Number 72 - Sep/Oct 2012
For Point of Divergence #72
a few AH books came out this summer – not even counting Dale's All Timelines Lead to Rome
(with its oddly familiar cover...;)). In the last month, I've read The Long Earth
by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter. 1636: The Kremlin Games
, the latest (at least, at the time) of the “1632 Series” by Eric Flint, Gorg Huff, and Paula Goodlett. The latest “Destroyermen Series” book, Iron Grey Sea
by Taylor Anderson; and a couple of others whose names escape me right now because I'm trying to finish up this list at the last moment...1
from that, haven't been doing too much lately. I mean, apart from at work – which has been busy as all get out due to end of Summer/start of Fall stuff. Found a few more places interesting/tasty to eat at – most actually within
a hundred miles of us, which is a nice change of pace – but that's about it.
"Wow, if I had a nickel for every time I was doomed by a puppet, I'd have two nickels,
which isn't a lot, but it's weird that it happened twice, right?"
with the show!
Divergent Opinions - Comments on P.O.D. 71
Pasadena-D's Doc Savage...
Now, just because Dale asked for it, a chunk of story from one of Pasadena-D's “Doc Savage”
books from 1959. Mind you, I have no idea if I'll ever do anything more
than this chunk – as I said a POD or two ago, it's hard
to to create a mystery featuring a “super-science” threat that can be stopped by six guys with machine pistols, roadsters, and the occasional dirigible – but it was fun, so I might try anyway, even if it is, literally, just background for Blue Flash.
Hey, at least it isn't a map-related obsession this time...
A bit of background, since this is both AH and a period piece: When this was “written” on the Pasadena-D timeline, the Great Depression had been over for seven years, but the economy was still in a long process of recovery. Tens of thousands of Japanese refugees were flooding into the SoCal area from the collapse of their empire, and the first a-bomb test is still three years in the future. Technology in many areas is at least a decade behind what it would be on OTL – though obviously that varies from field to field – and pulp adventures still have a viable market. L.A. County's population is a bit less than four million and Orange County's only 300,000 and much of both is still farm, ranch and orchard (well, much of it was on OTL at this time too – there were still “cities” called “Dairy Land,” “Dairy Valley” and “Dairy City” at the time – and the names weren't ironic). There are far fewer freeways in the area (just four – and the San Bernadino only reaches to the county border) and the Federal Interstate system never got off the ground, leaving most of the U.S. connected by two and – if lucky – four lane highways. A handful of P.E. and L.A. Railway lines are still running under MTA ownership and it'll be a decade until the last of them (except for the “LA&P” line
With that in mind, on with the show...
Doc Savage: A Deadly Flash of Blue – part 1
as Doctor Clark Savage, Jr., a heroic bronze statue miraculously brought to life by the golden rays of the setting Sun, stood up from his seat and grasped the offered ceremonial scissors from the city councilman who introduced him to the crowd.
Grasping the oversized tool, he neatly clipped the ribbon on the new hospital opening in the coastal Californian city of Santa Monica, which sat to the west of its larger and better known neighbor of Los Angeles. The Clark Savage Foundation had been instrumental in providing the funds to build this modern hospital in a neighborhood that previously had lacked any such institutions. And the hospital board had asked Savage if he would appear at its opening, both to acknowledge his contribution...and because an appearance of Doc Savage would certainly go a long way to making their new hospital a well known and respected institution.
Doc Savage had agreed and, indeed, had even been accompanied by all five of equally well known aides, all now being photographed in the California sun as the front doors of the new hospital opened to the public for the very first time.
For a group of men who supposedly eschewed publicity, they were certainly physically memorable. In fact, Doc and the Five seemed to actually go out of their way to make
a memorable impression, as if to make sure that all eyes were on them.
And in fact, they were.
Andrew Blodgett "Monk" Mayfair lived up to his nickname by hanging by one arm from a light figure while mugging at the camera. Next to him, Theodore Marley "Ham" Brooks leaned on his cane, while brushing some invisible dust – presumably from Monk's antics – off of his impeccable suit.
John "Renny" Renwick stood to the side amusing a crowd of children by bending quarters in half with his huge hands. Thomas J. "Long Tom" Roberts, looking like he should be in
a hospital, rather than opening one, chatted with a small flock of reporters about the all-electric nature of the building. William Harper "Johnny" Littlejohn had corralled one reporter and was telling the geological history of the stone that made the building's foundation, showing him details of the grains with his monocle magnifying glass, and explaining why it would ensure the hospital's safety in earthquakes, all in words that averaged four to five syllables a piece. The reporter seemed torn between the excitement of having one of Doc's aides all to himself to interview – and befuddlement due to the fact that he didn't understand one word in ten.
In a lot of ways it was a show they'd done many times before. And make no mistake, it was
Sure, Renny was exceptionally tall and his hands were unusually large. But his “habit” of punching out door panels for “fun,” well, that was pure theater, meant to say “here is John Renwick, Doc Savage's aide!”
Similarly, Long Tom was
skinny, but he wore slightly baggy clothes to emphasize it. And as anyone who had fought him knew, his apparent “sickly” appearance had more to do with his avoidance of the Sun than any illness.
Johnny hadn't needed that monocle for years, but he still carried it, and he was equally capable of talking without
sounding like a cross between a dictionary and a thesaurus. But that's what everyone remembered.
Monk was short and hairy, and did have longer than usual arms. But like Long Tom with his baggy clothes, similarly, his shirts and jackets were cut with the sleeves just a bit
too short, to exaggerate their length. And then he often topped it off the look by dragging a pig along.
need to dress like a fashion plate all
the...no, that wasn't true. The man really was
wedded to his “Best Dressed” style. Still, his sword cane was as much an attention-seeking prop as it was a defensive weapon. And being in fashion didn't always
have to mean wearing a perfectly tailored suit.
And Doc, well, even after decades of fooling people who should have known better with his disguises, no one seemed to have caught on that, while tall and perfectly built, he didn't have
to appear as “Doc Savage, Man Of Bronze” all the time.
In fact, if dressed more ordinarily, and shorn of monocles and canes and pigs, Doc and the Five could walk down almost any street with little fear of being recognized.
And of course, this was all Doc's plan. Amongst the many skills the man had spent years in acquiring was the somewhat surprising ones he had in stage magic. And the key to all stage magic is misdirection.
If your enemies are looking for a loud, ape-like man with a pig, the short, red-headed guy working on your own loading dock has a good chance of being overlooked. Keep an eye out for a sickly, skeleton of a man, and said eye rolls right pass the ordinary looking slender guy in a suit, even if subconsciously you feel he should get a little more sun.
Renny, Ham, Johnny...if you were on the look-out for their personas,
well, you would probably miss the persons
themselves. And even though the bad guys usually knew
Doc was a master of disguise, they almost never saw through those disguises until it was far too late.
Even before he had begun his career as an adventurer, Doc had realized that, sooner or later, he was going to attract publicity, no matter how much he fought against it. So he decided to direct that publicity into promoting a very colorful, very memorable
version of himself and his five aides.
It was no accident that in spite of how hard it was to get pictures of any of them, when newspaper cameramen were lucky enough to do so, Doc's hair was a slicked back layer of bronze, capping a figure whose clothing – no matter how well tailored – seem just barely able to contain the muscle beneath. Monk and Ham always seemed to be photographed as a barely human red ape, fresh escaped from the zoo and a society man, just on his way to his box at a major Broadway show. Renny was always captured making huge fists, Long Tom was at his sallow skeleton-ist, and Johnny either twirled his monocle, or had it in place, its magnifying glass making his eye look the size of a tennis ball.
This did more than allow Doc and the Five, if they wished, to pass amongst more ordinarily folk without being noticed. It completely hid the fact that Doc Savage had far, far
more people working for him than just those five.
miles to the east, a coupé nearly as old as its driver sputtered up a road as it wound up into the mountains halfway between the small town of La Habra and the equally small one of Corona. The road barely qualified as being two lanes and it twisted back and forth as it climbed. In spite of this, the driver kept glancing in the rear-view mirror...looking. He had been doing this since he had left the main state route a good half hour ago.
So far, all he had seen was fences, grass, the occasional cow, and the road he had already driven.
Dale Hancock was thirty-eight, a salesman for the Excelsior Vacuum Company. His sales territory covered part of Ventura and most of northern Los Angeles counties, but he was now far outside of that. His white shirt, in spite of the cool spring temperatures, was so soaked in sweat as to be nearly dripping and his hands gripped the wheel so tightly they almost shook from the pressure. Every time he looked in the rear-view mirror he twitched, as if he had almost seen something, as if he had expected
to see something, then he would exhale and look forward again, trying to push his many-mile'd vehicle to a better rate of speed on the narrow asphalt.
A few miles later, even the asphalt ended, and Dale found himself driving on gravel, further slowing his car's speed as he was forced to cautiously maneuvered along the winding track clinging to the sides of the hills.
In the west, the last rays of the Sun were just clearing the edge of the horizon and he was forced to turn on his headlights in the gathering darkness. Ahead, a line of immense thunderheads, still lit by the now invisible Sun, slowly sailed in from the south, suggesting that the heavy rains promised by the weathermen were in fact going to happen.
The road curved through a small grove of oaks, and Dale used the opportunity to briefly stop the car and use a flashlight to examine the torn and stained map that sat on the passenger side of the seat. If he was where he thought he was, another mile would seem him at the big San Joaquin Ranch reservoir. He hazarded a strained smile. From there, the road would continue through the mountains and down to the ranch town of Myford, where he could get back on US Route 101. And 101 would get him back to...
...a shadow slid over and past the road in front of him.
He began shaking and threw the map in the back, then put the car in gear, accelerating as fast as he could as his wheels threw up two arcs of gravel behind him. Caution was no longer an option and the car sped down the mountain road, barely making some of the sharper turns, gravel and dust flying as it skidded along the edges.
Behind it, following almost leisurely, drifted the shadow.
Finally the inevitable happened, the car drifted too far to the right on a turn and the wheels slid from running over the relatively smooth gravel, to running over rough, native rock. The right back tire blew in a cloud of rubber chunks, followed seconds later by the right front. Dale fought the wheel as the car skidded ever closer to going over the edge, then finally he brought it to a halt barely inches from toppling over a hundred foot cliff, engulfed in a cloud of dust.
The shadow passed over the car, rippling as it followed the contours of the dust cloud, then paused, spreading to cover both the car and the road for some distance along it.
For a moment all was silent, save for the faint sound of the breeze and the ticking of the car's now cooling engine. Then the driver's door flung open and he began to run.
Less than five feet from the car, it began.
There was a flash in the corner of his eye, like the blue afterimage of a flashbulb he hadn't seen. And to Dale, it was as if the ground suddenly became much, much farther away. Even running, every step seemed to take minutes. He put his left foot down and slowly, almost painfully lifted his right.
When he lifted that foot, he was a man of thirty-eight. By the time he swung it forward, set it down, and lifted the left again, he appeared to be one of fifty. As that food came down, seventy, maybe seventy-five. A further step was finished by a centenarian...
...the step after that never came.
The shadow now drifted away, letting the pale twilight was back in over the scene. It revealed the mummified body of a man that any doctor would have put at over a hundred years old at time of death...and any archaeologist would have put at being a mummy for at least four-hundred years!
The first drops of the coming storm began to spot the remains of Dale Hancock...