Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Finally Quiet


My eldest offspring gave me a book of writing prompts for Christmas last year. I haven’t used it much, but since I seem to have hit a bit of a dry spot on my stories dealing with Tole, I figured I’d take a shot. I flipped to a random page and found the prompt “a writer with noisy neighbors.” This is what my somewhat off-center brain came up with. I worry about me. – T

In his twenty odd years as a homicide investigator Detective Robert Johns had never thrown up at a crime scene. This morning that streak came to an end. The sheer violence and unabashed animal rage that would have been required to do those things to another human being, let alone two, touched some primal part of his brain that would not be ignored. Luckily all he’d had in his stomach was the stale coffee he drank when he had come on shift that morning, so there wasn’t much to purge.

The case, however, will be an easy one to solve. All the he had to do was follow the trail of blood and shit to the door of the apartment across the hall. Inside they found the lone resident sitting at his computer typing away with a look of serenity that was broken by the fact that he was covered in blood and bits of his victims from across the hall.

When the killer noticed the detective standing in his doorway, he turned to and said, “Can you hear that? It’s finally quiet. Maybe now I’ll get some work done on this book before my deadline passes.”

Then he turned back to his computer and resumed typing.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Retribution Pt 6 - The Box

Yes, I skipped part 5, mainly because I haven't written it yet. It is going to deal with the interrogation of the captured Goran and the things Tole will learn about that race and their society.  It's not pertinent to this chapter, so I feel ok posting it out of sequence.  

Apologies again for the dry spell between posts, but life is crazy right now.  Almost no down time at work, and at home, all my time seems to be going to cars. I DID get the $600 Mustang on the road just in time for my oldest son to start driving. I'll take a win on that one. I'm working on a post about that saga.  Hopefully that'll be done next week.  

In the meantime, it's time to abuse my main character's soul a little...enjoy.


Now that I know HOW to hurt them, I need to know why they came after her. That little scaly bastard wasn’t part of the same guild as the one who took my wife from me, but I’ve learned enough about their world to give me a good idea of where to begin and what to do once I have. Their race holds reputation in high regard in a way similar to the way the orcs hold honor. For the Goran, your prowess in your profession is all that matters. Doesn’t matter how you earned it as long as you did it well. Honor doesn’t come into it at all. It’s about how many wins you rack up versus your rivals. It’s about getting the job and completing the job regardless of who you hurt along the way.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking it sounds an awful lot like what I do, and you’re right. It is almost exactly how a professional killer operates with one glaring difference. I’d just as soon kill my rivals as outscore them. It’s a lot easier to be the best game in town if you’re the only game in town. I don’t care about being known for being the best. I’d rather be lucky than good, but that doesn’t mean I don’t work to perfect my craft. I just want to put a pointy thing into someone. I’d do it for free, but a fella’s gotta eat. Another big old difference is that, on most worlds, what I do is generally frowned upon by those in power…at least until they need my services that is.

So now the big question is why? Why come to Earth? It’s a back water, no magic, insignificant little pocket of nothing in the grand scheme. So why come all the way there, abduct my wife, kill a bunch of my friends, and send my life spiraling into the pit of joy it’s in now. I’m hoping that the message in the little box I brought back from my last trip home will shed some light on that.

First thing’s first though. I’ve got to discharge these runes and gems, or bad things can happen. I kind of like Bobby and The Bar, so I guess I should disarm this stuff. I put some water into my wash tub and strip down to the suit I was born with. On the wall beside the tub are some runes scribed around a couple of handprints that are uncannily similar to mine. Once I’m in the tub, I reach across and touch the runes in the proper sequence to activate the grounding effect. I know I’ve done it right when the hand prints take on a faint bluish glow. I so fucking hate this part. I put my palms onto the handprints and lightning courses through me. Ok, not lightning but it’s enough of a shock the stand my hair up and make me pee a little. Dammit, it stings ok?!?

Once the tingling subsides completely, I know that I am effectively a dead battery and safe to be around when I’m upset. Ok, less accidentally lethal to be around. I’m never going to be OSHA’s poster child for a safe working environment, but at least now I’m pretty sure I won’t accidentally set some shit on fire.

I step out of my wash tub and towel off. Once I’m dry, I strap on some jeans, a harness that goes around my chest and holds a few bits of pointy goodness, and loose fitting shirt. I used to go around unarmed in The Bar, but a random encounter with a fellow practitioner not too long ago broke me of that habit. In addition to not sitting around unarmed, I decide it’s probably a good idea to activate the wards on my door. I don’t doubt that Bobby would stand in the way of anyone intent on doing me harm up to a point. Better safe than finding out where that point lies though.

Bobby was nice enough to send me up to my room with a bottle of a really good single malt Scotch that I favor. Sure there’s better stuff out in the multidimensional space I play in, but I like it. It reminds me that I am human, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing to be. It’s somewhere about halfway through my third glass that I realize I’m stalling. I really don’t know what to expect but if it’s to be an image of her it’s not going to be easy. Like I said before though, there’s nothing to it but to do it, so I guess I should quit being such a nancy about it.

I put my glass down on the table that sits beside my memory totem cabinet. My hand lingers for a second, and I take a deep breath. On the exhale I turn to the cabinet and deactivate the wards. I open the door and reach in to take out the little silver box that is sitting all alone on one side of the second shelf. Still interesting how the orc totems won’t stay near it. I feel a little tingle run through my fingers when I touch it. Don’t remember that from before. Maybe my own stored magic masked it. Who knows?

After I take it out of the cabinet, I close the door and reactivate the wards. I turn to the table and set the box down next to my glass. I pick the glass back up and take the last slug of Scotch. Then I sit down and take a small knife out of its holster under my shirt. I prick the tip of my middle finger and squeeze it to get a little ball of blood to well up. Once I’ve got a drop about the size of a lentil, I touch it to the hole in the lid of the box just above the gently glowing blue gem.

I don’t know what I was expecting to happen. Maybe I was bracing for impact from some kind of a magical head butt or something. That is definitely NOT what happened. Instead the room kind of shifted out of focus making everything seem fuzzy and then she was standing there off to my right. I turned my head slowly to face her, but it took effort, like the muscles in my neck just didn’t want to comply with what my brain was telling them to do. I literally had to force my head to turn to look at her.

It hurt…a lot. All of the pain of that day all of those years ago rushed back in and damn near crushed me. I felt a tear form in my eye. I honestly didn’t think I was capable of that anymore.

“Husband.”

The word hit me like a wall of rock. It crushed me, and I lost track of time. I have no idea how long I lay there in the floor, but when I came back to my senses every muscle in my torso hurt. She still stood there patiently waiting for me to rejoin her, so I got my ass up out of the floor. I put my chair back on its feet and sat down.

“If you are hearing my voice now it means they have found me, and I did not survive it. I recorded this in the hope that it would never need to be seen. The magic of the box would only have brought it to you if I were dead. I had hoped to eventually have this conversation with you in the flesh. I am so sorry you have to suffer this alone.”

Found me? That means she knew she was being hunted? Why wouldn’t she have trusted me with that? How deep is this rabbit hole gonna go?

“Please know that despite the fa├žade I was forced to put up to hide from those who would do me harm, my love for you was very real. Never have I known a man of such deep passion and conviction. I was drawn to you. Men like you are rare on your world and non-existent on mine. I could not help but love you, and protect you. You have darkness in you that was threatening to consume you when we met. Maybe that was what attracted me. I saw a potential protector in you…a man capable of great violence but also a man capable of a deep love.”

If she only knew.

“I feel I should tell you everything, but the capacity of this box will not allow it. It will have to be the abridged version then.”

“My people are creatures of ancient magic. When a race exists for as long as mine has, political maneuvering and intrigue become almost innate behaviors, and my father was an elder on the ruling council for our people. Despite our scheming and political maneuvering we could not even fathom that one of our kind would ever seek power over all. Unfortunately that short sightedness cost my people dearly. One of the most powerful of my people went mad and killed our council and set himself as the supreme ruler of all. He began to hunt down and kill any surviving family member of the council, so my family fled into exile across the multiverse. I had been fleeing for just over a hundred years when I finally came to your world and found you that night.”

A hundred years? Good lord what that must have been like. It’s no wonder she was so desperate to find a protector.

“I came to Terra looking for a protector. I never expected to find you. When we first met, I was interested only in a warrior who could protect me from those who would have me dead. After the altercation in the bar that first night I knew it would be you. The way you attacked without hesitation and the ferocity with which you fought to defend me told me you were the one I needed. I must admit that at first I saw you only as a weapon for my defense. That is why I did what I did, and I hope you can understand and forgive me that transgression against you.”

What the fuck is she talking about? What transgression?

“Before The Enlightenment, my people were also violent and murderous. Out of that grew a magic called The Binding. The enchantment was designed to tap into the murderous part of the target’s psyche, no matter how small, and amplify it while also creating a bond to the caster that borders on fanatical devotion. The target of the enchantment will defend the caster to their dying breath and utterly destroy anyone or anything they view as a threat. They were hardly more than rabid animals. It was barbaric but necessary at the time. We evolved beyond our violent nature and had lived in peace for countless millennia. My people have not used The Binding since The Enlightenment, until I used it on you. That first cry of fear was actually a net I cast out over the bar. It touched everyone but only the one who would be my protector would respond. When our eyes met after the fight, I cemented the Bond.”

I could feel my anger firing up, but there was a feeling of hurt and betrayal that overshadowed it. Used it on me?!?! Used it on me?!?! Was any of what I felt for her even real, or was it all some kind of magical mind-fuck?!? Suddenly I was very glad I had discharged all of my magic storage. I’d probably burn my room down with the way I feel right now.

“Husband, I would be willing to bet that you’re on the edge of a murderous rage about now. You would be completely justified in that, but I ask you to bear with me and listen before you judge me too harshly. I bound you to me, true, but I worked very hard to bury that binding. I did not need to bring out your violent side. I knew that from the first night. In fact, while we sat and talked I also wove an enchantment to suppress it a bit and bring you a measure of peace, but that enchantment would burn away should you need to protect me. You were in so much turmoil and pain. I needed your protection, but you needed me as well. That is why I did what I did.”

“The Binding also made you fall in love with me, but over time I suppressed that as well when I realized you had begun to love me truly. I could sense it through the Bond. In the end you were bound to me, but instead of a steel cable, I tried to tie you with a ribbon. The magic of The Binding could never be undone. In most cases if the caster were to die, the protector would be driven insane and have to be killed. Otherwise, they became an indiscriminate killing machine often killing many of my people before killing themselves. I regretted that, but I did need a protector. That’s why I bound you, but I tried my best to bind you in a way that would be the least controlling of your will.”

She says that as if that makes robbing someone of their free will ok. “But why?” the words slipped out of my mouth before I even realized I was speaking out loud.

“Because, Husband, I had seen my family slaughtered in front of me by one of my own kind advocating a return to our unenlightened ways. A return to the unchecked barbarism of an age long dead.”

“WHAT THE FUCK?!?” I exclaimed jumping up from my chair. Did the illusion of my wife just answer my question? “Can you interact with me?

Up until now the image had been staring straight ahead, but now she turned and looked me squarely in the eyes and responded, “To a limited degree yes. Original thought is beyond my capability, but I can answer questions about happenings and circumstances I contain memories of. What would you like to know?”

“I just want to know two things,” I said through clenched teeth.

“Ask and I will answer if I can.”

“Fine. How can I trust that she loved me and wasn’t just with me for protection?”

“As I said before, in the beginning, it was purely an act of self-preservation, but as time passed I came to love you with all my being. I do not know how to convince you of that, but know that it is true.”

I let the feeling of that soak in for a minute. I felt the fire for retribution in my belly reignite and give me the strength for my second question.

“How do I turn off this goddamn box?”

“Simply touch the blue stone. You can reactivate me at any time you wish with another drop of blood.”

She had confirmed everything Serilla had told me about the bond, but I still didn’t know how it was purged from my mind. I touched the stone, and she winked out of existence.

 “Yeah…don’t hold your breath.”

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Junkyard Jewel...NOT

Ok. so my truck needs the engine rebuilt or replaced. This leaves me with three options:

1. Rebuild/overhaul the existing power plant.

2. Buy a rebuilt engine.

3. Pull an engine from a salvage yard and hope you get a winner.

Options 1 and 2 are pricey. I'm kinda broke right now so I decided on option 3.

We always pull engines from a wrecked car; because, it was obviously driven to the wreck.

The plan was to tear it down with the exception of pulling the crank and pistons and put all new gaskets in and drop it in my truck.

Sounds like a solid plan right? Right.

So this last weekend we started the cleanup and tear-down, and things went..inevitably...sideways about twenty minutes in.

While de-greasing and power-washing the engine we noticed a pinhole in the timing cover that would have let oil escape the engine. Right next to that little hole was a great whacking blob of JB Weld. Ever the optimist, I soldiered on and finished cleaning the engine. 

Once we had it back in the shop, we started the disassembly process. When the oil pan came off, my buddy said, "I really don't want to, but we should probably check the bearings on the crank." And that was when the bell tolled on my hopes of a re-seal and send it. The engine had very obviously been oil starved at some point and the bearings and crank were both shot.

On the upside the block is solid and the cylinders were not in need of machining. No need to involve a machine shop, but still getting a new crank, all new bearings, and new piston rings as well as new gaskets and seals. It'll be better for it.

It's a good looking block, but now it sits on a stand with a box and a bucket of bits beside it waiting while we gather the requisite bits to put it all back together.

I guess my junkyard jewel is just a diamond in the rough.

-Tole




Pickup Progress

So I spent last weekend out at my friend's house and shop.  When we moved my truck, it would just flat fall on its face and die. I knew ...