Tag Archives: Tony Stark

Tales from Space 3 Excerpt

18 Nov

Here is a excerpt from We’ll Meet Again, the tale of how Anore Wrought managed to not only steal the cure for the weaponized plague that was killing her husband Victor, but rescued long-time friend and ally Nick Goodfrey from his captivity with rival Sindo Corporation.

You can find the whole story in Tales from Space: The Great Corporation War, available in 2018 from StarkLight Press.

This excerpt copyright 2017 Anthony Stark.

 

He came at her out of the darkness in the wide hallway, emerging from blackness like a wraith from out of the realm of the dead. Beside him emerged four other Sindo Corporation assassin-guards, all armed. They were unsurprising- he shocked her to her core. Anore was prepared for a fight, knew that the Sindo knew she was about to attack one of their three flagships for the files Wrought Industries needed so desperately. Sindo was, of course, expecting her to try to get the files- they contained the cure for the deadly engineered disease Sindo had given to Victor Wrought.

Anore Wrought was an exemplary fighter, with fast instincts and deadly accuracy; she had been ready for up to ten assailants trained in Japanese martial arts. Four attackers was dealable, but as she eyed their leader with his almost nonchalant stride and the small, cruel smile that played on the corners of his mouth, Anore was unsure if she could beat this fifth foe.

“Nick,” she addressed their leader, watching his face for some sign of recognition.

He held up a hand, and the assailants stopped. Cocking his head to one side slightly, he grew still, regarding Anore Wrought, the second in command of the single greatest foe to the Sindo Corporation.

He gazed at his opponent with even eyes. “I am not called Nick anymore,” he informed her. “I am now Raine.”

“You are Nick Goodfrey,” Anore looked at him, her eyes willing the android to break with his Sindo programming and remember her. His face was implacable, as she had seen it before, yet there was something wild, almost mad there now that sent a shiver through her, along with a sour spray of shame. He looked the same, yet the drawing of the artificial flesh around his eyes made him seem at once vicious and terrified. The way he had taken to holding his mouth contributed to this effect, with that small, mocking smile held there like a mask. His jaw had grown somehow, giving him a more imposing aspect, making Nick look as though he had gone from a wistful teenager to a hardened adult during his tenure with Sindo. It also added to the sense he was now more dangerous. Sindo had either dyed his hair or replaced it, from its original pale blond to a dark chestnut, almost black. The new color made him seem larger and augmented the sense of menace about him. His blue eyes stood out like topazes, framed by the dark crown he now wore.

Sindo had given him standard assassin’s garb- a dark, slim-fitting long coat with pants and a high collared shirt. Nick’s was deep blood red, the color of Sindo Corp; it signified him as the leader of his group. He wore highly flexible assassin’s gloves that Anore knew would allow him to increase his already formidable grip. He carried on his belt, only part hidden by the coat, a pair of long knives and a garrot wire.

“Nick,” she repeated.

Ignoring this assertion, he took a step toward her; his assassins obligingly stayed in their spots.

“You have come for the files encoding the antidote to the weaponized illness plaguing Victor Wrought,” Nick declared. He tilted his head to one side, his blue eyes glinting in the dim light of the hall. “Did you find what you sought?”

“He’s dying, Nick,” Anore explained earnestly, dropping her stance and holding her hands wide. “I have to try to save him.”

Nick’s jaw worked at this and his eyes flared vicious, horrible light. Anore froze, lifting her guard once more, swallowing hard. What had she said- was Nick so angry at Victor still?

Slowly, his mouth cracked from side to side, until he started to silently laugh with a broad, open-mouthed smile that alarmed her to her core. She had never seen him maniacal before, not in all their years together. After a few moments of silent paroxysms, he started to laugh out loud, wracked by a terrible mirth that made him bend forward slightly, his eyebrows raised. He laughed in her face, his eyes wide, his eyebrows high. Behind him, his henchmen laughed as well.

After an interval that held Anore galvanized in place, Nick regained his composure, straightening to his full height and running his hands down the hem of his coat to settle himself. Still smiling broadly, he inclined his head; the first gesture that she recognized as his own.

“Of course,” he said maganimously. “You couldn’t leave him for dead, could you?”

So it was hatred for Victor, Anore thought to herself. Forgetting her outnumbered state in hostile territory, she looked, exasperated, at Nick. “It’s not like I want to save his life,” she said. “It’s just- not fair.”

Uttering a sharp bark of the same laughter that had chilled her to her core, his eyes flashed again. “No,” he agreed. “Terribly unfair, what we did to him… and how could you let something unfair stand? You, champion of right and good.”

Anore squinted at this, unsure of what Nick was implying. “I don’t think I’m champion of anything, Nick,” she replied quietly, watching her android closely.

“But you are… good,” he said. “Most assuredly. The Wrought Corporation fights on the side of the angels, isn’t that so.” The corner of his mouth curled up into a crueler smile. “Victor certainly believes this- and you are quite convinced of your own moral authority.”

“I- we,” Anore stumbled, wounded by the spite dripping from his words. “We are good people, Nick- we are trying.”

“Well,” Nick said glibly, that same brutal smile playing at the corner of his lips, “If you are the good ones, then, that would make me… the Enemy,” he pulled up his gloves. “Wouldn’t it? You must return to Victor and save his precious life, to combat the unfairness of it all… and I must stop you.” He cocked his head to one side and raised his hands. Beside him, his henchmen took up their guards once more.

“Because, my sweet heart, you see- I am a villain.”

He twitched his fingers, and all four assassins set upon her. It was a desperate flurry of a battle, and Anore, shocked by the viciousness in Nick’s voice, the sheer wrath in it, lost precious seconds recovering. His assassins had her pinned up against the wall, having pummeled Anore despite her blocking of nine out of every ten blows with expert reflex. Their weapons were strong and relentlessly aimed, however, and she found herself sliding up the bulkhead of the ship, her limbs pinned. She watched, helpless to move, as Nick approached her.

“Let’s see,” he mused, eying her up and down, “where would I be, if I were a crystal drive?” He began to search her. Anore gasped at the strength in his hands, so determined compared to the old, gentle, subtle touch Nick had once possessed. Her eyes widened, shocked, at the unabashed sexuality of his touch as he searched her. He kept his eyes locked on hers as he ran his hands over every inch of her body.Nick had either learned that sexual domination was an effective tactic to use on prisoners, or had developed in extremely predatory ways for his time at Sindo Corporation. Either way, Anore had never been handled by Nick Goodfrey so roughly before, and it stunned her.

He ran his hand up her legs, feeling expertly and brusquely either on side of her thighs, then gripped her with fingers like iron, just hard enough to hurt, between them. He smiled thinly.

“We’ve searched everywhere else,” he remarked. “You’ve hid it in one of your holes- which would you like me to search first?” He ran his finger back and forth between her legs idly as he asked.

Anore crashed her head into Nick’s; one of the assassins lost their grip on her shoulder and she started to wrestle her left arm free. The thrashing destabilized the other three, and she started to slide down the wall.

It might have worked as an escape tactic, had Nick not hardly reacted to the blow to his head. Raising upright almost immediately, he saw Anore begin to slide down the bulkhead and, moving in, grabbed her with one hand and lifted her again to her position slightly above him. His hand was immutable around her neck and she started to choke. She stilled her thrashing- his hand could pop her head right off her spine, if it so desired.

“Nick!” she gasped around the purple spots rising in her vision. “Please-”

Smiling viciously, Nick graciously lowered her to the ground, his grip loosening just enough to let her breathe. He pumped his fingers into her carotid arteries, however, twice to show that he could not just suffocate her, but cut off her blood flow as well. Her eyes tearing, she looked up at him.

Pressing himself up against her, pinning her against the bulkhead with his weight most effectively, Nick raised his other hand to her mouth. His eyes never leaving hers, he pinched her jaw with his fingers until her mouth opened. Inserting his index finger, he swept her mouth. He even searched the back of her throat, which he did with a lingering gusto.

Gagging, Anore clamped her jaws down around the android’s finger. One of her molars chipped on the assassin’s glove that covered the digit. Nick laughed at her, his finger still in her mouth, tickling the back of her throat in vomitous circles.

“You don’t think I would be stupid enough to put my finger in your mouth unprotected, do you?” he chided. “How very little you think of me.”

Anore glared at him, trying not to gag. He paused, his smile fading slightly. He drove a second finger into her mouth and, after a moment and a near miss with vomit, pulled a small crystal out of the back of Anore’s throat.

“How disappointing,” Nick remarked, dropping Anore as the assassins grabbed her and re-pinned her to the bulkhead. He tossed the drive up in the air and caught it, winking at his prisoner. “I was so looking forward to searching the other two.”

He turned away from her, pocketing the crystal drive. Without looking around, he gave his final order to the assassins.

“Kill her.”

Anore’s eyes widened. She spat out a mouthful of blood from her tooth; it tasted like composite from the glove.

“Nick!” she cried. “Goddamn you!”

He stopped, and turned, looking at her with a face that was now more pinched than she had yet seen it. His huge blue eyes gazed at her, glistening.

“Already done,” he replied.

A rush of panic ran through her, and she hit out blindly with all four limbs at once. She found the grip on her loosened, and Anore grabbed a stick from one of the assassins and started swinging madly. Nick watched from a polite distance, his head cocked to one side. The assailants struck her again and again; her ankle was possibly broken, her ribs bruised or fractured, her cheek and skull cut and bleeding. Yet, in the end, Anore walked out of a pile of four bodies and took a staggering step toward Nick Goodfrey.

He raised an eyebrow. “Excellent work,” he commented.

“Thank you,” she spat out another mouthful of blood. Wearily, she sighed, wincing as her ribs pinched her for it. Beleaguered, Anore took a guard stance. “Come on, then, let’s do it.”

She was surprised to see Nick’s brow furrow with concern. For a moment, his face softened, and the fell light left his eyes.

“I don’t think this is a fight you can win, Anore,” he advised her softly.

“I have to try,” she replied, coughing slightly.

His face grew cold again, and his jaw clenched.

“Why? Why try for him? Why is it him you save?” His voice cracked. He looked her up and down. “You yourself are in imminent danger.”

“Because,” she said slowly, thinking about it, really thinking about why she was doing all this for Victor. It wasn’t love, that was laughable. It wasn’t a paladin-esque sense of justice, no matter what Nick thought. It was… it was…

“Hope,” she said at last. “Hope.” She looked up at him from her hunched half-guard and smiled around her bruises. “Nick, do you remember the last thing you did as you were getting ready to leave- when Victor sold you to Sinclair?”

Nick had been walking slowly toward Anore, ready to initiate the fight at her slightest motion. He stopped now, looked at her sidelong, eyes narrowed.

“I waited at the airlock,” he said, unsure.

Anore, her eyes alight, grinned. “No, not just that,” she wagged a finger at him. “You started to sing. I was trying not to cry, and I couldn’t find a way to get Victor to take it back… and I was starting to cry, and you sang me a song.”

Her voice faltering, her breath coming in gasps, she began to sing:

“Let’s say goodbye with a smile dear,

Just for a while, dear, we must part.

Don’t let this parting upset you,

I’ll not forget you, sweetheart,”

She had to pause between lines, and closed her eyes once with pain and memory, not caring that Nick could use those brief moments to strike.
As she started to sing, Nick’s face gave a great twitch, and he paused in his slow advance. His hands lowered slightly, and as Anore watched, they started to tremble.

“Hope, Nick,” she said. “You gave me hope…you sang it over the radio. I think you must have kept singing it even after we got out of range, because the signal faded in and out, and I could hear it.”

His eyes were shining preternaturally, and he smiled slightly, genuinely. “I sang it until your ion drive signature faded,” he said. “I can’t- I can’t remember the words of it, though.” He looked in Anore’s eyes, unsure, confused, heedless of their mortal situation. “What was the song?”

Anore’s brow furrowed in sorrow. Nick had always had such a memory for songs. What had happened to him here? She wondered.

Slowly, gingerly, she started to sing, her arms moving from a guard to an embrace.

“We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when,

But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day.”

Nick’s brow worked, and tears spilled down over his cheeks. Shocked at the sight of tears on the android’s face, Anore watched them trail down his face in wonder. When he had left her, Nick was unable to cry. Yet here he was, weeping, quivering all over as though slowly freezing. She started to smile, nodding, and beckoned him to her, still singing. He began to stumble toward her, his head bobbing slowly in time to the words as though trying to understand or remember them.

“Keep smiling through, just like you always do,

Till the blue skies chase those dark clouds far away.”

His eyes were locked on hers, his mouth quivering. As though fighting through some great curtain of Shadow, he started to sing. His voice was wan, and sorrowful, but sounded more like Nick Goodfrey than anything he had yet uttered.

“And won’t you please say hello to the folks that I know,

Tell them I won’t be long,” he said, stepping to Anore further, raising a hand gently toward her face.

“They’ll be happy to know that as you saw me go, I was singing this song,” Nick continued, starting to recall the words more strongly. As he did, he started to smile in a way that filled Anore’s heart with a poignant happiness that made her throat clench.

“We’ll meet again,” she continued, and this time Nick sang the rest of it with her. His hand touched her cheek, and he looked at her in wonder, as though seeing her for the first time. His brow furrowed, and he faltered in the singing, as though he wanted to ask why she was injured.

Anore sang louder, more earnestly. She only had him by the slimmest thread of this song, and if he shook that loose, she might not get another chance to escape. She took him in her arms, and held him tight. To her surprise, Nick melted effortlessly into her embrace, resting his head in the crook of her neck like a small, exhausted child. His breath puffed coolly on her sore skin as he sang with her. His arms wrapped themselves around her; behind her, Anore could feel Nick pull off the assassin’s gloves one at a time and drop them on the floor. His bare fingers pressed against her shoulder blades with a fervent but gentle pressure.

She finished the stanza as she grabbed what she needed out of her pocket.

“Elle,” he said, using the name she had used when they had said goodbye. His voice was soft, and sad, and wistful.

“Nick,” she said kindly, raising the EM stun wand to his neck. She stroked his dark hair and kissed his ear. “My Nick Goodfrey.”

He lifted his head to look at her, a small, kind smile on his face. Anore caught just a glimpse of soft, sad eyes before they widened in shock and betrayal at the sight of the wand. She might have been wounded, but her reflexes were still good; she jammed the wand into the port at the base of Nick’s skull. Even though the port was closed, the jolt of stimulus sent Nick into a system crash. Uttering a pathetic cry that was clenched off by the seizure that overtook his vocal chords, Nick stiffened for a moment, then crumpled to the floor, lifeless.

After something like a wand to the neck, Nick would have to be restarted and given a complete diagnostic. It would take days, possibly weeks, for any random system to degauss itself inside Nick and begin the reboot sequencing on its own. He would not have days, even, before Sindo people came and packed him off to be rebooted and reprogrammed, this time with even less chance of failure to kill.

But she wasn’t going to leave him in this hallway; no one was restarting Nick Goodfrey but Anore. She grabbed the crystal drive out of his pocket so it wouldn’t fall out as she drug him to the airlock. She hadn’t come all this way to lose the antidote now. Stooping like an old woman, Anore took Nick by the wrist and began to pull him the fifty feet to the airlock where her shuttle was lurking. Limping, listing, panting and pausing frequently to catch her ragged breath, Anore pulled Nick’s corpse straight, then tugged it down the hallway and into the airlock. With a whoosh, the spare air expelled itself into space as her shuttle broke away. It was soon lost against the gulf of stars, headed back to the Wrought Industries war cruiser, and home.

Announcing New Galactic Armed Forces Novels!

14 Nov

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We’re pleased to announce that not one, not two, not three, but FOUR new GAF novels are coming out in the winter of 2017!!

First, the LONG-awaited sequel to Dalton’s Daughter, the saga of Lieutenant Sasha Wheaton, is set to arrive in December of 2017. In it, you can read about Sasha’s troubled time in Galactic Armed Forces training camp and her eventual exile to the worst company in the Forces- Detach Detachment. Included in this edition are Sasha’s first-hand account of her trysts with transportation magnate Howard Donovan, as well as her encounter with one of the biggest Verily Wrought stalkers in the Galaxy!

Check out GAFmainframe.com all this winter for excerpts and content available only online, including the InQuotes magazine article that first broke the story of the Donovan/Wheaton fling.

Second, by popular demand, we have a novel featuring some of the long and storied history of the oldest android in the Galaxy, Nick Goodfrey. Long attached to the Wrought Family, Nick Goodfrey is the only being who served in both Corporation Wars, and was listed before his disappearance as the most Infamous in the Galaxy.

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In The Androsian Question, we find Nick standing before one of the most serious tribunals in the Galaxy, a Hearing-in-Council, defending his creation of a race of beings using prohibited technology. These events take place shortly before his disappearance and feature a young Verily Wrought- and now you can read the story not just from Verily’s childhood remembrances, but from Nick’s own perspective!

This story was chosen from a poll of GAF fans as the number one piece of backstory they would like filled in- read The Androsian Question in January 2018 to find out not just what was behind the Hearing-in-Council, the cure for MVD introduced on Miller’s Planet, but what exactly did happen to Nick Goodfrey… and if he still exists.

Third, we have The Arkellan Treaty,  a collaborative novel set in the GAF present. Captain Verily Wrought of Detach Detachment is sent with his soldiers to the dual planets in the Arkello system to avert an interplanetary war. In this novel we find out more about Galactic singing sensation Consin Arkadie, as well as more about the mysterious cloning guru Patrick Long. With segments contributed by Van Fleming, Will Norton, Leanne Caine, Mandi Millen, Jason Pere and more, this collaborative novel expands characters in the present day GAF timeline like Bev the Indorian, IUS Agent Aric Drakes and Galactic Prime Minister Quetzal Ferguson.

 

Last but certainly not least, we have a second installment in the history of Nick Goodfrey and Anore Wrought. Tales from Space: the Great Corporation War is an anthology of tales that fills in the nine hundred and fifty year timeline of the First Corporation War. Started by Old Earth corporations like Goodfrey Industries, Sinclair Corp and Hoshido Concern, this abominable millenium-long battle encompassed every quadrant of the Galaxy and nearly resulted in the expulsion of the human race from the Galactic Association of Globes and Asteroids.

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Included within are a variety of snapshots of life during the War, including:

  • how Victor Wrought traded Nick Goodfrey to Sinclair Corporation in exchange for his life
  • the making of the Pleiades androids that still inhabit their eponymous star systems today
  • the COMPLETE story of how the infamous “Dancing Robot” incident occurred in deep space, following one of the most bloody battles of the War
  • the eventual return of android Nick Goodfrey to the Wrought family, and the circumstances of the first bioweapon used on the head of a Corporation
  • the real story behind why Nick Goodfrey kidnapped every CEO of each warring Corporation and held them captive on Telamer V

Also included in this fabulous, illustrated anthology are the original images from news articles of the era, as well as magazine excerpts from Galaxy Today, InQuotes and Quasar.

Look for this title toward spring of 2018, available in paperback and collectible, full-color hardcover editions from StarkLight Press.

Check in later this week for excerpts from all these titles!

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GAGA Crime and Punishment

3 Jun

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Following the end of the Second Corporation Wars in 2920, the GAGA established a well-defined criminal justice system with clearly delineated approaches to crime and punishment.

The GAGA assembly drafted a Galactic Citizen’s Bill of Rights with a section dealing with citizen rights and criminal activity, entitled Rights of the Galactic Citizen. In one of only four unanimous votes of the GAGA Assembly, it was determined that the main drive of the GAGA was to create and maintain effective, productive citizens with access to basic amenities of life through the GAGA, and to ensure that citizens could be made as productive and effective as possible for the duration of their natural lives, then determined to be 120 years. As part of this declaration, minimum levels of mobility, health, nutrition, access to amenities and freedom of opportunity were laid out.

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In addition, the GAGA Criminal Defense Committee laid out in 2924 a then current list of crimes along with a table and flowchart of rehabilitation entitled The GAGA Criminal Rehabilitation Flowchart.

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This document is updated every five years, following Galactic vice-presidential elections. In it are laid out a comprehensive list of crimes, the ways in which such activities reduce the effective productivity of the citizen and a list of possible causes for, and remedies to, the underlying discordances that caused the criminal activity.

The Committee was able to, with relative certainty, come to fairly strong determinations of the reasons for criminal behaviour due to the long exposure of its citizens to a variety of different environmental situations. With over a thousand years of data to collate, psychiatrists, doctors and other specialists had come to understand that in addition to the age-old pressures of hunger, dearth and addiction, there were also various environmental causes for a pre-disposition to crime. These included exposure to the wrong kinds of electromagnetic, geomagnetic and celestial energies, buildup of various heavy metals in the body, exposure to various micro-organisms, chemicals and other substances. The GAGA also realized that what was a healthy and conducive environment for one individual could be a suppressive and toxic one for another, leading to criminal mis-behaviour that was largely due to misplacement of the individual.

For this reason, Galaxy-wide baseline psychological and physical evaluations were made mandatory starting in 2930. Children were evaluated with scanning technology shortly after birth to determine the scope of their baseline physiology, basic receptiveness to conditioning/creative thought, predispositions for certain conditions and relative susceptibility to various exo-environmental forces.

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Every seven years, citizens were given re-evaluations to mark out their continued development and try to find ‘stresses leading to criminal activity’ and remedy these before they turned to transgression of the law.

The system, while effective in limiting a great deal of crime, was not infallible. Resources were often pinched at certain times, leading to ‘lost generations’ in the GAGA. These individuals were more predisposed to transgression activities, and fell into the Galactic Universal Rehabilitation (GUR) wing of GAGA resources.

The GAGA Criminal Rehabilitation Act was established with the aim of “determining the definitive cause of criminal activity in the individual” with an eye toward “redirection of the individual’s energies, using re-education and relocation to allow the transgressor to maintain as full participation as possible as a Galactic citizen.” As part of this, the GUR was created to take criminals convicted by GAGA courts and rehabiliate them into society. Any citizen of the GAGA received two rehabilitations and relocations for their grevious crimes. On the third crime committed on the GAGA’s Grevious Crimes list, the individual would be taken to a prison colony for use by the GAGA itself. These colonies were generally harsh but humane, although several notable degradations are on record.

During the first rehabilitation process, the GAGA’s complete physio-psychological evaluation would be examined. The Flowchart was consulted to determine if any environmental stresses, toxic buildups or other physiological abreactions had occurred. If this was found to be extant, then the GUR would remedy them, re-evaluate the individual and prepare them for reintroduction to society. If any psychological issues still remained- counter-productive conditioning based on the aggravating factor, abusive habits etc- then re-education, conditioning and behavioural therapy were given.

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Once the individual passed secondary evaluations, they would be re-introduced to the GAGA. This involved giving the individual a new identity card and placing them in a new sector of the Galaxy. Restrictions on travel, work and other activities stayed on their permanent GAGA file- these restrictions prohibited the individual from exposure to the stressors that induced the crime.

Over 85% of criminals thus rehabilitated stayed contributing citizens and had no further criminal activity of note.

The remaining re-offenders, once convicted of their secondary Grevious Crime, would be sent back to GUR facilities. A secondary physio-psychological evaluation would take place, and remedies were applied. More intensive re-education and psycho-social rehabilitative measures would be taken, including aversion chips, cybernetic implants and neural stabilizers to prohibit certain negative activities. Once the individual passed a secondary examination that proved them ready for re-habilitation, they were again re-introduced to GAGA society, this time restricted to certain sectors/quadrants of the Galaxy, dependent upon the indivudal’s environmental limitations.

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On the third transgression, individuals were given a final GUR re-evaluation and a definitive diagnosis for their recidivism was delivered. These criminals were sent to work camps and GAGA outposts on the edge of the Galaxy, either to work in basic labor units for GAGA resources, or as ‘place-holders’ on the frontiers of the Galaxy, to stake GAGA claims. Life was remote and assistance minimal, but the GAGA would still check in every few months with evaluators for compliance to Rights of the Galactic Citizen Act. Although most asteroid work camps and remote colonies functioned within baseline parameters, corruption and smuggling were rampant; as a result, sometimes the level of care fell well below GAGA standards.

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GUR and GAGA workers had the right to comandeer any camp or colony that was sub-par and rectify the situation, up to and including taking command of it. Any officials of these camps that were found guilty of transgressions leading to the poor conditions were themselves charged with criminal violations and entered into the GUR system.

 

And the Winners Are…

18 Apr

Here are the winners of our GAF Mainframe short story contest!

Late last year, GAF Mainframe launched a flash fiction contest about alien artifacts. Entrants had to submit a short, short story about any GAF character interacting with any alien artifact.

We had some truly awesome submissions, some of which were published on GAFMainframe.com . From these entries we have chosen a few lucky authors to win our grand prize!

These winning authors will have their flash fiction published in the long-awaited Tales from Space 2, due out later this year.

Our winners are:

Van Fleming for his piece about IUS Agent Aric Drakes

Sharon Flood for Pvt. Susu Frid’s Bastet figurine find

Jenn Spaulding for adding to Pvt. Puff Errington’s backstory

Will Norton for his deep space cowboy adventure

Congratulations to our winners!

 

The Maitre Wars

15 Mar

By Virginia Carraway Stark and Tony Stark

 

 

The Maitre invasion is officially listed as starting in 2023 when the presence of The Maitre on Old Earth was announced but the actual invasion started many, many years before that.

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The invasion was a subtle affair and while widely acknowledged amongst ‘certain’ divisions in the military, government and civil sectors it was publicly decried as a mass hoax that earth had made contact with extraterrestrials. As decades progressed, part through a planned campaign of ‘naturalization’ on the part of the Maitre, part the effort of dedicated researchers, people came to suspect they were not alone on the planet. In spite of the ridicule they received, this urban legend grew in the minds of the inhabitants of Old Earth.

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The highest levels of government in the mid to late twentieth century were thoroughly infiltrated by Maitre influence, which shortly thereafter produced poison fruit: sudden rushes of new technology.

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As decades progressed, Old Earth was subtly but irrevocably altered from its original development and twisted into a more Maitre-accessible form. Humans reacted to the new technologies in different ways, but ultimately, as layer upon layer of the tainted technology was added, all humans had to adapt to it in order to survive in society. What was not told to the humans of Old Earth was that all of the technology came at a price: It was crafted by the Maitre to alter the nature of humans themselves and be subtly addictive.

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By the time the technology had ‘progressed’ to the introduction of the touch screen and the ‘smart phone’, the populace flocked to the technology that subtly flickered and stimulated the brains, nervous centres and narcissism centres of the unwitting humans. The ‘technology flicker’ was nearly imperceptible even to those few who knew about it. It had a hypnagogic, sedating, inward-turning effect; coupled with the nature of what was displayed on the screens (manipulated by the Maitre-controlled military and media), the effect was devastating on human society.

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This suited the needs of the Maitre invaders nicely, as the bonds between human beings and the communities they formed were nearly impenetrable to their methods. In addition, the new screens were activated by human electrical signals, driving humans to crave the interaction with the touch screens. The minute chemical transfer enhanced the flickering stimulation that activated the pleasure centers of the brain and furthered the withdrawal of one human from another, in favour of the technological world.

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This technology was introduced into all aspects of life- it progressed to supercomputers and Artificial Intelligence. By the time the presence of the Maitre was introduced in 2023, humans had given over control of most of their vital systems such as transportation, communication and even education to Artificial Intelligence devices. All A.I. Was endowed with a kill switch that transferred the power of the technology directly to the Maitre. The result was devastating for humanity, in particular first world countries, who had managed to transition almost entirely to the tainted technology.

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It was discovered too late that Maitre feed off of emotion and pain, and that they are aggravated to the extreme, or perhaps physically harmed, by the bio-psychic energies entities emit when they are in harmony with each other and especially with their native environments. Maitre motives continue to be a bit of a mystery, even in the Thirty-first century. No one has been able to discern why they choose certain people and civilizations to live or die, or why they try to permute some in one way or another. In any case, the Maitre systematically set out to infiltrate certain cities and regions in North America first.

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Although swathes of North America were utterly decimated by the eventual Maitre invasion, it is widely speculated that the Maitre spared as much of North America as they did because the leaders were more willing to submit and play ball with the aliens, having been in been in close contact with the Maitre since the middle years of World War 2.

The middle Asian ‘Stans were obliterated as the Maitre, and they tried to move decisively against Russia. The Maitre seemed to have a particular grudge against Russia and it tried to destroy the entire nation. Many areas, particularly rural ones, were absolutely devastated. Russia had been an outspoken opponent of the Maitre even before their presence was revealed, and it had prepared certain military and civilian protections for the people of the Russian state. They had taken great pains to keep any kind of biological, technological or infrastructure out of their country that was in any way Maitre contaminated; they developed analagous versions with their own scientists in many cases.

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Several Russian communities including Moscow, Vladivostok and St. Petersburg were left mostly unscathed due to liberal use of conventional and psychic weapons and soldiers. In addition, Russia took most of its population and agriculture underground to large subterraneans complexes, where the business of Russia continued in remarkably unhindered form. Russia kept a population of military ‘citizens’ to populate their above ground cities, more as an act of surveillance and defiance than anything else. These ‘citizens’ were largely graduates of their grueling and effective psychic operations units and caused as many complications for the Maitre as they could. Russia was one of the countries that spoke out against the Maitre and revealed hints of the conspiracy prior to 2023; its above ground citizens spread continued anti-Maitre propaganda through conventional and psychic means well after the invasion began in earnest.

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Other areas that were brought low included most of Africa and all of Asia, China in particular being surprised by the devious devastation of the Maitre and their willingness to doublecross. The population and infrastructure in Europe was extremely culled and much of it was left in ruin to one degree or other with the exception of Belgium, which was left intact. The existence of an extensive subterranean interplanetary United Nations under Brussels left many surviving humans to suspect this as a reason the nation was spared.

Following the initial invasion, any resistance was severely punished on a personal and community level.

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With most of the weaponry and communications relying on the technology bestowed on earth by the Maitre most places were utterly defenceless and even had there own weaponry turned against them. The colonies on Mars, the Moon were remarkably unscathed as most of the technology they used was based on legitimate human discovery. The Venus colony had been infiltrated by Maitre-tainted technology and scientists and it rapidly became a human testing ground for psychic potential. The Maitre took over the Venus colony to try to reverse engineer the resistance that was coming not just from Russia but wild humans on the planet as well. In all three cases, communication and transportation were difficult between the colonies and Earth. The colonists on Chiron, Pluto’s moon, were conned into an alliance with the Maitre that aided the invading forces immensely, giving the aliens a base inside the solar system of Old Earth. (See The Colony of Chiron for more details).

With the Western world subdued into submission, the areas that were left standing continued life more or less as usual with the exception that they were now forced into a bizarre form of servitude to the Maitre. The humans were made to do ‘regular’ jobs, albeit for longer and for less money. Money, in fact, became a sham currency that was completely electronic and dependent upon compliance to the Maitre.

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Humans who were workers of all kinds were given allotted homes and food in return and experimentation and death for defiance, but that wasn’t the bizare part. The Maitre would summon people seemingly at random, much as people were formerly called for jury duty. They were taken on board invading ships or to ground bases taken over by the human military and forced to take part in elaborate tests that ranged from I.Q. Tests to elaborate, full sized mazes or other strange puzzles. They strained humans’ abilities to withstand various stimuli. They also forced humans into ethical dillemas. The most common example of this was forcing parents to choose between their children and make the parents kill the one child in order to save the other. There were endless variations of this; many families refused to make the choice and were summarily liquidated. In spite of these very publicized punishments, humans still continued to resist in sudden pockets.

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In the spring of 2031, a delegation from the GAGA was sent to Old Earth to attempt to aid the humans in their predicament. There was some argument amongst nations’ leaders. The lack of acceptance of aid immediately caused massive riots in any area where the leaders objected to the alliance for their own self-serving purposes. Many leaders were dragged into the streets by mobs and killed. New elections were held, sometimes by general acclaim following the ‘depositions’ of old leaders. Finally, Old Earth met the GAGA mandate that joining the union should be unanimous on a planet.

Shortly after the Earth was admitted into the GAGA, the GAF was deployed to chase the Maitre off the planet and eradicate their influence. The GAGA was run by the ancient but dying race of aliens known as Telamer who were impressed by the resistance the Earthlings had shown against the Maitre.

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They fast tracked Earth with extra help in rebuilding Old Earth according to human design, which usually tended toward a return to heritage buildings, classic architecture from different eras and extreme terraforming. The Telamer and the GAGA also helped extensively with the disposing of the debris and waste from power plants and other industrial concerns whose toxins had been left by the Maitre on purpose to destroy the surrounding area and any people who lived there. New technology was given to the Earthlings which departed from the GAGA norm of requiring payment up front for all technology. This was allowed under the Decimation Proclamation of the GAGA, made in response to invasions of all kinds.

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Soon all of Earth was free to rebuild and to terraform on their own the areas that had been decimated.

Old Earth was rebuilt within one hundred and fifty years. By 2180, Old Earth had its first “Freedom Festival”, a worldwide celebration of the work they had accomplished to rebuild their home. It resembled a week-long New Year’s Eve celebration in many ways. The old structures that still stood had been repaired, but many other cities were re-structured using GAGA technology, following various eras of architecture. Some cities were remade almost entirely in the GAGA manner. Soon the Earthlings were colonizing far from their own solar system and spread across the Galaxy.

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See References: Telamer, GAGA Transition, The Rebuilding of Old Earth and The Maitre and the Gaga: A Brief History of an Ancient War.

Frizzallians, Race

25 Feb

Frizzallians are a rare species who are dispersed through the GAGA sporadically having destroyed their own planet. They are a doomed species having had spawning grounds on their planet that were required for breeding. They are extraordinarily long lived, assuming they aren’t killed by their hubris they may live 800 years or more. They have the capacity to implode into a vacuum or explode into a small nuclear reaction. Usually the two capabilities cancel each other out but during the great Frizzallian civil war of 3267 a chain reaction occurred that caused the entire planet to explode and implode simultaneously. The only survivors were the Frizzallians who were not on the planet during the civil war. Along with the innocent civilians many GAGA diplomats and GAF representatives were killed in the imploding explosion. The Frizallians are easily recognized by their smooth iridescent purple skin and remarkable physical beauty. A cult movement rose up amongst many of the survivors who swore to never use their powers or good or ill ever again. Many of them swore themselves to lives of austerity and service in regret for the war that led to the destruction of their planet. Some Frizzallians grew angry at the loss of their planet and work to destroy as much of the galaxy as They can to spread their pain. The Benevolent Order of Frizzallians constantly hunts down any rogue Frizzallians and eliminating their terrorist brethren is the only time they will on occasion use their powers. Even then it is extremely reluctantly. They attempt to capture and re-educate the rogue Frizzallians as their species is so very finite.

Susu Frid’s Egyptian Asteroid

23 Feb

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In this latest submission to our short story contest for GAF Mainframe, we see a behind-the-scenes snippet of Susu Frid and Private Puff’s adventures on Arkello 2. This story takes place in the middle of the action-packed events chronicled in The Arkellan Treaty, available later this year from StarkLight Press.

An excellent alien artifact piece written by Sharon Flood!

This story, along with all of our winning artifact entries, is eligible for inclusion in Tales from Space II, the second GAF Mainframe short story anthology. Congratulations, Sharon!

 

 

Private Susu Frid,

Personal Device Vid Journal

Arkellan Treaty Mission.

I’m trying out a new encryption here. It’s in the gendler language, in a version of what is called ‘pig Latin’ in Earth English. It’s complicated, but I’m sure it’ll hold up under scrutiny.

I picked up some very interesting artifacts on our mission on Arkello 2, to protect our fearless leader Prime Minister Ferguson while he was negotiating a peace treaty between the Quatrians and the Dynians. We were quartered at the High Hemen hotel where we were debriefed and sent off to gather information from the locals. After everyone split up in the lobby, I turned to Puff, who looked about as bored as I felt. I knew just what would perk us both up. I sidled over to her and put my arm through hers, and steered her toward the elevators.

“Let’s go back up to our room to get some gear. What say we go on a little adventure today?”

Puff looked at me like I was suggesting we go dog sledding in Alaska on Old Earth. She shook her head. She might have heard of some of my other adventures. Come to think of it, Dog Sledding might be fun, except dogs on earth keep trying to eat me. They think I’m some kind of animal. My fur gives off that type of scent, apparently. Since they don’t smell me as a predator, they think: dinner.

“Come on, it’ll be fun,” I said as we got on the elevator. She hung back a bit as we exited at our floor, and I headed for our room.

“We’re supposed to be out and about, chatting up the locals,” Puff replied.

“We can do that later. Have you ever done a space walk, or investigated an asteroid?” I asked.

“No … don’t you need special training for that?”

“Not necessarily. Out in the lobby they’re offering shuttle excursions to the asteroids for the tourists,” I explained.

“I thought the Dynians weren’t into technology.”

“They aren’t. The outfit running the trips are Terran entrepreneurs. The High Hemen owners are leasing them space with the hope that some Dynian locals might be interested in seeing their planet from space. It might make them more amenable to Quatrian technology,” I told her.

“I should think you got your fill of floating rocks by running the obstacle course on the way down here from the ship,” Puff complained on the way to our room.

When we got there I dug out my specialized space gear for use in zero gravity. Being as smart as we are, Gendlers figured out how to get around in space without specifically needing a whole ship to do so. A small shuttle and a tether line was generally sufficient.

“I scanned them from our shuttle. Among my other interests and degrees, space geology is one of them. I happened upon a small cache of very valuable minerals on one of the asteroids. I’m going to go find them,” I told her.

“I saw you over near the portal with some clunky looking object. Where do you come up with such odd little toys?” Puff asked.

“Sometimes I buy them, or invent them, or … um borrow them.” I could feel my face getting warm under the fur, but no one can ever tell. Best I not go into detail about my petty larceny. I don’t want Puff to be questioned as an accessory.

I rooted around till I found the rock collecting tools I had brought with me. I had seen that the minerals were gem stones, and they were fairly close to the surface, but underground, in a way. I thought they might be in a cave. I headed out the door with Puff right behind me.

“It looks like I’ll be staying in the shuttle, since I don’t have a space suit,” Puff commented.

“The excursion company has suits for human type bipeds. They had several on a wall. There’s bound to be one that fits you. I’ll make sure it’s airtight for your use,” I said.

By this time we were down in the lobby. Puff watched with interest as I pulled my credit marker out of a virtually invisible pouch near my abdomen, similar to a Terran kangaroo. Her staring irritated me.

“What? How else should I carry stuff? It’s not like I wear clothes with pockets.”

“You could wear clothes if you wanted to though, couldn’t you?” Puff asked.

“I suppose, but that would be like wearing a dress over a fur coat. I would look ridiculous, and besides, it would be too hot. You know that I wear specially fitted backpacks, holsters and vests for weaponry when we’re on duty in battle. All that is a form of clothing. I wear specialized clothing for space exploration,too. It’s air cooled. Now we have to get the same thing for you,” I said.

We rooted through the suits on the wall, and Puff found one that fit. I used the same test equipment I used on my own gear to make sure it was safe before we suited up. I paid for the two us before we got in the shuttle. The pilot made sure we paid first. It gave me an uneasy feeling that made me think of a line from an ancient song on Old Earth by Chris de Burgh : ‘Don’t pay the Ferryman till he gets you to the other side.’ It made me glad that we always had our PDs to call for help, in case the pilot just dumped us off on an asteroid and left us there.

We climbed into the shuttle and buckled in. I got my geological scanner ready. The pilot lifted off without ceremony. We soon left Arkello 2’s atmosphere, and headed out among the asteroids. I guided the pilot through the asteroid belt until we found the one with gem stones on it. I unbuckled my restraint, reached over the Terran pilot, and grabbed the ignition crystal. I had it out of the console and into a pocket of my space gear before he could even blink. His face turned stormy.

“What the … give that back!” the pilot yelled at me.

“No. You’ll get it back when we get back. Until then, you’re not going anywhere,” I yelled back.

I picked up the rest of my gear and climbed into the airlock. When Puff joined me, I opened the outer airtight door and stepped out onto the asteroid. I made sure that we were both securely tethered to the shuttle before I pulled my scanner out of the equipment satchel attached to the side of my suit. The thing was going crazy. We were close. The asteroid was mostly big rocks and deposits of obsidian, which is black translucent volcanic glass produced by the sudden cooling of molten lava. There were shards of it buried in the landscape all over Arkello 2. There were also obsidian deposits all over the asteroid belt caused by the destruction of Arkello 3. There were many volcano eruptions caused by the relentless bombardment of the planet by Maitre aliens generations ago.

My scanner led us right to a large mound of solid rock and rubble. I pulled out a pick ax, and gave Puff a collapsible shovel. We soon cleared away enough to reveal the entrance to a cave under the loose rocks. We illuminated our helmet lamps and set out on what was probably Puff’s very first spelunking adventure. It wasn’t new to me. I love gemstones and they generally hang out underground. I invented my handy dandy mineral scanner with some uh … ‘borrowed’ components from my university’s geology lab.

We were a good ways back in the cave when I noticed that the cave in front of us was luminescent. Something back there was reflecting off of our helmet lamps. I was so eager to see what was there, I took off towards it. My legs are spindly appendages, and they don’t move well in unaccustomed space gear. I can move with speed, but not with any kind of grace or accuracy. I tripped over rubble on the floor and went rolling down a slight incline like a big blue furry bowling ball. When a Gendler falls, or is hit in a frontal attack, our first instinct is to curl up like a Terran hedgehog or porcupine, without the spikes. I stopped short when I hit something solid, and knocked it over, which made something solid but smaller rain down on me. Luckily, Puff is very light on her feet, and very coordinated. She managed to catch whatever was falling on me, to prevent it from doing me or it serious harm.

When I finally got my feet untangled from my head, I sat up and watched Puff examining several statuettes. The thing that had stopped my fall was a stone altar of sorts. I pushed it back upright and began to put the fallen items on top of it. There were some crude hand made clay statuettes with the heads of cats, and the bodies of women. There was also a small reclining white alabaster cat, a small reclining jade cat, and a larger sitting jade cat which seemed to have a carved platform that it fit into on top of the altar. I returned it to its rightful place. There were several black obsidian cat statuettes and figurines of various sizes and positions. Some had the bodies of women. Some had gold amulets or necklaces. Some had emerald eyes. There was one black obsidian statuette with large emerald eyes, and a huge ruby amulet on its chest. It was the same size as the central jade cat figure on the altar. I carefully put it in a cloth lined collection pouch and put it in my biggest outside pocket.

Puff helped me put the undamaged ones on the altar to get a better look at them. We chose several of the gold and jewel adorned figures and pocketed them. When Puff reached for the big jade unadorned statue, I stopped her, and gave her a slightly smaller heavily bejeweled jade figure instead.

“Not that one. It stays here,” I said.

“Why?” she asked.

“Because that’s the ancient Egyptian goddess Bastet idol. It was worshiped here. This cave was a shrine to her when it was still part of Arkello 3. It’s older than all the rest, and might have come from Old Earth itself, thousands of years ago. The other figures were gifts and companion pieces to it. The obsidian cats were probably made by craftsmen on Arkello 3, because obsidian could be found easily anywhere on the planet. The jade and alabaster ones might have come from Earth, but they’re not nearly as old as the jade idol.”

“How did they get here?” Puff asked as she examined the statuettes.

“Probably a traveler that had visited Earth many eons ago brought the idol, the jades, the alabasters and maybe some Terran slaves here for trade. Arkello 3 had some impressive gold and gemstone deposits in shallow mines. Then as now, gold and jewels were always valuable currency to trade for fuel, supplies, wives, whatever. I expect that the kidnapped Terrans that were dropped here continued their worship in this cave in secret,” I said.

“Why are you leaving the idol here? I doubt if there are any of its worshipers left,” Puff pointed out.

“I know, but the goddess Bastet was the protector of women, children, and domestic cats who protected the home from snakes and vermin. She also protected against infectious diseases and evil spirits.”

“So?” Puff shrugged.

“So, this cave and its shrine still exists after the complete demolition of the rest of the planet. Perhaps in this one space in the galaxy, Bastet still has some power to protect Arkello 2 as this asteroid orbits the planet. After all, it not only survived the attacks that destroyed Arkello 3, it remained a paradise. Who’s to say Bastet didn’t keep it safe? Just in case she did, I’m leaving her here,” I decided.

Puff shrugged. We had already made ourselves reasonably wealthy with what we were taking away with us. The trick would be to keep it safe until we got back to the base. We left the cave and and set a small explosive device at the mouth of it. It was just big enough to completely bury the entrance, without destroying the cave. We returned to the shuttle to find the pilot fast asleep and snoring in his seat. I shook him awake, none to gently. Needless to say, he was not a happy camper.

“Huh? What … shit!” he blurted out while he was still trying to figure out what was going on.

“We’re re ready to leave now, but before we return to the surface, we’re going to make a side trip back to our martial space station. It won’t take long,” I informed him.

“Side trips cost extra,” he said.

“Of course they do.” I rolled my eyes, but since they’re on stalks, he probably missed the sarcasm.

When we got to the ship we went right to our quarters. I grabbed a small oblong box and we took it to the field behind the hotel.  I emptied all of my artifacts onto the ground beside me.

“I trust you, so I’m going to show you where I stash my … ummmm … collectables,” I said, lamely.

“My lips are sealed. I won’t tell anyone, I swear,” Puff made a locking motion at her mouth.

“Good. I brought Space Saver Pod with me. I bring it with me everywhere, because I never know when I’m going to end up on a rich planet where I might find some more … um … toys,” I blushed under my fur again.

At some point I was going to have to tell Puff that I’m a thief – a very smart educated thief, but a thief still the same. At some point she’ll have to defend her actions, simply for being associated with me. I entered the code to initiate the Niles Generator’s dematerialization cycle. The generator powered up quietly, there was a brief flash and we were standing in front of a shipping container locked with a biometric. Placing my hand on its pad, I said my name.  I took my hand away, and my hand print glowed. The front of the container opened up. I put my bejeweled cats inside in one of the display cases and locked it with a more traditional key. I turned to Puff, who was staring into the crate with huge, impressed eyes.

“Do you want your stuff in here until we get back to the base, or did you want to put it in the station’s main vault at the hotel, Puff?” I asked.

“You can put it all in here. It’ll be safe, and besides, I don’t want the quartermaster to know that I have something valuable enough to put in the vault. I don’t want anybody else to know, for that matter. These statuettes are worth a lot of credits just by themselves because they’re relics from Arkello 3, which no longer exists. That’s not even to mention all of the gold and jewels. I’ll leave it all with you,” Puff told me as she pushed all of her share of our findings against one of the bookshelves in the far corner of the crate. We exited and I closed the front of the Space Saver. I put my left hand on the biometric to lock it up again. It was a simple matter to power up the Niles Generator and send my storage container back into the side dimension where the tiny, oblong generator kept it when I wasn’t using it.

“Well, that’s taken care of. Let’s do what we’re told for once, and scope out the local bar for information,” I said.

“Okay. I’m right behind you,” Puff said as we headed down the street to the tavern.