Saturday, July 21, 2012

"Showtime!" (Life in the 80s)

Yesterday (for some reason) Office Depot was slammed for supporting Lady Gaga's Born This Way Foundation, saying that it encouraged teens to 'embrace homosexuality'. I suppose they finally found the link between menial office work and homosexuality in teenagers. FINALLY, some hard evidence!

In any case, it seems silly to put down an organization that does so much good for so many kids, or the woman that made it possible.

Whether or not you like her music, it's impossible to deny that Lady Gaga knows exactly what she's doing. Beyond anything else (musician, dancer, singer) she's a performer, and she's one of the best performers of a generation in my opinion. Which made me wonder... how is it that one person is capable of such creativity and passion?

The answer my surprise you.

Also, if you don't get the cartoon... shame on you. I know Jem debuted in the 80s, but It's still running on network television, and the whole series is on Netflix instant watch right now. Not having seen it is outrageous. Truly, truly, truly outrageous. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

"Fly" (sequel to "Cargo")

I have a good reason to have gone so long without writing a short story. Honest! I just finished writing (and my first proofread of) my first (readable) complete novel! I'm currently looking for proofreaders, or just people to bounce feedback to me. If you're interested, comment on this post, or email me, or tweet me, or something. I'm pretty easy to get in touch with. 

I was struck with some inspiration earlier this week. Unfortunately (like most of the personal creative work I do anymore) it kept getting pushed to the back burner over and over again. Finally tonight I had to sit down and finish it. It's the sequel to a piece that I wrote earlier called "Cargo" that I got a lot of positive feedback on. If I get this story a little more fleshed out, I'd like to develop it into a larger piece (maybe even a novel). If you haven't, read that entry first. This will make a lot more sense if you do. 

Anyway, enjoy! 

“Fly” - Aaron Matthew Smith, 09 July 2012

“You!!” I sputtered.
A thunderous crash sounded somewhere from above deck, and the entire cargo hold shook like a martini shaker. I was tossed off of my perch and tumbled headfirst into the open wooden crate, barely missing the princess before landing on my face in the pile of cushions and quilts.
“Shh!” The teenage girl hissed, her large almond-shaped eyes nervous. The delicate silver jewelry on her ears and neck jingled as the ship rolled beneath us.
“You’re… you’re Princess Cirra! You’re supposed to be kidnapped!” I stammered. 
“Keep quiet!” She said, her syllables clipped in precise, accented English. “Someone’s going to hear you!”
I had to tell Captain Masters. This explained everything- why the Russians had appeared out of nowhere and started firing upon us, why Lieutenant Windhelm had been so secretive about the cargo we’d picked up in Constantinople…
Damn that Windhelm. Because of his foolishness the whole crew of the Romulus was in danger! I fought my way to my feet and moved for the edge of the crate. Just as I got a good grip on the edge, I felt thin arms wrap my waist and give a hard yank. I fell in a heap on top of the most valuable kidnapped girl in the world.
“You mustn’t tell anyone I’m here!”
 “You’re a stowaway, ma’am, and in no position to be giving orders!”  I said, wriggling out of her grasp. There was another explosion, even closer than before- I covered my head reflexively as the lamps in the hold swung back and forth, shadow flickering across the box. “And the Russian Armada is on our tail!”
Her dark eyes went wide. “Oh please, please please you have to hide me! If they find me they’ll kill me!”
A distant thought began to creep into the back of my head. “You weren’t really kidnapped, were you?”
She rolled her eyes.
“Who knows that you’re here?” I asked.
“I don’t know!” She cried. She brushed a lock of straight black hair out of her eyes with one hand- it was then I noticed the intricate, orange-brown patterns drawn all over her hands and her arms. Henna tattoos? “I only know that I was supposed to arrive in Britain by Wednesday, and from there…” She closed her full lips into a tight line, and I got the sudden impression that she’d just told me more than she was supposed to.
Another thunderous explosion rocked the cargo hold. For a terrifying moment I was afraid that we’d taken a direct hit, but with a stomach-twisting lurch the ship finally righted itself. As the crate rocked back and forth, I took the opportunity to hoist myself up and over the edge. Before the princess could say anything my heavy boots slammed against the steel plated hull.
Please, you have to keep my location secret!” she begged- her eyes and nose barely came above the top of the open crate. “I have to make it to Britain no matter what!”
“Or what?” I pressed.
“Thousands of people could die! Millions!” She pulled herself onto the edge of the crate, and I watched the high peak of her lips as she slowly said, “International war.”
I started to turn to the stairs but froze. Was she lying? How was I supposed to tell?
“Harper!” Someone shouted from above deck, and Princess Cirra’s eyes widened.
The fear and pleading on her face was real. She was running for her life from something. But what?
“Harper, get up here on the double!” Came Lieutenant Windhelm’s voice from the top of the stairs, followed by heavy footsteps.
I swore aloud, then snatched up the lid of the crate. “Don’t you dare come out of there until I get this sorted out!” I hissed. In the darkness of the box I saw the princess’ head bobbing up and down in acknowledgement. I carefully laid the lid back into place, then crossed to the box of lancer bolts I’d stood on earlier.
“Harper, get back to deck this instant or I’ll shoot you out of the lancer!” Windhelm barked, his thickly bearded face appearing in the shifting light of the hold.
“On my way sir,” I shouted. “These bolts became upended, I was afraid the weight distribution would throw us off!”
“Worry about that after we outrun the ruskies!”
I followed Windhelm up the stairs, our boots thudding against the plated steel steps. I could’ve confronted him right then. I could’ve ducked away, made it to the bridge and conveyed the whole story to Captain Masters. Windhelm had to have known what was in that box, and he’d made everyone on the Romulus a co-conspirator by association, not to mention igniting an international incident and putting thirty lives aboard our ship at risk. Allowing a stowaway onto a contracted British military vessel was treason. He’d be put in irons by ship security in moments.
If that happened, we’d never escape the Russians. Without his leadership topside none of the ensigns would have any idea what to do. Best case scenario, we’d be overtaken and boarded, probably killed or held for ransom as prisoners of war. Worst case scenario, the hydrogen would ignite and we’d all be barbecued alive long before we crash landed in the Alps.
My loyalties were to the Queen and Crown first, then to my captain, then to my shipmates.
What should I do?
At the last moment I double-stepped my way up the stairs, following Windhelm onto the deck. If we all died on this ship I wouldn’t be any good to my Queen, and I’d have already let my captain and my crew down. I only had one option in the end.
As my boots thudded onto the steel-plated deck I heard a static crackle-and-hum sound as their magnets kicked in, cementing my feet to the deck as the ship banked hard to starboard. When it righted I dashed to the stern, where the ensign I’d left in charge was arguing with one of the lancers.
“Both of you! Quit arguing like old washerwomen! Archer, out of that lancer, now!” I shooed the stocky ensign out of the firing seat and slid behind the controls, carefully bracing my shoulders in the rig. “Both of you are now on reload duty!” I took a deep breath and announced, “Firing!”
I squeezed the hand grip- the tension in the arms of the lancer exploded with a crack like a bullwhip, flinging huge bolt through the empty space between us and the Russian Champion-class vessel. The tiny brass flipped that guided it through the sky rippled lazily like tiny fins on a great steel fish. I could hear its huge engines roaring from here.
“They’re more than three kilometers out Harper, that’s way out of range of the lancer!” Sawyer, the blond-haired teenager girl in the lancer next to mine, shouted over the roaring wind. The grey clouds were briefly lit by another yellow flame as the Russian cannon roared, followed by an explosion and a torrent of wind as another shell sliced the sky, mere yards from puncturing our balloon.
A huge shadow suddenly fell across the Romulus, and for a horrified moment I knew we’d been ambushed. I turned to look; we’d just fallen into the shadow of the Matterhorn. The colossal peak dwarfed our tiny airship, and the already gloomy evening became nearly as dark as night.
And then an idea hit me
“Captain!” I cried into the tiny brass radio attached to cage surrounding the lancer harness. “I have an idea! If you can direct us to the edge of the mountain, I can create a distraction!”
“Harper!” I heard Windhelm shouting behind me. I pretended it was too windy to understand him.
“Do you know what you’re doing Harper?” the sharp, stern voice of Captain Moira Masters answered.
“It’s only an idea captain, but if it works I think it’ll buy us the time we need to escape!”
The radio was silent for a moment before she replied, “Carry on, Harper. Don’t disappoint me.”
“If I do ma’am,” I whispered to myself after I’d silenced the radio, “I doubt you’ll be alive to courtmarshall me.”
The captain’s voice announced the direction change over the radio, and the ship began to drift toward the face of the mountain. Just as we pulled to within fifty meters or so of the jagged, snow covered face, the Russian Champion slipped into the shadow of the mountain.
I aimed the lancer for the mountainside.
“On my mark, Sawyer,” I cried. “Fire!”
The lancers were incapable of rapid-firing the bolts because after each shot the pneumatics had to reset the firing arms for the next round. I fired six rounds in ten seconds before the launcher chamber clicked empty; a second later, Sawyer’s lancer was expended as well. Tiny puffs of snow and ice plumed from the mountainside where the steel rods connected with the stone. Biggs and Archer were rushing to reload our weapons, but it wouldn’t matter; if this offensive didn’t work, we wouldn’t live long enough for a second try.
I saw the snow begin to fall before I heard the noise. At first I thought it was the wind, but the sound built swiftly to a crescendo of roaring violence as the side of the mountain came down, filling the sky with dust, snow and ice. Great destructive sheets of rock and snow began to slough down the mountain.
The chain reaction was more than enough. Tons of ice fell into the path of the Champion, coating its windows and fins, clogging its propellers and engines. A yellow flash erupted from the white cloud as they fired another blind shot, soaring by long on our port side.
“Get both those sails out as soon as we get clear of the mountain!” Windhelm barked across the deck. “We’ve got to get out of here before the Russians can regroup!”
The Romulus began to rise above the Matterhorn, the ship’s engines whining as she turned East-Northeast. Captain Masters was taking us off course.
I didn’t blame her. We’d taken military action against a vessel of the Russian national fleet. We were on the run.