Book Promo And Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

Book promo

If you wish to send us books for next week’s promo, please email to bookpimping at outlook dot com. If you feel a need to re-promo the same book do so no more than once every six months (unless you’re me or my relative. Deal.) One book per author per week. Amazon links only. Oh, yeah, by clicking through and buying (anything, actually) through one of the links below, you will at no cost to you be giving a portion of your purchase to support ATH through our associates number. A COMMISSION IS EARNED FROM EACH PURCHASE. That helps defray my time cost of about 2 hours a day on the blog, time probably better spent on fiction. ;)*

FROM M.C.A. HOGARTH: Business for the Right-Brained: (A Guide for Artists, Writers, Musicians, Dancers, Crafters, And All the Other Dreamers)


A career as a freelance artist? Not possible, you say? The Three Jaguars beg to differ! In this cartoon and checklist-filled guide, Marketer, Business Manager, and Artist walk you through the challenges of starting and building a creative business. Topics include productizing your work; metrics and tracking; communication and networking strategies; Day Job wrangling; pricing; branding; and even how to market yourself without feeling (*shudder*) slimy! If you’ve been looking for a clear (and humorous!) guide to the philosophy and practicalities of being a professional artist… this is your book. Also, did I mention the cartoons?

FROM JAMES YOUNG: Eagles, Ravens, and Other Birds of Prey: A History of USAF Suppression of Enemy Air Defense (SEAD) Doctrine, 1973-1991

In January 1973, the United States Air Force (USAF) concluded operations against North Vietnam in seeming disarray. With heavy losses to tactical aircraft and B-52s during Operations Linebacker I and II, the USAF’s conventional capabilities were at their nadir. Instead of a potent sword protecting the West against Communist aggression, the Air Force appeared to be an obsolescent weapon to be shattered by new, potent Soviet air defense weaponry.

In January 1991, the USAF spearheaded the Coalition’s air attack on KARI, the Iraqi Integrated Air Defense System. Considered by contemporary analysts to be the most effective air defense system outside the Soviet Union’s, planners expected KARI to exact heavy casualties. Instead, in less than ten days, Coalition forces shattered KARI and prevented it from overseeing any organized defense. Indeed, so complete was Coalition air forces’ dominance that the Iraqi Air Force (IQAF) chose to flee to Iran, their bitter enemy, rather than face certain destruction on the ground.

This journey from near irrelevance to triumph did not occur by accident. Air Force military and civilian leaders made a controversial choice: accept hostile air defenses as priority targets equal in importance to manufacturing centers, military formations, or political leadership. Eagles, Ravens, and Other Birds of Prey examines how this chain of decisions both helped win the Cold War and culminated in the greatest American aerial victory since 1945.

Dr. James Young is an airpower historian, aviation enthusiast and military analyst. His writing credits include the USNI’s 2016 Cyberwarfare Essay Contest, articles in Armor, The Journal of Military History, Marine Corps University Press Expeditions, and USNI Proceedings. In addition to his historical work and the critically acclaimed Usurper’s War-series, he has collaborated with bestselling authors Sarah Hoyt, S.M. Stirling, and David Weber.

FROM J. M. ANJEWIERDEN: Black Salvage (The Black Chronicles Book 4)

Morgan and the crew of STEVE have captured the pirates’ command ship, but can they keep it?
After a harrowing battle on the mining station and in the Black they won an incredibly valuable prize – an armed starship that, once repaired, is capable of subspace jumps without a gate. All Morgan and her skeleton crew need do is make the long journey home and they will be rewarded handsomely.
Unfortunately, not all the pirates are accounted for, and their nimble frigates are still out there somewhere, plotting to take back what Morgan rightfully commandeered…


Ancient and wise, the grandfather Koi knows at first sight that this human bears a hidden wound. But how can a mere fish, even one as old as himself, be of any aid to a human?

Astronaut Tyler Lanham had come to Grissom City, first and oldest lunar settlement, in search of the medical expertise he couldn’t find on the far side of the Moon. When he sees the scar on the ancient koi’s side, he knows he’s found a kindred spirit.

But an enemy is stalking these lovely gardens. A danger that will change both man and fish.

A short story of the Grissom timeline.

FROM LIANE ZANE: The Flower & The Blackbird: Book Two in the Elioud Legacy Series

Six months ago Anastasia Fiore, an intelligence officer in Italy’s foreign security service, led an even more secret life on the side. She ran off-the-books missions with her friends Olivia and Beta, American and Czech foreign intelligence officers. The three women shared the same goal: take down predators.

And then Stasia’s life got way more interesting.

After a complicated, surreal mission that went sideways, Stasia learned that she has angel blood, making her an Elioud. She’s seen what Elioud warriors are called to do, and she’s not interested. Stasia can handle herself with a traditional surujin, a British WWII combat knife, or a 9mm handgun. But she prefers crafting a cover identity so compelling she can charm what she needs from her target instead. In fact, she’s so skilled that the Carabinieri’s Art Squad requests her help tracking down a stolen Rembrandt painting.

That’s what she was doing when Miró Kos, a Croatian Elioud she’s already chained, slashed, and drugged, showed up. He was there tracking the buyer, and whether Stasia likes it or not, she’s now inside another surreal mission. One that will make her question what her Elioud blood means. And what the quiet, intense warrior means to her. For his part, Miró cannot let another woman come before his duty. Or near his heart.

As Stasia sets out to recover the Rembrandt, she and Miró discover that there is more than a stolen painting at stake. And more than one Dark Irim stalking Stasia.

FROM MAX BRAND, EDITED BY D. JASON FLEMING: Three Outlaws (Annotated): Three Classic Pulp Western Adventure Novels

iktaPOP brings you three classic Max Brand pulp western novels!

Jerry Peyton’s Notched Inheritance

When Jerry Peyton’s father Hank died, he left him an education, a ranch, enough cattle to grow a real herd — and The Voice of La Paloma, a pistol famous throughout the West from Hank’s outlaw days. Everybody in town knew that Hank had been an outlaw, and everybody knew the son would follow the father’s path. They knew it so well, they started to lynch him for a crime he didn’t commit. It didn’t work.

And once Jerry Peyton recovers, nothing will stand between him and vengeance.

Bandit’s Honor

Leon Porfilo knows the only thing harder to outrun than the law is a bad reputation.

After outwitting and outwaiting the last governor, Leon is ready to present his case to a newly elected man. He’s banking on fresh eyes to see the self-defense shooting that started it all for what it really was.

But the governor’s not the only one who believes the legend instead of the man. Before he can win his freedom, first he has to convince a starry-eyed kid of eighteen not to be “just like” his idol…

Gun Gentlemen

For as long as anyone can remember, Lucky Bill has led a charmed life, but now someone has framed him for a hanging offense. He’s wanted by every tin star in the West and by every greedy gunslinger out for the price they can get for his no-good corpse.

But Bill is no yellowbelly—he’s aiming to clear his name and he’ll take on any bushwhacker who stands in his way!

This iktaPOP Media omnibus includes introductions and afterwords by indie author and editor D. Jason Fleming that give historical and genre context to the novels it contains.


FROM D. A. BROCK: Texas at the Coronation (Republic of Texas Navy Book 1)

For seventy years after a devastating war, the Republic of Texas kept to itself. But it would be rude not to attend the international naval review celebrating Britain’s new king, George VI. So with war clouds over Europe, Texas sends the elderly armored cruiser, San Antonio, and her new captain, Karl von Stahlberg.

While making new friends and meeting Texas’ ancient foe, can Karl and his men avoid sparking a war?

FROM DAVID COLLINS: Prelude of Fate: The Obsidian Valley

It started as a “normal” commute… He looked down for just a second…

When his eyes returned to the road, everything exploded in blinding white light. An instant of sight and sound saturating and overloading. Every nerve in his body, everything fired at once, pain, hot, cold, sound, pressure, everything.

Then blackness!

FROM C. V. WALTER, ON PRE-ORDER: Pursued by the Alien Pilot

Book description coming soon.

(But, come on, some of you are following the series, so…. -SAH)

Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike.

So what’s a vignette? You might know them as flash fiction, or even just sketches. We will provide a prompt each Sunday that you can use directly (including it in your work) or just as an inspiration. You, in turn, will write about 50 words (yes, we are going for short shorts! Not even a Drabble 100 words, just half that!). Then post it! For an additional challenge, you can aim to make it exactly 50 words, if you like.

So what’s a vignette? You might know them as flash fiction, or even just sketches. We will provide a prompt each Sunday that you can use directly (including it in your work) or just as an inspiration. You, in turn, will write about 50 words (yes, we are going for short shorts! Not even a Drabble 100 words, just half that!). Then post it! For an additional challenge, you can aim to make it exactly 50 words, if you like.

If you have questions, feel free to ask.

Your writing prompt this week is: Crook

54 thoughts on “Book Promo And Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

  1. “Crook? Well you could call me that but I prefer Professional Thief of Highly Protected (valuable) Items” replied the Slippery Cat.

  2. (But, come on, some of you are following the series, so…. -SAH)

    Very much so– and the pilot is just so *cute* in a trying-hard way. 😀

  3. “I am not a crook.” Isaac intoned, quite seriously.
    From the barely suppressed giggles, chuckles or supposed coughing fits on the part of everyone other than Darsi and himself, Jon could tell there was something more to the phrase than the obvious. He ignored them.
    “Or a pirate, or a smuggler, or anything else even faintly illegal outside of either Coalition regulations or Supremacy of Power traditions, both of which may as well be footnoted ‘don’t get caught.’ Yes, I noticed, especially the part where you take ‘don’t get caught’ to mean ‘run faster.'”

  4. On a hot summer’s day, the old tire swing hanging in a crook of a large tree on the edge of the pond seemed to say “Come, launch yourself into fun.”

    Thank you for including my book in this week’s promotion.

  5. Foxfier’s post brought the following to my mind.

    “I’m Not A Crook. I have never been convicted of any crimes!”

    “That’s because you’ve always escaped those who wanted to capture/convict you.”

    “Picky Picky.”

      1. Only if you believe “Crook equals Convicted Criminal” which I don’t. 😉

        1. :grins: Oh, I got to hear all kinds of belly-achign from folks who weren’t given security clearances, based entirely on but I was never convicted!

  6. Nice set of promos today! Thanks! Re the prompt- Grandma Esther looked up at Cody and Cory. “It’s up to you two to keep the farm going.” She reached beside her chair and came up with an old, thick book, thrusting it at Cody. “By hook or by crook. Use what’s in here if you have to, to bring them down.”

  7. “I don’t understand,” said the new recruit. “Aren’t we supposed to be the Thieves’ guild?”

    “Of course, dear,” the Guildmistress told him, shifting her half-moon glasses on her nose.

    “Then why-?” Befuddled, he could only gesture to the books that lined the walls around him, leatherbound tomes and hastily recopied pamphlets alike.

    She shrugged, an incongruously aristocratic gesture. “Good King Justinian decreed that only the nobility could be trusted with anything so valuable as the written word. Being a bunch of crooks, hucksters, and reprobates, we were practically honor-bound to start up a library. Literature readings are at dinnertime, philosophy in the morning, and practical political science starts around midnight. Which shall I sign you up for?”

    1. Love It!

      (and on an un-related note, TYVM for the seeds. I paid about half of them forward in our neighborhood’s annual seed swap in exchange for a *bunch* of other good stuff, and will be planting the other half Real Soon Now. Again, Thank You!)

  8. There once was a guy named Biden*
    Corruption he was hardly hidin’
    That goddamned crook
    An election he once took

  9. “Its a crooked road we traveled to get to this point.”

    “Hrm.” The mule grunted. Whether that was in agreement or just a punctuation, the old man didn’t know.

    “Straight roads are boring,” said a voice from atop the mule’s head, between his long ears.

    “So they are. So they are.”

    “I especially liked the look on the reeve’s face when he found out that the gold he stole wasn’t really gold at all!” The mouse giggled in glee, causing the mule’s ears to twitch.

    “Best not be spreading that around, Mouse.”

    “Who’s to hear us? We’re on the road, halfway between nowhere and nothing much! Why shouldn’t we brag?”

    “Because we’re crooks, Mousie. ‘Least according to the authorities we are.”

    “Did you see the wanted posters?” The mouse asked eagerly. “Did they get my ears right?”
    “They got the ears right.”
    “Hrm.” The mule grunted again.
    “Yes, yours too.”
    “That’s not a good thing, mule.”
    “You know he can’t talk, don’t you old man?” The old man in question merely raised an eyebrow. The mule flicked an ear back, causing the mouse to lose his balance and tumble.
    “Mebbe he can’t talk like you and I, but he gets his point across, don’t you think?”
    “But he doesn’t use words!” The old man snorted.
    “Well, he doesn’t!”
    “I didn’t just then, and you heard me just fine.”
    “That’s different!”
    “Not really.” The mouse pouted as he climbed back up to his accustomed perch.
    “So are we really going to steal a princess?”
    “Yes.” The mouse scoffed at this.
    “Look old man, I know I’m good at pinching the small stuff. A jewel here, a ring there, no problems. But a princess is a lot more than a ring!”
    “And the king’s court is no mere backwater town!”
    “Uh huh.” The mouse looked to the old man, who had stopped to stretch his back. The mule nibbled at some grass beside him.
    “And you’re not in the least stressed about this!?”
    “Because I have a plan.”
    “You had a plan to steal the Amulet of Dengar Kosh.” The old man frowned.
    “That wasn’t a good plan, in hindsight.”
    “And what makes you think this one is?”
    “Because I didn’t make it.” The mouse goggled at him.
    “You didn’t…?”
    “Hrm.” The mule raised his head, looking off towards the east. A thin feather of smoke could be seen above the trees.
    “So who did make the plan?”
    “The princess.” The mouse blinked at him owlishly. The mule chuffed what might have been a laugh. Or a chuckle. The old man ignored them both, setting off again. This time in the direction of the smoke.

  10. “The Quantum Robotics Commission…” Baz pounded the conference table with a massive fist, making the half-empty coffee cups bounce and rattle. “We can’t negotiate with that bunch of crooks!”

    “Unfortunately, we’re going to have to. We don’t have the resources to hold out, and they know it.” Var smiled ruefully. “Which is why I’ve contacted my mother.”

    Baz and Pteri stared, mouths agape. They knew what this really meant to Var; why he had vowed never to contact his family again. They also knew what kind of risk it was.

    Before they could object, Var continued. “The commission is a bunch of glorified politicians, which of course means they’re a bunch of crooks, but compared to my dear mother, they’re rank amateurs. We have the double disadvantage of being amateurs *and* not being crooks. Which means we need a pro on our side. And since we don’t have the money to hire lawyers…who are also going to be crooks…”

    “No! You don’t have to–I mean, we can’t…” Baz sputtered, then trailed off.

    “I think we might have to, Baz,” Pteri replied. They all knew that everything they had worked for was at risk. “But Var, are you sure?”

    “Well, her idea of what’s best might be…er…crooked…but she always said she wanted the best for me, and I believe she meant it. Plus, she hates the commission even more than we do. And if she wants what’s best for me, that means she wants Azure Group to succeed.”

  11. Putin in his bunker thought
    Ukraine is mine by hook or crook
    But brave Zelensky stood and fought
    And wrote a page in hist’rys book

    The media as one did turn
    Away from masks and shots and such
    Make the corrupt tyrant burn
    Says I to myself, “project much?”

    For still the question does remain
    To any who will stop and think
    How many documents still remain
    The big guy to hunter link?

  12. “No. We’re not going to get it changed. Each religion gets their own symbol as their branch insignia.”
    “But, historically…”
    “No. We’re not going back to having chaplains wear a shepherds crook. Do you have any idea how much paper- and staffwork is involved in a major change like that?”

  13. He cradled his baby girl in the crook of his arm and gazed into her eyes. “Hello there, sweet child.” Their eyes connected. She smiled and wiggled. He was completely smitten. He settled his baby into her mama’s arms and picked up his shotgun. There would be pheasant for dinner.

  14. “Only crooks fear him. If you’re not a crook–”
    “Have you seen him?”
    “Have you heard him laugh?”
    “Have you seen his guns? They’re *this* big.”
    “….when did you–”
    “I DO NOT want to explain this to him.”
    “All we need is to prove we didn’t sign the title deed until after the body was found.”

  15. My wife just expressed a wish for the latest Dyce Dare novel.Preferably today, but tomorrow would be OK. I know… [wry smile] (She isn’t interested in urban fantasy, and the shifters are too weird for her. Sigh.)

    Since her brother died (unexpectedly–odds are a notVaxx reaction), she’s been looking for something light and silly to divert her. It didn’t help when our satellite receiver decided that end-of-life should be signaled with scorched electronics. No fire, but foul smell. No Dr. Charles Stanley and his televised ministry, either.

    The replacement receiver will be installed Wednesday. Meanwhile, we carry on.

        1. Soft failure, too. I vacuumed the vents in hopes it was a dust-clogged heat sink, and repowered it. Idled OK, sort of, but in use, it threw the overtemp flag 15 minutes later. I’m guessing that the PSU fan crapped out. The temp sensor is in the hard drive, but their diagnostics thought it was OK otherwise.

          1. One of the many reasons I hate hate HATE fans in computers. They make irritating noises and suck dust, lint and cat hair through the innards of a complex electronic device. When (not if) they die, so does the computer unless you get it shut off right quick.

            So then why do most of the Raspberry Pi computer cases not only have fans, but they’re touted like they were a desirable feature? ‘With FAN!’ AAARRRRGH!! I went to some trouble to select a case with no fan, built with internal aluminum posts that contact the heat generating chips. I milled the thick paint off most of the top and bolted on half of a big finned heat sink. Barely gets warm, even when playing high-definition video.

      1. The smoke smell was scary. One of the lingering after effects of Mark I Chinavirus is a screwed up sense of smell. Mine wasn’t great to begin with, but now it’s less bad than $SPOUSE’s. (OTOH, some cleaner that used to make her gag now smells to her like baby powder. Whether that’s good or bad depends on circumstances.) Couldn’t locate it very well at all. I thought it was the wood-stove-looking propane stove, but couldn’t be sure. When she turned on the TV to watch a religious show, she saw an overtemp alert. Opening the cabinet, yep.

        It turns out this model has a tendency to self-immolate, and ours lasted a lot longer than others. Dish doesn’t want it back, and there’s some indication that the disk drive *might* be readable in a Linux box, so I’ll do some exploratory surgery. If I can retrieve the old sewing shows, $SPOUSE will be very happy. The odds are slightly better than FICUS putting three coherent sentences together. Very slightly.

        Sarah, I explained that Dyce was in progress, with later in the year being the safe bet. My own stash of reading doesn’t have much similar beyond Daring Finds, so I might take a stroll through the jungle of Kindle recommendations. May God have mercy…

  16. “And this,” said the Canon proudly, “is the original crozier of St. Alan Thompson – the one he flung into Lake Michigan after signing the Eschewal, saying that one too weak to die for his sheep didn’t deserve the shepherd’s crook.”

    Caroline frowned. “I thought Thompson *was* martyred.”

    “That was later.”

  17. Related to a comment stuck in moderation, $SPOUSE would love to read something slightly silly. (This was triggered by a hope for the latest Daring Finds book. I know.) It’s been a rough week since her brother died, probably from not-Vax complications*.

    She’s not interested in urban fantasy nor SF, so we’re a bit out of the genre. Any suggestions? Dyce Dare is the gold standard, here. I’m drawing a blank with my books.

    (*) CDC says it’s OK to have a flu shot and a Kung-flu booster the same day. There’s some indications that it’s not a good idea. (Nephew found some information in Europe, and there’s a bit of anecdata on the ‘net.)

    1. Georgette Heyer’s Cotillion is a good silly comedy. Her novel The Black Moth is in the public domain — lots of highwayman stuff. These Old Shades also came into the public domain this year, IIRC, and there’s a 99 cent edition on Amazon.

      1. Thanks! I found some Nick and Nora spinoff novels (Hiss H for Homicide, et al), and $SPOUSE now has 5 fresh novels to start with. (The Thin Man is on Kindle, but at $9.99. Talk about a long tail for backlists.)

        1. Since Nick is a cat, there’s only passing resemblance to Dashiel Hammett’s work, but $SPOUSE is happily reading.

  18. Spring’s first flowers bloomed today
    Despite the drooling white-house crook
    Gloomy winter’s soon away
    And while the world’s leaders shook
    And hasty, Ill-thought actions took
    The yellow flowers for us record
    Your mercy on us sinners, Lord.

  19. Alice Murcheson looked at the greenhouse module full of blighted plants. “The fungus appears to have started in the crookneck squash, although we’re still uncertain whether it was in the seeds or in the planting medium. In any case, it’s spreading rapidly enough in spite of all our preventive measures that I’m thinking it’s time for extreme measures.”

    Jennifer Redmond shot her a querying look. “Extreme measures?”

    “Open the entire greenhouse to hard vacuum. A few days with no oxygen and no atmospheric pressure should do in even the hardiest spores.”

    “That may be a big assumption. Remember the bacteria they found on the Surveyor camera that Pete Conrad brought back?”

    “Which was not handled with modern biocontainment protocols. It was wrapped in a porous bag all the way back from the Moon, and the scientists who tested it were working on an open lab table, not a modern isolation glovebox. There were plenty of opportunities for contamination after it was taken off the lunar surface, and no subsequent study with proper biocontainment has ever found viable bacteria on any object left on the lunar surface.”

  20. By the hook or by crook
    Commie held institutions must be retook
    Or from their foundations be shook

  21. There was an old man near Nantucket
    Who slammed the tome closed and said, “Shuck it!
    I’m tired of books
    By grifters and crooks
    I’m off to buy oysters in ‘Tucket.”

  22. “That’s an odd insignia for a unit* in the Chaplains’ Corps.”
    Mike nodded. “Yes, sir.”
    “I thought you were supposed to be shepherds, with a crook and a lamb?”
    As Rich giggled, Mike said, “Some are, sir. But someone has to drive the wolves away.”

    *767th Chaplains Regiment, AKA the Spell Warriors.

    1. “For one in ten’s a predator
      Who treats the rest as prey
      So someone’s always needed here
      To drive those wolves away
      We never left the jungle
      We just carted it to town
      The leopards took on human form
      And follow us around.”

      Lyrics found here

  23. Julian’s hand on her arm drew her back, like a shepherd’s crook on a wayward lamb. Ava moved without question. She wondered whether they could flee to the boat or go about the lake. She bit her lip. The outlet had to be large enough to let a boat through.

  24. She gave a soft, fugitive half-smile. “I doubt you will help. The law says it is not mine, that I have no right to it, that he who helps me breaks the law.”
    Brian swallowed.
    Her voice grew softer. “Many a man is eager to help until he learns what he might be called.”

  25. An old shepherd’s crook, quite broken, was added to the heap. And two stools that were all but shattered.
    Rosaleen skipped up to the children.
    An old woman said, “What is she doing here? She should be away by now.”
    Another one laughed. “Who would know her for the princess?”

  26. They knew her skills, of course. They knew Florio’s as well. But they knew they did not use them for crime, else they would not have trusted them with the giants.
    Or at least given them no more reward than a pardon after, to remind them to not stain it.

  27. 50 word version

    “Yeah, I’m a crook,” Marco took a long pull of the vodka and leaned forward through the smoke, jabbing his cig at the thug. “But I ain’t a murderer.”

    The heavy leaned back and smiled, cracking his knuckles. “Oh you’ll be what the boss wants you to be…”


    The fuller version:
    “Yeah, I’m a crook,” Marco took a long pull of the vodka and leaned forward through the smoke, jabbing his cig at the thug. “But I ain’t a murderer.”

    The heavy leaned back and smiled, cracking his knuckles. “Oh you’ll be what the boss wants you to be…”

    “Come now, Daro, let the man be. He’s said no. He must know the consequences…” The lean, mellow man by the heavy patted his partner’s shoulder.

    Marco placed his cigarette in the tray, then laid a hand flat on the table, and suddenly there was no smoke above it. “Yeah. I know the consequences. That’s why I don’t work for him no more. He couldn’t drag me there then. Won’t now. Tell him I said so.”

    “And if he brings Julia into it?” The mellow one looked back with what anyone else would have thought casual curiosity.

    “He’s been warned,” Marco leaned back and the smoke slowly leaned back. “I don’t think he wants a reminder. Now, gentlemen… good day. You can pay the tab for wasting my time.”

    With that he stood and walked out the archaic swinging doors and into the night.

  28. “Yes, I am a crook. In fact, I belong to the pony wing of the Crooked Party.”

    Williamina Cortez made that admission easily, smiling at her interviewee. She was a younger woman, and the modern pajamaist ethic of admitting to her political position came naturally to her. Even here, at the Tea Party convention, where she was hot on the trail of a platform fight between the bitter and deplorable wings.

    There were still some pajama-bloggers who found that ethic uncomfortable. But they were all older rhinoceri (or even more decrepit dinosaurs) who still thought of themselves, on some level, as ‘journolists.’


    Look, if there was any shortcoming in the Denazification of Germany after WWII, it was in the Soviet sector of occupation. The USSR, in occupying East Germany, essentially turned the NSDAP into the SED.

    To this day, the descendants of Germans in the Soviet occupation zone, as well as West Berlin, are really f&cking weird, because of the Soviet effort to systemically cover up certain elements of the history of WWII.

    Stalin was a lefty, Hitler was a lefty, and WWII was significantly the consequence of Russian support for spreading communism, and communism’s incompatibility with civilization.

  30. “So, can you backtrack your data from the meteor’s breakup fireball back to deep space?”

    Alex Murray smiled, and shrugged, a little ruefully. “Oddly enough we’ve had some data-integrity problems with that. Even if we combine the Argus and Panoptikon IV sightings into one set.” And quickly there came a view of the Earth on the screen, a gridded globe, with a curving trajectory line leading from a couple dozen miles above the outskirts of Moscow up and away from there. It started in yellow-green, rapidly shading down to yellow and orange and red just before it ended… only several hundred miles above the Earth. “The data-integrity flags just pop up all over, General, and no matter where we start. Bad time for a ‘fritz’ to hit.”

    “Again, call me Arkady, if you will, Doctor Murray. Not here as military representative; only because some of the data from our side came from the military search radars — the treaty compliant ones. And might I suggest that you filter your raw data, the ‘point cloud’ as they usually call it, for closeness in space and time without any more sophisticated consistency checks?”

    “Yes, we have an option for that, we call it ‘connect the dots’ mode.”

    And this time, after just a few seconds, the path came up in vivid blue all the way to the edge of the screen… and kept going even when Alex pulled the viewpoint way back to far beyond the orbit of the Moon. Which difference was enough to grab his attention and raise his eyebrows.

    “Okay, so it looks like our data really is one nice big smooth curve after all. So why was it all supposed to be corrupted?”

    Arkady smiled, broadly under coal-dark Boris Yeltsin eyebrows. “By your leave I’ll not answer that yet, not wanting to corrupt your analysis of your good data with our preconceptions. But I will direct your attention to that little crook in the trajectory, right at the end” — within ten or so tiny-looking thousand miles of the surface. Which quickly swelled again to cover most of the screen.

    “Obviously that’s Earth’s gravity, but we can project the path forward using just three or four points at a time… another ‘connect the dots’ feature courtesy of C. F. Gauss and his least squares… hunh?”

    Yes, there were grayish lines aplenty, forking off from each set of a few measured points along the blue path… but only the very latest ones went down to the fireball point (which, after all, was hard to mistake). Not at all a ‘tangle of spaghetti’ but quite consistently higher and farther, ah, downrange the earlier you started your projection.

    Murray’s brows were dark and furrowed, too, now. “That actually looks as if the gravity constant is off, which is… insane. Let me see, GM for this path…” — he muttered, as he fiddled with menus and the wheel of his fancy mouse. “Okay, so if Earth’s GM were about… 37% higher, look.”

    And now, most of the gray lines slid obediently into alignment — more or less — with the blue ‘experimental’ trajectory. Though now the ones from higher up had crossed over it, and were ‘off’ in the other direction.

    “But that’s insane. None of the other satellite orbits would work, if that were true. And they do. This must be some kind of error, in the data.”

    But of course that explained the ‘data integrity’ problem — the program assumed that, outside the atmosphere at least, forces besides gravity were just about nil — and this screwed-up path did not play nice with that.

    Arkady Voinovich’s eyes were calm, but intense. “Sure. In your data, and our data too. Or a gravity constant measured to, what, parts per billion, or better, I never bothered to hit the IAU Web site again? In the one out of a million or so rocks that explodes (ground zero) within the city limits of the capital of Russia? Coincidence, maybe, but not likely.” And he took a considerable swig of bad but strong vending-machine coffee. “Now have your people set up a new path integration using real, 100% gravity plus a fitted 1 over r squared times exponential force — a Yukawa potential, but with a range of about 1.76 Earth radii. You’ll see your data is pretty solid, I am willing to bet. Diamonds to doughnuts, as they say.”

    And Alex Murray’s blood ran cold. He could hear the patter of keys from the back of the room already, as NASA interns raced each other to hack the required code into being… but his eyes were already sliding the bright traces on the display, old-school, and that looked pretty near exact.

    “But that’s physically impossible,” blurted out Becky Arnold. “There’s no Yukawa-like gravity force. Maybe if you faked it with an ion engine…”

    “Miss Arnold? You weren’t there, but I was. The iron… sleet was a foot deep in places, all over Moscow. We had to clear the streets with front end loaders and the rest of the snow removal equipment. There are by now thousands of tons of the stuff in big piles outside the city. And fights between the scientists, and the politicians who want to feed most of it to the steel furnaces and make back the cost of sweeping it up.”

    Alex Murray’s voice came back steady, but a little… hollow. Or haunted.

    “But if someone had put a — gravity machine — on a random and bitty little multi-kiloton iron asteroid, and tuned it to just the right, ah, strength to nearly hit Moscow… well before this short-range not really gravity had interacted much with the Earth, it’d look just like that.”

    Arkady smiled a thin smile cold as the wind off the snowy taiga forests.

    “Yes. And if our countries were a little more stupid or a little more trigger-happy, and couldn’t tell the difference between a shattering metal rock coming in at Mach 60 and a nuclear explosion” — his expression went briefly merry as he turned to the back of the room and smiled — “your search term ought to be ‘bang meter’ in English, I think? Well, we might all be too dead to have this conversation at all. But since we’re not, who do you think it is out there wants us to kill each other for them, hm?”

    And suddenly General Voinovich looked quite military after all.

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