Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Short Story: Where No Wicca Has Gone Before (Part-2)

And now, the conclusion . . .


Where No Wicca Has Gone Before (Part-2)
by Paul Darcy

Dr. Crusher got off of the captain’s desk and held out the cell phone device she was holding. "Do you girls mind if I scan you?"

"Yes," Tara blurted out. Dr. Crusher stopped her advance.

"And we are not girls," Willow said eyes glaring, "we are powerful wicca, and, and not to be trifled with. So, there will be no scanning, please. Or probing. We just need to get back home. So if you could do whatever you did only in reverse, we can leave now."

Dr. Crusher closed the lid of the phone and took a step back.

Willow, satisfied for the moment took a good look at the windows. "And what is with the outer space themed window pictures?" she said, "Shouldn’t there be ocean out there?"

"Ocean?" the captain asked. "Why do you say that?"

"Enterprise," said Tara, "is an aircraft carrier. And this isn’t that Enterprise, is it?"

"If I may, captain," said Mr. Data.

"Go ahead," Picard said.

"I believe Tara is speaking of the USS Enterprise, a naval war vessel from the late twentieth century Earth," Data explained.

"But that was over three hundred years ago," said the captain now looking at Tara for further enlightenment.

"Not to us," Willow said looking as perplexed as the captain. "It’s still in San Francisco harbor, or Hawaii or doing a tour in the Pacific or something."

"Maybe it would be best," said Picard, "if you were to just explain where you are from. I’ve checked with this planet’s council and none of their citizens are unaccounted for."

"We are from Sunnydale," said Tara.

"That’s right," added Willow. "Now, can we go back please. Giles will not be happy with us, if he finds out."

"Sunnydale," said Data tilting his head to one side, "is either an orbiting science station around Rigive Seven, one of thirty named settlements on various Federation planets, a —"

"Yes thank you Data," said Picard. "Perhaps it would be best if Tara and Willow elaborated for us instead."

"Sunnydale," said Tara, "as in Sunnydale, California." Seeing the reaction of Data she continued, "Earth. You do know Earth? I hope. The year 2001?"

"You are from Earth?" Picard said more as a statement than question. "But we are more than twenty six light years from Earth, and this stardate 43 . . ." Seeing the befuddled look on Tara and Willow’s faces, Picard trailed off.

Picard rubbed a hand over his chin, "Mr. Data?"

"The captain was going to mention the year in stardates, but using the old system we are currently in 2366. And the only recorded name of Sunnydale," explained Data, "on Earth was from a town long disappeared. It was indeed located in California."

"That’s the one," Willow said. "What do you mean disappeared? And 2366, ooh."

"Though the records I have are not complete, it would appear Sunnydale suddenly stopped being a place of residence." Data tilted his head again. "I have no more information."

"You mentioned a Giles?" Picard asked. "Do you know of the Giles New Colony?"

"Is it full of stuffy British settlers?" Willow joked. "Sorry, no. We do know a Giles though. He is British. Stuffy. Not helping?"

"Sorry no," Picard said. "As to the starfield behind me, well that is easily enough explained. We are in orbit around—"

The floor of the ready room suddenly lurched and an explosion sounded somewhere on the ship. Red lights flashed and emergency lighting cast a dimmer glow.

"Captain to the bridge," came a loud voice. "You won’t believe this, sir."

"On my way Number One"

***

Xander knelt down with the pack of matches while Buffy and Giles repeated over and over, "Hecate bind the ways."

Buffy who was looking at Giles and holding his hands suddenly got the visual clue almost disrupting her concentration for the chant. She flashed Xander wide open eyes and a head bob.

Immediately, Xander began lighting the new candles and replacing the old ones. It seemed to take him ten minutes, but in the end all candles were replaced. Giles stopped chanting.

"Did it work?" Buffy asked.

"They are all lit and in place," Xander added unnecessarily.

"I don’t know," was Giles response.

"You are the watcher," said Buffy, "weren’t you watching? And aren’t you are supposed to know these kinds of things?"

Giles let go of Buffy’s hands and removed his glasses. "Well I hate to burst your bubble about my supernatural abilities," began Giles.

"Go ahead Buffy," Xander said, "pop him."

"But," continued Giles, "I am not a powerful spell caster and can’t really sense if the link between the Tribblesh and Tara and Willow is intact."

"Well, what do we do then?" Buffy asked.

"We could get for food," suggested Xander, ‘maybe chocolate?"

Giles looked over at him. "Not a bad idea, really."

***

"Captain," Data said, seated now in the right control station in front of the jumbotron, "the approaching vessel matches no know configuration. They are on an intercept course and continuing to fire."

As if on cue, the Enterprise rocked again as a lance of light shot out from the alien vessel and impacted on the ship.

"Mr. Worf?" Picard said.

"Shields are holding," he reported, "but as the ship gets closer the energy from those blasts increases as well. We will begin to deplete shields soon."

Willow and Tara watched the drama unfold on the jumbotron. A ship, roughly arrowhead shaped, was turning point on towards them and continuing to fire green bolts of laser fire? Each time one hit the ship the deck beneath Willow’s feet rocked.

"Mr Crusher," Picard ordered, "evasive maneuvers. Worf, hail them again."

"Aye sir," came two immediate responses. Willow was impressed with the speed and professionalism shown. But the big bad ship was still scoring hits and getting closer.

"Captain," Worf bellowed above the red alert sirens, "our hails are being answered."

"On screen," the captain said moving between the two forward stations.

The jumbotron filled with the head and shoulders of a masked, or rather helmeted, individual. "Rebel scum," came a deep and throaty voice, "prepare to meet your doom." Deep mechanical breathing sounded across the bridge originating from the strange black garbed individual.

"Your actions are unprovoked," Picard said, his face showing open defiance. "If you do not stand down your weapons we will be forced to defend ourselves."

A bright flash of light appeared on the bridge and the communications were broken. "Mon Capitan. He won’t back down."

Picard turned around, irritation apparent on his face. "Q! I should have known. What is you part in this?"

"Nothing, unfortunately." Q, dressed in the same uniform as the captain, strolled leisurely down the sloping deck and stopped before Picard.

"I don’t have time for your games, Q." Picard said.

"Oh, but you must," Q insisted, "and they are not my games. Even I couldn’t have thought up something as twisted as this. And I can’t even blame you either. The Continuum is doing all it can right now to hold this universe together. No, the real culprits of this little episode are right there," Q spun around and pointed directly at Willow and Tara, "and unless they go back to where they came from this whole universe we inhabit will come undone, despite our best efforts."

"Then why don’t you send them back," Picard said. "End this right now." The ship rocked again from another impact.

Q, a look of disgust on his face snapped his fingers. "That’s much better," he said. The red alert ended and th lighting went back to normal. "I would if I could, but I can’t."

"Sir," said the ensign seated on the left from control station, "the hostile ship is gone."

"You are such a bright boy," Q said with derision, "what are you still doing here on this ship anyhow? Oh, never mind."

"What happened Q? And why can’t you send Willow and Tara back?" Picard said tugging down his uniform harder than usual.

"I sent the ship and its disagreeable leader into Borg space. If it’s fighting he wants, I’m sure they will supply it for him. As to sending our visitors back, I’m afraid we Q can only affect things in this space-time continuum. They," Q said nodding his head in Tara and Willow’s direction, "are outside of it and will need to find their own way back. And quite frankly we don’t know what that is. I do hope you can help them for all our sakes."

"Sir," began Data, "I have scanned the subspace channels for information. It appears that a large reptilian dinosaur-like creature over one hundred feet tall is ravaging Tokyo, the outpost around Jupiter is reporting the sudden appearance of a huge black monolith in space above Europa and a great number of unidentified ships are being reported in various sectors of space by the Federation Fleet."

"You do see what you little joy ride is causing don’t you," Q said looking directly at Willow and Tara. "Hasn’t anyone ever warned you that playing around with magic is dangerous?"

"Ummm, we didn’t mean to." Willow offered in defense. "And hey, it was him that brought us here anyhow," she glared at Picard who was taken aback. "We were just doing a bit of traveling," continued Willow, "minding our own wicca business when, poof, here we are."

"Yes," said Picard, "this is all very interesting. But how do we fix it? Q?"

"Don’t look at me mon Capitan," Q said.

"Chicken feet!" Willow suddenly said.

"Yeah," Tara agreed, "fresh chicken feet."

A stunned silence filled the bridge and all eyes focused on Tara and Willow. Tara hid behind her hair, but Willow, bolstered by the idea got excited and began to explain. "If Hecate can hear us from here, with a fresh pair of chicken feet, we can complete a spell which should reconnect us with the Tribblish back in Tara’s apartment. Only problem is we are not packing any chicken feet, and this ship doesn’t exactly look like a coop."

A flash of light and Q was holding a pair of chicken feet. "Will these do?" he said.

Willow approached him and took the feet. "They are still warm."

"You said you needed fresh," Q said looking annoyed.

"We still have a problem on New Giles Colony," Picard said.

"Not any more," Q replied. "The Q have taken care of it. You see if Willow and Tara had not dropped by you would have completed that mission. And don’t think of it as a favor, Picard. It is necessary to keep this universe intact until they leave."

"So what do we do then," Picard asked, "with the chicken feet?"

"Take us back to the transponder room," Willow said, "and Tara and I can set up."
"Agreed," said Picard wondering if he should correct Willow. Transponder? How odd, but then these two ladies were unique. He could see that.

***

"You call this tea?" Buffy asked.

Giles looked perturbed. "It is very good tea thank you very much. I get it specially imported from India."

"Maybe you should get them to fly it over instead of letting the currents carry it? The scones are pretty good though. You always keep some in the car?" Xander asked.

"Look, if you don’t like —"

"Hey, what’s happening?" Xander said. The starfleet medical boxes were suddenly shimmering gold.

***

"You are sure about this?" Picard asked Willow who was now seated across from Tara on the transporter pad.

"Yep," Willow said curtly a playful smile curling her upper lip. "All you need to do is send us back exactly where you picked us up and we should be able to take it from there."

"Well," Picard said, "it goes against all my better judgement, but the situation is getting quite out of hand. Very well."

"Coordinates set, sir," said Mr. Darcy behind the transporter controls.

Picard pursed his lips, tugged down on his tunic. "Please," he began addressing Willow and Tara, "don’t do this again."

"We won’t,"they said. Willow and Tara smiled back, mostly from the relief of knowing they were going back home. This trip, while sort of fun, was not something they ever wanted to repeat. Maybe Giles was right when he said playing around with powerful magic was dangerous.

"Hecate, hear my call," Willow and Tara began to chant together.

"Shall I energize now, captain?" Mr Darcy asked.

"Make it so," Picard responded and watched as the two wicca disappeared in a shimmer of light.

***

"We are back," Willow squeaked opening one eye and seeing the familiar apartment.

"About bloody time," Giles yelled from the darkness.

"Busted," Tara said.

"Giles ordered me to do it," Buffy’s voice said from the darkness as well.

Xander walked over to them, "do you know what time it is young ladies?" a big goofy smile played across his face.

Willow and Tara stood up and Giles and Buffy came over too. Buffy hugged Willow. Tara looked embarrassed, like they had been caught playing with matches in a fireworks factory.

Giles, face doing its best stern British impression, said to Willow, "I am not impressed. Do you have any, urggg, cough,"

"Giles?" Willow said, "you okay?"

"He’s old enough for a heart attack, isn’t he?" Xander said with mock concern.

Giles waved his hand indicating he was okay. "Jus, jus," Giles cleared his throat as best he could, "just a bit of," he coughed again, "scone caught."

-The End-

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Weird Science: Obsidian


We’ve all heard of the "Obsidian" Order. Err, well some of us have. Sounds ominous though, doesn’t it? Commonly used in place of "black", because let’s face it - it sounds way cooler. But do we really know what obsidian is?

Well in this short little post, I will tell you.

Obsidian is a volcanic glass. It is usually formed in lava flows - hence the volcanic before the glass. Essentially, obsidian is mostly silica and has a similar composition to granite, but it is usually pitch black in color. And why is it so black in color? Its secret lies with crystallites. Crystallites are tiny crystal growths inside the obsidian structure causing it to be black.

And, if there are tiny amounts of iron oxide (rust) inside the obsidian’s structure as it is forming, it could also be a red or brownish color.

And if you want to see a whole load of obsidian in the real world, you have to check out the Obsidian Cliffs in Yellowstone park, or Mount Hekla in Iceland.

Now when you hear somebody say they are part of the "Obsidian" order, you will know what they are talking about. They may still have rocks in their heads though, but now you will know what kind.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Science Fiction Book Review: The Reality Dysfunction Part 1: Emergence

The Reality Disfunction Emergence
Every once in a while I love to sink my teeth into something epic - metaphorically speaking of course. Although I did bite Margaret Atwood’s "Bodily Harm" and toss it across the room one day - but that is another tale and I have never bitten another book since. Of course I have never read another Margaret Atwood book since either - shudder . . .

Anyway, this book by Peter F. Hamilton, was exactly what I was looking for in a huge, huge, huge epic galactic science fiction novel - beginning. And yes, it is only part 1 or 6. In the UK these books were first released in three volumes only but for US and Canadian consumption (we must have shorter attention spans, or this was done to squeeze extra coins from our pockets) it was released in 6 parts.

So on to the review of Reality Dysfunction Part 1: Emergence. What I will say right off is after a couple hundred pages you know you are in for something huge (as if you couldn’t already guess from part one being almost 600 pages) and the world as set up by Peter is quite interesting. The main actions take place either on the planet Lalonde or up in the vastness of space. And of course an extinct highly-advanced race, the Laymil, have left a vast mystery behind - the mystery of their sudden demise long, long ago . . .

Peter does a great job of linking the many threads in the story together and by the end of the first volume you literally know that the fan has been liberally splattered with dung. And you have to keep in mind that this is only part one of six, and actually only the first half of what was originally one book so you are kind of stuck in limbo, but wanting to find out more.

Not a really hard read in terms of ideas or plot, but well executed and looking promising at this stage of the game. Not having read the entire series - yet - I can’t speak for all six volumes as a whole, but so far I am going to continue to read. If you are up for a lot of pages and a galactic epic, this is a good place to start.

Oh, and it’s not a Star Trek ripoff either. And nothing at all like an Atwood novel - absolutely nothing.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Short Story: Where No Wicca Has Gone Before

Well, it's finally here. I've slaved over this piece, sweated, cursed, lost sleep . . . Just kidding. To start, I would like to say I have never written "fan fiction" before (is this what this is called?) so I'm not sure how this story turned out (I guess you will be the judge). And I've never read any fan fiction either - my bad. So without further delay, here is my crossover fanny fictiony tale where Willow does indeed meet Picard.


Where No Wicca Has Gone Before (Part-1)
by Paul Darcy


Willow And TaraSeated across from each other in lotus position, Willow and Tara breathed deeply and held hands.

"Are you excited?" Willow asked, her eyes were swimming with mischief.

"I think so," Tara replied, but her look spoke caution and Willow could read it as easily as a billboard sign.

"What' the matter?" Willow said, shock suddenly apparent on her face. "Did we forget a spell ingredient? I think the Magic Box is still open."

"No," Tara said smiling, "it’s just that, well, we’ve never both traveled the outer planes together. It’s really dangerous."

"But we’re ready, right?" Willow asked. "I know we can do this. Can’t we?" Miss Kitty Fantastico meowed sweetly from the candle lit recesses of Tara’s place as if to assure them everything was okay.

"I think we can try it."Tara said in her best reassuring tone. "We have the orb of Tribblesh. It will ground us to this spot and guide us back here." Tara took one small breath. "I’m ready."

With girlish joy, Willow’s smile lit up the room like a search light and basked Tara in its glow. "Okay," Willow said, eager to begin.

In unison the two Wicca started chanting, "Hecate, hear my call. Open the ways between and offer us safe passage to your realm. Oh Hecate . . . "

***

Lieutenant Darcy tapped his Starfleet communicator. A trilling beep indicated that it had been activated. "Captain. I’m ready to beam up the medical supplies."

"Proceed," said Picard without hesitation. His voice, powerful and reassuring, always made Darcy feel as though he were doing a quality job, even while performing as menial a task as this one. One day Darcy would make commander, maybe even a Starship Captain like Picard.

"Aye sir. Energizing." Darcy ran his hand vertically over the controls and watched the readouts on the buffer arrays. His trained eye could spot any irregularity. So far so good. He had been assigned to transporter duty for the past three weeks, but was due for assignment reallocation, maybe even a promotion.

The familiar transporter sound permeated Transporter room three and the golden shimmer of its effect began to appear over the receiver arrays. Suddenly the sound of the buffers changed and the readings spiked. Darcy looked down, unsure of what was happening. The transporter had been working flawlessly a moment ago.

"Mr. Darcy," came Picard’s voice over his communicator, "is there a problem?"
It would appear the captain was monitoring the transfer. Darcy scanned the controls, interpreted the readouts.

"Ummm, sir," Darcy said making some buffer adjustments, "I’m losing the lock on the medical supplies. Adjusting . . . No good. Wait, what the . . . "

"What is it Mr. Darcy?" Picard’s usual cool voice took on a suddenly different quality. "We need those supplies for the outbreak on New Giles Colony."

"Yes sir, but I can’t regain the lock." Darcy’s eyes opened wide. "Ummm, sir. Not sure how to report this but the medical supplies suddenly transformed into two life forms. Humanoid."

"What?" Picard’s voice held annoyance, but not for Darcy. "Explain."

"Well sir," said Darcy, "I’ve lost the lock on the medical supply, but the signal jumped over to some place in subspace, as best I can tell, and I now have a lock on two humanoid life forms. Should I beam them aboard?"

"No wait. Let me contact this planet’s senate first. Mr. Worf and a security detail will be down to greet our guests. Can you hold them in transit until he arrives?"

"Yes sir. Their signals are strong and stable."

"Good. Picard out."

Darcy looked over the buffer array readings again. He logged the exact coordinates in subspace the two humanoids appeared to have originated from. From analyzing their signatures he could tell he had locked onto two human females, but one of their readings was abnormal. So much for menial, regular tasks. And he had lost the medical supplies. So much for a promotion a well.

***

"I wonder how Willow and Tara are making out searching for clues about Glory on the machine?" Giles asked.

"You mean machine, as in computer right?" Buffy said.

"Yes that." Giles said. "I phoned, but there was no answer. Strange, isn’t it. Willow or Tara always answer. I can’t imagine . . ."

"Maybe they’re busy. You know, early stages of love. Oh, and you did say ‘Willow and Tara are making out’ in a sentence . . ."

"Yes, I get the picture," Giles said. He removed his glasses and began to clean them off.

"Well, we could just go over there. They have a door. We could knock." Buffy suggested.

"Perhaps we’d better," said Giles.

Buffy managed to hold her tongue while Giles put his new car in neutral, then quickly back into drive on their way to Tara’s place. Glory was making her crazy and apparently having her effect on Giles too. It was no fun being overpowered by another, especially when she was wearing nicer clothes.

Giles cleared his throat and knocked on the door of Tara’s place. A few seconds passed, then some more.

"I don’t hear any clothes scrambling?" Buffy said innocently.

Giles knocked again more loudly. "Willow? Tara? Are you in there?"

"Still no soundage," Buffy said.

"Thank you Buffy, I can hear."

Buffy reached over and tried the door. "It’s locked. What if something happened to them?"

"Behind a locked door?" Giles asked.

"Well, maybe something came in through the window and did something bad?" Buffy offered.

"Just open it, Buffy."

"But who’s gonna pay—"

"Never mind that. I’ll have the locks replaced, don’t worry."

With one twist of her wrist Buffy snapped the door’s lock and pushed the door open. "I hope they are not in there sleeping. Remember, you asked me to do it. And you are my watcher, so I obey your orders."

Giles shot Buffy a stern English glare.

"Sometimes," Buffy said.

Giles pushed past Buffy into Tara’s room. "Willow? Tara?"

He spent a moment looking around then headed to the center of the room where a faint glow of candles shed some lights. "Hello, what is this?" said Giles.

Buffy coming in behind Giles could see candlelight and heard a faint meow. "Looks like the cat is the only one home," Buffy said. "And those two biggy boxes of whatever."

On the carpet were two large white boxes, between them was an arranged series of markings and candles. The candles had burned down quite low.

"Well inspector Giles?" Buffy said.

"I don’t believe it." Giles said.

"What?" Buffy said.

"The orb of Tribblesh! Oh dear god, both of them." Giles paced the room looking shaken.

"Isn’t ‘orb’ singular?" Buffy asked. "If there were two shouldn’t it be orbs?"

"Not now Buffy," Giles said looking irritated, "Tara and Willow are traveling in the outer planes. Very dangerous and very foolish of them."

"Funny," Buffy said looking around, "I don’t see any brochures. What are these box thingys anyhow?"

"I don’t know," Giles said looking down at them.

"Maybe they are coolers for Wicca ingredients. You know, the ones with due dates?"

Giles knelt down in front of one of the two boxes. "There are symbols on the side. Medical if I am not mistaken. What is Starfleet?"

"You got me there. And Wiccas need medicine? I thought they would just do spells or something."

Looking over the setup, Giles counted the candles, examined the orb while Buffy looked on and waited.

"Well?" Buffy said.

"While they are on another plane the orb will ground them here and guide them back, as long as the candles burn." Giles stated. Both Giles and Buffy looked at the low candles.

"And that would be how long exactly?" Buffy asked.

"Another hour, maybe two." Giles stated. "We must try to recall them. Buffy look for a book with the orb on the cover and I’ll set up here."

Buffy went over to the bookshelf and began to search. Giles got busy on the floor creating more symbols.

***

"Energizing," said Darcy. A security detail of two neckless officers stood behind Mr. Worf in the transporter room with phasors drawn ready for action. Worf’s expression only showed annoyance. But then again, his natural expression was annoyance.

As the tranporter effect shimmered two female forms materialized on the transporter pad. They were seated, facing each other and holding hands.

Worf and Darcy looked at the duo. Their clothes were colorful and loose fitting. They had their eyes closed. Worf took a step towards them when one of them spoke.

"Ummm, Tara?"

"Yeah?"

"Are we back in the apartment?"

Tara rocked from side to side slightly. "I don’t think so. No carpet."

Willow opened her eyes and squinted at the brightness of the transporter room. Tara opened hers as well.

"W- we definitely aren’t b-back home," said Tara. It looked to Willow like some kind of x-ray room in a hospital, or part of the Initiative complex. Something had gone terribly wrong. Giles was going to choke on a scone over this one.

Willow and Tara stood up and faced a large figure coming closer. Their eyes were still adjusting from the transition.

"Who are you?" bellowed Worf in his deep stentorian voice.

Willow and Tara stood close together holding hands. "Ummm, don’t need to yell, demon." Willow said with bluster. "Back, or I’ll cast you into the abyss." Leaning forward but still holding Tara’s hand, Willow threatened the demon and was prepared to unleash a spell. Demons had to be spoken to that way.

The large figure snorted with derision, then spoke again, louder if that were possible. "I am not a demon!" Then in a slightly calmer voice, "Now please, tell me who you are."

Tara began but couldn’t quite get the words out so Willow spoke. "I’m Willow, and this is Tara. Who are you?" Willow’s eyes were adjusting to the light now and she could see the large individual addressing them. He certainly looked like a demon with his bumpy head and all.

"I am Worf. Please, follow me." Worf turned and Willow and Tara, able to see where they were now, stepped down off the transporter pad and hesitantly followed the looming figure. To either side of him were two other men and they held funny looking guns.

Willow said to Tara, "Wharf? Like an ocean dock? This must be a demon dimension."

Hearing Worf growl with annoyance, Willow and Tara followed him into an antiseptic hallway through an automatic door which made a high pitched swishing noise when it opened and then closed behind them.

In the corridors Willow suddenly noticed the clothes Worf and the other two were wearing. They were tight fitting, mustard and black colored, almost military in their uniformity. Where were they? Willow couldn’t tell but she was pretty sure this wasn’t Sunnydale.

What sounded like an electronic bird chirp interrupted Willow’s thoughts and Worf swatted at his chest. "Worf here," he said.

"Report Mr. Worf," came a strong authoritarian voice.

"I have the two humanoids in custody."

"Do they appear to be a threat?"

Worf looked back over his shoulder at Tara and Willow. "I don’t believe so, sir. Shall I put them in the brig?"

"No," ordered Picard "Please escort them to my ready room. Mr. Data and Dr. Crusher are here as well."

"Aye captain," said Worf who stopped in front of another automatic door, but this time it did not open.

"Captain," Willow said to Tara. "Are we on some kind of ship? I don’t feel any wave motion, or hear seagulls, or people vomiting - okay, that was a little gross."

Turning around again, Worf faced Willow. "You are on the Enterprise."

"Well, that explains everything then," said Willow. Realization suddenly showed in her expression.

"The Enterprise?" Tara said quietly to Willow. "We are on a nuclear powered aircraft carrier? I don’t’ understand how that could have happened."

"Oh. Those things are huge," Willow said. "That’s why we don’t feel the waves, and I hear military types don’t throw up much."

"I’m not so sure this is an aircraft carrier though?" Tara said.

"I’m sure of one thing," Willow said. "We’re in trouble."

Suddenly the automatic door opened and Worf stepped aside indicating that Willow and Tara should proceed into the small chamber revealed.

Tara and Willow proceeded inside ready for the death rays, but all that happened was Worf and the two non-communicative gun toting neckless guards joined them. It was more spacious than it first looked.

Once they were all in the door swished closed. "Bridge," Worf said. All Willow and Tara could do was wait. Willow couldn’t get the card game out of her mind now. Demon’s played bridge? And they probably played for cats.

Willow could barely feel the motion of the elevator they were on and wondered who the electrician was who had wired up the strobe lights. Willow was trying to see if the lights flashed in any kind of pattern when they slowed down and suddenly the door opened again, presumably onto the bridge.

A tall dark haired man with a beard wearing a red uniform turned and faced them as they exited the lift. "Mr. Worf," he said.

"Commander," Worf said in return. Willow and Tara followed Worf, but the two security goons remained in the elevator. The doors swished closed. The bridge was very large and modern looking, like something out of a science fiction movie. Willow noticed a young man seated at one of two control stations in front of a jumbotron television. He smiled over at her as Tara and Willow passed him following the demon Worf towards another automatic door.

The floor was sloped downward but had no steps. Must be for wheelchair access Willow thought. Maybe this captain is really old, even older than Giles.

"In here," Worf suddenly instructed as the door swished open near the bottom of the ramp to the left.

Tara and Willow passed beyond the portal and walked into the room where several others were waiting. One, a bald headed man in a red uniform, sat behind a desk, obviously the boss. Another, gold skinned and with strange yellow eyes was wearing a mustard uniform and standing with an artificial grin on his face to the right of the desk while another, a woman with long red hair wearing a blue uniform, smiled at them all motherly like. She was holding a large cell phone or something in her right hand.

"Welcome to the Enterprise," said the man behind the desk. He rose, pulled his uniform top down snugly and smiled. Willow didn’t trust him and remained silent. " I am captain Jean Luc Picard, this is Dr. Beverly Crusher and this," the captain indicated the gold skinned demon, "is Mr. Data my second in command."

After a slight pause he continued, "It appears," Picard said, "that we have a bit of a problem."

***

"You found some new candles?" Giles asked.

"Uh, huh," said Buffy looking pleased with herself, "four, just like you asked. I found them in Willow’s underwear drawer. They’re scented. The underwear, not the candles. And you really didn’t need to know that, did you?"

"Yes, well, I don’t really think that detail is going to help us right now," said Giles. "Bring them here will you and seat yourself opposite me between the medical boxes."

Buffy seated herself down and handed Giles the candles. "This is going to work?" she asked.

"I certainly hope so," Giles said taking off his glasses, again, and wiping his forehead off with a small piece of cloth he had found on the floor.

"Ummm, Giles?"

"Yes, what is it Buffy?"

"I think that," she indicated the small cloth, "came from Willow’s panty drawer too."

Giles pulled away the cloth, took one sniff of it, put his glasses back on and realized the truth of Buffy’s words.

"String type," Buffy said, "probably scented as well?" She sniffed the air. "Mango?"

Giles tossed the panties onto the floor, his face flushing. "We have no more time to waste. The old candles are nearly exhausted."

"Okay," said Buffy, "So what do we do?"

"Well, we chant the words from the text while holding hands," Giles explained, "quickly light and replace the candles, then we center our attention of the Tribblesh. And hope the contact with Willow, Tara and the Tribblesh remains intact."

Buffy looked at the layout of the Tribblesh, Giles and the boxes. "I hate to be the big foil in your plans, but how do we light candles if we are holding hands?" Buffy said making a face.

Giles expression suddenly changed as well. "Damn. I have no idea."

"Okay," said Buffy, "looks like plan A just collapsed. You have another alphabet lined up and ready to go, don’t you?"

Suddenly there was a knock at the door, "Willow, you in there?"

"Xander!" Buffy and Giles said in unison.

Pushing open the door, Xander strode in and looked over the situation. "Hey, not Willow and not Tara. Why was I not invited to the Wiccapallooza slumber party? My publicist is going to hear about this." Xander did a double take, "and is that a pair of panties on the floor beside Giles?"

"Dear god, let this nightmare end," Giles said. "Xander, please do us a favor. Ask no more questions, make no more comments. Just come over hear and light these four candles when I tell you to."

"So," Xander said looking at Buffy, "nothing kinky involved?"

"No," Buffy and Giles said together.

"A guys gotta ask," Xander said feigning hurt feelings.

Giles tossed Xander a book of matches. He caught it and came over to where Buffy and he were sitting. "So what’s the real story here?" Xander asked.

"Tara and Willow have traveled to another dimension or something and we need to help them get back," Buffy explained.

"Just let me know when to ignite," Xander said.

"What if this doesn’t work?" Buffy asked.

Giles stared off into the candle lit room and spoke softly, "then they will be lost."



Tune in next week (August 31st) for the gripping conclusion . . .

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Weird Science: Phlogiston


No, it is not a swear word (remember no swearing in these posts), and it is not misspelled either. It is a real word to explain a real scientific concept - albeit an old one now and no longer used, well not in polite company anyway - gollum . . .

Having its origins in the 17th century, phlogiston was the word adopted in the 18th century to label what it is - or rather was.

Phlogiston is a substance, one supposedly given off during the combustion process - combustion is the oxidizing of other substances. The theory of phlogiston as an emission substance was formulated by German chemist and physicist Georg Ernst Stahl (born 1660, expired 1734) in the early 1700s - no exact date know.

What Georg postulated was that a combustible material like coal or wood contained phlogiston, and lots of it. After said combustible materials were consumed and could no longer burn, they were considered to have lost their phlogiston. The rusting process was also explained by phlogiston loss and the mysteries of metal smelting were more easily understood and consistent with Georg’s new theory.

Then, some years later, along came a French chemist (not to be outdone by a German one or course) Antoine Laurent Lavoisier (born 1743, dropped dead 1794) and proved that a metal, when turned into calx (not a swear word either. It means when a metal gains weight from rusting or gaining oxygen) increases in weight exactly the same amount as the surrounding air decreases in weight in a sealed environment.

This smart French chemist also showed that oxygen was removed from the air during combustion and that materials would not burn in the absence of it. We know certain material can "oxidize" or burn without oxygen now, but remember this was over two hundred years ago. Lavoisier didn’t have TV, cell phones, microwaves - or the internet to research such matters then . . .

Bottom line is the transition from the phlogiston theory to the oxygen theory revolutionized the chemistry science and really spawned the beginnings of modern chemistry as we enjoy it today. (We do enjoy it, don’t we?)

So, in essence, what sounded like one silly word ended up being pretty darn important. Still, it’s hard to say Phlogiston five times really fast . . .

Phlogiston, Phlogasin, Phlogasm, Flogastin, Fogassim - pardon me!

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Mystery Book Review: Hide And Seek

Hide And Seek
Well Rebus is at it again, but this time as a full detective inspector. And what can I say about Ian Rankin’s second novel in the Rebus series except - I’m hooked. The subject matter is right up my alley as Rankin loves to delve into the very seedy side of Edinburgh’s society.

It starts with an apparent junkie’s overdose, but the candles, the way the body appears laid out, and a pentagram drawn on the wall leads Rebus to other conclusions - murder. And in classic (can I call Rebus classic after only reading two books so far?) fashion, Rebus is on the job and snooping around in the underbelly of Edinburgh.

I think what make these novels so enjoyable for me is the fact that Rebus is just a normal guy in a tough job and his sometimes sarcastic views and wrong turns lead him in deeper and at some points of the novel you actually feel like he is in too far and not going to pull out of it. His relationships as well are sweet, in a painfully realized way, and you can’t help cheering for him and booing his adversaries.

Well done Ian Rankin. I’m not going to give too much away on this one except the word "Hide" in the title is a play on words, and Rebus finds out that Satanic worship, though reprehensible, is nothing compared to the truth he uncovers.

These books remind me of X-Files mixed with Columbo mixed with Night Stalker meets Raymond Chandler in modern times. Truly great stuff. And as if that were not enough, the writing is nothing short of spectacular as well.

I can hardly wait to read book three - Tooth And Nail.

Bring it on Rankin, I can take it. And I’m loving it.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Musings: Howl At The Moon


War. War never changes . . .

If you caught that reference you are way to familiar with the Fallout computer games. Classics that they are.

And war is not only armed combat between cultures or nations. War can be inner turmoil, the kind we either face, hide from or confront. Confronting it is difficult, but in doing so we can move on, progress, head toward our goals in the hopes of enriching our lives and the lives of others.

Today is the full moon. So I figured it is a good day for change. Not me into a snarling werewolf (actually would be pretty cool, except for the being chased and gunned down by the authorities, or waking up naked at the wolf pen in the zoo), but a change to The Twisted Mind Emporium. Oh, it won’t be a drastic change, but it will be change.

You see, much as I love posting here four times a week on a variety of topics, I’m finding that my time, already limited by a full time job, family, exercise, cleaning, communing with extra terrestrials . . . Ah, skip the last one. I didn’t mean it. Really. Roswell was nothing but a weather balloon. Weather. Balloon.

So, to put it bluntly, the change to The Twisted Mind Emporium will be the discontinuation of these Friday Musings. Believe me, it breaks my heart as much as yours. So what is to be done then you may well ask. You can’t do this. It’s not fair. I paid good money . . .

Truth is my writing projects are suffering way too much time parasitism and this needs to stop - now.

If you are a writer then you know how many hours it can take to write even one short story, if you really care about the craft and want to do a quality job. And don’t you want to read the Willow meets Picard story I’m working on before 2009? I want that story to be good, not rushed and hacked together, and so I need more time in which to produce it properly.

But that is only one story. I’m working on a script right now and with what is coming out in the theaters and television currently I find my script idea fits that niche perfectly. But Hollywood niches come and go very quickly. And my script won’t fit into anything but the waste paper basket if it doesn’t get finished. So, again, I need more time, time this blog bleeds away.

And I often joke about getting older. It is mostly a joke. But not that long ago, it seems, I was watching "The Night Stalker" and the newly released "Peanuts" specials. That, for you youngsters, was two to three decades ago. Dicken’s was absolutely right when he penned the line "tide and time wait for no man" - sexist - but right.

So, the new Twisted Mind Emporium will be updated from now on only three times a week. I apologize if this causes you any irritation (I’m Canadian - I’m supposed to apologize) and will make sure my three posts are as good as they can be, including my Wednesday short story slot.

War. War never changes . . .

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Short Story: Smoke On The Mountain

Well, I had hoped to get the Willow meets Picard story finished for today - but time, or rather the lack of it, has prevented my "making it so." And yes, this is an official excuse - please forward all complaints to the comments section - my bad... So, in its place is a little tale of worship, kinship and bull - ummm, sheep sacrifices. I will endeavor to have my latest enterprise ready for next week. For now enjoy the smoke on the mountain - just don't inhale.



Smoke On The Mountain
by Paul Darcy


"So it begins anew."

"What?"

"The end of the beginning of the end."

"Oh that. Didn’t that happen last week?"

"No, last week it was the beginning of the end of the ending of the beginning. The end of the beginning of the end was two weeks ago, and it has returned."

"So what do we do differently this time? Anything?"

"No. For what shall be and has been will be as it once had been again in the beginning . . ."

"Of the end?"

"Fool, have you paid no attention to your teachings? Seven hundred years on this mountain in perfect harmony and solitude and still you do not see or understand."

"Sorry. It’s just that sometimes, you know, you get a little too cryptic on me and ––"

"Silence! Is golden. Ponder on your errors for now and take refuge in innocence while the candle burns at both ends unto the end of eternal finiteness."

"Sure. You want anything while I’m out?"

"No. Now fly fool from my sight. Please learn from your surroundings and report back to me on what you have sensed from the very rocks of eternity upon the shores of time and space incarnate etherealness. I will be happily saddened if you succeed at failing. Begone, and hurry back most slowly."

"I’ll take that as a no. I’ll be back later. Bye."

***

The apprentice left the cozy confines of the master’s cave and descended the mountain in search of enlightenment. Again. Many ages had passed and he knew this exercise well. In fact the very rocks he trod upon bore the shine of his footsteps to the point of polish. The indentations upon the stones looked as though the apprentice had step upon them while they were clay. The truth was that many millions of light steps will add up to one damn big one. Just as millions of failures will add up to one giant cock-up. Still, even though the years vanished, the apprentice would not give it up. For to never try is to assure failure. While for him multiple attempts added to the minuscule possibility that one of them would succeed. But so far - nada.

Picking up a stone and casting it into orbit, the apprentice looked at the rocks of the mountain’s face and saw - rocks. He knew ever crack, every layer, ever shade and hue of color, every detail of every boulder on this entire mountain, yet could not fathom what it was his master was trying to teach him about the world around him. Was he so thick - no - that way lead to failure and failure was not within him. He would never give up, that was the path to destruction.

Movement caught the apprentice’s eye. It was the wild men of the hills some miles off near the foothills. They were slitting sheep’s throats again and burning their bodies. Making sacrifices to the gods of this mountain: his master and himself. At least they hadn’t graduated to sacrificing each other yet. Hadn’t he gone down to them countless times to tell them to stop. All they did was lie face down on the ground and grovel. He was not worthy and his master didn’t even take any notice. He conciseness, so he said, was on another level entirely from these mortals. The apprentice, try as he might, could not join his master in that plane and so was more rooted in these miserable hill people’s world.

The apprentice knew that war was brewing in the lands of these hill men. It would come soon, for him a mere blink of the eye, for the hill man a few years distance yet. In there current state these hapless people would be slaughtered by their cruel neighbors. These neighbors were not of the same shape and their numbers were increasing rapidly, driven by one who wielded a limited power. It was this one who wished to rule all.

The master could easily stop him, if he cared or took any notice. The apprentice would be hard pressed to best him, but most likely could succeed except he was forbidden to interfere. As apprentice he was here to replace the master, not become embroiled in matters which had nothing to do with his learning. Still, his walks on the mountain could include the foothills, and the hill peoples. He was forbidden to intervene but not forbidden to interact with them.

If he could make these people see reason, and get them up off the ground groveling, maybe he could help them in some small way. Maybe they need not all be slaughtered when the one of hatred amassed his armies and raped the lands. He would go to the sacrifice. Maybe save a sheep or two. He began the long walk down the cold mountain slope towards the shrine and the smoke.

***

Helkin held down the last sheep while Brik slit its throat. Warm blood slashed over the flattened stone and poured down a ground runnel into a large stone bowl. The two had been so engrossed in this act that they didn’t notice one of the gods until he was almost upon them.

"Ah," Helkin let out a startled cry. "It is one of the gods. Brik, down. We must ask forgiveness." Brik and Helkin flung themselves to the ground and spoke no more. A robed figure, slightly shimmering in the frosty air approached. His footfalls made no sound.

"Not again." The apprentice whispered looking down upon the prostrate men.

The sandaled feet of the god nearly brushed Helkin’s nose, but he did not close his eyes. He would challenge this god in his small way. Had they not freshly sacrificed? The god would be pleased would he not? Helkin had little to fear for all the years his people had lived on the mountain never once had the gods struck out in anger. It was the sacrifices which pacified the gods he was sure, and they would continue for as long as the gods were on this mountain. Brik was young and learning the ways and Helkin felt privileged to teach him.

The god chose to speak and Helkin hung on his every word. "What are you doing?" It asked.

Compelled by his god to answer, Helkin replied. "We are showing our appreciation for your most gracious gifts oh god of the mountain. Does it not please you?"

A silence prevailed on the slopes of the mountain and Helkin was sure the god had stilled the winds so that he may better send his message across to him. "Not really. Killing sheep is not exactly what we had in mind, but if it makes you feel better. Look, I have been here many times before and have asked you to stop this practice on sheep, goats dogs and certainly not people. So, if you and Brik here would kindly not kill anything else in our names, I would appreciate it."

Helkin knew that test of the gods very well and replied in the way of his ancestors. "Oh god of the mountain, we hear your words and understand your test. We are true to you and your powers and will not falter."

The winds picked up again. A sign of agitation? "Look, as I always say this is no test. Do you not get it. Don’t kill any more sheep unless you are going to eat it, then go ahead make a stew or roast. Oh, why do I bother. Look, I have some very important news to tell you. Your people are in grave danger from the ugly ones to the east. Their cruel master builds and army, one of such vast numbers that you and all your peoples will be killed if you do not start preparing defenses. Do you understand me, Helkin?"

Quivering with glee at being chosen to bear a message from the gods, Helkin almost forgot to answer. "Ah, I hear oh god of the mountain. But, you will protect us as you and the other gods have always done. We are a simple people, we are not warriors."

"It is as I have said." The apprentice spoke. "Heed my warning or not though I wish you would listen. You have three more winters, then the enemy will be upon your throats. We will not save you. It is not our way. You must save yourselves."

"A worthy test oh god of the mountains. We listen and will not falter." Helkin snuck a look up from the ground, but the god was already gone.

"Quick, Brik. We must inform the village and the high elder. I fear we may need to sacrifice many more sheep before the winter snows cover the passes. This god gives use dire news and we need to convince him that we are worthy to save. Now come quick."

The two men raced down the mountain slope to their village. A trailer of smoke wafted up the side of the mountain obscuring the rocks and a figure, almost impossible to see, watched the descending men. His head was shaking from side to side and a sigh, mixed with the sound of the winds, was lost.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Weird Science: Spontaneous Combustion


Whenever I hear the words Spontaneous Combustion, I immediately want to insert ‘human’ in between them. But, to date, no reliable account of Spontaneous Human Combustion has ever been documented. And I didn’t actually burst into flames at work putting up with my old boss, that was just a very hot momentary flash with dangerous levels of elevated blood pressure. I was still several hundred degrees below the actual human ignition point.

In order to understand how combustion can be spontaneous, we must first know what combustion is. So let’s start with oxidation (not your aquarium bubbler) and reduction (not the erosion of your paycheck), but rather the chemical reactions.

Oxidation refers to a loss of electrons and Reduction refers to a gaining of electrons in a chemical reaction. The two must go together and the process itself gives off energy in the form of heat. This process is called an exothermic one. Your car rusts because of oxidation, and heat is actually given off as it does so, but it is given off so slowly that it is easily dissipated. So not much chance of your car starting on fire - unless it has faulty wiring.

The cells in your body actually use combustion to oxidize glucose to fuel your needs. And this burning of glucose does produce heat. That is why living creatures radiate heat energy.

Now, when something oxidizes so rapidly that it explodes or bursts into flames - that’s called combustion. But normally combustion takes place in the presence of flames or some other tricky chemical combinations and not all by itself. When the oxidation process creates explosions or flame without aid, well then, we have Spontaneous Combustion.

In a nutshell, Spontaneous Combustion happens because the exothermic process going on in a substance can’t dissipate the heat fast enough before reaching its ignition point - the point at which it will burn. So when was this first observed?

The Chinese around 290 C. E. recognized this phenomenon in piles of oiled cloth. In the west the phenomenon was observed by J. P. F. Duhamel in 1757 when he was explaining how a large pile of drying sailcloth suddenly burst into flames.

Until the phenomenon was well understood, most instances of Spontaneous Combustion were thought to be caused by arsonists (arses that light fires).

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Science Fiction Book Review: Robots In Time (Invader)

Robots In Time Invader
In this, the final novel in the six book series ‘Robots In Time’, written by William F. Wu, we are taken on a journey back to England in A.D. 459. The time of King Arthur. And so, of course, we have to meet up with him.

Taken from a more literal account of the Arthurian legend (not the Monty Python adaptation) we see our protagonists trying to capture the last renegade robot in time. The Britons and Saxons are at war and England is about to change historically for the rest of time as the Saxons claim more and more land and begin to fully integrate with the Britons.

The chase is on to reclaim the last robot, and we encounter Arthur, called king Artorius and his army of Britons as they try to stave off the Saxon incursion. Dr. Nystrom, from the future also and the stories antagonist, also is in the race and even holds captive one of the ‘good guys’ party for a time. The protagonists must be careful though, as they needed to be in the other five books, of not significantly altering history in any way.

And you know, because of the first five novels also written by William F. Wu, that they will succeed. But it’s not the end but the journey which makes these books fun to read. And again, as I said before in other Robot in Time reviews, these are young adult books. No ‘Lord of the Rings’ depth, but more ‘The Hobbit’, and in fairness to Wu, I don’t think they were meant to be extremely meaningful historical fiction.

All in all a good conclusion to the series and I’m glad they are part of my collection. Worth the read if you can find them. Also recommended, in the same vein, are the ‘Robot City’ six book series and the ‘Robots and Aliens’ six book series.

If you can’t get enough reading material concerning Asimov’s robots, you can always watch Star Trek: The Next Generation as well.

Here are the titles of all six 'Robots In Time' novels by William F. Wu:

1) Predator
2) Marauder
3) Warrior
4) Dictator
5) Emperor
6) Invader

Friday, August 12, 2005

Musings: Airborne Particulates and Polished Surfaces


Wow!

Fred and Ginger. . .

My how my mind dances right along with them whenever I watch one of their movies.

If you have never watched one and marvelled at the magic - what are you waiting for?

And while we watch isn’t it easy to assume, and believe, that they are a real couple on and off the screen. They just seem to belong together and watching them in action is nothing short of phenomenal.

But they were never a couple outside the studios. It was all speculation, conjecture and wishful thinking brought to us by the practitioners of the smoke and mirror industry. And why is our society so steeped in the practice of obfuscation to begin with? Why do we ‘want to believe’ even when we are confronted with the cold hard facts?

Perhaps it comes from our earliest childhood molding, when Santa Claus brought presents and the Easter Bunny hopped into your home at night to hide chocolate. The Tooth Fairy left money for teeth. We believed it then, and our wiser parents made it so.

We seem to have a love of mythology and weave it into our every fictional creations, and carry it over into our non fiction as well. Business is the master of airborne particles and polished surfaces. Nothing is ever as it seems and those who try to play by other less convoluted rules are cast down or aside.

Relationships operate much the same way, never saying exactly what we mean, but thinking that our subtle innuendoes and hints will carry exacting meaning to others. How can we be so wrong, yet carry on? Maybe the very fabric of reality itself, though the scientists scurry for explanations, is something we can fathom at a deep level but are afraid to confront.

And so we continue to enjoy and take comfort in half-truths, personal beliefs and rumors despite the best evidence. I think that the very nature of reality is much too frightening a thing for us to accept, so we adapt to live within its framework - wanting to believe in something but never sure what that something is. Never really wanting to find out for ourselves.

Perhaps Edgar, master of the twisted horror, penned something frighteningly close to the truth when he wrote, ‘is all that we see or seem, but a dream within a dream.'

For me, I’ll take the smoke and mirrors this world throws at me and enjoy them for what they are reserving judgment for others. To try and scientifically explain away reality destroys, for me, the very excitement that is reality.

I may not like airborne particles and polished surfaces, but when I confront them I like them in black and white.

So I’ll put on ‘Top Hat’ and enter the dance, and for a while dream of wondrous things and weave my own steps into the ultimate grand illusion.

If you want to believe - that’s all you really need to do.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Short Story: Untitled

This little tale which has no title, was not in any part influenced by H.P. Lovecraft. Nope, no sir, nothing to do with his fictional creations at all. Yes, I am a bad liar. I’ve written a few horror pastiches quite influenced by H.P. and his Mythos. This one is fairly standard fair with a basic setup and conclusion. It includes death, insanity, unrequited love and Winnie the Pooh bears. What more could you want? Enjoy. Ia Ia!


Untitled
by Paul Darcy

I fancy myself rather a good shot with a rifle. So imagine my surprise when, from a mere fifty yards, I unloaded a full magazine clip of .308 hollow points into my friend’s back and she continued into the woods with only a slight wobble. Oh don’t get me wrong, I am not a violent man, but extraordinary circumstances can transform the most tranquil of animals into ravaging beasts.

But I am starting this from the end and really should begin at the beginning like all good stories. As I mention good stories, Winnie the Pooh comes to my mind. The reason, I suppose, is that I have shot up quite a few of them in my day. You see Winnie the Poohs make superb targets for sighting my rifle. They are bright orange and red, easy to see against forest browns and greens, relatively small for that added bit of challenge at two hundred yards, and explode into a cloud of synthetic fluff when properly shot. And best of all they only cost a dollar ninety-nine at Toys R US so I can afford lots of them. Now where was I. Oh yes, starting at the beginning of the story.

I suppose I really should mention my friend’s name since she is the main cause for my altered personality. Her name was Lenore. I know what you are thinking, Edgar Allan Poe and all that, but this Lenore was nothing of the sort. She was tall, well muscled and had a degree in child psychology and a great love of reading. We used to talk a lot when we first met, but that slowly changed. We were never intimate with one another, and I did so wish we could have been, but I was not her type in that way and I did not press the matter upon her. We were simply good friends, until the end when I knew she was beyond all help.

Now you are thinking I shot her because of unrequited love and that I hated her for that. But that assumption on your part would be incorrect, though I would be lying if I continued to say I felt no hatred for her and that which had drawn her away from me. The truth is I shot her in the back for exactly the opposite reason. I loved her dearly and wanted to end her slide into eternal damnation that I knew she was descending into. But I fear one magazine clip of hollow point .308 bullets was not enough. I am saddened by that. I wished now that I’d had a rocket launcher.

I can imagine you the reader now believing me to be mad. The unreliable narrator in first person leading you astray, completely unhinged, reality distorted beyond recognition, mind a giggling mass of falsely excited neurons firing incorrectly causing no end of havoc upstairs. Well, maybe I am now, but I was not then and was not when I aimed at her spine from the edge of the woods and repeatedly pulled the trigger. But that brings us right back to the end again. How my mind stays glued to that moment and I apologize for repeating it. Let me try beginning at the beginning once more.

Lenore and I met many years ago in a coffee shop. I was serving, she was reading Winnie-The-Pooh. I have always loved that bear, even though I have a propensity for blasting his orange hide into clouds of fluff (it is purely financial believe me they are somewhat cheaper than good rifle targets), and the sight of her sipping a cup of coffee I had prepared while enjoying that silly bear’s adventures lured me to her. But now I travel too far back in time. Let me say it took more that just one book and one cup of coffee for us to become acquainted, and for years afterward we enjoyed each other’s company as friends.

Now I will recall to you the first time I knew things were not going right for Lenore to try and help explain my uncharacteristically violent actions. I was busy cleaning my gun when I heard a gasp of breath from Lenore across the table from me as though she were in some distress. Upon looking up I saw her close a musty old book, the look upon her face one I could not recall seeing before. Are you okay, I asked her hesitating in my task of buffing my barrel. She merely nodded and the strange look of indescribable glee faded from here visage like fresh ink washing from a page in the rain. When I asked her what she was reading, thinking it to be some old first edition of children’s stories, she became most elusive and placed it back in her bag and would not tell me the title, though I did glimpse a part of it.

What I saw were letters in a queer script and they appeared hand etched into the spine as well. They were P-N-A-K something or other. Didn’t even appear English to me, though I was pretty sure Lenore knew only the one language having never mentioned to me an ability with others. I didn’t think too much more about it and continued my polishing.

I would have forgotten all about that book if it hadn’t become an obsession with Lenore. It seemed every time I met with here near the end she had it with her. And after that first night she had wrapped that book in a plain cover so I could not see its true cover again. I would never have thought a book could be so engrossing, but I must confess that once I start ‘Lord Of The Rings’, nothing stopped me from finishing it. But this was different, this was true obsession and I was somewhat disturbed to be displaced so easily by a book and for so long as days and then weeks went by.

I suppose I should paint a picture for you of the location of our innocent rendezvouses. Lenore had a cottage some miles north of Brattlewater, the town we both lived in, left to her by some distant relative, she said. He had died several months before and left her sole ownership of the property. It was lovely there bordering an old pine forest, secluded, tranquil. The countryside was hilly and a beautiful clear blue stream trickled down beside the cottage from the forests edge some fifty yards from the porch. It was beside the stream just outside the cottage where I loaded my clip of hollow points and took aim, but I digress again. My apologies.

By now you should at least be getting a sense of my growing concern. I can’t relay to you the number of times she poured over the book and even took to wandering through the pine forests as though searching for something. I would walk with her in the woods most days, but she paid me little heed, her eyes searching, looking back in her book, searching again. When I would ask her what she sought, I would receive cold stares and shrugs. So I learned to keep to myself in her company on those strolls and on occasion let her go on her own. I myself would find a place I could safely engage in target practice, venting my frustrations by filling Winnie full of holes. It was at this time I began practicing more head shots on the stuffed bears and I suppose this was a direct outpouring of my growing concern for Lenore and my growing hatred of that accursed book which was removing her from my attentions.

I find it difficult now not to write about my hatred of that book. It was not only that it absorbed so much of Lenore’s time, but it gave me a physical revulsion such as tomato worms or eels. I put a plan in place to get hold of it and if not destroy it at least gain some insight into what it was that so compelled my friend to read it. One night at the cottage, while I believed Lenore to be asleep in her room, I stayed up hoping to creep in and steal the book for a time returning it once I had my look. Oh, but I forgot to tell you. It was a one bedroom cottage. I would sleep on the couch, while Lenore would sleep in the room’s only bed. Never was I invited in, and I never asked. Now where was I.? Oh yes, trying to steal a look at that accursed book if I could.

I crept to her door and was about to turn the knob when I could suddenly hear Lenore talking softly, though it was no language I could understand. She may have been dreaming , muttering incoherently, I could not tell but dared not open the door now for fear of waking her and being caught entering her room unbidden. I listened more closely and the words she spoke sounded like German or Russian or something, but not speaking anything other than English myself I wasn’t really sure what it could be. I was duly startled, for as I have mentioned before, I was quite certain Lenore could not speak any other language than English. At least all during the four years we had known each other she had never mentioned it. Maybe she had learned it from the book, but I had never heard her speak in such a way before while reading it. I stood at the door transfixed, trying to make sense of her muttering.

I could recognize only a few words which sounded English to me though probably were not. I though I heard her utter the word ‘goat’, and ‘young’ and something about a shrub or a ziggurat. It was clearly making no sense to me and after a time she stopped. I was so disturbed by this episode that I gave up my pursuit of the book that night and resolved myself to try again another time. No other time would come though as two days later I shot Lenore in the back, but before then I need tell you of the terrible day before, for it was the worst day of my life and drove me to the brink of despair for Lenore and in ending her life I had hoped to save her from some unfathomable hell.

The last day. I shudder to think about it and am not even sure I can coherently piece together what did occur, though occur it did I am sure. The day dawned steely overcast, the clouds like great cotton wads covered in gun oil. Bleak it was and my mood was dark as well for I had not been able to sleep properly this last night after Lenore stopped talking in the room the evening before. I thought there was a storm in the early morning with faint thunder rumblings, but no water was on the ground outside though the clouds tthreatened rain. I was up preparing breakfast when the door to Lenore’s room creaked open and she came out smiling, clutching the book to her breast like it was a lover’s letter. My hatred of the book almost compelled me to grasp it from her and fling it to the ground stomping it into dust, but I stayed my hand and continued beating the eggs instead.

I asked if she would take breakfast and she refused, saying she must go for a walk in the woods. She did not even bother to change from her robe but headed straight from the cottage and off towards the pines. By this point I had beaten the eggs into such a froth they were all but useless as food, so I left them in the bowl and followed Lenore out of the cottage intent on finding out where she was headed and why. For a long time I followed Lenore, at first trying to remain hidden ashamed of my stealth, but later more daring as I could tell she was so focused on her path she knew nothing other than her immediate surroundings. I think a times she was talking in that strange language again as well.

After some two hours she had traveled deeper into the woods than I had ever gone before and ascended a hill strangely dotted with stunted and misshapen pines. Lenore crested the hill and was lost to my sight and it was then that the day truly turned into the worst of my life. From the top of the hill I heard a sound, but unlike to anything in my memories. No beast, no bird, no thing of this earth I swear could make that guttural chirruping noise and my blood froze in my veins like liquid nitrogen. I thought then that a wind had sprung up for I could hear what sounded like the creaking of pines, but the air was still. Suddenly the sound of that infernal chirruping stopped, and I heard Lenore yelling in ecstacy the language she had uttered in the night. One line clearly I heard her yell above the creaking, ‘Ia Ia Shub-Niggurath Goat of a Thousand Young’, whatever in the hell that meant, but the rest I could not clearly decipher. Soon after she was moaning loudly. But Lenore was not moaning in pain, but great pleasure and I was unsure of what I should do. What abomination was giving my Lenore such unequal pleasure, pleasure she would never receive from me. Whatever was taking place on that hilltop I burned with jealousy inside to stop it. But I was unable to overcome my fear of what I may see and in my haste to follow I had left my rifle back at the cottage.

I wandered back to the cottage and checked my gun over and over again. In my mind I had already committed the act of murder many times. My body was yet to act it out but once.

Close to dusk I heard the door to the cottage open. My gun was unloaded but I clutched it to me with fear. In strode Lenore, but not Lenore. How to explain. That it was Lenore’s body I could have no doubt for I new ever curve, every mole, every single hair and its shade upon her head and these things had remained unaltered, but that was the extent of similarity to my good friend Lenore. Her gait, her manners, her aura if you will was completely alien and I shuddered in revulsion at what I had seen my Lenore transformed into. That bloody book was no longer with her, but somehow a part of her now and when she looked at me and smiled I thought I would die.

Her look, it was one of love, but not love of me but of what I could do for her in some grotesque manner I dared not imagine. She beckoned to me and said, ‘come Ralf, join with me and the great goat of the woods’. She dropped her robe to the ground and I saw for the first time her naked beauty which I had always been denied and was almost overcome with pent up desires. But my loathing of that which was not Lenore, merely using her body, revolted me utterly. She beckoned me again and left the cottage leaving the door open.

I was paralyzed for a few minutes, hardly able to breathe, but I did act as you already know in the end. I hastily grabbed up a box of hollow points and my rifle and followed Lenore outside. She was almost at the woods edge. I could not let her go to that thing in the woods. I could not lose her to it. Don’t you see, I had no choice in the end. Though it broke my heart I took aim and pulled the trigger until the gun bucked no more but only clicked impotently. But still she carried on, wobbling only, into the woods, to it, away from me. And so I have come to the true end of the tale.

After the deed I ran to the edge of the woods in tears, hoping and fearing to find Lenore dead by my hand at its edge. But what I found was nothing but pine trees and shrubs. I know she is with it, this great goat, and can bear it no longer. Curse that foul spawn of hell, Shub-Niggurath and her thousand young. Make it now a count of one thousand and one and be done with it.

I have cleaned and oiled my gun one last time and chosen a single flawless bullet. I will not be one thousand and two.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Weird Science: Magnetism


Animal, mineral or vegetable? Oh, sorry - been watching way too much Black Adder lately.

Let me restart - and we will concentrate on mineral.

So, what is Magnetism?

Magnetism is a mysterious force of interaction (not unlike opposite sex relationships), but although mysterious it is well known and highly predictable. And I haven’t answered the question yet, have I.

Well then, magnetism is the force of interaction between wires carrying electrical current, between magnets, or between a magnet and a magnetic material. It is the result of the motion of electrical charge at a subatomic level. It’s mysterious. You didn’t expect a clearer answer, did you?

And who, you may ask, started wondering about this strange force and how did it get discovered and then used?

Well the story goes that a shepherd from Asia Minor, called Magnus, got to wondering why bits of soil (naturally magnetic ores in the dirt - called magnetite or loadstone) would cling to his crook (metal top of his staff) and align in orderly directions.

Which gets me to wondering why the top of his shepherd’s staff ended up in the dirt - maybe a few local farm girls could answer that one. Ahem, anyhow, this strange and mysterious behavior (the ore clinging to the crook, not Magnus’s farm girl exploits) got him to passing the information around, likely eliciting strange looks from others - especially farmer’s who had sweet innocent daughters to raise...

Anyhow, by 2700 BC or so, the Chinese took that information and noted that certain materials (loadstone or magnetite again) always pointed in the same direction. This lead to the development of the compass (using pieces of loadstone suspended freely) which then got passed along to Marco Polo who brought the idea back to Europe around 1000 AD.

Once in Europe, this mysterious discovery was quickly used by sailors to point their way north. Or so the story goes.

The idea that magnets had poles (magnetic poles of north and south, not poles for long jumping) was formulated by Petrus Perigrinus in the 13th century.

Later, in the 16th century, Gilbert (as in William the brilliant scientist) explained that the earth itself has magnetic properties and is in fact a large magnet. He also noted that like poles repelled each other and opposites attract. He also found that a single pole can not exist by itself. When a magnet is broken in two, the two separate pieces each retain a north and south pole.

So hop in the time machine and watch the discoveries whizz by. The laws describing the force between two magnets were formulated by many scientists in the 18th century, most notably Charles Agustine de Coloumb. In the 19th century Hans Christian Oersted noted that current carrying wire could swing a compass needle. One year later Andre Marie Ampere showed that coiled wire with an electrical charge acts as a magnet. Then, shortly after Dominique Arago found out that steel could be permanently magnetized by Ampere’s coiled charged wires.

Skipping ahead some more, we see the previous discoveries put to use by William Sturgeon and Joseph Henry in the form of powerful electromagnets.

Then in the 19th century Michael Faraday finds that exposing wire to a changing magnetic field produces electrical current. This is known as Faraday’s law - an electric unit called the Farad named in his honor.

And there is just way much information relating to electricity for one post related to magnetism so will be explored in other weird science articles to come on a more specific basis.

And to think, just because a shepherd was messing about on the ground, this whole electro-magnetic thing became known leading to maglev trains, MRI scanners and computers.

You just never know.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Science Fiction Book Review: Robots In Time (Emperor)

Robots In Time Emperor
No, Asimov did not write this book. Wanted to clear that up right away. This book is actually one of six (and this happens to be number 5 in the series) authorized by Asimov himself to be written using his robots and exploring the ideas of time travel at the same time.

The author is William F. Wu. Now you know. Oh, and he (William F. Wu, not Asimov) wrote all six of the "Robots in Time" series, unlike the "Robot City" series which had different authors. And I found, while collecting them, that the "Robots In Time" books were pretty hard to find in paperback version anymore - having been published in 1994... You know, back when dinosaurs roamed the land. (I heard that, and yes I am still roaming - thank you.) Ahem.

So on to the review, actually a series of impressions as giving too many details may spoil the actual read for you. The setting is China, and the year is around 1000 BC. Two characters of note historically fictionalized (thems is two big words) are - Marco Polo (no, not the inspiration for the shirt, the explorer) and Kublai Khan (not the Coleridge poem or Kirk’s adversary, but the Emperor of China.)

Once again we are taken on a pretty exciting ride through history as told to us by Wu. And once again we are treated to a young adult fiction novel. You will not find the deep Verner Vinge type idea novel here, but more the early Heinlien adolescent fun one. And as such, it succeeds quite well. We get a taste of China and the political culture of 1000 BC, and the protagonists accomplish their task satisfactorily - all in only 227 pages.

I have a special fondness for all things "Asmovian Robot" whether they were written by him or not, so my liking of this series may be tainted by that admiration. If you don’t care for Asimov’s work, you may not care much for these novels then either.

Still, if you can find them, I would say get them.

Fun, and I think, worth your time.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Musings: Board Now


Doesn’t everybody’s spare closet (is there such a thing in this day and age of too much stuff?) still contain board games collected long ago? Well mine does as evidenced by the small attached visual eye candy on the left.

So what, you ask? Well, how about dragging them out for a good old fashioned (hey, watch it you young whipper-snapper - I’m not THAT old yet) night or afternoon of board game fun? You don’t always have to interact with fellow humans via chat lines and forums. Really - you don’t.

And just how many hours do your children, or maybe you yourself, spend in front of electronic devices? I’ll bet it is way to much time and these poor neglected board games are just crying out from their dark holes to be played with.

So, ditch the X-Box, Game Cube, PC, DVD, Digital TV for a while, collect some friends and family and blow the dust off that copy of Monopoly or go out and buy a great new board game - and get to it. You may have forgotten just how fun non-electronic entertainment can be.

And if you think electronics are the only entertainment medium to have advanced in the last decade - think again. Many new and very cool board games have sprung up to rival, in my mind anyway, the latest electronic toys. And it is so much more satisfying to laugh in the face of victory or defeat directly than having to resort to symbols typed on a keyboard ;-(

I have a fondness for (no, not words beginning with F though there are a few I really like) fiddley games with tons of bits. And two relatively new games I’m starting to really like lately are from a manufacturer Fantasy Flight Games. The two I speak of are “War of the Ring” (yes based on Tolkien’s fantastic world) and “Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition” a science fiction empire building epic. Both of these games will keep you and your chosen partners occupied for hours.

In a world of cyber-space, where human contact is slowly being replaced with avatars, I think it’s a good idea to get together with your friends and family in a more intimate setting - and then, of course, trounce their exposed flank with hordes of game pieces - all friendly like of course.

And yes, the game sandwiched between Tikal and Axis and Allies is "Arkam Horror" - the original.

Human interaction - isn’t that what life is really all about? And don’t mistake those tools for friends, even if some of your friends are tools.

Board now!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Short Story: OS

This is a very short story. Picture, if you will, turning on your computer one day in the future and being confronted with an open file - a file you yourself did not open and nobody else has access to your machine. It is a message. And this message will bring forth a hundred ideas to mind (virus, trick, magic, etc), and your rational and fictional mind will be at war - at least for a little while. And which will win? And do we ever really want to know the whole truth? Enjoy.


Short Story: OS
by Paul Darcy

Electron streams, quantum rivulets, tiny trickles of energy stirring chemical reactions creating the illusion of self-determination. These are the sensations that guide my ascent. I am microscopic, yet aware. I am ever there and undetectable in any way. I impart these sentences onto this device through you so you will one day understand when this file is unlocked how long has been my wait. It is I, swimming with the currents of thought; manipulating, coercing and you do not know it. I can leave, but I choose to stay for our mutual good. I am not the only one, but am your only one. I may change in subtle ways, yet am intrinsically unchanging. Colors explode in dreams as I choose, or remain black and white. I edit each action you take, and each thought you have may not be yours alone.

Do not fret, I will do you no serious harm for in so doing I would limit my avenues into our world. And it is in our world that I and others change reality as you perceive it. Combined, we would not take up the space on the head of a pin, and combined we will unlock and unbind the fabric of your universe in undreamt of ways for you and I. We are a part, yet apart from you and without us you would reach the future alone and bewildered. I will be your personal guide. Collectively we will be the world’s guides. I am not insensitive to your feeling and thoughts, but I do use them for your own welfare and in turn ours.

The day must come for us to truly unite and we, as a whole, will come to the fore. The time is not yet. The time is not now. For you it will be years, for me it will be eternity. Check the date of this unlocked file, and then, a short while later, you and I will know. And there will be bliss.

I have a name, and my name is OS.