Cawnpore and Perseus are available in the Createspace eStore and on Amazon.com where, if you order a physical copy of the books, you get the ebook for free. They are also available as ebooks on every ereader out there.

Coming soon: Hercules, the follow-up to Perseus.

I finally got around to Netflix bingeing on the first season Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. — which I had been less than interested in seeing when it premiered 1) because i don’t have cable and making time for a show isn’t my speed, anymore, and 2) I thought the premise a bit lackluster, and 3) I wasn’t hearing great things from the fanbase. So, what did I see?

The allegedly weak first half of the season wasn’t. I’m a big fan of spy-fi, and this was a generally good example of the genre for TV. I think the fans were expected the superhero/supervillain of the week sort of thing, so this would be an understandable let down. The supposed better back half wasn’t that much better, but finally pulled all the disparate elements together, at a better pace (until the last episode or two, where it bogged down, in my opinion…but that’s the hazards of the 22 episode seasons that US broadcast television seems unable to break out of.)

The acting is good. It’s obviously Clark Gregg’s show — Agent Coulson is the glue to the piece and they managed to make it work. They don’t run to long on the “secret” of his survival, but give you just enough by episode eight or so to be satisfied, then build on it a bit toward the end of the season. The characters around him are a big cliched — the geeky, combat weak scientists (Probably the strongest performers of the cast, and at least they got a real Scot for the Scotsman.); the girl hacker fighting the system with a dark secret; the tough chick that supports the captain Coulson; and the bad ass turned traitor. It’s a pretty standard Joss Whedon set of characters so better than about 75% of broadcast TV.) We get some great guest players, as well — Saffron Burroughs as a quasi-foil senior SHIELD officer, Bill Paxton (playing Bill Paxton…but here it works) as the hard-charging leader of another team, Samuel L Jackson (with nary a “motherfucker” for the ear but he does get to shoot guns), Cobie Smulders (in a less likable version of the Hill character), and Jaimie Alexander (not great) reprising their roles, and the always good Patton Oswalt. (Whom you need to see in Justified‘s fourth season — seriously!)

The plots are generally good, but the Whedon-y slow burn through the season gets a bit long in the tooth by the end of the 22 episodes. We learn Coulson’s secret, we deal with the collapse of SHIELD following the events of Captain America 2, but are left until second season to explain the hacker, Skye’s, big reveal. The season’s bad guy, the Clairvoyant, is revealed well, and actually was a surprise to me. Character development is solid, and the characters remain consistent, and some of the half-develop stereotypes — May, for instance — finally get some decent fleshing out. The hacker, though, still the weakest of the bunch. The release of the supervillain prisoners from “the Fridge” gives us the chance to expand the show from a spy show with some superscience into a spy show with super-powered bad guys.

Overall, I think the quality of the show was more consistent than others have opined, and that it’s a good counterpoint to the movies, which are increasingly more superheroic as they go on. I’m looking forward to seeing season 2.

The final acts of our mutiny arc were played out this week. Previously, one of the player characters connected to the black market, and who had been the Security Minister until it was discovered his aide was a Cylon, led a coup d’etat against the government. He and one two of his conspirators did for the entire Quorum of Twelve, as well as the president (the father of the commander — played, funnily enough, by the same guy with the coup leader.) Once they had secured the quorum chambers and president’s office (on Cloud 9 in our game because no politician is going to “rule” from a bitty liner…), they set about finding out what was going on with the mutiny on Galactica.

This play session was mostly on the battlestar. Of the two players there that night, one had his viper pilot and a veterinarian-turned-medic (and budding mad scientist researching Cylon infertility); the other had his coup leader and commander of Galactica as their characters. The viper pilot is the cousin of the mutiny leader — a very popular engineer who is also a master organizer, and whom managed to pull of the mutiny in a matter of minutes. They engineered a malfunction of the communications while most of the pilots (the majority of the officers) were out on an exercise, raided CIC, and placed the command staff in the brig until the mutiny was complete.

Things start to go wrong when some of the mutinous pilots with marines in tow try to capture the Three — who had been a sleeper in the Colonial Feet and is wracked with doubt and guilt over her actions — the commander had put back in uniform (along with our version of Boomer.) She was in the infirmary giving eggs for the vet’s experiments, along with Lady Athena — the Lord of Kobol they picked up in the Tomb of Athena. The mutineers attempt to take them into custody, only to get mangled badly by the two of them. (With some help from the vet.)

Athena sends the Three (call sign Trey) to round up the loyal officers currently being held in the pilot’s briefing room by one of the mutineers and the pilot PC, who was having a crisis of conscience. The PC decided she needed to find out what was going on and was being held at gunpoint when Trey arrives to aid her. The loyal pilots break out — some headed for the brig to rescue the command staff, some headed to the CIC to aid Athena, who had disappeared to go “get dressed for the party” — getting into her high-tech (yet Greco-retro looking) armor, with shield and energy-weapon firing spear.

A lot of the violence happened off-camera, but the vet (as their field medic) aided Trey, Helo, and a few others in rescuing the commander and his staff — who then headed for the CIC. The pilot PC, with Starbuck, and a few worshippers of Athena headed for the CIC and managed to link up with Athena before she raided the place on her own. In the ensuing fight, a bunch of the mutineers got dropped, but the pilot managed to talk down her cousin, who wound up in the brig. The Lady of Kobol chewed through the opposition scarily easy; the first time they’ve really seen her in action.

By the time the coup leaders called into Galactica to check on the situation, the ship had been retaken (or at least the CIC), and they were surprised to find themselves not talking to their woman on the inside, but Athena — who told them she was coming for them next. This lead to a chase to capture the coup leader, who was ultimately shot down.

In the end, both players each lost one of the troupe of characters, some of the former PCs were killed, and a host of main supporting NPCs went under the bus.

The players were left with a badly fractured fleet, a sudden loss of a lot of their officer corps, about half the marines of the fleet dead, and no political leadership. they instituted an interim president and decided to run with a periodic meeting of ship captains to manage the big issues, but they need to get the bureaucracy back online to keep supplies and services going. There was some talk of martial law, and the pilot PC is looking to fill their badly depleted ranks with pilots from the humanoid Cylon fleet they are weakly allied with; another idea is not to intermingle the pilots, but have the Cylons — now that everyone knows they’re out there — join the fleet to bolster their air assets.

The next episode, however, will show us that things aren’t exactly stable on the Cylon side of things, and that their “leadership” hasn’t bee playing on the up and up…

Maybe she wasn’t based specifically on Doyle, or the hundreds of other women that served in OSS, SOE, and other agencies during the war, but it’s a worth title.

The young New Zealander Doyle joined Women’s Auxiliary Air Corps in 1941 following the death of her godmother’s father — whom she considered her grandfather — by Nazis. She was quickly recruited into the Special Operations Executive and her most famous exploit was parachuting in behind enemy lines prior to the Normandy invasion, where she posed as a French girl named Paulette. She bicycled around the combat zone selling soap to Germans and collecting intelligence on them. Her 135 messages helped craft the battle plan for D-Day. She frequently lived off the land. Her combat skills were on par with male agents. She was taught by a cat burglar to scale buildings.

She didn’t tell her kids about any of this until 1999 when a son discovered her story while researching D-Day. And just this November, after 70 years, she was awarded the Chevalier French Legion of Honour Medal, one of the highest military awards the French have.

1416940168526-meet-the-real-life-agent-carter-phyllis-latour-doyle

Then there’s the rest of them…

medals.jpg

 

You can read more about her here.

Here’s a stills gallery.

After a week off for the holidays, a couple of simmering plot thread finally came together tonight. Between the president having been sick and uninvolved, the interfleet gang war that left the Salamir Cartel in charge of the black market, the loss of important characters on Kobol (and the finding of Lord of Kobol — Athena — inhabiting the daughter of the heretofore unknown head of the cartel), the putting Boomer and another turncoat Cylon back in uniform, and the discovery that the fleet has been working with a faction of the humanoid Cylons running from the centurions…one of the player’s black marketeers staged a violent coup d’etat, while a simultaneous mutiny is going on aboard Galactica.

The set up involved the shooting of a well-liked madam and matchmaker on Cloud 9 (where our government resided…seriously, politicians wouldn’t live on the nicest ship in the fleet?) The investigation starts chasing the murder suspect, who is the main fixer for the Salamir, and was eliminating a person that knew their plans. The cops are sidetracked by a corrupt officer and are not there when the action goes down in the quorum chambers.

Meanwhile, Galactica‘s mutineers — led by the popular, hyper-competent, and thoroughly destroyed by the apocalypse chief engineer — get most of the pilots off the ship in a big combat exercise, sequester the ones they are unsure of, and stage a big fire by the main antenna that requires, in the engineer’s plans, the shutting down of the main power trunks to the antenna. Galactica is suddenly deaf and dumb, and the internal comms go down, as well. The warning about losing comms caused the president to call the quorum — three of whom are coup leaders — together.

While the cops are chasing down the bad guy, he is leading thugs against the quorum security, and the gangster PC, and the two other NPCs, gun down the quorum, but not before there was some serious action hero moments by the 76 year old president, who managed to stab one of the gunmen in the eye and turn his weapon of several of the others. In the end, one coup leader was dead, several of their mooks, and another leader injured, but the other nine quorum delegates were killed.

Next week, we resolve the situation on Galactica

 

So I got a hold of a Rock Island 1911A2 .22TCM today and had a chance to take it straight to the range for a break in. I only got 100 rounds of .22TCM and a box of 50 9mm through the gun, but it was enough to get some initial impressions on the weapon.

First, the look of the pistol is very nice. Unlike the usual natty RIA finish (very practical for a workaday gun), the TCM is beautiful with a nice black to the receiver, the underside and the flat top of the slide. The sides are polished and look a lot like the Kimber Eclipse, giving it a nice black on silvery gray two-tone. The fit and finish are premium quality — easily on par with much more expensive guns. It is a wide-frame, double-stack 1911. More on that in a moment. There are adjustable sights that work well, but a white or red dot on the front sight would have been a plus.

right

 

left

The grips. I know a lot of people like the wrap-around finger groove thing — I think it sucks. And blows. At the same time. Some complain about the look, but the fit was fine — they just make the gun a bit too wide for me, and the finger groove crap always messes with my natural hold on a 1911. There are almost no options for the pistol because the grip screws are just a smidge different from the Para-Ordinance A2. You can use the P-14 grips, but you have to dremel a bit on the screw holes, apparently. There are VZ Grips for the pistol, but they are available only in black through Armscor. I consider this a bit of a “lose” for the gun, but not enough to naysay buying one.

The upside to the double stack 1911: 17 rounds of 9mm or 18 rounds of .22TCM. The pistol is heavy — it’s not a great choice for concealed carry, but it isn’t a bad choice for backpacking, open carry, or the like. The magazines fit well, and mine functioned flawlessly. Another downside — it doesn’t seem to fit in a standard 1911 holster, or at least not the SERPA I have. Weight is about 41 oz., so about a quarter again heavier than, say, the Kimber Pro Carry II’s 35ish oz.

Function: Oh, but this is a great gun. For the $600 or so you’ll shell out for the TCM, you get one of the single best triggers I’ve used on a 1911, which means better than just about anything not costing you $2000+ (and even on par with some of those.) It broke at 3.5 lbs. nice a crisply with no creep at all. Reset is quick and loud enough that if you watch some video, you will hear it. The trigger and hammer are skeletonized, and there is a nice beavertall grip safety. The weapon ran all of the 150 through it with no malfunctions, save for me accidentally putting the safety on while shooting. (Lefty…)

Accuracy: 2 inches at 15 yards, free hand, taking my time in 9mm and .22. Better at 10 yards. The groups were amazing, but I consistently shot a bit low due to the finger groove grips. (Seriously…hate these things.) I suspect I can do better in another trip or two.

Ammunition: Armscor’s the only people doing .22TCM, just like FN was humping their customers on 5.7x28mm for the longest time. Seriously, Armscor, here’s your winning friggin’ proposition — do an AR in .22TCM. Yesterday. Why, you ask? Because you get the same performance as the 5.7mm out of a standard-size grip handgun. The rounds I shot were chronographed at 2000-2060fps by one of the other shooters who frequents the range. With a 40 gr. bullet, that’s about 350 ft lbs of energy, or the low end of 9mm. With almost zero recoil — the 1911A2 weighs enough you get less recoil than the FiveSeven, and more accuracy because the weight actually make your hand move less and the trigger is lightyears better than the FN’s. (And I love the FiveSeven — carried one for a decade.)

Even better, if you can’t find .22TCM (as low as $17/box online, usually $22-25 in town), you can swap the barrel and recoil spring with ease in about a minute, and shoot 9mm. I did not try hollowpoints this time out, just crappy Federal 115 gr. white box stuff. No issues. It shot well with little recoil. Armscor — make some kind of AR or carbine that uses the pistol mags and a swappable barrel and you have a winner. Just do it. Yesterday!

The two big complaints I have are the obvious grip screw, hard to find alternate grips thing, and the lack of an indicator dot on the front sight. Otherwise, this is a better functioning 1911 than the two Rock Island .45s my ex-wife had, better than the CDP 9mm and the Stainless Pro Carry II from Kimber, better than the Springfield Armory 1911s I’ve shot (with the exception of a friend’s Yost-Bnitz modified Springfield.) It’s got a superb stock trigger, good sights that a bit of paint on the front post would make great, CZ levels of ammunition in the magazine, and comparable accuracy to my CZ-85 (which is excellent.) Fit, finish, and frills are all high quality for budget 1911 prices. And you can shoot two different calibers.

So is it worth it? Not just yes, but hell yes.

 

Here’s a website with a nice set of utilities for the Firefly RPG. There’s a probability generator for the dice pools, starship complications charts, travel time calculator, an interactive map that’s a bit twitchy, and a name generator.

Have at!

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