Saturday, June 26, 2010

PERSPECTIVE, by Helen E. Davis

Babylon 5 Fanfic

“Why are you doing this?” Captain John Sheridan screamed as the shadowy forms slipped closer. They flash visible, then invisible, a brief iridescence as if cycling through the spectrum of light. Crowding tight, they pushed him back against the cold metal wall of the Babylon 5 space station.

Already he had watched as their ships sliced apart the station, sections falling away as friends and acquaintances tumbled into the big nothing. Delenn’s screaming as the creatures overwhelmed her, one white hand the last bit to be drawn into the inky darkness. Londo’s laughter, high and maniacal, as panicked people swirled around him like the folds of an enormous cape. Cheers rising from Down Below as Lurkers looted their final moments away. And Geribaldi giggling gleefully because finally, just now, the coyote had caught the roadrunner.

“There – heads at last,” stated one of a pair of figures in medieval dress. “As I said it would, Guilderstern.”

Suddenly Sheridan found himself running through empty hallways, his footsteps muffled, pure horror at his heels. Ivanovich called his name; he stopped and turned back. She stood at parade rest, her uniform gleaming with polish, then snapped to attention. “At your service, Captain.”

“Hurry!” he screamed, throwing out a hand toward her.

A thin red ray cut between them. She fell away, still at attention, still perfectly in form. At his feet a chasm opened to a star-studded emptiness while heat and fire exploded overhead. He fell – but now the stars were the lights of the gardens, rushing up to meet him. Where was Kosh? Would he come in time? The alien, exposed and radiant, played at a chessboard with a figure swathed in black cloth, and the pieces were the ambassadors and their aides. A putrid tentacle slipped from the dark robe to pick up the black rook, Morden, and sweep the white bishop, G’Kar, from the board. As the Narn screamed in rage, thirteen eyes opened beneath the hood and burned with eternal flame.

Behind Sheridan, monks chanted out the names of God, counting down to the end of the world.

Where was the bomb? He had to find the bomb. They had only seconds now, and the only hope for millions of people was his finding the bomb and casting it in the outer darkness. He scrambled through access tubes and ran through Down Below, searching desperately. Vir was there, grinning like a maniac, a medieval pike in his hands. “Where is Morden? I must find Morden. I promised him this, and I must keep my promise.”

“Playing a game. In the garden.”

“It’s always a game. All it has ever been. Do we matter? Of course not, we’re just markers to be swept off and put away until next time. But now the game will end.” He raised the pike to his shoulder.

A non-noise caused Sheridan to turn and look behind himself. Shadows filled the hallway, flowed on every side, forced him back against the wall. “Why?” he screamed, through the rawness of his throat.

“To cleanse the Universe,” the leader intoned in a rich, mysterious voice.

“To cleanse it? Of what? And why?”

“Of evil. The final age is coming, the reign of the great pure one. All imposters shall be destroyed, all those lacking must be shut out. You, and all like you must be destroyed, for you are less than perfection.”

“And what makes you the judge over all creation?” Sheridan could feel the wall dissolving behind him. “What gives you the right to be guardian of the Universe?”

“What else?” The shadows grew and merged into a single intangible mass. The shape of a hat came clear, and the sweep of a giant cape. “Who knows better what evil lurks in the heart of men?”

Sunday, June 13, 2010


by Helen E Davis

– Step forward, Airman, and state your name and rank. –

– Airman First Class Feginald Hoot of the HMS Congressional, sir. –

– Feginald? –

– Yes, sir. Although the physician attending my birth was sober at the time of my birth, by the time he filled out my birth certificate, he had been celebrating with my father for several hours. –

– Do you go by Feginald among your mates? –

– Of course not, sir. I go by the shortened form, Feg. –

– I see. Well, Airman Hoot, will you be so kind as to tell us of the events of the Eighth of June, in the Year of Our Lord Nineteen Eleven? –

– Yes sir. I was on my customary duty at seventeen hundred hours, making my rounds of the C’s engines, when...–

– The C’s? –

– That’s what we call her, sir. C. We’re all a bit embarrassed by her full name.–

– I understand. But as this is an official inquiry, I request that you use the full name of the vessel whenever possible. –

– Yes sir. As I said, I was on my customary rounds of the C’s, that is, the Congressional’s engines, assuring that everything was in order. I had just reached the zeppelin’s final turbine when Commander Sherman’s voice came over the intercom, requesting all hands on deck. I quickly finished my check, and then proceeded to the docking deck. –

– So you did not immediately comply with his orders, then. –

– I finished my duties, and then proceeded to the docking deck. That is why I was behind all the others, and therefore the first chosen to accompany the landing party onto the island. –

– Tell us about this island. –

– Yes sir. Second Mate Higgins, out science officer, first noticed the island earlier that day, and determined that it was not on our sea charts. He hypothesized that it was a newly formed volcanic island, and his hypothesis was supported by the state of the surrounding sea. Although the wind was calm and the ceiling high, the water surrounding the island was in a state of high activity. –

– High activity? –

– It was boiling, sir. Second Mate Higgins explained that this was consistent with recent volcanic activity. He then requested that Commander Sherman turn the C toward the island in order to investigate it for scientific purposes.–

– The Congressional.–

– Yes sir. He then requested that Commander Sherman turn the Congressional toward the island in order to investigate it for scientific purposes. We arrived, as I noted, at seventeen hundred hours. The island, however, was not as Second Mate Higgins had expected.–

– What was it like?–

– It was not a volcano, sir, and it was not new. There was a city upon it.–

– What kind of a city?–

– A city with buildings, and a harbor, and people in the streets, sir. The people seemed to be dressed in bed sheets, and when we went out into the city, we found that they all spoke Greek. We were fortunate to have Seaman Rigoulas with us, as his parents came from Greece, and he was able to communicate with them, though in a very rudimentary way. We learned that the city was called R’lyeh by the inhabitants, and that it boasted a population of ten thousand citizens, a harbor with over three hundred ships, a university, and nearly a thousand wine shops. –

– Did he ask them about the island?–

– Yes, sir. They gave him to understand that this was a floating island, built to avoid some great catastrophe, and that it had been their home for endless centuries. They claim to have sailed it all the way from the Northern Atlantic Ocean, though we were in the South Pacific, and for that reason they called their island Atlantis.–

–How, convenient. Did the citizens tell you how their island could float? –

– They built it to float, sir, by installing giant metal tanks beneath it, which were filled with both air and water. These tanks were connected to the surface of the island by a system of pipes, and through these pipes they could raise or lower the volume of the water within the tanks, thus lifting or lowering the island itself. They could even submerge the island in the event of a great storm, then raise it afterwards. There were also giant steam engines on the back of the island, which served to propel the island in the direction that the citizens wished to travel. This was the reason for the boiling water around the island. –

– I see. What was the city itself like?–

– Very odd, sir. Very odd. The architecture was disturbing, to say the least. The buildings and archways seemed to bend at unnatural angles, not straight as would be proper, but almost curved, as if grown. A building might be three stories high on one side, and four stories high on the other, without any clear distinction between the two sides. My mate Lovecraft kept calling it eldritch, though I have no idea if that was the name of the architect or the period from which it came. In addition, the buildings all glowed.–

– Glowed? Like a lamp, Seaman Hoot?–

– No, not like a lamp, sir. Not like fire. It was more like the sea, sir, or certain nights when the seafood is poisonous. You run your hand through the water and it glows like really faint moonlight. The city glowed like that. It was in the rock that they used to decorate all the buildings. They rather liked it, the citizens did, but it felt, well, eldritch to me.–

– What happened next?–

– That’s where it gets a bit embarrassing, sir, though it was none of my doing. There was a huge building in the center of the city, with no doors or windows, rather like a tomb. Second Mate Higgins took a fancy to climb up it, and to get samples. The citizens were upset by this, and begged him not to touch the building, but he was determined. Good English determination, sir. Nothing stops us.–

– Nothing indeed, Airman. We’re quite proud of it. –

– Yes, sir. In this case, however...–

– What happened? –

– Second Mate Higgins fell in, sir, and something came out. –

– Something? –

– A cross between an angry octopus and a mad sea god, sir. With more than a bit of lobster thrown in. All the citizens dashed for their ships and pulled away, sir. But the thing didn’t bother with them. It came after us.–

– What happened then?–

– Commander Sherman marched us all to the C, to the Congressional, that is, and we went to our battle stations. He tried to use the big guns against it, but they had no effect – other than to make the creature mad enough to tear the city apart. He then ordered the use of the flamethrowers.–

– And did that work?–

– They set the city on fire, sir. –

– I thought the city was made of stone, Seaman Hoot. –

– It was. But that glowing rock burned explosively, sir. I don’t know if it even touched the creature, but apparently the fire was hot enough to melt the air tanks under the island. It sank then, still in flames beneath the waves. –

– And what did Commander Sherman do then?–

– He just stared at where it went under, sir, and muttered, “Gone with the rend. Tis the burning of Atlantis.” –

Friday, June 11, 2010

Separated at Birth?

The question of the day is this: are we looking at Cthulhu?

This is a picture of an actinotrocha larva. It's microscopic, and lives in the ocean along with all the other strange creatures that make up larvae. Later in life it will metamorphose into a tube worm.

Still, the resemblance is enough to make one ask -- was this lowly larva and the elder god merely separated at birth, er, hatching? Or is Cthulhu going to metamorphose into a giant star-chomping tube worm?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Marcon 2010

This is a con report for Marcon 2010, which was held over Memorial Day Weekend. I'm still pretty exhausted from the convention, so I'm afraid that this will be a rambling report.

The four of us -- myself, hubby, Janette, and Elizabeth -- arrived at the convention center in mid-afternoon. We checked into the Drury, which is a nice hotel on the far side of the Convention center. We like it because it is separate from the convention hotel, and thus quieter. Non-hotel guests cannot come there, so it's more private. And it comes with a free breakfast, which is very nice. The hotel is quiet for another reason -- it used to be a parking garage. The lower floor still are, but the upper floors have been converted to rooms. Since the floors were made to hold automobiles packed close together, they don't shake when people walk on them. No elephants.

Janette had two panels on Friday night. I attended most of the first, which was "Growing Up Geek, " which I got to late due to plumbing problems that Mr. Bean would have appreciated. The second one was Dr. Who, and by the time I got to the panel, there were people standing at the back and sitting on the floor. I heard that there was an official account of 68 attendees, but there could have been more. Unfortunately, by then my migrane was screaming, and I couldn't stand to be in the room. It does appear that I missed a good panel.

On Saturday, Elizabeth, Janette, and I were Chicks in Chain Mail, courtesy of Victoria's Secret Forge, run by Jeff Toliver. We wore steel chain mail dresses. They wore pretty well -- but alas, I cannot afford a full dress.

Maybe a belt, someday. Or a chain mail bra.

On Sauturday morning she had the panel for the Big Bang Theory. I caught some of it, but found myself with a crises of my own. I was in charge of a panel which was using Powerpoint Presentations on my laptop, and when I tried to open Donna's powerpoint, I discovered that my version of Powerpoint was incompatible with hers. Luckily she had her work laptop with her, and was able to convert it to the proper format. I did not know the other two panelists, and so prayed that they would be bringing Powerpoints in the proper format.

After this panel I managed to run through the huckster room and get some lunch. At one o'clock I had my first of three in a row panels, H.P Lovecraft. The panel went well, though not much was expected of me. The moderator appeared to be the expert and did most of the commenting, but some interesting stuff was shared. Oddly, I seemed to be the only panelist who was wowed by Lovecraft's technique. Otherwise, we just talked about what we liked in his stories.

My Little Cthulhu was appreciated.

Unfortunately, I had to pack up and leave before the official end of the panel, as the moderator thought that the panel ran for an hour and a half, not an hour and fifteen minutes with a fifteen minute break in the middle. And I had to grab a bottle of water and rush to my next panel, which was in kids programming. There Donna and I drew dragons with the kidlets and discussed how to make them believable. At the preschool level.

Then it was off to Biological Oddities, the panel with the slideshows. Where we discovered that it was a good thing that I had brought a pocket projector for the panel. It was dimmer than the full-sized projector, but it worked. And gave a very nice image if the room was dark. And since we didn't have to figure out how to work the projector, we could focus on the other major problem, which was that both of the other two presentations had to be converted before they could be shown. Donna worked on her laptop while I did my presentation.

There weren't a lot of comments from the audience, but hardly anyone left, so I think we kept the interest. I hope we do that one again.

I came out of that panel with a need to visit the bathroom. Unfortunately, the bathrooms were on the other side of an endless parade of zombies stumbling through the convention hall. No, not the OSU students out for the summer. About a thousand or so walkers had dressed as Zombies and walked from City Center to the convention hall. Sadly, I was wearing out at the time, and did not think to grab my camera.

No, I didn't get a lot of pictures this year.

Thanks to the Zombies, I was late to Janette's panel, Is There An Age Limit on Fandom? Apparently, there is not. Afterwards we got dinner, and then off to the Masquerade. Because I am short -- though not clinically so -- I usually like to stand in the back, leaning on my cane if need be. Not this year. I was completely worn out. I asked for short people seating, and the usher accidentally seated us in the special needs section, so that we were asked to move when there no more seats available. By that time, I hurt so much that moving was a real problem.

The masquerade was okay, but it has definately lost its magic. Every year there are better costumes, but fewer ones. This year there were eight or nine entries. Considering that Marcon is a regional con, that's really sad.

On Sunday, I participated in author readings and went to a panel on music and writing. It was on Sunday at Four o'clock, so having any audience was a plus. A pity, as it was a very interesting panel. The panelist talked about how they used music to define their characters.

We stayed over Sunday night so that the girls could participate in the Dead Dog Party, and so that I wouldn't have to drive home exhausted. It also gave us the chance to visit Schmidt's Sausage House. Maybe today I can eat...