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Posted by BD

Gas Station | Campbell, CA, USA

(I am a cashier at a 24-hour gas station. I am working the graveyard shift. A large storm is coming through, and we have lost power. It’s about 2 am, and completely pitch black at the station. A car comes pulling in; a guy gets out, and tries to start pumping gas. He then approaches the booth.)

Customer #1: “Your gas pumps aren’t working.”

Me: “Sir, we have no power.”

Customer #1: “I need gas.”

Me: “I’m sorry, but we have no power.”

Customer #1: “Just turn the pump on.” *he then flicks his credit card into the drawer and walks off*

(Normally, we have a PA system to talk to customers. But we have no power. So I just sit there until the man comes back angry now.)

Customer #1: “I told you I need gas! I gave you my credit card! Turn on the pump.”

Me: “Sir, your card is in the tray. We have no power. We can’t pump gas. We can’t even turn on the lights. You need to go somewhere else.”

Customer #1: *saying this slow and angry* “I… NEED… GAS!”

Me: “Then you need to find a gas station that has power. I cannot pump gas without electricity.”

Customer #1: “If you won’t let me pump gas, you’ve lost my business. I’m going elsewhere.”

Me: “Have a nice evening, sir.”

(The customer gets in his car and screeches away. A couple hours later the power comes back on, so we are open. A completely different customer comes up to the window.)

Customer #2: “Hi, I’d like to get a fill up. Oh, and it looks like someone left their credit card in the drawer. I don’t want you to confuse it with mine.”

(I looked, and it was the first customer’s credit card. We held it for 48 hours but he never came back for it. I guess because he couldn’t see it because it was pitch black, he forgot about it.)

The post Doesn’t Even Have The Power To Refuse You Service appeared first on Funny & Stupid Customer Stories - Not Always Right.

Brexit

Jun. 27th, 2016 05:21 pm
raven: Karen Gillan as Amy Pond, wearing green and red and looking up (Default)
[personal profile] raven
I am in New York City with a whole bunch of friends; we're having a good time, and we go to see Hamilton tomorrow night. We left the UK on Saturday afternoon. I won't be back until 9 July. As for the other thing - my heart's broken. I'm on an almost-complete Twitter embargo because I can't bear to hear or think about it at all, let alone the awful commentary from people who should know better.

Comments off - I am not in the mood to discuss this now or ever. But eventually I'll want to write about Hamilton, I suppose, and New York City in the twilight, so I had to get this out of the way.
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Posted by Emily Asher-Perrin

Star Trek Beyond trailer

The new (and likely final) Star Trek Beyond trailer features an exclusive Rihanna song and a lot of emotions. Everyone is having feelings. Including Spock.

Check out the fancy song-trailer below:

The trailer is mostly footage that we’ve seen before, with a few extra establishing shots of the Enterprise clearly being blown apart. We get a better look at the ship that Sulu is flying at a different point, and it’s vaguely similar to the Enterprise NX-01 (perhaps it’s an older ship of a closer model?) Spock and McCoy are also cuddling hanging out for a change, which only raises my personal estimation on the film overall.

Also, for those who are tired of the terms “NuTrek” and “Abramsverse,” we finally have an official name for this alternate universe from CBS. It seems as though it will now be referred to as the “Kelvin Timeline,” after the ship that was destroyed when Nero came through the black hole from Prime Universe (the very same ship that Kirk’s father died on). You can check out the post detailing the new term on Trek Core, if you’re curious.

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Posted by Chris Lough

Independence Day Resurgence Okun Brent Spiner

One of the very first classes I took in high school was a required English comp course, one that every student, including myself, was dreading. To break the ice on that nervous, greasy-eyed day in late 1996, the teacher asked each of us what movie we had most enjoyed seeing over the summer. Most of us answered: Independence Day. Sure, it was loud and simplistic, but we had never before seen entire cities being wiped out, never been able to conceptualize massive and realistic alien craft, never had to consider being confronted with such an inescapable threat until that movie came out.

I answered Independence Day, as well, of course. Not so much because of the spectacle, but because I loved imagining where the story could go after the ending. What would humanity do with all that new technology? Would we be able to live in harmony with the surviving aliens? Would the planetary alliance last beyond the great battle? Independence Day was fun, but I really wanted to know what came next after such a civilization-altering event.

I would have to wait twenty years.

Spoilers ahoy!

Resurgence answers a lot of the questions left over from the first film and really, the movie is at its most confident during its initial worldbuilding sequences. Turns out we definitely reverse-engineered the aliens’ laser guns and hover cars and clean fusion power and used it to rebuild our cities into big Star Trek-esque futurescapes and enter a new, shiny Space Age. We can Skype with the moon! We have a rapidly functional world government! We opened up new areas of study in psychic research and cosmic anthropology! All of these developments cohere into the futuristic (and heavily militaristic) society that we see in Independence Day: Resurgence. And all of the new characters that we’re introduced to are motivated by the needs of this science fiction society.

Unfortunately, the new characters alternate between being flat and underutilized. The Hemsworth (I don’t remember the character’s name) is supposedly our main character, the cipher that we see the story through, but there’s no substance to him. There’s a glimmer of something interesting in Dylan Hillard, son of the Now-Dead Will Smith: he’s continually trotted out as a simulacrum of his father and he’s expected to be grateful for that, but the movie doesn’t spend any time exploring his obvious discomfort in the artifice of his military celebrity status. I liked following the administrative back-and-forths of Patricia Whitmore, but she gets left behind by the story an awful lot, to the point where she has to remind the audience at the end of the movie that she’s a trained pilot and not just a government aide.

There are other interesting backstories that get left by the wayside, as well. Angelababy’s character Rain Lao zooms through scenes at a blur, never explaining why she’s so angry and so dogged when everyone else around her seems happy with the Earth’s new status quo. Deobia Oparei’s warlord Dikembe has a backstory so interesting it should have been its own movie. (Here’s the elevator pitch: His people had to fight off AN ENTIRE SHIP worth of aliens because no jet planes or other governments came to help his country during the invasion 20 years ago.)

It’s clear that filmmaker Roland Emmerich has thought about this sequel for just as long as I have. The first thirty minutes of the film offer a visually rich buffet of worldbuilding, weaving together to create a science fiction Earth suitably weird enough to transform the franchise into an epic space opera. But even with its extended running time, Resurgence can’t flesh out every detail, and this becomes the most glaring in regards to the underutilization of the more interesting new characters. Yes, the alien attack in 1996 left millions of orphans behind, including The Hemsworth, but there’s no time to think about who raised those kids afterwards…the aliens are back! Yes, the psychic link that Bill Pullman and Brent Spiner were attacked with in the first movie hints at the idea of telepathy being an emergent property of quantum entanglement and thus leading to a truly universal communication network, but there’s no time to think about that…the aliens are back! Yes, the aliens house their planet’s biosphere within their mothership and their corn fields look REALLY WEIRD, but there’s no time to think about that…the aliens are back! (And shooting at us through the space-corn. Stop, you guys, you’re ruining all the space-corn!)

There are SO MANY ideas in this movie and while Independence Day: Resurgence doesn’t do a great job at following up on them, it is nevertheless unashamed–gleeful, really–to present them. I think I would have absolutely loved Resurgence if it had come out shortly after the first film. The ideas alone would have blown my little mind; encouraged me to think larger, and weirder.

In 2016, however, the ideas in Resurgence just remind me of other movies I’ve seen and of other books I’ve read. Resurgence even opens with a cheeky homage to Robert Zemeckis’ film adaptation of Carl Sagan’s Contact, borrows some of the slick space visuals of the new Star Trek films, and uses basic astronomy concepts that the public would have seen Neil deGrasse Tyson explain in 2014’s Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. I saw the movie’s “twist” coming immediately, mostly because I had just finished reading Cixin Liu’s “Three-Body Problem” book series.

But is this specialized knowledge that I brought into the movie, or a mainstream awareness that I share with the general audience? It’s difficult to say for sure. Sure, Resurgence shows us a giant spaceship containing eldritch horrors, but, you know, the general public also gleefully watched a foul-mouthed raccoon and his best friend (a tree) fly through the hollowed-out head of a giant space god only two years ago. Resurgence is downright quiet compared to that kind of mainstream weirdness.

I didn’t leave Resurgence imagining where the story could go after the ending, even though this time the film clearly tasks us to imagine where the story will go next. I know where these stories go. I’ve read those books. I’ve seen those shows. I’ve taken this journey. In the end, although I’ve waited a long time for it, Independence Day: Resurgence isn’t actually meant for me.

But I don’t think it needs to be. And honestly, that’s why I think the film succeeds. It’s a high concept storm of ideas. A visual library of writing prompts. A tie left frustratingly unstraightened. How do you team up with other alien races to stop a bad one? Does faster-than-light travel mean you’re obligated to be part of a cosmic community? How can a bunch of different alien races exist in the ecosystem of a single planet…?

Resurgence goes beyond mere spectacle and reaches for the stars. It doesn’t quite achieve them, but it has fun trying. It’s a good place for someone to start.

 

Thoughts:

  • I didn’t talk at all about the returning cast, but I loved them. All but one of them chewed epic amounts of scenery and it gave the movie some much-needed charisma.
  • Vivica A. Fox’s death actually really, really got to me. That slow distant fall into the rubble–after saving that family–was pretty devastating.
  • Oh, and how about Dylan Hillard’s character essentially existing as a punching bag for trauma? He has to live in his dad’s shadow, he’s trotted out for ceremonies, he has no friends, and then he has to watch his mom die. AUGH.
  • I didn’t realize this until later, but the movie’s attempt to give Dylan a “Welcome to Earf!” line like Will Smith (“Time for a close encounter, bitch!”) is almost exactly like another catchphrase that Will Smith gives in the first movie. (“Now that’s what I call a close encounter!”) Ugh, this poor character.
  • #SadDylanHillard
  • BUT oh wow Dr. Okun’s gay relationship which outlasts even a 20 year coma and his laser and Brent Spiner slipping in an expert Star Trek joke…
  • There’s an attempt to give Bill Pullman another grand, stirring speech, and it’s a good one, but the movie cuts away from it before you can get a sense of how everyone’s reacting. It’s a puzzling editing choice that’s repeated throughout the film. Resurgence never really lets its moments linger and land. (I felt the same about Force Awakens, too. Maybe it’s just an artifact of modern cinema?)
  • Thank you for not killing Judd Hirsch, movie. I don’t think the tone of the film could have survived that.
  • I didn’t stick around for a post-credits scene. If there was one, I hope it was about how the sheer mass of the mothership would have messed up the orbit and rotation of the Earth. Like maybe Judd Hirsch is on the salt flats taking a walk in the morning with Jeff Goldblum and suddenly asks, “David…is the sun supposed to rise in the west?”

 

 

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Posted by Judith Tarr

camber-of-culdi

Welcome to the weekly reread of Camber of Culdi! Last time, Camber joined the rebellion, and Coel conspired to frame Cathan for murder.

This week, Imre runs tragically out of control, disrupting plans on all sides.

 

Camber of Culdi: Chapters 10-12

Here’s What Happens: Chapter 10 picks up directly where Chapter 9 left off, with Imre shocked by Coel’s revelation that Cathan ordered Lord Maldred’s murder. Coel slithers and whispers and insinuates, until he has Imre convinced Cathan really wants to kill him.

Imre’s reaction actually makes Coel nervous. The king wants no official punishment. Imre burns the incriminating document and swears Coel to absolute secrecy. Then he orders Coel to summon Cathan to his chambers before tonight’s feast. As Coel leaves, he hears the king weeping.

Cathan obeys the king’s order. The narrative takes its time getting him to the room, describing the room, describing Cathan alone in the room, musing at length on how life and friendship have changed.

Eventually Imre appears, startling Cathan. Cathan begs pardon, though he has no idea what he’s done. Imre strings him out, tells him Maldred is dead. Cathan is startled, but he can see Imre is up to something. He treads very carefully. Imre is very volatile, very quick to lash out. Cathan swears he never blamed Imre for the peasants’ deaths.

They come to an awkward sort of detente. Imre observes, quite casually, that Cathan has been “implicated” in Rannulf’s death. Cathan is honest about his dislike of the man and his policies. Imre counters with the fact that Rannulf was “noble, Cathan, noble.”

They discuss the nature of nobility and the proper death for a nobleman. Imre is meditative. He beckons Cathan to him, all sweetness and lingering regret.

And stabs him in the heart.

Coel finds him with Cathan dead in his arms. Imre is all torn up between “having” to kill Cathan and being profoundly appalled that he did it.

Coel has to be very, very careful. This is not the turn of events he was trying to orchestrate. He has to play Imre’s veer off the script to his advantage, and convince Imre that Cathan’s whole family is a threat. Imre is terrified by what Camber will say. Coel keeps pressing the idea that Cathan was not the only danger, and talks Imre around to presenting Cathan’s death as a sudden collapse. The wound doesn’t exist, he declares, if Imre says it doesn’t, and the body has to be sent home to the family.

Coel treats the king like a bomb about to go off. After he’s organized the cleanup, he returns to find the king drunk and smashing wine glasses. He’s trashed his dressing room and terrorized his servants, and suddenly decided to wear scarlet instead of the previously and universally prescribed winter white.

Coel gets rid of the servants and sorts the king out. Before the king goes down to dinner, Coel has one last thing for him to do: approve Coel’s orders about Camber. The king, Coel realizes, is not in fact drunk. Imre signs the order without reading it. Coel points out that he could have written anything. Imre responds, “Not even you would dare that.”

The barbed conversation continues. Imre refers to Cathan’s “foul murder.” Coel counters with “sad demise,” unfortunate but necessary. Then he escorts the king to dinner.

It is not a happy occasion. The king is drastically late. Ariella has already begun the banquet. Imre’s attire is shocking and his drunken behavior more so. Ariella is annoyed. Imre spins off into crazy grief, starts throwing glassware, orders everyone out, then storms off to his rooms. Ariella takes off after him, but can’t get in; she decamps to her own chambers.

Imre is utterly beside himself. He makes his way eventually to Ariella and confesses the murder. She comforts him. Comfort quickly turns to something very different. It’s the first time, evidently, but it’s presented as inevitable—and fully consensual.

Chapter 11 opens with the arrival of Cathan’s body at Caerrorie. The family already knows: Cathan’s body squire brought the news in the night. We get a flashback in the squire’s viewpoint. His name is Crinan, and apparently he’s human, since he notices that Camber already seems to know what’s happened, and perceives this knowledge as uncanny and Deryni. Camber makes sure the rest of the family including Joram gets the news, and sends everyone to bed.

The timeline shifts back to the morning, with everyone waiting, in detail, for the body to arrive. The king’s lieutenant is annoyed by the way all the people line the road and bow as the bier passes—that’s a royal salute—but he’s too afraid of Camber to do anything about it.

Camber does not do anything violent. He takes possession of the body and politely but firmly shuts the king’s men out of the village church where Joram celebrates the funeral Mass.

The view shifts to Camber as he realizes the king’s men are still there during the funeral. He worries that they’re all about to be arrested, and wonders what the king knows.

He has a plan, and he still intends to execute it. He sends a page away unobtrusively, and the view shifts to Rhys, who wonders what’s going on.

The juggling of grief and politics continues. Camber brings Rhys with him to the sacristy, where Joram, finished with the Mass, has taken time to mourn. Camber needs to know what Joram told Cathan—which was nothing.

Camber thinks Imre suspects something. There’s no other explanation for Cathan’s death. Joram and Rhys to have to ride to St. Foillan’s immediately and extract Cinhil.

The logistics are challenging. They can’t use the Transfer Portal—it’s in the castle and the guards are right outside the church. They’re not expected in Dhassa, where they’ll all be safe from Imre, for three weeks. There’s an underground passage which ever so conveniently has an access door in this exact room, and the page is waiting at the other end with horses and supplies.

Joram wants to know how Camber will explain his absence. Camber won’t: Joram will still be there.

Rhys is clueless. Joram is horrified. This is a terribly immoral and deceitful plan, whatever it is. Camber is coolly implacable. They have to do this. There is no choice. “We’ve gone too far to stop now.”

Joram is furious. Rhys is still clueless. Camber remains immovable. It was their plan, but he’s totally on board now, and totally in charge.

Concedo,” says Joram.

Finally Camber explains to Rhys what’s going on. This is about shape-changing. That’s black magic, Rhys says. Not exactly, says Camber. It’s more grey. End justifies means and all that. (Our world has Machiavelli. Theirs has Camber.)

Camber is going to change two servants into Joram and Rhys. One will be Crinan, the other will be Wulpher the steward. They’re loyal and they’re “somewhat used to magic.”

Joram is still sulky. There’s still the burial rite, and Wulpher is not a priest. Camber has a comeback for that, too. Camber is not backing down.

He sends the confused and anxious Rhys to fetch the servants. Rhys is all a-shiver about practicing forbidden magic.

The rite is another of Kurtz’s elaborate liturgical-style rituals, with wards in place as Rhys comes back with the servants. Wulpher is all devoted and servile. Camber is all understanding and “I need this service of you” and so on and so forth. They’re both wide-eyed and awed.

Camber tells them what he’ll be doing with them. They’re dubious. Camber lets them know it involves magic. They’re even more dubious. Camber assures them they’ll be safe, it will be fine, there’s nothing to worry about. Wulpher falls to his knees and is all faithful and servant-y. Crinan wants to be sure this isn’t about killing the king. Not at all, says Camber. That’s all right, then, says Crinan.

With a little further backing and forthing and exchanging of clothes, the ritual finally begins. Camber is in charge, with Rhys in telepathic link. Rhys shifts first, with much surprise and amazement.

Camber is exhausted, but chuffed. No evil. “Joram will be pleased.”

There’s some considerable time devoted to Crinan being all amazed and wow and gee, and then he’s sent off to play at being Rhys, and it’s Joram and Wulpher’s turn. It’s all very wow.

Rhys goes off to spy on his double, feeling weird and uncomfortable about the whole thing. Then Camber and faux Joram emerge, ignoring him, and go to join faux Rhys in the church. Real Joram beckons him back into the sacristy, and off they go to St. Foillan’s. No tunnel adventure. Just off and out.

Chapter 12 returns to the funeral service and the burial. The royal guards are remarkably sympathetic, but they’re still there. They camp for the night in the castle yard.

Evaine joins her father in his study, and they “communed as only two Deryni might.” Then she follows him trustingly through the Transfer Portal to an unknown place: “the Michaeline Commanderie at Cheltham.”

Evaine wonders if the Vicar General will be happy to see them. Probably not, says Camber. Evaine works on keeping calm in the confined and exitless place. There’s no way out but through the Portal, and the air is getting harder to breathe.

Eventually a wall opens on men with swords, all very martial and alarming until they recognize Camber. They’re ushered into the presence of the bluff soldier Alister Cullen, who is not exactly thrilled with this new alliance, and who was not expecting to see Camber tonight.

Camber explains that there’s been a change in plans. Joram and Rhys will be there in four days, and Cathan is dead.

Cullen is shocked and deeply grieved. Camber tells him what happened—and yes, they examined the body and found the wound. He explains the rest as well, including the shape-changing spell.

Cullen is a practical man. He doesn’t condone it but he understands it. They work out the logistics of moving the whole family plus the two disguised servants to sanctuary, and allowing for a Plan B if Imre catches on before Joram and Rhys can extract Cinhil from the monastery.

Cullen is on it. The Michaelines can make their move in three days if they have to. “Until the true king comes again,” says one of his loyal henchmen, “the Michaelines shall cease to exist.”

Camber is amazed. Cullen’s man is vehement in his antipathy toward Imre, “the usurping son of regicides.” They all agree that it’s time for a Haldane restoration.

Camber worries that Cinhil might not be willing. Cullen is confident he will, and asks what he can do to help with the departure from Caerrorie. But Evaine and Camber are on that.

As they wrap the meeting, Cullen allows as how Camber might keep the two servants disguised for a while, if they’ll agree. For insurance. Cullen isn’t comfortable with this, but as noted above: practical man.

He asks if there are Deryni among the king’s guards in Caerrorie. The lieutenant, Camber answers, and maybe others. Be careful, says Cullen.

Camber likes him. He asks Cullen to pray for all of them. Cullen is surprised. Clearly they have some history, but now, equally clearly, they’re on the same side.

Camber and Evaine transport back to the sacristy and find Cathan’s widow Elinor waiting in distress. The lieutenant wants to speak to Camber. There’s a blizzard brewing, and he wants to move his men into the hall.

Camber is less than thrilled. He hurries to put on a nightrobe and clear out his mind. “(After all, the man was a Deryni.)”

The lieutenant is restless and pacing. Camber moves smoothly to make excuses. Of course the guards can come inside, but he really does hope they’re not planning to stay “indefinitely.” Would the lieutenant be so kind as to define the term?

The lieutenant can’t. He’s to remain “until I receive further orders.”

Camber presses him for specifics. Is the family under arrest?

The lieutenant is very uncomfortable, and Camber isn’t letting up. So Cathan didn’t just collapse? The lieutenant can’t answer that, either.

Camber is courteous and grants the lieutenant his wish for shelter. On Camber’s way out, one of the king’s men, who looks vaguely familiar, high-signs him.

They meet in the shadows. It’s Guaire of Arliss, and of course Camber knows who he is. He tells Camber about Earl Maldred’s murder. Camber asks if he’s Deryni, but he isn’t. Camber pulls him away further, to a storage room, and asks if Guaire and Cathan had linked minds.

They had, and Camber begs permission to do the same. Guaire is a true friend. Camber picks up that Imre had something to do with Cathan’s death, and that Coel Howell was heavily involved.

He sends Guaire back to the hall, and Guaire promises to let him know when new orders arrive. Then Camber goes back through the hall, thinking about Joram and Rhys and grieving for his elder son.

And I’m thinking: So Camber goes out for no perceptible reason, then goes back in, with soldiers bowing and forelock-tugging along the way. Not suspicious at all. Nope. Uh-huh. And how very convenient that a nice, loyal young man is one of the royal watchdogs.

That’s not so well thought out. Nor is the whole telepathy thing. It shows up when it’s useful and otherwise it’s just sort of not there, and suddenly a Deryni commander is worrisome but he picks up nothing despite the heavy-duty magic going on right under his nose, not to mention all the people coming and going, openly and otherwise. It reminds me of cell phones before they became ubiquitous, when writers were figuring out how they worked, and hadn’t quite caught on yet to all the ramifications.

I have to give Camber props for actually asking permission to turn two servants into Joram and Rhys. You know he won’t let them refuse, but it’s nice of him to give them an illusion of choice.

These chapters otherwise are pretty heavy hitters. Imre flies off the rails, and suddenly Cathan is dead. Even wily Coel is caught off guard by that, and so is Imre. He is clearly not sane. And then he tops it off by going to bed with his sister.

He’s an interesting character. Everybody is nervous around him; he’s dangerous and unpredictable and ultimately deadly. But he obviously loves Cathan, and he grieves terribly for the loss.

None of it bodes well for anyone under his power. He would be almost too much—it’s obvious we need a huge honking reason for the conspiracy to restore the Haldanes—but it actually works. Imre is weirdly sympathetic even while he’s hateful enough that we’ll all cheer if and when he bites the dust.

On the other hand I’m finding it hard to feel anything about Cathan’s death. Obviously it’s a huge tragedy for his family, and it’s a strong precipitating event for the Haldane Restoration, but he’s such a manifest idiot and so blindly loyal to the monstrous Imre that it almost feels as if he had it coming. He’s literally too stupid to live.

The other great tragedy of the series so far, the magical murder of Bronwyn and Kevin in Deryni Checkmate, takes much longer to unfold and struck me much more strongly when it happened. It’s a more poignant situation and even though Bronwyn isn’t really any brighter than Cathan, she doesn’t go around begging to be killed, either. Cathan ought to realize how unstable Imre is, and take better precautions than he does.

He’s seriously outplayed by Coel, though the Coel versus Camber celebrity deathmatch is still ahead. It’s clear nobody is a twistier politician than Camber, and Camber has just had Enough.

Cathan is a plot device. He’s fridged, and the plot ramps up to full gear. Now the race is on to find Cinhil and convince him to take up his heritage before Imre (or Coel) catches on.

Judith Tarr’s first novel, The Isle of Glass, a medieval fantasy that owed a great deal to Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni books, appeared in 1985. Her most recent novel, Forgotten Suns, a space opera, was published by Book View Café in 2015, and she’s currently completing a sequel. In between, she’s written historicals and historical fantasies and epic fantasies, some of which have been reborn as ebooks from Book View Café. She has won the Crawford Award, and been a finalist for the World Fantasy Award and the Locus Award. She lives in Arizona with an assortment of cats, a blue-eyed spirit dog, and a herd of Lipizzan horses.

Catching Up with Preacher Season 1

Jun. 27th, 2016 07:45 pm
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Posted by Alex Brown

PreacherS1mid-feat

At this point, halfway into the first season of a new show, we should have a solid idea of who the players are, what their motivations and goals are, and generally where the main arc is headed. Suffice it to say, Preacher is no ordinary show, for good and bad. It’s shit-kicking fun, but could seriously use some focus pull on the plot.

On a meta level, Preacher is aiming at some very complex targets. Jesse claims to be a good man now, that people can change, and that he can be an agent for change on the Lord’s behalf. Tulip ain’t buying it for reasons that go beyond romance. She needs Jesse to still be bad because that gives her cause to mete out revenge on Carlos. On a deeper level, if he can’t change, then there’s no point in her trying to, either. His bad behavior is her excuse to continue to live a life of cowboy justice and moral apathy. Change bores Cassidy. On the surface, he loves the life he leads. We still haven’t had enough shading in on Cassidy’s personality, but if the comics are anything to go by, the audience would do well to hold onto that notion of change and “We are who we are.”

Tulip is right, Jesse is a bad man and no amount of holy collars and tight black jeans can change that. He uses the Voice to force his will much like he and Tulip once used guns. He cares more about the gold star of being a savior than of actually taking time to save people. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether the Voice is God or not (it’s not). Jesse isn’t interested in the will of God any more than he cares about the fate of the church. Jesse Custer cares about himself and satisfying his ego. Talking Odin Quincannon into “believing” in God is a power trip dressed up in sacramental cloth. if Jesse truly cared about the fate of his flock, he’d stick around long enough to see the results of his will. He uses the Voice with increasingly reckless abandon, giving vague commands with no consideration to how those orders will be enacted or what the consequences will be.

PreacherS1mid2

Preacher is a gorgeous, powerfully acted show with a gonzo script and hyper stylized, pulpy tone. It’s also absolute anarchy on the storytelling front, often sacrificing key character development moments or much needed explication for monologues and shocks. Not that those monologues aren’t haunting and vivid, or the shocks chilling and rife with gallows humor. The chainsaw murder scene in the church as Cassidy and the Heavenly choirboys battle over a passed-out Jesse will go down as one of the best scenes in the show’s (hopefully long) history. I’ve gone back to rewatch that scene several times now and it gets funnier each time. And Ruth Negga is the queen of devastating speeches. Despite the weak Texas accent (a crime the main trio are all guilty of), she nails the emotional core of every line. Listening to her recount a darkly funny story about Jesse shooting a komodo dragon because a guy ogled her, you can almost see the scene play out in real time. Problem is, the story doesn’t actually tell us anything we don’t already know.

By episode 5, nearly every scene with Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy interacting with each other hits the same beats with no new rhythm. The story keeps circling the plot instead of pushing it forward. And as much as I love the trips down flashback lane with the Saint and Ratwater, until they find a way to connect back to Jesse in a way that’s more meaningful than our preacher man watching the sunrise under the hanging tree, the digression is more or less pointless to everyone not familiar with the comics. Same goes for the Man in the White Hat and Suit.

PreacherS1mid1

All this has me worried about the future of the show. There is an over-reliance on titillation, to the point where the storytelling is starting to suffer. With every new, seemingly unconnected side story thrown into the mix with no foundation or focus, the confusion gets deeper. I know where the Ratwater story is going, but even I was getting a bit bored by the end of it because I knew we still wouldn’t get any tie into the main plot. I know why they’re showing these history lessons and I know how they will eventually connect back to Jesse, but without actually building up the connective tissue, it’s time stolen from the main characters.

This is what comes of trying to cram in too many stories and characters too soon. Preacher is strong enough on other fronts that I don’t think the writers’ scattershot approach is a death knell, but here’s hoping it’s first season jitters rather than a plan for the future. If Preacher is going to use seemingly unrelated flashbacks every season à la Arrow, the show and I might have to have some words.

Final Thoughts

  • “I know you, Jesse Custer. I know that deep down, you’re a bad, bad man.”
  • “Now, there’s three possible explanations here. Number one: John Travolta. You know the movie where he gets his power from a brain tumor. Number two: Jason Bourne. Gets his power from a secret government agency. Or, aye, it’s least likely, but it’s my favorite: you’re a Jedi.”
  • I’m also a bit worried about Dominic Cooper. Jesse Custer should be the most interesting person in the trio, but he’s vastly outcharmed and outacted by Negga and Gilgun. Cooper is obviously capable of more than what he’s putting out in Preacher, but heaven help me, I’d kinda rather have a spinoff with Tulip kicking Cassidy’s ass from sea to shining sea.
  • Out of all the things they chose to keep from the comics, fridging the Saint’s wife and daughter should not have been it. And to add the rape of a nice woman to his motivations doesn’t make me any more confident in Preacher’s writers’ room.
  • Donny’s B-plot has become much more intriguing. He starts off as a redneck bruiser and ends up weeping and helpless.
  • If the hanging tree is so close to Annville, does that mean Annville is built over Ratwater, or is it a neighboring town? The former would make for a more fascinating tangle, for reasons I won’t get into for comics spoilers…
  • I still don’t know what I’m supposed to do with Emily. She hasn’t done much but pine over Jesse and sit still while he exploits the hell outta her. If she plans on getting some comeuppance on him, she better hurry up and get to it.
  • Speaking of feminism and wasting perfectly good female characters, I very much do not care for turning Emily and Tulip into harpies bickering over a man. I get that the writers think they’re playing at the women vying to be Jesse’s moral compass, but it comes off as two women doing battle over a dude who doesn’t deserve either of them, which ugh.

Alex Brown is an archivist, research librarian, writer, geeknerdloserweirdo, and all-around pop culture obsessive who watches entirely too much TV. Keep up with her every move on Twitter and Instagram, or get lost in the rabbit warren of ships and fandoms on her Tumblr.

Áfram Ísland!

Jun. 27th, 2016 09:57 pm
naraht: (other-Northern city)
[personal profile] naraht
I started watching about 20 minutes in, after Iceland had already scored its two goals, and man that was the longest 73 minutes of my life. I can't say I enjoyed it but it was worth all the suspense. Most of the suspense. At the end the Iceland players just looked stunned.

I wonder if this can somehow be spun as one of the negative consequences of Brexit?
schneefink: (FF Kaylee in hammock)
[personal profile] schneefink
I started taking antidepressants almost four years ago. Several months after I started taking them I realized that it's not normal to need to nap every day to not feel exhausted, so I talked to my psychiatrist and switched to a different drug. Almost immediately, and definitely a week or two afterwards I felt so much better than I had before – not so tired all the time!, it was great. I hadn't thought the switch would affect me this much; I can't say how much of my mood or of how well I'm doing is due to the meds I'm taking, which is unsettling.

If necessary I could keep taking antidepressants for the rest of my life, but I don't want to. I could deal with the logistics (though it's annoying); it'd just be easier without, and I'd be more comfortable. I'm getting better, and I hate the uncertainty about how much of that is because of the meds and what would happen if I stopped taking them.

So I talked with my psychiatrist about lowering the dose of antidepressants. I thought now was a good time: I'm done with my degree, there's no urgent deadline, and if it takes me a bit longer to find a job it's inconvenient but not awful (thanks to my generous parents.) My therapist disagreed, she thought it might be difficult now because I'm dealing with new things and that's challenging, but I didn't want to wait several months until I have a job stable enough to "risk" side-effects.

For a month now I've been taking half the dose of meds compared to before, and I don't think it's working very well. For a while I had dental stuff to excuse my tiredness (they had to cut the wound open again last week, ugh), but now… I'm feeling very tired almost all the time again, and it's hard to find motivation to do stuff. I'm usually fine as soon as I leave the house and/or meet with people, but when I'm home and on my own it's difficult. I haven't even seriously started looking for a job yet.

Obviously the logical solution would be to go back to the full dose of meds, maybe try again in a year. I know that. It's just… dammit, I hate feeling so dependent on meds. I've felt like this before even when I was taking the full dose, and I got better and worked through it and recovered. I'd like to think that I could do the same thing again. I don't know how long it would take though, and it's hard and I don't really want to do it, I just want to have done it.

This here written to convince myself to call my psychiatrist tomorrow and discuss switching back to the full dose. I'm pretty sure she'll go along with whatever I want to do. Reassurances that this is a smart decision (or other advice) would be appreciated.
[syndicated profile] snopes_feed
Neither actor John Wayne nor any of the characters he portrayed ever said 'Life is hard; it's even harder when you're stupid.'
[syndicated profile] snopes_feed
UN vehicles and trucks spotted in the U.S. weren't purchased to address economic collapse in America; they were built in Virginia for UN operations abroad.

AO3 Meme (a different one) (again)

Jun. 27th, 2016 08:41 pm
lost_spook: (dw - eleven reading knitting book)
[personal profile] lost_spook
An AO3 Meme I found going around, and I can rarely resist an AO3 meme. Mind, this one is going by the top tags in the sidebar, which tend to be more than a bit skewed, but hey...

Memery under cut )
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Posted by Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga Lois McMaster Bujold

Last week, we finished with Shards of Honor and its unofficial epilogue, “Aftermaths.” This week, we’re staring Barrayar! The third book in the Vorkosigan Saga in chronological order, but the fourth in publication order, Barrayar won both the Hugo Award for best novel and the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction novel in 1992. The book has been through a number of publishing formats in a lot of places, and it has a lot of cover art.

If you’d like to catch up on previous posts in the reread, the index is here. At this time, the spoiler policy permits discussion of all books EXCEPT Gentlemen Jole and the Red Queen. Discussion of any and all revelations from or about that book should be whited out.

6089607For understandable dramatic reasons, many cover artists have focused on Cordelia’s raid on the Imperial Palace and Vordarian’s execution. At right was Baen’s original paperback cover.

I love this image of Droushnakovi in an imperial dress uniform with Koudelka’s sword stick. The uterine replicator looks impractically large to move, and I don’t recall that Drou ever wore that uniform. But she should have been allowed to—Look how great she looks proving she’s earned it.

38227471d3daf88651051d5103f0e173Most of these images suggest that the artists were very excited about Cordelia, but sometimes other characters suffer.

The Russian edition (left) makes Bothari look like Lurch from the Addams Family. This is neither accurate nor fair in an image where Vordarian’s decapitated head gets to look like Gary Oldman.

vorkosigan-CordeliasHonorThe Cordelia’s Honor cover (right), from the compilation of Shards of Honor and Barrayar, has a lot of fans. I’m glad to see the green dress that Alys Vorpatril picked for Cordelia for the Emperor’s birthday, although I wish we also got to see the ivory over-vest. I’m having a hard time working out what Cordelia is doing here. That’s not a swordstick, Cordelia doesn’t sit on thrones, why is there a matador behind her?

The Fictionwise ebook cover (below, left) also features a sword that is not a stick and two generic hands. The early days of computer graphics were dark and full of dangers. I’m gonna give this artist credit for trying to replicate the wavy watermark on the sword blade, and for completing their first computer graphics project.

f-bThe mostly orange cover below and to the right was Baen’s second paperback edition. It’s the work of Stephen Hickman, and features his characteristic use of layers and color. I wish I could say I just know this stuff, but I don’t—I looked Hickman up on Wikipedia.

BarrayarKoudelka’s sword stick features again—and once again, is not a stick. Cordelia’s hand is over Bothari’s, in his armsman’s livery. The orange background is not quite flame-y enough to evoke the fire they set in the Residence.

Scott Murphy’s NESFA press cover (below) shows Bothari, Drou, and Cordelia escaping the Residence with the uterine replicator and Vordarian’s head in a bag. The bag was taken from Kareen’s closet, and came from an expensive Vorbarr Sultana women’s retailer, so I’m finding the bag lacking, but I do appreciate the suggestion of Vordarian’s profile. And, I prefer the bag to the artistic license of just hauling Vordarian’s head around by its hair.

Vorkosigan-Barrayar-Murphy

I love this, and I was excited to have an easy decision about which cover I liked best, and then I saw THIS:

Vorkosigan-Barrayar-minimal

It’s like trying to choose my favorite butter bug. Do I want the symbolic resonance of Piotr’s shadow looming over Aral, Cordelia, and vulnerable baby Miles in stark monochrome, which is the CENTRAL CRISIS in this book, or the detailed genre painting of Cordelia’s effort to end the war?

In the end, the presence of Drou and Bothari, in combination with my lifelong affection for genre paintings, won the day. It was a really close call.

 


 

SUMMARY

Chapters 1 and 2 of Barrayar remind us that Beta Colony’s very serious issues with medical consent don’t make Barrayar a great place to live.

COMMENTARY

Barrayar begins approximately 26.7 hours after Shards of Honor ends. The purpose of these first two chapters is to fill in the viewers who tuned in late. Bujold is reminding us of the important things, giving us the basic orientation tour of Barrayaran culture, and pointing out some of the people who suffer from its constraints. Barrayaran culture is based on a system of class privileges. It’s sexist, and it has no tolerance for people with disabilities. These chapters are built around tension between the bastions of Barrayaran culture and those who suffer from it.

The novel opens with Cordelia’s second thoughts. I’m glad she’s having these, because I had them two weeks ago. Cordelia is wearing Vor skirts in tan, a relic of her old Betan Survey uniform and of the last moment she was comfortable on Beta Colony. Cordelia is grappling with insecurity while looking in the mirror. She has an interesting Our Town moment where she notes that her face is good for all practical purposes. And then, having taken me to that ordinary place snapping beans on the porch, she applies the same thinking to Bothari’s face, illustrating the wide range of purposes that Barrayar puts things to. Bothari is in actual uniform, this one the brown and silver Vorkosigan livery. Cordelia thinking about liveried retainers focuses on what Bothari retains. Mine focuses on the War of the Roses, and the subsequent elimination by the Tudor kings of the traditional noble privilege of livery and maintenance. This is because I know there’s a civil war in this book, and Cordelia doesn’t. Aral is also wearing a uniform today—his is imperial dress green. In contrast to “Aftermaths” where the dead were transformed from symbols back into individuals, the uniforms transform everyone into living symbols. Cordelia labels them the walking wounded, with herself as the lady auxiliary. But Cordelia was also wounded at Escobar; It’s why she’s here.

The business of the chapter is the preparations for the vote that will confirm Aral as Regent for Emperor Gregor. Aral asks Cordelia to be his liaison to Princess Kareen and Gregor. He also discusses using her to facilitate the creation of a more realistic progressive movement (the old one prefers to limit itself to “the people who matter”). Cordelia would prefer a constitutional convention. Aral absolutely refuses—it’s not that he disagrees with Cordelia on this point, it’s that he has sworn to hand power over to Gregor in sixteen years. Aral confirms that Negri’s assignment to Gregor and Kareen is a signal that he will protect the emperor’s interests if they conflict with Aral’s. Cordelia has no interest in being Empress. There’s a sort of “not Lady MacBeth-ness” to this scene, where Cordelia disavows all interest in political power. Just because Cordelia doesn’t want to be Lady Macbeth doesn’t mean that no one does.

In Vorrutyer’s quarters just after his unfortunate accident, Aral struggled to think of the Betan phrase, “a day late and a dollar short.” We see the inverse of that now, where Cordelia attempts an optimistic summary the political milieu with the Barrayaran saying “With all this manure around, there’s got to be a pony someplace.” And indeed, the guards who follow her and Aral around are a product of the enemies Cordelia is in the process of acquiring.

At the Palace to meet with Kareen and Gregor, Koudelka struggles with the stairs. At the top of the stairs, we meet Droushnakovi. She’s a Servant of the Inner Chamber and a Bodyguard, Class One. Aral has a very serious talk with four-year-old Gregor about what a regent is and what Gregor’s responsibilities are (listening to his mother and studying hard with his tutors). Aral avoids mentioning Serg at all, which we know will become a trend and will come back to bite him. His speech is pitched poorly for the understanding of a four-year-old. It’s not traumatizingly bad or anything, just not comprehensible to a kid who clearly wants to get back to playing with his robot stegosaurus. I imagine that the curriculum for four-year-old future leaders of the not-really-free world probably includes Greek, French, Russian, and really serious table manners. Negri ruins Aral’s stilted attempt at keeping the conversation age appropriate by discussing a suspected homicide. Kareen tactfully invites Cordelia to stay and visit so she doesn’t have to stand in the hall during classified conversations Negri, Illyan, Koudelka and Aral need to have down in Ops. MARK OF A TRUE PRINCESS.

Things relax as soon as the men leave the room. Gregor goes back to playing, Kareen becomes more animated, and Droushnakovi asks about Koudelka. Cordelia explains that he was wounded by nerve disruptor fire in the opening shot of the Escobar war, but does not reveal that the incident was facilitated by her own crew, which had failed to anticipate that their embrace of the democratic process in an inappropriate military context might have a downside. Beta Colony let one of Aral’s mutineers shoot Koudelka, and now it can’t provide the medical treatment he needs to fix his nervous system properly.

Kareen asks Drou to take Gregor to his lunch before taking the conversation further. It’s like Kareen is asking Drou to return Gregor to his childhood. Gregor appears to agree with my interpretation—he’s excited about cream cakes. Kareen is excited about Cordelia. Like most of the population of Beta Colony, Kareen is under the impression that Cordelia killed Vorrutyer. Cordelia passes credit to Bothari, who isn’t there and whose hand Kareen doesn’t seem interested in kissing. Serious conversation ends almost as soon as it had begun; Gregor returns. Tea is served. Gregor gets a second cream cake (but not one for his stegosaurus—tough break.) Droushnakovi sighs over opportunities for women in Beta Colony’s mixed service. Later in the evening, Droushnakovi is reassigned to Vorkosigan House and Cordelia’s personal security. I can see why Kareen thought they would suit each other. It disturbs me that Drou is delivered like a package.

In the morning, Cordelia and Drou chat about Drou’s background (lots of brothers, some Judo), and Cordelia buys a swordstick for Koudelka. The staff at the shop are patronizing and she is annoyed. She tests out merchandise by sticking it into the wall and leaning on it. I approve. Cordelia has to trade on her status as Aral’s wife to get away with it. She refers to this as the appeal to irrelevant authorities. The Barrayaran adventure continues when Cordelia gives the swordstick to Koudelka, who can’t accept it because he’s not Vor and isn’t allowed to own a private sword. Aral issues it to him to carry in the service of the Emperor, and then he can have it. For the rest of his life—he drops it and rolls it under the couch in A Civil Campaign. He’s retired at that point, so someone must have worked something else out.

Having demonstrated some aspects of Vor male privilege, Cordelia and Aral retire to the library to read and discuss Barrayaran ableism. It’s a dismal picture. Aral points out that Ensign Dubauer wouldn’t have lived on Barrayar. Cordelia declines to point out that Aral offered her his knife so she could slit Dubauer’s throat. Aral blames the Age of Isolation, which ended only 80 years ago. Barrayar has re-adopted galactic technology, at least in cities, but cultural change is slower. Bujold is a little vague on Piotr’s age here, but he’s a relic of an older time. He’s very excited about his grandson. Piotr is such a bastion of Barrayaran culture that he gets to name his first grandchild. Aral and Cordelia’s firstborn will be named after his grandfathers—Piotr Miles. They’re looking forward to choosing names for their next children.

The chapter closes with Count Vidal Vordarian storming out of the library, threatening to deny Aral his vote. Piotr insists that his son will never betray the Vor class. Vordarian (whose first name is Vidal, which is SO DELIGHTFULLY BAD GUY because it’s like the shampoo) uses a cold stare to imply that marrying Cordelia could easily become class betrayal. Piotr’s mother was also Betan so Cordelia’s mere Betan-ness isn’t grounds for the complaint. Either Vordarian isn’t as good at history as I am, or his issue with Cordelia is that she’s a soldier/astrogator, not a Betan. Vordarian should be good at history, because he’s aware that he has a claim to the throne. Aral is one of five men who have a better claim than Ezar’s. The Emperor did not name the other four, but Vordarian seems to feel he should be on that list. He has been cultivating Kareen in the hopes of advancing his candidacy, not that their was a formal campaign for the position—it’s an Imperial appointment subject to approval by the Council of Counts, not an elected office. Kareen doesn’t make Imperial Appointments—she is not even her son’s legal guardian—which makes Vidal Vordarian This week’s most ironic victim of Barrayaran sexism.

Tune in next week for chapters 3 and 4—Emperor Ezar dies, but life goes on.

Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.

[syndicated profile] snopes_feed
A map purportedly showing that areas affected by mad cow disease in 1992 ended up voting "leave" in 2016 is satire.
runpunkrun: dana scully reading jose chung's From Outer Space, text: read (reading)
[personal profile] runpunkrun
Bad Machinery #1: The Case of the Team Spirit, John Allison: Middle schoolers solve the mystery of a cursed football stadium. This is cute, but there's not much holding it together. The story meanders, and transitions from one page to the next are often abrupt as the story switches gears or skips to the next day without any kind of segue; it's probably a result of it originally being published as a serial webcomic, but in book form it's jarring. There are also a lot of characters and a number of the adults look the same, and I think we can all agree it's way awkward when you can't tell if you're looking at a kid's father or a Russian mobster. I had to make a cheat sheet so I could remember the kids' names, but I referred to it less and less as I got to know them and their personalities. The art is adorable and the kids are sweet. Even if plot isn't Allison's strong point—and it isn't—I'm always up for stories about friendship, so I'll be reading the next one.
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Posted by BD

Call Center | USA

(It’s late at night and I’m about leave work. I get a last minute call.)

Me: “Hello, thank you for calling [Company]. How may I help you?”

Caller: “My phone is broken and I DEMAND a new one.”

Me: “Okay, ma’am. What distributor is your phone from?”

Caller: “Your company.”

Me: “Okay, ma’am, let me rephrase. Who made your phone? Is it an Apple pro—“

Caller: “No, my phone isn’t a god-d*** Apple! Now, I demand a new phone!”

Me: *keeps playing her game* “I’m sorry, ma’am. Is your phone an Android?”

Caller: “Yes!”

Me: “Okay, ma’am. What’s your name?”

Caller: “[Name].”

Me: “Thank you, please hold.”

(I put her on hold and pull up her records. You can see what phone the customer is calling from when you pull up the records, as well as other important details.)

Me: “Ma’am, [Company]’s records say you’re calling from the ‘broken phone.’ Records also say you’re three months overdue for your bill. Please pay with the next two months or else we’ll have to disconnect you.”

Caller: *click*

The post A Disconnection Between Her Phone And The Truth appeared first on Funny & Stupid Customer Stories - Not Always Right.

City of Wolves

Jun. 27th, 2016 06:00 pm
[syndicated profile] tor_dot_com_feed

Posted by Willow Palecek

city-of-wolves

Alexander Drake, Investigator for Hire, doesn’t like working for the Nobility, and doesn’t prefer to take jobs from strange men who accost him in alleyways. A combination of hired muscle and ready silver have a way of changing a man’s mind.

A lord has been killed, his body found covered in bite marks. Even worse, the late lord’s will is missing, and not everyone wants Drake to find it. Solving the case might plunge Drake into deeper danger.

City of Wolves is a gaslamp fantasy noir from debut author Willow Palecek—available July 26th from Tor.com Publishing!

 

 

Chapter 1

I was on my way home after a night ill spent at the Stool and Rooster, a filthy little dive with lousy clientele and lousier drinks. As an Investigator for Hire, I needed my drinks to be of the lowest caliber, as the money was terrible. I could have led a comfortable life working for the Ministries or as a wealthy lord’s private retainer, but I tried to keep away from jobs involving the nobility; the money was good but the price was trouble. Instead, I got my income by digging up dirty laundry for suspicious spouses or tracking down prison escapees. Once in a while, I’d manage to get hired on for a consultation with the City Watch, but these days, the Watch was more concerned with hushing up murders than solving them.

I was broke. I was drunk. I was pretty sure I was being followed.

A fellow must either be very brave, or very stupid, to go out alone in the dead of night in the neighborhood that surrounds the Stool and Rooster. It is left as an exercise to the reader to decide which category I fall into. I stumbled down the middle of the lane, built-up tenements and workhouses on either side, not venturing too close to the alleyways. I was not a block from the Stool and Rooster when three men emerged from an alley some fifteen feet behind me. Two of them tall, the other plump and short. I didn’t let my concern or even my awareness show. I kept my pace steady and staggered toward the edge of the lane, turning into the next alley.

Large arms gripped me from either side. Struggling, I managed to get a hand on the face of one of my attackers and dug my fingers into his flesh as hard as I could. He let loose a yowl of pain while his partner forced my other arm behind my back, pressing hard. He could have easily broken the arm, but it was my good fortune (such as it was) that he only desired to inflict agony upon me. I clenched my jaw and ground my teeth, refusing to give him the satisfaction of a scream.

“That will be enough, gentlemen.” The fat one’s voice was refined but also labored. The meaty jowls of his face were surrounded by massive sideburns, and round spectacles covered his small eyes. He had to be a member of the Ministries or possibly the trusted retainer of a nobleman. The latter seemed more likely; the Ministries wouldn’t have to resort to hired muscle. They had plenty of thugs on the payroll already.

My arm was released and the two goons retreated, one farther into the alley and the other into the light of the street. The deep scratches I had inflicted on his face bled profusely; he wiped his face on his sleeve, soaking it with blood.

“Make it quick,” I said. Freed from the thugs, I swept my coat open to reveal the brace of pistols and the hatchet on my belt. The little lump of a man did not react, but his companions moved to display their own weaponry.

“Mr. Drake, my employer is interested in procuring your services,” he said. “There is a delicate matter that requires a consultant.”

“I don’t work for the nobility.”

“I rather suspect that you’ll make an exception in this case.” He withdrew a leather pouch from his satchel and opened it. Even in the dim reflections of the streetlights, I could see the glimmer of gold.

“Thirty crowns, Mr. Drake. Another thirty upon successful completion of the job.”

Sixty crowns was almost as much money as I’d made in a year hauling drunks out of gutters, bringing parole jumpers back to the gaol, and spying on wives for cuckolded husbands. And then there was the matter of my debts. They weren’t enough to send me to the debtors’ prisons, but the offer was certainly tempting. I considered what that sum would buy. Conviction and pragmatism wrestled for primacy in my thoughts.

“How can I refuse?”

 


Chapter 2

Geoffrey Winters, as the pudgy little man was named, had a carriage waiting not too far yonder to convey me to his employer’s town house. The trip was silent. Mr. Winters curtly insisted that all inquiries about the job be directed to his employer. The thug I had gouged sat across from me, glaring with bloodshot eyes and poorly contained rage. I smirked at him and turned to my side to steal a quick nap.

The carriage brought us to the stables. Despite my inebriation, I could tell the carriage was taking a circuitous route. Once at the stables, I was quickly ushered into a well-appointed sitting room dominated by a few pieces of abstract art, a rather garish set of lamps, and a number of bookcases. Reflexively, I scanned some of the titles.

I was not kept waiting long. A young nobleman entered the room. He was well dressed, with a tailored jacket and trousers, wavy hair, and neatly trimmed sideburns. His handsomeness was marred by lips slightly too big for his face, which seemed permanently pursed in a look of bland confusion. A servant soon followed, pushing a cart with a silver pitcher of water.

“Mr. Drake, pleased to make your acquaintance. I apologize for the circumstances of our meeting, but my position demands a certain degree of discretion. Please, be seated.”

I was standing—not out of respect for him but to better size up the room and its contents. By his leave I took a seat in a large, leather-upholstered chair.

“You seem to have me at a disadvantage, Mister…”

He was silent for a moment, contemplating. “Mr. Drake, tell me. Did you fight in the war?”

“For the Crown.”

“Most everyone in the war was fighting for one crown or another. Which side, Mr. Drake?”

“Loyalist,” I spat.

“I appreciate a man who values loyalty. My family is in a sensitive position. While our house eventually declared for King Werton, we fought under the banner of the Grey Wolf in several early skirmishes. My name is Colin Abergreen.”

When a Lupenwalder mentions “the war,” he is referring to the War of the Wolves—a schism in the royal house that set two would-be Kings against each other. King Sebastian, the Grey Wolf, was the rightful heir, and was traveling on the Continent when old King Joachim died. His uncle, Werton, prevented Sebastian from returning, proclaimed himself King, and consolidated power in himself and his supporters. Those of us who supported the Grey Wolf called ourselves Loyalists; those who supported Werton, the Red Wolf, called themselves Unifiers. We called them Pretenders; they called us Traitors.

The war lasted almost fifteen years, ending only with the death of King Sebastian, the Grey Wolf. At the dawn of the war, I was young and idealistic, eager to serve for the rightful King. That was ancient history. I’d since learned the true meaning of the war: a pointless monument of death celebrating two men’s vanity.

“I don’t know much about loyalty.” I fished out one of the coins from Winter’s pouch. “But I do know coin. This is what buys my loyalty.” I set the coin on the small table between us, face up. “The coins bear the face of King Sebastian. I understand most such coins were melted down. That makes their value complicated, since officially, they are no longer legal tender.” I retrieved the coin, hefting it in my palm. “A more suspicious man might see this as a trap, an attempt to pay me in contraband.”

Mr. Colin Abergreen hesitated. “The coins were a test of your ability, Mr. Drake. Your astuteness recommends you as a capable man for the job. By way of apology, I will have my man tender you with coins minted with the face of our reigning King.”

“Old Pretender?” I laughed. “That will do for my payment upon completion, but I’d rather not look upon his ugly visage more than I have to.” I moved the pouch into my pocket. “These coins are well worth their weight. Mr. Abergreen, I accept your case.”

 


Chapter 3

“My father, the late Lord Abergreen, was murdered on the grounds of our family estate,” said Colin Abergreen.

“And you don’t feel safe leaving the matter in the able hands of the Crown’s investigator?” I asked.

“A fresh perspective is all I’m looking for,” he replied. “My father is dead, Mr. Drake. I want to know the truth.”

“You suspect one of your siblings.”

“Yes. Our father did not leave a will. My elder brother, Corth Abergreen, will have full inheritance. He gets the title, the wealth, everything to parcel out as he sees fit.”

I nodded. It was unusual for an influential noble to fail to leave a will; usually, there would be some bequest left aside for each heir. I’d gotten involved in such a case before—not murder, but digging up dirty laundry during a protracted legal battle. It was one of the reasons I didn’t like working for the nobility—too many complications.

“Mr. Abergreen, the hour is rather late, and I am rather drunk.” I rubbed my eyes. I felt deathly tired. “I would prefer to discuss further details of the case in the morning. The very late morning. And I’ll need to see the body.”

“Of course. I will be leaving for my family estate two days hence. I suggest you get rested and take any preparations you require.”

“One more thing,” I added. “Your men had an awfully easy time finding me. Is there anything you aren’t telling me about my terms of employment?”

A nervous look crossed Colin Abergreen’s face, quickly replaced with a smile. “I had forgotten. The Tracking Charm. I’ll have Mr. Winters turn it over to you.”

“Why not hire the wizard who made it to investigate your father’s death?”

“A wizard deals in forces. I need a man who deals in conclusions. I need you.”

Excerpted from City of Wolves © Willow Palecek 2016

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