again just to be sure,” Jina said. “No damage that I could see. Signal at the far end was normal.”
“Shut it down or live with it?” Muldoon asked.
“Live with it,” Sergei decided. “We can shut it down during docking. Speaking of docking, your ride is due in fourteen hours.”
“Right!” Muldoon brightened, and the Aussie was back. “Best be packin’ me kit.” He smiled at Jina, and pushed off for the hatch.
Jina’s sticky patches crinkled softly as her knees contacted the console, “Any word on the inbound?”
“Not much,” Sergei called up the personnel profile on his tablet. “Victor Russell. Twenty-eight. Usual tech profile.”
Jina giggled, “I know him. Looks like I’ll have to share.”
Sergei started to answer when his sticky pads suddenly ripped loose, and the bulkhead was coming at him way too fast.
“#2 on overload! Zero degrees off horizontal!” Jina shouted staring at the console.
Sergei caught himself too late. The wall still split his eyebrow leaving a crimson smear as he pushed off again in the direction of the control center. Tiny drops of blood trailed after him.
Jina slammed the emergency button, and grabbed the joysticks as they extended from beneath the console. “Shut down #2 and #8,” she ordered, and Sergei stabbed at the spider web-like diagram of the station systems.
As the thrusters went dark, the console quit trying to fly away from him. Sergei triggered the comm, “Muldoon! You OK?” A second past. Three seconds, “Muldoon?”
“Go find him,” Jina ordered. “I’ve got this.” Sergei kicked off headed for the hatch.
“Muldoon! Report!” Sergei shouted into the comm. The ‘Lounge’ was a cloud of loose objects floating about, but no Muldoon. “Jina, can you check the cams for him?”
“Scanning,” Jina replied. “Got him. Pump Station 3. He’s not moving.”
Pump Station 3? Why there? Sergei trust himself out of the Lounge and angled down through the core to the junction pod. He found Muldoon drifting near an open maintenance panel.
“Muldoon!” Sergei grabbed Muldoon’s foot. The leg was limp as Sergei anchored himself, and reeled in his crewmate.
“How is he?” Jina demanded.
“Don’t know,” Sergei answered as he rotated Muldoon’s body face up. The staring eyes were disconcerting, but not as much as Muldoon’s left hand grasping at his own throat below the blood-flecked mouth. Segei checked for a pulse. Nothing. He moved the hand. Massive bruising and a sharp line across the throat. “He’s dead Jina,” Sergei’s word were answered by a pained gasp.
“How?” Jina asked softly.
“Looks like a crushed trachea,” Sergei replied as he studied Muldoon’s outstretched right arm. “Broken arm too from the angle. He must have been half inside the panel when #2 went crazy”
“Doing what?” Jina asked.
“Keep her steady and I’ll find out,” Sergei offered.
Jina looked up from the instruments when Sergei floated through the hatch, “Wha…?”
Sergei waved a multi-tool at her, “He was tearing at the fiber optic cables for #2 with this. Shredded several of them. Same kind of damage on #8.”
“I checked those cables! End to end.” Jina insisted.
Sergei stopped inside the hatch. “You didn’t check them completely, or…”
“You accusing me of sabotage?” Jina’s hands tensed on the controls.
Sergei shook his head, “Not my department. I’m sure Corporate Security will have questions for both of us.”