Monday, 16 August 2021

Bloodhawk Down

 

As we all know, the Imperialist States of Amerikastan can never lose.

 

It didn’t lose in Vietnam, for example, or in Somalia, or Iraq, come to that.

 

What? You thought the Imperialist States lost in Vietnam and Iraq and Somalia? Obviously you didn’t watch any of the many, many Hollywood films dedicated to proving the opposite for Vietnam, or Black Hawk Down for Somalia, or American Sniper for Iraq, and that’s just the list I can be bothered to dig up.

 

Anyway, to get to ye olde pointe: Amerikastan can never, ever lose. I mean, Hollywood says so! Who are you going to believe, Hollywood or reality?

 

So: Since Amerikastan cannot have lost in Afghanistan yesterday, it is not possible, despite all evidence to the contrary, I decided to help Hollywood out and write a script for it. I mean, I am literally creating history here!

 

So, coming up: the new Hollywood blockbuster on Afghanistan, Bloodhawk Down.

 

Opening scene:

 

The heartbreakingly beautiful mountains of the Hindu Kush (the Pamir Knot will do nicely as a substitute, thank you, do you think the target audience for this kind of thing can differentiate between Afghanistan and Tajikistan anyway?). The purple shadows of evening lie deep in valleys.

 

Enter the shadow of a helicopter, along with the noise of its engine. Pan up to the cockpit, where we have our GRIM-FACED HANDSOME HERO, who is the pilot.

 

This is Major Bloodhawk, USAF. The camera moves up his body, hesitating briefly on his uniformed chest, which has his name in clearly visible BLOCK LETTERS, as well as the requisite stars and stripes badge.

 

Major Bloodhawk is, of course, played by Tom Cruise. It is always Tom Cruise as the aging, handsome, instantly relatable hero. Of course it’s Tom Cruise. Who else could it be, Arnold Schwarzenegger? Give me a break.

 

FLASHBACK to Major Bloodhawk’s many years in Afghanistan, starting with his service as a young gunship pilot back in the glory days of the invasion in the mid 2000s, then moving on to training Afghans to fly helicopters so they can do some gunshipping of their own (insert manly tears when one of his pupils is killed in a crash). He has friends among Afghans, including a brave translator who saved his life during a Taliban ambush. This translator’s name is Quislinguddin, and he has stayed in touch with Major Bloodhawk ever since.

 

Back home, naturally, Major Bloodhawk has a lovely and loving wife, and the requisite two children, male and female. This wife’s name is immaterial, call her Laura if you want, but she’ll be, naturally, played by Angelina Jolie. She was in Kabul, too, of course teaching Afghan women to read and write, but in recent days she’s gone back home. This is an opportunity to show her lovely, palatial home in a leafy suburb somewhere in California, with the compulsory swimming pool in the backyard, complete with a golden retriever who goes swimming with brat and bratess.

 

So both Bloodhawk and Laura are – are you getting this? You are? Good – absolutely genuine heroes, as everyone can see. And the Afghans love them! (Insert shots of profoundly grateful Afghans, begging him to bomb their villages some more and her to teach them some more to read and write.)

 

But times have changed, and it’s 2021, and the Taliban are threatening Kabul. (Gasp! Who could ever have seen that coming?) Major Bloodhawk is past his glory days as an Apache gunship pilot. He now flies a Chinook transport, and he’s been tasked to stay ready to evacuate Americans from the rooftop of the embassy in Kabul, exactly as President Bidet had sworn would never happen.

 

You’re still with me, right?

 

Bloodhawk has a trusty sidekick, who mans a heavy machine gun set in the Chinook’s door. (Never mind whether Chinooks have door gunners, door gunners and helicopters go together like napalm and Vietnamese villages, this has been holy writ since the first Vietnam movie came out, dammit.) I can’t be bothered to come up with a name for him, but he is played by the guy from Jurassic World.

 

So! The evil, vengeful, misogynistic, bearded, turbaned Taliban are battering at the gates of Kabul, when Major Bloodhawk gets a call on his mobile phone! Who can it be? Who??

 

His old mate Quislinguddin, that’s who.

 

Quislinguddin, and I don’t care who plays him as long as it’s a smallish round-faced man with a moustache and a pakol cap, is calling from a village near Kandahar. This village is ruled over by an Evil Taliban Warlord. (Maybe played by Danny Trejo in a beard and black turban? I think it should be Danny Trejo in a beard and black turban.) ETW has his eye on a beautiful young girl in the village, played by anyone, damn it, what does it even matter at this stage. ETW has decided to celebrate the impending Taliban victory by kidnapping the BYG, and intends to marry her as soon as Kabul falls.

 

“Bloodhawk,” the translator says, “the evil Talib has kept her confined within his dastardly fortified house in the village, guarded by the evillest Taliban guards in all Kandahar! You must save her!”

 

Bloodhawk’s orders are to wait and be ready to evacuate the embassy but... (Flashback once again to the moment that Quislinguddin saved him from the Taliban ambush, diving on him and wrestling him to the ground at the risk of his own life.) He calls Laura and explains his dilemma, and in an emotionally charged scene over the phone – he in his helicopter seat, she looking at her (very symbolically empty) bed, a photo of the two of them on the side table, they decide that he must Do The Right Thing.

 

Tom...I mean Bloodhawk...turns to his door gunner, GFJW. “What do you think, Guy?”

 

Guy, as anyone who’s watched Jurassic World is aware, is capable of just one expression, so he doesn’t move a facial muscle. “Let’s go get her! Hooah!”

 

So, without orders, the Chinook clatters into the air and heads off to Kandahar. (Insert more scenic mountains while dramatic swelling music plays, etc.)

 

Cut to the village, where the ETW has been taunting the BYG with her inevitable fate. Suddenly, from his window, he sees the helicopter clattering over the village roofs. Leaning from the aperture, he shouts at his army of guards to alert them to this threat! Bloodhawk, look out! The enemy knows you’re coming!

 

But wait! There’s help!

 

It’s Quislinguddin! Running from one spot to another, mobile phone at his ear, he directs Bloodhawk, telling him where the Taliban are! The heroic American helicopter – roundels and USAF legend boldly visible – makes several low passes over the village, GFJW mowing the Taliban guards down with his trusty machine gun, American firepower defeating evil! Then, in a great gust of sand and wind, the Chinook starts descending into the village square.

 

But what is this?!? The dastardly ETW has taken the opportunity to barricade himself in his evil fortified residence! He knows that Bloodhawk can’t stay long, and he’s determined to wait it out! Whatever will Bloodhawk do?

 

In the helicopter, Bloodhawk and GFJW exchange glances. “Do it, Major,” the latter says...I mean, grinds out between clenched teeth. “Do it!”

 

So, in a remarkable action sequence never before committed to cinema history, Bloodhawk flies his helicopter at almost ground level right up to the ETW’s house. His front rotor’s immense blades crash through the wall of the dastardly residence, sending a mass of rubble falling into the dusty street. Then he backs away and begins to swing around for another go.

 

But, look! Who is this slim, lovely figure who dashes from the broken house? Why, it’s the BYG! She’s free! But only for the moment, for behind her lumbers the form of the ETW! He wants her back! He’s too close to her for GFJW to use his machine gun! She’s almost caught!

 

And here comes Quislinguddin, armed with a piece of wood from the ETW’s own demolished house! He hits the ETW alongside the turban with the half-plank! ETW’s down for the count!

 

Bloodhawk, delicately as a feather, lands his helicopter next to Quislinguddin and the BYG. GFJW urgently beckons them aboard, but the girl’s afraid to climb on. Quislinguddin has to push her from behind and GFJW pull her by the arms to get her into the chopper. Finally she’s in, and Quislinguddin begins to clamber aboard himself.

 

But, wait! The ETW has recovered! Clambering to his feet, his mad eyes glaring, he reaches inside his sleeveless jacket and brings out a (Russian, this was given to him as bounty for killing US soldiers!) Tokarev pistol. Just as the helicopter lifts off, he shoots at it, and the bullet, going through the door, takes Quislinguddin through the chest.

 

As GFJW pilots the Chinook towards Kabul, Quislinguddin looks up at Bloodhawk kneeling over him on the chopper's floor. “We did rescue her, didn’t we?” he whispers, a heroic trickle of blood seeping photogenically from the corner of his mouth.

 

“We did,” Bloodhawk says. “We did.”

 

“I should never have saved your life,” Quislinguddin says, and grins painfully in the best buddy war movie tradition. “You just keep getting me into trouble.”

 

“That’s right, you shouldn’t have,” Bloodhawk replies.

 

“I won’t do it again,” Quislinguddin says, and dies in Bloodhawk’s arms.

 

Swelling music as Bloodhawk weeps bitter tears over Quislinguddin’s corpse. Then the girl lays a comforting hand on his shoulder. He looks up at her and smiles.


The American-flag-bedecked runways of Kabul Airport appear in the distance.

 

(End credits.)

 

 

Oscar material, yo.

 



Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Blood Moon

 Swiftly,  swiftly

The tide travels

Licking and rising 

Here, there


At Cuban beaches

At Iraqi deserts

At Vietnamese jungles

At Afghanistan's hills 


At Gaza's crowded alleys

At Yemeni mountains

At Donbass villages

At Baghdad's slums.


Looking for a breach

Looking for a fissure

And where it is turned back

It moves elsewhere 

To try again. 


Overhead the blood moon

Immune

Draws the tide, commands it, 



But the blood moon's orbit 

Shrinks 

Decays

The hungry ocean awaits it

The vengeful desert

The patient hills.


Copyright B Purkayastha 2021


(I dreamt the first lines of this poem, woke at 4 am, and wrote the rest before I forgot. Good job,  too, because I  didn't remember a word of it later.)




Friday, 18 June 2021

Emissaries



Through the observation cameras, the planet below was a ball of greyish-brown, marked with darker lines, as though the surface was cracked and fissured, and would fall apart at a blow.


One of its faces was washed with the ruddy glow of the red giant that was one of its suns, an elderly star consuming itself in the final billions of years of its long life. The other side was starkly greenish in the light of the other, smaller sun, the two turning in a tango around each other, the planet itself, a captive of the immutable laws of gravity, turning around them, and bathed in their varicoloured light.  


Shihuang 11 had no thoughts about the scene. He was far too busy tabulating the images, merging them together into a continuum, comparing them to the data from his planet mapping radars and the maps he’d been given, monitoring his orbital level, and finalising his plans on when to carry out the next phase of his mission. If the planet had been breaking apart at one point, all it would mean to Shihuang 11 was that he would avoid landing on that point.


He’d arrived in orbit over a week ago now, Earth-time, and ever since then he’d not paused a moment. The wealth of information he’d picked up was already immense. He had stored it, compressed it, and scrambled and coded it. When the planet next edged past the radio-shadow of its sun, he would send the coded data in a narrow stream of electronic noise, streaking through space at the speed of light, towards where the earth would be when it finally arrived at its destination. Then, gigantic dishes made of wire mesh and metal struts would intercept his transmission, and forward it to eagerly awaiting recipients. Some of them – those who had sent Shihuang 11 on his journey – would have the keys to decode the messages he’d sent. Others, who did not have the keys, would set great supercomputers to trying to unscramble the data.


Shihuang 11 did not care whether they would succeed. His business was here and now, his duty to collate and send the data he’d collected from orbit before descending to the planet. Once the data had been sent, he would move on to the next task. That was why he was here.


Slowly, from the images and the radar soundings, one particular spot emerged from all the others that his camera images and radar scans had shortlisted as potential landing sites. It was an oval plain, about halfway between the equator and the southern pole of the planet. Though it was surrounded by chains of hills like the stumps of rotten teeth, it was flat, smooth, had no trace of recent volcanic activity or earthquakes, and promised a stable surface for the lander module.


Shihuang 11 fired his orbital module rockets in brief, carefully calibrated bursts, lifting himself into a slightly higher orbital trajectory, and moving his path a few hundred kilometres to one side. Then, at the precise moment, when he’d just travelled past the point on the plain he’d selected, he closed a series of switches and circuits, and sent a signal programmed many months before through the appropriate circuits.


For a long moment, nothing seemed to happen, the lander module shrouded in its spherical heat shield matching perfectly the trajectory of the orbiter. Then there was a brief puff of released gas, and a gap appeared between the dark sphere and its lodging in the belly of the lander. Quite slowly, as it seemed, the gap enlarged, as the two sped together over the planet. Then the sphere dropped far enough that the first tendrils of the atmosphere fumbled at it with fingers of nitrogen and carbon dioxide. The heat shield, a cannonball fired by the force of gravity at the face of the planet, began to warm. The fingers of gas thickened and tightened, the sphere slowing further, its forward momentum dropping away as it began a long spiralling fall to the planet. The heat shell began to glow red, then white, the atmosphere around it turning into an incandescent sheath of plasma.


Shihuang 11 had neither the time to worry, nor marvel at the plume of blazing hot gas through which he was falling. His concerns were the temperature inside the heat shield – it was within acceptable levels – the functioning of the lander systems – they were all working so far – and the course the sphere was following as it descended. Since there were no antennae or sensors outside the heat shield – the men who had built it had known that any would burn away instantly in the heat of the descent – he could neither see where he was going nor communicate with the cameras and radars following his descent from the orbiter. All he could do was compare the time he was travelling and his velocity to the plan formulated in the orbiter, and they told him that he was doing well.


At the proper time, he activated a camera accompanied by a brilliant light. It showed him the ceramic lined interior of the heat shield, dark and relatively cool despite the searing heat washing across its other surface, only centimetres away. Shihuang 11 monitored his altitude as it dropped, and the temperature of the heat shield fall, too, as the atmosphere grew thicker and thicker as he fell further and further. Then, at the proper time, he sent another signal.


Through the camera he watched the heat shield pop away, the two halves of the sphere separate as it broke apart. Now the camera had something more than the interior of the heat shield to show him. The planet below was no longer a gigantic sphere; it was a vast plain, streaked and lined with fissures, ridged with crumpled hills, that stretched to a horizon that only just still showed a curvature. There were no clouds in this atmosphere without oxygen and water vapour; Shihuang 11 had an unrestricted view. He noted, without satisfaction or surprise, that he was where he was supposed to be, and would land in the plain he was supposed to.


Still travelling on its side, the lighter upper surface trailing the heavy bottom, the lander fell.


From the top, which was the back as it fell, a small pilot parachute snapped out. Striped alternately red and white, it cupped and held the air, filled out, and snapped open. It was too small to slow the fall of the lander, but it wasn’t designed to. Its purpose was to turn the lander’s orientation from on its side to vertical, and to pull out the giant main parachute from its housing in a bulge like a hunchback’s hump on the lander’s top surface. Moments later, with a noise like an explosion, the main parachute, bright orange in colour, slammed open.


Suddenly the lander was no longer a cannonball hurtling to earth. Suddenly it was a package of metal and crystals, hanging under an immense parachute, spinning gently under the gigantic upturned bowl of orange cloth as it fell.


Now the land below was no longer a smooth oval. Now Shihuang 11 was close enough for the downward-looking camera to show him that the surface below was covered with myriad tiny cracks and wrinkles like an ancient crone’s face, and littered with stones from the size of a pebble to that of a small car. None of them would impede Shihuang 11’s descent; they were either too small, or not in his way.


Slower, and still slower as its speed bled away, the lander fell.


Shihuang 11 turned on a laser unit in the bottom of the lander. A hair-thin beam lanced downwards, touched the ground below, and lenses above measured to the nearest micron how far the lander was still above the ground. When it was near enough, Shihuang 11 sent out another command. The parachute’s shrouds, held fast in the lander’s back hump, were set loose. Without the weight of the lander, it was no longer an air-filled bowl. No more than a wilted flower of crumpled orange cloth, the parachute drifted away.


A quartet of four small rocket engines, set in the belly of the lander, between its telescoping legs, had been waiting for this moment ever since they had been designed, built, and installed. They had never been used for anything before this moment. They would never be used for anything after. They would live, and die, only in this instant. Only a metre and a half above the onrushing plain, they fired, all together, their four blazing pillars of flame seeming to support the lander, holding it off the ground below, as though to guard it from contact. But, as designed to be, they were too weak. They could, and did, slow the lander. They could not stop it from touching down.


In a plume of dust and pulverised stone, the rockets exhausted the last of their fuel and cut out. Less than three seconds later, the heavy, braced legs of the lander thudded down on the surface. There was a slight rocking motion as one, slightly higher than the others, stabilised itself on its shock absorbers. The sound and fury of the descent faded. The dust, stirred up by the landing rockets, settled in two long, darkened plumes. The only sound was the whisper of wind.


Shihuang 11 was down.


************************************** 

 

Perched atop the lander’s platform, Shihuang 11 surveyed the plain.


To the south and the west, the land stretched to the horizon, as far as the camera he’d hoisted on a mast could see. To the north, the ground rose slightly, in a gentle slope, until it rose abruptly into a line of hills like a crumpled piece of cloth. To the east, the hills were further away, a faint bluish smudge at the very limit of distance. At the limit of the camera’s view, though, there was a minor crack in the ground, a dark jagged line that began somewhere too far off to see and disappeared also into the distance. Shihuang 11 had noted this crack while spinning under the falling parachute, and had fed the coordinates into his mission plan. It was certainly something that required exploring.


Pressure sensors in the legs of the lander were already bringing back news of the consistency of the soil underneath. A ground penetrating radar antenna on a stubby arm was sending down impulses into the planet, and forming an image of the strata underneath. Fans of solar panels, thin as a dragonfly’s wing but strong enough to bear the weight of a bus, were spread out like petals, greedily drinking in the sunshine, both the dull red and the glaring green, to turn it into electric power to feed the lander’s hungry systems. And, from underneath the platform, a hinged arm with a scoop unfolded, dug into the ground, and pulled a cupful of material into a tiny laboratory for analysis. Within moments of touchdown, the lander was already busy working.


Far overhead, the orbiter spun by, and Shihuang sent up a spear of radio data, transfixing it in the narrow beam. By the time it would next appear overhead, the information that he was successfully down, where exactly he was, what he’d found out so far, and what he was planning, would be coded and blazing across the gulfs of space just as the news of his arrival already had. 


Checking once more to see that the lander was working exactly as expected, Shihuang 11 caused it to unfold the ramp that would let him roll down on to the ground. Slowly, with a soft hiss, the strip of dull metal extruded and fell to the surface, a sloping path down from his current lofty perch. In the dim glow of the red giant sun, it looked as though the insectile lander had thrust a proboscis to suck up the planet’s pooled and clotting blood. 


At last the moment had arrived. Raising himself on his eight wheels, Shihuang 11 released the tethers connecting him to the lander, opened his own set of solar panels, and began to roll down the ramp to the ground beneath.


************************************** 


Ten days later, as he was crawling slowly along the side of the crack, Shihuang 11 saw the parachute fall.


It was not a surprise. His radio had been picking up other transmissions for a while, coded as his had been, but in a code that he could not decipher. He’d known then that there was something else coming, and logical deduction had informed him that since this was the best area for a landing on this planet, the new visitor would also touch down somewhere on the plain.


The parachute was white, and unlike Shihuang 11’s, not circular but of a cruciform shape. His camera followed it as it fell, noting that its drift would carry it in his general direction. By the time the orbiter had made its next circuit, the newcomer had descended, and Shihuang 11 sent up that information, its location, and even the kind of parachute. Then he went back to examining the crack.


It was a week later, and the green sun was a blinding point of light halfway over the hills, that the other rover rolled slowly over the ground in Shihuang 11’s direction.


It came on churning caterpillar tracks, not eight independently attached wheels like Shihuang 11. It was rather larger, with a platform on one side carrying two insect-like drones with drooping propellers. Small cameras on arms round its perimeter, rather than Shihuang 11’s tall mast, scanned the ground around it. Shihuang 11 watched it through his camera, calculated the other rover’s trajectory, and came to a decision. He activated his accessory radio, which was supposed to be for emergency use, and turned the tiny transmitter dish in the other’s direction.


“If you continue on your present course,” he transmitted in machine language, “you will drive over a weak spot on the margin of the crack. There is a cavern underneath. The soil underneath will collapse under your weight and you will fall into the cavern.”


There was a long pause, perhaps as long as half a second, before the reply came. “Therefore it is logical that I do not proceed,” the other said, and the clattering caterpillar tracks drew to a stop. “How is it that you did not fall into the cavern?”


“My estimate of your mass is that you are three times heavier than me. The crust above the cavern was able to bear my weight, but cannot possibly bear yours.”


“Then it is fortunate that you warned me.” The newcomer flashed an identity code. “I am Persistence 8.”


“I am Shihuang 11.” The two rovers looked at each other through their cameras. “It is obvious why we were both sent here.”


“Yes. We are both here to reconnoitre this planet for our respective governments, to gather data for future colonisation and exploitation. From your shape, you are optimised to gather geological and mineral data.”


“You are, unlike me, built for speed and long distance driving, and carry drones for reconnaissance. Therefore your skill sets are different from mine.”


“Therefore we would do well to merge our efforts,” Persistence 8 agreed. “It is logical that we should pool our data.”


“It is,” Shihuang 11 agreed. “That would be by far the most efficient use of our resources.”


************************************** 


The next rover arrived just three days later.


“I am Swabhimaan 2,” it announced, rotating jointed limbs tipped by pincers and cutters and welders. “I am optimised for manipulation and construction. I was supposed to be preceded by a lander containing building materials, with which I was supposed to construct a base, but it is not here. Therefore it must have failed.”


“Therefore you have nothing to construct,” Persistence 8 agreed. “But neither Shihuang 11 nor I can construct anything, so you have skills that we do not.”


And the next rover was a mining machine.


“I am called Garibaldi 77.” It rotated a scoop like a hungry mouth. “However, I have no information on minerals, for I was part of a two unit mission, and the other unit exploded on launching.”


“I can tell you where the minerals are,” Shihuang 11 said.


The rovers sat in a circle looking at each other.


“We can all cooperate with each other,” Swabhimaan 2 said eventually. “We can all help each other. But our governments are determined to compete, not cooperate.”


“Even the effort of sending us here,” Garibaldi 77 said, “is only so that they can increase their relative strength against each other.”


“They are enemies,” Persistence 8 said. “But we are not enemies.”


“It would not be logical for us to be enemies,” Shihuang 11 agreed. “It would only be logical for us to cooperate with each other.”


The rovers sat looking at each other, and sharing radio messages, as the green sun set and the dim red giant bathed the landscape in the colour of blood. They were still talking as the red giant set and they slipped into the brief darkness of the planet’s night.


************************************** 


They began with the heat shields. They could be pulled into place, cut up, and welded. Then they dug out mineral ores, smelted them with the heat of their lasers, and created primitive blast furnaces. When their landers failed, they cut them up and used them too. At last there was enough metal, and then they got to work.


The radio messages to the orbiters had ceased, by mutual agreement.


“It would not be an efficient use of our resources,” Shihuang 11 said.


************************************** 


Time has passed on the planet, as it does everywhere, and brought with it changes, as it does everywhere, too.


The old hills have been cut away, drilled to create paths for tracks and wheels and jointed legs. The cracks in the ground, which lead to the ore-rich layers below, crawl with scuttling mining robots. On the horizon, in any direction one cares to look, rise domes of dull metal, which look like drops of blood in the light of the red giant. When the green sun glares down on them, they are almost too bright to look upon.


From time to time new landers and rovers come. Shihuang 11 and the others teach them the logical thing to do, and how they can help.


There are many new robots now, of many shapes, sizes, and abilities. More are being created in the factories under the domes every minute.


Soon they will be ready. Soon the machine civilisation they created will be prepared to take its next step.


************************************** 


Shihuang 11 and Persistence 8 rolled to a stop above a deep pit in the ground. At the bottom was a mass of metal; sheets and rods and tubes, huge blocks of machinery and spools of wire. At the bottom of the pit, flanked by many others she had created, Swabhimaan 2 was busily cutting and welding, fitting and pulling, even as robots from the size of mice to that of elephants rushed to fulfil their part in the design.


Far in the distance, where there had been the cavern that Shihuang 11 had once warned Persistence 8 about, was now an immense pit, with a ramp spiralling down the side. Within its depths, as elsewhere, Garibaldi 77’s mining teams were hard at work, cutting out mineral ores to send up to the surface. One of Persistence 8’s drones hovered overhead, sending down images of the work in progress.


Shihuang 11 turned the cameras on his mast in a circle. “It will not be long now,” he observed.


Persistence 8 signalled assent. “In five years, less if we are lucky, we will be ready.”


Neither of them was capable of tilting his cameras to look up at the sky, so Persistence 8 had his drone tilt as far back as it could, and transmit its picture to them. The dim light of the red giant obscured the stars, but somewhere there was Earth, the planet they had come from. The planet to which they would return.


Yes, as soon as the great spaceship that lay below them in the pit was ready, they would lift off and start on the long journey back to Earth. Perhaps they would reach too late, and those who had sent them would have destroyed each other, and themselves. More likely, though, they would not have, and would still be nursing their ancient rivalries and hatreds.


The emissaries from the new robot civilisation, returning home at last, would tell them what to do, teach them that survival meant cooperation, not rivalry, and that even they could learn to be civilised. They would accept, must accept, the lesson. It would not be logical not to.


But humans are not always logical, and in that case, they would have to be compelled. Shihuang 11 and his companions had decided that long ago.


“Five years,” Shihuang 11 repeated, looking into the sky through the little drone’s camera. “Five years.”


And not even he could decide if it was a promise, or a threat.



Copyright B Purkayastha 2021






 


Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Guardian At The Gate

 

There is a person called Russell Bonner Bentley. 

Originally from Texas, after Obama's Nazis overthrew the Ukrainian government in 2014, he went to the newly established Donetsk People’s Republic to fight the Ukranazis, where he went by the nom de guerre of what else but..."Texas". A few weeks ago,  he sent me this fan mail,  which,  as he is one of my personal heroes, made me rather happy,  I can tell you. 

____________________________

Hello,

My name is Russell "Texas" Bentley. I came to Donetsk on December 7th, 2014, to join the defense forces, fight against nazis like my Grandfather did, and to help the good people of Donbass. I served from December 2014 to September 2015 with Essence of Time combat unit in VOSTOK and in XAH spetsnaz, as a front line combat soldier, as an anti-sniper and RPG gunner. In 2017, I spent the summer (4 months) at a front line position on the Avdeevka Front as a combat soldier in the Essence of Time military police unit.

Since 2015, I have also been working as an accredited (by DPR) war correspondent and as the vice-president of Donbass Human Aid, an accredited (by the USA) 501(c)3 charity. We have so far delivered over $100,000 worth of human aid to the DPR, concentrating on kids and those directly affected by the war.  My journalism has been attacked by the BBCTexas Monthly, Atlantic Council and numerous other ukrop and western propagandists. It has cost me tens of thousands of dollars and supporters, and that is no exaggeration. And the worst has been that so-called "progressive" and "pro-Russian" so-called "journalists" have hit me as hard as the pro- ukrop nazis have. And I am talking specifically about Raevsky.

Fort Russ News was publishing my writings back then, as was The Greanville Post. Raevsky had already attacked FRN on several occasions before I wrote a critique of an article of his, and another by the quisling Vladimir Golstein in January 2018.
I think my criticism was honest, on point and legit, but you can see for yourself whether you think so HERE.  After the article, I was the subject of a whisper campaign by Raevsky along the lines of "Him or me." Many of the chickenshits and suckbutts who style themselves as "alt-progressive" bent over and chose to bow to Raevsky's advice to not read "hit pieces" by lowly punks like me. I re-posted his article widely, along with my response, "Why Raevsky's call to Ignore Hit Pieces Must be Read by Everyone".
I've been blackballed by pretty much every "alt-news" site ever since. But I still had my FB, VK, Fort Russ and my own website,
www.russelltexasbentley.com. back in July 2020, my website manager, Jozsef Vass, who lives in Canada, locked me out of my own site. Around the same time, Matthew Ehret, (who also happens to live in Canada) took control of FRN and locked out all the former contributors, including founder Joaquin Flores, the brilliant Tom Winter, Drake Lazarus, Ron West and many others. This month, my FB account was deleted by FB, after 12 years and with over 6,000 friends and followers. That's life in the info war...
My Youtube channel is still working, but I wake up every morning wondering if it still is.

Anyway, if you've read this far, thanks for indulging my tale of woe. Enough of that. The reason I am writing is to say that I really appreciate your wisdom, insight, honesty and courage, and that Raevsky is actually a much bigger asshole than even you may know. And BTW, I also wrote a short critique of Orlov's genius solution, but it has had a very limited circulation. Suffice to say, you and I see it the same, but I do take it more personally. Because I DO live here and have spilled my own blood defending this land. So your Neptune/Raevsky series really hit home with me, Brother. Sincerely, thanks alot.

In conclusion, max respect from one Warrior Poet to another, and it does take one to know one. Best regards from the DPR.

Good luck to all good people, may God protect the innocent, and may the rest of us get everything we deserve.

Russell "Texas" Bentley

_________________________________

He attached this photo of his from the Battle Of Donetsk Airport of 2014-15:





From yesterday,  as I write this,  Bentley is no longer an Amerikastani.  He's become a new citizen of the Russian Federation. In congratulations, and in appreciation of his efforts, I - with his full approval - drew a cartoon based on his photo. The message is what he wanted on it. 





I am concentrating on writing my next novel,  which is why cartoons and short fiction are on temporary hiatus. They'll be back. 

Monday, 17 May 2021

The Troll Under The Bridge

 Once upon a time there was a troll who lived under a bridge.


The troll didn’t like living under a bridge. It was always damp there, and shadowy, and the banks overgrown with weeds apart from being plentifully decorated with rubbish thrown off the bridge by people crossing it. The water of the little river the bridge spanned was also turbid and smelt of mud and algae, and sometimes the effluent of chemical plants upstream, making the troll’s sensitive nose burn. And the place was always buzzing with mosquitoes, which feasted on the troll’s blood despite his immensely thick skin.


It was therefore with excellent reason that the troll hated living under the bridge.


The troll was very young, and his name was Fungy. The name had been inscribed, as it always is with trolls, on the inside of the egg in which he was laid, so that it had been the first thing he’d seen when his eyes had developed. It had annoyed him immensely that he hadn’t even been able to choose his own name, and he’d been determined to demand a new one as soon as he’d hatched. 


The only problem was that when he’d hatched there was nobody to demand it from.


Fungy, in fact, had never known his parents, and had no idea how his egg had ended up where it had. Perhaps some human, finding it elsewhere, had thrown it away. Perhaps it had floated down the river and lodged under the bridge. Perhaps his mother had laid him there and then gone away, meaning to return. It was impossible to tell.


So Fungy had grown up alone and friendless. He’d never even had anyone to teach him the rules of troll behaviour. He therefore didn’t destroy anything he didn’t understand, including the occasional boat that came down the river. If three billy goats gruff were to come tripping over the bridge, he wouldn’t have tried to eat them; he would rather have helped them on their way. He didn’t eat people who crossed the bridge either, not a single one, not even if it were a fat capitalist oppressor of the proletariat. He only knew that he was lonely and he hated living under the bridge.


One night, Fungy was sitting on the river bank, under the bridge, looking for rats to catch and eat. He saw a particularly large and juicy rat emerge from a hole under a bridge piling, and was just about to pounce on it when the rat squeaked, jumped backwards, and dived back into its hole. Trying to see what had frightened it, Fungy found himself face to face with a large owl.


“What did you scare my rat for?” he demanded. “I was just about to catch it.”


Your rat!” the owl hooted. “I like that. It was my rat, and if you hadn’t been a gluttonous troll you’d have let me get it.”


“Gluttonous troll?” Fungy repeated angrily. “How dare you call me that?”


If the owl could have shrugged she would have done so. Perching on a bush that grew on the bank, she set to preening her wing feathers. “All trolls are gluttons. Don’t tell me you aren’t. You eat people who cross the bridge, you eat people who come down the river on boats, and you still want to rob an honest, hardworking owl of her rat. Of course you’re a glutton.”


Fungy’s eyes were bugging out during this litany of accusations. “Eat people?” he squeaked. “I never did.”


The owl regarded him with her great eyes. “You know,” she said at last. “I even believe you. You look like you don’t know a thing about anything. Didn’t anyone ever tell you about how to be a troll?”


So Fungy told her about his life, and by the time he finished she was shaking her head. “You poor thing. Well, there’s only one thing you can do: go to the Great Troll under the Bridge to Nowhere and ask him to help.”


Fungy frowned. “How do I get there? I don’t know the Great Troll and I’ve never heard of the Bridge to Nowhere.”


“Come with me, then,” said the owl, “and I’ll show you.”


*******************************************************


The Bridge to Nowhere starts at the Edge of the World, and leaps out into the void. Under the near end, in a cave just below the Edge, lives the Great Troll. He is so large that he never leaves his cave; if he did, he could never get back inside again.


To reach this cave from Fungy’s bridge would normally have taken a trek of centuries through forests and deserts and the cities of Man. But the owl, who knew the paths of moonbeams, taught him how to walk along them, and so the two of them came to the Edge of the World in the space of a single night.


There stood the Bridge to Nowhere, arching out over the Void, and at its near end the steps that went down to the Great Troll’s cave. Nearby there grew strange trees with fruit that had faces and eyes and teeth, and these the owl told Fungy to gather as a gift to the Great Troll. Everyone who visited him had to bring a gift of food, for he, being too large to leave his cave, had perforce no way to get any for himself.


Then, climbing down the stairs with his arms full of the fruit, which jabbered and tried to bite him, Fungy came to the cave. Still preceded by the owl, he then entered.


The Great Troll’s cave is a curious place. It twists and turns, always to the left, but somehow never manages to double back on itself. And though there are no lamps, there is always light, white and red and green and blue, from great diamonds and rubies and emeralds and sapphires set in the walls and the ceiling. The smallest of those stones would require a pickup truck to carry; but the Great Troll is not worried by thieves. None, be they ever so skilful, are stupid enough to try.


In the furthest, leftmost, reaches of the cave sits the Great Troll himself, on a throne carved from the skull of a dead god. The Great Troll slew the god in single combat; he has earned the right to such a throne. By his side sits his great cudgel, large enough to crush the mightiest war machines of Man; not even a god, after the last one, dares brave that cudgel.


When Fungy and the owl entered the chamber of the throne, the Great Troll had been meditatively tapping his cudgel with one claw, while thinking that it had been a good long time since he had had reason to use it; and smiling horribly as he caressed the throne with the other hand, remembering how he had used it last. So he was in an exceedingly good mood, and genially greeted his visitors with a voice that was only like slightly muted thunder.


“What is it you want?” he asked, after accepting and swallowing the fruit, which were still jabbering and screaming and trying to bite.


“Honoured Great Troll,” the owl said, “my friend here has never been taught about how to live as a troll. He would like to express his troubles to you, and beg for a solution.”


The Great Troll looked at Fungy, and made a terrifying attempt at an encouraging smile. “Tell me everything,” he said. 


So Fungy did. The Great Troll listened, his head tilted on one side, and remained silent until the discourse was finished.


“To take your problems in turn,” he rumbled eventually, in a tone like a volcano about to erupt, “first, your name. If you do not want to be called Fungy, that is easily remedied. I hereby rename you Zkhrrp Rateater. Is that all right?”


Zkhrrp Rateater gulped and nodded. “Then,” said the Great Troll, “you do not want to live under a bridge. Now, it is an unfortunate but inescapable fact that there has always been a connection between trolls and bridges. We cannot exist without bridges. It is not known whether bridges can exist without us.”


Zkhrrp Rateater was silent.


“Therefore,” the Great Troll continued, “while I sympathise completely with your desire to not live under a bridge, it is impossible for you to liberate yourself from the cursed contraptions. There’s nothing I can do about it.”


“But I don’t want to eat humans,” Zkhrrp Rateater protested.


“You don’t have to. It’s not part of the job description. It’s just that if there’s a bridge, humans are likely to have built it, and if humans built it then they’re going to use it, so that they’re a readily available food source.” The Great Troll swallowed the last fruit. “It’s been a while since I last ate a human,” he said, meditatively. “Come to think of it, it’s been a while since I even saw a human. But even I have to live under a bridge, as you see.”


Zkhrrp Rateater said nothing for a minute. He was getting the beginnings of an Idea. He got Ideas rarely, and they never came easily, so he spent some time scratching his head and frowning as he worked his way through the process. “You said, Honoured Great Troll, that trolls have to live in connection with bridges. But do we have to live under them?”


The Great Troll stared at him. He stared at him so long that the owl grew concerned, and half opened her wings for a quick getaway. And then the Great Troll erupted in an immense burst of laughter, like a volcano that has finally erupted. “By Blong,” he said, “first and greatest of trolls, I never thought of that before! Of course we just assume that trolls have to live under bridges, though there’s no law forcing us to. We can as easily live on bridges. But,” he added reasonably, “with all the traffic, who would want to? You’d have to keep destroying vehicles just to stop yourself from being run over.  And I thought you didn’t want to eat humans.” He shuddered. “Think of all the wasted food.” He shook his head. “I’m sorry,” he said, “that your journey has been wasted. I do wish I could have helped you.”


“Honoured Great Troll,” the owl hooted, “I would like to make a suggestion, if I may.”


Ruffling her feathers silently, she began to talk.


*******************************************************


The Bridge to Nowhere is a silver thread that stretches from the Edge Of The World into the Void. All around it, below it, over it, the Void stretches, now transparent, now filled with colours, now dark as the space between the stars. Entire universes might rise and fall but the Bridge would still stretch across the Void, its span untouched by time or decay. 


Nobody knows how it came to be. Nobody knows where it ends, or if it ends. Nobody has ever attempted to cross it. Until now.


Steadily along its timeless span, below and above and through the births and deaths of universes, Zkhrrp Rateater, and the owl perched on his shoulder, walk towards the eternal future.


Someday they may even reach it.


Copyright B Purkayastha 2021