Chief

Despite his incredible mass, the weight of the powered armor, the weaponry he carried, he didn’t make a sound.  He crept on the enemy position, emerging from a naturally occurring tunnel into a mossy crater with a split boulder in the center.  He could see through the crevice to where a Sangheli warrior paced.  His motion tracker told him that the creature was not alone.  Not that it mattered. Though the flames of Hell may bar the way, the Chief wasn’t one to stop.  Call him suicidal, goal-oriented, whatever.  The result would be the same.

He checked his weapons.  The guns he carried that were intended to be man-portable weren’t ideal for this task.  The mounted plasma cannon he’d recently liberated from its platform was running low on power.  Once again, it didn’t matter.  It had been said of the original Spartans, and it was true today: Spartans don’t fight with the weapons they want – they fight with they weapons they have.  He stepped into the gap of the split boulder.  

The Sangheli had enough time to honk his anger and fear before his shield flickered out and the plasma incinerated his flesh.  The burned corpse didn’t dissuade the swarm of Unggoy.  Were he given to humor, the Chief would have smirked as four of them attempted to flank him.  The others fired into the crevice as their brethren approached the backside of the boulder.  He emptied the last of the plasma turret’s residual charge into the frontside attack, and dropped the unwieldy weapon.  He drew the cannon that the UNSC called a sidearm with his right, and flicked a fragmentation grenade behind him with his left.  

The rock split and showered him with molten stone.  His shield flared, absorbing the energy.  He looked up.  His visor magnified a trio of beaked figures with elongated energy weapons.  Were he given to fear or dismay, the Chief would have frowned.  

I recently acquired Halo 4.  It’s fun, but it feels a bit different from its predecessors.  No matter; I intend to enjoy it.  I am learning that I’m not nearly as good at it as I used to be.

 

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Haunt

What are you afraid of?

“Everything,” I tell people.

Tonight, I came home from work and hopped in the shower.  Without warning, my imagination grabbed me by the throat.  I submerged my head in the steaming hot spray of the showerhead.  When I emerged, I was terrified to open my eyes.  Somehow, I thought that the Rake or Slenderman or any of a million other creepy-ass monsters could be waiting for me in the bathroom, or in the tub.  I felt my skin crawl in anticipation of an attack.  I forced my eyes open – nothing.  Sigh of relief, right?  Haha, guess again.  I was terrified to close them.  Or to turn my back on the shower curtain.  I spent a good couple of minutes in terror of what might be lurking just out of sight.  

I found myself trying to believe in the existence of heroes who could save me.  With one exception, faith in others has never been my style.  I wished for a weapon.  One of my household’s many knives (tactical, kitchen, or other).  My asp.  Even the Sig Sauer in the safe.  It’s impossible to go armed all the time, though.

I envisioned demon teeth sinking into my flesh.  My imagination told me how I would react. THAT was what saved me.  

I remember the last time I got hurt.  Every time I got hurt.  Those phantom fangs sink into me, and it hurts, and it hurts, and it sparks that all-consuming need to hurt it back.  If the monster had a million eyes, I’d gouge out every one.  If it had none, I’d give it new holes to breathe from.  My slide toward oblivion would be lubricated with its fucking blood.

Gods, I hate being crazy. 

Car Trouble

It’s been more than a month since I drove my car.  More than two, since I put gas in it.  So I’m kind of a horse’s ass when I get all surprised that it won’t start.  It was really a comedy of errors that led to that discovery.

We’re a four vehicle family.  I have my GSXR and my Passat wagon.  My wife has a Firebolt and a Grand Cherokee (athough, for some reason it’s a 2 wheel drive model).  So when it comes to transportation, we do not want.  Sadly, Fall is upon us, so the nights are getting cold.  This means that the bikes aren’t starting so readily.  The first sign?  My wife rode to work.  I rode to work.  I rode home.  My  wife… couldn’t get the bike started.  Not enough charge, and a cold start takes more juice.  She called for extraction.  I ran downstairs, jumped in my car, turned the key, and… nothing.  Damn it.  I ran up and grabbed her spare key and got her in the Jeep.  The bike started right up again, in the heat of the next day.  No permanent harm.

Fast forward maybe two weeks.  I’m out back of my second place of employment.  It’s bars-close o’clock.  I hop on my bike.  Not enough charge, it won’t start.  Shit.  So I wheel the 450 lb machine into the middle of the parking lot.  I kick it up into second gear, hold the clutch, and start running.  I drop the clutch, the engine drags us to a stop.  Back up, try again.  On the 10th time (or so), the engine caught.  I stutter-stepped, swung my leg over, and took off around the building to retrieve my gear.  (Thank you, CFL)  Not super fun, but no harm done.

We’ve since picked up a new battery for the Firebolt.  I’m looking for a trickle charger for both bikes.  And tonight, I pulled my Passat out of its sloped parking space the hard way so that I could jump start it.  Except that I hadn’t put gas in it in more than two months.  So I backed it into a different space so that I could get at the battery later and took off to get gas.  A short errand later, I had fuel in the tank and charge in the battery and my wagon started again.   The motor pool is now back to 75% operational.  We had worked out the logistics of being a single car family, but this is way better.

Mine

I know a lot of people with various infirmities and allergies.  Sometimes I watch one of them develop a new way that they are broken.  Everyone else gathers around, expressing regret or sorrow or whatever.  There are people out there who enjoy thinking of themselves as “broken.”  Do you know anyone who describes themselves as “crazy?”  Don’t lie.  You do.  You know tons of them.  You may be one yourself.  “Crazy” is a mental brokenness. 

This is not a condemnation of people.  It is a condemnation of that attitude. 

Being broken can buy you social capital.  Making someone else’s infirmity a part of the story of your struggle can buy you social capital.  Finding someone to blame for your problems can buy you social capital.

Fuck that. 

I have bad credit because I fucked up.  It wasn’t anyone else’s responsibility to make those payments.  I am questioning what I will do for work in the next five years, not because the world screwed me, but because I failed to plan.   It was my job to plan ahead, or not. 

That still sounds a little “woe is me,” right?  Well I told you that to tell you this: my failures belong to me, but so do my successes.  

Surprised

Last night, one of my co-workers asked me to show her to be as happy as I am. 

“Surprised” doesn’t adequately describe it. 

I don’t really think of myself as an overly happy person, but I guess that I am.  I have a wonderful wife, a healthy son, a decent job, and so on.  I think that mostly what she was referring to was my good mood at work.  Despite wanting to wound many of the customers, I was having a reasonably good night.  I try to take pleasure in the little things.  I am alternately amused and dumbfounded at some of the questions people ask, and I game-ify every task I can.

I ended up telling her, “I’ll show you how to enjoy the little things if you show me how to be creative on demand.”  I have been having trouble giving life to ideas lately, and she had just had an art show.  She replied that it involved late nights and lots of wine.  Ugh.  I can already do late nights, and I can drink and write with no problem.  I don’t really like drinking anymore though, because I never have time to be drunk.  Maybe it’s a sign that I’m getting old.

So I didn’t tell her the secret of my happiness.  Which is fine – I’m not sharing my wife, and anything else I came up with would be kind of a lie.

Shield

I got frustrated today.  A lot.  It’s true that having the metal that composes my shield be super hard is a desirable trait.  It’s also true that that fact makes working with the material exceedingly difficult.

That’s a confusing lead-in.  Let me start earlier.  Once upon a time, a Knight of the Society told me that I’d never become a Knight myself until I got a bigger shield.  I was fighting with an eighteen inch diameter buckler.  It was a steep learning curve, and I got whacked a lot, but I was learning to move.  I acquired a twenty-four inch tall heater shield.  Still not big enough, I heard.  I wanted a larger shield, but I didn’t want to lose the gains in mobility and visibility.  So this Knight lent me his heater for the duration of some shoulder healing he was doing.  That was probably a couple years ago.

He called me up the other day.  “Do you still have my shield?”  Of course I did.  I had been teaching beginners to fight, and loaning them that shield while I stuck to my buckler.  It was time to give it back.  He’d be at the Thursday practice.  Awesome.

So today, I ran to Home Depot to pick up things.  I needed to strip my handle off of his shield and refasten his.  I also needed to finally repair my own heater.  I had been itching to go to a center-grip style instead of having it strapped to my arm.  I came home, cracked open a Rockstar, and headed out to the garage.

It was one hot day today.  I was pouring sweat in mere minutes.  I dug out the other Knight’s handle.  Bolted it on.  Measured and marked my piece of T6 aircraft aluminum for its new handle and hand protection.  Started drilling holes.  The battery on my drill died on hole three.  Great.  I set the battery to charging, and got out my new jig-saw.  Pulled out a blade well-suited to cutting metal.  Started cutting.  1/4th of the way through, the battery died.  I rolled my eyes, slapped my saw’s battery on the charger.  Got the drill going again.  Got all my center boss holes drilled.  Got the saw going again.  Sixty percent done – and the blade snags on something, then slips out.  It carved into the plastic tool crate I was using as a bench, snagged, and ripped out of the saw.  Fuck.  The tool crate – whatever.  I have that new two-story cabinet.  The blade – warped.  I pull out the other metal blade.  Two inches of cutting, and it slips out too.  Double fuck.  I fish out the blades that came with the saw, and one is a metal blade.  Two more inches, and the damn thing is actually fusing the T6 between its teeth.  The Fuck Trifecta.  How do you floss a sawblade?

I adjusted the angle so that I could get contact with the remaining teeth, continued VERY SLOWLY, and finally got through the damned thing.  Some quick bolting of the handle and boss, and I was off to practice.

When I write all this out, it actually doesn’t seem that bad.  I could talk about the sweat literally streaming off me and dripping from nose to work surface.  I could tell you about how I filed down the handle, but it’s only “better” and not “good.”  I did talk about how I ruined three blades for my jig saw.  Or I could simply say that hard work overcame obstacles and my shield saved me from more than a few bruises in even the abbreviated practice.

Also of note: I returned the shield to the Knight of the Society.  He congratulated me on my marriage.  We even went a few rounds.  I nailed him on one of his unarmored bits.  Afterward, he came to tell me that he was impressed with my confidence and that he could see the difference in my eyes.

“You aren’t just coming to throw shots.  You’re coming to kill me.”  This Knight is one of few words.  That he deemed to say anything is an honor.  It meant a lot to me.  He’s known me for a very long time, and to have earned his respect is a wondrous thing.

Life

It’s 8AM.  I’m sitting in a government building, playing games on the damaged screen of my phone because someone can’t take responsibility for his actions. 

I live in a world where it must be explicitly stated that we don’t sit on tables. We don’t touch people when we aren’t invited.  We don’t light ashtrays on fire.  We don’t smoke next to the No Smoking sign.  “It should be obvious,” I am told.  Apparently not.

It’s frustrating because we should be better than this, damn it!  I’m sick of having to be amazed when someone fails to swallow their own tongue. 

I need a nap.