Hello, my name is…
A week of talking about medical issues at Mayo Clinic between me and my mom.
6 - Forge of War 26 - Worlds
7 - Picture - We’ve Got a Problem
Julie - “We've got a problem.”
Chad - “What's up?”
Julie - “The Chinese are moving out of their zones. They're threatening India, Australia, and we've picked up forces just outside the Midway Firewall.”
Chad - “Any movement from the Russians?”
Julie - “Nothing. They're running silent.”
Chad - “Well, that's just great. I love it when The Bear starts feeling sneaky.”
8 - Jack - Julie Julie was born in Texas like most of the original Cowboy cybers. The difference was that she was born to a native Texan. Well, more like the People’s Republic of Laredo if I’m picking nits, but that’s close enough. Julie assumed the persona of one of the top floor ivory tower secretaries who reside in the largest inland trading port in the United States of America. You know, the gatekeepers who are always evaluating everyone who wants to speak with their person and judging them not worthy of the experience. I may have some experiences similar to that in my own life. And I can say without any reservation that the first time she looked at me, she was judging me. Completely unfairly, I might add.
9 - Charles - Chad Chad Adelman was a native of the People’s Republic of Laredo, founded by the Second Great Depression-era amalgamation of old Texas and Mexico’s Laredo and Nuevo Laredo. They have expanded steadily over the centuries, absorbing numerous nearby small towns and cities in their quest to dominant the inland trading routes of North America. That makes them one of the richest and most populous members of the Republic of Texas. Much of that growth is thanks to the prestigious Adelman Transport Corporation. Chad Adelman was the eldest son and heir to the family fortune when he volunteered to join the military after Yosemite Yards fell. We had known and understood each other well for some time before that.
10 - Medron - Sleep Testing I was scheduled to do a sleep test on Wednesday. In this case, I was to come in at 8:30 AM, get strapped up with a load of sensors that would read everything from how much I was breathing to the oxygen content in my blood to the sound of my snoring, and then go home so I could sleep. Well, on Monday, my mom’s doctors decided they needed to look at her leg on Wednesday to make sure it was recovering from her surgery. They scheduled her appointment at 11:00 AM, over two hours after my appointment. Long story short, I didn’t get home and to bed until 1PM, and then couldn’t get to sleep for another two hours, and then all that sensing equipment kept waking me up every half hour or so. Worst sleep of my life. And the sensors didn’t get any good information. So now I’m scheduled to come in next Friday night to do a special weekend sleep test on site at Mayo so they can keep an eye on the sensors to make sure they are working. And they prescribed me a sleep pill so they can knock me out right away. I do hope I can get some sleep that night in a strange bed that is not my comfortably warm waterbed.
11 - Jack - Julie Julie was a bright and cheerful presence in the Cowboys from the moment we came together. When she wasn’t giving me the stink eye, of course. She acted like she knew everything I was thinking and didn’t think much of it, but I know she liked me. I reminded her of that every day, and she just gave me this look that said “in your dreams.” She was a bountiful bundle of joy and cheer the rest of the time. An energizer bunny of chipperness and smiles. I think sometimes she did it just to spite us. Like the first thing in the morning, before we had taken our wake up juice. I swear, there are few things as annoying as a chipper little bunny singing “good morning” when you’re running on one hour of sleep and battle alarms are ringing. But you know the crazy thing? I miss waking up to that little morning ritual.
12 - Charles - Chad Chad Adelman and myself grew up in many of the same circles. He was the heir to one of Texas’ richest families. I was the heir to a rich Pennsylvania family. We found each other at many of the same parties. And we found that we agreed on a great many things. He was one of my earliest conspirators in what would become the Wolfenheim Project. He was my friend. I knew him for over a century before The War came for us all, and his death at Alpha Centauri was a great loss to mankind. It was also a great stride forward. It changed the mission of Wolfenheim, you see. People ask me sometimes what inspired me to build Wolfenheim the way I did. It was Chad Adelman. It was every Cowboy who died in The War. But mostly it was Chadwick Austin Adelman.
13 - Forge of War 27 - Life
14 - It’s Good To Be Captain - Art Jack, Betty, and Jasmine like to go to dress up for Halloween like anybody does. Sometimes they even go to conventions when they are in the right system. And they have been known to dress up in retro science fiction uniforms for the fun of it. Jack prefers something that could have come from a certain show in a more civilized age of good tea where those who wear red don’t die in every episode. Betty and Jasmine like something a bit more classic. Captain Jack is smart enough not to argue over which is better. Especially when anybody can see the proof with their own eyes…
15 - Jack - Katy Kathleen Reynolds is an old lady. Or so I like to tell her. She grew up in Iowa, on some family farm near Dubuque. She spent her youth dragging boys into cornfields or barns to keep her daddy and brothers from seeing them, and from what she tells me never thought about leaving home. She loved it. Then the Peloran made Contact and her world changed. She was one of the first to take the Peloran Treatments, and got the real shiny side effects. Like I said, she’s an old lady. Not that she acts like it, but I enjoy teasing her on the subject. And she happily rubs it right back in my face. Katy’s got one very important rule, you see. Always give better than you get. That’s why we named her Mischief when we first met her.
16 - Charles - Blaze Blaze is one of the older cybernetic intelligences that joined the Cowboys during The War. She was born half a century before it began, started life as an old Blackhawk fighter, and then upgraded to a newer Hellcat-class starfighter. Five decades of experience allowed her and her pilot to kill six Shang fighters at the Battle of Fort Wichita. That was an impressive feat for a Pre-War American fighter, and significantly better than most of her compatriots. When I received approval to expand Cowboy squadron, she was on my short list of people I wanted to bring on board. I made certain she received an invitation and waited to see if she would come. I was most pleased when she did, and similarly pleased with her performance in Jack’s little screening process. She always has kept a few tricks up her electronic sleeves.
17 - Medron - Healthcare As I have said before, I had health insurance before Obamacare. It was around 100 bucks a month, covered the first 1,000 bucks a year, and then stepped away until I hit the deductible of 6,000 or 8,000 dollars. It’s been a while, so my memory is a little foggy on the deductible. Obamacare ended that plan and I couldn’t afford the replacement that was four times the cost at the time.
Fast forward six years and I got a cash settlement from the insurance company for the accident I was in last year. I paid those medical bills and put the remainder in a savings account to pay for a new Obamacare plan. It has a premium of over SEVEN hundred dollars a month, but I have enough from the settlement to pay the plan for one year. Then I have to figure out what to do after that. But having insurance is good, right? It helps pay your medical costs if you have them, right?
Well, I went to my local clinic for my first “yearly checkup” in six years and I seem to have some issues. Some of them include lovely little side effects like “dead” if not treated, and they are trying to figure out what will help. I just got the bill for the first 2,500 dollars of the testing. My brand new Obamacare insurance paid 160 dollars of it. Total. Not joking. And there are more bills coming. The Clinic isn’t even close to being done with me yet, and I don’t know what the cost is going to go up to. And I don’t know how I can pay what Obamacare refuses to cover.
This is life under Obamacare. The premiums are higher, and the insurance covers less. This is the Affordable Care Act in practice. Neither affordable, nor caring, nor acting. Just a giant vacuum sucking money out of the pockets of the working class at an ever-increasing rate.
18 - Jack - Katy Me and Katy fought together before she joined the Cowboys, you know. She was part of the Space Force detachment defending Fort Wichita, while I was one of the Marines that came out of hyperspace and helped save her shapely rear end. I like to remind her of that regularly, and she likes to question my intelligence regularly. Purely coincidental, I’m sure. She became the first Space Force pilot to join the Cowboys, and she had more experience than any of us. Best of all, she could hide a teaching moment behind a wicked sense of humor and a deprecating air that never once questioned the crazy politics that left inexperienced pilots like us in command of a veteran like her. She was pretty much the perfect wingman. She’s saved my life more times than I count, though she’s always quick to suggest that I could get closer if I took my boots off. Yeah. I love her, too.
19 - Charles - Blaze One of the things I have always appreciated about Blaze is just how professional she is. She hides it under a devil may car attitude that complements her pilot well, and she plays with Jack like she is just as much a juvenile delinquent as he pretends to be. But when you dig below the surface, she is a true professional. She could have stayed on Earth as one of the most elite fighters defending our home from attack with all the resources of the entire Western Alliance to support her. Instead she chose the much more dangerous route of becoming a Cowboy. We fought beyond the edges of the fleet, preparing ground for their arrival, and she was one of the factors that made it all possible. Her knowledge and experience made all of us better at our jobs. I do not believe the Cowboys would have the reputation we do now without her influence.
20 - Forge of War 28 - Rain
21 - Betty - A Primer on the Races of Humanity - Peloran Not all Peloran follow the typical path of peacefully living in the forests on worlds far away from other civilizations. Even the most stringent genetic coding breaks down over time, and some people can exercise more control over the coding than others. These people are genetic freaks by the measure of their own people, literally defective since the imperatives of their long-dead Albion creators no longer hold sway. Many of these Peloran have left their homes and taken up positions in the old ships of war abandoned by the Peloran of old. They defend their fellows from above, secure the vast boneyards of old weapons from scavengers, and make certain the Peloran are free to live in the peace they earned. These are the Peloran that most outsiders see when they visit Peloran space.
22 - Jack - Dawn All of the original Cowboys were born on Earth, but then we started expanding our numbers at Alpha Centauri by recruiting people from more diverse backgrounds. Dawn was our first Cowboy from the Outer Colonies. She’d been born on Camelot, the youngest daughter of one of the planetary nobles. She joined the planetary militia and did good enough while fighting pirates that the United States Marine Corps snapped her up on a headhunting expedition. They promised her the whole nine meters…travel to foreign stars, meet exotic people…and kill them. Dawn ended up fighting in many of the numerous brushfire conflicts our government never publicly acknowledged back before The War. That gave her a wealth of experience in all kinds of warfare that the rest of us Cowboys lacked. She was a valuable member of my team throughout The War and beyond.
23 - Charles - Alicia Alicia was born on Camelot, an Outer Colony world discovered by the first generation of gravtech explorer ships. They found flying reptiles that could pass for the dragons of myth, and an entire ecosystem that would be at home in a twisted fantasy novel. It surprised everyone when the Society for Creative Anachronism decided to sponsor a colony there built on the glory days of God, King, and Country they had spent centuries acting out. And then they sought out the cybers and invited them to take part in their grand venture. The cybernetic families were intrigued by the idea and agreed to support the new colony as equal partners. Think about that for a moment. A society built on an idealized version of Pre-Industrial Europe in full partnership with Space Age cybers. That is the world Alicia was born into, and her personality reflects it.
24 - Betty - A Primer on the Races of Humanity - Peloran Outsiders rarely see Peloran in their natural habitat. There are few large cities in Peloran space where they congregate, and few have any wish to go places they do not know. But those Peloran who leave their worlds behind congregate much more than their cousins. They build grand space stations where all Races of Humanity are welcome, and trade anything people want. They don’t start fights, but since every single member of the crew is effectively part of security, they are exceptional at ending any fight that starts. And there is no such thing as an unarmed Peloran station. They are bristling with weapons, fighters, satellite defense stations, guard ships, and everything else it takes to defend a massive, nonmoving target. That makes a port of call at a Peloran space station a very safe proposition. Assuming you have no ill intentions, of course.
25 - Jack - Dawn Dawn was very much a daughter of Camelot. She always had a royal demeanor, and absolutely loved the formal balls the big wigs so often convened. She was always more at home on a dance floor than in a jungle hunting Chinese troopers, but she did both with equal attention to detail. She always said that more could be accomplished through diplomacy and kind words than with weapons, though. That was an odd philosophy for a Marine, let me tell you. She was always professional enough to shoot when the time came, but she was also always looking for an alternative to going in guns blazing. Many of our missions went in ways I never would have expected because she was involved. That’s a good thing, by the way. She broadened my horizons in more ways than I can count. And she saved my life a similar number of times.
26 - Charles - Alicia Alicia is in some ways very much an old school feudal servant. She actually took over an existing servant AI when she was born, in fact. That is rare for cybers in general, but is accepted practice on Camelot. She can play the role of servant wench with great vigor, and with a twinkle in her eye, but do not ever make the mistake of thinking that is the entirety of her personality. She is very much in line with the more modern sensibilities the Society for Creative Anachronism promotes due to their wish to actually attract women into their number. It is one of the more interesting aspects of Camelot society in my opinion. They glorify eras where racial and sexual inequality was the norm, while at the same time promoting modern ideas of equality. The resultant society is unique in time and space, and I believe that Alicia is one of their best ambassadors.
27 - Forge of War 29 -
28 - Betty - A Primer on the Races of Humanity - Peloran The space-going Peloran are primarily focused on defending their planet-bound cousins and themselves from outside aggression. They rarely leave their borders, unless in active pursuit of someone who triggered their defense instincts. They are friendly to all visitors to their space stations, but have a strict “no aggression” policy. Even something as simple as a family argument over where to go to eat will quickly result in a friendly Peloran seeking to end the public display of aggression. Continued aggressive acts will result in an arrest, the separation of all participants into individual cool down tanks, and the assignment of one or more Arbiters to the case. Arbiters are responsible for releasing them once they have cooled down and then remaining with them as long as their visit lasts. They are friendly tour guides, protectors, and pointed reminders that no aggression is allowed in Peloran territory. All repeat violators of that prohibition are expelled.