Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Back from the Dead #10

They’d cornered Orion’s Belt.

Finally, Alpha Dog had had enough, and he demanded answers, and his pride demanded the ones he wanted answered for himself first, and that was how the Council finally confronted Orion’s Belt.

“You want answers?” he said back, to no one in particular, ignoring the glare of Alpha Dog, ignoring all of them, really, a sad, distant look on his face.  He looked just like the rest of them, the same glorious, ridiculous costume, all alone, cut off from the Red Dean, cut off from the rest of the Witch Doctor’s budding alliance, or conspiracy, depending who you asked.

The one element of that costume that everyone always took note of was the collar, the one so huge that it looked more like a necklace, or a belt.  Hence his name.

“I’ll give you answers,” he continued.  He didn’t look at any of them, just reached his hand upward, toward that belt, the one that glowed all the time, even when all the heroes were sitting around, like they were right now.  He clicked the center, what would have been a belt buckle, if it had actually been a belt.  At first, nothing happened.  The belt simply fell off.

You could hear Alpha Dog grunt derisively, but then, the Council, and certainly Orion’s Belt, was used to that.

But then Orion’s Belt started to fade, to glimmer actually.  No one knew what was happening.  He’d never done that before.  Then space seemed to shift around him.  No, that’s not right.  The space didn’t shift.  He shifted, from one to three separate forms.  Each of the three forms that emerged from this transformation was a male, about thirty years old, all the same height, all just under six feet.  One of them had a beard.  Two of them were clearly brothers.  And they were all naked.

The one with a beard spoke: “So, now you know.  The name’s Jake Remus.  These are Norris and Joe Browne.”

Alpha Dog grunted again.

“Fascinating,” the Boolean said.  “This is not unheard of, but still.  Fascinating.”

“There’s more to it,” Ajax concluded.

“There is,” Jake Remus said.  “You’re not going to know what it is.”

The two brothers beside him nodded as if there was no question about it.

“This is unacceptable,” Alpha Dog.  It was his favorite refrain.  Everyone had heard him say it, everyone had had it addressed to them.  It didn’t mean he didn’t believe it every time.  “You’re to return to quarters for further questioning.  No questions.”

The three members of the Orion’s Belt matrix didn’t think to question him, not with the entire Council present, except for Sky Fox.

Justin Proper was the only one who didn’t speak in that moment, besides the Browne brothers.  He alone seemed to understand the gravity of what had just occurred.  The Council had just forced a most intimate secret into the open, from one of their own squires.  Yes, they had just succeeded in reasserting their authority.  But the cost would be greater than any of them could yet realize.  The Witch Doctor would be displeased.  Was he really the only one who understood what that meant?

Back from the Dead #9

When he was thirteen, the boy who would one day become known as the Biker asked a classmate why he was such an outcast, and this other boy was basically an outcast, too, and the classmate said that it was because he didn’t conform.  The boy knew why he didn’t conform, and it was mostly because his parents couldn’t afford to let him, and that was basically when he realized that it didn’t really matter, and that even if it could sometimes make him miserable, that’s exactly what he wanted to be, an outcast.

That made a number of things difficult, not the least because he was an outcast among outcasts, too, and so could not even count on a fringe element to support him when he fell, which was often, but eventually, it all paid off, and he became exactly what he wanted to become.  But he soon discovered that even that wouldn’t be the end of it.

It was the realization that superheroes weren’t just superheroes but part of their own hierarchy that really bothered him, out of everything else.  It didn’t make any sense to him, that it wasn’t simply being a superhero that was enough, the will and the ability to do the good that others were incapable of, that there were artificial rules that superheroes were expected to follow, not for the benefit of it, but rather to appease other superheroes.

Superheroes with egos.  Who would’ve thought?

Not the Biker, but luckily, along the way of his life’s journey, he’d developed an ability to ignore small hiccups like this.  It might be assumed that, with a name like the Biker, he represented an almost supernatural version of the biker cliché, but the truth was, he didn’t, and he did at the same time.  He was more Zen than that.  He was a loner, always had been and always would be.

That’s why he was the first one to walk away from the Witch Doctor’s alliance.  Even though he was basically the reason it existed in the first place, he decided he wanted nothing to do with it.  And he wanted was what he’d always wanted, the ability to be himself.

Ellen Encanto actually took it as a betrayal, took it personally, and all he wanted to do was reassure her that it wasn’t, that he never meant to hurt her, and that in truth, he was madly in love with her, and it had nothing to do with seeing her naked or accepting or rejecting her ambitions, but that he knew a kindred spirit when he saw one and that what he really wanted to do was help her, and when he figured that out, that’s when he knew he had to walk away, because it was not his place to do any such thing, not unless she wanted it herself.  He was not on this earth to cause pain, only alleviate it.

That’s what he wished everyone understood, especially his fellows in the superhero community, and why he wanted more badly than he’d ever admit to anyone to stick around the alliance, to be the one who saw it succeed, but to do so would violate everything he believed in, and that was something he couldn’t do, the one thing he could never do.

He’d made plenty of mistakes in his life, but mistakes are things that happen by accident, or otherwise they aren’t mistakes.  If he willfully made one, then it wasn’t a mistake but rather a regret, and he didn’t believe in those.

If he didn’t have everything he wanted then that was a fact and as close to a regret as he came, because he wanted so badly to remain at the side of the Witch Doctor.  He was one of the few people who called her Ellen, and fewer still who knew her as Jane, in fact the only one who called her that.  She had many names; he only had one, and maybe that was another reason to put some distance between them, for now.

Because he still hoped that he could have it both ways, because that’s what everyone wanted, the mistake and flaw in the construct of society.  The Biker was a loner for a reason.  He stood apart, even though he wished he didn’t have to.  Just a few changes, so minor yet so cataclysmic…

Star Trek '12: 1712 AD - Chez Sandrine

The doors of Chez Sandrine were due to be opened, but its proprietor hesitated, for just a moment.  In moments the culmination of her dream was about to be fulfilled.  She had envisioned a hangout where it wouldn’t matter where you came from, who you were, but rather that you could just have a good time.  It was certainly a time in French history where everything seemed possible, and that there would never be an end to it…but the proprietor wondered.

Chez Sandrine had nothing to do with the rest of the country, the rest of the empire, but the proprietor knew that it had only been possible because of these wild, unabashed, and unprecedented successes, the culmination of other dreams and an unconquerable belief that France was the center of the world.

But was it really?

There was that endless feud with England, a rivalry that seemed to stretch far beyond the horizon and used every excuse to continue (and God only knew how it would expand in the New World).  Would an Englishmen be welcomed in Chez Sandrine?  The proprietor, now that she supposed, hadn’t really thought of that.  But hadn’t her vision been all-inclusive?  Had she really considered qualifiers, even if exceptions would include Englishmen?  And if she allowed that, how many more compromises?

That’s why she now hesitated.  For so many months she had pursued her vision, her dream, with a single-mindedness that had surprised even her, but she had once been told that this was the only way to succeed.  But it was also the only way to fail.

Was it really just an ill-advised mistake?  Should she close the doors before they were even opened?  And really, what would be the difference?  Who would even remember Chez Sandrine, in the grand scheme?  It was one silly little girl’s folly, probably wouldn’t even last a year, and if it did, it would be in corrupted form, no longer holding fast to her ideals, the necessary blight that all victories must bear.  Utopias only exist in the past, in someone’s imagination, where they belong.

She was about to walk away, turn her back on the whole enterprise, ignore the journey that had brought her to this moment, when she heard something just on the other side of the door.  Curious, she looked outside the window, and was surprised to see a crowd waiting.  One of the impatient would-be patrons had thrown a rock, and she could only guess how seriously.  It had caused no damage that she could see from the inside.  To further investigate, she would have to go outside.  And, effectively, open Chez Sandrine.

Curiosity got the best of her.

She graciously bowed to her customers, remaining silent, a fairly curious greeting for a passion project, and let each of them enter, closing the door behind them.  There were waiters to take orders, after all, so it wouldn’t be considered too rude, and games to pass the time, including a pool table that seemed to sit at the center of the floor.  She heard the tell-tale crack in moments, while she stooped to examine the building for a ding.  She saw nothing.

She stepped back in minutes later, after catching her breath, pretending that everything was fine, and maybe it was.  She let her worries evaporate in the smoky air being filled by all those who were enjoying Chez Sandrine, as if nothing at all had just occurred, just another moment in a long series of them, and her dream had always existed.

And maybe it had.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Back from the Dead #8

In his prime, Ajax would never have abided any of this nonsense.

This statement should be clarified: “Any of this nonsense” should be understood to mean not just the business with the resurrection of the Witch Doctor and her growing rebellion against the system, but also the system itself.

That, too, needs clarification.  Ajax fully understood the concept of the Council itself, but he never quite got the handle of the need for squires.  Of all the Council, he still believed in fighting his own battles.  This was probably due to the fact that he was easily its senior member, a generation older than his next oldest ally, which would be Alpha Dog (not that the general public thought of Alpha Dog as old).

Perhaps he had such difficulties because his squire was nearly the opposite of what Ajax had always understood himself to be, much in the same mold as Alpha Dog, a strong and confident and very obvious warrior who was easy to understand and did not need interpreting.  The Quiet Man was none of these things.

This caused a great deal of contention between them, and was the reason why Ajax held the system in contempt, complaining bitterly about it at every Council meeting (first Monday of every month, except in emergency situations).

It was actually Ajax who had originally imposed the rules, once it was clear that he was not going to be able to talk his allies out of their decision, on the selection of squires.  Out of the available pool, he had personally selected the Quiet Man, believing that his experience and guidance could mold the younger hero into something he could better comprehend.

After six months Ajax was disabused of this belief.

He could never bring himself to understand, first of all, why a superhero would choose the name “Quiet Man” in the first place.  In his worldview, there was no room for subtlety.  If something needed to be done, it needed to be done in the most obvious and forthright way possible, otherwise the point would not be made and nothing would be achieved.  He tried to make this plain to the Quiet Man.  He could never abide the methods of the Cold War, for one thing, something his father had instilled in him, a warrior from a different time but at least someone Ajax could understand.

He knew well enough that different tactics could be useful in a strategy, even in a fight, but the Quiet Man represented an entirely separate ideology, and for some reason, that was always the most difficult obstacle to surmount.  It was a fight, then, that he could not win, and he tried not believe that it was a matter of intellect, because he knew that it was not his strong suit, and he secretly loathed anyone for whom it was.

Perhaps that was why the relationship was such a hassle for him, because he could not bring himself to respect the Quiet Man, and he believed the same was true of his squire.

Still, they had been together for a long time, and despite himself Ajax felt a kinship with the Quiet Man, and didn’t like to see such a relationship put in jeopardy, because that was another thing he’d learned from his father, and in time, the value of associations.  That was the main reason why he’d joined the Council in the first place, because working in a group is always more effective than working independently, and as far as he was concerned, that was the main thrust of the Council’s imperative.  Never mind what anyone else thought.

The present situation, then, threatened everything he’d ever believed.  How to approach the Quiet Man about it?  Ajax only wished he knew.  Perhaps this was the crux of it, the thing he’d tried so long to ignore, hoping it would just go away.  Well, it hadn’t, and now it had just gotten worse.  Then again, a part of him was glad.  Things were about to become interesting again…

Monday, May 28, 2012

Back from the Dead #7

The Boolean knew Red Dean as his squire.  He knew that Red Dean was also referred to as the Bandit Dean of Canterbury, although there was some controversy using the name “Bandit” in reference to any other superhero besides the one who operated out of Bowie, TX.  He knew that Red Dean had a curious relationship with Orion’s Belt.  He knew that Red Dean, along with Orion’s Belt, Meme, Bruin, and the Biker, was part of the alliance Ellen Encanto, the Witch Doctor, had put together after returning from the dead, an unexpected development of her murder at the hands of Widowmaker.

There were many things the Boolean knew.  He was a member of the Council because he knew things.  The Council consisted mostly of superheroes who were known as fairly typical superheroes, of whom Alpha Dog was the most typical.  Justin Proper was more typical than the Boolean.  Ajax was more typical than the Boolean.  Sky Fox was more typical than the Boolean.  For one thing, the Boolean had a name that, although an obscurely familiar concept, was not a household name, except in his particular context.  But he was not in himself a household name.  He was a facilitator, and thus more familiar to the rest of the Council than to anyone else.

The Boolean didn’t particularly care.  He existed on almost pure logic.  He made connections within the database of his knowledge that enabled his teammates to be more effective.  Until the return of the Witch Doctor, the Council was most effective in its deployment of their individual squires.  The members of the Council were all recognized as exceptional superheroes, but they left most of the typical activities of a superhero to their squires.

This was not what most people thought of as superhero activity, and in fact would still have assigned all of the attention for cumulative results to the Council, but in truth, despite appearances, it was the squires who did most of the work.  Until the return of the Witch Doctor, everyone was fine with how this system worked.

The Boolean understood why the Witch Doctor wanted to change things.  Death tends to be a significant event, and return from such an experience is bound to change one’s perspective.  The Boolean had a catalog of every superhero who had ever returned from the dead, and thus knew better than anyone what to expect.  As a member of the Council, he was supposed to ignore this particular set of facts, and instead focus on the interests of his teammates, which he himself would have noted was exactly what the Witch Doctor was attempting to do, making an effort to make sure what happened to her never happened again.

He studied Red Dean to better understand what he should do next, hiding behind analysis to circumvent both the wishes of the Council and any practical concern for the league of squires.  Red Dean had always been a loose-cannon, centered on his own interests and gadgets, conducting himself in a carefree manner but otherwise submitting to the wishes of others, and more often than not his superiors.  Throwing his lot in with someone else’s wishes so completely as he was doing now was simply not in his character.  It exhibited an extreme amount of discipline, where his previous motivation was all about displaying character.

He noted that Red Dean had changed his garb, so that there was no longer, in fact, any scarlet in his wardrobe, a curious development that the Boolean was at a loss to explain.  One of the benefits of this alternation was that Red Dean now looked a lot more like his new friends.  It was a matter of conformity that the Boolean associated with misfits, which was exactly what the rest of the Council considered their squires, just not previously in direct association with one another.

If the Witch Doctor failed in her apparent mission to eliminate Widowmaker, would any of it matter?  That was what the Boolean really wanted to know.  He studied Red Dean in order to determine how much he was actually being affected by all of it.  So far, at least superficially, the Boolean had to conclude, “a great deal.”

Should he be alarmed?  Was that the conclusion he should bring to the rest of the Council?  Perhaps.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Back from the Dead #6

In order to be persuasive, you must first be in the position to be so.

For instance, Alpha Dog knew the one strategy he needed to affect the budding alliance around the Witch Doctor, and that was to persuade Meme to betray it.  The only way to do this was to convince Justin Proper that getting at least one of his squires in line was possible.

Now, Alpha Dog was not as unreasonable as he might sometimes appear.  He believed in the truth of his convictions, and that was part of what made him so endearing to the public, and despite his faults that was true of his colleagues as well.  Sometimes his convictions could be a little more rational than other times, and he could present them in their best possible light.  Justin Proper was always game to humor him, and that didn’t hurt, either.

The way all this actually translates to relevance for our story is that Alpha Dog recognized that Justin Proper’s primary concern, as always, was for a sense of order to prevail.  He didn’t care as much for the particular sense of order that Alpha Dog preserved with such fanaticism, but Proper could be convinced that the particular order that the Witch Doctor’s alliance now suggested might not be as conducive to the order the Council had been maintaining for years as the returned hero might be thinking.

In fact, all Alpha Dog had to say was “Traverse,” and Proper knew exactly what he meant.  For good measure, he also referenced the Conformists, and Proper had an even better sense of the kind of chaos that was possible from this development.  The actions of the Eidolon were notorious enough, but they had taken places years ago, and as with all of history, no matter how relevant it continues to be, there always needed reminding to keep the memory alive.

“The Conformists believed that they had eliminated all their enemies,” Proper said, shaking his head.  “I see what you mean.”

So he quickly set about using his influence over Meme to better understand the Witch Doctor’s plans, their strengths and weaknesses, and how exactly each of the members in this conspiracy actually believed in them.

The benefit, as Alpha Dog well knew, was that someone like Meme could spread whatever was impressed upon them easily.  The problem was getting the right message across.

He suspected that Proper could figure it out on his own.  All he needed was a suggestion, and he’d tackle it all the way to the ground, with a relentless sense of logic.

That’s how Proper approached Meme.  Both of Proper’s squires had been women, which some members of the Council had considered to be a mistake, but Proper always insisted that he could handle it, and in truth, he had, with aplomb.  There were the suggestions that he took the death of Ellen Encanto hard because he’d actually fallen in love with her, and that he showered attention on Meme afterward because he needed to fill a void, no matter how improperly, but Alpha Dog had been the one to insist that this couldn’t have been the case, not with Justin Proper.  And everyone believed it.  Meme was the one who convinced them, actually.

But then, everyone was secretly in love with her.

That was the main concern now, that Proper’s better instincts would be affected, but Alpha Dog brushed that aside.  He believed in Proper.  Proper, in turn, believed that he was completely in control of himself, and he believed in the system, and he believed in Meme.  Meme, after all, was a pussycat.  She’s listen to him; she’d understand exactly what was at stake.  She’d betray her friends, even the Witch Doctor.

And everyone else would fall back into line.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Back from the Dead #5

In the world of superheroes and villains, it’s common for the name someone is known by to be coined by someone else than it is for that person to come up with it themselves.

Hence Widowmaker.  When he first appeared, Widowmaker was nameless, a villain who quickly established himself in the activity that gave him his name.  He didn’t mess around.  He simply went about killing people, whatever targets he chose for whatever reasons he needed.  He transitioned to killing superheroes when they started pursuing him, which didn’t take that long.  He didn’t seem to notice.

Even other villains started distancing themselves from him, especially when he made it clear that he preferred it that way by killing them, too.

He was the villain of villains.

Not surprisingly, the Council made him a priority, and maybe Justin Proper made too fine a point of it personally, because his squire the Witch Doctor got caught up in it, and in the midst of the hunt lost her life, in a very quick moment, which to Widowmaker was just another kill, and to the world just another number in his running tally, but to Ellen Encanto, the Witch Doctor, a fairly significant moment.

She came back in a burst of flame, echoing the death Widowmaker had given her, fiery and cruel, and incredibly painful, and the first thing she had on her mind was revenge.  She began to realize right away how little she’d understood what she’d been doing, the more she obsessed over retribution.

She could no longer justify allowing Widowmaker to live.  That was the crucial mistake.  Most superheroes didn’t even register it as a mistake, allowing a villain to live, even Widowmaker, because most of them were essentially harmless, eccentrics with elaborate schemes of world domination that never amounted to anything, an endless series of failures where ordinary men with armies had failed before them, too, so that their ambitions were more parody than a chance of success, a true threat.

Widowmaker was different, more like a serial killer with real power, but no one realized it at the time, during the long series of gruesome murders, not even Encanto, who was too busy admiring her own skills and trying to please Justin Proper and the rest of the Council, the one entity that should have been entrusted to look beyond blind spots and recognize Widowmaker for the true evil he was.

Yet the whole thing was a failure that had resulted in tragedy, and the first thing the Witch Doctor discovered upon returning to the world of the living was that not only was it continuing, but that not a damn thing had been done to curtail it.  Widowmaker was still on the prowl.

That was when she made her decision, to circumvent the system and take care of the problem on her own, with a new set of rules, ones that addressed Widowmaker directly.  That’s why she was pleased to have encountered the Biker first, so that she might begin to understand what was necessary, and create an alliance that could make it possible.  She went to each of the squires next, including Bruin, Orion’s Belt, the Red Dean, the Quiet Man, and Meme, the lynchpin as she considered him, the one who would ensure that it all stuck together.

She didn’t trust Justin Proper anymore.  She ignored him and moved on.

Her goal was the death of Widowmaker, nothing more and nothing less.  If she accomplished that, she expected that many other things would change.  She wasn’t going to stick around to find out.

With that in mind, she kept mostly to herself, which only made her return more mysterious, because even her alliance only knew that she had returned and that she had the one goal, which anyone could have guessed upon seeing her.  She was no longer messing around.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Back from the Dead #4

It’s not easy being different, even when you’re a superhero.

Orion’s Belt could attest to that.  Although by all appearances he seemed pretty normal, as far as cosmic adventurers go, the one thing that worked against him was that Orion’s Belt refused to explain either his curious name or his secret origin.  Within the superhero community, this is a no-no.

Sure, to the general public, that’s exactly what you want, to simply be the good guy who saves the day and earns heaps of admiration, but the truth is, that’s not good enough for your peers.  They want to know more than that, and it’s not even just a matter of trust.  They think it’s something that they’re owed.  In many ways, superheroes in private act a lot like supervillains.

That’s what Orion’s Belt discovered when he was selected as a squire of Alpha Dog.  Now, Alpha Dog was the most respected and revered superhero in the world, and in fact on many other worlds, but to anyone who actually knew him, it was hard to like him, and it was strictly because of his condescending and bitchy attitude.  He was cock of the walk, and he didn’t mind proving it.

Now, normally, members of the Council selected squires who weren’t all that similar to themselves, because the whole point of the exercise is to mentor someone who will benefit from the experience.  That’s the opposite of what Alpha Dog did.  Bruin could attest to that, but Orion’s Belt suffered a great deal more for it.  In fact, his reputation suffered for it.  He was a known commodity to the public, but his profile was several degrees lower than it should have been, because Alpha Dog wanted it that way.

That’s what made it so easy for him to be the first one convinced by the resurrected Witch Doctor to join her budding alliance, even after she admitted that she couldn’t explain what she wanted to accomplish with it.

He was tired of the bullshit.

Before she came back, the closest he had to a friend was the Red Dean, who was a wisecracking vigilante with less respect than even he had.  They enjoyed going out on missions with each other, an exception within the system possible thanks to the Boolean’s discretion, and the negligence of Alpha Dog, who rarely paid attention to what Orion’s Belt was doing, except to say that he wasn’t doing it right, or that he shouldn’t be doing it at all.

The Red Dean had a greater influence on him than he was willing to admit, and it was probably true in the opposite as well.  Their personalities changed in each other’s presence.  Ellen Encanto’s first question to him was actually, “Are you gay?”  Typically, Orion’s Belt didn’t answer, but he didn’t protest, either.

He knew what was coming, and that’s why he agreed, on the spot, despite never having had that much to do with the Witch Doctor in the first place.  He was going to do it not just for himself, but for every other hero who had ever experienced someone like Alpha Dog, the preening asshole.  He didn’t care much for Encanto, actually.

Unlike Bruin, he began avoiding Alpha Dog, and thereby subverting the system that much more, in his mind having now crossed the line.  He was done with it, and done with Alpha Dog, and the thing that made it so easy was that Alpha Dog wouldn’t even notice, at least at first, having already established a pattern of behavior that had made all of this possible in the first place, perhaps without realizing it, perhaps without caring.  Orion’s Belt no longer gave a damn.

That’s how a revolution really begins, with existing elements being spurred by an inciting incident.  In this case, it was the death and return of an individual who no one had ever considered important.  And now suddenly many things that were once exactly like that were.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Back from the Dead #3

“This is unacceptable.”

Lately Alpha Dog was repeating the same refrain, but he was usually a man of conviction so this should not have come as a surprise to anyone, if they compared notes ahead of time.  Except it was unlikely that the two groups in question would have.  His squire Bruin shifted uncomfortably in front of him.

“You are not going to have anything more to do with them,” Alpha Dog continued.  “You’re going to quit this, and do everything you can to discourage the rest of them.  Immediately.”

Bruin was a large man himself, but there was very little getting around the ego of Alpha Dog.  As one of the acknowledged premier heroes of the world, he had every right to think highly of himself, and he wasted no time in devouring such a rating, suffering no fools and strutting around and generally making sure that everyone knew, whether they knew or not, exactly who he was and how important a position he was in.  To be fair, a name like “Alpha Dog” doesn’t happen by accident.

The dynamic between Alpha Dog and Bruin was even more codified.  Being the best and most important of the two by definition, Alpha Dog controlled everything Bruin did as a superhero, directed his movements and actions, and demanded the best possible performance from him, and hopefully what resulted benefited everyone.  Bruin might have a word or two to say about that.  You might hear him grumbling about it, and you wouldn’t have to try too hard, either.

For one thing, he wondered why, if Alpha Dog was so great, that he sat back and let others fight his battles for him.  He didn’t suffer the excuse that the Council was busy making the policies that shaped the future with any kind of humor.  But then, he went by the name “Bruin.”

“I think you’re being unfair and irrational,” he replied.

“I don’t think it’s your place.  You can be replaced,” Alpha Dog said.

As crazy as it sounded, the threat was real.  There were always other heroes who could fill the role of Alpha Dog’s squire, and what was even more crazy was that outside of his patronage, Bruin was not likely to have the chance to practice his chosen craft.  There were few heroes who could afford it.  The craziest thing about it was that without sanction, all the ability in the world would not allow someone as effective as Bruin to be a superhero without working within the existing framework.

Of course, what the Witch Doctor had proposed could change all of that, and that’s what Alpha Dog now feared, and what might have changed his dynamic with Bruin, and they both knew it.

“You don’t trust any of your squires,” Bruin said.  “You take us for granted.  That tends to be noticed after a while.  When’s the last time one of yours even graduated to solo status?”

“The last time they earned it,” Alpha Dog.  “Mind yourself or you’ll find out what it’s like to try without my consent, or rather, with my blessing.  If you know what I mean.”

“You don’t threaten your allies,” Bruin said.

“The Council are my allies,” Alpha Dog said.  “You’re just the help.”

“Glad to know where we all stand,” Bruin said.

“You’d better,” Alpha Dog said.  “Now, put this nonsense behind you.  I expect you to take that look off your face and do as I say, and be happy about it.  So be a good boy and play fair.”

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Back from the Dead #2

It was on a Saturday evening, when he didn’t have much else to do, when Justin Proper first heard the news.  As his name might suggest, he was a gentleman, preternaturally so, and so was discreet about it when he mentioned the news of his late squire’s return to the rest of the Council, which consisted of Alpha Dog, Ajax, and the Boolean.  Sky Fox, who rounded out their numbers, was otherwise engaged, or she would have heard about it, too.  Alpha Dog, predictably, was the one who was least amused by the news.

“It’s unacceptable,” he concluded.

“Unfortunately, it’s happened,” Proper said.  “It’s not a matter of whether or not we approve.”

“Where has she been seen?  What have you done about it?” the Boolean said.

“Always wanting answers,” Proper said.

“We all do,” Ajax said.  “This is a dangerous situation.”

“I would hardly jump to such a hasty conclusion,” Proper said.

“You wouldn’t,” Alpha Dog said.  “For all our sakes, you’d better think differently, and soon.”

“Is that a threat?” Proper said.

“If it’ll make you think more clearly,” Alpha Dog said.  “If you’d kept a better eye on her in the first place, this wouldn’t be a problem.”

“One might assume the more accurate assessment would consider the small matter of her death,” Proper said.  “Are we more concerned about the implication or the girl?”

“Both,” Ajax said.

“We don’t know why it’s happened or what it means,” the Boolean said.

“This is why it is dangerous,” Alpha Dog said.  “It’s your responsibility, or it becomes all of ours.  Don’t let it escalate further.”

“I would think that the Council has bigger threats than one of its own allies,” Proper said, “no matter the peculiar circumstances that now present themselves.”

“Nevertheless, with or without your approval, it is the consensus opinion,” the Boolean said.  “We will act on it unless you do.”

“I never expected this reaction,” Proper said.

“You never expected alarm over the resurrection of a dead hero?” Alpha Dog said.  “You were being naïve.  We are simply doing you a favor by awakening your senses to the reality of the situation.  We are your friends.  We are always concerned for the best possible outcome.  Why else would this alliance exist?”

In his private thoughts, Justin Proper was surprised to answer for himself, for the first time ever, that the Council was a bully.  Despite their best efforts to convince him otherwise, he could not understand their reaction.  He himself had been relieved at the news, and had hoped his friends would feel the same way.  Now it was clear that they felt anything but.  Was this the price of constant vigilance?  Was this the price of heroism?  He intended to find out.

Star Trek '12: 1612 AD - Flint

He had already lived for a very long time, and assumed many names.  At the moment, he was attempting to be anonymous, and so his identity didn’t matter, although as usual, during such times he took the generic name Flint, one he’d used countless times already and no doubt many times again, for however long immortality lasts.  (It seems funny to say such a thing, but even someone with such a life finds it difficult they’ll actually live forever.)

But since he’d already lived for a very long time, he was most interested in those individuals who might be able to challenge his intellectual achievements, and so when his time wasn’t spent trying to discover such individuals, it was spent in their company.  This time he happened to be sharing dinner with Galileo.

Galileo, he knew, was already deep in the work that would gain him the wrong kind of attention from the Church, something he himself had managed to avoid under similar circumstances as da Vinci.  What Galileo lacked was the imagination to humor both science and the human imagination at the same time, but Flint did not look down on him for this.  He recognized the man for what he was, a genius, and that was all that mattered.

During most of the dinner they ate in silence, having already come into friendly terms with one another, and so pleasantries were not needed to enjoy each other’s company.  Every now and again Galileo would smile awkwardly at him, perhaps not believing his luck at finding a true peer, never assuming for a moment that Flint understood too well the sentiment.

Sometimes Flint needed guide such friends to their greatest work, but he was gratified to learn that Galileo needed no such assistance, that not only was he in possession of great potential, but that he was also capable of exploiting that potential.  His only weakness was living in a time that did not appreciate him, but Flint had experienced enough of human affairs to know that renegades, no matter how they exhibit themselves, will always be rejected.  It was a pity, on so many levels.  Galileo deserved so much better.

They chatted, lightly, about some of Galileo’s latest observations, even what he himself considered wild theories, and Flint could see right then and there what might have been accomplished, had he been able to see that potential mature, what the world might be like, how many things would change, simply by accepting what Galileo had to offer.  Unfortunately, as much as everyone likes to benefit from innovation, very few people actually like to be the ones to let the ideas that give birth to it flourish in the first place.  Hence the slow march of progress.

How long would he humor humans?  He no longer thought of himself as human, by this point, couldn’t bring himself to do it anymore, not just because of his long life, but because he was disgusted, knowing what would happen to Galileo, and that there would be many more to suffer after him.  It didn’t take prolonged life to obtain wisdom, but that was the kind of observation Flint had formulated.

He only hoped he wouldn’t grow bitter.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Back from the Dead #1

Usually when one of them comes back, it’s one of the big ones, and there’s very little hiding it.  Of course, either way, it’s pretty sensational, because for mere mortals, death is the end of the journey, not some quirk along the way.  It’s pretty insurmountable, even if it’s inexplicable, each and every time.  No one likes to think that some day they’re going to die, even though everyone does, and it’s frightening because no one knows what’s waiting for them on the other side.  That’s because this is a one-way trip.

Well, for mere mortals.

The Biker was the first to discover when Ellen Encanto, the Witch Doctor, made it back.  Now, it would figure that someone known as the Witch Doctor would be among the lucky few, even among the heroes, to achieve this sensational milestone, but still, everyone knew that she died, there was no mystery, so it was still a surprise.

Now, Encanto was not one of the big ones, and so her death did not receive a great deal of fanfare.  For the majority of the world, the Witch Doctor simply disappeared, sank back into obscurity, no longer basked in the glory of Justin Proper, glorious member of the Council.  Justin Proper would have fit the mold.  But anyway, someone named the Witch Doctor might be expected to bend the rules a little.  No one ever really knew what she was all about, Justin Proper arguably among them.

It was no surprise for the Biker to have been the one to make the discovery, because that’s what he was known for, skirting the obscure and the outer limits of civilization, if not outright reality (there was always debate about that).  He was riding out there, wherever “there” happened to be that day, out in the northern woods of Maine this time, when he passed a remarkable sight, a naked woman out in the middle of nowhere.  Except during the summer, and more likely on the jagged coast, it’s not normal to be naked in Maine, much less to be a woman while doing it.  There’s a charged liberal sense about the state, but not to this extent.

That’s how the Biker knew he’d stumbled upon something.  He didn’t know it was the Witch Doctor.  He circled back quickly enough, though there was no doubt in his mind that there was no rush to this, that he’d be the only one to see her and that she wasn’t going anywhere any time soon.  Sometimes the Biker sought out naked women as a matter of sexual course, but this time his instinct was more benign, and for anyone who knew him shockingly humanitarian in nature.

He just wanted to get the woman off the road and into some sort of shelter before things really went south for her.

Stopping his ride a few feet away, the Biker approached the naked woman as if she might be radioactive, didn’t say a word, felt her eyes on him before he had the chance to ogle her too closely.  When he saw her properly, he knew it was the Witch Doctor, would have known those eyes anywhere, blazing or otherwise.  He quickly peeled off his jacket and threw it on her, didn’t even think twice about it.  She gratefully wrapped it around her shoulders, but of course it was inadequate, but for the second time that day the Biker had made the most appropriate gesture possible of him, which was the last thing most people expected of him any other time.

There were no words for this moment, nothing to say, except that the Biker was overjoyed, and didn’t want to put any further stress on the Witch Doctor, who after all had just undergone one of the most upsetting events of this or any other life, short of what made it necessary in the first place.  Maybe he would get an explanation later.

They rode until he reached Bangor, where the local bohemians would never even have thought twice about them, except the Witch Doctor began to scream, an ear-piercing sound that seemed like it came back from the grave, too, and was likely to take everything back with it.  Needless to say, anything but peaceful.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Assassination at Magnumtown

In the year 2166, Fialkov was assassinated in Magnumtown, a small village on Danab that was home to a settlement of Tuska.  It was bad timing, only eight years after the failed peace talks at Tawny Station between the Galactic Alliance and the Danab, at near-constant war since the Danab attacked Earth in 2045, despite the efforts of Benjamin Josiah and Unarn, despite the heroic efforts of Jacques Mendez and the Space Corps to avert one crisis after another for twenty years.

Fialkov was a minor politician among the Danab, and his accused assassination had no significant connection to the Alliance, and was by all accounts an internal affair, and yet such small ripples can have outsize effects, especially in unstable times.  Admiral Kiernan advocated caution, and as usual Senator Duquesne preached the opposite, and that was only within the Alliance.  Who knew what whispers echoed within the halls of Danab chambers?

For twelve months Fialkov was believed to have been murdered by Carrie Arosen, and yet it was eventually discovered that his true assassin was her adopted brother Magnum, the fanatic who founded the very town in which these events unfolded.  It was Magnum’s brother Stringfellow, by all accounts a man of honor, who brought the truth to light, but it was too late for Magnumtown, and for the Tuska in general.  The Danab were brutal in their retaliation, and in fact finally concluded the efforts begun by the late governor, evicting the Tuska and obliterating Magnumtown.  In very short order, the Tuska were dispersed and their national existence, such as it might ever have been considered, became a matter of history.  Although justice had prevailed for Carrie Arosen, no more bitter homecoming could have been possible.  It was a rallying point for the Danab, and led directly to one of the fiercest conflicts in a war that would not truly end for decades.

Arosen elected to use the opportunity to begin a new life for herself.  Since there was in fact no home for her to return to, she left Danab for the first time in her life, enlisting in the Space Corps as a pilot, learning all the necessary skills on her journey to the academy.  She was never able to explain how she’d developed the instincts that made any of it possible, but it wasn’t hard to determine her motivation.  She was by all accounts an angry young woman, but she kept to herself, could hardly have been said to have friends, but her sense of camaraderie with fellow pilots on training missions was said to be impeccable.  She was said to be the best friend anyone could have when it mattered most.

As for her past, she very rarely talked about it.  Only those who followed the news knew anything about her time in captivity, or that she was once actively considered to be an assassin.  There was not an inconsiderable amount of people who would have considered her a hero, had they known the exact circumstances, but such were the times.

In the none too distance future, she would have her shot at glorious redemption.


Who Killed Iron Joe? Part 12: Moon of the Popping Trees

Cavanaugh spent a year trying to nail the case on Carrie Arosen as the assassin of Fialkov.

At first it seemed like an open-shut case, and everyone congratulated him on solving it so quickly and so easily.  They all said it was so obvious that anyone could have done it, but only he could have done it so quickly.  Finding the journal was the masterstroke, and figuring out its significance and how it basically spelled out, from the victim’s perspective, both the culprit and the motive, was the finest tribute to his keen powers of observation possible.  Yet many, many tributes followed.

The only problem was that Cavanaugh knew that the case against Carrie Arosen was actually paper-thin.  There was no actual evidence and nothing outside of that journal to even prove circumstantially that she had anything at all to do with the murder, had been anywhere near Fialkov.  There was a two hour journey required just to cross the distance between her home and the Governor’s mansion, and no Tuska had regular access to transportation that would have made that trip feasible in the few details that anyone was able to uncover about the alleged assassin’s activities on the night in question.

Cavanaugh spent months trying to solve these details, and he had plenty of eager help, even though most Danab took it for granted that he’d been right the first time around.  It wasn’t long, however, before there was talk of conspiracy, that he was the fall guy for some power play within the Danab community itself to eliminate Fialkov and place the blame conveniently on some Tuska, someone so minor, obscure, and irrelevant that no one would have thought to question it before it was too late, and once the execution had taken place, or some “accident” has caused her death before then, that it would have been irrelevant to still question his original conclusions.

It didn’t help that details not known by Fialkov began to surface about Carrie Arosen’s life and opinions, that she frequently referred to her alleged victim via a derogatory name, “Iron Joe,” and that she had access and certain training to the skills necessary to pull off the assassination exactly as it would have had to have occurred, no matter how improbable.

The only thing that both worked for and against Cavanaugh was the fact that Carrie Arosen survived in captivity, for a whole year, and that with doubt surfacing in his own mind, it became possible to see the cracks in his conclusions, and therefore equally possible to consider for himself alternatives.  It was a nightmare, but for him, something like salvation.

During that period, as he tried to close the book on alleged assassin, Cavanaugh began to notice that there were other suspects, and the more he investigated them, the more he had to admit that Carrie Arosen might be innocent.  He’d already become a hero by claiming in an instant exactly the opposite, and almost no one would have cared to hear anything but.  For Cavanaugh, his conscience didn’t allow him to keep it that way.  He began to make public statements, blurring the lines of certainty, and although no one had seen Carrie Arosen since her arrest and most had assumed she was already dead, there began talk of her as a martyr, one who might still be redeemed, given half a chance.

Well, half a chance was all she had, and all Cavanaugh could give her.  He made a visit to her cell, and wept at the condition she had been in for months, small and weak even by the standards of the Tuska, barely able to lift her own head, and he ordered on the spot for a meal to be brought, and for her to be allowed to bathe.  She refused to talk to him at first, not because of who he was, but because he was a Danab, but then, after a few moments, after she could feel human again, she murmured a few words, and he was certain that he heard “forgive” in them, and at first he was baffled, mystified, even terrified.  And then she gave him a hug.  Who was this girl to be so kind to the man who had ruined her life?  That was his first lesson in humanity.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Who Killed Iron Joe? Part 11: Moon of the Falling Leaves

From the journal of Fialkov:

There is a tendency to believe that most leaders are out of touch, and perhaps most of them are, ignoring most of what goes on in favor of pretending that what they’re doing is not only relevant, but automatically takes precedence over real facts and developments in whatever community they preside over.  When they listen to anyone at but their inner circle, it’s to get a sound byte for their next election, to create the illusion that they’re in touch with the common man.  There’s also the rare anecdote of the leader who has extraordinary processing ability, and can read a news service in a fraction of the time it normally takes.  

Let me tell you that most news services can care less about reporting relevant information.  They care about sensation, and events that leaders ought to be briefed on in greater detail than will be found in those services.

Every now and again, however, they can get something right, by accident.  For instance, the other day, I was reading what’s called a “human interest” piece concerning members of the Tuska community as they struggle to adapt to the times.  The piece is woefully naïve to the point of being worthless, going on at length about details that only obscure the bigger picture, which is fine, given that we would hardly want to encourage anything more, and even I almost missed it, but Carrie Arosen was once again up to her old tricks, hiding in plain sight.  To anyone else, as has been her habit, her presence in the piece might have been overlooked, but not to someone like me, who has recognized the girl’s significance.

Among a series of random quotes that generally serve to illustrate the writer’s point and pad it out to publishable length, she remarks, “You didn’t realize the passing of days.”  She’s referring to what life used to be like for her people, versus the increasing struggle that it has become.  It seems innocuous enough, but it’s anything but.

What she’s saying, essentially, is that our initiatives have had a disastrous effect.  The Tuska now recognize what’s happening, not in a general sense, but in a very real one.  She’s saying that it’s easier to recognize that life has become difficult, not in the way that the day can drag on, but that from day to day, there’s a constant awareness that something is wrong.  There will always be protests to change, and perhaps everyone else in her movement reacts that way, but for Carrie Arosen, change isn’t just something to be noticed or fought, but a fundamental alteration of her perception of life.  She’s reacting to something concrete, and not just an ideal.

This is more profound than it seems.  It’s the one moment where everything I have surmised about this girl crystallizes around.  This is where she becomes dangerous.  How can it be that no one else seems to notice?  When someone truly breaks out of the mundane routine, they become dangerous to that routine.  There’s a reason why that routine exists, a destination meant to be reached.

The other day, I personally selected Cavanaugh to become lead investigator of civil unrest, out of a pool of applicants that included the brightest minds of the Danab.  Most people who hire new staff do not look beyond the surface and thus acquire false talent that will not be equal to the task at hand.  As in all matters, I intend to strive beyond the average, so that the results are better, more effective.  I have no doubt that Cavanaugh would not allow someone like Carrie Arosen to slip through the cracks.

To what aim are all our efforts headed?  For me, it seems obvious.  To most others, I no doubt conclude that these same results are obscure.  The same set of facts can be interpreted both accurately and inaccurately.  Between myself, Cavanaugh, and Carrie Arosen, I see a reckoning on the horizon.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Who Killed Iron Joe? Part 10: Moon of the Changing Season

From the journal of Fialkov:

The people known as the Tuska first went into space looking for a new home, and they were indeed the first ones to discover New Earth, or what humans later referred to as Danab, a term that has a rude translation in its original language, which I think was Danish.  At any rate, I don’t care.  The Danab first went into space in 1099, but the Tuska were earlier.  There is no complete record of their travels, but I have learned enough to peace together a rough version of it.

It is very possible that in Ancient Egypt, there was a tribe known as Mohair who were abducted by ancestors of Lord Phan, the Tikanni responsible for the birth of the Danab.  I would tend to believe this because the Tikanni were always an exceptionally arrogant people, and Lord Phan would not have been the first ambitious one of his kind, though he certainly appeared to be the most persistent, since he was also involved in the Alliance of Five and countless other ventures (there is no definitive record of his death, so there are rumors that he survives into the present, or at least descendents who keep the name alive).  Nonetheless, this is the traditional origin still propagated by the Tuska today, who sometimes refer to themselves as the Mohair, it is true.

The certainty is that they entered space before us, and discovered this world first as well, although their numbers were small, they were isolated, and kept themselves so, deliberately so.  They did not trust outsiders, and that is no doubt the reason they would have accepted the opportunity provided them in the first place, just as the legends say of the Danab founders, warriors from a time that would not have missed those who would have gone missing on some adventure.  Imagine the difficulties now, when there are scarcely any public facts left unrecorded.  Imagine an assassination in this age!  What culprit could hide?  What confusion possible?

But it is always our arrogance that undoes us, and that is as true now as any other time in history.

The Tuska settled on this world and began shaping their lives and purifying it, so that there might be no recognition by those who had once known them, even if there was a chance of ever returning home again.  They embraced their new home in earnest, and by all accounts were resentful and distrusting of our kind when we first came.  Yet we had greater numbers and greater ambition, and so it was very little time before we overwhelmed them and dictated the course of their future, whether they realized and accepted it or not.  All this occurred before I was born.

Yet fate thrust upon me powers over the fate of the Tuska, or whatever they call themselves, whatever they are, insignificant by most accounts, a momentary nuisance, squatters who claim a home they cannot hold, invoking ancient rights that are not recognized by those who confront them now, the only time that matters.  Am I to be punished for involvement in this affair?  I claim no authority but accept that which is thrust upon me.  Where are my friends, my allies?  I am alone on this world.

There will be no happy future for me, much less for the Tuska, and they recognize neither of these facts, and blame me for both, and perhaps they’re right.  Perhaps I had the power to refuse it all along, or perhaps it was my fate, just as the Tuska have finally approached theirs, which they cheated and delayed for thousands of years, blind in a faith that persuaded them of falsehood.  Perhaps they believe in some savior, who even now exists and will avenge them if not save them.  

That is not my concern.  The only concrete reality is the one before me, and I am bold enough to embrace it.  My happiness is of no concern.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Who Killed Iron Joe? Part 9 Moon When the Plums are Scarlet

From the journal of Fialkov:

It’s been one mind-numbing bumble after another.

I don’t know how else to out it.  I consider the whole thing to be a fiasco and I want to leave.  I know it sounds petulant, and not forthcoming of a Governor, but these are my honest and true feelings, and if I can’t express them here, then there’s no reason to keep a journal.

These people are impossible.  At every turn I have been pressured by the Empire to get results, and every decision I have even simply considered has been questioned and browbeaten by the Tuska, by their leaders and their lowliest members, so that there is hardly a chance for anything to appear to be “the right thing.”  It is impossible and incorrigible.

The one bright spot remains Carrie Arosen.  She is the contradiction, the beacon of light on which all else pivots, the only thing I can focus on without feeling a total failure.  And she, too, will probably fail to acknowledge my existence.

She’s as bad as the rest of them, and yet I cannot help to single her out as the single most provocative member of the clan, which in itself is fighting a rapidly losing battle and everyone but themselves knows it, the very definition of a retrograde existence.  It’s her very defiance, even at the face of leadership within her own cause, that makes Carrie Arosen stand out.  She was one of those who was born to be bigger than the circumstances that naturally surround her, even if she herself does not understand how.  I was placed in such a position where hopefully I am granted greater perspective than most others.  If I do not recognize such things, if my staff doesn’t, then I have no business being here.

And yet, I do not know what to do with her.  I am homesick.  It seems strange to admit such a thing, but it’s true.  I do not want to be here, not just because it has proven difficult, but because I have failed in every way to find a position of comfort.  I’m not referring to the sycophants I am now at greater liberty to identify and despise, but rather that I find increasingly that I do not want them around.  I am solitary at all hours of the day in my office, and will only suffer a visit even from my secretary if they agree to refrain from conversation, with only a simple nod.  I tried for months to expand this liberty further, and could no longer stomach it.

Some will no doubt say that it is the pressure of it, that it should never be easy to oversee the extermination of a race.  The leadership will deny that this is what I was assigned here to accomplish, but in our efforts to suppress the rights and the lands and the very culture of the Tuska, that is exactly what we are affecting.  I cannot go into detail about the programs, even in my own journal, but suffice to say, that’s exactly what they are intended to accomplish.  I will do it, but I cannot make peace with it.  All the subtleties of our genius are lost on the will of individuals like Carrie Arosen.  The Tuska do not realize what we are doing, and yet they constantly rebel against it, none more so than that girl.  I cannot get her out of my mind.  She is an irritant.

I want to go home.  Yes, I am on the world that was claimed as the home of the Danab, but I have never lived here, have no family here, and have no emotional connection to it.  I am as much a stranger here as I am compelled to make the Tuska believe they are.  It no longer makes any sense.  I am slowly losing my mind, and there are no longer any justifications I can make.  The girl, the girl, she represents everything that is wrong, everything that I am meant to overcome, everything that a Danab was never supposed to be, and instead of a triumph over the will, I am fenced in, and that damned girl is to blame.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Who Killed Iron Joe? Part 8: Moon of Black Cherries

From the journal of Fialkov:

When I first arrived at Magnumtown, I was cautioned to keep my distance by just about everyone.  At first I found this advice to be absurdly counterintuitive, but the more I thought about it, the more it sounded rational.  It made sense to keep a certain amount of perspective.

The Danab, it should be understood, are not always good with perspective.  We are a race bred for superiority, or so the myth goes, hand-selected by the Tikanni to excel most others in every degree, so that adversity becomes something of a simple matter to overcome, and most accomplishments are foregone before they are even undertaken.  The only problem we’ve ever had is handling humans, who are a stubborn people, incapable of admitting defeat.  That is their singular characteristic.  They don’t know when to quit.  I wish I could explain that.

There is another myth among my people, in that there is nothing noble among humans, nothing breathtaking, and that in contrast, that is all there is to know about Danab.  These are my private thoughts, and so I am free to express this here, no matter how dangerous they may be.  Yet even that, should this journal ever become public, would be embraced as characteristic.  Danab don’t accept limitations, and they love a challenge.

I suppose that means I should have been happy to come to Magnumtown, because there are few comparable challenges, except, historically, the colony at Wanethrex, which proved to be one of the biggest challenges the Danab ever embraced.  I sometimes like to consider Magnumtown to be my personal Wanethrex.  It was there, too, where a Danab was challenged to reconcile our people with humanity.  I intend to succeed where my forefathers failed.

The leaders of the Tuska bore me already.  They are pedestrian and predictable, and so I do not expect a challenge from them.  It’s the shining dancer Carrie Arosen who continually fascinates me.  She writes letters almost daily, and she does not believe that I read them, and they are vivacious and cruel in their accusations, their assumptions about me and my goals.  I had barely stepped foot in Magnumtown the first time I read them.  I believe she didn’t even know my name the first time she wrote one.  This is not uncommon within the Tuska.  The fact that she writes often of potential alliances is what intrigues me.  She has borrowed this theme, too, but she is the only one who seems to believe they’re possible.  

If I had never seen her, it might be possible to divorce the image from the content, the shining dancer.  I cannot talk about her with my attendants, or in my reports.  Knowledge of this young woman is dangerous.  I doubt she registers on anyone else’s radar, even her own people’s.  Yet I alone seem to understand her significance.  She is the beacon of a new resistance, perhaps the symbol of the future.  She calculates possibilities most others would never consider.  I feel almost intimate with her.  Perhaps she herself does not know her potential.  I have always argued that the best individuals are not stuffed with pride, but rather are filled with the knowledge of their capabilities.  This and any other world does not reward that.  The Danab should, if anyone, but they don’t.  They value achievement, and will not abide anything less.  They value the tangible, when it’s the intangible that ushers revolution.

 The progress here in Magnumtown is dull and grinding, and for every step forward there are the proverbial two steps back.  I am forced into the worst decisions every day, and feel as if I will lose myself, if not for the strange example of someone like Carrie Arosen, who may yet teach us all what it’s like to change the world without any real power to do it.  If that does not make any sense, then I am at a less to explain anything.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Who Killed Iron Joe? Part 7: Moon When the Cherries are Ripe

From the journal of Fialkov:

When I first came back to the homeworld, I was warned that it wasn’t like I might have been imagining.  The Danab are a proud people, and we have done much to exhibit this in the universe, even though much of it has resulted in near-endless warfare, especially with humans.  I suppose what the warning meant was that I could not expect peace at home, the one place where it might have been expected that Danab might be free to be Danab.

I had been elected to the post of Governor, which for the Danab is a mark of distinction.  There are many leaders, but most of them are lost in the shuffle of martial bureaucracy, so to be one and have authority in a civilian capacity is to acknowledge that you have demonstrated not only superiority over those who share the same rigid discipline, but also the capacity to exert it over those who do not.  This is especially important because the Danab are not the only species to live on the homeworld.

The homeworld, it should be understood, is a melting pot.  It was not here the Danab first sprang up, but rather was a gift of the Tikanni, who first helped us to understand our potential and gave us our destiny in the stars.  There are humans on the homeworld.  Some of us consider humans to be weak, and indeed in comparison they are not only so, but smaller and less cunning, all debilities they do not seem willing to concede, as indeed centuries of indecisive conflict have proven.

I was given a detachment of soldiers I was personally allowed to select from among my most elite and successful forces, a token remnant of earlier days and a prior existence, a barrier against those I would now spend my days amongst, humans, and not just humans, but the truly bullheaded, those who felt they might claim the homeworld as much as their own as ourselves, because they had come here first.  There are many humans here, but they are not dominant, and they have no official claim, as the Danab do.

They call themselves native sons, and many other names besides.  One of the most common appellations for them is the Tuska, perhaps because they have adopted ceremonial headdresses in mockery of the Danab custom helm, and they like to dance in these things, and the most brazen dancer of all is surely Carrie Arosen, too young to truly grasp what she does, lost in the beauty of it, perhaps.  

She has never gone out of her way to announce herself, but her name is known all the same, for she has never failed to make an appearance at these public spectacles, and she always draws attention to herself, in the animated way she moves, some might say gracefully.  If I were feeling generous, I might say artful, but I am seldom amused by the Tuska, and I have posted repeated ordnances to ban at the very least their offending headgear, one a week, or at least once a month, since taking office, which has been half a year now.

I have been struggling with how best to express my frustrations since becoming Governor of Magnumtown, often coming to intense agitation that I have not always been successful in concealing such an embarrassing reaction from public awareness.  I have received a great many suggestions, but most of them were naïve at best, cowardly at worst, and generally ineffective for any critical mind to accept, failed concepts that too many believe in.  I am used to the idea of discipline, but rarely have I been asked to employ it to any useful capacity.  Well, now I have one, and that is to keep a journal, where I might express myself, hopefully to some cumulative benefit.

I fear that this posting will prove a reckoning, not only in my career, but for the Danab in general.  Something decisive appears to be in harbor.

Star Trek '12: 1512 AD - Bajorans

Kai Ra did not support the project at all.  She found it to be incredibly alarming, even though in her heart she knew long ago such excursions had once exposed the Bajorans to the Prophets.  What might be learned this time?

She oversaw, along with the first minister, the welfare of her people with infinite care.  Sometimes she wondered if she shouldn’t be more careful still, if the Bajorans wouldn’t be better off if she held the title of first minister as well.  She was ever fearful that the delicate balance and great cultural treasure of her people might not be better off remaining sheltered, and that building solar ships, or anything of the kind, might not invite danger and disaster and ruin, in short the end of everything that she knew.

Who else was out there?  The Prophets, yes, and she was grateful for that, more grateful than she could ever properly express, so that she was exceedingly humble, and yes, ambitious, but tempered and subdued, something she hoped all the Bajorans could remain.  There were dragons in the stars, who would only seek to exploit the resources, but not the riches, of the world.  They would be surprised to learn the strength of the Bajorans, she was sure, but she was not eager to test it.  For that reason she almost cancelled the project, even though it had been the last wishes of her only son, the last remnant that he had once existed.  But as Kai, she was encouraged to view all Bajorans as her children.  She had to keep reminding herself of that.

Solar ships, indeed.  Like most people, she didn’t believe they had any chance of success, that they couldn’t possibly make a journey of any significance, that if they didn’t fall apart before exiting orbit, then they would become a satellite and only circle Bajor, perhaps forever.  She shuddered to imagine these vessels in flame, like the Fire Caves, the destination of a pilgrimage she’d postponed for a year now, mindful of the necessity for the gesture, but fearful that she might be corrupted by the Pah’Wraiths, despite her faith, despite her devotion to the Prophets.  It had happened to others, and it would happen again, but she was supposed to be above such spiritual failings.  She was the Kai, after all.

Her son had worked so hard on the project, only to fall ill unexpectedly.  She had never heard an acceptable explanation for what had happened to him.  The project faltered for several years, rudderless, until she herself had prompted renewed efforts.  She now struggled to understand why she’d done that, perhaps out of continued grief, delirium.  But then what was she experiencing now, denial?  Was she still so affected by the death of her son?  What would her flock think of her, if they knew?  Was that the reason she now sought to shut the project down?

She kept delaying, just as with the trip to the Fire Caves, until the very day of the launch.  As Kai, she was given ceremonial final approval.  She looked over the vast assembly, saw the hope in a thousand faces, imagined that the pilot was her son.  She simply nodded, in the end, forgoing the virtual words that clutched into ruin in her hand on a scroll she tossed into the fire after the vessel shot into the sky, broke the atmosphere, and unfurled its wings, now out of view, and set out on a course with destiny.

Who knew what the future held?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Who Killed Iron Joe? Part 6: Moon of Making Fat

It sounds ridiculous, at least for me, to say this aloud, but Cavanaugh based his entire investigation on a journal.

Are you done laughing yet?  Maybe that passes for thorough police investigation among the Danab, but that would have been dismissed in any human court of law on any world and in any century that I care about.  But it’s sad reality here that anything but that happened to me.  The journal was discovered at the crime scene, not so far from the body of Iron Joe, and was quickly determined to have been written by Iron Joe himself, chronicling his entire term of office as governor of Magnumtown.

How quickly or thoroughly Cavanaugh read it before storming my home later that same evening is another question that does not seemed to have fazed the Danab in general, but its contents were quickly published in a number of formats, in the newspapers and as a book, so that Iron Joe’s celebrity only grew rather than shrank based on anything that might have been gleamed from it.  I myself have not read it, since that is apparently not a privileged of the condemned, but I’m still alive so there’s still a chance that I might enjoy it.

I can only imagine how those events unfolded, first the discovery of the journal, where exactly it was and if it is indeed what it is purported to be or an elaborate fiction without narrative, and so that much more believable but not so convincing as fiction, or so I’ve been told.  My trusty guardians in prison have often quoted from it, but they are not very thorough about it.  It seems I feature prominently in its pages, and that was the main reason Cavanaugh fingered me.

Iron Joe was as obsessed with me as I was with him.  That’s the simplified version, and I am thoroughly flattered, let me say.

I don’t know, I can’t explain that.  I wish that I could.  Did I make myself so prominent to the man who was so important in life and death?  It seems I did, and yet I cannot trace this course for myself, even though it was apparently vivid enough that Cavanaugh was convinced at a glance and all those inclined to believe this version of events, too, which is to say the Danab, who probably wouldn’t have been quite so convinced if Iron Joe had waxed eloquent about some random member of their own society.  Maybe he does, and they choose to ignore that as inconvenient.

But, yeah, I was convicted on the basis of a diary.  It sounds just as pathetic as it seems, to anyone with an objective perspective, but that’s not what happens in these circumstances.  Too much coincidence, once Cavanaugh started piecing everything together on his own, and it all fit what Iron Joe wrote, or so I must assume.  Some of this must make sense to subjective eyes, I must assume. The truth, or so it seems, must seem plausible, no matter how improbable.

I often picture the look on Cavanaugh’s face, when he found that journal.  I also envision his expression when he was handed the assignment in the first place, the horror, the responsibility of it, knowing that all the Danab in the universe, no matter where they were and if they’d ever even heard of Iron Joe in the first place, and how simple it all became in the blink of an eye, as simple as opening the cover of a book and finding the culprit in the dedication.  He never seems that ruthless when I see him in person, in fleeting moments, but it takes that kind of mind to make any of that make sense in the first place.  The absurd must be embraced by the person who first voices it, after all, become like a lover, caressing the back of their mind.

I would almost say it was all poetic, but then, I’m hoping to be more objective than that.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Who Killed Iron Joe? Part 5: Moon When the Ponies Shed

As I’ve been saying, I made it easy to put the blame on me, even if “the blame” means assassination, something only a select few in history have been capable of doing, and traditionally it hasn’t been easy to understand the motivations of such individuals.  Okay, so again I’m trying to make it obvious that I’m a scapegoat.  Anyway, I was always a suspicious individual.  I’ll give the Danab and Cavanaugh that much.

I’ve already said that my parents were murdered by the Danab, and that I was adopted into a family that produced the somewhat radical Magnum and Stringfellow, who were more than brothers to me in my youth and became more than friends as I grew older, even as they made their views, priorities, and ambitions plain as proponents of their peoples’ rights as separate from the goals of the Danab.  Even outside of this sphere, I was always agitating, or at least that’s how it might be easy to interpret my activities.  I never accepted the easy solutions and regular paths even when I was in school.  I was a good student, but I didn’t accept that everything I was taught and its methodology was the best possible way to learn, and as a result struggled to earn the grades I was capable of achieving based on my intelligence.  I’m not sure my teachers understood what happened, how I gradually turned away from their methods, posed an independent mind, but they certainly stopped being so enthusiastic about me.  They grew less interested to hear my thoughts.  Some people might have dropped out eventually, but I kept at it, even though it became clear that I had become an outsider.

It was the same story with my circle of friends.  In the beginning I found it easy to find them, but the older I got, the easier it was to be a loner, since I had everyone I needed at home, and fewer and fewer others understood what it was that defined me as an individual; or in other words, I was more of an individual than most people were willing to accept, especially the less I was able to interact in the expected ways.  I would never say that I was an introvert, but that would have been the natural conclusion.  I didn’t want to play the social game, even though it could have helped me a great deal.

I pursued activities that became available through the schools, and in that way I retained a semblance of the mainstream, but even in that I was at the fringe, seeming out of place, expressing thoughts others found baffling.  I reserved my most intense feelings and concerns for those who knew me best, and they were few and far between, and again, mostly at home.  I was basically untrustworthy.

When I wrote, I did not hide my thoughts, and so it would not have been difficult to interpret my true feelings for the Danab.  It’s not as if I did drugs or vandalized property or set pipe bombs, nothing so obvious like that.  I guess I’m not so different from the famous assassins in history.

But again, I am not the assassin of Iron Joe, and yes, I fully understand that it does not so good to continually insist on that.  Denial is the first avenue of suspicion, but then, it’s not often you hear the thoughts of an accused assassin.

It still came as a surprise to me when I was roused from my bed, in the middle of the night, by Cavanaugh and his agents, and roughly treated all the way to the law building, and unceremoniously deposited inside this cell.  It’s true, I had visited the offices of Iron Joe, but then, that was true of everyone.  It was a public forum he had purposefully set up that way; anyone could have fallen into that trap, and statistically speaking just about everyone did, almost as if it was a conspiracy to have the most convenient means of catching the culprit on the likely event that someone finally snapped and did what he had coming.

Okay, I could have worded that better.  What I mean to say is, Iron Joe was not well-liked, even for the Danab.  He was resented for what he took as policy, and so there was a lot of discontent even from those who couldn’t be considered agitators.  Was I an agitator?  I would argue only by association.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Who Killed Iron Joe? Part 4: Moon of the Red Grass Appearing

As a governor, I’m sure that Iron Joe was an excellent Danab, but he was a terrible human being.

He wasn’t that old, not by Danab or human standards, fueled by ambition like any politicians, the chance to be important and have influence, and to use his many connections and charisma to shape policy and the destinies of others simply because he could and apparently, or so many people besides myself believed, so he could ruin lives on a whim, all in the name of public interest and pretending to be interested only in that.  It was funny that he only talked about the good that he did around election time, and the rest of the time we hardly heard from him at all, except at official functions and times of disaster, for the sake of continuity, or when he directly affected our lives with some decision we abhorred.  I guess that’s not so different from most of his kind (and here I’m not thinking of the Danab specifically), but it’s a terrible way to make a living all the same.

The thing is, Iron Joe seemed to take some private glee in making life miserable for the inhabitants of Magnumtown.  He could never outright admit it, of course, but his policies were so asinine, it’s hard to draw any other conclusion.  He would pretend, in meetings with our leaders, even Magnum himself and Stringfellow, who everyone agreed was the more levelheaded of my brothers, that he was looking out for the best interests of our people, except in the moments where he slipped up, and exhibited an open hostility to our basic impulses and desires.  This never seemed like appropriate behavior for someone who was supposed to watch over us, but then, that’s what you get when leadership is imposed by a faction that clearly does not have someone else’s interests in mind in the first place.

To speak of Iron Joe a little more personally, a little more specifically, I guess as Danab go he cut  a dashing figure.  His chrome helmet was always polished, and he wore his uniform sharply.  I guess that’s all there is to say about that.  The spikes on the helmet also looked sharp and properly menacing.

But we were never supposed to remark about that.  His physical appearance was appropriate for his kind, just as ours was for ours, even though there was always the vague notion that any compliments we got were patronizing, that it was just as primitive as the rest of our ideas.  Tell me how traditional ways, no matter where they come from, are a bad thing.  I’ll wait.

No, Iron Joe wasn’t unpopular because of the ways he was a typical politician or a typical Danab, but in the ways he was both of those and he treated these distinctions like beacons against everything he saw in Magnumtown, as if he were better than his post, and that it was better that we conform without comment to the ideals he had no passion for but merely represented as the status quo that by default was an adherence we were either too stupid to comprehend or rejected for no good reason.

Is any of this making sense?  If it isn’t, then I’m sorry, but that’s just the kind of perspective you’re going to have to deal with.  I make no bones about the fact that as a rule none of us got along, my people with Iron Joe, and Iron Joe with my people, and yet that was the relationship we were all stuck with.

Of course, it should be noted that Fialkov probably still didn’t know at the moment of his death that he was known as Iron Joe.  That was a nickname we gave him, and it wasn’t out of affection.

I have to keep reminding myself to call him Fialkov whenever I’m interrogated, because it would not be a good thing to address him otherwise, especially once the other name became public knowledge, because it will only make me look more guilty, and the spirits know how I don’t need that.  Between you and me, I’ll continue calling him that, but it’s strictly off the record.  I have no use now, as with ever before, of acknowledging him as anything more than the despicable person he always was.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Who Killed Iron Joe? Part 3: Moon of the Snowblind

My story really begins as a little orphan girl.  When I say that my parents were killed by the Danab, I don’t want you to begin assuming once again that I’m inadvertently admitting guilt while otherwise adamantly denying the murder of Iron Joe.  It certainly didn’t help me like his kind.

It also didn’t help that the people who took me in were in a constant struggle with the Danab, who patronizingly took them as retainers, benevolently and sarcastically offering protection and mutually beneficial trading rights and defense against whoever might come to our world and try to take it from us.  The family who took me in had their own proud traditions and expectations from life, and basically wanted to be left alone to live it.  If that had been possible, maybe a lot of things would be different today.

I grew up with Magnum and Stringfellow for older brothers, and they immediately took me under their wing and taught me everything they knew, how to survive and thrive, and how to look at the world for what it could do for me, and what I could do for it in return.  All in all, I would call it pretty normal by any standards until I reached the age of responsibility, and had to begin defining my life by the associations I made, rather than more innocently believing that everything was carefree.  I began to recognize, for instance, that my brothers weren’t so happy with the way things were.  Stringfellow was charismatic and well-loved, while Magnum was an agitant, always spoiling for trouble, with his brother constantly being called upon to clean up his messes.  I had never realized how difficult that could be.  I was blinded by affection.

Magnum’s struggles painted him into many corners, and Stringfellow talked about how would come to a bad end, and even I started believing it, until he turned a new corner, and became almost a new man.  People began to say how he had been inspired by the spirits, and he never discouraged that kind of talk, at least not in the beginning.  He became suddenly very humble, almost the complete opposite of what he had once been, but anyone paying attention would have recognized that he attacked his new religion the same way he had the old one, with aggressive belief in his own convictions.  There was a lot of talk about how exactly he’d reached this point, but I guess I never cared to speculate.

Anyway, he got quite a few people to take him seriously, until the day he led a pilgrimage to what he called a new home and a new beginning, and what became known as Magnumtown.  One way or another, if you have a place named after you, you must be doing something right.

This might have itself been perfectly fine, but the Danab, as usual, soon took an interest.  It’s where I live today, and the very place Iron Joe was appointed governor.  As you can see, if the Danab had simply left us alone, none of this would have happened in the first place.  Magnum simply wanted to give us a new start, away from the conflicts of the past, and while it was like that for a while, the conflicts came back into the present, and became worse.  He believed that by embracing the old ways, my adopted people could find new peace and prosperity.

Well, now Iron Joe is dead and it’s not very likely that peace is going to be the main result.

Stringfellow visits me daily, and Magnum only occasionally is with him.  I love both of my brothers, my friends, and  know that Magnum is busy.  He receives many visitors, and his position affords him many opportunities to provide new suggestions for the improvement of our people, even if my current circumstances have made it difficult.  I wonder if he doesn’t visit me in prison so much because he blames me for making his efforts more difficult, and when I do, I don’t feel quite as defiant.  I feel a little ashamed, actually, even if I know I didn’t do it.  I made it easy for the Danab to blame me.  That is my failing, and I don’t blame Magnum for distancing himself from it.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Who Killed Iron Joe? Part 2: Moon of the Dark Red Calves

“Carrie Arosen, please step forward.”

If I didn’t know what was going on, I might be expecting something good, like a reward or something.

“You’ve been charged with treason and assassination.  How do you plead?”

If you want to know my response, it might help to know my personality, which might also help explain why I was such an easy target, even though there was no evidence, circumstantial or otherwise, to link me to the scene of the crime.  I simply hadn’t been seen by anyone that evening, and everyone knew how much I hated Iron Joe.  I hadn’t been shy about that, and despite the fact that I do have a few friends, I might best be described as “antisocial.”

By the way, “treason” might actually be applicable in this case, even putting aside the spurious charge of assassination they can’t prove, if the Danab could prove they have the right to claim an entire world that can’t possibly be owned by anyone.  They can’t even claim the right of governance over me.  They would have to mount a whole legal defense on the topic, if anyone bothered to care enough to consider such things.  But that’s not the kind of world I live in.  If I were feeling generous like this all the time, I probably wouldn’t be in this situation: by almost every standard, what some people call “New Earth” does in fact fall under the general understanding of belonging to them.  They consider it their home world, and that has been true for a very long time.  But they’re not natives.  I’m not one, either, but I was adopted by them.  That seems enough for me, but not for others.

Magnum and Stringfellow, they’re like my brothers.  In every sense of the word, they’re my family, except the strictly biological.  No one would try to make the same case for Iron Joe, even though he served as governor for ten years, longer than anyone has a right to claim distinctions that were always dubious at best.  I know I didn’t elect him, not the first, second, or third time, and neither did anyone else I care about.  It’s always the idiots who buy into ideology and empty slogans who put people like Iron Joe into power, who continue to believe the myth of what Iron Joe is supposed to represent rather than what they actually accomplish.

Well, now they mourn him as a martyr, and while I applaud his assassination, I can’t exactly celebrate it.  In court, I’ve got to look as close to innocent as I can get, even though the verdict was settled before anyone even considered starting the proceedings, probably even before the body was cool.  That’s just the way things work around here, and then they wonder why the Danab don’t get a lot of respect.

This is not me being unreliable: I swear to all the spirits in the universe that I am not guilty, that I did not kill Iron Joe, otherwise known as Fialkov and bastard.  The authorities think it’s all very convenient to think otherwise, but they’re in for a rude awakening.  The first thing they’ll realize is that nobody actually cares about Iron Joe, not outside of the village and certainly not off this planet.  Iron Joe is small fish they’ve elevated beyond his ken in death.  But they’re making too fine a point about it, and there will be no benefit to it.

They don’t realize that they’re courting war, but that’s exactly what they’re doing.  They’re likely to make me a martyr, too, if they’re not careful.  Now of course that’s not the outcome I’d prefer.  I still want to believe there’s some way out of this for me, that I won’t be dead in ten months.  There are still ways out of this, not the least being the hope Cavanaugh will actually be able to do his job and figure out who is really responsible for the idiot’s death.  My day in court is just beginning, and while everything seems lost now, I don’t aim to keep it that way.  I still have a few tricks up my sleeve.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Who Killed Iron Joe? Part 1: Moon of Frost in the Teepee

I woke up this morning amidst general excitement.  I guess they finally discovered that he was dead.  There were a lot of people inside my tent, and there was a lot of shoving, mostly me.  Magnum and Stringfellow were there, but they were pushed to the side.  I saw Cavanaugh, lurking toward the back as well, but that’s his style.  Very little honor.  His lackeys showed me very little respect, but that’s not out of the ordinary, either.  I guess I can’t blame them.  It’s not every day the governor is found assassinated, and everyone knows how much trouble I caused him.  It’s easy to assume that I’m to blame, but I happen to know for a fact that I’m not.  I haven’t been under the influence of anything for months now.  I’m clean, and I’d know if someone had slipped me something.  I know what it feels like.

Like I said, I’m not sad that Fialkov is dead.  One less Danab to worry about, no matter his profile.  Nobody liked Iron Joe.  Yes, I liked him less, and hid it less, but that doesn’t mean that I’m guilty of his murder, anymore than the Danab have anymore right to this world than anyone else.  What is it with people, assuming they can claim worlds?  I don’t care that they think they can, that they think they can justify it with legal documents.  Legal documents can be made illegal, and then what does that make them?  There are certain common truths, and one of them is that the only natural thing about existence is that everything dies.  When faced with that kind of reality, I suggest a little more levity.  There are things to take seriously and there are things to take lightly.  Well, in other words, as they used to say, live and let die.

It just so happens that in Iron Joe’s case, someone rushed the process.  I’m no advocate of killing, don’t get me wrong, but like I said, if anyone deserved it, he did.  He was what you’d call a real scumbag.  I’m just sorry that I made that opinion known so loudly, because now there’s no reason to think that I’m innocent in his death.  Strange how you can so forcefully distance yourself from someone only to become linked to them inextricably, but I guess that’s life.  If I’d known this was going to happen, I probably would have married him.  At least then I might have profited, not that I particularly care about that sort of thing, either.  I prefer to keep things simple.  Iron Joe tried to keep things as complicated as possible.  They say opposites attract, and maybe it’s that kind of crazy thinking that makes so many things happen so catastrophically.  I bet if I did my own investigation, I’d be able to find the person who was even more opposite of Iron Joe than I was.

There’s not going to be a lot of opportunities for me to do that, other than thinking about it, but that’s what I do best.  I’ll be locked up until they decide what to do with me.  I don’t mind.  The Danab may be savages in almost every other regard, but they’re pretty civil.  They won’t let me be harmed.  Public opinion, when it thought about me at all, never really considered me popular to begin with, and I was always fine with that.  So maybe now it’ll lead to my execution for a crime I didn’t commit.  I guess we’ll see about that.

There are a lot of events to reflect on, and maybe I already know what I need to in order to figure this out, and I just don’t realize it yet.  That’s the point, though, the truth is always obvious, it’s just the common impulse to try and obscure it every way possible, I guess just to keep things interesting.  They knew already that I wasn’t the culprit, but it makes sense to pretend I am, just because it’s what most people expect, just because I am who I am and they are who they are.  I’m just some foolish girl, what else is there to know?

Ah, well of course I’d argue that there’s plenty!  Of course the guilty party thinks there’s always plenty to know, plenty to say, plenty of heads to roll besides their own.  Confusion only benefits them.  But as I’ve said, I didn’t kill Iron Joe.  I probably know who did.  But it’ll be a hell of a time trying to prove it.  I’ve got the time to do it, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.  So sit back, relax, and humor me for a moment.  I know I don’t have anything better to do.  Do you?