Henry and Kristl survived Resident Evil: Apocalypse

“You might say bigger, but can we say better? What do you think?”  Henry turned to Kristl.

 

Kristl was  hanging slack jawed in the corner of the couch. She was wearing grungy  jeans, tank top, sleeveless jacket everything in dark grey, black and white colors. Her Jacket was adorned with button pins of music bands from the eighties:The Cure , Violent Femmes, New wave, London Calling,Beastie Boys. He felt awkward because under the angle she was lying he noticed the shape of a breast. .

“Hey, wake up!” He shook Kristl’s arm.

“Hmmm?”

“So?”

“What?”

“Resident Evil. Apocalypse? You know the movie we have been watching?”

“Oh yes”,  Kristl veered up, “I bet a lot of people will make funny jokes with that.. Like Apocalypse for the senses. Or Apocalypse for the brain.”

“So you didn’t like it?”

“It tries very hard to be unliked. As much as it tries to be liked.”

“I thought the more bangs and babes worked well. That female cop was a cool and hot chick. Also I liked the supporting cast more. That soldier Carlos with his russian sidekick. They seemed to have a little bit more personality. Albeit that black american was too much cast as the comic relief. ”

“But the whole movie is ramshackle in it’s consistency. The plot is a major problem.  They know about the t-virus, but they open the hive with a few armed guards. The SUV gets hit by a truck without any explanation, so the kid is stuck in the city. It was just a weird accident. The dead in the graveyard animate. How? And why exactly at that moment they are there? The whole church scene. The zombie dogs in the school. The wall around the city.

The worst is the epilogue. Umbrella detonates a nuclear missile above the city and passes that off as a nuclear meltdown. You can’t pass one off for the other because the explosion pattern is completely different.  And if they want people to believe it was a nuclear meltdown of a power plant, there had to be one there, so why did they not blow that one up?”

“Basically. the movie is sequence of action scenes. Personally I liked those and that is why people should watch them,but it simply lacks everything that makes the matrix good: a well developed plot and characters you care about. Even underworld has more likeable characters and a better plot.”

“Yeah, the plot and the acting was just put in as an afterthought. A shame really as the games actually seemed to have much more consistency. At least from what I read.” Kristl said, “Maybe they should just stick to those plot lines instead of making their own.”

“You know. That Jill Valentine. I liked her better than Alice. Not because she is prettier but because she is a human that can be hurt unlike Alice. The thing is I liked everyone more: Carlos L. J. the news person.  They are all humans and all lose people and all can be hurt. Unlike Alice.”

“Personally I have had it with all the cool chicks that have hardly any personality. This includes Jill Valentine. What person walks into a police station and starts blowing away people like that.. People might have thought that was cool. I thought it was cringeworthy.

And I am tired of the same old tricks: like whenever someone approaches a person from behind that person is ALWAYS a monster that turns around suddenly and lunges at you. And always when they kill one monster after a desperate struggle and you think it is over, the next one or two appear.” Kristl said.

“So you didn’t  like Alice?”

“Nope. I didn’t care for her one bit and I was baffled those people, Carlos, Jill and L. J. came to save her. I could not believe why they would do so. And even more: how come that umbrella organisation that is so highly effective in covering up the zombie outbreak, is unable to stop three people that are wanted from taking Alice away. And don’t say Umbrella wanted that, because this is only shown when they leave. And why? No explanation given.”

“Curiously.  I somehow feel you are right. If she had a little bit more personality and was less the super being that is cool. Then maybe, yeah.“

“That is probably the best way to describe the movie.”

“Huh?”

“Maybe, yeah.”

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0318627/

Henry and Kristl drew Rambo: First blood

“This movie is an amazing mixture of good parts and bad parts.” Kristl said, “and one part is certainly still relevant today as it was in those days, but, and I say this to underscore this, in a totally different way.”

“I think I lost you somewhere after the word ‘parts’.” Henry said cheerfully, while he poured himself a beer and adjusted the red headband. He was wearing something that resembled a camouflage jacket and army boots, the same Kristl was equipped with.

Kristl took a long and deep breath, “In those days a veteran soldier was an outcast. Spit out by society because of the Vietnam war they had lost and of a society tired of war.”

“Yeah..That part is clear. It is kinda spelled out.”

“Now it has been reversed. Nowadays he is put on a pedestal and revered. They can’t do any wrong. And this, my American friend, is called irony. For whether we see Rambo as a vet that is shunned by
society or as a vet that is revered by it, he is and still is dangerous killing machine that has been bred by it and totally useless to it one peace has come. And that makes the movie still relevant today as it was
back then.”

“But in a totally different way. I get it.” Henry was cleaning his nails with a Swiss army knife. It was the biggest knife he had. Kristl frowned at him.

“Otherwise it has a lot of bad parts. Like the way the police of Jerktown, in the state of Nowhere are depicted as scumbags. Well some probably are, but all? Is it not over the top?”

“Well. They had to be, to push Rambo over the edge, I guess. And once he got going.. he got going. Actually the fights are mostly believable.
Like they aren’t as over the top as they are today. It is kind of refreshing really.”

“Except that the police keep M-16’s in their armories. The standard arms for the local hillbilly police in action town, USA.”

“Come on, you’re nitpicking.” Henry bowed forward and tried to use his Swiss army knife to cut the shoelaces of his combat boots, which failed because the knife was dull. He decided against saw the laces and
instead just untied them and removed his boots.

“Okay, I admit it. I am. Yet somehow the whole movie has a message to say and it is snowed under by the action scenes. I somehow feel that if the police had been a little bit less bad and the national guards a little less dumb and the state police had a little bit less gawking as fish that find themselves on dry land, the movie might have been better. Just a bit here and a bit there.” Kristl said.

“You know, have you ever considered that without the action sequences the movie might be a bit more boring and that it requires a lot rewriting and recasting to make the moving in a kind of social drama that the other people, who don’t like action movies, would appreciate?”

“I guess it does.”

“So considering this, I would say that it is a decent action movie for it’s day and it even got a bit of a message. And as you say, that message had meaning then and still has meaning now and this in a way makes it exceptional for an action movie..”

“I think you are right.” Kristl said and then continued after a pause, “Did you notice that there is not one woman in the whole movie. Well, except at the very beginning and a waitress who says hi somewhere halfway through the movie..”

“Now that you mention it.”

“Strange, isn’t it?”

“Well, I guess. Does it matter?”

“Not that I know. Just noticed it.”

“Takes one, to notice one. Or the lack thereof.” Henry said and he gurgled down some beer.

“What is that suppose to mean?”

“Well.. you’re a woman?”

“Maybe we should watch a movie with only a female cast next time then.”

“I think I wouldn’t watch it.I think I would fall asleep.”

“Male chauvinist pig”

“Really, a film with a whole female cast would either be a chat movie or a lesbian one. And both make me fall asleep, only because of
different reasons.” Henry said and then he cried out in pain because Kristl had kicked him,

“Hope you remember that one for a while.”

“That hurts. What did you do that for!” He put down his can of beer and started rubbing his smarted ankle.

“To get your beer of course.” And she grabbed his cans of beer and ran away.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0083944/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

Henry and Kristl sat through Resident Evil(2002)

“More zombies.” Kristl said in a tried voice. She put down the empty cup that had held her raspberry slush puppy. It had not really helped with the exhaustion she felt, which had been brought on by watching a marathon of Resident Evil movies..

“I like zombies.” said Henry.

“Love at first bite?”

“Gosh. That is so lame and that from you..”

“Just tired.” Kristl whispered.

“Overall an adequate movie. Zombies, shooting, people dying, weird monsters and Milla Jovovich. The tension is built up slowly as it takes a long time for the movie to show the monsters. I think they appear past the thirty minutes mark. It is a good thing. Don’t lay down all the cards at once.
While I don’t get attached to most of the characters they aren’t too disturbing. Personally I find it a pity that the Hispanic girl Rain at the end turned zombie, but i didn’t feel sorry either as she might as well die, because she just kept having the same facial expression. Overall it was is pretty predictable with forgettable characters. Even to Milla seems a bit tame.”

“I find it hard to rank a movie like this. How can you compare this movie to something like the Godfather series or to stick to the same genre, movies like those from the Dead series or Aliens. Just very hard to do.” Kristl said.

“Personally I think the movie marred by the start. The whole movie hinges on the fact that this super secret high tech laboratory controlled by a computer is incapable of stopping a virus from spreading through air-vents. Also a bit strange that people and dogs turn into flesh craving monsters by an airborne virus but when a few hours later the soldiers appear, they only get infected by being bitten. You have to accept that this one virus behaves in different ways depending on how it infects living beings. It might be conceivable ,but it all is a bit stretching it.” Henry said.

“So..what it comes down too is an adequate zombie flick that might entertain people. Mostly people who are interested in zombie films that aren’t too scary. Anyone else will probably find better movies to watch.” Kristl said

“There is one thing that puzzles me and it is the reaction of Alice to the death of Rain. Although Alice reacts to the death of the others with suitable shock, she burst in tears when that guy shoots Rain in the head when she turns zombie. I mean she cried like she just lost her lover. I wonder.”

“Maybe she just collapsed from exhaustion?” Kristl said.

“Maybe they were in love?” Henry suggested.

“You thinks so?”

“Hot steamy lesbian love.” Henry said, “You know it.”

Not again, Kristl thought.

 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120804/

Signs of life 4: Fuzz

“No!”  Meena, the eldest of the two daughters said with an indignant expression on her face  when her parents proposed to go to the market fair.

Eve, the youngest, fell into an uncomfortable silence squeezing a plushie against her chest. She did not dare to go against her older sisters opinion, yet she feared her mother’s displeasure equally. She withdrew into the only direction she could: into herself.

“We never go to anything that we like. We always have to go to these boring things you like.” Meena continued waving her frail hand about,  ”I am not going and that is final!”

Harry, the father, tried to reason with her, but she was not going to listen: hormones and peer pressure were much more important for the budding teen than whatever considered arguments parents brought to bear.

Jane, the mother, then played the power card. “We all go and that is final!”

Meena grabbed her hand-held, stomped upstairs and closed the door of her room with such an audible bang that even the neighbors heard it. Everyone got that message. Then she started to whatsap all her friends that parents were the worst creatures in the universe by far and her parents were the vilest of the bunch.

Jane then shouted up the stairs that Meena should come down this instance or she would be facing a week of extra chores. Eve started to pout her lips and Harry began to tell Jane that maybe they should reconsider this fair business.

“See, even father doesn’t want to go!” Meena shouted, she triumphantly rubbed the words into her mothers face.

“I didn’t mean that!” Harry said, hearing how his words were being twisted into arguments for the defence.

“What then do you mean?”  Jane said. She felt slightly backstabbed by her husband but also knew that her eldest was twisting the knife on purpose. At the same time she saw her youngest discomfort and she grabbed Eve’s hand.
Harry smiled disarmingly at his wife. Meena had walked halfway down the stairs not wanting to give in to her mother, but also not wanting to face a week of extra chores. She looked down on the scene with her arms folded in front of her chest.

Purr the cat sat in front of the door that led to the garden. She mewed at it and glanced at them to see if they would notice. Purr was certain that door would open sooner or later, and if it didn’t  she would lie down on her cushion on the couch. From that vantage point  she would then stare at them with an expression that seemed to say: what on earth are you all doing?

Signs of Life 3: Breach

Day 7: 13:15

Too many, John Atkins, systems engineer for Pacific Shipping Incorporated thought while he browsed his logs. He was at first intrigued by the large amount of failed logins on one of his monitoring servers. It wasn’t easy to pinpoint the source of the alerts as the logs contained a lot of information, most of which were only relevant in a specific context and in this context was mostly clutter. After he had applied a series of filters, he was still left with a lot failed attempts, but what worried him the most were not the failed one’s: they were the one’s that had succeeded.

Day 7: 13:55

Peter Seeren walked in into their office. Peter and John shared the office. Each having two desks bordering one another and thus making a huge desk. Each contained three screens connected to two computers. Peter also had a laptop.
“You look like you need a coffee.” Peter said.
“I think we have problem.” John said.
“What is?”
“These attempts to log in on our monitoring servers.”
If this statement had come from any other than John, Peter might have said something like: “Are you sure?” Or, “Aren’t they from this or that.” Instead he sat down and said, “How big a problem?”
“A big one.”

Day 7: 14:15

“Yes?” William Balking picked up the phone.
“William. This is John Atkins.”
“John. How can I help you?” William asked.
“Can you run a virus scan on some systems?”
“When?”
“As soon as possible.”
“As soon as possible? During production times?”
“Yes?”
“That might impact the production, you know?”
“Yes, I know.”
William was silent for a moment,”We better have some high up people approving this, otherwise we got hell to pay if it blows up in our face.”
“Yes. I arrange you that approval.”
“I get to work then. Do you have a list of the systems.”
“It is in the mail.”
“William opened the mail. Forty five systems. Not that many..” William scanned the list, then whistled loudly. ”Those are not just any systems..”
“No….”

Day 7: 15:35

Security Officer Harry Townsend was a very thin, slender bald man in his late fifties. He sat down with the two system engineers: the short broad shouldered John, a silent serious man with short black hair and the taller younger Peter, with brown hair. All three were clean shaven.
The two men gave the security officer a summary of their findings.
“So what do you think is happening?” Harry asked.
“The infected systems are running programs that try and log in to other systems. And they are succeeding.” John said, “And it is not a virus. We checked those systems.”
“So what should be done about it?” Harry asked.
“We can disable the accounts.” Peter said, “but this might cause systems to fail.”
“Can we disable specific accounts?”
“We can, but they are the important accounts.” John said, “The one’s that make things run.”
“What can we do without actually disabling them?”
“We can change the passwords of the administrators. Those don’t directly involve the operations of the systems.”
“At least not on ours.” Peter said.
Harry nodded,”Ours. As in the central ones. Those we maintain ourselves.”
“Yes.”
“And the ones we don’t run directly?”
“We have not looked at yet. We can’t.” John said.
“Unless the chief security officer gives the command.”
“Or we inform the local staff?” Peter said.
“Have we any evidence they are affected?”
“No.” John shook his head.
“This can cause a panic. We should be sure.” Harry said, then continued,”We do the central ones and I will ask the chief security officer. I expect he will have a meeting with management about this.”

Day 8: 10:35

“I have been asked to do as much as possible without causing panic.” Harry said.
The two engineers John and Peter looked at each other briefly.
“I have been asked to ascertain the threat and as such I got the permission to hire an outside agency.”
“Maybe we can see about what we can do at the moment. Like disabling some accounts. We can hold a meeting with engineers team.”
“That is a good idea, but only with one or two. Arrange it with your manager.”
When the two administrators had left Harry picked up the phone and started to call that outside agency. He was calling the best even though the company would have to pay a hefty price for it.

Day 10: 12:20

“A hacker.” Harry said and he placed his hands flat on the security incident rapport on his desk. It had big letters across it: confidential. He looked at the man in the Armani suit who had laid it before him that morning. His name was Richard Thompson. John and Peter had joined them, as had William had being the one responsible for anti-virus system and Mark Cramer, who was the main network engineer. They all had read their copies of the rapport.
“Yes. It’s a hacker.. he or she gained access to a computer using an email about ten days ago. It was disguised as a business mail. The receiver opened the mail, double clicked the attachment and that set up a connection to the hacker.” the young man with sleek neatly combed hair, wearing the Armani suit with silk tie said. He had a small briefcase with him and read the rapport the five security company engineers had made for him. They had descended on Pacific Shipping Incorporated like birds of prey and started to uproot everything..
“But…our mail has got checkers for that.” William said, “Our anti-virus programs check for harmful programs in the email.”
“Indeed.. but this was not done by internal mail. It was done via webmail from a third party.” Thompson said.
“The block against that was removed by order of Berling, former CEO. He kept in touch with people via third party mail. He was supported in that by the board.”
“You mean Berling, the one that now works for Sea Containers United?” Peter said.
“Yes and before us he worked for a few other big companies, switching jobs every few years as is normal for people at that level. It was unhandy for him to have his mail transferred from one company mail system to another when he switched jobs.” William said, “So he approved an order to have those blocks removed.”
“But how can that hacker gain access… we got firewalls?” Harry said.
“I read here that they only work from the outside in, but this program worked the other way around.” Thompson said, “It was made to setup a connection.
“Blocking internet traffic from the inside out was considered inconvenient. We never got the approval to do that. I think is was director of the business that thought it harmed the ease with which to do business.” Harry said.
“But the antivirus system…”, Peter said.
“It’s not an virus. Just a small program that makes a connection to the outside.”
“But the system that ran it. I mean when it is stopped and restarted, it would have killed the program.”
“Not necessarily. For one, it could have restarted itself. For another, the system was never restarted by the user.” Thompson said.
“Because of cost savings the company delayed replacing the computers and those old one’s became very slow to shutdown and startup. It could take like twenty or thirty minutes. People stopped doing that to save time.” Harry said.
“We know that.” the engineers nodded.
“So gentlemen. The situation Pacific Shipping Incorporated is in is dire. This hacker has hacked his way into crucial systems.” Thompson said.
The others took this news with a grim silence.
“And the only way out of this is to change all passwords at once, rebuilt those systems that have been compromised and implement lock down security and maintain it.” Thompson said.
“Were local systems infected too?” Peter asked.
“We don’t know.” Thompson said. “We did not check their systems.”
“There has not been any formal statement yet.” the security officer said. “So I have no leverage.”
“So.. We don’t know?” Peter said.
“No.”
The men sitting around the table looked at each other. The engineers, with the exception of Peter, had worked a long time in the company. They knew what was going to happen.
“We could of course give you an extensive advice of what can be done to implement the required security.” Thompson said with a vague smile.
Harry nodded at that,”It is one of the follow up actions. Learn from the lessons learned.”
Thompson eyed the security officer. The room was silent.
“Lessons learned.” Peter said. “And will we implement those?”
“That is for management to decide.” Harry said while he placed his hands together making the fingers touch the one one the other hand.
Peter looked at the faces. The smiling one of the external consultant. The unreadable one of the old security officer and those of his co-workers who looked at him with that knowing glint in their eyes.
“We could implement some changes in the new systems, so over time it gets implemented everywhere when systems are replaced.” John said.
“And how about implementing them with local systems?”
“They won’t let us touch them. We need higher management to give the go ahead. We need to convince everyone with this rapport..” Peter demanded.
“It is a confidential rapport.”, the security officer said. “I understand from the chief security officer that it will be reclassified as highly confidential.”
“What does that mean?” Peter wondered out loud..
“That only a selected group of people can read it.” Mark said, “Only for a special group of people.” He lifted both hands to symbolise the double marks.
“So we can’t use it to convince the local people.” William underscored.
“Not unless higher management allows use of this.” Mark added and held up the rapport.
“Which they won’t.” William said. “Since they would have to admit to some painful errors.”
“We can off course make a risk assessment rapport.” Thompson said. “One that exactly advises what errors to amend and how.”
“But wouldn’t people know about it, with the password changes, rebuilds and such?” Peter asked.
“Maybe they do, but the strangest things happen in companies, so everyone accepts it as another strange fluke of the nerds and after a while people forget. Or want to forget.” Thompson said.
“Make that rapport. We try and implement what we can.” The security officer said.

Day 10: 12:55

“It is a pity. We could have used that rapport to proof we need to tighten security. Now we get a rapport suggesting the same thing, but there is no urgent reason to implement them.” Peter said to John when they had returned to their room.
John nodded.
“Maybe if production was seriously affected something would happen.”
“Perhaps..but we don’t want that to happen.” John said.
“It is like telling people we need a fire-brigade when you need a fire to convince them .”
“Something like that.”
“But now everything is hushed up. The rapport will never get out.”
“Perhaps.” John said. “But people talk. We don’t live on an island.”

Day 11: 17:15 Dave’s Pub

“Have one on me, John.” Charles Dorn smiled at Atkins and handed him a glass of beer, cold with small drops to the outside. The music played Jailhouse Rock loudly. The only other person was the bartender James, who was cleaning glasses.
“A beer..Wasn’t it all tea for you. And to go wild: coffee.”
“You know I don’t want to make a habit out of it.”
“So how are things with you people up in the Ivory Tower.” Charles said with a grin. ”Or does the beer speak for you?”
“You still see the others? Friday afternoon?”
“Of course. They all drop in at times. Every Friday afternoon. We have a drink and a chat.Nothing serious, really.”
“Well, Charles, we had this problem…” John Atkins whispered.

Flash: Collateral

Jonathan Ames had saluted with a blank expression on his face after they had pinned up his medal.

“Well done, Captain.”  the general had said, a man Ames had only known by name. “A vital contribution to the war against terrorism. ”

He remembered that moment every time they held their ceremony at the veterans day. They would raise the flag, play the national anthem and they would all salute. And he would have his blank expression on his face.

“What did you get the medal for?” someone would ask sometimes.

“Programming.” he would answer.

“Programming? Programming what?” the next question would be.

“A robot plane.”

“How does that get you a medal?” would be asked..

He could not tell because of security reasons, but if he could have, he would have answered, “It launched a guided missile that blew up a car containing Muhafeed Al Jazar.”

And the questioner would whistle and say, “That guy? Did you do that?”

But he never got to this point as he was sworn to silence, because several groups of fanatics had howled revenge for this high tech assassination and the deaths of twenty-seven men, women and children of the village the car had been in when the rocket exploded.

He sometimes wondered who had actually gained from this vital contribution.

Henry and Kristl saw The Patriot (2000)

“They were not Germans?” Kristl asked

“What?” Henry said. “Who? The English? Germans? Germans! That was a
deliberate joke wasn’t it.”

“Well, they burned all those people in that church.. Didn’t something
like that happen in the Second World War. Although, maybe it would be
safe to say those were Nazis… not Germans. But that church thing? Did
that happen? ”

“Well, the point is: it could have. Cause they were the enemy. That is
it. Symbolism.”

“Ah.” Kristl said, “So they were Germans, but with an English accent.”

“Sounded English to me. British English. Stuck up English.” Henry said.

” Sah..” Kristl shouted suddenly, making Henry jump.

“Stop mucking about, what has that a country to do with anything? It is
America against the Brits.” Henry said, “With some French help.”

“Just reminds me of my now dead granddad. Fathers side.” Kristl said.

“What of him?”

“Well, he saw this movie, back when he still lived.”

“I would think so. It works better while being alive.”

“Huh?”

“Being dead spoils the experience.”

“Duh.” Kristl pouted her lips,” Anyway. He said the movie gave him
tears. You see he was always busy with those little tin soldiers and
uniforms and such. And he said he liked the uniforms in the movies. And
the soldiers. And the shooting. So beautiful. That is what he said.”

“He sounded a bit feeble in the brain department..”

“He might have been. He was in his eighties at the time. He died at
ninety one.”

“So your granddad liked the movie for the uniforms.”

“He gave me this tin soldier. See. I still got it.. I thought I take it
with me and show you.” Kristl held up a tin soldier with colors that
was neither the blue of the Continental army nor the red of the British
one. It was green with red.

“So what uniform is this?”

“Brunswick.”

“German?”

“Yes, but there was no Germany back then. All kind of small and big
states. Some were allied to Britain. Like Hessia and Hanover.”

“So the Germans were with the English?”

Well, there were Germans fighting for the Americans to. In the French
army that helped out the Americans. And there was a whole regiment made
up from German colonists.” Kristl stared at the tin soldier.

“Ok?”

“Well, he said. It would have been a nice movie without Mel Gibson
standing in the way. If they had just kept out the action bits. Like
the silly fights. And the dumb warfare.That is what he said.”

“What? Without Mel there is no movie. What is a movie without action, a
hero and a good bad guy?”

“A shorter movie?” Kristl said cheerfully.

“And a boring movie too. Except for crazy old men who play with tin
soldiers.”

“Well. I thought they could have made two movies out of it and please
both sides.It is long enough for it.”

“Nope. I don’t think so.” Henry shook his head, “It would be a short
nonsensical action movie and a boring historical one. They go together.”

“It was just a thought.” Kristl said.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0187393/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

When the caged bird sings..

It was perhaps not the first order the emperor Armadius gave, but the order to capture the bird was among the first when he ascended the throne. It was the witch Najeste who caught the bird with a fine net and put the petite colorful bird in a golden cage, which was then placed on a pedestal before the throne set up in the large hall.
Another of those first orders caused the capture and summary execution of those relatives who might be a direct threat to the new ruler or be used by others against him. Among those captured was also the prince Lanare, an otherwise insignificant noble of an insignificant estate, but he was reviled by the emperor for his openly bi-sexual lifestyle. It was well known that Najeste and Lanare were lovers and after some rough handling by guards it was revealed that the witch was indeed a man, although his looks and behavior suggested otherwise. It was something the new emperor had always suspected.
The emperor promised Najeste to spare Lanare from the executioners axe in exchange for the birds capture, but he did not feel obliged to give them their freedom, so he had both men thrown into a dungeon. Each in their own cell: separate, close together but far enough to make communication suitably difficult…
It then took the emperor a year and some thousand lives to squash any potential opposition to his rule, either real or perceived, before he returned to his throne room to ponder the mystery of the bird.
Twenty-five years before, the old emperor had been close to death, but somehow the bird had saved the old emperor from dying. But that was not all. Not only had the bird saved the emperor, but it had also changed him. At first he had been an ruthless warrior whose reputation for bloodshed was only overshadowed by his reputation as conqueror, but the bird had changed him into a gently benign ruler with it’s singing.
During those twenty-five years of reign the old emperor had sat each and every morning on his balcony and listened to the bird and enjoyed the marvelous view of the capital city that stretched out from the palace all the way to the sea. And he had stopped the conquests, encouraged trade, advanced education and alleviated poverty. He had send away the generals and the courtiers and surrounded himself with children. One of which had been Armadius.
Armadius took seat on his throne and he listened to the bird sing for a few days, but nothing was revealed to him. But he was determined to discover the power of this bird one way or another. He sent messengers to all ends of his empire and beyond, and promised untold riches to anyone who would succeed in tapping the power. From far and wide wizards, witches, conjurers, demonists, wise men, hermits and crackpots flocked to the palace, even from far away Siang, but none succeeded in this task.
When all other means were exhausted Armadius had Najeste and Lanare dragged from their cells.
“Tell me the birds secret.” Armadius commanded Najeste,” And I will let you despicable people go.”
The two men held each other close, giving each other comfort and strength. Najeste then looked the emperor straight in the eyes.”I do not know this birds power. The only thing I know is that a child once said that when the bird sings all the other birds come.”
“The bird has sung before me each and every day in this very hall and never has anything remarkable happened.” the emperor said.
“Then the truth must be that the bird has no power whatsoever.” Najeste said,”And whatever happened to the old emperor had more to do with a change in himself than with any outside influence..”
Although the emperor was satisfied with this answer, he had both the prince and witch executed. The prince was staked and the witch torn into four parts by four horses and each part was buried some distance from the other in each point of the compass. He felt that it was offensive to the high gods teachings to let the lovers live and witches were dangerous anyway, especially after being slighted..
Armadius by now had been convinced that the bird did not posses any magic whatsoever and he felt proven when a few months later the bird died of some disease. The emperor was out conquering yet another country when it happened and when he was told he merely shrugged.
When the emperor returned to his palace he ordered the now empty cage to be taken away, and the hall to be filled with the voices of men and women who sang the praises of the emperor and the high god. To him it was a sound much more befitting the palace..
He then sat down on the same balcony the old emperor has sat and looked out over the city.. He enjoyed the view for it gave him to feeling he was a master of all he surveyed, which was true, for everything he saw, but for the sea. He could have his guards go to the city and have them slaughter each and every men. Nobody would be able to stand up to him. Tomorrow his victorious armies would parade down there to demonstrate the might of the empire. He felt satisfied and proud.
He had his servants serve him food and drinks there, like the old emperor had, and when night came he watched the moon rise and the lights of the city flicker below, like the stars did in the sky above, until he fell asleep.
The next morning he woke to see the first light of dawn. The red light flooded the streets of the city. It was the red of morning, but it looked like a sea of blood. The red climbed up towards the mountain and lightened the stake that had once held the carcass of the Prince Lanare.
The emperor rose to his feet and he watched the dawns splendor which took away his breath. And then a petite colorful bird fluttered to the balustrade and picked at some stray crumbs and then started a song. And from the city a wind brought the sound of singing, as the men and women started the new day with songs. And some of those songs were about wise old emperors and others about boundless lovers.
And the emperor felt tears in his eyes as he heard and saw this and then a deep sorrow possessed him as he saw the deceased Lanare and recalled the untold suffering he had caused.
Maybe this sorrow would have lasted a short while and maybe he would have forgotten about it, but he suddenly remembered how the old emperor once had asked him to sing him a song when he was still a child. An innocent song only a child would sing. And the emperor sang that song and the whole city sang to him.

Xtralife:Unexpected treasure

Sandra landed the Raven, a crate with the pretense of a spaceship, as close to the space wreck as she deemed safe. A feeble automated distress signal had brought it to her attention. When she went out to investigate, she was surprised to see there was someone alive, because a shadow disconnected itself from the mangled overgrown rusty shape and turned into a burly in man dressed in rags aiming a plasma rifle at her.

Sandra had no weapons on her, because she hated guns and relied on her luck to get out of sticky situations. Someone once told her that relying on luck was silly, but she had replied  that luck had gained her more than guns. And those who knew her well, like Eve, had to admit that it was true. Somewhere there had to be whole worlds populated by unlucky people to offset the imbalance.

“And if luck doesn’t help I can rely on my looks.” Sandra added smugly.  Those poor saps were not only unlucky, but they were ugly too. Life really sucks.

“What a tasty morsel you are.” the man said with a gruff voice. “Now let’s get of this planet..”

After the Raven had entered space, the man leaned close to Sandra, who was sitting behind the controls of the ship. When he got that close he noticed red lights on one of displays..

“What are those lights?” He pointed.

“That is life support.”

“Life support?”

“Yes, we removed most of it to make room for more essential things.” Sandra said in a deadpan manner.

“More essential things?”

“Yeah. We didn’t remove everything, of course. Like that one.” Sandra pressed a button and something started to hiss.

“What is that?”

“Let me see..” Sandra stood up, making such movements that he could not help but watch her and then she bent over the console so the shape of her body was silhouetted against the lights of the screens. She then looked over her shoulder and gave him one of her smiles, while holding up a package of cigarettes, “Mind if I smoke?”

The man started to turn pale and breathe loudly. He then grabbed at her. For a few moments they struggled and then he fell to the ground.

Sandra examined him thoughtfully for a few minutes and then gave him a vicious kick. When he didn’t react she pressed the button again to stop the hissing sound. Absentmindedly she grabbed one of her smokes and tried lighten it, but the lighter did not produce a flame.

“That sucks.” She wanted to say, but while her mouth made the movements, there was no sound..

She then went over to the communications console and typed a short message to Eve which said: Yeah, let’s keep the oxygen unit, it has it’s uses.  Oh btw, I got a guest for dinner.” And she snickered an inaudible fanged laugh. She was sooo funny.

.

Marvelous

“What have we here?”, Harley said in that special way she had heard policemen say it(on real life television mostly) and that seemed to underscore that they were policemen and you were definitely not.
Harley was almost too young and too pretty to be a security guard and normally she would not have been accepted for the job, but she had convinced her employers to give her a try. For her first assignment they had hid her alluring features by dressing her up in a dark security outfit that was a bit too large. The result was a look that was slightly more comical than impressive.
To be on the safe side they also had teamed her with sergeant Cubbins, an old hand with thirty years of excellent service. He was the epitome of the security guards as was shown by him having a mustache( and thus renouncing all fashion styles) and the fact that everyone called him sergeant even though such a rank did not exist in the private security company Safe and Secure.
“I am Batman and I am fighting for justice.” Batman said from his elevated position at the top of the stairs. He had cuffed himself to the doors of the courtroom.
“Whose justice is that?” Harley remarked and heard Cubbins groan behind her. She had just broke rule number four: thou shalt not make jokes. She already had broken rules one, two and three implicitly as she was too pretty, too young and mustache-less. The proper response should have been: what justice might that be, sir?
Batman had paused for a moment to realign his thoughts and then said. “I am fighting against a fatherless society and for the equality of men and boys.”
“Great. I am for equality of men too.” Harley said with a happy grin. She had just broken rules number five and six: don’t fraternize and don’t laugh.
“Then why don’t you join our cause, come up here and get cuffed to?” Batman said in an attempt to outmaneuver Harley and gain back the normal flow of conversation: which was that people were berating him instead of agreeing with him.
“I will, B-man, I will, But first I have to do something else.. I am back in five. No. Ten..” Harley said holding up one spread out hand, then two, “Just think of it as a commercial break!.” She ran off, thus breaking rule number seven: never leave the scene without the situation being resolved.
Normally Cubbins would have intervened at this point, but curiosity got the better of him in his old days. So Batman and him waited for an uneasy period that seemed to last quite long, while a crowd of spectators gathered. Handhelds and camera’s were lifted above heads and flashed.
A camera crew was unloading their equipment. A reporter was making his way towards them. A group of Asian tourists were waving at them: “Hiii, Batman.”
Fifteen minutes later Harley returned and somehow a path opened up through the crowd. “Tadaaa!” Harley shouted when she was with them and she opened her arms wide in a dramatic manner.
“At what exactly?” Batman said. She looked just like she had looked fifteen minutes before.
“I knew you were going to say that.” Harley grinned brightly and she grabbed the front of her jacket and pulled the zipper down, thus breaking rule number ten: thou shalt not undress(actually it said: thou shalt wear the correct uniform in a correct manner all the time.)
She stripped of all her clothes to the mirth of the crowd, that kept swelling in numbers. A helicopter was batting the air above them and a few policemen had arrived and were watching the scene from a distance with amused expressions on their faces. Cubbins face had reddened and he gurgled.
“Tadaa” Harley said again as she sprang up completely dressed in a skin tight black PVC outfit, “Who am I?” And she pulled a mask with feline features over her head and then growled.
“Catwoman!” Exclaimed Batman and the crowd in unison.
“Meow!” Harley said and made catlike gestures..
The two superheroes started an animated conversation sometimes interrupted by the someone asking them for an autograph or to pose for a picture. The reported tried to interview them, but they mostly ignored him. Cubbins had left the scene, leaving it to the authorities to deal with the situation. Which they didn’t as it was too amusing.
When it started to rain Batman suggested to Catwoman that they would continue their conversation over dinner.
“Good idea… Provided it’s not cat food.” Harley said,”There is so much a superhero can stomach.”
Batman smiled, uncuffed himself, and took her to a Chinese restaurant at the other end of the street.The restaurant owner had seen them already on television and gave them a prominent place near the window. The place was packed in no time.
“Look at all the pretties. Free drinks and food! Nice company. I like it. More. More.” Haley said with a laugh.
“You know, ever since Catwoman was played by Halle Berry I can’t quite see her as Caucasian.” Batman confessed.
“Well, I don’t actually like to be Catwoman, but it was the outfit they had in the store. Besides, I don’t think Batty would like my preferred superbeing.””
“And who is that?”
“Uhmmm.. Let me see. A riddle! Here is the riddle: what is in a name?”
“Hmm.. Harley is your name, isn’t it?”
“Smart Batty!” Harley patted Batman on the arm..
“So I guess it would be Harley Quinn?”
“Harley Quinn, pleased to meetcha!”
“Pity, I am not much of a Mister J.”
“I guess you wouldn’t be, B-man, with you being cuffed to them doors.” Harley said, “You so.. se-ri-ous.”
“And I also lack in the sociopath homicidal department.” Batman added and he thought of a certain situation where those traits could have come in handy.
“Now THIS is funny, Mistah J! Battsy made a joke!” Harley said cheerfully.
He smiled.
“So, now for the serious question. I always wanted to know!” Harley said and continued:
“ Is..” She lingered.
“..Batman.” She paused.
“..GAY?” She ended with a loud voice.
“Of course not. Batman has a son!”
“Whatcha that proof? Nuthing.”
”Then trust me. He isn’t.”
“I knew it! She shoots, she scores!”
“You really going for the Harley Quinn thing.”
“Call me Harley, everyone does.” Harley nodded and offered him a hand.
Batman laughed and shook hers, “I do think you lost your job back there.”
“You betcha. They didn’t like my pepperoni on their steaks. So I have find myself a new whipper! I think I try to become a truck driver next. I like to handle big things that are unstoppable.”
Batman sighed and wondered if a superhero could be joined by a supervillain in a fight for justice and still be believable.
Harley looked in his eyes and then said, “Oh the irony! The grim stalwart Dark Knight and his greatest female adversary, fightin together to save the city!”