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Monday, December 31, 2018

M³ Exceptional Zeus


            Having gone through many of the other Greek gods, we’ve come around to the idea that they’re pretty childish and static. They have petty squabbles and their punishments are often blown way out of proportion. So now we have to apply the same evaluation to Zeus. Is he childish and static?
            It would be easy to say that because he raped his mother and sister and that he’s such a hornball and pretty much raped everyone he ever slept with, yes, he’s childish. He’s got daddy issues and never learned how to have a proper relationship.
            Except!
            (Yeah, you just knew there would be an exception.)
            Except for forging alliances with the Cyclopes and Hundred Handed ones. Except for forgiving the gods after their attempted coup. Except for the order he brought to the word by siring so many of the other gods and spirits. Except for putting hope in the jar. Except for giving humanity the perfect woman. Except for siring so many of the Greek heroes. Except for quitting his adulterous affairs cold turkey after the birth of Hercules.
            That’s a lot of exceptions.
            When we put them all together, we come up with a bigger pattern to Zeus. Did he have sex and rape lots of women? Yes. Are we okay with that? As a modern culture, definitely not. The Ancient Greeks, though, were simply looking to explain the world around them, which was a harsh world full of, well, rape and sex.
            In the process of all of this rape and sex, though, Zeus brought law even to the gods, fostered order through the universe, allowed experience and wisdom to temper the fire of knowledge, and gave humanity heroes to aspire to be. Zeus has had a plan this entire time, subtly moving pieces on the board to complete his strategy. This goes beyond cunning. He changes, freely.
He didn’t know beforehand that the gods would attempt a coup. He didn’t know Prometheus would steal fire. He didn’t know which woman he needed to sleep with to bring about Hercules. But he was able to adjust and respond to the situations as they presented themselves. He tempered his anger—which was legendary—with mercy, something the other gods and goddesses never did.
            Zeus is anything but static, and he clearly changes. This is a very big deal in a pantheon where the norm is childish behavior, but something we would expect from a king, who has to mediate and rule over the kingdom. He is doing this even though it appears as if he’s not, which is also a remarkable feat.



Friday, December 28, 2018

F³ WIP Scapegoat


            From the back, Reese mumbled and stirred.
            I slapped her leg through her jeans, hard. She mumbled a little louder and slowly blinked, asserting more control over her body.
            She sat up, looking at me. “Allen?” she said, unsure.
            “Yeah. What the blankity blank were you doing there?”
            Peripherally, I caught Nikki’s slight smile.
            “Blankity blank? Are you a grown-up?”
            “My use of profanity is not the subject. Explain.”    
            “I was after the story.”
            I opened my mouth, then closed it.
            What’s the point? She’ll just keep talking about the damn story.
            “How did you know where it was?”
            “I recorded your phone conversation on my tablet,” she grinned.
            Several curse words went through my head, all applied to myself.
            I better talk to Jen and Jessie about what all these gizmos can do. I am definitely not up on their capabilities.
            “Cute. Well, you should congratulate yourself.”
            “I am.”
            “Not on that. You went face-to-face with not just a fae, but with a wight, and survived.”
            She stared at me flatly. “Is that supposed to mean anything to me?”
            “Two supernatural creatures in one night!”
            “Three,” Nikki added.
            “Three, counting the will o’wisp.”
            Nikki threw me a sidelong glance. I knew what that was about, but I wasn’t going to bring her into the conversation.
            “A weird disco light, some anorexics, and a creepy stockbroker. Unless you meant the college kids peddling drugs.”
            “Matthew,” Nikki said, pointing out the windshield. “I believe your backup is on the way.”
            I looked, confirming the stream of vehicles in a tight line.
            I hastily dialed Collins.
            “I’m on my way!” His voice was faraway, on speakerphone.
            “You’re about to pass me. Pull into the gas station on your right.”
            “What?”
            “It’s over. They bugged out.”
            “You better have a fucking good explanation for this, Allen. Judge is going to have my hide, the department, too.”
            I smiled, “Not this time. You’ve got a great scapegoat.” I looked back at Reese.



Monday, December 24, 2018

M³ Diomedes's Hat Trick


            Diomedes rules! Yeah, I’m biased but the facts bear me out. The guy drove off not one, not two, but three gods from the battlefield, all in the same day. Show me another Greek hero who could accomplish so much? Achilles? He’s supposed to be the greatest warrior, but he’s sulking in his tent. Odysseus is a great thinker and did was the man against Polyphemus, but this is on a whole other level. Hercules? Sure, he did a lot, and is the paragon of what human beings should aspire to, but his trick with Atlas doesn’t measure up to driving three gods from the battlefield, injuring two of them. We also can’t let go that one of these gods is Ares, the god of War.
            Diomedes rules.
            Mic drop.
            Mic pick up.
            Yeah, I’m not done with Diomedes just yet. We have to deal with the question of why this matters. Yes, Athena is superior to Ares, but that’s something else. Athena’s involvement with Diomedes is minimal. She allows him to see the gods and leans in on the spear thrust against Ares, but that’s it. Diomedes does all the rest on his own.
            Diomedes was able to face off against gods and came out victorious. This is huge. Achilles gets all the glory, but Diomedes is the one we need to recognize for great deeds. This changes the very nature of the godhood for the Greeks. Before this moment, the gods were on a level far removed from humanity. Even when we have contests such as Arachne vs. Athena, the gods always have the power to beat the humans. Arachne might be a better weaver, but she is powerless against Athena’s other gifts.
            Diomedes, though, wins the day. Driving Aphrodite and Apollo from the field are lesser—though still great—accomplishments as their areas are not war. Ares, however, is at home on the battlefield, and should be able to best anyone in hand-to-hand combat. Yet Diomedes is the victor. And that’s an end to it. The contest has already been decided, and either Ares is powerless to go after him in another way, or not bright enough to think of it (50-50, I’d say).
            What this means is that mortals can challenge the gods on their own level. It’s also important that it is Diomedes to accomplish this. Achilles, Aeneas, Perseus, Bellerophon, Theseus, or Hercules would rob these deeds of their true importance. They all have divine blood. That connection to the gods would be the excuse that allowed them to engage the gods in battle. Diomedes, though, is completely human.
            Mortal parents and his own prowess are what gave him the victory. Not only has he earned the reputation for a terrifying war cry to opposing armies, but to the gods themselves, and Greek mythology is forever changed.



Friday, December 21, 2018

F³ Blood Feud


            Mikey sat beside me with my hat on, trying to look cool, and succeeding because fedoras are an inherently cool hat.

            “What?” I said in response to Nikki’s look.
            She slowly shook her head. “I made no judgement.”
            “Not out loud.”
            A small smile turned up one side of her mouth. “I concede the point. Fedoras are cool.”
            I didn’t trust that look, but I carried on.

            “So, sisters, huh?” I said.
            He nodded, causing the hat to fall over his eyes, momentarily.
            “Never had a sister. For me it was a brother. She do something to make you mad?”
            A shrug, which also somehow made the hat fall over his eyes again.
            “Yeah, I get that. Sometimes just existing is enough. But why the doll?”
            He didn’t look at me, instead just focusing on the back of the seat in front of him, his mouth a hard line that cracked, briefly. “She carries that stupid thing everywhere and shoves it in my face.”
            I chuckled slightly at that. “Kinda reminds me of my brother.”
            The kid still didn’t make eye contact with me, but that didn’t bother me.
            “I was on the other end, though. I had a hat, a lot like this one. Not as nice as this one since my mom made it for me, but it was my first hat, and I loved it. I thought I was so cool, like Indiana Jones or Sam Spade.”
            The kid didn’t give any recognition of the names, which didn’t surprise me.
            “So I played at being an archaeologist on an adventure or a detective on the case every time I put the hat on, shooting Nazis, swinging on my bullwhip over chasms. And I guess I annoyed my brother. He was always the bad guy since I had the hat. Only the hero gets to wear the hat, y’know? Finally, he had enough and stomped on the hat and ripped it into pieces right in front of me.”
            “What’d you do?” Mikey asked.
            “Oh, I was mad. Sure, I went to Ma and Dad, and they punished him, but it wasn’t enough for me. It was war. It was a blood feud. I stopped talking to him. Any chance I got I would wreck his toy cars when no one was looking—so I wouldn’t get in trouble. It lasted for months, even after Ma made me a new hat. It didn’t matter because he had wrecked the old one.”
            “Are you still mad at him?” Mikey’s voice had grown softer, as had his face, genuine concern that his sister might feel the same way about him.
            “I was ready to be hate him for the rest of my life, but six months later, he said he was sorry and gave me a new hat, one that he bought from a store. It also wasn’t as nice as this one,” I rapped the brim with a knuckle, “but it was one he bought. He saved up his money and bought it for me.”
            “Did you ever fight after that?”
            “Oh, sure, all the time. That’s what brothers and sisters do. But it was never a feud like that ever again. After a day or so one of us would apologize and we’d go back to being brothers. But you know what?”
            “What?”
            “For those six months when I was mad at him, I was lonely. I was just mad at him all the time. I was mad at him for ruining my hat and I was mad at him for making me mad at him. I was mad at him for not being there to play with. I just kept getting madder at him, and then I’d stomp on his cars.”
            Mikey laughed at that.
            “Yeah, now it’s all funny, but then I was just mad at him. I wished he hadn’t waited so long to apologize. I wish I had realized I was making him mad with my hat. I am glad that, together, we used fire crackers to blow up one of his old model cars.”

            “You led quite a destructive youth, Matthew.”
            “Doll,” I laid the 30s accent on thick, “you don’t know the half of it.”
            “Indeed. I shall have to come by more often for you to regale me.”
           


Monday, December 17, 2018

M³ Tactics Over Brutality


            So, on one level, we have Diomedes kicking ass, and we’ll get back to the main man after this, but first we have to deal with a subtler battle. Who is the better god of war? In the red corner, we have Ares, God of War. In the gold corner, we have Athena Goddess of Wisdom (and war, and crafts, and a few other things).
            Since Ares only has one specialty, it would be easy to think that he’d naturally be better at it, and he’s quite good at laying waste to people on the battlefield. But the Greeks are also commenting on the nature of warfare when it comes to the Iliad. Ares has no finesse, he’s waded onto the battle field and killing the enemy, indiscriminately.
Athena, however, is much more precise in her targets. She wants Diomedes to keep an eye out for Aphrodite and take her out. After that, it’s all about Ares. This is good tactical sense, using her best resources against the enemy’s strongest warriors. Before Diomedes confronts Ares, the Greeks “always backward / gave way, as they saw how Ares went with the Trojans” (V 700-701). The god is just too much to stand against and will eventually demoralize the Greeks to the point of full retreat if left unchecked. Areas must be dealt with, and it will take the best the Greeks can send against him, which is Diomedes. Not Achilles.
Diomedes could have done the same thing, waded into the fight in a different place to simply massacre the Trojans, but this would be tactically unsound. Though battle lines fluctuate back and forth, they don’t often bubble. Armies give ground as a whole because bubbles can be cut off from the rest of the group and destroyed (what should have happened to Jon Snow, don’t get me started).
In order to win, Ares must be dealt with so that the entire army can progress. Athena’s choice is clear. Zeus even knows this as he “set[s] against [Ares] the spoiler Athene, / who beyond all others is the one to visit harsh pains upon him” (V 764-765). With just these few words, it’s clear that the better god of war is the goddess Athena. Ares makes war through the use of overwhelming force in either raw ability or numbers. There is no finesse to his fighting.
As the goddess of wisdom, Athena’s game is nothing but finesse. She could have chosen to do like Ares. She could have taken the guise of some Greek warrior and led a direct battle against Ares, but this was not her way. Instead, she stood by Diomedes and let him bet the one to challenge and dispatch Ares.
I don’t know if she could have taken on Ares directly because that’s not her way of war, it’s his. As the goddess of wisdom, she is deliberate in her actions, which are often not direct. She confronts him in her way, indirectly, wisely, and with the best warrior the Greeks can offer, whose only talents for direct battle are enough (with a little lean-in from Athena) to drive Ares away.
In a very real sense, this is an evaluation by the Greeks that tactics and strategy in battle will always win out over blind force. This will later be borne out as the Greek victory comes from the deception of the Trojan Horse, an indirect strategy as opposed to open warfare.
Athena is, by far, the more deadly of the gods of war. Superior tactics and strategy will overcome even armies of greater numbers and strength. Diomedes’s defeat of Ares on the battlefield demonstrates this understanding.



Friday, December 14, 2018

F³ The Vote


            I sat in a circle of other men, most of whom had their needs tended to by statuesque women in tight, revealing clothing. One man sat at the “head” of the table with a gold-bound gavel. I was dressed in the expensive suit I had bought just for coming into the Fairhaven Club, which I only did when absolutely necessary.
            My membership had first been bought by Max Auron to conduct business, but had been perpetuated by Nikki, which was why I was here, today.
            Two ceremonial raps of the gavel by the chairman. “Let us come to the last order of business.” He added an unhealthy cough, reminding me of the age of everyone here.
            The white-haired and balding men grumbled among their ranks, while the younger crowd looked determined.
            “Once again, the issue has been raised whether to open membership to women. Having heard all discussions, I call the vote. Is there a second?”
            Several men quickly chimed in with their “Second.”
            “Point of order, Mr. Chairman.” The young man three down from me stood for emphasis. “I object to this vote being held in the absence of our sole female member, Ms. Alexander.”
            Grumbles from the old guard started to rise and the younger started speaking loudly, but the gavel cut off the uprising before it become a full-on shouting match.
            “Your objection is overruled Mr. Hansen. Mr. Allen, there,” he pointed at me with the gavel, “carries Ms. Alexander’s proxy.”
            That caught Hansen completely off-guard as he slapped the table for dramatic effect, then opened his mouth and stared at me, dumbfounded.
            “I withdraw my objection,” he finally got out.
            Beside me, one of the men nodded in my direction.
            “All in favor,” the chairman said.
            Hands went up on the side of the younger men, but not mine.
            The friendly nod before turned into a scowl.
            “All against?”
            I raised my hand.
            “Ayes 9, nays 10. The issue is denied,” the chairman announced, tapping the gavel. “You and your allies may bring the issue again according to the bylaws, Mr. Hansen.”
            Hansen and his allies stormed out as the older crowd passed congratulations among themselves.
            I shook my head and walked out, wanting to be away from the idiocy of the Fairhaven Club.



Monday, December 10, 2018

M³ Ares v Diomedes


            In the case of Ares v Diomedes, Athena represents the butt-kicker, err, the defendant. The plaintiff contends that because he is a god, he will automatically win any battle with a mortal. Furthermore, he seeks to provide evidence of this with his willful slaughter of many, many Greeks on the field of battle outside of Troy.
            For the Defendant, Athena seeks to prove that Ares is a blundering idiot who only knows how to swing a sword or jab a spear while invisible to the eyes of the Greeks, and that a hero of sufficient courage can defeat the god.
            Sorry, no, Zeus is not presiding over this case, we’re doing this old-school, trial by combat.
            Ares takes to the battlefield and just starts slaughtering Greeks wholesale, and they have no idea who or what is doing this because all they can see is that soldiers are getting cut down by something they can’t see. They just try to avoid the area, but Ares keeps wading into them. Well, everyone avoids him, even Diomedes.
            No, he’s not afraid, Athena told him point-blank that he was only allowed to go after Aphrodite. But now she rescinds that order. In fact, she hops into the chariot with him and aims for Ares. Somehow, she also has gotten the helmet of Hades, and makes herself completely invisible to Ares.
            Ares, though, sees Diomedes, and likewise charges him. They’re both going full-tilt at each other. Ares stabs out, and Athena deflects the blow. Diomedes stabs, and Athena helps by leaning into it. And boom, “Ares the brazen bellowed with a sound as great as nine thousand men make, or ten thousand” (V 859-860).
            And then he’s gone. He doesn’t stick around. The god of war is unused to being injured and can likewise not handle it. Yes, Athena helped a little more this time, but, really, Diomedes could’ve done the job himself. She only leaned into the blow. What’s truly impressive is the fortitude of human beings vs that of the gods. Two gods can only take one injury before they go running back to Olympus.
Diomedes is not a perfect warrior. Before Athena found him again, he had been “cooling the wound that Pandaros made with the cast of his arrow . . . and wiped the dark blot of blood away” (794, 797), but he did so with style, not really noticing anything other than an entire day’s exhaustion from fighting the Trojans, Aphrodite, and Apollo. He’s just taking five and doesn’t hesitate to answer Athena’s call to do battle with Ares. He’s all in.



Friday, December 7, 2018

F³ WIP Getaway Driver


            The car raced away, slamming me into the door before I could brace myself. Nikki continued to to give her impression of a street racer, tearing into turns and squealing tires. I fumbled my belt on, then took a look at Reese, who was like a doll in the back seat, sliding around, boneless. Her eyes were open, making the effect particularly creepy.
            “Reese! Wake up!”
            Nothing.
            “Your efforts to rouse her can wait until we have secured our escape, Matthew.”
            My eyes went up to the rear window, scanning for signs of another car or even a will o’wisp dancing in pursuit.
            “I don’t see anything,” I told Nikki. “You might want to make us more discreet.”
            “Blend in as it were?”
            “Yeah.”
            “Not easy to do so long as we are in a Lexus in Shoreward.”
            “Yeah, but I don’t think the fae woman is up on which car models belong in which part of town. They can probably hear squealing tires, though.”
            “A valid point.”
            Her driving became more commuter and less racer, and I settled back into my seat.



Monday, December 3, 2018

M³ Lover Not A Fighter


            We’ll get into why Athena wants to hurt Aphrodite, later (it’s a really good story with appropriate trash-talk). For now, however, all we need to know is that Athena has authorized the use of force against Aphrodite. She does, indeed, take to the field of battle. She has no actual interest in the outcome of the war. Instead, she’s there to protect her son Aeneas because Diomedes will wreck him. Actually, he pretty much did wreck him. He smashed his hip joint pretty badly. He was going to die.

Friday, November 30, 2018

F³ WIP A Hasty Plan


            Nikki covered my mouth with her hand after my jaw had dropped open. She put a finger to her lips, reminding me of the need to be quiet.
            What the hell is Reese doing here? How did she know to come here? I sent her out of the room when I took Collins’s call. Same with Nikki’s. She may have been able to tail me to Nikki’s, but she wouldn’t have seen us leave in her car. Forget it. That’s for later. Need to focus. If she’s lucky, the drug dealers will just kill her. If she’s very unlucky, Daniels or the fae will deal with her.
            I nodded to Nikki and she pulled her hand away, but she leaned in right next to my ear. “Who is she?” Her whisper was barely audible.

Monday, November 26, 2018

M³ Diomedes's Gifts


            We cut away from Zeus for the moment to tackle an important myth that will directly relate to him. We’ve seen some things about Zeus over the years, going all the way back to Prometheus, but also manifesting in subtle ways with Perseus and Hercules. We’ve also encountered the other gods, which have their impact on this.

Friday, November 23, 2018

F³ Celestial Thanksgiving


            The crew of Calypso gathered in the common area for a sumptuous a spread as they ever truly had. There were no special delicacies, but some good home cooking as well as the crops from the hydroponics bays. The highlights, of course, being the two pies, apple and pumpkin, that perfumed the entire room.

Monday, November 19, 2018

M³ Zeus's Job


            So, now that Zeus has established that he will no longer be a tyrant, what, exactly, does he do as king?
            Pause for jokes about who Zeus does.
            You got it out of your system, yet?
            Okay, I’ll wait.

Friday, November 16, 2018

F³ Birthday Wish


            It’s my birthday, not Matt’s (which is in April), but I feel like writing this.

            The phone rang entirely too loudly and too early in the morning. I fumbled in the dark for the phone, finally pulling the cordless receiver to my ear.
            “What?” I growled.
            “Happy Birthday, Uncle Matt!” came an enthusiastic, teenage girl’s yell from the other end.
            I pushed the receiver away, trying futilely to muffle it.

Monday, November 12, 2018

M³ Zeus The Playa


            It goes without saying, but Zeus has slept around many, many, many, many times. I’m sure many a psychologist has thought about replacing the term hypersexual with just a picture of Zeus. He is responsible for siring anywhere between 1/4 to 1/3 of the Greek gods. It’s just insane how many times he has slept with goddesses other than his wife.

Friday, November 9, 2018

F³ Corrupting Youth


            Mikey had the brim of the fedora pushed up as he buckled in, which made me want to cringe. Every movie that showed someone wearing a fedora like that was a doofus, a dork, a moron, so I had to coach him.
            “Not bad, but the best way is to bring it down in front, and then you tilt it a little on one side, kind of covering one eye. Makes you mysterious.”
            “Like a pirate?”
            “Sure, a little like a pirate. And you just act cool.”

Monday, November 5, 2018

M³ Zeus Supreme Dicktator


            So Zeus is established as head of Olympus. But, y’know, he’s not really a nice guy. In fact, he insists on his way or retribution by thunderbolt. He also gets a free pass. He sleeps around with whomever (and whatever) he wants and mistreats everyone. It’s so bad that Hera forms a conspiracy with some of the other gods. They tie Zeus up, and are ready to depose him, to toss him in with the titans for all eternity.

Friday, November 2, 2018

F³ WIP Bureaucracy of Reinforcements


            I checked my phone, then sent a quick text to Collins, shielding the phone against my body so the light didn’t give us away. ‘Where are you guys?’
            ‘Can’t get authorization for full task force. Only a few officers. No SWAT. What’s it look like?’
            Instead of answering, I used my phone to take a video. It was far away, but I didn’t dare rely on the digital zoom, and I had left my good camera in my car back at Nikki’s. I hadn’t thought to need it since Collins was supposed to be here.

Monday, October 29, 2018

M³ Blushing Bride


            Previously on Zeus, Rise of the Storm King (What? I have poetic license.) Zeus took down his dad Cronus and cut his siblings free of dad’s stomach, and, um, raped his mother. Now that he’s free he needs to consolidate his power, and one of the best ways to do that is to marry. For his bride he chooses his sister Hera. But, well, she’s not exactly willing to marry him. Might be that whole thing where Zeus raped his mother Rhea that put her off, or maybe because the whole reason Rhea forbid him to marry was that he would be a womanizer who would perpetually cheat on any wife.

Friday, October 26, 2018

F³ WIP Too Much Feeling


            The catwalk allowed us a vantage point that wasn’t available, otherwise. We crept up until we could look down over a wide spot in the production line—I thought that this was a fish-packing plant. Below were two groups of people, one decidedly larger than the other, one decidedly less human than the other. The greenish-white lights were hovering orbs of green-white fire that bobbed slightly near the inhuman part of the group. The lights allowed me to easily pick out the tall, gaunt, and thoroughly ordinary-looking Mr. Daniels, the wight, where he stood next to an open carry-on. But instead of a normal interior, this had been decked out for jewelery. Specifically, the pendants. I didn’t recognize the young man in front of him, but he held open a zip-topped bag with at least a dozen more pendants in it.

Monday, October 22, 2018

M³ Zeus's Mommy Issues


            Okay, I need to warn about this one. It gets bad, way, way fast. As in sexually bad. As in rape. It’s a Greek myth, so well, that’s something you have to get used to seeing in their stories.

Friday, October 19, 2018

F³ Realization


            By the time Natalie and Kate coasted down on their cloudboards, Moron had vomited twice and fainted. He was out pretty deep, too, as zapping him didn’t wake him up. I entertained myself by flicking pebbles at him from my perch on an old log.
            “Well?” Kate asked.
            I shrugged. “I got nothing. He is in some deep denial.”

Monday, October 15, 2018

M³ Zeus's Daddy Issues


            So Zeus has daddy issues. Not like how most people have daddy issues. Cronus wants to literally eat Zeus to prevent his wife Rhea from spending any time with the kids. He might also be worried one of them might supplant him as king of the gods.
            Cronus has already done this with all of the other kids, but Rhea pulled a switcheroo when it came to Zeus. She wrapped a rock in a blanket. Cronus fell for it.

Friday, October 12, 2018

F³ A Small Bribe


            The kid was trouble, no doubt about it. He seemed to know just how far to push his mom before real trouble ensued, and she was limited in what she could do to him on the plain. He kicked his legs, thunking them against his own chair instead of the seat in front of him. And, occasionally, he would poke his sister, which would set off a new round of wailing and Mom shushing.
            Amanda, up at the front, chatted with another flight attendant, but had worried eyes and emphatic whispers for our row.
            What am I doing?

Monday, October 8, 2018

M³ UnHEA


            The last story got me thinking about mythology in general, how they don’t end happily ever after (HEA). I’m honoring my promise by not talking specifically about the Levite priest, Gibeah, and the Benjamites. I ended the discussion on Monday by referencing how the Greeks favored tragedies over comedies, so I’ll pick up there.

Friday, October 5, 2018

F³ WIP Bad Memory


            Nikki brought us to a fire door, but the building was so old, any connected alarm had long since been sabotaged by squatters or the criminal element.
            “Now you can dazzle me with your lockpicking skills,” she gestured to the door.
            I shook my head. “Not part of my repertoire.”
            “A pity, you really should expand your horizons, Matthew.”
            “Some of us don’t have hundreds of years to learn new skills. Why don’t you show me.”
            For answer, she grasped the handle and gave it a firm tug, pulling the door open despite the protest of the deadbolt and door frame, which tore apart like aluminum foil. “Sometimes the direct approach is best.”
            That was pretty hot, actually.
            We ghosted inside, Nikki weaving her way through, guided by instinct or supernatural senses. I didn’t like roaming through the warehouse, it brought back memories of another warehouse, not too far from this one, where a vampire named Jared had attacked me.
            I felt a twinge in my right forearm from where he had clamped a hand down on me. Likewise, I was conscious of my left palm. The slice on my hand had healed without a scar, but I still remembered. My heart beat faster as I remembered the panic run to get out, to escape into the sunlight. I had to pull debris onto the path as I ran while cradling my arm and wheezing through bruised ribs.
            “Matthew,” Nikki stopped to whisper, “your heart is beginning to race. It is distracting.”
            “Sorry.”
            Focus, Matt. Thinking about that warehouse will surely get me killed in this one.
            I took a deep breath, banishing the memory.
            Nikki looked at me for a moment, then nodded. I was grateful she didn’t ask me what happened.


Monday, October 1, 2018

M³ Final Thoughts on A Bad Story


            This is it. I won’t be dealing directly with this story any more after this. This might feel like a bit much after I’ve spent so much time on this story, but I think it’s necessary.
            This story is not well-known in the Bible. When you start listing off Bible stories, this one is never on the list.
            At all.

Friday, September 28, 2018

F³ WIP Weird Date


            For a wonder, Nikki was waiting for me in the parking garage by a car. Instead of her usual gowns, she wore pants that hugged her, but did not constrain her, and what looked like bulletproof vest if it had been designed to mold to a woman’s curves like a corset. A black backpack, looking distinctly military, rested on the rear fender of the car.

Monday, September 24, 2018

M³ Foreign Influence


            So, the story is actually over, but we need to deal with this on another level. How did this story come about? What happened to Israel since the time of Joshua that they have changed so much. With Moses and the 10 Commandments, they’re on the verge of becoming a civilization, an empire. They are establishing laws, justice, and identity by the time Moses passes on, and Joshua takes up the reins and actually gets them into the Promised Land. They enjoy prosperity for a time.
            By the time the book of Judges begins, however, the landscape has changed. Israel is an occupied land with Philistine overseers. The Philistines will continue to be there until David is able to oust them, which will take several years.

Friday, September 21, 2018

F³ Not Iron Man


            I rubbed at my temples to clear the last of the guy’s screaming from my mind. He was silent, but not because he had overcome his fear. In fact, he was probably terrified beyond his ability to speak or even scream. I was fine with it.

Monday, September 17, 2018

M³ WHY?!?!?!


            So, when I first became of aware of this story in grad school, my professor asked the entire class a very simple, very crucial question: “Why is this story in the Bible?”

Friday, September 14, 2018

F³ Off With Her Head


            At the forty-five minute mark, hell broke loose in the form of a screaming girl. She drew every eye on the plane, and a flight attendant immediately rushed over. It was the little girl across the aisle from me. The mother was frantically trying to shush her, but she sobbed and wailed, holding most of a doll. The doll was missing her head. The head was in the possession of the boy, who bounced it like a ball from hand to hand until the mother snatched it away from him.
            “Ma’am, is everything all right?” Amanda, the flight attendant I had seen when I boarded, asked. It was a question she was required to ask, bu tit was clear that there was very little a flight attendant could do.
            The mother had stood up and physically separated the two kids by sitting between them. The boy protested to being manhandled by Mom, but she wasn’t having any of it. The girl’s wails became muffled as she climbed up her mother and buried her face in Mom’s blouse.
            “Ma’am, is there anything I can do?” Amanda asked again.
            The mother’s head whipped around, completely startled by Amanda’s presence. “What? Uh, I don’t know. God, I wish my husband was here to help. Tommy, don’t kick the seat!”
            The boy stopped, but he had a look, a look I knew too well. This wasn’t over.

            “And how do you know this?” Nikki interrupted. “I apologize, but you are not exactly up for parenting awards.”
            “Hah! Well, you’re right on that. I know it because I was a boy who grew up and I had a brother who could be a real pain. We fought a lot. We had a flight once to a family reunion. On the flight out we sat as close together as possible to be a family. On the return flight, Paul sat with Dad ten rows away from Ma and I. You can’t lock a couple of boys in a tin can for hours without trouble.”
            “I see.” She smiled into her coffee. “I did not appreciate your propensity for attracting trouble from even an early age. It does much to explain who you are now.”
            “Yeah, well, I notice that my being a trouble magnet brings you by, too.”
            “Oh, but I am not near you because I am trouble, far from it. I simply delight in the excitement generated by its attraction to you.”
            Her smile had become sweet innocence, while my face had become annoyed because she had gotten the better out of that volley.
            “Anyway, the kid was trouble. . . .”
           

Monday, September 10, 2018

M³ The Solution


            Okay, so Israel puts Jabesh-gilead to the sword, including women and children. But! But, how does this solve the problem? Benjamin will die out, so what does this accomplish? We’re not done yet with the worse.
            Sorry.
            See, there were more instructions.

Friday, September 7, 2018

F³ WIP Creative Expenses

            The drive from DeGradi to the office wasn’t very long, and I mostly thought about what I would say to Cassie. No inspiration came, though. In the end, I had to just shoot for raw honesty.
            “I’m going on another stakeout,” I told her.
            “Cool. Where we going?”
            “Me, not we,” I said.

Monday, September 3, 2018

M³ Yes, It Got Worse


            So, we have to set the wayback machine before the war on this one, which is exactly how chapter 21 of Judges begins. See, it feels the need to tell us some of the details regarding the (air quotes) “justice” (/air quotes) they swore against the Benjamites. In particular, the beginning of this chapter wants to call out how all of those who gathered to strike back against the Benjamites swore, “no one of us shall give his daughter in marriage to Benjamin.” Cuz, y’know, they done bad.

Friday, August 31, 2018

F³ An Offer of A Good Time


            After getting off the phone with Collins, I made one of my own.
            “Dumpling, what a surprise,” came Nikki’s musical voice.
            “I need you tonight.” As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I winced.

Monday, August 27, 2018

M³ War Machine


            So now that Israel has God on their side (at least claiming to), victory is assured. And, yeah, they win. Decisively. Israel won hard. They pwned the Benjamites that day. Seriously. Tens of thousands of Benjamite armsmen were slain.
            But Israel didn’t stop.
            They went after cities.
            They killed civilians.

Friday, August 24, 2018

F³ Pain Relief at Terminal Velocity


            After three more zaps, Moron finally figured out he should listen to me instead of scream.
            “So,” I said calmly as we descended at approximately 120 mph towards the ground. “I need you to follow my instructions, all right?”

Monday, August 20, 2018

M³ Asking God


            As improbable as it sounds with the numbers in the respective armies, the first time the Israelites went up against the Benjamites, they suffered 22,000 casualties (Judges 20:22). While tactics are important, a lot of warfare comes down to numbers. With the numbers the Israelites have, they shouldn’t have had any trouble squashing the Benjamites. Somebody screwed up. However, we don’t have any kind of record of the actual battle to determine what went down aside from splitting up their forces as “Judah shall go up first” against the Benjamites (Judges 20:18).

Friday, August 17, 2018

Trust Issues


            “Now,” Flynn turned back to the woman, “we are here to escort you out.”
            “Or you could lead us straight to the Nicks to end us in one shot. I don’t trust you, especially you.”
            “If I was with the Nickel Guild, I would simply give your position instead of coming in here. There are enough tanks in the street to level this building from three blocks away. Now, Doc,” Peter made out the medical corps insignia on her collar, also Alliance, “my ship is trying to slingshot around the moon to come back and pick us up, but we’ve only got one shot before orbit gets too crowded.”
            “I still don’t believe you. Not you.”
            “Mr. Reese, would you please reassure our host by giving your voice print?”
            “Certainly, Captain. I’m afraid we never worked out any kind of code phrase to give. The transmission was unfortunately cut short after we received the coordinates. Jamming, no doubt.”
            “Lita, that’s him,” said a man behind her with a machine pistol. “That’s the one I commed.”
            “Doesn’t matter, I still don’t trust him. You don’t know what he did.”
            Flynn’s semblance of patience evaporated, and he said harshly, “I don’t intend to leave people to be slaughtered, so if need be Eltie will wing you, and we’ll carry you out despite your protests.”



Monday, August 13, 2018

M³ You and What Army? Oh.


            The scattering of the concubine throughout Israel has the desired effect: outrage. Israel gathers up a huge army against their fellow tribe of Benjamites, demanding “hand over those scountrels in Gibeah, so that we may punish them to death, and purge the evil from Israel,” (Judges 20:13) to which the Benjamites more or less replied, nuts to you.

Friday, August 10, 2018

F³ Take Off


            The flight attendants went through their spiel from memory with well-practiced smiles, but a weariness that tugged at their eyes that even the best eyeliner and eyeshadow couldn’t hide. They were weary, and wanted an easy flight. For the first forty-five minutes, they got their wish.

Monday, August 6, 2018

M³ Voiceless


            I can’t let this go, yet. This poor concubine has no voice. No one in this story has a name, so that’s not as big an issue, but the fact that this woman never speaks bothers me. Yes, the Bible is pretty terse when it comes to speech, relating things generally and narratively instead of with extensive dialogue, but we do have some. The perverse men, the host, and the Levite priest all speak up in this story. But not this woman. She is voiceless.

Friday, August 3, 2018

F³ WIP Unofficial Permission


            My phone buzzed, and I thought it would be Kate. Instead, it was Collins. I answered immediately, “Hang on, I’ve got a reporter in the room.”
            I looked over to Reese. “I need to take this. Can I have the room?”
            She gave me a venomous look, then stormed over, knocking my shoulder on her way out.
            “Okay, I’m good.”
            “We’ve got it.”
            “It?”

Monday, July 30, 2018

M³ The Final Cut


            Our nameless Levite visits more misery upon us. After returning home, “he took a knife, and grasping his concubine he cut her into twelve pieces, limb by limb, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel” (Judges 19:29).
            So, um, yeah, that happened.

Friday, July 27, 2018

F³ Preceded by Reputation


            Flynn came to his feet, more slowly than he would have liked, with muscles and joints protesting, and pulled up his rail gun. It was an efficient weapon with cheap ammunition and a high rate of fire, both very good things when it came to urban combat.

Monday, July 23, 2018

M³ On The Steps


            The Levite priest tossed his concubine to the wolves. Actually, she might have fared better among the wolves. It would have been over more quickly. Those hoping for a reprieve like in Sodom and Gomorrah, where the angels revealed themselves, sorry. It’s not going to happen. We’re going to the bad place with this story. I don’t do this often, but we need o get the full passage of this for context.

Friday, July 20, 2018

F³ Free Falling


            The rookie screamed as he fell through the hole in the clouds. I waited a good five seconds before diving after him. We had been on some cirrus clouds at around 45,000 feet, so we had some time to kill on the way down.
            I caught up with the idiot, screaming and thrashing in the open air, so I gave him a Jack Dailey Joy Buzzer from ten feet away. It wasn’t more than a mild shock, but it got his attention and shut him up for thirty seconds.
            “Hi there, I’m Reilly, and I’ll be your drill instructor today.”
            Wild-eyed confusion and panic, but nothing verbal came out of his working mouth.
            Fine by me. I want this guy doing, not talking.
            “You may have noticed that we are currently in free fall, about to descend below 42,000 feet at terminal velocity. That gives us about 4 minutes before splat, enough time for a decent conversation. I want to talk to you about your future.”
            He started screaming again.
            Rookies.


Monday, July 16, 2018

M³ The Worst Bible Story—Ever!


            This story should come with a warning. Obviously this is a warning, but there should be a warning in the Bible about it. It’s horrible. I mean Game of Thrones Red Wedding kind of horrible. In fact, I think it’s worse than that. Strike that, I know it’s worse than that. This story makes Sodom and Gomorrah look like a ride at Disneyland.
            But you know what, most people don’t even know this story is in the Bible.
            Strap in, we’re going for a wild ride.

Friday, July 13, 2018

F³ Book of Secrets


            Nikki pushed a mismatched set of leather-wrapped, well, books, at me.
            I quirked an eyebrow at her, but instead of looking at me, she was looking at the books. Her expression was unreadable, but she was clearly focused on the books. These were important, and something big.

Monday, July 9, 2018

M³ Greek Civilization


            I have to go meta on Perseus one more time. We tie Perseus, Hestia, and Prometheus together one more time, and connect them all to Odysseus. I know, I know, it doesn’t seem like a good fit. Odysseus is not exactly known for restraint and wisdom, especially after mouthing off to Polyphemus. And it’s not like he was the poster child of monogamy when he’s shtupping Circe and Calypso.

Friday, July 6, 2018

WIP Conspiracy Afoot


            I poked at Mary Poppins’s picture on the TV. “It’s her. She’s your conspiracy.”
            “What? No. There’s no way corporate Barbie there could be behind this.”
            I grabbed the tablet, fumbling with it to go back to the wide display with all the notes. I pointed at the arsons. “She was the partner of the guy responsible. The same guy also made the serial killer from two years ago.”

Monday, July 2, 2018

M³ Perseus, Defender of Greekdom


            I’m probably going to catch some flak for this, but it’s not me, it’s the Ancient Greeks.
            How do we connect Prometheus, Hestia, and Perseus? Well, we already know that fire and the hearth go together. Worship starts with the hearth. But who tends the hearth? Women. Women are the absolute center of the Greek home.

Friday, June 29, 2018

F³ WIP The Missing Link


            Lindsey kept going on about various officials, bringing up events that I wasn’t even aware of—I tended to stick to my own concerns. She had zoning laws, chamber of commerce, non-profit organizations, and more all pointing to something conspiratorial about the upper echelons in the city. She brought up warehouses in Dante and Shoreward as possible locations for the incoming drugs, which matched up with what I had already been thinking. My mind swam as she kept going, her own logic compelling her to fill in all the gaps even though I thought she was reaching with a good portion of it, until—

Monday, June 25, 2018

M³ Hestia


            You won’t find myths about Hestia. I know, I’ve looked. I’ve scoured my resources. It might be easy to write her off because of this. There are no stories about her, therefore she’s not interesting. Conclusion: she’s not important. But the opposite is actually true.
            I’ve only found one thing about Hestia. Zeus decreed that Hestia was off-limits from all the shenanigans of the other gods. No one is allowed to mess with her. And, wonder of wonders, no one did. Not a single one of the other gods ever took action or said a word against Hestia, and the Greek gods are known for their in-fighting.
            I cannot overstate the importance of a Greek goddess who doesn’t get into any kind of trouble. But why did Zeus make his decree? An even better question is why did the fractious gods and goddesses abide by it? In a pantheon known for its usurpations, betrayals, and attacks, they left her alone. There’s not even mention of anyone thinking anything bad against her. She is, in a word, untouchable.
            Why?
            Well, this is where we can make the connection back to Prometheus. Hestia is goddess of the hearth. She is the center of worship for the Greek home. Yes, the other gods have temples, but those are big ideals that are not felt in the same way as the personal nature of worship in the home. Now I’m not saying that people worshipped Hestia instead of Zeus, Athena, Poseidon, Aphrodite, or any of the others. Remember, this is a polytheistic culture. The Greeks were quite at home worshipping multiple gods.
            Hestia is included in the worship of any of the other gods or goddesses. This is mostly because of the structure of Greek worship. In most of the ancient world, Greece included, they made offerings to the gods on the fire. We know this most from the story of Prometheus with regards to the cuts of meat. The cuts of meat that are made for the gods are to be burned on the fire as an offering to the gods, kind of like a meat tithe.
            (Incidentally, the Old Testament is full of stories of meat offerings to God, most notably with the stories of Abraham and Elijah.)
            Because Greek worship requires the use of fire and the hearth, the first prayers and offerings are to Hestia, who watches over the home. Without the hearth and the home, the Greek people have no worship to the other gods. Zeus’s decree is about safeguarding the ability of human beings to continue to worship the gods.
            Right, we’re supposed to connect this back to Perseus. That comes next, I promise.
           


Friday, June 22, 2018

F³ Passenger 12D


            I waited in line to board. They took the usuals, first, elderly or others needing assistance, then families to get situated with their equipment and kids, first class and business people, then the rest of us, herded through the jetway like cattle to market. I didn’t like the analogy, but we trundled along in just that way.

Monday, June 18, 2018

M³ Home Is Where The Heart Is


            Perseus, as I have said before kind of gets a bad rap. As the gadget guy of the Ancient world, he sometimes doesn’t get respect. Also, there was that whole opportunistic purchasing of Andromeda thing. But! we have sorted that out and now realize the importance of Perseus’s actions regarding marrying Andromeda.
            But we have to now consider Perseus’s place in the overarching narrative of Greek mythology. I’m not talking about the foundation of his dynasty. That’s important, but ultimately predictable that other heroes would rise from his bloodline. No, we need to talk about women.

Friday, June 15, 2018

F³ Grav Dive


            The three of them huddled closely in the airlock, waiting for Ann’s countdown.
            Flynn said a silent prayer to the Celestials, first for his safety, second that he not embarrass himself by screaming or vomiting . . . like last time.

Monday, June 11, 2018

M³ Nuclear Disarmament


            While important, the whole episode with Andromeda has really been a sidequest. Perseus still hasn’t saved his mom from Polydectes. And, wouldn’t you know it, they don’t believe that a guy like Perseus could have possibly slain Medusa and taken her head. Therefore, “greeted by a storm of insults [Perseus] displayed the Gorgon’s head, averting his own gaze as he did so, and turned them all to stone.” Yeah, he went nuclear on them. It’s getting increasingly easier for Perseus to take the nuclear option.