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The Tale – Prologue

This is the other part that I wrote.  It could end up being a prologue, or it could be the first chapter…

 

Carlo was not having a good day.  First he’d been caught in a summer storm without an umbrella.  Then he spilled coffee on his crotch in the office.  Now he found himself slumped in the corner of his flat with a bullet wound in his stomach.  He clutched at the wound, and the pain was excruciating.  His head slumped forward, and he caught sight of the ruby stains on his cream carpet.  He groaned; the carpet was brand new, only fitted a few days ago.  Of course, none of that mattered now.  Carlo knew he was going to die.  He was no doctor, but he was pretty sure that losing this much blood wasn’t something that you could recover from.

The man with the gun was observing him from Carlo’s favourite chair.  The room was dark, but he could tell that the man was smiling.  Carlo knew why he was in this situation.  He’d been working on some kind of secret project for some higher ups from inside the Wall.  He didn’t know what it was, but he could tell it was something big, and Carlo was an opportunist.  He knew a guy that knew a guy that was always on the lookout for that kind of information, and paid well for it.  He had made a copy of as much of the data as he could, and had hidden it in his flat for a few days before trying to make contact.

They called him the Hamster, and now Carlo knew why.  His features were all squashed into the centre of his face, but his cheeks were much larger than the rest of his face.  He was a slight man, short and wiry.  He wore a scruffy old band T-shirt (Carlo had never heard of The Pixies, but he guessed they were some sort of old rock band) and ragged jeans that were full of holes, and he now emerged from the bedroom with a USB drive in his hand.

“Thanks for this.” He spoke with an american accent.  A snide little grin spread across his face as he tossed the USB drive to the man with the gun.  “Here’s your payment.” He announced, unholstering a pistol and pointing it straight at Carlo’s head.

Carlo, resigned to his fate, just sat there staring straight at the Hamster.  He thought about his ex-wife, wishing that he’d gotten around to patching things up with her.  His last thought was of their wedding day, having their first dance.  Ten years later and he could still remember it like it was yesterday.  A single tear rolled down his cheek as the Hamster pulled the trigger.

The door to the flat flew off its hinges and fell into the room as someone in the hall shouted, “POLICE!”.

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The Tale – Part 3

I’ve written a few more chunks of The Tale, so I’m sticking them up for your perusal. Also, I have a preliminary title – ‘Outside The Wall’.   Another 30 minutes had passed, and Jessie Snowdrop found herself sitting around again.  This time she was in a police station on the outskirts of Darktown.  The decor of the station was very….grey; the walls were grey, the doors were grey, even the suits that most of the plods were wearing were grey.  The only thing that broke up the monotonous grey-ness was the view out of the large windows.  From this part of the city you were close enough to see the Wall, a towering structure that encircled the centre of the city. Jessie had never been inside the wall, but she had heard that it was magical.  It was said that there were houses in there that you didn’t have to share with twelve other people, that you could live all yourself if you wanted to!  They said that you could walk through the streets without fear of urchins picking your pockets.  Rumours spoke of great glass domes in which all manner of fruits and vegetables were grown.  She liked the idea of the domes.  Sometimes she daydreamed about walking through an orchard within one, picking an orange, and biting into it.  The air would be so much cleaner in a dome, not anything like the smoggy excuse she and everyone else had to breath every day. Detective Stone dropped into the chair opposite her, startling her and waking her from her musings.  She looked at the clock on a nearby wall (grey) and realised that she had been staring out of the window for about an hour. “Sorry for the wait, had to sit through bollocking number two from Big Chief Boyle.” “I hope he wasn’t too angry at you.  You saved my life!  Why is that so wrong?!”  She could feel her anger at the little man rising back up and banged her fist on the table. “My, you’re a spirited one!”  He looked her in the eye and smiled.  It was a kind smile, and it made her blush.  “Don’t worry about it, he’s a windbag.  I get this every other day.  Now, what are we gonna do with you?” Jessie hung her head.  She had known that this was coming, and was not looking forward to it.  “I’m so, so sorry Detective Stone.  What I did was stupid and dangerous and…” “Let me stop you there.” She shut up and looked at Mac.  The colour had drained from her face, and she was close to tears. “What you did was indeed stupid and dangerous.  You put lives at risk, and not just your own, and it was only my incredible skill that stopped the situation getting out of hand.”  She thought she saw a smirk flit across his face, but then it was gone.  “You should really be in a cell right now for any number of charges, and that’s still an option.  However…” “Yes?!  However what?”  Hope!  She might not have to go to prison!  Anything would be better than that! Mac grabbed a document from the printer on his desk and handed it to her.  “These are your release papers, and this details your punishment.  Community service.” She looked over the papers, frowning.  Mac watched her expression morph from confusion, to surprise, and finally her head snapped back and she stared right at him, a smile covering her face and eyes wide as saucers. “Since I, technically, was your arresting officer, I got to pick your service.” “Is this for real?!” she squealed. “I don’t work with a partner.  Never needed one, they just slow me down.  I have, however, always wanted someone to do my paperwork for me.” “I get to be your assistant?!  That’s incredible!  I can’t wait to start!  Thank you, thank you, tha…” “Yes, yes, you’re welcome.  It’s unpaid, obviously, but at least you’re not getting the shit kicked out of you in some sardine can prison.  Turns out the actually are advantages to the complete lack of judicial system in this city, for you at least.  First task: brew.  Tea, no sugar, milk.  Kitchen’s over there.” “Yes, Detective!” As she ran across the room she knocked into another plod, the stack of papers he was carrying fluttering to the floor.  She called an apology over her shoulder but kept going. Mac chuckled to himself and leaned back in his chair, contemplating.  Why had he done this?  Why did he care what happened to this girl?  He didn’t need an assistant.  There was just something about her…   Rain is hammering the pavement, as if trying to break through the tarmac to the ground beneath.  A man stands on a corner, hunched up under his long coat, a cigarette in his mouth.  He looks at his watch, waiting for something.  The street is deserted except for a couple exiting a cab.  They hurry to a door and get inside as quickly as possible.  A flash of lighting illuminates the black sky for a fraction of a second, followed quickly by a low rumble of thunder. Headlights advance slowly down the street towards the man.  He looks up, taking a long, slow drag of the cigarette.  He takes it from between his lips and flicks it to the ground.  As it hits the ground the embers scatter, making tiny fireworks before they quickly fade out.  The car is close enough to make out two figures now, a woman and a child, a young boy.  The boy waves, eliciting a smile from the man, who waves back. Suddenly, a loud horn breaks the relative silence, and lights flare from the other side of the junction.  A lorry is skidding along the intersecting street, locked wheels sliding across the soaked road.  It is going fast, too fast to stop at the junction.  The car is already crossing the intersection, and tries to speed up, but it is too late.  One last blare of the horn precedes the crash.  It is the loudest noise the man has ever heard.   The phone ringing on his desk brings Mac back to reality with a start.  He takes a few deep breaths, realising that he is covered in sweat.  The display on the phone tells him that it’s Harper calling.  Before he could react Jessie plonked his mug on the desk, sloshing a little tea over the side, and picked up the phone. “Detective Mac Stone’s desk, how can I help?” she spoke cheerfully into the receiver.  Mac was staring at her with a blank expression on his face, and she winked at him.  “Yep, he’s right here.”  She smiled and handed him the phone.  “Here ya go!” she announced cheerfully. “Hello there ‘Detective Mac Stone’” came the medical examiner’s mocking voice. “What have you got?” was the gruff reply.  He wasn’t in the mood for this right now. “Alright, calm down, just a bit of fun.  She sounded nice, who was it?” “None of your business Harper.  Now what do you want?” “You never were good on the phone were you, ya miserable bastard?  Nothing unusual about your stiff, other than the chip.  What was in his pockets might interest you more.  I just called to let you know that I’ve sent a USB drive over to the Tech boys along with the chip.” “Thanks for the info Doc, I’ll head right over there.  Anything else?” “Nope.  Just…” He hesitated, sounding nervous. “Just what?  Come on Harper, I’m a big boy now.” “The drive had a corporate insignia on it.  You’re not gonna like it Mac.” “GenTech?” Mac replied.  His brow furrowed. “Yeah.  No idea what they would have to do with a murder though.” “Don’t you worry about that, that bit’s my job.  See ya later Harper.  Keep well.” “Later Mac.  Good luck.” He replaced the receiver and grabbed his coat from the back of his chair.  Jessie, who had pulled up a chair and was waiting patiently for him, leapt up. “Where are we going?  Did you find a clue?  Are we getting a bad guy?” “Calm down Jess, it’s nowhere exciting.  We’re just going round the corner to see the geeks.”

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Three years

So today it’s been three years since Iona and I started going out, and that makes me happy 🙂

Us at my graduation ball

I remember that we were laying in bed just chatting when I asked her out, and I’m pretty sure her response was something along the lines of, “Yeah, why not.”  After that we just kind of wandered around having lives for a bit.  We’d sit around watching TV, doing Uni work and eating pizza.  Then she graduated and I didn’t, so we lived in separate houses again.

We were never apart often though.  I’d go to Keele and she’d go to work, then we’d sit around together in one of our houses again.  Another year went by, and then we moved in together.  I was still at uni, but got the job I currently still have as well.  I got home from work one day and we had a cat.  We were starting to be a proper family together.

Chester wishes he was this cool

That Christmas I proposed, and she said Yes.  It wasn’t surprising or anything.  She knew it was coming at some point, just not that it would be Christmas day.  We haven’t planned anything at all wedding-wise, but we’ll get round to it eventually.

NO

During the next year we worked opposite hours a lot, Iona during the day, me in the evenings.  They were gonna change the hours at work, which would have been nice if I hadn’t been ignored when I asked to start doing days.  I did, in fact, have to fight to not have my hours cut to the point where I’d barely be able to survive, but that isn’t relevant.  A few months later Iona started working at my office, and we do the exact same shifts.  We get each other pretty much 24/7 now, and it’s great!  She’s probably sick of the sight of me, but I love it.

And now it’s been three years.  We plan to move house soon to somewhere where we have to buy most of the furniture like real people do.  I look forward to spending the rest of our lives together.

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The Tale – Part 2

Ok, I’ve written another chunk of my story, so I’m gonna update you on the progress.  I’ve been at least staring blankly at the screen most nights trying to figure out where the story is going, and I think I’ve kind of got a ghost of an idea in my head now.  One day I’ll put everything from my head down on paper and organise it, but for now I seem to be doing ok just pulling it out a bit at a time.  Most nights I’ll manage to get 1 or 2 hundred words down, which I think is ok progress.

This time, I’d like more feedback if you all don’t mind giving it?  How am I doing?  Does it read ok?  Does it make sense?  Is there anything I’ve glossed over, or put too much detail into?  Also, chapter length.  Is the end of this post a good point to end a chapter?  Should the chapter be longer?  Or shorter?

Anyway, too much me yapping and not enough showing you more of what I wrote.

For part 1, click here

Still no title for the story

Thirty minutes later the market was, once again, a hive of activity.  This time, however, it was police and medical teams filling the street.  Jessie had a good view of the scene from her seat at the back of an ambulance; she had suffered a few bruises and was very shaken up, but nothing too serious.

Looking around she could see plods interviewing her neighbours.  Little Ryan from up the road was giving a very graphic demonstration of the happenings, acting everything out; as she watched he mimed the part where the crim’s hand exploded.  Traders from the market were making their ways back to their stalls, hoping to pack up and lock their wares away before the urchins pinched them all.  There was little chance of that; the urchins of Darktown could smell an unattended stall from a mile off, and in the last five minutes she had seen three of the little buggers sneaking off into alleyways with suspicious bulges in their ragged clothes.

Out of the corner of her eye she caught a glimpse of Detective Stone, and her thoughts returned to the “incident” from earlier.  Over the past half an hour she’d replayed the whole thing in her mind over and over.  She hadn’t half been stupid, and she’d put her life and the detective’s at risk, and probably loads of other peoples’ too.  Jessie had always been a bit clumsy, a little careless, always making a mess of things, getting in everybody’s way.  But not anymore!  From this day forward, Jessie Snowdrop would be a changed woman!  She smiled to herself at that thought, and got back to her observations.  Stone was stood at the top end of the street by a black car.  He was speaking to a short, fat man with a combover.  The little man didn’t seem to be very happy; he was gesticulating wildly, and she could just about hear his raised voice from this end of the street.

“What’s his problem?” she thought to herself.  Her brow furrowed, and she felt anger at the little man.  How could he possibly be angry?!  Mac had got the bad guy and he had saved her life for crying out loud!  She wanted to go over there and put the little shit in his place, even started to get up, but the paramedic was still sat with her and wouldn’t let her move.  He said something involving the words “resting” and “ordeal”, but she wasn’t paying any attention.  She resigned herself to sit and wait until they let her go.

 

“What the fuck is wrong with you?!  Are you insane?!  You’ve got insane, haven’t you?  Three dead crims in as many days!  That’s more then any other officer in 6 months!  This is not how we operate!  I should suspend you…”

Chief Inspector Boyle continued that way for a while longer, but Mac wasn’t really listening.  They went through this song and dance at least once a week; Boyle screamed, flailed his arms about and jumped up and down a bit, and Mac just stood there, indifferent.  Oh, threats of suspension, demotion, and sometimes even criminal charges were made, but Boyle wouldn’t follow through on them.  He couldn’t; Mac Stone was by far the best detective on the force and Boyle knew it.  Everybody knew it, and no-one more so than Mac himself.  Despite his misgivings, he got the damn job done.  No messing around, no waiting for warrants, no special treatment for the rich, nobby types, and people respected that.  It was about all they respected about him though, and he was perfectly fine with that.  People, for the most part, either got on his nerves or got in his way, and he had no time for them.

“…Drag you kicking and screaming into a cell and leave you there!  Do you hear me?!”

“Yep.  Now if you’ll excuse me, sir, I have a corpse to examine.”  And with that Stone strode off towards the Medical Examiner a little way down the street, grinning to himself as he went.  Boyle screeched in exasperation, kicked a nearby bin, and stormed off.

“Bastard!” he muttered to himself as he left the crime scene.

 

“You really know how to push his buttons, don’t you?” the coroner grinned as Mac made his way over to him.

“You know how it is Harper, you’ve gotta grab your fun wherever you can find it these days.”

“If you say so Mac.  Just be careful; even cats only have nine lives, and you must have used up at least twelve by now.”

Dr. Harper Wilkes, Medical Examiner, was a well groomed man, about the same age as Stone.  He was wearing a long, white lab coat, and lavender latex gloves.  His hair was dark brown, almost black, with a peppering of white hairs throughout, and he sported a short, smart goatee.  His eyes were a piercing, icy blue, over which he wore thick, horn-rimmed spectacles.

“Let’s get down to business, shall we Harper?”

“Yes, let’s.  Your latest victim,” he said, giving Mac a smirking glance, before going back to his pad, “is a caucasian male in his 30s.  He was very fit, I’m surprised you managed to keep up.”

“I didn’t, that’s why he got shot.  Well, that and him not stopping.  Anything unusual?”

“A couple of things, actually.  The first one is a biggy, too.”  He squatted by the crim’s head and tilted it to one side.  “This,” he said, indicating a slight bulge just behind the left ear, “indicates that he was chipped.”

Being chipped is kind of like having a little computer in your head that’s connected to your brain and eyes.  It can be used for all kinds of things, such as recording what you see, sending and receiving messages, or even watching TV (if that’s your sort of thing).  The process was pricy though, so only the super-rich and their entourages tended to have them.

“That is strange.  Can we get any information from it?”

“I can extract it at the lab and send it to the boys in Tech, see what they can do.  Now, the other weird thing is this.”  He pulled one side of the man’s shirt aside, revealing a tattoo underneath.  “There’s something about this tat that I can’t quite put my finger on.  It seems so familiar, but I can’t think of where I’ve seen it before.”

“I can help you out with that one, doc.  That,” he announced, pointing at the tattoo, “is the insignia of The Raven’s Talon, a specialist infiltration squad from the good old US of A.  Faced off against them a couple of times during the war, and they were pretty fierce.  In fact, it was one of these bastards that blew a hole in my leg the day we met in that infirmary.”

I remember it well.  You were screaming like a baby until I gave you that morphine.”  Harper grinned.

“Correction,” interjected Stone.  “It wasn’t the morphine that shut me up, it was the bottle of whiskey.”

They looked at each other and burst out laughing at the memory.  Everything had gone downhill at the start of the Last War (as it was known) in 2018.  It was 2054 now, and nothing had improved since.  It felt good to find something to laugh about reflected Mac.

“Good times, Mac, good times.  But we digress.  What’s one of those boys doing over here?  And why is he chipped?”

“Well, doc, it’s actually not that uncommon to see this sort of thing.  A lot of soldiers from across the pond didn’t like what their government was making them do, so they deserted.  Looks like some snob found a use for this guys “skills”,” he mimed the quote marks, “and employed him.  Let’s hope we can find out who the snob is from that chip.  God knows, I could use a break.  Three murders, three dead suspects, and this is the first hint of a clue I’ve had all week!”

“I feel your pain.  Anyway, I’d best get this corpse back to the morgue.  It’s getting a bit warm out here, and I’d rather he was still mostly solid for the autopsy.”

“Okie dokie Harper.  Keep me posted.”

“Will do.  Catch you later bud.”  And with that he loaded the body into the back of his van and drove off.

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On Battlestar

I miss Battlestar Galactica.

Has it been long enough to watch it again?

I think it has.

I didn’t start watching Battlestar until the last season.  Actually, I watched the mini-series but never bothered with the series until I met my missus.  It didn’t even start off as actively watching it, it was just on when I went to see her.  I’d be sat in her living room with a brew holding hands under a blanket and her and her housemate would start watching that weeks episode.  They used to do this cute thing where they looked away at the end of the opening sequence because it has clips of what was going to happen in the episode (like Thunderbirds) and they wanted to be surprised.  After a few episodes I was hooked.  Obviously that was when it took its mid-season break, so I had to do without for what seemed like ages.

By that point I was at Iona’s house a lot anyway, so watching Battlestar was a weekly tradition.  As I recall I took the break as an opportunity to watch all of Fullmetal Alchemist and do the bits of Iona’s dissertation that required spreadsheets (she’s no whizz at Excel), all the while just waiting for Battlestar to come back…

…And then it was back, and it was great!  There was excitement and suspense and intrigue and Cylons!  Starbuck found her own corpse!  The 5th of the Final Five was revealed!  There was a mutiny!  Other stuff happened!  And then there was the ending…  Oh dear.  I won’t say what happened, but it was a disappointment.  There are so many ways they could have done it better, but they chose that one.  And that was the end of Battlestar as a series.  Not for me though!  Obviously since I’d only seen season 4 it was time to go back and watch the whole thing right from the start, and I couldn’t wait!  The poor ending hadn’t sullied my view of the series, since everything that led up to it was amazing!

I’m not gonna go into detail about every series, just stick a few highlights in there.  Obviously the mini-series was great, setting up the whole thing with explosions and fighting and shit like that.  Adama’s speech at the end makes Iona cry every time.  Season 1 started pretty slowly, but it soon picked up.  Baltar’s hallucinations of 6, and the subsequent appearance of an actual 6 in real life accusing him of aiding the Cylons was pretty good.  Throughout Battlestar I went through phases with Baltar; sometimes I hated him and sometimes I kind of liked him.  He was a dick, but sometimes he was an alright dick.  Tho political bits never really interested me apart from the times when they caused a bit of action, like Zarek with the prisoners.  The storyline with the 2 Boomers, one with Helo, the other with Tyrol, was pretty good.  I really liked it when they settled on New Caprica, and the Resistance webisodes that went with that storyline.  I love a good resistance.

I’m gonna stop trawling Wikipedia for storylines I liked now, because the only important thing was FAT LEE ADAMA!!!  I loved it when Apollo was fat, it was the best thing that ever happened to me!

So say we all!

 There’s one thing I never got about the Battlestar universe; Why cut the corners off your paper?  Surely you’re just making writing and such more awkward for yourself?!  The ridiculousness of this bugged me every time I saw a piece of paper.  If anyone can think of a good reason for this then I’m all ears.

I’m not sure what it is about people being stranded miles from home that makes a series I will love, but for some reason I can’t get enough of that sort of thing.  After The Next Generation, Voyager is my favourite series of Star Trek.  Whilst it’s not the best Stargate, Universe was quality TV, and I am absolutely gutted that it got cancelled.  I will forever hold out hope that it will be picked back up and finished.  I’d even settle for the film they were going to make about it then cancelled that as well (bastards).  Ah well.  There aren’t enough series like this anymore.  In fact, Sci-Fi series in general are pretty few and far between these days, and the ones that do get made are predominantly pretty cack.

I think I’ll finish watching all of SG-1 and Atlantis then watch Battlestar and Firefly again and wallow in nostalgia.

Battlestar memories are good memories of a good time in my life.

🙂

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Song of the Day – Five Finger Death Punch

I won’t be doing this every day, but if something makes its way into my brain and cannot be removed I’ll stick it on here.

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My Introduction to Neuroscience

This is that post I mentioned that I wanted to write but couldn’t remember names.  I still can’t, but bugger it.

I got a Kindle for Christmas (thanks Mam!) and decided to buy V.S. Ramachandran’s new book The Tell-Tale Brain.  Ramachandran has done loads of work on all kinds of neurological conditions, but mainly on behavioural neurology (what parts of the brain affect behaviour, memory, and cognition and how).  Reading this book reminded me of how I initially became interested in his work.

I was in my second year of college (UK college, not US college) finishing my A-Level in Biology.  For this year we had 2 teachers.  The first was Richard Kirkup.  He was a good teacher and I did learn loads from him, but his style of teaching was really slow.  Due to this we were getting towards the end of the year and he still had a sizeable chunk of the course to teach us.

This is Richard Kirkup. I can't remember if he wore that by choice or if we made him wear it...

The other teacher is the one whose name  cannot remember for the life of me, and that really annoys me because she was great.  I’ll call her Mrs Great.  Her teaching style was a lot more interactive and engaging.  She also taught much faster than Rich did.  She finished her half of the material, then taught a load of his, and we still had about a week to spare.

She asked us if we wanted to use the extra time to have a look at something that wasn’t on the curriculum but was really interesting, and we all decided that we did.  The next lesson she’d book a TV and brought in her tape of a documentary The Real Rain Man.  If you have 45 minutes free you should definitely watch it.  It’s about Kim Peek, the man that Dustin Hoffman’s character in Rain Man was based on.  In searching around for information on this I found out that Kim died of a heart attack in December 2009 at the age of 58 :(.  Peek was known as a mega-savant.  He could do all kinds of crazy things, like read 2 pages of a book at the same time (one with each eye) and memorise what was on the pages in 8 seconds.  However, these crazy mental abilities came at a price, and that was that he was incapable of completing basic tasks such as dressing himself or combing his hair.

In the documentary, various people gave their assessments and opinions on various parts of his condition.  One of these people was Ramachandran.  Mrs Great told us a bit about him, and recommended that, if we were interested in learning more, that we should read his book Phantoms in the Brain.  I went home and ordered the book straight away, and I couldn’t wait to read it.  I devoured that book with my brain-teeth as soon as it arrived, and I was not disappointed.  It is absolutely full of observations of the strange things that our brains do; why do phantom limbs happen?  How can someone recognise their father on the telephone, but be convinced that they are an impostor if they see him in person?

I R Baboon had a phantom foot one time

It’s all very intriguing, and I often wish that I could do that kind of study, work with such a great mind.  I tried to do some Neuroscience modules when I did my degree, but for the most part I just couldn’t manage to wrap my head around it.  I can deal with just reading other people’s brilliant work on the subject.

Thank you Mrs Great, whatever your real name is!