Dom Carter

Vulcanised

A glint of moonlight reflected from Leon O’Bannon’s bald head as he turned to his companion, ‘Watch out there, Carl,’ he said in a soft northern lilt.
Carl Fenton looked down to see he was walking too close to the cliff’s edge, and veered away, ‘It’s a damn nuisance,’ he said, lifting his hawkish nose in disdain, ‘I know we have to be careful, but is all this really necessary?’
‘Better paranoid than banged up,’ Leon said.
Carl scratched at the orange stubble behind his ears, stretching his neck from the collar of his jacket, ‘I guess so.’
They walked on in silence, rounding the base of a steep hill that rose above the drop. On the other side of the dark mound, in a bay-like recess between two hillocks, stood a dark blue steel cargo container sat on a concrete plinth. ‘They better be here,’ Carl grumbled.
‘They’re always here,’ Leon replied. The immediate area around the cargo container had the appearance of a building site; a cement mixer stood silently beside dumpy bags of sand and piles of red bricks.
When they reached the container Leon grabbed two long silver handles mounted on the front of the door and wrenched them aside with a screech. Carl ducked inside and Leon followed, pulling the door to behind him. Inside there were just a few large wooden cable spools on the particleboard floor, and an old crisp box filled with open food packets and drinks bottles. In the rear left corner a flickering paraffin lamp illuminated a wooden ladder that poked up from a metre-square hole in the floor.
Leon walked to the ladder, sand crunching beneath his boots, ‘Anson? Tadita? You down there?’ He called softly.
The ladder creaked, and a few seconds later a swarthy head appeared in the opening, the lamp’s flame dancing in the dark pools of his eyes, ‘Right on time,’ Anson Kassar said, ducking back down the ladder.
Carl and Leon followed Anson down into an excavation below the cargo container. The basement was a single oblong room lined in concrete, with bottle crates stacked against the walls. At the rear end a blonde woman sat at a table with her back to them.
She turned from her work, her ice-blue eyes crinkling in a smile, ‘Hi, Leon, good to see you, Carl, always a pleasure, I’m almost done here, I won’t be a minute.’
‘Hi, Tadita,’ Leon greeted her. She gave him another smile and returned to her task.
Carl took off a bulging backpack and unzipped it on the floor. ‘It’s going to be a bit more this time,’ Anson said, his eyes darting between Leon and Carl.
Pausing, Carl looked up at him, ‘Why didn’t you say that before?’
‘I’ve lost some of the bottles to customs,’ Anson shrugged his solid shoulders, ‘I don’t get reimbursed, so I’m including them in the price.’
‘I understand that, but why didn’t you say this when I talked to you?’ Carl asked, waving a bundle of notes at Anson.
‘I didn’t want you to think that I was hustling you or something.’
Leon swapped glances with Carl, and then said, ‘Carl brought the exact amount, as always.’
‘You’ll just get less then,’ Anson replied.
‘How much less?’ Carl asked, his stomach sinking.
‘One kilo.’
‘That’s a fifth of our profit.’
‘That’s business,’ Anson snarled.
‘Ok, ok,’ Carl held up his money-laden hands.
Anson took the bundles from him and began counting them on the edge of the table. Leon picked up one of the empty bottles next to Tadita to examine the red and yellow label, ‘Vulcan laboratories, Bengal?’ He raised his eyebrows.
‘The best, most reliable stuff comes from India,’ Anson explained as he counted, ‘it has to come through customs, and we lose some, but you’re more likely to get ripped off by in-country suppliers.’
Leon looked over Tadita’s shoulder to watch the procedure. It was very simple, like melting chocolate to decorate a cake. On the table in front of her stood a portable butane camping stove with a pan of boiling water on it, she placed a ceramic plate on top of the pan then poured a fifty millilitre bottle onto the plate. Within a few minutes the shallow edge of the liquid began to crystallise as the water evaporated. ‘Look,’ Leon pointed out the plate to Carl, ‘it’s skinning over like ice.’
‘That’s the last one, it should be ready in around an hour,’ Tadita stood up from the table, ‘who wants a drink?’ She asked, looking at Leon.
‘Sure, I could go for a stiff one.’
Anson had finished counting the money and was handing the last four kilo parcel to Carl, who packed them into his rucksack. Anson looked at the unsealed packet on the table, ‘We’ll take the fifth kilo back with us,’ he said, searching Leon and Carl’s faces for signs of disagreement. When no objections were raised Anson hefted the sack of money, pushed past them, and made his way to the ladder, ‘And now for a drink,’ he said as he took hold of the rungs.
Tadita and Leon were close behind Anson as Carl shouldered his rucksack and followed on after them. She climbed from the hole and went to pick up a bottle of vodka from the box of supplies. Fishing four tumblers from beneath the half-empty crisp packets, she poured a measure into each one and handed them around, ‘To staying out of prison,’ she charged her glass.
‘To staying out of prison,’ the men echoed, and they all sank their drinks.
As Tadita began to refill their glasses an insistent rain began to patter above their heads. ‘It’s been raining a hell of a lot recently,’ Anson wrinkled his nose as he examined the underside of the corrugated metal roof.
‘It really has,’ Tadita nodded.
Leon was about to say something when the rain intensified, hammering down with a sound like thunder in the tiny steel box. On and on it went, getting louder with every second, then a new sound began to twine with the pelting rain, a vibration Leon could feel in his feet, a low, rushing hiss, ‘What’s that?’ He raised his voice over the cacophony.
‘I don’t know,’ Tadita shouted.
The hiss became a roar and the cargo container began to judder and vibrate, ‘What the hell’s going on?’ Anson staggered back to land on his rump.
All of a sudden the container titled violently and began to tumble like a wooden joist thrown down a hill. The four of them were flung about like rag dolls for a brief, horrifying moment, then the movement stopped and they slumped together in the corner, panting as the roar slowed to a whisper, then stopped.
‘What the fuck?’ Carl growled in the darkness as he tried to prop himself into a sitting position. The container had come to rest with a corner pointing down, so they were all wedged together at the bottom with the cable spools.
‘Everyone alright?’ Leon asked, pushing the cardboard box from his face as he awkwardly attempted to stabilise himself in the v-shaped trough.
‘I think my leg’s broken,’ Anson said, his voice thick with pain.
‘Hold on a second,’ Leon began crawling along the trough, wrestling the heavy cable spools to the side and behind as he moved.
‘Tadita?’ Carl called.
‘I’m here,’ she said from further down the container, the cloying smell of spilt paraffin heavy in her nose.
Leon’s hands found Anson in the darkness, but before he could utter any reassurances, the roar returned, and the steel around them began to buck. They screamed as the container rattled down the hill, bouncing around the interior like crash-test dummies.
The motion stopped and the door fell open, allowing the cool night air to pour inside. Tadita’s head was spinning, but apart from being bruised from head to toe, she didn’t think she’d sustained any serious injuries. ‘Hello?’ she shouted, ‘Everyone alright?’ A few seconds of silence passed, and then she saw a shaky movement highlighted in the silver moonlight. ‘Leon, is that you?’
‘No.’ Carl groaned as he sat up, ‘It’s Carl.’
Tadita crawled toward him, and, as she pushed one of the weighty spools aside, her hand brushed against something wet. She drew it back in disgust and sat still in the darkness. Eventually a thought came to her and she pulled a little orange lighter from her pocket. When she spun the spark wheel she saw a single stark image of Anson lying in a puddle of blood, his head staved in. She instantly released her thumb from the lighter and the image disappeared. Gingerly she crawled over his body, touching him as little as possible.
With Anson behind her she flicked the lighter again and saw the sack with the money inside, She wrapped her hand in the cloth and dragged it along until she came to Leon, who’d wound up in a similar state to Anson, she shook her head and kept moving.
Carl’s trousers were dark and glistening with blood, the shattered neck of a bottle lay next to him, ‘I Landed on the fucking vodka,’ he groaned as Tadita reached him.
‘Did you bring the ketamine up with you? She asked in a gentle voice.
‘Yeah,’ Carl frowned, ‘it’s in my rucksack,’ he hiked his chin at the bag hanging from his shoulders.
‘Good,’ Tadita said, and with a gentle smile, she reached over Carl’s body, picked up the jagged bottleneck, and rammed it into his throat, twisting back and forth. He squeaked as blood bubbled from his neck, and clawed at Tadita, but she simply turned him onto his front, and, with a powerful jerk, ripped the bag from his back. It was only a few steps to the open door and she walked over to peep out, shrugging on Carl’s backpack as she stumbled toward the light.
The open end of the container had come to rest jutting out over the edge of the cliff. She dropped the money sack, steeled herself, and placed her foot into one of the crevices on the inside of the open door. Pulling herself up she peeked over the top, the container was half buried in mud, with the bulk of its length still resting on the cliff top.
Dropping back down she grabbed the money and hauled herself up onto the container’s roof. She walked hastily to the point where blue metal gave way to brown earth, and slid down the muddy bank to land on the grass. She jogged painfully along the overhang, stopping to turn round when she was a good distance away.
A section of the hill above the container had sheared off and swept them toward the ravine. Her eyes left the ruptured brown hillside and came to rest on the container. She stared into the darkness beyond the door for a long time, then turned and limped away.

 

Brass Slags

This is the first in a monthly series of short stories for the GOM Writing Club. Enjoy

 

SCOPO-DERM, that’s what the sign said, and when he scanned the peeling lettering that hung in heat-wrinkled exhaustion from the clinic’s grimy windows, he found a few words of English scattered amongst the Spanish – eczema, wart removal, and acne.

Levo placed a coded dongle against the receiver on the doorframe and the lock opened with a magnetic clunk. He moved through an empty reception, turned, and pushed through the door on his right.
Fiorion smiled broadly when he saw Levo, and came across the brightly lit room to meet him, ‘Mr Duboisine, it is good to see you.’
‘Who’ve I got tonight?’ Levo asked, dropping himself into the infuser chair.
‘Does it matter?’ Fiorion said, busying himself with the chair’s inputs, ‘you always win.’
‘And why did we have to come to SA again, it’s such a shithole,’ he looked around the filthy, dilapidated surgery.
‘We come to the source; you know it’s been hard to get hold of good burundanga in the co-prosperity zone.’ Levo stopped complaining as the chair’s tiny needles punctured the skin of his back, releasing their potent payload. The last thing he heard was the door opening, and the chatter of indistinct voices.

He woke in an unfamiliar hotel room, he didn’t think it was the one he’d stayed in the night before, but with the drug’s amnesiac hangover he couldn’t be sure. Standing up, Levo walked to the bathroom to look at himself in the mirror. Dark welts covered his body, and his face was a swollen ruin.
‘Hello, handsome,’ he chuckled, then took a shower and got dressed. As soon as he was clean he made his way down to the street, where garish signs glowed in the twilight, proffering any number of quasi-legal enticements.
He walked aimlessly for a while until he came across a British-themed pub called The Unrepentant Poacher, and he ducked inside. The expected scents immediately assailed him, spilt intoxicants, and the funk of sweating hominids.
The bartender turned at the tap on his shoulder, and winced when he saw Levo’s battered face, ‘Damn, man, what happened to you?’ he asked in heavily accented English.
‘Never you mind,’ Levo tapped the side of his crooked nose, ‘I’ll have a beer, whatever you’ve got.’
There was the usual mix of tourists, dealers and lowlifes, and one beautiful, sultry Latina sat at a table on the edge of the dance floor. Squaring his shoulders, Levo walked over and stood a few metres away from her, not too close, but in a position where he could be seen. She continued to sip at her drink as she chatted with a friend, her eyes roving idly over the crowd. Her gaze fell on Levo, and the next word stopped half-formed on her lips.
He looked back at her for a moment, and then approached the table, ‘You seem lost for words, my dear, has something upset you?’
‘Sorry,’ she dropped her eyes, then looked up at him again, ‘what happened to you?’
‘I’m a fighter,’ Levo said, taking the empty seat.
‘That’s kind of vague, what sort of fighter?’ She stared at his face in morbid fascination.
‘Well, I used to do MMA.’
‘Used to?’ The woman squinted with suspicion, ‘So what do you do now?’
Levo leant forward conspiratorially, ‘I’m in the puppet leagues.’
‘I’ve heard of that, isn’t it terribly dangerous, and illegal?’
‘Yes,’ Levo nodded, ‘but it pays well. Sorry,’ he shook his head, ‘I’m Levo Duboisine, nice to meet you both.’
‘Tola, Tola Nagere,’ she offered him her hand and he shook it briefly, ‘and this is Laina,’ she indicated her friend, who rolled her eyes and remained silent.
‘A pleasure to meet you both.’
‘Why continue when you look like that after the fights?’ Tola asked.
‘Why do you think?’ Levo raised his left arm and rubbed his thumb and forefinger together.
Tola wrinkled her nose, ‘They’d have to pay me a hell of a lot to put up with a face like that, you must be in agony.’
‘No,’ Levo smiled and a drop of blood oozed from a crack in his lower lip, ‘I’ve got this condition, see, I don’t feel pain,’ he winked his less swollen eye at her.
‘What’s it called?’
‘It’s so rare it doesn’t even have a name, they just call it WKVS12-5.’
‘So who were you fighting last night? Who was controlling you?’ She asked.
‘I don’t know, I never do, the drug they use to put me under blanks my memory, it’s probably for the best, there’s a lot of heavy hitters involved so it’s safer for me if I can’t identify anyone.’
‘Doesn’t it scare you, putting yourself in someone else’s hands like that?’
‘No way, I can’t get hurt, and I haven’t lost a fight since I started.’
‘How do you know you haven’t lost a fight if you can’t remember them?’
‘Simple,’ Levo shrugged his powerful shoulders, ‘you only get paid if you win, and I always get paid.’
Tola’s face was bunched in thought, ‘They must record the fights, have you ever seen the videos?’
‘No, never.’
‘Are you not curious?’ she asked, astonished.
‘Of course I am, I’ve searched the web, can’t find anything, but then, I’m not too techy, I just fight, and spend my winnings, someone else deals with the digital stuff.’
‘So how come you’ve never asked for copies of your fights?’
‘I have, they get encrypted as they’re recorded, and only high rollers can afford the unscramble codes, even the management hasn’t seen them, I’m super-exclusive,’ he wiggled his eyebrows as best he could.
‘I know a really good IT guy,’ Tola offered, ‘if you can give me your information, and the dates of your fights, maybe I could get him to track down the vids for you.’
Levo grinned hideously, ‘So…that means we’d have to meet up again, right?’
Tola smiled, ‘Yes, it seems so.’
He accessed her field and sent his details to her, ‘Give me a buzz if you find the footage, heck, give me a buzz even if you don’t find the footage.’
She nodded, a sly smirk on her lips, ‘I might just do that.’
Levo glanced at Tola’s bored friend and decided not to outstay his welcome, ‘It’s been lovely talking to you, ladies, but I have to dash, I may not feel pain, but I do feel tired, goodnight.’

Three weeks passed and Levo heard nothing from her, but he was a couple of days away from a fight, and thoughts of Tola came less frequently as he focused on his training. He was admiring his bare torso in the mirror when his communicator warbled with an incoming call, ‘Hello?’
‘Levo, it’s Tola, I need to see you again, can you meet me in The Unrepentant Poacher at seven?’
‘Yes, of course, I have to admit, I didn’t think you were going to call, I…’ the line went dead.
Levo stood with his mouth open for a moment, but soon became distracted by his own reflection, ‘Even with a busted face,’ he said to himself with a wink ‘you’re still knocking ‘em dead.’ He left the gym and headed back to his room, his next fight was against another local guy, so Fiorion had extended his booking at the hotel.
As he dressed, he fingered the fading purple welts on his ribs and shoulders, wondering what kind of blow had caused the marks. Kicks maybe, he thought, holding one of the welts stretched taut across the wall of his abdomen, then the image of Tola’s curvy body entered his head and he forgot all about the welts. Slipping a short sleeve shirt onto his back he buttoned it as he stepped out into the hallway.

Even though Levo arrived a fashionable twenty minutes late, Tola was nowhere to be seen. He got himself a beer and sat at a table to wait. He was halfway though his second drink, and growing angrier by the moment, when Tola slipped into the seat opposite him and looked nervously over both shoulders. Levo smiled at her, ‘I’d just about given up on you, where have you…’
‘It doesn’t matter,’ she whispered harshly, ‘we don’t have much time, either of us.’
He frowned in puzzlement at her skittish behaviour, ‘Did you manage to find any videos of me online?’ She nodded, not meeting his eyes as she slid a data chit across the table. ‘Great,’ he snatched it up and twiddled it between his fingers, ‘can’t wait to see me.’
‘Listen,’ Tola half shouted at him, ‘when my friend was poking around for them,’ she pointed at the chit, ‘he must have got made, a few minutes after he arrived a bunch of agency types came roaring into my street. I managed to slip out the back but I’m not sure what happened to my buddy,’ she was panting as she finished her explanation.
‘So, what was I…’
‘You have to go, now!’ she cut him off, ‘They’re probably on their way here as we speak,’ she stood and bustled round to his side of the table.
‘Who is?’ Levo demanded irritably as she tried to drag him to his feet.
‘I don’t know, but my guess is they’re from the puppet leagues, don’t go back to your hotel room, just get as far way from here as you can.’
‘But…’ Levo’s eyes were wide with confusion.
‘I’m sorry,’ Tola was walking backwards away from him, ‘I’m sorry,’ she said again, tears welling in her eyes as she turned on her heel and ran for the door.
For a good twenty seconds Levo stood blinking convulsively, thoughts racing through his mind, then he came back to himself and bolted for the door.

He zigzagged through the humid city streets, doubling back on himself, randomly changing directions and switching between trams, buses and subway trains as he fled from an enemy he’d yet to see.
Once he deemed that he was far enough away, and had lost any tails, Levo began to take stock of his surroundings. This part of the city looked virtually identical to where he’d just left, and he panicked for a second, thinking he was walking in circles, but he checked a map and was reassured to see that he was, more or less, headed south.
Levo jogged up the stone steps of the first hotel he came across, paid in cash, and took the elevator to the third floor. He found his room, barged inside and locked the door behind him. Pulling the data chit from his pocket, he inserted it into the viewer and sat on the end of the bed.
There were a number of files listed and he chose the one with the date of his last fight. The words BrassSlags.com scrolled across the screen, and then a form began to take shape out of the gloom; it looked like a person on all-fours.
As the image gradually brightened and focused, he realised that he was the figure on his knees. Leaning closer, Levo could see his wrists and ankles were bound in plastic cuffs that poked through a layer of rubberised matting. He tore his eyes from the screen and looked to his left wrist, studying the faint outline of bruising still visible there.
When he looked back, the camera had tracked from the profile of his restrained body to a close up on his face. There was a thin circlet of electrodes seated on his scalp like a crown, beneath which his mouth was slack, his eyes glazed and unfocused. Levo flinched as a hand came from out of shot to slap his cheek; this was followed by a round of laughter from the shadows beyond.
Switching angles to record the owners of the voices, the camera pulled back to a wider shot. They were six in total, all men, and all naked. Each had something grasped in one or both hands, and as they came closer, Levo realised that they held a combination of blunt instruments and sex aids.
He watched in astonishment as the closest man raised his arm and brought a short cosh down on the side of his neck. His body collapsed, the cuffs holding his wrists at a tortured angle as he sagged forward.
‘Straighten him up, Fiorion,’ a harsh, guttural voice commanded, and Levo’s slumped body pushed itself jerkily erect, like a camel getting halfway to its feet.
‘Good,’ an aging man with silvery hair said as he came to stand directly in front of Levo, another circled to Levo’s rear.
‘Hold him up this time,’ the man at the front shouted over his shoulder, ‘I don’t want him flopping around.’
The full realisation of what he was seeing dawned on Levo, but he couldn’t turn away as the men began to use him, their clubs and whips raining down as they shoved and grunted their pleasure.
He’d seen enough, and was about to turn off the viewer when a loud hammering came at his hotel door. Levo froze, his mind blank with fear. A short hush followed, and then the high-pitched whine of a drill ignited, rupturing the silence. He jumped as the drill-bit touched the lock, and the whine scaled into a metallic scream.

Preface and Introduction to the Delta Function Exordiums Collection

Preface

Hello, and welcome to the Delta Function Exordiums collection. The following pieces are preludes to my forthcoming novel, Delta Function. I’ve deliberately made them stylistically different, just to add some interest to the mix, though the novel itself is written in the third person omniscient. I hope you enjoy these stories, and that they give you a small taste of what’s to come, happy reading.

 

Introduction

In the middle of the twenty-first century, bio-synth technology leapt from being a promising area of research to a global phenomenon. The exploitation of fossil fuels was eradicated when biochemists developed methods to efficiently mass-produce super-clean diesel and petroleum from re-engineered bacteria. Then, bioengineers bypassed the use of these fuels entirely by directly generating electrical energy within the bacteria themselves, spawning the invention of MFC technology, Microbial Fuel Cells. Energy production was revolutionised, and in a rare moment of humanitarian clarity, the world’s research centres and universities agreed to make their findings publicly accessible. There was an unlimited, contaminant-free energy source for all the peoples of the globe.

A golden period ensued – The Transilience. Decades of prosperity where living standards increased exponentially; economically developing countries stood tall, brandishing the new intensive-farming techniques enabled by inexpensive bacterial energy. Crops grew where none had before, irrigation systems and self-sufficient automated machinery rolled ceaselessly from pollution-free factories. The planet was reborn in a wave of industrial and agricultural metamorphoses.

Robotics came into its own, advanced autonomous carapaces were fitted with internal MFC plants; all they required to function was a glucose substrate and oxygen. As the work force was slowly replaced by mechs, humans were liberated, agriculture and industry ran themselves, and all basic needs were provided for by a flood of cheap mechanical slaves.

However, The Transilience was only to last until the beginning of the twenty-second century, unaddressed environmental issues continued unabated, the ice-caps broke up, thermal expansion of the waters escalated, and sea-levels rose dramatically. Weather systems became fiercely erratic and freshwater sources were salinized as the rising seas breached insufficient coastal defences. The human population, now close to fifteen-billion, was uprooted, crowded together, thirsty and starving.

English came to be the accepted international language as humanity was crushed into a diverse, multiethnic pressure cooker, culturally and religiously mixed like never before. Populations became splintered and riotous, warfare flared; minority groups and religious zealots took control of industrial zones and began generating armies of combat-mechs to protect their beleaguered territories.

The conflicts ignited technological innovation within warring nation-states; a drive for better combat-mechs pushed the envelope on artificial intelligence. The intention was to create a self-cognisant synthetic soldier, a bipedal weapon with the ability to think for itself, to learn and amend its own actions in the field. Many previous attempts had been made at artificial intelligence, only to produce a glut of highly sophisticated appliances, rigid within the confines of their programming, reactive, robotic.

Defensive Sciences, a think-tank inside the Eural Incorporated Block (EIB), made astonishing breakthroughs in adaptive neural networking and emotional synthesis. Leonard Vorcheff, one of Defensive Science’s most brilliant computational analysts, drew up and implemented elaborate emotional algorithms, believing that emotion was the key to intelligence – without emotion, he claimed, there was no drive, no impetus for learning. An individual had to care about its own existence, without emotion, intelligence did not exist.

And so, the Ares Project was born. Ares was to be the prototype for a strain of highly developed, emotionally-aware war-machines, equipped with cutting-edge quantum processing units. The processing power Ares possessed dwarfed the intellect of the entire Defensive Sciences research team combined, and, built from a diamond nanorod exoskeleton, it was virtually indestructible. It was the first, and the last of its kind to be produced…

 

Thanks for reading, the first of four short-story preludes to my novel Delta Function will be available to read here soon,

Dom Carter

 

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Delta Function Exordiums Available Here: Click Amazon

DELTA FUNCTION COVER 061014

Unnatual Selection

In H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, we are presented with a vision of our own distant descendants, where the human race has split into two genetically divergent species, the savage Morlocks and their meat-flock, the Eloi. Although this early example of dying-Earth fiction was written before the advent of genomic mapping, the dystopian future depicted could eventually become a reality.

Genetic engineering, cognitive augmentation and expensive gene therapies will widen the existing social Rubicon imposed by economic disparity. Deprived of nutrition, saturated in toxins, our physiology coursing with stress-hormones, we, the embattled underclasses, are unwittingly shouldering an indelible epigenetic burden. The effluvium of modern lifestyles is irreversibly staining our genes, with every smoky breath and tainted sip of water; methyl-markers accumulate on our DNA, and are passed on to our offspring. In the short-term, this isn’t a massive problem, but when compounded over thousands of generations, our race will become physically as well as socially delineated. Those with sufficient resources will be able to tune their progeny for success, with increased intelligence, strength and health. For expectant parents of the future-elite, genetic abnormalities and underachievement will be the footnotes on a closed historical chapter.

Current trends indicate that the birth-rate decreases as countries develop economically, but birth-rate and population statistics are becoming decoupled as people live longer, and therefore, a declining birth rate does not automatically equate to a decline in population. Exacerbating the socio-economic divide, new figures from the US show that although, in some areas, production is up, the number of human workers has fallen. This is attributed to ever-growing technological and software encroachment into the job-market, with the likes of Amazon, Ikea, and large consumer electronics companies employing sophisticated inventory and process technology. It is within the disenfranchised, low-income demographic that birth-rates are highest, and it is this demographic that commonly constitutes the bulk of menial labour and unskilled manufacturing roles. If those jobs are increasingly usurped by efficient, reliable machines, then a sizeable slice of an already restless population will be marginalised, hungry, and angry with their untenable lot in life.

As time marches on and the elite become physically, mentally and existentially separated from the redundant masses, the exploitation of this army of the dispossessed will ramp into atrocity. In War against the Weak, Edwin Black recounts a dark and little publicized facet of President Woodrow Wilson’s early twentieth-century administration of the United States. The dubious pseudo-science of eugenics gained popularity amongst government figures, and led to a campaign of chemical-castration against the disabled and ethnic minorities, even going so far as to include alcoholics and drug addicts within its sinister remit. Black’s prose illuminates the path that began with the Victorian polymath Francis Galton, and ended in the gas-chambers of Auschwitz. The book explores how the U.S. government’s sanctioning of eugenics methods lent a spurious air of authority to a campaign of sterilisation and enforced euthanasia against the so-called ‘feebleminded’.

These events, and those that followed in the Second World War, seem distant today, almost unreal, the regrettable actions of the ignorant and unenlightened, but, with social upheaval, and the troubling rise in popularity of xenophobic politics, it’s possible that, through genetic manipulation, a master-race will invent itself, both in thought and in action. A distinction will be made between the altered and the natural, the smart and the dumb, the rich and the poor. Perhaps, if we cast ahead, further into our potential destiny, we might see super-intelligent Aryans cracking a digital whip over their devolved and impoverished cousins, deep future chambers echoing with the pain of millions crushed beneath the tank-treads of relentless civilisation. And further again, until the overlords have shed their flesh to exist as pure consciousness in a synthetic Garden of Eden, the now unrecognisable sub-humans left to feed off the filth, converting toxic sludge to fertiliser as they worm their way mindlessly across land made putrid with neglect.

If we eschew epigenetics and compounded devolution, we are still faced with the ticking time-bombs of misguided, biased, ill-fitting programs of education, of fluctuating moral commonality and a burgeoning excess of role-model absenteeism and corruptive parenting. If we combine higher birth-rates with economically marginalised groups, then slowly drizzle in a generous helping of government irresponsibility, beat it all together with the whisk of societal unrest, and smear the steaming concoction in a glaze of technological advancement, we’ve a recipe for riotous dismemberment.

Psychologist Richard Lynn and political scientist Tatu Vanhanen have released two books based upon their research into national intelligence levels. IQ and the Wealth of Nations and IQ and Global Inequality are controversial works, scorned and praised in equal measure, but if we take their statistics at face value, we find a clear correlation between intelligence and economic standing. The heritability of intelligence remains open to debate, but there is certainly evidence that the distribution of wealth, both at a national and global level, affects the consolidated intellect of a nation.

In The Cosmic Serpent – DNA and the Origins of Knowledge, Jeremy Narby details his encounters with the shamanic practitioners of Western Amazonian. When questioned as to the source of their medicinal plant knowledge, they explained that, whilst under the hallucinogenic influence of ayahuasca, the medicinal uses of the jungle flora were revealed to them. Narby attempts to explain the unfathomable knowledge-transfer with science. After a great deal of reading he came across research conducted in the early 1980s, proving that DNA emits an ultra-weak, but astonishingly coherent photonic output, with a wavelength exactly correspondent to visible light. Could this be how the shamans were acquiring their knowledge? By reading the very light of life?

If we were to look inside ourselves, and bear witness to the light-journey of our own biological foundations, would we see every step of our evolution, the convoluted chain of species that connects us with the Precambrian, and then beyond, panspermia, the infinite universe, the void, the absence of all? Or, would we see a guttering candle, a flickering flame labouring in the smoke of its own exhaust?

© 2012 – 2014. All rights reserved. Dominic Carter is the sole author/creator of this website/blog. All content, except images displayed with the permission of Christian Grajewski, is the intellectual property of the author (Dominic Carter). All material displayed within domcarterdotcom.wordpress.com, is the exclusive property of said author.
Unauthorized use, reproduction, alteration, and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author/creator is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Dominic Carter and domcarter.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Architects of the Storm

Devastation
On the ninth of November, 2013, I sat down on a bench in Manley, Australia, and picked up a discarded newspaper. A dark, swirling satellite image glowered from the front page, Typhoon Yolanda had struck the Philippines. I dropped the paper and raced home to make some calls. After affirming the safety of my loved ones and colleagues, I messaged an old friend, Jay Neil Ancheta from VSO Bahaginan, and he put me in contact with John Paul Maunes, Executive Director of the Gualandi Volunteer Service Program in Cebu City, a charitable project aimed at People With Disabilities (PWDs). I offered to join their organisation in a voluntary capacity for an indefinite length of time. John Paul accepted, and within a matter of days I’d hopped a flight to Manila, then another to Cebu City.

In the taxi from the airport, I flicked through the news-sites on my phone, searching for updates from Tacloban, a devastated city in the East Visayas, not far from where I would be deployed. The situation was appalling, there were so many dead that the emergency services had run out of body bags. As I swiped through images of civic annihilation, crying children and piled corpses, I came across an article about US military rations that had been donated for the survivors. They were being sold to the public in a Manila mall. Unfortunately, Filipino politics is breathtakingly corrupt. Before the typhoon, I’d been following the much publicised Pork Barrel scandal, where politicians were found to be fabricating charitable organisations in order to appropriate funds from a tax-money slush-fund for the country’s poor and vulnerable. The human animal still has the ability to surprise me.

It’s one in the morning as I step from the taxi into a dusty compound filled with volunteers sweating under the stark glare of temporary floodlights. A young man with a warm grin pushed his cap to the back of his head and came over to shake my hand, introducing himself as JP, Executive Director. He was a delightful fellow, clad in loose synthetic shorts and a pair of flip-flops; he welcomed me and gave me a brief introduction to the organisation. Not wanting to waste any time, I dropped my bag on the floor and began hauling completed sacks of relief goods out to the car park for the morning’s pick up.

By three the volunteers had dispersed and I was asleep on a thin travel-mattress beneath a desk in the office, by five I was up and dressed, at five-thirty the trucks arrived. A batch of Filipino volunteers helped us load the heavy sacks; carrying them above our heads we pushed them high up the trucks’ sides so the wiry drivers could drag them aboard. Two minivans, filled with volunteers from all over the Philippines, accompanied the trucks as we moved north through Bogo City and on to the Hagnaya Ferry Terminal outside San Remigio. The journey took around four hours, and as I stared out of the van’s window, the evidence of Yolanda’s destructive power mounted with every kilometre we travelled. At first the damage was light, only small sections of the corrugated roofs were missing, or peeled back like sardine tins, but by the time we’d reached Bogo, buildings had been razed to the ground, whole swathes of forest were flattened, their trunks splintered to toothpicks.

At the ferry terminal, the area most directly affected by the typhoon, large fishing boats had been hurled from the water to smash down amongst the buildings of the port; roads were filled with fallen trees and piles of debris. Picking our way through, we drove the relief goods to the end of the concrete jetty and transferred the sacks to four long outrigger canoes. After crossing the Tanon Strait to Bantayan Island, we off-loaded the food into hastily erected tarpaulin tents whilst the islanders engulfed us in smiles.

Community in full

I made many such trips to devastated communities in Northern Cebu, in the company of psychologists, nurses, teachers, entertainers and musicians, who would talk to the people about their experiences, and entertain them through song, drama and poetry. I believe those people derived as much nourishment from the social interaction and the chance for levity as they did the food.

As international aid flooded into the area, roads cleared and vital infrastructure began to be restored, the demand for food and water dropped, but the people were still crying out for building materials. Alongside two German students form Malaysia, I was assigned to an evaluation team sent to the remote hinterlands of Northern Cebu, to find recipients for the home-repair kits GVSP had amassed.

Sitting beside a film crew in the open-bed of a battered van, I looked back down the mountain. Lush green fronds caressed the remains of shattered huts, entire fields of crops were strewn across the hillsides, uprooted trees lay across the branches of their remaining brethren, like casualties being carried from a battlefield. When the van could go no further, we shouldered the camera equipment and supplies, and continued on foot. Children sat in the mud at the sides of the trail, poking at burning piles of detritus, with thick, noxious smoke curling around their squinting faces. Some ran ahead, calling out as they went.

A woman appeared from the jungle, smiling as she wiped tears from her eyes. We broke from the trail and followed her into the forest, side-stepping the yawning hole where a tree had once stood. She led us to a clearing with two small branch-and-leaf huts at its centre. To the edge of the clearing stood a frail old man, our guide approached him and spoke loudly in his ear. Turning to face roughly in our direction, he beckoned us to follow him as he placed his hands on a length of cord that had been strung between the trunks of the trees. He took us from the clearing, his steps shuffling, the sealed lids of his eyes pointing this way and that as clouds of mosquitoes burst from the dense foliage. At the end of the string there was another clearing, occupied by an empty concrete plinth.

‘His house,’ our camerawoman explained, pointing to the plinth, ‘it’s all gone, he has no food, no water, no electricity.’

We recorded an interview with the man for a promotional public awareness video, left some food and a home-repair kit, and arranged for a team of volunteers to come and assist with its construction. Back in the van, we did a u-turn and headed further up the mountain, and once again we came to a point where we had to leave our transport and proceed on foot. It was midday by now and the sun was ferocious, the uneven volcanic rock difficult to traverse, with fissures and boulders at irregular intervals. After hiking for thirty minutes we came across a by-now familiar sight, an empty concrete foundation stacked with the broken fragments of someone’s life. We dropped our gear and waited, a few minutes later a young girl came striding confidently along the trail, her eyes useless; she navigated the obstacles by memory, stepping neatly over branches and patches of loose skree.

‘She is eighteen,’ the camerawoman said, ‘after the storm destroyed her house, some men came from another place and raped her here, in the ruins of her house, they choose her because she is blind and cannot identify them.’

The young woman wept uncontrollably as she recounted the terror of being blind in the midst of a typhoon, of being assaulted, of the thirst and the fear. And as I looked around, my eyes misty with tears, I felt nauseated. The squalor, the black-hearted rapists, the destruction, the blunt cruelty of it all crashed down on me, our whole twisted world was summed up atop that mountain. The pillagers of the Earth, the ignorant and the complicit, they all coalesced within in my mind – the architects of the storm.

I have been volunteering on and off since 2008, and I don’t need to go to tropical climes to bear witness to the devastating effects of adverse climatic conditions, the UK has seen all manner of amplified and unseasonable weather conditions in recent years. From stormy summers to unprecedented rainfall, we’ve had a dilute taste of what’s yet to come. But we too are blinded, a barrage of commercialism and stilted entertainment cossets us whilst an unacknowledged guilt festers at our cores. The greasy veil of so-called reality is muddying our minds, fostering a fatalistic nonchalance when focused engagement is urgently required.

Yolanda is the strongest typhoon to have ever made landfall. Not only are the world’s storms intensifying, they’re increasing in number, and the ramping of climatic turbulence will be mirrored in the unravelling of society. Social storms rage all over the globe, tsunamis of hatred and intolerance break sporadically over the cultural beachheads of nation-states, obscured by the ever-present fog of satiating consumption.

A sea-change in the social order is at hand, the storm will see to that, and it’s unlikely to be the altruistic communing some might hope, but a desperate dismemberment of the fragile non-reality of our blinkered existence. We, the architects, will have our scaffold pulled from beneath us, not by a golden band of well-intentioned hacktivists and anti-authoritarians, but by our own desperate, bloodied claws. Incensed by vapidity, tormented by the cracks in our illusion, oppressed by inequality, scarcity and anxiety, we’ll turn to savagery in our disenchantment. But when the dust has settled, when the fantasy of infinite, complacent progression is pierced, when the myth of our civility has dissolved into the tired earth, we can, and will begin again, hopefully chastened by our own stupidity.

I sit now, surrounded by mass-produced technology and furnishings, cheap plastics, and laminated chipboard, espousing change, a radical alteration of our lifestyles to derail the runaway juggernaut of misguided and unsustainable economic growth. Are my words of wisdom also ways of wisdom? Partially, I’m working on it. There’s still a long, difficult journey ahead, but I’ve made a beginning, and the word is spreading. We must educate ourselves, deal honestly with our illusions, and then put them aside, lest a miasma of self-deception and apathy extinguish any hope of averting a dark and savage destiny. However, when shedding our illusions, we must be careful not to allow the rank stench of corruption to fuel pessimistic nihilism. For, without hope, without optimism, we will not change, we will decompose. If beauty and art and togetherness, love, trust and equality are going to win, we must remain positive. With clarity of mind and a strong resolve, we may be able to sway the winds of change onto a less destructive path.

 
http://gvspvolunteers.org/

© 2012 – 2014. All rights reserved. Dominic Carter is the sole author/creator of this website/blog. All content, except images displayed with the permission of Christian Grajewski, is the intellectual property of the author (Dominic Carter). All material displayed within domcarterdotcom.wordpress.com, is the exclusive property of said author.
Unauthorized use, reproduction, alteration, and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author/creator is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Dominic Carter and domcarter.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Rise of the Corporation-State

When Edward Bernays, nephew to Sigmund Freud, took his uncle’s psychological ideas and turned them into what we now call public relations, he transformed individuals into statistics, and we were all relabelled as consumers.
From a corporate viewpoint, our most important function as a society is to consume, consumption drives the economy, but it’s now so much more than supply and demand, consumption has become a way of life.
Our world is crammed to bursting with commercialism, swollen with the stinking refuse of our pleasures and necessities as faceless corporations shovel cash into cavernous bank accounts. Party politics is driven by corporate campaign-donations, our entertainment is peppered with product placement, and we are relentlessly besieged by advertisement in every moment of our waking lives, we are living in a corporation-state.
Perhaps that’s an extreme assertion, but if we’re not, then we’re headed that way. Voter apathy is beginning to undermine the validity of campaign politics, after all, if less than fifty-one percent of the population votes, you’re no longer living in a democracy, if we ever were. And if a minority of socially distant, morally corrupt politicians are handed power, and those politicians are in fear of, in debt to, and controlled by big business, then surely, a corporation-state would be in evidence.
Our food, energy and water are provided to us at an exorbitant fee, we’re totally reliant on industry, commerce and intensive farming. If the infrastructure of our countries were to suddenly collapse, or be destabilised through war or natural disaster, we’d be lost, starving and thirsty in the dark.
Not only do we eat polluted food, drink tainted water, and drape our lives in the ethically devoid produce of unrestrained capitalism, we pay handsomely for the privilege. Could it be possible, with enough time, social unrest, and an ever-growing climate of apathy, that we would see Ronald McDonald made Prime Minister and our wages paid in happy meals?
Of course, that’s a ludicrous extrapolation, but if we can’t challenge our preconceptions of how a society works, of how we live, grow, work and interact, then I fear that democracy will give way to banality, and the Noble Prize will be replaced with a hotdog eating contest.

Who ate all the pies? Dom Carter

© 2012 – 2014. All rights reserved. Dominic Carter is the sole author/creator of this website/blog. All content, except images displayed with the permission of Christian Grajewski, is the intellectual property of the author (Dominic Carter). All material displayed within domcarterdotcom.wordpress.com, is the exclusive property of said author.
Unauthorized use, reproduction, alteration, and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author/creator is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Dominic Carter and domcarter.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Art or Artificial?

There are now a number of painting robots, and I’m not referring to the programmable arms that spray cars, but machines that can interpret images and choose their own stylistic elements to create innovative, individualised works of art.
For example, one paint-bot is connected to the internet, and chooses images and colour schemes from Google searches of its own devise. It then takes this cache of inspirational material and extrapolates a digital painting. The choices it makes are based on programming, of course, but that programming contains avenues for randomisation and algorithms for aesthetic correlation. Whichever way you look at it, this painting robot is making artistic decisions of its own.
Is this an example of artificial intelligence? I don’t think so. But I do think that its existence engenders an interesting question – at what point does programming and randomisation give way to intelligence? If we replace programming with instinct, and randomisation with trial and error, or the act of learning, then the synthetic parallels the organic, and the existence of artificial intelligence becomes a matter of perspective.
Most would scoff at the idea that a painting robot is anything but a cleverly programmed tool, reactive, unaware. But are we ourselves not cleverly programmed by evolution? If a machine mind were created with enough complexity, with the right programming, is it not possible that it could gain sentience?
Some say that an entity cannot truly be alive unless it has emotions, fear of its own demise, for example. Others argue that organic organisms are quintessentially alive, and cannot be synthesised, that the very act of synthesis automatically renders an artificial entity non-intelligent.
But, when a human mind has been accurately simulated within a quantum computer, or perfectly replicated within a sophisticated automaton, how can we say that the result is not sentient or intelligent when it is an exact digital analogue of ourselves?
When we reach this level of technological complexity, organic intelligence and artificial intelligence will no longer be delineated in terms of ability, the question will be a wholly philosophical one. If we then remove any religious or spiritual notions from the equation, we’re left with a simple comparison, and if both human and machine pass all applicable tests of cognition and sentience, must we not accept the machine as being intelligent and self aware?
Should the above circumstances come to pass, I’ve no doubt that humanists would question the validity and rigour of the testing, and the very definition of what it is to be alive.

I’d be most interested to hear your opinions on this subject; by what criteria can we claim to be self-cognisant?

I think therefore I am. Thanks for reading, Dom Carter

© 2012 – 2014. All rights reserved. Dominic Carter is the sole author/creator of this website/blog. All content, except images displayed with the permission of Christian Grajewski, is the intellectual property of the author (Dominic Carter). All material displayed within domcarterdotcom.wordpress.com, is the exclusive property of said author.
Unauthorized use, reproduction, alteration, and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author/creator is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Dominic Carter and domcarter.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Delta Influences – The Mathematics of the Infinite

The mathematics of the infinite is as mind-snapping as it sounds; this impossible pursuit has driven great mathematicians mad. Nevertheless, it is a legitimate and well studied area of the discipline with its own formulae and hypotheses.
I named my novel Delta Function at a very early stage in the writing, when I came across a beautifully described mathematical function used within the study of the infinite. I’ll have to put it here, as I love it, and always get a delicious mental quiver whenever I read it:
The delta function – an infinitesimal-enriched continuum provided by the hyperreals.
It already sounds like the tagline from a sci-fi thriller. The blurb for Delta Function originally contained this mathematical description, but I thought it was a bit heavy and so removed it.
For me, to think about infinity is to experience a mental shut down. I vividly remember standing in front of the hallway mirror as a child, holding another mirror at my chest and staring down the endless tunnel of reflections. I would do this often, squinting my eyes as I tried to make out the end of the tunnel. Whenever I think about the universe being infinite, or the fact that I can add one to any number that I can think of, my mind goes blank. There are no thoughts or theories or images, there’s just nothing.
In my opinion, the mathematics of the infinite is the scientific equivalent of a search for God, and if great mathematicians like Cantor and Boltzmann lost their minds whilst staring into the void, who am I not to avert my eyes?
When I heard that there was an entire branch of mathematics dedicated to the infinite, I went out and began researching. Almost immediately I came across tales of mathematicians being sent to insane asylums, of suicides and lunacy. I was writing a nameless science-fiction book, but when I came across the above description I knew that I had found my title, Delta Function. Coming up with a title for a book is difficult for me, a project that I’m working on has a title, it’s awful but I don’t know what to change it to. If anybody has any thoughts on the process of titling their work, I’d like to hear from them.
In the novel, when humans are driven to extinction on Earth, thoughts of infinity were very prevalent in my mind. The resurrection of our species, our refusal to be extinguished; these story elements are representative of the infinite – pushed to the limits of endurance, the human mind thinks its way out. We continue to exist, to flourish.
In an interview with Neal Stephenson, he commented that there was too much dystopian science fiction being written, and that authors should write more positive stories. Although I am a cynic, and Delta Function certainly holds a dystopian future for the Earth, given the later diversification and re-emergence of the human race, I think, ultimately, the story is a positive one, a tale of the indomitable human spirit, of change and progression.
Infinity is a multi-faceted concept, and one integral to the mystery of being. We should not shy away from the infinite, but embrace it, not as a hair-tearing problem to be solved, but as a comfort. Whilst we can still add one to the biggest number that we can think of, there’s hope.

These past five posts have shed a small amount of light onto some of the concepts and experiences that went into creating Delta Function, I hope you’ve enjoyed the insight, I’ll be back soon with more mind-seepage, thanks for reading, Dom Carter.

© 2012 – 2014. All rights reserved. Dominic Carter is the sole author/creator of this website/blog. All content, except images displayed with the permission of Christian Grajewski, is the intellectual property of the author (Dominic Carter). All material displayed within domcarterdotcom.wordpress.com, is the exclusive property of said author.
Unauthorized use, reproduction, alteration, and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author/creator is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Dominic Carter and domcarter.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Delta Influences – Ketamine

The recreational use of drugs has been much maligned, and, for the most part, with good reason. I do not deny the harm that drugs cause, nor do I promote their use. But, I believe that psychotropic substances have the potential to provide us with more than a quick thrill.
Cocaine and amphetamines are little more than feel-good drugs, but if we consider the hallucinogens, then there is something deeper and far more interesting going on. Out of all the mind-altering substances available, ketamine raises more questions than most. Notable medical professionals have dedicated entire tomes to its particular variety of cerebral warping. The spiritually fixated have championed it as the doorway to another realm, and it has been said to provide out-of-body experiences like those reputed to occur when a person is close to death.
I take my influences from everything around me, as I’m sure do most writers, and, at times, those influences come in a pharmaceutical form. Whilst creating the Delta Function universe I had some truly inspiring experiences combining ketamine and THC. Some of those experiences have made it into the novel. The people of Delta, one of the planets colonized by humans exiled from Earth, have developed a method of manipulating physical reality using an engineered drug called konnon.
The ideas I propose in the novel came directly from the visions and thought-modes I experienced whilst taking ketamine. To those who’ve never had the inclination to indulge their curiosity, or for those who’ve never been curious, I imagine my words might seem preposterous, deluded or perhaps even dangerously irresponsible, but I’ve found my experiences on ketamine to be wholly positive and inspirational; I can’t say the same of other drugs I’ve tried.
I’ve altered, amplified and extrapolated the chemically induced notions that poured over me as I rode the magic ketamine-carpet. I took thrumming, drug-fuelled glimpses and moulded them into a cohesive plotline; the core premise for the Deltites’ superhuman abilities came directly from my hallucinations.
Writers abusing substances is nothing new; Hunter S. Thompson was renowned for excessive drug and alcohol consumption, William Burroughs was a heroin addict, Philip K. Dick was purported to use LSD (though having researched the man, this may not have been the case), Aldous Huxley, Jack Kerouac, Tim Leary, the list of celebrated authors reported to have chemically subverted their minds goes on. I can’t say that drug abuse makes a person more or less creative, all I can say is that, coincidentally or not, many of my favourite writers were wreck-heads.
I have had many unpleasant, even horrific experiences whilst taking drugs, especially hallucinogens, and I would in no way recommend that anybody try them, in fact, I’d say you’ll almost certainly live a happier, healthier life if you steer clear of drugs and alcohol entirely. But the hypocritical adage, ‘do as I say, not as I do,’ comes to mind.

In the next post I’ll be looking at the mathematics of the infinite, and how this perplexing pursuit made its way into the very title of my novel, thanks for reading, Dom Carter.

© 2012 – 2014. All rights reserved. Dominic Carter is the sole author/creator of this website/blog. All content, except images displayed with the permission of Christian Grajewski, is the intellectual property of the author (Dominic Carter). All material displayed within domcarterdotcom.wordpress.com, is the exclusive property of said author.
Unauthorized use, reproduction, alteration, and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author/creator is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Dominic Carter and domcarter.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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