Archive for March, 2009


March 23, 2009

Naarka drew his saber and walked steadily, unhurriedly forward. Perhaps she heard his footfalls crunching on the sandy ground, perhaps it was the fluttering of the startled chickens that caught her attention. But Teres looked up and saw him when he was still ten paces away. She froze in an instant of shocked recognition, then just as quickly as she froze, she moved into action.

She dropped the bag of feed that she had been trying to open. She had just gotten one corner a little torn, and was clutching the two sides of the sack pulling the tear open a little wider to make it easier to pour, or to reach her hand in to scoop some out and scatter on the ground. When she dropped the bag, it hit the ground with a thud. The grain absorbed the impact so that the bag deformed a little bit and then sagged over onto its side, spilling out a small mound of feed onto the ground next to the bag. It looked like it was a small animal taking a little shit.

Naarka quickened his pace just a little as he stepped over the little mound and sack and followed her through a doorway on the left. She was already running through the rooms. The livestock shed opened off of the pantry, into which Naarka was now stepping. Teres was already moving through the opposite door into the kitchen, and she was already yelling the names of her sons – not in a frantic, panicked voice, but a clear, prepared-sounding voice, a voice that carried without being overly loud – like a stage actor’s, or an a capella singer’s – “Cal! Bil! CAL. BIL.”

Naarka could almost see them in his minds eye, looking up from whatever dirty hulking machine over which they were hunched, instantly recognizing the situation and their danger in it. Naarka sighed to himself. Perhaps he should have shot Teres from a distance with the gun. He was not a very good shot, but he might have at least kept her from running. But oh well. This is what felt right at the time. This was the way he wanted to do it. He had begun to form a personal philosophy in the past few years, largely through this whole experience with Dal and his family, that if you did not follow at least some of your whims, perhaps the majority of them, then you were dead. Or to put it another way, you were only alive in proportion to the number of your own whims that you followed.

He was moving into the kitchen now. He could still see Teres, though she was moving a bit further from him, since she was running and knew the house, and he was just walking, though walking quickly, and he had to get his bearings with each room.

As he stepped into the kitchen he saw a woman with dirty-blonde jaw length frizzled hair look up from the counter next to the sink in a far corner of the room. This woman was watching Teres run through the far door, and then this woman turned to look at Naarka. A look of intense anger crossed her face, distorting it like a band of hot air distorts a summer road. She grabbed a large kitchen knife, and started rushing toward Naarka, then stopped, slowed, and started approaching more cautiously. In the few seconds it took this woman to pass through these stages, Naarka pulled the gun out of its holster witt his left hand and with that  same hand he fired into the woman’s torso. Or towards it, since with his left hand he was an even worse shot. He could feel the recoil spraining his wrist. That would hurt a lot later. Notwithstanding his poor left-handed marksmanship, the bullet went into the woman, at the bottom of her left ribs, just aside of the top of her belly. It was enough to stun her at least. She stopped, and grunted, and her shoulders rolled forward in a clumsy, angry shrug.

Naarka stepped forward and slid his saber between her ribs above the bullet hole. “Ah,”, the woman said and fell backward, knocking some flour off of the table behind her. She leaned back into the floor and bumped her head, hard. Naarka stepped over her, stabbed her again through the ribs, trying to aim in to the heart, then pulled his arm back, and thrust forward again to stab her in the throat, jabbing at it two or three times for good measure. He wanted to be final about it, but he did not feel he had time for chopping anything off. He stepped back from the woman’s body on the floor there and headed again toward the door opposite the pantry, the southern door. He had lost sight of Teres. Dammit.

He went to the door and leaned out through it. It opened onto a hallway that stretched left and right, to the east and west. Naarka waited two breaths, looking up and down the hall. To the right were doorways, most of them with the doors closed in them, and at then the hallway ended in a wall. To the left were also a couple of closed doors, but then at the end the hallway turned to the right, back south. He weighed quickly. Finding Teres before she made more preparations or prepared any stratagem was heavier than caution. He quickly stepped into the hall, paused one more instant, then walked at a steady pace to the left, around the turn. Beyond which the hall was only went a short way – a few feet – before it opened onto the factory.

He could feel the heat coming out of that big room. He started walking toward it when he saw a large figure coming toward him holding a large metal rod that glowed pink and red at one end. He backed quickly into the corridor again. He sheathed his saber, and drew the gun again – into his right hand.

The figure filled the doorway at the end of the hallway, and Naarka fired, once again aiming into the torso. He could not see where the bullet went in exactly. The large man, who he now saw had close cropped salt and pepper hair and a kneaded, acne-scarred face, let out a thoughtful little sound, “mmm”, as if he were judging a cooking contest by taste. Naarka brought his left hand to his right wrist to steady his aim, held his arms out straight and aimed at the man’s head. He fired again. The man had been leaning against one wall. The bullet went into his forehead above his right eye. His expression went completely blank and he slid down the wall into a sitting position.

Naarka, after a furtive look past the sitting figure into the factory floor beyond, stepped back again and fed three more bullets into his gun. He then stepped to the doorway, leaned back against the wall and leaned into the room, stepping carefully over the red hot poker that was still held by the sitting dead man.

Naarka could not see any more people immediately, but there were a lot of tables, anvils, benches and tubs, as well as the big furnace. He stepped slowly out into the factory floor. He suddenly heard a clattering from the far side of the room. He moved over to the eastern doorway, and kicked the big sliding screen open a little further, letting in more natural daylight. A curtain on the southern side of the room was suddenly thrown back and another large gray haired man appeared from behind it. The man was holding a bucket with very thick, very padded, very rubber gloves. He swung the bucket as the screen opened, but most of the hot silver liquid splashed onto the curtain. Naarka was holding the gun with both hands now. He took careful aim and shot the old man through the throat.

Behind the old man he saw a teenager move backward in startled fear toward the wall. It was the woman’s younger son, um, Bil. Naarka moved forward to the edge of the curtain, menacing the boy with his gun, so that the boy retreated further, behind a large furnace and to the south wall and westward back along it, to where his mother appeared to be waiting. Nearer Naarka, on the northern side of the furnace stood the older son, about five paces away and holding another poker, but this one was not glowing red hot. Cal.

Naarka took a step back and holstered his gun. He wanted some more emotional resonance than the gun could give him. And there was a small component of honor, though that had mostly been satisfied with the father. For the rest of the family expediency was looked upon as justified, but a certain flair was certainly appreciated. Naarka drew his saber and advanced upon the older boy. Cal was keyed up though, or just naturally quick. He darted forward and with his own lunge knocked the saber to Naarkas left with a hard swing with the poker, and then somehow faster than Naarka could figure out he had grabbed Naarka’s arm and was trying to wrestle him. Naarka struggled. He thought he could break free without injury, but the kid was not pressing his advantage, instead the kid was pulling him eastward. That seemed to be his whole aim. Naarka tried to leverage this and started running in the same direction, he could feel the surprise through the kid’s arms. From somewhere he heard a woman yell, “Wait, there!”, which he did not understand, but the kid started digging in his feet, and pushing him back. Then the kid tried to break free. He did briefly, but Naarka managed to snatch one of the kid’s arms back, and that is when the large blade used for cutting plate glass came down and cut off Naarka’s head, and with it the arm of Cal’s that Naarka had been holding. His left arm.

Cal statrted screaming in pain, and then it became a long, long loud yell of anger.



March 22, 2009

Naarka walked back down and rolled up his sleeping bag again, then put it in his pack. He briefly thought about leaving it there, but then quickly thought better of it. He would take it with him as far as the building, and stash it by a corner or something – someplace easy to find again where he could either get it on his way out, or come back for it later.

He shrugged the pack over his shoulders and on to his back. He set out walking, continuing the previous day’s course. Upon his figuring he was pretty much directly north east of the compound. So he headed south west, aiming for the middle of the north wall. He walked calmly, almost casually. He wanted to avoid detection, but he did not fear it. Nor anything else.

Around mid-day the wall came into view. It bore no distinguishing features. No hand-holds or ladders studded its face. No dunes reached to its top. No doorway or other entrance broke its uniformity. Naarka decided to wait until nightfall to investigate it at lose range. He stopped at a dune about a hundred meters away, unrolled his pack just on the opposite side from the compound, and lay down for a  nap.

He dozed on and off, and woke in darkness. He rolled up his bag again and headed first to check the western wall. He walked southwest to the corner of the wall and looked around the corner. Same thing, featureless. No doorway, no entrance of any kind. No way to reach the top of the wall. He stashed his pack with the sleeping bag at the northwest corner of the building, and decided to continue his circuit counter-clockwise around the compound.

When he turned the corner to the south wall, he saw same thing: no features, no entrances, no holes whatsoever. He walked on eastward to the next corner, then paused slightly. Cautious but still unafraid, and looked around the corner. Nothing and no one stirred. He stepped around the corner, then stepped away eastward from the wall a bit to get a more encompassing view of the entire wall and its gate. The gate looked, simply, like two big wooden doors in a big stone wall. That was it.

Naarka walked northward along the wall, and stepped closer to the doors. They looked solid. _Hmm. Well, fuck. No easy way in._ He had not thought this through very well. The way he saw it, he had two options: wait for morning, when they would probably open the gates again, or try to climb the walls or doors with what tools he had. Both of these approaches had serious problems. As far as waiting, well that had the same problems as walking up and going straight in yesterday afternoon. Hadn’t he rejected that approach already? Well, yes, but he still might be forced to take it. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth exploring other options. And besides, now that he was already this close, he might be able to sneak in even through the front gate more easily. Maybe all he had to do was observe for a while and think. He could probably come up with something.

The problem with the second option was, frankly, that he did not bring many tools at all. _Boy_, he thought, _I did NOT think this through._ After a mental sigh, he inventoried what he had at hand. He had his weapons: gun-slash-slingshot, saber, hand knife. Then he had his sleeping bag and pack. He continued his circuit around the building – undisturbed, the gate was dark and silent  – until he came to the opposite corner where he had stashed his pack. He rummaged through it. Maybe there was a rope or something?

He stood next to the wall and ran his hand over its surface, to see if maybe it was possible for him to gouge hand and foot holds in it using something like the handle of his knife. It was solid stone. He sat down to think a bit more. He could cut his sleeping bag into strips, then tie them together to form a rope. Maybe he could tie one end to a rock, and then use his gun-slash-slingshot to fire it over the wall. But then what would anchor it for him to climb up the rope? Maybe he could fire a rock into the wall, near the top, and that would anchor it enough for him to climb up. He thought about the idea for a full five minutes before rejecting it. He didn’t trust his aim to put the end of the rope within reach of the top of the wall. He didn’t trust that it would be anchored strongly enough in the wall to hold his weight.

Reluctantly he came to the conclusion that he knew he would come to before he even walked back to his pack. He would take another nap, and wait for daylight, for then the gate would be open, and he could try to sneak in. He got his sleeping bag out of the pack, unrolled it, and climbed in again. He was hungry, and ate the one food bar that he had brought. He lay awake a long time before falling asleep again, but his mind was empty.

He woke several times – first in darkness, then finally to the graying sky of the pre-dawn twilight. Naarka was hungry again, and thirsty. He sat up in his sleeping bag, reached over to the pack, and took a swig of water. He had put into his pack a flask of water along with some food bars when he left his vehicle. It was still a little chilly. The sun came up over the horizon while he sat there drinking sparingly. It was beautiful, but he immediately felt its heat. The day was going to be very hot.

He squirmed out of the sleeping bag, rolled it up and put it into the pack. He laid the pack carefully against the western wall of the compound, just at the northern corner. He cheked all his weapons, took one more swig of water, then put the flask too in the pack. He walked east along the edge of the wall to the north eastern corner of the compound, and peered around the corner. The eastern wall was bathed in light. He looked again at the rising sun. The horizon seemed unusually close.

He looked at the east until his eyes were adjusted to the brightness. He looked at the road, and could see no one on it. He looked back at the eastern wall to see if the gate was open. From his angle of view e couldn’t tell if the doors were even there. He couldn’t even remember whether they opened inward or outward. He had forgotten to check that the night before. He started walking south, sticking close to the wall. As he got closer to the doors he could see that yes they opened inward, and they stood open.

He lifted the specs from his chest and flipped them to heat-sensing. He raised them to his face and took a look. He saw no heat source near the doors. He lowered the specs, moved closer, right next to the entrance, and stuck his head briefly past the edge. In the first brief glance he saw no one in the courtyard within. He looked again with the specs. He could see a large heat source right in the middle of the building. That had to be the furnace that lay below the large chimney. There was also a heat source almost as large off to the left, more to the side of the factory. He saw what he thought were the shapes of people moving inside the building. They looked far off. He put the specs down. He still could not see anyone. Quickly and as silently as he could he stepped in past the largeright-hand door, forward around it it and then behind it, into the angle it made with the wall of the compound.

From behind the door he looked at the building again. He saw the large doorway into the facrtory. The huge sliding door only stood a few feet open. Further to the right were some windows high up on the wall, but no more doors on this side. The building seemed to stop some ways from the northern wall, making a little side yard between the wall and the building. He Lifted up the specs again. He could see some vague shapes moving inside the building, but nothing definite. He walked slowly along the wall to the north, until he could get a good view of the the yard beyond the edge of the building.

The building dropped back to leave room for a little barnyard, in which some chickens were scratching in the dust. Naarka quickly sidled forward so that he was against the eastern edge of the building, at the corner right before it dropped back into the yard. A simple roof of wooden slats leaned above what looked to be a barn. Inside the wide, open doorway he could see chicken coops and small stables, which he guessed were for goats.

Something moved in the back of this barn. He couldn’t make it out clearly – it was still a dusky twilight within the compound’s outer wall, though the sky above was now bright. Naarka looked down at his specs, switched them to optical mode, and brought them up to his face for a closer look. He could now make out a human figure with certainty. Initially it was partially hidden by some stalls and equipment, but as it moved forward from behind them he could tell it was female. He kept watching. Now he could tell. It was Teres. From the photographs he had seen, the face matched.

He leaned back, turned, and put his back against the wall, facing east. He took a deep breath. He put the specs back down on his chest, then snapped the buttons on straps that then held it tight there, so it would not swing about when he moved. He took out his gu, and reached into another pocket of its holster to take out some bullets. He loaded the gun with four bullets, which was a full charge. The gun was really an accessory. He put it back in its holster. He drew his saber, and turned back to the barn yard shed.


March 8, 2009

Ferr is trying to make plate glass. He has been doing it with the bottles and the circles for almost ever, but of course it is very expensive. No one on this continent makes plate glass with the float process. There is some glass made that way around, but it is all imported – a process almost as expensive, especially for glass, since aside from normal transportation costs you have to make sure it doesn’t break.

Now Ferr wants to make the real smooth plate glass. He thinks there is a market for a locally produced source. He has found some books on the process from long ago, and deciphered them. Or a foreigner has visited him, wanting to know the blowing techniques for his hand crafted stuff. Ferr is afraid that this foreigner is going to go back to his homeland and then mass produce the little trinket stuff and ruin his business. Well, if he sat down and thought about it he probably will not be driven out of most of his markets – he’d be safe with the hunting lodge to the west, the frou-frou restaurants and so forth. He might lose out in the town and city markets. Anyway he thinks that he can sell the plate glass to builders, to the contractors that are putting up new buildings and renovating old ones in the city to the east. He thinks the city is standing on the cusp of a new wave of technological improvement – not a renaissance, or even a modernization but just one more layer added on top of all the others that have piled up and then rotted millennia upon millennia.

In his efforts Ferr had tried the rolling process, with little success. He was currently trying out the float process with molten tin. On the factory floor was a small set up just to test the concept: a pool of tin, and a conveyor belt leading from its edge to a large cutting blade. He had tried to divert some of the heat from the central furnace to keep the tin molten, but had wound up build a separate furnace, with its chimney cork-screwing with piping and bent ducting along the ceiling to join the main chimney.

Ferr also dealt with the suppliers who brought in the raw material: silica, lime, some metal oxides. These were rough men, coming from the mines in the middle of the desert. They always stayed a day or two and told some great great stories after the big dinners to which Ferr would treat them. When he knew they were coming he usually brought in a few prostitutes from the city.

Naarka stood at that pole and let himself grow calm. He looked around again and finally saw that there was a road leading off to the west. It was not in the best repair. It had been lain with large flat stones, some of which were broken. Naarka recognized the type of road. There were a lot of them in the suburbs and city outskirts, small townships, private estates, shopping districts, business developments. They were all about thirty years old, relics of a construction fad, and none of them were in very good shape. This one had probably been laid by a private road contractor, paid by the owners of the glass factory. Many of the large flat stones were broken, and they had not been replaced or repaired. Some of them had not been put back in the road. Perhaps the current factory owners h    ad lost whatever road laying skills there predecessors might may have had. The dunes here were low, anyway, more like short, drifts of sand than full-fledged dunes.

Naarka walked over to his vehicle. He stepped first on one of the stirrups, and then swung his leg over the fuselage and seat. He settled himself in the seat, then flexed his shin muscles to press the pedals in the stirrups to provide thrust to move the vehicle forward. He started out slowly down the westward road, and steadily picked up speed until he was going a comfortable fifty kilometers per hour.

After about twenty minutes he saw it in the distance. It shimmered into being above its own mirage. He slowed down. Now he had to decide how he wanted to do this. On the spur of that moment he decided he did not want to approach directly. Let us observe discreetly for a while first, if we can, he thought. Hmm, how to do that. He stopped the vehicle, leaned back and dug through another pack hanging off of the back left side of his vehicle. He pulled out his long-range specs, brought them to his face and peered through them. The rest of the world disappeared except for the wind playing with the hair at the back of his head. It was replaced by a far away image of a sand-colored wall against dunes, below a pale turquoise sky darkening toward dusk. In the wall he could see a gate, which was open. Hmm. If I don’t want to approach directly that means I don’t want to go through that gate. That means not coming at it from the front here. I will have to see if I can approach it from another side. And i better try to do that starting from out here. He turned his vehicle north.

He went about fifteen minutes before he hit sand dunes big enough that he realized circling in a big way with his vehicle was going to be terribly difficult without a road to circle on. Walking the rest of the way would give him more cover – he would have less to hide when he got up close. He might have more options for how he approached, from what direction. He would have to park his vehicle at some point anyway. How long was the walk going to take him? Would he even get there by nightfall? Hmm. Maybe it would be better to just go in directly, guns blazing if he had to. But that might give them warning, if they were in the back, he could be delayed by the people there, and they could slip away again. He did not want to have to hunt them down again. This would be it, by the gods. Okay. If he got there at night, then so much the better. But he might have to camp out. He would have to think carefully about what supplies to bring from the vehicle. He was going to wind up looking like one of these fucking fugitives, hauling a big pack around. Oh well, it could not be helped. There is a price to be paid for doing things the right way, as his dear old father used to say – or he might have, anyway.

He gunned the vehicle’s engine till it made up over the next dune, then banked it to a stop in the valley on the other side. He would have to make it easy for him to find this thing again, too – but moderately difficult for others to find. He parked the thing, and went to the packs hanging off the back. He pulled out a thin tarp with a bit of desert camouflage. He pulled out a line-of-sight radio finder. He pulled out a thin, mylar sleeping bag. He pulled out a backpack. He pulled out the gun and its holster. He pulled out a short sword – basically a really long knife. And his hand knife.

He pulled the tarp over the vehicle, hooking the hooks that were on its edges to the edges and corners and wires of the vehicle itself. He did not stake it into the ground. It was one unit with the vehicle – they could both blow away together. He made sure the sleeping bag was rolled up and put it in the backpack. He had some food bars; he put those in the bag too. He strapped on the holster with its gun, and the scabbard with the short saber. His hand knife he always had in a holster on his leg.

He picked up the two pieces of the line of sight radio finder. Line of sight. He looked around. He could… or could he? Could he put the home unit on top of the of one of the dunes and expect it to stay there, in line of sight? Should he rig an antenna to the vehicle? Either one would mark out his vehicle, which he had just tried to hide – but there was no help for it. He undid the tarp and pulled a tripod assembly out of one of the packs, then put the tarp back again. He climbed to the top of the dune he had just crossed to get here and planted the tripod assembly there. Fuck it, he would just have to take his chances. If the tripod got knocked over, moved, or buried, he would just have to find his way back to his vehicle on his own, using his own internal sense of direction. He set up the tripod, put the base unit on it, switched it on, and then picked up the portable unit. He flipped its switch on to silent light and then waved it at the home antenna. The light went on when it was pointed directly at it. Okay, good. He set out walking to the east.

The dunes and their valleys went north and south, and he wanted to go west. It was slow going, walking up the dunes and skittering down the other side. The long-range specs dragged heavily on his neck and swung against his check at each stride. At the top of each dune he lifted the specs to his face to check the position of the factory. He moved in a southwesterly direction, toward what he figured would be the middle of the north side of the factory. At each check he picked up more detail of the factory. He checked for movement as well as for position. The detail he was getting was not heartening. It didn’t look like there was anything other than the one gate on the east side, the surrounding wall was fairly tall. He had not thought to bring anything he could use to scale the wall.  He would have to improvise. Perhaps the dunes would pile right up to the top of the wall like a ramp, and he could just walk right up. But then he noticed that the dunes were getting smaller.

He scanned further with the specs. There was a natural wall of stone a kilometer or so away from the factory to its west, acting as a natural windbreak. The dunes in their creeping flow broke to either side of this wall, like the waves of the sea turning at a harbor’s breakwater. He had reached an area where he could use his vehicle again, easily. If he had it. He stopped and thought for a while about how to best approach the compound. The ground was too open and exposed. He decided to wait until nightfall to approach. He had his sleeping bag after all – he might as well get some rest. He unrolled it and climbed in, making sure he was out of sight behind a dune. He set up the hood for cover from the sand that might blow during the night. It was still daylight out and thus rather hot. He lay looking up out of his little mesh canopy and thought about the confrontation to come. Man was it hot. It was easy to become drowsy when it was this hot.He drifted off to sleep. When he woke up again it was dark.

When he woke up again, mind still stuck in the molasses of a long nap, it was night. Thousands of stars scattered in the dark before him. There wasn’t enough wind during the sunset and early night to even dust his sleeping bag. that was good news for his rang finder slash homing beacon. He undid the canopy and crawled out of the sleeping bag. There was no wind at all. He climbed to the top of the north-eastern dune top and checked the radio finder. The little red flash in his palm told him it was still working. He skittered back down the dune face to his sleeping bag, rolled it back up and put it back in his pack. He took his specs to the top of the south-westerly dune. He switched them to infra-red. There was nothing. The chimney glowed with a fading heat, but the walls were blank. He couldn’t see through them to see any heat signatures of people.