The BBC finally brings the X Games and mountain biking to its flagship sports programme today. Please let it be a grown up treatment, showing full runs as well as the obligatory music video of crash clips.
Sixty years after Pearl Harbour, one of theJapanese submarines sunk at Pearl Harbor has been found, almost by accident. I’ve been reading a bit about marine archeology recently, one of the inspirations behind threads in the Seeds storyline.
The low, barn-like structure the tri-motor had been wheeled into was a sham. The rear opened onto an old quarry working which had been roofed over to create a huge hangar. There were another two of Horse�s supply fleet and an old Albo that had been refitted with an arsenal of defensive autoguns. There were other shapes, twin boomed and vaguely familiar, in shadows beyond.
An officer approached Horse and Reed, saluted them and made the sign of the Silver Tower. �Welcome back sir. You must be commander Reed.�
�Yes. This,� Reed had felt her appear at his elbow, �is my bombardier, Jay.�
The officer saluted Jay. �If you will come this way sir, madam. The rest of your flight will be settled into their billets.�
�We are getting a tour of Dreamland?� Jay squeaked. �Are we cleared for that?�
�This complex is currently locked down. You cannot leave to tell anyone about it. And your next posting is,� he smirked, �remote, shall we say.�
Lights were coming on in the far end of the hangar, randomly revealing details. �Those are Slender Wasps.� Reed was disappointed.
�No. Those are larger than Slender Wasps.� Jay wanted to rush ahead and investigate.
�Killer Wasps. Not the most imaginative name, I admit. We have built upon the original�s strengths- the strong backbone and excellent handling characteristics- and fitted supercharged V12 engines and pressurised the cabin. It can fly higher and faster, and still negotiate narrow valleys just as well. You shall be taking this flight to your new posting.�
Up close, Reed studied his new plane. The shoulder where wings met fuselage was familiar, and the tail was long and thin. The crew section was undoubtedly larger, and he could make out the double thick glass. It was painted a light blue grey on the underside and a broken darker blue- grey on top. This was not any mountain camouflage that Reed knew. �Where is our posting?�
�I�m afraid I can�t tell you that, sir. Come this way and I shall show some more of the �toys� we have been working on.� A tunnel ran to the next hangar quarry. Cabling and lights hung from nails hammered into the rock. �These will be your escorts on combat missions.� The strange beast was a single seater, painted in a similar scheme to the Killer Wasps. The engine, and a pusher propeller, were behind the pilot, twin tails sprouted from the wing and were joined by a large rear flap. The long nose housed a six barrel rotating autogun and there were mountings under the wing for bombs, rockets or drop tanks. �It�s a Ciccile.�
�Cheecheel?� Jay reddened at her poor pronunciation.
�It�s a ten legged hunting insect which can jump great distances, is very agile and has a deadly bite. When the Southern army broke through onto the plains, some of the designers flew the prototypes over the mountains and demanded sanctuary on our side. It was better than any interceptors we were working on at the time.�
There were other planes on display, single examples. �Our rogues gallery.� The officer commented. There was a battered metal thing which looked like an arrow head and had no landing gear, a stubby prop plane with short deep wings and a huge engine, a box with no wings but horizontal windmill blades and a model of a bomber with twin fuselages and eight engines. �Some of them will see production yet.�
Jay had taken Reed�s hand, �I feel quite excited.�
�Military hardware turns you on? I�ll have to remember that.�
It’s been a long time since I checked out my visitor logs, so off I went. Intriguing is this listing, which seems to have crawled my site and come back with a list of all external links. So next time, it lists the page listing me, and things get a bit recursive.
Also interesting were some google searches- hard wood doors, New Bohemians pics and the hidden empire middle management. If I mention sex more often, or Britney Spears naked, will I get listed more often?
Boran shuffled paper across his desk. Production reports, intelligence reports, statistics for port usage. Lots of things he could look at but not change without permission. The door opened and his assistant bore another armful of documents. �I thought you were going down to the docks?�
�Janssen. Commander Janssen has something more important to see me about. He just has not called for me yet.� The young man smiled at his boss. There could only be a few years difference in their ages- when he still lived in the city Boran could have played in the municipal park with Aylo. Now he had to be guarded in what he said, for both their sakes. A shame, Aylo was a handsome man. �What do you have for me?�
�Traffic reports from the railroad. There is a bottleneck becoming evident in the southern marshalling yards. A report of possible sabotage on the Plains, though it looks to me as if someone is trying to cover for failing in their routine maintenance duties. And these, which are eyes only sealed.� Aylo dropped the last three bundles with a hint of anger. So hard, in fact, that the seal on the top one popped off.
�How are conditions in the city?�
�Not the propaganda about the people of Cora and Munss welcoming their liberation. How are people coping, really? I know that the amount of food coming into the cities- and staying- is a lot lower for the civilian population than it was last season. It will be the long nights soon enough, and if we have been starving people through the fat season that is when they will start dying.�
�There are those who would benefit from more food, sir. That is always true.�
�The young, the old and the sick?�
�I will suggest to Commander Janssen that too many deaths amongst the citizenry would have an adverse effect upon the workers and consequently production. He may respond.�
�Thank you sir.� Aylo turned to leave, �If I may say so sir, you are certainly more considerate than many in the command.�
�Thank you Aylo. Do not tell anyone else that though.�
Hang the DJ, hang the DJ, hang the DJ- Oasis – (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?
I’ve been trying to think of titles for what I’m currently calling Seeds. So far I’ve come up with Silver Tower (already a book by Dale Brown and only referring to one aspect of the story) or Islands in Time (or Space. I might as well go the hwole hog and call it Islands in the Stream so Dolly and Kenny can sing the movie adaptation’s theme tune.)
They had marched hard for two days, making the most of the pack animals to speed their movements, then discarded them and cut over into another valley on foot. Now they were approaching their planned camp. Mov had scouted and reported the road was so overgrown it couldn�t have been used for several seasons.
The construction had collapsed in several places, where it clung to the steepest cliff face, but a way could always be found in single file. Near the head of the valley, it found its way back onto firm ground. There was machinery now- old, steam driven things rusting in overgrown parks. Ahead, a great scar in the mountain face was just visible behind screens of trees.
The scar was a great arched tunnel mouth. There was more machinery here, steam driven tracked trucks and a large conveyor bearing rocks from the darkness. Halfway through a shift, everyone had downed tools and left. �What is this place?� Rey asked.
�The Karr tunnel.� Lensman told him, �One of the greatest engineering failures of all time. It was supposed to join the east and west sides of the range far to the south of the Arril pass. They broke countless machines, killed a hundred or so workers and then just ran out of money. It bankrupted my mother�s side of the family.�
�This is to be our base of operations? Do the southerners know of its existence?�
�Everyone knows of it, but very few think about it. Besides, it is a very defensible position. We rest here for a few days and then start expeditions.�
Kess and Mov were already marking out fire zones for defence. They had found a steam shovel, the bucket resting on an outcrop. �This ferrous must be two or three digits thick. We could mount an autogun in here and catch them as they come up the road.�
Mov nodded, �It would be very hard to get above us as well. On the nearside here, they would have to cross our field of fire before they could even start climbing. And on the far side, it is hardly to their advantage.�
�We can set up trip mines and calibrate the bomb lobbers to hit the far side of that rise. Unless they send an army after us it will be another unfair fight.�
�You say that like it is a bad thing, youngster.�
Weblogs are obviously becoming mainstream when major international events such as the World Summit set up their own logs.
You have to hope that something concrete comes of the summit. My ‘wanna change the world’ side is all enthused and I’ve signed up to be part of the consultation process on the government’s website.
I wanted to be Dubya, I really did………
When I grow up, I want to live like Iain Banks.
The tri motor banked and pointed itself east along the valley. A river lazily wound its way to the plain beyond, a spur feeding a large rectangular reservoir. There was forest and pasture on the northern slopes and mills and light industrial buildings on the southern. There was no airstrip.
�Did we read the map correctly?� Reed wondered.
�Two of the best pilots in the world getting lost? I think not.� Horse chuckled. �Watch, this is very clever.�
There was activity by the reservoir. Sluice gates on the feed channel were wound shut, and those on the drain channel opened. As Horse lined up his landing, the water level dropped sufficiently to reveal tar pack only a few digits below the surface.
�Flaps down.� Reed echoed, mesmerised by the hidden runway.
They cleared the dyke at the western end and gently touched down, raising a plume of water behind. Horse only needed two thirds of the runway to get to taxiing speed. He pulled off the main runway, pointed to a ramp and cut the engines. The doors of the nearest building had opened and more ground crew and a light tractor were rushing over to them. Before the plane had even been pulled to the ramp, the water was flowing back into the reservoir.
�I had heard of this place. I never believed it really existed.�
�Well now you know. Welcome to Dreamland, just wait until you see the toys they have for you.�
Two turntables and a microphone- King Adora- Vibrate You, Carter USM – A World Without Dave, Carter USM – 101 Damnations, Blur – The Great Escape, Elastica – Elastica, Bentley Rhythm Ace – Bentley Rhythm Ace, Terrorvision – Shaving Peaches, Breakbeat Era – Ultra Obscene.
They had taken crude measurements and determined the island�s daily path. It described a rough ellipse- North and West as the tide flowed that way, then South and East as it waned. Always, on the horizon in one direction or another, heavier swells than they sailed in could be seen breaking against some underwater obstruction.
The dead zone was a natural trap for flotsam. On the third day Bobb spotted a wooden barrel floating close to the north shore and swam it in. Salt water had leached in to corrupt the alcoholic contents, but the metal bands that held it together, and the wood itself, could be put to use. The metal was fashioned into a grapple and attached to the length of rope to haul in floating material without getting wet feet. Small strips became a barbed points and Sheel quickly became adept at harpooning fish.
Day by day the camp grew. A great expanse of rubberised canvas became both a bivouac off the single tree and a night-time collector of condensing dew. Bottles gave up their contents and became storage or were fashioned into lenses for the solar still and cooker Gim was building. They had even started farming, after a fashion, cultivating furrows of the algae for soups and planting seeds from the few fruit that washed up whole.
Sheel was at the fishing hole they had hacked through the roots near the shore. She had baited it with handfuls of the surface algae, so much richer than the stuff that grew below the waterline, and was waiting with a harpoon. Bobb watched as she shifted slightly. There was a movement just at the edge of light�s penetration, but she didn�t aim directly at it. Slightly to the right there was another movement, closer to the surface, the coil of a long thin body tracking the smaller fish. Sheel threw the harpoon with the whole of her body. It dug in to its target, and moved sharply as the eel reacted. Grasping the very end of the long harpoon handle, Sheel used all her weight to drive it through the eel�s body.
Bobb made for one of the smaller spare harpoons, but Sheel, spotting him for the first time, shook her head and pointed at the rope trailing out of the fishing hole. They hauled back and brought the eel to the surface. It�s head broke water and flailed around, a many eyed, multi toothed thing like the one Bobb had seen on his first trip under the island.
�Damn! I should have hit it nearer the brain.� Sheel let out some slack and stepped a safe distance from the eel. Now she nodded at the other harpoons. Bobb picked one and circled around behind her. The eel�s eyes weren�t made for use out of water. It could see two shapes moving around it, with no clue which was closer or the greater threat. It feinted toward the smaller shape, which moved quickly away.
Bobb watched the eel whip toward Sheel and took the opportunity to jump in. He drove the harpoon home just behind the great jaws, pushing it through and wedging it in the ground.
�You missed the brain.� Sheel pointed out.
�Only by a little.� Bobb lied. They had cut up the first one they caught and identified the various organs. The primary stomach was just behind the jaws, directly behind a sphinctered gullet. Much further back, in a bulge under the first dorsal fin, was the brain. Sheel took the last harpoon and pushed it between the overlapping plates protecting the brain pan.
The eel still twitched, it would take a long time for all its nerves to process their final signals. They didn�t watch it, walking to the shore and staring at the nearest surf line. �That was the biggest so far.� Bobb commented.
�This end of our territory seems the most fertile for life, like the other has the richest plunder.�
�How long do you think we�ll be out here?�
�Possibly for ever. Maybe until the seasons change and storms rip our little home apart. We can live long enough to see either eventuality.�
�I�ll go for the first one. I don�t imagine this place grew to its current size between storm seasons. If there are any.
�Do you remember the stories of the outposters? How they survived for generations cut off from supply routes and outside communication.�
�You�re asking me to have your children?� Sheel laughed, then checked the look on Bobb�s face. �And Gim�s too? I mean, if you�re looking at breeding generations of descendants, you want them to start with as wide a gene pool as possible, don�t you.�
�You weren�t meant to take the suggestion that seriously. It was just an idea.�
�It stays an idea. I still think we�ll be rescued from our little paradise.�
The eel had stopped twitching. They set about cutting it up with knives fashioned from glass.
Gotta go- Beer!
In a couple of days I should have Another Education & Ruby Red prepared for downloading, for a small fee. There’ll be a couple of chapters that aren’t in the printed version and a whole bunch of graphics, such as the chapter splash pages from Education’s appearance in Ten Years Asleep. I’m also considering a members only section, with new material and completed works.
It was an inspiring sight. All ten of the wings in service had finally formed a tactical flight. They were carefully arranged in a crescent, with the mountains behind and crews in front, for a commemorative picture.
After the sixth exposure, for good luck, the crews broke and the tractors came to back the wings into the hangars. The ground crew were nervous, there was only clearance of a few digits from the tips of the wings to the hangar walls. It would not do to damage the pride of the Southern air force through clumsy reversing.
Harren watched, not really worried, then waved to the pilot of one of the other wings. Mirl was another veteran of the Stumps. He had been looking at the sorry collection of them that had been evicted in favour of the wings. �By the Tower, I had hoped to never see another of those things. Two days now since I arrived here and I can see them from my billet. I swear the deserter squadrons didn�t know what they were in for, or they�d have taken the trip to the prison camps with their countrymen.�
They walked across the runway. At the western end there were two thousand spans of new tar pack. It had gone down recently and was still glossy black and incompletely cured. The runway was flanked by tall seed grasses. They supplied the base with some of its food, and would stop a Stump that missed a landing. Hitting the field with a wing would just turn it into so much chaff.
The wind grew. The seed grass rustled. On the far side of the river dust raised from the flat land and whorled around unseen attractors. �Why no farm land on that side?� Harren asked.
�The base commander wanted a good field of fire.� Mirl pointed out the guard towers arrayed from the northern edge of the base to the southern. �The river comes down from the mountains and bows around the base. Makes quite a good defensive line, but the seed grass grows taller than a man. A small force could have sneaked right to the river and crossed at its shallowest point. So he ordered a thousand span killing zone in every direction. Cut everything down and sowed the ground with caustic and salt so nothing could grow on it.�
�This is a deserter squadron. The Plains people hate the deserters more than us. One of the flight crews went off base just before I arrived, and didn�t come back. They were found yesterday, hanging from trees with spikes through their hands and feet and with their bellies split open so the insects could eat them alive.�
They passed the control tower, with its new RADIF direction finder array on the roof. �The base commander is sending the rest of the squadron up tomorrow to bomb the nearest town.�
�Will that stop other attacks?�
�More likely it will inspire them. Look at these.� Off to their left there was a large break in the seed grass. Nearly a hundred plane carcasses, biplane bombers, were parked haphazardly together. Some had been broken in the process, one large bunch had burnt, twisting together.
�The same. The deserters flew these, before we put them in Stumps. They would be better planes, with decent engines. The ones they used couldn�t even move my motor trike. It would have been cheaper to refit those.�
�But it wouldn�t have looked as good.� Harren remembered the propaganda pictures of the Plains Loyalists, as the deserters were officially known, receiving the first of their superior Southern fighters.
The flight crews were converging on a small building near the barracks. �The seed ale is an acquired taste,� Mirl commented, �but the mechanics have a still which turns out a nasty liquor.�
�I�m not going to try and drink you under the table. I learnt that lesson last time.�
Apparently, we’re all working class now, which is nice. It seems that people, when asked what class they think they are from, avoid saying middle because they don’t think it’s something to be proud of. I went through this stage about eight years ago. Then I realised that my parents and grandparents had worked long and hard so that I could be middle class and it would be very ungrateful of me to deny this.
I still can’t get that sketch with the Two Ronnies and John Cleese out of my head though.
Chapter 1 of Seeds is up. There’ll be a whole front page as soon as I get a decent cover illustration done.
Horse had been a fighter pilot, back in the days of biplanes held together by string and prayers. He had fought in the Glacier War and was credited with ten kills, though he only accepted seven of them. Either figure made him the highest scoring veteran of the conflict still flying. Somewhere along the line he had foregone his given name and started going by his call sign, even after starting an air courier service upon discharge. After growing fat and happy on the profits he had allowed the company to be integrated with the air army as the supply division, as long as he could fly active service. The lure of battle took him to supply drops and spy landings, but today he was a passenger carrier to the chosen crews of Wasp squadron 3.
Reed took the co-pilot�s seat when it was offered. �Why not take your planes with you?� Horse enquired as he lined up along the main runway.
�Some younger crews are being rotated in, to get experience in the mountains. Maybe combat, the way events are progressing.�
�There�s definitely going to be combat. Something is coming I can tell you. It is only a little activity at each of my stops, but it all adds up.�
�You don�t gossip out of town about this, I hope.�
Horse guffawed as he throttled up. �I never get out of town. Everyone I know, eat with, drink with or sleep with serves in some way. Have you clipped that luscious new bombardier of yours yet? A nice looking one, her, none too fat, but nicely rounded.� They pulled off the ground, banked away from the mountains and began to climb.
�Have you clipped your co-pilot? Larin�s not on this flight, I notice.�
�Clipped her and promised to her. The medics have her off flying for a while, just in case.�
Reed considered this for a while. �You�re telling me there�s a little Horse on the way?�
�The first. Well, the first that I know of. I liberated a lot more than just Cora in the Glacier War, if you understand me.�
New Scientist reports on crows that can fashion and use tools, even knowing which were the right ones for the job. The old me would make some comment about management here.