Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Revisiting The Pinnacle, Part 2

Greetings, fellow castaways on the Third Rock Out.

This week, I want to look at the first prong of the Pinnacle's attack: The political focus.

To recap quickly, The Pinnacle operates in three areas to achieve their goal of world domination: the political, the economic, and the social.

Politically, the first step is to insert their moles into the leadership structures of every major power on the planet. These moles are recruited from societies like Skull and Bones, the Masons, and top fraternities and sororities in campuses across the world. There is a specific focus on a single chapter of a single group, but the bottom line is that all they need are a few professors who proselytize from the lectern in subjects like Gender Studies, Political Science, and Philosophy. These are the best classes by which to probe deepest into young minds, to twist their thinking into a mindset of a global worldview (Remember the "It takes a village to raise a child" speech?).

The aim at this point is to convince these future leaders that there IS NO GREAT NATION, no great culture, no great system that includes any kind of individuality. One does this by minimizing any accomplishments of any nation or political structure that espouses personal liberty. Because the way to exercise power is to make all the sheep docile and servile. No troublemakers who think any individual can rise to greatness (Remember the "you didn't build that" speech?)

Additionally, the mindset must be instilled that borders and nations are a passe idea. The current crisis of illegal aliens is a prime example. Notice the resistance to a national language of the United States? The rephrasing of "Undocumented immigrants" vs "Illegal aliens," in spite of the fact that many people are in this country against our laws? It's a conditioning that will eventually lead to the erasure of national borders, the push to a globalist society.

Jimmy DeBartolo's problem is not that a bunch of ex-hippies are gathering once a month to sing "Imagine" at an altar to John Lennon. His problem is that the ones pushing the globalist movement are not being honest and up front about their aims and motives. They are hiding behind lies and smokescreens, dictating policy  that keeps countries economically dependent on each other for essential commodities like fuel and food, that negates enforcement of national borders, that forces subservience to the World Court and the UN over local or national laws.

The press plays into this as well, by propagandizing events to force more and more power upwards, into the hands of the federal government. They play up stories that criminalize local police forces and appeal to the "Higher virtue" of federal agencies like the FBI and the US Marshals. This makes it easier to throw deadly force into trouble spots, because the police and officials have no vested interest in the localities they will be sent to suppress.

More and more programs at the federal level gives those few moles the power of the purse as well, with the threat of pulling funding for programs like Welfare and School funding, if those local agencies and schools don't toe the line and teach/operate the way the feds want them to. Force more people to toe the line, use a willing press to back up your aims and provide support for your plans without giving away your end game, you can control an entire country without the citizens even being aware that you are dragging them kicking and screaming into a world of your own design.

Indeed, The Pinnacle have moles as high as the office of the Vice President, Congress, and the Senate in the United States.

And yes, though my fictional bad guys are named The Pinnacle, it seems as though there is a Globalist Movement that even now is seeking to remove individual liberties and force us all into the same, mediocre mold of sameness. There are no illegal aliens in anyone's borders, because we are now all World Citizens, expected to toe the line and sign on to this new paradigm of a unified, docile, "civilized" world. And anyone who doesn't sign on is "unenlightened," "racists," "ignorant."

Next week, we'll look at the Social attack.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Revisiting The Pinnacle: Part One

This is a revised repost of the original published some years ago, but being as we're seeing so many of the changes outlined in the original, I felt it appropriate to revisit the theme, with some added details and clarifications.

Feel free to comment. My rules as always apply: You may disagree all you want, but keep it civil and respectful in my house.

So what would it look like if the Pinnacle were real? How would they operate?

First, for beginners, The Pinnacle is the name I gave the antagonists in my novel series, The NADIA Project. Their aim is simple, although clichéd: World domination. How they differ from the Bond villains or Dr. Evil and his screaming hordes is this: The Pinnacle could do it, and no one would ever know. Their goal is not to rule openly, but as the power behind the throne. Thus, the true leadership stays invisible. On the surface, all looks as though nothing has changed. Their motto, after all, is Praestat facere rex ac esse rex. “It is better to make a king than to be a king.”

Think of it this way: In the United States as in other countries, we have elections, and if we don’t like a certain official, we vote them out of office. It’s that simple. Other nations have dictatorships or monarchies of some nature. Rebellion, coup or assassination is usually what changes leadership in these areas. At any rate, it’s common for a country’s leader to lose his position, if not his life at the hands of a dissatisfied populace.

But what if a group could remain anonymous, behind the scenes as it were, and load elections with their own candidates? They could do this, and we would never know. So either way, the shadow group is guaranteed their real goal, which is power. We’ll discuss this more in-depth in later installments. But the point is, it can be done. What if it already is being done? Would we know the warning signs?

One would have to understand the plan would take years and perhaps decades to fulfill. The founders would realize that they may never live to see the final realization of their dream. But how many movements today have the same far-sighted vision? Certainly, many activist groups have been in operation for decades, and are just beginning to see their visions come to pass. Some of them have pure motives, whether we agree with their methods or not. Take Greenpeace, PETA, or other socially-focused groups. Others have less than altruistic aims: The Communist Party, al Qaeda, or Hamas come to mind. Their goals are plain, brutal, and simple. Take power, and kill anyone who gets in their way.

The point here is that the process takes a long time to execute, whether it's a social, economic, or political goal. It takes patience. The patience of a python.

Look at the whole constrictor order of snakes. They can dangle from a tree limb in wait, for days if need be, for their prey to wander within striking range. Then they drop onto their target and wrap it in coils of steel-hard, stubborn muscle. They take their time. Wrapping their coils about the victim is only the first step. They don’t simply crush the life from their prey by brute force. No, they wait until the victim exhales, and then with each breath they tighten, ever so slightly. This prevents the victim from being able to inhale. Slowly, they suffocate, and the snake has all the time it needs to consume its meal.

The Pinnacle has been working behind the scenes, hiding in the brush, waiting for the moment to strike. It has been inserting converts into the areas of business, entertainment, news media, shipping, technology, and the oil industry. Once they have leadership of these industries, the strangulation begins.

Other teams will infiltrate social movements and political parties. Thus, the attack will be a three-pronged assault aimed at dulling the public’s senses to what’s really happening: Economic, social, and political.

We’ll discuss these areas beginning next week. Feel free to comment as we go along.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

NADIA Picture Tour, Next Stop!



By the time they reached D'Antini's, Nadia knew she was in the company of a friend. She and Jon made small talk while they waited for the maitre d' to find them a table in the middle of the sumptuous dining room, and she almost forgot about having to explain herself to her station staff.
The appetizers were amazing, if unidentifiable. Nadia asked what was in them and Jon just smiled and held up a hand. "You really don't want to know."

Nadia almost spit out the latest mouthful, but thought twice about it as she looked around. This was too nice a place to be so rude. Her eyes widened in mirth as she tried to laugh around it and almost choked trying to get it down. She grabbed her water glass and took a drink, waving a hand at her face.
"You jerk," she laughed softly, when her mouth became free. "All right, seriously now, do you take every woman who faints in your arms to a place this fancy?"

"No," he answered, "just those who remind me of a dear friend." The smile faded from his face and he became pensive for several seconds. Then he placed a couple more appetizers on her salad plate. "Here," he said, suddenly brightening, "have some more…brown, crusty…things."

She chuckled again, pushing the plate away. "No, thanks. A moment on the lips…." She let the rest of the cliché fade away while she rearranged her napkin in her lap, trying to buy some time before she had to plow ahead. "So why am I here with you? Because you're concerned for me or because I remind you of someone else?"

"That is an entirely unfair question, Miss Velasquez. I was wondering that very thing myself. Maybe a little bit of both. Is that okay?"

"How did you know my last name?" she asked. It was not as if she were a necessarily private person, it was mainly that she hoped he would not recognize her from television. She was already AWOL. She may as well put in her resignation as soon as she got back to 'Frisco.

"I heard you lie to 'Steve,' whoever that is. When you talked about an interview with a president, I pegged you right off the bat. I've been to the West Coast on business a few times."

"That's where you saw me before. Well, that answers that, then."

"No, it doesn't." Jon looked at Nadia again, the piercing gaze locked on her face. "There's something else, and I can't explain it yet. Just less than four years ago I lost my best friend and her family…."

"Oh, I must look like her, then—"

He cut her off. "How's Phillip?"

Nadia's hand stopped halfway to her water glass. She felt paralyzed. The blood drained from her face, leaving it ice cold. The memory reconnected like a switch in her mind. The question trickled weakly from her lips, her voice quavering. "Who's Phillip?"

Jon's voice took on a steely edge. He wasn't becoming hostile, just insistent, but insistent in a way that made her feel like she was being peeled away, layer by layer under a microscope. "You know full well who Phillip is."

The trembling in her hand increased to a violent shaking. She remembered someone telling her, "It took twenty-three surgeries just to reconstruct your face." Her breath came in gasps; her voice weakened. Phillip. Phillip was— She found herself unable to get up, incapable of walking away, too terrified to run, like a bird in the gaze of a snake. "What are you talking about?"

"Why did you skip out on your flight, Nadia? Why did you come to the Staley's at 42nd and Lexington? Why at that particular time?"

The questions gushed from Jon's mouth, one right after another, and Nadia had no chance to answer any individual one. He became more agitated as he went, until Nadia thought he would reach over the table and strangle her right there in public. "Why did you order a double-decaf-mochaccino latté with a cinnamon stick? Why did you know my nickname and then faint as soon as you recognized me? Why are we sitting here right now, while the chef in the kitchen prepares Steak Hélène rare? Before the appetizers came, why were you doodling Betty Boop figures on your napkin and playing with your left ear?" Twenty-three surgeries. "Nobody has called me 'Jake' since I was ten, except for her and my mom. And you absolutely hate Merlot, don't you?"

Nadia's hand never made it to the water glass. She couldn't think. A sound roared in her head, like ten thousand voices screaming in terror. An icy spear of fear shot through her chest. Hot tears rolled down her face, and her chest heaved as she gasped for breath.
 
She hoped with everything inside her that no one else was watching these two terrified people having this horrible, strange confrontation. Her vision started to close in again, but she fought it off. As it was, she nearly fell out of her chair. Her voice was strange and weak. "Do…do you know who I am?"

* * * *

I'm finishing out a school on the East Coast, which afforded an awesome opportunity for a weekend day trip to New York City. So, just when I thought our picture tour of the NADIA Project was done, we're off and running again. So thanks to all my readers and fellow castaways for putting up with yet one more stop. I think I know better now to actually call an end to the tour, because you never know what might come around the corner.

So this week, we're looking at the restaurant scene from Becoming NADIA,  my EPIC-Award-winning first novel.

After covering about fifty blocks on foot in downtown Manhattan, it was time for lunch. And what do we have in Downtown that's more plentiful than anything else? Restaurants.  And even better, this place happened to be within about four blocks of the Chrysler Building. This is La Villa Italia, and I will definitely be coming back here as often as I can. The calamari is a plateful of awesome, and tghe sauce they serve with it tastes like they have an Italian Grandma back in the kitchen who starts making this stuff like, the previous day.

It was a Saturday just before the lunch rush when we walked in. The owner had a wonderfully thick accent, but was the essence of hospitality. Showed us to out table, brought drinks, and that was when I found out something about real Italian restaurants: You are NOT in a hurry if you're eating there.

Count on a leisurely, comfortable wait while your waiter fills your drinks and offers the best fare on the menu, with vivid details about the preparation process. In the background, two men in the kitchen are arguing in Italian. Or are they just sharing banter? It's hard to tell. All I can tell you for sure is it was so much fun to hear. I half expected to see one of them marching through the dining room waving a freshly-killed chicken.

I got up once to use the men's room, which was downstairs. Basements in Manhattan are pretty deep, I'm going to tell you. The steps went down about a story and a half, and then the hall took a right turn, past several doors marked "private." One of them opened, and a man came through, roughly a side of beef with a shave. He didn't smile, and I didn't try to start a conversation.

I was almost disappointed that we never saw a fat, well-dressed man with a napkin stuffed in his shirt front seat in the corner, watching the door with arrogant expectation.

But who's to say he didn't come in right after we left?

Saturday, April 16, 2016

NADIA Photo Tour, Continued!



Back in the concourse, Nadia checked her watch one more time. Good, they had to have taken off by now. She opened the stall door (appropriate term, she thought wryly) and came back out of the women's restroom, turning down the concourse in the opposite direction her cameraman had gone a few minutes before.

Her heart slammed in her chest like a thousand midget carpenters. She was throwing a wrench into her career for this. But there wasn't going to be another chance to find out, on her own, without being spoon-fed bits of information from someone else. No, this was something she had to do on her own, right now, if she was going to find out the truth.

In another five minutes, she was in the loading zone. A taxicab stopped in front of her, and, before she knew it, Nadia was in the back seat, heading toward the Chrysler Building as the plane with her cameraman took off for London. She would probably lose her job for ducking out like this, but she couldn't think of another way to find out for sure if she had indeed seen this place before. Maybe she could catch up to some more of her ever-elusive memory.

Oh, well. Maybe if I play my cards right, I won't get into too much trouble. It would be  worth it, just to touch something that was hers alone, something she wouldn't have to share.

Nadia looked out the cab's windows at the skyline spread out before her as they crossed the Queensboro Bridge. There arose in her consciousness a disturbing kind of tingle, like another part of her was awakening from some deep and hidden slumber.

 She wasn't sure exactly when she began suspecting Petr and the others were holding information from her. But now she was positive they knew something they weren't telling her, and that made her more determined to find out exactly what it was. If they wouldn't tell her, then she'd just find out on her own.

Right now.

The taxi ride was over before Nadia knew it. She did not remember paying the cabbie and getting out, or how long she stood on the curb staring up at the hulking profile of the Chrysler Building. Her mind buzzed and her knees shook as she walked down East 42nd Street until she saw Staley's.

She stepped through the door and waited in line until the counter attendant took her order. She ordered automatically, what she had always ordered, but somehow her voice seemed not to be her own. “Double-decaf-mochaccino latté with a cinnamon stick, please.”

As she turned away from the counter with her cup, a strange pressure mounted in her head. This place is important somehow. But how, exactly? She was so distracted and lightheaded she bumped unsteadily into the man behind her. “Sorry, Jake,” she started offhandedly, but then the man's face came into view. Jon? He had shaved his beard, but those eyes… Jon! A rush of recognition crashed into her mind and, as she started to fall toward the floor and her vision closed in, she heard him ask, “Do I know you…?”

* * * *
The story behind the photo:

I actually didn't count on being sent to the East Coast for work any time soon. But I got assigned to  a school ion New Jersey for an advanced avionics suite in Falcon 900EX EASy. And hey, guess what's right next to New Jersey?

So my instructor and I took the Imperial Ferry from the Jersey Side to Manhattan this morning,  and  I got to visit a couple sites from Becoming NADIA. I'm blessed to be able to continue my Blog Tour of The NADIA Project with a couple shots of the Chrysler Building.

So I made up the name Staley's, based of course on Starbuck's. And as Old Bill said, "They's a Staley's 'round the corner from ever' damn where in New York." 

We walked around, visited the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, Central Park, Gransd Central Station, and about a dozen or so places in Mid-Town Manhattan, just to say we'd been there.

And I got these shots. I have one more place to relate. We'll catch up with that next week.

Till then, keep it real, folks. Be You.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Society. Remember that?

I don't think anyone would disagree with me when I say that, if anything, America has become a fractured society.

Certainly, social media plays a big role in that. People can just hide behind the relative anonymity of their computers and lob meme grenades at random, with relative immunity from the consequences of their actions. It's a playground for trolls and half-educated people to spread semi-truths and misinterpretations, hand-picked to fit whatever agenda the poster desires.

Now, I'm not saying it's wrong to have an agenda. We all want to associate with people who share our beliefs and our visions. We also have a free speech amendment in our Constitution that pretty much guarantees everyone in the US can say what they want, when they want. Right? Free Speech, they call it. And God knows how Americans love their rights. And it's fine for everyone else to have rights, too.

As long as they agree with your agenda.

Just ask anyone on Facebook. Anyone who dares to disagree with you, is automatically a hater, an idiot, a fool, blind, WRONG! Therefore, you, a citizen (in most cases) of a free society, with the right to free speech, have the right, nay, the responsibility, to heap derision upon them in the form of a meme. And because you share it on YOUR page, it means nobody has the right to address you about it. Right?

I think we're getting confused on the balance of rights vs responsibility when it comes to maintaining a society.

Humans operate on multiple levels of responsibility. The first level is the responsibility to themselves, the Individual. You interact with yourself, in your own little closet, in your bedroom, in your apartment, your house (if you live alone). You can tell yourself anything you want, do whatever you want, you're accountable to one person: YOU. Okay, some of you will add God. And yes, you are accountable to God, if you believe you are. I hold myself accountable to my God. But that's a part of being accountable to myself, for my own future.

Next up, we have the family unit. We can discuss specific family structure another time, and in fact, Alvin Toffler wrote about that in his book Future Shock, which was a disturbingly accurate prediction of the changes the world began to take on back in the '70's. It might be a worthwhile read, even today.

Anyway, back to the family. You as an individual, have a responsibility to your family, inculcated from birth. The ones who raised you, held you accountable to standards of behavior that included getting along with your siblings and obeying the senior members of the family. I don't have to go into great detail about what happened to me when I talked back to my mama, do I? I can tell you, after that first time, it didn't happen very often.

After the Individual, after the Family Unit, we are all accountable to our Neighborhoods. It's a plain and simple fact, I've seen it over and over again growing up on the wrong side of the tracks: If you make trouble in your own neighborhood, your neighborhood will take care of its own. A thief doesn't rob houses on his own street. Not unless he has a gang of cronies that will protect him from the torch and pitchfork mob that would otherwise yank him out into the street and deliver swift justice.

The other levels of responsibility, of accountability, belong to our companies, our town (usually represented by our high school), our state, our nation. All these levels of responsibility are there to help s to get along with each other. That defines our Society, or Community. That which receives our loyalty and our trust, defines acceptable conduct.

Society says, "Hey, it's a world out here with all kinds. Let's put our big boy/big girl pants on and get along. Here are the rules of getting along..." And like that, we have a community. We understand who we are. We understand where we are in our community, and what's expected of us. Then, you know what happens? We have people getting along, saying please and thank you, tipping your wait staff, obeying laws and ordinances. And if they can't get along, they either move out, or we move them into places like prison (for those who harm others).

But Social Media, that's another story, isn't it? Stomp around on your own little hilltop, shake your fist and scream "Get offa my lawn!" at the passersby as you heap insults and call fire down from heaven on all those heathens and sinners. You don't have to be civil on social media. In fact, if you do something stupid and post it on social media, you get to be famous. So do something stupid, post it on your page, and no one will be able to hold you accountable for it. It's on your page, after all. It's not like anyone's going to see you grinding an American flag into the dirt, or pouring scorn on anyone's faith system, or lack-of-faith system.

That animosity, that horrid vitriol, spills out into our day to day lives, and look what's happening as a result. I'm sure Facebook isn't he only culprit. We have Social Experimenters in Washington, DC who are doing their best to reinvent the Social Wheel, to force us into their mold of what Society should look like. And instead of building community, they are tearing us apart. But Facebook isn't helping. Where else can a picture get relabeled to make Jesus into a likeness of Adolf Hitler, and go viral fifteen minutes after the original troll posts it?

Someone on my friends list recently posted a meme that was a wry, semi-humorous, back-handed slap at a group of people. Oh, goodness, that never happens, does it? The bottom line was, it showed not just a profound lack of knowledge of the matter, but a profound willingness to not even try to understand the other group. And I chimed in with a statement that basically called into question the hostile nature of the meme.

Now, I will say, the "friend" in question wasn't someone I'm close to, more like a casual acquaintance. All the same, being in the group at which the meme was directed, I was hoping to inspire a conversation about the concept in question. Immediately upon which, this person and about five of their friends decided I was meat in the shark tank, and lit into me about what business I had, responding to something they posted on THEIR page, and how dare I suggest they were wrong?

Hey, Little Mary Sunshine, Let me rain on your parade a little: What you post on your page becomes part of a COMMUNITY. It's part of how you show yourself to the public eye. And not everyone in this wide world sides with you in your narrow-minded view of the group upon whom you were heaping your insults.

I have stood guard for your right to say what you will. But that doesn't mean I have to abide by blatant stupidity. It doesn't mean I have to stand by and let you pour derision on anyone, for any reason, without calling you to account for what you say. Words mean things. And from the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. We all have a responsibility to use our freedom of speech in a way that builds community, rather than tearing it down.

It's time we became a society again.

Realize, first and foremost, that what you put up on your page, is words from your mouth. You say whatever you post. Whatever you share. That's YOU, Bubba. So don't be surprised if someone questions you, or takes you to account for it. You didn't paste it on your closet wall. Real people out here see that filth, that hatred, that venom, that ignorant slime, coming out of your mouth, the same mouth that kisses your baby daughter good night.

It's time we became a community again.

It's time we started living by the two things our parents tried to instill in us from birth: One, to treat others as you would have them treat you, and B, If you can't say something good about someone, then shut your pie hole.

I'm done being told I'm less intelligent because I post positive pictures and memes. I'm done being told that, as a person of faith, I should sit down, shut up, and take whatever insults are aimed at me. I'm sick of being told I'm the bad guy because I believe a person should be empowered to make their own way without being overwatched and dictated to by our own government, the one who said 240 years ago that they would stay out of our way and let us be free people. And I'm supremely tired of being told that, as a veteran, I have no more responsibility to defend our flag and the republic it represents from all enemies, foreign and domestic (that means ALL enemies, inside and outside the borders of the United States).

It's time we started to bring our country, our world, back together, back from this social brink we find ourselves looking over. Because I fear for a future where freedom and liberty are taken so much for granted, that they are easily taken away for the sake of security.

But that's another discussion.

It's time we all put on our big girl/big boy pants, and actually worked on getting along.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

NADIA Picture Tour, Last Stop!


Ten minutes later, Carlos pulled onto the shoulder of an unpaved road. After he and Tab got out, he locked the car and drew a small GPS unit from a cargo pocket in his BDUs. “Hang on—” He took a few steps to orient the unit, then turned and strode across the dusty road, boots grinding in the dry gravel. “This way. Just a short walk, now.”

Tab muttered, “At least we’re not wearing Class As,” before following.

They walked along a deer path through hardwoods and poison ivy when Carlos heard the same voice he’d spoken with on the radio.

“That’s far enough, Sergeant.”

Carlos turned to see a mound of dirt move and rise into the figure of a man wearing a ghillie suit of rough, earth-colored rags. “Check’em out, Jenna.”

“Right,” a female behind Carlos answered.

As Carlos spun around, a compact young woman stepped out of the trees in camo BDUs. What the hell, she wasn’t there a second ago

Jenna seemed to read his mind. “That’s okay,” she said with a smirk, “I’m a sneaky little wench when I want to be.” She hummed a random little tune as she waved a wand that looked like it was made from a curling iron in the air around his body. A steady static hiss came from a small speaker. She finished with Carlos and waved it around Tab. “Okay, no bugs, and they came alone.”

“Sergeant Villanueva,” said Jon, “I’ll come right to the point. I want you to leave us alone. Don’t contact us anymore, and shut down your investigation of NADIA.”

Carlos looked them up and down for a minute. They didn’t carry any long weapons, but that didn’t rule out pistols. And the way they were just standing, it didn’t look like they were in too much of a hurry to use them. But something about this Jenna woman nagged at him. Maybe it was just the casual, self-confident smirk she wore. But she was someone he did not want to make mad. All the same, he felt safe enough to respond honestly to the request to desist. “Can’t do that, Agent Daniels. I’m under orders to get to the bottom of NADIA. You’ve been sheltering a known felon and using him to illegally obtain information—”

Jon said, “Are you a cop?”

“Huh?” Carlos’ jaw hung open, caught open in mid-sentence.

I asked if you’re a cop. It’s a simple question.” Jon removed his hood and stepped closer, looking like a comical cross between Sasquatch and a homeless man with the rags hanging loose from his suit. “A yes or a no will do.”

“No.”

“Then shut down your investigation. It’s a matter for the Justice Department, not the Army.”

Tab said, “What’s NADIA?”

Jenna stepped up, nose to nose with her. “Who’s asking?”

“The United States Army, on whom you’ve been eavesdropping,” said Carlos.

Jon said, “You could have closed the hole in your firewall.”

“I peeked back through. It led me to you.”

“It’s also going to lead to you getting a bullet in your head, if you dig any further.”

Carlos felt the hair on his neck stand up. “Is that a threat?”

Jon shook his head. “Not from me, Sergeant. But the enemy has moles everywhere. For all you know, the one who gave you the orders to find me, may have done so only so they could take us all out.”

“Don’t you think you’re being just a little paranoid?”

“Do yourself a favor, Villanueva—start checking your superiors for connections to the Global Unification Alliance.”

Jenna whispered in Carlos’ ear, “Chapter Seventeen. Look for it.”

Jon’s brow wrinkled. “I’m sorry, what?”

Jenna stepped back. “Just keeping your ass out of the meat grinder, Jon. Let these guys handle that one.”

“Are we going to have to have a talk when we get back?”

“No, dear.” She gave Jon a sly grin as a flush rose in his face.

Carlos interjected, “So this…group will lead us to NADIA?”

“No, Carlos,” said Jon. “It will lead you away from NADIA.”

* * * *

Now for the story behind the picture behind the story:

First off, I know this is a paved road, and the excerpt specified an unpaved road. But it was too pretty back where I was, to pass up.

I was looking for where I had plotted Irving's cabin to be, and cruising the back roads toward the Mighty Shenandoah. I think this was Locke's Mill Road, not far from the highway. But it looks so remote, it was perfect for the shot. So I took this one, specifically for this scene.

And that, my friends, brings us to the close of our photo tour of the NADIA project. It's my hope that you could put faces and places to names, and that my series becomes a little more vivid for you.

Next week, we'll go back to our usual, somewhat controlled, chaos. Till then, happy reading!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Get Off My Lawn!!!

It's Official. I'm that old man.

I wasn't sure I'd crossed the line into "that old man" territory until today, when I went shopping with the missus.

A young family was in the store. When I say "young," I mean younger than me. She was a single mom with two kids, one being a teenage daughter and the other a pre-teen boy. I'd put their ages at about thirteen and ten, respectively.

The girl was cutting up, and when I say "cutting up," I mean she was being a royal pain in the ass, grabbing things off the shelves and shoving them at her brother, making noise, and being generally disruptive. Every minute or so, I'd hear her mother say brilliant words of wisdom, such as, "Elizabeth Renee, you put that down!" or "Elizabeth Renee, you stop that!" But it seems Elizabeth Renee was having nothing to do with obeying her mother. She was having too much fun bullying her brother and making noise in the store.

It didn't take me long to get annoyed. For one thing, I hate shopping with the passion of a thousand flaming suns. I dislike being around crowds in general, and crammed in with a crowd in a closed space like a small store, I get a little claustrophobic. For another thing, where I come from, when my middle name came out of my mother's mouth, it meant I had about four seconds to settle my hash, or suffer the wrath of Almighty God in the form of a warm bottom. But what pushed me over the top was the fact that this girl had grabbed a rubber ball from a store shelf (one which she apparently had no intention of buying) and was in the process of pummeling her little brother with it in her clenched fist.

I'm sorry, folks, that Strike Three. As I passed them in the aisle, I told the girl, "Young lady, in my house, that behavior would have you turned over my knee, I don't care how old you are." I pointed to the woman and said, "That lady is your mother. You respect her!"

The store went quiet. Too quiet. That kind of quiet that means something significant has just happened. Either the Children of Israel were going to feast on manna tonight, or the floor was going to open up and spew forth zombies any second. The girl dropped her ball and stared at me, jaw dropped open like Wile E. Coyote had just seen the Roadrunner in full afterburner. The boy stooped dead in his tracks. The mother was a mirror to the daughter.

Now, to be honest, I was expecting some kind of positive response. Maybe a murmured"Thank you," or at least a silent look of relieved gratitude But instead, the mother, after a moment of shocked silence, launched into me about how her daughter was only kidding, and why didn't I just go somewhere else and mind my own business?

I said nothing further, to my credit. I clamped my face shut and continued my search for sandwich-sized ziplock bags. Whatever would get us the hell out of there sooner. I didn't tell the woman she was raising disrespectful little bullies who had no concept of how to behave in public, and if she behaved like white trash that's all she'd ever be. I let her go to the store manager and complain all she wanted.

Let her. I don't care anymore.

Then it occurred to me that old men tend to be that way. We've lived by others' rules for our entire lives, been told when to sit down, when to stand up, where to go, what to do, what to eat when and where to eat it. We're told we're the problem the world is having, because we have to watch the rights and freedoms our fathers and grandfathers fought and shed blood for, stripped away one by one. We hurt everywhere, from treating our bodies as tools, as weapons, as playthings in our youth.

We know we're running out of time, and the youth of this generation grow up with less and less respect for the wisdom we've learned the hard way. We see a world turning more crazy by the minute. The leaders who used to make decisions in concert, have turned themselves into a new brand of nobility to turn our representative republic into an oligarchy ruled by the intellectual elite who have done nothing with their hands, never earned an honest dollar in their lives, and pass laws for blue collar citizens they would never dream of enforcing upon themselves.

So that little freedom we still have, we guard with jealous, reckless abandon. Our home is still our castle. That little green postage stamp we call a lawn is sacrosanct, a symbol of our fading liberty.
But we remember our halcyon days, of climbing unclimbable walls, of running faster, of working harder, of fighting with our very lives for the peace that you all enjoy.
So us old men, we get carried away sometimes. You can laugh at us as the grumpy old codgers we are. You can dismiss our advice on the better, smarter we we've learned to do that. You can roll your eyes in impatience as we make our painful way down the aisle toward the checkout line in front of you.

But what we do have is still ours. And that, young 'uns, is where the line is drawn.

Get off my lawn!

It doesn't mean I dislike your company. It doesn't even mean I don't want you on my grass. It just means I've had enough, and whether you disrespect your mamma in the grocery store, or you carelessly blunder across my new-mown grass with your dirt bike, you're being given the equivalent of your middle name.

Which means you have abut four seconds.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

NADIA Picture Tour, Stop 7


Easing over the top edge, Jenna took in everything at a glance. On the far side of the roof, set
up behind the façade, a lone SWAT sniper held a rifle trained on the shop across the street. Three
more cops had spread out on the rooftops of the neighboring buildings: two on the left, one on
the right. She crouched, frozen, until she was sure no one noticed her. Then she stole up behind
the cop, using the rooftop’s air conditioner unit for concealment. As she got closer, she could
hear the radio’s chatter. They were discussing a shot heard from inside the building across the
street. The chatter hid any noise she may have made.


When she came within range, Jenna struck, thirty feet of anaconda in a five-foot package.
Wrapping her arms around the cop’s neck in a sleeper hold, she constricted his throat, cutting off
any cry for help. The struggle was brief, and in seconds, he was unconscious. She grinned as she
fought back the urge to plant a lipstick kiss on his forehead. Men are so easy.


She pulled out the cellphone and called up the number in the memory, hit the dial key, and
put the phone to her ear. “Okay, I’m in position.” She hung up and picked up the rifle, examining
it closely: Winchester, Model 700 action on a military sniper stock. Weaver 12X scope, set for
range and elevation… She eyeballed the distance again, checked the breeze, and corrected the
scope. She took the cop’s hat and set it on her head. Hello, boys, here I am. Just another one of
the guys
. She made sure the phone was set to vibrate, settled the stock into her shoulder, and
waited for the call.


* * * *

This week's entry is another from Unalive, Book 2 in my multi-award-winning thriller series The NADIA Project. And once again, we're here in beautiful downtown Front Royal, Virginia, on a rainy afternoon in November.

To say that Front Royal is "up in the hills" is probably a relative term, as I'm not sure how someone from the area would define "in the hills." But the little town does sit at a higher elevation in an area that's pretty hilly by midwestern standards. So yeah, we're in the hills.

This shot was taken down Main Street, facing west. I was still manic from just being there, and had totally lost track of where I had parked, but sundown was approaching fast, so I figured I'd find it later.

I figure we have one or two more stops on the tour coming, folks. So till next week, I'll sign off. Feel free to share the link to this page. I'd rather not stay  the best-kept secret in the publishing industry. ;-)
 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

NADIA Picture Tour, Stop 6

Click on the image for more information


Jimmy stood in the middle of Kearny Street and watched the first police car screech around the turn out of a corner of his eye. He stared at the man behind Donna, the man who held a pistol to his friend’s head. A grim smile crossed his face in the light of the street lamp. If I get a chance, you’ll never know what it you.”Here I am, punk.”

“You got a lot of mouth for an old man.” The pistol was steady.
 
The kid’s pretty cool. “What do you want?”

“I want the NADIA, and a car. I know you’re in this mix somewhere. Get ‘em, I leave, the women live.”

The police car pulled up sideways across the street. Another one blocked the other end. They shared the duty of splattering the area with red and blue lights. Four officers approached up the lane, pistols ready in two-handed grips. Two covered Donna and the man behind her, while the other two approached Jimmy. One of these was a stocky white-haired man with a captain’s bars on his shoulders. When he spoke, his voice was calm and even. “I’m Officer Grimes, Front Royal Police. Show your hands, get ‘em in the air.”

Jimmy raised his hands slowly, palms out. But he remained standing, facing the shadow hunched down behind Donna. The grin never left Jimmy’s face. If he could unnerve this crud, it would give him an edge. And Jimmy needed every edge he could get. He kept grinning in Donna’s direction as he spoke to the police officer. “Officer Grimes, my name is James DeBartolo, and I’m a US marshal. My badge is in my pocket, and my weapon is on the sidewalk behind me.”

“Get on your knees, Mr. DeBartolo. Right where you’re at.” Jimmy sank down, one leg at a time. The grin turned into a grimace as the pavement bit into his knees. “Make it quick, Grimes, the ground’s pretty hard, here, and I ain’t got as much paddin’ as I used to.”

Two more police cars showed up at each end of the street, and the uniformed officers advanced, bolstered in their courage by their numbers. Spotlights trained on Jimmy, and on the storefront, illuminating the whole front office area. Grimes and his deputy stopped twenty feet away, in a position where they could watch both sides of the street. He stood, hips square and feet apart. “Suppose you show me that badge now, Mr. DeBartolo?”

“Okay, I’m gonna reach into my jacket pocket.” Jimmy drew out his wallet and flipped it open, revealing his marshal’s badge. “Badge six-four-five-eight. Call the DC office, ask for—”

“We’ll check it out on our own, thanks.” Grimes spoke into the microphone on his shoulder. An agonizing minute later, Jimmy’s knees felt like they’d been applied to a bench grinder. Grimes spoke to him again. “All right, Mr. DeBartolo, you can stand up.” He turned to his junior partner. “Matt, cover the store front, make sure that boy don’t move. Tell Kenny and Dwayne to cover the back door, and get State to send down a hostage team.”

Jimmy struggled to his feet and hobbled over to stand in front of Grimes. “Officer Grimes, I know this is your town and all, but I’m afraid I gotta pull rank on you here.”

Grimes’ eyebrows rose in surprise. “Pull rank? I’d think you’d rather be kickin’ back with a beer or two and tellin’ war stories to the grandkids.”

“You seen some combat, have you, Grimes?”

“Three tours in the ‘Nam, 82nd Airborne.”

“Then you know what I mean when I say this is classified. It has to stay that way.”

“What are you saying?”

“I gotta do this negotiatin’. No one else can hear what’s up, especially newspaper and TV folks. That includes you. Understand?” Jimmy looked at the empty window frame, at Donna, still standing, the pistol pointing at her wounded head. She looked as if she might fall over from fear and fatigue any second.

The man behind her shouted, “We were talking, old man. You know what I want.”

Jimmy yelled back over his shoulder, “Lemme clear things up out here first, and I’ll be right with you.”

“We’ll be waiting, then.” He began to drag Donna back into the rear office area.

Jimmy held a hand up. “No, wait! I need to make sure we can get you what you’re askin’ for. Stay right there, and we can talk.”

“You didn’t say the magic word, geezer. Later.” Donna disappeared back around the corner and into the conference room, towed by her bulky shadow.

* * * *

The Story Behind The Picture

Stop 6 brings us back to the Downtown area of Front Royal, Virginia.

I arrived in town just after 5:00 PM on a November night. Light was fading fast when I found a parking space, and I had just enough presence of mind to note two landmarks: The laundromat just across the street from where I parked, and the sign for Jackon Sreet. Good enough, right? I mean, it was just a small town, after all. Not like I could get turned around.

I grabbed my phone, put my hood up against the rain, and took off at a run, snapping every shot that looked cool, and I can ell you, Front Royal is a very cool little town. The folks who live there obviously take pride in where they live, as you can see by how clean the streets are, how well kept-up the businesses, and how friendly the citizens are.

Nobody seemed to mind the out-of-town lunatic dashing up and down streets taking pictures (I almost took a shot of the bank, but then I thought better of it. I didn't need an extended stay in town for suspicion, if ya know what ah mean). I think I even muttered, "Oh, my God, this is where it happened!" more than once as I snapped shot after shot until well after dark, when I found a nice cafe to grab some dinner.

I figured I'd go back and move the car closer, so I wouldn't have so far to walk. There was only one problem.

I now had no idea where exactly I'd parked. I had a general idea (You know, "laundromat" and "Jackson Street"), but how exactly to get there was the issue. On top of that, everyone with half a brain was NOT out walking in the rain after dark, so asking for directions wasn't as easy as, say, parking the car.

It took another half hour of wandering aimlessly up and down every street I came across until I found Jackson Street, and then I thought I was on the wrong end of town, so I turned the wrong way, and had to double back after I came to the edge of town and found nothing I recognized.

It was after I came all the way back up Jackson Street when I finally found the rental car (while clicking the remote control door lock every few steps and watching for the flash of the lights).

Half a block from the cafe I'd spotted.

Didn't have to waste the gas after all.

Next week, we'll have some more fun. Meantime, read. Review. Repeat.

God bless you, guys.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

NADIA Picture Tour, Stop 5



Carlos Villanueva stood at the edge of the parking lot and looked over Manassas Battlefield Park. Lifting the binoculars to his eyes, he examined the field below one more time. Joel Perry sat in jeans and a T-shirt in the grass at the edge of the meadow, looking at the ground and not moving a muscle. Not another soul in sight. “I don’t like it, Tab. He’s all alone, no one else to meet us. Daniels said he’d be out here, too.”

Sergeant Tabitha Grubka sat in the passenger’s seat of Carlos’ coupe, tightening the laces on a combat boot. “Joel’s probably being watched from the tree line. I bet Agent Daniels simply doesn’t trust us. After what they’ve been through, I’d be pretty careful, too.” Finally satisfied with the fit of her boot, she climbed out and closed the door. “Not that I’m complaining, but I’m way out of my element here. I’m a bit-chaser, not a rifleman.”

 Carlos turned around long enough to give her a good-natured smirk. “That’s why the rest of the team have weapons, and we don’t.” He glanced at his watch. “Well, five minutes past H-Hour. I assume Joel’s waited enough. Let’s go.”

They strode out of the parking lot, past the visitor’s center, and down the hill, Tabitha occasionally rearranging portions of her battle uniform. Carlos glanced over his shoulder. He could barely see Erick at the top of the hill, watching the western side of the park. Dave Gunderson would be watching the other side. Not that Carlos felt any safer. No weapons, no radios, he said. If I’m wrong, what’ll they tell Tab’s parents when they send her home in a coffin? His stomach did a couple extra flip-flops for good measure as he stole a glance at Tab. Besides squirming in her bulky uniform, her face looked as pale as his felt. Her eyes darted constantly, looking for some undefined threat from the trees.

When they drew within a few meters, Joel raised one hand over his head. With the other, he held out a radio.

When Carlos took it, a short squawk came from the speaker, followed by a familiar voice, one he’d only heard on the phone the day before. “Sergeant Villanueva, this is Agent Daniels.”

Okay, we play it this way. Carlos keyed the handheld. “Go ahead. This is Villanueva.”

“Tell Corporal Perry he can stand up, and thank him for his cooperation. You can go now.”

Carlos scanned the tree line at the edge of the field again. The late afternoon light made it impossible to pick out any details among the greenery. “I thought we were going to meet today, Jon.”

“Maybe another time.”

Carlos cursed under his breath. He wanted answers, not more questions. “What’s NADIA?”

“Something you don’t talk about on a radio.”

“Jon, you can tell me what I need to know, or I can keep digging until I find everything out, including where you’re hiding Bunny Kalinsky. He’s facing quite a suite of federal charges, you know. What’s it going to be?”

He unkeyed the radio and motioned to Joel to go back to the lot. Not taking his eyes from the trees, he whispered, “Meet Dave up there. I have a recorder in my car. Start talking. Everything you remember.”

Daniels’ voice crackled from the handheld again. “There’s a cannon fifty meters to your left, over toward the stone bridge. Look in the muzzle. Out.”

Carlos’ heart jumped. “No, wait a minute! Daniels, where are you?” Silence was his only answer.

Tab pointed. “There’s the cannon.”


“Hang on,” said Carlos. “I’ll go check it out. If it’s a trap, get back to the car. Round up the others, and zero in on Daniels and his crew. Comb the damned woods till you find them.”

“What then?”

Handing her the radio, he said, “Make ’em spill their guts.”

He approached the cannon slowly, looking for wires or hidden antennas and mumbling to himself. His hands shook; he stilled them by force of will. “This is ridiculous, they’re on our side.”

His inner voice answered. Oh, are they? What makes you so certain they’re friendlies, Jéfé?

He carried on the conversation with himself all the way to the cannon. “Because if they were working for the bad guys, they’d have popped me and Tab for even asking about NADIA.”

Or they would have put one of their antimatter bombs in this cannon, ready to take out the whole park, right? Reach in—I dare you.

“Shut up, Carlos, they’re the good guys like us.”

How do you know?

He was at the cannon. “’Cause I’m going to find out right now.” Shining a penlight down the muzzle, he saw a tangle of litter and several pop cans. “I hope there aren’t any spiders in there.” He took a deep breath and began to withdraw the trash one item at a time.

He unwadded the fourth candy wrapper to find a series of numbers scrawled in marker on the inside. After tossing the rest of the trash in the nearest can, he returned to Tab. “GPS coordinates.”

She hugged herself and shivered in spite of the heat. “Let’s just get out of here, Carlos. I get a bad feeling—”

--from Critical Mass

* * * *
Good day, fellow Castaways! Congratulations again, Lisa Reece, our winner of the Irving's Cabin contest!

This week, Once again, you've seen the picture behind the story, and now, you get the story behind the picture! Yay, hoo-rah, and other colorful interjections of a celebratory nature.

As indicated in the scene above, this shot was taken at the Manassas Battlefield Park at Manassas, Virginia.

The entire week I was in Virginia, the weather was cool and rainy. It never actually stopped, though sometimes it let up to a light mist. It lent a kind of haunting sadness to the place where, in July of 1861, nearly 5,000 men died in the first land battle of the American Civil war.

I arrived at the Visitor's Center and climbed out into the rain and wind. I made a mad dash to get inside the center just before the rain really cut loose, and browsed around inside for a while until the weather let up.

As soon as the clouds relented, I ran outside and pranced around like a total and complete fool. I don't think the staff quite understood why I was so excited about being there. Sure there was history all around me, and I was drinking that up like a sponge. But I also had to get the best shot I could before the rains busted loose again.

I ran up and down the line of cannons behind the Visitor's Center, taking shots here and there. I took the one I posted above, with the water droplets dangling from the bottom of the barrel, and the colors struck me. In the background, you can see a farmhouse that was rebuilt, as the original was blasted to matchsticks by artillery.

I didn't get a chance to wander the whole park. The battlefield plain is pretty big, after all. But it inspired in me a sense of loss, as well as commanding a quiet reverie for the significance of the drama that unfolded so long ago.

I intend to go back to see it all. I would encourage everyone to see it.

Next week, we'll post Stop 6. Till then, stay frosty.