Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Quote of the Day

"To travel in silence — by a long and circuitous route — to brave the arrows of misfortune — and fear neither noose nor fire — to play the greatest of all games — and win, foregoing no expense — is to mock the vicissitudes of fate — and gain at last the key — that will unlock the ninth gate."

— Boris Balkan, The Ninth Gate.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Torch in the Night, Chapter One, Part One

Begin with the beginning.

Chapter One


New York City, the near future.

An unmarked silver-gray jet darted across the waters of New York Harbor. The aircraft was sparkling in the sunlight like the waters of Upper New York Bay below, where the orange oval of the Staten Island Ferry dropped behind. To the west, Lady Liberty lifted her golden torch into the sky. The pilot waved a lighthearted salute to the green guardian of freedom and the rights of man. As the jet zoomed in on Manhattan, the skyline grew so rapidly that from the cockpit it looked like a fountain shooting jets of concrete, crystal, and steel into the stratosphere. The butte of Financial District skyscrapers rose on the right. The recently finished towers of the new World Trade Center soared on the left. He zipped between the skyscrapers. Whoosh — already, the executive jet had left Downtown Manhattan. Yet the jet had zoomed past the topped-out steel frame of First American Building towering above the world, cater-corner from Madison Square. Next up came the Empire State Building at Fifth Avenue and Thirty-fourth Street. The steel hat of the stepped limestone pyramid was glistening in the sun. Now, the towers of Midtown Manhattan filled the windshield of the cockpit as a solid wall. The black box of Trump World Tower, the shiny needle that was the Chrysler Building, the irregular spire of Bank of America Tower, and Condé Nast Building with its communications tower stood out. On Fifth Avenue, in the center of things, soared another black box, more than twice as tall as Trump World Tower. Durand Chemical Tower currently was the tallest completed building in the city. With her twin turbofan engines roaring, the jet homed in on the skyscraper.

Carefully, the pilot settled the General Aviatics City Hawk VTOL — a prototype designed to combine the speed and range of an executive jet with the vertical takeoff and landing capabilities of a helicopter — on the square roof of the tower. Kevin Traynor was home. It was a Monday in April, and Traynor could not yet know what was unfolding in the canyons below, what the future had in store for him and his friends.

On Tuesday, after years of research, Dr. Remington Towne found a cure for AIDS. He was naive enough to announce the good news on the website of his small biotech firm, and word spread fast.

On Wednesday, two world health police officials dressed in immaculate brown suits visited Towne in his laboratory on East Forty-second Street. They had come to discuss how to distribute Towne's invention among the afflicted poor in the most humanitarian fashion. Not five minutes later, they fled the building and sped away in their Mercedes limousine.

On Thursday, two federal government bureaucrats dropped by to back up the world health police. They wondered how Towne of all people could refuse the suffering in Africa pity. Well, whatever. The State Department wanted the world government's support for American foreign policy. So they explained to Towne America's — and particularly his — duty of self-sacrifice for the sake of the suffering around the world. When that did not fly with him, they gave him a detailed description of what a hell of suffering the federal government could cause him if he refused to obey.

On Friday, there was a reception to present Towne's discovery to the world at the world government headquarters just a few blocks from his laboratory. Towne walked east down East Forty-second Street. He entered the world government compound, which was dominated by the innocent-looking glass slab of the administration building. On the plaza in front of the administration building, rows and rows of flagstaffs flew the flags of the countries subject to the world government. The tridoveion — the flag of the world government — was fluttering aggressively above his head. The blue flag with the three white doves flying in a circle was displayed from a taller flagstaff than the others. Yet, Towne had to smile as he thought that it still was far below the tops of the skyscrapers. There were many theories as to what the tridoveion actually symbolized — like the duty to give to the third world, or the hope to sacrifice everything to avert World War III. However, to Towne it looked like this purported symbol of peace was a cruel mockery when inventors like him were being enslaved by force.

The conference room was crowded with reporters, camera crews, government employees, world government officials, and philanthropists. Muammar Ngdbdele, general secretary of the world government, was speaking — smiling under his beard and seemingly a picture of benevolence. Towne spied two of his friends, Kevin Traynor and Nick Parker of First American Corporation, standing apart from the other guests. The reception was being televised live to America, Australia, Europe, Asia, and Africa. From Tripoli to Cape Town, from Monrovia to Mogadishu, the whole continent was suffering, dying — even though the witch doctors' governments were trying hard to blank out reality. In front of television screens all over the world, in homes, hospitals, and hospices, people were watching intently to learn what selfless altruist had labored only to give his creation to a suffering mankind. What other reason could possibly have motivated his work?

Ngdbdele introduced Towne. His short eulogy presented Towne as an altruistic, selfless benefactor driven by the suffering of his African brothers. He ended his remarks with, "Please welcome my brother — the Dr. Remington Towne."

To a polite applause, Towne came forward, meeting Ngdbdele at the lectern. The scientist did not raise his voice, but he did not whisper, either. "I'm not your brother, you racist. What would you think if any blond girl referred to any other blonde as her sister, only because of their accidentally identical hair color? Jerk."

Leaving Ngdbdele standing dumbfounded, Towne stepped to the microphone, addressing the audience. "Hi!" He had intended it as a greeting, he had tried his very best — but considering the mob that crowded the room, his voice was hard and tense. It came across as a challenge — a challenge to those that populated the room, and to that which made them possible. He looked at the teeming mass of creatures that surrounded him. It was not a look — it was a slap.

From his jacket pocket, he produced a sheaf of papers, raising it above his head. "This is the only tangible copy left of my findings, including the formula that would obliterate the human immunodeficiency virus." He lifted a metal wastebasket onto a table next to the lectern, produced a lighter, set the papers on fire, and dumped them in. No one tried to stop him or to extinguish the flames. The huge majority of the audience did not believe he was serious. They believed he was up to a joke or a publicity stunt. In no time, the priceless papers burned beyond rescue or recognition, to ashes that crumbled to dust.

Read on…

Or buy the full story.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Gay Airport Science

The major selling point of the security theater groping at airports near you is that the groping is strictly same sex, so you don't get a free handjob out of your patriotic concentration camp duty.


Can gays demand to be groped by a woman?

Can lesbians demand to be groped by a man?

What about bisexuals? Can they demand to be groped by a nonhuman? Like, by a bomb-sniffing dog?

What, then, about zoophiles?

And if I say I'm gay, do I get to be groped by a blond hottie?

All good questions.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Torch in the Night, Prologue


The Southern Belle

New Orleans, March 1862.

Andre Durand walked briskly along the dock — while the country was collapsing all around him. He was literally on a life-and-death mission — it was Durand versus the government. The entire South was in open rebellion. Speed, stealth, and determination were required for a chance of success.

Darkness camouflaged his aquiline features as his tall shadow approached the black silhouette of the sternwheeler. The Southern Belle was a workboat, less elaborately decorated than the floating palaces her name suggested. Before the war, the small boat had been carrying passengers and cargo. To Durand, her two disproportionately tall smokestacks with their flared crowns and their guy wires looked like hanging trees.

By birth, Durand was a Southerner — by choice, a proud Creole. His family had lived in Louisiana long before it became American, long before anybody had dreamed of rebellion or of a rebel government. He was loyal to the Union. He would not stay here and let the rebels force him to fight against the only country he loved. Besides, Durand knew that it was impossible for the South to win this war. As a businessman, he was aware of the economic superiority of the North. Even though the rebels had scored some initial victories, the Union had to win in the long run. She had more men, materiel, industries, railroads, whatever. He did not believe that the Europeans would come to the rescue of the South, either. They were not that stupid. Neither did he believe in slavery as a sacred institution to secure the Southern way of life — nor in the secessionist talk of ambitious Southern politicians. He would rather be damned than defend these slave states ruled by dynasties of slave drivers. He had nothing to win from fools who enslaved others by force to live on the scanty product of their physical labor. One resourceful mind like his, if left free, would create more wealth in a day than a whole state of brute slave drivers and their countless victims could ever dream of producing in a century.

Besides being a businessman, Durand was a brilliant chemist. Durand Liquor, his invention, was becoming the most popular liqueur in America. It had been distilled right here in New Orleans, but with secession looming, he had moved his business to Brooklyn, the second city of the State of New York. He had returned to New Orleans one last time to save important records belonging to his company, which had been left behind in the chaos of secession. Of some papers he had additional copies in his Brooklyn archives, so he might simply have burned them to keep them from falling into rebel hands. However, for other formulas there existed no duplicates, so he had to take them home to New York. Now, the documents were safely on board the sternwheeler he had chartered, the Southern Belle. Her master had demanded an outrageous sum for running the gauntlet. Durand had paid him in gold, without complaint.

When he walked up the gangplank, Durand could not help but wonder how slim his chances actually were. His only hope was that the gunboats and batteries of the belligerents would not bother to fire at an unarmed civilian steamboat. But he knew they would, because they could not know that the Southern Belle was a noncombatant. Of course, they would suspect she was carrying contraband. Maybe they could slip past, steaming at night only, hiding near the bank by day. But what if they encountered one of those indestructible new weapons, an ironclad? Two of them had duked it out at Hampton Roads, after the Virginia, as the rebels called her, had given hell to the United States Navy. Only one thing was certain: Those files were too important to be left where the rebels might seize them, in a city that had to become a war zone sooner or later.

Now Durand was standing in the wheelhouse, next to the old pirate. "Cast off, Captain Legrand. It ain't gonna get any darker."

Instead of an acknowledgment, Legrand fed the brass cuspidor. That he followed up with a volley of orders bellowed through the jungle of his tobacco-streaked, formerly white beard. Durand turned his back on Legrand, to look back at what skyline the Queen of the South had. So the Southern Belle steamed, her single wheel turning ever more rapidly, smoke puffing ever darker, out into the murky expanse of the languid Old Man River. The low-lying city behind the levee at the end of the docks receded. Durand had traveled down to New Orleans by what railroads were still running, had bypassed rebel troops on horseback when there was no rail service, hiding in the underbrush if necessary. Traveling with several wooden crates of records and the strongbox he had come for, the land war torn, the sea patrolled by the United States Navy blockading the Southern ports, this was the only avenue left open to him.

Unbeknownst to Durand, a sneaky shadow emerged from behind some stacks of crates back on the dock. The stranger focused his stare on the riverboat shrinking into night and distance. "Run, you nigger-loving, gorilla-worshiping scalawag. Run for your dear little life. Even if you run the gauntlet, you'll never make it — you traitor to your native state." He would rather be damned than let that individual who refused to serve his people get away with that.

While the lights of the city were fading into the distance, Durand became ever more painfully aware that he was taking a terrible chance. Like he knew nothing about the spy on the dock, the rebel knew nothing about Durand's cargo. With the Southern Belle traveled the darkest secret man had ever devised. In the wrong hands, it would destroy the world.

Read on…

Or buy the full story.

Phantom Train and Mysterious Boat Released as E-Books

Now the latest Kevin Traynor novels, Phantom Train and Mysterious Boat, are available as e-books as well as dead tree editions. With that, the complete first Kevin Traynor trilogy — Torch in the Night, Phantom Train, and Mysterious Boat — is available in e-book format.

To mark the release, I post the first chapters of all stories in these books, including as an internet premiere those of The Secret of the Lost Tribe, the second story in Mysterious Boat.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Taunts, Not Truffles, for Airport Pigs

"Oink, oink, oink!" writes one airport pig. "Molester, pervert, disgusting, an embarrassment, creep. These are all words I have heard today at work describing me, said in my presence as I patted passengers down. These comments are painful and demoralizing."

And all true. Maybe you don't lie and really don't get a kick out of groping people, but you do the dirty security theater work of the fascist state.

"One day is bad enough, but I have to come back tomorrow, the next day and the day after that to keep hearing these comments."

No, you don't have to. You can quit and get a real, productive job instead of working for the man. Or you can starve to death, which is still more moral than aggressing against disarmed victims, exploiting their fundie fear of having their "private parts" touched to force them into a machine that gives them skin cancer.

"If something doesn't change in the next two weeks I don't know how much longer I can withstand this taunting. I go home and I cry."

Why just cry? Suicide is a good option for pigs like you.

"If the tax-gatherer, or any other public officer, asks me, as one has done, 'But what shall I do?' my answer is, 'If you really wish to do anything, resign your office.' "

— Henry David Thoreau, "Civil Disobedience."

Plus ça change, plus c'est pareil.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Mysterious Boat Borderline Giveaway

Christmas is coming up, the season of joy, the feast of love! People giving each other free stuff!

Bah! Humbug! That can drive a capitalist crazy, crazy, crazy!

At Kevin Traynor Central, I've discounted all my books 30%! And on top of that, you save another 15% on my book Mysterious Boat with coupon code "STOCKING305"!

It's certifiably insane! Hurry, hurry, hurry! My shrink keeps telling me this offer ends on December 15, 2010, at 11:59 PM EST!


Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Take That, Hopenchange!

You really are too damn dumb to get a hint, huh, Hopi?

People aren't frustrated with the pace of economic recovery. People are frustrated with you looting and aggressing against them.

The men and women who sent us here don't expect Washington to solve all their problems. But they do expect Washington to work for them, not against them. They want to know that their tax dollars are being spent wisely, not wasted, and that we're not going to leave our children a legacy of debt. They want to know that their voices aren't being drowned out by a sea of lobbyists and special interests and partisan bickering. They want business to be done here openly and honestly.

Then why have you been doing the diametrical opposite for the last two years?

"None of the challenges we face lend themselves to simple solutions or bumper-sticker slogans."

Yes, they do, every single one of them: Laissez faire.

"Nor are the answers found in any one particular philosophy or ideology."

Yes, they are.

"As I've said before, no person, no party, has a monopoly on wisdom."

But the Coke and the Pepsi parties have a pretty nice duopoly on stupidity.

You want an "honest and civil debate"? A civil debate with a thief, a slave driver, and a murderer? Any honest debate with a criminal like you cannot be civil.

Stop stealing other people's money. Stop forcing people to buy health insurance. Stop murdering people for defending themselves or smoking weed.

You and the state are not part of the solution. You are the problem. The only problem there is.

Go away. Get lost. Dissolve the government and get a job.

BTW, sayonara, Nancy Pelousy. Good riddance, bitch.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Jefferson's Oath of Allegiance

America being overrun with fundies trying to turn it into a Christian country and a federal government that can persecute anyone for anything, what would Thomas Jefferson's pledge of allegiance look like today, if the statists who invented pledges of allegiance to indoctrinate children to obey the state could make him swear? Maybe like this:

I swear eternal hostility against the flag of the United States of America, and against the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for none.

So what to do? Maybe this:

Don't vote. It just encourages the bastards. If voting could change the system, it would be against the law.

Then again, if not voting could change the system, it would be against the law. (For what it is worth, it actually is, in Australia. I bet you never knew Australia is a totalitarian state?)

So if you vote anyway, at least vote in anger. Against the Coke party and the Pepsi party.