Thursday, June 22, 2017

Dawn on Jefferson, Chapter 35: Complicated, why so Freakin Complicated?!

My father once told me a religion should not set itself up to be testable.  That is, don't make a claim based on something that is easily proven or disproven, if you want people to have faith.  He said it was a problem with many religions, especially newer ones.  The older ones had, either intentionally or unintentionally, learned that rule.

While very different than religions - most of the time - lies are pretty similar in one way.  If they are easily proven to be untrue, then people believing them will be almost impossible.  Those that will believe them are almost assuredly not the ones you really want to buy in to your story.  It's always better to tell the truth.  Either own up to the situation and accept the consequences or be ready for the worse consequences if the truth comes out after you lie.  And it will come out.  It always comes out.  Even if you are the best liar in the world.

And then the payment for that lie will come due.

Jaideep had lied to us.  He thought we were just kids he could tailor his truth for for sympathy and help.  It's not a uncommon story: adults often lie to kids to get what they want.  Sometimes it is because the situation is very complicated and they want to simplify the situation.  They often leave out details make a certain narrative that makes sense.  Sometimes it is to make them seem like the victim or hero or just an innocent bystander that got caught up in something.  Sometimes it is to try to keep them from looking bad.  Really bad.  Sometimes, it is because they fear what the kids will think if they knew the truth.

The truth will out.  Some times it takes a long time.  Sometimes it's really quick as the lies are transparent.  Here and now, I would say the truth was freaking out Helmet really bad.

Cheenee.  Hindi for Chinese.

Wonderful.  Just wonderful.  Just freaking wonderful with whip cream and cherries and yummy sprinkles.

Where we were, captives of Indian soldiers on an American world with CHINESE soldiers looking for them.  Awesome sauce.  Really.  I'm thrilled.  This is my thrilled and happy face.  Don't believe me?  Why?  I'm so cute and amazing!  Really!  

Good.  That was a lie.  Less damaging than Jaideep's but, still, a lie.

Helmet shouldered his/her weapon and was scanning.  Jaideep scrambled and pulled on his own.  There were no lights to tell what was happening inside and he was saying.  Jaideep turned and seemed to be scanning off axis from Helmet.  Helmet then turned to Jaideep and began gesticulating wildly.  No words were heard.  It was pretty obvious Helmet was berating Jaideep.  

The tent popped and Jaideep began to leave.  Helmet gestured at us even more wildly.  Jaideep seemed to just ignore Helmet as far as we could tell.  Jaideep ran for cover and aimed his rifle: he seemed to completely ignore that we existed.  Even without verbal cues, it was patently obvious Helmet was furious and frustrated.  

Helmet turned to us and handed back our needlers and boosters.

Just then a drone the size of my thumb zipped past us.  I didn't recognize it.  Was it Indian?  Was it Chinese?  Was it American military?  I didn't know.  In that instant, Jaideep opened fire on whatever was coming from the direction the drone had come from and Helmet fired something from his or her rifle that chased after the drone.

Then, Helmet turned to us and in plain, accented English, said, "Run.  Do not slow down.  Do not look back.  NOW RUN!"  The words were harsh, but said in as kind a manner as could be. The weirdest thing was, his accent was NOT Indian. It was also not one of the American accents either. I could have sworn it was ... Nigerian. 

Helmet then turned and began popping off his, yes, his own drones from the back of his armor.

With that, we ran.  We climbed up and over a hill and down another and over another and down into an arroyo, a dried up stream.  We were thinking it would work like a trench if explosions started going off.  We ran down the arroyo bed pounding on sand and through Jefflife brush.  Trying to get away.

And as we ran, it hit me.  Helmet hadn't been angry or contemptuous of US.  He had been of Jaideep.  he didn't want us to get hurt because of what they were doing.  He thought Jaideep was risking OUR lives for whatever he wanted: information?  food?  We didn't know.  We didn't have TIME to know.

In that moment, my opinion of Helmet wildly changed.  It was a bit head spinning on top of everything else.

And as we ran, we heard explosions and the sounds of a huge swarm of drones crashing, clashing and exploding.

We had run for what felt like a long time when a really big explosion was behind us.  The explosion was so big it knocked us to the ground.  Stunned, we got up.  After a moment, we franticly checked our leathers and balkavas: we they torn?  Compromised?  Remember, that can be life and death out on Jefferson.  We were ok.

After a second of elation, we realized we were still close enough to get hurt!  We got up and started running again.  We ran up and over the hill and then down into another arroyo.  We ran and ran.

We stopped to breathe, plopping ourselves in a creepy bush again.  PLEASE don't let this one's fruit pop while we're in it!

We were panting and gasping.  

I could feel everyone smile, thinking we were safe.  The explosions had stopped.  We were ok.  All we had to do was contact our parents and we could be done with this adventure.  Not the butt chewing that was coming afterwards, but at least the really dangerous (but not the scary part) would be over.

I reached into my pack and started to fish out the other clean booster when I heard it.

"Ahem.  Excuse me."

I looked up.  We all looked up.  

There stood someone in powered armor.  Again.

It wasn't Indian.

It wasn't American.

It was Chinese.

Or so the shoulder flashing with a red flag and yellow stars indicated.

We were caught.

Again.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Dawn on Jefferson, Chapter 34: Its an Interesting story, but do We Believe the Storyteller?

We were more than a little cautious with Jaideep.  He seemed friendly, but his suit was packing some pretty serious firepower: he just shredded a decade old Basilisk, probably 500 kg, within seconds.  Unnecessarily, I might add.  For those of us here on Jefferson, that was a real booboo in earning our trust.

He really didn't see the problem though.  Which was interesting.  Maybe other countries treat their worlds differently.  It's not something I'd ever thought about, really.  I had America and Jefferson to think of and, frankly, honestly, Shadwell was really my world.  Even with all the news flowing in like a river from Earth and America's interstellar colonies, even with the neural links and perfect Immies, Shadwell and its environs were the limit of what we worried about.  And, yes, that included its environment and nature and animals.  The killing of the Basilisk really did rub us the wrong way.

While Jaideep seemed friendly enough, his companion did not at all.  He or she refused to remove his/her helmet.  And refused to talk with us at all.  Whoever he or she was, just wasn't buying we were worth talking to, never mind, saving.  As if we really needed saving.

And, no, you couldn't make out whether the person inside that battle armor was a man or woman or even a robot.  They don't come with labels and they don't have pink bows on the helmets for girls.

We probably knew these woods better than they did by a LOT.  Their dead friend was a testament to that fact.  Jefferson was a beautiful and wonderful place that might just kill you if you were not careful.  As they now knew.

Even so, I had to wonder, why would Jaideep even consider "saving" us?  We were kids.  He was on some sort of mission.  He was here at risk of his life.  Why even bother with us when it would blow his cover?  Something didn't make sense.

I thought I wanted to try to make it make sense.  Veena and Rosa were right there with me it seemed.  Tom and Jackie were probably as well, but Tom was watching Jaideep's companion a lot and Jackie kept watching to see if there was a way out for us.  They were being useful and so, the other three of us thought we might better be, too.

We introduced ourselves and offered to share our food.  Jaideep seemed thrilled, way more so than he ought.  He might have been on field rations for however long he'd been on-world.  Rosa had some beef jerky, which he politely turned down, and Veena had some protein bars and some crisped vegetables.  Jaideep scarfed and his companion snarked something in Hindi.  

Veena was a very smart girl.  She even spoke some Hindi.  She also knew better than to let Sergeant Helmet know she knew.  I could almost hear her taking notes.  The funny part was, I could speak Hindi...or at least have it translated for me by my booster.  Alas, my booster was disconnected because of that freakin cockatrice and then my other, clean booster I hadn't connected.  And now Jaideep had his helmet off, we were recording and understanding.  Even so, even with the best machines, people seemed to still trust their own understandings better when another language was concerned and Veena knew Hindi.  At least enough.  And she'd be able to pull apart some of the nuances.  

Helmet still refused to remove.  Even with the offers of food.  Very annoying.

We were all sitting down and talking.  Jaideep was from Earth.  Helmet wouldn't say.  Yes, his friend , the corpse we found, had his helmet damaged when they were approaching Shadwell and had to leave it.  Yes, the critters got him. They had been forced to abandon Fernando at the Church complex.  Jaideep and Helmet were headed over to retrieve the body when they saw us about to be eaten - no, we weren't! - and Jaideep intervened.  Helmet was still sore over that.

Very sore.  

Actually, according to Jaideep, they were going to Shadwell to turn themselves in.  They were on a ship that jumped in system at one of the shadow jump points.  They were fleeing an enemy and wanted to seek asylum on Jefferson when their ship was damaged by the very meteor storm we watched on Constitution Rock.  Their ship tore apart during the reentry and only the three of them had survived.

Interesting, I thought, but something seemed off.

Rosa asked why they didn't just proceed on to Shadwell when their friend's helmet had been compromised?  After all, she said, it would have been safer.  Jaideep said it was complicated and they were surprised by the situation.  They might have made a mistake, but it was a cautious one.

I then flatly asked: "Why was his helmet damaged?"

Jaideep looked taken aback and was about to say something when Helmet - I ought to have picked a better moniker for that person! - growled.  Jaideep demurred and stated it was an unfortunate incident and didn't elaborate.  

That's when I absolutely knew, not just suspected, there was more here than what he was telling.  I also knew I didn't exactly trust these two.  Leaving out crucial details tends to do that.

Veena pointedly asked why Helmet refused to take it off.  Helmet retorted that someone had to keep a watch while they were fraternizing with local kids and, more importantly, Helmet didn't WANT to take it off.  Helmet had seen what the Jefflife could do to someone and thank you very much and have a nice day, no freakin thanks.

Wimp.  Chicken. 

We talked for some time and would have continued.  It was mostly small talk.  What about this animal?  Were we all born here?  Jaideep was from Mumbai.  Helmet remained mum.  etc.  

Part way along, Tom nodded at Helmet's boot and I realized the problem immediately: their boots on their battle armor in no way matched what we saw in Rosa's video.  My eyes widened, a bit too blatantly, but there was no helping it.  Jaideep noticed and was about to comment through a grimacing frown that had appeared on his face when Helmet's head whipped around and said a word that didn't need translation for us to get it. 

Cheenee.

And its implications were even MORE worrisome.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Dawn on Jefferson, Chapter 33: Be Careful What You Wish For, You Might Just Get It

My father once told me, with a smirk on his face at the time, of course, that I really ought to be careful what I wish for: I might just get it.  Well, here and now, I got a small idea of what he meant.  After all, we Merry Pranksters wanted to be the ones to find the Indian soldiers hiding on Jefferson near Shadwell.  

Well, we did.

Unfortunately, the NEXT step in the plan: call the grownups while not getting caught, shot, killed or left for taxito bait, seems to have hit a snag.  Just a small one.  

Why?

Because, well, we DID find the soldiers and soldiers have far, far better tech toys in the turn of the 22nd century than do twelve year olds.  or so I would hope.  Otherwise, every invasion of every country or world would flounder at those raucous and terrible bastions of power, the American Middle School.

Hmm.  Nice image.  Early teens being so tech savvy and terrible, they chase the invaders from the country.  Sounds like a kid's Immie.  And utterly divorced from reality.

So divorced from reality, I am surprised they have a shared custody arrangement with your brain.  Reality and that idea could not share that brain of yours.  No way.  No how.  Nuh-huh.  They would be still in court centuries later and making the judge hate them both and wish he or she could find a way to end the case immediately and preferably by putting your brain in foster care, reality in jail (for crimes against humanity) and this idea in the loonie bin.

The reality of OUR situation was we were being marched, somewhat roughly, up into the Jefflife forest away from the Church of the Sky Father Christ and the causeway.  Their roughness was a weird juxtaposition with the fact they thought they had just saved our lives.  THAT reality was a bit more complicated.  We probably would have gotten away or at the worst, *I* would have been eaten.  They, I think, had the thought they had saved all of us.

bah.

grump, grump, grump.

I imagine part of the reason they were herding us away was because they had probably just set off virtually every satellite and drone looking for us on the planet.  That could only be worse because I had called Dad to get him to get the police to come get us and deal with the soldier's body.  The dropped booster - hey!  cockatrices are scary and that one is really scary being so big!  I'd like to see you do better, bub! - would probably send him into something of a Papa Freakout.  And that would lead to a cringe worthy, Mama-Freakout.  ANd that would mean the whole of the Marines would be freaking out, because Mom can motivate people in ways I've never seen possible before.  Terrifyingly possible.

We had moved off far enough into the forest that we couldn't see, but heard the American Marines arrive.  The distinctive whine-roar of their transports was loud and unique enough to not be mistaken for anything else.  Our captors seemed really nervous.  We, the oh-so-proud Merry Pranksters, were far, far more than nervous, but not much more than that...despite what Tom and Rosa and Veena and Jackie might claim!  Really!

I had image, oh so beautifully ironic images, of American missiles launched and killing all here.  Us, the Indians and all the beautiful and toxic Jefflife around us.  Oh the joy of that thought!  And, no, I did NOT throwup upon thinking that EITHER, despite what Tom said.

The Indians ushered us further forward and we marched for what seemed like an interminable period.  When Jackie gave the soldiers a dirty look, the smaller one shoved her.  We all glared and tried to keep from pondering the fact their armor could squish us like a rotten grape.

When we reached some point, the Indians stopped and pulled a largish object off the back of one of the soldiers.  They tossed it to the side and then PLOOP, up and over us came a tent.  A quick spray came off the tent poles that caused all of the Pranksters to cough.  

The two soldiers stood apart for a moment and then seemed to be in a very animated conversation.  They were gesticulating wildly at times and pointing at us.  For a second, I thought about trying to hack into their equipment and then, OH YEAH, REALITY!

Not only was I not likely to be able to do so, but if I did and got caught, I was burnt toast.  Worse.  Way worse.  Burnt jelly?!  Besides, I would need to pull out my other booster and warm it up again.  Pulling something out might just set them off anyways.  Oh, joy.

However, I wasn't sitting there like a quivering blob, thanks, Tom.  His embellishments are really bad and nothing to do with that obnoxious reality thing.  Trust me.

The soldiers seemed to stop arguing and one approached us.  We were all on the other side of the tent trying to look very inconspicuous.  He stood in front of us and paused.  He seemed to be taking us in.  To a soldier off world, we must have looked like the weirdness mini sized special forces team ever.  or the worst cosplayers.  Your pick.  However, to someone from Jefferson, we were not that outlandish at all.  Some of the gear was a bit much for a bunch of kids, okokok, more than a but much, but the general look was perfectly normal for a bunch of people doing some backpacking in the back country of Jefferson.

The soldier knelt so he would be looking up at us.  Very nonthreatening in appearance or so I think he thought he was being.  Small problem: powered, freakin, armor.  He then reached up and in the most disconcerting way possible took off his helmet: it looked like he twisted off his head.

He looked at us from his dark eyes ones like Veena's, and smiled.  His smile was a nice one.  Reassuring.  And then he introduced himself:

"Hi, my friends.  My name is Jaideep.  Who are you?"

Monday, June 19, 2017

Dawn on Jefferson, Chapter 32: But I Didn't ask for a Knight in Powered Armor!

Screaming was not the most ideal reaction to a cockatrice.  It was the natural reaction.  I dropped my new Booster and ran.  I had to.  The others followed after, but Tom and Jackie paused after we were down the stairs and looked up.  They had pulled out their needlers and were looking for the cockatrice.  It launched up and into the air flying right over us.  We ran up across the plaza and into the church.  Fortunately, the great bronze door was open.  Unfortunately, it was not possible to close it.

The cockatrice slammed against the doors and wedged its head in.  It hissed and pulled back out.  Tom and Jackie were a little too slow with their needlers, so they didn't fire at the breast.  And it was a big beast, for a cockatrice.  It was probably has big as it could get, being about four meters long and a wingspan twice that.  It was a huge monster and our needlers would only tickle it at best.

So silly 6th graders, thanks for the tickle, now hold still while I eat you.

I didn't say cockatrices were smart.  Just big and scary.

What jefflife needed was for people to be here for a most of a decent millennium.  Then they'd realize people and Earthlife in general were not good eats.  In fact, we were poisonous.  However, they were not so smart.  Yet.  Though the idea of a SMART cockatrice did not seem so appealing either.  

We were puffing and huffing behind a giant column when a stain glass window shattered inward.  The cockatrice had figured glass was breakable and we were still edible.  Right on one count at least.  My inner wannabe architect cried out over the shattered window, but my outer me wanted to run like the wind.  So, we hustled into a side room and then looked for some way out.  There was.  And it was going to shatter my heart like glass.  

It was another window.

Tom started to make a pun.  I gave him a look that made it plain if he did, I was going to throw him through the window.  He gave me a rather insolent smirk.  

Now?  Really?  Gah!

The cockatrice started trying to get through the door behind us.  We then did something really stupid: we jumped right through the window.  Fortunately, our leathers were pretty thick.  Unfortunately, Veena was actually cut even so and we would have to deal with that later though.  We ran as fast as we could.

Across the plaza.

Through one of the cardinal directions toward the gate we came in through.  And we started seeing loogers!  Wonderful!  Not only were we being chased by an angry cockatrice, now we had Jefflife not-frogs to spit on us with toxic goo.  

Great!  Just great!

None of us got actually spat on.  Fortunately.  Unfortunately, we forgot something really important about cockatrices.  

Cockatrices are the boys.  

Basilisks are the girls.

I think I had better explain what that means.

When Americans first set foot on Jefferson, they made note of all the critters on the planet.  They needed to in order to make sure people could actually live there.  Yes, they lost some of the first explorers to taxitos.  By and large, they made note of most things large and small with the help of their robotic partners.

One of the animals they noticed was a snake like fish-thing that lived in the water.  They observed it and called it the 'hydra.'  (and if you say 'hail hydra, I will punch you in the mouth!  There's only so many times a movie should be made and remade and had a sequel, Mouse!)

They also noted the rare flying feathered serpent-like animal we now call the cockatrice.  It was big, mean and pretty rare.  It seemed to like to live near the water though but hunted on land.

They also noted a large water monster, generally 9 meters in length, that seemed to vaguely be like our crocodiles.  It would suction eat a lot of swimming animals and fish, but loved to grab animals from the shoreline and eat them.  They called these 'basilisks.'

Finally, also noted out in the sea where what they thought were whale equivalents.  They called them the leviathans.

What they didn't realize was they were all the same creature at different stages of its life cycle.  Over a seven year period, the hydra would transform from small snake like eels to the cockatrices.  Their front fins would transform into wings and the rear fins into legs.  

Then, on the strike of 12, no.  nonono.

I can't believe you actually started to fall for that.

No, really, they do metamorphose. But rather a clock?  Really?

It is every seven years though.  As the hydras grow bigger, they moved into deeper water until they are almost out to sea.  Then when the seven year itch strikes, they crawl from the water, dry out and go on a mating flight.  Several boys chase a girl cockatrice until one finally catches her.  The rest is too embarrassing to talk about.  Still twelve here!  Most of the boys are not so lucky.  They slowly die out over the course of the next seven years.  But they often tear up the land, eating many large and moderate size animals in the area.  Some, those that survive and mate with the female, survive to all seven years.  They follow the female to a lake or deeper water, where she will take the plunge and she will transform again into the crocodile critter and lay eggs for the next seven years.  If she finds a river, she will slowly make her way down into the sea.  Once she is there, she will finish her transformation into a leviathan.  Why the leviathan stage exists, no one has figured out.  One Dr. Jonah Jackson was trying to find out.  

Dr Jackson was the one that figured out the giant cockatrices were really males of the same species as the basilisk and both were the breeding form of the hydra.  he had surmised the leviathans were the grandmother form of the same animal and taken a small boat out to study them.  I think he thought they must be docile big whales, since that's the nearest thing on Earth.  Oh, the irony of his name and his fate.

So, back to the brute-species chasing us.  The male cockatrice will help protect the female even when she is in the water and transformed.  He'll try to fight off a new female and her entourage.  However, half the time, he gets eaten by the swarm of smaller cockatrices.  Not pretty.  However, he does have another use for her.  He will often chase prey to the basilisk so she can have a balanced diet while laying their eggs.

Oops!

Stupid Jefflife!  

We ran along the causeway and were half way across when the water erupted.  Out flopped behind us (!!!) a basilisk.  We ran even faster.  The basilisk was HUGE, one of the biggest I'd ever heard of and wiggle waddled after us as fast as it could.  It was slightly faster than we were and it as closing on us, slowly and inexorably.  It would get to us.  it would kill us.  We would die and then it would die.

Stupid Jefflife!  

Stupid, stupid basilisk!

It was still a good twenty feet behind when we reached the hill.  I turned and pulled out my needler.  I set it to banglers and began firing at its eyes.  It kept coming.  Tom and Jackie stopped to help.  I screamed at them to grab Veena and Rosa and run.

bang!  bang! bang!  bang!  

It flinched at least.

I finally got a good shot into an eye and it stopped and howled.

Ha!  take that, you stupid!  

OH! CRUD!

I dropped onto my back just in time to avoid being snatched by the cockatrice.  The howl apparently called it to its mate and here I was!  Like a present!  Joy!

bang!  bang! bang!  bang!  

I fired away at the cockatrice's fluffy belly.  It squawked!  it actually squawked!  

Score two for team Earthlife!  Ha!

I quickly repointed my needler at the basilisk and fired more.

bang!  bang! bang!  bang! 

It steam train hissed at me and stopped advancing for a moment.  It was trying to decide if I was worth it.  If it did decide I was, it would charge.  I had better not be where I was.  I turned - which triggered her charge! - and ran.  Up the hill and behind some trees.  From there I started firing more.

bang!  bang! bang!  bang! 

The basilisk charged and the cockatrice swooped.  I didn't see my friends, but I felt somewhat safe.  I had plenty of ammo and the critters were not getting me tonight!  Ha!  Score again for Team Earthlife!  Woo!

The awesome part was I did this without permanently harming either critter.  It stung, but didn't kill.

Then, of course, everything went wrong.

From out of nowhere, a small missile arced up and exploded (!!) against the cockatrice.  I swear had it been a critter that people could eat, they just got burger versions, ground up and even cooked in one shot.  It might even have qualified as cockatrice sauce, like apple sauce, but made from jefflife meat.  bleh.

Then a form jumped from above me and landed down on the ground tackling the basilisk.  The individual in powered armor actually grappled with the 9 meter long monster and then grabbed it by the tail.  He swung the basilisk around and threw it back into the water.  

Then he turned to me.

And my heart sunk.  On his helmet was the same tricolor and chakra on the very same helmet I had stumbled over when this all began.  

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Stealth Saga #63

5th Generation Fighter:

Poland is planning on buying a 5th generation fighter around 2025.

6th Generation Fighter:

Airbus is calling on France to join Germany and Spain in developing the next generation weapon system, a potentially sixth gen fighter.  A bit more on the Airbus backed European next gen fighter (not sure whether it will be 5th or 6th gen).  What exactly is going to happen is up in the air though.  Dassault may not join the paneuropean fighter and that might be a good thing.

Lockheed has unveiled its updated penetrating counter air concept.

Are 6th generation fighters going to be stealthy drone herders?

TFX:

Turkey is mostly relying on local manufacturers for their next fighter, but also a dash of the British.

J-20:

China has tested a solid rocket ramjet missile for use with its J-20 fighters, potentially tripling the range of the J-20's missiles to kill.

H-20:

The Pentagon confirmed the Chinese H-20 stealth bomber is being designed with nuclear weapon carriage in mind.

MiG-41:

Mikoyan claims to be working on the MiG-41, the successor for the MiG-31 Foxbat.

PAK-FA:

The PAK-FA is supposed to be in the final stages of development.

Russia is supposed to take delivery of two more PAK-FA this year.

FGFA:

Is the PAK-FA derivative fighter deal going to be scuttled?

LCAAS:

Some are claiming the LCAAS 'disposable' UCAV will be stealthy.

RQ-170:

Some beautiful pictures of the RQ-170 were taken at Vandenberg a while back.

B-21:

McCain is pushing on the USAF to reduce the level of secrecy of the B-21 program.

B-2:

Orbital ATK won a contract for composite structures for the B-2.

B-2 bombers have deployed to Britain.

F-117:

Iraq's brushes with the F-117.

F-22:


F-35:

Canada will fork out another $30 million to stay part of the F-35 team despite not planning (currently) to buy any.

Japan has its first two F-35 pilots.

Japan has rolled out its first locally assembled F-35.  You can watch the roll out here.

The first Japanese assembled F-35 had its first flight.  You can see that here and its landing here.

Spain is considering replacing its AV-8Bs and F/A-18s with F-35s.

A proposed upgrade to the F-35's engine may improve fuel use and increase power.

How the F-35 fared at the Red Flag exercise and what it may portend.

Elbit of America won cockpit related work for the F-35.

Lockheed is preparing for the F-35A premier at the Paris Airshow.  The fighter was filmed practicing for its aerobatics at the show.

USAF F-35As at Luke AFB have stopped flying due to hypoxia problems much like most of the US fighters.  The grounding is indefinite until they find the problem.

Interestingly, the F-35B is NOT having hypoxia problems.

Friday, June 16, 2017

If Only

I walk there every day. It's a reminder. It's a scourge. It's my punishment.

For my failure.

I look out upon the blasted site, the crisped and burned locale. The site is no longer pristine. Dust and trash and other detris of this dying world have contaminated the site. A baby doll's head. Wrappers from foods no longer consumed, no longer can be consumed, no longer made. It's still very recognizable as a crater though. How could it not be? Most of the ground is still glassed, if somewhat covered by the blown loess and topsoil. The only broken parts, by and large, were the ingress and egress paths I had made when I erected the altar. The tomb. The lines of where I walked in and out every day.

Others had respected it. Others had followed in and out in the same paths. I had never seen them. Perhaps they offered me reverence for my daily ritual. Perhaps they were terrified of the man who still had the strength to build something nearly megalithic on his own. Perhaps they were ashamed of what they did here.

The shrine had been defiled.

Several times I had found animals sacrificed on the shrine. The first time I was furious and replaced the stones that were stained: no rain would have washed away the blood: there were no rains here. Or rarely enough that I had not seen them in my residency and I could not abide the foulness.

Then it grew worse. The much worse as the slide into barbarism and despair continued. I found a human sacrifice. I raged. I lost my mind. I stood watch without sleeping for days after I cleansed the site, the stones, the monument.

I only left, no, let us be honest here, I fled, when I began to hallucinate my children were talking to me, were there with me, rather than buried after they had died of the toxins choking our home, our world, our Mother, our Earth. They spoke to me, rather than resided as moldering corpses within the monument. Then, terrified, I fled like a wild animal spooked at the site of my ultimate predator: madness.

After I slept, I returned to my vigil. My daily tending of the monument. My children's tomb. I knew soon I would be too weak to live. Despite my previously good health, stamina and strength, there was no surviving this. When my time was nigh, I would come and lay down at the monument and I would pass away. For eternity, I would be as close to my children as I could be. As close as this world would allow.

I knew I had lie with them. I knew I had to be at the point of my ultimate and final failure. My children had died because I had failed: I had failed to pass the test. Or rather I had, but due to a shortening of the schedule, I was cut. I was cut because I was not quite good enough to be taken if they had to reduce the number of survivors. I was just not smart enough, accomplished enough, good enough.

I was left behind. I, my children and my wife. We were left on Earth to die with the teaming mass of humanity. Not to alight to the new world of Salvation around another star with the best and brightest. I had been damned to this terrestrial hell and it had killed my children. It was killing me. It probably had killed my wife. I didn't know: she had disappeared when going to find food for the kids when they lay sick and dying.

I had built my children's tomb, this monument, this terrible wonder at the point where the last torchship, the one that would have taken us to the stars and life and freedom from the oncoming death, had lifted off from the Earth. The point where I had failed so greatly and so terribly. Where I...where we were left behind.

And this was why I could not tolerate the barbarism of the remaining few. This is why I could not allow my children's tomb, my monument to my shameful failure to be defiled. Not while I still drew breath, not while I still shakingly shuffled, not while I still while I could still raise an arm, I would not allow this monument to be defiled again.

I tenderly removed and cleaned and tended the stones. I cleared the detris of a dying world. I cleansed the stones of terrible dust of the damned. I wiped and cleaned. Shaking and tearful. I loved the lost. I wept for the dead. I loathed myself.

And I berated myself with the bitterest phrase of the english language: if only...