Saturday Story: Remorse

“If we fall in the race, though we win, the hoof-slide is scarred on the course;

Allah and Earth pardon sin, but remaineth forever remorse.” R. Kipling.

 

When General James McKendrick confronted him, Major Edward O’Neil swore that he had been joking. His fellow officers, however, had their doubts.

 

It began innocuously enough one night at supper when Commander Na Gael joined the others in trying to identify the mystery meat. It was Lent, and Friday, so most guesses centered on fish or seafood. “Maybe lobster,” Major Maria de Alba y Rodriguez speculated, drawing laughter.

Lieutenant Pedro Bustos, from Chile, poked the item in question and decided, “capybara. It is a fish during Lent, after all.” Continue reading

New Alexi’s Tale Release

Different Generation, Same Danger or

Ask not for whom the cat texts, Captain Oblivious. He texts for thee.

ItPCvr

Ivan the Purrable and the Twelfth Dancing Princess is now available on Amazon.

In Russian tales, the third son is the clever one, the hard-working one, the one who gets the victory, the girl, and usually a kingdom. And then there’s Steve . . .

Stavros George doesn’t believe in Baba Yaga or Chernobog. Steve believes in structural engineering, materials science, and that people need to tip their pizza delivery guys more. Too bad for Steve that Baba Yaga and Koschai the Deathless believe in him.

It will take all three of Alexi’s children’s bravery, strength, and wits, and Ivan the Purrable, to get out of this mess. And Steve had better hope his siblings reach him before Ivan does. Because there’s no tuna in Chernobog’s realm and Ivan’s seriously ticked.

Situational Sheepdogs

I think the guest speaker Sunday was a little surprised when he asked which doors could be locked from the inside and I began reciting them, working my way around the building, floor by floor. Most people don’t observe their environments that closely, or make that kind of mental note. Most people don’t look around rooms and make mental lists of what can be used for attack or defense, in what order to grab said items, and where all the exits are (although that is probably changing). Most people don’t assume that trouble is lurking in the bushes and that it is a matter of when, not if. But, fortunately, most people have not been the target of choice for bullies or other two-footed predators. Some of us have, and it leaves traces. How we choose to deal with it . . . Continue reading

Book Review: Tales of the Minivandians

Rogneby, Tom. Tales of the Minivandians (E-book, 2015)

Imagine you are stuck in traffic with a couple of kids in a car. And they are bored. And you are too. How do you make things more interesting? You can sing songs. You can play the license plate game (unless traffic is parked). Or you can tell the story of the day medieval style. And thus we get the first half of Tales of the Minivandians, the sagas of Lord DaddyBear of the Minivandians, his brave wife (and combat mage and healer) and their three children. It’s a great, fun romp for adults and for kids under 12 or so. (And I wish all safety briefings were like that given to DaddyBear as he boarded the great sky dragon to fly home). The second half of the book is a straight fantasy with some bits that are probably a little scary and grim for the under 12 set. Continue reading

No Longer Surprised

It speaks volumes about the state of the world that neither the attack on the McDonald’s and the mall in Munich, nor the horrible car bombing in Kabul, surprised me. And I suspect that if people were honest, the fact that the attacks took place did not surprise all that many people, relatively speaking. The location in Munich might have, because unless someone is really following the news from Germany and Austria that closely, or relies on sources like Britebart-England and the Gatestone Institute, they’d miss what’s been going on over there. But the fact of another follower of Islam blowing up a truck bomb, and of a shooting spree (with a firearm not legally obtainable unless one is law enforcement or a member of certain shooting clubs and then is not permitted to carry) by a young Moslem male, do not surprise us anymore.

Upset? Certainly. Depress? Absolutely. Greatly concern? Yes, although not always for the same reasons. But not surprise. We’re a bit like people in 1890 as described in Barbara Tuchman’s The Proud Tower. Continue reading

Book Review: A Net of Dawn and Bones

Chancy, C. R. A Net of Dawn and Bones (Kindle edition, 2015)

A detective, a heretic, and a redhead walked into a vampire bar . . . and it’s not a joke. The world has turned upside down, the ACLU is on the wrong side,  and the good guys are in deep kimchi. And that’s before two escapees from hell pop up and make life really interesting.

I freely admit, I grabbed this one because of a great plug for it by one of the regulars in the comments section at AccordingToHoyt . And then I didn’t get around to looking at it until I needed a little cool and quiet time at LibertyCon. Well, I got the cool but not the quiet time, because the book sucked me in hard and I had to back out and stop reading until my heart rate settled down and I stopped trying to pant. And then the pace of the book accelerated. Continue reading

Saturday Story: Crackers

This takes place two months after the end of Shadows and Anguish

“Consider it the Graf-General’s farewell tour,” Captain de Alba suggested as she looked over the list of things they were supposed to have had done already. In early December General Joschka Graf von Hohen-Drachenburg would be making an “informal inspection” of the 58th Regiment and so everyone was trying to catch up all those things they hadn’t had time to do because they’d been too busy doing what they were supposed to do.

The adjutant shook his head, “No, if it were a farewell tour there’d already be t-shirts printed up and for sale, and I haven’t seen an order form for the commemorative DVD.” The rest of the staff officers and their advisor groaned at the Israeli’s truly abysmal joke. Even Commander “Rachel Na Gael” managed a laugh and Moshe grinned even more broadly. He liked the one-eyed alien and he missed hearing her laughter and her wise-ass comments. Ever since the regiment’s return from Germany she’d been growing quieter and quieter, and Captain ben David worried about her.

“Actually, this is his way of settling bets, since there was a large chunk of the pool that wagered he’d just fossilize behind his desk and get rolled out for meetings and receptions, sort of like Jeremy Bentham,” Colonel Tadeus Przilas, the executive officer, confided to the others, drawing another round of chuckles. He switched topics. “Rachel, what’s this I hear about no Christmas crackers?” It had been a hard few months and everyone looked forward to the Christmas holidays, even the non-Christians.

She snorted. “Utter codswallop, as usual. Someone decided that,” she mimicked the logistics officer’s tone, “ ‘out of concern for those suffering from PTSD,’ we would only have crackers that did not make a popping sound. Which, of course, do not exist. Thus no crackers.” She looked around and leaned forward conspiratorially, whispering “or so Oatmeal thinks.” Captain Edward O’Neil, now branded “Oatmeal” because of his behavior during the Harz campaign, had earned the disgust of the rest of the officers and they made no effort to hide their unprofessional snickers. Then the conference room door opened and Regimental Sergeant Major Sheldon Smith, Captain O’Neil, Father Mikael Farudi and Major General James McKendrick walked in.

“Remain seated,” McKendrick ordered as the chairs began sliding back. He took his usual place and once everyone but the chaplain had taken their customary seats, he started the briefing. Rachel gave her place to the Anglican priest and instead leaned against the wall. Father Mikael had a Most Secret clearance, so his attending the regular briefing was not a problem. “First things first,” the Scottish redhead rumbled. “Congratulations are in order for Maria and Edward. Both of you will receive promotions at the new year; Maria for her ongoing service and excellent work on developing the satellite use capabilities of the Branch, and Edward for his combat role in Operation Heart’s Blood.”

A round of congratulations flowed through the room and as much as she hated to admit it, Rachel agreed that O’Neil had earned his major’s crown. “To spike the logical rumor, I put Moshe in for promotion as well, but the I.D.F. informed me that he lacks time in grade. However, you will get a raise and I assume you will be fast tracked, Moshe.” The Israeli shrugged. The IDF was notoriously picky about what it demanded of career officers and he wasn’t surprised at the denial. “Now for our regular business,” and McKendrick snorted a little as the others chuckled.

The meeting went swiftly and finally the general announced, “Father Mikael has a request.”

The Lebanese priest smiled. “I need help. I need someone who can read Hebrew and a Greek-speaker if at all possible to assist with the Christmas Eve service. Just to read two passages of scripture – they can come and leave if they need or want to. And if any of you know of a good high-treble singer in your sections, let me know so I can try to persuade them to sing with the choir that night. Male or female will work. First Sergeant Lee will be gone on leave,” he explained. Rachel smothered a bit of a grin. Poor Tony – he caught hell for singing countertenor. That he remained single and never cursed fueled less amusing rumors and now she smothered a sigh.

Everyone agreed to ask and an unusually cheerful McKendrick adjourned the meeting. “Ah, Commander, a moment please,” and he let the others leave, then nodded for Father Mikael to shut the door. “Is something wrong, Rachel?”

She shook her head. “No sir.”

The two men exchanged a glance. McKendrick didn’t press but just said, “I’m sorry you won’t be singing with us this year. And I’m sorry that Vienna has denied my request to award you either the Silver Cross or the Honor Medal.” Those were two of the G.D.F.’s highest awards, one military and the other for civilians working with the Defense Force.

Rachel smiled a little. “Thank you for nominating me, sir.” She had nothing else to say so McKendrick dismissed his advisor. She walked out, her cane giving the familiar “step tap step” cadence as the woman returned to the laboratory.

The general and the priest waited until her steps had faded away. “PTSD again?” Father Mikael asked.

“I don’t know. I just hope that General von Hohen-Drachenburg’s visit will improve things.” He took off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “I’m told that they are very old acquaintances.” He replaced his spectacles. “I never thought I’d say this, Father, but I miss her bad jokes and wise-ass remarks.”

“As do I, General. I also miss her singing,” the priest sighed a little, worried about his unusual parishioner but not certain what to do for her. Continue reading

On an e-reader, everyone’s reading Dostoyevsky

. . . or Piketty, or Dickens, or McCullough, or whatever the great work of the week is.

The famous and very true cartoon, originally from teh New Yorker by Peter Steiner. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/f/f8/Internet_dog.jpg

The famous and very true cartoon, originally from the New Yorker by Peter Steiner. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/f/f8/Internet_dog.jpg

Anyone else remember book covers from school or later? They were leather, or padded cloth, with handles. Or they were paper and you cut, taped, and folded them around your book to protect it. And you propped said book up on your desk while “taking notes” i.e. reading something else during class. Enter the e-reader. Continue reading