Saturday, September 12, 2009

Feed Change

I don't know what this affects, if anything, but, in a flight of fancy, I changed the feed on this site to run through feedburner. If you've been subscribing (and I don't know if that's true for anyone) and you aren't getting the feed now, please click on the subscribe button again.

Dodging a bullet, er, missle

Y'all may thing that runnin around in a robot suit makes things a whole lot easier when you're tryin to avoid fire from shoulder mounted rockets, and you would be half right. Sure, runnin itself is pretty easy in them things. You lift up a leg and, next thing you know, wind's blowin through your hair and you're practically flyin down the road. So, like I says, the runnin's the easy part. The difficulty comes with tryin to dodge the rockets. I don't know if y'all ever looked down the business end of a surface-to-air missile, but I tell you what, them things ain't messin around none. If you ain't careful, they'll fly right up your nose holes. And you don't want that. If you survived, you'd be sneezin out rocket parts for days. Plus, you'd singe all of your nose hair and you'd be smellin nothin but burnt hair for weeks. You don't want that. I remember when I was a kid, my Uncle Larry was experimentin with a longer burnin match. He'd been havin all sortsa problems gettin the grill goin. He'd light up a match, and by the time it got to the grill, it'd be out or his fingers would be a burnin. And, seein as how Uncle Larry used about a half gallon of kerosene on top of his charcoal when he wanted to get that fire lit, he could usually be found with blisters on his hands and singed eyebrows. So, he decided he was gonna make a match that would concentrate the fire on the tip, so he wouldn't burn hisself up. He tried a little of this, a little of that, more sulfur, less sulfur, saltpeter, but none of it really worked. Finally, inspired by a combination of war films and a half bottle of whiskey, he decided that he would coat the tip of the match with white phosphorous. It took him a heck of a time gettin a little of that stuff. He had to travel to 15 different countries and deal with some pretty shady people. After spendin a couple years on the quest, not to mention the 10 in prison for smuggling hazardous materials, he had his match made. When it hit the 10 minute mark in the burnin, he was so happy he threw his arms into the air, knockin a little phosphorous powder onto his pet shih-tzu, which looked like a beach ball made of hair. The phosphorous, like water or soap, wasn't able to penetrate the dog's thick, long coating of armor-like hair. It just sat on top and burned away. That phosphorous sat on the dog and smoldered for three weeks, stinkin up everything in a three county region and givin Uncle Larry the nickname "Dog Smoke". So, when I tell you you don't wanna be smellin burnt hair for a week, you just believe I know what I'm talkin about. Also, if that rocket gets up your nose and you DON'T survive, well, then you'd just be dead.

At this point, I figure you know I dodged the rocket, because I ain't writin this from beyond the grave. You know because ghosts don't have a sense of humor. You try to tell a joke a ghost, it'll either just wail or rattle its chains at you. They just don't get the subtle humor of the living. I mean, sure, you could go to see the ghost of Curly, and it'll be layin there on the floor doin its wub-wub dance or its nyuk-nyuks, but believe you me, it ain't enjoyin it. In fact, it may be you're witnessin the eternal torture reserved only for insurance execs and slapstick comedians. Then again, maybe you're just seein things and ghosts ain't real.

Anyhoozits, now that you know I dodged that there rocket, you're prolly wonderin how ol' Pat did it. "Pat," you may be askin, "how on Earth did you dodge a rocket in a robot suit you know you don't know how to operate?" And I would say to you, "First, you're readin, so no questions, Mr. Uppity McCurious. Second, it was an accident." "An accident?!?!" you will say, stunned. And I will hang my head and mutter, "Yeah, an accident." Then we'll all move on from uncoverin Pat's secret shame and pretend we took no joy in it.

Here's how it happened. I turned and ran blindly away from the coming rocket, as any normal, sane person in a robot suit would do. People out of a robot suit would prolly just curl into a ball and hope the rocket missed, or they may yell somethin two words long that started with Oh. Well, there I was runnin pretty durned fast in this robot suit when, all of a sudden, I'm headed sideways towards the ground. I look down and see that I have run right into the racetrack I saw earlier and a cursed train has run into the left leg of my robot suit. Then, as I'm still fallin, I look up to see a rocket cruise right through the space my head had been in not a half second before. So, even though it's knocked me down and all, I can't be mad at the train no more.

That robot suit and me hit the ground with a thud. I was all sprawled out, tryin to figure out how to get this thing to stand up when I see the rocket turn around and start headed back my way. That's when I panicked. Usually, people're gonna tell you that, when you're in a dangerous situation, panic is your enemy. Well, panic and whatever it is that's tryin to kill you. In my case, the rocket was my enemy. But, in a twist of fate, my enemy's enemy became my friend. As I was flailin wildly to find a way out of the suit, I slapped my hand on a big red button marked Boomshalakkalakka. With a roar, the chainsaw nun-chuck gun started flingin spinnin balls of death into the night. I also found out, right about then, that it wasn't just a gun that fired nun-chucks made of chainsaws, but it was a gun that fired flamin nun-chucks made out of chainsaws. Somehow, it lit them things on fire just before launch. Well, that rocket turns and starts followin the flamin saws, hits the first one, and explodes like the Death Star, but like in the old Star Wars, not the new one where there's that weird ring thingy that shoots out. There was none of that. Just a good, old-fashioned explosion.

After the sound of the explosion died down, I could still hear a roaring in my ear. At first, I thought I might have still been on that beach, and all of this was just a dream, but after I sat and listened to it awhile it was most certainly not the sound of the ocean. It sounded more like, well, like fifty thousand people cheering all at once. I got the robot to roll over on its back and saw that the crowd was all a hootin and hollerin from the stands. I tried sittin up to get out of the controls, but the robot sat right up with me, then it stood.

I took a bow, as I thought was right when all them people was cheerin. I was takin what I thought was my much deserved praise when the crowd went totally silent. I thought maybe I'd taken in too far in the grandstandin, but the I heard the booming behind me. I turned to see another robot crawling over the stands and into the race track, and that one was breathin fire.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Worst Possible Place

Now that I've tried out this interstellar travel thing a couple of times, I've made some decisions. First, I don't like interstellar travel. It just ain't comfortable. You ever see a marshmallow in the microwave? You know how it gets all bulgy and bubbly and finally erupts like a big ol' volcano of melted sugar and then you gotta wait to put it on your s'more, but you don't want to wait too long to eat it because, if you do, it'll turn all hard and crusty and it'll be like eating a graham cracker with chocolate and a brick Frisbee up there on top, so you bite into it too soon and the whole marshmallow explodes in your mouth like an m-80 filled with lava and it shoots out your nose, makin you look like an angry dragon? Well, just imagine you was the marshmallow in that situation; everything inside gettin all bubbly and poppy and bursty until everything goes dark and you feel like you're shootin through a giant nose and you swear that, in the middle, your skin turned 180 while your bones stayed in place and then something that felt like a tentacle brushed against your legs. Second, I've decided that, if I'm gonna go through all that kinda trouble, I'd much rather end up on a beach at the end of all of it than in a wet, mildewy basement that smells like pee and cold medicine. That's especially if, when I finally get into that basement, I'm surrounded by explosions and shoutin that sound like a giant ate a bunch of beans and is puttin on his crazy version of a giant rock show or performance art or somethin for a bunch of cowboys who keep yellin, "YEEEEEEHHHAAAAAAAWWWWWWW!!!" and then firin guns, which I can only imagine are at least 8 meters in diameter, into the air. I tell ya, landin in somethin like that, a man's bound to get a little rattled.

The first thing it sounded like I needed was defense of some sort. There weren't no one in that basement, but I didn't know how long that would last. It coulda been, before I knew it, that the farting giant would want to grimace and grunt and blow this whole house down. Or, if that didn't happen, maybe the people who owned whatever house was attached to this basement may want to check their stores of canned vegetables or their...well, as I looked through the boxes, it seemed to be mostly doll heads, toothbrushes and balls of string. So, maybe that was something they may want to guard. It looked like junk to me, but not to the person who'd put it here, because they all seemed to be sorted; the dolls heads by size and eye color; the string by color, thickness and size of ball; and the toothbrushes by length of bristle and softness, near as I could tell. Someone'd gone through a lot of trouble to organize all this stuff, and they may not take kindly to some old fogey like me diggin through it all and gettin it all dirty or, in some cases, wipin the dirt off it. Plus, and I tell you this in strictist confidence, I was a bit scared. I was on some alien world with explosions goin off everywhere and lookin through boxes full of dolls' heads. If you ain't scared in that situation, you're cold and dead inside.

So I started lookin around for a way to arm myself. I don't know if y'all ever been in a fight or anything, but I can tell ya from bein in one or two large scale conflicts myself, a doll's head does not make a good weapon. That is, of course, unless it's got a grenade stuck into the middle of it, which one of the heads in the box did. I didn't wanna mess with it, though, because, when you find a grenade in a box, it's usually best to leave it where it is. If you don't one of two things is bound to happen. One, it won't go off when you want it to or, two, it will go off when you don't want it to. Either one could be fatal. Leavin the box of plastic, starin eyes behind me I poked around further back in the basement. This feller, or lady (I couldn't figure it out from the collection) was the biggest pack rat I ever did see and my Aunt Hildabrand used to live in a house that was entirely made up of newspapers. It used to be a normal house but the she was stuck by the tornado of '74. It ripped all the walls off her house, but it couldn't do anything to her stacks of newspaper that were held together by a natural cement made of mold, dust and cat pee. Hildy never even noticed her house was gone, she had so much newspaper stuffed away, and none of us had the heart to tell her. Eventually she died in a cave-in. She was minin for sapphires in Thailand when the cave supports gave out. Her newspaper palace is still standin and, last I heard, it was turned into a roadside zoo. The long and the sort of it is, I know a pack rat when I see one, and this basement had Hildy beat by a country mile. There were boxes of toothpicks, piles of tin foil scraps, one whole row of nothing but broken Slinkys and, in the back corner, the dangerous looking things. It started small with a box full of slingshots. Then came a stack of boards with nails in them. After that was a pile of pipe wrenches with nails welded to them. That was followed up shortly by a pile of chainsaws that appeared to be connected by a length of chain, which I think was supposed to be chainsaw nun-chucks, then a box of handguns, rack after rack of rifle and finally, looming above it all, a robotic suit that was slumped over. Sticking out of the back of the suit there was two pipes that must have been 100 feet long and five feet around which connected to a double barreled gun mounted on the front of the suit. I just stood lookin at it for a long time, tryin to figure out what could possibly be fired from that gun. When I got up the nerve, I went and looked at the chamber of the gun and nearly dropped dead on the spot of the sheer mad genius of it.

"Well," I thought to myself, "might as well be as protected as I can." Then I went back a couple rows and started loading the tubes with the chainsaw nun-chucks. I fit an unbelievable amount of destruction into that suit before steppin in and flippin the power switch. That little beauty fired right up, locked my arms and legs in its soft, robotic embrace, and stood to its full height of 20 odd feet. I estimate the ceiling of that basement was right about ten feet because, once I was standing, the top of the robot suit brushed against the ceiling of the next floor, too.

The second floor wasn't quite as abandoned as the basement. There was a couple people up there sprawled out on a threadbare couch throwin knives at the wall. At least, that's what they were doin until I broke through the floor. After that, they were doin a lot of yellin.

"Who in tarnation is that?!?!" yelled the first guy, who had a sandy blond mullet and handlebar mustache.

"I dunno, Chuck," said the second, who also had a mullet and handlebar mustache, but his were greasy brown, "but whoever it is, he's ridin in yer chainchuck-o-matic."

"That's right, Pete," yelled Chuck in his heavy drawl, "and ain't no one ride in Chuck's chainchuck-o-matic but Chuck. And he ain't Chuck!!!!"

With that, he jumped up off the couch and came at me with a three foot knife. I just wanted to get out of the way. I 'spose anyone would when they was bein threatened with a three foot knife. Thing is, I plum forgot I was wearin that robot suit. I meant to make a tiny dodge to the side. Wheat ended up happenin, though, is that I jumped clean through the side of his house and out into a dystopian armageddon.

All around me, the world was black and covered in ash. There was couches, cars and chairs layin willy nilly. A good 90% of them was on fire, too. Overhead, there were long trails of smoke from the rockets bein launched from every direction. The only place that wasn't on fire or explodin was a racetrack to my left. There appeared to be thousands of people in the stands watchin supercharged trains race down tracks at blinding speeds and ending by running into dented, charred steel walls. To my right, in the middle of a field littered with tar paper shacks was a billboard so tall it looked like it would block the sun. It had a picture of a ninja with a platypus stitched over his left breast. He was holdin out his hands, offerin a bag of powder. Written above him in 30 foot tall flaming letters was the slogan, "Meth, you know you want it."

I slumped down in the robot suit. This, I realized, was a world totally conquered by Clan Platypus. It was their goal to turn the entire universe into this kind of rotten, stinking sewer. How could I, one small man in a robot suit that fired chainsaw nun-chucks, possibly hope to compete with that? I was almost overwhelmed by futility when I felt something hit the back of the suit.

I turned and saw Chuck standing there. He was dropping a smoking rocket launcher while Pete was getting another one ready for him. So, instead of dropping into a depression, I did the smart thing. I ran.