Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Whose Freedom of Religion?

Back in 2012, the outrage and indignation of righteous people here in my home state of North Carolina propelled an item on to our election ballot for that year, a ballot to vote for an amendment to our state constitution to forbid same sex marriages from ever happening here. 

Jump ahead to 2014 and same sex marriage is allowed in North Carolina, thanks in part to that amendment. Why? Before the amendment, the idea of same sex marriage in North Carolina did not seem like a possibility. But enough right wing Tea Party nut cases got everyone riled up over the idea that we needed an amendment to keep that from happening. 

Of course the amendment was unconstitutional. How can any constitutional amendment that seeks to curtail the rights and privileges of some of its citizens ever stand up to scrutiny? So rulings were made and now same sex couples can get married in North Carolina, probably about 5 or 10 years earlier than if the proposed amendment hadn't given gays and lesbians such an easy target. 

The thing is, same sex marriage is a thing now. It's allowed in more states and so far, the republic still stands. Except the danger to our nation was never from gay people getting married; no, the true danger are those self-righteous purveyors of what they think is right.

The latest toy in their toy box is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.   

Click here for the full write up on this latest effort to curtail the rights of part of our citizenry. But here are some bits and pieces of the story. 

The Indiana state legislature passed Senate Bill 101 which the Governor signed into law. 
 
Gov. Mike Pence, a possible Republican presidential candidate, says that the law is meant to protect free exercise of religion. The Republican leaders of the Indiana Legislature say the law does not permit discrimination of any kind
 
Nineteen states have similar laws. They are modeled after a federal law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993. It passed the House without objection and cleared the Senate by a vote of 97-3. Clinton said at the time that the law subjects the federal government to "a very high level of proof before it interferes with someone's free exercise of religion."
 
Pence cited the fact Barack Obama voted for the Illinois RIFRA as a state senator more than a decade ago.  (Of course, Obama, unlike Pence, also supports marriage equality and opposes anti-gay discrimination.)  But back then, RIFRAs were thought to be about benign and relatively uncontroversial matters, such as allowing Muslim jail inmates to wear closely trimmed beards or assuring that churches could feed homeless people in public parks. 
 
By contrast, RIFRAs like Indiana’s are being impelled by the politics of anti-gay backlash.  Their most ardent supporters come from an increasingly angry, marginalized, and shrill subset of Christian conservative activists. 
 
Social conservatives say that the law would stop the government from compelling people to do things they object to on religious grounds, like catering or providing flowers for a gay wedding.
 
But Gov. Pence sidestepped direct questions on whether the law sanctions discrimination. George Stephanopoulos of ABC News asked the Governor: "Yes or no, should it be legal to discriminate against gays and lesbians?"
 
Pence answered:
George, you're — you're following the mantra of the last week online, and you're trying to make this issue about something else. What I am for is protecting, with the highest standards in our courts, the religious liberty of Hoosiers. I signed the bill. We're going to continue to explain it to people that don't understand it. And in — and if possible, we will find a way to amplify what this bill really is in a legislative process. But I stand by this law.
 
Hardly a "yes or no" answer to the question. 

Last February, then-Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona vetoed a similar law. "I sincerely believe that Senate Bill 1062 has the potential to create more problems than it purports to solve," she said at the time. And Brewer is the exact opposite of a liberal; during her time as Arizona's Governor, Jan Brewer was a frequent and vocal critic of President Obama. 

While Gov. Pence may "stand by this law", there are a lot of critics of this act.  

The NCAA (holding their Final Four tournament in Indianapolis), Apple CEO Tim Cook and 
Angie’s List have all voiced objections with the law.


Even Miley Cyrus got in on the act. In an Instagram post using an expletive to refer to the governor, she said: "The only place that has more idiots than Instagram is in politics."


Click here for a post by Steve Sanders, a Professor of constitutional law, constitutional litigation, and family law at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law. Prof. Sanders had this to say in his post on the website of the American Constitution Society (ACS): 
 
  One of the leading RIFRA proponents in Indiana is Advance America (not to be confused with the payday lending company).  As the message on its web site explains (emphases in original):  “SB 101 will help protect religious freedom in Indiana by providing protection for individuals with sincerely held religious beliefs, along with Christian businesses and churches.  SB 101 will help protect individuals, Christian businesses and churches from those supporting homosexual marriages and those supporting government recognition and approval of gender identity (male cross-dressers).”


This message tells you much of what you need to know about the mindset of the people who insisted that legislators give Indiana a RIFRA: the reference only to protecting “Christians”; the crude lumping together of marriage equality and cross-dressing; the implication that this issue is less about protecting true religious conscience and more about drawing a political line against “supporting homosexual marriages.”

And that is the crux of this issue. Gov. Pence and his political cronies can dress this up in the language of protecting religious freedom. But people like those with Advance America aren't really interested in religious freedom. Unless, of course, it's their religion. And that's the thing: laws like the one in Indiana are about putting into secular law the tenets of fundamentalist Christianity. Too bad if you're a Jew or a Muslim or (God forbid) an atheist. This is about consolidating power in the hands of a few small minded people who seek only to maintain their grasp on power in a world that is falling into ruin, brick by brick. Trust me, the first time a Muslim in Indiana seeks protection under their religious freedom law, all of a sudden it won't apply to them. And then guess what? The law gets challenged in court and a judge is going to rule the law is unconstitutional and the relevance of the small minded is pushed than much further into the margins. 

Which may be in the end a good thing but can America afford the damage done to get there?

Monday, March 30, 2015

This (Non) Sporting Life: On To the Final Four

This past weekend was good for fans of the Duke Blue Devils, among whom is included moi. On Friday, Duke defeated the Utes of Utah. (What exactly is a Ute and why should I be afraid of it?) My daughter Miranda was watching with me and she was perplexed by my concern about the outcome of the game with only 30 seconds to go and Duke up by 7. "There's no way Utah could get 8 points in the next 30 seconds to win the game," she said, foolishly challenging the fates as well as the gods of basketball. 

Now I'm the guy who does not understand sports writing about sports but I've seen enough college basketball to know that, yeah coming back with an 8 - 0 run in the last 30 seconds of a game is not likely but it is not impossible. So to counter my daughter's dangerous heresy, I said prayers to Jesus, Mohammed, Elijah, Buddha, Vishnu and, for good measure, "Ralph", the head of lettuce that Rerun's cult worshipped in an episode of What's Happening.  My full court spiritual press was sufficient to stave off any negative consequences of Miranda's misguided remarks and the Blue Devils won the game, sending the Utes heading back to...wherever Utes live. (Caves? Burrows? Time share condos?) 

Sunday I watched Duke take on the Bulldogs of Gonzaga with my father in law at his house. Since his wife passed away in January, I try to pop over once in a while to keep him company. 

Also he has a better TV than mine. 

As we watched the game, I became acutely aware of a certain phenomenon that has perplexed me for years: game announcers saying exactly the wrong thing at the wrong time, usually to the detriment of whatever team I'm rooting for. 

It goes something like this: Duke is driving down the court to their basket as the announcer says, "Duke hasn't turned over the ball during this game." Immediately Duke commits a turnover*. 

*Hmmmm! Turnover. 

Or Quinn Cook goes to the foul line for a free throw. Announcer: "Cook hasn't missed a free throw in this half." And guess who misses their free throw? Go on, guess! 

I don't know what it is about watching a game where I actually care about the outcome that makes me so superstitious. But does anyone else besides me see this happening, the announcer jinx? Well, it's crystal clear to me, even if the rest of you are too blind to see it.

God, I'm paranoid about this. 

Anyway, Duke puts away 'Zag and the Blue Devils are off to the Final Four next weekend in Indianapolis. 

By the way, the commercial with the guys on a road trip to see the Final Four and wind up in Maryland because the driver thinks the games are "in the Annapolis"? Yeah, that's stupid but what can I say, I think it's funny. "You do know the Annapolis is in the Maryland, right?" 

On the other side of the Final Four is Kentucky. So far the Wildcats are still undefeated after beating all opponents including all four quidditch teams from Hogwarts. Everybody has these guys making it to ...and winning the NCAA Championship on April 6th. Even my fellow Duke fan at work, Tony, has Kentucky taking the whole thing. Assuming Kentucky gets past the Wisconsin Cheese Curds Badgers and Duke defeats the Michigan State Spartans (named after a ancient group of warriors who did not believe in interior decorating), then I might experience the least stressful NCAA Championship game I ever watched Duke play in. 

Why? Because if it's a done deal that Kentucky is going to win this thing, then there's no deflated expectations when Duke loses. If Duke does win, then that would be awesome beyond all things awesomey but, yeah, the Wildcats have probably got this so I can sit back and relax.  

...

...

Oh, who am I kidding? I'll be saying Hail Marys while fingering my rosary beads and I'm not even Catholic! C'mon, Duke! The self-esteem of a person you don't know is counting on you!

Yeah, I'm so glad my suffering amuses you. 

Dave-El  

Monday, March 23, 2015

This (Non) Sporting Life: Rebound the Damn Ball, Carolina!

So the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament started last week which can be a kind of/sort of stressful time around the El Family Fortress of Ineptitude. Well, it's a stressful time for my wife who is a "fan" of the North Carolina Tarheels. I put "fan" in quotes because, well, her relationship with this team is not always positive.  

Take Carolina's opening game against Harvard. I'm not sure how well Harvard plays basketball what with the team using their butlers as proxies on the court. ("Excellent 3-point play, Jeeves!" "Higgins, you must improve your hook shot, old bean!") They apparently played well enough to erase Carolina's 16 point lead. 

So I'm safely ensconced in the bedroom while listening to Andrea yell and scream at the TV. Apparently based on my wife's observation, Carolina has a bad habit of "not rebounding the damn ball". I don't know if it's true or it's just the only thing she understands about basketball.*

*My understanding of basketball is limited to "Put the ball through the hoop."  

At the game's end she comes stomping towards our bedroom and enters, angry and breathing hard like that bull that Bugs Bunny pisses off in "Bully For Bugs". I'm assuming the Tarheels had lost and was prepared to offer my sympathies on the matter. 

Except they had NOT lost. 

"They won," my lovely wife snarled. 

I responded with no small degree of hesitancy. "They won? Uh, that's...good?" 

"By only two points!"

"But they won."

"By only TWO stinking points!!"

This is not a phenomenon unique to my wife. I've heart lots of Tarheel "fans" voice similar perspectives like the team won but it should've been my more. Or it's always Carolina that folds in the crunch, not the other team playing a better game. There seems to an appallingly lack of faith in the Tarheels by Tarheel fans. 

Now my side of the Fortress of Ineptitude follows the Duke Blue Devils. I'm not an "ABC" fan. (Anybody But Carolina) There are a lot of people in the state of North Carolina who would call that blasphemy. The general consensus is that when you're down with one of those team, the other team can burn in hell. It's usually that intense. 

I have a co-worker named Tony who is also a Duke fan. Tony and I frequently find ourselves in the odd position of defending the North Carolina Tarheels...to Tarheel fans. 

Me: Marcus Paige did very good out there, scoring 24 points.
Tarheel Fan: Marcus could've gotten more if he learned to rebound the damn ball!

Meanwhile, I look at any Duke loss as a superior effort by the other team. It's not to say Duke cannot have a bad night. They can and they have. But the other team has to have some talent and skill to take advantage of Duke's bad night. When Carolina has a loss, Andrea tends to forget there's another team on the court fighting for the ball and looking to score points. No, Carolina threw away the game. The Tarheels seemed to not care. Were the North Carolina Tarheels even trying to play the game? 

As we head into the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament, both Duke and Carolina are still alive in the tournament. To Duke, let me say I have confidence in the Blue Devils. And if you should lose, well, that would be a shame but still, it was a great show to get this far into the tournament and play against the best teams in the nation. No matter what happens, Blue Devils, Duke fans have got your back.  

To Carolina, congratulations on making this far even after trying to give up and throw away the game against Harvard. You've been very lucky so far but that luck will run out. So go, 'Heels! Just remember, Tarheels, Duke fans have got your back.

I'll see you back here tomorrow. Until then, be good to one another. 

Dave-El
I'm S Glad My Suffering Amuses You


Sunday, March 22, 2015

Doctor Who: The Crucible of Eternity - Episode One

Hello and welcome to the first installment of a new Doctor Who fan fiction. A couple of points before we jump into things.

1) I write these stories in the form of scripts as opposed to prose. It's mostly a time saving measure but it does help maybe capture a bit of "watching" the story unfold like an actual episode. 

2) On one hand, I do take this seriously, to create an adventure that entertains more than just me. But on the other hand, I'm just out to have fun with this. So I'll be blunt: if I have a chance to do something cool, I'll do it even if it might leave your head (and mine) needing a scratch while you wonder, "Wait! How did he do that?" I may or may not be sorry about that.

And now...the disclaimer.  





















And now...


The Crucible of Eternity
by David Long 
Episode One

Scene opens: Against a back drop of outer space is a spectacle of technology. Satellites and space ships zip across the heavens over an alien world. As our view shifts from space down to and through the atmosphere, we see a planet of wonders with spectacular mountains, exotic vegetation and crystal shining waters that cut rivers, lakes and seas into the surface of this world. And along side the natural beauties of this planet, gleaming spires stretch to the sky, cities that stand as monuments to the strength, ingenuity and imagination of humankind. 

A graphic appears:

Planet: Verity Alpha One 
Year: 200,117
Era: The 4th Great and Bountiful Human Empire

Our view moves in closer to the sleek and glistening structures of a futuristic city. There are many people who live and work here as they go about their lives. Our view focuses on two people. One of the them is the Doctor, a thin black figure against the bright tableau of future life around him. The other is a human male; in contrast to the Doctor, he is dressed in bright colors of a decidedly modern design. We also see the TARDIS on a sleek walkway; the Doctor and this man of the future are walking towards it.

The Doctor: Remember, Axolem, the Microzords won't be any trouble if you don't step on them.

Axolem: And they don't get into the Xeon Power Net again either, eh, Doctor?

The Doctor: Well, that too. Hopefully I've negotiated a peaceful coexistence between your peoples.

Axolem: You accomplished quite a remarkable feat here today.

The Doctor: All I did was listen.

Axolem: But the Microzords are so small.

The Doctor: I listen very carefully.

The Doctor looks around at the fantastic display of future wonders around him.

The Doctor: Behold, the wonders of the 4th Great and Bountiful Human Empire! The human race never ceases to amaze me! Indomitable, I've always said! 

Axolem: We can only do what we can, push forward, strive to be better.

The Doctor: Not bad for a race with pudding for brains.

Axolem: Huh?

The Doctor: Never mind.

The Doctor extends his hand and Axolem reaches out to shake it.

The Doctor: Well, I best be off. I have places to not be and people to not see.

Axolem: Thank you, Doctor.

The Doctor allows for a slight smile as he turns towards the TARDIS, key in hand to open the doors. Suddenly the Doctor slumps slightly as he closes his eyes tightly, his fingertips touching his temple. 

The Doctor (whispers): What...is that?

Suddenly one of Axolem's aides runs up to Axolem.

Aide: Axolem! Something's happened to Earth!

Axolem: What do you mean, "something's happened"?

Aide: We're not sure! The hyperspace relays between here and the homeworld have gone completely dark!

The Doctor turns towards Axolem and his aide.

The Doctor: Dark?

Aide: Yes! No static, no subspace echoes, it's as if Earth has winked out of exist...

Suddenly the aide's words are cut off in mid-sentence by an unearthly sound that defies description. It's a sound a world would make if it could scream.

The Doctor, Axolem and his aide look up horrified.

Our view shifts as we see what they see: the sky, the buildings and the people are being erased, this mighty world of the future being subsumed by the darkness of space.

The aide suddenly vanishes and Axolem is frightened.

Axolem: By the All-father, what is happening? Doctor?

The Doctor looks horrified.

The Doctor: I never thought I would live to see...

The Doctor looks at Axolem with an expression of fear and sadness.

The Doctor: I'm sorry, Axolem! Really, I am. But...I can't save you!

Axolem can only stand in silent shock as his form is erased to leave only star dappled darkness.

The Doctor: I can't save...any of you.

The Doctor hurls himself into the TARDIS.

The Doctor (running to the console): Go, go, go, go....

The Doctor slams down the control lever and the TARDIS rotors begin to rotate but sluggishly and the wheezing engines sound baleful and weak.

The Doctor: Oh, no! Not good! Not good!

The Doctor frantically pulls up a viewscreen and begin to enter data on a keyboard.

The Doctor: C'mon! Give me something! Something! Anything!

The screen is black except for two lines of green text. One reads "Inquiry: what is the status of planet Earth?" The second lines reads, "Earth: no such designation in planetary database."

The Doctor looks stunned.

The Doctor: Earth...doesn't exist? No, no, no, no....

The Doctor types frantically again. The screen shows this: "The 4th Great and Bountiful Human Empire" A light blinks then this appears: "No record found."

The Doctor (whispers): No.

The Doctor (very pensive): What is happening out there?

The Doctor runs to the doors of the TARDIS and opens them.  The Doctor stands in the open doorway, covered in the darkest blue shadow, the outline of his form seen only by the light of the TARDIS interior. Then our view shifts and we see what he sees.

Space is dark. The spectacular world the Doctor stood upon moments before has winked out of existence.

Our view shifts back towards the Doctor as he stands in the dark blue shadow, unmoving. Then along the edges of his face we see a faint but growing yellow light.

The Doctor: Of course things can only get worse.

Our view shifts back towards space where we see a thin glowing ribbon of light that is increasing in size as it swiftly morphs into...the crack in the universe. Light and power burst forth from its jagged mawl. Against the pull of the light, the Doctor struggles to close the doors of the TARDIS. He scrambles to the TARDIS console and pulls down the lever again but the rotors turn slowly with a grinding screech and the sound of the engine sputters and gurgles. 

The Doctor: C'mon, old girl! We've got to get out of-

The Doctor's words are cut short when the TARDIS violent shakes and the Doctor is thrown about the console room. He clutches desperately to the console as he stares wide eyed at a monitor. It shows the crack in the universe and the TARDIS is moving closer and closer. 

The Doctor: Well, I never thought I would say this again but...

Cut to the exterior as the TARDIS tumbles and spins into the blazing light from the crack in the universe. And we hear the Doctor scream. 

The Doctor (VO): Geronimooooooooooooooooooooooooo

The TARDIS disappears into the blinding light and then the crack slams shut, leaving only the darkness of space around. 

Jump cut: an army of Cybermen bursting through a pair of strong, heavy doors. Then we hear a woman's voice. 

Woman's voice: OK, boys! Let's make some noise! 

The Cybermen part and coming up the center of this cyber army is the Master in the female form we also know as Missy, a very wicked smile on her face as she twirls her parasol.  

The Master: What a lovely day for a massacre, isn't it? 

Our view pulls back as we see the Master and her cyber army are on the steps of London's St. Paul Cathedral. Around her, Cybermen by the hundreds take flight into the skies over London. 

A graphic appears

Earth, London
December 2014

The Master: Fly, my pretties, fly! Go get those poor unfortunate souls and there little dogs too! T

The Cybermen are blasting away on the ground and from the air. There is resistance in the form of heavily armed police and military as they fire weapons at these cybernetic invaders. But the Cybermen are not halted in their deadly advance. 

The Master raises her arms and gives a twirl. 

The Master: The Earth is alive with the sounds of dying! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! 

Our view of the Master pulls back and we shift to seeing her on a screen surrounded by banks of equipment. 

Woman's voice: Are you sure, Osgood? That she's...

Our view pulls back further and we are in an operations center of UNIT. Gathered together are Kate Stewart, the head of UNIT; Osgood, her technical advisor; Colonel Ahmed, chief security officer. They are surrounded by other members of UNIT's military and scientific staff all busy doing things. 

Osgood is wearing a tweed blazer and a bow tie in the manner of the 11th Doctor. 

Osgood: Biological scans confirm she is a Time Lord. 

Colonel Ahmed: But not just any Time Lord? 

Osgood: Encephalographic analysis crossmatched with readings in UNIT's data banks are not 100% conclusive but the matches are too close to be discounted. 

Osgood looks pensively at the monitor where the Master continues to cavort, 

Osgood: That... is the Master. 

Stewart: Damn!  Colonel Ahmed, what is the status of...

Colonel Ahmed: We've engaged the space-time telegraph and we've used Martha Jones' contact number for the TARDIS and boosted it along the Copper Industries Sub Wave Carrier...

Stewart: No word from the Doctor. 

Colonel Ahmed: Sorry, Ms. Stewart, but no. 

Suddenly there is a flash of light and Capt. Jack Harkness appears on the bridge, his long coat flaring out about him. A number of UNIT soldiers immediately draw weapons. 

Stewart: No! Hold your fire! 

Jack: Wow! What a warm welcoming committee! 

Colonel Ahmed: Who...? 

Jack gives a casual salute. 

Jack: Capt. Jack Harkness of Torchwood, at your service. 

Jack smiles and winks at Osgood. 

Jack: Well, hello!

Osgood stammers. 

Stewart: Osgood! Inhaler! 

Osgood takes a hit off her inhaler. 

Osgood: Er...hello?

Stewart: Capt. Harkness, what are you...

Jack: I was off world when your sub wave carrier signal tripped the alarms on this thing.

Jack taps the Vortex Manipulator on his wrist. 

Jack: So I come running. I imagine you're trying to find the Doctor. 

Colonel Ahmed: Yes but with no success. 

Jack: Well, I'm here to help if I can. 

Stewart: I'm not going to turn down help, even from Torchwood. 

Jack: Hey, there's no call for..

Stewart (ignoring Jack): Bring up the global threat assessment board. 

A wide range of images coalesce into one big image: a scene of the Earth from space. There are whole sections of the Earth scarred and burning. 

Jack: On my God! What...?

Osgood: An invasion of Cybermen led by the Master. 

Jack: The Master? That bastard? 

Osgood: Yes. Well, not quite. 

Jack: Such devastation...how many days has this been going on? 

Stewart: Days? No Capt. Harkness, the destruction you see spreading over the globe happened over the last 47 minutes. 

Our view shifts to the outside as we see that the UNIT control room is on board the Boat One aircraft. As it flies high over the Earth at the upper most level of the atmosphere, we see more and more of the world smoldering, on fire. Then we see coming out of the shadowed side of the Earth several pin pricks of silver light. 

Cut back to the UNIT control room on Boat One. 

Jack: So someone tell me we have a plan?

Stewart: Maybe.

Jack: Maybe?

Stewart: We're working on a very tight schedule. "Maybe" is all we get. 

Colonel Ahmed: Our observations of the Master show an unusual device on her wrist. We surmise she controls the Cybermen with it. 

Jack: Wait! Did you say HER wrist? 

Osgood: Boy, I wish we had time to get into that.  

Jack: So I go down there and cut off her damn hand.

Osgood: No. Well, not yet anyway. She's flanked by a Cyber-guard which protects her in an energy shield. A shield that maybe we can get through. 

Jack: There's that maybe again. 

Osgood: We've extrapolated from Cybermen parts held in UNIT storage an energy weapon that can shred that shield. 

Jack: Maybe. 

Osgood: Maybe. 

Osgood lifts up a big honking gun and Jack whistles as he takes it. 

Jack: Wow! That's some serious firepower!

Stewart: Serious but limited. It's just now charged up enough...

Jack: Maybe 

Stewart: Maybe and only good for one blast out of it. 

Jack: Then I better make it count! 

Colonel Ahmed: You? This is a UNIT operation and as such...

Abruptly the whole control room shakes violently. Electrical devices explode, glass shatters, lights flash on and off as people are tossed about like rag dolls. 

Stewart: What the hell...?

Colonel Ahmed: Give me tactical...NOW! 

UNIT operative: Sir! Boat One is under attack! 

Cut back outside as we see a swarm of Cybermen descend upon the plane, shattering wings and the fuselage. 

Inside the plane, all is chaos amidst fire and smoke and the screams of the helpless people on board.

Back outside we watch the plane spiralling through the clouds, spouting smoke and flames as the Cybermen continue their attack. Then there is a sudden explosion of heat and light as the plane blows up from the Cybermen's assault.  

Cut back to the streets of London as the Master looks up into the sky at the burning debris of the plane falling to the ground below.  

The Master: Tsk! Tsk! Tsk! Did I do that? Oh, I just don't know when to stop. 

The Master looks out around her the tableau of carnage around her. 

The Master: Well, I do know when to stop. Except, Doctor, you're not cooperating. Where oh where can you be? 

Surrounded by her Cyberguard, the Master turns on her heel back towards the church. 

The Master: C'mon, boys! Let's go chat some more with our special guest. Maybe she...

Suddenly there is a blaze of light and the Master whirls around. Standing with his overcoat flapping about him, smoke wafting off his body, Jack Harkness stands firm with a steely resolve in his eyes and a big honking gun in his hand. 

Jack: Hold it right there! 

The Master touches her hand to her chest and gasps. 

The Master: My, my, my! As I live and breathe, it's Capt. Jack Harkness. 

Jack: And I have it on good authority you're the Master. 

The Master: Ooh, clever boy! I like that in a man. At least, I think I do. I'm still working out the kinks of being a woman now. 

Jack raises and aims the gun. 

Jack: Bitch or bastard, it doesn't matter to me! You're going down! 

Jack squeezes the trigger and electrical fire leaps from the gun barrell and sparks about the Cybermen that form the Master's personal guard. Caught in this electrical web, the Cyberguard appears to be shaken, as if about to fall. But the Master doesn't look worried about this. And sure enough, the Cyberguard stop shaking, stand up firm and erect against the energy onslaught. 

The gun in Jack's hand stops blasting and he looks on with shock. 

Jack: What the hell...?

The Master: Now that is very clever. A energy weapon attuned to disrupt the integrated relays of Cybermen technology. Somebody in UNIT is..or was...very clever indeed. 

Two Cybermen come up from behind Jack and grab him by both arms. Jack struggles but he can't escape the steel like grip of the Cybermen.

The Master: The thing is that weapon was extrapolated from Cybermen technology that converts the living to their kind. But my Cybermen, dear Jack, are different. 

Jack: Different? How? 

The Master: These Cybermen are made not from the living but from the dead. And there are oh so many dead on this planet. It is quite the tactical advantage. don't you think? 

Jack: Why the hell are you doing this? 

The Master: Would you believe this is all a present, a present for my only friend in the universe? Well, it doesn't matter what you believe, does it? Right now, the question is what to do with you. 

Jack: Do what you like! I'll stop you! 

The Master: Oh, that's so disappointing! I expected wittier banter from you, Jack Harkness. So here's the thing: I have this rather wonderful piece of Time Lord tech that I've converted into what I call a Nethersphere. I use it to collect...

The Master does air quotes.

The Master: "souls" when people die. But what happens when I place the soul of the immortal Jack Harkness in the Nethersphere? What a wonderful idea for an experiment. So let's find out! Boys! 

Electrical energy shoots from the arms of the two Cybermen holding Jack who contorts and twists under the electrical attack. Then still and limp, the Cybermen drops Jack to the ground. 

The Master: Humph! That was no fun at all.

She looks at her Cyberguard.

The Master: Do you know who would make this fun? 

The Master throws her head back and bellows to the sky. 

The Master: DOCTORRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!

The Master stops her shout and for a moment, she slumps her shoulders, looking very tired. Then she straightens up and once more heads for St. Paul's with the Cyberguard about her. 

The Master: Time to go back to church. 

As the Master and the Cyberguard climb the steps up St. Paul's Cathedral, we pull back and we see a Cyberman walk into our line of sight. The Cyberman pauses, looks at the Master and her entourage as they enter the cathedral. Then the Cyberman follows. 

Cut to: the interior of the Cathedral. Sunlight pierces the dusty air and the shadowed gloom. The Master strides along with her Cyberguard. 

The Master: So I see you're still hanging around, eh...

Our perspective shifts and we see a young woman in shadow standing against a wall, her arms outstretched. 

The Master: Clara Oswald. 

In clearer light we see it is Clara and her arms spread and shackled at the wrists to the wall. 

Clara: Well, I for one appreciate the skill and the talent in making this wonder of architecture. See no reason to rush through the tour. Tell you what though. I do have a hell of an itch on my nose. Would you care to come over and give it a good scratch? 

The Master: Ha! Ha! Clara, you do have a wonderful sense of humor. 

Clara: No scratch? Well, see if I give this place a good review in the travel guides. 

The Master: Have a care, Miss Oswald. I've gone through a lot of trouble to convert the dead on this mudball into an army of Cybermen and for what? Nothing! No appreciation! 

Clara: Audiences can be so fickle. 

The Master (lunging at Clara): SHUT UP! 

Even through all her bravado, even Clara has to flinch as the Master brings her face close to Clara's. The Master's voice is a low Scottish growl. 

The Master: Where, Clara Oswald, is the Doctor? 

Clara (swallowing hard): I...really have no idea. 

The Master: I don't believe you! 

Clara: It's true. Haven't seen him since all that business with the trees. The Doctor's been gone for months! 

The Master: No! You two were supposed to stay together! It was part of the design! My design! 

Clara: Your design? 

The Master: But the Doctor isn't here! He's not by your side! He's not here defending these pathetic Earth primates he loves so much! WHERE IS THE DOCTOR?!?!

At that moment, the Cyberman we saw earlier pushes through the Cyberguard and punches the Master. As she starts to the fall to the floor, the Cyberman grabs her by the wrist and removes the control device there. The Master's Cyberguard attempts to stop this rogue Cyberman but the Cyberman's arm blasters make short work of the Master's Cyberguard.

Cyberman: No one messes with my woman!

Clara: Wh...?

The Cyberman pulls off his helmet. It's Danny Pink! 

Clara: Danny! Oh my God! They turned you into a Cyberman? 

Danny approaches the shackles and undoes them from Clara's wrists.

Danny: No, Clara. I found this empty metal suit and used it to sneak in here. 

Clara: But...but how? I mean....

Danny: I've been watching for awhile. I noticed nothing was getting past the shield around that woman and her metal guards. Nothing that is...

Clara: Except other Cybermen! Danny, you are amazing.

Clara throws her arms around Danny and they kiss. But Danny pulls away a little and very reluctantly. 

Danny: Oh, Clara, I love you so much but...

Danny holds up the Cyberman control device.

Danny: We have a world to save! 

Clara: Save world now, snog later. Got it! 

Danny: Hey, I'm holding you to that. 


Danny takes Clara by the hand and they rush to the doors of the cathedral. They witness the continued carnage of the Cybermen unleashed on the city.

Danny looks at the Cyber-controller with a puzzled expression.

Danny: One problem, though.

Clara: What?

Danny: How do you work this?

Exasperated, Clara snatches the device from Danny’s hand.

Clara: Here! Let me have that!

Danny: So you know how to work that?

Clara: I’ve travelled a lot with the Doctor, you know.

Danny: So you know how to work that?

Clara: Relax, Danny! I’ve seen lots of alien tech.

Danny: So you know how to work that?

Clara: Hmmm! No! Hey, look a flashy button thing!

Danny: Clara! No! Wait!
Clara pushes the button and suddenly all the Cybermen freeze, either standing at attention on the ground or hovering in the air.

Clara: Hey! That worked!

Danny: They’ve stopped! All the Cybermen have stopped!

Clara: So…what now?

Danny: You’re asking me? You’re the expert here! I don’t know, try a verbal command!

Clara raises the Cyber-controller closer to her mouth.

Clara: Uh, Cybermen, turn around?

At that moment all the Cybermen reverse their positions on the ground or in the air.

Clara: Oooh! OK, that worked. Let’s try this… (ahem!). Cybermen, fly into space and leave the Earth forever!

Immediately upon that command, all the Cybermen blast off into the sky.

Clara and Danny clutch at each other, eyes wide with surprise and smiles on their lips as they watch the Cybermen depart. 

Clara and Danny: Woo-hoo! Yeah! 

Danny: Wow! Clara! You did it! 

Clara: Oh yeah! We did it! 

Then Danny and Clara’s giddy joy of victory turns somber as they see all the devastation left behind.

Danny: Oh…dear God.

Clara: Yeah. I know.

Clara guides Danny by the hand back into the cathedral.

Danny: I've been in a war zone before but that...that...

Clara: And to think this was all her fault.

Clara and Danny walk towards the still unconscious form of the Master.

Danny: Who…who is she?

Clara: An old foe of the Doctor’s. Called himself the Master. 

Danny: What? Him? 

Clara: Well, herself now. Long story. Not important really.

Danny: And where is the Doctor? What happened to him in all this?

Clara: I…don’t know. I kept… hoping he would show up. Praying, even. But I’m scared, Danny. I think the worst may have happened.

Danny: The worst?

Clara: Danny, I think the Doctor… is dead.

Suddenly a voice yells from behind her, a voice with a Scottish accent.

The Doctor (V.O.): WRONG! 

Clara and Danny turn and standing in the doorway behind them is the Doctor. His black suit is in tatters, his white shirt torn and dirty, there is smoke coming off his body. He looks very badly beaten but his eyes are wide and flaring with madness. 

The Doctor: IT’S ALL WRONG! EVERYTHING IS WRONG!!

Clara: Doctor!

With that, the Doctor starts to collapse and Clara and Danny rush forward to grab him.

Scene change: in space above the Earth. The armada of Cybermen continue to hurtle off into space, arcing through the star dappled darkness towards and past the moon. 

Then one silver light cuts away from the group. It is a single Cyberman who falls away from the rest and descends back towards Earth.

---to be continued----

Next week...

The Master and her Cybermen have devastated the Earth. Now things get worse.

Episode Two of The Crucible of Eternity on this blog this time next week. 

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