Point and click

I guess this a move the raiders like.  Attacking right after a thunderstorm.  The travelers that you want to murder huddle up to get out of the rain and then you swoop down on them before they get back on their killer go-karts.  I’m no military expert but it seems like a solid move to me.  Although it didn’t work out so well for them this time so maybe not.  They should have listened to Jah Youth and gotten right at this time because there may not be no next time.   

There’s a stupid shot they always do in action movies or war movies where everyone is standing around dialoging and then suddenly someone’s head explodes to signal that the fight scene is beginning.  I hate it because it’s pandering.  Come up with some new shit directors.  

But what I’ve learned in my new life in hell is that is pretty much is how an ambush starts on when you’re the ambushee.  One minute your attention is locked on a disappointing spaceship and then you see a dude’s head explode Scanners style.  You’re just glad that it was someone else’s head and not yours.  That’s why I always stay in the middle of big groups.  The gazelles know what they’re doing.

The only thing that’s different is that in the movies after the head explosion there’s beat where all the main characters stand around emoting.  That doesn’t happen because that first shot is followed less than a beat later by all the others.  The ambushers are working together you see.  They set up a whole ambush together.  They’re not just as shocked as you are when the first guy snipes someone’s melon off their shoulders.  They’re on the move.

When everyone started getting shot I noticed something interesting.  The renegade plainspeople were not getting shot.  In fact they were taking out long knives (short swords?) and other killing tools and they were going to town on the water people.  I guess they’re not renegades so much as spies and double agents. 

I shot one of the non-renegades in the chest and then kicked him off the hovercraft with my foot.  S/He looked pretty surprised.  I wonder if not all of them were in on the scheme or if they just forgot that we have guns. 

I’m pretty sure on an episode of the Rifleman they said that the best thing to do in the case of an ambush is to go on the offensive.  Or maybe it was Mannix.  It could have been China Beach.  There’s an outside chance that it may have been Party of Five.  Or it could that Martialla told me that going on the offensive is the worst thing to do in case of an ambush, that when you get bushwhacked what you need to do is survive the first few moments as best you can with the goal of GTFO. 

It was one of those.

I jumped down out of the hovercraft into one of the non-renegade kill-buggies.  I don’t know who was more surprised by our collision, me or the person trying to slither into the driver’s seat.  Probably me since I don’t think dead people can be surprised.  My foot got tangled in whatever you call the upper structure of a buggy and I came down with my leg out like it was World Wide Wrestler and I was doing a legdrop.  The guy leaning in the side got it right across the back of the neck.  A neck breaking doesn’t make as much noise as foley artists would have you believe.  It’s more of a pop than a crack.

That’s a thing I know now. 

I was trying to roll and kick and get into the seat and get the dead guy out at the same time when the machine rocked backwards on account of Paul jumped on the back and macheted a guy that was just about to skewer me from behind with a pointed stick.  I won’t call it a spear because it was too short.  It was like a sharpened baton.  The guy was split from shoulder down to the hip like this was a Friday the 13th movie.  Paul’s machete was ripped out of his hand and he tumbled ass-backwards, getting caught up in whatever the back part of a buggy is and hanging horizontally.

I got to return the favor one second later but shooting a guy who came to hack him with what looked like a T-square.  I shot him until my pistol went click.  Martialla would be very disappointing in me for shooting myself dry.  Which sounds gross.

Unlike us townies these plains nomads don’t seem to be worried about theft because the buggy started up with just a kick pedal thing instead of complicated ignition sequence.  I hauled Paul up and we took off, swinging around to try and come at the attacker’s vehicles laterally. 

As we lurched and almost flipped I saw Paul struggling to get his machete out of the two-thirds of a person hanging in the buggy between us.

I gestured upwards frantically “The gun Paul, man the gun!”

I could barely hear him over the wind and the engine “I don’t know how!”

“Just point and pull the trigger!”  I heard a rattle and saw some dirt fly up ahead of us and I started waving frantically at the rapidly approaching enemy vehicles “Point Paul!  Point at the enemy damn it!”

Science fiction!

I don’t hate science fiction.  Don’t listen to Martialla when she tells you that I do.  Actually don’t listen to her at all.  I have no movie biases.    A good movie is a good movie.  Period.  Science fiction is a genre that doesn’t produce good films reliably.  As a genre sci-fi is under the gun because if you want to have other planets and aliens you need a lot of money to make it look good.  And sci-fi doesn’t warrant a lot of money.  It’s one of those catch-22s.  Sci-fi movies need money to be good but they don’t get money because they don’t have a track record of being good.

End (is that the catch 23?) result is a lot of sci-fi looks like crap.  Which is a problem for a genre that leaves heavily on cool visuals.  Sci-fi leans on looking cool over things like good actors or dialog or a story by its very nature.  There’s a high degree of difficulty and they rarely pull it off.   

I wouldn’t pretend a good sci-fi movie was bad because I don’t like sci-fi, but first you’d have to show me a good sci-fi movie first.  Star Wars?  Laughable.  Visually it’s not bad but the writing is intolerable.  No one talks like that.  Hero’s journey my sweet juicy ass.  Star Wars might not even count as sci-fi because I witnessed Martialla almost get into a fist fight once because she says that Star Wars is a “space opera”.  Whatever the hell that means.  I must have missed all the singing.  She needs to cool it.  One day her temper is going to get her into some hot water and I won’t be around to bail her out. 

Star Trek?  Give me a break.  Effects are childish, the production design is garbage, the acting is acknowledged even by superfans to be idiotic, the action is slow and awkward, and the stories vacillate wildly between incomprehensible, fantastically boring, and blindingly ham-fisted.  There’s a reason that show was cancelled.   

Bladerunner?  Awful.  The Matrix?  Some kind of leather fetish Devo music video.  ET?  Flying space potato.  2001?  Literally just a light show for drugged out hippies.  Alien?  I’ll give you that one, it’s a good movie/rape allegory.  But that is the exception that proves my point.  I don’t hate science fiction. 

What does this have to do with anything?  I’m getting there.   

In science fiction spaceships generally come in two types.  One is the space plane.  These are movies where they have WW2 dog-fights in space even though that’s stupid.  Take a cool fighter plane and makes it look “futurey” and you’re done. 

The second kind of ship is the giant flying slab of metal.   Doesn’t look like a vehicle at all, it looks more like a skyscraper turned sideways with some big round things on the end that glow or maybe shoot fire out of them.  Unsurprisingly neither of these turns out to be accurate.  And the reality is even stupider than you’d expect.   Which not surprising.  Reality is often disappointing.  That’s why we spend three times more money on entertainment than on education.

Once the storm cleared off and we un-transformed our way cool hovercraft back to travel mode I noticed that the heavy rain had washed away a big chunk of plains sludge in a long strip.  I think they call that an ephemeral river, which would be a good name for a movie.  It’s a comedy of manners story about how all’s fair in love and war between a food critic who hates seafood and a mermaid.   Actually that’s a better plot for Splash 3 starring myself and that bland dude from The Object of My Affection. I’ll think of another story for Ephemeral River.   

All the sediment being washed out of the gully (or whatever) revealed the flank and the nose of an actual spaceship.  It was very disappointing.  It looked almost entirely like the space shuttle Endeavour with the addition of a big yellow jackhammer looking thing on the front and some weird black discs on the wings and sides.  It looked like something my nephew would make with his Legos and then my sister would get mad at me because didn’t praise him enough for making it.  That’s probably why the world ended.  Over-praising kids.

We didn’t get too close to the disappointing spacecraft because there were dozens of electric blue eel-leech things on it longer than my leg.  They didn’t really seem dangerous, and they weren’t moving fast or anything, but they had a look to them – nobody wanted to get near those things.  Still we debated what there might be to loot from a spaceship that had been buried for who knows how long.  Martialla and Lucien in particular were interested in the yellow nose thingy – which did have the air of a weapon about it.   

“Does that make a lick of sense?” I asked attractively. “Planes flying around in atmosphere don’t shoot at each other directly, it’s all missiles right?  A spaceship would be going even faster?  What use would a gun be in a space fight?” 

Martialla gestured at nothing “A plane was just shooting at us the other day, that’s why we’re here.” 

“Yeah, but you know what I mean.  Back when planes weren’t MacGyver bamboo and a cement mixer for an engine.” 

Before Martialla could accede that I was right Paul of all people spoke up “I think that’s a thermal cannon.” 

All eyes swiveled to him and he gulped nervously.  I thought he might just shrivel away, like the “touch” of the human eye is to him like salt is to a slug. 

I narrowed my eyes at him “How would you know that?  You never know anything.” 

He looked down at his feet aggressively “I think . . . I remember . . . something about it  . . . my dad . . . talked about it.  Or maybe I saw it on television.  Or maybe it was a toy.” 

Before I could say something snarky Martialla asked him in a soothing tone “What’s a thermal cannon Paul?  Do you remember?” 

He looked at her with wet eyes and a moment and then whispered “Yes . . . superstring theory was rejected . . . but they learned . . . about electromagnetic fields under extreme conditions . . . you, you induce a balanced electromagnetic charge in a solid slug.  Then you launch the slug.  On impact the electromagnetic bonds is disrupted, unleashing a massive explosion.”  His voice changed, like he was reciting something, mimicking someone else “The rate of fire will be slower since each slug needs to be individually primed in the barrel, but the destructive power is formidable.” 

I scoffed “What the hell is superstring theory?  Sounds made up.” 

I looked to Lucien since he’s an engineer but he just shrugged.  Martialla had her arm around Paul consoling him like he had just come out of identifying this parent’s bodies after a rabid chimp attack instead of just saying four sentences in a row.   

I didn’t have time to learn more at that point though because that’s when the raiders attacked us. 

Autobots rock out!

I can now say without fear of contradiction that hovercraft is the only way to travel.  It’s a smooooth ride I tell you what.  And on top of that (literally) there’s a nice little canopy to keep the deadly radiation of the sun off my fair and nubile skin. 

There’s a bunch of other water chumps on normal scrap vehicles with us, and of course the raiders of the plains are on their kill-buggies, and I pity them I do.  Pity them from my positioning lounging on back of a hovercraft.  Now I understand why old timey bible ladies liked being carried around on giant couches.  Or was that Cleopatra who did that?  Was Cleo in the bible?  The only thing that could make traveling my hovercraft better for me is a pitcher of sweet tea, some whiskey, a crispy BLT, a shower, a shave, some chapstick, and some clean clothes. 

Martialla and Lucien being the way they are couldn’t just sit back and enjoy the ride.  They had to try and pick apart why this way cool hovercraft like this would even exist.  Martialla’s issue was that the energy involved to make something hover above the ground in this manner would make it utterly impractical from a fuel consumption perspective.  Lucien was focused more on how there would be no military application for a vehicle like this, although he did allow that maybe it would be possible to arm a hovercraft with “soft launch systems” which sounds like something you’d hear about in a commercial for boner pills.

This is why Martialla is always flying off the handle like a lunatic.  You just have to accept things as you find them.  You don’t have to analyze every little thing.   If you can’t enjoy a hovercraft ride what are you doing with your life?  I dated a guy who pretended to be Native America (not cool Hector) and whenever he wanted to sound like he knew what he was talking about he’d go “My people having saying” and then he’d say some crap from a fortune cookie.  One of these gems was “even the eagle knows when to sleep” which was supposed to mean take things as they come.  I think he got shot a couple years ago. 

In a strange reversal of fortune I found myself taking up the position Martialla usually takes with me, saying that we have no idea how technology progressed in the decades after we were frozen – they may have developed some kind of anti-gravity thing scientists in our time never even thought of, making hovercrafts not only super fun but cheap and easy to make and the most fuel efficient ever.  There’s no way for us to know. 

When asked the dumb water people didn’t even know what kind of fuel it runs on.  Which is a smart move on the part of the Water King I suppose, your lackeys can’t steal your hovercraft if they don’t know how to make it run on their own.  Poseidon probably has a second group of jerks that only know how to fuel it up and keep it running and a third group that doesn’t know anything except to murder either of the first two groups if they try anything funny. 

And check this shit out Jeepers, we’re hovering along and then out of nowhere a violent plains thunderstorm whips up.  Hail and thunder and rain and the whole bit.  And the damn thing transformed into a non-hovering shelter!  There was even room for all the non-hovercraft traveling chumps to crowd in there. 

A transforming hovercraft?  Come on!  Finally the future has come through with something cool.  I mean I guess the nanobots inside me and Martialla are pretty cool.  What with the regeneration and the super-strength and all.  Maybe the hovercraft runs on nano-fuel.  Even over the sounds of the pounding rain I could hear Martialla and Lucien sucking all the joy out of life.

“How would a hovertank even fire?” whined Martialla “the recoil would send it flying backwards with no firing base.”

“You’d have to build in some mechanism to counteract it with force in the other direction.”

“That would take even more fuel!” 

“You have to think of it less as a tank and more like a fast attack vehicle.  The main advantage of a hovering vehicle is the ability to move laterally while firing, which allows you to avoid return fire and attack while moving in and out of a hull down position.  I have to assume that maneuverability is the important part of a hovercraft not heavy munitions and armor.”

“Hull down?  I tried that with Antonio Sabato Junior once and I nearly broke my neck!” I said hilariously.  They both just stared at me. “Jesus, can we talk about something else please?”

Martialla snorted mannishly “Like what?  The creature comfort of the past that you’d kill someone for today?”

“Sure why not?  Today it’s a nice massage.”

O meu hovercraft está cheio de enguias

I saw this on twitter and it’s a good image for Martialla current day – I don’t know what copyright I’m in violation of, as always I apologize

I’m not a writer.  Actually that’s not true, since everyone else is dead instead I’m the best writer in the world.  This journal I’m writing will become classic literature in the future.  While I’m at it I suppose I should set about re-writing all the world’s great novels and claiming I’m the original author.   See you in hell Tolstoy!   

Anyway, I was not a writer in the world I came from is the point.  However, I know a thing or two about scriptwriting.  There are a lot of ways things that can go wrong in a script.  The stakes could be too low.  The conflict could be too easily resolved.  The characters could be subordinate to the themes they’re meant to embody which makes them flat and lifeless to the audience.  The characters could be poorly defined.  In particular character motivations are tricky.  The list of issues goes on and on.  It’s really kind of a miracle that anything good is ever written given the many pitfalls that can befall the screenwriter.   

One of the common problems with writing and the one that is my personal pet peeve is when there’s a story with bunch of characters so a writer will think “oh no, character number four hasn’t done anything in a while” so they’ll wedge in a stupid scene where that character solves a problem with whatever stupid hook the writers gave to try and make them memorable.  According to every movie ever made, every character has a special skill, and that skill will eventually save your life, regardless of how impossibly stupid it is.  The dumb kid that likes jazz will blow up the alien spaceship by playing their saxophone, or Jennifer Lopez will break open a bank vault with her ass. 

The second Lethal Weapon movie has a great example of this horrible instinct.  The first scene is Mad Max getting out of a straightjacket for the amusement of his co-workers, so you better believe that later in Lethal Weapon Two the bad guys are going to put Mad Max in a straitjacket and chuck him into the sea.  You know that classic way of killing someone. 

I was in a deleted scene for Lethal Weapon Two you know.  One of my only gigs a kid actor, I was the daughter of the “diplomatic immunity” guy.   But check this shit out, they’re currently developing Lethal Weapon Five where my character comes back for revenge, but they’re talking about giving the role to Charlize Theron, that emotionless coat-rack from the Keanu Reeves devil movie!   Can you believe that?  I’m available!

What does this have to do with anything?  If this was a movie this is where I would sneer in derision because they writers are trying too hard to make the Ela character seem useful.  She can’t fight like the other three or fix a car or fly a plane but she has girl social skills!  I mean it’s true, I do have girl social skills up the ying-yang, but the thing about movies is that realism is often not appreciated – people hate reality, it’s boring, that’s why they’re watching a movie.   

I used my talking powers to arrange for us to tag along with one of Aquaman’s water caravans which will get us in the general area of the car parts store.  And I befriended some renegade plainspeople to escort us the rest of the way there.  And I got the Jesus Lady people to send a couple folks with us to fill out our ranks a bit.  They’re religious fanatics so they should be useful if we get into a scrape.   

And that’s all fine and dandy but here’s the super sweet sixteen part.  We’re going to be traveling by water clan hovercraft.  A hovercraft!  And I mean a real one people, not the bullshit ones from my time.  We had things they call hovercrafts but they were just dumb boats, they “hovered” on the water the same way my feet “fly” on the ground.  But King Trident has an actual hovering machine that they use for his water runs.   

Lucien was confused by how excited Martialla and I were by the prospect of checking out the hovercraft. He thought it was technology from our time.  He was disappointed when we told him that there weren’t any real hovercrafts in the year 2000.   Like personally disappointed in us, like we should have invented it or something.

There’s a metal plate thing on the hovercraft that says “United Cattle Company” so at some point after the turn of the millennium but before the end of the world there were cowboys flying around on hovercrafts rounding up cattle.  I have to assume these space cowboys also had jetpacks and laser-lassos.  Now that’s a movie idea!   

Martialla had to ruin everything of course, saying that it looked like the desert skiffs from “Tattoo Nine” in Star Wars, which is a stupid name for a planet even by Star Wars standards.  To get her back I asked her if she was talking about the USS Enterprise.  She threatened to punch me in the boob but she said it with a smile.  Hovercraft! 

Martialla bombarded the crew with questions but it quickly became apparent that they had no idea how it actually works, they’ve just learned what buttons and levers they need to toggle and tweak to make it go.  I’m pretty sure there’s a name for that.  When the underlying technology has been lost but people still know how to use it day to day.  If the thing ever breaks down that will be it because no one understands the mechanics.

There has to be a lot of that going around these days. 

A thing can be true and still be desperate folly

I suggested to Lucien that instead of sitting around all day not doing a nothing maybe we should try to get our hands on some new wheels.  He gave me a funny look and said “What do you think Martialla and Paul are doing?”  Like I was supposed to know.  Nobody ever tells me anything.   And I’m the leader!

I asked Lucien if Martialla and Paul were looking through the stacks of junk for something we could fix up and drive on out of town.  What a foolish notion that was to suggest!  One does not simply sift through all the junk in junktown, that junk belongs to people!  People have major dibs on that junk.  They have a vested interest in that junk.  You get in a lot of trouble for molesting people’s junk without their permission.  It’s similar to that time they were going to hang Paul in Bosstown because he stole some mud.  Each gang (or whatever) controls part of the junkheap and they charge people for going into their junkzone to look for valuable junk.   

Since it would be stupid just to go in there and wander around and hope for the best, a whole subculture of middleperson junk guides have arisen.  The junk guides have already mapped out where all the sweet junk is that anyone would want.  And the good news is you can pay them to lead you to it, on top of paying the gang that controls the junk for access to it.  Also the path to that pile may be control by other gangs and you have to pay them too.  And probably you’re going to have to pay off some other people.  Junk fondling is serious business.   

Lucien and Paul and Martialla have been trading away all our stuff and working “odd jobs” (probably very odd) to piece together the right cardhouse of favors for us to get the right crap out in the craphole to get a working crap vehicle knocked together.  When I inquired why they hadn’t asked me to help with this project Lucien didn’t really answer.  The implication was that things would work better without me.  Why is everyone busting my hump lately? 

I decided that their plan was a stupid so I went to my Lady Jesus friends and asked them where I could get a bitching ride for cheap, preferably really cheap, like for free cheap.  They hooked me up with a person named Catcher who in return for Martialla’s battered copy of Watership Down told me that out in the plains there was a bitching car just waiting for someone to come along and give it a home.   

You see Catcher and his/her wives and husbands used to be junk merchants.  They had working metal detectors, which made them a pretty big deal in the realm of junkfinding, and they roamed the high prairie hither and yon looking for junk to bring to junk town to trade for other junk, as is the junk merchant’s way.  During one of these junkxpeditions they detected what they thought was going to be a big score.  They spent a week digging out an old auto parts store.  Which would indeed have been a hell of a find for them if the plains hunters of the shaggy land whales hadn’t taken exception to their digging up the land and murdered them up real good.   

Catcher managed to survive and flee while his various spouses were slaughtered.  Seems a little suspect to me that he made it out while everyone else died, but whatever.  Okay, that’s an auto parts bonanza but what about the car?  Catcher claims that a sleek old timey machine was down in that hole as well, and all it needs is to be dragged out and to have the engine converted and some new tires and it will be good as new.  Well no, it will be much worse than new, but it will run and be better than other stuff around. 

When Martialla and Paul got “home from work” I told them about the Catcher in the Rye and asked politely with all due respect that they consider if this might be a better option than their current course of action.  With all due respect.  After some measured and well-tempered discussion in which all parties were treated with respect and dignity it was collectively decided that my idea in fact might be a better way to go.  Assuming we could find Catcher’s hole and avoid being massacred by the furry raiders of the plains it would be much cheaper than trying to buy “new”.  Which is important because it sounds like we’re running out of shit to trade.  We may need to cool it with the nachos for a while.   

“Maybe we should do both.” I suggested attractively “Martialla and Paul keep working the system here and Lucien and I go on a hike to see if we can find this auto store and get the car working.  If we both succeed then we have two cars and we can race them.” 

Lucien and Martialla said that was a terrible idea.  Almost simultaneously they said it.  Setting aside the physical risks of splitting up, death and so forth, they said that dividing our already meager resources was the worst thing we could do.  It stung a little but I accepted their assessment with good grace as is my way.  Martialla said that we should commit everything to one idea and she thought that should be the mysterious hole out in the wilderness.   

After that declaration she started looking around our junk-apartment “Has anyone seen my book?  Hazel just got wounded on a raid to free some farm rabbits and I need to know what happens to her.”