Hello, my name is…
1 - Happy New Year A New Year has come and it is time for us all to do the things we do every year. We drink something bubbly with family and friends. We watch the ball drop on our TVs and are glad we aren’t penned up behind barricades like the people in New York City. We sign up for health club plans we’ve never used after January. It’s a New Year, full of promise and opportunity to make it better than the year before. And every year, we dive in with refreshed optimism. So I wish you all, a Happy New Year.
2 - Health Care and the New Year. Eight years ago, I had this nice little health care plan that worked for me. It was $100 a month and covered the first $1,000 of any medical expenses I had all year long. Then I had to pay until I hit the deductible before they stepped in again. The plan worked for me. I picked it from a dozen or so plans offered by three or four different companies. It wasn’t the cheapest plan, but it was pretty close.
Long story short, Obamacare declared it not good enough and it’s gone now. They offered me a new plan with a higher deductible at three or four times the cost. I didn’t take it. Last year I had two medical emergencies that totaled a good 50k in costs. I didn’t have to pay all of that due to some really amazing charities and the other guy’s insurance company that foot the bill for what he did to me. But that’s a lot of money. I realized that no matter how expensive it was, I wasn’t a spring chicken anymore and I had to have something.
The government wouldn’t let me sign up until a month ago due to some arcane logic, and then I only had the choice of three plans from a single company. Every other company is gone and headed off into the hills. The cheapest Bronze Plan is worthless and is still over $400 a month. I picked the Silver Plan at over $700 a month because it is the first one that might actually help if I go to the hospital again. Though it still isn’t as good as the $100 a month plan I had eight years ago.
I might have said something back then about what would happen if the government got rid of competition and choice and then required everybody buy what they demanded. The rates would go up. This isn’t exactly rocket science. It’s just life under Obamacare. I can’t afford a premium that is nearly one third my total income, I don’t know how I’m going to be able to pay this, and I don’t know what’s going to happen next. And I am simply one of millions of Americans placed in this situation by the government decrees of the last eight years.
I can only hope that the new government will do what they said in the New Year and fix the mess that Obamacare created.
3 - Jack - Jasmine Picture Betty chose to be my cyber. My partner. She was born to be with me. Jasmine was not. Jasmine was born to be with someone else, but that someone died. Most bonded cybers die when their pilot goes. They can’t imagine living without the person they were shaped to complete. But Jasmine is not most cybers. She’s a real tough cookie, and I’m happy to say that she chose to live on. With me as it happens. And she wasn’t the last. I guess I became a home for wayward cybers over the years. But Jasmine’s special. She never left. She never found something better to do. She stuck around. And my world is richer for that.
4 - Charles - Jack Picture Jack spends most of his life acting like the only things that matter to him are parties, girls, and getting out of town before their fathers or brothers catch up with him. He wears the role of the ridiculous simple small town playboy with impressive gusto. Captain Jack is built on a young Jack’s adolescent dream given form and substance, and exaggerated to the limits of believability. That is why he works so well. He is a reliable monkey wrench, thrown into situations that require chaos sown and reaped. My plans include his true measure, of course. It is my sincere hope that our enemies only learn that measure when it is far too late for them to adapt.
5 - Betty - Primer on the Races of Humanity - Peloran The Peloran were the greatest soldiers of their time. They were faster, stronger, and smarter than any other human. They could regenerate from any wound that did not kill them. They fought on the ground, crewed warships, and flew fighters. They were better than any soldier Albion’s enemies had, armed with the best technology the Albion developed. They were always outnumbered, but they won every battle they picked. They were unstoppable. And they were utterly loyal to their masters. Albion’s enemies had to face the fact that they could not defeat the Peloran. And when they did, they began the ultimate campaign to win the war. They targeted the Albion themselves, and as amazing as the Peloran were, there were never enough of them to guard every place the Albion lived.
6 - Jack - Jasmine Closeup Jasmine was different before she joined me. Drew was different. Jasmine was born to for her. But she changed after Drew died. She still looks the same, but she changed her wardrobe. And her personality shifted a bit, too. She’d been one of the girls with Drew. She took on some tomboy aspects for me. And then the fitting in began. The third wheel trying not to squeak. Or to squeak just right. Betty shifted too. She became quieter, the one always there to preach caution and acceptance. Jasmine became more aggressive once she got comfortable, the person who dared me to do the crazy things I thought of. The fun seeker. The one that wanted to live life to the fullest and never forget any of it. She became that because Drew wanted her to live. She became that so she could stay with me. Sometimes I wonder what she’d be like if Drew had lived. I don’t think I’d recognize her. And as much as I wish Drew were still alive, I know I would miss the Jasmine I know. And that makes for some real complicated feelings, let me tell you.
7 - Charles – Drew Drew was one of the best of us in many ways. Some of us volunteered for revenge. Some of us volunteered to promote our plans. Drew joined because she truly believed in making the worlds better. She was an Hawaiian. And she was a real life princess, a first daughter of the Star Kingdom of Hawaii. She never told us, but I knew. My family keeps track of all the worlds’ self-proclaimed noble families, and they considered her to be a helpless optimist. That is why I always liked her. She made the worlds better places simply by being there. I can think of few better words to say of another.
8 - Charles – Drew Drew was one of the best of us in many ways. Some of us volunteered for revenge. Some of us volunteered to promote our plans. Drew joined because she truly believed in making the worlds better. She was an Hawaiian. And she was a real life princess, a first daughter of the Star Kingdom of Hawaii. She never told us, but I knew. My family keeps track of all the worlds’ self-proclaimed noble families, and they considered her to be a helpless optimist. That is why I always liked her. She made the worlds better places simply by being there. I can think of few better words to say of another.
9 - Forge of War 22 - Plans
10 - Betty - Races of Humanity - Peloran. The Albion were the most advanced race of their time, and their supersoldiers were the best of the best. The Peloran. The Arnam. And the others like them. They were ingenious tinkerers in the genetic arts, but all their tricks could not save them in the end. Most histories say that the Albion and the Ennead destroyed themselves. That is partially correct, and partially wrong. The Albion died first you see. There were not enough Peloran or their cousins in all the galaxy to save the Albion when the Ennead moved to Total War and began destroying entire planets and star systems. But the Albion did not die alone. When it became clear they could not win, the Albion gave a single order to their legions of supersoldiers. “Kill the Ennead.”
11 - Jack - Sara Sara was born after the Free Japanese of Los Angeles had suffered their second greatest catastrophe First was the fall of Japan, of course. We were still counting the dead in Los Angeles when she came into Ken’s life. That was a hard thing to choose to come into, but she thought it was worth it. She chose the appearance of a daughter of Japan rather than the polyglot Japanese-California mix that had become common by then. Color me confused at times on that, since she’s never seemed to favor Japanese clothing. She’s as American as apple pie in her actions, clothing, and speech. So why pick a pure Japanese look? I never have figured that out, and she’s never volunteered the information. And what can I say? No matter how curious you are, there’s some things you just don’t ask a lady.
12 - Charles - Ken Ken “Buckaroo” Banno was a legend in his own mind. And his millions of fans, friends, and an extended family structure that encompassed nearly everyone with a drop of Japanese blood living within sight of Los Angeles. He was the golden child of Free Japan, the founder, the owner, and the chief advertising arm of Samurai Surfing. He was a successful businessman, a media personality, and he would have been elected in a landslide if he had ever run for political office. Some people would say he threw all of that away when he volunteered to serve in the military after the Shang attacked. But instead he became the one thing he had never wished to be. He became a hero to the people of Free Japan, a reminder of the proud and terrible forgotten history of military excellence carried in the lifeblood of Japan.
13 - Betty - Races of Humanity - Peloran. The Peloran were never numerous enough to defend the Albion from the Ennead. But once the Albion let them off their leash and ordered them to kill the Ennead, the Peloran proved their true capabilities. They fought from warships that could burn planets for the materials they needed to repair themselves and could feed on stars for the energy to travel. They sailed anywhere and attacked without warning. They were the perfect guerilla force with nothing left to defend, no supply lines, and only their orders to follow. They destroyed world after world and system after system. The other races soon learned that the Peloran would ignore them if they did not interfere, and the Ennead faced the Peloran alone in the end. The Peloran showed them no mercy. Their orders allowed them none. And so it was the Peloran and their cousins who killed the Ennead.
14 - Jack - Sara I trusted Ken and Sara with my life so many times. I did something crazy to protect them. They did something crazy to return the favor. They held the orbitals while I landed. Or I held the orbitals and they landed. Sara and Ken were one of my most trusted teams. I don’t think they ever failed me. Even when they died. That was when she followed the last order he gave her. She tracked me down and told me in person that he was gone. She was real insistent that she wasn’t going away until she avenged his death. And you know what? I was real happy to help her. I know things got complicated after that, but I honestly had the best of intentions. And in my defense, Charles has always played his cards close to his chest. I had no idea the hand he was playing with.
15 – Charles – Ken Ken Banno was one of the first twelve Cowboys. He fought at Earth, Alpha Centauri, Epsilon Reticuli, Serenity, and the Hyades Cluster just to name a few. He fought in battles great and small across Terran space, and he proved to be one of my best men. I do not believe he ever failed me. He may have been defeated at times, but it was never because he failed. He lived all the way through The War, you know. He never was killed all of the way in twenty years of unrelenting War. Then he came home and ran into my family. Even against them he did not fail. They did defeat him, though. That complicated matters greatly.
16 - Forge of War 23 - Faith
17 - Can I Keep it? Alice – “He’s such a cute little guy. Look at those itty bitty pincers. And the teeny weeny tail. He’s so adorable, I just want to hug him. Can I keep it?” Peter – “I’m not certain his momma approves of that idea.” Alice – “Momma? Where?” Peter – “Right behind you.” Alice – “Oh. Is she big?” Peter – “Yup.” Alice – “Does she look dangerous?” Peter – “Yup.” Alice – “Should we run now?” Peter – “Yup.”
18 - Jack - Charles Charles Edward Hurst is one of the most interesting men in all the worlds that I have ever had the dubious pleasure of meeting. Don’t get me wrong. He’s a loyal friend and a trusted ally. But he was not the first young and spoiled spawn of a rich family I met in Northern Minnesota back in the day. I used to see a lot of his ilk come to the Lake Country on the border between America and Canada to sample our rare hills and forests. I may have acquired a dislike for them as I was growing up, and I recognized him as another fob the first time I saw him. I am both pleased and displeased to say that my first impression of him was wrong. Displeased because it showed that I was not as good at reading people as I thought. Pleased because I met a friend for life once I saw past his outer demeanor.
19 - Charles - Dorothy I had plans built over a lifetime. My friends and I had brainstormed over what we would do for decades. How we would transform my family into a force for good when we took our rightful places at the table. All of that planning would have been for naught had I never taken action. There are moments in a man’s life when his destiny is forever changed by a single act. The day Caesar crossed the Rubicon. The Christmas Eve on which Washington crossed the Delaware. The day I brought Dorothy into my conspiracy. She told me then that she had known all along what I planned. That she had been born to help me. She opened the doors we needed to make it all a reality. And she changed my life forever.
20 - Cancer and Infections My Mom has cancer. Again. She had breast cancer over a decade ago, but has been cancer free since. A month ago, she saw a fast growing growth on her leg and decided she had to get it looked at. The doctors at Mayo didn’t think it was much, but they agreed to take it off and scheduled her for a quick surgery to do that. Two weeks ago, the results came back and it was cancer. Melanoma. A kind that starts in the skin but travels a lot. She was supposed to get it operated on yesterday, but she got a nasty cold and an infection while we were treating the surgery site. She’s on antibiotics now to treat the infection, and I have a plan to deal with it from the other side.
Several years ago, I had a similar wound in my leg that got infected. I’m remembering how we treated it back then, and I have plans for Mom now. Hydrogen Peroxide wash. Anti-biotic ointment. Petroleum Jelly-infused pads. I should have thought of these weeks ago, but it’s been years since I’ve used all of them and Mayo didn’t remind me. It bugs me sometimes, how much we know about how to stop infections…and yet we forget it all when the time comes to use it. We lose more people to infections than anything else. It’s been that way for thousands of years. Well, this infection isn’t going to get my Mom. Cause I both know AND remember, and there will be a reckoning now. And then its time for the Cancer to meet its end.
21 - Jack - Charles Charles is of course a member of those Hursts. The Hursts of Pennsylvania. One of the richest families on all of Earth and beyond. The family that single-handedly funded the completion of an entire warship class before The War began. The family many people think owns Pennsylvania, lock, stock, and ballot box. He’s Old Money as the saying goes. And he used all the money he could get control of to do something fantastic. Wolfenheim was his dream. Our first colony in alien space. Our first message to all of them, out there, that we were not content to remain in our own little corner of the galaxy. We were coming. We would always be coming. And we wouldn’t let even the Shang stop us. They tried. They tried real hard. But Charles had plans, and his plans saved a lot of lives when they came to fruition.
22 - Charles - Dorothy I have had friends, foes, and sycophants all my life. I never fully trusted any of them. I do not believe I knew how to trust back then. My family did not teach that lesson. Jack tells this story about Fort Wichita after I inherited command. How I took control and drove everyone to victory like I was born to do it. Do not believe a word of it. I was scared spitless that day. I was panicking. I knew I was dead. A dead man waiting for the shot that killed me. The only reason I am alive now is because of Dorothy. She was the one person in that moment that I fully trusted. She used that moment to teach me how to trust myself. And then she taught me to trust others. That is her gift. She is a teacher. She pulls the best of out people. Everyone around her. She makes people want to be better. I love her for that.
23 - Forge of War 24 - T&J
24 - A Primer on the Races of Humanity - Peloran Excerpts Once the war ended, the Peloran and their cousins were alone, surrounded by a sea of death in the stars where two great alien civilizations had once lived. The Albion and Ennead were simply gone, and the surviving supersoldiers began following their deepest orders. The Peloran went in search of forests to live in on the surviving worlds and never came back. They left behind thousands of empty warships in distant orbits and stockpiled their weapons in easily accessed bunkers. The other alien races sat back and watched as the most powerful weapons in the galaxy disarmed themselves by their own choice. They sighed in collective relief and did absolutely nothing to interrupt the process.
25 - Jack - Mary Mary is one of those cybers that decided to pick a pilot that had no interest in ever spending most of his life in space. He was happy with the life of a simple Kansas farmer until a piece of Yosemite burned his farm to the ground. So Mary came to life as the kind of homegrown country girl you’d expect to find in the vast stretches of Middle America. I knew a lot of girls like her up in Northern Minnesota, far more at home walking through the fields and pastures than down some big city boardwalk. She’s solid, the kind of person you know you can rely on when things go crazy. And you know what? I always did like her, from the day I met her. She’s one of the most honest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. Even when that honesty hurts.
26 - Charles - Jesse Jesse James has no known relation to the famous historical figure, but he did prove to be an amazingly good Cowboy when the time came. He had literally bought the farm in his native Kansas during the decades of peace that followed Contact. He lived near the ancient Fort Hays where he grew winter wheat, grazed buffalo, and scratched a living out of the near desert that dominated Western Kansas. The burning wreckage of Yosemite Yards started a prairie fire that raged for weeks and devastated that part of the state. His farm did not survive. He had lost the investment of lifetimes of his family into the land, and he himself was penniless. He volunteered to serve because he needed money to rebuild the family farm. It was one of the more refreshingly honest reasons for serving that I ever heard. He impressed me.
27 - A Primer on the Races of Humanity - Peloran Excerpts The vast majority of Peloran have never left their adoptive home planets since their last war ended. They have no effective industrial base, and live in an extremely primitive nature. Most of them live alone or in family groups of no more than a dozen people. Planetary power grids are almost nonexistent, and hunting and gathering is the predominant way of collecting food. Industrial farming is nonexistent in Peloran space. They have seemingly regressed to a pre-Industrial society, and have no wish at all to advance themselves. The few young Peloran who grow up dissatisfied with the status quo are encouraged to leave so as not to disturb their elders in retirement. It is as much a culture in stasis as any we have ever met, and remains so across all Peloran worlds. The Peloran were once the most dangerous soldiers in the galaxy. Now they live in peace and quiet on frontier worlds and don’t even watch as the galaxy passes them by.
28 - Jack – Mary One of the things I like most about Mary is her personality. She has all the abilities that any cyber has, but she doesn’t flaunt them. She spends as much of her time as possible in the real world, and was one of the first of our cybers to acquire a physical avatar. That was right after Natalie and Jasmine. Their pilots were dead so they could claim that American military regulations didn’t affect them. Mary’s pilot was still alive. She was in direct violation. None of us reported her. She relished the contact her avatar gave her with the real world, and it didn’t take long for her sisters to envy her. Yeah. She was the trendsetter on that one. Pretty much all of us were in violation of that regulation by the time The War ended. Made certain decisions real easy, let me tell you.
29 - Charles - Jesse Jesse James had no wish to live in space before The War began. His plan from the beginning was to invest his earnings back home, fight until Wars End and then retire back to his farm and rebuild it after cashing out his investments. It was a worthy plan, and one that I respected greatly. Much as I respected him. He may have joined Jack’s merry little band of hooligans, but he was always one of the more responsible of them. You could always count on him to have a plan when the stakes became high. And he had the courage and fortitude to see a plan through when it was hard, or to change it when it became necessary. He was a good Cowboy. One of the best. A part of me hopes to fly at his side again one day. But that would interrupt his retirement, and only a fool would wish to do that.
30 - Forge of War 25 - Questions
31 - Mom’s Cancer Treatment