*Apologies to older adopted son for this being so late. We are done with the “Robert and Sarah Show* of 12 to 16 hours of heavy labor. The house isn’t ready to go on the market, because there’s stuff other people need to do, and also the kitchen is still somehow full of unsorted stuff, as we reached the time when I went “ARGH I don’t know what to do.” So we’re going over after (Dan’s) work for the next three days a few hours a day and all sorting things into ours, Robert’s, trash or donate. To make the difficulty clear, we have about 10,000 (okay, maybe 50, but it feels like 10,000) porcelain spoons with little spoon rests in the form of koi fish. These are not things I bought but gifts — mostly from mom — so I feel bad getting rid of them (and I haven’t) but sometimes…
Anyway, so I woke up late, and all my limbs (and my butt. I swear I didn’t polish floors with my butt. Not fair.) still hurt, so today I’m doing not much. Some laundry and the litter boxes because those are urgent. The rest will wait. Oh, I’ll probably write, if the head is up to it. Or we might end up driving to Denver to find the boy an apartment.- But it’s an easy day. And the day this house lists, Robert and I (if he’s still here, and not at medschool) are flipping off low carb and getting doughnuts. – SAH*
Day the Third
Ok, I have to come clean. I’m breaking this up (and going into excruciating detail) partly to spare Herself. The house-prep may or may not be coming down the home stretch, and I may or may not be attempting to remove one thing from Mum’s plate (a more overflowing vessel cannot be found except in the dining hall of Unseen University) so she can devote more energy to the set of all things that will get the writer paid.
Saturday was, full. Very, very full. Breakfast we managed on our own, with supplies brought from home, and we showed up at the Choo Choo just in time for me to scramble for the Planet Mercenary play-test. For those who aren’t aware, Howard Tayler, creator of Schlock Mercenary was the MC this year. Well, he brought along his oldest, Keliana Tayler (who did the cover art for the Unquiet Gods stories) and a mutual friend, Alan Bahr, with whom he is creating – and recently completed a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign for – a pen and paper RPG set in the Schlock Mercenary (“epic science fiction told four panels at a time”) universe.
I was a few minutes late (hence the scramble) but right behind Alan, who was running the session, so I didn’t feel at all bad. Howard, Keliana, Guy-I-Don’t-Know, and Steve Jackson were already sitting down, and we even had a small group of onlookers, rubberneckers, and skylarkers watching us like geek-shaped hawks. Oh, right, I should back up a little. Steve Jackson (of the eponymous gaming company) was the Special Guest this year, and as he and Howard are friends, he sat down to play Howard and Alan’s game.
The primary conceit of the game is that the players are running a mercenary company in the 30mumbleth century. Each member of the group is an officer somewhere in the chain of command of this company. So, we divvied up pre-made characters, and got to it. Yours truly ended up as an AI, occupying a mobile combat chassis, affectionately labeled ToG, short for “Tons of Guns.” I was, I think, the XO, or at least the captain’s second for the mission. Said captain played by Steve, was an Ob’enn of o’erwheening pretentiousness. Howard played the company medic (a human variant with purple skin), Keliana played the Chief Engineer (uplifted polar bear with a bad attitude) and Guy-I-Don’t-Know (Elijah played the company attorney. The company – along with many other mercenary companies throughout Known Space – were attending the annual MercCon. The convention was set in one of the absolute
worst cheapest space stations imaginable. The place was an accretion of derelict ship parts and obsolete habitat modules held together with space tape and hope. It was such a good place to hold a gathering of noble officers and their barely-leashed bloodthirsty, trigger-happy grunts. I was glad I didn’t have to breathe air like the colloidal intelligences in the company.
We started off strolling the dealers room, soaking up ambiance and swag. Our attorney, ever the calm and cool head (really, he was a creature with a small body and four all-purpose limbs) started taking the free stims and jabbing random passersby. This led to a tense moment when the Neophant felt it, and nearly threw the lawyer through the nearest booth. It didn’t help that the ChEng encouraged this behavior. The captain offered the offended party half of the attorney’s earnings from selling recordings of his antics to the stim makers as “product testing.” Nothing like not getting in a fight with an enraged, uplifted elephant in the middle of a crowd of tetchy – and very well armed and poorly disciplined – mercenaries, none of whom owe allegiance to anything greater than their company.
Fortuitously, as we were on the way to the opening ceremonies (how meta) I received notification that a truly stupendous bounty had been placed on the head (and other parts: worth more alive than dead, as it happened) of a particularly notorious arms dealer located somewhere on the planet below us. Unfortunately, we’d already entered the hall, and exiting precipitously would have been … untoward. Our purp medic, thinking quickly, made noises about the ChEng having a potentially disastrous case of Smutto-rhea.
With the advance notification I pulled off the network, we were able to formulate a plan to get us to the surface in an armed vessel and cause enough chaos at the convention to give us the necessary head start at collecting the bounty. I found an unarmored (but guarded) transport shuttle whose IFF was cleared for planetary descent (our assault shuttle was most definitely not cleared) through the station network I’d hacked earlier (as terrible a virtual mishmash as the station was an actual one).
The ChEng was all for assaulting the shuttle and taking it down, but the captain insisted on offering the guard an opportunity to, ah, recognize the activity of a greater intelligence at work. Or at least to display greater intelligence in the face of overwhelming force. The poor grunt at the hatch immediately saw the wisdom of Captain Steve’s (not his actual name) words, and signed a contract with us. He then immediately allowed us access to his former company’s shuttle. With a little elbow grease, the ChEng removed the IFF from the shuttle. But not before the lawyer (I’m still not sure who would willingly give that joker a license to practice anything, let alone law) made off with her supply of Boomex, and, ahhh, explosively liberated the contents of the shuttle’s lock-box. The Boomex would have liberated his internal organs, as well, but for the timely intervention of one of his combat paralegals, who received a posthumous promotion.
Once we had the new IFF installed in our drop shuttle, it was time to implement the second phase of our distraction plan. Piloting the unarmed shuttle via remote access, I found the biggest, slickest, most upgraded battlewagon and nudged it just enough to jam the airlock, causing enormous chaos on the station as mercenaries ran every which way trying to get back to their respective transports, finding said transports, ah, indisposed, and trying to avoid the possibility of catching the highly contagious, weaponized Smutto-rhea rumored to have been released in during the opening ceremonies. I was so busy admiring my mayhem, I missed an amazing opportunity to make a “bumperships” quip. Mrs. Dave took care of that for me (best wife evar).
Now, I’d love to go into further detail, but for two things. Firstly, and mostly importantly, Alan told us the scenario we test-played is going to be written up and included in the final game, and I don’t want to give too much away. Secundus, most of the best parts happened on the station, at least from an onlooker’s perspective. Third, and lastly, this is already getting long enough, and I haven’t even gotten past noon.
When we wrapped the session, the final scene was of the medic hard at work stemming the bleeding of our target, wounded by our captain’s excellently terrible sniper shot, of our attorney handing out hiring contracts to said target’s erstwhile minions, while grunts picked flechettes from the hide of the engineer, all under the watchful guns of the AI. It was glorious.
I hoofed it to the meeting rooms just in time to meet up with Herself, the Redhead of Doom (or the Other one. Still not sure), and the Impaler, and crash the How to Write pa-workshop-nel. The first half, at least. I think I was mostly the comic relief, as the ladies had matter well in hand without my presence. After the first hour, I slipped out to man my table along Author’s Alley. I think I spoke with one person I didn’t already know, which is either a comment on the whole “LC is a family affair” notion, or suggests that I really need to develop my in-person marketing copy. And write more.
After, there was the Baen Traveling Roadshow, hosted by Editrix-in-Chief Toni Weisskopf and featuring, well, an enormous chunk of the attending professionals. John Ringo talked for a bit, and brought KC Ezell up to discuss her story in the upcoming Black Tide anthology (despite what she’ll tell you, KC did just fine) which was selected to provide the cover image. He also announced that Chris Smith (a good buddy) would have a story appearing. It was possible to read by the light shining from those two for the rest of the day. (Aside: I mention those two by name, as I went to their joint reading session on Sunday. I’ll describe it in the next wall of text, but the take-away is this: lodge their names firmly in your skulls, as these two are new authors to watch.) Many books were given away, but I spent most of the time standing near the door, cracking wise with Eudyptes Diabolicus, and so wasn’t paying terribly close attention to what was happening on the stage.
Thereafter, I shot the breeze with several other attendees, and took a spin around both the art room and the dealers room (I confirmed that the only things I really wanted were all too expensive, for now * shakes fist *) until it was time to gather in the lobby for the Baen dinner party. While waiting for the bus, I had the opportunity to chat with David Weber, where he described the process of adopting his daughters from Cambodia while Oleg Volk took some excellent pictures. The dinner itself was a low key affair, and I spent most of the time chatting with the Hoyts and – later – David Weber, again. As well as MadMike, Chris Smith, KC Ezell, Kelly Lockhart, Dr. Tedd Roberts, and various and sundry others.
After dinner, we returned to our hotel room to put the Creature to bed (he’s only Wee Dave when he’s cheerful and pleasant. Otherwise he is The Creature, energy-vore and notorious in myth and legend for devouring muses). Then, I made the, ahhhh, questionable decision to return to the Choo Choo to * coughcough * network. (Yeah, that’s it.) Eventually, across any number of conversations, I ended up in John Ringo’s suite, or as I tend to think of it, the All LibertyCon Party. Not so much because it’s open to everybody, as because it never seems to stop. Eudyptes was there. Speaker brought scotch, as Speaker often does. Much conversation was had. The Insectress and the Dragon arrived at some point (different points, I think) wearing their battle corsets. Docfather sported a natty Imperial X-Wing pilot’s uniform. Later, Robert and Jeremy arrived to begin the Saga of Rick Astley the Magnificent, Bard of the Way of Al and wielder of the masterwork accordion. They played an increasingly for laughs session of Pathfinder that ended with the cleric racking up the most kills, the bard getting resurrected the most, and ultimately with the rogue betraying the party to a greater demon before getting killed by the cleric, in an effort to avoid eternity with said bard. It was great fun just to watch, and all may have been an attempt (successful, as it happened) to rickroll a bestselling author at his own party.
Stories were told, new friends were made and old friends introduced to each other. Hooch was consumed, along with munchies of various stripes, and ultimately, our hero trudged home (temporary though it was) before the sun arose Sunday morning. Just barely. Not a feat I intend to repeat any time soon. Not voluntarily, at least. In the next installment, we find out if two hours of sleep is sufficient for a convention (hint: it’s not. Really) and what can be done about such a disastrous state of affairs. Stay tuned!