Andrew Ian Dodge is live-blogging
the London terrorist attack from London. I deeply regret the loss of life, but I'm not going to send sympathies as if this were some natural tragedy. This was an act of war. It was an attempt to strike fear into England. What they need is not sympathy but courage. They need us to share not their sorrow but their anger. Instead of telling Andrew, "I'm so sorry..." I tell him "Take courage. I'm with you. We'll get the bastards."
Ultimately, this monstrous attack will change England like 9/11 changed America or it will change England like the subway bombings changed Spain. England will either take the road of courage and strike back at her attackers or take the road of appeasement and pull out of the War on Terror.
Which will it be? I have no idea. The bloggers
that I read tend to assume the first. They point to England's heroic resistance to Hitler in WWII. But that's just wishful thinking at the moment. The generation that defied Hitler is gone. It has been replaced by a generation that wants to the government to take care of them, a generation that appeases the Muslim thugs in their midst by making it illegal to say mean things about Muslims.
I don't mean to sound pessimistic here. I really don't have an opinion on how things will go, I'm just pointing out that it is still in the balance. Great decision are to be made in the next few hours by a once-great people. I pray that they are great still.
Scale 7 Artifact, part 8
Commission (part 1)
Daniel stood alone in a glistening indigo meadow of an alien world. The corpses of burnt trees rose through the high ground cover --a very broad-bladed grass of reflective indigo. To his left, a yellow-greenish lake shimmered under the piercing blue-white light of the alien sun, its quiet surface dotted with indistinct refuse of darker aspect. A forest surrounded him on all other sides: a forest of oddly shaped trees in metallic shades of maroon, blood-red and scattered indigo, laced through with clumpy, dead-white parasitic vines like strings of popcorn on macabre aluminum Christmas trees. An odd cacophony of animal sounds filled the air. One call sounded very much like a saxophone played by musician of short breath and poor coordination. Whether it was a warning or invitation, Daniel could not say. Either way, he doubted that it applied to him.
Daniel held an M-29S 11mm sniper rifle one-handed by the pistol grip, leaving his left free to control the instruments of his scout-class combat helmet. The rifle sported a ruggedized Zeiss videoscope and an under-the-barrel 30mm smooth-bore electrolauncher. Daniel carefully scanned the alien vegetation with enhanced senses. The view ports of his helmet were closed and everything that Daniel saw was presented by the helmet's screen: two marvelous networks of microscopic lenses, one for each eye, presenting a near-perfect three-dimensional image with proper focal distances. The instruments of the scout helmet provided visibility in a much broader spectrum than normal eyesight. It could even turn sound and microwaves into blurry pictures although imaging was inactive at the moment because it is not very useful without active sonar or radar pulses. At the moment, Daniel used only passive sensors in what he knew was a vain effort to avoid attracting hostile attention.
Daniel activated the console to show various icons overlaid on the scenery. The contact indicator floated above Daniel's eyes, a device of concentric rings. The rings were graded logarithmically: the first ring represented the space within one meter, the second ring represented the space within two meters, the third ring represented the space within four meters and so on, up to the tenth ring which represented the space within half a kilometer. When the artificial intelligence of the helmet detected something interesting, it would display a contact blip on the screen.
As Daniel looked at the contact indicator, a blip appeared outside the tenth ring, a contact more than half a kilometer away. The blip was blue to indicate that it was a light-spectrum contact, either visible light, infrared, or ultraviolet. The helmet would present a green blip for radio-spectrum contacts, red for high-energy radiation, and amber for sound.
Daniel turned in the direction of the blip to get a visual fix. His visor zoomed in to show something flying toward him. Several somethings. A number floated beside the scanner to show him that at its current velocity, the contact would pass near his location in three minutes. He dismissed it from his attention and continued to scan for the other dangers that would be appearing.
Another blip appeared on his area scanner at the 32 to 64 meter ring in the direction of the lake. It flashed amber for a sound contact, and at the same time Daniel heard an obscene blurp. The computer magnified the sound to let Daniel know what had alarmed the artificial intelligence. Daniel turned quickly, just in time to see a disturbance on the water. It looked as if a large bubble had just popped at the surface. He stood facing the lake now, his rifle at the ready. There was a flash on his area scanner to show a change in status of the first blip. It had speeded up and would arrive sooner now. Still, the flying contact was not immediate, so Daniel kept his concentration on the lake.
His strategy quickly paid off as a pale blob of green translucent flesh bulged up from the lake's surface like a green jellyfish three feet across. Daniel fired his rifle from the hip, sighting through the videoscope feed into his helmet. The 11mm bullet splashed the surface of the blob but no hole remained and the creature showed no sign of distress. Instead, it continued rising from the lake. It now looked like a green jellyfish five feet across. Whatever the thing was, it did not look fast, so Daniel turned back to the flying threat.
He brought rifle to shoulder for easier use of the powerful scope --much more powerful than the helmet's cameras. Daniel thumbed a wheel button on the stock and a round window opened before his right eye to display the view through the videoscope. There was a crosshair in the center but Daniel was not aiming at the moment. He saw five bird-like creatures with long yellow bills and streaming yellow tails. Except for the bills and tails, the creatures were dead black. The flying creatures still didn't look like an immediate threat so Daniel turned back to the blob, now three quarters of a sphere and at least 10 feet across. And it was clearly coming out of the water toward Daniel. He rotated the chamber of the launcher and fired a 30mm lead slug into the thing.
The creature ignored this as it had the high-velocity 11mm bullet, but Daniel had expected that; he just wanted to see what sort of penetration he would get. The slug pierced deeply into the creature, so Daniel rotated the chamber to high-explosive grenade and shot again. The grenade penetrated to the center of the blob and exploded. The creature momentarily expanded about a foot in diameter with the force of the explosion. About a dozen holes plopped opened on the surface of the blob to let the gasses escape with a discordant symphony of extended multi-tonal burps, an inharmonious effort. The creature stopped moving and Daniel didn't know whether it was dead, reconsidering its options, or simply enjoying the aftermath of a good belch.
The status display flashed again, and Daniel saw that the flying creatures had sped up once more. They were now moving at a good clip, and had changed their direction slightly so that they were heading directly toward him. Big surprise that. In eight seconds they would be within the 1000 meter range of his rifle. Daniel decided not to worry about them until then, since he could do nothing until they were in range.
The blob had resumed its phlegmatic charge and Daniel decided it was time for extreme response. He rotated his chamber to nickels --a stream of sharp-edged disks, each about the size of a five cent piece. The nickels stitched a pattern on the blob in the shape of a figure-eight, then Daniel quickly chambered HEAT rounds and fired two into the blob, one into the middle of each loop.
The HEAT rounds were designed for armor piercing. They carried a shaped charge that would explode a few inches away from the target, releasing a jet of molten metal capable of searing through several inches of armor plate. The blob was not armored but the HEAT rounds still created nice big holes in the surface.
The area scanner flashed to let Daniel know that the flying creatures were now within range but he ignored it as he observed the effect of his latest administrations to the blob. The creature was heaving and blowing. Fluid leaked from the holes, which had not yet closed. Pleased with the results, Daniel fired his last two HEAT rounds to the left and right of the figure eight, creating a diamond pattern of oozing wounds, then quickly turned back to the flying creatures.
Daniel brought the rifle to his shoulder and centered the crosshairs on the lead flyer. The image twitched very badly at this magnification but the motions could not be corrected electronically because the direction had to line up exactly with the rifle barrel. Daniel advanced the crosshairs slightly since it would take his bullet nearly a second to arrive at its target, then with practiced ease, he stopped breathing and the twitching instantly was reduced to something more manageable. As the random motion crossed the point of aim, Daniel squeezed the trigger. He felt a satisfying thump against his shoulder as the gun fired an 11mm high-velocity round at the target. He swung the barrel immediately to the next flyer, again taking careful aim.
As the first creature jerked and began falling, Daniel squeezed the trigger again. A light flashed from his target creature and smoke streamed briefly from its mouth although Daniel's bullet had not yet arrived. He didn't stop to observe, instead moving quickly to the next target. As he squeezed the trigger a third time, he heard a whistling near his ear. Daniel dropped immediately to the ground. The creatures were shooting back! Still prone, Daniel sighted through his scope to see that there were three creatures left, and they were diving to get below his line of site. He must have missed the third one. Or it dived before the bullet arrived.
Daniel quickly stood up and turned back to the green blob, which had not moved again. It looked like it was melting out through the holes he had made.
Daniel's area scanner beeped again, this time posting a brown contact four to eight meters away. Daniel whirled to face it, bringing up his gun, and saw nothing. "Brown!?" he thought, "What's brown?" Suddenly remembering, Daniel pointed his rifle at the ground and ripped out a stream of the high-penetration 11mm rounds, just as he began to see dirt move. Brown was for seismic contacts.
An indigo spider-like creature the size of a large terrier erupted from the ground, and Daniel sprayed more 11mm rounds at it. The force of the impact threw the thing to its back as another one came out of the hole and charged. Daniel blasted this one as well, but there was already a third coming out. He glanced quickly at his area monitor and saw a long line of seismic activity. This called for stern measures. Daniel blasted the third one then quickly re-chambered his launcher and fired two high explosive rounds into the hole. There was a satisfying flash and boom as the tunnel collapsed, and he shot the remaining creature only a few feet away.
Worried about the flying things, Daniel turned on his helmet's active radar, hoping it could penetrate the alien vegetation. There was still movement under the ground but more urgent were the three radar blips, the three remaining flying creatures had spread out and were coming over the tree line right freaking now. Remembering that these animals could shoot back, Daniel dropped to the ground again and as they came over the tree line, he was already aiming at the right-most one. He squeezed the trigger, the rifle jumped, he swung to the left, the rifle jumped again, he swung further to the left, the rifle jump again. Three shots, three down.
Without pausing to congratulate himself, Daniel swung back toward the insect like creatures. Now that he was on the ground, he could not see them through the indigo grass, but radar told him that three more were out of the ground. He didn't have time to get up, so he quickly turned on radar imaging and three green blotches appeared behind the grass. Daniel triggered three-shot bursts at each of the blotches before jumping to his feet. They were all down.
As Daniel scanned for more dangers, he heard a bell and his visor went dark. Game over. Slinging his rifle over a shoulder, Daniel removed the helmet and smoothed back damp hair. The alien world had vanished along with the magic of the visor and Daniel found himself in the large empty room that he, Zareda, and Peter had appropriated for a makeshift shooting gallery.