And What Happens When I Remain Awake (And Oh Lord, Forgive Me My Weakness) ((And Ghost Part 1))
August 10, 2011 § 5 Comments
Boy do I have things for you today.
First, I’ll talk in more detail about these later this week, but OH MY GOD I ACQUIRED SOME HISTORICAL ARTEFACTS THIS WEEK.
Check it, yo:
And now to explain the cool. These are all German deutsche Mark bills from various periods in the early 1900’s (y’know, the same period that just happens to be my speciality…anyways).
The first two pictures are the front and back sides of a 1,000 Mark bill from 1910. Yes, it’s from 1910, and yes, it looks even cooler in real life. I did some calculations and DM1000 would be worth around $5,000 US today, and it would have been a pretty hefty sum back then too. It’s really amazing for several reasons. The details on the back are particularly impressive, as is the lettering on Ein Tausend Mark. This bill was printed (as I said, in 1910) before World War I, so the German economy was strong and growing stronger. I suppose the size and impressive nature of the bill was meant to reflect that.
The third picture really puts that in perspective. This was a 1 Mark bill printed in 1920, after the war ended and Germany was crushed. It is much smaller, though likely because of the relative worth. Most European countries that I’ve been to (England, Ireland, France, Portugal, Austria, Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary) used to have differing sizes of bill as a standard. I always liked that, and it’s too bad they don’t do it here in Canuck-land. But seriously, check out the detailing on the 1 Mark from the bad days and check it against the glory days of the DM 1,000. The change in detail is immediate. Sure, the DM 1 looks cool, but you can’t compare the two.
And the fourth picture is my favourite. In terms of size, it’s about 1/2 the size of the DM 1,000, and in terms of detail, it’s only slightly better than the DM 1 bill. Hell, it’s even less impressive than the DM 1. But what’s incredible about it, for the benefit of those who don’t read German (you damn plebes), is that it is a DM 50,000,000 bill.
Yes, that is correct. Funfzig Millionen Mark is 50 million Marks. This was printed in Weimar Germany’s (the name given to the Republic that replaced the Empire after 1918) dark economic days, so not only was it roughly worth an American dollar in 1923, it was worthless a few weeks later. Not taken out of print, but worthless. The value fell so precariously that it probably wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on.
I’ll wrap this up because as cool as it is, I know I’m way more excited than most of you. The coolest part, for me, is being able to actually hold and interact with something from this period. Of course I’ve read about how bad the times were and how people couldn’t buy bread with wheelbarrows of money, but it’s another thing entirely to hold DM 50,000,000 in your hand and actually see and feel what it would have been like. People would have remembered when DM 1,000 was a huge amount of money. Hell, they would have remembered when DM 1 was a lot, but there’s a distance until you actually come face-to-face with the reality of it. There’s a lot to be said for the importance of the physicality of history, or at least interaction. Touch and feeling is so incredibly important for human cognition, like I write in the stories, it helps humans understand when they physically interact with something.
In other news,
If you’re wondering what/how much an aspiring writer reads in his spare time, then wonder no more! Since the beginning of the summer (which for me was June 23rd when I handed in my final paper), I have read:
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Attila the Hun: Barbarian Terror and the Fall of the Roman Empire by Christopher Kelly
The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart by Jesse Bullington
Sidejobs by Jim Butcher
The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
Ghosts of War by George Mann
The Many Deaths of the Black Company by Glen Cook
A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin
The Well of Ascension, and
The Hero of Ages, both by Brandon Sanderson,
and I’m about 50 pages from finishing the Hagakure by Yamamoto Tsunetomo.
So, all in all, not quite as many as I thought I would have, but a decent amount all the same. But here’s where the problems come in. Remember how I posted how much stuff I already had to read?
Yeah. And I walk by that stack every day. But do you think that stopped me from spending $66 on books today? I couldn’t help it, I swear! And just what did I get with that?
Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Walter Benjamin
Capital (Das Kapital) by Karl Marx (I can’t help it; I’m just a sour-smelling Communist), and of course,
Ghost Story by Jim Butcher.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. The answer is that I’ve never actually read Das Kapital, and I’ve been interested in it more and more these days. Of course I bathe, but I still think it’s worth a read. And Art is there because it’s tremendously important for every artist that lives post-oh, 1920. It will be a slog, but I think it will be worth it. Of course, Ghost Story is there because holy crap on a stick which is also made of crap Jim Butcher writes good books.
I have things for you to read, in this case, things which aren’t just me yelling about German money and books I’m reading. This is part 1 of 3 for the story that our dear Nova won (hint: check the above link ((no not the one about Communism)) if you have no idea what it is that Nova won), and it’s tentatively titled Ghost.
For the uninitiated, I decided to link to the Mass Effect wiki for certain elements, just so you can check out things if you didn’t play the game (shame on you), have forgotten things (Hogwarts offer courses on Rememberancing), or have no idea what I’m talking about.
His shotgun barked in the face of a charging Krogan, the sound lost amidst the alien’s defiant roar. The blast, however, was not, and the Krogan collapsed and died with his face a broken mass of blood, bone, and brain. The force of the shot blew through the creature’s head, taking with it most of the grey matter within, what little there was to be had in a Krogan stupid enough to charge a Vanguard with a shotgun.
That was betrayal number twelve, John knew. He was counting.
“Damn Vorcha,” grumbled Garrus from his perch at John’s right, “just don’t know when to stay down. Too damn tough to die in one shot, and too damn stupid to keep their heads down for the second.” His rifle whined, a metallic sneer, as the back third of another Vorcha’s head exploded in a red mist, revealing even less brain than that which had been inside the Krogan. “Palaven dammit,” Garrus grumbled again, “and I just calibrated this scope.”
“Perhaps if you took less time calibrating and more time practising your shooting, Mr. Vakarian, you wouldn’t miss so much?” Dr. Mordin Solus asked as he calmly lined up shot after shot with his pistol, picking off Vorcha as they approached. They were ostensibly pinned down in a corridor, huddled behind some crates as members of the Weyrloc tribe tried to dislodge them from their position and stop them before they penetrated too far into their research station. Unfortunately for the Weyrloc, they relied heavily on their favoured tactic of the frontal charge. Shepard had imagined they would. In fact, he had counted on it. Garrus’ sniper rifle and Shepard’s shotgun were there to show the Weyrloc just why that plan was a bad one.
Another Vorcha fell back hissing, the hole in his chest large enough for a person to crawl through, and John added another to the total.
“Look at the Professor,” Garrus intoned, his voice deadpan, “bringing a pistol to a Krogan fight. This is your gig, Mordin. We’re just along for the ride.”
A Krogan, his armour stained with dirt and debris, burst through the wall behind Garrus. The sniper went down in a shower of rubble, letting out a strained squawk as he was buried in pieces of wall and dirt. Behind the Krogan, a seething group of Vorcha pushed forward, sticking out guns and arms, shooting wildly into the ceiling, walls, and anywhere that wasn’t currently being shot full of holes.
Mordin sniffed, his nostrils flaring with irritation. He narrowed his eyes and snapped his fingers. The implants in his arms shone briefly with a red light. Thin streamers of monofilament metal, too small to be seen with the naked eye, shot out of his implants. In less than a second, they danced in the air in front of the mass of crowded Vorcha. Mordin spared a sneer for them as highly flammable methandyanine gas sprayed out and was ignited with a spark.
The hallway behind the Krogan exploded into a strangely quiet inferno. There was still the whine of bullets, booms of grenades and the howls of the enraged and wounded, but there was no great woosh of the ignition implants. There was only the screams of half a dozen Vorcha as the flaming, gas, conveniently heavier than air, drifted lazily down like burning snow. Bodies glowed as they were seared into foul-smelling ash in a heartbeat. The screams did not last long.
Six more for Mordin, but Shepard grudged him those. This was his betrayal as much as his.
The intrepid Krogan, who now found himself in the middle of the most dangerous people in the galaxy and without backup, did not let the unfortunate fate of his underlings stop him. He bellowed as loudly as his four lungs would let him and charged Mordin. The Salarian doctor had to throw himself to the ground to avoid the roaring ton of death and Krogan that bore down on him. He bounced off the ground, the taste of blood in his mouth, and rolled a quarter-second before the Krogan’s foot smashed into the floor where his head had been, shattering the concrete.
Shepard took the head off another Vorcha, threw down his shotgun, and spun around to face the surviving Krogan. The alien looked at him, the bloodlust in his eyes showing him only an unarmed human. Snorting, the Weyrloc warrior leapt at Shepard.
Who, ready for the reckless attack, thought about lilac perfume. As his brain dredged up the familiar scent, the memory of Ashley Williams flooded through his brain: the sight of her, the taste of her, the scent of her favourite perfume. The feelings of happiness when they lay together in his cabin on the Normandy, the feeling of security that she let him have.
And the feeling of betrayal when she left him without saying a word. When he received her message where she tried to apologize and quoted fucking Tennyson at him. Where she left him, knowing the danger of his mission and how important she was to him, and knowing just what her betrayal would do to him.
His biotic implants, forcibly burned into the grey matter of his brain, responded to the mental signal. Hormones and electricity flooded him, adrenalin and rage powered his muscles, and the electrical signals activated the mass-effect amplifiers he wore. An invisible blanket of force covered him as he swung at the Krogan.
Instead of landing on a squishy human like he was expecting, Shepard’s punch tore through the Krogan’s face. It hit the side of his mouth and kept on going. It sheared off the alien’s jaw in one neat bloody chunk and threw him to the ground. He hit it, orange blood pouring from his mouth like a faucet and shock written in his beady eyes.
Shepard fell on him, screaming savagely as he pounded the Krogan into mush. Bones broke and organs ruptured, but Shepard kept at it. The Krogan’s rib cage was broken in so many places his body looked deflated when Shepard finished. The mass-effect field flickered and shut down, the blood that stained his armour falling to the ground. He was as clean as the moment he stepped off the shuttle.
Mordin was not so lucky, and pieces of Krogan flesh were splattered all over him. With muted disgust, he rolled behind cover and gamely wiped some of it off him. Garrus, from his undignified position under a pile of broken concrete, could not stop laughing. Dust stained his face a stark white, except where trickles of blood cut swathes through it.
Tali’Zorah nar Rayya, from her position ahead of Shepard, fired off the last few shots at the departing Weyrloc. The Chief, who possessed perhaps half a brain, had decided once his feint had failed that discretion was the only part of valour. He had locked the door behind his men who now died one by one as Tali put shots between their shoulders. Only one thought to try and shoot his way out. For his troubles, Tali’s bullet went through his forehead.
Shepard gave Garrus a hand, picking off the pieces of concrete and lifting up the stricken Turian. Mordin stumbled to his feet, a grimace of distaste on his face.
“That was…unnecessary, Shepard. Recommend reducing the influx of adrenalin in your biotic implants. Rage is…debilitating in the long term. Can lead to early-onset cranial deterioration. Very messy. Very unfortunate.”
Shepard turned towards Mordin. His eyes forced the Salarian back, not because they were burning with fury or blood lust. They were empty. Black orbs that led to nothing, not even the rage he showed a minute ago. It scared him more than the sight of the renegade that just beat a Krogan into paste a second ago.
“Do you have anything else to add, Doctor?” Shepard inserted another thermal clip into his shotgun.
“N-no, Shepard. Nothing to add. We should hurry. Maelon is inside, likely forced to progress on genophage cure as we speak. Very bad. Must be stopped.”
Garrus finished cleaning himself off and checked his rifle again. “Agreed. I think I’ve had enough of being hugged by Krogan. At least Wrex won’t bother to hug us when we get him the genophage.”
Mordin stiffened. Did Garrus not know? How could he not, after all this? They weren’t here to release the cure for the genophage, they were here to destroy it. Curing the Krogan, allowing them to freely breed like they had generations ago: it spelt the death sentence of the galaxy. They had, no, they must be stopped.
Shepard put on his helmet, sealing himself off from the others.
“We won’t be giving him the genophage cure.”
Garrus and Tali shared a glance. Tali’s mask obscured her face, but they could hear the uncertainty in her voice.
“But, Shepard, Wrex asked that we turn over the research to him. He…said that he would be able to control a cure…”
“No, Tali. He can’t. I won’t allow the chance that he loses control over it. That would be something the galaxy can’t afford right now. Not with the Geth on the horizon, not with the Reapers coming.”
“Not even after, Shepard? So you’re deciding for all of them?” Garrus bit out, surprise and anger sharpening his voice.
“Ironic. Turian supporting a cure for the genophage. Repressed racial guilt, perhaps? Desire to make amends for your people’s complicity in releasing the genophage?” Mordin asked.
Garrus stuck a finger in Mordin’s face. The Salarian fought the urge to take a step back. Garrus was angry, so angry the frills on his neck were flaring out, and Mordin knew that running was the best idea when there were angry Turians in the room. Particularly when they held loaded rifles.
“Guilt? This has nothing to do with my guilt, doctor. I thought we were going to trust Wrex, because unlike you, he was right with Shepard and I when we took out Saren. Hell, so far he’s been able to keep the other clans in line, and keep the females safe. We trust him, and right now, your motives are suspect. You’re here concerned that they captured your partner…but I get the feeling you’re not so worried about saving him.”
“Of course. Loose ends dangerous. Need to protect the integrity of the cure.” Mordin felt the lie force itself out. The Special Forces never required him to lie before killing former team members, they were far too open about their intentions. If you were compromised, you died. No questions, no difficulties. Simple. Clean. Scientific. He felt uncomfortable, especially since he did want to trust the others. The stakes were far too high, after all, for mistrust.
Garrus spat and turned his bad eye on Mordin. Tali stepped between the two.
“If you two bosh’tet are done preening, we can go on with the mission. We’ve still got to get through this place before we can start arguing over what to do with the cure.”
Shepard had already started walking down the hall, away from his squabbling squad-mates. He spoke quietly, not bothering to face them.
“This isn’t a discussion. We won’t be giving Wrex any of the research, and Mordin will use what he can to refine the genophage. It will not be cured”
“But Shepard-” Garrus started and quickly stopped when Shepard spun, grabbed him by the collar and jerked him close, face-to-helmet.
“But nothing, Garrus. It’s over. Deal with it.”
Garrus, Tali, and Mordin watched Shepard walk away, with disgust, fear, and shame written on their faces.
Mordin took the first step after Shepard. He didn’t want to look the others in the eyes.