My Bookshelf

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Symbolism and Role Reversal in Philistia

The use of allegory and metaphor in John Reinhard Dizon’s Philistia would be commonplace in a politically themed, religiously charged novella. Yet the use of symbolism and role reversal appear to challenge its audience, inviting readers past the curtain to inspect the dei ex machina that proliferate throughout the plot. Many of the characters act as Trojan horses, carrying inside them hosts of allegorical and metaphoric implications that are left for us to contend with long after the players have left the scene. What they represent and how they transcend their stereotypical natures are what makes this work unique.

The role of Sylvia Cantor as a liberated woman, Delilah Sorek as a femme fatale and Gwen Abbott as a damsel in distress are all too easy to categorize and dismiss. Yet their interactions leave far too many inconsistencies were we to reduce them to the lowest common denominator – gender stereotypes. Sylvia is portrayed as a forensics expert with an aptitude for problem solving which is referred to throughout the tale as female intuition. Hey partner, Gary Race, jokes that he is ‘paid to listen to her’. Though when we consider the history of Israel, we find that the inclusion of women in their military infrastructures has been a matter of national survival that contradicts its male-dominated social environment. Having Sylvia carry a gun and hold rank in Shin Bet is no different than seeing women holding rank in the Israel Defense Force. We see how their Egyptian counterpart scoffs at the agents for having a ‘saleswoman’ trying to sell her ‘story’ of Hamas using the underground pipeline into Egypt as a military diversion. This episode concludes as Sylvia turns her back on the Egyptians, who symbolize the dead end that Jamal Al-Ramadi intended them to be.

Delilah is introduced as the seductress who lures Samson from Israel into the ranks of Hamas. She also becomes a negotiator for Hamas in their dealings with the Jerusalem Mob. As the story progresses, we find that bringing Samson into Gaza is a gambit to keep him on the sidelines rather than putting him into play for the insurgents. We also see that the Jerusalem Mob is persuaded to participate in a multimillion-dollar black-marketing scheme that distracts both the IDF and the Egyptian Army from Jamal’s true objective. Delilah becomes a pawn in Jamal’s chess game, yet becomes a queen that proves catastrophic as the game concludes.

Gwen Abbott finds herself being used as a bargaining chip, first as a hostage held for ransom, then as collateral in Jamal’s exit strategy. As the story progresses, she becomes the mother of wisdom in revealing Biblical truths to both Samson and Delilah. It proves symbolic as the epiphany anticipates the birth of their newfound Christianity and the revelation of their mission in traveling through time. We also see how she is the focal point of her father Brooks’ life as a widow and a pastor sacrificing all else for his ministry. She appears to play the weakest role in the narrative. Yet if it were not for her bringing Samson and Delilah to the knowledge of truth, the protagonists would have remained ignorant of Jamal’s true plan to change the destiny of Israel.

The issues discussed in the storyline continue to escalate as we examine the dialogues on race and religion. We see stereotypes abounding as the narrative distinguishes between the ‘Israelites’, as Samson and Delilah refer to them, and the immigrant Russian Jews who are shown as the antagonists. Alternately, we see the ‘Philistines’ as the people of the ancient land as opposed to the Palestinians engaged in insurrectionism that threatens both Israeli and Egyptian alike. The conflict is presented in black and white as Hamas operates underground in darkness, digging tunnels to undermine their adversaries and constantly meeting in secret to set their plans into effect. The Israelis meet in their ivory towers to analyze their dilemmas and come up with comprehensive solutions to maintain stability, law and order. The American pastor stays at an exclusive hotel and comes out only to reclaim his daughter, never once stepping foot out of the armored military vehicle. By speed-reading our way through, it seems obvious that our ethnic groups have been typecast so as to provide us with a streamlined immersion into the political environment.

At second glance, we find that the Palestinians are the only ones who are examined from a human perspective. They are forced into communities that are bracketed by both the IDF and the Egyptian Army. Even Delilah remains in awe of how the tables have turned between the Israelites and the Philistines. There is a brief discussion of Egypt’s demolition of their cities along the Gaza border and how the tunnels are reduced to sewage dumps. It is an exquisitely ruthless tactic which would be condemned by the global community if practiced elsewhere (i.e. the US-Mexico border). Yet it is seen as a natural reaction by Egypt, which is already engaged in exterminating its own Muslim Brotherhood (purged after winning a national election). In this world of inconsistency and contradiction, Jamal is seen as the heroic figure and his brother Bassam as Delilah’s counterpart. Yet it is Jamal who conspires with the Islamic State to destroy the Temple on the Mount in an ultimate act of betrayal against the world Muslim community.

The religious overtones appear to be just as cut and dried at first glance. Samson and Delilah leap from the Book of Judges into modern-day Israel, where they are seen as victims of an American or Russian-Chinese mind control experiment. Yet references to the Tanakh demonstrate the Israelis’ familiarity with their own canon and respect for their ancient traditions and folklore. Their patriarchal society is hinted at, while the Muslim distinction between men and women is clearly defined. The Israelis’ sense of duty is underscored by their mission statement to defend the Holy Land at all costs. The Muslims seem to be motivated by cultural manifests that are reinforced by religious imperatives. Yet the Temple on the Mount symbolizes their mutual respect for each other’s beliefs and need for peaceful coexistence. It is threatened by the Islamic State, the antithesis of what Islam itself claims to represent. Jamal becomes its false prophet, and it takes a Judge of Israel to rise from oblivion to deliver his people anew.

  The theme of Americanism resonates throughout the novella as the US spy satellite Chernobyl acts as  the all-seeing eye of the all-knowing Almighty. The conspirators continue along their course nonetheless, defiant of the powers of justice to bring their misdeeds to an end. We can see the allegory as Delilah appears as a cajoling, demanding and impatient partner (Israel) trying to implore the sluggish giant Samson (America) into action. The American ‘princess’ Gwen becomes the deciding factor as Samson emerges from his lethargy in an act of divine intervention. He becomes a metaphor for the superpower coming to the aid of its ally, miraculously rescuing it from nuclear annihilation.  

In summation, we find that Philistia can be seen as a postmodernist parable of the 21st century, discussing current topics with what can be argued to be a satirical overtone. Yet the deeper meaning can be analyzed by examining the sum of its parts. By exploring the allegorical and metaphorical passages on race, religion, gender and politics, Philistia becomes an essential narrative from ancient history to the modern era.

Friday, December 19, 2014

21st Century Blaxploitation?

Yep, blaxploitation is alive and well in the 21st century. Only it's an equal opportunity game and everybody gets to play.

I just got through watching Django Unchained on cable and had lots of trouble figuring out what all the hoopla was about. Overuse of the so-called N-word? I guess nobody watches those reruns of Roots on the BET Network. Or listens to gangsta rap - ask Bill Cosby...well, maybe not Bill Cosby. He's not our favorite Uncle Tom these days. And how about those savage whippings? Did anybody catch 12 Years A Slave (NOT directed by Quentin Tarantino)? That's another one of those NEVER FORGET slave movies that, along with The Butler, is supposed to rub our collective faces in our national guilt complex. Which leads us to Ferguson MO on the way to NYC. 

In two separate instances, a black man weighing over three hundred pounds attacked a police officer. Well, don't hold me to the weight, I'm an ex-pro wrestler, I'm just eyeballing. As a mixed martial artist, if a man that big came at me, I'd be going for the groin or a kneecap. Cops aren't trained that way. If a cop is as big as the one in NYC, he goes for a chokehold. If he's as small as the one in Ferguson, he draws his weapon. Either way, the cop is going by the universal tenet that anyone who attacks a cop is a deadly menace. If he attacks a cop, he's past the point about caring about the consequences of his actions. That's why cop killers are considered dead men walking. Only if they're the ones who end up on the short end, and it's a black perp/white cop, well, now it's a different story.

At least for the agitators who drove from as far as NYC to throw rocks and loot businesses in Ferguson. Interesting how the majority of those arrested during the rioting were from out-of-town. Sure, the blacks in Ferguson were up in arms and turned out in force. Only they weren't all about destroying the places they shop at without having to drive up to St. Louis. It was the publicity-seekers, the rabble-rousers, the anarchists who drove up to NYC as soon as the Ferguson furor waned. It looked like the Chokehold Affair was going to succeed the Michael Brown Incident but...outside of Berkeley (us Boomers sure do remember protesters in Berkeley), well...folks got plumb tuckered out.

I sure was after watching The Butler. It was following Forrest Whitaker through a plodding semi-documentary about racism in the White House that we've seen over and over and over again. I'm starting to understand how kids in Germany must feel (What, another Hitler movie!). At least the producers of 12 Years A Slave managed to trump Tarantino by outdoing him (whipping-wise and N-word-wise) without being as self-indulgent as the Butler boys, or stooping to blaxploition (which the Tarantino flick reeked of).

Face it, we're in a different century. Harping on racial issues does nothing but stoke the flames that erupt the minute any activist decides to play the race card. The people of Israel are learning how this comes back to bite you in the butt. After decades of Nazi-hunting, they are now dealing with allegations of racism as agitators the world over are accusing them of genocide in Palestine. Absurd? Sure it is. Just as absurd as a mob tearing up  a small town in Missouri after a cop shot a man out of fear for his life.

I usually watch the great Tarantino flicks a few dozen times. I don't think I'll get through more than a few more Django reruns. I saw 12 Years A Slave a couple of times, maybe I'll see it a couple more. The Butler? I couldn't watch it halfway through.

Which reminds me of Ferguson. Went down, took a couple of pics, didn't even stop for a beer. I guess everyone was home watching themselves on TV.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

"Philistia" --- A Sneak Preview!!!

“So you see, the Lord Jesus Christ was the Messiah that God promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He came to Earth to die for our sins, and He has allowed us to travel through time to save the people of Israel from disaster.”                                                                                                                     

“This borders on witchcraft. I shall require a sign, else I will not believe.”                                     

Gwen watched the couple debating over the Bible with her stomach knotted in tension. She had won over Delilah after they studied the smuggled book together. Only when Delilah brought Samson to visit, the giant was not easily persuaded. Apparently she had deceived him many times before, and he was not going to have his personal beliefs overturned so easily.                                                

“I am a follower of Dagon, yet I could clearly see the Truth unfolding in these pages. Why, it even depicts our past and future. You read the story of Samson and Delilah. How could they know these things were this book not true?”                                                                                                  

“Everyone knows of our legend. As for the ending, it seems as prattle to me. How could these puny Philistines cut my hair and bind me, much less blind me and enslave me? Their lightning sticks cannot even penetrate my skin.”                                                                                         

Her biggest fear was the possibility that these were actors engaged in some sophisticated form of mind control developed by the terrorists. She knew that ISIL was a multibillion-dollar organization capable of anything. They might be here to win her confidence in an attempt to break her father’s resistance to paying her ransom. Yet this man Samson was all too real. His fingers were as cigars, his neck as big as her waist. She had no doubt that he could have ripped the door to this room from its hinges. He might well be her biggest hope in escaping from this place.                    

“Gwen, why do you sit silent? Your words were so persuasive as to soften my heart and open my eyes. Now you sit quiet as I bicker with this stiff-necked man.”                                                    

“The Holy Ghost speaks through you,” she said softly. “You could not preach these things to him if they were not revealed to you by God.”                                                                                      

The couple was dumbstruck by her words. At once they were flooded by memories of Delilah dancing before the altar of Dagon, eating and drinking at his festivals, and committing all sorts of abomination. This did not come close to obscuring thoughts of the lies and deception she had committed against Samson himself. The idea of the Holy Ghost using her as His prophet was unthinkable.                                                                                                                                                        

“I am not worthy of this,” she suddenly began weeping and trembling uncontrollably. “Your God is mistaken in this thing. Have Him depart from me, for I am damned to failure.”                   

“Delilah,” Samson broke out of his narcotic-induced ennui, taking her into his arms with a gentleness that surprised all three of them. “What has happened to you? I have never seen you like this.”                                                                                                                                                                      

“Nor I you,” her beautiful eyes widened. “What is this new way that has overcome you?”               

At once the reinforced door opened, and the three were startled by the appearance of Kal Ghidrah and Bassam Al-Ramadi in the threshold.                                                                                               

“No, not now,” Gwen pleaded. “Please give me just a little more time.”                                             

“Relax,” Kal smiled. “Jamal doesn’t know we’re here. I was the one who arranged for Samson and Delilah to come here. I have also brought Bassam.”                                                                  

“Don’t take all the credit,” Bassam murmured.                                                                                  

“Are you here to rescue me?” Gwen managed.                                                                                  

“No, not quite,” Kal replied. “I ask you to remain strong as this plays out. I cannot tell you everything just now. What I can tell you is that this is part of a master plan developed by Jamal and his Hamas connections. They never expected your father to pay the ransom. You’re being held to divert the Israelis’ resources. He’s got something bigger planned, and the fate of Palestine could be at stake if we don’t figure it out.”                                                                                                                

“To Hades with Philistia!” Samson growled. “I shall set aside the devil powder and destroy the Philistines once and for all!”                                                                                                              

“It’s not quite that easy, though kicking the heroin isn’t a bad idea,” Bassam spoke up. “I think you’ve got an inkling of the bigger picture here. Israel controls what you call Philistia. If Philistia – Palestine – is destroyed, a sizeable portion of the Holy Land goes with it, including the West Bank and portions of Jerusalem. There’s a crucial political issue here. The nations of the world will not stand by and allow that to happen. The question is not whether Samson wants to destroy Palestine, but whether my brother Jamal will allow it to happen to achieve his goals.”                   

“The nations of the world?” Delilah wondered. “Who can stand against both the Israelites and the Philistines?”                                                                                                                                                

“This isn’t going to be easy,” Bassam cupped his brow.                                                                     

“Honey, the world is a hundred times bigger than you realize,” Gwen rose from her cot and sat down alongside Delilah on the chaise longue next to Samson. “If they gather here for battle it could mean the end of the world. It’s all there in the Bible. The Muslims believe it the same way we do. I don’t know what these fellows have in mind, but we have to do what we can to help.”                        

“She’s right, we have to work together,” Kal agreed. “I was sent here by the Israelis to return Samson to Tel Aviv.”                                                                                                                          

“That is no problem,” Samson started to rise. “Come, let us leave now.”                                     

“No, we need you here to stop Jamal’s plan,” Bassam insisted. “If you leave, Delilah will go with you, and that will cause Jamal to change course and resort to a more devious strategy.”                       

“I can’t imagine what that could be,” Kal shook his head.                                                                       

“I can stay here and see this through,” Delilah insisted.                                                                       

“Ha!” Samson growled. “Is that what you think?”                                                                            

“No, let the five of us work together and we can stop my brother – and Hamas – from carrying out their plot. We just need Gwen to stay strong and Samson and Delilah remain as if they know nothing of this. Jamal is planning to complete his transaction with the Sudanese any day now. Once he’s achieved that, I’m certain it will convince him the time is ripe to make his big move. That will be the time for us to act against him.”                                                                                   

“Take care, Bassam,” Delilah beseeched him. “If Jamal finds out you are working against him, he will kill you.”                                                                                                                                     

“God will protect us,” Gwen insisted. “He will protect us all, I know it.”                                     

“I think,” Bassam turned to leave, “Allah has turned his back on me a long time ago.”              

“That makes two of us,” Kal smiled as the men walked out the door.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

"Hezbollah" Coming Soon on Editions Dedicaces!!!

It's come a long way, baby.

Hezbollah was originally conceived in 1992 when I decided to pay homage to my old band, my bandmates and our organization. Since I didn't want to write a tawdry rock novel, I decided to give it the JRD treatment with a 'what-if' scenario full of adventure and intrigue. It was nearly indie-pubbed by Ed and Jane Doherty, and would have ended up as a rare out-of-print book by now if I had chosen to do so. Fortunately their critic friends convinced them to back off, and I carried the project into the 21st century.

Time ended up dating the book so that I had to bump everything up a decade to keep the storyline relevant. Punk rockers became grunge rockers, Desert Storm became the Invasion of Iraq, and the male protagonists gave place to the females. All of a sudden the novel provided the female perspective of what the lives and times were all about. Suddenly I realized I had what would become a truly enduring work. After all, the females are the true survivors. Rock and roll warriors live fast, die young and leave a pretty corpse. The women remain behind to tell their stories.

I'm not fooling myself, this is a last will and testament from a dying breed. I went to Chi-Town and St. Louis for Halloween weekend to visit the last two punk clubs in those cities. Club Foot in Chicago is scheduled to close this month (Nov 2014). The Way Out Club in St. Louis is barely hanging on. We've got a metal club, Aftershock, outside our border in Kansas. Beyond that, nada. We're dinosaurs, my fellow punkers. 

I'm leaving Hezbollah behind in the care of its new publishers, Editions Dedicaces. Hopefully the Millenials will pick up on it and discover what it means to be individuals, the need to stand alone from the pack rather than desperately seeking acceptance. Soon you find that there's others on the fringe, and your band of outcasts finds their own way of life.

Punk rock might even make a comeback.

Friday, October 10, 2014

"Standard II - The Citadel" Coming Soon on World Castle Publishing!

As my closest friends know, thirteen is my lucky number. I'm hoping that my thirteenth publishing deal (through World Castle Publishing) is the breakthrough score. Hopefully these guys will realize they have a potential movie deal on their hands.

Well, why not? Who wouldn't think that the story of Berlin Mansfield and Princess Jennifer in Tiara is ready for prime time? Or how about watching Sabrina Brooks plunging from the skies in Nightcrawler on the big screen? Imagine watching Tomny Jackson and Orrin Rampersad racing against time against a robotic Combo and the vengeance-crazed Jerome Browne in Transplant. Hell, I've got twenty-plus worth of them out there. The list does go on.

The Standard didn't go far with Tenth Street Press. Those guys are too busy peddling their softcore porn novels. But, damn, wasn't it a great read? William Shanahan is a narcissistic GQ-type looking to nail that last big case en route to a desk job in London with MI6. Only he gets teamed up with a UDA racketeer and serial killer named Jack Gawain, who happens to be one of the most charismatic of all my anti-heroes. They are pitted against Amschel Bauer, a Goldfinger wannabe who encourages an international drug cartel to buy up surplus gold across the globe before launching a series of terror attacks against financial hubs in NYC, London and Zurich. The anticipated return to the gold standard by the nations of the world precipitates Operation Blackout, and Shanahan and Gawain have their work cut out for them. The main event awaits in Miami, where cartel enforcer Enrique Chupacabra has his world turned upside down by the unpredictable Gawain. Sounds good? Well, go buy a damn copy.

Standard II - The Citadel picks up where the original left off. Gawain is doing contract jobs for the PSNI and the Garda Siochana before being re-upped by MI6. He is teamed with Shanahan and newcomer Lucretia Carcosa to derail a Russian plot to smuggle weapons into NYC. The Russians are seething over economic sanctions imposed by NATO in response to their hostile takeover plot against the Ukraine. Only their deal with a European criminal network is being compromised by the mysterious Citadel, who plan to take control of the Russian operation. Shanahan, Gawain and Carcosa are faced with the task of capturing the Black Queen of the Citadel before she gains exclusive rights to a nuclear bomb headed for the USA.

Think it'd make a great movie? Take it up with World Castle Publishing. I'm just the poor bastard slaving over the keyboard.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams - In Memoriam

When I first heard about this, my first reaction was somewhat blase. I only grew piqued when one of my publishers set up a tribute time on his webpage for the dead actor. At that point I kinda lost it. I proceeded to publish what might be called a 'disturbing' review on Amazon and linked it to my comments on said webpage. I wasn't sure how things might unfold after that and considered a three-day Internet moratorium. As it turned out, my post created no ripple, so it's business as usual. The event did make an impact on my end, hence this post.

I wasn't a great fan of Williams, though no one could say they didn't at least admire his work. Now that he's gone and the tributes are saturating the news, one can truly put his contributions in perspective. He was a great performance artist, on the level of (if not surpassing) Andy Kaufman. He was a master of spontaneous combustion, and unlike most on-the-spot funnymen, he was genuinely amusing. He mixed inanity with brilliance, and always failed to embarrass his audience and himself in doing so. Many great comedians become legendary actors, and Williams is no exception. While acting requires exceptional talent, exceptional comedy is a work of genius. In that regard, then we may consider him a genius.

What separates him from Tom Hanks is that rubbery face. Acting isn't all talent, a lot of it's about looks. Hanks' boyish looks may have elevated him past Williams, but it was Robin's face that made him the better comedian. Maybe that's part of what caused the depression - we'll always grope for answers. You have to grope in wondering what made such a man take his life. He would've had a choice of beautiful women, and had enough friends and admirers to last for more than a lifetime. He was a millionaire many times over, and left a legacy that few can match. Killing yourself? That's what pissed me off.

His last act gives many of us the green light. It's okay to give it up and opt out. Hell, Robin Williams did, and look at all he had going for him. All of us starving artists, all the veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, all those submerged in poverty, abuse and neglect - go ahead, hang yourself. I look at all the scars on my wrists, all the failed attempts, trying to summon the courage to take the coward's way out. That's socialism for you. If you're one of their heroes, you can hang yourself and they'll say you went out with your head held high.

So let's go ahead and drink a toast to Robin Williams. A great talent, a superb actor, a legendary comedian. Maybe he offed himself, but at least he left the world a better place than he found it.

For those of us on the lunatic fringe, let's sharpen our razors, reload our pistols, and try it again tomorrow. Today we know they aren't gonna miss us near as much.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

"The Bat" Signs With KDF Press!!!

Huzzah! After over a year of marketing, JRD's psychological thriller The Bat (An Existential Fable) has finally been signed to an indie publishing contract. Although it was JRD's first solicited manuscript, it had been on the shelves for a record time before getting an offer from KDP. Only Tiara (which JRD has no serious intent in selling), like The Bat, has gone unpurchased for over a year. 

The major reason why The Bat had been rejected for so long a time was because most publishers felt that readers would automatically think of it as a Batman knockoff. JRD felt that the subtitle (An Existential Fable) would have attracted a more discerning audience. Also, as the author points out, The Bat only appears in about 15-20% of the entire novel. Most of it follows the vigilante epidemic and its effects on New York City. It's more about the effects of the 21st century War on Gangs on society and culture than the gangs and anti-gangs themselves.

Always optimistic, JRD is hoping that KDP may be the one to sell this off to a major publisher or (gasp!) a movie producer. 

The next in line will be King of the Hoboes, a women's fiction suspense/thriller. Hezbollah (The Party) has been around longer, but JRD has self-pubbed this through Spoiler Publishing Company as a first and second printing. Part Three is still a work in progress and not quite ready for prime time.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

"La Momia" (The Mummy) Coming Soon On Black Bed Sheet Books!!!

Momia (The Mummy) is a suspense novel set in modern-day Mexico where the citizens are once again caught in the middle of a raging drug war between the Mexican Mafia, Los Federales, the American DEA and Homeland Security. Ricky Valdez is facing the death sentence in northern Coahuila, recently reinstated as a backlash against the epidemic of drug violence. He has been framed by the Government for a string of executions by the Aztec 666, the most vicious of the drug gangs in El Norte. Numerous witnesses claim that an Aztec mummy had been resurrected to carry out the murders. Lieutenant Leo Narvaiz of the Mexican Federal Police has been assigned to the case, and finds himself on a trail of superstition, witchcraft and ritual murder.  
Ricky and Mark Valdez are rising stars in the Aztec 666 led by drug lord Tony Ramos. Their beautiful sister, Liliana, is treasured by her brothers and their grandmother, Socorro. The brothers are detested by Socorro and are forbidden to visit her shack in the most impoverished area of Coahuila. The brothers bring money and food to Liliana, and are continually rebuked by their fellow gang members for allowing her to remain in the barrio. Yet they, among many others, dread the supernatural power of the old woman who is said to have the Evil Eye. The bruja has sworn that anyone who attempts to draw Liliana into the narcotics network would suffer a fate worse than death.
It is the aura of terror surrounding the bruja that inspires Tony Ramos to prey upon the locals’ primitive beliefs. He approaches a local lucha libre company and obtains the costume of La Momia. The obsolete gimmick is resurrected as his assassins allow neighbors of their murder victims to see the mummy in the area before the disemboweled corpses are discovered by police. The local communities are paralyzed by terror as the hit list of La Momia grows ever longer. Finally Lt. Narvaiz is assigned to the case, and he immediately begins targeting the Valdez brothers, who he senses to be the weak links in the gang’s infrastructure.
Narvaiz begins interviewing Liliana, and they soon grow romantically attracted to one another. Socorro sees Narvaiz as the answer to her dreams, the kind of man who could rescue Liliana from the poverty of the ghetto and give her the life she deserves. Tony Ramos learns of the situation and demands that her brothers take immediate action to end the relationship. Narvaiz begins refocusing his own investigation, zeroing in on Ramos’ other lieutenants. It causes Ramos to suspect that Narvaiz has made a deal with the brothers, and reminds them that the penalty for cooperating with the authorities is death.
Narvaiz puts together enough circumstantial evidence to have one of Ramos’ top guns indicted as an accomplice in one of La Momia murders. Ramos responds by having Mark Valdez murdered as a warming. Socorro initiates an ancient ritual that conjures up a Satanic demon, manifesting itself as La Momia Azteca of legend. The monster embarks on a string of serial murder, believing Liliana to be the reincarnation of an Aztec princess. It leads to a horrific climax of mayhem and murder as the ancient prophecies are fulfilled at last. For horror buffs, crime enthusiasts and Mexican history enthusiasts, Momia (The Mummy) is a collector’s item.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Sneak Preview of JRD's YA Christian Novel "Philistia"!!!

Philistia is a young adult Christian novel featuring a couple who finds themselves stranded out in the middle of the Judean Desert. It is a time of military conflict throughout the region, and they are taken into custody by the Bethlehem Police. They identify themselves as Samson bar-Manoah and Delilah Sorek, and are arrested for disorderly conduct. Samson is able to disable the police truck en route downtown and the couple are able to make their escape. They wind up in the Palestinian community of Bethlehem in the West Bank where they are taken in by a Muslim family. They experience a culture shock as the family tells them about the conflict between the Palestinians and the Jews throughout the Holy Land. Eventually they learn of Samson’s superhuman strength and convince the couple to seek refuge with their relatives in Gaza.

The conflict begins as the couple begins learning more about the mysterious land where they have found themselves. Delilah is able to locate the ancient Sorek Valley and tries to rediscover her roots with the inhabitants. Samson identifies the Gaza Strip as the Biblical land of Philistia and grows distrustful of the Palestinians, who try and turn him against the Israelis. Word of Samson’s inhuman strength spreads throughout the community as does his propensity for partying. The people in the neighborhood of Ashdod do their best to keep the couple entertained. Only an incident between the Palestinians and the Israelis result in a police action during which Samson takes out a riot squad. He and Delilah are given shelter by Hamas, and eventually indoctrinated into their anti-Zionist philosophy.

The insurgents convince Samson to accompany them on a raid in Jerusalem, and Samson gets split from the group as they make their escape. Samson seeks refuge in the Jewish neighborhood and is taken in by a local family. He realizes an epiphany as the father, a rabbi, engages Samson in a religious discussion. Samson is told the other side of the story of the Palestinian conflict and learns of the conspiracy to wipe Israel from the face of the earth. The rabbi’s older son is convinced that Samson is a paranoid schizophrenic, while the younger son becomes intent on introducing him to a local band of Zionist militants. Samson is introduced to Isidor Horowitz, who convinces him to join their group.

Samson soon learns that Delilah has become a key figure in Hamas, infiltrating the Israeli settlements and abetting saboteurs in carrying out terrorist strikes. He eventually hunts her down and persuades her to join him in withdrawing from the hostilities. They retreat to a Christian community where an evangelical pastor and his family takes them in. There they are exposed to the Christian faith which gives them a fuller view of both their traditions and the modern-day conflict. The couple decides to settle down but Hamas learns of Delilah’s whereabouts and bring her back to Gaza with them.

Delilah is coerced to bring Samson back into the Hamas network, while the Pastor is given a vision of Samson’s purpose in Palestine. He warns Samson that history could repeat itself if he were to have his head shaven and become a captive of the Palestinians. Samson disregards him, is taken prisoner and shorn as a result. The Pastor allows himself to be taken, and he eventually finds his way to Samson’s side in foiling a diabolical Hamas terror attack on Tel Aviv.

This is a fast-paced action-adventure novel bringing Christian traditions together with tomorrow’s headlines. Philistia is a young adult Christian novel you won’t forget.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Coming in Summer 2014 - "Standard III - Cult of Death"!!!

Standard III – Cult of Death is the third installment in the suspense/thriller series featuring MI6 agent William Shanahan and operative Jack Gawain. It picks up where Standard II leaves off, with Jack Gawain and his new sweetheart Lucretia Carcosa enjoying a hiatus in Greenwich Village. Only the CIA have determined their whereabouts and bring them in for a briefing. They are given the option of deploying to Iraq in a search-and-destroy mission against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Under threat of prosecuting Lucretia as the Black Queen of the Citadel, the couple reluctantly agree.

On the European front, William Shanahan’s turbulent marriage with Morgana Mc Laren results in his enrollment in Operation Death Cult. He is teamed with MI6 assassin Jessica Anderson and deployed to Iraq in an investigation of reported chemical weapons being stockpiled by ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and ash Sham). They are assigned to work alongside Glenn Frantz and Debbie Cantor, American expatriates working for the Mossad. Shanahan and Frantz pose as American Muslims volunteering to join the jihadist forces in the region. Debbie and Jessica work undercover beneath Islamic veils, negotiating the misogynistic society in trying to infiltrate the infrastructure. It is not long before Jack and Lucretia make contact, and it results in a powerhouse team going head-to-head with the vanguard of a global caliphate.

Once again the focus is the heart and soul of Western civilization as New York, London and Tel Aviv are the targets of ISIS’ biological attack. Grand Ayatollah Qom Diabolus has assembled a death squad of foreign mercenaries who have been charged with masterminding the terror operation. Lucretia counters by reuniting the members of her disbanded Citadel in taking on the Hammer of Allah. Yet the women are as much in danger of death as their male counterparts, who are faced with the possibility of discovery and a grisly execution at every corner.

The series continues to explore the geopolitical ramifications of mainstream issues as the United States remains the target of extremists determined to undermine the core of Western civilization. We see how the United Kingdom is drawn into these conflicts as America’s most important ally. Israel becomes the ultimate objective as the terrorists are sworn to capturing Jerusalem and annihilating the Jewish state. There is also the narrative discussing the conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims as well as the Kurdish tribes who populate the region defining Syria and Iraq as well as neighboring Iran. The agents deal with the problem of interacting between the factions while not alienating any of the parties involved. Only they, like the native population, realize that to get caught on the wrong side can result in sudden death.

The precarious partnership between Shanahan and Gawain is rekindled as they realize how effective they are as a team. Yet they are forced to make room for Glenn, who fits somewhere in between by-the-book Shanahan and the chaotic Gawain. This is mirrored by their female counterparts as the ruthless Lucretia and the volatile Jessica find balance in the presence of the cerebral, calculating Debbie. Both threesomes join forces in an all-out effort to end the extremist threat before it can paralyze the world entire.

This is a non-stop rollercoaster ride careening out of tomorrow’s headlines. For suspense fans and thriller fans alike, Standard III – Cult of Death is one you won’t forget.

Friday, May 9, 2014

DNV Event Day - Sample Chapter 1!!!

            Trip Nortrel woke up that morning immersed in steam.                                                                     It was steam that made the world go around, steam that made all the difference in the world, steam as the tie that bound. It embraced him and stimulated him, made him stretch long and languidly before wriggling out of his sleeping pod and rising to his feet.                                                
He looked out at the rows upon rows of rooftops stretching as far as the horizon. In the distance one could see giant-size gears appearing as ferris wheels in the distance, alongside towering windmills and chimneys belching steam into the sky. The sun was white-hot to the east, shining blindingly over Border Town, or Bartertown as it was also called, a couple of miles away, casting silver shadows across the industrial landscape. It would be a hot day, and he would want to run his errands early so as to be able to chill out until the cool of the night settled in.                  
He went over to the yellow-colored steam pipe, a big squat cylinder rising four feet from the rooftop, curling in a ninety-degree angle to a three-foot opening. It was covered by a huge terrycloth which collected water that dripped down into a huge basin. Anyone could go over and use the cloth to scrub themselves as the steam blasted over them while they waded in the ankle-deep water in the basin. He pulled the tape off his clothes and scrubbed himself pink before wrapping himself in his cloth and putting his socks, underwear and boots back on. He then went over by the wrapwear booth, helping himself to some tape as he rewrapped himself before heading over to the Stream Crossing as he had every day for over a month now.                                         He waved to some of the girls and young’uns tending their gardens as he made his way across the rooftop towards the great canyon that was Stream Crossing. He and about fifty other kids lived on top of the Acme Industrial Building, which was west of the Maruchan Textile Building and east of the Beaumont Fabrication Center. Across the backspace of their block was the Southern Recycling Building, but that was too far away for him to concern himself about.                     
He went over to where he had left his mirror on the edge of the roof, and hoped that Lyrica was awake and waiting for him on the other side. She had become an obsession for him in a world where was little to do other than eat, sleep, play games and dream. Those who yearned for more generally made so much of a nuisance of themselves that they were crossed out and banished to the Low Ground, and Trip was not going to let that happen to himself. He would keep Lyrica to himself, and one day he would make the Journey that would make all his dreams come true.                                                                                                                                                         He caught the light of the sun in his mirror, this being the best time of the day to Morse undetected. He flashed his name across, and his heart leaped in his chest as she flashed back.         
    LYRICA                                                                                                                                             trip                                                                                                                                                       HOW ARE YOU TODAY                                                                                                               
im fine how about you                                                                                                                        I DREAMED ABOUT YOU                                                                                                           
me you                                                                                                                                               
IM COMING SOON                                                                                                                        
keep saying never do                                                                                                                                   NO FUN ALONE                                                                                                                                  me neither                                                                                                                                           MAKING PLANS                                                                                                                           
  for when                                                                                                                                              THREE DAYS QUIET SAT                                                                                                             believe when see                                                                                                                                
ILL SEE YOU                                                                                                                                               see you later                                                                                                                                      
  He was beginning to realize that she was waking up from the dream, and if he did not act soon, one morning she would not be there. He did not dare to take that chance. She had become the only meaning in his life, the one thing to look forward to in the coming day. He had grown tired of reading, and he had outgrown most of the rooftop games though he knew better than to speak too much of it. He was probably about sixteen or seventeen now, not far from the age of reason. When one reached eighteen they were brought before the Council and questioned, and if they were not seen as valid they were crossed out and banished. He resolved they would have to finish him before he let himself be crossed out.                                                                                         He only knew of a handful of people who had been judged as thirty, which was the mandatory age of exile. Most willingly banished themselves at that age, no longer to cope with life on the rooftops. He knew a couple who were about twenty-eight or so, and they did their best to be juvie, but almost everyone knew they were shamming. People tried to ignore them, allowing to live their time remaining on the Tops in bliss. Everyone knew the Council got to everyone else sooner or later, so why wish bad upon others when bad was waiting for you?                     
He knew of quite a few people who had gotten crossed out and banished, and a handful who left on their own accord. There were also a few who had jumped off the Top and vanished into the steam. No one knew what was down below, what the Stream looked like. Only the Traders knew, and no one bothered asking because the Traders never gave anything away. Knowledge was the most valuable thing on the Tops, and upon it was what the Traders placed the highest prices. It was said that most of the babies that were made was by girls who exchanged sleep time with Traders for secrets.                                                                                        Babies either came out right or wrong. If a baby was wrong, it grew up sick and weak and was usually banished along with its mother when it was able to walk. If it was right, everyone on the Top helped it grow healthy and strong. Even though right babies were the biggest blessing to the Top, making them was forbidden. If boys were caught making them they were judged invalid, crossed out and banished. Girls were only forbidden to encourage boys to join them at sleep time.                                                                                                                                              He was sure Lyrica was healthy and beautiful, she had to be. He fantasized about crossing the Stream and sharing her sleep time, of making babies and going down to the Low Ground. Yet he did not dare share his dreams with anyone, not even his set (*clique). If they decided he was not right, they could turn against him and declare him invalid. He knew all fourofthem since he could remember, but as they grew older they all realized that no one could never dare really trust anyone. He would keep Lyrica to himself, and if he had the strength and resolve to cross the Stream, then all of this would be part of a past to which he could never return.               
Even if Lyrica was not beautiful, it did not matter. She had to be healthy or she would not be on a Top, even in North Streamtown. He would accept her for who she was, and he would take her as a Mate even though they would be banished. He would dare to love her, and if she did not love him back then he would be faced with a crisis. He could try to come back, but it they found he had gone he would be in danger of getting crossed out, in which case he would go over the edge. There were no real options here. He would fall in love with Lyrica, and he would do whatever it took for her to love him back.                                                                                                He saw young’uns running towards him, and he was in no mood but would suffer them anyway. Those who did not play with young’uns were suspected of being invalid, so he would ‘divert and distract so they don’t react’.                                                                                                   
“Come out and play, Trippy Boy!” one of the leaders of the youngun group skipped forward, hopping back and forth defiantly. “You can’t catch me!”                                                                   
“If I catch you, I’ll stick your head in the poopy box!” Trip crouched into a runner’s stance.                                                                                                                                                                 “Run! Run!” the leader yelled in mock terror as his playmates, about seven in all, ran off as fast as they could. Trip streaked out as a flash and caught the leader in leaps and bounds, cradling him to the tarpaper and tickling him until he couldn’t breathe.                                                    
“Had enough?” Trip taunted him. “What’ll it be, tickle or poopy pot?”                                          
  “No more! I give!” the little boy gasped and giggled.                                                                      
“Cross your heart hope to die?”                                                                                                          “Cross my heart hope to die!”                                                                                                          
  Trip let the boy up, and once he had gotten about ten yards away, he held up his right hand.                                                                                                                                                                 “I had my fingers crossed!’ he cackled triumphantly.                                                                   
  “Poopy pot!” Trip threatened, lurching towards the boys, who disappeared within seconds.                                                                                                                                                 He was going to go collect his set so they could head over to the Tower at Bartertown to trade off some items. They had gotten some handcrafted items from a few of the girls, such as knitted blankets, beadworks, laceworks and trinkets. The Council requested that they bring back some steam engine parts for the mechanics to use in repairing some malfunctioning devices. The Team relied mostly on the building’s steam pipes and chimneys, but had their own handmade engines for specialized use along the rooftop. Food was the most important commodity, but cloth and engine parts were the next highest priorities. Trip and his set were the designated traders, and they always had to check with the Council before they cable-crossed to the Tower to wheel and deal.                                                                                                                                                                    As an afterthought, he trotted back to the edge of the roof where he hid his Morsing mirrors, and flashed to see if Lyrica was still there. His heart leaped for joy at the very thought that she might have lingered to see if he would try contacting her again.                                                    
GOING TO TOWER                                                                                                                        
when                                                                                                                                                            THIS AFTERNOON                                                                                                                                   will see if I can go                                                                                                                          
HOW I KNOW YOU                                                                                                                                    I have long hair                                                                                                                                  
He walked away from the ledge even more mystified than before. He knew that Lyrica must have been like a Princess if they let her have long hair. It was generally disallowed because long hair was harder for girls to keep clean, got tangled and could attract insects. She either had Big Boys protecting her, or she was in a set run by a Team Lead. The Acme Top had not appointed a Team Lead yet, but Trip was a prime candidate. He was not particularly looking for the assignment, because it would have gotten him involved in rooftop politics, which is one thing he despised. A Team Lead was equal to a Council member, which would give his set a lot of leverage on the Top, but that just wasn’t Trip’s style.                                                                              He decided to go about collecting the set and picking up the barter bag before checking with the Council before heading off. The Tower generally started trading at about ten AM, so they would probably sit around the sundial and wait until 0945 to cable over. He headed over towards Gian’s campsite, hoping he had turned over by now.                                                                      
Gian Baclofen woke up in his own corner of the Top around the same time as Trip. Like everyone else, he stayed close to his set but found his own little cozy spot where he could enjoy what precious privacy one could afford themselves on a rooftop. He crawled out  of his sleeping pod, yawned and stretched, but found himself blinking in surprise at the four Big Boys standing at a respectful distance, staring back at him.                                                                                                     “How now, boys,” he called over, retrieving his boots and adjusting his wrapping. “What’s going on?”                                                                                                                                                “Just thought we’d come by and see how you’re getting along,” the leader of this particular set, Radia, swaggered over. Radia stood almost six feet tall, a couple of inches taller than Gian, but weighed about fifteen pounds less at one hundred eighty five. The Big Boys were all solid, muscular types who enjoyed lifting weights and doing calisthenics. They provided security for the Council and acted as the Top’s unofficial police force. Since there were no written laws, they merely enforced the common protocol.                                                                         “Pretty good,” Gian smiled broadly. He was an affable type who could be cunning in his own way and had a deep mischievous streak. “We were thinking about going over to the Tower at Bartertown and trading some items later today.”                                                                                              
“We were wondering if you’d thought about our offer,” Radia folded his arms. “We could use a guy like you giving us a hand now and again. You know there’s always something going on that needs tending to. Either we’ve got to make sure younguns aren’t playing too close to the edge, or we’re checking invalidation rumors, making sure girls aren’t sharing sleep time or doing favors, or denizens aren’t pilfering, things of that nature. We always get to eat first in return, plus we’re not a bad lot to be hanging out with.”                                                                         “I’m giving it a lot of thought, and I know that’s what I want to be doing in the next year or so,” Gian replied, sauntering over by them. “It’s just that my set kinda needs me. You know we go to the Tower a lot, and you know how it is, having to watch each other’s back, making sure we don’t get waylaid by other sets or ripped off by the traders. Plus, you know that I’m watching after my dop (*adopted) brother Herc, and also how me and Trip go back quite a ways.”                                                                                                                                                    “Life is hard these days,”Radia nodded sagely. “But you got to think about yourself. Self-preservation is the greatest good, you know that. Only by staying strong can we help our set and our Team. If you were a Big Boy, what better protection could your set have? Even better, suppose you were to bring Ken in with you. He’s a pretty big fellow, about your size. You two would be great additions to our set. Besides, a set is usually made up of four guys, and your group is five. If you and Ken came in with us, I’m sure Trip would find someone else, and everything would work out fine for everyone.”                                                                                             “Have you talked to Ken?”                                                                                                               
“No, but he’s a pretty agreeable sort, and he also likes competing with you, we’ve noticed that. If he saw you moving up, he’d be easier to bring along. Besides, he’s not as loyal to Trip and his own dop brother as you are. I think if you approached Ken it’d be a great deal for all of us.”                                                                                                                                                                  “I’m not ready just yet,” Gian was resolute. “It may not be long from now, but this just isn’t my time yet. I’ll let you know when I’m ready.”                                                                             
  “We’ll be around,” Radia smirked. “We’re always around.”                                                           
  Trip waited until the Big Boys had departed before coming out from behind the steam stack where he had been standing.                                                                                                                   
“Those fellows just never give up, eh?” Trip smiled.                                                                        
“Well, like I told them, I’m planning on being a Big Boy someday,” Giandeclared. He always seemed to enjoy asserting his independence and liked pointing out that he had options extending beyond his set with Trip. He and Trip always had a friendly rivalry, and he sometimes chafed under the notion that Trip was often seen as the leader of their set.                                                 
“To each his own, I guess,” Trip shrugged. “You know, there’s only fifty people living up here that we know of, and twelve of them are on the Council and one is the Mayor. If they keep recruiting Big Boys, there won’t be a whole lot of people left to boss around.”                         
“It’s like Radia was saying,” Gian insisted. “Lots of what they do is keeping younguns from falling off the roof.”                                                                                                                      
     “Sure, sure,” Trip waved him off, heading over to where the others had set up their campsites. “Tell it to the kiddies.”

            The booths at Bartertown were made of fiberboard and had locked storehouses in the rear so that the traders could use them for storage or domiciles as they saw fit. The traders were huge men with long scraggly beards who wore stitched clothing made of flannel and denim. They had their usual haughty attitude towards the Abovegrounders, but maintained a professional demeanor nonetheless as they did business. Trip and his set had a bagful of handcrafted items they had brought along, and one of the traders dumped them out on a side table to assess them while the boys waited.                                                                                                                                            At length, it appeared as if two sets from the Northland arrived at the next booth, and they exchanged frosty glances with Trip’s friends as they set out some hand-made clay figurines and pottery. He sauntered along at an angle away from the booths, noticing the presence of a girl among the Northlanders. He caught her eye and raised his eyebrows, and the flash of recognition told him instantly that it was her.                                                                                                                    Lyrica was a beautiful girl with long chestnut hair, pale skin and violet eyes. She wore stitched clothing which accentuated her generous boson and an hourglass figure. She smiled at him with full ruby red lips, knowing that he was the one she had been morsing over the last couple of months. He tilted his head ever so slightly so as not to tip off the fellows she was with, and they both wandered nonchalantly over to a vacant stand where they leaned against the tables in order to talk without facing one another.                                                                                                     “I can’t believe we’re finally meeting at last,” Trip said, propped on an elbow on the countertop.                                                                                                                                                  “I’m so glad,” Lyrica replied. She looked over from the corner of her eye at the tall, dark-haired boy with the hazel eyes and slender, athletic build. She could see that he had wrapped himself in fine material and was carefully taped, unlike so many other boys on the Aboveground. His boots were also well cared for and polished, which spoke well of his character.                        
   “I’ve been planning to come across on the conveyor, but I wanted you to see me first to be sure it’d be all right,” he spoke into the countertop, glancing over to make sure her companions did not take notice. They continued to gripe amongst themselves as they waited for the trader to come up with a deal, suspecting that they were going to get a bad one. It was very much a buyers’ market, and around the holidays was when there was a big demand for handcrafted goods on the Low Ground. At certain times the traders would make no deals for certain items, and it was impossible to tell when things would pick up again.                                              “It’d be wonderful, but we’d have to be careful,” she replied softly.                                                            “You’d be worth every chance I take,” he glanced up quickly and shot her a smile.                 
At length the traders heaved a long bolt of denim onto the counter, and two of Lyrica’s companions hauled it down to carry back to the cross cable. The other six boys swaggered over to where Lyrica was leaning against the counter, staring across to the other side of the booth where Trip was standing.                                                                                                                                    “You shouldn’t go off wandering around,” a tall, stocky boy growled at her as he glared over at Trip. “You don’t want to run into one of these traders or Southies and get contaminated.”                   
“That’s not a nice way to talk about others,” she insisted.                                                             
  “That’s not just talking, that’s fact,” he grunted. “C’mon, we got a nice deal for those pots and jars. Let’s get back to our side.”                                                                                                  
    Trip watched as Lyrica and her friends went back to the galvanized steel cables that stretched across from the Bartertown Tower to the rooftops of the Northland. They waited as each one attached the straps of their bucket seats to the pulleys and crossed in turn back to the north side. The last one, the big boy, tied the bolt of denim to his waist, juggling it like a tightrope walker as he flew above the steam clouds back to the Northland.                                              
    “So that’s your sweetheart,” Gian cocked his eyebrows as he watched the big boy disappear into the mist. “Not bad, not bad at all.”                                                                                   
  “That looks like a nasty bunch she’s with,” Ken decided. “You’d better think twice about crossing over there. If you don’t get killed on the conveyor, those slimeballs are liable to put you over the edge.”                                                                                                                                         “She’s worth it to me,” Trip insisted. “She’s my dream.”                                                                  
“Okay, they gave us some pistons and a solenoid,” Geodon held his sack towards them. “This should be enough for Morph to finish up that new engine he’s been working on.”                         
“Isn’t that weird how working on engines is fine, but if someone tries to do anything else besides arts and crafts, they’re threatened to get crossed out?” Herc observed wryly.                                  
“You hear about Amit getting scheduled?” Gian asked as they headed back to the south side of the tower to cross back over to their Aboveground.                                                                       
  “I don’t think he’s ready,” Trip said morosely. “You know the younguns have been picking on him a lot, and I think it’s more about him getting tired of it. They’re going to make a bad call on him, I just know it.”                                                                                                                  “Well, I guess we’ll wait and see. Everybody’s got to go sooner or later,” Geodon waxed philosophical. They all considered the notion as they took turns hooking up their bucket seats and crossing back over to the Southland.                                                                                  
    The sun was setting along the horizon as the denizens of the Aboveground realized an Event was being scheduled. They gathered around the center rooftop where the dais sat, an eventually the Mayor arrived to address the crowd.                                                                                      
       “Hear ye, hear ye,” he called out raising his hand in summons. Cipro Diclofenac was eighteen years of age, the minimum for a mayoral candidate. He was not only able to make words but could read and write as well. He was also skilled in numbers and could even follow the ancient blueprints to make steam engines. No one doubted that he would rule for the entire three-year term for he was still pure at heart and loved to play with the younguns.                                       
“What’s the call?” the younguns began asking, until enough voices joined together to turn it to a chant. “What’s-the-CALL! What’s-the-CALL!”                                                                          
“The denizens of Aboveground South have a question for AmitizaCefdinir,” the Mayor called out as four Big Boys escorted Amit to the platform. Amit, a dark-haired, pudgy fellow, seemed calm and collected but his eyes betrayed his nervousness in hoping the Mayor and the Council would not make a bad call.                                                                                                                     “What’s-the-CALL! What’s-the-CALL!” the younguns kept screaming joyously.                       
    “All right, knock it off,” the Mayor laughed. “We’ve had a bunch of younguns coming over to complain that Amit doesn’t want to come out and play anymore. They’ve also said that he gets mad, calls names, and has even hit with his hands.”                                                                          
     “No good! No good! No good!” the younguns began chanting and booing.                                     “Okay, Amit,” the Mayor beckoned, and the Big Boys brought him onto the platform. “Did you do it?”                                                                                                                                            “Did-you DO-it? Did-you DO-it? Did-you DO-it?” the younguns began chanting in singsong voices.                                                                                                                                        “I’m too big to play run and jump games,” Amit called out in his own defense. “I get tired too fast. I only get mad when they keep bothering me. I call names back when they call me Fatso. And I only hit when they don’t stop bothering.”                                                                         
      “No good! No good! No good!” the chant began anew.                                                         
     Amit’s face began showing his fear as the Mayor walked over to the side of the dais to discuss the matter with his twelve-person Council. Trip was seething with resentment over the unruliness of the spoiled brat younguns, but like everyone else, dared not say anything. He also knew it was about food. The word was out that the camp was running short of food, and if things got worse, they would start making fibs to get denizens crossed out. Right now, anyone who got called was in a bad situation, and he hated to see a Nice Guy like Amit in this spot.                            
     “Amit, the Council says you have to go back in the Box,” the Mayor was apologetic. “Either that or you have to be reset and sent down.”                                                                                  
   “Reset! Reset! Reset!  Reset!” the younguns began chanting.                                                          
Trip was filled with revulsion over what was happening, and moved with sympathy for Amit. Amit had gone in the Box a few months ago and it made him sick. The Box was a huge metal crate filled with steam that overweight denizens were kept in until they lost weight. The Big Boys kept them locked in, and they could only come out to use the restroom or the Scale. They could only drink water and got no food until the Scale showed they lost ten pounds.          
It took Amit three days before he lost, and he was sick in bed for a week afterward. Lots of kids thought he was going to die, but he eventually recovered. No one wanted to see him go back in, least of all Amit himself.                                                                                                                                           
  “No, don’t make me go in the Box!” Amit pleaded. “I’ll stop eating for a week!”                                   “It’s too late for that,” the Mayor said reluctantly. “Either the Box or a reset.”                         
    “Reset! Reset! Reset!            Reset!”                                                                                                            Amit’s face was now flush with terror. If he agreed to a reset, they would cut a small hole in his forehead and go in with an icepick to cut his front wiring. He would not be able to remember anything when they lowered him down to the Ground, so that the Aboveground would remain secret. No one ever talked to someone after they had been crossed out, so there was no way of knowing if it hurt, or if they could ever remember again, or anything like that. Trip and his friends made a pact that they would fight their way to the cable and slide down to the Low Ground or die trying before getting crossed out.                                                                                           “No-oo-ooo!!!”Amit cried out, and immediately bolted from the platform and began running through the crowd across the roof. The younguns began racing after him, grabbing at his wrappers and trying to step on the backs of his boots. The Big Boys took off behind them, jogging in unison at an even pace, knowing he would tire when the younguns wore him down. The crowd began surging right behind them, and Trip and his friends were slowly left behind as they did not really want to see what would happen.                                                                                       Amit began swinging his fists at the younguns as they drove him further towards the edge of the roof. Finally they hemmed him into a corner where the denizens slowly surrounded him in a semi-circle. The Big Boys finally began spreading out behind the younguns, who were now dancing around and taunting the terrified Amit.                                                                                       
    The frightened youth saw nowhere else to go. With a scream of anguish, he hurtled over the edge of the roof and out into the mist above the Stream, plummeting down and disappearing from sight into the steam clouds below.

            “Why don’t we just go and join the Team on the Southern Recycling Building?” Gian morosely as the five of them watched the sun set over the Beaumont Fabrication Center. The Acme team had long since dispersed, going back to their tents and sleeping pods for the night, though some of the young’uns were still romping about until it got dark.                                                       
   “First of all, we’d be taking a risk going that far across on cable without being invited,” Trip replied. They were all distraught over Amit’s demise and found solace in each other’s company. “Plus, there probably isn’t any food over there. What rooftop has enough extra to feed five more guys?”                                                                                                                                               “Why didn’t you trade for food?” Herc griped. “I’ll bet if we had a sack of food we could join any team we want.”                                                                                                                                   
“Yeah, and who was going to bring it over the cable, you?” Gian demanded. Everyone suspected they were brothers, though the girl who was thought to be their mother had left the team of her own accord many years ago. “A sack of most food is at least fifty pounds, whether it’s grain, flour, rice or beans. Those damn cables are who knows how old. Why do you think teams only let riders cross one at a time? You can be sure I’m not gonna be the one who takes a chance of breaking one.”                                                                                                                   “Suppose they were coming to cross you out, Gian?” Trip asked softly. “Would you jump?”                                                                                                                                                                  “Hell with that,” Gian grimaced. “We made a pact that we’d fight it out if they ever came after any of us. Just like we’ve always said, I’d wrap my hands and take my chance sliding down the cable. I’d never jump. I don’t blame Amit, though. I’d never let them cross me out. If that was the only choice…I guess I’d jump. But it wouldn’t be the only choice.”                                      
  “Suppose he landed in the Stream?” Geodon mused. “Maybe he’s not dead.”                  
            “Who knows?” Ken shrugged. Like Gian and Herc, most thought that Ken and Geodon might have been brothers but there was no way to prove it. “Nobody’s ever come back from the Low Ground. Some people say it’s so great down there that nobody wants to come back, while others say the Grounders won’t let you come back. The only ones who know for sure are the Traders, and they’ll never trade those kinds of secrets. If Amit did fall into the Stream, we’ll never know because he’ll never come back.”                                                                                                 “Are you still taking the conveyor after this?” Gian asked Trip. “Suppose something goes wrong over there and they try and cross you out? What are you going to do, are you gonna jump? You should just have her come over here, at least we can protect her.”                                            
           “You’ve got to be crossed to think that,” Trip was derisive. “How’s a girl going to jump the conveyor?None of us have ever done it before, and I don’t know anyone who’s done it.”         
    “Then what makes you think you can do it?” Ken demanded.                                                          
“I knew this girl who found out from a Trader that someone made it. She exchanged a favor for the secret.”                                                                                                                              “How come you never told us?” Herc insisted.                                                                                  “Because I didn’t want you guys to know until I was ready to go. And you would’ve never agreed to help me until you got to see her for yourselves.”                                                                 
   “So when are you planning to do this?” Gian finally relented, knowing Trip had made up his mind.                                                                                                                                                    “We planned on Saturday when the sun comes up. I’ll tie a rope around my waist when I make the jump. If I get hurt, you guys can pull me back up.”                                                                 
       “It’s crazy as hell,” Ken shook his head angrily. “You know if you get hurt bad, they’re going to want to cross you out. The Council will vote against keeping you up here because they won’t be able to fix you. If you break an arm or a leg or get messed up inside, they’ll have no choice but to send you down.”                                                                                                                       “I’ll just have to take my chances and have you guys watch my back while I lower myself,” Trip shrugged.                                                                                                                             “Crazy as hell,” Ken hissed. “C’mon, let’s go play donkey ball.”                                           
        Donkey ball was a subterfuge their set used to make the Big Boys think they were still engrossed in trivial pursuits. Trip always brought some books along to read, but they did not spend much time at it so as not to create rumors that they were becoming too studious. The game was played against one of the large steam vents where they marked off four-by-four-foot boxes against which they bounced a rubber ball. Whoever could not keep the ball in play was given a letter and sent to the end box. A player was eliminated after six strikes, or D-O-N-K-E-Y.         They would play until a youngun came along and stole their ball. After that they would lounge around, taking turns following the younguns around until they could swipe the ball back. The Big Boys suspected what they were up to but could do little other than help chase down the younguns and get their ball back.                                                                                                                                         They played until dark, at which time curfew was declared as it was considered dangerous to chase after balls or toys lest someone slip and fall off the roof. Some sets stayed up and chatted, and a few girls sat around and knitted or handcrafted, while most others went off to their pods. Trip was on his way to his pod when he heard a girl’s voice calling his name.                              
   “Cari,” Trip turned to face the pretty young girl. She had her thick black hair cut to shoulder length, and her blue eyes were enhanced by her pale skin and ruby lips. “About ready for the pod?”                                                                                                                                                         “Ready as you are,” she smiled suggestively.                                                                                              “Well, it’s been a pretty long day,” he forced a yawn.                                          
                    “Aren’t they all,” she said mournfully.                                                                                                “We got a good deal on those handcrafts you and the girls came up with, especially with that blanket you knitted,” Trip said admiringly. “We got that solenoid the mechanics were looking for. I think we’ll have a new steam engine going sometime soon.”                                                    
  “I told you I was spotting (*menstruating), didn’t I?” she asked quietly.                                  
       “Yes, you did,” he started feeling very uncomfortable.                                                                     “That means I’ll be able to have a baby,” she pointed out. “I told you I wanted to share sleep time with you, Trip. I know they’re going to send me down below sometime soon, and I want to have your baby when I get there.”                                                                                              
         “Cari, you’re going to get your life all crossed up,” he insisted. “Just because you’re spotting doesn’t mean they’ll send you away. There’ve been girls who’ve stayed here until they were thirty years old.”                                                                                                                            “Have you ever met any of them?” she insisted.                                                                
                “No I haven’t, but that doesn’t mean it’s not so,” Trip was adamant. “Look, you’re the best knitter and the best handcrafter. This Team is going to lose too much to send you down just because you’re spotting. You’ve got to think positive. All your friends are here, this has been your Team since you were a little girl. You don’t even know what’s down there, how could you even think of going to the Low Ground?”                                                                                                        “Trip, I can’t live like this anymore,” her eyes grew misty. “It’s boring living like this!”                   
     “Cari, don’t ever use that word, you know better!” he hissed at her.                                      
  “I don’t care anymore, I don’t care what they do to me!” she wept. “Everyone running around here trying to act like little kids, pretending they’re not interested in anything but playing games and having fun. I can’t just sit around all day and knit and make crafts, it’s killing me! I feel like a piece of me is dying inside every single day! At least you can cable across to the Tower and see something new once in a while. Do you know what I would give to be able to cable through the clouds, just once? Everybody wonders why all the girls end up doing favors for the traders, well, there’s your answer. Oh, Trip, I know there’s another world down there, and I want to be part of it. If I have a baby down there, at least I’ll have someone who I can love and care for, and who will love me back for who I am, not for what I can do. And at least if it’s your baby, it’ll be like I’ve got another you with me for the rest of my life.”                                                     
“There’s lots of people who feel the same way you do, but first of all, you can’t go around telling everybody how you feel,” he warned her. “You never know if you’re talking to a snitch.”                                                                                                                                                     “I’d throw myself off this roof if I thought you were a snitch, Trip,” she declared.                
         “That’s not what I’m saying, and you know it,” he sat down on the sealed hatchway next to where she stood. “Everybody knows they’ll go down one day, and everybody plans for it. You just have to keep it to yourself until that time comes. You need to be ready to go, you can’t give them an excuse to lower you ahead of time. Maybe you can even get a fellow to go down with you so that you’ll have someone, not just a baby to have to fend for down there.”                                              
  “I’d want to go down with you, Trip, you know that,” she stared at him.                                   
           “I’ve got other plans, and they’re almost in place. You need to make plans too, Cari. You’re too fine of a girl to let them put you down.”                                                                                 
     “I’m not going anywhere until they come for me. You know where to find me if you ever want me, Trip.”                                                                                                                                            He walked over and cupped her face in his hands, kissing her gently on the forehead.                  
  “Stay strong, Cari. Make a plan for yourself, a good plan, and abide by it.”                                               With that, he returned to his pod for a long and sleepless night.

            The sun finally rose on the horizon on the fateful day, and Trip and his set assembled at the low parapet overlooking the Conveyor. It was built on a long and wide stretch of concrete that crossed the Stream to the Recycling Plant on the other side of the bank in Streamtown South. Apparently the Residents of the Acme Industrial Building put their refuse and surplus items on the conveyor belt to be sent across to the Plant for processing. The belt was a good thirty feet below the edge of the northern side of the roof, and Trip would have to wait for a thick cushion of material to pass by before taking the plunge. He would have to time it perfectly, because if he slid off or missed the target he would be seriously injured or killed upon impact on the belt.                
“Well I guess this is it,” Gian tried to smile. He, like the others, was trying to remain nonchalant though the event was lying heavy on their hearts. Only Ken showed his true emotions as a grief-stricken look crept across his face. Herc and Geodon wanted to present themselves as stoic as Gian, fighting hard to hide their sorrow.                                                                                      
  “Okay, now listen, guys, I’m going to be depending on you with my life to make this happen,” Trip said as he wound the end of a forty-foot rope around his waist. “As soon as I jump, you guys get ready like for tug-of-war. If I bounce or miss, you be sure and pull me back up. No one knows what’s at the other end of that conveyor belt. It might be some big grinder that’ll rip me to shreds. If I hit, I’ll wave to give the okay, and you just drop the rope over the side. Got it?”                 
      “All right, let’s do it,” Ken said, wanting to get it over with.                                                                        Trip stood at the end of the roof with his friends on either side, watching and waiting for a soft target to come along. At long last there was what appeared to be a huge crate of discarded material that might have been carpeting torn off a floor inside the building. They had read enough catalogues to know of such things, and even saw racks of carpet at the Tower that the traders had for barter. It looked like the best chance Trip was going to get, and if Lyrica was waiting on the other side, he did not want to make her wait long.                                                                    “Now!” he yelled, and at once leaped off the ledge of the roof. His friends watched breathlessly as he dropped through the misty pre-dawn gloom, and with a loud thump they realized he had successfully landed on the carpets. They could see him waving frantically, and with what seemed a collective sigh of apprehension, they released the rope and watched as Trip disappeared from sight into the bowels of the Center on the other side of the Stream.