One Year

A year ago I started getting serious about trying to get better physically.  It had been several months since I’d finalized my divorce (Final October 25, 2018).  I was in pretty much the deepest funk of my life.  As I have mentioned in the past, I grew up in a religion that believed that marriage was supposed to be forever, not just “until death do you part” but “for time and all eternity”.  The very idea of “heaven” was a continuation of an ideal, loving family.

And while I’m no longer a believer, that emotional imprinting stuck.  So the failure of the marriage (regardless of any “fault” involved) hit me like a personal failing.  Add in that my health was “meh” at best.  I was pushing 270 lbs (at 5′ 9″–that’s 122.5 kg and 175-176 cm for your metric folk).  I kept my shoes loosely tied so I could just slip them on and off like loafers rather than having to bend over to deal with them.  I tired easily.  My feet hurt when I was on them for more than a few minutes, even with custom orthotics.

Here’s a picture from 2017 which gives you some idea of what I looked like (I was experimenting with “Viking Goth” so the makeup and the outfit):

2017

However, at that time a couple of things had happened.  First, my daughter had taken up ice skating.  It was something I had done back when I was 18 or so and I thought I’d be able to show her a couple things and see if she likes it before committing to a class (which would mean $$$).

Oh, was I so wrong.  As I have mentioned before, ice skating is not like riding a bicycle.  I ended up on my rear end, at least half a dozen times making just one lap around the rink.  It was bad.  I would fall…a lot.  And falls hurt a whole lot more than when I was younger.  I got stubborn, though, and decided there was just no way I was going to give that up.  Not going to happen.  No way, no how.  I used to have fun at this and I was damned if I was going to let it beat me now.

So we got my daughter into her classes.  And during the public skate session, I struggled along on the ice with her.

Then, a scheduling conflict arose between her ice skating classes and another activity.  We looked around for an alternative and found it at Fuel Tank at Fishers (Indy Fuel Tank).  They had classes on a different day of the week which resolved the schedule conflict.  But they also had something else.  They had adult classes.  And, since the age for “Adult” started at 15 (with my daughter 14 turning 15 that year) we could take our classes at the same time.

Oh, I was so there.

So I started in “Adult One”.  My daughter started in “Adult two” or “Adult three”, something like that.  But I was getting on that ice.  Now, I mentioned foot pain up above?  Well, it was worse, a lot worse, in ice skates.  I ended up spending 2/3 or so each class just sitting trying to let the pain subside.  I’d skate across, doing whatever we were doing in that class, then stop and rest.  Try again.  Rest again.  And in public skate?  Once, maybe twice, around the rink, stopping halfway each time to rest.

Before I even got on the ice, simply bending over to try to lace and tighten the skates compressed my gut to the point where I. could. not. breathe.  I had to bend over, lace one or two hooks, sit up, breathe, and repeat until I got the skates on.  It was pure misery.

But I can be…stubborn.

I kept at it.  I added other exercises at home.  Throughout the day I’d take a minute or two to do an exercise:  pushups, squats, a sort of half-squat where I’d keep my back strictly upright (mimicking posture for skating), etc.  The calendar on my phone numbers the weeks.  And that’s what I used as a guide.  Whichever “number” the week was, that was the number of reps I did.  Week ten, ten reps.  Week 11, 11 reps.  And so on.  The progress is modest, certainly, but inexorable.  After all, there are 52 weeks in a year.

I also started working on my diet.  I kept a food diary, a comprehensive one.  I also set goals.  I do a mostly keto diet these days.  I say “mostly” because I don’t worry much about “clean” vs. “dirty” fats or “free range” or whatever other stuff people come up with looking for some magic formula.  No, I simply set target levels of what they call “macros”–protein, fats, and net carbohydrates (that’s total carbs minus the indigestible ones–fiber, sugar alcohols, that sort of thing that don’t provide calories).  I started modest in terms of reducing carbohydrates, 50 g per day.  Later I reduced that to 20-30.  Protein appropriate for my activity level (and I may need to adjust that) and enough fats to provide my target calories for the day.

And it worked.  The weight has been coming off, quickly at first, then tapering off a bit later.  My energy level is up.  The foot pain is mostly gone (a bit during skating, but nowhere near as bad as it was.  During public skate I do more than an hour of solid skating.  I not only take my half hour class without having to stop, before that I help teach the kids in the “Snowplow Sam” classes.

My health is better.  My blood pressure is down.  The episodes of shortness of breath I used to have (and, indeed, had had for years) have mostly gone away.  Here’s what I look like now (201.6 lbs, that’s 91.4 kg to you metric folk).

2020a

On the whole, it’s been a pretty good year.

Things I’ve Learned in the Ice Follies

It’s been just about a year now since I restarted figure skating after being away from it for something like 35 years. There are some things I’ve learned in the past yeas.

  1. Ice skating is not like “riding a bike”. It’s not something that you learn once and then can come back to after long layoffs and can still do it. I had to essentially start over.\
  2. t’s a lot harder when you’re older (had just turned 58 when I started last year. 59 now). I don’t [i]bounce[/i] like I did when I was 18. Falls hurt more. I get injured more easily. Recovery from injury takes longer. This means that I can’t push as hard as when I was younger and so have to balance how hard I can push, and therefore how fast I can progress, against enforced layoffs from pushing too hard and getting hurt.
  3. At least nine tenths of my difficulty with techniques I have learned (new ones I’m just learning have their own problems) can be traced stiff knees and ankles. This is a matter of flexibility and condition as much as anything else. Keeping flexed knees and ankles requires better condition in the supporting muscles.
  4. Be persistent and you [i]will[/i] make progress. When I started a year ago once or twice around the rink, with a break every half-lap to rest and let the foot pain decline to bearable levels. Today, I went a full 70 minutes (best guess–I did some work on the circle before I thought to check the clock) non-stop. And the foot pain (bad arches–just something to live with; my podiatrist does not think that custom orthotics for the skates are called for) was modest at worst. [i]Huge[/i] improvements over where I started.
  5. It may seem like it’s more “chore” than “pleasure” (see “twice around the rink, having to stop each half lap to let the pain subside”) at first, but with persistence, getting through those initial challenges, and you can find out how fun it is. I spent much of that hour plus with a grin on my face.
  6. You may think you’re getting good but there’s an eight year old girl out there who can skate rings around you and make you look like a drunk epileptic rhino. And that’s okay. You’re not competing with that eight year old girl. You’re facing your own challenges, the skater you were yesterday, or last week, or last month, or last year. (You can, however, tell the mother of that eight year old girl that her backward crossovers are so graceful and smooth that they are a thing of beauty. Because, really, it’s true.)
  7. Skating is an activity that, when done with even moderate competence, is so graceful that even big ugly guys (like me) look good doing it.

For a while there were two techniques that I was able to do when I was eighteen that I had not been able to do now: forward crossovers and T-stops. I am now doing them. Not just “practicing” them, but actually doing them as part of my skating if you get the difference. I still have to think about them. They’re not completely automatic yet, but when I get to the end of the rink and round to go the other way, I do crossovers. When I need to slow down because of traffic ahead of me, I T-stop.

Here’s a little video of me skating Sunday.  I’m hard to pick out of the crowd but I’m the one all in black with the elbow pads:

On the whole, I am very pleased with my progress.

“Forgiving” Student Loans

First off, let’s get one thing straight.  Unless a loan is owed to you personally, that you personally are on the hook for it not being paid, then you cannot “forgive” a loan.  You can only transfer it to someone else, someone who didn’t agree to be on the hook for it in the first place.

The claim is made that we should pay for these folks’ “college education” and pass their student loans on to people who did not agree to be burdened by said loans because the education is valuable and these people, with their college degrees provide value to the community.

If that were true there would be no “student loan crisis” because, if they really were adding value, they would be paid that value and…

Be. Able. To. Pay. Their. Own. Loans.

Oh, sure, there would be some few who ended up behind the eight ball, as it were. Guessing wrong on what future job prospects would be like and that sort of thing. It happens. But it would be the exception and not the rule because generally speaking in free exchange resources tend to go toward their most valued use (as determined by the choices of society at large).

The late Jerry Pournelle, back in one of the essays collected in “A Step Farther Out” noted who made the decision on which college departments and career fields got the most funding: entering freshmen. Whatever degree field they signed up for, that’s where the funding went.

In short, the people least qualified to make such a decision were making it.

If we must have government funded higher education (arguments can be made both ways on that) then would it not make more sense to make some kind of estimate of how many “X” (engineers, doctors, teachers, sociologists, pharmacists, what have you) we expect to need and divvy up the funding that way? Not to say I would trust the government to make such a determination (neither on competence nor on ethical grounds), but in principle it would be far superior to letting people with essentially zero life experience determine it for us.

Make them Infamous. (Update: Or not. They Fixed the Issues.)

capitalcityford

I am really, really pissed off at Capital City Ford in Indianapolis. Last April I had some rather extensive suspension work done on my ’05 Explorer (workhorse car that has generally been great for me). Less than a month later, on the way home from a night out the right rear axle nut comes off (parts they installed). I have the car towed to the shop, take an Uber home, and get a rental. They make the repair under warranty and they reimburse me my out-of-pocket.

So far so good. Things happen even at the best places and they did make it right.

Fast forward to this past Thursday afternoon. I go to get Athena from school. During this trip I get a warning that traction control has shut down and a flashing indicator on the dash (the “4X4 high” light blinking). Not good, but, fingers crossed, I get home.

When I do get home, I find that smoke is pouring out from under the left rear wheel well. Oh, so not good. I get the car up on a jack and remove the tire (lug nuts, even after the time it took me to get the car lifted, were too hot to touch bare handed). There’s grease sprayed around the inside of the rim and when I try to turn the rotor, it won’t move. I knock the brake caliber pack and forth a bit with a mallet to make some slack there in case maybe the brake pads were gripping but still won’t budge. It looks like the wheel bearing has seized.

Double plus not good. (Risk of fire?  Yikes!)

I take a look at parts. Money’s tight (as the fact that I’m having to do a fundraiser for my daughter’s service dog should indicate–If I could do it myself, I would) and this looks like a not-unreasonable DIY job so I look up what a replacement bearing would cost. Not too bad. Amazon can get me a bearing and hub assembly for under $50. But then I ask myself how long the warranty for the earlier work was and…I call the dealership where the work was done (Capital City Ford, in Indianapolis; do not forget that). The repair has a two year warranty. Excellent. I’m well within that.  I just need to get the car down to them. (I was advised later that what they should have done was immediately get a tow for me, and get me into a loaner while the warranty work was done.  But, I am perhaps too easygoing for my own good.)

I call several local tow companies. Cheapest is $125. Ouch. But then I think that I might have emergency roadside assistance via my insurance. I’m not sure but I call to ask. And, yes, as a matter of fact I do. While normally the coverage is only “to nearest qualified repair shop” I decline that and they have the towing company itself contact me to see what the charge would be and how much my coverage will actually cover. The result, completely covered. No out-of-pocket to have the car taken down to the shop.

Again, So far so good.

Tow truck driver tries to back the Explorer out of the driveway so he can load it up onto his truck on the street. Moves about five feet and stops. The wheel simply will not turn. So he backs his truck into my driveway (which blocks most of the street which was why he didn’t want to do that if he could have avoided it). He still can’t get the car to move, not safely, because that wheel is locked up tight. So he uses a gadget he called a “skate”, basically a plastic wedge with a concave upper surface that he shoves under the tire to make it easier for it to slide.

Next morning I call the shop. They hadn’t looked at it yet. I ask about a loaner. They need to talk to their manager. I call again. Same. I call later in the afternoon. Same. I have to go to the store so I use Lyft there and Lyft back I wait until I absolutely have to make a decision between getting a loaner from them or until I have to get a rental (basically, as late as I can and still get to the rental place before it closes). I go ahead and reserve a car online.

Call the dealer service department again. Oh, they won’t get to it until Monday. And they need approval from Ford to get me a rental and that can take…

I. Am. Pissed.

I am out more than $300 out-of-pocket (car rental, deposit on car rental, and the two Lyft rides) on what should be a warranty repair at no cost to me. Their screw-up has cost me that. Now, depending on how long I have to keep the rental, I can get some of that money back…eventually. But I don’t have it now.

It is far, far too late for them to “make it right.” The best they can do is mitigate how badly wrong it is.

Remember, that’s Capital City Ford, Indianapolis, IN. They screw up repairs and don’t make it right.

Make them infamous.

Update, 1/27/20

Well, finally heard back from Capitol City Ford, a dealer for Ford Motor Company. Definitely unhappy. Yes, the repair is warranty. “Doesn’t know what happened, maybe someone didn’t tighten things down properly.” In addition they found a leaking pinion seal with repair on that running about $200 (ish–I didn’t right down the parts and labor numbers and add them up). Estimate done by Wednesday afternoon.

  1. As a result
    1) I am out of pocket $400–car rental, deposit on the rental (which, at least, I should get back after returning it), and Lyft to and from the grocery store on Friday while waiting to hear whether the dealer would provide a loaner or not.
    2) Since I am out of pocket on that, I can’t afford to have them do the pinion seal. (Folk who follow me here know why I’m really strapped for cash at the moment.) Fortunately, that looks like a reasonable DIY project. Even with having to buy the special Torx sockets for the driveshaft and a bit 23 mm socket to get access to the seal it’s a lot cheaper than having them do it.

I have generally had good experiences with Ford and, indeed, the dealership I used to deal with before it closed down (2008-9 recession) was a joy to work with. But I am seriously unhappy with my experience here. But being out $400 now, of which I can only recover $200, plus the time and effort I’ve had to expend because their repair failed? No, not happy is an understatement.

Update 2:

Ford Motor Company said, in the end, it was really outside their bailiwick “While we try to encourage our dealers to provide courtesy loaners or rentals when possible, it is up to the discretion of the dealer”
On the other hand, very soon after that, my posting of the original issue on the dealer’s own FB page got a response that they’re fixing the pinion seal (leaking and not actually related to the warranty issue, just happened to be there too) on their own nickle and we’d go over my out-of-pocket to come to a “mutually acceptable agreement”.
Don’t know what was said where to have this come up–about tht best that can be reasonably expected at this point. I won’t get the gray hairs from worry and stress back but barring a time machine (Okay, okay, I’m working on it, but still, these things take time, which is ironic when talking about a time machine) there’s no way to do that at this point.

Update 1/28/20

I got my car back. Not only did they do the repair gratis under warranty, but they repaired the differential pinion seal and a couple of other minor things while they were there. The service manager had me forward the receipt from Enterprise so I’m hoping for that to be reimbursed.
 
I said up above that it’s too late to “make it right” and the best they could do was mitigate the level of wrong but the existence of other issues which they did not have to fix under strict letter of the warranty, and their fixing thereof, actually managed to make it right.
 
On the whole, I’m quite pleased.

Department of Education? Why? A Blast from the Past

In 1979, during the administration of President Jimmy Carter, the Federal Department of Education was created as a Cabinet Level department.  In the 40 years since then, we have spent more than $1.5 trillion on this department.  It was created  apparently to fulfill a promise Carter made to the National Education Association gaining their support during his campaign.

Can anyone honestly say that our schools are any better now than they were then?

cato_andrew_coulson_public_school_trends_2013

As the above chart shows, spending has been growing by leaps and bounds but the performance of the schools, as measured by the reading, math, and science scores of the students has not measurably improved.

One would presume that the purpose of the Department of Education would be to improve the education of American students so they would graduate possessing greater knowledge of core subjects like reading, math, science, and history.  One would presume.

Whatever the Department of Education is doing, it is not working.  The improvement has simply not been happening.

They have had thirty-eight years and one and a half trillion dollars to improve things.  They have had Democrat and Republican appointees both in charge.  They have had more liberal and less liberal Congresses passing budgets (or at least continuing resolutions).  They have had every possible chance to show that they can actually make our schools better.

They have failed.  It’s time to shut down the failed experiment.

Of course, advocating that evokes the cries of those who declare that education will collapse and we’ll suddenly have a nation of functional illiterates.  In many ways, we already have that.  But consider what we accomplished with education system more beholden to the local than the Federal level, before there was a Department of Education, before there was even a Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.  We educated a population that took us from horse and buggies to the sound barrier and beyond.  We educated a population that won two world wars, both of which involved significant technological advances.  We went from Congreve Rockets to Earth Orbiting Satellites, to Man in Space, to the Moon.  We educated a population that gave us the first sort-of reuseable spaceship (Oh, don’t get me started… But the problems were not educational.  The problems were political).  We did all that without federal meddling with people’s schooling.

What has been done, can be done.

Who has more interest in the education of a community’s children, than the community itself.  Will some fail in their charge?  No doubt.  But they will fail for themselves.  When the Federal government fails, it fails for everybody.

So, time and past time to get the Federal Government out of what should be a State, or better yet local, issue.  The money is wasted and accomplishes nothing good.

Empty promises and wishful thinking are not a substitute actual results.

Citizen’s United at Fifteen

citizen's united

And people are still frothing at the mouth about it. (Actually an update on a post from my old LiveJournal blog–but with enough new material that I’m not calling it a “Blast from the Past”.)

However, consider:

    • I decide to speak in favor of a politician or cause in which I believe.
    • I decide to buy ad space/time on TV, Radio, or Print media to favor a cause I believe.
    • I, and some friends who agree with me, decide to pool our resources to buy more time/space, or time/space in larger (or more) markets than we could do individually.
    • I, and some friends, decide to donate our pooled resources to someone else to do the kind of political activity I describe above on our behalf.
    • I, and some friends, decide to solicit money from others to do the same stuff I’ve just described.
    • I, and some friends, decide to organize into an association to do a variety of things, part of which is to make the kinds of political speech I just described.
    • I, and some friends, decide to pool resources and donate to an already existing organization that that will use those donations to engage in the same kind of political speech I just described.
    • I, and some friends, decide to pool resources and donate to an organization, specifically to the election campaign of a particular politician that is aligned with my views, so that he (or she or xe or whatever) can use it to engage in political speech for the purposes of winning an election and thus putting those views into practice.
    • I, and some friends decide to “sell” part “ownership” of the association which does a variety of things, including the political activity associated above and give them a vote, weighted on the amount they’ve put into the “pool” for the association, for folk to manage how those pooled resources are used.

At what point does the First Amendment stop applying and why? Why at all, and why that point?

People engage in speech, not organizations.  And organizations are made of people who do not lose their rights when organized in particular ways.  When you ban an organization from engaging in political speech, including the speech of buying ad space and the like, you aren’t stopping some “faceless entity”, but the people of that organization.

So, unlike the graphic at the start of this claims, corporations are people.  There are people, put in place by people, to make decisions on how the resources, provided by people, will be used.  It’s people all the way down.

I would say the same thing (and do, in fact) if instead of “corporations” the argument was about unions.  However, strangely enough, most of those who decry “corporate money” involved in elections tend to have no problem with unions and other organizations (that are just as far down the “list” above as corporations) and their money–so long as those organizations support ends that they approve.  Let the organization be in opposition to their views (the NRA for instance) and nope, that organizational money needs to be gotten out, out, out of politics.

The problem, as usual, is not that the organizations are spending money on politics.  It’s that government is so powerful, and so intrusive, that the influence that money can buy is too valuable to ignore.  When the decisions of some government bureaucrat, who will pay no price if the decision is wrong, can decide the fate of your entire industry it would be foolishness in the extreme not to pay however much is required to influence that decision.  And laws to restrict that spending simply drive it underground and mostly increase the cost of that influence restricting it to a smaller and smaller pool of wealthier influencers.

It may seem paradoxical, but the answer is to reduce the restrictions on campaign finance.  Make it open.  This will increase the number of people and organizations with different viewpoints who are able to be heard and therefore reducing the influence of any one particular special interest.

The other solution is simply to reduce the power and intrusiveness of government.  Reduce the value that influence over government has and people and organizations will simply be less willing to spend as much on that influence.

It’s called “freedom”, and it’s worth a try.

 

Live to Tell: One of my released stories

This was actually the first story I released “Indie.”  It’s set in the same world as most of my near future SF.  It’s a little Mil-SF piece:

$0.99 in Kindle Store, Free to read in Kindle Unlimited

The nightmares of the past become the terrors of today.

Staff Sergeant Mike Yamada is the only prisoner of war every recovered from the Eres. Although afflicted with debilitating PTSD he is the only source of knowledge on the real fate of prisoners of the Eres. When the hospital ship Mercy comes under fire from an Eres task force, Yamada must face his worst nightmares brought to life and must somehow find the strength to rise above his fears lest that dread fate befall not only him but the remaining crew of the Mercy.


STAFF SERGEANT MIKE Yamada saluted as he stood in front of the Captain’s desk.

“You wanted to see me, Sergeant?” The Captain returned the salute. “Well, here I am.”

Yamada winced inwardly at the tone of the Captain’s voice, a wince that he was careful to avoid showing as he stood at attention before the Captain’s desk. He could understand why the Captain was upset, but that did not make what he had to do any easier.

“Yes, sir.”

“Well?  In case nobody’s told you there’s an Eres task force on our tail and it doesn’t look like we’re going to get away. The crew of this ship, including me, is about to get very busy.”

“Yes, sir.” Yamada paused a moment. Despite the Captain’s sarcastic comments, he could not have avoided hearing the announcement. The hospital ship Mercy and her two escorting destroyers were currently running for the system’s jump limit at the maximum acceleration the Mercy could sustain. And although there had been no general announcement of the assessment of the Eres fleet’s capabilities, he had also heard the scuttlebutt that gave the Eres longer legs–enough longer that the Mercy could not possibly reach the jump limit before being overhauled. The destroyers could probably get away, but they would not both leave the Mercy. The more seriously sick and wounded were being moved to the Soyokaze, the newer, and faster, of the two destroyers in the hopes that they, at least, could get out. “First off, Sir, I’m sorry about what happened….”

Since his rescue, Yamada had gone into screaming fits whenever anyone approached him. One corpsman had tried to restrain him and received a dislocated shoulder for his pains.

“The corpsman’ll be fine.” The Captain sighed. “At ease, Sergeant. Post Traumatic Stress. I’ve seen a lot of it in this billet. You’re not at fault here although I’m glad to see you’re finally getting past those panic attacks. But I don’t think that’s all you wanted to see me about, was it.”

“No, sir. Uh, sir–” Yamada shrugged– “whatever happens, you can’t surrender this ship.”

“Can’t I?” The Captain leaned back in his chair. “And since when do you tell a ship’s Captain what he can and can’t do?”

“Sir, I’m sorry, but you just don’t understand what will happen if you do.”

“The Eres are good about taking prisoners. If they weren’t, you wouldn’t be here.”

“That’s just it, sir. It’s better… better not to be taken prisoner. Anything… anything at all is better than to be taken prisoner.”

The Captain nodded. “I’m sure you’ve had a bad time, but you’re here, now, in reasonably good health, when you wouldn’t be if you’d followed the advice you’re giving me now.”

“And a lot of the time I wish I wasn’t, Captain. You have no idea, none at all, what it’s like.”

“Look, Sergeant, I haven’t got time for this.”

“Please, Captain. Please listen to me. You may have heard of an old story ‘The Most Dangerous Game’?”

“Can’t say that I have, but….”

“Well, I don’t suppose it matters. Look, after Defender was captured and we were taken to a POW camp, or what we thought was a POW camp, we were treated well–good food, clean housing, exercise yards, excellent medical care. It was only later that we found out why.”

###

“Move your ass, Lieutenant!” Yamada punctuated his statement with a shove.

Lieutenant Thompson responded by sinking to the carpet of leaves on the ground. His right leg bulged purple above the remains of his boot. “I’m done, Sergeant.”

Yamada squatted next to Thompson and grabbed his shoulder. “Done, hell!  On your feet and get shagging… sir.”

Thompson shook his head. “Not going to happen. You’d better clear out before they catch up to us. They can’t be too far behind.”

“Lieutenant….”

“That’s an order, Sergeant. If you stay, they’ll just get both of us.”

“Sir, I….”

“Move your ass, Sergeant. That’s an order.”

With a groan, Yamada scooped up the sharpened stick that served him as a crude spear and dashed into the underbrush. Once through the nearest thicket, he hesitated, then turned and crouched behind a tree. He could just see Lieutenant Thompson straightening his injured leg on the ground in front of him.

A noise from the far side of the clearing drew Yamada’s attention. Two Eres appeared almost as if by magic from the shadows under the trees. Instead of the standard issue magnetic slugthrowers, they carried long spears, the shafts of a local plant similar to Earthly bamboo and tipped with flaked stone.

Yamada’s grip tightened on his own, cruder, spear as he watched Thompson wait for the approaching Eres.

Adult Eres stood just under 2 1/2 meters tall. Their smooth skin varied from a pale olive green to a straw-amber to a deep russet brown. Their heads, perched on the ends of half-meter long flexible necks, had rounded skulls that stretched forward into blunt snouts, giving them an egg-shaped appearance. Tall, narrow ridges, the crests whose height was the only visible different to Yamada’s eyes between male and female Eres, ran from just over the eyes back across the skulls to join just above the back of the neck.

A lipless mouth bisected the snout horizontally where knife-edged serrated teeth were constantly exposed in a mirthless grin. The upper and lower teeth overlapped, producing a shearing action to cut through flesh or the Eres could thrust forward their lower jaws, turning upper and lower teeth into pairs of saws that could carve the stoutest bones.

The Eres bodies were rounded, almost bulbous, with arms that seemed short in comparison to their full size but were, in fact, about the same size as humans and no human could match the strength of an average Eres arm. The legs were about a meter long, with elongated, clawed feet. Eres walked on their toes, with a spine from their heels pointing backward. The hips had a second, locking joint that allowed the Eres to either stand and walk fully upright like humans or to shift into a forward-leaning position where the weight of their heads and bodies were counter balanced by a thick, muscular tail. In this position they could run at great speeds for seemingly unlimited distances.

One of the two Eres–a female by the crests above its eyes–stopped. The other took two more steps then stopped as well. He–the smaller crests indicated a male–raised the arm that held his spear. The arm whipped forward and the spear flew in a near invisible blur to bury itself in Thompson’s chest, just to the left of his sternum.

Yamada screamed. Without conscious thought, he charged from his own place of concealment straight at the Eres who had killed the lieutenant. The Eres turned to face him, the male who had cast his spear blocking a clear throw from the female.

In another instant, Yamada reached the Eres. His own spear, driven by the full momentum of his charge, caught the Eres in mid-torso. Yamada found himself tangled with the Eres’ body as it fell.

###

“I thought I was dead then,” Yamada told the Captain. “An adult Eres masses more than 200 kilos and that world had a little bit more than one standard gravity. I was pinned as the female walked up to me. I expected her to spit me just like they had the Lieutenant. But all she did was club me unconscious so that I woke up back in the camp.”

The worst part of that episode had been learning that the Eres he had struck had survived. His spear had pierced one of the Eres’ hearts, but while that was a serious debilitating injury it was not necessarily fatal. Given time, an Eres would recover and the heart heal, weakened perhaps, but not fatally so.

The Captain leaned back in his chair. “You made an escape attempt on a planet held by the Eres?  That took guts.”

“You don’t understand. It wasn’t an escape attempt.”

“It wasn’t?”

“They let us out so they could hunt us. That’s what they do with prisoners–feed and care for them so they’re at the peak of health and strength, then hunt them down and kill them.”

“My God,” the Captain whispered.

“They love a challenge,” Yamada continued, “I came to learn that if you’re good enough, or lucky enough, if you wound or kill one of the hunting Eres, or avoid being caught long enough, they often won’t kill you. Instead they’ll bring you back in, nurse you back to health, and send you out there again for another hunt.

“We weren’t prisoners, we were livestock. I think this whole war is just a great hunt to them.”

“Thank… thank you for your report. Now, if you will return to your quarters, I have a ship to run.”

Yamada saluted and left.