Archive for October 2013

Talkin’ land, man   Leave a comment

A couple of years ago, I invested in a land syndication project headed by Belterra Land Company.  I wanted to add some land to my vast (it’s not really vast) portfolio.  Thus, I purchased two units of land in Red Deer, part of a larger parcel of land acquired by Belterra.

Fast-forward to 2013.  I still have my units of land, as I patiently await (anticipate) a return on my investment.  In the meantime, Belterra’s work was recently featured by NEMA, the National Exempt Market Association, in their e-magazine.  The link to that article can be accessed by clicking here.

Or, you can just keep reading to see what Kristi Stuart, Belterra’s Director of Channel Management, wrote.

_____________________________________________________________

Bare Land Syndication, or Land Banking, has had many successes as well as many controversies. Following the market downturn of 2009, the Belterra team worked quickly to position its undivided interest offerings for the Exempt Market and the new rules that were implemented in 2010. A renewed commitment to product education, training and support for its staff, has ensured a smooth transition to the Exempt Market environment.

 

Belterra Land Company is a land-based real estate investment and development group formed in November of 2006 to capitalize on small to mid-size projects within Alberta. Its continued goal is to produce sound real estate opportunities for investors, which provide above-average rates of return while remaining focused on Belterra’s guiding principles; ‘Service, Value, Trust.’

 

The Belterra business model was developed with extensive research on targeted strategic parcels (approximately 20-80 acres) along the Highway 2/2A corridor with a specific emphasis on Central Alberta. The strength of this region – one of the fastest growing in North America – is highlighted by strong oil and gas servicing and development, an aggressive business investment environment, low unemployment, significant population growth, high average weekly earnings and a robust housing market. This Central Alberta focus has resulted in significant area expertise, in addition to access to a network of real estate industry professionals.

 

Not content to buy and hold (or ‘buy and hope’ as has been coined internally), Belterra felt compelled to focus on all facets of the real estate life cycle – acquiring undeveloped land and managing it through planning, zoning and eventually, development.

 

Throughout the real estate life cycle, Belterra seeks to transform its assets from undeveloped land to thriving communities and its investors are offered an opportunity to participate in this process and the associated returns.

 

THE SLOPES OF SYLVAN LAKE

Belterra’s first project, The Slopes of Sylvan Lake, is a 49 Acre Residential Development located in Lacombe County near the Summer Village of Birchcliff. Launched in 2007, Belterra Land Company successfully managed this property through the planning and entitlement phase. This Master Planned Community – the first of its kind under the new Sylvan Lake Area Structure Plan – consists of 49 lots and is now ready for construction.

 

DON`T CALL IT A COMEBACK: UNDERSTANDING UDI

Undivided Interest or UDI, as a means of pre-development land syndication is not new – quite the contrary. Under the UDI model, purchasers become the registered owners of shared units within a parcel of land. Investors receive a certified copy of title, in their name, for their proportionate interest.

 

For Belterra, this model in its simplest form provides true investor alignment with its basic principles of shared success. All stakeholders share in the initial Capital, Risk, Decision Making and Return.

 

In the wake of 2009, Belterra has recently witnessed a renewed interest in its UDI model amongst those clients who still value pre-development land and prefer the security that titled ownership provides.

 

Clearly, debt free bare land – purchased with significant research and due diligence – still has a place in any real estate investor’s portfolio.

 

CURRENT PROJECT: RED DEER

Belterra-managed projects have continued to perform and excel amidst challenging market conditions. Our third Project, comprised of approximately 77.97 acres of future residential land within the Red Deer city limits, has seen an increase in appraised value of ~38% since it was acquired in 2009.

 

Red Deer is Alberta’s third most populous city with a total population of over 94,000 (as of 2012). Red Deer’s central location gives it the distinction of being the only city in the Canadian prairies with a market of over two million people within a 160 kilometre radius.

 

KEY HIGHLIGHTS OF THIS AREA INCLUDE:

·         Trade area of 275,000 people, representing over 40 municipalities in Central Alberta.

 

·         Access to over 15 million people in Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest.

 

·         Red Deer, the region’s largest city, saw its population increase 19% from 2004 – 2010.

 

·         Highest proportion (18.6%) of young adults within working age population.

 

·         Lowest transportation costs in Western Canada due to its central location along major transport routes to the U.S. Pacific Northwest, a market area of over 15 million people.

 

·         In 2010, Red Deer City Council approved a $1.244 billion ten-year capital plan for the region. The majority of the funds will be used for roads, infrastructure upgrades, transportation, revitalization, and future growth projects.

 

Since its acquisition in 2009, the Red Deer Project has achieved significant pre-development milestones, namely:  Annexation, Area Structure Plan Approval and (soon to be announced) changes in Zoning.

 

Currently, less than 25% of this offering, available in UDIs or RRSP eligible secured mortgages, remains.

 

THE FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT

Throughout 2013 and beyond, Belterra Land Company will continue to assess and acquire real estate opportunities within its focused target market along the Highway 2/2A corridor. In addition, our team will continue to work collaboratively with local municipalities and stakeholders to plan, create and develop successful communities while remaining focused on our guiding principles.

 

While the downturn of 2009 presented its challenges for Belterra, the future holds nothing but opportunity. As Alberta moves into the next phase of economic growth, we consider our land assets and our investment partners to be well-positioned for success.

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Posted October 30, 2013 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized

So who wants to read a story about “King Solomon’s Frogs”?   Leave a comment

Last time – last night, to be precise – I wrote that I would “publish” my last fanfic story.  But first…

About six years ago, a small group of fanfic writers, myself included, decided that we would write a story featuring King Solomon’s Frogs.  To learn more about them, click here.  Or, trust me when I say that in the Marvel Universe, the Frogs are a time/space travel device that allow the person wielding them to go just about anywhere and anywhen.  Never heard of them?  I’m not surprised.  I’m a big Marvel guy, and I hadn’t heard of them, either.

The story was going to consist of several parts, or chapters, each authored by a different person.  After the first person told his chapter, with a variety of characters and whatever plot he imagined, he would pass along the story to the next person.  The trick was, the second person would have to continue the story only after receiving the previous chapter.  It would get passed along after that to the third guy, and the fourth, and so on, until the final writer wrapped it up.

Alas, the best laid plans…

I was set to be Writer #2.  I know someone wrote the first chapter, because I remember reading it, and refer to it in my chapter.  But for whatever reason, one that I certainly can’t remember six years after the fact, it never got completed.  Curses.  And my sincerest apologies for not being able to remember who wrote the first chapter!

I wish it had.  In the AV2Kniverse – where I wrote the bulk of my fanfic – there was no Liberty Legion.  (Click here or here, if you want the comprehensive low-down.)  The LL were a team of heroes that fought on the American homefront during World War II.  Captain America was not a member of the Legion, but his lesser-known ally, The Patriot, was.  Well, I liked writing about the more obscure characters in the Marvel Universe, so I decided I’d resurrect the Liberty Legion concept for the 21st century.  It was only a one-shot deal, so I could “introduce” them to the fold, and if I ever felt like it, could come back and write about them again.

Never did.

So if you want to keep reading, it’s gonna get a lot weirder from this point on.  If not, that’s cool, too.  There is a lot of prose coming up, and it involves Marvel characters you’ve never heard of, characters I invented, and a story that might make me cringe if I read it with an older and more critical eye.

You were warned.

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ARTIFACTS

PART 2 – Written by Jason MacAskill

 

What you just missed… the time-traveling trinkets known as King Solomon’s Frogs were stolen by a female thief hired by AIM, the preeminent manufacturer and supplier of ultra-sophisticated armament.  Fleeing Wakanda, she gave one of the Frogs away for reasons yet to be revealed, and kept one for herself.  The Frog quickly changed hands, eventually ending up in the possession of the sinister Stegron, who soon discovered that the device he held was capable of transporting him – or people around him – to any point in time, forward or back.  Soon after, the dinosaur-man found himself fending off two foes: the Lion of Venice, the latest incarnation of that city’s most famous hero; and Cataphract-4, an agent of AIM equipped with gladiatorial-styled weaponry and the ability to move through time as well.  They brawled their way into 1797, squarely into Napoleon Bonaparte’s conquest of Venice.  Ultimately, the Frog was lost to all three men; with its disappearance, Cataphract-4 returned to the present, while the Lion stayed behind, and Stegron stowed away on a merchant ship, seeking the long-lost Savage Land…

 

AAAAAAAAAAAA

 

Prologue – a few days ago…

 

Ray Abernathy could not believe his luck.  It was not that long ago that he was being pursued by a trio of goons hired by a German antiques dealer, who had accused him of reneging on a promised purchase – but to be fair, the German was misrepresenting just about everything in his collection.  When the elderly antiquarian called him on it, the thugs were dispatched to coerce Abernathy not to sully the dealer’s quote-unquote good name.

 

Then he literally ran into the man with the strange, golden-hued prize who seemed to have his own problems.

 

After accepting the frog-shaped trinket from the injured man, Abernathy continued to run.  The German henchmen never caught him, a veritable miracle as far as he was concerned, and he eventually found refuge in his loft in Italy.  The adrenaline did not stop surging through his short, stout body until he knocked back an entire bottle of wine and collapsed onto his couch, grateful to be alive.

 

Later that evening, the American scholar devoted himself to the new task at hand – namely, figuring out what this damn frog was.  Abernathy had devoted well over half of his eighty years on Earth to the study of rare and historical objects, but off the top of his nearly bald head, a pair of ugly yellow frogs did not ring any bells.  And he certainly did not remember any fables about a pair of scientifically- or magically-derived frogs that could shift people or objects through time.  Thus, he dismissed that much of the robed man’s story as shock-induced babble, and using every book, catalog, and website at his disposal, set off to find the origin of King Solomon’s Frogs.

 

The next morning, he awoke with no answers, nothing to corroborate the stranger’s story.  Frustrated, but not too proud to ask for help, he wrote out a letter to an old colleague back in the United States, an anthropologist who had served as a mentor / sounding board during his younger years in academia.  Abernathy hoped that perhaps his friend could attack this riddle from a different point of view; certainly, back in those days, Elton Morrow was considered quite the maverick scientist.

 

He also enclosed several Polaroids of the Frog in a large envelope, dropped the letter off at the UPS depot stationed a block from his villa, and trudged back the steps a few minutes later.  Unfortunately, when he shut the door, he was welcomed by a most unexpected guest.  It was humanoid, but far from human.  And when he/it smiled, the long, sharp teeth in his/its mouth clacked together like a large rat trap.  Abernathy nearly soiled himself, utterly convinced that the olive-skinned, leathery creature that towered over him would kill him…he just hoped that it would be quick.

 

“I trussst you sssstill have what I’m looking for?”  were the last words the antiquarian heard.

 

AAAAAAAAAAA

 

Now, and several time zones to the west…

 

The Blue Diamond was celebrating his rebirthday.  January third.  That was the day, exactly one year earlier, that the Squadron Supreme broke through his crystalline cocoon.  When the World War Two hero first met the cosmically-powered woman responsible for changing him from impervious flesh to a veritable living diamond, he thought it would keep he and the Star-Dancer together for an eternity.  Regrettably, he soon found out that she was borderline insane, and the relationship quickly dissolved; soon after, his body betrayed him, altered by her cosmic energies. He could no longer move, locked in suspended animation until Hyperion used him as a baseball bat, cracking through the silver-white shell that constricted movement and thought.

 

But there was an upside.  For lack of a better term, he was de-aged; his metabolic processes were somehow reversed by the Star-Dancer’s powers, giving him the appearance of a man roughly half his age.  And he planned on making the most of it.  Haunted by an early retirement as the Blue Diamond, the homefront hero pledged that he would not simply sit back and watch other marvels do things that he was just as capable of doing.  His eagerness to fight was amplified by the catastrophic losses sustained around the globe during the Stark Invasion, as the concepts of unity, duty, and patriotism were embraced by a new generation.

 

It was the arrival of a young woman named Dania that ultimately spurred him to form a new Liberty Legion.  Her father was the Red Raven, a man with whom the Blue Diamond fought in the original Legion sixty years earlier.  When the war ended, the team dissolved, and the Raven left, not to be seen again.  But as the Diamond discovered, his daughter seemed to share a few personality traits with her dad – stubbornness foremost among them – and she wound up being his first recruit.

 

His next target was Louise Mason, the Blonde Phantom.  Like Elton Morrow, she too looked far younger than her true age – in fact, they were very much peers.  Though not a member of the Legion, the Phantom was a noted wartime champion back in the day, but she declined his offer.  However, the once and present detective pledged to help him find other candidates, in conjunction with the other partners that made up Heroes for Hire.  They spent countless man-hours scouring the continent for leads, and with the Diamond and the new Red Raven making the pitch to prospective Legionnaires, they gradually built up a network of active and reserve members.  Regrettably, neither the present-day version of the All-Winners Squad, nor the Sentinels of Liberty, were much help at all.  The former had nothing in common with the original Squad other than their name, while the latter… the Diamond could not put his finger on it, but he knew there was something under their surface that he did not want to be a part of.

 

But those experiences were in the past.  Now, the Liberty Legion were gathered in their base, located underneath the very same radio station where Morrow and six others had responded to Bucky’s call in 1942.  Now, that radio station was just a memory, replaced by a condominium complex, but the Blue Diamond cajoled the right people (helped by Mason and millionaire Daniel Rand, also known as Iron Fist) and bought some space in the basement.  As bases went, it was no Avengers Mansion – but it was his.

 

“Thanks for coming, everybody,” he said, raising a glass of wine to his teammates.  Red Raven nodded with a smile, as did Miss America.  She had no familial tie to the first Miss America, but Jenny Sugar took the name and fought just as bravely as Madeline Joyce once did.  When asked, she would tell you with complete conviction that she was the illegitimate grand-daughter of Captain America, though there was no proof to substantiate her claim – just the same, the attractive young woman was stronger, faster, and better conditioned than 99.9% of the rest of the human population.

 

The Thin Man raised his glass, but did not partake.  Similarly to Jenny Sugar, he was not related to his heroic predecessor, Bruce Dickson, who first sported the Thin Man handle.  Until recently, he was a CIA field agent, and the recipient of a serum derived in part by blood extracted from Dickson, who had joined the Agency after discovered his Himalayan home was obliterated by the Nazis.  When he became too old to be an effective field operative, the government went to work to create a new Thin Man; as fate would have it, the formula only worked on one man, whose real name was unknown even to the Diamond.  Nonetheless, they trusted him, and used his alias of Tim Mann whenever he was out of uniform.

 

Sun Girl was still a mystery to them, though they accepted her as one of their own.  She claimed to be the original, Mary Mitchell, though she apparently had not aged a day since the 1950s.  Stranger still was the fact that she found them, rather than the other way around.  They found out very little about her, leading the Diamond to wonder if she was something other than human, or from a different race like the Raven’s people or Jack Frost.  Yet her powers certainly matched the Sun Girl he remembered, and she told them tales of postwar exploits with the original Human Torch that the android later verified.  She was an enigma, in many ways, but gave them no qualifiable reason to let her go.

 

The last active member of the new Legion was garbed in the familiar red, white, and blue of the Spirit of ’76.  The Blue Diamond and Red Raven found him in Philadelphia, where he claimed he was a direct descendent of the original one-time Crusader.  “Direct” might have been a stretch, as the first Spirit, William Naslund, was his grandmother’s cousin… but he and this contemporary hero were inexplicably connected.  By touching the tattoo of an American flag on his shoulder, Christian Allen was able to summon the ghost of his ancestor, doubling his strength, agility, and fighting prowess.  Though the Diamond was skeptical on most things supernatural, he could not prove that Allen was not somehow augmented by Naslund, and the volunteer firefighter was a likeable enough fellow to have around.

 

The gathering was in part celebratory, but it was also a chance for the half-dozen heroes to get together and discuss their objectives and tactics.  This incarnation of the Liberty Legion had only fought together a grand total of three times, and none of those battles lasted longer than a few minutes against garden-variety carjackers and convenience-store thieves.  In truth, it was more a matter of finding out if they could work together as a unit; any one of the six could have done the job.  It also gave them a chance to talk about the other reservists, trainees, and targets in the network.

 

“Nineteen,” Miss America declared, when asked the number of total Legionnaires by Sun Girl.  “I’d love to say twenty, but we won’t know for certain until Elton and I check out her in person.”

 

“‘Her’?  I like the sounds of that,” the Spirit said with a smile.

 

The Blue Diamond suppressed a grin.  “Let’s not put the cart before the horse, Chris.  We haven’t heard from her ourselves – we haven’t even seen a picture of her.  In fact, it might be a wild goose chase.”

 

“Then what’s there to investigate?”

 

“Well…” Miss America hesitated, but decided to continue.  “One of those garbage ‘urban legend’-type websites recently posted a picture of what looks like a woman, frozen in a block of ice, outside of a town called Inuvik in the Northwest Territories.”

 

The caped crimefighter rolled his eyes.  “Uh-huh.  And..?”

 

“A couple of years ago, Captain America investigated a similar claim, looking for his partner – and current Hero for Hire, I might add – Demolition Man.  Though the D-Man didn’t turn up until later, the Captain did find another long-lost hero, someone whose name I’m sure you’ll recognize:  Jack Frost.  Unfortunately, as soon as he found him, he lost him again, when, uh… oh, whatever.  When Jack was swallowed by a gigantic ice worm and the two ended up sinking underneath the ice together.”

 

“That’s… interesting,” offered the stoic Thin Man.

 

“And true,” the Blue Diamond said.  “For as long as I knew him, Jack always thought he was alone.  Maybe this sighting is proof that there are others like him.  Maybe it is him – who’s to say?  But there’s only one way to find out.”

 

AAAAAAAAAAAA

 

Eventually, the meeting / party broke for the night.  Sun Girl was the last to leave, and as she walked toward the door, she looked over her shoulder.  “You know, I could probably melt that block of ice you’re investigating a lot faster than you or Jenny can smash through it.  Why aren’t I going?”

 

“Because I’m leaving you in charge until I get back,” the Diamond responded.  “You’re far and away the most experienced, and if something happens while we’re away, I need to know the kids are in good hands.”

 

“Oh, Elton… you’re such a worrier.”  The enigmatic beauty gave him a gentle hug.  “Happy rebirthday, you big lug.”

 

After insuring she was outside safely via the closed-circuit cameras on the wall behind his desk, his eyes fell on the UPS envelope he received earlier that day.  He had it forwarded from its original destination in Hartsdale, Massachusetts, where he settled after the war.  He recognized the sender immediately, though it was someone he had not talked to in decades.  Morrow had heard that Ray Abernathy made quite the name for himself in antiquities, and his curiosity was aroused.  He ripped open the large envelope, and decided to scan the pictures before diving into the text.

 

He was quite shocked when the object of his study suddenly appeared on the desk in front of him.

 

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

 

“It’s reappeared!”

 

“Where?  When?”

 

“…New York City.  And now.”

 

“Send Cataphract-8.”

 

“Copy that.”

 

In recent times, AIM had committed most of its resources into pure research and development, eschewing the old days when they waded into battle like common foot soldiers.  They were scientists, first and foremost.  But they also realized the importance of having their own in-house muscle, for lack of a better term; the fewer people that knew of their work, the better.  The Cataphracts served one of those particular requirements – tough, tactically minded, and intelligent, each numbered Cataphract wore armor reminiscent of ancient gladiatorial garb.  However, they also incorporated technology that was generations ahead of anything not invented by anyone named Stark or Richards… and they could travel back and forth in time, to boot.

 

Cataphract-8 was ready to go.  The chronal energies harnessed by his armor were so intense, it made multiple jumps along the timestream impossible, hence AIM’s interest in King Solomon’s Frogs.  To their knowledge, there was no such limit on the Frogs.  Simply put, they could travel an infinite number of times without wearing down or burning out.  If they had to tear the bafflingly simplistic ornaments apart to learn their secret, their geniuses at AIM were confident they could figure them out.

 

As he powered up, another voice crackled through his communications earpiece.  “Abort, Cataphract-8!  I repeat, abort!”

 

A voice tinged with a Kentucky twang impatiently shot back to the Hive-Node.  “Understood.  What’s going on?”

 

“The target has moved.  Prepare to shift to a revised temporal coordinate…”

 

AAAAAAAAAAA

 

Disorientation gave way to an unsettling familiarity.  When the Blue Diamond surveyed his surroundings, he was baffled by the sense of deja vu he experienced.  In terms of geography, he had not moved an inch, but his base of operations had undergone a thorough renovation.  The equipment and furniture were gone, replaced by… well, replaced by not much of anything.  In fact, what little remained in the sub-basement was being taken out by grim-looking men in suits.

 

The fact that there was a gun pressed to his temple was practically the least of his concerns right now.

 

“How did you get past the security guards?  This is a restricted area!”  bellowed the gun-wielding man, holding his weapon at arm’s length.

 

That is a really good question, thought the Diamond, still holding one of King Solomon’s Frogs in a tight grip.

 

“Lay off, Bob,” said another man, stepping between the two.  “Don’t you recognize this guy?  It’s the Blue Diamond.  Him and Bucky took on the Invaders a couple of months back, remember?  Heck, if it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t’ve ever found the Red Skull’s hidey-hole.  Right, pal?”

 

“Sure… that’s just how it went,” the hard-skinned hero replied slowly, still trying to get a grasp of the situation, “but we had a lot of help.”

 

The friendlier man extended his hand.  “Stan Weinberg, FBI.  We’re almost done clearing this place out… maybe Uncle Sam can figure out what some of this stuff does.  Damn Nazis… hey, what’s that you got?”

 

The federal agent was nodding at the small Frog; convinced that it was the reason he was somehow flung 60-odd years back in time, the Diamond decided that it was best not to give Weinberg a reason to confiscate it.  “This thing?  Just a souvenir.  I saw it the, uh, the last time I was down here.  Hope you don’t mind me wanting to commemorate the Liberty Legion’s biggest battle yet.”

 

He thought about it for a moment, then scowled before gesturing toward the door.  “Sure, why not.  Who’s gonna miss that ugly thing?  But you better head topside quick.  My partner’s not driving the welcome wagon, but he does have a point… and technically, you’re trespassing.  So do me a favor -“

 

“I was never here,” the middle-aged strongman interrupted.  “You fellows have a good night.”

 

He bounded up the stairs, and his massive footfalls echoed throughout the room.  A couple of minutes later, he was across the block from the old yet still new radio station, and the Legionnaire wondered for the first time if he was permanently stranded in the era that his heroic life began in.  Professor Elton Morrow was a learned man, and he wondered if the various time paradoxes applied.  Could he meet himself?  Would he meet himself?  What would happen then?  He had no idea of the exact date – a vague idea, based on the FBI agent’s words – but he could not remember if he was even in New York City that night in 1942.

 

He had to find out.

 

But first, he had to deal with the large man in foreboding armor that suddenly materialized in front of him.

 

AAAAAAAAAAAA

 

Though the Cataphract had no idea who the Blue Diamond was, he was reasonably certain that the man in blue and yellow was not just going to hand the Frog over – only so-called superheroes combined color schemes like that.  Thus, there were no point even asking the question.  Without a word of warning, Cataphract-8 charged his foe, his energy-charged sword held high overhead.  Backed against the wall – literally – the Diamond barely avoided the full impact of the blade as it sheared through the brick wall behind him, grazing his arm.  It gave him a mild shock, but he was otherwise unharmed.  Conversely, AIM’s gladiator was quite surprised that the hero’s arm was still intact, and he stepped back to reevaluate his opponent.

 

“That should have sliced you in half,” the cyborg said threateningly.  “I guess I’ll have to increase the intensity of the charge.”

 

“I’ve been hit by far better men than you,” the Diamond retorted, mentally reliving his skirmish with a brainwashed Namor – though he was not sure if it happened two months ago, sixty-five years ago, or both.

 

Cataphract-8 smirked.  “No, you haven’t.”

 

As promised, he amplified the circuit that ran from his gauntlet to the handle of the gladius, making the already dangerous vibranium blade that much more frightening.  He held it out in front of him, taunting his foe, until a thrown garbage can rang off the side of his helmet and against his forearm.  Both men turned toward the unlikely projectile’s pitcher, clad nearly head to toe in olive green.  He wore a red belt, and a full face-mask outlined in red as well.  Though he was smaller than either combatant, he displayed no fear, even though he was unarmed.  “Need some help?”

 

It took a few seconds for the Blue Diamond to recognize the intruder, partially because his eyesight was not what it used to be, even after shaving nearly half a century off his physical age.  There was noticeable relief in his voice when he called out, “Is that you, Challenger?”

 

“Right the first time,” the marvel replied.  Law student Bill Waring circled the globe, learning every conceivable skill and fighting style he could in order to battle organized crime.  When he returned home, he adopted the identity of the Challenger, whose reputation as a merciless vigilante rapidly spread throughout the underworld.  Fortunately for the Diamond, an informant in the Bureau’s office suggested that the Challenger keep a close eye on the Red Skull’s once-hidden base, just in case the Nazis tried to take it back.  He had no idea he would wind up helping the Liberty Legion’s strongest member fend off an attack by a science fiction writer’s version of a 21st-century gladiator.

 

“This doesn’t concern you,” Cataphract-8 spat.  “Step aside, or suffer the consequences.”

 

“Not my style, chum.”

 

The Blue Diamond took advantage of the distraction to send a roundhouse right at his opponent, and the punch propelled Cataphract-8 chest-first into a lamppost, bending the metal beam nearly in half.  Unfortunately for the strongman, the vibranium coating in his armor kept AIM’s cybernetic operative from having anything other than his pride injured.  He picked himself off the pavement and shook his head.  “Primitive.”

 

“A real charmer, Diamond,” the Challenger said.  “Who is this guy?”

 

“I’ve never seen him before in my life,” the Legionnaire replied, disappointed that his best shot had no discernable effect on the Cataphract.  “But if I was a betting man, I’d say he followed me through time looking for this.”

 

The vigilante peeked down at King Solomon’s Frog, and then back to the grim-faced Blue Diamond.  “That’s just about the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.”

 

“Yes, well… yes, I suppose it is.”

 

Cataphract-8 pointed at the green-garbed interloper.  “If you stand with him, then you’ll die with him.”  He ran towards the pair of heroes, his short sword slashing through the air with an ominous hiss.  The two champions quickly exchanged a glance, then ran from him in tandem.  The Challenger had to force himself to run at the Blue Diamond’s slower gallop, and the AIM-designed hunter rocketed after them, as if enjoying the hunt for a couple of moments, before realizing that the sooner he acquired the Frog, the better.

 

And the Diamond realized just that too.  Still at a full run, he lunged toward the Challenger with his right hand and yelled, “Take it!  You’re a lot faster than me – get out of here!  Whatever this thing is, it’s too important to just give it away!”

 

“You got it, BD!”  responded his younger ally.  “I’ll get this back to you when I shake this lummox off my tail!”  And with a wink, he ran harder than before, slightly hunched over, and he leaped over a parked car and into a darkened alley.  Cataphract-8 flew past the Diamond with a snarl, pointing his gladius at the defiant hero as if in warning, and followed his new prey like a human torpedo… which was not actually that far off the mark, given the extensive engineering he had endured for his mission.

 

When both the hunter and the hunted were far out of sight, the Blue Diamond straightened to his full height with a slow grin.  He still held one of King Solomon’s Frogs in his tight grasp – it was all just sleight of hand.  The indestructible man felt a twinge of guilt for leaving the Challenger by himself, but he also knew that whatever he held – whatever this object was that Abernathy must have been warning him about – had to be protected at all costs.

 

It suddenly occurred to him that Cataphract-8 might not be alone.  He scanned the skies in every direction, then looked back down at the Frog.  “What are you?” the Diamond asked aloud.

 

He did not expect an answer, of course – but he also did not expect the strange antique to glow so brightly that it forced him to avert his eyes.  Later, he would swear it winked at him.

 

AAAAAAAAAAA

 

“Return to base, Cataprhact-8.  The target has shifted again.”

 

The frustrated cyborg took a last look at the Challenger, who played out the deception to perfection.  He was still sprinting with his back turned to the Cataphract, who nodded, as if accepting defeat.  “…Affirmative.  Bodyslide by one.”

 

“Transmission received.  You are coming home.”

 

He was back in the 21st century in a heartbeat.  The trip gave him a headache, as usual, and he paced out of the chronodock toward the debriefing chamber as per AIM regulations.  Without knocking – for that would simply be a waste of time – he opened the door, surprised that another information session seemed to be well under way.  There were five AIM administrators seated in a semi-circle, asking heated questions at their handcuffed subject.  It took a second for the Cataphract to recognize her, but when he did, he smiled coldly, knowing that their next pursuit should go that much more smoothly.  Now that they had the Wakandan thief in their custody, they would get all the answers they needed.

 

AAAAAAAAAAAA

 

The Blue Diamond materialized back behind the wooden desk in the Liberty Legion’s refurbished headquarters, but he did so empty-handed.  Somewhere, sometime, between the nanoseconds that elapsed between his cross-temporal arrival and departure, he lost the Frog.  Or, maybe the Frog decided that it had better plans – who knew?  The weary hero did not know whether to feel upset over the loss, or relieved that he made it back to his own time, such as it was.  At any rate, it seemed as if the golden trinket was no longer his concern.

 

He tidied up the notes that his old pal Ray Abernathy sent him, and muttered quietly, “Who’s going to believe me when I tell them about this?”

llegion

Posted October 16, 2013 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized

It’s not a bird or a plane, it’s just me writing about that stuff   Leave a comment

I used to be what some of you might consider a nerd.

I don’t feel awkward sharing this, now, given that I doubt very few folks actually read this blog.  But I was feeling nostalgic, and was skimming over some fanfic sites, and felt like this would be good blog fodder.  For the uninitiated, “fanfic” is simply a story, or stories, written about (a usually fictional) someone or something by a non-professional writer.  It is short for “fan fiction”, and can be about just about anything.  There are countless websites out there about fictional characters in film, television, and comic books.  Some of it can be pretty good; some of it is just wrong, and awkward, and disturbing.

I tried not to write the latter.

For a few years, starting in about 1999, I wrote comic book fanfic.  I was still collecting comics back then, and considered myself mostly a Marvel guy.  When I got my first computer, and discovered comic book fanfic sites, I was intrigued… in retrospect, equally by the mediUM as much as the mediA, if I might make that distinction.  For me to have the ability to write, say, a Spider-Man story, and with a few digital keystrokes, put it out there for anybody to find and read… well, that was pretty cool.  Hey, in my mind, the internet was a new frontier.  Also, because these fanfic universes were, in essence, imaginary stories, unencumbered by continuity or marketing or real-life consequences – “hey, we can kill Wolverine!” – some of them were damn entertaining.

Now it must also be said that many were not.  I would start to read many stories, but I’d have to just give up, confused and/or annoyed.  It was obvious why some folks were typing away at home while the Ellises and Morrisons and Willinghams were and are actually writing for major comic book publishers.  However, there were others who were damn creative – and skilled, and technically proficient as well.  Seeing their work inspired me to try it for myself.

Neil Gow at Marvel-X was the first guy I asked, and he gave me a shot.  I wrote an Omega the Unknown one-shot (not wanting to use anyone else that anybody in their right mind would possibly want to use).  After that, I took over Fantastic Four for a while.  Then Marvel-X folded into Avengers2000, and I did a whole bunch of other stuff.  Mostly team titles, and all Marvel-oriented.  All told, I wrote or co-wrote over 60 stories at that site (and added two more at a site called Faux DC).

Why did I write?  Because it was fun.  I liked the research – I was a big continuity geek.  I wanted to keep my mind busy.  And I suppose, deep down, that I wanted feedback on my stuff, especially if it was complimentary.

I suspect all of “us” did.  When I recently went looking back at some of the fanfic sites I frequented in the past, I was a little bit disappointed to discover that most were not nearly as active as they used to be.  When I was writing – geez, a decade ago – the monthly output at certain sites was incredible.  Guys were producing multiple “titles” a month, and outstanding ones at that.  The camaraderie was key, too.  They helped inspire and motivate and push me, and each other, to write.  It was really cool.  Now, though, it seems like many of the people I wrote with (and trust me, they wrote WAY GOODER than me) are professionals in their own right.  A couple have even gotten pieces published at Marvel and DC… and boy, am I jealous.

So there’s my nerdy, geeky confession that really isn’t that nerdy or geeky at all.  A special thanks to some of the guys I wrote “with”, including Steve Seinberg (my most frequent idea-bouncer-offer and feedback machine); the aformentioned Neil Gow, Chris Partin, Barry Reece, Derrick Ferguson, Dale Glaser, Des Davies (the guy who posted all of my stuff!)… I know I’m missing several other names, but thanks to you all.

Coming up next – my final fanfic story.  It won’t make sense to 99.999999999999456% of the world, but dammit, I wrote about six years ago, and it’s finally going to see the light of day.

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Posted October 15, 2013 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized