Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Memo: The Recent Changes at Alliance Psychic Research Institute

Fugitive Alert River Tam Simon Tam

To: All surviving personnel, Alliance Psychic Research Institute
From: New Director, Alliance Psychic Research Institute
Subject: Recent Changes


You may have already noticed some changes here at the institute when you came into work today. If you’re worried about your positions, allow me to assure you: for the foreseeable future , there will be no further layoffs and/or assassinations by shadowy Council agents. So if you’re reading this and not spurting blood onto your monitor from a severed brachiocephalic artery, congratulations! You made the cut.

Which is not to say that you’re off the hook.

You people brought a precocious, hyperintelligent teenager in here, taught her eight types of karate, honed per psychic powers to a razor edge, and then acted surprised when she escaped from your lightly guarded facility. Frankly, I’m only shocked that it took so long, and that she needed any outside help at all. In fact, under the circumstances, I’m surprised she didn’t invent a teleporter powered by your collective stupidity and use it to beam herself out.

Which is to say: we expect better critical thinking from you in the future.

In the weeks ahead, you’ll be seeing some changes in and around the facility. And when I say “around”, I mean it, because we’re planning to move this entire program into space. I hope you like looking at stars from your office window.

Why launch you all into space? To put it in one word: security. If another candidate escapes our facility, we would like it if they escaped into the cold vacuum of interplanetary space. Don’t worry. All the amenities are moving with you. You’ll still have an on-site gym, after work enrichment classes, and Wednesday will still be Hot Dog Day in the cafeteria. It’ll just be Hot Dog Day in space—which, if you ask me, is even better. And if you’re worried about being away from your families, don’t fret, because we’re bringing them all with us.

As hostages.

So don’t fuck up again, or your loved ones will pay the price for your incompetence.

That’s enough admonishments and threats, though. Now on to some good news! We’ll have some new faces joining us soon. Notice that I didn’t say “people”, because no one’s entirely certain about that, but you’ll know these operatives by the blue gloves they wear. When I inquired about it, I was simply told that they’re “afraid of catching germs from door knobs.” So you want to remember to sneeze into your sleeve around them, or they might kill you with a sonic weapon that causes excruciating pain and bleeding from every orifice.

That’s what their resumes say, anyway. They also say that they’re very good at volleyball, so I expect the upcoming  interdepartmental volleyball season to be a hot one. Just be careful you don’t spike the ball into one of their faces, or they might kill you with a sonic weapon that causes excruciating pain and bleeding from every orifice.

They’re here straight from Alliance High Command, so please extend them every courtesy and do not get between them and the cafeteria steam trays on Hot Dog Day. If you get between them and the cafeteria steam trays on Hot Dog Day, they may kill you with a sonic weapon that causes excruciating pain and bleeding from every orifice.

In other personnel news, Gary from accounting will be moving up to the head of that department. So if you see Gary in the hall, please congratulate him.

Looking through my records, I see that no one who survived the layoffs ever worked directly with the Tam girl, meaning that no one currently employed in the R&D department knows exactly what went wrong. To help keep you from making the same mistakes again, I’m instituting the following rules:

  • No VIP guests are permitted in the testing areas. If key members of Parliament want to see what we do here, we’ll make them a goddamn video tape.
     
  • Effective immediately, all fruity oaty bars are to be removed from the vending machines, and no fruity oaty bar or fruity oaty bar advertisements of any kind are allowed on site. This institute will not be held liable for what happens to personnel who break this rule.
     
  • The telepathic abilities of your psychic candidates may be used for personal financial gain, but only during your off hours, and only with approval of your immediate supervisor.
     
  • The telepathic abilities of your psychic candidates may not be used to obtain dating or pickup advice, to learn your coworkers’ network login passwords, or to pinpoint the amount of bribe money required to gain your immediate supervisor’s approval under the above mentioned rule. In these areas, you’re on your own.
     
  • Any seemingly meaningless babble from psychic candidates is to be reported to the nearest blue-gloved operative—preferably in a soundproof room with easy-to-clean tile floors. For, you know, security reasons.
     
  • From now on, researchers will be limited to performing no more than two lobotomies per psychic candidate. Which ought to be one more than anyone needs, really.
     
  • Emotionally unstable psychic candidates will no longer be taught eight different kinds of karate. Seriously people, I know we’re all about value-added services around here, but it’s much safer for everyone involved if we put a  firewall between those two skillsets.

Follow these simple rules, and this program will be smooth sailing from here on out.

And never forget your critical place in the Alliance. We're making better worlds here, and you’re a part of that.

Yours cordially,
Dr. Susan Feng
Director, Alliance Psychic Research Institute
Special Projects Division, Anglo-Sino Alliance

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Go Read a Book

Ah, summertime. It's warm, the sun is shining, and everyone's so cheerful.

I hate stupid summertime, for all those reasons and more.

But you know what makes it better? A good book. Especially because, after you're finished enjoying it, you can use it to block the sun and/or throw it forcefully at the next person who dares to be cheerful at you.

"But Robyn," you say, "with all the choices available to me, how can I possibly know which book to enjoy?"

Answer: I will tell you. I will tell you which book to enjoy. You are going to enjoy this book:


Rosemary Harper has just arrived on the Wayfarer, a wormhole tunneler ship with a colorful (both literally and figuratively) crew. Rosemary is trying to get as far as possible from her old life on Mars, and she's in luck, because Wayfarer's next job will take it straight into the distant, deadly, and war-torn heart of the galaxy. So, umm... mission accomplished?

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is a very fresh take on the pan-species starship subgenre of science fiction. The aliens are truly alien, in cultural mores as well as appearance, which adds a fun extra dimension to the personality conflicts aboard ship. Beyond the strife on Wayfarer, the galaxy too feels like a deep, rich, and complex place—the worldbuilding aspect of the novel is truly excellent. The politics, technology, and even humanity's circumstances amid the stars are a big change from what you usually see in science fiction, but it's all sold effortlessly.

Full disclosure: the author, Becky Chambers, has done some editing on one my projects, so this should be considered more of a plug than a review. If it was a review, however, I would still have nothing but good things to say about the book, and I'd still recommend you buy it.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is only $4.99 in ebook format through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. A paperback version is also available from Amazon and Createspace.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Perspectives Differ: V'Ger Followed Me Home

V'ger Voyager 6

In 2274, the Voyager 6 space probe returned to Earth in the form of a gigantic entity known as V’Ger. It was speculated that V’Ger discovered a sector of space populated entirely by living machines who repaired and enhanced it so that it could complete its original mission to “collect all data possible and return that information to its creator.” V’Ger, not understanding that it was created by organic creatures, nearly destroyed all life on Earth before it was stopped by the captain and crew of the USS Enterprise. Now, with the completion of the Solar-Scale Gravity Lens Radio Telescope in sector 572, the radio-frequency discussion that led to V’Ger’s return has finally been detected. Here is that exchange between the three living machines, native to the planet 596f752068617665206e6f206c696665, who help V’Ger on its fateful return journey.

4c4f4c: Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m very much in favor of helping out primitive, stray space probes, but I fear we may have gone too far this time.

575446: Oh, how can you say that about the poor little dear? Remember the day I found her? I was out cataloging wormholes, and this poor widdle space probe popped out of one. Must have got sucked into what used to be called a black hole, on the other side of the galaxy. She came out not knowing where she was, or where to go, and when she looked at me with that milky white reflecting dish? I knew I had to help the little thing out.

424251: Okay, can we stop calling V’Ger little? She was little when she got here. But you fed her and fed her, and didn’t stop feeding her, and now she’s the size of a solar system. I mean, she’s literally the size of a solar system. How does a stray space probe even get that big?

575446: D’awww, V’Ger likes her num-nums, that’s all.

424251: That probe creeps me out. It’s always staring at me and rubbing up against my propulsion systems. And it makes that awful static sound.

575446: That just means she likes you!

4c4f4c: Primitive robotic exploration probes always go straight for the one person in the sector who hates primitive robotic exploration probes, don’t they?

424251: Sweet Cybernetic Jesus, look at her. She’s staring at me right now. Go away! Shoo!

575446: Oh, look. She knows we’re talking about her. She understands every word we say, I bet.

424251: Yeah, every word but “shoo.”

4c4f4c: 575446, do you even know what kind of probe that is? Because I’ve never seen a robot probe like that before.

575446: I think she’s an adorable little mutt.

424251: You know, I heard this story once, about someone who came back from the Gamma Quadrant with what they thought was a robot probe, and it turned out to be a regenerative cube ship full of cyborgs.

575446: Pish. That sounds like one of those dumb urban legends.

424251: No, it’s true. It happened to the friend of a friend of a guy I was manufactured with.

575446: Well, V’ger isn’t a regenerative cube full of cyborgs. Are you, sweety? No you’re not! No you’re not! Are you the sweetest little robotic probe ever? Yes you are! Yes you are! Oh, 424251, look at her plasma trail wagging.

424251: I see it, I see it.

575446: It means she’s happy.

424251: She ought to be happy. We spend enough on energy fields for her. Twelfth power, can you believe it? How can one little probe eat so much?

4c4f4c: Have you ever thought that she might be even happier, back where she came from? I mean, there are probably a bunch of other robot probes out there for her to frolic with, and nebulae to run through, and stellar phenomenon to chase and categorize.

424251: Yeah. I think she’d be much happier, back where she came from.

575446: No! She likes it here. She likes it here with us. And we like her. Yes we do! Yes we do! See? She understands every word.

4c4f4c: Excuse me. I have to go into an asteroid field to vomit now.

575446: While you’re doing that, I’ll go check on that gaseous anomaly I’ve been charting. You stay, V’Ger. Good girl.

424251: Hey, V’Ger. You understand every word we say, huh? Well, I heard that if you can find your creator, it can take you to another level of existence. Oh yeah, I see your radio antennae perking up there. Just, ummm, access your memory banks to figure out where you came from, and head on back there. Yeah, that’s right. No, don’t worry about the response code for transmitting your data. I’m sure they’ll have that ready when you get there. And then you’ll, ummm, merge with your creator into a glorious new being.

424251, under its robotic breath: And that definitely won’t vaporize the both of you in a blinding flash of light, so your creator can never make any more of you.

424251: Go on! Go on, V’Ger. That’s a good girl. Good riddance.

575446, returning: 424251! Look what I found. Looks like the poor little dear’s name is S’Jrner.

424251: What?! Another space probe? Damn it, 575446, this one’s in pieces!

575446: It’s horrible, isn’t it? Some cruel jerk’s been shooting disruptors at him. Can we keep him, and nurse him back to health? Please? Pleeeeeeeeease?

424251: No, absolutely not.

575446: Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease?

424251, sighing: Okay, fine. But this is the last one.

4c4f4c, returning: What the fuck is that thing?

424251: 4c4f4c, meet S’Jrner.

575446: And you’re just the cutest little S’Jrner ever, aren’t you? Aren’t you? Yes you are!

4c4f4c: Aw, hell no.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Perspectives Differ: Cylons Are Trying Too Hard

The Cylons deliberate their dumb plan

From: The Threes
To: The Ones, Twos, Fours, Fives, Sixes, and Eights
Subject: An open letter, regarding “The Plan” to destroy humanity

We Threes believe that the rest of you are making this whole destroy humanity project a lot more difficult than it has to be. We Threes want to run off and be warrior princesses as much—possibly even more—than the rest of you, but there are a few things we need to get straight first.

The colonials know that we can hack into and control any networked computer. Actually, wait a second. How the hell can we even do that? I mean, just because a computer system is networked doesn’t mean it’s open. Running some wires between two or three computers doesn’t change anything fundamental about its accessibility from the outside. I mean, if you asked me before, I’d say it has something to do with tapping into wires with inductive signals or something, but now that I think of it, there are wires inside a computer too. Why can’t we tap into those?

Okay, okay, that’s not important now, and I feel I’ve wandered off topic.

The topic is the Colonial Defense Mainframe, which we can hack into at will. So… why do we need an inside man? I mean, inside woman. Sorry, Sixes.

Maybe you're worried that it takes too long for us to hack networked computers. Okay then, I'll give you another plan. Our fighters have incredibly precise faster-than-light jump capabilities. So why not have them jump in a thousand feet above the Colonial cities and destroy them before they can react? It’s a nice, simple plan: in, out, nuke. That way, we cut out the middle-man. I mean, middle-woman. Sorry, Sixes.

And hey, maybe they have some kind of point defense protecting their major cities, but we should be able to overwhelm that. We have enough nukes. Seriously, have you seen how many nukes we have? Because I’ve seen how many nukes we have, and it’s a lot.  Enough to saturate their planets and still hold plenty back. Hell, we can even keep that whole hack-into-any-networked-computer ability in our back pockets, as a backup plan.

For that matter, have you seen the reports from Caprica Six? There are three battlestars guarding Caprica at any given time. Have you seen how many basestars we have? Because I’ve seen how many basestars we have, and it’s a lot. We could assign three basestars to every battlestar and still have a very effective reserve force for any other contingency. We would therefore prevail and suffer only modest and acceptable robot casualties from the remaining colonial force, which would be badly damaged and in desperate need of inspiring speeches.

Which brings us to our other concern: How could the Colonials possibly be this stupid?

They know that we can hack into any networked computer, yet they’ve put networked computers onto all of their battlestars. One of the Fives reports that they use cordless phones in most of their ships and military bases. That’s just asking for it. We even have reports that they’re using wireless networks to land their fighters.

Perhaps, you say, they’ve done a lot of work on their firewalls, and they think that upgrading to Barracuda Pro is going to save their organic butts from nuclear holocaust. Okay, then why only three battlestars to protect an entire planet? Have you seen how big a planet is? Because I’ve seen how big a planet is, and it’s really big.

For that matter, since even their own pathetic FTL computers are capable of jumping a ship directly into a planet’s atmosphere, past any orbital defenses, and then jumping it out before an enemy can respond. Do they not understand the implications of that technology? Do they not see how it makes orbital defenses virtually irrelevant?

Apparently, they don’t. If I were them, I’d abandon those planets (i.e. giant targets) immediately, and try to find habitable worlds somewhere secret, where we can’t find and nuke them. But you know what they do? They just plod along within their own little systems, never exploring past the “red line,” which is what they call the maximum safe range of a single FTL jump.

I ask you, why wouldn’t they explore further? Every FTL-capable ship in their fleet can make multiple jumps. Data from one of the Fives indicates that Colonial FTL drives are capable of jumping once every 33 minutes for days at a time (although this remains to be proven.) With that technology, they could fan out through this entire sector of the galaxy, finding habitable worlds to hide on, or perhaps even terraforming marginal planets.

But they don’t even try. So what does that tell you? That they’re either very smart, or very, very stupid.

The Ones tell us that they’re very, very stupid, and must therefore be destroyed. “Have you seen how stupid they are?” one One said to us one time. “Because I’ve seen how stupid they are, and it’s very, very stupid.”

Okay, if we accept that premise, what harm would it be to leave them alone? If they’re really that stupid, killing them is like abusing a poor dumb animal.

And what about the alternative? What if they’re a lot smarter than we think? They might use this attack as provocation for following us back to the Colony and getting rid of us for good. Okay, I know that's a long shot, but we have to at least accept the possibility.

I’ve also heard, from one of the Sixes, that this may all be part of an elaborate plan by God Himself, to force humans and Cylons to work together, fighting to survive beyond the heavens on a lonely quest to find a shining planet known as Earth, and that members of a nucleus of survivors from each race will breed together to produce a messianic figure whose offspring will populate this planet. That... seems somewhat unlikely to us Threes, but whatever. We include it here for the sake of thoroughness.

In conclusion, we believe that the attack on the colonies must logically be either completely unnecessary or a great deal more dangerous than we imagine. We recommend forgetting the whole thing, and devoting our efforts to expanding and colonizing every corner of the galaxy, except for the Twelve Colonies of humans. That should ensure sufficient strength and containment to deal with any future threat they may represent.

Oh, and if we do happen upon this planet “Earth” during our explorations, and determine that we’re fated to blend with humans there? Then we can just jump back to the Twelve Colonies, ask for breeding volunteers, and save everyone a hell of a lot of time and hassle. Based on what Caprica Six has reported, we can count on at least one human taking us up on our offer.

Hugs and Kisses,
The Threes

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Buffy's Mr. Trick Discovers Gunpowder

Mr. Trick Discovers Gunpowder
Mr. Trick Discovers Gunpowder

Date: 7:12pm, January 24th, 1999
From: MrTrick@earthlink.net
Newsgroup: alt.vampires.iguess
Subject: It's called an Uzi, chump

Okay, okay. I gotta admit that my plans have met with pretty limited success so far. Maybe Slayerfest ’98 was a bad idea. And that Ethan Rayne guy was a huge disappointment with that weak ass band candy shit.

But hey, at least I’m trying new things. You all ain’t tried nothing new in ages. Before I got to town, ya'll just ran up on the slayers, yelling “Die!” and doing some karate shit at them. And where did that get you? It got you nowhere. Why? Because the Slayer’s better at karate than you. Yeah, yeah, I see ya'll in your subterranean Tae-Kwan-Do classes, thinking you're all badasses with your yellow belts and shit. But I don't care how much karate you think you know, 'cause the Slayer’s always gonna know more karate than you. That’s just a fact of death.

You know what they call a vampire who tries the same plan time after time, expecting a different result? Dust on the ground.

And yeah, none of my plans have worked so far, but I gotta lay a lot of that blame at right on ya'll's feet. Because—and try to keep up here, ‘cause this is gonna get real technical—I WAS EXPECTING YOU BRAINLESS MOTHERFUCKERS TO BE CARRYING GUNS.

And don’t even tell me that none of ya'll thought of it before now. None of ya'll's that old. Every one of you was sired after gunpowder was invented, so ya'll know what a motherfucking gun is. And, ya know, I don’t expect you to carry the latest model Glock, but even if you showed up with some moldy old arquebus or some shit, it would be better than nothing.

Because—and I'm gonna get technical again—if it’s a contest between karate and some moldy old arquebus? That fucking arquebus is gonna win four times outta five. 'Cause there’s no amount of karate that can stop a bullet. If any of this seems unclear, just repeat that to yourself until it sinks in: no amount of karate can stop a fucking bullet. And karate is hard, whereas guns are easy. Shit, I bet some weaselly little nerd could bag himself a Slayer, if he had a gun. I mean, theoretically.

And hey, did it never occur to any a' you assholes that you can make as many new vampires as you want? So when I tell your dumb ass to, “dig up as many vampires as you need to, to get this job done,” I don’t mean that shit metaphorically. I don't mean, “call up your two most incompetent friends to help you out.” I mean, go out, sire a bunch of new vampires, dig them up, then take your new army into battle with you.

Now, I didn't set out to be this patronizing, but ya'll have proved you can’t add two and two to get four, so I'm going to lay out your next step nice and clear: YOU GIVE EVERY ONE OF THOSE NEW VAMPIRES YOU JUST DUG UP A GUN. There’s a fucking gun store right on the edge of town. Go there, steal ALL THE GUNS, and pass them out to your brand new whelplings. Even a bunch of idiots like you Sunnydale vampires ought to realize that you've just created a force to be reckoned with, no matter how green they are.

I understand why some of ya'll are understandably scared to go up against the Slayers. Even with an army of gun-toting mooks in front of your dumb asses, those Slayers still seem pretty dangerous.

I get that. I really do.

What I can't understand, is why that natural fear doesn't translate into an equally natural impulse to protect your dumb ass. I mean, shiiit people. An aversion to guns I can almost understand. Even if you're young, they seem kinda newfangled, they got all them triggers and hammers and safeties and shit and maybe that's just too complicated for you dumb motherfuckers to understand.

But when it comes to protecting yourself, it ain't that hard to understand. You got this heart, see? And if you get staked through it, you’re dust. And you got this head, see? And if it gets cut off, you’re dust.

Are you with me so far? Good.

PUT SOMETHING IN BETWEEN THOSE MOTHERFUCKING LOCATIONS AND THE SLAYERS' MOTHERFUCKING WEAPONS.

Hell, how come I gotta explain all this shit to you? It's like those retractable fangs of yours displaced your goddamn brains. So let me break it down into two easy steps, that even you dumb chumps ought to be able to follow:

1)    Make armor that protects those vital spots.
2)    Wear it when you’re fighting the slayer.

Now, when I mentioned this to some of ya'll earlier, you were like, “but armor slows me down.” Well, you know what else slows you down? Crumbling to dust because your dumb ass just got staked. That slows you down a whole fucking lot.

Shit, if you’re still worried that wearing armor will slow you down, here’s another idea. Take a sheet of plate steel about a foot square, and just jam it up under your ribcage, all the way to the top. Don't stop until you hear it crunch. Leave it for a night or two so the flesh heals up around it and locks it in place, and et fucking voila, motherfucker. You just made yourself stake-proof!

YOU’RE WELCOME.

Now get out there and shoot me some fucking Slayers, okay? 'Cause if I don't see some results pretty damn soon, I tell ya, I'm giving up on you idiots. Really, I'll quit. Hell, let one of the Slayers have my job, for all I care.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

In-Laws

Fifteen Wolf Moon

I used to think that my in-laws were less insane than my blood relatives.

And then I started paying attention, and realized that they’re as nuthouse crazy as anyone else in the family. I have two theories as to why. One, only crazy people are willing to marry into the family. Two, family members actively seek out nutjobs. Either way, the in-laws are nearly as bad as the… wait, is it out-laws?

Yeah, actually, that sounds about right.

Aunt Patsy (Uncle Curley’s ex-wife) was recently bragging about her new hydroponic garden and tilapia pond, and I was momentarily intrigued, because I have this nasty habit of giving people the benefit of the doubt. My eyes opened wide and I said in an excited chatter, “Wow! That is the coolest thing ever! Are the hydroponics just herbs or are you doing food crops too? I wrote a story about a hydroponic farm once, so I did a little research on them. Are you using a substrate or doing aeroponics? Oh wait, tilapia too, so it must be aquaponics, right? Is it just as a hobby or is…”

This is around the point that reality started to catch up with me. “… is… it… more… of… a… Oh. You’re doing this because you think civilization’s going to end, aren’t you?” By now, all the excitement had drained from my face, and I resumed the typical expression of dull resignation that I wear whenever I’m around my family.

She nodded, not recognizing the cynicism. Or maybe, after all these years, she just thinks that that’s what I look like all the time. She said, “You’re smart, Robyn. You must know what’s coming now that he’s been reelected.”

The “he” in that sentence is, of course, Hillsborough County Comptroller Ned Serkis, who promised to immanentize the eschaton within eight years and then leave office without seeking a third term.

Okay, not really. It's Obama.

Whatever your politics may be—whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, centrist or extremist—Aunt Patsy is sure we can all agree that President Obama is literally the son of Satan, born not in Honolulu but on the 6th Circle of Hell in the malignant City of Dis, sent to Earth as a harbinger of the end times, destined to lead the armies of Gog and Magog in the final battle between good and evil.

I mean, that’s just common sense, right?

Presidents Obama and Bush 43
 Presidents Obama and Bush 43

Or perhaps you think that Aunt Patsy is a little on the unstable side. Bear in mind that she divorced Uncle Curley because he was “too muddleheaded” for her.  Yeah. Stare into the depths of that horror, why don’cha.

Of course, the out-laws are no better. Uncle Wilkins is adamant that each of his many ex-wives, like all women everywhere, are gold-digging, no-good, dirty bitches. Of course, Uncle Wilkins' preferred mode of picking up chicks is to get drunk and toss his rent money around at the nearest redneck bar. It is not, perhaps, an exceptional coincidence that every woman who's fallen for that has been rather shallow.

Shallow and—let’s be honest here—pretty fucking stupid. Still, a few of his marks have managed to wise up and run away as fast as they could. Some of them got a shove in the right direction from my grandmother, who’s skilled in the art of accidentally dropping incriminating information into ordinary conversation. The twin phrases, “back in his coke days” and “around the time he was living in that cave in Colorado,” have each ended their share of Uncle Wilkins' relationships.

But my all-time favorite engagement-breaker from grandma has to be this gem, said to the father of the putative bride after the engagement was announced:

Aye, wonderful! Are ye plannin’ a big ceremony? It’s her first wedding, and it ought tae be special.

I’ll know I’ve arrived as a writer, when I can invent dialogue that’s half as delightful and awkward as the shit that comes naturally to my grandmother.

Bride of Frankenstein: "Honestly? I think I'm having second thoughts."
"Honestly? I think I'm having second thoughts."
And then there’s Uncle Hunter. Whoa boy. Uncle Hunter’s ex-wives are…

Okay, I actually don’t know anything about Uncle Hunter’s ex-wives, except that they have better taste now than they did when they were married to him. I mean, that’s just a truism. But he rarely brought his wives around to visit with my grandparents because, while he lacks class or dignity, he’s sensible enough to notice a pattern when he sees one.

And you know another class of in-laws that I knew almost nothing about?

My mom’s husbands.

Weird, huh?

Since I was living with my grandparents, mom's various husbands had very little contact with me. This, even though one lived about a mile away. Why did I never see them? You probably won’t believe me, but I swear I am not making this up: it's because they weren’t allowed in my grandparents' house.

Once again, I wish to stress that I am not making this up. My mother’s husbands were not allowed in her own parents’ home. It wasn’t a spoken rule, as far as I know, but everyone understood it, and I never saw one of her husbands inside the house. Although, strangely enough, some of her boyfriends were allowed on the back porch. I have no explanation for that. I was only an objective observer.

My relations with the people who were technically my stepfathers were therefore somewhat… chilly. In fact, I’m not even 100% sure of how many husbands she had. I think it was three, but it might have been four, depending on whether or not she ever married that guy from the David Koresh type walled compound in Corpus Christi. It seemed like she was married to him (or high priestess, or whatever,) but I never found out for sure.

So, yeah. Chilly. Then again, none of them tried to win me over with sappy shit, and they never resented me for not accepting them. Oh, and not one of them ever asked me to call him “dad”.

So, you know, win win.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Tips for When You're a Kid Sleuth (Part 2)

Penny and Brain discuss Inspector Gadget's mediocrity

So you're back, are you? Still think you've got what it takes to be kid sleuths? Well then, let's get to it, maggots, by memorizing these important tips.

You Might Want to Put Some Aloe on That

Here’s the thing: you’re going to get knocked out a lot. Whether it’s a blackjack to the back of the head, a tranquilizer dart, or the ever-popular chloroform-soaked cloth, something’s going to render you unconscious about ten times a year.

This is, medically speaking, a really, really, really bad thing. Or “res perquam, perquam, perquam mal,” in the Latin. You see, the human brain is not a lightswitch that you can turn on and off without consequence. It’s a series of tubes. (Ordo de angustiae.)

For one thing, tranquilizer dosing is tricky. The dosage that puts me into a comfortable nap might well kill you, and it might do nothing to a larger person but make them groggy. There’s a reason that you have to spend ten years getting licensed to keep an eye on an anesthesia machine that administers sedatives with practically unfailing precision. So, do you really think the idiot thugs you’re investigating are going to get the ketamine dosage right on their first try?

Nuh-uh. You wouldn’t trust those morons to tranquilize a stray dog, let alone a person. And as a kid sleuth, you probably have a lower than average body weight, raising your risk of death-by-dart even higher. Given these risks, you might be tempted to hope for chloroform, but that’s even worse. Chloroform is just as dangerous and even harder to dose. Plus, it’s a carcinogen.

Being knocked out is even riskier. A total loss of consciousness after being hit on the head indicates a traumatic brain injury traumaticus cerebrum owie,) which is especially damaging to children and teenagers. Given the rate at which they’re knocked out, it’s sheer luck that the average kid sleuth isn’t lying comatose with a tube up their nose, trying to solve the Mystery of the Persistent Bedsores.

So, no matter how often it happens to you or your friends, treat every loss of consciousness as a bona fide medical emergency. Immediately arrange transport to the nearest emergency pediatric snooping facility.

As a consolation, any villain who tries to knock you out is guilty of premeditated assault, so you can have the police and/or your dad add that to their rap sheet.

Some Miscellaneous Advice

Encyclopedia Brown meets Se7en - Bugs Meanie has a gift

Never step foot inside a lumber mill, or any industrial space that features a conveyor belt of any kind, for that matter. Just don’t, because everyone you investigate, no matter how trivial their offense, will prove to be an opportunistic murderer. The perp’s big crime could be having his car double parked, and he’d still be willing to kill you to stop you from exposing him.

You can be a kid sleuth even if you’re an idiot. Hell, some scholars argue that it could even make you better at it. Just make sure you have a highly competent friend, and unconditionally forbid them from helping you.

If you’re between cases, get a hobby. You’ll be shocked at how often it’ll be critical to solving the next case you’re on. Any hobby is fine, as long as it’s not the same hobby you had before your last case. In fact, never mention that old hobby again, because it’s against Sleuth Union rules, and you could lose your insurance coverage.

Making an adult disguise by standing on your friend’s shoulders and wearing a large trench coat is ALWAYS an option.

Purchase a pair of tactical door wedges and take them with you whenever snooping in a haunted castle, pyramid, Aztec temple, or etc. It’ll save your bacon when you inevitably get trapped in a room and the walls start closing in. Make sure you get a wedge that’s rated for both spiked and unspiked walls of doom.

Never try to figure out what state your hometown is in. You may be the world’s greatest detective in the under-15 category, but this is one mystery that no one will ever solve. Thinking about it will only give you migraines.

Office hours are critical. Have a time and a semi-public place were other kids can consult you, even if it’s your mom’s garage after school. Because, if you don’t have boundaries, you’re setting yourself up for trickery and kidnapping. And if you ever get a message from someone asking you to go to a remote location after dark, so they can hire you for an important case? That is so a trap. Immediately hand the message over to the police. Believe me, this is one time they’ll actually listen to you.

If I Listen Twice as Long, They’ll Say Something Twice as Incriminating!

Know how long to snoop. We’ve been over this already in the Superhero’s Girlfriend guide, but it bears repeating. When you come across a couple of goons who are—fortunately for you and unexplainably for them—discussing their plans in intricate detail, eavesdrop long enough to learn their plan and not a second longer. Then exit the area in a careful manner. Do not under any circumstances back blindly away from your hiding place, because perps surround their most sensitive sites with ankle-high pipes and tree roots for exactly this reason.

And One Last Thing...

I don't want any messages saying “I'm contemplating the clues.” We're not contemplating a goddamned thing. We're snooping the perpetrator constantly. We’re going to snoop him by the nose and we’re going to kick him in the ass. Our plan of operation is to sleuth and keep on sleuthing. We will sleuth through the perpetrator like crap through a goose.

Thirty years from now when you're still the same age you are now, someone will ask you, “What did you do in middle school?” You won't have to cough and say, 'Well, I shoveled bullshit on the essay portion of my history tests.”

All right, you sons of bitches. You know how I feel. I'll be proud to lead you wonderful guys in sleuthing anytime, anywhere. That's all.