sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Thirteenth Colony (concluded)

Thirteenth Colony
(part five)

a fictional short series

On the thirteenth day, one of the two boats, tacking north is dismasted by a strong gust in an afternoon storm and it taken in tow. They now use oars to offset the drag that they cause, and rotate crews every day so that everyone has an opportunity for exercise.

On the twenty-first day, they see a sail on the horizon, hugging the coastline. In time it is revealed as a fast bireme galley sailing with the wind. The oars are extended, offering a stable lee for the sailors and Quintus to board the ship.

As he came over the thwart, Quintus saw soldiers in fatigue uniforms and his eyes locked on Governor Marcus Marius Longinus, who smiled from ear to ear. "We've been looking for you, Quintus."

Quintus drew his gladius as the last of the sailors crawled aboard and backed toward the ocean and the small boats, now adrift.

"No, NO! Quintus," Gracus said, and he picked up the governor bodily and threw him over the side.

Quintus stared over the side as the governor splashed and sputtered.

"He made me swear to spare his life and leave him bodily intact if we found you. We have and I am good to my word." Shifting to the governor flailing in the water, "I've kept my word. Now all you need do is swim for those boats or to shore, Marcus." Shifting back to Quintus, "The man has diarrhea of the mouth. He would not stop talking."

"I don't understand."

"First sheath the sword and then we will talk. The gods love you Quintus and your uncle is now caesar. He sent us to find you and bring you to Rome where you will serve with the praetorians."

"What about him?"

Gracus shrugged. "He can sink or he can swim. Up to him." To the ship's master, "Take us back."

The lower level of oarsmen were chained slaves, the upper deck was manned by praetorians and only rowed when there was a need. The slaves moved the sweeps to the sailing master's request and the galley pivoted.

"Did you ever find your woman? The governor's..." Gracus looked over the tops of the waves, "widow? She set out weeks ahead of us in search of you."

Ice gripped Quintus' heart. "No," he said faintly. "This the first word I've heard of her since I left Tingis (Tangiers)."

"We did see smoke inland, and a river inlet some five days north of here. Maybe that is them?" Gracus speculated.

The people that Mattia and her ship encountered were indeed pirates, disgraced legionnaires and misfits from the empire who found a new way to live. As soldiers, they paid close attention to rumors of Imperial movements along the coast.

The drawing, made by a dark man of a Roman military encampment and his count of at least one cohort of soldiers south of them indicate that the Empire is expanding. The arrival and presence of one cohort of regular legionnaires (not auxiliaries) indicates that there will soon be more. A permanent fortress instead of a temporary camp tells the pirates that a large military campaign will soon be underway.

The arrival of a ship containing a queen and her escort would be rich booty under other circumstances, however taken in total, it invites circumspection.

Mattia, (the queen), asserts that a strong force of Roman infantry will be arriving soon on the river. She pleas to be released. The pirates think on the situation. It costs them nothing to wait and they use the time to unload Mattia's ship of supplies. They take her two female slaves for companionship, but allow Mattia, her escort and the sailors the freedom of the camp. She is treated like a visiting princess.

Further sketches, made by dark men suggest that the legion in place in camp south of them is none other than is Ultria Victrix, the thirtieth. It is a main force legion, and if one cohort is present, the other nine are typically on the way.

Not more than a week after Mattia's ship is taken near the camp, a fast bireme is sighted at the river's mouth. Half a cohort of praetorian guards disembark and make their way to the camp, where they too are treated as honored guests. Normally pirates are crucified on sight. As humble traders, they are spared that fate.

This story, Thirteenth Colony, is based on historical records, but is a work of fiction. I hope that you've enjoyed the blog series.


In due time, Quintus and Mattia return to Rome as husband and wife. Quintus is elected to the Senate in 129 AD and serves until he retires to the country.

The Thirteenth Colony is not viable and the evocate who settle there are relocated inland of Tangiers, where they prosper.

Governor Marcus Marius Longinus is reported to have fallen overboard in a storm while looking for the emperor's nephew, but is not mourned.


Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Thirteenth Colony (part four)

Thirteenth Colony
(part four)

a fictional short series

Roman formation "receive cavalry"
Gold fever strikes the camp when Quintus and his men return with fifty-four Phoenician gold coins, minted hundreds of years earlier in Carthage. Ursinius is circumspect in regard a campaign to hunt the dark men with more vigor, and to plunder their camp. Scouting the area confirms that the best place for a settlement was where the ruins now exist of a prior colony, but he is unwilling to uproot the fort simply because of the effort involved in that relocation. 

Seleucus tries to extract information from the captive that they took in the skirmish. His efforts are unsuccessful.

They called him Nero (meaning "black") and after Seleucus castrated him, they gave him work with the other castrati, laboring in the wheat field on the slope outside the walls of the fortress. The run-off of the spring had been diverted to irrigate a field of wheat and a field of barley that took form after the brush had been cleared.

Nero tried to run away, but the most he could manage was a painful hobble. Two burly legionnaires intercepted him while he was still in sight of the watch tower that stood over the ramparts. Now in addition to a weeping wound under his manhood that they'd plastered with pitch for a dressing, he wore a large, heavy wooden collar and thoughts of escape were put on hold. He understood Phoenician, but could not speak the language as Seleucus put questions to him. He tried to tell them that they wore leather pouches with gold coins in them for luck, because the traders who visited in generations before he was born had done so. The coins, with images of gods and men on their face were said to be good luck, though how much luck they'd been to him was something that he came to terms with as he sweated in the field with the large wooden collar around his neck.

Ursius and Quintus stood on the ramparts of the fort, looking over the fields now under cultivation.

"I love the smell of the countryside, free of cities and of the smells that accompany them," Ursinius said, leaning out and looking down. "But we are fast coming to the capacity of this land to support us in our present location."

"Time for me to go?"

"I think so, Quintus. We need support if we are to settle and farm this land. That support can only come with young men with dreams of their own land, and young women who can bear children who will grow up to expand themselves to other land. We can take slaves like Nero, but it is not our solution. We were promised more and younger people if we became pioneers. Naturally, nobody knows our fate and it should be you who goes and shares what you have seen here with your young eyes and your family connections to the political class."


"Whenever you are ready. Take the two new boats and the sailors. They feel sour on the land anyway. The two captains can lead them. Go back and share our fate."

They made their offerings to Neptune and Mars early in the morning and the omens were propitious. Quintus and two boats with four seamen and the captains of the Fidelis and Sea Monster, respectively, cut through the surf and set their lateen sails early on a cloudless day with a freshening off-shore breeze.

The Thirteenth Colony will be continued


Separate but Equal

Sunday Sermonette - such as it is:  I've been amused recently by strident calls from black students at UCLA who demand a blacks-only dormitory. While I have no problem with that, I find it strange that black students are demanding segregation (separate but equal), when you consider how much they and their white sponsors didn't want that back when the Supreme Court decided Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.

When I attended university back in the Jurassic era, the African-American students claimed a portion of the Student Union for themselves, referred to by non-blacks as "crow corner". Today it would likely be declared a "Safe Zone on campus for black people". Everyone was content to allow them to segregate themselves and most people wouldn't want to go there anyway because it was filthy even though the custodial staff cleaned it every night. Yet the irony of self-segregation wasn't lost on in that era of forced integration and hiring quotas based ONLY on race.

Gen. Colin Powell
I was in Washington DC some years ago and learned of a regular gathering of black military officers, hosted by General Colin Powell. I asked for an invitation to the event for shits and giggles, even though I am not a negro. When my request was declined out of hand because of my race, I became more strident. I received a telephone call from the great man (Powell) himself, disinviting me, explaining that it was an opportunity for blacks to get to know up and coming blacks and to help advance their careers. My presence, he explained, would be a damper on the culture that black officers liked to share with each other. I didn't push it. Powell was the US Army Chief of Staff. But how ironic? 

Academia is the worst offender. Consider university petitions for hiring on the basis of race to ensure particular racial percentages for faculty and staff. They would be considered racist if turned around and applied to college football or basketball teams, which are often racially disproportionate. Why would that be? How ironic!

Can you imagine a bunch of non-black students parading through the university library while people are studying, screaming, "All Lives Matter"? Neither can I.

Live and let live is not politically correct. Neither is do unto others as you would have them do unto you (which is the point of the sermonette).

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving - Aftermath

The food-baby is too large for comfort. Way too much food.

And mid-way through the after-meal discussion while we were watching Carolina beat Texas, my brother-in-law said that President Obama said that we should talk about gun control on Thanksgiving. So we started talking about it. Keep in mind that there is a certain class of people who are allowed to be in my home and all of them are armed.

That being said, we talked politics, guns and football, which are part of a common theme, when you think about it. And from there it spiraled down to ObamaCare.

But it never reached the bottom - Bruce Jenner, woman of the year.

I have four daughters, all of whom are members of the NRA, and who are stewards of the Second Amendment. They may be mothers (all but the youngest), but they shoot, and have attitude.

My parting thought was that I'm glad we can talk about gun control at Thanksgiving and what load of crap that it is. Thanks for the suggestion, Barack.

Thanksgiving Wishes

Today is the "great eating holiday", and I will be participating, likely to end up in a turkey/food coma at the end of the day, while watching a football game. Normally when this happens, I have little grandsons and granddaughters laying all over me, equally stuffed, wondering why grandpa is calling the plays from his position on the couch.

Yes, the turkey is important as is the gravy, but to me, it's nothing without good stuffing (where bacon is an ingredient) and home made rolls. I must admit that I am a gravy hog. Just about everything is better if there is gravy on the plate on it or next to it.

In 1863, at the hight of the War of Northern Aggression/American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln designated a day of thanksgiving, to take time out and express appreciation to God for everything that we have. That is the genesis of the holiday in the US. Bringing in the Mayflower, pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians makes some sense, but the holiday was not predicated on stuffing ourselves with turkey. 

Take time out, show some appreciation, and maybe donate to your local food bank (I buy flats of canned goods at Costco and drop them off), because the shelves will be empty after Thanksgiving.

The Thirteenth Colony will resume after the Thanksgiving holiday break. I appreciate the feedback and that you are enjoying the story.

Will Governor Marcus Marius Longinus be crucified at the gates of the capitol city of the Province of Mauritania? If so, will crows peck out his eyes before he expires?

Will Mattia be captured by pirates and once captured, will she escape or will she live out her days as a pirate queen? Will this be the end of innocence?

Will Quintus stay at the Thirteenth Colony to search for more gold Phoenician coins and will he abandon the thought of returning to reclaim Mattia (who he thinks is safe at home)?

All this and more will be explored further as the saga moves forward, and I hope that you will be entertained.

I'm a writer. An author is a writer with a friend in the publishing business. If you want a novel, I need to find a friend.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Thirteenth Colony (part three)

Thirteenth Colony
(part three)

a fictional short series

Praetorian Guard
The term praetorian derives from the residence of the commanding general, or praetor of a Roman army in the field. The praetorian guards were an elite recruitment of Roman citizen/soldiers. Generals from Julius to Augustus to Marcus Antonius chose a private force of soldiers to act as guards of their tent or person, usually consisting of both infantry and cavalry. Over time, this cohort came to be known as the cohors praetor.

By 118 AD, the hand-picked praetorians play a pivotal role in military and civilian politics. They were called upon to put down mutinous legions in Germany at the request of Tiberius, and they are garrisoned in towns around Rome as well as being the only serving military presence in the capitol. They receive substantially higher pay than legionnaires. Whereas a legionnaire receives 250 denarii per year, by 118 AD, a praetorian of similar rank receives 1,500 denarii per year, distributed in January, May and September.

They are the teeth and the claws of the emperor and own his trust. In matters of inquiry, they carry his seal and his authority which, by this time in history, matches that of the Sentate in some respects. Caesar Trajan all but ignored the Senate during his term as emperor. All expect that Hadrian will continue that policy, relying on his praetorians to execute his will and see to his personal interests and that of the empire. For this reason, the arrival of ranking praetorians searching for the nephew of the Emperor, Publius Aelius Hadrianus Augustus, is not a welcome sight to the governor.

It gets worse for the governor.

Under most polite circumstances, the delegation on the galley would wait for the governor's representatives, or for the great man himself, to disembark. The praetorians don't do that. They are rowed to shore and immediately begin speaking with common people on the docks. Marcus knows that gossip of the scandal involving his wife and her lover has spread to the very lowest quarters of the city. The story grows with each telling.

Praetorian Tribune Gracus Aemilus Pallus  and his deputy, Antonius Valerius Corvus accepted the governor’s offer of a private dinner. Other guests included three grain merchants and their wives, and a crafty-looking centurion named Gnaeus, commanding the governor’s four cohorts of auxiliary soldiers.

The fare of fish, lamb and partridge laid out before the governor’s guests was lavish by any standard and the food had been prepared with flawless attention to detail.

Gracus and Antonius sat to one side of the governor with the garrison centurion, an average looking man named Agrippa. Gracus laid he senatorial seal on the table in front of him. It set forth the precedence of who was in charge, and that the governor now took orders from him.

Marcus Marius Longinus made introductions and led a discussion of small talk, which Gracus interrupted rudely by standing, taking the governor’s cup of wine and draining it before he threw it to a smiling Antonius. "Congratulations, my friend, you are the acting governor until Marcus and I return with young Quintus."

"You can’t do that!" Marcus protested.

"You have two choices – actually three," Gracus explained calmly. "Dear Marcus, you can lead the expedition to find and return the Emperor Hadrian’s nephew, or we can have your back flayed and beat you from Roman territory where no one will offer you food, water or shelter. Exile is not a small thing."

"You said there was another option," the Centurion Agrippa asked, pale as a ghost.

"I will crucify your governor next to the gates of the city." Marcus’ bowls erupted and he ran from the table to clean himself. Gracus looked at his fellow diners. "I hope that didn’t ruin your appetites, eat, please and honor acting governor Antonius Valerius Corvus, our new host."

The centurion, whose command had recently been threatened with decimation asked, "Purely out of a sense of morbid curiosity, what will happen if my lord-governor fails to find dear Quintus?”

"I will have Marcus blinded, his tongue will be cut from his head and his back will be broken above his hips so that he will have to crawl until in due time, he expires. I may take him back to Rome with me as a gift to Hadrian, who will naturally want an example made of the man who dared to send his nephew beyond the ends of the world. It may have been bad manners for Quintus to plow another man's field, but he plowed it well, did he not, Agrippa?"

"By all accounts he did."

"And he sewed Caesar's seed, so where is the crime in that?" Gracus tapped the royal seal of the Senate and People of Rome. "I ask you, would you not give your wife and your life to Caesar?" He directed the question to the grain merchants, who all agreed that giving their wives to Caesar, should the occasion warrant, would be a small thing. The wives glared malevolently at Gracus, but said nothing. "Look at the women with their cobra's eyes, beady and wicked," Gracus commented to Antonius. "They are all in need of some plowing, I think."


The river mouth beckoned to Mattia like poisoned wine flowing from a tipped chalice and she told the captain that the smoke that they could see up river was likely the group of veterans that they sought. He set the anchor and they had to wait for favorable tide to cross the sand bar.

While they waited for the proper conditions, Mattia sought out the captain for tales of this very coast and the voyages of Hanno, the explorer. He'd told the stories to her before, but she did not tire of the telling, nor he of amusing his pretty, young queen. She sat on coiled hemp rope as he stood at the tiller.

"It was hundreds of years ago, before civilization ever touched these shores that Hanno and his fleet passed the Pillars of Hercules (Gibraltar) and sailed south. Hanno was an admiral of Carthage and he came in force with forty or fifty ships. Maybe even more than that. They were great in number. As they came south, some people they met were hostile and others were not, but there were pirate estuaries that had been preying on ships for a long time. Hanno killed them all with his superior numbers and made the area safe."

"Are there pirates here now?"

"Mattia, there are always pirates where there is no Rome or Carthage to keep the peace and we are beyond the easy reach of the Glory of Rome." He cleared his throat and drank from a skin of wine, recalling the story before continuing. "During the voyage, Hanno's fleet was swept into the great ocean and they found islands (The Canary Islands) which were populated with savage people, all covered with thick hair. Hanno's men captured several of them, killed them and skinned them. They salted the skins for the trip back to Carthage. Once home, the skins were tanned and put on display at the temple of Tannit. They named the people Gorillai."

"I hope we don't find Gorillai here."

"There is no telling, but Hanno recounts how strong and savage that they were." He handed Mattia his wine skin and she drank. "There are other legends of intrepid explorers who traded with people for gold on this coastline, and those legends brought more people who lusted for gold. I can not say what they found."

Even with oars out and moving vigorously, the soldiers and sailors pulling together, they couldn't cross the bar for two days. The smoke remained not three miles distant, and it drove Mattia insane with longing. Finally, a breeze from the sea, a friendly tide and extra effort from all on the long sweeps and over they went into the fresh water estuary.

The river wound through swampy banks and a sailor sitting on the sail's crossbar told them what lay ahead. When he sighted the masts of three ships, Mattia cheered as did the soldiers pulling the sweeps, and propelling the ship forward. The captain had a more circumspect approach and ordered them to pull to the bank by dry land and send scouts forward to ascertain the precise nature of the camp in front of them.

The soldiers cast lots and the four losers jumped down on the unfamiliar shore. Mattia put on her silver necklace, her silver hair net and slipped her favorite gold rings onto her fingers. She brought a special dress to wear for Quintus and Cornelia helped her put it on.


The limestone knolls and cliffs of the Thirteenth Colony of Mauritania have been explored as thoroughly as they can be given the need for the legionnaires to remain within three days march of the fortress. A number of rivers feed into a brackish lagoon, inland from the sea, but with a shallow outlet to the ocean (Laayoune-Boujdour-Sakia El Hamra, Tarfaya Province, Morocco). The lagoon is to their south, and has expanded their capacity to fish and collect bird's eggs on the shore. The food supply, once in peril, now seems to be more manageable.  Old dwellings by the edge of the lagoon suggest that the area was once home to a small colony of Phoenicians, but they are long gone. Indigenous people live on the far side of the lagoon, but to date, they appear to be small in number and give the legionnaires a wide berth.

Jackals and lions roam the dunes and savannah between water sources as do wild asses, elephants, and various species of antelopes. The legionnaires march in rough formation for self protection from predators. Quintus leads them as he has been, with Seleucus at his side.

Four dark skinned men break out from an outcropping and run down a river wash into a narrow canyon. Quintus shouted "Trap!" He looked at Seleucus, who pointed up to the top of one side of the canyon and Quintus nodded his agreement. The fifteen legionnaires climbed in ranks of three shields, navigating a crude trail that they found. Once at the top they faced a dozen men with crude spears who threw them. The experienced soldiers knocked them away and advanced, spreading out. The trap had been reversed and there was nowhere for them to go. The slaughter was quick with one of their number spared for Seleucus to torture for information. An equal number of dark skinned men on the other side of the narrow canyon fled.

The legionnaires gave begrudged respect to Quintus, who was young enough to be their son, but wise enough to spot a trap when he saw one. They searched the dead and found gold Phoenician coins in pouches that they carried.

Seleucus held one of the coins in front of the terrified captive and he asked him in the language of Carthage, where more could be found.

Historical note: The Roman Army met success primarily by use of combined arms. The bones of the army was the infantry, supported by archery (light artillery) and siege artillery. Most of the cavalry that the army used was comprised of foreign horsemen, fighting for Rome under the command of Roman officers. Engineering took form with everything that the army did. At night, it assembled stockades, brought on mules as part of the baggage train. Organization, discipline, and a reliable pay structure insured that the system worked. In a battle setting, these elements came together.  Opening Battle Scene from Gladiator. From a historical perspective the conquest of the Germanic tribes by Emperor Marcus Aurelius is roughly fifty-five years in the future for Quintus and Mattia.

The Thirteenth Colony will be continued

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. - Hemingway


Monday, November 23, 2015

The Thirteenth Colony (part two)

The Thirteenth Colony
(part two)
a fictional short series

The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.
                                   -- Ernest Hemingway

At the age of forty-two, Governor Marcus Marius Longinus rules over the province of Mauritania Tingitana. The recent scandal involving the seventeen year old son of a Senator from northern Italy and Marcus' young, beautiful Gallic wife, Mattia has been solved by sending Tribunus Angusticlavii (appointed mid-grade officer) - Quintus Aelius Ulpius, farther than the pillars of Hercules to a point somewhere far beyond the ends of the Empire where it is likely that he will meet his end. The plan calls for none of his blood or the blame for his blood to fall at the governor's feet.

Misjudging love for lust, the governor is further humiliated when he learns that his wife has robbed his purse and has hired a Phoenician ship, determined to follow her lover, Quintus, into a form of exile that he is unlikely to return from. Some say that she hired pirates, but in the capital of the province, Tingis (Tangiers), definitions of hero and villain were every bit as subjective in 118 AD as they are today. Her departure follows that of Quintus by just over two weeks.

An optio (corporal), ten auxiliary soldiers and two of her personal slaves leave with her, causing the governor to threaten the centurion and the cohorts that serves as his bodyguard with decimation. The threat, while heartfelt at the time it is uttered, is empty.

Phoenician Trade Ship
The trip down the African coast has been anything but ideal from Mattia. She has experienced sea sickness and is inconsolably melancholy.

Cornelia brushed Mattia's hair back as her mistress vomited in a bucket for the third time that morning. There was not much to heave, because Mattia hadn't taken water, as her slave tried to have her do.

Pulling back from the bucket, she looked miserably at Cornelia.

"Mistress, the sea is calm and look at the Apollo's chariot, rising over the sea like thunder. The bright red sky is good news for us."

"It's not the sea, Cornelia, I am with child, and it is not Marcus'. It's why I had to leave and find Quintus."

"How can you tell for certain, Mattia?"

"Because the Governor, my husband, was unable to raise his phallus. It was not a cobra, but a worm. There hasn't been anyone except Quintus -- ever. I had no choice but to flee. I couldn't go back to Transalpine Gaul. My father is mayor of Colonia Copia Claudia Augusta Lugdunum (Lyon, France) and while he might harbor me, Marcus has friends and -- reach. My father sold me to Marcus and that is the end of the matter where he is concerned."

Cornelia looked confused. She was born Brunhild, and had been taken as a slave by Romans beyond the Danube. Her Roman name came later. How could Mattia, a Roman citizen be bought and sold in the same way that a slave could?

Mattia clarified, "There is a bride price, and in my case it was significantly high, that Marcus paid my father. I'm not a slave under the law, but very near to one in actuality. He never penetrated me, he was never able, but he beat me when he couldn't. Quintus was my first, and I hope that he will be my only."

Flavius, the optimo, came into the dark captain's quarters that Mattia annexed, "How are you today, M'lady?"

"Miserable. Is there any news from the captain? How much farther?"

"I have asked on your behalf, but he sees nothing on the shore and we must continue south until we see something. At least that is what he advises."


The scene where the shipwreck survivors first landed has changed as everything but the ship's boat has been moved through the jungle, to a gentle knoll rising above the flood plain about two hundred yards inland of the bay. A stockade is being constructed atop the knoll and a watch tower rises above the stockade.  The enclosure has been constructed according to standards that the Legion has been using for almost two centuries now. The ship's boat has been making trips to the reef, wood used to construct the ship has been salvaged and towed to the surf line, and released. Once on the beach, it is collected for the use of the fortress.  Nearly one third of the knoll has a rocky face. There is not sufficient wood to build a wall on top of it, so thorn bushes have been collected and used to create a barrier there. It is judged to be every bit as effective as a wall.

The shelter is in place as is a protective barrier, but food remains a problem. Grain supplies, taken from the foundered Sea Monster and Fidelis, are being expended and there is nothing to replace them. The colony's survival by all standards required continuing support from the provincial capitol until crops could be grown. They supplement their grain by fishing and hunting, but one hundred mouths to feed provides a continuing drain on resources.

Quintus stepped ashore from the ship's boat, hauling a stringer of fish, taken from the sea by a combination of harpoon and crude nets. "We'll need a hundred fish of this size to feed a hundred people each day."

Seleucus took one end of the stringer and counted. "Eighteen, there are only eighteen here."

"It's all we could catch, that and this big shark in the bottom of the boat that Tullius harpooned."

Seleucus looked at the captain of the now sunk, Fidelis and saw that he couldn't hide his smile. The shark filled the inside of the boat and its blood washed out as its on large wave when they turned the boat on its side to disgorge the catch.

Quintus said, "It took us hours to land it, but we can roast it on a fire and everyone will have fish for dinner tonight."

Later while everyone ate the shark, Quintus and Ursinius stood on the wall, taking a turn at watch. "We need to send the boat out to explore," Ursinius said. "Maybe crocodiles, we can kill them with spears and shields. Lure them out of the water, ground the shields and pierce them. I saw it done in Egypt. You just have to make sure that the small ones take the bait. The fifteen footers don't care that you have a shield and will take you."

"Are they good eating?"

"Yes, well, not that good, but better than dirt. I'd prefer a roasted bullock."

"We can't keep doing this, Ursinius. We have a camp with a fresh water spring that we have enlarged, and we have walls, but we will run out of things to eat."

"You saw the two boats that the sailors are building?"

"Yes, for the trip to Lixus?"

"We will send people to Lixus when those boats are ready. You and I will draw lots. One goes, the other stays."

"I'm seventeen years old, Ursinius. The people here only suffer me because you stand behind me."

"They are legionnaires."

"And I am a Tribunes Angusticlavii, a thin stripe tribune, not Lataclavius. Not a broad stripe tribune, an intern, sent to Mauritania Tingitana to handle small duties. Work befitting an oldest son driven by the political aspirations of his father. The only thing I have been successful at since I left Rome is falling in love with the Governor's wife. That fire is still not quenched, not even now after all that we have been through. Not even at the ends of the earth."

Ursinius shook his head in pity. "Youth."


Back, in the Roman Province of Mauritania Tingitana

Roman ruins, Volubilis, Morocco
The political world  of Rome changed only slightly with the death of Emperor Caesar Trajan and the succession of his adopted son, Hadrian. Unfortunately this change has had tectonic implications for the Governor Marcus Marius Longinus as his perfect solution has met severe complications. The arrival of a missive from the new Emperor, Caesar Hadrian, announced the official recall of Quintus, his nephew, to Rome. Quintus is to serve in the Emperor's Praetorian Guard. As with most emperors, Hadrian prefers to salt the praetorians with blood relatives. It is a familial relationship that had not been known to the governor and the public banishment is something that he can not hide from Caesar. 

A carefully worded response, indicating that Quintus may not be available for service in Rome for quite some time has provoked an immediate response. A fast trireme (war galley) has set anchor in the harbor and a delegation of praetorians are even now making their way to the governor's fortress to ascertain more details than were included in the governor's letter, which read to all as if he had an ass to cover -- and something to hide. The governor is concerned because two quaestionarius accompany the praetorian officer and his deputy.

Historical note: We are in the time of Hadrian, and I thought that you might find this video on Hadrian's Wall to be interesting.

The Thirteenth Colony will be continued 

Author's Note: I originally intended this to be a three part series with each portion of the story being named independently of the others. After examining my notes, I realized that I couldn't possibly fit the entire story into three bloc posts, even though it is a "short". I'm calling longer episodics "short series" because it could go for three or more separate blog posts to develop the characters to a point where I want them developed, etc.


Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Thirteenth Colony (part one)

Thirteenth Colony
(part one )

a fictional short series

The world breaks everyone, and afterward, 
some are strong at the broken places. 
                                   -- Ernest Hemingway

The huge raft, made of ship’s timbers have been constructed from many smaller rafts lashed together. Over a hundred men and women are perched on them, lying in sleep. The sun will rise soon, bringing scorching heat with it -- and thirst. The sea is an inky calm around them, but the deep ocean swell is still there to remind them of their predicament, menacing, like controlled anger.

The year 117 AD is coming to a close and the Roman Empire has reached the limit of its expansion, though none of its citizens are aware of the fact.

The Emperor Augustus formed twelve colonies in Mauritania Tingitana (Morocco) between 33 and 25 BC, for veterans of the battle of Actium to settle in.  Over the years, other veterans have settled in the region. The practice of giving land that is threatened by local marauders to old legionnaires as a reward has been going on for two hundred years. It has become an institutional project designed to both provide stern protection for those far colonies as well as keeping the recently discharged far from Rome. After twenty-five years service, legionnaires receive thirteen years pay as part of their separation bonus. The land is an additional bonus available and many take the offer.

Roman-style trading ship, Fidelis
Two trading ships, Sea Monster and Fidelis, carrying veterans and their families, were dispatched to Iulia Valentia Banasa (Sidi Ali Boujenoun), under the seal of Emperor Trajan. The veterans were separated from the Thirtieth (XXX) Legion, known as Trajan's heroes.

The veterans and sailors who manned the ships did not know that Trajan fell ill and died of a stroke in the City of Selinus, and has been succeeded by his adopted son, Hadrian. Both Trajan and Hadrian are warriors who enjoy considerable popularity with the legions.

In Iulia Valentia Banasa, Tribunus Angusticlavii (appointed mid-grade officer) - Quintus Aelius Ulpius, commands the mission. He stands before the Municipa Majoris and a herald from the governor. Both galley captains stand behind him. He receives new orders to take the veterans to the mouth of a large river, south of Lixus (Larache), the farthest extent of the Empire, to further expand the reach of Caesar Trajan and enhance the Glory of Rome.

The retired legionnaires take the news stoically. Their wives are less enthusiastic. They sail south and make a final port call at Lixus, first established as a Phoenician colony and ceded to Rome when they rolled over Hannibal's Empire. Tribune Quintus presented the invoice for supplies and signed for the goods that were heaped on the decks of both galleys. There is a small garrison of Roman auxiliaries at Lixus. The Optima (corporal) in command has a very tentative understanding of the land south, knowing only vaguely that it is populated by warring tribes and wild beasts. He provides a crude map and an estimate of distances to the large river mouth, which is to be their destination. The map is vetted to the extent possible from local merchants who have no commercial relationship with that part of Africa. They cite bandits and hostile tribes as the reason they do not venture into the area.

During a storm twelve days south of Lixus both Fidelis and Sea Monster are carried by the wind and waves for ten more days before they are both broken up on the same complex of reefs.  The river mouth which is to be their destination has not been sited.

Senatus Popels Que Romanus
(The Senate and the People of Rome)
Quintus woke up with a pounding headache and a sharp twisting pain in his gut that would not go away. Seated next to him, Seleucus, old enough to be his father, with a lined face that had known triumph and tragedy, complained like an old soldier. "Twenty-five years of my life as a devoted legionnaire, cleaved in a dozen places in battle, an arrow here." He pointed to an area where he sat, where no soldier should be pierced by an arrow. "Then the pension, thirteen years pay, and an offer of land. The money would have been enough. I could have become a butcher."

"That makes sense, Seleucus, you are reported to have been the very best quaestionarius that the Thirtieth Legion ever had. It is said that when you learn to butcher men well, butchering a bull or a ram can be every bit as artistic." Quintus tried to remain in the old soldier's best graces, and complimenting his work as the chief interrogator and torturer of the Thirtieth Legion clearly had its effect. Seleucus blushed under his sunburned face. "The Dacians will long remember the defeat that Trajan's victorious Thirtieth handed them -- twice." Quintus drank from a wine skin in an effort to assuage the pain in his head, but he suspected that it had been put there by the wine in the first place.

Porcius made his way from raft to raft in a ship's long boat, rowed by four sailors from the Fidelis. He wore a twisted rag around his groin and a broad woven hat covering his bald head. He handed out bread from a large cloth bag. The bread along with most of the supplies had been salvaged from the reef that tore the bottoms out of both ships. His nickname, Porcius, meaning pig, was completely at odds with his gaunt appearance.

"Salve, Porcius, do you have no sense of rank? Our tribunus lataclavius outranks all of the survivors including Ursinius and he must wait for bread and oil?"

Quintus shrank only a little. The title had been bestowed by the governor of Mauritania as a favor to his father in the senate. Then he'd fallen into disgrace over an affair with the Mattia, the young wife of that very governor, Marcus Marius Longinus. Discovery, inflagrante delicto (caught in the very act), led to his titular command of the mission to see the evocati (honored veterans) to the end of the world. At age seventeen, Quintus was by far the youngest of the men on either ship including the sailors that crewed the vessels.

"Forgive me, sire," Porcius shouted back as he made his way to them, passing others to bring bread to Quintus (and Seleucus).

Seleucus murmured under his breath, "The armicustos is surly, but he was a very able quartermaster and he may mock your rank, but he would obey you if you asserted yourself. For now, best let me assert for you."

Porcius handed two handfuls of bread to Quintus and one to Seleucus. Quintus handed Porcius his wine skin and the old quartermaster took a long drink. "What say you, young master, how long will we remain at sea?"

"Not long I think. I saw a sprig of fresh leaves on a branch floating not an hour ago and you can smell the land if you try."

Porcius took a long breath and remarked, "Why yes, I can as well!" He sat down in his boat and bayed the sailors row toward, Ursinius First Spear Centurian and primus of the Thirtieth, who commanded the expedition and survivors even though technically he remained under the direction of Quintus.

"He will claim your observations as his own, Quintus," Seleucus predicted.

"Ursinius is the most remarkable man I have ever met, Seleucus. One of the best leaders, the best fighter, the smartest administrator. I need take no credit where he is involved."

Seleucus scrutinized Quintus closely, "So what was Mettia like?" Seleucus rubbed Quintus' hair. He'd asked the question a dozen times since the ships foundered and Quintus' revelations had become more salacious each time. The governor's young wife's beauty and charm had been legendary. The disclosure that Quintus had been her lover, scandalized all of Mauritania and naturally gossip spread to the veterans of the Thirtieth Legion on their way to found a new colony on the outskirts of the world.

"Her breasts were like ripe melons, her breath was like eating a pomegranate, and her cunny was like a ripe, fresh peach. Piercing it felt like entering Venus herself."

Seleucus started to reply about his wife, who sat gossiping with a friend, well beyond ear shot. He lamented that she had one that looked like a cow pie with wagon rut through the middle. Sex with a barely warm corpse did not motivate him. As Seleucus wound up, one of the veterans shouted, pointing toward shore. "Land and surf!"

Ursinius stood and commanded, "Everyone, take oars or whatever you can to paddle and let's push this floating shit pile toward shore! Porcius, have your boat pull us."

The veterans and sailors begin to row. Their wives and children, many of whom are too weak to help, huddle beside their possessions hoping to survive the trial of the sea.

As the large raft is in the full rage of the surf. The sense behind its loose construction is obvious now. Snake-like it rides the waves, one half up, the other down. The beaching isn't easy but it is aided by the long boat that keeps it headed in the right direction. A young female slave is washed overboard with no way of saving her. 

Finally the raft makes it through the barrier of the outer surf. The survivors step ashore in a long curving bay. Up from the beach lies an area of dunes, and beyond that a thick belt of jungle that dips toward the ocean in places as mangroves spread into the sea. 

The raft scrapes onto the sand. Those near the beach scramble ashore, immediately prostrating themselves in prayers of thanks while those at the back jump into the water and clumsily wade the last few feet to safety.

Quintus and Seleucus step ashore and Ursinius met them. "Tribune, this is your command. Please allow me to stand by your side as you give orders, and feel free to ask me if you have any questions."

Quintus motioned Ursinius aside, "What do you think of sending out vedettes to scout the area, particularly that knoll up there?"

"I think that is an excellent plan Tribune. May I suggest that the women gather firewood and prepare a meal while the rest of the men and the sailors use the material from the rafts to construct a stockade to protect us this evening."

"Make it so, Primus."

Quintus barked orders to Ursinius and Ursinius made the specific demands on the veterans. While the soup was being prepared, the duo walked to the cooking pot and sampled the broth as ingredients were added. "I knew your father, Quintus. We served together killing Germanic tribesmen on the Danube. That was well before he rose to the Senate. He too was a young tribune. Imagine my surprise when you, of all people was named to lead this voyage to the end of the Empire and beyond."

"Last minute orders from the governor."

"The fat governor didn't deserve Mattia, but you should have been more discrete."

"The urge took us both in the moment. I can offer no excuse."

Ursinius dipped some of the old, hard bread into the broth and took a juicy bite. "We are shipwrecked, though in the best possible way with our food and equipment mostly intact. We also have a long boat that we can launch through the surf to explore our surroundings and take word back to Lixus."

Seleucus walked up to Ursinius. Ursinius directed him to Quintus, "Make your report to the Tribune."

"Sire," Seleucus smiled at Quintus sincerely, "we have forty-seven legionnaires fit for duty, sixteen sailors and ship's officers, thirty-four women, eight female slaves and one castrati slave, twelve children under the age of ten and two dogs. We have lost three legionnaires, three sailors and two female slaves. It's a miracle, sire."

The Thirteenth Colony will be continued 

Author's Note:  I originally intended this to be a three part series with each portion of the story being named independently of the others. After examining my notes, I realized that I couldn't possibly fit the entire story into three bloc posts, even though it is a "short".  I'm calling longer episodics "short series" because it could go for three or more separate blog posts to develop the characters to a point where I want them developed, etc.


Friday, November 20, 2015

Writing Challenge

LL, total bum
This is a writing challenge from a fellow blogger who you all know (from reading responses on this blog).

Keep in mind that I'm a beach bum these days and as such, my priorities are  a very small bit of creativity, balanced by beach combing and the odd Harley Davidson ride through the rain forrest and along the sandy shingle as azure water laps land where tide is measured by a foot plus or minus.

However, there is a thread of the old LL, who is competitive and can't resist a challenge that is proffered.  I am a knight that once slapped in the face by a mailed gauntlet, can not but meet my fate on a field of honor. Thus the old me is going to respond not because I want to so much as my character drives me to.  That notwithstanding, the pen is not mightier than the sword, unless you drive it through your enemy's eye and into his brain. Than it's just as lethal as a sword...on to the challenge.

One way to cultivate your emotional and poetic mind, and to improve your writing skills in general, is to write stream-of-consciousness. This is unstructured, unedited writing that reflects your observations or feelings about a certain person, event, or item. Stream-of-consciousness is a good way to write poetry or journals, and can end with a piece of writing that can be as much graphic as verbal.

This is my response to the challenge I can only hope that it isn't a ruse for a cyber Rorschach test.

The world is cerulean blue and white. A witch on her broom flies backward as a sparrow consumes a snake. The basket of fruit slowly dissolves and becomes something else but I can't tell what it might be. Maybe it won't be anything? An F-22 going west from Hickam pierces the mouth of an ogre. The white becomes red and orange, the red becomes vermilion and fades to ochre. Yellow to brown, to gray and then mere shades in the darkness who do their best to obscure the moon that wants to lay a shimmering path to heaven across a black ocean. Evening in paradise.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Castor's Garden

Castor’s Garden

A fictional short

When Castor was killed, Pollux asked Zeus to let him share his own immortality 
with his twin to keep them together, and they were transformed into the constellation 
Gemini. The pair were regarded as the patrons of sailors, to whom they appeared as 
St. Elmo's fire.

A crude furnace blazes in the darkness beneath Castor's Garden. Filthy, sweat-covered men feed it with wood and charcoal, an endless task given the ferocity of the fire. To one side of the oppressive, low-ceilinged furnace room, small boys endlessly toil at two large bellows, feeding the flames with jets of air. Shadowy figures come and go with barrow loads of wood. In the space above the furnace there is a mass of dangerously crude clay pipes, oozing water and steam at every joint. 

Above the heat and filth there is a different world. Some refer to it unofficially as the Temple of Bacchus. It is a clean, beautifully tiled world of lazing figures, droning conversations and resonant laughter. It is the hot room of a bathhouse in Castor's Garden, in Londinium, circa 121 AD. All of the people relaxing in the water look prosperous and comfortable with themselves. Slaves wait in attendance, some around the edge of the pool, others in the water rubbing backs and massaging shoulders. There are three or four times as many slaves as bathers. The proprietorial way that the slaves look after their masters gives the place the odd atmosphere of a kindergarten for over-indulged grown-ups. Seated in a small marble throne, Clodius Aquinalinius Passienus, governor of Britain, makes deals and bestows gifts. Castor's Garden  lays at the center of the governor's private residence.

The setting feeds Clodius' substantial ego. He's a physically unimpressive man with a weak chin, pot belly and small, soft hands that have never known calluses. The appointment to govern Britain came from Caesar as a sop to his wife, Clodius' sister. The governor is expected to profit handsomely from the office and to kick a generous portion of the graft back to his benefactor personally. 

Within the past forty years, Londinium (London) has expanded rapidly,  becoming the Roman province of Britain's largest city, replacing Camulodunum (Colchester) as the capitol. Its forum and basilica are the largest north of the Alps. The Emperor, Hadrian has plans to visit the following year. He is coming to visit his brother-in-law both as a show of filial support and to find out why the anticipated treasure has not been forthcoming. Hadrian has heard reliably that much of the credit for Londinium's success has been ascribed to Clodius, whose bath house is the place to see and be seen in the city.

Clodius' building projects include a Mithraeum, which serves a sop to the army officers who want a temple of their own to express devotions to their bloody god. While Hadrian understands the need to keep the army happy, that interest is subordinate to his own financial share of the loot collected in the process of governing.

A short, but powerfully built man with a face like a basilisk, and intense eyes enters the water and calmly strokes to a place near Clodius' bench. SPQR is tattooed on his shoulder, the mark of the Legion. Men who have congregated near where Clodius is seated move off at the arrival of newcomer. They know that he is a man to be avoided.

"Sire, you summoned me?"

"Yes, Lucinnius, I have work for you."

"I am here to serve you and my Emperor."

The problem with engaging Lucinnius to solve a problem or find an answer always rested in the certain fact that he served two masters. The person commissioning the activity and the Emperor, whose eyes and ears he remained.

"Do you see those men with the Phrygian slave girls?" Clodius pointed in the general direction of three men and women, frolicking. A man tattooed strangely oversaw their activities more as a guard than as a slave, waiting for a command.

"Yes sire. I have seen men with the druid before. They druid speaks strangely accented Greek and the men speak a foreign tongue unknown to me."

Those are the people. "I need you to follow them, discretely."

"Is that all?" Lucinnius' skills were usually employed when a high-end assassination needed to be carried out such that it appeared to be an accidental death.

"For now, yes. The druid brings them in twos, threes or fours. Sometimes they breed with slaves, sometimes they kill a slave for sport with permission, but always they pay in gold, in quantities that far exceed the going rate for such activities. I am sure such availability of quantities of finely minted gold would also be of interest to our Emperor. They come and go by the road to Noviomagus (Chichester) on horseback. And Lucinnius, I have sent four other men to follow them, and none ever returned with a report."

The men and their druid remained in Londinium three more days, staying at the best brothel in town paying with finely minted gold. One fleshy man killed an unarmed slave scheduled for crucifixion, provided by Clodius using a gladius.

Then on the morning of the fourth day, they mounted and road south toward the ocean on the Noviomagus Road, as the governor predicted. Lucinnius followed on foot, so as not to alert the horses, which snort and call to each other at inopportune times for a spy. Lucinnius could trot all day down the road at a steady pace. He had done it as a legionnaire following officers on horseback, in formation, but this time he had no armor or field kit to weigh him down. 

A bit over ten legua outside of Londinium, the group turned off the road and took a traveled path that led to a stoutly built stone building and Lucinnius felt that they would spend the night. They brushed the horses, and turned them into a large, fenced pasture.

Two days later when none of them came out of the building, Lucinnius' patience ran out. He forced the strong wooden door by prying on it with his gladius and made entry. The door had been forced before and he thought on the four men before him who were trusted with the same mission that he carried out.

Inside the building, there were floors of tightly joined stone and not much else. There were no men, no bodies nor was there any sign of habitation.  The building had no windows and only one door. Lucinnius doubted that they could have crept past him. The only thing in the room was a strangely crafted metal arch which he walked through, and vanished.

If he could have read English, he may have noted the manufacturer's label on the arch, Time Travel Tourism, Inc.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Russian Response to ISIL

Russia’s formal announcement that a terrorist bomb destroyed the Russian airliner over Sinai kicked off a campaign to find and kill the terrorists and to destroy their base. Since the mainstream media doesn't report much of this, I thought that it would be appropriate to blog about it by way of a "Special Report". Make of it what you will.

The head of the Federal Security Service (FSB) told a high level security meeting today that the 31 October crash of the Russian airliner over Sinai was caused by an improvised explosive device onboard the plane. FSB Director Aleksandr Bortnikov told the meeting, "Tests have been conducted on personal belongings, luggage and debris of the aircraft that crashed in Egypt on the 31st. They have revealed traces of a foreign-made explosive on all the above objects...In our experts' estimates, an improvised explosive device containing the equivalent of up to 1 kg of TNT blew up onboard the plane during the flight. As a result, the aircraft broke into pieces in mid-air; hence the large area that fragments of the fuselage were scattered over."

Russian President Putin chaired the meeting. His senior security team also attended, including Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu, Chief of General Staff General Vladimir Gerasimov, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and head of the Foreign Intelligence Service Mikhail Fradkov. After a few seconds of silent contemplation, Putin rose from his chair, with the other participants in the session following suit, and said: "Let us once again remember the victims." President Putin said, "We will find them in any place on the planet and will punish them." He announced $50 million bounty on the perpetrators. He also announced that Russia would step up its airstrikes in Syria.

President Putin said Russia and France would coordinate their operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).  Working with the French Navy. Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Captain First Rank Oleg Krivorog, commander of the missile cruiser Moskva, to work with the French Navy. Putin spoke via video conference during a meeting at the National Defense Control Center in Moscow today.
President Putin: "Oleg Leonidovich, a French naval group led by an aircraft carrier will approach your area of action in the near future. You must establish direct contact with the French and work with them as allies."
Defense Minister Shoygu’s report. "Today, as part of the air operation, the first massive air strike is being carried out on ISIL facilities in Syria. The number of sorties has been doubled, which makes it possible to deliver powerful, accurate strikes against ISIL militants throughout the entire territory of Syria...Along with the operational-tactical aviation operating from the Humaymim airfield (Latakia, Syria), additionally, from Russian territory, Tu-160, Tu-95MS and Tu-22MT aircraft of the Long-Range Aviation are involved in the destruction of bandit formations. Today, from 0500 to 0530 Moscow time in the morning, 12 Tu-22 long-range bombers delivered strikes against facilities of the terrorist organization ISIL in the provinces of Raqqa and Dayr az-Zawr. From 0900 to 0940, Tu-160 and Tu-95MS strategic missile carriers launched 34 air-launched cruise missiles on militant targets in the provinces of Aleppo and Idlib...All these strikes are being delivered on pre-reconnoitered targets. In total, in the first 24 hours of the air operation, 127 combat sorties have been planned against 206 facilities of terrorists. At the moment, 82 combat sorties have been carried out, during which 140 facilities of bandit formations have been destroyed. The operation continues. The next massive air attacks will be carried out in accordance with the plan of the air operation that has been submitted to you. There are enough forces and means," Shoygu said.

General Gerasimov’s report. "Comrade Supreme Commander-in-Chief: Pursuant to your instructions, combat aviation from our armed forces since 30 September has been delivering strikes against the formations of international terrorist organizations on Syrian territory...Over the past 48 days, the Russian air group has flown 2,289 combat sorties and delivered 4,111 missile and bomb strikes against the militants' main infrastructure sites as well as concentrations of military hardware and manpower. During the combat operations, 562 command points, 64 terrorist training camps, 54 weapons and ammunition production plants, and other sites have been destroyed."

Lieutenant General Zhikharev’s report. The commander of Russia's Long-Range Aviation, Lieutenant-General Anatoliy Zhikharev reported to President Putin during the high level security meeting. "Comrade Supreme Commander-in-Chief, this is the commander of the Long-Range Aviation, Lieutenant-General Zhikharev, reporting. Today, aircraft of the Long-Range Aviation command have begun to deliver strikes on facilities of the terrorist organization ISIL in the territory of Syria...A reinforced squadron of Tu-22M3 long-range bombers, during the last 24 hours, delivered two groups of air strikes on ISIL facilities in the eastern part of Syria, in the provinces of Dayr al-Zawr and Raqqa. One of the strikes was carried out at night-time, the other one is being carried out as we speak...During the air strikes, Tu-22M3 planes each flew 4,510 kilometers in a single sortie that lasted 5 hours and 20 minutes, while Tu-160 and Tu-95MS were airborne for 8 hours and 20 minutes and 9 hours and 30 minutes, respectively. The distance of the flight was 6,566 kilometers. As a result of missile and bomb strikes, seven clusters of militants and equipment, four command posts, five large arms and ammunition depots, and five infrastructure facilities of terrorists have been destroyed.

Russian media reported that the Russian diesel-electric submarine Rostov-na-Donu, on its way from the Northern Fleet to Novorossiysk in the Black Sea, fired Kalibr cruise missiles from the eastern Mediterranean Sea at targets near the Syrian city of Raqqa, the capital of Islamic State. The launch from the diesel-electric submarine Rostov-na-Donu was the first ever case of firing cruise missiles from a submarine at real enemy targets in the history of the Russian armed forces.

In mid-August, Rostov-na-Danu was practicing diving and missile tests in the Barents Sea. It launched one Kalibr missile at that time. This is a modernized Kilo-class submarine. A Wall Street Journal expert commented that Russia has become the indispensable nation in the war against terrorism. Russia clearly has filled the leadership position. That will continue at least as long as it takes to find and kill the terrorists who destroyed the Russian airliner.

Militarily, Russian operations today are the third time that Russian forces have practiced weapons deliveries that demonstrate new or rebuilt capabilities. The first demonstration was the sustained air operations from Humaymim in Latakia. The second was the long range cruise missile strikes from the Caspian Sea. The third demonstration has included the surge air attack capability using Long Range Aviation assets; the use of bombers for delivering air-launched cruise missiles in the highest number of air strikes to date in a single day; and the submarine-launched cruise missile strike.

The Russians are using the Syrian civil war for live fire training on systems, tactics and operations. (This reminds me of American activities during the First Gulf War/Desert Shield/Saber/Storm.) In the meantime, they also are defending the Ba’athist government in Damascus.

The Russian response is punishment, not retaliation. Russian operations in Chechnya will be the model for Russian actions in Syria.

The legal framework for the Russian punishment of ISIL is the same as if Russia had been attacked by a sovereign state. Without calling the attack an act of war, Russia is responding to the airliner’s destruction as a belligerent. That means that Russia will be less mindful of national sensibilities and the finer modalities of international relations during the hunt for the terrorists.

Note: American operations in it's "ongoing war on ISIL" have been far more tepid/anemic. But given the commander-in-chief, what would you expect?


There are groups of Arab peoples who we should actively be relocating and protecting.  They are the families of the Kurds who have fought against ISIS and are injured in combat. These people are much easier to vet than the herd of Syrian refugees who are marching into Europe. Special Forces operators can do it for us. We can trust the word and faith of our own, who are among the best and most closely tested of all Americans.

The families of Syrians who were vetted and trained by a US Intelligence Agency to fight against Assad can also be relocated to the US with confidence. These people are known personally to our people.  They swore to lay down their lives to free Syria from a dictator. Many of them are Christians, which does not endear them to Mr. Obama, so I doubt their chances at justice.

There is a significant precedent to doing this. We did it in Vietnam, we did it in Afghanistan and Iraq. There are debts that we incur to these people and we occasionally need to evacuate either them or their families (not refugees, but EVACUEES).

Thy are not our enemies. They are our loyal friends, and religion is not an issue. Bearing true faith and devotion is the issue.

The next issue is that of Christians in Islamic war zones. They have a BETTER founded fear of persecution than the Muslims do. The liberal left keeps diverting this key element from the debate in America. They want to make it about unequal treatment for Christians. That isn't the point.

There is a way to pick the right people for our nation to help. It is based on THEIR willingness to work with us to find a solution. I don't think that President Obama understands any of this.

Barack clearly showing himself to be the petulant child that we have known him to be. He's the narcissistic buffoon we have witnessed in action for the past seven years.

He's is presently incompetent to the point of making himself a national joke. Obama's army of handlers need to keep that teleprompter in front of him so that he doesn't say what he's thinking. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

One View of Islamophobia

I've been sitting back watching events unfold in Paris, the Russian airliner, brought down as it left Egypt, in Lebanon, Turkey, and elsewhere. From a French point of view, nothing is new there? It's not the first incidence of Muslims slaughtering innocent people on the street there, not even in the last twelve months.  Remember how tolerant the French were of Islam including the vast number of radical living on their own turf? How's that working out for them now? Removing a tumor is a lot more difficult when it's been allowed to metastasize, but that's what they're faced with.

The Islamic terrorist attacks on 13 November reinforce several attributes about terrorism that should be well known. Most important is that the attacks were a product of a living system. The news analysts talked about a network, but that word is too limited and anodyne to be a metaphor for a living system devoted to death.

Before the investigations are complete, many dozens of people will be found to have supported the attack preparations. Well-planned and executed terrorist attacks always are the products of a living system. 

According to Miller, in Living Systems, every biological system performs 20 separate functions that are essential to sustain life. In every human body, different organs are specialized to perform the functions. In human groups, including a terrorist group, individuals perform one or more of the functions.

The attackers represent only one of the 20 functions. Unknown additional people, usually invisible to the police, perform the other 19 functions that the group requires. The French and Belgian police are rounding up those others now.

The French bombing of Syria betrays some understanding of the relationships in a living system. Communications between the attackers and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria is enough to justify a retaliatory attack to assuage public outrage a bit. 

Nevertheless, ISIL operatives outside Syria and Iraq behave as independent actors, deriving guidance more than material support from the ISIL leadership. The more sinister parts of the living system are being found in Europe. These terrorists were locals. The specific targets were locally determined.
CONDELL: "I wonder how long it will be before the first European is stoned-to-death for adultery? If that catches-on, there'll hardly be anyone left in France."

Many French people are Catholic and the pope, who travels with an army of armed body guards, has come out suggesting that it's wrong for Catholics to arm themselves. While that edict may make sense at Castle Gandolfo, I think that the people of Paris might have another take on things. It remains to be seen whether or not the French will man up and defend themselves in their own homeland. When seconds count, the police are minutes away. Make of that what you will.
Luke 22:36. "Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one."
I personally think that the French need to hold "draw Mohammed contests" and when the Islamist come to kill the infidels, the police can gun them down in turn, Texas style.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Hammer

A Hammer
(4500 BC and The Shimmering God,  concluded)

a fictional short

We can only imagine the surprise of the three long boats filled with warriors intent on raiding Tor's village, when three Walkir drifted over the tops of the waves and directed them to paddle to shore. None of the warriors paddled, all of them cowered, requiring the Walkir to tow them half a dozen meters through a gentle surf to shore. One feeble arrow arced out of the second boat, deflecting from the shimmering armor. The Walkir/target replied by administering an electric shock to the bold archer, causing him to shake and scream. No other arrows were launched.

The Walkir spoke in the common language of the coastal villages, "You will climb to the top of the treeless bluff near the village you had set out to raid. Once there, you will camp and wait." The voices of the beautiful yet horrifying Walkir pierced them.

At the same time, other Walkir visit all of the villages and hamlets, representing just over a hundred people, inviting them to the meeting, encouraging them to arm themselves for war and cautioning them not to attack their own. The villagers are not quite sure who, "their own" are outside of their hamlets, but they will err on the side of caution.

Meanwhile, in geosynchronous orbit over that region of Earth, the Plarans plan their gifts to The People before they leave to join their own battle fleet eleven light years distant.

Din March told Frie Wrenet, "L.O.K.I. has returned from inserting the chips and the neural nets will grow in their brains over the night. By tomorrow, they will be ready to begin."

"How can they ever be ready," Frei asked? She looked down at the night-side of Earth, below. The primitive scene was so different from her home, where lights shined like jewels on the surface of the globe.

"They must form into a warrior people or they will not survive. This first test agent the Neanderthals will inspire confidence and will build precedence in their collective memories, but the rest, well they must do it on their own. We can not be a crutch for them, only enablers who insert seeds along with a few tricks."

Frei said, "I had hoped for better for them."

"One good asteroid will wipe them out until they become space faring creatures far in their future. For now, all we can do is turn what threats in space we find for them to dust, and have hope they will survive. They will defend themselves and they will be warriors or they will die even if a mass driver from space doesn't kill them off. Are they any different than we are? At this very moment we are making final preparations to do what they do. Which reminds me, are we ready to get underway?"

"Yes, everything is in place and the ship can leave orbit on your command."

"Good, then let us finish with The People and go to fight and live or die."

L.O.K.I., humanistic robot capable of light-bending
invisibility. Will remain behind as the Plarans depart.
The Shimmering God makes an appearance by floating over the central cave that The People sought refuge in. He makes a terrifying sight, draped in a blood-red cloak with a hood, eyes shining from within the darkness of that hood. Rog and Tor step out of the cave's mouth. Tor holds his copper hammer aloft, as a sign that he, and those before him have born true faith. 

Both Rog and Tor woke feeling very differently than they had when they went to sleep. They are totally unaware that L. O. K. I. visited them in the night and that even as they stand before the cave, the neural net that will change them forever is completing the final steps of its formation in and around their brains.

The Shimmering God identifies himself as "Din" and he is joined by a second shimmering figure, wearing a sapphire blue cloak. He identifies the second figure as Frei. They are backed by an army of Walkirs, who float motionless above them. Frei reaches what passes for a hand out to Rog and says, "You will come with me!" Rog rises from the ground and ascends with Frei and the Walkir, to the heavens.

Din sets foot on the ground and bids those in the cave to come out. The families came out of the cave as supplicants, slowly and timidly. Din demanded a cup of mead and a smoked, dried fish to eat. 

"Oh Din, great Shimmering God," Tor said with great ceremony as he presented the fish and mead.

He could not hide his shock as O-Din sat with the people, joked and ate his fish, drank his mead and called for bread and more mead. He placed Tor at his right hand.

"Where is Rog?" Tor could not hide his concern.

"Search your mind, Tor, do you not know where he is?"

Tor closed his eyes, "He is there, in your great home, in a place that I can not comprehend." He pointed up. "And he is safe and amazed."

"Give me your hammer, Tor."

Tor handed him the copper hammer and O-Din took it, handing him another one that glowed when he touched it. "I fashioned this one for you myself but it is very different than the one you held. It is a weapon, it is a teacher and it has power that has been embedded within it. With it you will wield great strength, but all strength and power flows from within you. The hammer is merely an extension of your inner will, combined with a few little surprises that I have included. I call them fireworks, but you don't know what fireworks are yet."

Tor hefted the new hammer, "It's light as a feather."

"To you. To anyone else on the planet it can not be lifted. Throw it up in the air."

Tor threw his hammer and it spun up into the clear, cerulean sky. In his mind's eye he could see what his hammer could see, from above where they stood. The hammer stayed in place, in the sky until he wished to have it back. Then it flew back and hovered before him until he grasped it.

"We do not have much time, Tor. You know of the Old People don't you?" The term, 'old people' applied to the Neanderthals. 


"They are coming in great numbers, and you are going to help your people stop them." O-Din spoke to all of the people, "Take up your weapons and follow Tor and I. We are going to the top of the round mountain to the East where all of The People from the seashore are waiting for you."

The People have gathered and set up cook fires. Across the valley there is a hoard of Neanderthals and their tame mastodons with fires of their own. Necromancers bless the Neanderthal warriors under the visage of Mog for the easy victory ahead.

The mood of The People is anything but confident. The Old People are fierce warriors and possess personally strength that few of The People can match. They also outnumber The People three or four to one.

All of the people are shocked at the arrival of O-Din and bow down at the sight of The Shimmering God.

"Your path to eternal feasting, drinking and wenching is through battle!" O-Din speaks slowly and distinctly. "Warriors must die with their weapons in their hand, to show me and all of the Shimmering Gods in the great hall in the sky in order to be admitted!"

The People nod, they understand. At the same time, they look across the valley at what is facing them and they are afraid.

"You need send only one man, Tor, to meet them." It is only now that they notice Tor, standing roughly half as tall as O-Din, the Shimmering God. Tor will speak for me and Tor will lead you!

The People are not all together sure that Tor is the one they want leading them. They are fiercely independent people and have their own strong men and village chiefs. Those chiefs themselves do not want to be eclipsed by Tor. The more closely they look the more that it appears that Tor, himself, is shimmering. 

Tor, with his hammer. 
Tor walks uncertainly forward, alone, facing the irrepressible force of Old People and their mastodons. The Old People advance irregularly down from their hill as Tor confidently strides toward them, holding his hammer aloft. Lightning flashes up from the hammer into the cloudless sky and the Old People stop, looking at Mog and then at Tor.

Tor threw his hammer. Knowing that he should not claim all the victory for himself. Reducing the Old People to one tenth their number would give somebody for the rest of The People to fight and kill.  He knows that blood shed in this place at the hands of The People is critical to their success.

The hammer did its work, The People charged down from their hilltop with O-Din looking on and they prevailed against the Old People. They tore down Mog's standard and rallied around Tor, who brought them a victory that they shared in. Only one of the people died in the battle, and The Walkir came from the sky and carried his body away, for he died with a club in his hand.