The Purple Ninja Chp. 2

Dragons Breath

They crawl from oceans, to paint the caves/
But I’m working all weekend, I need to get paid.
– Conor Oberst

Chase

Heat radiating off the steam engine between her legs kept her warm, as the Purple Ninja weaved through traffic on her bike. A violet knit scarf covered her nose and mouth, the ends trailing in the wind off her shoulders. Traffic was thick and unpredictable as the bars let out, so she had to be extraordinarily observant as she slid between vehicles. Unfortunately she did not have time for delays of any type.

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Pursuit was dogged. A small fleet of private drone’s owned by a bounty hunter known as Dragon, were hot on her scarf streamers. Flying just a few yards above traffic, the slight, grey, unmanned vehicles darted across the sky, seeking her biosignature, anomalous movements, anything that might enable them to identify a target.

1 of the automatons caught sight of her. Then they all did. In formation, they dove towards her position. She feigned right then cut hard left between a the front end of a taxi and the rear of an SUV. Horns blared. Unfazed, they went left. In the middle of the intersection, They surrounded her. A chorus of car horns wailed in protest; of the traffic blockage, not her plight. She spun a full 360 seeking egress. There was none. Each drone took a road, hovering between her and the approach. The primary hung above, a spotlight from its underbelly highlighting her.

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Fire, Blood, and Pain on Mars

Victor

At 25km high and 264km in diameter, Olympus Mons is the largest mountain in the solar system and the second largest in the known galaxy after 4Vesta. After the humans of Earth had dropped a hydrogen bomb into this, and several other, volcano the resulting cloud of ash fertilized the soil and thickened the atmosphere enough to melt the ice caps and start an environmental cycle. By seeding the planet with flora, fungae, sea life, and assorted bacteria, it took less than a decade to get the red planet prepped for humans and other animals. A timeline significantly accelerated by Kentauran terraforming technology.

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None of this impressed Victor as he flew towards the northern escarpment. His immediate superior, known as Arthur to the humans, waited impatiently for a report on his recent mission. A report Victor had no idea how he was going to present without losing everything he’d built for himself. It was supposed to be a simple recon, instead it had devolved into a complete disaster.

As he closed on the ridge line, Victor tucked his wings and dove for the row of cave entrances along the face of the escarpment. Slowly allowing his wings to extend and turn up, the air currents pulled his slender, red body in a long, slow arc directly into the open rock mouth of the largest cave, Southern Passage. “Slow Down!” Someone yelled at him as he shot down the artificially smoothed tunnel. Tiny adjustments in the position of his wing tip or the slightest degree change in their angle allowed him to weave through the traffic of Kentauran buearacrats and families cluttering the air of the passageway.

Southern Passage served as the main thoroughfare for the municipal region in the central southern escarpment. Every municipal region in every Kentauran settlement on every world was laid out exactly the same. Throughout the universe, the consistency of the bureacratic mind is a truth as unyielding as the laws of thermodynamics. Victor confidently flew down the main passage, broke right at the 3rd intersection, then curved in a long slow downward parabola as he slowed to a stop before the last door on the left. On the door, in Kentauran glyphs, it read simply, “Native Relations”. As it does on this door on every foreign world. Behind everyone of those doors, on everyone of those worlds, is the Kentauran intelligence service.

Victor scanned his eye in the security check, opened the door and flew in. Several important looking Kentauran he had never seen before were hovering in the middle of the room with Arthur. He knew they were important because they looked at Victor like they were calculating who was supposed to kiss whose ass. This was his first time in Arthur’s office on Mars. Typical of their species architecture, it was a half sphere narrowing at the top, walls smooth as glass from the process which hollows out the rock by heating it within a curved field till it becomes magma and flows out. the floor of the room remains a pool of lava, keeping the temperature closer to life on their home world. A number of steel bars hunts from the crest of the dome, for the Kentauran to hang from when they needed to relax. Along the rock face to Victor’s right were a bank of communication terminals. On the opposite face hung large, digital maps of Mars, Earth, and the solar system. In the middle of the room, the flock of Kentauran just stared at him.

In the high frequency Kentauran vocal range, Arthur introduced him, “Friends, this is my agent on the ground, code name Victor. Victor, this is, well, these are my friends, they are here for an update on operations.”

“Hello”Victor coasted forward and up, bringing his eyes even with these individuals to whom he was sort of being introduced. He joined the circle so that there were now 6 of them, with practiced ease they adjusted their wing beat pattern so that those opposite in the ring beat their wings in unison, and then the next pair clockwise did the same, and so on. In this way the group was able to share the effort of generating the required current for them all to float upon, a skill every child on Kentaurus was taught.

The oldest member of the group spoke first, his skin darkened and lined with age. Deep grooves in complex, rolling patterns flowed across the thick, deep maroon flesh. The bright ochre eyes held the memories and experiences of 300 years, and the quivering tone of his voice revealed the accompanying exhaustion. “I understand all did not go as planned.”

Victor sank slightly, he looked to Arthur who simply nodded, “No sir, we, the human deputy and I, were attempting a simple observe and report of the renegade operation known as “the Czar”. The human Mayor did not want us to engage unless it involved rescuing their missing Sheriff. But we discovered the Sheriff had been killed, and then were discovered ourselves. We had to fight our way out.”

Arthur spoke up, “And the human?”

“He made it out alive, mostly. I returned him to their hospital before coming here. But sir, respectfully, the important thing is here is the rogue operation. We vastly underestimated it. I sincerely doubt it began here on Mars.”

Deputy Frank

Deputy Frank Vigo knew he was in a hospital from the grey/white walls and sheets and floors, and the grey/white smell of antiseptic. He was not sure, however, what hospital this was, or how he got here. Reaching to rub the sleep from his eyes with his left hand, he felt resistance pulling on his flesh. Confused, he held up his arm and stared at the tubes sticking out of it without comprehension. Noise at the foot of his bed caused him to look and discover a group of people standing there.

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“Madam Mayor?” as if he wasn’t sure if she was really there. Alicia Evens, 1st elected Mayor of Tholus County, Mars. Her mocha skin holding a pale green hue in the fluorescent hospital lights, she stood at the foot of his bed, looking as concerned as a Jewish mother on the first day of camp.

“Deputy, How are you?”

“I’ve felt better. Where am I?”

“You’re in the medical center in Tholus City. Victor brought you here.”

The Doctor chimed in as he and the others began moving about the bed, poking and prodding Frank, “Just in time, too. Another hour or so, even I might not have been able to save you.”

“Good thing you were here.”

“No kidding.”

Alicia rolled here eyes and cleared her throat, “Deputy, I’m sorry to be blunt, but do you remember anything from your investigation?”

“M-my? Oh yes, the Czar.”

“Yes, the Czar. Did he, they, do this to you?”

“Oh yeah. Well, sort of, yes.”

“Deputy!”

“What? Dag! I just regained consciousness for god sake. Can I have a minute?”

“Yeah. I’m sorry. It’s just that I sent you out with orders not to engage, and you came back looking like you might have engaged.”

“Yes, we engaged a little. It turns out Sheriff Tomes is dead. His body is probably dumped in the Labyrinth. And the Czar, as far as they are concerned, is the law in the area around the old arboretum. Apparently they don’t like outside law enforcement coming around.”

“Wait, wait, go back to the beginning. How do the Sheriff die?”

“Actually, that’s not the beginning. You have to start when Victor and I left your office a month ago…”

To be continued…

David Eddings: The Belgariad

The Belgariad is a 5 book series by David Eddings (1931-2009), which would be followed by the Malloreon Series, and 3 prequels co-authored with his wife Leigh. As stories within the fantasy genre there are certain plot and character staples one can expect: there is a dark lord trying to rule universe, and our hero is an orphan living a mundane life until one day a wise old man whisks him away, in the nick of time, just before some mysterious bad guys get their hands on him. It turns out the boy is not some ordinary kid but in fact, the secretly hidden away heir to a throne, magic power, and the focus of prophecy. And so a fellowship of the outmatched, yet heroic good guys is formed to help our hero (Garion) retrieve the magic object (the Orb of Aldur) from the bad guys (The Disciples of the Evil God Torak).  [Aside: in the Rivan Codex, Eddings offers an essay in which he outlines the principal elements of a fantasy story.]

The appeal of Eddings’ writing is the depth and detail of his character’s and plot line. We watch the characters develop and change over several years as the endure hardship and loss and suffering, as well as celebrate the occasional good day. Although the villains are rather 2 dimensional, as villains should be, the 4 main characters and numerous supporting characters have full lives aside from the quest. So you cannot help but become attached to their fortunes. And the plot lines are intricate, subtle, and developed over the course of the series.  Although you obviously recognize that Garion is going to be the hero of the story right away (by virtue of him being the main character), it is book 3 before you fully understand the implications for him. Eddings is very careful to build towards the revelation, rather than dumping it in your lap in the first chapter and then making the rest of the story only about the chase. In fact the full scope of the plot line isn’t revealed until the  second series, The Malloreon, although you would not realize it at the end of the Belgariad, which feels complete.

Plot

There were a number of unique and interesting elements to the series, however, the truly original twist that Eddings’ put into his stories was the personification of prophecy and fate. The driving force behind everything are these 2 prophecies. In ancient history known only to the Gods, an event took place which altered the the universe by interrupting its natural course, causing the God Torak to be born instead of the God Eriond. This created 2 possible ‘fates’, the original and the new. Each fate has its own prophecy. Due to the vastness of space-time, it has taken several millennium for the dominoes to fall on this event. But now the situation must be rectified, the universe can have only one destiny, and its up to a young boy named Garion to kill the evil God Torak or the entire universe will descend into chaos.

These prophecies are not just predictions, there are actual sentient forces behind them. These rival forces are characters in the story, able to manipulate events, people, even the gods, to their will. Although the Human Garion and the God Torak fill the traditional roles of Protagonist and Antagonist, it is these 2 prophecies that are actually moving the story in that manner.  Ultimately both possess the same desire, to force a final showdown between their vassals, the “Child of Light” (Garion) and “the Child of Dark” (Torak). At which point either we will be returned to the original path, or stay on the new path until it destroys us.  The end goal of the Light Prophecy is the ordered, stable universe, while the Dark Prophecy desires chaos and destruction.  And nobody, not even the Prophecies, know how the final meeting will end. (Spoiler: the good guys win)

Art

Although the definition is oft disputed, originality is always a key element to the credibility of a work as art. A hurdle science fiction and fantasy genres are regularly accused of failing to overcome due to the appearance of formulaic plots and rehashed concepts. This is a criticism that could easily be applied to any artistic medium if the observer only offers a cursory glance, rather than truly seeing the individual creations of the great artists. David Eddings is one of those rare great artists.

Now, the concept of good and evil coming to a final showdown is not particularly new. Nor is the idea of being compelled by some metaphysical force to your fate. But the concept of circumstance causing the birth of competing, thinking destinies affecting our lives for their own ends, essentially turning the universe into a timeless game of chess, is both new and interesting.  This is not God and the Devil playing with Job, in this story God and the Devil are but tools of Destiny just like Job. Eddings is presenting the cause and effect of history, on a cosmic scale, as being so complex that it organically develops an intelligence of equal complexity.

This idea that a) there are competing fates created by ancient events, and b) there are ethereal beings who personify these fates, and c) play active roles in the competition as manipulators of events, is an invention entirely belonging to Eddings. (which is to say, as a fan of the genre I’ve never encountered it elsewhere). I find this thematic invention very compelling, because he asks the audience to conceive of the universe from a different perspective.  This is more than the suspension of disbelief required to accept magic or space travel, in order to understand the outcome of the quest you have to understand the nature of Eddings’ universe. And doing so inevitably causes you to consider your perspective on the actual universe, because we comprehend the new by relating it to what we know.

In this story Eddings asks you to accept 2 key points about his universe: 1) every seemingly minor event is actually a necessary component in the puzzle of the universe, and 2) therefore individuals choices can change the ‘identity’ of the universe.  Which makes Destiny the synergy of all history, and our relationship to it, and each other, symbiotic.

And this is where the work becomes art, by moving the audience, through an original metaphor, to reconsider their perspective on the world.

 

 

A Plan for US

A Plan for US by JD Adler and C Schmitt A call for an Article 5 Constitutional Convention so that the people can impose reform on the government. Bookstore Table of Contents Washington’s Farewell Address    4 I. The Case for a Third Continental Congress    13 II. Amendments    14 Political Accountability    15 Campaign Finance Reform    17 […]

Project Mars

The President of Earth announces that volunteers are needed to settle Mars with the assistance of  aliens who have recently made first contact with us, and every idiot and his brother decides they are the Lewis and Clark of space.

Project Mars, Earth 2025

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Legacy

Chapter 2: Nathan

Officially, you had to be 18 to work. But that was a privilege which belonged to the upper castes. For the children of workers, making money began when you could count. For Nathan, it had always been the hustle. He was a smart kid, quick witted. He never missed an opportunity when it presented itself, and that made him successful on the street. Some days he brought home more money than his father. Not that that what was saying a lot. Even in a lucky family such as Nathan’s, where both parents had decent jobs, there was barely enough income to maintain the small 3 room shack they lived in. Not that he had spent much time there in the last 2 years, anyway