The day the earth got dark

Aug. 22nd, 2017 07:27 am
garyomaha: (Default)
[personal profile] garyomaha
I have been interested in astronomy for as far back as I can remember. While I have a general, vague interest in All Things Science, astronomy is my science of choice. I took some elective astronomy courses in college, including one lecture taught by Dr. James Van Allen, the discoverer of the Van Allen Belts of radiation. Flash forward to our snatching up tickets to see Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson's lecture in Omaha a few months ago. Sorry to be such a name-dropper.

As I like to point out in many things in life, I may seem like a geek in many subjects to friends who are less interested in said subjects, but when immersed in a group (gaggle?) of geeks, I feel relatively "normal" in that I do not geek out as much as some others do. I rarely know a small percentage of the facts and figures involved. I am not often spotted in the wild ("There's one!") as an example of whatever it is my geek group in question is interested in.

The total solar eclipse is a good example.

Not far from Omaha -- but not *in* Omaha -- was the line of totality, where the moon totally eclipsed the sun. It traveled in the US from coast to coast this time. Months ago, M and I decided to go see totality. We have seen other eclipses -- solar and lunar -- but never a total solar eclipse, so there was our incentive. We had heard observing it would be life-changing.

M was in charge of the expedition. I was along for the ride. There were thunderstorms when we arose and clouds throughout the morning, but the clouds parted for the eclipse. M found a good place to watch (along with a few dozen total strangers) and we enjoyed the celestial show. Crickets got noisy (as they do at twilight) and birds became a little uncertain of what was going on. We wondered what our dogs were thinking back home. "They're sleeping" we said in unison.

While we were sort of out in the middle of nowhere to be in the path of totality, we listened to some folks talk about facts and figures that we just shrugged about. These were the super-geeks. I respect them -- remember my belief that each person's interests are just as valid as the next person's. Well, these guys were REALLY into the show. We were, too, but at a less intense level.

I must say that the 2 minutes or so of totality were worth the drive. Many Omaha friends told me they would be watching the almost-total-but-still-partial eclipse from home. I watched much of the eclipse before and after totality -- it was nice but I've done that before. But the amazing view of the sun's corona during totality was the cherry on top for me.

Life-changing? No, not for me. But well worth the time and experience.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Pacific fleet?

Aug. 20th, 2017 10:03 pm
dalesql: (Clowns heights fears)
[personal profile] dalesql
Just heard on the news that another US Pacific Fleet ship has suffered a collision at sea with an oil tanker. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?!?!?!?!!? You had one just a couple months ago. Where was the bridge crew and CIC crew? Their first job is to keep track of every other ship, submarine and aircraft in the vicinity!


I wonder if this is a result of the ongoing reduction in ship crew sizes. If there are fewer crew to stand the watches, problems with information overload, and exhaustion should now be front and fscking center on the investigation, and not at all limited to just this one single ship. But I fear that it will be confined to just the ship and crew. To avoid bringing into question the wisdom and selfpercieved infallibility of high ranking admirals and their ongoing policy of reducing ship crew sizes.

Kumas Gets His Fishes

Aug. 20th, 2017 10:48 pm
travelswithkuma: (Fish!)
[personal profile] travelswithkuma
Girls and Boys tooks Bears to anothers Museums todays.

Kuma in Costume

Bears does not knows whys theys keeps tellings Bears to wears funnys hats. But Boys tolds Bears to be goods and Boys woulds feeds Bears all the fishes Bears could eats, so Kumas kepts quiets.

Tonights, ats a big places with lots of fishes, Girls gaves Bears lots of differents fishes to eats. Bears is happys.

Girls tolds Bears wes is goings homes tomorrows. Bears is readys to goes homes and sleeps for a whiles.
kevin_standlee: (Kevin and Lisa)
[personal profile] kevin_standlee
This was our final full day here in Iceland, and essentially the final day of the "vacation" part of the trip, as the remaining days are travel to get home, with two stopovers scheduled. Knowing our limitations, we scheduled nothing today, set no alarm, and stuck to Reykjavik.

Althing Gardens )

We were unable to find in any of the stores any rain jackets that were (a) our size, (b) our desired color and style, and (c) not Made in China. In fact, we only managed to get (a) and (b) to match once. There were way too many things with DESIGNED IN ICELAND in big type and "made in China" either hidden in small type or left off entirely, where you had to ask the staff, who would admit that despite the way the stores' signage suggested, the goods weren't really made in Iceland, or even within the EU economic zone. Annoying. It looks like we may have to go back up to Salem, Oregon, and have some coats custom-made from a place we know there.

We did, however, find a pair of work gloves that was not Chinese made and will come in handy moving wood when we get home. Nearly all heavy work gloves I can find in Fernley and environs are all Chinese.

More about Parliament Square )

We walked back to the hotel and had a "picnic lunch" in the room, eating up the last of our supplies purchased over the past few days. I was also a Very Bad Diabetic. Just across the street outside our hotel window there has been a Waffle Wagon every day. Today I broke down, went over there, and bought a chocolate-and-cream covered waffle, which I enjoyed over a coffee back in the room. (The hotel won't let you eat outside food in their common room.) It was excellent. I'm rather glad I won't get another chance to have another one now. Mind you, with over 33,000 steps walked in the past two days, I'd like to think I've earned a few indulgences.

Last Dinner )

After that big dinner, and especially the desserts, we took one last long walk around The Pond, and then up the hill to our hotel. We took a different route this time, which took us by the British Embassy (housed in the same building as the German Embassy), then past a cafe located in what a streetside plaque said was once called "Red Square" because the coffee-house was a center of Communist organization in past days. For what I expect is the final time, we climbed up to the top of the hill and returned to the hotel.

It has been an interesting four days here. We've booked our reservation for the prepaid return bus transfer to Keflavik Airport tomorrow at Noon, which will get us there a little earlier than strictly necessary, but we want extra time. Our return ticket is KEF-MSP on IcelandAir Saga class, then MSP-SEA on Alaska Airlines first class, all using Alaska Airlines miles. The first leg leaves KEF at 16:45. I checked with IcelandAir, and there's a direct KEF-SEA flight at 17:45 that has plenty of room in Saga class. However, over the phone, IcelandAir won't change the ticket because it was issued by Alaska. The Alaska agent with whom I spoke said they can't change the ticket either, despite the availability, due to the limitations on how many IcelandAir seats Alaska can sell. They both said that my only hope is to show up at the airport and see if the folks at check-in can see some sense and book us directly to Seattle, saving a great deal of hassle and transfer at MSP. Fingers crossed that is works.

There's a pretty good chance that I won't be online here again until we get to Seattle on Monday night, after a very long day in the air no matter how you slice it. Knowing that we could only get Saga class one direction, we deliberately scheduled it for the return trip. At this point in the trip, I really hope I am able to get some sleep on this portion of the trip, albeit not so much sleep that I'm ruined for returning to Pacific Time.

So long, Iceland. It's been fun. I don't know if I'll ever get to come here again, but I'm glad we came. I think I can see now why certain persons were trying to goad some of us into bidding to hold a NASFiC here.
solarbird: (widow)
[personal profile] solarbird

[I can't believe I'm saying "Canon in the 'It is not easy to explain, she said'" Overwatch AU, but, well, this is the fourth story in this set, so, I guess it's an actual second AU now. AO3 link.]

[It is helpful to know that Widowmaker (in canon, and here) has a tattoo on her arm which incorporates the French word for "nightmare."]


It is not easy to imagine, thought the Widowmaker, propped up a little on pillows but between her two lovers, Lena, Tracer, sprawled along her right side, hands and arms jumbled about everywhere, like always, and Emily, Kestrel, on her left, arranged so neatly, even in sleep, even halfway through the night, even after turning over a few times, always tucked back in like the little hawk, her namesake in battle. Not even when it is real and in front of me.

She took one of her long, slow, deep breaths, and felt her heart beating, even more slowly than usual, so calm, so quiet, so at rest.

Were Gérard and Amélie like this? she wondered. It seemed impossible. Not just because that was only two, and this was three, and therefore obviously so much better, and not just because they were human, baseline human, with childhoods, and growing up, and stumbling about blindly until they figured how to make a life - though that last part, she finally understood, at least, a little - but because this, this perfection, it, too, seemed so impossible, so to conceive of it happening twice? Ludicrous. Foolish girl, she smiled to herself, it could not have been so... this.

It had taken some time to come up with a bed that the three of them could share. Widowmaker's low body temperature meant she needed similarly lower temperatures for real comfort, particularly in sleep, and both her lovers were so very warm. It'd been Angela's idea, a mattress made of medical thermal control columns, temperature regulated, sensing who lay where, and adjusting, automatically.

The doctor had got a paper out of it - modified to discuss burn victims and others with particularly sensitive skin - and had done fairly well from the patent rights. But Widowmaker didn't care about that. Widowmaker cared that she could sleep with her lovers whenever she wanted to, and whenever they wanted her to, and it would just work.

She breathed in the scent of her brown-haired love, the teleporter, nuzzling down a little into that silly, tossed hair. Unimaginably wonderful. She shifted just a little, carefully, and did the same of her red-haired love, the flying officer, and the scent was so very different and yet so much the same. So wonderful.

And softly, so softly, her breath caught, and water pooled in her eyes, and she sniffed, not wanting to, but she still did, and she tried to stop herself, to stop the tears, but that just made her laugh, just a little, and trying to stop that, too, made more of all it it happen.

Emily awoke, blinking, but lay still except to look up towards the sniffling. "Sweet? What... are you crying?"

"No," whispered Widowmaker. "Yes."

"Oh, love, what's wrong?"

"Nothing. Go back to sleep." She laughed a little more, shaking again, and from Lena came a little "mmf?" and she blinked those big brown eyes that Widowmaker could see so clearly even in the low light.

"You too. Go back to sleep."

"Wuzzit?" said Lena, awake enough now to attempt words, but still, at least half asleep.

"But what's wrong?"

"Nothing," sniffed Widowmaker. "Nothing. Nothing." She leaned over and kissed the half-asleep Lena on top of her head. "Everything is wonderful," and then did the same for Emily.

"Why're you crying?" asked Lena.

"I am... so happy," said the blue assassin, half-sobbing, smiling, confused, but not caring. "I..."

She stopped, and her eyes opened wide.

"I found it," she whispered.

"What?" asked Emily, reaching up to run her fingers through Widowmaker's hair.

"Yeah, love - what?" asked Lena, reaching up to do the same from the other side. Her hand met Emily's, and she smiled, as their fingers intertwined.

"Perfection." She brought her two lovers tightly against her, laughing, crying, all at the same time, the emotions, they are too much she thought, gasping, but that is also perfect. "This perfection."

Lena blinked. "You mean... like before? At the beginning, when you were made? But... here, now? ... with us?"

Widowmaker nodded, not being able to put it into better words. "Everything is so beautiful."

"Oh my god."

Emily chuckled. "You're beautiful too, you know that, right?"

"Love, no, she means it. Losing this is why she left Talon."

"Yes," whispered the spider.

Oh. Emily hadn't been there when the assassin had told the story, but she remembered it, and how it affected Lena. "And now you've got it back?" she asked.

"Yes," nodded the Widowmaker. "It is... different. But better." She sniffled. "Everything is so beautiful."

"Is any part of this bad?" asked Emily, a little worried, a little unsure, a little amazed. The assassin's body always carried tension, tension she could feel in her muscles, feel almost in her skin. And she did not feel it. It was... gone.

"No," breathed the Widowmaker. "Oh no, oh, oh no. It is wonderful. I am so happy."

"You sure?" asked Lena.

"Yes."

"Completely sure?" asked Emily.

"Yes."

"Good," said Lena, as the three snuggled back in together, and the three of them slowly drifted back to sleep.

What would my makers think of me now? wondered the spider, as she slid back towards her dreams, laughing, to herself, just a little. And then when she did sleep, she slept smiling, finding her dreams new, and happy, and not unlike her life now, found, new, and happy.

She would need to change her tattoo. No more nightmares. None. At least, not, for now.

New time hole

Aug. 20th, 2017 07:52 am
garyomaha: (Default)
[personal profile] garyomaha
I do not have a lot of addictions. I tend to try what it is I'm going to try for a limited time, tire of it, and move on.

That said, back when the Internet was new, before I got too involved, I just *knew* in advance it would be my time downfall. And I was absolutely right. There was (and is) so much stuff on the Internet to read and learn and laugh about -- and my adult life has largely been built on learning new things and new viewpoints. So I knew that once I got onto the slippery slope of All The Wonderfulness that is on the Internet, I might never climb out.

Somehow, I've been able to step away. But over time, I've seen much of my leisure time go to looking things up online, to sharing thoughts with friends online, to zoning out or seriously researching online. It's also perfect for an introvert like me, where I can be by myself and yet with many others, all from he comfort of my computer.

I was getting this all under control. Due largely to all the negativity online over our national "leadership," I have actually been cutting back on my time online and drastically changed the order in which I start my morning (which HAS helped).

Then, In support of the excellent news-gathering organization, the New York Times, and definitely in protest of the Washington mess, M decided to purchase an online subscription. He doesn't go online nearly as much as I do and hardly ever reads the NYTimes, but he wanted to do something. I agreed with his policy but worried about how it might affect my time.

I was correct in my worrying. The breadth and scope of the NYTimes articles and the quality of the writing and editing draw me in, especially because I already have the tendency of Internet addiction. So, I've become aware that I'm spending more and more time reading the Times. The LONG articles (at least by the standard of article length in the Omaha newspaper) do not help at all. Plus, after viewing the documentary "Obit" a few months ago, I'm even reading more obituaries because the NYTimes does them so well.

And there goes more time. I guess in a good way.

Lookings for the Fishes

Aug. 19th, 2017 09:42 pm
travelswithkuma: (Fish Tremble)
[personal profile] travelswithkuma
Girls and Boys tooks Bears on a trips todays wheres they tolds Bears that there woulds be fishes.

Faxi Fish Ladder

Ats a bigs waterfalls, Girls showeds Bears a Fishes Ladders. Buts theres was noes fishes ins its!

Oh well, Boys dids shares somes of his fishes and chips with Bears at lunches.

Bears is gettings tireds. Whens does wes goes homes?
kevin_standlee: (Kevin and Lisa)
[personal profile] kevin_standlee
Today was our really big tourism day in Iceland: We booked a relatively comprehensive "Golden Circle" tour of some of the top scenic highlights of southwestern Iceland accessible in a single (long) day.

To the Geysir! )

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Shortly after 9 AM, our Extreme Iceland bus picked us up and our friendly driver headed out for a full long day of seeing the sights. This is probably just as well because today was Culture Day in Reykjavik and the city was very busy.

Geothermal Power Plant Tour )

After the power plant, we continued to our next stop, which involved a hike around a volcanic crater, followed by a preview of the larger waterfall we'd see after lunch.

Hiking the Crater )

Geysir was also our lunch stop, where Lisa and I got the lamb soup, which we like. (Some books complain that this is the main dish at too many places. We don't complain. It's filling and we've enjoyed every bowl of it that we've had so far.) From here it was on to the big waterfall.

Golden Falls )

After the falls, we made a short stop at the Efstidalur farm, where I indulged myself in one scoop of blueberry ice cream made from milk from the cows on the farm. From there, we continued for what turned out to be something of a research trip for the question raised by WSFS's action last week when we clarified that (in effect) Iceland is not part of North America for NASFiC purposes.

At the Rift Boundary )

Thingvellir was the final stop before we returned to Reykjavik. We were frankly a bit worn out by then, and were happy to get back to our hotel. With the city alive with Culture Day, we weren't inspired to go very far. We counted ourselves lucky to get a seat in Cafe Loki (just down the street from our hotel) and have another couple bowls of lamb soup before turning in for the evening.

This tour was excellent, but we're so tired that we're not at our best for this. That's the problem with putting our touring post-Worldcon; however, Lisa says, and she's right, that I'm hopelessly preoccupied during the days running up to Worldcon and I can't relax until the convention is over. Therefore, unless we schedule the trips this way, I'm impossible to deal with because I can't concentrate on what we're doing. Not concentrating when walking around steep cliffs and slippery rocks is not a good idea.

We have one more full day here in Iceland before we begin the trip home, which may prove to be a different adventure, and not necessarily a fun one.

Seth and Corn

Aug. 19th, 2017 08:02 am
garyomaha: (Default)
[personal profile] garyomaha
I occasionally reflect upon the fact that our class reunion committee, when meeting in advance of an upcoming class reunion, regularly reflected upon inviting a teacher or teachers of ours. For about five seconds. Then, according to eyewitnesses, they all laughed like that was the most ridiculous thing ever suggested and returned to discussing what sorts of beer should be available during the reunion.

I could not have disagreed more. Though I attended early reunions, I soon found them tedious for many reasons, including not having interesting programs (such as inviting teachers and getting the adult perspective on our class), and I have chosen not to attend more recent reunions. As I tell friends, I already regularly am in contact with those classmates I want to be in contact with.

As for inviting the teachers, we have few remaining teachers available to invite now, so that's a moot point. But when it was first suggested, I thought it was an excellent idea. Many of the most influential people in my life were teachers. I've had good teachers and bad ones, but they all tried. I've since come to realize that teaching is possibly the most important job there is.

Most of my favorite teachers were English teachers. I'm not sure why it was called "English" -- it was mostly grammar with a little literature tossed in. (I suspect other school districts than the one I attended better handled the descriptions, but maybe not.) For us, "English" was all about speaking and writing and spelling and grammar and diagramming sentences, with some reading thrown in. This was mostly up my alley.

Starting in junior high, all of my English teachers except for one were among my all-time favorite teachers. At the top of the favorites list was Seth H. I had known him years earlier and found him to be intelligent, warm, and funny. Especially funny. That helped him as a teacher. While some other classmates complained about a particular English teacher they had, I enjoyed two (two!) glorious years of Seth teaching English.

Meanwhile, my dad was a buddy of Seth's brother Leon Corning H., nicknamed "Corn." I heard occasional stories about Corn over the dinner table, but I did not know him at the time.

Seth died some time between when I graduated high school and when I returned to that area a few years later. Corn was still around, and as one of the coincidences of my life, he showed up as a volunteer where I worked in the 80s. We shared a few stories -- not nearly enough -- and I believe he died the same month my mother died so I wasn't present at his funeral, which still saddens me.

As an adult, I would have liked to know more about those two brothers.
kevin_standlee: (Kevin and Lisa)
[personal profile] kevin_standlee
Today was an unstructured day exploring Reykjavik. We had no idea what we would find.

Surprising Ourselves )

After our morning and early afternoon exploration, we got back on the bus. Joining us at that point were a German family heading back to the cruise ship we had seen earlier in the day. Lisa hit it off with them right away. We rode back to Hallgrímskirkja, bade the Germans bon voyage, and went back to the hotel for a break and a cup of tea for me and hot chocolate for Lisa in the hotel common room before making another walk downtown to explore more.

To the Center of Reykjavik )

Thanks to that huge lunch, Lisa and I were still not terribly hungry come 21:00, so we once again picked up some sandwich stuff and cold drinks (alas for no refrigerator in which to keep them; everything has to be eaten when purchased) for another "picnic dinner" in the hotel room.

Tomorrow is our big excursion: our "Golden Circle" tour, one of the must-not-miss parts of a trip to Iceland, or so everyone says. Fortunately we don't have to be up at the crack of dawn, especially given how early dawn is here at 66° North.

Caucasian?

Aug. 18th, 2017 09:43 am
cogitationitis: Clip art from Arts & Letters (Default)
[personal profile] cogitationitis
So last night I was at an Arisia Town Hall discussion on increasing diversity. On of the things Arisia is doing this year is creating a "PoC Lounge" where People of Color can go and hang out with other PoC, connect, and maybe vent. (This is, IMO, a good thing, if we can afford it.) At the end of the town hall, I turned to the friend I was sitting next to, an Orthodox Jew, and asked him, "So, are we white?" It seems to be a question Jews all over are asking themselves. "After all," I said, "our ancestors are, literally, from the Caucus Mountains."

He thought a minute, and then said, "It depends." He felt it would be wrong to use the PoC Lounge at a con because there are so many Jews in fandom that we don't need a 'safe space.' But he'd been other places where Jews were a minority, a rarity, an exception, and there, having some place like this, where he would have been supported, would have been a benefit. I agreed.

And this morning, it occurred to me, this is what the Jews in Germany in the mid-30's must have felt. They had fully integrated into society; they thought of themselves as Germans first. Many weren't fully Jewish, weren't practicing, maybe only had a Jewish grandparent. And this is the modern world, they told themselves; surely nobody would take this fascist rhetoric seriously, it doesn't stand up to facts.

After the election, a friend (who is not Jewish) said, "You must be scared." I just shrugged. Honestly, I've never been not scared. In some ways, the enemy you can see is better than the one you can't, even when you know they're there.
garyomaha: (Default)
[personal profile] garyomaha
A good friend of mine and I have long held that the best songs to hear are the ones you've not heard in a long, long time. It sparks some deep neurons somewhere and often brings back memories of a time long ago. Amazingly, you remember lyrics you've not heard for years or decades. You recall that key change or special drumbeat.

It's times like that when I am in awe of what the brain can do. HOW (or WHY) does the brain hold onto this bit of musical flotsam in limbo and then all of a sudden spit it out for your total pleasure?

In the past week, I have heard a pop song that I haven't heard in a while, a song from the Great American Songbook that then was stuck in my head all day, and a classical piece that I probably first heard on a cartoon but learned to love in a concert hall.

There's been a great debate for years over whether radio stations (terrestrial and satellite) should play many (or any) "long-lost" songs. You know where I stand. No, not wall-to-wall, but an occasional "oh, wow!" song, just like any surprise in life, embellishes one's entire experience.
kevin_standlee: (Kevin and Lisa)
[personal profile] kevin_standlee
We had an 8:45 AM flight out of Helsinki this morning, so after much too little sleep we lurched out of bed, completed our packing, checked out of the hotel, and got a train to the airport. We are very grateful to the extremely frequent airport trains, because we missed the first one we planned to catch, but there was another one coming along in just a few minutes, so it did not matter.

We're in Saga class for this trip (hooray for Alaska miles), so we had access to the lounge and therefore didn't have to buy breakfast. OTOH, my unfamiliarity with the airport cost us €5 because we didn't realize where to go to cash in the one tax-rebate purchase we made, and by the time we realized that the refund place was as the other end of the terminal, it was too late because the flight to Reykjavik was already boarding.

The flight itself was routine and comfortable, with complementary noise-canceling headsets (I forgot to bring mine, which was annoying on the trip out) and another breakfast. To save some standing in like at KEF, I pre-bought the FlyBus airport-to-city transfer tickets. By the time we got to baggage claim, our bags were waiting for us, and we walked outside and found the FlyBus. We got the front two seats for the 50 km drive to Reykjavik. At the bus terminal, we had to get out and wait for a mini-bus to collect us and take us to the stop near our hotel.

Easy to Find Landmark )

If you cannot handle stairs, never stay at this hotel. You need to negotiate stairs simply to get into the front lobby from street level, and there are no lifts. Normally for us this wouldn't be a problem, but Lisa's knee has been troubling her during this trip. She can walk on flat ground okay, but stairs give her trouble. And we have a lot of luggage. (Fortunately, our room was only on the second floor (of four), so I only had to carry luggage up one flight of stairs.)

As we expected, we were vastly early, but the hotel staff were nice and let us store our (substantial) luggage behind the counter. Tea/coffee/cocoa are available at all hours in the lobby (and you can take it back to your room), so we sat and had some tea while we repacked our bags and made plans for today. After putting most of our stuff behind the hotel counter, we set off to explore and kill time until 2 PM when our room would be ready.

Tiny Room and High Prices )

This is something of a letdown after the ten nights in an Executive Floor room at the Holiday Inn Convention Centre in Helsinki. I do really wish that IHG had properties here. But we'll make the best of it.

We Have Been Warned )

We'd been warned about the high prices in Iceland, and high they are. We'll be here four nights and most of five days, and we'll need to keep costs down where we can. Tonight we decided to just buy some groceries and eat them in our hotel room. There's no refrigerator, more's the pity, but Lisa had a can of tinned fish left over from Germany, I got some salami, and we made sandwiches. They don't allow outside food in the downstairs breakfast area, and as I said, the rooms are tiny, but we made the best of it, watching a train video that Lisa had on her computer.

Tomorrow we hope to take things relatively easy and not overwhelm ourselves. Aren't vacations supposed to be restful?

hoo chapter 6

Aug. 17th, 2017 10:45 am
solarbird: (Default)
[personal profile] solarbird
Super-nervous about chapter six (just posted).

I always worry about tearing it, you know? In the showbiz sense. Breaking credibility, within a context, even if that context is pretty incredible (in the sense of not credible) to begin with, like Overwatch. And I kind of feel like I'm dancing up to that line with that chapter, with Venom as a character.

If people make it through Terrifying in Flight, I think chapter seven ("Is It Good Enough For You, Still?") will clarify some things. Angela thought, in chapter six, "that's a lie," and she was correct. But I can't put that in front of chapter six, I can't say, "trust me here," because, well, y'can't do that, it doesn't make sense.

Questions of identity float around in Old Soldiers, and this is part of that arc, and and and and.

Scary.
solarbird: (tracer)
[personal profile] solarbird

[AO3 link]

"Letting us take the first shot, then?" Gabriel Reyes asked Venom, eyeing the new intel sent along on sideband. "We got Sombra's location reports - thank you."

The Talon assassin nodded. "Yeh. I..." she frowned. "Gabe, luv, I'm gonna get this out there. I voted no. But I lost, so I'll go along."

"I appreciate that." Reyes gave Oxton a considering look. "You sure, though? The way you stormed out..."

The assassin nodded. "I've got my reasons, and I've made my promises - to Amélie - and I keep 'em." Just ask G/C Henderson, she thought, Oh wait, you can't, he's dead. The memory made her smile, just a little. Small but lasting comforts.

"Glad to hear it. Thank you," replied the tactical advisor. Promises to the Widowmaker? That'd do it. "We collectively - all of us at Overwatch, Tracer possibly excepted - want to bring him to justice, intact. Not just have him disappear again."

Lena "Venom" Oxton snorted, a little. "Might be right about Tracer. But for us - well, it's better than nothing."

Reyes breathed out. Good. "I'm putting together some plans, based upon your intel - and ours." He brought his right hand to his chin, thoughtfully. "I just wish we had a sniper. Closest we've got is Mei, and she's good with that ice pistol of hers, but it's not the same thing."

Venom thought about the problem, and a solution. Would Amélie be okay with it? Yes, she thought so. With the right conditions attached. Maybe even... proud. Let's float it. "You might. Have a sniper, I mean."

Gabriel tilted his head and stared into the screen. "...Amélie's suddenly willing to work with me?"

"No," Venom said. "But I am."

"Since when are you a sniper?"

Another snort. "C'mon, mate, how long have I been with the world's best sniper? Like I've told Winston - she teaches me her tricks."

"I can't see how you have the patience for it. How good are you?"

"I'm good, mate. Not Amélie good, but... good. Very good."

Gabe looked dubiously at her, through the screen. "How very good?"

Venom thought about it. "I keep a list of better snipers than me, right? Amélie's on top, of course; Zhanna Orlov's below her, Shimada Hanzo a few steps down, all that."

She's good enough to keep that list? he thought. But aloud, he kept it to, "Sure."

"Everyone on that list keeps a list like it. Amélie's still on top, but theirs has a question mark, down... maybe below number ten? But on the list."

"And that's you?"

Venom smiled. "Can't confirm that, luv. But."

"You willing to demonstrate that at the embassy?"

"Maybe. There's conditions." She looked thoughtful, glancing down to the side. "I have to check with Amélie. She might veto this."

"Why?"

"Reasons."

Gabriel nodded. Talon secret tech, or something like it. Fair enough. "Let me know. It sure would be nice to have a sniper available."

"Aye aye."

-----

Two days later, Tracer appeared on the balcony outside Winston's office, in the usual tangerine and white. She waved towards the glass door, and Winston started to let her in, then stopped, blinked, and stepped back.

"Honest, luv, it's me," came her voice through the door speaker. "Horizon Angle Delta Vector Seventeen Nine Seven Nine Banana Clown."

"Pictograph?"

"Waves."

The gorilla opened the door, still wary, and Lena Oxton stepped inside out of the sunlight. In the office, she looked less blue around the edges, thanks to the warm lighting overhead, but the tint was still there, and her goggles had a fleet of extra red eyes, in mobile plates, along the sides and top. "I wanted to arrive dressed as Tracer, so's nobody'd notice, but..." She pressed buttons on her grapple, now equipped with familiar and frightening extras, and her suit changed to black and green. "Mockingbird reporting for sniper duty."

"Lena, what did you do?!"

She smiled in a broad way, most unlike her spider, and most like herself. It helped, a little. "Nothin' permanent. I swear. This is just what I look like when I'm a sniper."

Gabriel and Angela came up the stairs to the ambassador's office, and froze in their tracks at Winston and Lena. Angela shrieked a little, and Gabriel shuddered. "That... that is... deeply disturbing. Lena, are you still you?" asked the doctor.

Gold-tinted eyes - regular brown still visible underneath, if you looked closely - darted to Dr. Ziegler. "Guess I shoulda warned ya, huh? Yeh, it's still me in here." Her voice was the slightest bit slower and lower than usual, but clearly still hers.

"What have you done to yourself?!" Angela leaned forward, and Mockingbird stepped fluidly back, with an ah-ah-ah finger motion. "Sorry, doc, no scans. That's the rule if I'm gonna be here like this."

"I wasn't going to. Is it, is it..."

"Permanent? Nah. Nothin' to it, really. Some drugs, some other tricks."

That's a lie, thought the doctor. "Why?!"

"All the sniper traits. Night distance vision. Stability, in motion. Patience - well, for me, anyway. Stillness, too - I can stop my heart for three minutes in this mode and be just fine. But I keep my twitch reflex, and the energy I store up is barmy! I won't need to eat for four days. Which is good," she joked, "'cause don't ask me to read a menu in the dark right now."

Gabriel shook his head back and forth. "Your whole organisation is not right in the brain."

Mockingbird laughed, a very Tracer-like laugh, and that, too, helped. "When we're on the range, I'm gonna be even scarier. I'll ramp down my emotions s'more and turn the spider all the way up." She brought up her vizor's extensions, and her goggles' primary field went dark red.

Winston reached out to her, without words, and she took his hand. "Or maybe I won't." She reset the vizor to standard mode. "Didn't think you'd be this fruck out, big guy. It's okay, honest."

"You weren't here when Amélie killed Gérard, you don't..." He felt her hand. "You're cool to the touch," he said, quietly.

"Not that cool. Just enough to avoid bein' picked up on infrared. Won't fool the best models, but it helps."

"Please say you aren't turning into Amélie. I... I don't want you turning into Amélie."

Mockingbird snickered, saying, "Well, they do say married couples start to look alike," and activated the vizor again.

"Lena, no! Be serious! I don't want to lose you."

She smiled, waved the magnifiers away, and held her friend's hand against her face. "Aw, luv, no. I like who I am. This is fun, but not... as fun. It'll all go away later. But right now, you need a sniper." She lowered his hand, and patted his shoulder. "I can shed most of this in about an hour, if I really need to."

"That's all it takes?" asked the Swiss doctor.

"For me? Yeh, in an emergency. I can throw 'bout half of it off in under a minute, if I really gotta - but it hurts like the dickens."

Gabriel shook his head. Crazy people, Talon - all of 'em. "Where's your rifle?"

Mockingbird, it seemed, had Lena Oxton's famous half-grin, and she flashed it, and flipped her pistols. "Right here." She popped them together, they locked, and the barrel extended. From a pouch, she pulled out a surprisingly conventional-looking scope, which snapped right on top. "But: ground rules. One: no scans. Sorry, doc. Two: I'm not Tracer, I'm Mockingbird. Stick to it, I mean it. No "Lena," no "Tracer," not outside this office. Three: nobody, and I mean nobody, touches my tech but me. Anyone does, I walk away completely, and for good. No more Mockingbird, and" - she said this slowly, and clearly - "no. more. Tracer. either."

She waited a moment to make sure all that had sunk in. "These are the terms. Otherwise, I leave now, no harm done, and Tracer comes back tomorrow wondering if she missed anything. Agreed?"

"Le... Mockingbird, this cannot be good for you," said Angela. "I promise, just a circulatory..."

"No," the sniper said firmly. "None."

The doctor sighed. "You are not the only one here who experiments with her body in extreme ways. You are stressing it more than I think you know. I want to help."

"We do this before breakfast, luv. But, y'know, if you ever want to switch teams, you could do all the scans you..."

"I don't think so," the doctor interrupted. "But how am I going to know how to treat you in the field, if necessary?"

Mockingbird tipped her head, and smiled. "I'll give you this." She held up a small memory card. "Complete treatment protocols for anything that has to happen faster than a Talon extraction team can reach me. You can have it once everything's settled."

"I insist that I be allowed to practice these protocols. At least the physicality of them. In battle," she did not really have to say, "it matters."

"Ah, yeah! As long as your nanos aren't taking samples, that's fine."

"And may I please, at least, examine you later? When this is over? To be sure you've handled this well? Your own doctors may want that data."

Mockingbird thought about it. The compassion was genuine, she was pretty sure, but so was the desperate curiosity to know how all this worked. There would be things for her to find, later, but little she wouldn't've had a chance to see before, and she'd be looking in all the wrong places... good enough, she decided. "They'll already have it, but - deal."

"Thank you." The doctor looked a little bit relieved, if still more than a little concerned. "I accept."

"Winston? How 'bout it?"

"Gabriel, are you willing to work under these conditions?"

The former Blackwatch head nodded. "I've worked under way worse than this. I'm good. Uh, I... accept the terms?"

"Oh, right," said the assassin, "This has to be for the whole organisation." She switched to Tracer colours, and said, "On behalf of Overwatch, I, Lena "Tracer" Oxton, agree to the terms of Mockingbird's service," before switching back. "Sounds like a bloody software license, don't it? That just leaves you, Winston. And Mei, but she's not here yet."

"I don't like it," said the gorilla. "But... deal. No scans, no handling, no anything."

Mockingbird smiled. "Brilliant!" She tossed Angela the memory card. "Have fun with that. The rest of us - let's go shoot some wings off mosquitoes!"

-----

"You know, as a sniper, I'll be going for the head shot," Mockingbird said over Overwatch comms, launching herself high into the air with her grapple. They'd started at the indoor range, but she got bored with 50 metre shooting and started coming up with creative ways to undo target clips with bullets, and the army's outdoor range was much more interesting. Still carried by momentum on the way up, she twisted left, and took the head off the first target dummy.

"We've been over this," responded Gabriel, watching as she took the head off a second target on the way down, before even landing on her cliffside perch. "We want him alive." He took notes that started with 'Terrifying in flight.'

"And we want him dead," she retorted. "I want him dead. Don't get me wrong, Gabe, I'm here, I'm goin' along with your plan, but alive's not the sniper's job." From that upper perch, she hit three for four on moving ground targets. Two headshots, one ricochet shot that missed, a follow-up direct shot leaving a grazed neck. That last one would walk away, with medical aid. "Damn."

'Never really stops moving,' the new Overwatch tactics expert added to his notes. 'Highly mobile.' "We just want the tactical visor gone."

She spun around from her nest and ticked a faceplate off the sixth target dummy. "And that's a headshot."

"Tracer, just..."

"Tracer's not here, luv."

"Mockingbird."

"Hiya!" She triggered reload, and launched herself to the second perch. He noted she wasn't jinking at all, no teleports, no rewinds, just running, moving with the grapple, and nothing else. Still all about movement, though.

Bang, target down. "No additional shots after the visor's gone." He could almost feel her dirty look from the ground. Bang, another ricochet shot, target missed.

She landed, swore, and took a second shot on the second target, moving within her section's perch point for a direct shot, taking the dummy down. "Not even to save another agent?" She ran a strafe pattern against moving dummies, bang, bang, bang. Four for three, including a domino shot. All perfect.

Jesus, she's good, Gabriel thought. Maybe not Amari good, those ricochet shots aren't working, but... Aloud, he said, "Except to save another agent."

"Short day for me, then." Another reload, and she launched herself into the air, diving to the final shooting perch. Gabriel surprised her with three airborne targets. Bang, down, bang, down, bang, bang, down. "Seems a shame if I have to get all gussied up." She landed and rolled to the third sighting point.

"A short day would be very, very good indeed."

Three fast targets, running along the ground, zagging, all with faceplates - the most human of them all. Three shots, three faceplates off, all targets down. "My way would be even shorter."

"Mockingbird. Please. I know what you are. Don't make it harder."

Lena Oxton breathed in, carefully. She wondered, occasionally, how long she could make this Talon-Overwatch joint arrangement last, and this was one of those times. It's for the best, she reminded herself. If, occasionally, a right pain in the arse. "Sorry, Gabe. I'm workin' so hard to remind everyone it's me in here, maybe I overdid it a bit. Is that it for the first round?"

"Yeah, that's the first set. What'd you think?"

"I liked the surprise skeet, that was fun! But I was sloppy. I can do better, if I drop the banter. And nothin' returned fire!"

"This is a target range, not a combat simulator, what'd you expect?"

"Might fix that."

"If we had the money. You're supposed to know that."

"Maybe Tracer's supposed to know that - I'm not."

Right, he thought. "Mockingbird, secure weapon, and return to start. We'll reset the range for another round."

"Gotcha!"

Disco deli

Aug. 17th, 2017 07:22 am
garyomaha: (Default)
[personal profile] garyomaha
Yesterday, a friend and I went to the local Jewish deli for lunch. The food, as usual, was good. The background music, however, was weird.

They were playing disco music. Long -- extremely long -- dance mixes of disco songs.

For me, a little of this can go a long way. But apparently someone who was running the joint yesterday decided that disco was the way to go. So, while we ordered, while we ate, and while we talked, there was this steady boom ba boom ba boom beat going in the background. Just the perfect mood setting music for lunch with a friend.

As we left, I commented on the music to my lunch companion, and she said she hadn't noticed. (!!!)

I'm wondering if one can be a "high listener" (similar to a "high taster") where I'm highly aware of music. That would explain a lot about my life experience and focus on music in general.

Shouldn't I be panicking about now?

Aug. 16th, 2017 11:21 pm
kshandra: The Burning Man effigy, lit in blue neon, arms by his sides; an orange half-moon is visible over his shoulder. (BurningMan)
[personal profile] kshandra
Had the lovely realization yesterday that, if someone were to call us and say "you need to pack up and bug out NOW," we could do it. There are a few more things left to pick up that will make things better, but we could absolutely get by on what's ready now.

I'm probably going to be waiting for the other shoe to drop until we're finally on Gate Road.

ah, I forgot

Aug. 16th, 2017 09:46 pm
solarbird: (widow)
[personal profile] solarbird
There is a kind of shot - a trick shot, really - called a domino shot. It's where you hit two targets with a single bullet.

I'd noticed in Annabots that I seemed to be getting some double-kills with single shots, and poking around, I'm under the impression that domino shots are actually a thing in-game.

I think I got one yesterday. Temple of Anubus, on offence, second point, I'm hanging out on my favourite perch, shooting onto the point, really kind of waiting for my team to get back out there as we'd captured part of the point but then got stomped.

I see some movement on the point, and I fire one shot in - Double kill.

I think maybe I got my first domino shot in quickplay.

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