Sunday, November 30, 2014

Red Dream

We emerged from the poorly-lit corridor into a dark alley, illuminated only by a fire in a trash can.  I had no idea where we were, but Rosa, the middle-aged Puerto Rican woman who had been acting as my contact and impromptu partner, seemed satisfied with where we were.  We took a moment to secure the metal door behind us to make sure we wouldn’t be followed, then made our way toward the street half a block away.

That’s when we saw her: a tallish, plain-looking redhead who stepped out of the darkness between us and the entrance to the alley.  She was carrying a large black gym bag—large enough to hold all manner of nasty things.  I assumed she wasn’t there to help us.  Her first words confirmed my assumption.

“So, you found your way out of the complex.  Congratulations.  You probably thought you were home free.  But there’s no way I’m letting you out of here.  Not with what you’ve learned.”  And with that, she reached into her bag and pulled out . . . a pair of marionettes?

I was exhausted, and it was so ludicrous, I had trouble processing it.  “You’ve gotta be kidding me,” is all I could manage to say.

She held the strings for one puppet in each hand.  She made the one on her right, the one farthest from me, perform a little dance that ended in a high kick.  With that kick, Rosa suddenly collapsed with a cry of pain.  Then Red turned her attention to me.  The marionette in her other hand performed not so much a dance as a kata, ending with a flourish of hand motions that sent me stumbling backwards, nearly blinded with pain.  I didn’t know how she was doing it, but she was using those puppets to hurt us.  Maybe to kill us, if we let her.

I didn’t have a weapon, so I knew what I had to do.  It took me several minutes and earned me a few nasty bruises, but I fought my way to the redhead and took away her puppets.  Before she could move to take them back, I broke their wooden limbs and tossed them both into the garbage can fire.

Rosa was groaning, making her way back to her feet, and with my attention momentarily redirected, the redhead made a break for it.  I caught her before she made it to the street.  She scratched and clawed, but I managed to get behind her and get my arm around her neck.  As soon as I demonstrated that I could cut off her air supply by squeezing, she became a lot less combative.

I pulled Red back into the alley so that Rosa and I could decide what to do with her.  “Search her,” Rosa commanded.  “She may have weapons on her person.”

I wasn’t about to let go of the redhead, but Rosa was in no shape to hold her.  So I conducted a clumsy one-handed patdown.  I actually found something of interest, and reached up under her skirt to get to it.

“Whoa, big fella,” she said mockingly. “You’ve subdued me, so now we’re gonna have a little fun, is that it?”

“Not even remotely what I had in mind,” I countered, trying to sound as bored and blasé as I could.  It wasn’t difficult.  She had just tried to kill me, after all.  I located the Velcro strap that held the holster just above her right knee and removed it.  Closer examination revealed that the holster contained not a gun, but two full syringes.

“I’ve heard about this,” I told Rosa.  “One of these syringes contains a fast-acting paralytic that makes it hard to do anything more than breathe and maybe talk a little.  The other is an anesthetic that knocks you out for eight to ten hours.  Administered together, the combination is almost always fatal.  Isn’t that right?” I asked my redheaded companion.  She didn’t respond, except by trying harder to break my grasp and get away.  She almost succeeded . . . but only almost.

I clumsily removed one of the syringes.  It wasn’t labeled.  “Well, there’s no way to tell which of these is which,” I remarked, “so I guess we’ll just have to try one and see what happens.”  I used my teeth to remove the cap, exposing the needle.  The redhead wriggled in panic but still couldn’t escape.  I jabbed the needle into her leg and pushed down the plunger.  She immediately convulsed and stiffened.  I almost lost my hold on her—not that it would have mattered.  She wasn’t going anywhere.

“Well, that one must be the paralytic,” I said cheerfully.  Rosa nodded her assent.  I moved over to a nearby crate, sitting down and propping up the redhead in a semi-vertical position next to me.  “Let’s talk,” I suggested to her.  “I have a lot of questions about your organization, and I’d love some clear answers.”

Her body was unmoving, but her eyes were still defiant.  Or was it terrified?  “I’m not afraid to die,” she muttered between involuntarily clenched teeth.

“And I’m not afraid to kill you,” I said.  “But really, I just want the information.”

And she was surprisingly cooperative.  I asked her several questions, and she answered them.  I asked her a few questions to which I already knew the answers, and she answered them correctly.  I hoped that meant she was answering all of them truthfully, but somebody else would have to evaluate that information in greater depth at a later time.

After about an hour, I could tell that she was starting to regain some of her motor control.  Time to wrap it up.  “Well,” I told her, “this has been entertaining, but not terribly informative.  All you’ve done is to confirm some information that we already knew.  I’m afraid you’re really not going to be much use to us after all.”  I held the syringe above her leg, where she could clearly see it.

“No,” she grunted desperately.  “No.  Don’t kill me.  Please don’t kill me.”

“Relax,” I said.  “This will only hurt for a moment.”  And I jammed the syringe into her leg.  She let out a brief, muffled cry, then collapsed.

“You didn’t have to kill her,” Rosa said reproachfully.

“I didn’t.”  I showed her the syringe—the same one I had injected the redhead with an hour earlier.  I put the cap back on and returned it to the holster next to its unopened partner.  “I figured she’d pass out, and that would make the rest of this easier.  We’ll call in for a pick-up.  Maybe they can get some more information from her.  For now, let’s just grab her bag and get out of here.”

Rosa called in our location and arranged for the pick-up.  We left the alley, walked a couple of blocks, and caught a train out of the neighborhood.  After a short train ride and a long debriefing, I spent most of the next day asleep.

I never saw the redhead again.

Friday, August 16, 2013

What D&D Character are You?

This really doesn't surprise me all that much. I consider myself something of a rebel but when it comes right down to it, I always try to do the right thing.

Lawful Good Elf Monk/Wizard (3rd/3rd Level)

Ability Scores:
Strength- 13
Dexterity- 18
Constitution- 13
Intelligence- 19
Wisdom- 12
Charisma- 15

Lawful Good- A lawful good character acts as a good person is expected or required to act. He combines a commitment to oppose evil with the discipline to fight relentlessly. He tells the truth, keeps his word, helps those in need, and speaks out against injustice. A lawful good character hates to see the guilty go unpunished. Lawful good is the best alignment you can be because it combines honor and compassion. However, lawful good can be a dangerous alignment when it restricts freedom and criminalizes self-interest.

Elves are known for their poetry, song, and magical arts, but when danger threatens they show great skill with weapons and strategy. Elves can live to be over 700 years old and, by human standards, are slow to make friends and enemies, and even slower to forget them. Elves are slim and stand 4.5 to 5.5 feet tall. They have no facial or body hair, prefer comfortable clothes, and possess unearthly grace. Many others races find them hauntingly beautiful.

Primary Class:
Monks- Monks are versatile warriors skilled at fighting without weapons or armor. Good-aligned monks serve as protectors of the people, while evil monks make ideal spies and assassins. Though they don't cast spells, monks channel a subtle energy, called ki. This energy allows them to perform amazing feats, such as healing themselves, catching arrows in flight, and dodging blows with lightning speed. Their mundane and ki-based abilities grow with experience, granting them more power over themselves and their environment. Monks suffer unique penalties to their abilities if they wear armor, as doing so violates their rigid oath. A monk wearing armor loses their Wisdom and level based armor class bonuses, their movement speed, and their additional unarmed attacks per round.

Secondary Class:
Wizards- Wizards are arcane spellcasters who depend on intensive study to create their magic. To wizards, magic is not a talent but a difficult, rewarding art. When they are prepared for battle, wizards can use their spells to devastating effect. When caught by surprise, they are vulnerable. The wizard's strength is her spells, everything else is secondary. She learns new spells as she experiments and grows in experience, and she can also learn them from other wizards. In addition, over time a wizard learns to manipulate her spells so they go farther, work better, or are improved in some other way. A wizard can call a familiar- a small, magical, animal companion that serves her. With a high Intelligence, wizards are capable of casting very high levels of spells.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Trask Industries: Putting Your Security First

Trask Industries with an excellent PR campaign.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Name Is Wedbetter. Percival Wedbetter.

We were watching Casino Royale the other night when the question occurred to me: How can this character possibly be the same one portrayed by Sean Connery in the early 60s? I know, Casino Royale was officially supposed to be a reboot of the series, but even if that's true, how can the 007 of Dr. No be the same 007 as in Die Another Day? In short, how can the secret agents portrayed by Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, Daniel Craig, and even David Niven possibly  be the same character?

And then the answer occurred to me: They're not.

"James Bond" is MI6's answer to the Dread Pirate Roberts.

As with the original DPR, the name is the important thing. Think about it. No master villain is ever going to be intimidated, no two-bit thug ever frightened, by a spy named Percival Wedbetter, even if he sounds (and fights) like Sean Connery. Percival Wedbetter is never going to seduce the femme fatale, even if he looks like Daniel Craig. A name like that will inspire only derision. But James Bond - there's a name to respect, and fear, and love (or at least lust after). James Bond is a name with power.

So I figure that Sean Connery's character may actually have been named James Bond. But as lampshaded by Daniel Craig's version, double-Os tend to have short life spans. So when the original James Bond died (or retired to live like a king in Patagonia), MI6 passed on the name along with the 007 designation. Each successive James Bond was replaced in their time, some after long and glorious terms of service (Moore), some after only a mission or two (Lazenby, Niven). The current incarnation (Craig) may have different attitudes and methods to match more contemporary threats, but is still a valued member of Her Majesty's Secret Service. When his time is up, he'll be replaced by someone else, and the name will live on.

And thus for more than half a century, the British Secret Service and the world have enjoyed the service and protection of the greatest of spies, secret agent 007 - James Bond.

(Everyone who's officially involved in the matter denies this, of course.)

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Carl Sagan vs. Astrology!

I saw this over at the Hero Games Discussion Boards and had to share it. Huzzah for the Scientific Method!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Mighty M.O.D.O.K.

M.O.D.O.K. (Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing) is getting some love on the NPR popular culture blog.

In Praise of M.O.D.O.K: Why Gleefully Goofy Beats Broodingly Brutal

I have a confession to make: I absolutely love comic books featuring M.O.D.O.K. Anytime he appears, I start to chuckle and know I'm in for a great comic book ride. In an era of year(s) long comic book special events (Civil War, Dark Reign, Blackest Night) and edgy/gritty characters, M.O.D.O.K. is a breath of fresh air.

The world needs more M.O.D.O.K.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

July 20th - 1969

This is truly a Dork/Geek moment.

Today is the 41st anniversary of the first time mankind set foot an an extra-planetary body.