27 January, 2010

Side Step...The Mists of History

I found it very fitting that inspiration struck me for a new Side Step while I was at my family cabin, as far technology as I get. History holds many lessons for all of us. Especially, as I have learned, in the grand scheme of it all.
Recently I pondered the plight of crews captured by Somali pirates. The incident that brought this to the forefront of my thoughts concerned a Greek vessel. I forget the exact number of months, but it was quite a long time the crew was held captive. Their incarceration only ended upon the payment of a huge sum of cash.
I remembered that history carried a similar scenario. Over 200 years previous, American merchantmen began plying the waves. Upon entering the Mediterranean they encountered the ships of the Barbary States. America quickly fell into the European practise of paying for the privilege of sailing in the region and suffering the occasional merchant vessel being captured.
After some years, not to mention more attacks from the Barbary pirates, the Americans opted to forsake the European policy of appeasement. Initially, the American counterstrike failed miserably, with one American warship being captured. In the end, as the Americans learned, the counterstrike worked, and the pirates were soundly defeated.
While some things have changed in the over 200 years hence, the situations bear some similarities.
The pirates of old were loosely backed by four nations. Our modern day pirates are loosely backed by one nation, and possibly other interested parties. Both groups of pirates practise their trade for essentially the same reason: Plunder and money. Both groups acquire the money through the plunder of the cargo and ransom of ships and their crews. Both groups of pirates represent a menace to the commerce within their sphere of influence.
The question standing out in my mind, and the one I pose to you:

Why are we letting the pirates of the modern day continue with their actions?

I know their have been some small scale military actions against these pirates. As a whole though, it seems we are still letting them be a menace.

I entreat you to read up on the pirates of today, and the pirates of yesterday in the Barbary States. Then ponder my question and draw your own answer.

17 January, 2010

On the New Frontier...Falling Away

(This is the first totally new story I have written in a good while. It is a very short story, but uses science fiction to tell a tale of making sure history ends in a place. And of course, there is a small amount of mystery to go with the story.)

I stared at the stars, searching for an answer.
None presented themselves for review, so I found myself staring across the horizon. Looking to the west, I saw the faintest of glows. I sighed at it, knowing the twin moons were about to rise.
I sat, wearily upon the rock nearest to me. I kept staring towards the faint moonrise, one thought going through my mind. It kept cycling continuously, akin to drums I had once heard on the plains of Africa so many years ago. Haunting was that melody, as tireless as the Darkness.
It has come to this. It has come to this. It has come to this.
I looked into the darkness of the east, hearing those words and those drums of days past. I smiled sadly, my entire life playing out in my head. so many adventures spread across the vastness of time itself. So many places, and so many dreams chasing each other.
It has come to this. It has come to this. It has come to this.
The rebel and independent spirit in me suddenly gripped me. I felt the urge to run, as I had always done. Find another way, search for the possibilities, luck into a solution and all the like.
Shaking my head, I sat once again on the rock. My momentary surge of rebelliousness caused me pain and weakness. I fought off a shudder, knowing that my cellular degeneration was fighting the chemicals in myself and my will to perform one last time upon the stage of existence.
It has come to this. It has come to this. It has come to this.
"Ah Roderick, cells turning to jelly on you?"
I didn't even turn at the sound of the cold mockery. "You should know very well the answer to that."
A low sinister laugh washed over me. I refused to turn still, knowing full well the expression on the face of my companion of the moment. Hearing his laughter subside, I spoke evenly, "Have you decided on my offer?"
"Indeed I have, "came the scornful reply," and find your offer laughable and almost contemptible."
I shook my head sadly and slowly. Knowing he would answer that way still made this difficult. I pushed myself painfully off my rock, pulling my ancient Terran pocket watch out. Pushing the release open, I noted the time with fondness. Closing the watch, I turned to face my companion.
I looked into the familiar features and burning eyes. Even in this darkest of moments, I could not resist a faint smile. I always found the sight of my companion just slightly amusing.
Staring at my own features without the benefit of a mirror, I noted the sneer on my double's face. No sense of humor in my alternate dimension self as usual, smiling back at him.
My alternate self drew his weapon. Smiling wickedly, I watched him make a dramatic show of setting the thing to full intensity. I could not help myself, I smiled watching my very own sense of high drama play out in front of me. I held my hands out in front of me, smiling broader now.
"I am glad to see that our sense of drama is still quite intact after all."
My double merely continued to train his weapon on me. His sense, like mine, no doubt detected the menace in my studied nonchalance. He studied me intently, looking for a clue to my calm in the face of death.
I moved slightly, putting my back to the increasing moonrise. Staring intently at each other, a sudden wind whipped up. I smiled brightly, gritting my teeth through the pain of cellular degeneration. I watched slowly as a sudden realisation spread across my face mirrored opposite of me.
My double tapped away at the communicator on his wrist. He tapped harder and harder as he received no satisfactory response. His eyes widening in panic, he kept trying. Finally he ripped off the device and held it in his hand. Hissing at me, he spat, "Cute Roderick. However the ultimate victory will be mine."
I merely smiled as he pressed a button on his communicator. I knew damn full well what it was for. It was the fail safe arm for his plague bombs set across the galaxy. Once activated, 90% of the galaxy's population would die slowly, agonizingly. What would be left would be unable to fight off the alternate dimension's forces, allowing them dominion over an entire galaxy.
The darkness wavered around us. I simply stood, watching in amusement. I finally said, "Rod my boy, you would dream for a moment that I would let you just carry the day, would you?"
My doppelganger glared at me, then at the sky. Clouds formed suddenly and skated in rapid pace across the sky. Lightning flashed in those clouds, growing in intensity. Laughing loudly, I spread my arms. Screaming above the madness of nature, I starred deep into Rod's eyes.
"I had a terrible time finding a place to bring you. Knowing your history matched mine nearly to the letter, and knowing you so intimately, I knew you weren't going to fall for a clever trick."
I paused long enough to glare at Rod. Discerning the panic in his eyes, I laughed as loud as I could. I continued screaming, as the ground commenced heaving.
"So it has come to this! Your ships is gone! We stand together, dying. Your plan is ruined! It has come to this!"

In orbit of the Pralis nebula, a marker makes it's passage every year. It beeps out a simple message.
Here ended the day...beginning the day anew.

05 January, 2010

Side Step...Fear and 2012

It has come to my attention that 2012 is striking fear into some people. It reared its head a while back while working. I was listening to Weekend All Things Considered, a news program we run at 90.5 WDUQ. They were conducting an interview with the Director of NASA. He began talking about emails he got from random people, asking about 2012.

It is thought, as I am certain most of you know, that 2012 will see the world end. This is due to the fact that the Mayan calendar is ending, and there is not another Mayan calendar. All forms of disaster are predicted for this event.

Some of the emails he had gotten chilled me. Some people were asking him when to commit suicide among other insanities. Hearing this made me wonder about how and why anyone would think that.

Pondering the problem, I began talking to people and searching the Internet. I suddenly came to a simple conclusion.

There is loads on the subject. And I mean loads.

Some of it, I found to my dismay was plain poppycock. Some of it actually was truthful. Some of it made me wonder seriously about the loss of brain cells due to questionable activity.

Here's the short of it all. Yes, the Mayan calendar ends in 2012. yes there is no more calendars to follow it. No, there are still followers of the Mayan faith and history, and they see no need to make a new one. Yes the Mayan calendar has ended before. The world did not end then either, unless I am living one serious delusion.

In short, don't panic. Nothing is going to happen. We will be fine, and the world will continue spinning on it's merry little way round the Sun.

Although if I happen to be wrong, no one is going to be able to say 'I told you so'.

04 January, 2010

Side Step...2010: Odyssey Two

Standing amid the falling snow, I realised three things immediately:

First, it was damn cold. And I was not wearing a coat.

Second, that I had entered another decade.

Third, that it was the year of a favourite movie of mine.

Once these revelations appeared, and I realised I was freezing, I began to think more.

It has been an interesting nearly six months. Between getting laid off, chasing something new to believe in, trying to quit smoking, and my old friends Chaos and Insanity, that times have changed. I am still trying to decide if they have changed for the better or not.

So as the new year begins, I find myself at something of a crossroads once more. I am just not sure where this is going to end up. It is indeed a worrisome endevour to say the least.

Until I remember something simple: Life is but a grand adventure. Therein, lies the true beauty of it all.

So yay it is 2010. It is another marker in a long and checkered career of Chaos and Insanity. And this Time, thanks to a couple of helping hands, I am not starting it off the wrong way.

More writing is on the way. As a favourite character of mine once put it, I am full of ideas, bursting with them.

Now, if the bloody snow would stop.