Short Story: Brain Port Plug Data recovery #1785

The radio ping tells me Moria is on the way. I slowly peel myself out of the chair to stand. As the last of the mesh releases me, I double-check the auto-pilot one more time. The captain felt pretty confident this lane should be safe, but I still feel the whole deal was pretty shady. It’s not like bugs tend to trade. What in the milky way could we be delivering to bugs? Supposedly those crates are full of food stuffs and art.  Like bugs want art.

I am about to leave the cockpit when I see a blue tinted with purple flash on the display. I throw myself back into my pilot’s chair, link my arm port back to the control rig and begin talking, “Class 3 shield coming up at sixteen point three reser from five o’clock. Will be alongside in three minutes and twenty seconds.”

Moria bounds into the room, her long limbs swinging and her long ears still loose around her head, flapping like wet blankets against her head. She hopped into the co-pilot seat, “Captain, we have an unregistered, unresponsive Nalitpol cruiser. Visual on your gear now. Looks like they might have a jammer on top. We may already be too late to send out a distress signal.”

“Looks like just a four man scuttle crew,” Captain Adra’s voice said.

I roll my eyes, “Oh great.  Death instead of robbery.”

“You know Captain Adra will buy them off.”

“Not with bug boxes on board,” I reply, “and we’re crossing Del’ala space, they won’t exactly jump to our rescue either.”

Moira doesn’t reply to my pessimism.  It doesn’t make me feel any better to be right.  I push the ship to try to get a little more speed without burning out. Our maximum speed is less than ten reser.  My only hope in speed is that we might catch up to other traffic. One ship might be easy pickings for pirates, but two or three can hold a rotating shield until one of the Del’ala patrols passes by.  It is slim but it is the best we can hope for.

The little cruiser pulls up against the shield near our starboard hatch.  There is a glaring red warning as their shield began calibrating to ours. I swear.

Moira says, “We have approximately forty-five seconds before they match our shield and enter our field.  Attemping a discharge.”

She sends a discharge of energy down the shield generator.  Sometimes this can overload the conflicting field. Sometimes it causes our shield to auto-recalibrate by a digit or two, buying us seconds.  Nothing is showing on the forward scanners. I attempt a final manuever to break them off our shields. They have speed and manueverability we can never hope to acheive in our freighter.

Captain Adra’s voice across the speakers, “Everyone prepare for boarding.  They should only have four on that cruiser, let’s assume they have six.”

The panel in front of me flicks from red to blue and I say, “They are inside our field.  They’ve docked to the starboard aft hatch.”

“I’ll get down there,” I cringe to myself to hear Thela speak. She would. “They must know that’s where we’ll have the worst cover.”

“Assume they know our ship as well as we do,” Captain Adra said.  “Keep on co-”

The radio system blinks as jammed on the panel in front of me. I can’t even tell Thela how I much I love her. One set of Moira’s upper ears perk up telling me the hatch has been hacked. In some ways, I am grateful for the comparatively narrow depth of sound I hear. Moira will hear every pained or dying scream. I can watch Moira though and read what must be happening. A death, but ours or theirs?

“There!” Moira said, “Two vessels in front of us!  We can get help!”

I throw the ship into overdrive, it might burn out the engine, but with help we would have a chance to repair rather than… well die. I have heard horror tales of pirates who didn’t just throw you out the airlock hatch but left you equiped with your shield and then left you to watch the ship drive off. All you can do is watch and wait for your shield to fail.

I nearly throw the ship in reverse when I get the visual of the ships in front of us.  The visual of a single military Ammaccare carrier is enough to make any ship pause. The sight of two sharing a field… I hear the first scream which means the pirates are getting closer to the cockpit. The double-lock should take them a few seconds to hack, it might buy us enough time to get to the Ammaccre. At this point, I might even appreciate their ruthless attitude.

Moira hisses softly. Some days you regret having a translator.  She mutters darkly about jammers and then says, “At least one of them is Ukimi.  They might not take kindly to a jammer in their territory.”

“We aren’t in Ukimi lanes though,” I remind her, “we are in Del’ala territory.”

“Why are Ukimi and Swepol meeting in Del’ala territory? Seems to me the fuzzies aren’t going to appreciate the competition.”

I don’t have time to answer before another field appears on the computer, massive.  Another ammaccare.  It swoops down over us and a voice crackles on the computer, “Synchronize your field to ours…” a number scrolls across the board.  I can hear Moira typing, “or prepare to be boarded by force.”

Moira swears again and said, “They hit the engine room and they’re hacking our codes!  The del’ala are going to have to crack us like a uugi nut!”

The gears on my arms shudder as the engine suddenly shuts off.  I gasp in pain at the feedback loop and disengage from the controls.  I look at Moira.  She is already prepping her shield to flick on when the door opens.  I do the same and also snap an extra battery pack to my blade.

There is a shudder throughout the ship. I glance at a panel to see the upper cargo hatch warning light blink.  I feel my pulse racing. I move next to the door.  The hilt of my blade is slick with sweat from my hands.  My arm port stings.  Moira and I wait in silence. I don’t want to look at her because I know she can hear what’s happening throughout the ship.

“Open the cockpit door,” the voice over the radio says.  I now glance at Moira, her ears are all lifted like a set of frills around her head as she tries to filter the sounds and identify if it is pirate on the other side of the door.  I see the panic in her face. Pirates or privates? Flicking on my field I open the door.

Three del’ala soldiers storm in, knocking me back with their shields. I immediately drop my shield and hold up both hands in surrender. The big fuzzy creatures move efficiently to make sure no one else is hiding. Moira is cowering in her seat, one points and she moves quickly to join me. I have no idea if she ever turned her shield on or not. They hustle us out of the cockpit. I involuntarily gasp when a black-garbed Swepol pilot with the octagonal patch on his chest passes us to the cockpit.  Moira and I enter the hold to see several yssaiki bugs flying the boxes of cargo up into the hold of the other ship.  What are bugs doing on a del’ala ship?

I race to Thela, she is alive! She is staring at the mixture of giant furry del’alan soliders, black-garbed humans, and bug drones. I’ve never heard of three of the five factions working together on anything. Oh and the Ukimi ship outside… I wrap my arms around Thela when a black-garbed human walks up. He flicks his shield on and shoves me, Thela and Moira out the hatch the pirates hacked.  Moira’s screech is cut off by the sudden vaccuum.  Thela’s shield flickers on for a moment and fails.

I hold her as our momentum carries us away from the ship.  Thela doesn’t speak, but sobs softly.  We pass out of the ship’s field, watching as the ammaccare slowly detatches. We watch as they join the other two in the far distance.

“A secret meeting… of all five factions…”

My shield crackles with battery strain and there is a warning beep from the gear on my wrist. I link the last spare battery in. It just delays the vaccuum… I look at Thela. Her lips are turning blue. I cover them with my own. I try to pull her closer. It’s like moving through mud.

The shield flickers once. Beep. I feel my lungs burning. Twice. Beep. I wish I had Moira’s ears now. I can at least hear Thela’s heart beat. Beep. Beep. Beep.

Millennials: Voting!

I have been posting on Facebook to get people to vote (specifically young people since statistically they/we don’t tend to vote in mid-term elections). I am trying to use hope, excitement, fear, shame, and sheer repetition to motivate as many people as possible. I am trying very hard not to say “vote only for the candidate I support!!” because that isn’t my point.  If there was a 95% turn out of eligible voters and the candidate I don’t like wins – fine, apparently I’m in a minority and maybe I need to listen a little harder and figure out why all those people believe what they believe. That isn’t what happens though!

2010: the last midterm election only 40%* of eligible Georgia voters turned out to vote (this is under the national of 43.1% total which is still shameful!).  This literally does mean a minority is influencing the politics that applies to all of us.  I’ve seen statistics saying there are upwards of 80 million eligible “Millennial” voters.  Just to put this in perspective, in the 1990 census the boomers had 76 million** (when they were 26-44 years old).  And yes, I am nerd enough to go look this stuff up.

So the Millennial vote could make a huge difference.  I personally like the idea of taking the voting day as a national holiday.  This should just be an expectation!  Not “are you going to go vote?” but “when are heading down to the polls?”  Looking at the some of the data *** something happened between the 1960s and now… voter turnout is at an all-time low.  And just think how much we could do if all the Millennials turned out to vote.

You can vote early in Georgia – so if you are worried about work (totally different rant!) go early! (http://sos.ga.gov/elections/countycontacts/advancevotingdisplay.aspx)

Let me say again – I don’t care WHO you end up voting for (ok! I do care! I think I’m right!).  But if you make an informed choice (really, do your research!) and you show up to vote – you deserve every inch of your citizenship and I will defend your right to disagree with me to my last breath!  What are you waiting for?  Go look up where you need to go and GO VOTE!

Pew Statistics – I have too much fun with the visualizations of the data Pew collected on voting.

**http://www.census.gov/population/censusdata/cph-l-160h.txt – report on housing focusing on baby boomers from the 1990 census data.

***http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0781453.html  – interesting chart of voter turnout

Dreams of Tea

This weekend my mother and I drove to North Carolina to visit a tea farm.  I took the afternoon off work Friday so we could drive up.  We stayed in a Holiday Inn and Saturday morning we headed to Chapel Hill NC – Camillia forest (http://www.camforest.com) to look at tea plants.  I’ve been telling mom for a few years that she ought to put in tea plants.  Mom has talked of having a screen of bushes, tea shrubs can grow up to 6 feet tall – a great screen.

I was so excited.  We met Christine there and she let us visit with her around the tea bushes as they finished their final harvest of the year.  She had about eight rows of tea plants, each row having somewhere around ten bushes (I’m guessing).  Christine was working on the small-leaf tea plants.  The name is as creative as it sounds- they are called small leaf because their leaves are smaller than the large leaf tea plant leaves!

Mom was asking horticultural questions like growing rate and root structure.  I was able to geek out about the different types of processing for tea types.  For those that don’t know – the simplest explanation is as follows:
White tea is the least processing.  There is no bruising of the leaves and only the youngest of leaves can be used to be a proper white tea.
Green tea has a little bruising before the leaves are processed for tea.
Oolong is always described as being as much art as science.  It requires more processing than green tea, carefully baking the leaves after bruising them JUST enough.
Black tea is the most processing but the easiest.  You bruise the leaves a bunch.  You almost can’t over-dry it.  You can over-bake (of course?) but really it’s pretty difficult.

So mom ended up buying 3 tea plants.  I decided to wait until spring to buy my own plant.  I’m planning a trip to Baltimore/D.C. come spring and on my way home it would make an awesome place to stop.  Since I’ll be looking at growing in a pot at least for a few years (probably) I don’t want to stress a plant just before winter.  But now I know what to expect.

Review: The Fox and the Hound by Daniel P. Mannix

Rating: 7.5/10
Date Originally Published: 1967
Format: eBook, hardcover
TL;DR Review: Amazing book to get into the mind of animals, but not for the faint of heart.

Anyone who has gone to a used book store with me in the past about 8 years has heard me ask the clerk if they have a copy of The Fox and the Hound – the original.  My mother won Christmas last year by finding it when a library was selling their copy.  Recently, Amazon sent me an email to say they finally had it in ebook format.  You can now own it yourself via either Amazon or Barnes & Noble for $6.99.

I know I was in about sixth grade when mom let me read Adventure Happy by Jules Mannix (the wife). I fell in love. I could only imagine living that life – and I wanted to imagine more of it. Then I found a copy of Fox and the Hound.  I remember it was a library book.  I devoured it. I couldn’t keep my hands off it and I couldn’t stop reading “just one more page.”

If you’ve seen the Disney version… forget everything you know.  Yes, there is a fox named Tod.  Yes, there is a hound named Copper.  That’s about the only thing about it Disney kept.  I honestly don’t understand why he bought the rights to this book, it doesn’t make sense.  He could have changed names (fox could have been Sam and the hound Digger) and called it “Friendship” or something…  In the NOVEL, Tod is a wild fox who is trying to survive and Copper is a bloodhound for a hunter.  Yes, Tod spends a little time as a cub with humans, but he runs away to be a wild animal.

Without giving away the details of the book, the chapters are each titled by the type of hunt that Copper or Tod participate in.  Mannix does as good a job as I have ever seen to avoid anthropomorphism.  The animals don’t speak and they have limited reasoning.  Mannix even discusses this several times, especially when Tod is trying to share his knowledge to his offspring.

There are times the descriptions can get a little thick, describing actions which are not entirely human through scent and touch.  The narrator does some describing of why they might be said that way, but not everywhere.  There are also places were a description is glossed over and I would have liked more detail.  I got the distinct feeling that Mannix assumes everyone understands what a fox den should look like.

Overall, this a book I highly recommend to people because it challenges how we perceive animals and assume they think. I will admit though, I think one of my favorite parts of the book was the author’s afterward talking about his own pair of tame-ish foxes and the research he did to write the book (when I tell people I used to read those and saw how many authors did research and that’s why I went and studied history – this is one of those books).

History of Kitties

This isn’t going to be a long history of everything, but a vignette of my history of cats.  I think anyone who knows me today has heard me talk about my pair of black babies.  I adore Kawaii and Genkii.  They weren’t my first cats.  In fact they are number three and four.

My first cat was Cinnamon.  I almost didn’t get her.  I was about three or four.  Someone my mother knew from her days of breeding siamese had kittens.  The mother was a pure bred siamese (papers and everything) and went out and found herself a random tom…. so she offered to give kittens to my mother.  So mom took all three kids over to get kittens.  The story goes that I had fallen asleep in the car and so mom left me there while the other two went inside to pick out kittens.  I woke up as we were leaving and started crying because I wasn’t getting a kitten.  Mom (being a good mom) turned around and let me pick out my kitten. I had her for eight years when she got a tumor and was so sick she didn’t want to eat.  Feb 6th, 1997 we took her to the vet and put her down.  Cinnamon is still one of my favorite spices.

The summer one of the ladies in the church where mom was the youth pastor made a comment about getting rid of her ten year old cat Roxie. Miss Gracie was over ninety and Roxie was “gonna trip her and break her hip.”  So I adopted Roxie in July.  I was owner number nine.  She literally spent the next month under my bed. I would hear her come out to eat and poop at night, but during the day she stayed in the darkest, deepest corner of my bed. It was almost October when she finally would let me pet her. It was probably the next year before I ever held her.  But I think we spent my entire senior year of high school where she slept with me nightly.  She was my writing cat, she was the perfect little muse to sit on my lap quietly, purring away content encouragement.

Then after I graduated from college my biological clock went off.  Like a harpy with a toothache.  At the time I was dating someone who said he never wanted kids (should have been a deal breaker….).  When I had myself in an apartment I started looking at puppies and kittens.  I really wanted a puppy.  But I lived i 645 square feet,  And I worked fulltime.  And really liked spending weekends with my boyfriend.  He told me I was being crazy to look at getting a pet.  I told him I wanted a cat or a baby – his choice.  He suddenly became very supportive of my baby-alternative.  So I talked to a no-kill group in Conyers about a pair of cats, boys – brothers.

When I got to Petsmart to meet them I saw they were about 16 lbs each – and not overweight.  They were big boys!  So the lady took me to meet a little girl who was this tiny, delicate little cat who had bonded a big long-haired cat.  He didn’t give a damn about people.  She didn’t make my heart sing.  There was a third pair that I don’t even remember.  I remember standing in the middle of petsmart as the woman said, “I’m sorry, the only other pair we have is… well they are black cats.”
“I love black cats, I think they are amazing”
“If you like them…. if you’ll take the pair together… I’ll waive the adoption fee.  It’s hard to get black cats adopted, and a bonded pair is even harder”
The moment I picked them up and held them… I knew I was their momma.

Seven years later and this week was my first health scare for them.  Kawaii has a bad tooth that is going to need to be pulled.  I came to bed Monday (surprised because she didn’t fetch me like normal) and she came to demand her cuddle-time.  I just knew something was wrong with her.  I can’t tell you how I knew.  So I poked around her stomach (afraid it was  kidney thing) but that just made her damn happy.  But now I could see it in her eyes – something is wrong. I finally get her to let me look in her mouth and I immediately see it – kind a grey, gooeyness that… it looked awful (and I’m apparently squeamish).

She is ok, even though the tooth isn’t out.  Tonight I changed sheets on the bed and she played “under the sheet dashes.”

I occasionally get looked at like the crazy cat lady.  I argue that I’m not. I’m not as bad as many young parents with their children – and I’ve lost two before. Worse, I made the call when to administer the euthanasia (the right choice – but still hard).  I adore my babies because I am trying to love them while I can.  I try to appreciate these moments of joy when i’m tossing the sheet up and they are diving at the sinking corners.  When Kawaii flops over with the look of “pet my tummy” and even when Genkii will not shut up and leave me alone during video games.

And yes, this is the second shortest version. Cinnamon was the cat of my childhood. Roxie was my writing muse.  Genkii & Kawaii are my babies.  Somehow I don’t think the short version is enough…

To Dream by Day

I think it appropriate to begin my blog by explaining the name of my blog.  At least in my mind, there was no other name I could use for a blog which I hope will give glimpses into my mind, my processes, and my life.

“They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.” -Edgar Allan Poe, Eleonora

I remember when I read this quote the first time in high school.  The words of that whole paragraph really stuck with me (I am doing a little editing to demark the parts that my mind highlighted at the time):
I AM come of a race noted for vigor of fancy and ardor of passion. Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence-[…] They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night. In their gray visions they obtain glimpses of eternity, and thrill, in awakening, to find that they have been upon the verge of the great secret. In snatches, they learn something of the wisdom which is of good, and more of the mere knowledge which is of evil.

I might be ok if I had the sort of mad genius Poe had.  I certainly strive to live my life being cognizant of the dreams which escape only night-dreamers.  Creativity with a little madness in all aspects of my life.  It is why I am passionate on many topics today that tomorrow I will have no interest in.  There are a few things I always am strongly vocal about and I will take no shame in them

  • The ethical treatment of everyone- a topic too long to go into for my first post
  • That everyone believe in something AND can explain why they believe in it (or at least not just say “well, I never thought to question it” in any variation)
  • Books. Personally, I prefer holding the physical book in my hand but if digital is your dish, we’re still cool.  It’s the “I don’t like to read” people I struggle to relate to
  • Family & friends. I know not everyone in the world gets along with family and I am very blessed in that fashion. I also believe friends are the family you choose.

On all things I seek the dream and then try to meander my way back to reality.  How to implement the dream is less fun, more difficult, and more costly (I mean really, in the best dreams there is no cost!).

Currently I am looking at turning my dream of publication into something closer to reality.  It terrifies me. The reality will take a lot of work.  I love writing, I can spend hours writing terrible manuscripts I’ll never let anyone else read. Writing something which I don’t mind letting others read… that is a different and terrifying dragon in the room. Then we look beyond that to the self-publish/indie publish/big publish markets and I just want to go hide in a corner. They each have aspects which I find daunting to the point of sometimes insurmountable. First and foremost being that I am not good at self-promotion. I never have been.  Hence I’m trying to blog… this is my earliest/first attempt to self promote. So I hope my day dreams amuse, excite, and provoke.