It’s 2017. Despite some very obvious attempts to return to tired policies of old (I’m looking specifically at you Donald Trump, and casting a few glances at your chum Vladimir Putin too), we are in fact not living in the 1950s, so the bigoted mindsets of back then should have faded to nothing by now. So why do I see stories like this appear in the news? Russia is already noted for being decidedly backward when it comes to the LGBT community, but in Chechnya the problem has escalated to full-blown kidknapping and torture of gay men, or even men suspected of being gay.

Ok, so the reports of torture may or may not be true. Given the troubled history of Russia’s government when it comes to human rights, and the even worse state of affairs in Chechnya, it’s not hard to imagine this actually happens. It’s going to be difficult for this small site to somehow spread the word, but if you know anyone in Chechnya who you are worried about (or if you are part of the LGBT community) direct them to here, so they can seek help in getting away. As always, don’t put yourself at risk – be safe, be well.

Tarmel took satisfaction from the discipline his force had shown as transports and shuttles began to sweep toward the planet’s inhabited continents. The cities that had sprouted along the eastern coastline of the more temperature northern hemisphere were now vulnerable, their shields gone and most of their fighters destroyed. Pragmatism had overseen the pinpoint destruction of garrisons and other army equipment before a single Ork had set foot on the surface – a previously unpalatable move for his war-loving people, yet a measure that would preserve his troops, and also whatever experience they gained from the assault.

Only four ships had slipped out of formation and their wreckage would hopefully serve as a pointed reminder to the rest about the importance of following orders. Beside him upon the battleship’s command deck stood Creech, silent and sullen, yet quietly accepting of Tarmel’s new policies. The results were after all, emphatic. Now the troop transports were landing, with only two punched from the sky by defensive beam weapons (which were in turn reduced to rubble by returning fire moments later). The quicker, more nimble shuttles landed first, with armour-clad Orks establishing a perimeter and taking up positions of cover behind civilian vehicles and within evacuated shops and buildings. Each Ork had a rudimentary heads-up display in their new helmet, giving them information on the battlefield about the location of their squad, and Tarmel could tap into any individual feed as and when he wished. The chatter of the troops betrayed their desire to charge headlong into enemy ranks, but this time there were no enemy ranks to attack. The orbital bombardment had all but removed most of the marines and soldiers that would otherwise stand to oppose them.

Not that they were all gone. As armoured vehicles began to roll off the transports, and gunships launched from the retractable roofs, marines, clad in their reactive, powered armour, made their presence felt. The new armour of the Orks alerted them to incoming rocket launches, giving them half a chance to react and evade before explosions battered the buildings and cars they hid behind. The marines were surprisingly stealthy despite their bulky armour – they started firing their rifles – superheated pellets of metal, energy pulses and rocket-propelled grenades peppered the Ork lines.

The Orks though, fought back. Their new gunships, armed with a pair of forward-mounted anti-infantry weapons and with missile launchers on their fore-swept wingtips, zeroed in on the rough location of the enemy fire, liberally spraying the area with weapons fire and sending bits of uber-crete and other building materials everywhere as windows and walls were blasted. Craters were created in the roads, exposing water pipes, computer cables and the power lines to the smoky air, and the Orks now called upon their hovertanks, which sent concussive shells in the general direction of the harried marines. As their cover was rapidly chipped away, the marines, despite their best efforts, also came under attack from the infantry, who moved as a unit, strafing their foe, covering each other as they pressed forward.

It wasn’t perfect. Infected with the lust of battle, several Orks charged forward, firing wildly in the manner of old. They were cut down ruthlessly by the marines. The rest though, continued to squeeze the enemy, who were forced to retreat into a nearby office block, some seven stories high, and seek shelter from the Ork big guns. By now the Commonwealth Army was mobilising, sending infantry, tanks and gunships of their own, but the scale of the Ork assault meant Tarmel’s people enjoyed excellent air cover – fighters streamed toward the surface, strafing what remained of the defence forces protecting the city. A few brave human soldiers did manage to fire off anti-aircraft missiles that downed several fighters and gunships, but not only did the Orks enjoy a vast numerical advantage, their newfound use of tactics was reaping dividends. The humans were unprepared for such a fight, and Tarmel watched through the displays as the building housing the marines was pounded by the mobile artillery. Bricks, plaster, uber-crete, desks, tiles, power cables – it all collapsed in on itself like a house of cards, crushing the marines within, yet even as the building disintergrated amid huge plumes of dust, further shells rained down – the marines were resourceful and capable of surviving impressive degrees of punishment, so they needed to be dealt with thoroughly.

Not all of them were dead – a couple had been isolated from the main detachment, and several Orks were now firing stun grenades and firing short-range EMP weapons to disable their armour and disorientate the enemy. Capturing marines alive was proving to be a huge challenge, given their speed and ferocity, but it was a secondary objective worth pursuing. In the meantime, the Orks moved forward, into the city proper.

Civilians that had survived the orbital bombardment were streaming towards launch pads, but they had already been destroyed. Low-powered cannon bursts from the ships above hadn’t turned the surface into smouldering craters, but the various cargo ships, personnel carriers and private craft were gone, along with the pads and their control centres. Tarmel could not permit witnesses, not yet, but the primary objective had not yet been achieved. His troops drove deeper into the city, encountering sporadic resistance that the complete control of the skies allowed him to squash. His people were gaining invaluable experience, and such a decisive victory would surely boost morale as well. Roads ahead branched out toward different regions of the city, leading toward residential districts, commercial buildings that were already reaching for the sky, and the industrial region, that was still relatively small, given the colony’s young status. The centres of regional and federal government were nestled within the city’s commercial heart, as were other important facilities, and Tarmel wanted them.

More shuttles landed, bringing more troops to the city, this time in forward positions that allowed them to directly attack the impressive capitol building – a gleaming white structure with four cylindrical pillars in front of a set of extravagant walnut-coloured doors. The top of the building was domed, with glass set up in a ring (letting in natural light) around the Commonwealth flag (earth, surrounded by several stars, representing her colonies, a pale blue marble upon a darker blue background) sticking up from the top of the dome. It didn’t much to smash through the door, and other soldiers entered via jump cords via the easily broken windows. The structure had already been abandoned, but the whir of automated gun emplacements (which popped out of concealed panels in the walls and ceiling) momentarily forced the Orks back. A few well-placed grenades took care of the offending firepower.

It occurred to Tarmel that the humans wasted a great deal of resources on their symbols of power. Every desk was polished marble, with flecks of black upon the gleaming white surface. His Orks moved on a deep blue carpet (which had the Commonwealth flag embroidered upon it), and for visitors, the reception area had large, comfortable brown leather chairs, a walnut coffee table and a drinks dispenser. Oak wood doors – not automated ones – were on either side of the corridors leading left and right from reception, and the stairs and lifts behind the main reception desk (a large horseshoe-shaped monstrosity) led to yet more chambers and offices. There was a lot of bureaucracy on display. There were also computers that held data, and a communications office that would hold important messages. It was entirely possible the humans had already destroyed anything of value, but the speed of the assault might have prevented that.

Before long his troops found what they had been looking for – a lower-level room, actually two floors underground, that required fingerprint and card-key access. The door was a large metallic one, magnetically sealed and bolted as well. A pair of Orks placed small plastic pouches at various points around the frame, stepped back, and pressed a detonator. The door fell away with a loud clang, and revealed banks of data terminals, and row upon row of servers that funnelled every civilian, commercial, government and military operation and communique to and from the system. Another pair of Orks arrived, and set about the delicate operation to disconnect the large servers and prepare them for transport. Above them, holes were carefully punched in the Capitol’s roof, removing it, and then the same steps were taken to gently lower clamps from one of the transports and remove the floors that were between the Orks and their objective.

Other Orks arrived to grab the terminals, that were easily unplugged and folded shut. Other computers were being taken from offices, and still more from businesses. Tarmel wanted as much as he could.

When it was done, the Orks climbed back aboard their transports and returned to their ships. Next, with the flick of a green wrist, the Orks completed their mission. Several dozen asteroids were launched at the planet at speeds of fifteen kilometres per second. Some ranged from around twenty metres in diameter, others were over five hundred metres. Several were aimed directly at the colony, whilst others were directed at other continents and even the oceans. Thermal bow shocks started to vaporise the colony and its inhabitants even before the first rock hit the ground, whereupon the very earth seemed to erupt in a series of frenzied bursts, sending matter spewing high into the sky. As more rocks slammed down, the surface became superheated, beginning to glow as it became molten. Nothing was left of the colony, and for good measure, the wreckage of the Commonwealth cruiser was nudged on a course that would take her into the atmosphere, burning up as she went. The orbital defences were likewise pushed, removing any trace of Ork involvement in what had happened. No one would know.

Chapter 3

Fiction

So right now this is my face…

timonannoyed2

Why is that, you ask? Well, a flurry of customers came into the store… three groups to be precise. All three groups were interested in seeking my help, but the group that got there first were keen to haggle – every price I gave them was too much, but they proceeded to waste so much of my time that I ended up being unable to help the other two sets of customers. Thanks very much for your unreasonable expectations on prices, and for wasting so much of my time that other potential customers walked out.

Round two of the 2017 F1 season is done and dusted, with a reasonably comfortable victory for Lewis Hamilton and, after a few hijinks, a reasonably comfortable second place for Sebastian Vettel too. The race (that saw all but one driver start on intermediate tyres, due to water on the track) provided a better examination of the new cars than Australia did, as well as providing some interesting tests on the difficulties of overtaking. A couple of guys reaffirmed why they are held in high regard, and for a few others, it was a race to forget.

Williams’ Lance Stroll was a very early casualty – his rear-left tyre was tagged by Sergio Perez’s front-right, sending the youngster onto the gravel and out of the race on the very first lap. That brought out the virtual safety car, which became the safety car itself on lap two, when the Sauber of Antonio Giovinazzi met the front of the pit wall, having crashed in qualifying a day earlier. Between the VSC and SC, the race was more or less handed to Hamilton; Vettel had pitted early (something a few drivers were doing) to don dry weather tyres, but the safety car handed a more or less free stop to Hamilton, who controlled the race from there.

Further back. Max Verstappen had enjoyed a strong start and the Red Bull man went from 16th to seventh on the first lap, enjoying the slippery conditions. He was helped by Carlos Sainz going more or less backwards in his Toro Rosso – Sainz had been the only guy out on slick tyres, and not only did he start badly, he span at the first sequence of corners.

Daniel Ricciardo had put his Red Bull ahead of Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari, and after the early flurry of pit stops it was Hamilton out front with Ricciardo behind him and Verstappen bearing down on his teammate. Valtteri Bottas managed to end any hopes he had of a podium finish when he span as the safety car spell came to an end, and had to work his way back up the order.

A brief battle ensued between Ricciardo and Verstappen, whilst behind them the two Ferraris battled each other, with Vettel struggling to get by Raikkonen. Before too long, Verstappen had swept by Ricciardo and was setting off after Hamilton, but the Red Bulls’ pace was very much due to the supersoft tyre, whilst both Mercedes and Ferrari were looking comfortable on the softs. Hamilton began to edge away, never really troubled. Behind him, Vettel darted by Raikkonen at turn 6, catching his teammate by surprise, and on lap 22 showed Raikkonen how to pass a Red Bull, going to wheel to wheel with Ricciardo through the first six corners, with the two even banging wheels on the exit from turn 6. After this, Vettel bore down upon Verstappen, who would lose second place after locking up hard into turn 14.

A second round of pit stops didn’t do too much to unhinge the established order, though Raikkonen did fall behind a much-recovered Sainz, who had taken advantage of circumstances to put himself back up to 6th. Raikkonen did manage to get by the Toro Rosso but his chances of catching the Red Bulls had been hurt, whilst Bottas staged his own recovery and would eventually get up to 6th himself, but 7th for Sainz was still a great effort.

Spare a thought for Fernando Alonso. He had dragged his McLaren into the points, battling for 7th at one point – but on lap 33 a problem – either a fuel pressure issue or trouble with the drive shaft – put him out. Teammate Stoffel Vandoorne had suffered a similar fate earlier on – another bleak day for McLaren.

Elsewhere, Kevin Magnussen took 8th for Haas and both Perez and Esteban Ocon (who had also fought his way up the field) took the final points places for Force India.

So Hamilton and Vettel are now tied at the top, albeit with only two races run. If not for strategy calls being affected by the safety car, it’s entirely possible Vettel would have been a lot closer to Hamilton. Meanwhile, Mercedes are now a point ahead of Ferrari in the constructor’s championship. Next up is Bahrain, in a weeks’ time!

Two weeks on from Sebastian Vettel’s victory in Australia, the emerging duel between Ferrari and Mercedes (and excitingly, Vettel and Lewis Hamilton) has journeyed to China, where long, powerful straights will emphasize the difference between the teams with engine power, and those without. It will also highlight any weaknesses in a team’s chassis – sector two in particular features slow and mid speed corners that will be a test of the downforce the new cars can generate. You might think that the long, sloping curves of turns 1, 2, 3 and 4, not to mention the loops of turns 7 and 8 (plus the surprisingly fast 9 and 10) would play into the hands of teams like Red Bull, but after farcial scenes in practice (FP1 was cut short and FP2 cancelled completely because of bad weather preventing the medical helicopter from running), qualification brought about a 1.3 second difference between Raikkonen’s fourth-placed Ferrari and Ricciardo’s fifth-placed Red Bull.

It’s clear that Ferrari are a lot closer to Mercedes this season. Hamilton snatched pole for Sunday’s race by 0.186 seconds, with Vettel slotting into second, just 0.001 seconds quicker than the second Mercedes of Bottas. Raikkonen wasn’t too far behind either – 0.275 seconds behind Bottas. Less than half a second is between the top four, which could make for a fascinating race tomorrow.

It could be that the race is won and lost at the first corner. It remains to be seen if overtaking will be easier here, with the tight turn 14 lying at the end of a monster straight being an obvious chance, but only if the chasing car can close in. There could be opportunities to be had at turn 1, and the sequence that follows, but it may well be that, as in Australia, pit strategy is decisive. One man who will be keen to demonstrate overtaking skills is Max Verstappen, who starts 19th following car trouble. Ocon (in the Force India) is lining up in another car that is somewhat displaced, the result of Giovinazzi’s heavy crash in Q1 unhinging a few flying laps.

All in all, we are set for an interesting and intriguing contest tomorrow.

Tonight’s voyage home is brought to you by the letter M for Moron – a remarkable idiot even by the standards set by the average fool. His reckless actions were, in a word, incredulous. To use another word, they were astonishing. They also had the impact of drastically hindering my journey home. The incident? A guy decided that, rather than going up the stairs and around to the right platform for his train, it was better to run across the railway tracks. The consequences of this act? The driver of the train refused to budge until the idiot had gotten off the train, which resulted in the driver actually marching down the platform to find the offender and remove him. Unfortunately the time delay resulted in the train getting held up at a set of faulty points further up the train. Cue lengthy delay and a long walk up to the next station.

What a complete muppet. Quite aside from his total disregard for the other passengers, this imbecile risked his own life and potentially the lives of others because he couldn’t be bothered to wait for the next train. I did see a police officer arrive at the station as I headed off to walk up along the beach, so hopefully he got what was coming to him. The upside? A nice evevning walk along the beach, even if I hadn’t banked on it. I just hope the next time I take a stroll along the beach, it’s by choice.

These are eggs. They are wonderfully versatile. You can fry them, boil them, poach them, scramble them, turn them into omlettes, use them to make cakes and use them to make glazes and sauces. Great things, eggs. Of course, to cook with them there is first one key detail – they need to be real eggs. Unsurprisingly, plastic ones won’t work. My daughter’s clever little practical joke involving a toy rubber egg will be marked up as a story worth embarrassing her with when she’s older. In the meantime… well played!

“Sir, we have a ripple in warp space. Just a small one but definitely present.” Reported the young woman manning the astro station. She tucked a stray strand of auburn hair out of her face and tapped a few buttons on the touch-display in front of her.

“A ship?” Replied the duty commander. He stifled a yawn – the nightshift was the short straw.

“Possibly… wait, sir, the ripple is expanding! It’s…”

She never finished the sentence. A rift opened like someone was ripping apart a cardboard box, and from it spilled first the twisted red and orange hues of warp space, tendrils of energy that defied normal physics, and then came the scourge.

Hundreds of dark green vessels came streaming from the rift, bearing down on the world below. Their hulls – with a great many grooves that sloped toward the forward section – were liberally peppered with turrets and missile launchers. A tightly compact rear section kept the engines shielded, protected by thick armour. A small raised section to the rear of the crafts held the sophisticated sensors and military grade jamming systems that, across every ship, suddenly burned holes in the Commonwealth vessel’s own sensors.

Scanners on the planet’s surface had also picked up the intrusion. Fixed cannons powered up, protective shields surrounded the major cities and orbital defences armed themselves. Pilots rushed to their fighters, their blood pumping and adrenaline flowing at the prospect of combat.

The Commonwealth ship raised her own shields but the battle cruiser, whilst easily more powerful than any individual enemy destroyer, was impossibly outnumbered. Over four hundred destroyers fired up their ion pulse cannons, bracketing the cruiser with lethal energies. The bulk of that firepower poured into the starboard shields, which buckled swiftly. Commonwealth armour was good, but not invincible, and within seconds it was broken, with fiery holes left in the ship’s hull. The weapons chewed through power conduits, deck plating, computer relays and energy regulators, and as that maelstrom passed, the vacuum of space sucked at the ship. Emergency bulkheads slammed shut, leaving behind fires that raged where the cannons had set the very air ablaze.

The keening Commonwealth vessel tried to divert power to her shields but half her generators had already been destroyed in the opening assault, and there were simply too many enemy craft. Her angular blue hull was now charred and pocked, with several of her weapon ports blasted to oblivion. Nor had the carnage stopped. Within moments of the ion cannon blasts came the missiles, that sent megatons of nuclear energy into the already-damaged starboard section. Their destruction power went deep, ploughing huge chunks of burning debris from the stricken cruiser. Within seconds of emerging from warp, every man and woman aboard the Commonwealth ship was dead, with the ship herself torn open and with explosions bursting out of her port, ventral and dorsal hulls; the result of overloaded relays finally giving up.

Next were the orbital defences. The cylindrical weapons platforms were already active, and they launched missiles of their own that carried enough punch to turn any individual destroyer to dust. Sophisticated tracking systems in the missiles and the defensive stations locked onto targets and raced away at incredible speeds. Planet-based systems did likewise, spitting missiles at the encroaching enemy fleet.

Missiles came out to meet them. Two swarms hurtled toward each other at hundreds of kilometres per second, but the humans on both the orbital stations and on the ground were confident in their systems, despite the enemy swarm being more than twice the size. That faith evaporated as distortion fields, electro-magnetic counter measures and decoys confused the targeting on most of the Commonwealth missiles. The tightly-clustered enemy ships were emitting the fields, but fully a quarter of their own missiles were decoys or jammers, sucking away the immediate threat. Anti-missile rockets raced out to meet the warheads, taking care of most of the ones that stubbornly tracked targets.

A few did get through. The bows of several enemy vessels were turned into molten wrecks, and those ships fell out of formation. Even as they drifted away, the remaining vessels turned their pulse cannons on the orbital defences, combining that stream of firepower with their missiles. The system had been widely considered an unlikely target for attack, sitting too far within Commonwealth space, so there simply hadn’t been a budget for the advanced defences other worlds had. The stations cracked apart, one by one, and below them on the surface, the shields that protected the cities from bombardment weakened.

It wasn’t a completely one-sided affair. Four of the attacking ships broke formation, abandoning the protective screen that came with discipline. Their crews cared not for tactics of any refinement. They wanted blood and they wanted to press the attack. Before they succumbed to the sheer weight of the enemy weapons, surviving orbital stations fired up their beam cannons, that were more than a match for the destroyers. One such beam stabbed right through a destroyer’s port hull and out the other side, and the gunner dragged the beam along, ripping open the ship like a tin can. Another ship caught a glancing blow that nonetheless tore spindles from her superstructure and burned away several of her weapon ports. Another beam knocked away her dorsal fin. The remaining two ships were in the process of scrambling to get back into formation, but two beams apiece broke both vessels in half, moments before the stations were themselves destroyed.

Another rift opened, and this time two much larger ships emerged. Their forward hulls resembled the face and teeth of piranhas – A fattened midsection bristled with weapons and also hanger bays. By now the elegant Hawk-class fighters were streaming into space in droves – hundreds of sleek silver craft, with twin cannons on either fore-swept wingtip and quad engines providing incredible agility. Mingled with them were the bombers – bigger, more blocky, with pods on either side manned by gunners to drive off enemy fighters, and the pilot in the cockpit, standing read to deploy the powerful bombs that rested in their release holders, just above the bomb doors. They were almost in range, and were their world’s last shot at preventing all-out destruction. Their determination did not waver, even as the new arrivals unleashed fighters of their own.

The enemy fighters were more primitive, representing planes that had once fought in an old earth conflict called World War II. What the enemy had were numbers – the two carriers were gargantuan, capable of holding hundreds of fighters each, and they were spilling into space. The ECM from the destroyers was another factor, but the Commonwealth fighters were quick and could fire based on sight – they just had to get close enough. The fight was joined as the two sets of attack craft merged, and thousands of energy pulses were fired.

The human fighters were superior in just about every aspect, and several dozen enemy fighters became free-floating wrecks within seconds. They kept coming, and several Commonwealth fighters were also destroyed, but a path was being quickly burrowed toward the capital ships. The bombers needed only the one opportunity to hopefully give the enemy pause… but that chance would never come. The destroyers held a secret, and they unveiled it just as the bombers moved into position. Anti-aircraft fire – flak bursts – tore wings from fuselage and sent enemy and ally alike spiralling from the bracketing energy. A few bombs did get through, and a handful of destroyers were left as nothing more than broken husks, but not nearly enough of them were knocked out of action. The Commonwealth fighters tried to withdraw but they were sandwiched between enemy fighters and the flak coming from the nearest destroyers. They fought valiantly, but in the end, they were all either destroyed or disabled. Nothing stood between the enemy fleet and the planet.

Another two carriers joined the fleet, along with one other, much larger ship. It’s bulbous form was similar in some respects to the carriers – the same, aggressive frontage that was adorned with a great many weapon ports, and the bulging midsection that sloped back toward powerful engines – but it was three times the size of the carriers, and more than capable of rendering great acts of devastation. As the carriers (plus several dozen destroyers) began to angle toward the planet, preparing to land troops to complete the invasion, the commander of the force watched silently from the command deck.

****

The last time Great War Chief Tarmel had stood on the command deck of his flagship and watched his fleet, it had been to watch it burn. Thousands of Ork war ships had been sliced, punctured, shelled or otherwise ruined by the Commonwealth Navy, after the Commonwealth’s trap had easily suckered in his forces. They had known – as they had always known – that Orks were easy prey for traps and plots. His people had eschewed the nuances of strategy and tactical warfare, preferring to meet their enemies head on, and on that day, seventeen years ago, it had sealed their fate. On the face of it, a direct battle had loomed and bloodlust had sent him and his forces into a dizzying state of expectation. The Ork fleet was huge, its ferocity unmatched, and the Commonwealth couldn’t possibly hope to beat it.

Instead, his fleet had charged first into a deep and dense minefield, that had all but wiped out his escorts. Anti-fighter platforms had been planted just behind the field, and they had ripped his fighters to shreds. Even as his fleet regrouped and destroyed the platforms, Commonwealth ships, mysteriously absent, had dropped from warp and attacked his fleet from the rear, smashing through line after line of destroyers and light cruisers as they sought out the bigger prizes. In retrospect, there had never been any chance of the Commonwealth letting Orks into the Sol system with a direct fight in mind – and he had fallen for it. The lure of glorious battle had overwhelmed his senses and driven him mad with the desire for victory. As the human ships began to knock out his battle cruisers and carriers, Tarmel had seen the truth – as large as his fleet had been, he was outsmarted tactically and the humans had better technology. Prior to the disastrous Battle of Sol, the Orks had struck in huge swarms with varying margins of victory, but they had underestimated the depth of human cunning and their enemy’s willingness to make sacrifices for the greater good. He had given the order – the most hated order in Ork history – to retreat, but it had come too late to prevent most of his fleet from being crushed.

Afterward he had come to realise that Orks were the laughing stock of the galaxy. Violent and dangerous yes, but easily manipulated. Ultimately easily defeated, unless they were prepared to change. That had been an interesting discussion…

****

“We will rebuild and we will win!” Second War Chief Creech had bellowed within the hallowed Chamber of Blood, aptly named for the numerous green blood stains upon the sharp stone walls and petrified wooden ring table. Seats had been chiselled out of the stone, rough but enough – Orks cared little for comfort. Creech thumped his battle armour – dark grey plating taken from a defeated Commonwealth cruiser – and a great many Orks also gathered in the chamber repeated the gesture. Several spilled their drinks from their crude clay mugs – the pale amber liquid pooled at their green feet.

Creech turned his one good eye upon Tarmel. “We will never again retreat.” He snarled through his teeth. One fang – the lower left – had been chipped, but the rest remained as sharp as ever. It was with his words that he did the biting this time.

More shouting. More approval for the Ork who wanted to replace Tarmel. Creech gave him an ugly, evil smile.

“You led us away from battle. You are weak.”

“And you are stupid. You were there Creech. We would be dead if we had stayed. Our entire fleet would be gone. Then where would we be?” Tarmel had remained seated, clinging to his new thread of thinking. He watched the angry mob that was supposed to be in charge of his people, and he saw only extinction.

“We would have our honour!” Replied Creech. “We should never have obeyed your order!”

Tarmel waited until the latest round of shrieks and screams had ebbed. “What honour comes from letting our enemies outwit us, time and time again? The humans baited us and we took the bait. They have smarter commanders, better ships and more cunning than us. All we have is our blind love of war. It isn’t enough.”

Several eyes had turned to him. His words were dangerous, and he knew it. He was challenging one of the most sacred aspects of Ork existence.

“If we carry on as we are, the Ork race will die. The humans are physically weak but they have something we don’t. They can think. They can reason. They have been letting us think we were winning this war, but all the while they’ve watched us and learned about us. They will run rings around us, have run rings around us, and if not for their greatest weakness – mercy – they would already be here, bombarding the life out of every Ork world. We need to start thinking like them, beat them at their own game.”

Creech took a step forward. “You want us to act like them? Strength and power is who we are Tarmel. It is what makes Orks Orks. What you suggest is the way of a coward.”

The room fell deathly quiet. To accuse another Ork of cowardice was the worst possible offence, an act that demanded a response. Tarmel stood slowly. Creech was a good head higher than he, broader too. Inwardly Tarmel smiled. Creech was the perfect example.

“What you propose is suicide through stupidity. You are too much of a moron to understand this Creech.”

“You are a coward. A true Ork would have gone for his dagger already. All you do is talk. Or is that because you know you can’t beat me?”

Tarmel snarled. He let the heat – the love of battle – flow into his blood, but remembered what he had learned from study.

“If you were as confident as you claim, you would have attacked already.”

With a roar Creech charged, arm raised to slam a meaty green fist into Tarmel’s face. Tarmel sidestepped, grabbing Creech’s outstretched arm and using his attacker’s momentum to swing him face first into the jagged stone wall. Blood burst from Creech’s broken nose and from gashes in his forehead, and before he could get his bearings back Tarmel had hooked his leg and swept it out from under him, sending him crashing onto his back. Tarmel leapt upon Creech and pressed the tip of his curved dagger to the bigger Ork’s throat.

“I could kill you so easily and I would enjoy watching the life slowly drain from your body. That would bring me the most pleasure. Would it serve to make my point?” He looked up at the other Orks. “Would it change anything?” His voice raised, carrying through the chamber. He pressed a knee upon Creech’s throat. “We are killed so easily by our enemies and we even kill each other! Yet the most powerful do not always win by brute strength! I have been studying humans and their ways. They use their opponent’s strength against him. They use their ingenuity. They fight smart, and so must we.”

Tarmel stared down at Creech’s defiant, blood-spattered face. “We have a long way to go. Will you fight against our extinction, or for it?”

Chapter 2

Fiction

 

Originally posted on The Nudge Wink Report:

So somehow, the April 1st post falls to me. This means I’m under even greater pressure to produce something observant and witty. Thankfully, our glorious leaders are providing us with all the material I need to turn this into a Pulitzer Prize-winning article.

Let’s start with Britain. I’d love to wake up tomorrow and find out Brexit was one big trick – a game, albeit a cruel one, that turns out not to be true. Failing that, I’d love to think we have leaders and negotiators that can do a half-decent job. Unfortunately, we have these:

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That’s the logo of the Conservative Party. I don’t have a lot of confidence in them. We have trusting our future to a party that have gladly quadrupled their champagne intake – boozy people are fun to watch from afar, but do we want them steering the ship?! They’ve been so drunk they forgot to declare certain expenses during the last election – oops. Perhaps this also explains their flip-flopping – who knows? Alcohol does strange things to the mind!

Yet somehow, it’s the Tories who will be representing all of us (even Scotland, who don’t want anything to do with this) when the talks start in earnest. Why am I not convinced they will put the best interests of the people first?

timondubious

That’s the exact face I made when Brexit won the vote. Now it’s the face I make whenever I read about Brexit. Or hear the word Brexit. Or think it.

Guys, this man wanted us to vote Brexit (there’s that face again). If that wasn’t a good reason not to, I don’t know what is. Here’s an exclusive photo of him in his lair, celebrating:

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Here’s another man who thought Brexit would be a swell idea – assuming he has any understanding of what it means:

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Speaking of Donald, he was America’s Trump card last year – just when Brexit (that face) seemed to be the lowest ebb politically, he raised his orange head and told everyone ‘hold my beer’. Unsurprisingly, he’s crashed hard in the approval ratings since becoming President – as it stands, only 38% of those polled think he’s doing a good job – where were the 57% who disapproved of him when the election was on?! Were you all sleeping?! Grabbing a quick latte?! I mean come on – now you’ve saddled yourself with Putin’s favourite horse.

Why can’t this be one big (unfunny) joke? The entire world would love to wake up tomorrow and find out Obama was back. ‘April Fools’ says Trump, announcing his presidency was one big prank, and he’s stepping down. What a sigh of relief for the entire globe (well, unless you’re Trevor Noah, who would lose a metric ton of material to work with if that happened).

All this talk of a drive toward populism is now being met with reality – and all of a sudden, no one wants populism anymore. If the Brexit (that face) vote happened now, we wouldn’t vote leave – not surprising given little details like misdirection on EU costsNHS spending, the economy and so on. Like it or not, we’re committed. The UK is committed to Brexit (that face), the US is committed to an orange wearing a wig.  What’s gonna be worse, Trump or Brexit (that face)?

The upshot for America is, Trump isn’t likely to last four years – I mean, how can he when his plans keep failing miserably? The guy has the temperament of a toddler and the ego of Emperor Palpatine. He’ll end up impeaching himself.