Haiku Friday: Inbetween. A haiku.

Inbetween
Caught in the middle,
the dutiful advocate.
Which way do you turn?

Haiku is a Japanese poetic form with a strict 5/7/5 syllable and line structure.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

I write a lot of poems, some from my head, some from my heart. Many don’t appear on this website. For more of my poetry, check out The All or the Nothing, my first e-book, available at most online book sellers.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

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Shade. A poem.

There’s no rain, but the wind
blows and buffets and billows,
like an intransigent wolf at my door.
Cocooned in my chair and cold
sweeps and seeps through joints,
a lubricant of low viscosity oil.
The fire inside is only embers,
charcoal broiling in an emotive stew,
churning amongst gristle and bone.
What I’d give to fade away,
a listless shadow as the furnace
dies and dulls these pitted memories.

I write a lot of poems, some from my head, some from my heart. Many don’t appear on this website. For more of my poetry, check out The All or the Nothing, my first e-book, available at most online book sellers.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Stump. A poem.

I’m just a stump

By the road

You took your axe

And cut me

Down to size

Left me here

Just a stump

With not much

To reflect on

But passing traffic

Erstwhile glances

Just a stump

Worn and threadbare

Just a stump

Cut down in my prime

Admire your handiwork

As you pass

Stump

I write a lot of poems, some from my head, some from my heart. Many don’t appear on this website. For more of my poetry, check out The All or the Nothing, my first e-book, available at most online book sellers.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

The Happytime Murders. A movie review.

No spoilers, but does it really matter for this one?

Where do I begin? The Happytime Murders is a muddled attempt at a comedic crime drama. The big problem: it lacks humour and a by-the-numbers conventional plot leaves you wondering why someone put up the money to make it in the first place.

Puppets and humans coexist in the world of the The Happytime Murders. Puppets are inferior and downtrodden by humans. Phil Phillips (Bill Barretta) is a puppet PI who was the only puppet to serve on the human police force, forced out over an incident involving his then-partner, Detective Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy) and the death of an innocent bystander. Now Phil lives the life of a Raymond Chandler-esque gumshoe, who is approached by Sandra, a nymphomaniac puppet who thinks someone is out to blackmail her. Phil’s investigation leads him to a number of puppet murders, linked to the syndicated Happytime show. He teams up with Edwards to solve the case.

happytime-murderse

From there it’s all downhill: puppets having sex, puppets drinking and doing drugs, puppets using the F-word a lot. It’s a one-trick pony that’s novel and amusing at first, but rapidly grows tired. Melissa McCarthy doesn’t seem to find her rhythm until the second act and even then, it’s patchy.

The Happytime Murders doesn’t know what kind of movie it wants to be. At times it’s way too serious, at others attempting to pass off repetitious, miss-the-mark, frat-boy humour as comedy (the silent audience was telling). There are a few funny lines, but you have to wade through a lot of crap to get to them. It’s not really worth the effort.

This is the first time this year I’ve actually felt like I was cheated by a film company. If I could get my money back I would.

Unfortunately, I can’t recommend The Happytime Murders to anyone.

Rating: E

The Chair. A poem.

Perpetual, an endless sojourn,
a continuum of unknowing.
This electric chair does not ease
the time as much as I would like.
The thoughts that spiral in my brain
are currents playing havoc
with the depths of perpetuity,
every outcome played out
against a backdrop of chaos.
And time ticks on, as slow as
shifting dunes or tidal sculpting.
Flick the switch, erase this unease,
ride the lightning and burn it out.
With every swollen, bleached
and battered breath, I’ll play
this game until my time is done.

I write a lot of poems, some from my head, some from my heart. Many don’t appear on this website. For more of my poetry, check out The All or the Nothing, my first e-book, available at most online book sellers.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Operation. A poem.

I wish sometimes
I could open my head,
take a scalpel in hand
and then operate.
Remove all the things
that I just love to hate:
things that make me
odd, or a little irate,
all the shadows I jump at,
everything that frustrates,
the notorious black dog,
fears that keep me awake.
But then all these parts
are the whole sum of me,
the sum of my choices,
consequences and fate.
And without them
I wouldn’t be who I am today.
So, let me close up my head
and put the scalpel away.

I write a lot of poems, some from my head, some from my heart. Many don’t appear on this website. For more of my poetry, check out The All or the Nothing, my first e-book, available at most online book sellers.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

The Laid Back DM: Flying by the Seat of Your Pants

I’ve been a Dungeon Master (DM) for many years now, ‘refereeing’ role playing games in many genres—fantasy, science fiction, horror, modern age. I’ve had experience running all sorts of adventures (an interactive story the players undertake to complete a quest or mission, sometimes as part of a larger campaign), and I’m currently writing a Dungeons and Dragons 5e supplement to publish.

Back when I was just a beginner, I would ‘railroad’ (a linear series of events that can’t be avoided) my players through the story. Over the years I’ve grown in experience and now my adventures are looser and offer more opportunities for improvising.

Here are some hints for DMs who want to fly by the seat of their pants:

Plan Less

Don’t write or plan as much for your adventure as you may have in the past. Have a basic plot, your major NPCs, a few encounters and a map or two, but don’t go big on filling out the details. Decide things as the players decide—let them help drive the story. It will save you lots of time and take the adventure places you may never have dreamed of.

My adventures are rarely longer than a page, nowadays. And that includes the map!

Know Your Players

Some players like to role play more, some like battles, some like puzzles and some hate them. Know your team and have a balanced mix of encounters for each adventure, so that no one is left out. Players will be more engaged if you know their character’s traits and what they like, making stories and introducing subplots accordingly.

Use Random Tables

Sandboxing is a gaming artform whereby the players decide what, when, where and how they want to do things. You generally need to be able to improvise well to run these sorts of campaigns, but if you need some help, keep a bunch of random tables on hand to generate NPCs, encounters, names, etc. on the fly.

Kevin Crawford (the man who wrote Stars Without Number and other great OSR RPGs) includes random generators in all his books, and there are numerous random table/plot supplements available from various companies.

Say ‘Yes’ More

A method used in improv comedy is to say “Yes, and…”. In other words, agree with a player’s course of action and then see where it takes them next. Saying “yes” more often to players can be liberating and take the story in unexpected directions. Don’t worry, you can still say “no” to the really outlandish stuff. You’re still running the game, after all.

In a recent D&D adventure, the party was asked to help out with a murder investigation. One of the players decided they needed a writ from the vice mayor to show they were deputised, which they used several times to question townsfolk and gain access to buildings. After a run in with a local trader they decided to break into his shop at night to investigate some potentially illegal goods. The party decided to confront one of the murder suspects at the local lighthouse where he worked and during the meeting they sabotaged the light so that one of the ships in the port suspected of piracy would maroon on the rocks when it returned that night. I decided the lamp was mechanical, rather than magical, and rotated by way of two harnessed dogs, which the party co-opted to track down an Orc lair on the outside of town. The players decided to use one of the cleared suspects to stage a ruse and draw out the murderer.

None of that was planned. All of it came about because I made up stuff in response to what the players wanted to do, and said ‘yes’ more often. It opened up several options that kept them enthralled and made the adventure more fun for me as well.

So, learn to fly by the seat of your pants. Before you know it, you’ll be running the adventures you’ve always wanted to.

Cheers

DM Steve 😊

What did Steve just rabbit on about? Don’t know what D&D or RPGs are? Click here.

Haiku Friday: Angel. A haiku.

Angel

You descended from
on high, an angel whose wings
could fly no longer.

Haiku is a Japanese poetic form with a strict 5/7/5 syllable and line structure.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

I write a lot of poems, some from my head, some from my heart. Many don’t appear on this website. For more of my poetry, check out The All or the Nothing, my first e-book, available at most online book sellers.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Effigy. A poem.

My memories and yours,
burnt in
effigy.
They’re digital photos
deleted from
your phone.
The flames lick at them,
a contented
aftertaste.
They hang like meat,
smoked and
chargrilled.
The funeral tailor delivers
a final suit in
charcoal.

I write a lot of poems, some from my head, some from my heart. Many don’t appear on this website. For more of my poetry, check out The All or the Nothing, my first e-book, available at most online book sellers.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

The Cycle. A poem.

Strangers, friends, lovers,
then strangers again.
Lovers and strangers,
but no longer friends.

It seems it’s a cycle
we’re doomed to repeat.
A cycle of madness,
one we just can’t escape.
No matter how we try
to break the cycle each time,
we always end up
back at the start of the line:

strangers, friends, lovers,
then strangers again.
Lovers and strangers,
but no longer friends.

I write a lot of poems, some from my head, some from my heart. Many don’t appear on this website. For more of my poetry, check out The All or the Nothing, my first e-book, available at most online book sellers.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Poetry. A poem.

When I read good poetry
I want to write good poetry
But my feeble affectations
And wanton masturbations
Pale to insignificance
When compared to
Browning, Whitman, Yeats

I yearn to write good poetry
The way I yearn to read good poetry
But such poetic vastness
Just becomes loquaciousness
Flowing perspicaciously
Away into a vast, uncaring
And unconcerned wilderness

I write a lot of poems, some from my head, some from my heart. Many don’t appear on this website. For more of my poetry, check out The All or the Nothing, my first e-book, available at most online book sellers.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Disconnected. A poem.

                      Dream in

                                                            a state of

                        discontent

                               Disconnected

from all

                                               you hold dear

                  Did the

 world really

                                treat you

                       as bad as you think

or do you

                                                               Continually

                             Meditate

            on past

                 failures

                                           Like a prayer?

I write a lot of poems, some from my head, some from my heart. Many don’t appear on this website. For more of my poetry, check out The All or the Nothing, my first e-book, available at most online book sellers.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Day Trip. A poem.

Drive across the aimless asphalt,
seeking ventures gained and lost.

Your hand is soft in mine,
the patina of your skin a road map
of anxious lines and weary learnings.
Today the sun and hills call forth,
in a circus maximus fanfare,
full of rolling fields and girdled cows;
ecstatic lens flare in every vista,
like a bargain basement special effect.

These times we spend are fleeting,
flying from our lonely pigeon coops,
hankering for domestic ventures,
the taste of quixotically exotic foods.

Your hand, so soft in mine,
my hand, so soft in yours.

Drive on, until our conjoined experience
merges with the murky sunset
and the road leads to your door.

I write a lot of poems, some from my head, some from my heart. Many don’t appear on this website. For more of my poetry, check out The All or the Nothing, my first e-book, available at most online book sellers.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Party Girl. A poem.

She died that day, kept all inside,
No longer daddy’s joy and pride.
The little girl that love rejected,
forgotten in her wayward stride.

She turned to other things and men
and they did have their way, but then
she never seemed to learn from them;
the spin-cycle started once again.

She tried and tried to face her fears
but all the abject lies and tears
did make for thrilling bedside tales.
If only someone new would hear.

She lived to love another day,
never learned the error of her ways;
no, not then or now or when.
Perhaps tomorrow: ‘til then, she’ll pray.

I write a lot of poems, some from my head, some from my heart. Many don’t appear on this website. For more of my poetry, check out The All or the Nothing, my first e-book, available at most online book sellers.
Click here to find out how to purchase a copy

Haiku Friday: Tragedy. A haiku.

Tragedy

Tragedy is what
those who deter from fate’s path
call coincidence.

Haiku is a Japanese poetic form with a strict 5/7/5 syllable and line structure.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

I write a lot of poems, some from my head, some from my heart. Many don’t appear on this website. For more of my poetry, check out The All or the Nothing, my first e-book, available at most online book sellers.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Instrument of Thought. A poem.

Every thought is a mere
grace note, a barely
consumed pinpoint
in a barely thought out
world, an architectural
nightmare of unplanned
infrastructure and roads
to nowhere.

But every once in a while,
that note combines into
a chord, and the vision
and sound brings a
joy of logic and
circumspection to the
almighty chaos.

This instrument will
always and never
let you down.

I write a lot of poems, some from my head, some from my heart. Many don’t appear on this website. For more of my poetry, check out The All or the Nothing, my first e-book, available at most online book sellers.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

The Difference. A poem.

Not the same,
not the way it was before,
even though it was nothing less
and nothing more,
it’s not the same.

Just a shame
it’s not like it was before,
even though it could never be,
of that I’m sure.
Such a shame.

No one to blame,
and neither here nor there
or anything in between, you see,
of that I am aware.
Nothing left to say.

I write a lot of poems, some from my head, some from my heart. Many don’t appear on this website. For more of my poetry, check out The All or the Nothing, my first e-book, available at most online book sellers.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

What I’ve been watching 2

A few months back I did some mini-reviews of Netflix shows I’d been watching (Australian Netflix – some of these series are on different networks in America and Europe). Here are some more short reviews of what I’ve been watching:

Star Trek Discovery

Great sci-fi show set in the movie universe pre-Kirk, with Spock’s adopted sister as the lead. It has a cool twist at the end of the first season.
Rating: B+

Jane the Virgin

Romantic comedy series that parodies Latin telenovellas. Everybody is into everyone! Cool narration, too.
Rating: B

12 Monkeys

Time travelling to save the world from an army and a lethal virus. Really steps up its game from S2 onwards.
Rating: C+

Luke Cage

Excellent street-level superhero series that’s only let down by a dodgy battle in the S1 finale.
Rating: B-

The Expanse

Great sci-fi show based on the books by James SA Corey. A solar system of political intrigue and imminent war, with an alien presence about to change everything.
Rating: C+

How to Get Away With Murder

Gotta love an ongoing murder mystery set on a college campus with weekly episodic legal procedurals.
Rating: B+

Iron Fist

An honourable man with amazing martial arts abilities returns to his company after years missing, but they don’t want him back. The low budget really shows, but this was interesting and handled ‘The Hand’ better than S2 of the Daredevil show.
Rating: C+

Ajin

Japanese anime about immortal creatures living among humans who are captured and experimented on. What happens when they decide to fight back? Gorgeous animation, smart, violent and not for kids.
Rating: B

Daredevil

Matt Murdock is a blind lawyer who becomes a vigilante by night. Very ‘Batman’. S1 is the best of the few seasons available.
Rating: C

Defenders

Team-up of Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and Iron Fist against the Hand’s loopy machinations. Drags a bit. The individual series were better.
Rating: C-

Mars

Docudrama showing the first settlement of the Red Planet, real science commentary offsets the drama. Fascinating.
Rating: B+

Arrow

Superhero Green Arrow takes on crime with a bow and a team. Still going strong after six seasons, but running out of essential characters to kill (and bring back). Also very ‘Batman’.
Rating: C

The End of the Fxxxing World

Two kids on a road trip, one plans to kill the other. Definitely not a comedy (although it’s marketed that way). Mental health issues, murder and abuse. Hard hitting, but sensitive and amusing as well.
Rating: B

Cheers

Steve 🙂

Punch Drunk. A poem.

I can feel the jagged terrain
of your knuckles on my face,
the force of mountain slides
delivered on winds of fury
and ever-reckless contempt.
Should I return the favour
or turn the other cheek,
as my saviour recommends?
I’ll go down this time
with measured complacency,
keeping my fumes interned.
Because, after all:
what’s an absent punch
between absent friends?

I write a lot of poems, some from my head, some from my heart. Many don’t appear on this website. For more of my poetry, check out The All or the Nothing, my first e-book, available at most online book sellers.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Mermaid. A poem.

For far too long have I been bereft,
a lonely thing, dragged and left,
taken down to quench my thirst,
to bitter shoals to do their worst.
No sails upon this mast of mine
to catch the winds of better times,
to slice the waves and undertow,
one more soul, one vast ocean.

But things it seems are looking up,
the current here bends to my luck,
it guides me to the surface there,
and to her arms, a mermaid fair.
Perhaps it’s all a distant fancy,
a reverie, a wholesome fantasy.
Just illusions in my head?
Perhaps this drowning man is dead.

I write a lot of poems, some from my head, some from my heart. Many don’t appear on this website. For more of my poetry, check out The All or the Nothing, my first e-book, available at most online book sellers.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

Mission Impossible: Fallout. A movie review.

Negligible spoilers!

I’d heard good things about Cruise’s latest impossible mission and decided to give it a go. MI:Fallout has a reasonable story with twists I (unfortunately) saw coming a mile away and some very stoic performances. It rises to the occasion with lots of well executed and thrilling stunts, many performed by Cruise himself.

Cruise is back as Ethan Hunt, working for the IMF, a covert group that takes on impossible and deniable government spy missions. A terrorist group has gotten their hands on three Russian nuclear warheads and plan to blow up stuff. Hunt’s team has to get the warheads back. Along for the ride is a CIA hitman (Henry Cavill) to make sure they don’t screw up. He seems to screw up far more than they do, though.

I get the impression if I’d watched the previous movies I would have more attachment to the characters, as MI:Fallout assumes you’re a fan and thus provides no backstory for any of them. I felt detached as a result and so really didn’t care if they lived or died (or why they bother doing these thankless jobs in the first place). The story was full of twists (as you’d expect from an action spy thriller), but they were fairly obvious so the movie lost the element of surprise it should have had going for it. I’m so tired of hearing The Dark Knight’s much-copied plot twist: “he planned to be captured all along!”

Tom Cruise did many of his own stunts, with various scenes showing Cruise in the thick of the action—across rooftops, on a motorbike, cars, helicopters, halo jumping—he certainly earned his money. The stunts were the core of this movie and quite impressive, but without an emotional attachment to the characters the whole thing left me feeling flatter than Cruise and Cavill’s monotone performances (Cruise hasn’t really acted in a movie since Magnolia in ‘99).

MI:Fallout is one for the franchise’s fans, or for people who love action set pieces but don’t care about emotional engagement.

Rating: C+

Haiku Friday: The Path. A haiku.

The Path
Thank me when the night
journeys into day and the
path is lit again.

Haiku is a Japanese poetic form with a strict 5/7/5 syllable and line structure.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

I write a lot of poems, some from my head, some from my heart. Many don’t appear on this website. For more of my poetry, check out The All or the Nothing, my first e-book, available at most online book sellers.
Click here to find out how to purchase a copy

Return to Form. A poem.

Why do you care

if

I

feel more pain

than

you?

Your subtle glance

in

half-light,

barely aware

of

my

passing shadow.

How

far

will your hurt

take

you

back again

to

rile

so hypocritically

against

the

burgeoning gates?

I write a lot of poems, some from my head, some from my heart. Many don’t appear on this website. For more of my poetry, check out The All or the Nothing, my first e-book, available at most online book sellers.
Click here to find out how to purchase a copy

 

Aimless Wanderer. A poem.

Aimless wanderer,
where do you wander
and what do you see?
Helpless and circumspect,
lost betwixt light and night.

Aimless wanderer
What do you wonder
In times like these?
Empty and argumentative,
found betwixt might and right.

Aimless wanderer,
wander another day
until you can wonder no more.

I write a lot of poems, some from my head, some from my heart. Many don’t appear on this website. For more of my poetry, check out The All or the Nothing, my first e-book, available at most online book sellers.
Click here to find out how to purchase a copy

Apology. A poem.

I’m so sorry that I left you
to face the world alone.
I’m so sorry for the things I said
and did, I will atone.
I’m so sorry I can’t help you
now, in your time of need.
I’m so sorry you won’t read these words
and know the pain I feel.
I’m so sorry life’s against you
with no allies by your side.
I’m so sorry I can’t save you
from yourself and from the lies.
I’m so sorry that your tears
now fall from vacant eyes.
I’m so sorry, this apology
will only just suffice.

I write a lot of poems, some from my head, some from my heart. Many don’t appear on this website. For more of my poetry, check out The All or the Nothing, my first e-book, available at most online book sellers.
Click here to find out how to purchase a copy

An Elegy. A poem.

It’s almost surreal
when your back’s against the wall,
your toes upon the razor’s edge,
one slip and then you fall.

It’s the strangest feeling
when all the good you’ve done
is dismissed as mere circumstance,
and everything undone.

It’s so hard to describe
when you’re under a microscope,
black dog by your side,
you’re victim to genre tropes.

It’s trying, to say the least
when all your pain and hardship,
is written off as wistful thinking,
then summarily dismissed.

It’s truly heart breaking
when your life is deemed unworthy
and you’re reduced to an empty elegy,
just a litany, said briefly.

Perhaps the fabled next life
will treat and judge you better,
enable all your hopes and dreams,
to live your life unfettered.

I write a lot of poems, some from my head, some from my heart. Many don’t appear on this website. For more of my poetry, check out The All or the Nothing, my first e-book, available at most online book sellers.
Click here to find out how to purchase a copy

Sea of Love. A poem.

I long for the sea,
to feel the bright whispers
of the surf and salt
between my toes,
the sand crumbling
beneath my feet.

I long to float in her,
to move my restless shell
along her graceful curves,
to feel her cold embrace
and her watery kiss
upon my face.

The sea, my long lost love,
that seems so near and far.
I beckon for a taste
of her abyss and
her fulsome depths.

I write a lot of poems, some from my head, some from my heart. Many don’t appear on this website. For more of my poetry, check out The All or the Nothing, my first e-book, available at most online book sellers.
Click here to find out how to purchase a copy

Grave. A poem.

I stand before the hole
that wouldst be my grave.
Where sullen earth
and tepid worms do cry
and call to me, my ample soul.

This grave I’ve dug
to fit my fettered frame,
denuded in the wintry night
to lie amongst the frost,
colluding with the fog and fug.

I will lay me down
and rest awhile, until my bones
do merge with dust and dirt
and the finery of such a life
is wasted and unwound.

I write a lot of poems, some from my head, some from my heart. Many don’t appear on this website. For more of my poetry, check out The All or the Nothing, my first e-book, available at most online book sellers.
Click here to find out how to purchase a copy

Haiku Friday: Unsatisfied. A haiku.

Unsatisfied

An endless task is
finding a perfect fit for
the unsatisfied.

Haiku is a Japanese poetic form with a strict 5/7/5 syllable and line structure.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

I write a lot of poems, some from my head, some from my heart. Many don’t appear on this website. For more of my poetry, check out The All or the Nothing, my first e-book, available at most online book sellers.
Click here to find out how to purchase a copy

The Breaker Upperers. A movie review.

New Zealand humour is quirky. The accents certainly help (no offence intended, kiwi readers—I love your accents). The Breaker Upperers, the new comedy from the scripting and directorial team of Madeleine Sami and Jackie van Beek (also the two leads) is funny and sweet, with a bit of raunch thrown in for good measure.

Mel (Sami) and Jen (Van Beek) are two long term friends who make a living providing a service that breaks up relationships. They live by a credo of not getting attached or involved, which makes their ethically-dubious schemes easier for them to live with. It’s not until they start breaking their own rules that they realise karma has a habit of catching up, and their friendship is in the firing line.

The Breaker Upperers is the funniest movie I’ve seen this year. It manages to nail the bizarre circumstances of relationship breakdowns on the head, while at the same time teaching some valuable life lessons about true friendship. The gags are original, understated and, at times, over the top, and I couldn’t get enough. Despite this some will feel it’s not their thing, even if they do get the humour.

And everyone in this movie looks natural. Yep, there are no good looking people to be seen. How often does that happen on the big screen?

I thoroughly recommend The Breaker Upperers. If you like NZ comedies, such as Hunt for the Wilder People or Boy, you’ll love this. Oh, for those who try to avoid these things, there’s a sex scene—it’s very funny, though.

Rating: B

Anvil. Part 18.

Alfred Bester is a tall man, well over six foot and waif thin. He has a full head of brown hair with a prominent widow’s peak, greying somewhat but less than one would expect for someone in such a powerful position. Bester is supremely confident—a man doesn’t get to his level without being so. When he walks, others move out of his way, some bowing in deference. He is a scientist without measure, an unparalleled businessman, a risk taker and opportunist of the highest order. Creator of nano-polymer, transteel, transluminal/tachyon displacement and gravitic absorption/generation technologies, to name a few of his inventions.

Bester’s business successes are legendary, the rumours of how he achieved those successes just as fabled. To offset any negativity, he is heavily involved in charity missions around the drowned world, offsetting his massive profits helping the poor and sick wherever he can. The public and the private world of Alfred Bester mingle with myths and hearsay, making him a cypher known only to a few.

It is Bester’s gravitic absorption technology that provides the basis for the massive Hoop that surrounds the planet, a colossal nano-polymer carbon ring rotating in geosynchronous orbit twenty thousand kilometres above the equator—his crowning achievement. Neutralising the gravity well generated by the planet below made the Earth-orbital ringworld possible. With hundreds of millions of square kilometres of space on the Hoop’s internal surface, a viable atmosphere and Earth-like gravity provided by spin, a population of twenty billion of the richest people alive live in paradise, heaven made real. The Hoop is the base for Earthgov and every private mega-corporation in existence, the solar system’s centre of power, the hub of a business empire that controls everything and everyone.

The remnants of Earth’s population are limited to scattered airborne cities, hovering over blighted waveruin communities nestled in the tumultuous oceans that swamped the planet as the atmosphere warmed over centuries. The waveruins are the last domain of organised crime, marginalised by corporations far more powerful, efficient and deadly.

It’s his eyes though, that tell the real story of Alfred Bester. Steel grey, hypnotic and all knowing, they seem to pierce another’s soul and reveal their innermost secrets. Those eyes have seen the rise and fall of powerful people, corporations, governments—history itself. It’s rumoured Bester’s eyes are the last human pieces of the man, now immortal as a result of full subdermal armaturisation and macro-personality upload. But that’s just a rumour. He looks as human as ever.

Bester strides the corridors of power, his four clone velociraptor bodyguards springing lightly along behind him, their razor-sharp dewclaws tapping the floors as they sniff for threats and prey. Their cybernetically-enhanced vision scans constantly, identifying the surrounds in ultra violet and infrared.

Shi-Cho’s headstrong attack on the New York waveruin Triad was a mistake, but not unrecoverable. Bester may be the richest, most important man on the planet, but he is always conscious of the trading relationships he built along the way. The waveruin Triads generate limited Verso and Damage drug profits for some of his minor shelf companies, but it is not an arrangement he wishes to sacrifice needlessly. Control over even the most marginalised of the population is still control, after all. And Bester is all about control.

Bester comes to a halt at an enormous transteel window. Outside he can see the arch of the Hoop against a background of space and stars, rising up and shrinking in the distance as it curls around blue Earth below, disappearing in the planet’s shadow. The inner ring contains massive cities and extended natural landscapes as far as the eye can see, shrouded by the occasional high-level cloud system.

All his. All because of him. It never fails to impress even the most powerful man in the solar system.

Bester checks the experimental mass-matter transporter on his wrist, the size of a small wristwatch but perhaps the most complex feat of engineering ever created. A prototype short-range wormhole generator, currently being tested by himself. It’s something that will revolutionise future planetary and system travel and eventually expand his grasp to the distant stars, currently only reachable by transluminal arks undertaking five to ten-year journeys.

Hovering in space beyond the inner Hoop’s atmosphere is a kilometre-long cruiser, appearing in the distance as a thin tube studded with armaments and huge manoeuvring arrays—the Hyperion, Bester’s personal cruiser. His fingers deftly manipulate the hologram controls generated by the transporter on his wrist. His raptors stand ready, sensing the ionisation of the surrounding air. Space bends without a sound and Bester is instantly aboard the cruiser’s extensive bridge. His raptors stand furtively behind him. Outside the huge viewports, the Hoop and the Earth move in perfect synchronisation.

The Hyperion’s Captain stands to attention and salutes. “I’ll never get used to you just appearing, sir.”

Bester smiles. “One day soon, Captain Ward, this will be the only way to travel. Starships and interceptors will become the stuff of myth. Like the Disney Conglomerate, once the world’s biggest mega-corporation. And you know what I did with that.”

Captain Ward grins, his almond-shaped eyes becoming thin lines. “I hope there’s a place for me in your new instantaneous-travel-world, sir. What heading?”

Flotsam station, over dark side. We’ll join Shi-Cho’s mercenary fleet and see if he’s worth the money I pay him.”

“On our way, sir.”

* * *

“You led them here in one of their own trace-enabled ships?” Johnston is flabbergasted. Kanji snorts and Jayle kicks her in the shins, shutting her up. Sarain stands behind, beaming and rubbing her massive zylex hands together. Violet sits on the couch, sucking her teddy bear’s ear, quietly watching proceedings.

“And these guys are our allies, now?” Johnston gestures to the Anvil, Granny Chun, Big Jimmy and a sheepish Olsin, standing behind Chao. Jimmy glares at Jayle, who winks and makes a show of fingering Jimmy’s .357 Magnum tucked safely in her gun belt. Chun and the Anvil smile and wave at Violet, who returns the gesture.

Lady Chao shrugs and Alida grimaces. “Get over it, Johnston,” says Chao. “You’re always harping on about how little action your team sees. Now is your time to shine.”

“Time to die, more like it,” says Johnston. “If Bester comes along for a joyride in his cruiser he can make this station into swiss cheese without raising a sweat.”

Lady Chao glances at Violet. “Not without swiss cheesing his daughter. And he’s gone to great lengths in the past to make sure she’s not hurt. I have to assume the lunatic in charge of his army isn’t that stupid.” She pauses for a moment, pondering. “Although they did destroy my tower with very little thought for who would be injured.”

Johnston sighs. “You pay the bills, Lady Chao. You’re the boss.” Behind him his team postures, as if posing for some invisible photo shoot. “Possibly for the last time,” he says.

“A quick question,” says the Anvil in her male voice. “Where can I get my hands on some memjets? I seem to have lost my supply when we were nearly drowned.” She eyes Chun, who pretends to check her nails.

Lady Chao raises an eyebrow. “Memory issues, armature? There are numerous malls and pharmacies around. You’d better make it quick, though. We need to brief with station command about our defensive strategy. I want you there.”

The Anvil leaves through a sliding door, Olsin skirting along behind. Chun frowns as she watches the armature exit.

To be continued…

Missed earlier instalments? Click here.

What is ANVIL?

ANVIL is a deliberately unplanned, multi-part short story I’m creating week-by-week to challenge myself as a writer (I’ve done this before with The Sale – check it out by clicking here). My intention is to write an episode as often as possible, generally (but not always) ending with a cliff hanger, then work out how to solve the dilemma and continue the story. I have no idea how the story will progress, no idea what it’s about until I get there.

Only you can tell me if it’s successful, or not. I hope you enjoy my continuing experiment.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

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