07:55:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 819 words  
Categories: Announcements, Old Ventures: Refuge

ANNOUNCEMENT: NaNoWriMo 2018, Old Venture: Refuge

I'm sorry. I know, no man is an island, but I've had trouble even being one drop of rain in a river. It's difficult, these days, not to feel like the very foundations of sanity are shaking loose. And I have struggled under my burdens, as I know many of you do. I only yesterday finished last year's NaNo (which I'll be uploading soon to the blog) and I'm going to try and publish one chapter a day this NaNo. It's going to be a rough election cycle this year, and I'm hoping we can get through it together. But if you retain none of the words before or after this, remember these: you are not alone. Amidst all the chaos, and pain, and dehumanizing horror, you are known, you are cared about, you are loved. And so long as we continue to have each other, and to hold one another in our hearts, we have hope. Below is an excerpt, a preview of a chapter I realized was important enough to write and publish out of order, where it might still have some impact. As always, check back daily for updates, on this as well as on older projects that I got behind in posting publicly. And in the meantime, may you and yours stay safe and close in these trying times.

* * *

Jack stepped out onto the stage, and for a moment was blinded by the house lights, and then the chorus of flashbulbs from the media. "I'm happier than I can say to welcome a true American hero onto this stage," the man said, flashing a wide smile.

Jack shook his hand stiffly, then waited for him to clear the stage before speaking. "I'm not comfortable being here," Jack said, "and I'm sure that shows."

The audience chuckled nervously. "That's okay. You're laughing with me," he paused, "I think."

"But I've never been comfortable using my... celebrity, I guess, like this. I've marched, with John Lewis, Martin Luther King, for many varied human rights on many different occasions. You could say I've never been apolitical... but I've always attempted to keep who I am as a man separate from who I was as a symbol. I never wanted to trade on the good I've done, and even today, that's not my goal.

"But I can no longer abide my prior silence. This is not the usual push and pull of politics. This is the rise of something far more sinister, an enemy we fought a world war against, an enemy I hoped we vanquished for good. Maybe that was nave of me. Maybe my generation failed to keep the flames of vigilance lit.

"I didn't decide to speak until last week. I waited, hoping that sanity would return, that someone, anyone, would be able to show the Republican candidate that he's not just trying to be the leader of conservative America, or scared America, that he'll need to lead all of us. He'll need to represent the will of all of us. He'll need to represent the hopes, as well as the fears, of all of us. And their convention convinced me that realization will forever evade him. At his core, he is a divisive and spiteful man. He doesn't like the idea of an America united, unless he can force us to unite behind him, not as a good and changed man, but as he is, angry, scared and lashing out.

"And with each passing day, the parallels with the fascist rise- a rise that cost our world millions of lives- become stronger, and harder to ignore. Every day, more language about how everyone but America is the problem is used, while more narrowly defining what counts as America. I have seen this ugliness before, I have seen what it does to good men and women caught up in its throes, and I have seen what they in turn do to those they deem unworthy of sharing soil with. I wish I could be here for any other reason, truly. But we do not get to choose our burdens, only how we rise to meet them.

"So please, vote. Not just for Democrats, but for democracy itself, for a return to normalcy, to respecting our differences, and the rights of others. For returning this country to an ideal for the rest of the world to envy. For a world where our most vulnerable are cared for, protected, and safe. For America as we want her to be, and need her to be, not what she was. Because viewing who she was through rose-tinted glasses can't erase those who were left behind or excluded in that past, and we know better, now, and we have to do better. The only hope I have to leave you with is this: we can do better. I've seen it. And I pray I'll live to see it again. Thank you."

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  06:59:19 am, by Nic Wilson   , 377 words  
Categories: Gitmo

Gitmo 19: Sputtering

The rest of the day was a blur of investigation- all of it yielding nothing new. Gates flew in a sergeant who day-jobbed as a forensic analyst to get my evidence; the Army had had way too many issues with chain of custody in the past.

?On the one hand,? he said, ?it?s a pain in the ass flying out here. On the other, I?m salary, so I?m getting my civilian pay for the day and my Army stipend. There are worse ways to waste time- at least less lucrative ones.?

He was only half-joking, although from what he told me, it sounded like they wanted him to do the analysis, too. So he wasn?t just a glorified courier.

And motor pool were quick fixing up my truck. They got the parts and tools from a local mechanic shop. When he was done with the wiring and the windshield, the mechanic said, ?Shit. If I?d been thinking about it, I?d have grabbed you a car alarm. Make sure this don?t happen again- or at least if it does, that you catch the idiot with his junk in the cookie jar.? He promised to bring one by in a day or two- though I wasn?t sure how easy that would be.

I took my sweet time getting Khalid back to the cell. By the time I did he had trouble walking, so I had to half carry him. Tariq went home, though he wasn?t keen on the idea. In fact, he offered to sleep on the floor outside the cell, just to be near me and the guns. I finally sold him by giving him one of the radios. ?I better not come to your house in the morning and find wires spread out all over the place like it?s Radio Shack.? He stared at me, confused. ?Just, I want my radio back in one piece. Okay?? He shook his head.

The old man was upset, and it seemed to upset his bowels. I don?t know what he?d eaten, but it made the entire bunker smell like a Chipotle men?s room. Even when the gas attack subsided, Khalid smelled, of sweat and spices. It made it hard to feel safe in my home.


  07:57:09 am, by Nic Wilson   , 26 words  
Categories: Barren Mind

Barren Mind: With Apologies to George Lucas and Gene Roddenberry

There's a new Barren Mind, this one with a title too long to display anywhere but here: With Apologies To George Lucas, And Maybe Gene Roddenberry.


  08:01:05 am, by Nic Wilson   , 299 words  
Categories: Gitmo

Gitmo 18: Ground

I stood up, and started walking away from Ramzi. I keyed my radio. ?Orange cat, this is blue dog.?

?No balls being scratched.?

?I find that hard to believe, TOC watch being the ballscratchinest duty the Army has.?

?Uh, sir??

?Nothing, orange cat. Looks like we?re wrapping up here- wrapping the ?oh, shit? part of the investigation, anyway. From here it?s going to be up to lab samples and interrogation. From you I?m going to need a few things: a couple of men with a truck; fertilizer has to go, and I?ve also got some evidence that the lab?s going to have to check over, for prints or fibers. Also going to need the best locksmith you can grab ahold of. And a vehicle mechanic, with replacement electronics for a Ford Bronco, ?97.?


?Tell me about it.?

?But we?ve got all that on-base. I was sweating you might ask for something more exotic.?

?What, like a dancer??

?We?ve got those on base, too,? he quipped. ?But you?re certain you don?t need any EOD??

?The device wasn?t ever finished. They were interrupted, that much seems clear. If you?re feeling squirrelly you can send disposal with the truck, but it looks like they barely had time to get the electronics out of my truck, let alone wire anything.?

?You?re just sending the fertilizer, right? No accelerants??

?Right. I?ll dust the diesel jugs myself, and send any prints I might find. There?ll at least be mine on there, probably whoever filled them back at Gates.?

?Well, I?ll pull up the requisition order and find out who filled it, just so we know if we?ve got a third set of prints.?

?Excellent. I?ll be waiting at the carport.?



  06:38:06 am, by Nic Wilson   , 449 words  
Categories: Gitmo

Gitmo 17: Fertile

I stepped out into Khalid?s back yard. Ramzi was teetering on the edge of the deck out of boredom. ?Shit,? I said, seeing that he was still tied. ?Sorry about that.? I cut him loose. ?Bad, weird morning.? He almost seemed to sympathize.

?So what the hell happened? This looks bad for all involved. But as far as I can figure- despite how circumstantially bad it looks for a group of Sunnis to have a butchered Shia in their back yard- his death wasn?t on you guys.?

His eyes narrowed.

?I?m trying to figure this out. You know those Army tribunal guys, they?re hungry to put any of you into the penal system. They could care less about the particulars. But I live here. I have a vested interest in not letting people blow parts of Bim Baa Chiaa into the afterlife.?

His eyes widened. ?Excuse me??

?You didn?t know??

?What about?? There was an edge of panic to his voice.

?They set a bomb behind the mosque. It?s where Mahmoud was found.?

?So Allah protected us.?

?Maybe so. I?ll be sending everything to the lab, and they should be able to tell me if his fingerprints are on anything. If Mahmoud was our bomber, he wasn?t wearing gloves, and didn?t likely have time to wipe prints off anything. But that I kind of doubt. About a third of the men in his camp have expertise in bombs, another third or so have passing knowledge and in a pinch could maybe whip something up. But Mahmoud wasn?t one of them. No Casio wristwatch.? I realized after saying it that he wasn?t Sunni, anyway, so he couldn?t have trained with Al Qaeda. Served me right for trying to make jokes.

?We were walking to our morning prayers. Khalid saw the body, in your bag. He said that we needed to police ourselves, to know if wolves were among us.?

?So it was the old man?s idea to take the body. And the thousand cuts??

?As I said. We know of the trackers. And we did not have time for finesse.?

?And the cutlery??

?Khalid?s. From his kitchen.?

?And what did you find??

?I don?t know. Khalid thought perhaps the murderer would return. I was to protect the body. We did not expect you- not so soon. Whatever they discussed in the kitchen, I was not privy to it.?

?Why the sudden freeze out? You were good enough to pray with them, but not good enough for the kitchen pow-wow??

?I was chosen for the duty.?

?How were you chosen??

?We drew lots.?


  04:46:59 am, by Nic Wilson   , 18 words  
Categories: Barren Mind

Barren Mind: Achy Breaky Complications

There's a new Barren Mind up, introducing the chiropractor- who is more exciting than she sounds- trust me.


  04:35:45 am, by Nic Wilson   , 388 words  
Categories: Gitmo

Gitmo 16: Will Out

I tossed the bundle of wire onto the floor in front of Khalid. He barely paid attention to the fact I was back in his kitchen. I grabbed his hair and forced his head down, so he looked at it, though I couldn?t force him far, since he was still tied to the chair.

?That was ripped out of my Bronco.?

He smiled from under his little shitstain of a moustache.

?It was part of a bomb being assembled behind the mosque.?

His smile died, as if he?d just realized someone had shaved off his moustache while he slept and replaced it with shit.

?This looks real bad for you, Khalid. Bomb in the mosque. Corpse, stolen from the scene, found in your possession, along with a whole mess of Brutuses.?

?I want a lawyer.?

?Fuck you. This is why I told them not to give you cable. An episode of Law and Order and you think you?re Matlock. This isn?t a police station. I?m not charging you with anything. I?m asking if you have anything to tell me about this, before I hand it over to a prosecutor who is, more likely than not, going to charge you with murder, conspiracy and attempt to use a weapon of mass destruction.?

?Fuck your mother with a pig?s dick.?

?Hey, works for me. You get another extended vacation at pound me in the ass prison while you await trial, I get you out of my hair and can go back to not having a murder and a bomb plot to worry about. At the same time, the murder and attempted bombing give me enough of a pretext to crack down, put heavier locks on all the tools and equipment, greater limits on freedoms. Whatever it takes to keep you people from murdering each other.?

?You people?? he asks. He must be desperate if he?s appealing to political correctness.

?Yeah. There isn?t a man here who isn?t at least an attempted murderer. Except me.?

?You?ve killed your own kind.?

?No. I?ve killed your kind. But I?ve got more interviews to conduct. You?ll be staying there a while longer, Khalid. Yelp real loud for me when your back starts to spasm, so I know when to start laughing.?


  08:17:08 am, by Nic Wilson   , 231 words  
Categories: Gitmo

Gitmo 15: Bronco

I ran, heat be damned, around to my carport. The whole time I was running through the discussion I had with Corps of Engineers planners. They wanted to pour me a concrete garage for the truck attached to the office. At the time I reasoned it made more sense for the truck to be in the open, because then I could see if it was tampered with, and it would be there if I needed it in a hurry.

The windshield had been smashed in; how I slept through that I didn?t know. The dash was covered in pock marks where someone had used a gardening implement on it, to get at wires, or the fusebox and the stereo, and in several places just because.

My hand came to rest on my gun in its holster. I wanted it desperately to be the wild west, so I could call whichever fucker had done this out and shoot him and leave him rotting in the sun.

The Bronco wasn?t Army issue, it wasn?t state leased. It was my fucking truck. I dropped the Cummins diesel engine into it myself back when gas first hit $4. I wished Hamdi were here so I could smack him around some more- even though I was beginning to think he wasn?t involved- I was pretty sure another kicking or two would be good for him.



  09:31:03 am, by Nic Wilson   , 14 words  
Categories: Barren Mind

Barren Mind:Two-Step

Barry gets a step (or Two) closer to love in this week's Barren Mind.


  06:04:10 am, by Nic Wilson   , 444 words  
Categories: Gitmo

Gitmo 14: Trowel

Back on the porch I keyed up my radio again. ?Blue dog to orange cat. The nuts are in your lap, again.?

?Brilliant,? he said, and I thought there was the hint of a chuckle in it.

Hamdi knew about Tariq. But that was a lesser concern. Because somebody had my murder weapon. If I had a deputy or ten, we?d sweep house by house until we came up with something, but by now the murder weapon was already gone- or at least as close to gone as it could get.

Which meant it was going to turn up some place neutral, where blame couldn?t be placed on any one person. Two possibilities: the high risk one, throwing it out into the street, has a greater chance of getting the murderer caught. The other, tossing it over the back of the fences, like they did with the tracker, had a low chance of exposure.

Khalid?s little impromptu Rome reenactment had been all Sunnis. No real surprise there; al Qaeda, the Taliban, all Sunnis. Most of the men here were Sunni. The Shia didn?t particularly get along with them- so they rarely got swept up in the same terror. Shias blow shit up, too; Muqtada al Sadr is Shia, so some of his acolytes or people of a similar mindset- the ones responsible for some of the Iraqi insurgency- made up most of the Shia here.

Mahmoud was Shia. Tariq was Shia. And Ismail, tool.

So I ran around to the Shia section of town, the eastern side of the street, on the north end.

I knew whatever I found was going to be from the toolshed. Every home in town had the same exact utensils provided- but each had unique and identifying markings, too.

The tool was heavier than Mahmoud?s tracer, and left a dent in the grass that made it easy to spot. It was a trowel, with speckles of blood dried on the blade. It was the murder weapon- that much I was sure of. Anyone with a third of a brain, which covered most of the inhabitants, would have wiped it down, but I bagged it anyway.

More interesting, was the remains of an electronic device, obviously meant to be the ignition mechanism for the bomb. It was a bundle of wires, nothing connected to anything important- and certainly with no explosive material in sight. But I knew the electronics that were in the city- I had a complementary set in my place. And then I realized there was one other thing they could have stolen the electronics from: my truck.


  08:12:31 am, by Nic Wilson   , 429 words  
Categories: Gitmo

Gitmo 13: Growing Concern

I kicked in Khalid?s door. We had lumber, but for such a cosmetic fix there was no way in hell we were bringing in contractors, so it felt nice, knowing the fat bastard was going to have to build his own damn trim.

Hamdi was standing in the front room- distinctly not where I?d left him. I smacked him in the cheek with the butt of my 1911 and he crumpled. ?I told you not to move.?

He smiled at me with bloodied teeth. ?You left. I thought that meant we were free to mill around.?

?Simon didn?t say, asshole,? I said, and holstered my gun. ?Sit,? I told him, and pointed to the couch. He crawled directly from the floor onto it. ?Why are you here??

?Ismail came to the door. Tariq is missing, and no one has seen him since last night. I was concerned for his well-being- that perhaps we would find him dead, like Mahmoud.?

?Afraid that you might have to Ginsu another brother?? He smiled again; between the blood and his short, sharp little teeth, I was reminded of a shark. ?He?s fine. I found one of the sheds open this morning, and Tariq wandering about. At the time I thought the two were connected.?

?And you don?t, now??

?Well, given Mahmoud?s death, I don?t think Tariq was the only one wandering around.?

?So you don?t think he murdered Mahmoud, then? It would fit. Shia piece of shit.? He finally put the hideous smile away.

?No. If I?d found him near the body, then maybe, but he wasn?t. He wasn?t anywhere that might make sense, for a murder suspect.? I hated playing these games. We both knew more than we wanted to say, and were fishing to see what the other man knew. ?In either case, I?m keeping him in custody for the foreseeable. And Hamdi? Don?t fuck with me here. This might not be Cuba- but don?t mistake it for sovereign US soil, either.?

?I don?t think I appreciate the implication,? he said.

?I don?t think there was one. Only that I can make the rest of your life unpleasant. Whatever scheming you?re up to, knock it the fuck off. And get back in the bathroom.?

?But I had been in the study.?

?I don?t care. Consider it a demotion.?

?But you?ve never been in the old man?s bathroom. It is? most unpleasant.?


?So much for no torture in Bim Maa Chiaa,? he muttered as he walked off.


  09:11:11 am, by Nic Wilson   , 16 words  
Categories: Barren Mind

Barren Mind: Oh Deer

This one's a little less entendre-heavy, for those of you with weak hearts, called Oh Deer.


  05:39:58 am, by Nic Wilson   , 6 words  
Categories: Survival

Survival Page 90

More Survival, this time page 90. Rawr.

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