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Author Topic: EP342: Certus Per Bellum  (Read 2315 times)
eytanz
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« on: April 29, 2012, 01:26:12 PM »

EP342: Certus Per Bellum

By S. Hutson Blount

Read by Matt Weller

Originally appeared at The Fifth Dimension

---

“It’s quiet outside,” Nohaile said, trying to find a comfortable way to sit in his armor suit. “Are you sure it’s started?”

“It’ll get plenty loud,” said the girl. She was armored only in a ratty sweatshirt and a patched bib coverall. She’d entered the bunker
with a vest and some sensible-looking boots, but promptly removed them. Her bare feet made her look about twelve years old. “For right
now,” she continued after some rapid two-thumb typing on her hand console, “we got time to kill.”

“Miz Bamboo, do you think we can win?” Nohaile had a matching helmet to go with his armor. He felt foolish either leaving it off or putting it on, so it worried in his hands.

The girl laughed a little. It didn’t reach her eyes. “There’s no ‘miz.’ Bamboo is my handle, not my name.”

“I’m sorry.”

“No worries. And yeah, we can win. The other guy hired cheap.”

Bamboo kept looking at the display on her console, checking through her seemingly-infinite pockets and producing unidentifiable items to
inspect and disappear again. Everything she carried seemed dirty but functional.

Nohaile looked down at his shiny armor suit and was ashamed.

“So, when do I get the story?” Bamboo asked.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #1 on: April 29, 2012, 09:18:08 PM »

Apparently I've caught up on my podcasts to the point where I'm first....

I liked the weird extension of legal combat, though given how difficult appeals would be, I'm not sure lawyers would agree to this system. And the tech was believable and fun (well, for carnage, not for cuddliness). And I found the characters believable. And I liked the mix of them.

My one quibble is that in an otherwise good narrative, Mitt went for a little more girly than I think Bamboo would have sounded. I guess he was probably self-conscious about voicing an Asian-American young woman, but she came across as tougher than he sounded.
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Dem
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« Reply #2 on: April 30, 2012, 07:26:19 AM »

I had Bamboo as some sort of anime, so probably deceptively cutesie and girlie. Maybe that's what Matt saw too, although I'll be worried if he sneaks a look at my imaginings again - just knock, pal, that's all I ask! The story, I thought, got a bit lost in the dense descriptions of bombs and battle buses we needed to let us know where we were. It's a perennial problem for SF because there's no real shorthand for something people have never seen, so you have to draw it for them. Over a longer piece, the descriptions can be dripped in slowly but in a piece of this length, it feels to me that it trips up the action and has it falling on its face, while at the same time, leaving little room for the characters to become anything much. And so I ended up with a motorcycle courier and a Japanese cartoon ninja-girl in a playstation junkyard. Can't win 'em all!
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Listener
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« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2012, 12:35:39 PM »

I found the story to have a decent premise, although not necessarily a new one. However, I didn't much care for the telling -- there was a lot of good setup, but the payoff at the end seemed kind of rushed. I wasn't sure whether we were supposed to feel bad for Bamboo for losing her robots, or Wendell for realizing that, yeah, someone's really going to die here, or the world itself for distilling what was basically patent trolling* down to "yeah, go on, kill each other." Unfortunately, I just didn't care enough about any of them.

Also, while the narration was fine, I felt there were some odd pauses and spaces in the text that threw me off a bit.

* I know it wasn't patent trolling. I just wanted to use that term in conversation.
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eytanz
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« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2012, 01:06:41 PM »

I more or less agree with Listener - the concepts of the story were far more interesting than the actual telling thereof. There was a lot about this story that just didn't manage to grab me - whether it's Nohaile's haplessness (his main character trait being "gets involved in situations he doesn't understand"), or Bamboo's plot-driven partial ignorance (she seems to have enough knowledge to explain everything in hindsight but not to actually anticipate anything, or for example check who her opponent's hostage is, etc.) - or the fact that her company didn't seem to have ever thought about how to convey information to people on the field if they need it, or the fact that the ending is "It may be hard to fight back from our position! Oh wait, my very first action resolved it all perfectly", I just felt underwhelmed.
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childoftyranny
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« Reply #5 on: April 30, 2012, 06:12:46 PM »

In all fairness Bamboo wasn't as much a warrior-lawyer as a warrior-arbitrator, as it is a civil alternative; civil here meaning, not criminal, as opposed to civilized.

It feels like the future is the past and we've not learned from mistakes with this story as it is might is right, or trial by firepower, just with fancier weapons. I'd suggest that few lawyers would prefer this system, I know it was said in jest but why not joust a jest? A reliance on strength of body is quite different from a reliance on strength of mind and logic in a pure sense. Assuredly it takes cleverness to win a battle but I think the gist gets across. As well as it takes a different set of rules and skills, hence my original suggestion Bamboo would not be a lawyer per se.

My other main thought on this story is that the weapon Bamboo uses to win the battle sounds very similar to a weapon the United States currently possess, know as the BLU-108 http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/munitions/blu-108.htm It sounds like hers are smaller and with more sophisticated sensors but this story sounded very near-future to me since we have most of the technology in hand to make all the mentioned weapons, though the robot AIs sounded a bit more sophisticated than we have.

Overall I enjoyed the story, it was pretty cut and dry, I felt that Bamboo didn't really care, taking on the role of the aloof mercenary serving her naive employer, at best, and her self-lying employer at much worse. He protested...just a little, but when he won, well it was time to go! I fully agree neither was particular likable or identifiable, but I think the way the story was action oriented can allow you to skip over them for this piece.
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Balu
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« Reply #6 on: May 01, 2012, 07:21:19 PM »

Downloaded it, listened to it, loved it.

On the believability front, other commentators can't see lawyers buying into this, but I can. Those boys are smart. If the voting mob don't like paying $300 a letter let's give them this alternative instead. That way they've got no right to bitch because they have a choice.

Same principle that keeps a two party state trundling along.
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Balu
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« Reply #7 on: May 01, 2012, 07:22:32 PM »



Go on. You know it  makes sense.
« Last Edit: May 01, 2012, 07:24:37 PM by Balu » Logged

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« Reply #8 on: May 01, 2012, 07:36:14 PM »

I liked this story quite a lot. It reminded me of my newest miniatures wargame: Infinity!

That said, this was an incredibly charming little tale that did a good job of extrapolating on Reality TV, America's litigious culture, and the despicable ways that our "elite" behaves. All in all, I thought it was wonderful.

Also, violent. Boom.
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schizoTypal
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« Reply #9 on: May 01, 2012, 11:00:49 PM »

I also saw a strong commentary on the state of reality TV... in general, this seemed more to be a commentary on current societal norms, rather than delving very far into the land of fiction to begin with. Reality TV was a small portion of it. Frivolous lawsuits, ridiculous patent and copyright laws, the horrible imbalance between individuals and corporate entities, and the general morally corrupt nature of the world we live in.

That said, it managed not to feel preachy while listening, and painted a very interesting almost video-game-esque method of working through one's beefs.

All in all, it kept me happy from the start to the finish. I can't properly articulate WHY I loved it, but I did.
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #10 on: May 02, 2012, 10:38:33 AM »


On the believability front, other commentators can't see lawyers buying into this, but I can. Those boys are smart. If the voting mob don't like paying $300 a letter let's give them this alternative instead. That way they've got no right to bitch because they have a choice.


The problem with the system is that you can't keep your clients coming back for an appeal at $300 a letter if they're dead. I just don't see a lot of lawyers buying into a system that kills off their client-base.

IMO the system is (intentionally) taking to absurd heights the notion that you can scare someone into dropping a suit. Now it's done with deep pockets, here it's done with weapons.
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ElectricPaladin
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« Reply #11 on: May 02, 2012, 10:44:48 AM »

The problem with the system is that you can't keep your clients coming back for an appeal at $300 a letter if they're dead. I just don't see a lot of lawyers buying into a system that kills off their client-base.

IMO the system is (intentionally) taking to absurd heights the notion that you can scare someone into dropping a suit. Now it's done with deep pockets, here it's done with weapons.

Bingo - this story wasn't trying to be realistic. It was trying to explicate a problem by taking it to the (il)logical conclusion.
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childoftyranny
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« Reply #12 on: May 02, 2012, 12:39:05 PM »

On the believability front, other commentators can't see lawyers buying into this, but I can. Those boys are smart. If the voting mob don't like paying $300 a letter let's give them this alternative instead. That way they've got no right to bitch because they have a choice.

I agree with previous responses as well as pointing out that this suggests that they aren't paying for the weapons as well as the weapons not being pricey either, and then possible repair costs to the battle fields, I have a the sense that is was hardly a cheaper endeavor simply a different kind.
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schizoTypal
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« Reply #13 on: May 02, 2012, 09:43:22 PM »

On the believability front, other commentators can't see lawyers buying into this, but I can. Those boys are smart. If the voting mob don't like paying $300 a letter let's give them this alternative instead. That way they've got no right to bitch because they have a choice.

I agree with previous responses as well as pointing out that this suggests that they aren't paying for the weapons as well as the weapons not being pricey either, and then possible repair costs to the battle fields, I have a the sense that is was hardly a cheaper endeavor simply a different kind.

Oh I don't know about that. Bamboo was discussing how certain things can be written off as various types of expenses, so it seems to me that they ARE hugely expensive, and it's just that the Champion/Lawyer absorbs the costs and writes them off as business expenses.
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Cutter McKay
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« Reply #14 on: May 03, 2012, 04:04:50 PM »

This story rated a high "Meh" on the mediocre scale for me. There wasn't anything intrinsically wrong with the story, per se, but there wasn't really anything right with it either. The characters were flat--I agree with eytanz's summaries--and thereby boring to me. All Nohaile did for the duration of the story was whine about how he didn't want to be there. He knew what he was getting into. Man up. Bamboo was fun, but not interesting.

The story was very straight forward, no real try/fail cycles--which is usually fine in a short story as there isn't enough time to spend on more than one--but this story was: "Let's go. Crap they blew everything up. Ha! We blew them up back. The end." I found the ending fairly anticlimactic. I was waiting for the twist or additional action or something to happen when they found the opposing bunker full of dead bodies, but instead it was just that: a bunker full of dead bodies. Game over. They talked so much about how the opponent's wife was on the other end of the field that the fact that she was dead was kind of a "duh" moment.

I think it might have been more interesting/shocking/powerful if the reveal that it wasn't the Niklaus Sintov, but instead his wife, didn't come until the very end, when they find her dead body. Then Nohaile could have wallowed in his own guilt over having caused the death of an innocent women to settle a financial dispute.

In all, I was intrigued by the idea of settling disputes the new old fashioned way, a fist fight to the death, but agree that it's unrealistic at best.

Perhaps I'm just missing the deeper meaning here, but this one didn't get me, nor I it.
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« Reply #15 on: May 03, 2012, 11:55:53 PM »

I enjoyed half of this story or possibly about 66%.  Sure the plot was silly (but at least it had one) to the extreme, but I enjoyed it the part of the story that wasn't military tech infodump.  It was obvious that the new bride was a sacrificial lamb, but that's actually fine because Bamboo, Nohelo, and I were all tricked into believing that it was because the other guy was a cowardly creep and not that he planned to blow up his bunker in some questionably legal moves.  For the length, the story had just enough plot and character development to be enjoyable.

However the infodumps were incorporated very poorly into the character's story and had a jarring tone.  Basically when it came time for an explanation, the characters disappeared from the story for a several paragraphs of dry "facts" were read, and then then back to our story.  My attention definitely drifted during the boring infodumps.

Overall though, I enjoyed this as a silly little bit of fun.
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aceofwands
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« Reply #16 on: May 04, 2012, 05:30:08 AM »

I should have made the effort earlier, it seems.

I enjoyed this story, both in the writing and telling, more than many or several other recent podcasts.

I should say, I normally have a definite and physical adverse reaction to the girls-who-love-big-ordnance trope.  I'm not a big anime fan - who'd guess? - but in fact dates back to old Doctor Who companion Ace.  Not big.  Not clever.

... and breathe.

But with this story, as sunlight breaking through cloud, opened up a wormhole from dull middle-age to the 15 year old me, who lapped it up with an evil grin. Simple, efficient, entertaining.

BOOM! Heh-heh.
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schizoTypal
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« Reply #17 on: May 04, 2012, 10:24:25 PM »

@SF.Fangirl - Sacrificial lamb, eh? Even after finding out what the plan was, I still viewed the guy as a total creep. If you're going to pull that move, and have it be in any way respectful, wouldn't you sacrifice yourself instead of your new wife who you married specifically to off?
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CryptoMe
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« Reply #18 on: May 05, 2012, 01:47:47 AM »

Add me to the camp that found this new variant of "trial by combat" interesting, but the story itself lacking.
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Cannibal713
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« Reply #19 on: May 05, 2012, 10:27:08 AM »

I enjoyed Certus Per Bellum for the most part. Perhaps the storyline was a bit lacking, but I liked the concept. It sure would make Court TV more interesting.
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