Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bauer and the McRib: An Unbeatable Ticket

Jack Bauer pounded his fist and yelled into the darkness, "Tie me to a chair, hook electricity to my testicles, and threaten my family! I can't think under these conditions!"

The closest Arab with an AK prodded him with a menacing gleam in his eye. "You're already tied up, but not in knots you can possibly escape. If it helps, your daughter is tied to a table under a laser that's going to cut her in half if you're unable to give us your decision within ten minutes." The Arab looked around the warehouse with savage delight. "Can we get some electricity over here?"

"Damn you!" Jack squinted through American blood and sweat as he swallowed against the tears he wouldn't let fall.

As if on cue, the Arab slapped him.

Jack gave as much of a smile as he could manage. "Just what I needed. Now, I have the upper hand." Perplexed, the Arab stared at the Cars fan who held his nation's future in his hands. A thousand images of pain and suffering flooded through Bauer's mind. Nader would never play second fiddle. Colin Powell was finished. He looked out at the sea of red eyes behind brownish skin. "I choose..."

Baited breath could not even describe such a room.

"...the McRib."

A cough here and there. The Arabs exchanged incredulous glances. Their leader leaned in close to the greatest American hero since MacGyver. "You can't be serious!?"

Bauer gritted his teeth, trying to make his assertions credible. "It's a hell of a sandwich. Vegetable protein, a little pork, and sweet, sweet barbecue sauce on a sesame seed bun. The most American thing since the hamburger--without all the German baggage."

The Arab frowned, as if he were capable of another expression.

"Hamburg, camel jockey."

The Arab nodded. "Untie him." The room full of red eyes looked to their leader with wavering loyalty and skepticism.. "I said, UNTIE HIM!!!"

Jack bit down on his tongue to taste a little more blood. He looked up at the fundamentalists who gave religious conviction a bad name. "Why are you doing this?"

The Arab gave a smug, and particularly Western smirk. "Jack Bauer and the McRib are an unbeatable ticket. You think your American White House is as secure and indomitable as our White Castles, but you're wrong. You'll hear more from us when there's more on the line than the daughter of Bauer."

Jack smiled. "You can try, towel-head...you can try, but you'll fail. My blood may be red, but it's also white and blue."

"I cannot even begin to comprehend your concept of biology." The red-eyed underlings of the stereotypical Arab leader loosened Bauer's knots. He shook off his wrists with a gleam in his eyes, as though he'd released himself.

The Arab leader saluted Bauer. "You may have won this day, but once you and the McRib have been installed in the White House, do you really think you will be able to protect your nation and family from the terror of Allah's hand?"

"For my country, I'd be proud to die--as long as I'm tortured first. But don't underestimate the McRib. Do you see the sun?" The Arab glanced toward the darkening glow of the warehouse's windows as Bauer connected dizzying logic. "The sun is setting on your brand of idealism. There is only one God." A gleam flashed across Jack's eyes. "And I've got news for you--his name's not Allah."

Bauer stood, the ropes falling to his feet. The Arab stereotypes moved in closer until their leader held up an authoritative hand. "Where do you think you're going?"

Bauer spit American blood on the concrete floor, giving his best John Wayne. "I'm going to save my daughter and talk to the McRib."

The shifty Arab nodded with a frown on his face. "You'll be hearing from us, Bauer."

Bauer looked back with defiance and his own special brand of American arrogance. "I know." He walked toward the doors of the warehouse before pausing to face his antagonists again. "I look forward to it."

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Tony Starks's Cold War (fan fiction...eww!)

The corporate culture here is so backwards. There's no inter-departmental cooperation and the red tape you go through to get information from upper management is never worth the trouble. I can deal with the non-competes and security precautions, but it's hard to design guidance systems and meet deadlines on the military contracts when our hands are tied on every project. I requested specs over a month ago for the electro-magnetic system from the Iron Man armor and today I receive an email with web links to videos featuring Iron Man magnetizing opponents to immobilize them.

That's it. That's all I got. No schematics, no models, not even a "sorry, that's classified." Bullshit links to web videos I could have googled myself.

The pay is good and our kids are in a great school, but the problems start at the top and get worse the lower on the totem pole you are. Mr. Stark doesn't give a damn about the work we do. He's too busy posing for magazine covers, attending fund raisers, and presenting checks to orphanages to bother with such tedious matters as the future of the company, national security, or performing quality work that keeps us ahead of today's technologically sophisticated enemies of freedom.

And here's where things get sticky...

The other day, I got a call from a Russian military sub-contractor working on a new defense project based on an old design for the Crimson Dynamo's armor. They want to create a scaled-down version that can be replicated for an elite squad of soldiers who can defend Russia against splinter groups from Georgia and unstable, non-EU nations who are increasingly falling under the influence of terrorist groups.

I know a lot gets made of modern Russia's connections to it's authoritarian past and the shady relationship those in charge have to ex-agents of the KGB, but it seems more and more like the Russians are just trying to protect the progress they've made in recovering from a rocky transition to democracy and capitalism. How is America's interest in installing missile defense systems in Eastern Europe any different than what Khrushchev pulled during the Cuban Missile Crisis?

If we're on the brink of a new cold war, how can we blame anyone but ourselves? Our aggressive foreign policies have escalated tensions and created a world where America's allies stand with us because they fear us. Our unilateral military actions, dismissal of UN leadership, and the voices of dissension among our "friends" in the developed world have made us no better than the communist threats we used to stand firmly against.

I'm not saying I agree with all the things the Russians stand for, but I understand their concerns about the reach and influence of the West. Would we respond any differently to military installations so close to our borders? I know posting a blog like this is as good as getting fired, but I don't care anymore. Tony Stark puts on a good face for the media, but everything about the internal operations of Stark Enterprises breeds mistrust among colleagues and apathy toward the noble goals military defense should aspire to achieve.

I love my country. I love the life I've had here, but it's just too hard living in the shadow of a lie. Stark Enterprises doesn't stand for the highest principles our nation was founded on and neither does the administration they serve. I probably won't bother going in tomorrow. I think the wife and I will head out to buy parkas for the kids. The Russians assure me the non-compete won't be a problem.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fan fiction. No copyright infringement is intended.

MARVEL and all related characters: ™ & © Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Vodka, Milkshakes, and Temporary Tattoos.

We drove for hours with Damone blaring from the speakers; then checked into a cheap hotel, a block from the beach. I had a couple hundred bucks and nothing to worry about. I bought us some vodka and we got drunk in front of the AC. We couldn't stop our hands and didn't want to.

It was a perfect summer weekend.

She told me all the sweet words that made everything feel like it would stay just the way it was. She believed in it as much as I wanted to. We tried telling each other dirty jokes in Spanish, but couldn't remember the funny things we'd learned in high school.

After taking a shower together, we drank a little more and headed out of the room. We held each other back, laughing our heads off as traffic went by. It seemed like we waited forever before we were sure we could cross the street without getting hit by the old people, frowning as they passed.

We took off our shoes and ran into the surf. I didn't want to kiss her in front of the kids playing on the beach, but we went out in the deeper water and I held her close. The warm surges pulled us toward the shore and back out again. The waves were like an energy surrounding us, bringing us back to life after the sleepy afternoon of drinking.

When our fingers and toes began to wrinkle, we walked back out of the water, holding hands and feeling the hot sand under our feet. I pulled my wallet and the room key from my shoes, stuffing them into the wet pockets of my trunks. The sun was sinking behind the buildings.

She kissed me and pulled me back towards the road. We walked for a while and found a place to get burgers and shakes. I got a peanut butter banana shake while she ordered a cherry pineapple. She said vodka would be so good in hers, but she finished it there.

We talked about going to the movies. I threw out half a dozen other ideas to try and hide it, but we both knew there wasn't anything we wanted more than to get back to the room and out of our clothes.

So we did.

The next morning, I tried to walk down and get us some breakfast, but she woke up before I could make it out the door. I tossed the note I'd written in the trash while she got ready. She smiled up at me with her eyes closed, making one of her beautiful morning faces. I kissed her on the forehead and then the lips. Her hair was messy, but perfect. She put on her big sunglasses and wrapped her arms around me as I figured out the lock on the door.

It was already eleven. There was a taco truck open down the street, so we grabbed a couple burritos and walked to a strip mall arcade. I shot pinball while she played whack-a-mole. She bought us some temporary tattoos from a machine: a rainbow, a unicorn, and a Bratz character. She made me put the unicorn on my arm and couldn't stop laughing while I tried to preserve my dignity.

We found a picnic table in front of a closed restaurant and sat beside each other, quiet for a while. I kissed her on the forehead and she started crying. She cuddled up to me and told me she was so happy. I never knew what to say in moments like that. I pulled her close to me and told her I loved her. I should have said more.

Summer ended and the sweet words didn't come true.

She didn't come back to school in the fall. I graduated the next spring, wanting to hide away for the rest of my life. I went back to the beach a couple years later, just to walk around. It makes me crazy to think about it again. Now I know, but it's not like you get another chance. You learn to live with it and try to forget as much as you can.

I should have asked her to marry me.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Good morning, Tokyo.

Masuka turned off the alarm with the laser and rolled over to face the window. The kid in the apartment below had parked his mech in front of the balconies again, obscuring the best view of the local skyline. Masuka sat up, shaking off sleep as the sounds of pterodactyls and helicopters faded from overhead, into the mechanical pulse of the city.

Masuka shuffled to the kitchen. He took the "hatcher" off the counter and tossed it to the floor. An inch before impact, the hatcher froze into glowing ball of light and released a "yubikin," a cyber-genetic hybrid looking something like a chipmunk crossed with a squid. Masuka set out a water dish and the yubikin scampered over to drop it's tentacles in the bowl.

Taking a canned orange juice from the fridge, Masuka looked at the yubikin. "We're late. You better jump in the bag."

Masuka left the building, pausing only to feed the magnetized aluminum into the recycle tube. He marveled at the brilliance of whoever figured out how to magnetize aluminum for mass production. In another five years, everyone would think it had always existed.

Yubikin squirmed in the messenger bag as Masuka's scooter hummed to life. He dodged a couple old ladies, took the alleyway shortcut, then pulled out into the nightmare river of machines. Mini jets, mechs, hydro-cycles, rocket cars, and bike messengers all dived for every open space as they raced to long days in front of their glow boxes.

Musuka hated wearing a helmet, but listened to his email as he rode. He used to soak in the city, but like everything else in his lonely life, that had grown too familiar. It became part of the chaos that he constantly struggled to tune out.

Masuka took his seat beside Tiko Timiko in their shared office. Tiko was a pretty girl behind her glasses. She designed electrical systems for tall buildings and the Downtown Renovations Initiative, a project that promised to keep the company busy for the next fifty years. They could turn to each other any time they wanted, but Masuka and Tiko had not spoken to each other in months--not without communicating through their consoles.

Masuka's glow box came to life and brought up a rendering of a city block. "Run rigidity and fire test, sealant six, existing architecture."

The screen shook. Masuka felt the vibrations in his seat. He glanced over at Tiko. She didn't even pause. She kept tracing circuits on the screen like a cyber doc going over capillaries of a "dead" robot. The dampeners blocked out everything.

Masuka stared at the rendered city as the earthquake subsided. A wind blew through the street and everything went completely quiet. Then, the world broke apart as a huge wave rushed through the streets, carrying digital people and tiny cars away in it's fury. Chunks of concrete flew out from one of the buildings at the end of the block. A hand curled around the edge of the building--a hideous, green hand, covered in scales.


The monster stepped into the street, drawing to its full height, its eyes glowing with rage. Even when awakened as part of a computer simulation, Zilla-X was not a "morning person."

Gunshots sounded from one of the windows, which only succeeded in angering the creature more. Masuka tapped his fingers impatiently. The kids who wrote these things always built unnecessary theatrics into the sims. A mini jet flew overhead and was batted down by Zilla-X.

The monster turned his attention to the buildings. He roared and breathed blue fire at the windows. He swung his head, wrapping three buildings in the inferno of his bad breath. Concrete crumbled and windows melted. Towers atop the buildings turned into molten puddles and dripped onto the tsunami-soaked streets.

Steam rose from each drop. Masuka could hear screams from the people trampling over each other to escape the terrible monster. So unnecessary. He shook his head. "Reset all."

Masuka leaned back in his chair, staring at the sunny morning that bathed frame one of the rendered block. He rubbed his face in frustration. He'd told the bosses the new formula wouldn't stand up to rigidity and flame tests. In trying to cheap out on the budget, renovations were being compromised. The higher-ups would rather use weak, alternative sealant than do a proper job of monster-proofing small buildings in older sections. After all, only poor people worked in buildings smaller than twenty stories.

"This is so stupid!"


Masuka turned to Tiko. "Sorry. Nothing."

"You want to get a snack?"

The question was funny, but not. Masuka looked into her pretty eyes, behind the glasses. Nobody wore glasses except to dress up. She was trying to be cute, but no one ever noticed. Masuka smiled and nodded. "Yeah. Let's get a snack." He turned back to the glow box, "Build formula and render Old Tokyo for sealant seven rigidity and new gen monster flame test."

They waved off their glow boxes and Masuka put on his messenger bag. Tiko looked surprised when it moved. "Oooh! You've got a yubikin!!!" He fished it out and handed it to her. She kissed it on the top if it's tenticles and smiled. "I love it!"

Masuka looked at his feet, embarrassed as they boarded the lift tube. He glanced back up at her, trying to think of something to say. "I like your glasses."

Tiko smiled. "Thanks."

The rest of the way down, they couldn't stop blushing. The lift was silent except for the friendly purring of the yubikin as it lie curled up in Tiko's arms.