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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Director

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Overture

The little group rode down the beaten, muddy path that wound along the wide, marshy side of the Danube. They were a peculiar sight in the warm spring sunlight, small dark men with blank asiatic faces and lank, greasy hair. They were clothed in nondescript, worn leathers and their weapons were clean and ready to hand. The mounts were stubby little ponies, the sort that even the highly motivated horse thieves of this horse-mad land would scorn, not recognizing their toughness and endurance. Behind them trailed a string of remounts, lightly laden with packs.

It was a good day to be a Mongol, he thought. The air was lush and soft with the promise of spring, gloriously green in a way the steppe grasslands never were. The mountains – hills, really – rolled away to the north and the south, but the trees… The trees! So many, many trees! They had the luxury of burning wood instead of dung in their cookfires!

The party had been avoiding towns and villages and likewise skirting the local baronial fiefs. The occasional rider had taken flight at the sight of them, except for that one nobleman and his party who had barred their way. We could have given them to the birds of death, he mused, hand absently stroking the recurved bow in its sling. But we did have the letters and the seal, and they let us pass. Good thing we weren’t carrying the last of that deer meat – they’d have tried to grieve us over that, and we would have had to kill them. No going back to the Horde after… after… His expression tightened into a look of black hatred, then eased. He twisted slightly in the saddle, flexing strong shoulders. No sense dwelling on that; what was done was done. They would serve this Christian prince, and they could never go home except to die.

Yes, a good day to be a Mongol, riding free in this land where my fathers and forefathers rode. And if the land is not mine, then I owe nothing to any man, and for now that must be enough.



He broke character long enough to laugh, and his nearest companion tipped him a wink. “So, Kevin, how do you like it so far?”

“Great, Ray. Amazing. Just incredible. Everything is so…”

“Don’t say it, you’ll jinx the spell!” They laughed.

“Cool idea to come as Mongols, Kevin.”

“Well, we didn’t have a lot of options. Not many Asian Vikings or Popes, you know. Our minds are accustomed to seeing our physical selves in a certain way. We’ve enhanced the data feeds and cleaned the bit filters until all this is more real than real, sort of like turning up the gain on an amplifier. We can make things seem real by helping the brain fill in the gaps, letting it assume and postulate from the data it has. Those trees – those, over there? Unless you concentrate on them, the computers don’t have to worry about exact appearance; they’re just a tree-like blur. But we aren’t ready to try fooling the brain on things it knows intimately and through long experience. Not yet. So your appearance stays true to your real body.”

“So why is everything so, so, so clear?”

“We can’t provide the quantity of data that the brain gets from your actual senses, so we enhance what we do feed it. That makes everything a little exaggerated, but it helps the brain to supply details that we can’t provide. Like, don’t look, but if you think about what color those cows were we saw back there, and then look, they’ll probably be that color.”

“Nah. Not purple.” They laughed again.

“Just don’t worry about little inconsistencies. That’s one of the things we’re here to check.”

“Man, what a job.”

“Yeah, but somebody’s got to do it.” They laughed again, and rode on.



The little troop rode almost into the camp before anyone saw them – there were no scouts out past the perimeter, and the ones who were supposed to be on guard duty were slack. Old Khasim was casual enough about camp, but even he would have gutted this bunch for bowstrings. And the camp was a stinking, sprawling mess; if they were attacked here, they’d never be able to sort themselves out for battle. No wonder the Turks were so feared, if this was the level of their competition.

Eventually a hard-faced man with vast mustaches came up, and the merchant they had brought along as a translator found some common words. The hard-faced one couldn’t read their letters but recognized the seal, and waved them over to an empty patch of meadow. Time enough to set up a camp before dark. Maybe even time enough to scout out some clean water – he wasn’t going to allow the horses or his men to drink downstream from that stinking mob.



The fight, when it came, was a disorganized brawl. The little army had been wending its way south for several days with short stops while the prince did some politicking for support from the local nobles. This was all land claimed by the Turks, now, handed over to them by treaty in some recent war. None of the local nobles loved the Turks, but they weren’t anxious to defy them, either, and they needed plenty of persuasion.

They’d been traveling along some little stream and the prince and his Mongol troop were up with the vanguard. No telling which stream; language skill was coming far quicker than it ever would in real life, but most of the place names were lost because the locals talked too fast. The Mongols had offered to ride on ahead and scout, but seeing how that suggestion disturbed the locals, they hadn’t pressed it. The locals probably thought the funny looking little men were going to warn the Turks. Oh, well. No scouts, no maps… just this wandering around the countryside.

Then the Turkish horsemen burst from the woods on the far side of the meadow, clumping into loose formations before coming on at a walk. He saw pinpoints of flashing light – that must be drawn swords at this distance. Hopefully they weren’t cavalry archers. Their own army was strung out behind for miles, so they’d have to fight with what was here. He tried to guess at the enemy numbers, and his hunch was a couple of thousand. That was big for a raiding force but too small for an invading army. Likely the local nobility had gathered up their household troops and set out to see about this rumor of an enemy army.

No friendly infantry that amounted to anything. A company, perhaps, of crossbowmen back with the wagon train but they’d never get here in time. The Mongols had an even dozen bowmen, not enough to stop a force like this. The prince had told off some bannermen and they were spurring their horses out into the meadow. There were a couple of thousand horsemen in the vanguard, enough that the Turks were outnumbered but not lots more. “A little decent scouting and we’d never have been caught like this,” he muttered. Oh, well – arrows until they closed, cold steel thereafter. And thank goodness he’d had the foresight to make sure that none of the real people could take any serious damage from weapons.

He waved to his companions and they trotted off to the right through grass that came up past his horse’s chest. A minute to get the bows out…

In the depths of the complex computer programs, the equivalent of dice spun and spun and spun. Life is often shaped by accidents, and these were the electronic arbiters of fate. Beneath him, the tough little pony stumbled over a loose rock hidden in the grass and stamped rearing upright as a harmless snake slithered out from under.

He had a moment to wonder at the clarity of the sky before he went backwards off the horse, a moment to hear his friend yell out his name, and then he landed hard on his head.

Blackness.
 

Commandante

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At last! The AAR we've discussed for so long is underway!

I love that you return to History Park, Porter, it's wonderful setting for any AAR...
 

Machiavellian

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Oh Boy. Huzzah! A New history park AAR and I get in on the ground floor!

Looking forward to seeing how this goes.
 

unmerged(11633)

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A return to history park. Excellent!

I don't know who Director's playing. The Golden horde perhaps, although the crappiness of their monarchs is legendary.
 

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I've just discovered this small piece of a nice tale with a superb reading. Good luck, Director!:cool:
 

Lord Durham

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Jack Shit Studios

Turner Smithee enjoyed the early mornings. It was the time of day when he didn't have to put up with all the mundane jerks and losers who permeated the film industry. It was the time of day when he could lean back in his executive chair and inhale deeply on his trademark stogie. It was the time of day when...

"Good morning, Mr. Smithee."

...Trixie would stride through the office door clutching the morning trade papers and several phone messages, her long legs glistening, her blouse barely controlling the live animals that struggled aggressively underneath.

"Good morning, Trixie. How are they - er, you - this morning?"

"Mr. Smithee, you naughty boy. You certainly do have a one track mind."

"Two track, but that's not important. What do you have for me?"

"Just the usual messages, sir. Oh, except this one. It's from Kevin Smith. He has a proposal for a limited mini-series. He says he has some film stock left over from Clerks that he'd like to use."

"Clerks? That was his black and white film, right?"

"Yes, sir. He said he could make the series for under $30,000."

"Yeah, and I'm the Pope. He hasn't mentioned who he wants for this 'limited mini-series', has he?"

"He has, Mr. Smithee. He wants to cast Affleck and Damon."

"Why am I not surprised? Affleck and Damon need $30,000 just to take care of their nightly bar tabs."

"Well, sir, Smith says they still owe him for launching their careers."

"That was years ago. OK, I'll set aside two hours and call Smith later."

"Two hours?"

"You ever talked to Kevin Smith? He turns one sentence into a rambling dialogue. Funny as hell, but rambling all the same. Anyway, I'm out of here early today, Trixie. I'm taking the other half and going for some R and R."

"Other half? Wife or mistress, sir?"

"Very funny. How's Dick?"

"Excellent, sir. Dick makes me a very happy woman, Mr. Smithee."

"No kidding."

"Where are you going today, if I can ask?"

"I think we'll go over to History Park, Trixie."

"History Park? That's interesting. There's an article about History Park in today's Variety."

"Oh yeah? Let me see." Smithee takes the trade paper and scans the headline. His eyes open wide.

"Trouble, sir?"

"Oh my..."


* * *

Good to see more History Park, P. ;)
 

Valdemar

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He, I just posted in the bar, that know that History park is up and running again, all I needed was a sequel to Protugal and my days would be busy indeed. :)

And what do I see? Two-in-one :D

Gentlemen, you've made it very hard to make honest work in the morning, not to mention Betatest Vicky :D

Thanks nonetheless.

V
 

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Just noticed that this one is actually a colaboration. Director and LD, I'll be watching you on it with a straight eye!...
 

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THE SEQUEL!!!

Stroph cancels all his meetings, closes the doors, locks himself in his computer room. Ready to read!

Good LUCK!!

:D
 

Alexandru H.

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It seems that the chap wants next year OscAAR too....well, if the story is of the same quality....:)

*Blackness*
 

Director

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Guys, guys! Please! I'm blushing here! :D

Thank you! This is the warmest welcome I've had in a while! And LD even contributed a piece of Trix... er, a piece with Trixie. :D An appropriate reply will be forthcoming. Maybe Smith could do a flick about the cloning of Arthur C. Clark, and call it 'Clarks'?

Sadly, I don't think this is going to be a collaboration - although LD has permission to contribute all he wants. (Honestly, I'd rather read his stuff than mine - I just have this compulsive need to write).



OK, so a few things to explain.

The opening is unnecessarily mysterious because I only posted half of it. Why? Because I use Easy Designer to put pics on my web page and I can't get the POS to run. No pic, no post. Working on it!

Valdemar, the day you and honest work get together, Vicky will do a Highland Fling across the Belt. :D

J. Passepartout, what do you think the pic is? Explanation of dragons is immanent!

Alexandru H. - take a bow. Your Moldavian AAR led to this fit of madness - indeed, it was just the spark I needed. Nicely written tale, too - I enjoyed reading it. I hope you are around for advice - I'll need your help.

I was surprised (pleased, no doubt, but surprised) at the response to 'As The Spirit Moves Me'. THe first installment of 'HistoryPark', however, I am very proud of. That one is just about as good as I was capable of writing. If it wins, I'll be pleased and if it doesn't I'll congratulate the winner and try harder. I had the most amazing fun plotting and writing that one! 'Bremen' was intentionally low key, won't win awards and (IMHO) is not of award-winning calibre.

This next installment of 'HistoryPark' is going to be somewhat dark, even Gothic. I hope you like it!


Thank you one and all! Please be patient with my technical problems - I'll get this up and going ASAP!
 

Director

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When The Sleeper Wakes – H.G. Wells

He awoke lying on his back, looking up at the cold, glittering stars. It was an awakening from a deep, restful slumber, the kind of awakening that leaves the limbs relaxed and heavy. The kind of sleep that comes only to the exhausted, the innocent or the fortunate in love…

After some timeless time of gazing at the subtle colors of the icy chips of starlight, a thought arose from the placid, empty depths of his mind. “You never see stars like that in the city. Not with all the electric lights. Only out here, far away from everything. This may be the Old World, but it is still empty.” He stirred ever so slightly and turned his head toward the merrily crackling fire.

The man who sat there beside the fire was a stranger. The rest of the camp was neatly packed with no sign of the friends and companions who had laid it out as the shadows stretched over the mountains only hours before. The man’s face was a white blur glimpsed through the flames and smoke, but he seemed to be studying something – a book of some kind – open on his lap. The sky behind him was inky black, completely overcast without a moon or star to relieve it.

Though he did not appear to be watching, the man reacted immediately to the small movement. He raised his eyes and studied the other intently, his face as unmoving as his hands and body. Through eyes that struggled to adjust from black night sky to firelit brilliance, the newly-awakened sleeper could make out almost no details.

“Good evening.” The man’s voice was low, measured, cultured. The words were spiced with only a hint of some guttural foreign tongue. He said nothing else. A faint breeze whispered across the mountains, and in the distance a faint flicker of lightning danced on the horizon.

“Who… where…” the sleeper managed, a hoarse croak from vocal cords slack with sleep and dry from the crisp mountain air. He spasmed, coughing so violently he had to close his eyes. When he reopened them, his vision had improved despite the traces of tears in the corners of his eyes. “That was fast,” he whispered, but the other gave no sign of having heard. The man was simply there beside him, kneeling beside him, one arm beneath his head and the other holding a canteen. “Wait,” he thought, “that’s metal, not a wineskin.” But he could not hold the thread of his concentration, could not say why the canteen mattered so. He raised slightly up and took a grateful sip or two of cool water, feeling more of the prickly scratchiness wash away down his throat with each swallow.

“Who are you… where are my friends,” he said quietly, studying the other from this closer position.

The other capped the canteen and placed it carefully on the ground. He helped the sleeper to a sitting position and then sat also, legs in rough wool pants and sturdy boots folded carefully beneath himself. His face was triangular, a brow both high and wide partly hidden beneath a floppy broad-brimmed hat. His clean-shaven face tapered over wide, strong cheekbones to a sharply pointed chin. The face was unwrinkled but somehow old, the skin clear and smooth, untouched by sun or weather. His eyes were large, widely spaced, and as black and depthless as the sky above.

“This,” he said with a small motion of his hand that somehow encompassed all of the land around them, “this is my land. My home. You are here without my permission.” The emphasis on each ‘my’ was very slight, but there nonetheless, and completely possessive. “Your friends… are not here, and will not be rejoining us.” The wind sighed in agreement, curling around the fire with a promise of rain.

“Are they…”

“They are unharmed. They have gone for assistance. They will not be rejoining us.”

“They left. They all left. In the middle of the night. Without their gear.” The awakened one made no effort to hide the skepticism he was feeling. Something… there had been a lot of people, hadn’t there? A great crowd? But he couldn’t remember having so many friends, could not in fact remember the name of a single one.

The other paid no notice. He had the leather-bound journal open on his lap again and was studying some loose documents tucked into the flyleaf. “You seem a Mongol, but in your dreams you speak in some tongue I do not know. This parchment names you as a knight of fortune in the service of the prince and gives you safe passage. Who are you? And why are you here?” Thunder pealed beyond the nearer peaks and the wind whipped embers from the merrily crackling fire.

“My credentials!” He reached for the journal. Something was amiss… the book was right, but also wrong somehow. And the hand that stretched out was lean and fit, tanned a deep brown from the sun but also somehow subtly wrong. The slight motion of leaning forward brought a protest from his stomach and a swimming blackness behind his eyes – “Nausea, vertigo, common to head injuries,” he thought.

He collected himself, and the other sat quietly while the dizziness subsided. “I am… I am…” Spots flashed before him and his stomach heaved. The other offered another sip of water and sat quietly, considering. “My name is Khefan. I… think I must have hit my head. Perhaps I will think more clearly in the morning.”

Despite the intense focused look, Khefan felt no danger emanating from the other, only a restless searching curiosity. Finally, the other seemed to come to some decision. He arose in a single smooth motion like a snake uncoiling, reached out a hand and said only, “Morning must not find me here. Come with me, Khefan. A great dark evil is spreading over this land. My land. It must be fought, it must be stopped, for the sake of generations yet unborn. Even now, mighty powers are gathered to return us to the time and place where we may find our battleground. And you, Khefan, must help me.”

“Sir, I mean no offense. You have been most kind to me this night. But I must ask… who are you?” The distant slopes were hidden now behind an advancing curtain of rain. Lightning sparkled, warning all who were foolish enough to stand on barren mountain slopes.

“I am the very soul of this land… I am the Dragon, the son of the Dragon, and the sire of Dragons. I was… I will be…”. The deep, sonorous voice hesitated and then lifted on the challenging bugling note of a hound that scents its prey.
storm01.gif

”I am the Prince of Wallachia!”

Eyes locked. Kevin reached up, unthinkingly, and before he could put out a steadying hand the stranger had drawn him to his feet also. The motion was too sudden; he sagged, began to retch, and as he bent, the blood pounded into his head in a hammering wave.

Blackness.



“Welcome to HistoryPark – Where History Comes Alive!”


This will be the second AAR set in the fantastic world of HistoryPark, the world’s only theme park devoted entirely to human history, “the history of all lands and peoples, fictional as well as real.” Those of you who have visited the Park before may not need this introduction. For new customers, “Welcome!” The Park is an uncommon place, and may need a bit of explanation, which I will attempt to provide here, before the games begin.

The Park is a vast, sprawling complex on the Pacific coast of Mexico. Visitors most commonly arrive by high-speed train from Mexico City or Houston, Texas. No aircraft are allowed to overfly the Park – it would spoil the re-enactments of the battles of Gettysburg and Waterloo to mention only two – except for special events. Like the annual visit of the Richtofen Flying Circus, or the PanAm Clipper cruise. Please understand that while the Park is NOT politically correct, children are present… so some things will have to be presented carefully. Now in the adult areas… well, that’s different.

The Park is run by a corporation and exists to make money. Day-to-day operations are supervised by a sentient AI, who is the result of an accident that occurs in the first story (see the link to ‘Who Wants To Be Napoleon’ in my signature). The AI is no more human than an octopus, but it is fast, smart, loyal and – unfortunately – has a peculiar sense of humor and a fondness for old movies.

It is a strange and wonderful place, this Park, the blending of high technology (like workable holography and animatronic robots) with showmanship, flair and the urgent need to sell fast food and souvenirs. It is not finished, and perhaps it never can be. The very best ideas come from the visitors themselves, and people who contribute always receive free admissions.

Oh, a strange and wonderful place indeed. Spend the night aboard the Titanic at the Seven Seas Hotel, dine on the moon, then visit the sculpture garden whose statues move when you aren’t looking. Surf the best waves in the world – five classic beaches side by side – and tote a rifle through the three days of Gettysburg. Or wander over to Middle Earth, but you won’t take anything from Gollum if you’re wise. Go by the Waterloo battlefield and museum and say hello to Napoleon… he’s lonely, and appreciates the company. The newest additions to the Park are the giant ‘Mongol Coaster’ over in the amusement park section, and the gaming areas.

There are two kinds of gaming areas, all enclosed and climate controlled. First, there are several huge areas that can be used like stages. These can be filled with various kinds of terrain, plant life, animals, people, buildings… all as real – and as fake – as any Hollywood movie set. The second kind of gaming area is full of holographic maps and displays, virtual reality helmets and gloves, and computer data links. In ‘Who Wants To Be Napoleon’, our heroes used an early model of this gaming area to play out ‘Napoleon’s Ambition’ on a thirty-foot wide holographic map.

The Park has taken the lead in Virtual Reality technology and is pressing ahead with an attempt to develop true ‘submersion’ virtual reality, a false reality that is as – or more – real than the real world itself. This will be a world where you and your friends can truly be hobbits and elves, kings and generals, popes and merchant princes. A world limited only by the imagination and bounded only by dreams…


The time is sometime in the future. The situation is dire; the crisis is upon us. And the place… well, the place is HistoryPark. Beware, gentle readers… for ‘Here There Be Dragons’.

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Ahh Wallacia, beautiful writing Director, looking forward to follow this one. Dragon, Dracul, Devil, vampires:)