Friday, April 20, 2018

Woman helps cop, kills bad guy - then gets sued


Last year a woman in Indiana courageously assisted a police officer who was being beaten down by a criminal, who was trying to grab his gun.  She shot the perpetrator, who subsequently died of his injuries.  She was cleared of any wrongdoing by the authorities - but now she's being sued by the family of the deceased criminal.  An original news report about the incident may be found here.  A PoliceOne report about the impending lawsuit may be found here.

A fundraiser has been started to help this courageous woman pay the legal expenses incurred in defending herself.  From its description:

On February 20, 2017 a suspicious person prompted a call to 911 in Ohio County, Indiana. The suspicious person was parked in a elderly persons yard for an extended period of time, blocking her driveway, and creating a road hazard. Shortly after a Police Officer arrived in response to the call. The man began resisting and both the Officer and man went to the ground. A young woman (Kystie) standing nearby on her property ran to help the Officer. Kystie could see the Officer was loosing the fight as this man reached for the Officers gun. Fortunately for the Officer, Kystie was armed and shot the man one time which ended the fight.

Indiana State Police conducted the investigation, which was reviewed by the Dearborn County, Indiana Prosecutors Office, and the findings were that Kystie’s actions were deemed justified and no criminal charges were filed.

However, On April 6, 2018, Kystie received a summons ... regarding a wrongful death lawsuit for the assailant, J. Holland. Ohio County Superior Court Case No.:58C01-1802-CT-00001. The Officer involved was also named in the suit.

I am asking our community of citizens and law enforcement Officers to help in this legal battle.  Attorney fees are an expense well beyond Kystie’s income and this will not be a quick process. The legal fees and emotional stress may drain every resource she has.

. . .

This case is about more than the right or wrong of one party suing another.  Imagine not being able to come to the aid of another person for fear of being sued, possibly to the point of bankruptcy.  The case is about a person having the basic God-given right and the 2nd Amendment right to defend both yourself and others and without the fear of civil retribution.

There's more at the link, including the names of the lawyers involved and links to several more news articles about the incident.  Please click over there and follow them for yourself.

Folks, this is a very worthy cause.  Miss D. and I will be contributing, and I'd like to ask all my readers to please give what you can afford.  If private citizens mus be afraid to help those who defend their safety and security against criminals, due to the risk of lawsuits, then soon we won't have public protectors at all - because they won't defend those who won't support them.  Want proof of that?  Just look at the impact the 'Ferguson Effect' is having on law enforcement all over the country.

Please circulate the news of this fund-raiser to your friends, and via your blogs or social media accounts if you have them.

Thank you.

Peter

Heh


From Pearls Before Swine yesterday.  Click the image to be taken to a larger version at the cartoon's Web site.




I had someone try to pull that on me in my (much) younger days.  Things got physical, and I ended up with their fries (and their burger, and their milkshake) in addition to my own.  Ah, the ethics of hungry teenagers . . .




Peter

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Doofus Of The Day #1,005


Today's award goes to the person or persons at Deutsche Bank responsible for making a transfer in error . . . a payment that exceeded the entire market value of the bank!

A routine payment went awry at Deutsche Bank AG last month when Germany’s biggest lender inadvertently sent 28 billion euros ($35 billion) to an exchange as part of its daily dealings in derivatives, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The errant transfer occurred about a week before Easter as Deutsche Bank was conducting a daily collateral adjustment, the person said. The sum, which far exceeded the amount it was due to post, landed in an account at Deutsche Boerse AG’s Eurex clearinghouse.

The error ... was quickly spotted and no financial harm suffered.

. . .

While such errors do occur, the amount involved -- more than the bank’s market capitalization of around 24 billion euros -- is highly unusual, according to the person.

There's more at the link.

Dammit, why do such banking errors never end up in my account?  I'm not sure how much of $35 billion I could withdraw and/or spend before they noticed, but I'd work on it as hard and as fast as I could, I promise you!




Peter

Haunting images of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire


The San Francisco Chronicle has published a selection of photographs from its archives covering the 1906 earthquake and fire.  Here are just three examples, reduced in size to fit this blog.








There are many more at the link, all in larger sizes.  Interesting viewing in general, and essential for those who enjoy history.

Peter

Our genes: gateway to health - and to marketers?


A friend has recently had a chilling experience concerning the commercial genetic testing that's widely available now (more about her below).  Here's an excerpt from a 2013 Scientific American article analyzing what's going on in that field.  It appears that some, perhaps all, companies offering "free" or low-cost genetic testing may, in reality, be engaging in massive data gathering about their customers - and, by extension, those customers' relatives.

Since late 2007, 23andMe has been known for offering cut-rate genetic testing. Spit in a vial, send it in, and the company will look at thousands of regions in your DNA that are known to vary from human to human—and which are responsible for some of our traits.

. . .

What the search engine is to Google, the Personal Genome Service is to 23andMe ... 23andMe reserves the right to use your personal information—including your genome—to inform you about events and to try to sell you products and services. There is a much more lucrative market waiting in the wings, too. One could easily imagine how insurance companies and pharmaceutical firms might be interested in getting their hands on your genetic information, the better to sell you products (or deny them to you).

. . .

Even though 23andMe currently asks permission to use your genetic information for scientific research, the company has explicitly stated that its database-sifting scientific work “does not constitute research on human subjects,” meaning that it is not subject to the rules and regulations that are supposed to protect experimental subjects’ privacy and welfare.

. . .

This becomes a particularly acute problem once you realize that every one of your relatives who spits in a 23andMe vial is giving the company a not-inconsiderable bit of your own genetic information to the company along with their own. If you have several close relatives who are already in 23andMe’s database, the company already essentially has all that it needs to know about you.

. . .

While the FDA concentrates on the question of whether 23andMe’s kit is a safe and effective medical device, it is failing to address the real issue: what 23andMe should be allowed to do with the data it collects. For 23andMe’s Personal Genome Service is much more than a medical device; it is a one-way portal into a world where corporations have access to the innermost contents of your cells and where insurers and pharmaceutical firms and marketers might know more about your body than you know yourself.

There's more at the link.

I was reminded of this by my friend's recent experience.  She sent off for a gene test, because she wanted to know more about her genetic heritage and its implications.  The test came back with some indicators of potential (not actual) concern for inherited medical characteristics that might possibly (not certainly) affect her later in life.  Within two weeks of receiving the results, she began to receive advertisements for medical products and services related to those characteristics.  They came via snail mail, e-mail and pop-up advertisements when she visited certain social media sites.  It's clear that she's being targeted by advertisers - but how did they learn she was a potential client?  The only possible way she can think of is that the genetic testing company sold her information to the advertisers.

She's furious, of course;  but the small print of the form she submitted to request the testing has "weasel words" that can, upon careful examination, be interpreted to allow the company to market her information.  She didn't read it carefully at the time.  Most of us don't bother when it comes to something like that, particularly when the important bits are clouded in masses of verbiage and buried deep in clauses about other, less important things.  She's consulting a lawyer, but he's already pointed out that she'll need deep pockets to pursue a case for damages, because the contract she signed will make it difficult to prove deception.

It's an ethical and moral minefield out there, folks.  Be careful what you sign, what you agree to, and with whom you share the most intimate information about yourself, your ancestry, and your future medical and life prospects.  It may come back to bite you in later life.  For example:  need life insurance?  You might find your policy carries a rider in the small print, explicitly excluding certain genetic conditions or predispositions - all of which you have.  How did the insurance company know that, without being told by you?  I'll give you three guesses, and the first two don't count.  As the article above points out, even if you've never been genetically tested yourself, it may be that enough of your relatives have that the insurance company can - and will - make an educated, reasonably accurate prediction about you.

What's more, that policy will be tailored specifically to your medical profile.  Your wife, or your co-worker, might apply to the same company for similar insurance, and find that their medical exclusions differ from yours, because the company has their genetic profiles, too.  Legal?  Possibly not, under present law.  Preventable?  Also probably not.  Money talks, and when a lot of money is at stake, those risking it will do anything and everything possible to preserve their investment - even if it means putting you at a disadvantage.




Peter

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Just goes to show... you never know what might happen next


A Texas police officer is extremely lucky to be alive after arriving to investigate a SUV that crashed into a house.  Watch what happens as he walks up.





It seems the SUV severed a gas line, which blew up the house as the officer walked up.  Here's a more detailed news report.





I bet that officer's suddenly-increased pulse rate blew out his fitness monitor!




Peter

Can't be fired, eh? Perhaps some other punishment might be found.


Irrespective of her political orientation, anyone who behaves like this should be, at the very least, shunned by all decent people.

On Tuesday, a professor at Fresno State made highly outrageous comments celebrating the death of former First Lady of the United States Barbara Bush as she also took delight in the pain that George H.W. Bush is experiencing as a result of his wife's death.

According to her bio page at Fresno State, "Professor Randa Jarrar is an award-winning novelist, short story writer, essayist, and translator" and serves as the "executive director of RAWI, the Radius of Arab American Writers."

Jarrar's first tweet on Bush's death stated: "Barbara Bush was a generous and smart and amazing racist who, along with her husband, raised a war criminal. F**k outta here with your nice words."

Jarrar continued, writing: "PSA: either you are against these pieces of shit and their genocidal ways or you're part of the problem. that's actually how simple this is. I'm happy the witch is dead. can't wait for the rest of her family to fall to their demise the way 1.5 million iraqis have. byyyeeeeeeee."

Jarrar went on to express how happy she was over Bush's death because she knew that Bush's husband was sad over her passing.

Later, responding to the outrage that she caused, Jarrar bragged about how much money she made as a professor and claimed that she will never be fired.

There's more at the link.

Rejoicing in the death of another?  I think we might have an opinion or two to express about such conduct in a supposedly civilized society.  If you agree, the following e-mail addresses might be useful.  They are all in the public domain, taken from the University's Web site, so I'm not breaching any sort of confidentiality in reproducing them here.
Please be polite and professional - unlike the Professor.

Peter

Justice Gorsuch sides with the law, not the politicians. Good for him!


I'm getting very annoyed with idiots sounding off about Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch for voting against what they see as Trump administration priorities concerning immigration.  I've seen blog posts and other ideologically-blinkered ramblings denouncing him as a "traitor", or something similar.  For those not familiar with the news report, here's one version.  I've underlined the key sentence.

The Supreme Court said Tuesday that part of a federal law that makes it easier to deport immigrants who have been convicted of crimes is too vague to be enforced.

The court's 5-4 decision — an unusual alignment in which new Justice Neil Gorsuch joined the four liberal justices — concerns a catchall provision of immigration law that defines what makes a crime violent. Conviction for a crime of violence makes deportation "a virtual certainty" for an immigrant, no matter how long he has lived in the United States, Justice Elena Kagan wrote in her opinion for the court.

The decision is a loss for President Donald Trump's administration, which has emphasized stricter enforcement of immigration law. In this case, President Barack Obama's administration took the same position in the Supreme Court in defense of the challenged provision.

With the four other conservative justices in dissent, it was the vote of the Trump appointee that was decisive in striking down the provision at issue. Gorsuch did not join all of Kagan's opinion, but he agreed with her that the law could not be left in place. Gorsuch wrote that "no one should be surprised that the Constitution looks unkindly on any law so vague that reasonable people cannot understand its terms and judges do not know where to begin in applying it."

There's more at the link.

I have no idea why people are complaining that Justice Gorsuch is a "traitor" to President Trump for ruling as he did.  On the contrary - he did exactly what he was appointed to do.  He ruled according to the Constitution and laws of the United States.  What's more, he's absolutely correct.  If we can't understand a law, and if judges can't figure out how to apply it, then why the hell is it a law in the first place?

Justice Gorsuch wasn't partisan and he wasn't a traitor.  I wish we had more judges like him, not putting partisan politics ahead of their job of administering the law as it is written and according to what it plainly says and means.  He ruled that, in this case, since the law was not clear about what it meant, it was constitutionally invalid.  What would critics rather he had done - judicially modified the law by ruling according to his personal convictions and philosophies?  Isn't that what we complain about in so many other judges?  By ruling as he did, he demonstrated clearly the problem with this particular law as passed by Congress.  In doing so, the ball has been passed back to the legislative branch of government, which now has an opportunity to write, debate and pass a more logical, rational, easily understandable law that will accomplish what it intended in the first place.  That's precisely how our system of government is supposed to work.

Thank you, Mr. Justice Gorsuch.  You did your job, and I'm grateful.  Long may you continue to do so!

Peter

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Errr . . . oops?


I bet the pilot and weapon system operator are answering some tough questions about this incident.

A military fighter jet has dropped a replica bomb on to the roof of a working factory during a flight in Loiret (Centre-Val de Loire), injuring two people.

The Dassault Mirage 2000D jet [an example of which is shown below] had taken off from an airstrip in Nancy (Meurthe-et-Moselle), and was flying over a factory in Nogent-sur-Vernisson at around 15h20 on Tuesday April 10, when witnesses heard a loud bang.



It later emerged that a replica “bomb” had fallen off the plane and hit the Faurecia automobile parts factory, slightly injuring two victims who were working on the assembly line.

The bomb - used as a stand-in for the real thing in training exercises - was made of metal and plastic, and contained no explosives.

There's more at the link.

One can almost hear the other workers on the assembly line:  "When we said 'Strike', this isn't what we meant!  We're working as hard as we can!  Stop bombing us already!"




Peter

Can "quantum radar" expose stealth aircraft?


A Canadian research institute is betting that it can.

Researchers at the University of Waterloo are developing a new technology that promises to help radar operators cut through heavy background noise and isolate objects —including stealth aircraft and missiles— with unparalleled accuracy.

. . .

Stealth aircraft rely on special paint and body design to absorb and deflect radio waves—making them invisible to traditional radar. They also use electronic jamming to swamp detectors with artificial noise. With quantum radar, in theory, these planes will not only be exposed, but also unaware they have been detected.

Quantum radar uses a sensing technique called quantum illumination to detect and receive information about an object. At its core, it leverages the quantum principle of entanglement, where two photons form a connected, or entangled, pair.

The method works by sending one of the photons to a distant object, while retaining the other member of the pair. Photons in the return signal are checked for telltale signatures of entanglement, allowing photons from the noisy environmental background to be discarded. This can greatly improve the radar signal-to-noise in certain situations.

. . .

“This project will allow us to develop the technology to help move quantum radar from the lab to the field,” said Baugh. “It could change the way we think about national security.”

There's more at the link.

Quantum computing is another area of great importance, one in which the USA and its allies appear to be falling far behind.  China has announced that it will invest $10 billion into research in that field, vastly more than we are currently doing.  It wants to "build a quantum computer with a million times the computing power of all others presently in the world".  That's quite an ambition:  but if they throw enough money and engineers at the project, they may well succeed.  That poses a grave threat to the security of all encrypted or encoded signals and information.  As The Hill recently pointed out, "It puts in jeopardy our entire military and national ability to keep our secrets, well, secret. Today’s strongest encryption could be broken in a matter of seconds."

China is also putting tremendous effort into developing quantum radar systems, that it claims can detect so-called "stealthy" aircraft.  The Canadian research referred to above is a drop in the bucket, funding-wise, compared to what China is spending.  I suspect the "stealth advantage" claimed by the USAF may not be an advantage for much longer.  If "quantum radar" becomes a reality, the service's current emphasis on stealth fighter and strike aircraft (the F-22 and F-35 respectively) will be severely compromised.  In contrast, the US Navy, which has continued to buy conventional, non-stealthy aircraft in large numbers even as it prepares to field the stealthy F-35C, will be not much worse off.  It'll still rely on tactics, skill and electronic warfare to get its strikes through (as does the Israeli Air Force).  It won't have all its eggs in one (suddenly non-stealthy) basket.

Peter

Murders in the USA - the "Behavioral Sink" in action?


Back in the 1950's and 1960's, ethologist John C. Calhoun experimented with rats to find out how their behavior changed when their population density (i.e the number of rats in a confined space) was increased.  He described their behavior in two papers that have become seminal in their field:
He called their reactions the "Behavioral Sink", observing that normal interactions became pathologically warped under the stress of overcrowding, resulting in violence, cannibalism, and the breakdown of normal social interaction.  The term (and his experiments) have been used as a metaphor for human interaction under the stress of increasing density of urban population.

One wonders whether it isn't the primary factor behind the distribution of murders in the USA.

Murders in US very concentrated: 54% of US counties in 2014 had zero murders, 2% of counties have 51% of the murders

The United States can really be divided up into three types of places. Places where there are no murders, places where there are a few murders, and places where murders are very common.

In 2014, the most recent year that a county level breakdown is available, 54% of counties (with 11% of the population) have no murders.  69% of counties have no more than one murder, and about 20% of the population. These counties account for only 4% of all murders in the country.

The worst 1% of counties have 19% of the population and 37% of the murders. The worst 5% of counties contain 47% of the population and account for 68% of murders. As shown in figure 2, over half of murders occurred in only 2% of counties.

Murders actually used to be even more concentrated.  From 1977 to 2000, on average 73 percent of counties in any give year had zero murders.

. . .

In 2014, the murder rate was 4.4 per 100,000 people.  If the 1% of the counties with the worst number of murders somehow were to become a separate country, the murder rate in the rest of the US would have been only 3.4 in 2014. Removing the worst 2% or 5% would have reduced the US rate to just 3.06 or 2.56 per 100,000, respectively.

. . .

Murder isn’t a nationwide problem.  It’s a problem in a very small set of urban areas, and any solution must reduce those murders.

There's more at the link.  Very interesting and highly recommended reading.

There are a number of things that I take away from this study, including (but not limited to):
  1. "Gun violence" or "knife violence" or any other "kind" of violence might be better described as "urbanized violence".  That's where it's far more prevalent, after all.  Basically, the greater the population density in a given area, the greater the likelihood of crime and violence.
  2. Those of us who live in or near urbanized areas should be more on our guard, and more willing (and able) to defend ourselves and our loved ones, against such urbanized violence.  That's not to say that people living in less population-dense areas don't need to be on their guard;  they're just less likely to have to put their precautions into practice. 
  3. If, in a crisis (e.g. hurricane evacuations, etc.) urban populations spread out into other areas, they're going to take their urban background (including a possible propensity for crime and violence) with them.  Be prepared to respond accordingly.  (See my after-action reports on that situation in 2005.)
  4. When we see news footage of riots, criminal "flash mobs" and other urban phenomena, let's remember the studies referred to above, and comport ourselves accordingly - including being prepared to deal with the problem.
  5. When politicians pontificate about the need for solutions to urbanized violence, fundamentally, they're either mistaken or they're lying, because population density will, in and of itself, defeat many measures to reduce urban crime and violence.  Population density is a primary cause of the problem.  You won't solve the latter without dealing with the former.  It's simply not possible.

Food for thought.

Peter

Monday, April 16, 2018

This is why "connected" appliances are a bad idea


I've spoken out before against the so-called "Internet of things" in our homes.  They hold hidden dangers.
  • Frankly, I don't see any need for a "smart thermostat" that can be adjusted from my smartphone, when that means someone else can hack into it and potentially invade my privacy.
  • I think "smart security cameras" that I can operate from my smartphone, anywhere in the country, are an ideal tool for would-be burglars or home invaders, who can monitor them to select the best time to commit their crimes.
  • "Smart door locks" are an invitation to hackers to open my doors for themselves - or just leave them open for their amusement.

Now comes the news that "smart appliances" have resulted in at least two hacks of commercial establishments.

Nicole Eagan, the CEO of Darktrace, told the WSJ CEO Council Conference in London on Thursday: "There's a lot of internet-of-things devices, everything from thermostats, refrigeration systems, HVAC systems, to people who bring in their Alexa devices into the offices. There's just a lot of IoT. It expands the attack surface, and most of this isn't covered by traditional defenses."

Eagan gave one memorable anecdote about a case Darktrace worked on in which a casino was hacked via a thermometer in an aquarium in the lobby.

"The attackers used that to get a foothold in the network," she said. "They then found the high-roller database and then pulled that back across the network, out the thermostat, and up to the cloud."

Robert Hannigan, who ran the British government's digital-spying agency, Government Communications Headquarters, from 2014 to 2017, appeared alongside Eagan on the panel and agreed that hackers' targeting of internet-of-things devices was a growing problem for companies.

"With the internet of things producing thousands of new devices shoved onto the internet over the next few years, that's going to be an increasing problem," Hannigan said. "I saw a bank that had been hacked through its CCTV cameras, because these devices are bought purely on cost."

There's more at the link.

Greater convenience versus poorer security.  Guess what's more important, at least to anyone with common sense?

Peter

Dental and wallet OUCH!


Poor Miss D.  I mentioned last week that she was having dental trouble sufficiently nasty to require a visit to an endodontist.  Well, she saw him this morning.  Turns out that she needs two root canal treatments, on adjacent teeth.  That is not going to be fun . . . and neither is paying for it. The endodontist doesn't do crowns - he only cleans out the roots - so we're going to have to go back to a regular dentist to have two crowns fitted, over and above the specialist charges.  As I said earlier, thank heavens we have an emergency "rainy day fund".  It's going to see heavy use, this month and next!

Please keep Miss D. in your prayers.  The pain is sufficiently bad that she's not sleeping well, and she has to go on antibiotics until the procedure so as to prevent infection from a previous attempt at a root canal (which didn't work, and resulted in the endodontist's services being required).  I really feel for her, having had a few too many root canal treatments in my time.

Those of you who have good teeth, count your blessings!

Peter

Teaser III


Here's an excerpt from the third volume of the military science fiction trilogy I'm getting ready to publish.  I put up a teaser from the first book a few months ago, followed by a teaser from the second book.  Here's an earlier version of the cover for the first volume, which will be further modified before publication.




I've been hard at work on the series for five months now.  God willing, the first volume will be published in less than a month from today, and the next two volumes will appear at approximately 30-day intervals.  To keep your interest, here's a teaser excerpt from the third volume.

    Captain Pernaska sat on the hard, narrow bunk in his cell, closed his eyes, and prepared himself for death.
    Remember our Patriarch, he thought forcefully to himself. He dared not speak aloud, because the enemy would overhear him through the microphones they were sure to have hidden in this confined space. Even in his dotage, afflicted with disease, he went on a combat operation, to prove to our people that he would never ask them to risk anything he was not prepared to risk himself. What an example he set! He died in action, and inspired all of us to avenge his loss in the blood of our enemies. Today is my chance to do that. It is not a tragedy – it is an honor! May I prove worthy of it, and may my death be worthy of his!
    He had to act before his captors could transfer him to an interrogation facility. He knew all the Brotherhood’s plans for the next few years, and all about their ships. Most important of all, he knew the coordinates in space of their secret base, information entrusted only to the Commanding Officers, Executive Officers and navigators of their vessels. Hawkwood absolutely could not, under any circumstances, be allowed to learn that secret… so he had to die. It was as simple as that.
    His kidnappers had been almost unbelievably, even criminally inept in giving him access to the ship’s entertainment library, via the screen on the bulkhead beyond the bars. He was still puzzled by that. Hawkwood had proved to be a formidable opponent in space combat, worthy of the Brotherhood’s steel. Why had they made such an elementary error? Perhaps this ship was the exception that proved the rule of their efficiency and effectiveness, the weakest link in their chain. Please God, its crew was not alone in being so sloppy! He had taken advantage of the screen and its voice-activated controls – which his oh-so-stupid captors had obligingly demonstrated to him – to access the courier vessel’s layout, provided as part of the entertainment library so that passengers could find their way around if necessary. He knew where the brig was in relation to the rest of the ship, and where the airtight bulkheads and doors were. They would separate the vessel into pressure-tight compartments in an emergency.
    In Galactic Standard English, he called, “Display orbital approach.” The screen obediently flickered, then resolved into a radar-like display of the planet ahead. Several spaceships’ orbits were outlined in yellow, while this ship’s approach to its own assigned trajectory was shown in red. The vessel looked to be no more than a few minutes away from entering orbit. He took a deep breath. It was almost time.
    He’d asked for a couple of pairs of utility overalls, to wear instead of his Captain’s uniform. He’d sent that to the ship’s laundry, to be restored to pristine freshness in readiness for this day. Now he took off the overalls, folded them, laid them on his freshly-made bed, and put on his uniform. He tied the old-fashioned laces, critically observing his reflection in the shoes that he’d polished to mirror brightness, just like when he’d been a cadet officer all those years ago. He settled the jacket over his shoulders, and buttoned it. He had no mirror in which to examine his appearance, but knew it would be as close to perfect as possible under the circumstances.
    He heard approaching footsteps, and smothered a savage grin with his hand. He’d been on his best behavior with the spacers who brought him meals twice a day, and escorted him to and from the shower twice a week. He’d tried very hard to give the impression of a man resigned to captivity, wanting no trouble, willing even to grovel before his guards in order to avoid conflict. He knew some of them regarded him with scornful contempt as a result… which was exactly how he had hoped they would react. Soon, very soon now, they would learn their error.
    He reached beneath the mattress on the unused top bunk, and withdrew the pen that one of the spacers had indulgently lent him ‘to write a letter to my wife’. When he’d handed over the letter – addressed to a non-existent woman, and filled with meaningless platitudes – it had been to a different spacer, who hadn’t asked for the pen to be returned. He had taken full advantage of that mistake. It had given him a weapon. Now he palmed it, with the point up his sleeve, as two spacers entered the brig compartment. Both were armed with pulsers, but only one had his weapon in his hand. The other’s was in the flap holster at his waist, which was unfastened, allowing the butt to peep out from beneath the synthleather cover.
    “All right,” the armed spacer said in Galactic Standard English, using what he presumably intended to be a commanding tone of voice. “Stand back from the door while we unlock it, then we’ll cuff your hands and take you to the docking bay.”
    “Yes, of course,” the captain answered subserviently, stepping back, half-turning away, hunching his shoulders as if to avoid a blow. The two spacers exchanged contemptuous glances, then the second, empty-handed man unlocked the barred door and swung it open.
    “Turn around and put your hands behind your back,” he ordered as he stepped inside.
    The captain made as if to obey, but instead of stopping with his back to the spacer, he continued turning, all the way around, moving suddenly faster. Before the startled man could react, he reached out with his left hand, grabbed his collar, and pulled him powerfully forward as he thrust with the pen in his right hand. Its point speared deep into the spacer’s left eye. He screamed in agony.
    “WHAT TH–” the second spacer began to yell, eyes bulging in surprise – but Pernaska did not stop. His left hand, still grasping the injured man’s collar, twisted him half-around while his now-empty right hand snaked out and grasped the butt of the holstered weapon, drawing it and releasing its safety catch. He violently shoved his writhing victim back towards the bars as the other spacer raised his pulser, blocking his line of sight, forcing him to step to one side to aim at their erstwhile captive. By the time he’d done so, the captain had acquired a rock-steady two-handed firing grip on his own pulser. He fired first, three rapid rounds, two into the spacer’s chest, the third at the center of his face as he yelled in pain and shock and began to fold forward over himself. The man dropped his pulser and slumped bonelessly to the deck. Pernaska turned back to the wailing spacer inside his cell and fired one more round into his head, killing him instantly.
    He shook his head in a vain attempt to clear his head of the sudden deafness caused by the hypersonic discharge of the pulser’s electromagnetic mechanism. Faintly, through the ringing in his ears, he heard the sudden whooping of the ship’s alarm, followed by the impact of airtight doors slamming shut, reverberating through the vessel’s structure. He grinned savagely. Thank you, you fools! You think you’ve locked me safely away from the bridge. Instead, you’ve locked me in the same section of the hull as all your off-duty watchstanders. They’re my meat now! You may kill me in the end, but not before I make you pay for my life in the blood of your spacers!
    He swiftly searched both bodies. Neither carried spare ammunition for their pulsers, but that was of minor importance. He’d used four of the twenty rounds in the first weapon, and there were twenty more in the other – more than enough for what he’d need. He tucked the second weapon into a pocket of his jacket, then called up the vessel’s schematic on the screen again. There were six four-person berthing units for the crew in the forward section of the hull, plus three two-berth units for supervisors and four single cabins for officers. Many of the crew were on duty, but according to the duty schedule he’d carefully memorized earlier, about a third should be in their berthing units. By now they’d have locked their doors, of course, in the vain hope that would protect them from him. He spat contemptuously. They would soon learn otherwise… the last lesson of their lives.
    He walked out of the brig, moving slowly and carefully, peering around the corner to make sure than no braver-than-usual spacer had decided to wait in ambush for him. The passage was clear. Grinning almost cheerfully, he moved up to the first sliding door on the port side. It was locked, as he expected. He reached for the keypad set in the bulkhead next to it, and entered the standard merchant vessel emergency access code. It was used on all commercial ships, in accordance with United Planets regulations, so that search-and-rescue teams could enter locked compartments if necessary. Sure enough, the keypad beeped, and the door slid back.
    Two spacers inside the compartment screamed in fear as they stared at the black-uniformed figure in the open doorway. Their cries turned to gurgles of agony as he pumped one round into each of their chests. They crumpled to the deck. He walked over, aimed carefully, and put a second round through the head of each man. That’s four, he thought with grim, bitter, vengeful satisfaction.
    A voice began yelling over the ship’s speakers, begging, pleading with him to stop. He ignored it as he turned to the door on the starboard side of the passage, and entered the emergency access code once more.

I'm over 50,000 words into the third book, more than half way.  The first and second books are complete, and I'm incorporating edits and changes suggested by alpha and beta readers.  I'm getting excited about the forthcoming launch.  I hope you enjoy the trilogy.

Peter