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Piers Anthony, Jan. 1, 2011 Piers Anthony, Jan. 1, 2011. Photo by Jane McConnell.
OctOgre 2018

My Cluster series, which should be five novels if they include them all, will be on special ebook sale for $2.99 on OctOgre 26, 2018. That includes USA, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. This series is net when mankind and other sapient species colonize other planets, forming stellar spheres of influence, but because of the light-speed limitation in most contacts the farther out a world is, the more primitive it is. So our protagonist, Flint of Outworld, is in the stone age, making his living by knapping flintstones for arrows and spears, hence his name. If you think that means he's dull and ignorant, as civilized folk do, beware; he has an IQ of about 150, if they had mental measurements in the stone age, and an aura of about 200. That's the key: the aura is in a way like a spirit, that can be transferred to other hosts so that Flint in effect takes charge of another body regardless of its distance from his original body. The higher the aura, the longer it lasts in a foreign host, and his is the highest known. So he is needed as a human agent. So they take him, and he is not pleased, and that's mischief. He knows about civilization; he just hasn't been part of it, until now, and holds it somewhat in contempt. So there are wild adventures, especially when he comes up against an alluring high aura enemy alien female. The sequel, Chaining the Lady, features Melody of Mintaka, a high aura alien who gets caught in a human body and she doesn't like being chained in that manner. The third one, Kirlian Quest, features another protagonist in the same setting, Herald the Healer. The fourth is Thousandstar, where a human aura is transferred to a creature who can neither see nor hear; that was perhaps my most challenging novel to write, but one of my favorites. The fifth is Viscous Circle, concluding the series. So each novel has a different protagonist, but each has its points; if you like science fiction and are not familiar with this series, you have a treat coming.

I watched The Lost City of Z. It starts in Ireland 1905, hunting deer on horseback with a rifle. The protagonist, Major Percy Fawcett, bags the deer. The following year he is sent to Bolivia by the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) to map the Bolivia/Brazil border through the inhospitable jungle. It's a dangerous venture, but it may restore his family's tarnished name. He goes there, assembles a party with a native guide, and heads up the river. And is attacked by tribesmen, apparently just because they are there. Some of his crew are killed. The guide says that the was a gold city here, but he is going into likely death. They run out of food, which makes the crew restless. They make it to the source of the river. They find ancient pottery sherds. There must have been a city here! But others prefer not to believe it. In 1911 he resolves to return to find the lost city. His wife wants to go with him, but he demurs; it simply too difficult and dangerous out there. In 1912 they return to the Amazon. The natives attack, but the men sing a song and the attack stops. They get to see the native village. Percy's main partner, Murray, proves to be highly unreliable, stealing their food, not doing his job, endangering the whole party. They give him their last horse and some food and send him back to civilization. Back in England, Murray claims he was abandoned. Disgusted with the man's lying, Percy resigns from the RGS. Percy's own children rebel. Meanwhile World War One begins. Percy serves in that. Ugly trench fighting, with flame-throwing and gas. He is blinded, but recovers. In 1925 he goes back to the jungle with his grown son Jack. They are captured by tribesmen. A later report says they are living among the tribesmen. That is where it finishes, his real fate unknown.

I watched Satin Rouge, an Arabic movie with English subtitles. Lilia is a widowed seamstress with a headstrong teen daughter Salma she suspects is having a liaison with a cabaret musician. She checks the cabaret—and faints for no apparent reason. A dancer helps her, and another night the friend encourages her to try belly dancing herself. She turns out to be good at it. She becomes popular; men want to take her home, but she's not interested. Until she gets together with the handsome drummer. Then he breaks it off. She is left with a nice profession but no man. Then her daughter brings home her serious boyfriend—and it is the same man, a surprise to them both. She tells him not to worry, she will be the perfect mother in law. It is described as “a steamy stunner” but it's really not very steamy.

I read The Tomb of Tomes by Brian Clopper and his character Irving Wishbutton. This is the third in the Wishbutton series, where fictional folk gather at a school for the characters of various novels being written, when they're not actively participating in their own stories. They can form relationships with characters not in their own stories, even romances, but it is all temporary until their authors need them. Irving's study companion is Roon, once a zombie, now a vampire. Authors can do what they choose to characters, never mind consistency. In fact an author can be somewhat of a trial to his creations. He learns she may have feelings for him, which is awkward because not only is she in a different story, he has another girlfriend, the fairy Sarya. But certainly they are friends. Irving can also get into the mind of his author a bit, and learn what's coming. Sometimes he can even plant a notion in his author's mind, like giving him a new talent or special wish. For some classes different characters have to compete for benefits. Characters that have not been fully described by their authors are called smudges, because parts of their bodies are just undefined smudges. The carelessness of authors is a chronic nuisance. Meanwhile something is going on, and Irving wants to find of what and by whom. Are characters being wrongfully killed? So the interactions can get complicated. This is a fun story that will be continued in the next volume.

I read Sisters of Shiloh by Kathy & Becky Hepinstall. This is an American Civil War story wherein sisters Libby and Josephine dress as men and enter the Confederate Army. Libby's husband Arden is drafted as a soldier, and disappears, so Libby goes to find him, and Josephine goes with her to try to keep her safe. They bind their breasts and practice mannish ways so as to conceal their gender. It's a rough life, and when they come across a recent battle the details are excruciating. Josephine finds Arden, but he is dying of a stomach wound and will only suffer further, so she smothers him as a mercy killing. Her sister suspects, and sees Arden as a ghost who accuses Josephine, so there are levels of ugliness. Meanwhile Josephine falls in love with a male soldier, Wesley, but can't be open because she's supposed to be male Joseph. Eventually she does reveal herself, literally while swimming, and their love is realized but not openly. This is a slice of life kind of story that ends when they leave the army, he as a deserter, she because she's female. It's the only way they can be together.

I watched Blade Runner 2049, a sequel to the original Blade Runner. An introductory text explains that replicants are synthetic humans who tried to rebel and were outlawed, but a few remain and are being hunted down, as it turns out, by other synthetics who won't rebel. Officer K is one such hunter, a blade runner. His girlfriend is Joi is a sort of semi-solid hologram. She names K “Joe.” Theoretically K doesn't have a soul because he wasn't born, but he evidently wonders. For his next case the replicant Luv provides him some background. His flying car crashes in the monstrous garbage dump. Joi flickers out. Scavengers attack. Luv, watching from afar, directs bombs that drive them out. K resumes his search for a lost replicant child of 30 years ago. There are physical records, but that years has been ripped out. He talks with the memory maker Ana. She has a good imagination because she was much alone as a child and needed to create her own world. Joi overlaps Mariette, a real woman; together they are real with Joi's knowledge of him. They make love. Mariette departs. Joi gets to participate in an adventure where she seems real. Joshi the boss lady balks her and she kills Johshi. Or is it Luv who kills her? I may confuse the two. He locates Decker, and gets the name of the woman who birthed his child: Rachel. Then Joi and Luv face off and I still can't tell them apart. Mariette appears. Rachel birthed a girl, not a boy. Ana. Rachel appears, but her eyes are the wrong color. K and Luv fight. He kills her and rescues Decker, who goes to meet his daughter as K slowly expires of his wounds. Ana is the proof that replicants can reproduce and will survive as a species. The cover blurb says this is an award winner. Indeed it is the kind of thing critics like: slow, labored, obscure, dark, sometimes ugly. But it has its points.

I watched Lady Bird. Christine, who prefers to be called Lady Bird, and her mother argue when driving, and crash. A fender bender, and life goes on. She attends a Catholic school in Sacramento, and longs to go to an eastern college. She gets a role in a play, and meets a boy, Danny, in that connection. They fall in love. Then she gets interested in Kyle, because Danny is gay. She will keep his secret. She speaks too candidly in class about the morality of abortion and gets suspended. She has sex with Kyle. Then learns he was not a virgin; that ruins what she thought was special. When she goes to the prom, Kyle has another event in mind, so he drops her off at her friend Julie's house, and she and Julie attend the prom. She applies to an eastern college with a chance of a scholarship, but her mother is mad because it was behind her back, and won't speak to Christine, but her father understands. She goes to college. Her father sends her letters her mother wrote to her but never sent, showing her suppressed love. She phones and leaves a message for her mother: “I love you.” So this is a slice of life story, more emotional than exciting. It will do.

I watched The Astronaut's Wife. Jillian is Spencer the astronaut' wife. There is an explosion in space; ground base loses contact for two minutes, then contact is recovered. They bring the two astronauts back down. Spencer is unconscious, but when he wakes he reacts violently to something he won't talk about later. Neither will the other astronaut, Alex. Alex suffers a stroke and suddenly dies. His wife Natalie commits suicide. Jill asks Spencer what happened in those two minutes in space, and he has violent sex with her and doesn't say what happened after the cold quiet of the first minute. Time passes, and Jill is pregnant with twins. An official at NASA, Reece, is concerned about slight changes in Spencer; the authorities won't listen and fire him. He contacts Jill. It seems that Natalie was pregnant with twins. Are Jill's twins from Spencer before, or Spenser after the space incident? Are they human or alien? She gets a video from Reece that says an alien transmission implanted a different code. Maybe her twins. She considers killing herself, as Natalie did, but Spencer stops her. He clearly wants the twins to survive. He's on the other side, turning ugly. She tumbles down stairs, but survives in the hospital. Spencer kills her sister. She flees but he pursues. She sets up a suicide by electrocution system and faces him, then uses it to electrocute him instead. The twins are born, and she remarries. The twins seem normal, but are they? There is no answer.

I watched Beguiled. The setting is the Civil War, Virginia, a girls' boarding school. Amelia—Amy—discovers a wounded Union soldier, John, in the forest. She helps him get to the school, where Miss Martha removes the metal fragments from his leg and sews it up and washes his body. There are only five students and two adults. John recovers enough to walk, then to do some gardening, tree limbing and such for them. When he shaves off his beard he is a handsome man. He flatters Miss Edwina romantically and asks her to go west with him. Then she catches him seducing one of the girls, pushes him, and he falls down the stairs and breaks his leg. Martha has to cut it off. That drives him almost crazy; he threatens and attacks the women. They know they have to be rid of him. Edwina goes to distract him by having sex with him while the others make a fancy meal containing lethal mushrooms. He eats them and dies. They will bury him and say no more. Problem solved. Ugly, but rational.

I watched Far From the Madding Crowd, from the novel by Thomas Hardy. I read it in high school, but had forgotten much of it in the interim. Bathsheba is a headstrong young woman who attracts men but is choosy about committing. Neighbor Gabriel Oak asks her to marry him, but she declines. Then his herd of sheep run over a cliff, wiping him out. She inherits her uncle's farm and manages it with dispatch, and Gabriel runs it for her. As a joke she sends a provocative Valentine card to her wealthy aloof neighbor Mr. Boldwood, who takes it seriously and proposes marriage to her. She politely demurs, not having anticipated this reaction. She encounters Troy, a dashing soldier, and is intrigued. He kisses her, and she is lost. Gabriel warns her against Troy, but she won't listen. She marries Troy. Then Troy's former girlfriend shows up pregnant. And dies. Troy tells Bathsheba that Fanny was more to him than Bathsheba will ever be, then swims out to sea and is reported drowned. That leaves her with his debts. Boldwood renews his proposal, offering to cover the debts and allow her farm to prosper. Then Troy returns, not dead after all. Boldwood shoots him. Gabriel plans to depart for America. She realizes how much he means to her, the best of the men she has known, and finally commits to him. A bonus is one of my favorite songs whose title I'm not sure of, but I think of it as “Rue.” A key line is “Let no man steal your thyme,” with a pun on “time.” Also “Every place your garden is waste will spread all over with rue.”

I watched Sea Beast, a horror flick. A fishing boat in a storm, the Solita, is attacked by something. It gets through with the loss of a man. Then crewman Danny and his friend are fishing and catch something odd: a dead albatross. Bad portent. Will is the one buying the boat, but the loss of his catch means he can't make a payment. That night his friend is attacked by a weird monster, a sort of reptilian quadruped that spits toxic venom and has a long prehensile tongue. In the morning Danny finds part of what remains: a severed arm. Then it eats his girlfriend. The people realize there's a problem and several parties go in search of it. The thing seems to be able to turn invisible. It picks them off one by one. It multiplies, so now there are several smaller ones. Danny and his girlfriend Carlie fight off a swarm of them, stabbing them, cutting off their tongues. They can be stopped, but there are too many. Danny leaves Carlie safely in a ship hold, but the monsters come after her there. She fights them off until Will and the biologist woman, Arden, rescue her, but Danny is lost. Will sets a fire trap for the big monster and manages to burn it up. Crisis over, for now. This seems well done and compelling to me, considering its genre.

I watched G-Men from Hell. This is a parody of the tough detective genre. Mike and Dean are rough G-men who get murdered and sent to Hell. They figure it's a mistake in the paperwork, and decide to do good deeds to earn their way to Heaven. They manage to escape and come back to Earth, where they start doing their good deeds, beating up anybody who gets in their way. They seem to be alive again, but not exactly. They hire pretty Maurice (male name; maybe I heard it wrong; I can have trouble without subtitles) as secretary. Their first client is rich bombshell blonde Gloria Lake whose husband may be trying to kill her. Only he has just been murdered. Meanwhile the Devil is trying to bring them back below. They have his magic crystal, which he wants back. There is also a man with a puppet that seems more alive than he is. And Cheetah Man. The story dissolves pretty much into mayhem. The Devil shows up, recovers his crystal, and lets them go. For now. Mike departs with Gloria, and Dean with Maurice. It's all nonsense, but fun in its fashion.

I continue to work on the Hilltop Farm project, now in the chapter on the year 1943. When I started I had no idea how long or short the project would be, and it is turning out long. The current chapter is now about 55,000 words; that's novel length, and I'm still in July. It is a marvelously illuminating study for me, though I suspect few readers would be much interested. Who else cares about a subsistence farming project in he early 1940s in New England? But it was critical to my formative years, and there are insights there that the world could profit from, had it the interest. My parents were both top graduates at Oxford University, and they did have minds; I was the dull one in our family. I will probably self publish it in due course

The powers that be seem not to much like health for the masses, I suspect because there's too much money to be made from commercial nostrums for the common cold on up. (Which is why Vitamin C gets disparaged: it stops the common cold. As I like to put it, there are two groups with opinions about Vitamin C: those who know it doesn't work, like some doctors, and those who actually try it.) Columnist Paul Waldman has an interesting take on it. A congresswoman was interviewed on a CNN show and asked how she was going to come up with $40 trillion that Medicare for All would cost in the course of a decade. That figure might have been inflated by a hostile study, but let's accept it as valid for now. The columnist says that's the wrong question, because if we do nothing, health care will cost $50 trillion, because of expensive visits to the emergency room by uninsured folk, unbridled prescription costs, and so on. That medical cost affects everyone. I have only one prescription, for levothyroxin, that is, thyroid pills. It cost me about thirty dollars, until I switched to generic, when it dropped to five dollars. But then they found ways to get at me anyway, and now that same prescription, costing the maker no more, costs me $51. Someone is taking $46 out of my hide, because there are no price controls. I can afford it, irritating as it is, but what about the average user who may have to choose between that and paying the rent? It's not academic. If my prescription were included in my Medicare the price would be much lower. Anyway, the real question is who is to pay the $10 trillion more we're going to be stuck for if we don't get Medicare for All or the equivalent? The anti-Medicare folk seem to be silent on that, but I can answer: we will. The non-billionaire 99 percent.

NEW SCIENTIST has an article on gut health. We are in effect walking, talking bags of bacteria. There are about ten times as many bacteria and the like in our guts than there are in the rest of our bodies, used to digest the food we eat. It is called the microbiome. Obviously we do need to digest food if we are to use it in our bodies. But now there is a question about whether it is smart to take probiotics, that is, special bacteria to enhance that microbione, especially after taking antibiotics the medical profession insists on, that wipe out the good bacteria as well as the bad ones. Maybe a simple all-around healthy diet is preferable. Well, I have the healthy diet, and I also take supplements and probiotics, and I exercise, covering all bases. It doesn't have to be one or the other. So far it seems to be paying off; I'm about as spry an octogenarian as any, and still sassy, as this column indicates.
NEW SCIENTIST also has an archaeological article on “The Horror of Hasanlu.” This was a town in ancient Iran in the Iron Age, successful with paved streets and palatial two and three story houses with columned courtyards. It was on an important trade route and may have flourished for four or five thousand years. Its people were rich, with irrigated farms. Then around 800 BC it was raided and destroyed, its men, women, and children systematically slain and left where they lay, its goods looted, its buildings burned. It became a forgotten mound. Until now. Why? Evidently it was passionately hated, and of course the loot was valuable. We deplore savagery in contemporary human events, but the ancients may have been worse.

Incidental note on the quest for artificial intelligence: there are more potential configurations of the neurons and their connections in your brain than there are atoms in the universe. I trust that makes you feel special. I believe artificial intelligence will come; the correct feedback program will do it. If a gnat can have it, why not a robot (a mechanical person), or an android (a laboratory made person)?

Book review in THE WEEK: The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt. It says that college students insist on being shielded from exposure to any words, acts, or ideas that could make them uncomfortable. They refuse to be referred to by the pronouns “he” and “she”; they shout down speakers they dislike, and stop professors who stand up to them. Talk of spoiled brats! Apply that to the larger world and bigots can stifle rights for folk of color, Jews, gays, victims of sexual abuse, atheists and so on, because it hurts their sensitivities. What the hell do they go to college for, if not to be educated? Fortunately there are those who try to stand up for the First Amendment rights. Those are what I call the true Americans, and I hope my readers are among them.

Stray notes: I read a comment on neoliberal capitalism: it is a Ponzi scheme because it is predicated on infinite growth; when growth stops, it is over; there is no way to a soft landing; and the point of collapse can't be predicted. A Canadian company, Kinky S Dolls, wants to open a “robot brothel” in Houston, not actually for robots but for love dolls, which are life size dolls used for sex. Wouldn't you know it, the prudes are campaigning to prevent it, saying they want to end sex trafficking. They are concerned that the dolls may be being coerced? I think it is simply sex they are against. Surely the ready availability of really sexy dolls would diminish the market for trafficked women. Regular brothels are up in arms (legs?) against this competition, saying that real women are better. Paul Krugman says that the CEOs of the largest companies used to make 27 times as much as the average worker in 1980, but now make 270 times as much. How's that for progress? Florida has 63 active hate groups, second only to California with 79. I live in Florida, but hate this aspect. You have heard of the placebo effect, where folks' belief in medication makes their bodies respond even when they only think they have taken it? Its evil twin is the nocebo effect, where they respond negatively without actually having the bad stuff. The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster was founded in 2006 by Bobby Henderson, to satirize existing faiths. Adherents promise to abide by its dogma of being nice to each other and eating lots of pasta. Those are tough conditions, maybe barring me from membership. I suspect the monster is telepathic, and enhances the well-being of believers with placebo while degrading nonbelievers with nocebo. And a copy of Lady Chatterly's Lover used by the judge in the UK obscenity trial is expected to sell at auction for up to $20,000. I suspect a cheaper copy is available if you bargain for it.

When I cleaned up another corner of my study, something I try to do every decade or so, I found some old clippings. One was an item in LIBERAL OPINION WEEK, whose paper edition is now defunct, for August 11, 2005, by Peter Phillips tracking election anomalies. Evidence in the presidential race between Bush and Gore showed that in 2000 Gore won Florida, and therefore the election, but the Supreme Court on a party line vote gave Florida to Bush. Maybe that provides a notion why Democrats don't want another party line player on the Supreme court today. Then in 2004 in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, the number of recorded votes was 93,000 greater than the number of registered voters. Exit polls showed Kerry winning in 2004 but the official tally was for Bush. Interestingly it was only in precincts where there were no paper trails on the voting machines that the exit polls were different from the final count. The odds against that happening by chance are 250 million to one. I wonder what tricks we'll see in 2020? Another old clipping dating from December 2007 says money is critical in marriage. You may remember the statistic that in second marriages, the more money the man has, the less his wife weighs, reflecting how men go for sex and women for money regardless what they claim. This column breaks it down further. In answer to the question “How willing are you to marry an average-looking person that you liked, if they had money?” half the men and two thirds of the women said they were very or extremely willing to marry for money. I suspect there were more who lied about it. How much money? Women in their 20s said $2.5 million; men in their 20s were willing to settle for a paltry $1 million. Among women in their 20s who would marry for money 71% said they expected to get divorced. Different ages have slightly different figures. If I lost my wife and looked to marry again I believe I would avoid women in their 20s however appealing they might seem. Another clipping from 2005 is on John McCain's effort to ban torture in America. Would you believe, the Republican establishment opposed him? Yet we know that torture doesn't work, because the victim will usually tell the torturers whatever they want to hear, to stop the torture. That's how we got into the Iraq war: a made up story to stop the torture. And a NEW SCIENTIST clipping of 2005 suggests that the same natural laws that control the spread and evolution of human ideas and behaviors such as war, also control the spread of diseases.

A comment in the OLD SCIENTIST feature of NEW SCIENTIST: in 1995 a paper reported that four people taking the antidepressant drug clomipramine had orgasms every time they yawned. Some asked to continue on the drug after treatment was done, because they liked the side effect. The question was would a person on the drug seek out the most boring person to be with at a party? I wonder whether any were like me; I can yawn at will. Which reminds me: they haven't ever figured out what yawning is for, other than calling it a stretch of the mouth. So I will provide the answer: it is to open the Eustachian tubes to equalize the inner ear pressure and change out the stale air there. When a person is active this happens automatically, but when he gets too still for too long a yawn becomes necessary. Now you know. (Sometimes I get tired of waiting for science to catch up to the obvious.)

I read Ink, by Jobie Baldwin. This is what the author terms urban fantasy (which makes me wonder what rural fantasy is like), and it is British in spelling and location. In fact part of it is in Oxford, where I was born, though I have no memory of the locale. There are strong ecological and vegan themes to which I also relate. Christian Blake is an unruly English teenager, smart but reckless. He spies an odd tattoo parlor, enters, meets the proprietor Raven, and gets a tattoo—that is the ink of the title—on his chest. This provides an intimate association with a Rune God, Hagalaz, Laz for short, who sort of resides in the tattoo. Hagalaz is the God of Disruption, of elemental forces, such as the weather, who tends to express himself violently. When he takes over, Christian can conjure horrendous storms, throw fireballs, and perform other violent acts, even when he doesn't want to. He is also pretty much invulnerable and immortal. This is more than he had bargained on, but he has little choice. It seems that Christian has been chosen to join a small tribe that will try to save the world from a global catastrophe of unknown nature. There are visitors to Earth called the Settlers who will invoke this mischief. Christian goes to Las Vegas, America, to join with other tattooed teens with special Gods and powers, and they will all properly learn their potentials. They turn out to be the frail girl Kai, who is a healer, and Zack, whose God is a protector and can ward off evil. Meanwhile Christian dreams of a pretty Settler girl, though they are the enemy. Then Pax joins them; he is silent but can commune most effectively mentally. And finally Lexy—the girl he dreamed of. She's to be a member of their tribe! She is beautiful and six and a half feet tall, her God is a warrior princess, and Christian is immediately smitten. After that the adventure becomes wild. This is a fast moving, high action story with insights into real world problems, the first of what promises to be a compelling series.

And a grab-bag of last moment items: remember the labored explanations what Jesus meant when he said it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven? I've always known that was nonsense, and sure enough, Jesus said no such thing. He said it was easier for a rope to pass through the eye of a needle, such as a huge ship's hawser, which might have been made from camel's hair. The translator made a typo, is all. Nearly half of all cell phone calls will be from scammers by next year. This is the sort of nonsense that the authorities could stop—if they wanted to. I mean, the source and destination of every cell phone communication is on the record. I presume the scammers make sure to pay off the necessary officials. A North Carolina woman who runs a nonprofit animal shelter took in 27 cats and dogs abandoned by folk fleeing Hurricane Florence. She gave some injured animals antibiotics, so county officials have charged her with practicing medicine without a veterinary license. She'd have been okay if she had just let the animals die? Shame on you, North Carolina. For every 1,000 rapes, only 310 are ever reported to the police, and 6 result in conviction and imprisonment. Meanwhile the reputation of the victim is ruined, even if she manages to keep her job or marriage. And folk wonder why more women don't report the rapes? If I ran the world, there are reforms I'd make...


Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

DS9 S6 #17: “Wrongs Darker than Death or Night” Dukat calls Kira on her mother Meru's birthday, saying the her mother was his lover after leaving her father. That her father told her her mother died, to cover that up. Oh, my! He has to be lying. Kira decides to consult the Orb and maybe see back in time to discover if it is true. She goes back in time and sees herself at about age two. The affair wasn't love; her mother was selected as a comfort woman and taken involuntarily. The adult Kira and her mother are taken together. Naturally Kira, calling herself Luma, has a problem with the role and quickly gets in trouble. But her mother chooses to believe what Dukat tells her. Kira plants a bomb, then reconsiders and warns Meru and Dukat away from it, saving their lives. She has severely mixed feelings. Who wouldn't?

DS9 S6 #18: “Inquisitions” Information is leaking from the station, and all senior officers are confined to quarters while the investigation proceeds. Director Sloan seems to suspect Bashir. He thinks the Dominion, when it held Bashir prisoner, succeeded in making him their spy without his knowledge. Then the Vorta Weyoun beams him out. Weyoun says he's their agent too. Sisko beams him out, rescuing him. But he catches on that this is another fake scene. Then Sloan says he has been exonerated. He wants to recruit Bashir for the secret Section 31. There's no record of such a unit.

DS9 S6 #19: “In the Pale Moonlight” Sisko rehearses the events of the past two weeks. There have been Dominion incursions. Sisko decides to bring the Romulans into the war against the Dominion. To do that he needs solid evidence. But the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Sisko rescues an expert forger, Tolar, from prison. That man stabs Quark, so Sisko has to bribe Quark to drop charges. Sisko presents a Romulan Senator with a data rod containing an excellent forgery of a Dominion plan to invade Romulan territory. But the Romulan recognizes it as a fake. Then his ship is bombed, looking as if the Dominion was trying to stop the news from being revealed. And the Romulans declare war on the Dominion. And Sisko is left with his guilty conscience. This political realism makes me wince.

DS9 S6 #20: “His Way” This is a musical episode. The holo suite animates Vic Fontaine who knows he's an animation and is good at it. He takes Odo in hand to help him make progress with Kira. He needs to thaw, to show more personality. Kira plays a seductive hologram singer. Holo Vic talks with the real Kira, then sets up a holo date with the two of them, Odo not knowing it is now the real Kira, she not knowing that Odo thinks she's a holo. Neither is pleased when they discover the truth. Next day they argue about it, dare each other to cut short the ritual and just kiss, and do, in full public, maybe a hundred people watching, and that's it. The kiss is obviously compelling; the ice has been shattered.

DS9 S6 #21: “The Reckoning” Sisko, Kira, and Jake visit the excavation of holy ruins of Bajor, 25,000 to 30,000 years old. Sisko is Emissary, and an ancient inscription says “Welcome, Emissary.” Then a blast hurls him into a wall and he is unconscious. Kai Winn comes and lodges a protest about Sisko's removal of a tablet for study. The prophecy is that the gateway to the temple will be destroyed. That must mean the station by the wormhole. Flustered, Sisko breaks the tablet, and odd vapors rise from it and depart. Then Kira is taken over by a Prophet, exhibiting enormous power. The Reckoning is upon them. They will evacuate the station. And Jake is chosen as the enemy leader's vessel, the Pah-wraith. He and Kira face off, beams of energy shooting from their chests, meeting in the center, until both fall unconscious. Somehow Kai Winn managed to stop it. So the issue is undecided, but it certainly demonstrates the power of the Prophets. They are dangerously real, here.

DS9 S6 #22: “Valiant” Nog and Jake take a shuttle out for business with the Grand Nagus, but a ship comes after them, firing. The Valiant rescues them. It is a training ship, run by cadets. But they are short handed, so Nog is promoted to Chief Engineer. They are collecting technical data on a new Dominion ship. They shadow it, observing. Then they set up to destroy it. But that mission is highly risky. Jake warns against it, but they chant “Red Squad!” and are gung ho for action. This is of course mischief. The ship is lost. Jake and Nog take an escape capsule, saving themselves and one surviving crew woman. The crew had blindly followed a captain who led them over a cliff.

DS9 S6 #23: “Profit and Lace” The Dabu girl Aluura is nice to everyone, and Quark is getting interested in her. Meanwhile Zek the Grand Nagus has added a rule that Ferengi women can now wear clothes and go into business. So the Nagus has been deposed, and Brunt will be the new Nagus. Quark has a row with Moogie and she collapses. Now they need a female Ferengi to negotiate, so Quark must pretend to be Lumba, another female adviser to consult with Chairman Nilva. Lumba is too good at it, and Nilva wants to get romantic. Lumba does prove she's female; Bashir had done surgery to make it temporarily so. So all is well again.

DS9 S6 #24: “Time's Orphan” O'Brien, Keiko, and their children Molly and Yoshi go on a picnic in the country. Molly falls into a pit and gets sent 300 years into the past. They manage to beam her back, but she has aged ten years and is now a feral 18. She gradually remembers them, but wants to go home: to that landscape of the past. They take her to a holo image and she loves it, but that time is limited. She is simply not suited for life in the contemporary realm. So they send her back into the past, where she finds 8 year old Molly, and sends her back. So they have their original daughter again. An interesting, touching episode.

DS9 S6 #25: “The Sound of Her Voice” The Defiant, on the way back to the station, receives a general distress call for a female star-fleet officer, Lisa. They establish communication, and they talk continuously to her in relays. But she runs out of medicine. They have to hurry, though that puts she ship at risk. Meanwhile Quark conspires to distract Odo so that Quark can get some profitable illegal business done. Sisko, Bashir, and O'Brien take a shuttle in a risky rescue mission. But Lisa turns out to be three years dead. It seems the planetary barrier shifted the communications into the future, and their responses into the past. Still, the association profoundly affects all of them. This one sort of gets into your gut and twists.

DS9 S6 #26: “Tears of the Prophets” Sisko has been selected to plan the invasion of Cardassia. Kira is mad at Odo for arresting a Vedik who broke the law. Humans, Klingons, and Romulans are allies against the Dominion. Gul Dukat is possessed by a malign spirit. He beams aboard the Defiant and shoots Dax. Kira takes over command of the Defiant when Sisko is set back by the prophets. Sisko realizes that he should have heeded the prophets instead of Starfleet Command; that might have saved Dax. This of course isn't over.

DS9 S7 #1: “Image in the Sand” Three months later things are bleak. The invasion of Cardassia has ground to a halt, but causalities continue. They have not heard from Sisko. But he is still back home, in the restaurant. He has a vision, digging in sand and finding the face of a woman that seems to come alive. Is it a message from the Prophets? He tries to recreate the face on a computer, and his father recognizes it but refuses to talk about it. Kira is now a colonel, working with the Romulan contingent. Worf is badly out of sorts, with Dax gone. Ben Sisko's father met Sarah, married her, and she was Ben's mother. But she left after Ben turned one. Then died in an accident. She's the face in the sand. She left a locket with Bajoran writing on the back, says “Orb of the Emissary.” A visitor comes, and attacks Sisko with a knife. Someone doesn't want him finding the Orb. And a young woman comes to Sisko, saying she is Dax. Evidently the symbiont has a new host.

DS9 S7 #2: “Shadows and Symbols” She is Ezri Dax. There was an emergency and the symbiont had to be transplanted to the only host available, though Ezri was not at all prepared. Meanwhile Sisko and party go to Tyree to search for the Orb. The Romulans arm the hospital planet, so Kira sets up a blockade. Worf goes on a mission to win a place for Jadzia in Klingon heaven. Sisko also finds himself in a hospital ward; they want him to admit this whole adventure is a fantasy. But he resists, views the Orb, and wins what is needed. The Wormhole reopens, the Romulans back down, and all is well for the moment.

DS9 S7 #3: “Afterimage” Ezri Dax meets the other members of the group, sometimes awkwardly. She is now short and cute and left handed, and her likes and dislikes differ. She plans to leave, as there are too many memories here. Meanwhile Garak has emotional problems. Sisko assigns Ezri, who is a counselor, to work with him. She manages to help him. Her main problem is with Worf, who knows she has Jadzia's memories, but finally accepts the new order. She plans to leave, but finally feels she can be the station counselor.

DS9 S7 #4: “Take Me Out to the Holosuite” The station crew takes on a Vulcan crew in a holosuite game of baseball. They have to learn the game, and they're horrible, but determined to win it for the captain. They are the Niners, of course. It promises to be a disaster, and is; it gets to be 10-0 against them. But they make a good show at the end, and celebrate that. And an incidental view of Ezri reveals that she has an outstanding figure, when she shows it.

DS9 S7 #5: “Chrysalis” Bashir's four mutant associates arrive unexpectedly, putting Bashir on the spot to try to help Sarina Douglas, who is in a trance-like state. The others are Jack, who is hyper, Uahtrick whose feelings are easily hurt, and Laurie, determinedly sexy. Ezri tries to help, sympathizing. Then Sarina recovers on her own, to the delight of them all. They are soon singing together. She has a whole new world to catch up on. She is a genius, like the other three and Bashir kisses her. But next day she reverts and is unresponsive. She can still talk, but is afraid she doesn't know how to love. So she departs, with regret.

DS9 S7 #6: “Treachery, Faith and the Great River” Odo has to go on a mission to meet a man he thought was dead. But it's a Vorta ruse; Weyoun wants to defect. He regards Odo as a Founder, a god, because he is a changeling. It turns out he is Woyoun 6, of 7 clones so far. Apparently he is defective, not being sufficiently cynical. Meanwhile Nog is making convoluted deals to obtain a desperately needed stabilizer, causing mischief all over the station. Weyoun 6 terminates himself, and the Dominion pursuit withdraws. But Odo has learned that a mysterious illness is killing off the changelings. This is another kind of mischief.

DS9 S7 #7: “Once More Unto the Breach” Kor visits Worf, asking Worf to intercede to enable him to fight and die as a warrior. Worf tries, but is rebuffed. Finally on his own authority he makes Kor third officer on the ship. Worf volunteers for a vital but suicidally dangerous mission. Kor pre-empts his place and wins the time they need, nobly sacrificing himself in the Klingon manner, which was his ambition.

DS9 S7 #8: “The Siege of AR-558” Sisko, Ezlri, Bashir, Quark, Nog beam to a base under siege. The personnel here are long overdue for rotation but are stuck. Only one third of their original crew survives. They are on edge. The Gem/Hadar are near and invading. Nog loses a leg. There are Houdini mines. They move them to ambush the enemy instead. There is ugly close combat. They manage to hold. But there is little joy in it.

DS9 S7 #9: “Covenant” A former instructor visits Kira, and gives her a gem, which activates and transports her to Empok Nor. There the head man is Dukat, weirdly. These are the Pah-wraiths, the spiritual enemy. Dukat joined them for cynical reasons, but became transformed. He wants Kira by his side; he always has had a hankering for her. They show her around the community, hoping to persuade her to join them, but she is understandably cynical. The first community baby is born—and it's a Cardassian crossbreed. Did Dukat sire it? They did have an affair. He tries to kill her. It is clear Dukat hasn't changed. Now to cover up his mischief, he tells them they will leave this mortal life and join the Pah-wraiths. But Kira blows the whistle on that. The community revolts and survives. This is a savage take on religious cults.

DS9 S7 #10: “It's Only A Paper Moon” Nog returns from hospitalization, with his artificial leg. He is obviously not recovered emotionally, but sick of talking about his feelings. His leg hurts all the time; others think he is imagining it. He goes to the holosuite to see Vic Fontaine, who seems to be a regular now, and listen to “I'll be seeing you.” Nog goes over Vic's books and reorganizes his business for expansion. This animates Vic, who has never actually lived before. But he knows he's just an illusion, and sends Nog back to real life. In return Nog arranges for Vic to exist 26 hours a day. He's still a hologram, but also real it his fashion.

DS9 S7 # 11: “Prodigal Daughter” Chief O'Brien goes to try to help the widow of Bilby, the man he was responsible for killing on New Sydney. Ezri Dax's family is there, so she enlists her mother to help. To do that she must visit her strong-willed mother. It seems her whole family is Trill, without symbionts: mother and two brothers. They find O'Brien, arrested for brawling. He found the body of the widow, but the Syndicate doesn't want him to investigate further. It turns out that her brother Norvo arranged it, because she was making bad mischief. Was their mother indirectly responsible? It is a difficult family, best left in the background.

DS9 S7 #12: “The Emperor's New Cloak” To save the Grand Nagus, Quark and Rom steal an invisible cloaking device. Bad guys from the alternate universe come and mix it up, so we see the actors in opposite roles. Kira is always sexy when she's evil. The cloaking device is for the other Worf, so he can conquer the universe. Evil Kira is directing it, and she kisses evil Ezri; the two are evidenttly lovers too. What a plot! Devious plot and betrayals occur, and they rescue the Nagus. Madcap nonsense throughout, but fun.

DS9 S7 #13: “Field of Fire” Ilario piloted the Defiant against six Gem'Hadar ships and won. He gets drunk, and Ezri sees him to his room. Next morning he has been shot dead by a chemical weapon. Who could have done it? Ezri has a nightmare. One of the symbiont's prior hosts, Joran, was a murderer; he says she needs his help but she wants nothing to do with him. But when there is a second murder, this time of a woman, she reluctantly summons Joran, though only she can see him. Then a third murder. They figure out who the culprit is, and stop him. She banishes Joran, but he will not be buried as deeply as he was, somewhat to her dismay.

DS9 S7 #14: “Chimera” O'Brien and Odo see a ship in space that swims like a fish. But there's nothing there. Then a changeling appears. He is another of the 100 sent into the galaxy the way Odo was. He is Laas; he doesn't know what's what among humanoids. He wants Odo to join him out in the galaxy searching for others of the 100. but Odo can't leave Kira. So Kira helps Laas escape, and tells Odo where he will be so they can get together. But Odo won't go. For him, love is stronger than the Link. Now Kira has the proof of his love for her. Laas will seek elsewhere, not understanding love.

DS9 S7 #15: “Badda Bing Badda Bang” Bashir and O'Brien invite Vic Fontaine to the Alamo program. Vic declines, but starts singing a song about the Alamo, when it is interrupted by dancing girls and tough characters who say they are taking over and Vic is history. They can't be deleted, there being some kind of glitch, so it's a problem. The new boss is Frankie Eyes. They beat Vic up. A man named Zeemo is behind it. Frankie takes a shine to Kira and she plays along. Ezri takes a job as a waitress. The good guys are planning to rob the casino, to make the new boss write it off as not worthwhile. Sisko resists, because the real casino in 1962 discriminated against black folk, but is finally brought into it too. They work out an elaborate plan, with all of them playing their roles. These alternate roles episodes are always fun. Their plan runs afoul of changed details, such as Frankie Eyes being busy elsewhere, and a special reset feature on the big safe so Nog has trouble cracking it, and Mr. Zeemo arriving a day early. But they manage to pull it off.

DS9 S7 #16: “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges” Sloan of Section 31 has a mission for Bashir to spy on the Romulan allies. Sisko tells him to take it. But the Rumulans don't trust him, and interrogate him thoroughly. There are levels and levels of betrayal and innocent people suffer. “In time of war the law falls silent.” That's the translation of the episode title. Basvhir, an honest man, doesn't fit this mold.

DS9 S7 #17: “Penumbra” Sisko plans to retire on Bajor, in due course. News comes that two ships were ambushed by the Dominion, one lost, and Worf's fate is unknown. Ezri, with Jadzia's memories, is especially concerned. She takes a shuttle and goes out to look for him. She searches in the fiery Badlands. She finds him. Meanwhile the Changeling woman has the malady; they are testing samples from her trying to find a cure. Two Gem'Hadar ships attack the shuttle; they crash on a local planet. Dukat comes to see Dumar, needing his help. Worf and Ezlri argue and kiss and sleep together. Then are captured by the Breen. A surgeon converts Dukat to the semblance of a Bajoran. A vision of Sisko's mother tells him he can't marry Kasidy, lest they know nothing but sorrow.

DS9 S7 #18: “'Till Death do us Part” Kai Winn arrives at the station, and the Prophets speak to her fer the first time. Dukat comes to the station in his Bajoran guise, as Anjohl. He is the one the Prophets told Winn would come to her. The Breen brutally interrogate Worf, then Ezri. Anjohl evidently has Winn fooled. In her delirium Ezri “says ““Kiss me, Julian,” to Worf's surprise. Anjohl kisses Winn. Sisko decides to marry Kasidy despite the warning of the Prophets. This is mischief. The Dominion and the Breen form an alliance, with Worf and Ezri witnessing it. These assorted unions are devious.

DS9 S7 #19: “Strange Bedfellows” the Cardassian Damar doesn't want to sign a treaty requiring unnamed territorial concessions. Anjohl has made Kai Winn into an obliging female. That's phenomenal mischief. Worf and Ezri must help the enemy or be executed. They bleak out of their cell, but are recaptured. Winn views the Orb but tells him nothing. Anjohl tries to persuade her to join the Pah-wraiths, but she rejects them and him. She talks with Kira, who says she should step down as Kai, but she has trouble accepting that. Worf and Ezri realize that they are not for each other; she prefers Bashir. Damar frees Worf and Ezri, knowing that the Breen and Dominion are not Cardassia's friend. Winn decides to join the Pah-wraiths.

DS9 S7 #20: “The Changing Face of Evil” Worf and Ezri return safely to the station and are welcomed. The comes a message: the Breen have attacked Earth. Kai Winn decides to look in the evil Book of the Kosst Amojan but the pages are blank. The Breen attack locally and Siski must take the Defiant out. It destroys two enemy ships, then gets hit and they must abandon ship. The escape pods are allowed to return to the station, to spread word of the fate that awaits future incursions. Winn learns that the real Anjohl died nine years ago, and that this is Dukat. Cardassia rebels against the Dominion. The war has taken a drastic new turn.

DS9 S7 #21: “When it Rains...” The Breen used their energy suppressing device to destroy an entire fleet. Only the Klingons survived, while the Federation and Romulan ships remain vulnerable. Kira must go to guide the Cardassian resistance in distractive techniques while more is researched on protecting the ships. She is not pleased. Neither is Kai Winn pleased to be working with Dukat as she studies the Kosst Amojan. Bashir discovers that Odo is infected with the changeling-killing disease. Dukat looks at the evil book and is blinded. The Cardassians don't like working with Kira and Odoo, but realize that this is the key to victory. Winn kicks Dukat out. Bashir discovers that it was Starfleet Command that infected Odo, using him as a carrier to infect other changelings. They are trying to commit genocide.

DS9 S7 #22: “Tacking Into the Wind” Odo is degenerating rapidly, apparently because he has been shapeshifting frequently recently. Kira knows, and ignores it because she wants Odo to keep his pride. Worf tries to get Martok to assume command, for the good of the Klingons, because Gowron is foolishly costing them ships. Ezri is avoiding telling Bashir of her interest in him. So the tapestry of interactions continues.

DS9 S7 #23: “Extreme Measures” Odo is dying, and wants Kira to leave so that her last sight of him is not his ugly death. Bashir and O'Brien tell Sisko of their plan to lure in a Section 31 operative for interrogation, their only chance to save Odo. Sloan arrives and they capture him. They interrogate him, but he tries to kill himself. They analyze his brain anyway. They mind travel into Sloan's mind, which resembles the DS9 station. Sloan is hiding there; they have to find him. But he dies before they find the cure. But then they realize this is a ruse; they are still in Sloan's mind. But maybe Bashir finally finds the cure. He treats Odo. Will it work?

There was a glitch of some sort, and I saw a section of an episode that fits around here: three Cardassions bring Kira as a prisoner to the local headquarters. The Changeling leader appears, inspects a weapon, passes it to one of the visitors, who promptly shoots the Cardassian personnel. The woman is actually Odo. So now they are operating within the enemy HQ. Meanwhile Worf challenges Gowron, defeats him, and puts Martok in charge. Odo is expiring, but Kira stays with him.

DS9 S7 #24: “The Dogs of War” USS Sao Paulo arrives, looking just like the Defiant. In fact they change the name to the Defiant. Kira and her Cardassian allies are caught in a planetary cave, having been betrayed. They contact another resistance cell. Meanwhile the Grand Nagus retires, leaving the office to Quark. Kira and Damar hatch a desperate plan. Quark sees Ferengi civilization as deteriorating and he means to do something about it. Bashilr and Eli agree to be just friends. Then they kiss. So much for that. It turns out that the Grand Nagus actually wants Rom, not Quark, to be next. Kasidy tells Sisko she's pregnant.

DS9 S7 #25: “What you leave Behind” Bashir and Ezri, O'Brien and Keiko, Sisko and Kasidy are all concerned that they can survive the war. Odo wants to be reunited with Kira. Kira is now impersonating a Breen, active in the resistance. Dukat and Winn are not getting along, but she has learned how to release the Pah-wraiths. The power goes out on Cardassia Prime as the Resistance sabotage occurs. The Dominion will destroy a city for each act of sabotage; they mean to turn the Cardassian people against the rebels. The Gem'Hadar raid the rebel headquarters and capture the leaders. But at the execution a Cardassion officer shoots the executors; he supports Cardassia. The battle is joined in space. The Cardassians change sides and join the battle on the Federation side. Dukat and Winn go to the Fire Caves, and she invokes the horrendous fire. Kira and the rebels can't get into the capital, but when a prisoner is taken out, the door opens, and they charge in. They kill Weyoun and capture the Changeling leader lady. Winn kills Dukat and frees the Pah-wraiths. Odo links with the woman and cures her. But 800 million Cardassians are dead. The Pah-wraiths strike down Winn and reanimate Dukat. Sisko goes to stop him, and does; the Book is the key. Now he is with them, and may return to Kasidy at some point. Until then, he seems dead; there's the sorrow the Prophets warned of. Worf becomes an ambassador. Odo dissolves into the pool, to cure the Changelings. Kira will now run the station. So things are more or less wrapped up, and there is peace in the galaxy. For now.

Deep Space Nine is wild and often unbelievable, but this is my favorite Star Trek series so far. I think Kira is my favorite character. Next I will see how Voyager is, I admit with some trepidation. So far I have liked each series better than the last, but that can't go on forever. Or can it?

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