Saturday Story: Fountains of Mercy: Part 5

As Pete tries to follow through with the Comapny’s demands, the Improved Settlers make life interesting . . .

Even as much as she irritated him, Pete admired Bettina’s sense of design and art. The waiting area outside her office sported pale blue walls with ivory-colored trim, a restful combination. Four reproductions of great works of human art hovered on the walls: a neo-Scholastic landscape based on an ancient Chinese original, a Rembrandt of a preacher explaining a text (or practicing his sermon) to his wife, Nkbele’s “Starscape”, and a landscape painting of an arid part of the original North American continent with a man on a horse looking out over the scene. Pete hated to waste time waiting, but if he had to stare at walls, at least Bettina provided magnificent images to stare at.

The door to the inner sanctum opened and he walked in. More art projections added the only touch of life to the office, including a three-D hologram of a marble statue of Moses and one of an ancient Greek god in bronze. “You may sit,” Bettina told him, interrupting his thoughts.

Pete settled into the chair facing her “floating” work surface. She frowned. “Have the anti-flood measures for the outflow been finished yet?”

“No, Ms. Monsiérvo, they should be ready in a month.”

The frown deepened into a scowl, her black eyes almost disappearing as she scrunched her face. “That’s not acceptable. The system is backing up now, or it will tomorrow at the latest if the forecasts hold true.” Continue reading

Stuff: Too Much or Not Enough?

It depends. Are you a politician, a reformer, or a mortgage company?

What brought this strange question to mind was watching the ad for one of those on-line mortgage lenders. Which company I do not recall, but the gist of the ad was if you get or refinance a mortgage through them, you can buy more things for you and the new house, and thus you are helping the economy.

On the other hand, according to a few too many experts, reformers, and others I’ve heard and read over the past few years, we Americans and Westerners in general need to stop getting so much stuff and to stop desiring and creating more and better stuff. The world is too small for our desires, and we need to think of the underprivileged and impoverished. A smaller lifestyle is better for the world. Continue reading

Excerpt from “Colony and Consequences”

The sound brought Commander Rada Lord Ni Drako to her feet from a dead sleep, blaster in hand. She crossed the distance between her sleeping platform and the window in two jumps, then stopped just out of easy blaster shot from the courtyard. Rada peered into the darkness.

Ten meters below her quarters, a pair of males circled on the stones of the courtyard, neck spines up, muzzles open to show their teeth. The strange hissing growl that had brought Rada running grew louder, then faded. She looked away from the males, trying to see motion in the shadows around the central courtyard. There, in the corner by the gate, three females watched, the two older keeping the younger wedged against the stones of the wall. Rada’s nostrils flared. If she opened the fragile sand-glass window, she’d smell musk and fear and soon blood as well.

A taloned forefoot touched her shoulder on her blind side. Rada froze, bracing against the window seat as Zabet rose up on her hind legs, peering out over her Pet’s shoulder. <<I see motion. What’s up?>>

<<Mating battle.>>

<<Where are the guards?>> Continue reading

The Brown, Brown Lawn of Winter . . .

means your neighbor has buffalo grass. Or he’s planning to rip everything out and has sprayed it first. Because of the last four years of below-30-year-average rainfall and water restrictions, people around the Panhandle have begun replacing cool season grasses from humid climes with more heat and drought tolerant blends and native grasses. This is a good thing, in my opinion, but does give lawns a decidedly tawny look from December until April. Continue reading

When the Rocks begin to Roll

Tectonics and culture make for interesting, and uncomfortable, bedfellows. Especially earthquakes when the happen in places not used to them like, oh, Germany, or Austria, or the Mississippi River embayment. Most of my work focuses on more gradual things, like river erosion and aggradation (building up the bed), with a few volcanic tweaks tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of years ago. When the earth moves in my work, it is because a river carried it away. But some places are more dramatic.

The ground does not just move of its own accord. Subsurface forces, generally channeled along weak places in the crust called faults, impart a twisting, or rising and falling, or sliding motion to the seemingly solid ground. They may go for hundreds or thousands of years without anything happening on the surface, until one day, snap, shake, rattle, roll. People have just discovered a new fault, the hard way. Because many faults are not visible at the surface, or are of a kind that is not blatantly obvious to the untrained eye. Like the New Madrid fault, which in theory is smack in the middle of the earthquake-proof “stable interior craton” as John McPhee put it. Or the Humbolt Fault, running through Nebraska and Kansas.

THe New Madrid is the one under the Mississippi River Embayment. From:

The New Madrid is the one under the Mississippi River Embayment. From:

Unlike California, the central states don't have that many faults. But the one they do have is rather impressive . . .

Unlike California, the central states don’t have that many faults. But the one they do have is rather impressive . . .

Continue reading

Saturday Story: Fountains of Mercy Part 4

A few months later, back in the Unnamed City, administration, expectations, and hydrology are making life frustrating for Pete Babenburg and his associates . . .

Flood Waters


Bettina droned on for five more minutes before concluding, “Remove the rising water, Mr. Babenburg. Then and only then can we discuss completion of the secondary water system. Your primary duty is to protect what we have, and that includes the take-offs for the city supply.” She brushed a hank of wind-blown hair out of her face and pointed to the Donau Novi rushing past, two kilometers from where they stood on the top of the wall. She’d decided to combine an inspection walk with the weekly municipal amenities meeting, much to her associates’ dismay. The fine misty spring rain and cold wind cut to the bone through light jackets and trousers.

If you’d given us permission nine months ago, we would not be praying over the water intakes, Administratrix Monsiérvo, Pete thought, glowering at his data pad. “Very well.”

He looked up to see her frowning at him, her lips pursed so tightly that they formed a carmine molehill on her pale face. She favored almost white cosmetics in order to enhance the contrast between her black hair and brows and pale skin. Or so Cynthia assured Pete, when he’d asked if Bettina suffered from a skin condition. “No dear,” she’d explained, shaking her head a little, “It’s just that permanent transport pallor is very fashionable in the interior worlds.” Pete had shrugged, relieved that whatever it was wasn’t contagious.

Bettina turned to Arturo Montoya. “Why is the road not finished?” Continue reading