Sunday, October 26, 2014

Hey peeps, just popping by

It has been a considerable period of time since I last wrote anything of consequence, whether it be some random rambling to a progress on my writing. Then again, life has been generally very busy between work and . . . more work. Such is adult life, no? Have I been writing, you ask. The answer is a "kind of have, but not really".

You see, this year has been a bit of a limbo where writing is concerned. The good news is that I wrote something, but it's a question if it will see the light of day. Thanks largely in part to some good teaching tools from my editor, my writing has improved as a consequence however. This means that my next writing project will be better, more refined and outright far more action packed then before.

Friday, May 2, 2014

With Prejudice 2

Previously on With Prejudice:

“We have a situation,” Takata announced.
That was nothing unusual. There was always some sort of situation.
“Anywhere in particular,” Akers wanted to know, “or is this just a blanket statement?”
Takata’s response was to snort. “It just is.”
“So, what’s the situation?”
“It’ Baric.”

And now:

Wednesday, 10 November, 2049
Not far from Jozo Baric’s residence
Kamala, Uganda
5: 32 am

He eyed the neighbourhood schematic on the global-positioning screen absently, noting the increased security, while grabbing a white bottle full of prescription anti-sleep stimulant tablets. Sitting back in the driver’s seat, he uncapped the bottle and tipped two pills out onto his palm. Akers stared at the bullet shaped stims, debating internally whether he should take them or not? The advantage would be that the hangover would go away, and he’d be alert. Yes, there were side effects, such as a big loss of energy after twelve hours, but it helped him function. The fact that the last argument with Baric was about his over-dependency wasn’t lost on Akers; Baric had threatened to go to Takata. And Akers was already on thin ice with Takata for turning up hungover too much.
He slapped the stims into his mouth, swallowed and breathed out slowly. As he waited for them to kick in, he eyed the scene before him. The intersection that led onto Mutungo Tank Road from Port Bell Road was blocked off by a pair of police cars and an armoured personnel carrier. Not far behind them Akers could make out a row of fire engines.
With the stims kicking in, Akers felt an adrenalin rush.
Satisfied, Akers got out of the car and strode towards the nearest of the police officers milling about near the APC.
“Morning officers,” Akers said as he showed the assembled officers the Interpol badge that hung around his neck.
One of the officers, sporting a couple of stripes on his epaulets, stepped in his way.
“Wasn’t aware we called your lot.”
“You didn’t,” replied Akers.
“Thank you for seeing me, Chief,” said Akers after being passed on to the Chief Fire Officer George Okella, a short fireplug of a man whose fire-fighting equipment looked as if it had been used regularly.
“Not a problem,” replied Okello, offering his hand. “So, what brings Interpol here?”
“Friend of mine, actually,” replied Akers, shaking hands with Okella.
“He got a name?”
“Lieutenant Jozo Baric,” said Akers, pulling out his communicator and selected a recent photo before handing it over. “He lives in one of the apartments down Mutungo Tank.”
Akers watched as the smaller man studied the image on the communicator intently, and then handed it back, gesturing that Akers follow.
He did so, easily keeping pace with Okella.
“What do you know?” the fire chief asked.
Truth was, he knew very little. Takata only became aware of the fire by virtue of having been told by one of the communications specialists, who had been monitoring the police scanner.
“Not much,” offered Akers with an accompanying shrug. “All I was told was that no one has heard from Jozo.”
“And you think he’s here?”
“Sensors don’t lie, Chief,” replied Akers.
Okella just rolled his shoulders in response as he led the way. Akers followed, and continued looking about. Fire trucks and command vehicles, distinct in their florescent yellow and red livery, stood in a row. Three more trucks were facing the burned out husk of a seven-storey building, with water cannons pouring a steady flow of fire-suppressant into the smouldering remains. Here and there, he could make out clusters of people being catered to by paramedics and fire-fighters alike.
“We’ve pretty much evacuated a large chunk of the street to a centre not far from here,” Okella went on. “This entire neighbourhood has a high concentration of foreigners, Europeans mostly, and a few other nationalities. So yes, we’ve started processing who’s here permanently and who is here short term.”
“Was my partner one of the evacuated?” asked Akers.
“Hard to say.”
Akers looked at him, and raised an eyebrow.
“We rescued several people who were too slow in getting out,” explained Okella. “Those in critical condition were ambulanced away.”
Akers turned his attention to the buildings, frowning as he did. The apartments were state of the art, built around the same time the European Space Agency secured the rights to building the Unity Space-Elevator in Uganda. The end result was a high migration of Europeans, many on short-term rotating assignments to do with the design and construction of the space-elevator. However, many came here permanently, resettling and taking advantage of the regional economic boom.
“But you’re saying he’s still here,” Okella reminded him.
Akers nodded.
“And your office can’t get in touch with him?”
Akers shook his head.
“Hmm ...”
Akers eyed the smouldering buildings. If Baric was indeed somewhere within the affected area then he was as good as dead. Which raised the issue of Baric’s daughter. Was she with him when it happened, or elsewhere? He grimaced.
“At present we haven’t got a clue what caused the fire,” Okella continued, forcing Akers to catch up. “Neither do we know its point of origin.”
“So you don’t know if there are people still in there.”
Okella stopped and looked up at him. “If they are –”
“Yeah,” Akers already knew what the fire chief meant, “they’re probably dead.”
“A sad fact, but nonetheless.”
“Do you think it was deliberate?”
“The apartments had their fire safety inspection only a few months back,” countered Okella, “and the safety features are designed to kick in the moment smoke density and heat increases.”
“Can it be tampered with?” asked Akers, his expression grim as he watched another fire truck being brought in.
“Only if someone had access to the central processing system of whatever security firm had that installed in the first place,” offered Okella.
Akers grunted. There may be an opening for his involvement here, the case of Baric and his daughter notwithstanding. He would have to do a cross reference of which of the occupants worked on the Unity Space-Elevator, or for the European Embassy. Most importantly, he needed to find Baric’s daughter.
“How soon would you know if anyone else is still in those apartments?” Akers asked, tearing his eyes away.
“When the fire’s out,” replied Okella.
Well, obviously! Thought Akers sardonically, shaking his head. “Well, when you do, can you please let me know?” he asked while pulling out his wallet and slipping out a business card which he handed over.
Okella looked at the card and back at Akers. “Wouldn’t this be outside your jurisdiction, Sergeant?”
“Normally,” agreed Akers.
“A Lieutenant from the European Police Office is currently missing, presumed dead by your estimation,” replied Akers as he glanced down at the fire chief. “You tell me.”
Okella bobbed his head while pocketing the business card. “And in the mean time?”
Akers looked to the nearest paramedics.
“I need to find his daughter,” he said, turning back to Okella.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

With Prejudice 1

Good evening my friends, and let me welcome you to a little experiment, a story written by me and posted onto my blog. Each post will be titled with “With Prejudice” and will be followed by a number. Why am I doing this, you ask? Simple answer is pretty simple, it will get me into the writing routine on a more regular basis—at which point you the reader will hopefully get to see a new scene of around 500 to 800 words, if not a tad more, once or twice a week—and secondly, you would be entertained.
The story will feature one of my favourite characters from my play-by-email days, where he would take on the role of a sergeant in the European Police Office in the year 2049. He will be a little grittier and a tad rougher around the edges, but some of you may recognise him. The setting is Kamala, in Uganda.
Please do provide feedback in the comments section below. Besides, now and then I may ask you on what you think on what may happen next, but don’t worry if I go ahead and do something different (the likelihood of that happening is fifty-fifty... eh, what can I say, I am a writer... we’re weird like that).
Anyway, sit back, grab a cup of coffee or beverage of your choice, kick your shoes off your feet (or just throw them at your nearest colleague if you are reading this over your lunch break), and enjoy.
Story Premise:

Uganda has experienced an economic boom, thanks by in large to the jointly operated space-elevator. With European law enforcement providing support, the country also has entered a new era of peace and unity.
The space-elevator was seen as its saviour.
It was also seen as its ball and chain, where some believed that the politicians had sold Uganda out to Europe’s attempt in renewed colonisation.
Upon being called that his best friend and partner was killed in a fire, Sergeant Bowman Akers of the European Police is thrust into a cobweb of corporate backed espionage, disseat and divided loyalties, and tasked to break in a new partner.

The Story:

Wednesday, 10 November, 2049
Bowman Akers residence
Kamala, Uganda
4: 49 am

The moon lit the bedroom’s interior sufficiently through the partially opened window; its brilliance clearly seen above the apartment complex. After five years stationed here Bowman Akers was immune to the spectacle as he rolled over and reached for the wireless clip-on earphone and microphone. Frowning as he eyed the caller’s identification credentials on the communicator’s small screen, it was his boss. He clipped the ’phone over his left ear and tapped it.
“This better be good, Shoe,” he grumbled as he lay back down and stare at the ceiling.
“I bet that you only got home a half an hour ago,” the voice of Shinshuu ‘Shoe’ Takata sounded muffled through the tiny speaker. Or was that disappointment? Akers wasn’t really sure. Then again, he didn’t really care as he massaged his forehead.
He then checked the time, and barely suppressed a groan. He had stumbled back into his apartment at four in the morning, and looked as if he had somehow managed to catch some sleep over the last two hours. He was quite happy with that. two hours sleep seemed like his personal best. “A while ago,” he amended, while running his hand over his jaw. The grimace returned. Akers needed a shave.
“Don’t tell me you’re hung over,” voiced Takata in his ear.
“All right,” agreed Akers, wondering if his friend and boss was going on the soapbox again and lecture him on why Akers shouldn’t dive back into the bottle, or why he should not be overly reliant on anti-sleep stimulants for that matter. Not that he did go out with the aim of getting drunk, even if a part of him wanted to. As for the stims? Well, that was easy to rationalise. Most often than not, Takata had him called away to spearhead an away team or assist in some investigation closer to home.
Still, all he really did was go clubbing with some of the others from the office that were going off-duty at the time, even if somewhere along the way he ditched them and went solo. Or was that the other way round? Akers wasn’t entirely sure. “I won’t tell you that I’m hung over,” he finished and then sat up on the side of his bed, and felt the bedroom spin. “Much,” he muttered, pinched the bridge of his nose and shut his eyes briefly. Frowning, he breathed out slowly. “There a reason why you called?”
“We have a situation,” Takata announced.
That was nothing unusual. There was always some sort of situation.
“Anywhere in particular,” Akers wanted to know, “or is this just a blanket statement?”
Takata’s response was to snort. “It just is.”
“So, what’s the situation?”
“It’ Baric.”
Akers frowned, momentarily confused. “What about Jozo?”
“When did you last see him?”
“Day before yesterday,” answered Akers, sitting up straighter and focused on the moon.
“Yeah, he ought to be enjoying some quality time with his kid.”
“Ought to be?”
“You know Baric better then I,” countered Takata via the earpiece. “Anyway, we got word that there was an explosion over at Nakawa ...” Akers straightened as he sat on his bed. Baric had an apartment there. “... The thing is, Bow, we can’t get a hold of him.”
“Can you pinpoint where he is?” asked Akers, the hangover largely forgotten now.
To better facilitate where everyone was, and be easily tracked by satellite, every member of the European Police Commission had a tracking chip inserted just below their left shoulder blade upon graduating.
“Right now, all we can tell is that he’s somewhere within the affected area.”
“That’s comforting,” muttered Akers as he turned his attention to the floor, looking for his clothes.
“I need you to investigate,” Takata announced.
“Have the locals called us in?”
“Not yet ...”
Akers regarded the moon, bright in the night’s sky.
“Ah, you still with me, Bow?” Takata sounded in his ear.
His thoughts turned to when he first met Baric, where the two started to love hating one another. Still, they had became friends afterwards. The two had spoken only a couple days ago, before Baric was to go on leave. Or more accurately—they argued.
“Can I shower first?” he finally asked, getting up as he did.

For the next installment, go here. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

A tidy up

So, over the last couple of days (and throughout the rest of the coming week) I have been doing a bit of a spring clean in and around my online presence.

The first thing on the agenda is the colour change, the grey was too dull and unimaginetive. So yellowish orange and white is now the colour of choice.

Layout's changed too, with links directing you to my Facebook page and those of my written fiction and non-fiction. I am hoping to add more as time permits, of course.

Celebrate Different Experiences

A good friend of mine posted her experience with depression, which you can access via this link here. To say that it was eye opening is cliché, as what she described is something that I cannot even begin to appreciate or fathom for that matter. I never experienced it, except for the occasional bouts of mind-numbing boredom. But then, I do jump back up onto the bandwagon and keep on going. On the other hand, it made me think.
Depression is experienced individually, and no one experience is the same (though there are similarities).
In fact, we may experience eating the same ice cream differently from the person you are sharing said ice cream.
Which brings me to today’s post, something that has been slowly but maturely wanting to get out, and absolutely nothing to do with depression.
Many of you who frequent my blog may already know that I have a disability, and if you didn’t know then... well, now you do. My kind of disability isn’t a Johnny-come-lately thing, but one that had been with me from the start. It is as much part of me as the colour of my skin. I just can’t get rid of it, no matter how much I want to go to the second-hand store and ask “how much for a well used disability?”.
On second thought, I should try that, even if for giggles.
Living with my disability has had its ups and downs, and the occasional trip sideways. It was there with me on my flight over from Poland to New Zealand when I was seven; it was there on the day when I was pushed over a flight of stairs by this boy who was hard of hearing. It was there during my first trip to the head master’s office, and it was there with me on prom night. It was even with me when I kissed a girl for the very time, and had faithfully attended every graduation ceremony I attended. In other words, it had always been a part of me – even when I did my level best to ignore it – and it will be part of me until the day I kick the bucket.
Yay, lucky me; Right?  
Actually, yeah... definitely!
But my point here is that my own experience with disability is my own. The first time I realised this was during my postgraduate years at university, when I was doing a professional social work qualification. My first placement was in mental health, in a community trust that worked with children and adults with mental illness and intellectual disability. Whilst society generally puts them in the same camp as those with physical disability and those who obtain it by accident (because really, who deliberately wants to become disabled in any manner?), the people I met definitely experienced life differently. I could not connect with them in any way, shape or form.
Oh, there was this one guy that actually liked me as his trainee social worker, but I suspect that it was because he saw me as his little project. Then again, I endeavoured to get to know the guy as a person and not as a case study to figure out, and I got to know what he liked and what he didn’t. Via him I got to understand, or at least have a better appreciation of what he experienced.
The other time was during my slugging match with my academic self, in what was better known as my time writing a Master’s thesis. I got to interview people, plus meet lots too.
In one instance I met this forty-something mother of two, who had ended up using a motorised wheelchair due to her disability getting progressively worse. This was someone who had travelled the world, got married, raised two children and had a far better artistic talent than I ever did. But the thing was, she let her circumstance dictate her life. If the support worker did a no show for the allocated times to help her go into town, she didn’t go.  
Heck, when I rolled into her house all the way from university (she lived a fair distance), she was surprised that I did so without the means of a specialised maxi-taxi. In turn, I was surprised that she was surprised. I mean, come on, it’s why they’re called motorised wheelchairs! To take you places, much like jogging... but sitting down. She in turn hardly drove around her own neighbourhood.
But the point here is that that was her experience, and it wasn’t my place to judge her as some weirdo – and still isn’t really.
And that is my point, my dear friends.
Never assume.
Never judge.
Just accept those around you as beautiful people, who have much to share with you and I.