Hello, my name is…
1 - Jack - Rhiannon Rhiannon is one of the younger Weylan out there. She was not alive during the last great war. She did not see the Ennead destroy her homeworld. She did not kill the Ennead in response. She didn’t even live through most of the two millennia that followed. She wasn’t born until after the Peloran made Contact with us, in fact. Hers is a small generation, as all Weylan generations are, but they were raised in an autumn of peace. She grew up knowing it would be her job to fight the next great war that came along. And they expected it to come along soon. I envied her that, once I understood. At least she wasn’t surprised by all the shock and violence that heralded The War. And she envied me, once she understood what growing up in a time of peace and innocence could be like. It’s amazing how life works. What we can miss when we meet someone who lived a different life.
2 - Charles - Alpha Centauri Hyperphysicists sometimes call Alpha Centauri a quadrinary star system. There is the primary Binary System composed of Cen A and Cen B that most people think of as Alpha Cenaturi. Then there is Cen C, often times called Proxima Centauri due to its proximity to Earth. And there is Sol. Earth’s own sun. Earth, Proxima Centauri, and the Alpha Centauri Binary System are linked through hyperspace in ways that few other stars are. That is why starships can travel from Earth to Alpha Centauri so much faster than from Earth to any other star. But the link to all of those other stars flows through Alpha Centauri. That is what makes it our gateway to the stars.
3 - Betty - Weylan The Weylan are born infertile. They can’t have children the natural way. The Albion designed them that way on purpose, after losing too many promising Weylan to the rigors of childbirth. The problem was the wings. Birds grow up inside an egg and then break out. Their wings are fully formed and ready to work at that time. But humans give birth by pushing their child through a thin tunnel and out in to the air. The birth process almost always broke the wings, and sometimes tore them apart inside the mother. So the Albion made their best creation infertile to keep them from dying out, and then built a massive collection of cloning chambers to grow new ones. Most of those died when the Ennead destroyed Arkadia, but the Weylan saved a relative few. They were the only way the Weylan could procreate for the next two thousand years, and they were too few to generate anything that might be termed a population boom.
4 - Jack - Rhiannon It turns out that Rhiannon isn’t much older than I am. Maybe a few years at most, though nailing down exact times can get a bit tricky when birthplaces are the best part of five thousand lightyears apart. We decided to celebrate our birthdays at the same because…why not? Her people don’t celebrate them like we do, and she’d never had a real birthday party in her life. Not what we’d call one at least. So when my birthday came around, we went out on the town and put our superior metabolisms to serious work. That’s another way of saying we ate and drank a lot. It was a very merry time, I must say. I think the thing that surprised me the most that day was finding out just how much she looked forward to hitting the Hyades. She wasn’t bloodthirsty or anything, but she’d been literally bred, born, and trained for war. And seeing all the people just living on Sunnydale made her realize something. She wanted to end The War as soon as possible so she could enjoy the same life they did. I can think of worse reasons to fight.
5 - Charles - Proxima Centauri We bypassed Proxima Centauri on our way to the Alpha Centauri Binary System. Proxima is a red dwarf star, and even the worst planets in the Binary System were far more easily habitable. Most of biological humanity does not even think about Proxima anymore. It is simply one of the countless number of stars where no one lives. It is a different story for cybernetic humanity. Proxima was the first star our earliest AI probe swarms explored, our first foothold in the stars. The AIs and their cybernetic descendents have never left. They built Proxima into their first Memory World, the location of their first independent storage facility for all the knowledge of their race. Proxima is a far more important system than most people realize, and that is why it is so heavily defended.
6 - Medron - I’m Tired, Boss It seems like it’s only been a few weeks since I’ve said this. I’m tired of all being mean and hurting each other. A country concert. A bike path. A church. We know why the bike path attack happened. The man who did it told us all what self-appointed war he was fighting with that.
But we still don’t why another man attacked the concert in Vegas. And we know even less about it now than we did on day one. This church attack is similar. They aren’t telling us what they’ve found out so far. But whatever the reason, it’s ugly. It’s hateful. It’s hurtful.
And I’m just tired of it all.
7 - Betty - Weylan One important thing to consider about the Weylan is that they are fundamentally a peaceful people. The Albion designed them to be dangerous in battle but to crave peace above all else. That makes them some of the most heavily-armed pacifists in the known galaxy. And it makes Arkadia one of the toughest nuts to crack out there, though that did not stop the Shang from trying during The War. But the biggest reason the Weylan have survived all these years is because they are good neighbors. Many races have built colonies in the surviving habitable systems surrounding them, and they are the heart of a region of calm inside the devastated region of space the Albion once ruled. Most of the other races trust them. That is a very important thing.
8 - Jack So what do we do when the bad guys come calling? We welcome them with open arms, of course. I prefer what the Society for Creative Anachronism still calls a fifty caliber revolver. Yes, it uses gunpowder. And bullets. Lots of bullets. Lots of kinds of bullets. Shotgun shells. Hacker rounds. Stun rounds. Lessons in how to quickly vacate an area via teargas rounds. Lessens in interpretive dance through electrical impulse rounds. To whom it may concern rounds. You name it, I’ve probably fired it at least once. Two or three times just be certain. You know the drill, right? You have to practice if you’re going to be good enough to make a difference when the bad guys come calling. And I prefer to make it a collect call. That way they get to pay all the penalty fees.
9 - Charles - The Essential Galactic Atlas The hyperspace routes we used before Contact and in the first century after Contact where highly proprietary. Each major alliance held tight control over our systems and the runs that united them. Alpha Centauri was our largest shared system due simply to the fact that there would have been war had anyone tried to stop anyone else. The other routes were another matter, which is why many strong Alliance systems never saw a Chinese or Russian starship before The War came upon us all. And why we never saw the Chinese or Russian systems. We lived in different worlds until The War brought us all crashing back together again. It was not a happy reunion.
10 - Betty - Weylan The Weylan are a fundamentally trustworthy people if you ask most races. But their Contact with us was not always smooth. The Protestant wing of Christianity that is most strongly concentrated in America does not appreciate blasphemy against God. Naming your child Jesus for instance is simply not done. It would be presumptuous at best. But the Catholic wing of Christianity strongest in the Southern and Central Americas is far different. Jesus is one of their most common names. It is a hopeful name. An honor to wear. The Weylan as it turns out are at least as deeply religious as the Americas are, and that is why their name for soldiers translates into the word Seraph. They are honoring the angels of their own faiths, and pledging to live up to those examples.
11 - Jack The games we play say much about our personalities. I like to play Mechs of War. Guys in big robots carrying big guns blowing up other guys in big robots. There’s a lot of story involved, but honestly, what more do you need to have fun? Sometimes I just want to blow something up. Virtually. Then there’s all those multiplayer network games where people play as wizards or soldiers and such. Some of them have amazing stories. Some of them are just excuses for people to get together and talk. Or conduct business meetings and trades. It’s amazing to see some of the virtual worlds that people have created in the networks. I like the real world myself, but then I grew up under warm skies and cool water. Sometimes I wonder if I lived in one of the last places on Earth where that’s normal. Don’t get me wrong. I like the networks. I spend a lot of time in them. I do a lot of work there. But I wonder about all the people who show up as wizards or warriors in them. Me? I show up in a white Stetson and white suit. I’m Captain Jack in whatever world you meet me in. I guess that’s what games say about me.
12 - Charles - The Essential Galactic Atlas One major change brought about by The War was the unification of humanity’s hyperspace runs. The Chinese controlled many of the best routes through the stars, including their lock on nearly all those that ran near the Hyades Cluster. We fought them for control of those routes for years, seeking to open their worlds to invasion at need, and to shorten our own supply lines to the Hyades Front. And our transport companies soon began taking advantage of these routes on their own, using them to reduce travel times to distant markets. The entire economic map of humanity changed because of the military advances we made against the Chinese. And that changed everything about how we lived and expanded after War’s End.
13 - Medron - Veterans Day Weekend We celebrated Veterans Day this week. Armistice Day in the rest of the world. We remember those who fought. We remember those who served. We remember those who signed their named on the check that could be cashed at any time, without warning. We remember our Veterans.
My great uncle Dean served in World War II. He came home and proposed to the girl he’d written letters to for years. My Uncle Ben retired from the Navy a few years ago after over twenty years in service. My Uncle Duane joined the Navy, then switched to the Army and fought in Desert Storm. My cousin John served in the Air Force. My stepmother Rose served as a Marine. My cousin Dylan is in the Navy right now. I can’t count the second or third cousins or uncles who have served in one war or another over the years.
I am surrounded by those who served. I grew up looking up to them. I grew up asking questions that I probably shouldn’t have, but they always answered them as good as they could. I never served. I have never known that world. But I have touched it, and I will ever remember those who lived it.
And as Patton once said, I will “thank God that such men lived.”
14 - Betty - Lucas Cats The cats of San Lucas have many names. The official local name is Pantera de Lucas while scientists call them Panthera Lucas. The locals usually call them Lucas Felino or Loco Felino when they are annoyed. Or scared. They are most closely related to Earth’s Panther family of big cats that include Lions and Tigers. Bears need not apply. The primary difference is that the cats of San Lucas are smart. I’m talking human levels of intelligence, with forepaws as nimble as human hands. They were tool users when South America colonized the world, and had their own complex civilization. We didn’t know that at first. They were just big, wild cats who prowled the edges of our settlements for decades.
15 - Jack - San Lucas San Lucas was the first planet where we met an arguably alien, intelligent species. By the time I came around, we’d come to the conclusion it was normal that most worlds we lived on were a lot like Earth. San Lucas was no exception. The basic building blocks of life were there. Proteins. Plants. Insects. Reptiles. Mammals. Birds. Everything was closely related enough to that found on Earth that our earliest colonists landed and started living off the land without so much as a hitch. They picked a nice, temperate spot near the equator to live, where they could be warm and comfortable year round. It’s a bit warm for my Northern Minnesota bones, but I do have to admit that it is beautiful.
16 - Charles - San Lucas 61 Ursae Majoris is a G8V star which lies four lightyears off the Asgard hyperspace route. That makes it extremely easy to travel to, and it was the target of a major bidding war for international colonization rights. A consortium of South American nations won the rights and named their new possession San Lucas. Their colony ship arrived in 2178, a mere four years after Asgard’s expedition made landfall, and it became one of South America’s jewels in the stars. It also became the first world we met alien intelligent creatures on, though we did not know that until some decades after the Peloran made Contact with us. The experience caused us to change the way we explored, colonized, and studied planets in the future.
17 - Betty - Lucas Cats The cats of San Lucas seemed like standard, wild cats when humanity first settled their world. They hunted wild game, sampled the newly imported delicacies where possible, and learned to keep their distance from human settlements. They were smart enough to realize that human weapons were dangerous, but so were many Earth species. It never occurred to the colonists that the big cats were any more intelligent than that for the first several decades. They had other things to worry about. Life. Death. Et cetera. So they kept on going about their lives, driving off the more aggressive cats, going out on hunts from time to time, and doing all the other things that humans do in a new land.
18 - Jack - San Lucas I toured the rainforests of San Lucas after The War. I’d fought the Chinese with some of the Loco Cats, you see. They wanted to show me where they’d grown up. I returned the favor, though they thought my home was a little chilly. That’s fair. Their home is a bit warm for my sensibilities. But it only took one visit to see why nobody found them back in the day. Those rainforests are impressive at hiding anything from above, and the cats are nowhere near the most physically dangerous species on San Lucas. The cats are the size of a small horse. But there’s this rhino-hippo-crocodile fuel-of-nightmares thing the size of a large horse that actually holds the title of alpha predator on San Lucas. It’s got armored scales for a hide and jaws that can snap reinforced landing struts. Thank God they can’t climb trees.
19 - Charles - San Lucas San Lucas was simply one of many habitable worlds when South America sent their colony expedition. We thought it no more special than any of the other fifty-odd systems we had colonized, with thick jungles covering most of its equatorial belt. Our settlers picked virgin beaches to place their early settlements and ignored most of the thick jungle belts. They burned perimeter clearings into the jungles after realizing that humans turned out to be tasty morsels for the local animal and plant life, and only a few explorers ventured deep into the jungles. A few scientists reported findings that at least some of the local wildlife could be smarter than we imagined, but they were laughed out of their jobs and their research was discarded. Some say that was our first mistake. Trust me. That was nowhere near our first or our last mistake on San Lucas.
20 - Medron - Justice and Ragnorak I haven’t seen much for movies lately. Going from a 100 dollar a month healthcare plan before Obamacare to a 750 dollars a month plan and another 400 a month to pay down medical costs it doesn’t cover tends to leave a rather massive hole in a budget. So movies have gone the way of the dodo for me in most cases.
But Marvel and DC are an exception to that. Marvel has made one hit after another that I’ve loved, and I keep on hoping DC will make a movie as fun to watch as Green Lantern. Each of them pulled excellent rating off with Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 and Wonder Woman.
But what of Thor: Ragnorak, and Justice League? Thor has been known as a far more serious series, especially the rather dour Thor 2. And we all know how joyful and colorful Batman v Superman was. So how did they fare? Well. I’ll say this, if you’ve seen the previous for either, you have not seen the movie. Both sets of previews successfully avoid spoiling anything.
Thor’s previews manage this by lying to us. Straight up lying. What you see in the trailers is not what you see in the movies. Sometimes the background is different. Sometimes the foreground is different. Sometimes the people are different. They did an awesome job of showing us the FEEL of the movie without spoiling the reality of the movie. Bravo. And Thor Ragnarok stands tall next to the Guardian of the Galaxy movies. It is seriously that good. It’s fun to watch, and every major character gets at least one crowning moment of awesome to show off.
Justice League manages it by…well…changing the director after the previews were done and reshooting a significant part of the movie to be a bit happier. Seriously. A good half of the previews aren’t in the movie. And Superman smiles. Yeah…I know…spoilers. But if anybody DIDN’T know Superman was going to be in the movie, in some way, if only as a dream sequence, they weren’t paying attention, so I don’t feel guilty there. And the rest of the cast steps up and takes notice too. And you know what? After a decade of watching normal people waking up with gifts and choosing to help granny cross the street, and then find a battle to fight where their particular gifts is good, watching gods among men like Wonder Woman and Aquaman going into battle with true alien supersoldiers was amazing. They aren’t normal people who woke up with gifts one day and decided to help granny cross the road. They are warriors, descendents of warrior cultures, trained by warriors to fight, and they SMILE after getting hit, stand back up, and throw it right back at the bad guys. It was FUN to watch the Justice League fight.
And in that way, I have to say that Thor Ragnorak and Justice League are more alike than they are different. Watching Thor, Loki, Hulk, and Valkyrie wade into battle with smiles on their faces was every bit as much fun as watching the Justice League do the same. They are gods, with a small g, rising to meet a challenge to their world that just needs fighting. Good versus evil. Life versus death. A small group of plucky heroes against an endless armada of helmeted bad guys. Ah. Good times.
Thor Ragnorak is standing towards the top of the Marvel movies list for me. Justice League does the same thing for DC movies. Queue the excited “Yeah!” from Aquaman on that little point.
21 - Betty - Lucas Cats The cats of San Lucas are at least as warlike as mankind can be. They were in the middle of several rather impressive wars when we colonized their world, in fact. Three, maybe four depending on the exact definition, were religious wars of some kind. One of them was extremely serious, with losses on both sides equaling Earth’s Socialist Revolutions, and destabilizing the political structure of an entire continent. Most of the others were more colonial rebellions, on the outskirts of a previously united empire that had recently fallen into a serious civil war. These wars didn’t end when humanity arrived. There were only a few thousand of us, living on the seashores that any self-respecting cat stayed far away from. We, the aliens who crossed the stars to colonize their world, didn’t matter when it came to the political calculations of power on their world. Let that sink in for a moment.
22 - Malcolm - Tarian as Seren I first met Tarian at Arnami Prime when the Wolfenheim fleet passed through. He was the commander of one of their primary orbital stations, and took it upon himself to make certain we didn’t cause trouble while in his space. He wasn’t the first Arnam I’ve met in my life, but he was the first who was undeniably part of the Arnami military. Defense force. The exact meaning is lost in translation due to cultural differences, but the point is that he considered himself more of a civil servant or logistical organizer than a defender of the Arnami race. He was willing to be that at need. It was why he volunteered to join the service, after all. But he never really expected it to have to do more than separate disagreeable ship captains, or maybe talk down some people exchanging aggressive words. He was a peacekeeper. That’s probably the best translation we’ve come up with. Not that the Arnam ever had trouble keeping the peace amongst themselves, you understand. It was the other people who came by, like me, who they had to keep in line.
23 - Medron - Happy Thanksgiving Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.
Today is a day in America where we thank God for the blessings we have.
Mine would start with being alive. That’s actually rather important. I burst an appendix last year, blew it wipe open, so being alive is an achievement for me. And I have sleep apnea, so I have one of those nice little breathing elephant hoses pushing air into my nose so I can sleep better. Let me tell you, you never realize how bad you were sleeping until you start getting some good sleep in.
I’m also thankful for those of you out there who choose to be my friends. Or coworkers. Or whatever. You’re in my life, and most of you are pretty cool about it. I may have had an experience in the not-too-distant past where a number of people I enjoyed being with chose to vote me off the island. I treasure everyone who bucked that vote and said, “They don’t get to choose who I deal with.”
I’m thankful for my family. We’ve lost some recently. Two of my uncles (one is technical a great uncle, but he was always uncle to me) are dead now. They were both veterans, one of World War II, the other Desert Storm. But I’ve gotten new family as well. Cousins born. Marriages celebrated. Life and family goes on, and as time passes you realize you are no longer one of the youngest, but one of the middlest.
And I’m thankful for all the people out there who read my stories and enjoy them. Writing is something I do because I can’t imagine not. But my stories are better because of you. Because I want you to enjoy reading them.
So…Happy Thanksgiving to all of you who are part of my life. And know that I am thankful you are.
24 - Medron - Black Friday Cowboy Style Everybody loves a good Black Friday sale, including my humble self. It’s the start of the Christmas season, a time for fighting over cheap TVs and shopping until you drop from sheer exhaustion. Mmmm…on second thought, maybe Black Friday should be enjoyed at home in front of a computer, where you can be safe from the other denizens of this world. If you agree with me on that, well I have a Black Friday deal for you.
Captain Jack of Hart Squadron, Republic of Texas Marine Corps Fighter Attack Wing 112, the Cowboys, is a man who puts his dashing sense of style on display for everyone to see. One of his many mottos is, “The better you look, the better people will think of you.” Now you too can be like Jack, or one of the more respectable Cowboys if you prefer, with this new shirt sporting the fantastic new insignia (drawn by the talented Matt Maeda) of the Jack of Harts VMFA-112.
Serious note: The Jack of Harts VMFA-112 is named in honor of the real life Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 112, the Cowboys, veterans of World War II and conflicts through to the modern day. Because of these aviators, and everyone else who has served, I am free to bring my dreams to life. I will never forget.
25 - Betty - Lucas Cats People ask how we could have lived on a world with a major indigenous civilization in the middle of multiple major wars and never realized it. The answer is simple. We settled the coastal regions and did not enter the jungles in large numbers. Their largest and most powerful civilizations were in the deepest parts of the rainforests or jungles and they didn’t go to the coasts. There was water there, and everybody know that no self-respecting cat wants to be anywhere near water if they can help it. Also, they weren’t exactly an industrial society. There were no train tracks or factory plumes for us to detect while flying overhead. They weren’t noble savages or anything like that, though. They had complex societies complete with large cities, small villages, several major religions, numerous international borders, and large standing armies. They’re actually more like us than the Peloran or Arnam. There’s a reason for that.
26 - Malcolm - Tarian ap Seren Tarian was the commander of an orbital station over Arnami Prime when I first met him. I didn’t expect to see him again, at least not anytime soon. So it was a bit of a surprise when I found him at the head of an Arnam fleet. Well, technically he found me, but who’s counting? For a man who never thought of himself as a warrior, Tarian became the mother of all headaches for the Shang. And you know what else? I think he’s an example of just how all that Albion engineering is starting to break down after over two millennia. He didn’t go back to his little pond after War’s End. He’s still one of the mildest-mannered people I’ve ever known. He’s still got all the control they built into him. But I think the Albion would be worried about all the control over the controls he achieved after twenty years of War. He can start a fight now. That alone would scare the Albion spitless, but it’s not the only change. The War forged him into a far more implacable foe than the Shang ever wanted to see. I can’t help but think that was one of the better-earned and well-deserved changes The War brought about.
27 - Medron Pryde - First, Second, and Third Thanksgiving Yes…three of them.
Thursday was the normal First Thanksgiving for me, with my Mom’s family coming down from up North to eat with the whole clan. But the southern parts of the clan couldn’t make it out on Thanksgiving day due to being on call.
So Second Thanksgiving was arranged on Friday so we could eat again with the southern branch, leftovers of the Thursday meal that were just as good, and filling, as they were the first time.
Then there was my Dad’s family having Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday, so I went there as well.
I feel stuffed, plucked, and ready to serve right now.
But I’m also about as happy as a satisfied Hobbit…
28 - Betty - Lucas Cats The indigenous civilization on San Lucas was several thousand years old when we colonized their world. One of the major population centers was on the cusp of an industrial revolution that probably would have made them the dominant planetary culture in a few decades. We could have detected that from planetary orbit. They were centuries into a cultural revolution similar to our own Enlightenment period that had sparked numerous small revolutions and civil wars as the unity of the old empire failed. Numerous younger colonial realms were already on the rise after winning their own freedom, and the empire itself was devolving into a serious civil war between those supporting the old regime and something our historians compared to Earth’s Young Turk movements. It was one of those Young Turks who was saved by that human veterinarian and later initiated the first major Contact between our races.
29 - Malcolm - Erik Torson Erik Torson is one of the more interesting individuals I met out in Arnami space. He isn’t Arnam at all, for one. He was the commander of a trading fleet from out in Aesiran space that was doing its thing at Arnami Prime when we arrived there. He was some kind of combination of a military, civilian, and family leader. My people compared him to the chieftain of a tribe or clan, with the trading fleet acting as his tribe. I would find out it was far more complicated than that. It was also far simpler, but it took me even longer to find that out. And it’s just as complicated to explain, as it is simple to understand. So let me just say this. Erik Torson is one of the reasons that Wolfenheim turned out the way it did. Whatever else you hear about him in the future, keep that in mind.
30 - Charles - San Lucas There are three major landmasses on San Lucas, along with thousands of smaller islands. The South Americans focused on the smaller continent due to it being home to the greatest amount of heavy metals and fuel we could mine for. We did plant some colonies on the other continents, but they were few and far between, and always enjoyed the most beautiful of coastal vistas. And the islands we colonized were similarly small and devoid of anything that would make us think an intelligent species lived there. There were extremely dangerous cats the size of large horses throughout those lands, but they were not intelligent. They were deadly dangerous, and considered humans a fine delicacy worth hunting for. But that first continent and all the islands we colonized completely lacked the intelligent cats we would later meet on the other two major continents.