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Savage Survival

 

Darrell Bain's Monthly Blog - July 2011

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Bainstorming: Darrell's Bain's Monthly Blog.
Copyright © July 2011, By Darrell Bain
http://www.darrellbain.com

Responses to subjects brought up by this blog are welcome. I can be contacted by e-mailing me from my website.

Subjects this month: Pat downs, Gay species, Progress report, Dangers for kids, Political Commentary, Mechanically untalented, A wild idea, Apertures, More Zero Tolerance, Book reviews, Excerpt from Space Trails

Pat Downs

I don’t care what anyone says, the idea of patting down little kids and old grannies at airports is nothing more and nothing less than an attempt to avoid being accused of  “Profiling”. The idiot political correctness police have gone too far! In fact, they went too far years ago but no one seems to want to stop them.

Gay Species

For those who still think being gay is an aberration and not natural, there have now been 500 other vertebrate species besides humans which have also been discovered to have gay behavior of individuals within the species. And we, of course are animals just like they are. While I personally don’t understand the attraction of like for like I’m glad to see that the onus has mostly been removed from homosexual behavior in our society since it is apparently just as natural for them as heterosexual behavior is for those like me. Perhaps this evidence will further help society to accept the fact, although it is very hard to change a mind set that wants to believe something contrary to the evidence. And especially when it’s because of religious reasons. I believe this type of dogmatic mind was and is responsible for the inquisition, prosecution of “witches”, jihads and so on. Which is not to say this type mind is the majority in theology. There are idiots in any organization and also those who are very rational.

Progress Report

I have completed the second book in the Apertures series and sent it to my publisher for editing. You may expect to see Apertures: Allies and Enemies (tentative title) as an ebook by sometime in late July or August and in print shortly after. Further information will be noted in the August Bainstorming. The second Apertures novel of alternate earths will be available for the Kindle, Nook and at most ebook stores. Amazon and B&N will both carry it in print as well. As an aside, Apertures is presently being read as a potential basis for a movie or TV series. For those who know about these procedures, just having a book read for  possible movie or TV selection is only the beginning of a convoluted process that usually amounts to nothing, but we can all hope, can’t we?

I’m taking a short break of a few weeks and then will begin the final book of the trilogy, tentatively titled Apertures: Explorations and Discoveries.

After that I am considering approaching my publisher with the notion of asking other authors to contribute stories, novellas or books set in the Apertures Universe. Those authors or potential authors who think they might like to contribute may contact me through my web site where you are reading this issue of Bainstorming. Look at the menu.

Dangers for kids

I read an article listing a whole lot of things kid should be allowed to do that could result in injury, like the monkey bars at school that have been taken down in many places for fear of a suit. Boys can’t carry pocket knives any more or whittle for fear they might hurt themselves or the school be sued. Kids can’t play in a park at night. And so on. But whoever wrote the article didn’t mention all the other dangers kids face today. Like random gun shots, drugs, misuse of phones, molestation, overeating, and all the other dangers of modern life. Times change. And I guess, as much as some of older people hate it, we have to change too. Nevertheless, I still believe that Zero Tolerance and Political Correctness have overtaken common sense in our society and notably, in our schools. In spite of all the people who agree with me, I don’t see any signs of the situation improving.

Commentary

I’ve read that politics is called “the art of the possible”. However, it seems to me that what politicians are practicing these days is “the art of the impossible”. In other words they’ve passed laws that we can’t possibly pay for and they don’t seem to be able to undo them. They’ve borrowed money we can’t repay. Name your own poison and you’ll probably find it on the books.

As much as I hate to admit it, sometimes compromise is necessary to get anything done but the “compromises” I’ve seen so far haven’t been much use or really compromises at all. They’re merely protective coloration for allowing our leaders to continue on their same spendthrift path, an unsustainable one. One can hope, I suppose, that the situation might change. If things get bad enough maybe some of those dolts in Washington will wake up and realize what’s been done to the country and begin thinking more of what we need done than of getting themselves reelected or keeping their own party in power or gaining power if they‘re on the outside. Phooey!!

Mechanically untalented.

The dogs scratching at the door to go in or out were removing the paint from the door. Betty wanted a brass plate put on each side to prevent the scratching from making marks. First I bought the wrong kind of plates. After taking them back and exchanging them for the right kind I got out the super duper battery powered drill Betty had given me for Christmas. After spending a good half hour figuring out how to get the blasted thing charged and a screwdriver bit inserted, I proceeded to hurt my knees and dignity marking little circles on the door where the screws should go. Then, confidently removing the drill from its charging station after cussing it loose, I proceeded to drill. Unfortunately, no matter how much I drilled, the screws refused to go in. Figuring I hadn’t charged the super duper drill long enough, I gave it some more juice, several hours worth, and removed it again, not taking quite as long this time since I remembered half of what I’d done before. Then,with regained confidence, I proceeded to waste my energy, dignity and chances of heaven with a lot of bad words by trying and failing repeatedly to get the damned screws to screw in.

That did it. My situation wasn’t at all unusual and Mike, my stepson, is very used to me calling for help after thirty some-odd years of knowing me. The next day he showed up. I explained the problem. He leaned forward and tapped the door. “Didn’t you know it was metal?” he asked. “Well, no I didn’t,” I replied “but with all the energy I expended and the strength I’ve used up trying to help the drill, I should have been able to get the damned cranky screws in,” I told him.

 

“Let me see your drill,” he said. I gave it to him while muttering imprecations about mechanical things and the way they are always out to get me.

He took one look and said, “You have the drill set in reverse,” he explained as patiently as if I were a child.

“Oh, I said. Why the hell should a drill have reverse on it? It’s not a car, for blankety blank sakes.”

“In case you want to remove screw,” he said, rolling his eyes when he thought I wasn’t looking. He then proceeded to put plates on front and back doors, both sides, in about five minutes.

I thanked him profusely while wondering, not for the first time by a long shot, why I had been graced with an IQ in the genius range but the stupid little genes decided I didn’t need any mechanical aptitude. The Army placement officer said much the same thing, in different words, after I took all the tests they give you upon enlistment (or possibly before enlistment these days). Anyway, that’s how my brain is wired. It doesn’t understand how things work and it seems no amount of practice helps much. I’m just grateful I can afford handymen and that Mike is a jack of all trades and a genius in his mechanical aptitude.

A wild idea

Ever since I began writing science fiction over twenty years ago I had this thought: Wouldn’t exploring space looking for new planets in covered wagons and horses and walking along with them while watching for bad critters be a great idea for a novel? And I don’t mean getting to another planet and then exploring with wagons and horses and so on. I wanted to actually have characters finding new planets like our pioneers did in finding new farm land, by traipsing along with their horse or oxen drawn wagons. Sure, it was a wild idea but I couldn’t get it out of my head. Then finally a few years ago, after many false starts and goofy ideas, I finally did figure out a way to do this. The result is my book, Space Trails. It has now been published both in print and ebook editions. An excerpt from Space Trails appears at the end of this issue of Bainstorming. I think this is a truly new idea in science fiction. And the first two reviews are both five stars! Here is one of them from the ebook edition:

I really loved this book. The new twist on a wagon train going on to explore new worlds was great. :) This ebook kept me interested from start to finish. The plot ending was so unexpected, I loved it. Please keep up the good work Mr. Bain.

I might add that the plot ending was unexpected for me, too! It wasn’t at all the way I had decided to end the novel but when this idea popped into my mind I just couldn’t resist it!

Apertures

My recent book, Apertures has received three five star reviews and one three star review. The three star took the characters’ politics to task, but the very next reviewer took that one to task! I got a chuckle out of it. Very seldom do I see one reviewer getting in the face of another. It did me good!
Apertures is available in both print and ebook editions.

More zero tolerance

Did you read about the mayor of the little city outside of Joplin that was almost destroyed by that giant tornado that did so much damage to Joplin? It had a law against having mobile homes in the city. Despite all the damage and the number of homeless, the mayor absolutely refused to allow FEMA trailers to be positioned in the town. And yet, he was doing the town’s business out of a trailer!!!!! Talk about do as I say, not as I do, that mayor really took it to extremes. And the extreme was incredibly stupid, too!

Book reviews

Off Armageddon Reef is the first book in David Weber’s newest series. There are three more that follow and another forthcoming. This review includes the first four books. You can easily get the titles of the others if you want to continue reading after finishing Off Armageddon Reef.

This series involves the last refuge of humanity after the first alien contact reveals an empire bent on the utter destruction of any other sapient species. In order to survive, the millions of colonists in cold sleep voyage to a planet far, far away and settle the world. Since the aliens might discover them if they kept their advanced technology the leaders of the colonists conceived a religion which prohibited any kind of technology above water or wind power then imprinted the sleeping colonists with belief in this religion. Originally, this idea was conceived as a way to avoid the aliens who might be searching for them for several hundred years and then allowing technology to flourish again. However, one wing of the leaders wanted to keep technology away forever and they became dominant and wiped out all who disagreed with them. Now, hundreds of years later the religion has become an all-encompassing theocracy with utter control of the world. However, the proponents of the original idea had planted two seeds which might break the hold of the theocracy, but they had no idea how powerful it would become. One of those seeds was an avatar of one of the leaders who had been killed, a powerful intelligent android/robot who can not only pass for human but who is able to feel human emotions. The avatar begins the long bloody process of overturning the theocracy.

David Weber does just as well creating a world of sails and water wheels as he does in making up technologically advanced worlds of spaceflight. The only problem I have with this series is the peculiar spelling he put into it for the character names. Occasionally I had problems following characters because of this. Nontheless, I still love the series and am awaiting the fifth book eagerly.

I read the Honor Harrington series again, all eleven books. Some of them are very long but as a compensation, Weber uses the extra pages to get very deep into the characters. He makes them as real as your next door neighbor. He is really an exceptional writer.

I also read my own Williard Brothers (Medics Wild) series now that all five books are in print. I have a lot of fun with this series and apparently the fans do, too. I get a lot of mail about the irrepressibly zany, adventurous brothers and their paramours who love them despite all their political incorrectness and kickass attitudes toward anyone who bothers them while they’re off on an adventure.

Excerpt From Space Trails

                 The closer we got to where we would enter the completely unexplored sub-branch of the ‘way we were on, the more nervous everyone became. There was good reason for the apprehension. Some expeditions, even well-armed military ones, never returned from uncharted branches. The odds weren’t that bad, but there was always the chance we would find out what happened to the ones that disappeared. It was enough to keep our minds occupied.
          In a way, it still seemed strange to have to post a guard when it was always light in the ‘ways. It was always the same, other than when visibility was lowered by a misting for a few days, like the night we had guard, still a few days out from the sub-branch. We found out that guard duty during a mist wasn’t much fun. Our special clothes kept us relatively dry but it was hot and muggy during a mist and we couldn’t discard our top garment while on guard; it held too many pockets and tabs for extra ammunition, water, an emergency signal gadget and so on.
          We also had Jason on duty with us. That was a recent development I didn’t particularly care for. I didn’t like having to depend on him; he was too likely to be distracted, especially when his partner was Melinda, the girl he had been sleeping with the last few days.
          The way the guard worked was three pairs; two for the side where the hobbled horses were grazing and one for the other side of the circled wagons. The ones guarding the horses stayed on the far side of them, ready to warn of jabbers or wilders trying to sneak in close and silence the guards before they could give an alarm. It was hard for me to see how either could get very close without being seen, but Sandy had emphasized again and again how well wilders could disguise themselves and how jabbers blended naturally into the landscape, their scaly hides almost the same color of the gritty, light brown soil. To make it worse, we had entered a section of the ‘way where it obviously hadn’t misted for a while until then, because the slender stalks of knee high shrubs the horses grazed on had turned from green to brown and there was little of the small game around, the six legged little animals of various sizes which lived in the grass and bushes.
          It was a perfect time and place for an attack, but Sandy had said he and Ellen would take turns staying awake just in case. We should have been okay, and we would have if it hadn’t been for Jason.
          The four guards with the horses were normally spaced at intervals in an arc around the grazing animals, with the pairs always close enough to see each other. We walked a set path, but at irregular intervals that couldn’t be predicted. The mist cut visibility down to less than a couple of hundred yards. Sandy had put me in charge of my shift right from the start, probably because of my marksmanship rather than leadership abilities. At any rate, I felt impelled to warn the others to be more alert than usual. I didn’t like the setup here any more than Sandy did; we had only camped here because of a water seep.
          The first indication of trouble came from hearing Angel call out, “Brad! Brad, help!”, then a muffled scream. I was on the far side of the arc, guarding against attack from an outcropping of rocks that came too close for my comfort to the wagons, but which had made a fine place for latrines.
          I couldn’t see past the horses; I had gotten a little too far from Angel and they cut off my view. I fumbled with the emergency activator even as I ran, scattering hobbled horses out of my path, trying to get Angel’s position into view. I quickly saw that she wasn’t where she should have been, and since there was no sign of Jason or Melinda, I knew she must have gone to help them out of some kind of trouble. I ran faster, dropping the activator behind me even as I felt the lancing beam of a laser charring my shirt and burning my arm. I gritted my teeth and hung onto my handgun, while I dropped and rolled. I had time for a snap shot before the wilder behind me could fire again. My bullet took him in the midriff. He oofed and went down. I shot another of them, then scrambled to my feet and ran on.  The emergency activator began making warbling noises, then abruptly quit for some reason. All that happened in just a few moments, and I acted entirely on instinct.
          It seemed as if the mist was thicker than ever. It’s a wonder I even saw Angel. She was disarmed, one shoulder of her garment smoking from a laser wound and trying to fend off three wilders at once, a hopeless proposition. Almost at the same instant I saw her, a clubbed rifle knocked her down. A large man hollered, “Grab her!” Two of his companions pulled her to her feet. She staggered, groggy from the blow. The big man slung her over his shoulder and began running away.
          If ever I’ve had to make a quick, life or death decision, it was right then. Hesitate and they would be gone in the mist. Shoot and I very well might hit Angel, possibly killing her. I must have decided what to do within seconds or they would have escaped, but it seemed like time slowed to nothing while I took careful aim and fired low, hoping to knock the one carrying Angel off his feet. He stumbled and fell, flinging Angel away from him as he did, then scrambled back up on one knee. I shot again, this time taking the top of his head off. A laser beam traced a fiery path across the grit to my right as I shot one more time. Again my aim was true. The second man fell and the other was gone into the mist before I could draw a sight on him.
          Just when I got to my feet, starting to run and help Angel, gunfire reverberated to my rear, slugs this time rather than laser fire. I felt my leg give way and fell to the ground. Chunks of dirt and gravel flared up in front of my eyes, half blinding me. I rolled, rubbing at my eyes as I did.
          Everything was happening too fast now. I wondered where Jason and Melinda were while I made it to safety behind a low rock fronting a narrow little gulley. From there I could see a couple of our men I recognized running out to help Angel. I got to my feet, thinking crazily that at least the shot that hit me in the leg hadn’t broken any bones, and turned to see if I could help Jason or Melinda. Jason damn near ran me down. I saw him throw his rifle away as he fled back toward the wagons. There was no sign of his handgun. I didn’t try to stop him. I ran toward the spot he should have been guarding just in time to damn near get myself killed by Melinda. Fortunately, her aim was off.
          “Melinda! It’s me, Brad!” I shouted.
          She saw me, then let her head fall onto her outstretched arm, still holding her gun. I looked around, dithering whether to defend this position or to go see about Angel. My duty was there, and Melinda was hurt because I could see blood spreading from under her arm, but my love was somewhere else, also hurt, possibly dying. But I had seen two of our people go to her aid. God help me, I don’t know what I would have done, but fortunately the decision was taken out of my hand by a reserve force running up to where I was.
          I left them with Melinda and limped as fast as I could go toward Angel. Another person had joined the two hovering over her, a woman. As I got closer I could see it was Ellen.
          “Angel!” I cried, before I was even close.
          Ellen turned and saw me. Her eyes opened wide. I must have been a sight, with dirt and grit stuck to my body by blood, and I’m sure I must have looked like a wild man as I hobbled closer. “Angel!” I cried out again. A sob tore at my throat when I saw her lift her head and mouth my name.
          Ellen grabbed me as I kneeled down by her side to prevent me from lifting her head. “Leave her be right now. She’s probably got a concussion, judging from that lump on her head.”
          All the time, the first two men who had arrived on the scene were fashioning a stretcher from their shirts and rifles. Shortly they lifted her gently and placed her on it. I followed along as they carried her, holding her hand until suddenly the world tilted. The horizon rose and I saw the ground rushing toward me. It smacked me in the face and that’s the last thing I remembered for a long while.

***

          I came back to my senses, sort of, laying on my own bed in our wagon. I tried to sit up and the room spun dizzily.
          “Easy, son. Take it easy. You’re too doped up to move right now.”
          I blinked and saw Margaret’s face hovering over me.
          “Angel? Where’s Angel?” I asked, trying again to rise off the bed. It was impossible.
          “If you’ll turn your head very gently to the left, you’ll see her, right here.”
          I did, being very careful. The bed seemed to move under me but it passed in a moment. Angel was laying on her back with her eyes closed. I panicked for a moment until I saw the slow rise and fall of her breasts and knew she was alive.
          “What…how is she?” I managed to ask.
          “She’s fine; just a mild concussion and a bad laser burn on her upper arm. In fact, she’s better off than you.”
          “What’s wrong with me?” I remembered vaguely about my leg being hurt and…I looked at my arm. It had a big bandage on it, same as my leg. And my head hurt. I reached up and felt a large bump on my forehead and lower down, more bandages, small ones, probably from scraping my face on the ground when I fell, I thought. Or did that happen when I dropped and rolled that first time?
          “Well, you don’t have any broken bones, but it’s going to hurt when you walk for a while and the doc said you won’t be using that arm for a couple of weeks. That means no guard duty. Aren’t you lucky?”
          “You’re sure Angel is okay?”
          “I’m sure, Brad, thanks to you.”
          “Me?” My head was beginning to clear. “It’s all my fault. I should have known Jason would screw off while Melinda was on duty with him. If I had separated them, none of this would have happened.”
          “Oh shush, youngster. If it hadn’t been for you shooting so straight, it could have been a lot worse. Just be thankful we all came through it with no one killed.”
          “I’m going to kill Jason when I get my hands on him. Besides goofing off, he threw his weapon away and ran instead of trying to help Melinda and Angel.” Just thinking about it made me feel sick and queasy. What if I had missed?
          “Never mind that, now. I see someone waking up who wants to see you.” Margaret bent over and picked up Nip, then Tuck and placed them on the bed with me. “The only time they’ve left this room is to run outside and relieve themselves then they’d come right back inside. Hold still a moment. It’s time for your shot.”
          I petted the pups, noting how quickly they were growing.
          “Ang hurt.”
          “Bra hurt.”
          The pups whined until I petted them and told them we were fine and they were a good boy and good girl for watching us. I looked over at Angel again and felt my eyes closing from the dose of painkiller.

***

          Doc Jones was there the next time I woke up. I had met him before. He was about Jim’s age, a paramedic on a medical retirement from the army. Everyone liked him. When they couldn’t repair their own scrapes and bruises or treat their illnesses, they went to him. He carried a ton of medicine for those without medicals and more for wounds and injuries. Porterhouse subsidized him to an extent for his medical knowledge, but he and his wife were immigrants, just like us.
          “Well, young man, I hear you’re a pretty good shot,” he said.
          I laughed, or tried to. It sounded more like dry leaves crackling. “Not that good or I wouldn’t be laying here.”
          “I won’t argue with you, but let’s see that leg.” He peeled away the bandages, shook something out of a bottle into the wound, then covered it back up. It began to burn a little, then it felt cool and quit hurting.
          He patted me on the shoulder. “You’ll be up and about in a few days, what with having medical. I’ll check your arm tomorrow. Now let’s look at your wife.”
          Wife? Oh. I still wasn’t used to the idea of Angel being taken for my wife, even though we were living together and younger kids had begun calling her Mrs. Bentley. I had to look away when he began doing things to her shoulder.
          He spoke to me again. “You can look now. And she’s fine. In fact, she’ll be up before you will.”
          After he left, I glanced over at Angel. We grinned foolishly at each other, like kids caught with their hands in the cookie jar.
          Margaret put Nip up in the bed with me and I promptly got my face washed. Tuck was doing the same with Angel.
          Angel looked at her mother. “Can you push our beds together, please?”
          Margaret smiled. “Sure. I’ll give you a few minutes to act silly, then it’s time for you to eat something. You can’t live on love, much as I know you’d like to.” She adjusted the sheets and ran the beds together, patted our cheeks and left.

Darrell Bain
Shepherd, Texas
July 2011

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