A Saturday of Dungeons & Dragons

Four intrepid explorerr gird themselves for immenent danger and enter the labyrinth.

Passing through cavernous halls, they explore rooms filled with odd objects and strange furnishings created for a race unknown.

Wooden chests and boxes contain bits of arcana, the origin of which defies explanation. One explorer guesses these objects to have been made by dwarves or gnomes from a long ago age.

Denizens of the labyrinth appear around unexpected corners and from passages unseen. They pass by hissing, growling, and calling to each other. Paying little attention to the explorers while they follow the glowing jewels clutched in their hands.

Onward, ever onward.

Horrifying abominations of nature twisted beyond endurance.
Torturous artifacts concieved by a madman.

Younger party members are called back from danger by the more experienced dungeon-delvers careful to point out the traps carefully laid for the inexperienced, and ready to be triggered by their enthusiasm for the phantasms of happiness in the Chambers of Illusion.

When the provisions give out, their senses are tantalized by smells of exotic flavors offered to the unwary. Foul tricksters succeed in tempting the less experienced causing discord within the party. Even the more experienced are tempted to risk the madness of splitting the party.

Finally the last obstacle comes into view. Experienced delvers know to expect many cashualties as they hack,slash, and claw their way past the Guardians of the Gate to reach the free air and sunlight so tantalizingly close and yet miles away on the other side of the transparent barrier.

Courage friends, it is time to test our mettle!

(IKEA done D&D style.)

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FRAUD ALERT!! – DCM Services

My step-father recently passed away, and my mother received this letter from a company called DCM Services claiming that they were collecting on my step-father’s accounts at the request of Chase Bank.

The account was not delinquent and the letter came less than 60 days after the death. Chase assured my mother that they would never turn an account over for collection without contacting her, and never if the account was current.

This is a complete fraud trying to take advantage of an elderly woman in a time of grief. Please pass this warning along to anyone you know who has had a recent death in the family because these jerks probably have those folks on their radar screens.

Mom contacted the FBI, and anyone who receives one of these letter should do the same.

 

FRuad_Letter

The Long Trail

By Michael Morgan

            Dust motes in the sunbeam gave the tan cowboy hat on the table a fuzzy quality like a faded tintype still life. A scarred boot heel and sole bounced with an unheard rhythm atop the owner’s knee as a page in the heavy book scraped against the fabric of the man’s shirt.

“What are you reading?” the breathless voice from the bed barely audible above the hospital background.

“It’s called O Pioneers! By Willa Cather,” the man in the chair answered.

“I thought it might be The Bible when I saw the book mark,” wheezed the man in the bed.

“Not likely.” The faux silk ribbon was laid between the pages and the book closed. “I sent Mom home to rest a bit. She hasn’t been home in two days.”

A labored inhalation, “Is it a good story?” The shrunken man in the bed tried to shift, but his strength failed and he settled back.

“Can’t say I care for it much,” the man in the chair rose, and helped the other move. Walking around the bed to maintain eye contact, “It’s about a Swedish woman who buys up a bunch of land from other farmers that can’t prove up their homesteads.” He leaned against the wall, “Pretty dull reading so far, but I have hopes for it.”

“Your sister has been here a few times…,” a heavy breath replaced the one that had fled in the rush of words. “Your Mom comes when she can…Why…?”

“Am I here all of a sudden?” the man finished.

A nod followed a wheeze.

“I’m not sure,” the man rubbed his scalp. His shirt cuff pulled loose a turf of salt and pepper hair leaving a devil’s horn protruding above his ear. “Partly to give Mom some time off, and partly because I was hoping we’d have a few minutes to talk.”

Curiosity sharpened the old man’s gaze, “What about?”

“You mostly.” A step away from the wall and no room to pace, so the man leaned back again. “I’ve always wanted to tell you some things, and now we’re almost outta time.”

“Say it,” was followed by a moist cough. “I’m not getting any younger.”

The man pinched the bridge of his nose and spoke through his hand, “When you and Mom got together, I didn’t have much hope.” The hand dropped and he looked at the older man, “Figured you were just another bad decision in a long line of them. I was wrong.”

“That all?” came the wheezing response.

The man nodded, “I needed to tell you that, and to say Thanks for sticking with her all these years. I know it wasn’t easy.”

The old man took a deep breath, “You don’t think much of anyone do you?”

“Only until I get to know them,” the man agreed. “After the new has worn off, they’re just as grasping, lazy, and stupid as all the rest.”

“Must be nice to be so…above it all,” the old man whispered.

The man chuckled, “A man carries the emotions he can afford.”

“If that’s how you think,” wheeze, inhale, “Then why are you…here?” The old man drifted off. Only the raspy breathing affirming life continued.

His book seemed heavier than before as the man settled back into his chair. The dust motes were long vanished when the door opened.

The man closed the book and rose, “Hi Mom.”

“How is he?” she asked.

“Sleeping for a couple of hours now,” he hugged her, and offered the chair.

She waved for him to sit as she approached the bed, “Has he been asleep since I left?”

“No, we talked for a few minutes,” the man resumed his seat. “I tried to thank him for taking care of you all this time, but he wasn’t having it.”

“He probably didn’t understand what you were talking about,” she fluffed the pillow slightly. “The nurse just told me that he’s having trouble staying focused.”

“Not to be indelicate,” the man shifted uncomfortably in the chair. “Where do things go from here?”

His mother sighed, and took her son’s place leaning against the wall, “He comes home on Friday.”

“I’m not sure that’s wise, Mom,” he rose. “The house is not set up for a chair much less a walker.”

“I’ll have to get someone to come in to help,” she sighed. “There are really no options.”

The silence grew palpable as each retreated into their own thoughts. Finally she spoke, “I wish the two of you could have become friends.”

Her son shook his head, “No real chance of that.”

“I never understood that,” she moved closer to the bed. “You both love books and history, and the theater.”

“And we are pure purple poison to each other on everything else,” another headshake. “The only thing we really had in common is we both love you. For your sake, we both knew it was best we didn’t talk too much.”

“He’s right,” the sudden whisper stopped her reply.

She leaned over the bed, “How are you feeling?” A wet rattling cough was the reply. “Should I call the nurse?”

“No,” came the wheeze. “Just help me turn over.”

Mother and son lifted, turned, smoothed, and fluffed before stepping back. “Better hon?” she asked.

A weak nod before the old man looked at the boy. No, the man. Middle-aged with a family of his own, “Thanks…for what you said…earlier.”

He ignored his mother’s questioning look, “It only took me twenty years to say it. Glad I got here in time.”

To the Memory of

Kenneth Latimer

1936 – 2018

Emma’s War – Chapter 5

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.

 

— 5 —

 

The troops scattered along the wall facing LULU’s warehouse, careful not to show themselves in front of the windows. Emma settled next to Meyers behind a pallet of boxes. Her shotgun was useless against an individual target at this range, but holding it provided comfort where little existed. Meyer took off his ruck and rested his old lever-action over the top as he took aim at the only visible sentry across the street.

“I can’t believe we’re doing this,” Emma mumbled.

“Try saying that when you’re Jewish,” Meyer returned.

“It’s show time!” Murphy’s exultant shout announced his return.

A rushing-rattle passed behind them. “One magazine and we go,” Boyd said before moving to the next position.

Emma watched as the sentry turned to look inside the building. The chaotic rush of people pouring out of the door knocked him backward. They grouped in the parking lot. Some coughing, others with tears and snot running down their faces. Wild gestures accompanied the muted shouting coming through to Emma’s ears.

“Light ‘em up!” Silas shouted, and the windows dissolved into shards as bullets reached toward the crowd.

Emma could not hear the gunfire or the screams of the people across the street twisting and falling, but she could hear the steady clack-clatch of Meyers cycling his carbine between shots and the sharp pinging of brass landing on concrete. She could only watch the Danse Macabre occurring across the street.

Meyers slapped Emma on the shoulder, “That’s my six, let’s go!” He shouldered his ruck, and Emma followed him back through the warehouse.

Ones and twos filtered out of the dim light to group around Silas who stood counting by the loading dock’s overhead door, “Twenty! Excellent! No deserters. This way!” He pushed open a man door, leading them down the concrete steps and across the back lot at a run.

 

“No extraction available,” Mulvaney closed his flip-phone in irritation. “We hump our way back.”

Silas sounded calm, almost sleepy, “Seems a shame to break contact with the enemy after such an overwhelming success.”

“Pardon me Commissioner,” Mulvaney pocketed his phone, and dropped the magazine out of his rifle. “I would like to remind you that we have been clearing buildings for three days, and we are on the short side of the ammo. Unless you know of an inbound supply drop, we are in no condition to re-engage that many LULUs.

“We don’t know how many there are. Do we?” Silas’s voice was dangerous. “They could have suffered significant casualties from the gas even before we fired on them, and we will not know unless we go back.” The voice turned mournful, “How will that look in the reports I have to file when we return?”

 

Emma peeked around the corner, and signaled her companions to move up. Jake and Murphy jogged up and flattened themselves against the wall.

“Where to?” Murphy whispered.

Emma kept her eyes on the buildings across the street as she spoke, “Building on the corner. If we get close to the top, we should be able to see the warehouse.”

Murphy sighed, “You’ve got the keys, so after you Madam.”

Glass. Oh Lord how I hate glass. Emma pointed her shotgun across the street, took a breath like she was about to plunge into freezing water, and broke away from the comforting solidity of the concrete wall at a dead sprint. The glass façade and doors were rushing at her as she desperately tried to see past the ragged soldier running at her. The reflection blocked any hope of spotting hostiles behind the curtain of glass. At least nobody is shooting at me. Dirt and small bits of debris almost dumped her on her ass as Emma slid to a stop in front of the double glass door. She let the sling catch the shotgun as she strained to reach the crowbar behind her left shoulder. A quick rap on the lower corner, the safety glass spider-webbed, and collapsed with a sound like heavy surf hitting a beach. Bar in her left hand, pistol in her right, she stepped through and attacked the inner door as the sound of running feet grew behind her.

“Fire stairs?” Mulvaney demanded as he cleared the portal. At Emma’s shrug, he waved the next man to the right. “Stairs! Find ‘em!”

Left-right. Left-right. The team flowed into the building. Silas was always last no matter which direction they were going. Always watching for deserters.

“Stairs here!” came the call from the left side of the lobby.

“OK. Everybody listen up,” Mulvaney shouted. “Secure this lobby. Boyd!”

“Yo!” Boyd waved from the reception desk.

“Get topside and assess the damage,” Mulvaney pointed at two trooper, the square of lobby furniture, and the doors. “Block that up.”

 

Urban Animals ~ No, not the two-legged variety.

Today, the Mrs. called me rather excited because as she was exiting I-20 in Fort Worth,  Texas, she almost hit a deer that was crossing the highway. I have seen roadkilled deer several time near that same location, so I was not really surprised at her story.

Arlington, Texas made the local news a few years back with a population of feral hogs taking up residence.

Residents of Plano, Texas have begun reporting encounters with bobcats.
One of my co-workers who lives in Plano caught security cam pictures of a good sized bobcat on his patio one night. Not the kind of thing that makes a parent of young children sleep well.

Many cities have a population of coyotes.
I have seen them sitting beside the street in Grand Prairie, Texas watching the cars go by.

All of these encounters occurred well inside the city limits. I am waiting for the first report of a cougar sighting because its coming.

The population of larger forms of wildlife taking up residence in major cities is on the rise as urban sprawl and reduced natural habitat combines with easy availability of food and water to attract wild critters to suburban backyards.
This sad state of affairs leads to potentially deadly enounters between predators and the family pet, or the unthinkable, a toddler. Larger animals pose a real danger in collisions with vehicles. Feral pigs are both destructive and aggressive.

If you should encounter wildlife in your neighborhood, do not approach the animal. The critter may not be afraid of humans, but that does NOT mean the animal is tame. Many people are injured by deer, elk, and especially moose during mating season. The cause of such encounters is usually someone who wants a photo of Nature’s beauty. If you want a photo, take one at a respectful distance, and make sure you are not standing between the animal and the only path of escape when the flash goes off.

Best practices:

Keep food, garbage, and pet food indoors or in a secure container. (Metal and plastic garbage cans are NOT secure containers.)

Keep a close eye on small pet and children when outdoors.

Call Animal Control or the State Parks & Wildlife Department for assistance if wild animals become a nuisance.

 

Elon Musk Tributes to Sci-fi

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.

HM_Movie

 

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!

 

The Moving of the Haggis!

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!

 

Let’s go out and see new places and meet new friends.TXScotFest2018

Image courtesy of Texas Scottish Festival & Highland Games

Emma’s War – Ch 4

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.