Red sky at night…

‘Usually’ means sailor’s delight (e.g. smooth sailing).

However… In this case, while pretty, and obviously red, it’s due to the smoke from the fires in Colorado and California. And breathing is…interesting.

But the big sky nice to see!

Ahhh…

Good times with good friends, and good food. And prairie dogs to shoot. Down time is great. Go read the folks on the sidebar, I’m ignoring the news and the intarwebz for another couple of days.

Huh…

Apparently I’m a ‘provider’ of food for a family of Geckos…

When I turn on my bathroom light at night, I would occasionally hear a ‘scurrying’ sound, like something was scratching on the screen. Turns out I’ve been feeding a mated pair of Geckos.

Dunno if this is mom or pop, but the ‘parents’ are about 6 inches long now. With tail, approaching a foot long.

And the other night I got my first picture of ‘Little Bit’. S/he is about 2 1/2 inches long with a tail about the same length. 

And now I know what the ‘scurrying’ sound is, note the way they’ve hooked into the screen with their claws. Don’t know what is going to happen when it gets cold out… sigh

I need a break…

Time for Willie to play my song again.

Off to go turn money into smoke and noise. Go enjoy the folks on the sidebar, or read a book from my friends!

Light commenting, if any, and little to no reading for the next four days.

Sigh…

As if 2020 couldn’t get any stranger…

 

And before you ask, no, I have NO idea why Finland not existing is up there… But the Denver one is ‘real’…so to speak…

There is a rather interesting article, HERE about DIA, and yes those murals they have at baggage claim are ‘strange’ to put it mildly!!! And yes, there was a huge delay and MASSIVE cost overruns… 4X the original cost estimates!

I’m sure there are people that pretty much hit every level of this chart, which is one of the reasons I think so many people are ‘culling’ their friends lists, and becoming more careful about whom they associate with and when.

Thank you!!!

Thanks to those who’ve gone out and bought Tales Around the Supper Table!

We passed 200 sales yesterday, and are now on day three of a nice little sticker!

HERE is a link, if you haven’t already bought it!

We made it as high as #4 in Fiction Anthologies, and we’re holding right at #6 now. So far, folks seem to like what they’ve seen, and we like honest reviews, if you have time.

Here’s a snippet from my short story- A Favor Owed

Lubec drowsed for a few minutes, until he heard Orum saying, “Sires, we didn’t get the bit from you, and the master said we weren’t to go looking, so it is not done.” He pushed himself up and stood near the forge as the men came through the door.

      Maks asked, “Why did you not get the bit and do the work promised?”

      Lubec straightened up. “Sire, I did not ask before you left, and I will not violate a man’s property to go looking. I will still try to fix it, if you will give it to me.”

      “Where are the horses?”

      “In the corral out back. We took the saddles off, and I have given them some hay and water.”

      The other man walked through the smithy and out to the horses, patting them and checking their hooves before reaching in a saddlebag and pulling a broken bit out. He walked back in and handed it to Maks, who passed it to Lubec, “The ring on the left side cracked. Can you fix it?”

      Lubec turned it over in his hands, unconsciously rubbing the bit, then said, “Not to where it won’t fail again. The metal…was too soft to begin with. I can craft another, but I would need a day to—”

      The smaller man laughed. “Honest to a fault. Maks, do you understand what has happened today?”

      Lubec’s mind whirled, That voice. I…know that voice. But where? It’s been years, the pitch… is different.

      Maks replied, “We found an honest blacksmith? Granted that is odd, Sire, but…”

      The smaller man threw back his hood, “No, we have found the man I’ve searched over a year for. Adlion, you have not changed a bit.”

      Lubec dropped the bit in the dirt. “Adlion? My name is Lubec.” Who? How? It can’t be!

      The smaller man chuckled, “You mean you don’t remember me, Adlion?”

      Lubec fell to his knees. “Ctibor?” This can’t be little Ctibor can it? Oh deity, rumor had it there was a new baron…it must be. “M’lord Jurec?”

      The smaller man nodded as Orum fell to his knees, trembling. “Oh, get up, both of you. This is beneath you. Do you still have Poppet?”

      Hearing her name, the wyvern jumped up and wheeted loudly, flapped down, landing at Ctibor’s feet and rubbed his thigh. Ctibor pushed her away, “No, Poppet. I don’t have leathers on. You know better.” He scratched behind the wyvern’s ears and she burbled happily, lightly flapping her leathery wings. He looked up and said seriously, “Adlion, I need you to do something for me.”

      “M’lord?”

      “Maks, fetch my bags please.” Maks walked quickly out to the horses as Ctibor continued, “Da is dead. The Blacguards got him and his escort. He was on his way back from the western border with Imrich’s body.” He pinched his nose and said softly, “A mile, maybe more, and he would have been home, Adlion, err, Lubec.”

      Lubec shook his head and glanced at Orum. Well, the wyvern is out of the bag. Orum will want an explanation, probably sooner rather than later. I wonder what he’s going to do when he finds out I’m his father, not just his master. I guess we will have to move on, again. “Yes, M’lord, we heard. A sad thing.”

      Maks returned with the bags, handing them to Ctibor with a small bow. Ctibor reached in and pulled out a smaller bag that clinked, and Lubec shivered, knowing what it contained. Lubec finally asked, “You are now the Baron?”

      Ctibor nodded without speaking, and opened the bag, spilling the broken pieces of a sword onto the workbench. “The first people there found the sword shattered in pieces. This…should not be!”

      Lubec shook his head sadly, “No, this is what happens when a blooded sword is not passed from generation to generation. When I made this sword for your grandda, I gave him specific directions on how to pass it to your da. It requires a blood sacrifice.” He looked up in horror. “Once your da died, the sword… he blooded Imrich didn’t he? And not you. The blood bond that held it together no longer existed as a life force.”

      “I was at King’s Court, a captain of horse. Second son and all that entailed. Da sent a messenger for me to return but I didn’t get there in…time. Can you repair it,” the baron pleaded.

      “No, once it dies, it cannot be…put back together.” He moved the broken pieces around, pulling the hilt out and holding it up, he said softly, “Your father died with honor. The fact that the hilt stayed in one piece is evidence of that. He fed it with his own blood in the course of the fight.” Ctibor sagged against the table, prompting Poppet to wheet quietly and shove her head under his hand. Almost unconsciously, he petted the wyvern, stroking her ears while the tears rolled down his face.

      Lubec, Maks, and Orum all looked away, and Lubec swept the remaining pieces of the sword into the bag, handing them to Orum. “Put these outside the corral. We will bury the pieces individually in a bit. Set the spade with them.”

      Orum gulped, glanced at Baron Jurec, then Lubec, and grabbed a spade as he headed for the door. The baron started to reach out, but Lubec said, “No! It is better this way.” He handed him the hilt. “This is what you need to keep, this shows you are honoring your da. Those who know will know he died honorably.”

      Maks asked, “Is there a place to stay in the village?”

      “In Skop? The Broken Spoon has rooms over the kitchen. Sablan or his wife Mata can tell you what is available.”

      Glancing at Ctibor, Maks continued, “I think the Baron would rather not be identified, if you understand?”

      Lubec nodded, “I do. If I may ask a boon?” Maks nodded, and he continued, “I would prefer to be called Lubec. I have not been Adlion in…well over seventeen years. Not since I left the keep.”

      The baron replied, “Done. Has it really been that long? Where did you go, Lubec?”

      Lubec bowed his head, “After Rie died, and the Baron gave me benison to leave, I went over the mountains to the east. We settled in a little village on the river called Lubec. We were there for almost six years, until people became suspicious of me.”

      “Suspicious?”

      “M’lord, do you remember what I looked like when I worked for your grandda?”

      The baron pulled Lubec over to the door of the smithy, looking him up and down. “I…you…you look the same. It’s almost—”

      “As if I didn’t age, M’lord?” He nodded and Lubec sighed. “That’s the problem. The villagers became suspicious when I didn’t age like the other men, or the women for that matter. It wasn’t bad until someone saw Poppet. They started shunning me, so I left. This is the third place I’ve set up shop in the seventeen years since.”

      Maks asked, “How old are you…Lubec?”

      He looked up at the rafters, shook his head and said, “I have something over a hundred years. I came to the keep when your grandda was a boy. I was already a blacksmith, from my da, and knew the arts from him and my grandda, but I’d never practiced them. It wasn’t till your grandda became the Baron that I first started making swords and halberds, because my da died saving the king.”

      He heard an intake of breath behind him and turned to see Orum standing with his hand over his mouth and eyes wide. It’s better that I tell him now. Before he has time to think about it and ask more questions.

      The baron eyed Orum, then turned to Maks. “Let us get a room at the…Broken Spoon. It is late, and I have no desire to travel further today.” Maks nodded and glanced at Lubec. “Would you and Orum join us for food, after you talk?”

      Lubec cocked his head, “Yes, M’lord, but it may be a while.”

      “Join us when you can. We will wait.” The baron and Maks swiftly saddled their horses and cantered toward the village as Orum stood rooted in the same spot.

      Lubec steered him gently to the stump at the forge and pushed him down when Poppet sidled up to him. “Orum, I fear I have done you a great disservice. I was going to tell you, but after you became a master.”

      “Who…what are you,” Orum asked in a trembling voice.

      “I am your father. You are not and have never been an orphan. When your mother died of the flux in the keep these seventeen years ago, I could not bear to remain. The baron gave me the benison to leave, since there was a journeyman I had trained for years who could step in. I told the baron I would never again touch or make a sword, so that nothing I did could be lifted against him or the king.”

      “But…you’re old!”

      Lubec chuckled. “Both a blessing and a curse.” He started pacing. “We, our line, are from Ferrucrag, an island in the northern seas. We are gifted with a feel for the metals, the strength to work them, and an ability to form things that are bonded to a person with our wyvern’s help. Did you ever wonder why you always know where your poignard is?”

      Orum shrugged. “I…not really.”

      “Remember how you burned your hand on the blade when you were heating it and bled on the iron?”

      Orum nodded. “It hurt, but Poppet licked it and it went away.”

      “That blood bonded that blade to you. That is part of the blessing. The curse is our long lives. Grandda lived over a hundred and twenty years and died saving a maiden from a flood. Da died at the battle of Norheim, defending the king.” Lubec stopped, bowing his head, he continued softly, “I saw him fall, but couldn’t get to him in time.”

      Orum looked up in wonder. “But, that was eighty years ago! How could you?”

      “I was behind the lines, sharpening weapons and repairing armor. The Crags broke through the lines, attacking the king. Da had just taken the king’s sword back after sharpening it, and killed a Crag with his poignard, then used it to fight off the Crags side by side with the king, until the knights could rally and push them away. He took a halberd in the back that was meant for the king in the last Crag push before they retreated. We were part of Baron Jurec’s grandda’s levy, and after the battle, we were discharged and returned to the keep.”

      Orum asked, “Am I your only child? You didn’t have others?”

      “No, I never married until Rie. She was the Baroness’ handmaiden. I…she was years younger than I. She was just twenty, and I was seventy, but looked forty. We were married for ten years before she conceived, and you were born. That’s a curse on our line, only single male children, and few of those.” He knelt in front of Orum. “My birth name was Adlion, your birth name was Adorjan. All of the males of our line’s names start with A. Due to our long lives, multiple names are used to confuse others.”

      “Why do you call me Orum?”

      Lubec hung his head, “I wanted to shield you, in case you didn’t have the feel for the metals. And blacksmiths and ironmongers with names starting with A are treated with suspicion, because of rumors of our abilities and the wyverns.”

      “Is that why we hide Poppet? And I was never allowed to mention her?”

      He nodded. “Yes, we bond with wyverns, which is, again, a blessing and a curse. They give us strength and are a boon when we work metals. Especially doing bonded swords. When she licked you, she healed you. Have you ever wondered why you don’t get sick?” He pointed to Poppet. “It’s because of her.”

      Orum burst out, “Why didn’t she heal my ma?”

      “We were away, at the western border forts when she took ill. We could not get back in time.”

      He picked up a horseshoe and absentmindedly straightened it and flipped it to Orum. “Bend it back.” Orum bent it easily, and Lubec said, “You don’t realize how strong you are. Very few men can do that.”

      Orum protested, “You do things like this all the time! You just straightened it!”

      “It’s part of the blessing. But it’s also a curse. That is why I’ve done all your weapons training myself. I didn’t want others to be wondering about your strength or asking questions.” Orum started to protest again, but Lubec got up, stomach growling. “That is enough for now. I need food. Go wash and put on your better clothes. We will go eat with the baron and Maks.”

      Orum got up slowly, “Yes, Mas. . .  Da? Can I call you Da?”

      Lubec folded Orum in his arms, tears rolling down his cheek  Poppet spread her wings and enfolded both of them. “Yes…son, yes you can.”

Thanks to all the authors and others behind the scenes who made this work. And again, thank you to you readers out there for feeding us starving writers! 🙂

Ummm…

Really?

Astronauts were woken during the night to continue the hunt for an air leak on the International Space Station (ISS).

Crew members have been hunting for the source over several weeks. (Bold mine)

But the search was stepped up a notch when the size of the leak appeared to grow on Monday; this erroneous reading turned out to have been caused by a temperature change onboard the ISS.

Full article, HERE.

Ya know, having that O2 up there is just a ‘tad’ important. It’s not like they can open the door and get more! And to take WEEKS to trace it? A friend made this comment- The last coat of varnish and Olga’s toenails must have finally worn off of the outer shell of plywood in the Russian module. 

Why yes, he has spent time in Russia…

I think if I were up there, that’d be pretty cotton pickin’ high on my To Do list!  Sigh…

I wonder…

How many people even remember either of these versions…

“The American’s Creed” written by William Tyler Page in 1917 for a national contest to support America during WWI.
I believe in the United States of America, as a government of the people, for the people, by the people, for the people; whose just powers are derived from the consent fo the governed; a democracy in a republic; a sovereign Nation of many sovereign States; a perfect union, one and inseparable; established upon those principles of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes.

I therefore believe it is my duty to my country to love it, to support its Constitution, to obey its laws, to respect its flag, and to defend it against all enemies.— William Tyler Page, The American’s Creed
There is a second version, written a couple of years later by Dean Alfange that is also popular with many folks…

I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m good with BOTH versions…

Tales Around the Supper Table…

Is ALIVE!!!

For right now, it’s Kindle only, but a paperback will follow as soon as all those hoops are jumped through.

As always, click on the cover for the Amazon link!

The blurb-

This collection is from ten different Texas authors. There was no ‘world’ or set up for the stories. It was up to the individual authors to write their stories, so you get a wide variety! Vampires, dragons, werewolves, enchanted swords, runaways, SciFi, and cowboys… Stories for everyone in this collection of Texas authors!

Alma TC Boykin- Pigmentum Regium; Monalisa Foster- Caliborne’s Curse; Dorothy Grant- Business not Bullets; Kathey Grey- The Invisible Train; Pam Uphoff- Runaway; JL Curtis- A Favor Owed; Jonathan LaForce- Knights and Dragons; Peter Grant- Starting over; Lawdog- Bad Night in Falls Town; John Van Stry- They Only Ever Just Send One; Wayne Whisnand- For a Child.

This is the result of that collaboration- May I present Tales Around the Supper Table- The Anthology.

And my thanks to the authors that contributed to the anthology, Tina G for a great cover, as always, and Steph M for her deft touch as an editor!  Without all of them, none of this would have happened.

Another short…

NOT what I’m supposed to be writing, blaming this one on Lawdog…

Strong language alert! Comments appreciated, as always.

Sean ‘Mac’ McCampbell walked slowly down the hallway toward his next class, watching the two young girls in front of him. Another month or so, and they’ll be back in summer dresses and shorts. I love summer in the south! He cocked his head as he heard one of them say, “Well, I don’t know. I know Prof Hue is saying people will get extra credit on April first for attending the protests downtown. There’s supposed to be something outrageous planned.”

The other girl laughed. “You just want to meet up with that boy that does the coordination again.”

“Well, he is cute. And he’s a psyche major! But that’s not for another month, so…well, I’ve got to get my grades up. My parents are on my ass about last quarter.”

“So, no protesting for you for a month? Is that…it won’t cost you points in the prof’s class?”

Mac turned into the classroom for middle eastern history. He sighed. At least this puts a check in the block for my Ph.D. He flopped into his normal seat at the back of the room and absently scratched his left foot. Why is it I have phantom limb pain after all this time? And why the hell does it go away if I scratch that proverbial itch? Shit wasn’t supposed to continue.

As the professor droned on, Mac’s mind wandered back to what the girls were talking about. He’d been keeping a low profile ever since his acceptance in the Linguistics Ph.D program at Texas, not really associating with any of the other candidates or most of the people on campus. Part of that was PTSD, and part was that he was fifteen years older than most of them. I don’t get the rioting and the lack of police presence, or the hands off stance. I know that’s not coming from the governor, he’s called in the guard and DPS on more than one occasion. And it’s cutting into my drinking at my favorite bar on 6th street too.

The professor was expounding on the differences between Wahhabism and Sunni Islam and getting it wrong. Mack raised his hand languidly, and the professor looked over. “Yes, Mr…McCampbell? You have a comment?”

“Yes, Ma’am. You are incorrect. Wahhabism is the ultra-conservative version of Islam, pushed by the House of Saud for…I think, one hundred-fifty years now. They are the…official, for lack of a better word, religion of Saudi Arabia. Wahhabi imam’s goala are nothing less than the complete subversion of the mainstream Sunni version with a complete return to monotheism.”

“Oh really? And what makes you an expert, Mr. McCampbell?”

“I grew up there. I’ve read and studied the Koran. I saw the lifestyle from nineteen ninety up through two thousand three. I’ve traveled extensively with my parents throughout the whole region. I graduated from Gymnasium there in two thousand two. And I visited that area extensively from two thousand seven to two thousand seventeen. Iraq, Afghanistan, and a few other places.”

The professor sniffed. “Well, that’s not what my references say. So, I would like to continue without interruption, if I may.”

Mac nodded and slumped back in his seat, drifting off again. I thought last year was bad, but…the election…just turned the BS up to eleven. I need one more year to have my Ph.D, and I’m outta here. He tuned out the rest of the lecture, got up when the bell rang and collected his notes.

***

Later that evening, as he sat at the bar at Stubbs, the bartender leaned across the bar. “You a vet?” Mac nodded, and he continued, “Wondered. You act like one, but don’t have the tats or a beard, and you’re older than the normal crowd. And you’re a careful drinker.”

Mac smiled. “Habit. Never been big on getting stupid drunk. And I like BBQ. Didn’t get much of that growing up. If we were lucky, once a year when we came home. My dad loved Stubbs in Lubbock, tells stories about the bands he saw there.”

“That’s a shame.” The bartender stuck a hand across the bar. “Roger Ellington. Thirty First MEU, Marines. Got out in twenty-fifteen.”

He shook the hand as he replied, “Mac McCampbell, started out in the Army, First Seventy-Fifth, went off and did some other shit, out in twenty-eighteen on a medical.”

Roger laughed. “Other shit? Didn’t we all do that at one point?” he swiped the bar rag over a non-existent spot. “You ready for another beer, on the house?”

“I’ll wait on the food, if you don’t mind. How’s the bartending business?”

Roger shrugged. “Pays the bills. Going to school at the U. Eye candy is pretty good in this job, or was…” He looked around then added, “This whole protest BS is killing us. And the girls that come in now are…” he shuddered. “Boss doesn’t like it, but I’ve been carrying for almost a year now. We’ve been lucky so far, but I told him I’ll be damned if I’m gonna let some idiot come in and trash the place or hurt our customers. Thankfully, they’ve stayed mostly on Sixth Street.”

Mac nodded. “If it comes to that, just don’t do a Jake Gardner.”

“Oh hell no. I knew people that knew him in the Corps. Still questions about that whole deal. He was innocent, plain and simple. Lot of his friends are still pissed.” A pretty little waitress came out carrying a tray. “That goes over here, Mindy, thanks!”

She smiled and slid it in front of Mac. “Enjoy your meal, sir.”

Mac sighed. “Sir?” Then smiled at her. “Thanks, Mindy.” She pranced off, both the men enjoying the view. Mac finished his BBQ and the free beer, then headed back to his apartment well away from campus.

Logging onto his computer, he debated working on his Ph.D thesis, decided against it, and started cruising the internet, checking his usual sites. He dipped into some of the backchannel mil sites. I’ve been out for almost three years and still want to know what is going on. I guess once intel always intel… One of the sites had a post from FoG about taking back the cities. He read it, cocking his head. That’s…somebody that…sounds familiar. He/she/it is talking about basic vigilante justice. But…considering the number of DAs and police chiefs that have abrogated their responsibilities. Doing things on the down low, sneaky Pete style.

Then he remembered seeing a Stingray set up behind Sixth Street. Getting up, he went to his closet and drug out a trunk he’d buried in the back. Digging through it, he pulled out an 800Mhz packet radio and rubber duck antenna. Inserting the battery, he thought. I wonder…dammit, battery’s dead. Charger, what did I, ah ha! He plugged the charger in stuck the battery in it, and went back to surfing the net. He found a number of camera locations, printed out a map of the entertainment district, and started marking them on the map. Flipping over to the late news, he saw that there was yet another ‘protest’ in the entertainment district that was just heating up, and he decided to pay them a visit.

Mapping his way in and out to avoid cameras, he got within line of sight of the Stingray unit, turned his laptop on, and connected the packet radio to it. He did a search and found what he figured was the unit. Now to see if the back door is still open… He pinged it via the packet radio and got an answering ping. Biting his tongue, he entered an alphanumeric string and a command and sent it. The screen popped up and he thought, Yes! That time with the agency in the ‘Stans pays off once again! He sent the dump command and sat back, knowing it would take at least fifteen minutes to get whatever was on the unit. He sat back and watched through the windshield as people walked by the parking lot, keeping his eye out for anyone weaving through the cars or busting windows. A ding told him the download was complete and he quickly logged out, turned the radio off, and disconnected it, sliding everything back into his backpack.

***

Sunday night, a tired and scruffy Mac leaned back in his chair, stretched and felt his back pop. Gah, this is worse than…hell, ain’t nobody shooting at me, so it’s not that bad. He shut the computer off, took a shower, and threw the weekend’s dirty dishes in the dishwasher. Food. I need food. Pappadeaux for seafood. That works! He pulled into the parking lot a half hour before they closed and grabbed a seat at the corner of the bar where he could see the door. He ordered quickly, and sipped a beer as he waited for the seafood to come out. Conversations swirled around him, and he caught bits and pieces of the conversations. They seemed to center around the riots in various cities and the lack of response to them. There was an underlying sense of frustration and anger that caused the hairs on the back of his neck to stand up.

As he was waiting on the bill, he looked up at the TV showing the local news. The talking head was saying that one girl was blinded by lasers and another that had been beaten with a baseball bat had just died. Mac had to work to keep the monster down as he started seeing red. The waitress delivered his bill and backed away fearfully, “Are you okay, sir?”

Mac pointed to the TV. “Just saw that the…protesters blinded one girl and killed another down on Sixth Street. I’m…sorry. Not mad at you, just that this…crap is being allowed.”

He saw tears in her eyes as she said tumultuously, “That’s why I’m afraid to go out at night, and my brother picks me up from here. I’m…probably going to quit. I’m…scared!” He handed her enough for the bill and a nice tip, patted her on the shoulder and walked out the door before he said anything else.

By Thursday, he’d had enough of classes and being cooped up in the apartment and decided to go back to Stubbs. He made sure he had his LTC in his billfold, along with his driver’s license and retired ID, then loaded his 1911 and slipped it in his holster, then clipped a double mag carrier on his left side. This is…so much bullshit. He shook his head, but picked up his sawed off Mossberg and walked quickly to his truck, holding the shotgun under his coat. Once he got in, he slipped it under the seat, making sure it was readily available.

Twenty minutes later, he parked on the street in front of Stubbs. Looking carefully around, he slid out and walked quickly into the bar. Sitting at the bar, he waited for service for a few minutes, and finally caught a waitress’ eye. “No bartender tonight?”

She glanced around. “Um, Roger’ll be right here. I can’t serve you, but I’ll go get him.”

“Thanks.” He pulled a menu over, wondering why he even bothered looking, since he always got the brisket plate. Roger finally walked out of the back and around the bar like a zombie. He looked up and Mac saw that his eyes were red. “You okay, Man?”

Roger coughed, rubbed his eyes, and looked up at the ceiling, letting out a long breath. “No, I’m not, but there ain’t shit I can do.” He pulled a Shiner out of the cooler, slid a coaster over and set the beer on it. “You remember Mandy?”

Mac stopped with the beer halfway to his mouth. “Yeah?”

“She’s…she’s been fucking blinded. And her friend, Lissa, was killed Friday night. The other girl with them ran, so she gets to live.”

Mac took a sip of the beer just to do something while he thought about what to say. “They were at the protest?”

Roger shook his head violently. “No! They went down there to meet some friends at the Mexican restaurant and have dinner and…they were fucking leaving! They weren’t involved at all! Those—”

Mac interrupted, “They get anybody for it?”

Roger spit behind the bar. “Hell no. Black helmet, black jacket, black fucking jeans, black fucking mask. That’s…a hundred or so of them.” He threw out his arms. “Pick one, any one. Of course APD ain’t doin’ shit as usual. They are investigating.”

“How was Mindy blinded,” Mac asked calmly.

“She said…I went and saw her yesterday, she said some dude came up and started harassing them about wanting them to say some shit, and when they wouldn’t some other dude stuck a laser in her face and shined it in her eyes before she could get her hands up. She felt Lissa, or at least she thought it was Lissa pulling on her to try to get her away, and she heard a crack, and the next thing she knew, she was on the ground.” He shook his head and said quietly, “She doesn’t know Lissa is dead. I…couldn’t tell her.” Tears rolled down his face.

Mac said quietly, “Time to put an end to this shit.”

“What?”

“Nothing, I was…mumbling to myself.”

“You want your usual? Sliced brisket plate?”

“Sure.”

***

Friday morning, Mac went in early and spent the time locating Professor Hue’s office, noting the stickers and various paraphernalia covering his door. He checked the doors on either side and across the hall and found two others with the same Antifa sentiments, Professors Long and Foster. Noting their names, he headed off to class.

His meeting with Professor Engle over his proposed dissertation in the fall had been rather heated, with the professor saying it was too complicated and he’d never get it completed, and Mac saying he knew he could complete it within a year. They finally agreed on a smaller study and the agreed title was ‘The Phonolic Inventory of Arabic compared with Najdi Arabic and Bareqi Arabic and the Rule Set for Sound Interactions.’ He was finally admitted to the professor’s office and said, “Morning, Doc.”

Engle leaned back in his swivel chair, crossing his arms over his chest. “What’s the problem today, Mr. McCampbell?”

Mac laughed. “No problems, Doc.” He pulled out a CD, and almost bound five hundred pages. Plopping them on the desk he said, “Here’s my thesis. Done. Finished.”

Engle goggled up at him. “Finished?” He squawked. “How can you possibly be finished? You’ve only…” He reached across the desk and picked it up with some difficulty, then looked up.

“I’m sure y’all will find some things that I need to fix or clarify, but I wanted to give you plenty of time for that. I’m planning on being gone by December. Is there anything else, Sir? I do need to go to class.”

“Uh…um…no.”

Mac spent the next hour of the class on Middle Eastern history reviewing the take from Stingray and plotting the phones on Google maps. Interesting…three…controllers in a single location, two blocks back at the edge of the district, four lookouts scattered two blocks further out on the main streets…warning for cops? Probably. And one, no, two moving up and down sixth. Those must be the front managers. I need to see if the data from last Friday night is still on the system. Once an intel geek, always an intel geek. He closed the file when the professor started talking about the upcoming test and quickly took notes on that.

Eight hours later, he sat in the same parking lot, cursing as he pulled the take from the Stingray and saw that it only had two days’ worth of data. He headed back to campus, parked at the library, and used their connectivity to connect to the dark web. Six of the phone numbers came up as probable burner phones, but surprise of surprises, two of the co-located phones were listed to Long and Foster. Now who’s the third with the burner phone? Since he was already connected he checked some of the mil sites, and saw another message in one of the groups from FoG about intercepts of plans for massive protests on the first of April. Who the hell is that. I…know that style! Agency or ODA? Or…Nah…he wouldn’t be that stupid, or would he?

He backtracked the IP address and sent a plain text- GHOSTRIDER REQ U COME UP RED. He quickly logged off and went back to his apartment, looked in the fridge and settled for a tuna fish sandwich on the two heels of bread he had left. He drank the last beer in the fridge with it and vowed to go to the store tomorrow.