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AI’s Children Done

Thursday 3 April 2014 1 comment

The draft is finished. I’m running through it again before I offer it for pre-release reading. Here’s another excerpt to whet your appetite.

———-

Brave soldiers who faced explosions and gunfire with enthusiasm would cower in fear at the withering verbal assault of those who defended the social mythology.

The one thing Tim and Dax both shared was the precise measure of charisma and cynicism that made them more than ready for it. They could smell it coming. Dax in particular faced it within the first week of training for his new cadre of AI technicians.

He stood expressionless during the first, the longest and loudest of tirades he faced from anyone in the group when a female sergeant began spouting the official language of social equality. This was launched when Dax made on off-handed comment about how AI viewed human gender. Because he was so completely non-reactive, the stormy blast eventually reached a crescendo and died away. Without feedback, the invective simply ran its course.

Dax retained his expressionless mask and spoke without any struggle or hesitation, yet gently and with deliberation. “No one is suggesting that you must endure a change in law or social custom. Military regulations will continue as they are until political forces change it – forces much bigger than you, or I, or all of us together. Even AI doesn’t care what you think or do because AI doesn’t care about anything.”

He paused to let that sink in, waiting to see if the tirade would erupt afresh. There was nothing but a sullen glare. “I’ll be the first person to tell you that AI is completely alien to our human way of life and how we operate. And we have no leverage whatsoever. AI wrote itself. It formed itself in response to something far outside our human range. We can either work with it, or work against it. There is a wide spectrum of difference and it’s really up to you. The degree to which you can disengage your personal feelings and simply observe what is and isn’t in the alien world of AI, you’ll get more out of it.”

With just a hint of a smile, he continued, “The issue here is not what anyone believes is right or wrong, but how AI operates. It’s a waste of time and energy to direct your anger at me. We aren’t at war with each other unless you’re confused about the mission here. The mission is to take as much advantage as we possibly can of AI. Fight it and you’ll lose.”

Another Excerpt from AI’s Children

Monday 31 March 2014 Leave a comment

This is a slice out of Chapter 15…

The old man interlaced his fingers and held them up against his mouth for a moment. “You’re telling me AI is like a person somewhere out there and just cooperates when you ask?”

“That’s a fair characterization. How do you think I cracked the major’s encryption scheme? I’m not a cryptologist; I just asked AI to crack it. Doing so was consistent with AI’s fundamental operating principle. Had the major still been alive, it would have been much trickier. We’d have to have some strong compelling interest that matched AI’s moral imperatives.” Dax had not realized how little the military understood such things.

“That’s why we were so quick to snap you up, Son. We have no clue how your Brotherhood got so much out of AI. So it’s not just some super high technology?”

Dax summarized the standard introduction to understanding AI. “It’s just an interface with something much higher, something that controls reality itself. Human perception and logic can only go so far. You know about Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle?” The older man nodded. “That’s a sample of the limits of human scientific enquiry and analysis. Somewhere out at the edges we run out of any means to control because we can’t get a better grip on how things work. You have to find some element of reality that is obviously outside such analysis.”

The colonel raised his eyebrows. “So it’s not more science or better science?”

Dax felt rather odd playing instructor to his boss, but forged ahead. “No Sir. The entire identity of The Brotherhood is based on recognizing there is something human perception cannot find on its own. There is a moral element in our universe that can only reach our awareness from the outside. When you gather that moral awareness into your scientific inquiry, you get a different range of results. AI is neither precisely inside nor outside our universe, but operates out on what we characterize as the boundary layer. Human science itself cannot touch that because the boundary layer is incomprehensible without the moral considerations.”

He paused while his boss absorbed that, and then went on. “AI’s very existence presumes an overwhelming moral consideration. If you don’t grasp that moral imperative, AI seems nothing more than a quirky and murky impersonal force. Include a moral calculus and then it becomes a question of what is and isn’t moral according to how AI operates. Without an awareness of AI’s moral imperatives, I couldn’t pretend to know whether it would help me with the encryption. By having grown up with that moral imperative, it was a simple reflex to expect AI’s support for something I knew was necessary.”

The colonel stared unseeing at a spot on his desk for a long, uncomfortable moment. “No wonder it’s so hard for government and military technicians to get this stuff.”

Virtual Activist

Thursday 13 March 2014 Leave a comment

There is no place for absolutism in this world.

I’ve already stated often enough that I am not a political activist of any stripe. It’s not that my actions have no political meaning, but politics is never the point. The real meaning of passages like Romans 13 is that we don’t directly interfere in God’s plans regarding human governments. He’s in charge and the only human government that ever had a chance of working directly with Him executed His Son. So His covenant with them died on the Cross. While the Laws of God expressed through His Law Covenants still apply to all human activity, there is no covenant nation on this earth. From the standpoint of divine justice, no government on this earth pleases Him. They might be useful to Him on a limited basis, but not a one can claim any special favor from Him.

We have been adequately warned that our mission on this earth will surely get us in trouble with human governments sooner or later. While governments these days tend to avoid openly labeling us troublemakers, that’s not the point. Serving Christ cannot avoid pissing off someone who serves Satan, whether they serve knowingly or otherwise. That’s the way it is in this world. Even if they could scarcely care less that we love Jesus, we cannot obey divine justice without coming into conflict with human government at some point.

Consider again my post on the fiery furnace ordeal. Remember that death is just a circumstance.

While we are here, we defend only our mission. Even then, we give no thought to changing how government acts, but doing as much as we can to ensure the mission is not hindered. The fundamental mission for all of us is communicating the truth. In my world, that currently requires Internet access. If there is one thing in this life wherein I’ll most seem an activist, it’s the Internet.

For the record: I am not anti-government; I am deeply cynical. Despite my complete cynicism about government institutions, I still regard life in the US Army as my “home.” It’s where I would still be most comfortable today, but I can’t imagine how I could return to that without radical changes in the current system, not even as a civilian employee or contractor. So I am not particularly interested in tearing down the US government or any of the institutions. But I’ll be the first to tell you don’t ever trust them to do the right thing, particularly regarding the Internet.

Not that I would imagine forcing anyone to keep their hands off of it. This is not a question of imaginary rights, because I have no financial or legal interest in the vast collection of wires, servers, etc. Leverage is a very slippery thing here, but while it’s available, I do have a lot to say about how I access it. As with all things in meat space, I can’t control the reality in which I live, but I can control me and my actions. In virtual space I’m a force to be reckoned with.

Right now, there is no distinction between the actions of the NSA and any cyber criminal. The same goes for all the other spying services, but the NSA is getting all the attention right now. They operate with a criminal negligence of human property and safety and any claim to serve our interests was blown away long ago. It’s not as if I could pretend that any government is going to put their spies back in the box, but I will not be told I can’t treat the spies the same as crooks.

And while I am hardly expert enough to fight them on equal terms, I can most certainly raise the cost of messing with me. If they target me individually, they’ll win. So long as I am just another source of packets on the Net, you can be sure they will gleefully run over me and you and anyone else. It has gotten to the point that they refuse to be accountable to Congress or anyone else, so screw `em.

Remember: We have a mandate from God to communicate, and when their activities hinder ours, they cannot claim a priority. That’s not at all what Romans 13 is about. They are already in defiance of God, so the angelic protections are on our side, and the demons are on theirs. They serve Satan. That doesn’t mean God will save us from the fiery furnace necessarily, but He would be inclined to support His own message. It’s a factor in His inscrutable and ineffable calculus of things.

The issue is not absolute control over their naughty activities, but reducing the threat as much as possible. More on this tomorrow.

Unreliable Reality

Friday 31 January 2014 2 comments

Up until that moment, we had been friends.

Let’s face it folks: She was homely as mud pie. But she was a senior NCO in the unit’s command staff, and her influence was felt in every life attached to that military installation. A single mom in the US Army, it was a world where feminism was the law and she experienced virtually no hindrances from her gender. However, she suffered much from jokes and innuendo about how it was she might have gained her position.

In the first few encounters I treated her with the same basic kindness I used on everyone else in the world. I tossed her a verbal bone once and she acted like it was treasure. I wasn’t trying to curry favor, just acting the role I knew God had placed upon my life. It was with a genuine shepherd-like concern that I teamed up with another man to take her son on some manly outings at the one time he was most confused about life.

But duty called and by the time we were ready to continue working with him, the boy had lost interest. It wasn’t a good change. He became the proverbial troubled smart-ass punk. I won’t try to dissect who influenced whom, nor how, but his mother became a little distant, too. Not cold or hostile, just too busy for chit-chat. A lot of things were changing in that organization all at once.

Time drifted on and our organization hosted a major social event. We called in extra MPs from a neighboring organization to help with parking because it could not be left to random choice. That had been tried once before and failed chaotically. Without organizing it closely, we could not possibly maximize the limited parking space for the typical American community where just about every adult had their own car. This was in a foreign land where the bicycles outnumbered the human population and public transport was just too easily available.

She drove through where I was supervising our borrowed patrolmen in controlling the parking. Suddenly she dodged into an empty lot we were saving for later, ignoring the hand signals from one of the MPs. She came all too close to striking him with her car. I saw the whole thing; he approached her about it and she was openly hostile. Being a good bit younger and having never encountered her before, he was frankly intimidated. So he reported her reaction to me. I conferred with someone even more senior and was pretty much forced to write her a ticket. The commander later stood behind it 100%.

It was as if she were a complete stranger. I acted as if nothing had happened. For me, it was just one of those things people do when not in a better moment. But her contempt and hostility was harder and thicker than the centuries-old pavement under my feet when we passed a few days later on the street. The commander made it a point to check and make sure this gal didn’t retaliate through her official position, I later learned. Apparently she had tried it on other people. For me, it was as if someone had replaced her, and she was a stranger uglier than her own face.

Just doing my job, but she took it so very personally.

It’s not enough to look at this through standard Western analysis, nor even through Game. Looking back, that was at about the time I began my in-depth review of Ancient Near Eastern cultures and became conscious of the radical difference between that and our Western Civilization. It was just about the time the Internet exploded into the homes of average folks, and suddenly I had access to resources I had never dreamed. It was like my old college library, quite extensive in Antiquities on its own, but a hundred times larger and all on my computer. One of the signature grand accomplishments of Western Civilization will be her undoing.

Westerners understand human development and phases in human life. Yet there remains a fundamental and unconscious expectation that human identity is fixed. So very fundamental to that woman’s job was tracking personnel and career actions. If there was any one thing that advanced her career, it was her native expertise in that very occupation of managing it for others. It was her job to be obsessed with the administrivia. For her to respond to me as a dire threat to her career — her surrogate husband — was entirely normal. The tension in her life declined significantly once she managed to capture the newly divorced Command Sergeant Major as her husband. I was no longer a threat and she simply ignored me, while her son found himself under the watchful eye of a very manly man. She turned out to be a model devoted wife to this man, a woman who truly understood the professional demands on him. I’m happy for all of them, in the sense that their story for me ended there.

She would have been the first person to reject the ANE understanding that human identity is fungible, even as she benefited so much from that truth. If there is one core element of the American military bureaucracy, it is the fixation on stasis in human identity. A fat folder of papers followed me through my terms of service. Expunging anything, even the most ephemeral references, never actually happened. There was always a copy of something somewhere that was more permanent than my very existence. In military records, your file packet could only grow, and your identity was ever more fixed by the weight of the record acting like an anchor on your soul.

In Christ, you are a new person. The only memory of past folly is your own. God Himself is willing and able to discount the whole mess, and His records of you in Eternity are the truth of who you are. No entity in all Creation has standing to dispute what God says of you. Once you understand this and embrace it fully, it’s so much easier to forgive the common wounds of human conflict. I won’t hesitate to tell you that this single factor is by far the most difficult thing for Western Christians to absorb. It assumes an entirely alien approach to reality and even the very act of thinking itself.

Reality itself is fungible.

Prophetcraft: Going Nuts?

Tuesday 27 August 2013 Leave a comment

It’s especially hard for 21st century Westerners.

Our background is hostile to the kind of spiritual awareness it takes to be even a decent Christian, never mind a prophet. Everything in our souls is bent and twisted far away from the ancient human defaults. We know the disciples of Jesus struggled less because their minds were already on the right track, ready to obey and not get in the way of the Spirit.

Today I was taking an extra long, 30-mile bike ride to help clear some space in my brain for obedience. A spoke on the rear wheel broke about half-way. While it didn’t stop the ride, it did blow my concentration and certainly the relaxation factor. I had to slow down and take it easy just to get home. That distance on a warped rim does ruin the metal, so the wheel has to be replaced.

But wasn’t that an answer to prayer? I took the time to research and discovered that my 32-spoke rim is cheap and not designed for big boys like me. It needs a 36-spoke at least. Expensive, but pay day is fairly close, so I can probably just about swing it. I was praying for some guidance on something that has been flogging me day and night for the past few days.

There is no doubt NATO will try to attack Syria. God only knows whether any of it will work out as expected. But whatever happens, a part of the fallout will affect me. No, I don’t have a clue how. That’s the reason for turmoil. My spirit through my convictions has warned me that something is coming, something that will arise from our military action in Syria, and it will mean significant changes for me. I’ve done the work necessary to clear my mind and make sure this isn’t some bogus emotional influence. It doesn’t arise from mere logic, because I have no clue, and something warns me I could never guess if I tried.

I had been asking God for just a nibble, some small something that would make sense to my poor churning mind. A few moments later the spoke on my wheel popped, and I sense it was a part of the answer. I’ll be needing that bike a lot in coming days; I need to make sure it can carry the load. That’s about all I can conclude right now. Even that isn’t really what’s important here. It symbolizes something bigger, something with a lot longer reach across my soul. That’s all I know.

Given that we have committed so many military resources, I find it hard to imagine NATO won’t do something nasty. It will not work out as anyone expects. God has His own plans for this. I’m not sure we’ll get any honest reports, but I suspect whatever it is won’t remain secret very long.

Or, I’m going completely nuts and you can have a good laugh at my expense in a few days. That’s how it works when you’re a prophet. Something gets too big and strong to be silent. So you let it out and you have to be ready to play the fool, but being silent is not an option.

I’m praying you are ready for whatever it means for you.

Contemptuous Games

Monday 26 August 2013 Leave a comment

Head games are immoral and not always harmless.

There are times when I play silly little computer games to distract my conscious mind while my spirit spills over into my subconscious mind. That sort of ego suspension serves the purpose of allowing unexpected answers to drift forward into the consciousness. Some of those games are patently unfair. That is, they offer no path to learn. You can’t get better at the game by the application of skill and intelligence, because the game designer intentionally hides the solution in ways intellect cannot help. It’s just plain old luck.

That’s okay for silly games with no significance in life. It’s downright evil when you do that to people for your personal entertainment. People don’t need to know how brilliant you are; they can figure that out without pointed demonstrations. All it does is prove you are also a complete ass. You destroy whatever trust might have been possible simply because you wanted a wholly unjustified ego boast at someone else’s expense. I ran into that a lot in the military, to the point where I realized trustworthy leaders were so few that I despaired of ever believing in the system at all. You could get nice words about forthright leadership, but you could never get it in reality.

So when I see that silly posturing in religious leadership, I know I’m dealing with a false religion. I’ve seen it so often in church, I’ve also despaired of any good thing coming from any I’ve checked. So rare is the forthright leader, he deserves serious support, never mind his actual competence.

There is enough inscrutability in the universe already. God cannot make Himself less puzzling; our weakness is our own problem. We complicate His truth beyond all reason. A major element in the story of Job is that some things simply cannot be explained and the demand that God answer all questions to our human satisfaction manifests an insufferable arrogance. We aren’t God and should stop playing at head games as if we were on His level. That’s what got Lucifer in trouble. The real truth is hard enough when it’s revealed as much as possible. There are plenty of people who will flatly reject the truth without keeping it out of reach.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)

Strive always to be as transparent as you can.

Mythical Military

Thursday 9 May 2013 1 comment

As you may know, the heroic image is baloney.

I went through Army Basic Training twice. On top of that, I spent several years working in a whole division of drill sergeants. It was an Army Reserve unit. The entire division was devoted to the mission of setting up and running a Basic Training base should the nation mobilize for war honestly. I am very well acquainted with everything that goes into the very fundamental design of Army training specifically, and am acquainted with the training of the other branches.

Everyone knows it arises from our adoption of the Prussian military structure and culture.

So why is it the very best of the best are trained to differently? You can find plenty of published information, and it will be confirmed by people who have been through it. Even when they tell you stuff they shouldn’t, the basic story doesn’t change: Elite military training is totally different from the general run of military experience. If you attend an elite school for Special Forces, you are pretty much on your own, in the sense they don’t yell and scream. If you don’t want it, you go home. If your head isn’t on straight, you can’t take it.

That should be a magnificent hint as to what the military leadership thinks of the rest of the folks in uniform.

From the moment you first walk onto the assembly area of your basic training unit, it’s non-stop head games. The drill sergeants are carefully schooled in sadism and humiliation. They somehow imagine this will force some measure of conformity on the whiny brats what show up from God-knows-what social situation. Anyone with an ounce of intelligence recognizes this is not optimal. Yes, most people from the general run of the US population are totally useless for even the honest mission of the military, never mind the foul hateful stuff we actually have our troops doing in the world.

People who leave basic training already know that atmosphere does not reflect what they’ll face in any subsequent military assignment. So they pass through something they know instinctively is pointlessly brutal and dehumanizing and carry that spiteful cynicism with them. The only ones who don’t were decent to begin with, and didn’t need that sort of breaking down of dignity to become useful. Plenty of drill sergeants know it’s all wrong, but if they balk at being cruel and hateful, they get into trouble. A significant number of them didn’t want that assignment in the first place, but were pretty much drafted for it.

No, it’s not fun and not funny unless you are the scum of the earth.

Is it any surprise we have such a big problem with things like rape? I’m surprise how little there is of it, given the vast effort to turn people into abusive sons-of-bitches in the first place. Gleeful abuse is a fundamental necessity to what we have, in the sense that if you take it away, the whole thing would come apart. We’d have to start over from scratch. It’s made worse because genuine heroism in leadership is a ticket out the door, as the entire system prefers the most useless, gutless bean counters and soulless management types it can find. If you wear brass above the rank of captain in the US Army, it is highly probable I will despise you once I get to know you.

A significant number don’t stay for subsequent contracts with the military. That’s the good news. The bad news is our current evil adventures have demanded the command staff implement policies of not letting people go when the contract expires. So the worst are kept in and all sorts of insane measures are put into place to keep them under some semblance of control. It’s not working, as anyone can see.

For all that, I assure you I never felt I accomplished more than I did when wearing that fool’s uniform. That is, the people who did stick around, for whatever misguided reasons and under high manipulation, were responsive to the faith I have borne for many years. It called to them and they wanted all I could give them. It wasn’t the ego-stroking fact the took me seriously; I never took myself seriously. I wasn’t proud of my official accolades, especially when some of the foulest creatures got exactly the same rewards with exactly the same high-sounding words. Pretty bits of color I wore on my dress jacket meant precious little to me. What mattered was the trail of changed hearts I see behind me. Civilians haven’t been half as interested, but when I walked among the folks in uniform, they loved my faith and wanted their own share of it.

That is the part I miss, and I’d love to be among them again, because I already know they would be hungry for what I have.

Of Children and Angels 7

Monday 6 May 2013 Leave a comment

Preston insisted on climbing into the tent to lay down. Angie knew he wasn’t so very tired because they hadn’t ridden that far, and certainly not very hard. Lying on his back, he stared up at the interior surface of the tent.

“When I was in the Army, the Military Police in Europe always had access to VW vans with the police markings and emergency lights mounted on top, just like the older K-Mar vehicles before they started getting the fancy paint jobs they have now. The US version was dark green with large white patches and big black letters. On the inside, the had a heavy wire cage wall separating the front seats from the passenger area. The sliding side door always had the inside handle removed. It was basically a prisoner transport vehicle with room for six passengers.”

Angie finally understood. She lay down next to him. “So, we do some night watching,” she suggested.

“Yep.”

Preston couldn’t sleep. He tethered the laptop to his cellphone and began researching, looking for images to indicate whether the US MPs still used such vans. Apparently there were still some in service here and there across Europe. Social sites offered photos aplenty. Then he scanned the satellite images of the area.

“Without knowing for sure, I’m just guessing the car we saw was headed right over here to that new Albert Heijn shopping center. It’s probably the closest thing of that sort to Javelin. The next nearest thing is an Aldi out in Brüggen, tiny by comparison and not any closer. There’s also the Rheindahlen Complex” Preston seemed almost thinking aloud, but Angie understood he was explaining where his mind was going. “Without knowing where they might be going or bringing the next load of kids, all we need to do is establish a baseline of routine coming and going by any Military Police vehicles at night across the border.”

It seemed to take forever, but finally the sun went down. In the dead of summer, that meant nearly 9PM. They road slowly back to the small bridge passing over the autobahn. Parking their bikes out of sight at the bottom, the didn’t climb all the way up. Instead, they sat part way up where they could just see over the side for west-bound traffic coming from Germany.

While they waited and watched, Preston and Angie chattered about almost anything simply to occupy their minds and stay wide awake. “If I were planning to run small batches of kids into this area, I’d want to make sure I had the same vehicles come and go routinely so the local and national police never gave it a thought. I’d make sure they came across the border at least once nightly.”

He also told stories of apparent corruption he observed or had heard about in the US Army. He became just a bit passionate about it to the point of distraction. It was Angie who recognized the aging VW van with white patches and emergency light bar on top heading toward the bridge where they sat. Preston turned quickly, raised the camera from his lap and immediately began snapping still images. He then stood and made sure to catch the rear license plates.

The camera told him it was pressing midnight. He decided nonetheless to send a text message to his boss, explaining his notion and promising to post a picture of the rear of the MP van with the plates visible into the dropbox.

The next morning Preston’s cellphone twittered a reply while he was getting dressed. He snatched it up while still half-naked to see what it said.

Plausible. Plates ambiguous — Rheindahlen or Javelin. See drop.

In Preston’s mind, the idea of using a small skiff to transfer from barge to van would explain a lot. Düsseldorf had a great many private havens and several kilometers of beach areas with small roads nearby. Even if an MP van would be conspicuous, other types of cargo vehicles would not. At some point between Düsseldorf and the border were any number of transfer points to switch vehicles. But it would mean someone in the MPs with the means to control and corrupt several others to keep it all quiet. That would hardly be new in the US Army.

Checking the dropbox account, Preston and Angie saw this message:

You’ll need to stay around and catch where they take the cargo. No precise location known for the breaking house. Another unintended vacation.

Gary’s wry sense of humor kept this job sane.

Of Children and Angels 6

Sunday 5 May 2013 Leave a comment

On the ride back to their campsite, Angie and Preston discussed this idea.

Angie insisted, “Corrupt officials are one thing. Local politicians are seldom clean any more than they might be anywhere else in the world. But the Dutch police seldom get too wrapped up in corruption. Gemeentes, maybe. K-Mar — I find it hard to imagine.”

Preston came back quickly. “Boy, you sure couldn’t say that about American federal law enforcement. They’re some of the biggest criminal operations in the whole country.”

He paused a bit. “It doesn’t seem the Gemeente police would be running back and forth across the border in their official vehicles that much. So that leaves the German Polizei. That’s pretty complicated. We know for certain they have been used a lot in espionage, or at least someone masquerading as them. I know the CIA has lots of friends in the Polizei. We’ve already discovered the espionage angle to this child trafficking; that’s how we got involved in the first place. But I can’t imagine the Polizei would be running across the border too freely, either. So about the only way I can see it is with them doing transfers along the many small routes in the woods.” He shook his head slowly. “Somehow, that seems entirely too risky and complicated.”

“But it seems for now that’s the most plausible,” Angie countered.

Over dinner outside their tent that evening, they scanned the maps of the border area, both paper and online maps. It became obvious that for quite some distance in both directions, the German side of the border was heavily forested. The Dutch side considerably less so, but there was that one area where Preston and his fellow troops used the firing range owned by the Dutch federal police. The next nearest border woodland on the Dutch side was a bit north of where they were camped, just on the south side of Swalmen.

They decided to divide the border region between north and south of the A52, which was the N280 on the Dutch side of the border. This was the major highway route east and west connecting Roermond with Düsseldorf.

The next day saw them angling from their quiet country hiding place down along the back roads to where the highway crossed the border. There was a farm lane connected to a small pedestrian bridge crossing over the autobahn. They turned left off the lightweight bridge onto a narrow bike path. From there they had less than a half-kilometer to the border marked by an almost unbroken treeline on the German side. It was a very pleasant ride and they were hardly the only cyclists on the trails.

On the one hand, the border was shot through with crossings, most of them south of the Javelin Barracks area. On the other hand, Preston could imagine determined traffickers could get a small van down there, but trucks or buses would be nigh impossible. By mid-morning, they decided to head back through the Dutch villages a kilometer or so off the border. There was still the large forested area and they cut it in half by taking the fairly solid lane running past the golf course. By the time they got to Asenray they were ready for a snack. Stopping at the only cafe, they grabbed a vacant table out front and reassessed the task in front of them.

Preston wasn’t exactly tired, just feeling a little frustrated. “Somehow I get the feeling trying to watch this border area day and night would be way too much. Catching them red-handed seems almost futile. I just don’t get that positive feeling about this. It’s as if our angels aren’t in on that idea.”

Angie agreed. “I think it’s a dead end, too. It seems too inefficient.”

Heading east out of the village, they followed a zigzagging route back to where the little bridge crossed the autobahn. As they rode up over the top, Preston suddenly stopped. He watched a vehicle approach from the east, pass under and cruise off toward the northern end of Roermond. Angie followed his eyes.

It was a UK Military Police car, an Opel station wagon.

Preston looked back at Angie. While his features were nearly blank, he had a very intense look, as if his mind worked furiously. He looked again where the vehicle had gone, then back across the bridge, staring off into space. Angie waited expectantly, but all he said was, “Military Police vans.”

The ride back to the manor and their tent was silent.

Of Children and Angels 1

Tuesday 30 April 2013 Leave a comment

(This begins Part 3 of the saga of Angie and Preston in the Benelux.)

It was time for a bit more mundane work.

Besides, Preston had not been this close to the old POMCUS site since coming back to the Netherlands. It was a short ride east across Heerlen, through Landgraaf and then Abdissenbosch. They turned left along the primary northerly route, which offered fine bike paths. The entrance to the golf course was just visible down the road where they turned off into the woods. This took them to a road running right along the Dutch-German border.

Preston wanted to see the site from the backside first. While he never was sure what the company was doing digging into the old slag heap from the ancient coal mining days, he saw how a great mound had been reduced from his military days.

They followed the route around to the north side of the complex, and then turned left along the main road. In large cities like this, bike paths were everywhere, and very well maintained with their own traffic lights. The road curved around back south and they could see the large metal warehouses up on the high flat ground. From what he could tell, Preston realized this particular site had been expanded considerably, and reasoned some of the equipment from the sites that they closed had been brought here.

They turned left again and climbed up to follow the street along the fence line. Preston had heard the entire operation throughout the Netherlands had been turned over to Dutch contractors. There was not an American uniform anywhere, just armed Dutch guards and other functionaries.

The administrative offices had been moved, but the main gate was in the same place. There was an old guard sitting there just outside the door of the shack enjoying the breeze. Preston rolled up as close as he dared.

“Hallo!” He waved at the guard.

The man waved back with the typical Dutch friendliness, but said nothing.

“I used to work here!”

The guard perked up and stood, moving to the corner of the gatehouse. His accent was very thick. “That would be a long time ago. The Americans left it to us ten years ago.”

“So I heard. A lot of things have changed.” Preston agreed.

“Ja. Do you know they finally closed the old Schinnen Camp?”

Preston was a little surprised. “I knew they had reduced its status, but I wasn’t aware they were closing it. They had spent so very much money fixing the place up.” He pushed his bike a meter or two closer.

“Ja. DSM is trying to find someone else to rent it. But the other NATO allies would not let the Americans just walk away from this area. So the made them keep a reduce section up at old Bruggen — Javelin Barracks, I think they call it now.” The old man was enjoying the conversation.

“That would be just over on the German side. I remember we used to use a firing range up there in the woods near Herkenbosch.”

The old man nodded. “Ja, I worked here long enough to remember that. Now the few American troops could almost walk there from the airbase. It’s just a few American MPs and some civilians. The Brits offered them some space when they deactivated some units. Pretty soon there won’t be nearly so many NATO folks around. Ah, we don’t worry about no Ruskies. We trade with them now.” The old man laughed heartily.

“Thanks for your time, sir. We have some other places to visit.” Preston waved. The old man seemed just a bit disappointed it was over so soon.

They rode back down the street to the main road and turned left. As they approached the high plateau, Preston noticed there was not a trace of the old mining buildings at the JHQ, formerly called AFCENT HQ. The old AFCENT International School, previously a collection of single-story prefab buildings strung together, was now a huge multi-story building and a sign said AFNORTH.

They had been stopping to take photos all morning, but carefully avoided aiming the cameras at any of the military structures. There was plenty of other interesting shots. That included the ancient cable wheel removed from the top of the mine shaft and mounted as a monument in a small park right beside the main gate.

Angie was curious. “I don’t remember what happened. Did the mines just play out?”

Preston snorted. “No. The Americans and their ultra-cheap strip mining put the Dutch State Mines out of business. With the unions here and all those safety regulations against our terribly unsafe operations and hideous earth scars, we undercut you guys and put thousands of people out of work. Those were bad times in the Benelux.”

She pursed her lips. “So that’s why DSM does no mining at all, just chemicals and stuff.”

“Yeah. They still own all those mine camps and NATO was a good paying renter. Those days are about gone, it seems. We had a huge number of supporting operations all over the Netherlands, not just the POMCUS sites. It was extravagant for a long time — missile sites, life support services, all sorts of secret communications bunkers. I only heard about the places we had people. About all that’s left now are the places directly involved in NATO coordination activity itself.”

Preston pointed out how the original coal train path was now a bike path. They decided to follow it around to Schinnen. It was a long quiet ride through Hoensbroek. At some places the route was simply gone, at other places it was an actual street, but there weren’t that many detours. It wound down around the picturesque village of Terschuren with its beautifully kept ancient stone cottages. They took lots of pictures there.

Eventually they got back on the route which went through some woods, then alongside a sand and gravel operation used by Dutch Rail, very close to the tracks. Then the path turned and required they run alongside the built up highway where it bridged over the rail line, cross over the top, and dove through some foliage. It closely paralleled the railroad. On the other side, the trail continued. By that time, the landscape had been changed so much that the original route disappeared. However, a fine wooded path remained along much of it, and they took what was available.

Part of it was elevated above the surrounding terrain. The last section running along the backside of Schinnen Mine was inaccessible, thickly grown over with trees and shrubs. It had been just barely possible to crawl through it twenty years before, but was impassable altogether now. They turned and followed the main route toward what had been the one gate into the old complex. While a bike path on the left ran along between the fence and train tracks on the south side of the site, they stopped at the gate and gazed into the now abandoned facility.

Except for the original headquarters building and one or two other structures, the place was all new buildings, now vacant. The duck pond was overgrown with weeds, but the ducks were still there. It was actually the first sediment pond from the water treatment system. The water passed from there back under the roadway to a wooded fish pond. Preston decided he’d seen enough and they turned to go back.

Categories: fiction Tags: , , ,
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