“SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE” (2008) Review

”SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE” (2008) Review

After finally seeing the 2008 Academy Award winning Best Picture, ”SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE”, I am beginning to suspect that this film had garnered a great deal of unnecessarily extreme reactions. Moviegoers either loved it with every fiber of their being or considered it as either vastly overrated or insulting to the citizens of India. My reaction to the movie has been neither.

Directed by Danny Boyle, co-directed by Loveleen Tandan and written by Simon Beaufoy, ”SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE” is about a young man from the slums of Mumbai who appears on the Indian version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” (Kaun Banega Crorepati, mentioned in the Hindi version) and exceeds people’s expectations, arousing the suspicions of the game show host and of law enforcement officials. Beaufoy based his script upon the Boeke Prize-winning and Commonwealth Writers’ Prize-nominated novel, ”Q & A” (2005), written by Indian author and diplomat Vikas Swarup.

The question is – do I believe that ”SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE” had deserved its Best Picture Oscar? Honestly? No, I do not. In fact, the movie did not even make my list of Top Ten Favorite Movies of 2008. In some ways, I do feel that it is slightly overrated. No movie is perfect, but the flaws in this movie – or aspects of the movie I saw as flaws – made me wonder how it managed to win Oscars in the Picture, Director and Adapted Screenplay categories. I realize that this movie is based upon Swarup’s novel, in which the plot is centered around a popular game show. But I really could have done without this particular plot device. I found the scenes that featured Jamal Malik’s moments during the question-and-answer sessions of the game show unnecessarily dramatic. This plot device also provided a ridiculously over-the-top ‘happy ending’ that provided a sharp contrast to most of the story. And the idea that the game show questions provided triggers to Jamal’s reminisces about his childhood and his feelings about Latika, a girl he first fell in love with following the deaths of their parents in a mob attack did not exactly work for me. It seemed . . . off. There were times when director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Simon Beaufoy made it difficult to keep track on what Jamal was reminiscing in regard to the question he was being asked on the game show. By biggest complaints centered around the movie’s second half, the characterization of Latika and Chris Dickens’ editing.

At least two-thirds of ”SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE” are focused around the boyhoods of Jamal’s recollections of his childhood in the slums of Mumbai with his older brother, Salim. In my opinion, this was the movie’s strongest part. It was not perfect, but a hell of a lot better than the second half. There have been complaints that Boyle’s savage look into Mumbai’s slums is not the real India. Perhaps it is. Perhaps it is not. I would not know. I have never seen the real India. I must admit that the series of incidents presented in the movie’s first half left me feeling that I was watching an Anglo-Indian version of a Charles Dickens novel. Especially ”Oliver Twist”. And I found it fascinating, despite the squalor presented on the screen. But once the movie’s setting shifted to 2006 Mumbai, I found myself mired in a contrived story in which the rescue of Jamal’s love, Latika, from a wealthy gangster depended upon his success on the ”Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” show. As it turned out, Latika ended up being rescued by Jamal’s gangster brother, Salim.

Speaking of Latika, she proved to be another problem. Quite frankly, I found her character rather one-dimensional and frustrating. She seemed to be the ultimate example of the damsel-in-distress archetype. Jamal saw her as his ”destiny”. I saw her as this rather uninteresting character that became nothing more than a trophy for various characters – including Jamal. There was one scene in which Salim decided to claim Latika as a sex partner after he had saved her and Jamal by killing some minor gangster for whom she worked. Jamal naturally tried to prevent Salim from claiming Latika. Latika did nothing . . . until she agreed to sleep with Salim to prevent him from hurting Jamal. And I . . . was disgusted. She could have easily helped Jamal overcome Salim. Instead, she stood there like an idiot before offering herself to the older brother. The only time Latika ever really did something for herself was when she unsuccessfully tried to flee from the wealthy gangster. She was a very frustrating character and I felt sorry for the actresses – especially Freida Pinto – forced to portray such an uninteresting character. One last problem I had with this movie was Chris Dickens’ editing. It seemed like it was more appropriate for a MTV music video clip, instead of a two hour movie. Worse, it interfered with my enjoyment of Anthony Dod Mantle’s colorful cinematography. What makes this nauseating is that Dickens managed to win an Oscar for his work.

On the whole, ”SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE” is pretty good movie that tries to give Westerners a peek into late 20th century and early 21st century India. The movie can boast some first rate performances by the movie’s lead actor, Dev Petel, who portrayed the 18 year-old Jamal, Tanay Chheda as the pre-adolescent Jamal, Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail as the young Salim and Tanay Chheda as the early adolescent Salim. I was also impressed by Irrfan Khan’s performance as the police inspector who interrogated Jamal throughout most of the movie. He and Petel created a very interesting screen team. As I had stated earlier, I was also impressed by Mantle’s cinematography in the movie. Despite the squalor that permeated the scenes featuring Jamal and Salim’s childhood, he infused the photography with color, energy and sweep. And what can I say about the exciting music featured in this film? I loved it. A. R. Rahman definitely deserved his Oscar for one of the most exciting and original film scores I have heard in years . . . and that includes ”Jai Ho”, the song he wrote for the film. By the way, he earned a well deserved Oscar for that as well.

Considering the eight (8) Academy Awards that it had earned; I wish I could say that it deserved all of its awards. But I do not think it did. Despite the movie’s first-rate cast, Mantle’s excellent photography and Rahman’s superb score, I cannot say that it was the best movie I had seen in 2008. In fact, it failed to make my list of 10 favorite movies for that year. Frankly, I found Simon Beaufoy’s script rather uneven and his characterization of the Latika character one-dimensional. And Danny Boyle failed to rise above these flaws with his direction. But . . . despite the movie’s flaws, I could honestly say that it would have made my list of the top 20 movies of 2008.

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My Ranking of the DCEU Movies

Below is my ranking of the eleven DC Extended Universe movies released between 2013 and 2021:

MY RANKING OF THE DCEU MOVIES

1.  “Batman v. Superman:  Dawn of Justice” (2016); dir. Zack Snyder

2.  “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” (2021); dir. Zack Snyder

3.  “Man of Steel” (2013); dir. Zack Snyder

4.  “Wonder Woman” (2017); dir. Patty Jenkins

5.  “Suicide Squad” (2016); dir. David Ayer

6.  “Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)” (2020); dir. Cathy Yan

7.  “Aquaman” (2018); dir. James Wan

8.  “Shazaam!” (2019); dir. David F. Sandberg

9.  “Justice League” (2017); dir. Zack Snyder (and Joss Whedon)

10. “Wonder Woman 1984″ (2020); dir. Patty Jenkins

11. “The Suicide Squad” (2021); dir. James Gunn

Ranking of “THE RIGHT STUFF” (2020) Episodes

Below is my ranking of the episodes from the Disney Plus limited series, “THE RIGHT STUFF”, Disney’s adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s 1979 book. Created by Mark Lafferty, the series stars Patrick J. Adams, Jake McDorman and Colin O’Donoghue:

RANKING OF “THE RIGHT STUFF” (2020) EPISODES

1. (1.05) “The Kona Kai Séance” – After Mercury 7 astronaut John Glenn helps fellow astronaut Alan Shepard prevent the latter’s indiscretion from being exposed by the media, Glenn confronts his fellow astronauts over their relations with young female fans. Also, a greater conflict develops between him and Shepard over who will be the first sent into space.

2. (1.03) “Single Combat Warrior” – After mysterious bouts of vertigo, Shepard turns to U.S. Navy nurse Dee O’Hara to help him. Meanwhile, Cocoa Beach, Florida has transformed from a ghost town to a perpetual party between the Mercury astronauts and young groupies. Gordon “Gordo” Cooper finds himself tempted by another woman.

3. (1.06) “Vostok” – With President John F. Kennedy now in the White House, NASA finds itself under scrutiny by his administration and Shepard’s flight delayed. When NASA learns of his heart arrhythmia, Mercury astronaut Donald “Deke” Slayton is removed from the Mercury program.

4. (1.01) “Sierra Hotel” – NASA aerospace engineer Chris Kraft and his team are assigned to select the first seven astronauts for NASA’s Mercury program out of over 100 highly capable applicants.

5. (1.07) “Ziggurat” – Weather endangers Shepard’s flight. Meanwhile, tensions between him and Glenn hit a breaking point over a his past indiscretion and a letter written by the latter.

6. (1.08) “Flight” – After Shepard’s historic flight into space, he feels underwhelmed and restless. Gordo’s marriage to his wife Trudy is on the brink of collapse due to a comment he had made during a press conference. Slayton becomes the new Chief of the Astronauts Office and informs astronaut Virgil “Gus” Grissom that the latter will be the next American in space.

7. (1.04) “Advent” – During the holidays, the Russian space program achieves another milestone, throwing the future of NASA into question. Shepard and his wife Louise adopt her orphaned niece. Cooper is contacted by a former lover, which forces his confrontation and reconciliation with Trudy.

8. (1.02) “Goodies” – The Mercury 7 astronauts become aware of their instant fame and the pitfalls that come with it.

“THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS” (2009) Review

“THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS” (2009) Review

Grant Heslov directed this comedic adaptation of Jon Ronson’s 2004 book about the U.S. Army’s exploration of New Age concepts and the potential military applications of the paranormal. The movie starred George Clooney as one of the participants in this program and Ewan McGregor, who portrayed a journalist who stumbles across the story, while reporting on businesses with military contracts in Iraq.

One of the surprising aspects about “THE MEN WHO STARED AT GOATS” is that its story is based upon fact. According to author Jon Ronson, there was actually a similar unit actually existed within the U.S. Army called the Stargate Project. The film featured a different name for the units . . . and had probably changed some of the facts, but the Army did explore New Age concepts and military applications of the paranormal. “THE MEN WHO STARED AT GOATS” followed McGregor’s character, a journalist with the Ann Arbor Daily Telegram named Bob Wilton. After an emotional divorce from an unfaithful wife, Bob goes to Kuwait to report on the Iraq War. He stumbles upon an interesting story when he meets a Special Forces operator named Lyn Cassady during a trip across the Iraqi countryside. During the road trip, Cassady reveals his participation in an Army unit that trained to develop a range of par psychological skills by using New Age concepts. The unit ended up being named the New Earth Army. While the pair endured a journey that included encounters with a gang of Iraqi criminals, a kidnapped victim of the criminals, the head of a private security firm named Todd Nixon and two rival groups of American contractors who engage in a gunfight against each other in Ramadi.

During Wilton and Cassady’s journey, the latter revealed the story behind the creation of the New Earth Army and its founder, a Vietnam War veteran named Bill Django. The latter had traveled across America in the 1970s for six years to explore a range of New Age movements (including the Human potential movement) after being wounded during the Vietnam War. Django used these experiences to create the New Earth Army. Django’s recruits ended up being nicknamed “Jedi Warriors”. By the 1980s, two of Django’s best recruits were Cassady and Larry Hooper, who developed a lifelong rivalry with the former because of their opposing views of how to implement the First Earth philosophy. Cassady had wanted to emphasize the positive side of the teachings, whereas Hooper was more interested in the negative side of the philosophy. Wilton and Cassady’s journey ended when they locate a military base in the middle of the desert.

I must admit that I had not in a big hurry to see “THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS” when it first hit the theaters ten years ago. In fact, I never had any intention of seeing it. The only reason I went to see the movie in the first place was that I was desperate for something to watch. The Fall 2009 movie season had seemed pretty dim to me. Aside from “THE INFORMANT”, I had difficulty finding a movie that appealed to me. And what about “THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS”? Did I find it appealing? Honestly? It was not the best movie I had seen in 2009. But I must admit that thanks to Grant Heslov’s direction and Peter Straughan’s screenplay, I found the movie rather humorous in an off-kilter manner. Some of the most humorous scenes featured:

*Wilton and Cassady’s flight from a group of Iraqi criminals

*The “Battle of Ramadi” between two American private security armies

*Bill Django’s six year exploration of New Age movements

*The results of Wilton and Django’s spiking of the Army base food with LSD.

At first, the movie’s approach to New Age religion and movements seemed inconsistent. The first half of the film treated the subject as a joke. However, once Wilton and Cassady reached the base housing the PSIC, Straughan’s script treated the subject with a lot more respect. It took me a while to realize that the story was told from Bob Wilton’s point-of-view. It only seemed natural that he would first view the New Earth Army and New Age beliefs as a joke. But after time spent with Cassady and later Django at the PSIC base, Wilton naturally developed a newfound respect for both topics. The movie also provided a slightly pointed attack upon the U.S. military presence in Iraq. Normally, I would have cringed at such protesting in a comedy. Fortunately, Heslov used humor – and very sharp humor at that – to mock American presence in the Middle Eastern country.

I think that Lyn Cassady might turn out to be one of my favorite roles portrayed by George Clooney. One, he gave a hilarious performance. And two, he also did a marvelous job in infusing Cassady’s role with a mixture of militaristic machismo and wide-eyed innocence. And despite his questionable American accent, I was very impressed by Ewan McGregor’s poignant performance as the lovelorn Michigan journalist (his wife left him for his editor), who traveled to Iraq to prove his bravery to his former wife . . . only to discover something more unique. Another joyous addition to the cast turned out to be Jeff Bridges, who gave a wonderfully off-kilter performance as Cassady’s mentor and founder of the New Earth Army, Bill Django. And Larry Hooper, the one man allegedly responsible for bringing down Django’s New Earth Army, turned out to be another one of Kevin Spacey’s deliciously villainous roles. The movie also featured performances that ranged from solid to zany from the likes of Stephen Lang, Robert Patrick, Nick Offerman, Waleed Zuaiter, Rebecca Mader and Glen Morshower.

“THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS” managed to earn less than $70 million dollars at the box office. Because it only had a budget of $24 million, it still managed to earn a small profit. However, it was not a hit film and it received mixed reviews. Perhaps the audience found the film’s subject a bit hard to swallow. There is also the possibility that film goers found screenwriter Peter Straughan’s script use of constant flashbacks regarding the New Earth Army rather confusing. Personally, I rather enjoyed the movie. It never became a big favorite of mine, but I still found it entertaining and interesting.

“The Many Loves of Rafe McCawley” [PG-13] – 5/7

“THE MANY LOVES OF RAFE McCAWLEY”

PART 5 – “Three on a Date”

LONG ISLAND, NY; DECEMBER 1940 . . . Danny heaved a sigh and shook his head in disbelief. “What was I thinking? I can’t believe that I thought Fenton Marsh was the right girl for you.”

“We all thought so, Danny.” Rafe slapped his friend’s back. “Hell, I even wanted to marry her.”

“At least you had doubts about her.” Once again, Danny shook his head. Then he noticed one of the nurses, a pretty redhead with glasses, staring at them. “Uh Rafe, I think we’ve rested long enough. That nurse is staring to give us the bug-eye.”

Rafe frowned at Danny. “Wha. . .?” Then he spotted the nurse. “Oh. Gee, I wonder how long she’s been staring at us?”

Danny shrugged. “Who knows? You know, she reminds me of someone. I . . .” The pilot paused, as memories of a restaurant in Manhattan came back to him. He recalled another pretty redhead, only this one had green eyes. Danny also recalled something else – Rafe’s nervous behavior whenever she was around.

The two friends walked over to the station where the red-haired nurse awaited them. “Say Rafe,” Danny began, “do you remember that girl you used to date over a year ago. What was her name? Uh, Julie . . . God, what was her name? Julie . . .”

A sigh left Rafe’s mouth. Julie Fisher. Yeah, I remember her.”

“She had seemed like a nice girl,” Danny continued. “Why did you two break up?”

Both Danny and Rafe reached Station 2, and joined the other patients in line. Danny noticed that same nervous look from the past year. “Rafe? You okay?”

“Danny, the story I am about to tell, you will find too incredible to believe. And when I finish, I don’t know if you’re going to be pissed . . . or relieved.”

* * * *

MANHATTAN ISLAND, NEW YORK; MAY TO AUGUST 1939 . . . The five pilots emerged from Grand Central Station and paused in the middle of the sidewalk. “Man-hattan!” Second Lieutenant Anthony Fusco declared with enthusiasm. “It’s good to be home!”

The fair-haired Billy Thompson rolled his eyes. “Home for you is Brooklyn, moron. So please spare us that shit-eating grin. You look like a hick.”

Oh Lord! Rafe heaved an inward sigh. Here it comes. Another fight. How could two men who were the best of friends, argue so damn much? “While you two are busy jawing over Anthony’s birthplace, why don’t we check into our hotel first, so we can find a place to eat? I’m starved.”

The pilots immediately agreed with Rafe’s suggestion and hailed two cabs that conveyed them to the St. Mark’s Hotel. After they checked in, Danny suggested that they eat dinner in the hotel’s restaurant. But the others wanted to go out on the town. Anthony suggested one of Manhattan’s most infamous restaurants – Lindy’s. “It has the best cheesecake ever,” he added. “And other stuff.”

“Sounds like a good idea,” Rafe commented. “Anyone got a problem with Lindy’s?”

Billy spoke up. “I do. Isn’t Lindy’s supposed to be a hangout for gangsters?”

“Ga-ga-gansters?” Red Winkle said. He was a gangly redhead, whose nervous disposition usually expressed itself in a stammer. M-m-ma-maybe we sh-should g-g-go s-s-s-som-mmewhere else.”

Anthony dismissed Red’s concerns with a wave of his hand. “Somewhere else? Forget about it! Gangsters or no gangsters, everyone goes to Lindy’s.” The others agreed and decided to accept the dark-haired officer’s suggestion. Still dressed in their uniforms, they headed left the hotel and headed for the nearest subway.

If Lindy’s was a hangout for gangsters, Rafe did not see any signs of them – much to his relief. He really did not relish the idea of eating dinner in the company of hardened criminals. But as an officer and gentleman of the U.S. Army Air Corps, he did not feel it was appropriate for him to skulk away from danger. Even if it came in the form of thugs. The pilots found a booth near the entrance and sat down. The restaurant seemed very busy. Fortunately for the five officers, they did not have to wait very long for service. Rafe ordered grilled pork chops with mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls and coffee.

“Where do we g-go from here?” Red asked his fellow pilots. “I mean, it’s only seven fifty-four.”

Billy spoke up. “How about the ’21’ Club? Or the Stork Club?”

“Why don’t we try the ballroom at the Waldorf-Astoria, while we’re at it?” Anthony retorted sarcastically. “Do you have any idea how expensive those places are? Maybe we should try the Savoy Ballroom.”

A nervous Red added, “Isn’t that in Ha-Harlem?”

“So?” Anthony stared at the redhead, who blushed profusely. “Gotta problem with that? I used to there all the time, when I was in high school and college.”

“Y-y-you mean, th-they don’t mind people like us be-be-being there?”

Anthony heaved a sigh and rolled his eyes. “If they did, do you think I would have been able to visit there in the first place? Geez Red! Think!” The other pilot’s face now matched the color of his hair.

The waiter finally returned with their dinner. Rafe enjoyed the delicious grilled pork chops, along with the conversation between him and his fellow pilots. They discussed the numerous nightspots in Manhattan, the pilot training course they were enrolled, the political calamities around the world, and the possibility of war. Rafe was among the first to finish his meal. Feeling the pressure to relieve himself, he headed for the restroom. Five minutes later, he left the Men’s Room and bumped into a couple engaged in a heated quarrel.

“The answer is no, Marty! How many times do I have to tell you?” She was a pretty woman in her mid-twenties. Lustrous red hair formed a shoulder-length bob. Her aquiline nose spared her face from the usual bland prettiness. Along with the green eyes that flashed angrily.

Marty, a brutish-looking man of medium height and obviously a low I.Q., sneered at the young woman. “C’mon Julie! Don’t play the shy young thing with me. We both know what you’re really like. Don’t we?”

“You don’t know anything about me!” the young woman named Julie retorted. “So I suggest that you let go of my arm!”

Unfortunately, Marty did not seem interested in releasing Julie. His meaty hand remained clamped around her slender wrist. Rafe, who had been raised to be a Southern gentleman, decided it was time to come to the young lady’s rescue. He stepped forward and tapped the hulk’s shoulder. “Hey buddy,” he said, “why don’t you let go of the lady’s wrist. She’s not interested.”

Both Julie and Marty slowly turned their gazes upon the Army officer. Laughter tumbled out of the young man’s mouth. “The lady? Oh brother! If you only knew!” He eyed Rafe’s uniform with derision. “Now get lost!”

Julie’s face turned pink and Rafe’s sympathy toward her increased tenfold. “I don’t care if she’s one of Polly Adler’s girls! She obviously don’t want you touching her, so let go!” Rafe glared at Julie’s tormentor.

An arrogant and smug smirk stamped on his face, Marty shot back, “Look here, Soldier Boy, I’m gonna count to three. And if you’re not gone, I’m gonna . . .”

Rafe’s fist snaked out and clipped the other man’s chin. Marty sank to the floor like a stone in water. And gave Julie the opportunity to free her wrist from his grasp. Rafe smiled at the fallen man. “Well, I reckon that’s the end of that.” He turned his smile toward Julie.

“I guess so.” Julie smiled back. “Say, do you have any plans for tonight?”

“Well, I’m with some friends at the moment. But we can’t decide where to go.”

Julie paused momentarily, giving Rafe a thoughtful look. “I know this little jazz club on 66th Street. Would you like to . . .?”

Rafe did not even give Julie a chance to finish. “That sounds swell. Let me tell the boys.” He started toward the dining room.

“Oh, wait a minute!” Julie paused. “I was thinking of us going together . . . alone.” Then she added. “If you don’t mind.”

If Rafe had to be honest with himself, he did not mind. Especially if it meant spending time alone in the company of this beauty. He shrugged his shoulders and replied, “Sure.” He started toward the dining room, with Julie close at his heels. They reached the table, where the other pilots sat. All eyes fell upon Rafe’s new companion. “Hey guys! This is Julie. Julie Fisher.” Rafe then proceeded to introduce her to Danny and the others. When he finished the introductions, Rafe continued, “If you all don’t mind, Julie and me are going out on the town. Alone.”

A sly smile creased Anthony’s mouth. “Hey, we all understand. Don’t we boys?” He glanced at the others, who nodded. Rafe tried not to pay attention to the slight disappointment on Danny’s face.

“Okay then . . . swell,” Rafe said uneasily. “I reckon I’ll see you all, later.” He shot one last glance at Danny and quickly guided Julie out of the restaurant.

* * * *

Miss Julie Fisher proved to be congenial company for Rafe. While they shared a table at a small jazz club in Soho, the couple exchanged life stories. Rafe told Julie about his Tennessee childhood, his friendship with Danny and their decision to become Army pilots. Julie talked about her childhood in upstate New York, her ambition to be a journalist, and her job at LIFE magazine.

“Which is?” Rafe asked. Sounds of Billie Holiday singing “Some Other Spring” filled the background.

Julie smiled. “Copy girl. But one of the editors think I have a chance at becoming a staff writer within a year or two. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.”

Rafe then brought up the subject of Marty. He wanted to know how Julie had met him. According to the redhead, she met Marty at a dance club in the East Village. “He was . . . fun, at first. But I . . .” Her face turned red. “I guess I simply got bored with him. He turned out to be a little too boorish for my taste. If you know what I mean.”

“Yeah, I reckon I got a little glimpse of his ‘charming’ personality,” Rafe said with a chuckle. Julie joined in the laughter, and the pair resumed their easy camaraderie. The evening wore on. Rafe and Julie eventually left the club and ended outside Julie’s brownstone in the Village.

The warm May air surrounded them, as Rafe impulsively leaned forward and planted a firm, but light kiss on Julie’s lips. A stunned expression appeared on her face, leaving Rafe to wonder if he had went to far. Until a bright smile stretched her lips. Still smiling, Julie leaned forward, wrapped her arms around Rafe’s neck and kissed him. Hard.

A minute or two passed before the couple finally separated for air. Breathing heavily, Julie seared Rafe with a sultry look and whispered, “So, would you like to come upstairs for a cup of coffee?”

* * * *

The following Monday morning found Rafe, Danny and their fellow squad members, striding toward the airfield at Mitchell Field. “So, how was your date with Julie? Did you have fun?” Danny’s voice radiated forced cheerfulness.

Rafe glanced at his best friend and noticed the tight expression on the latter’s face. “Yeah, uh, it was great. Swell.” He paused. “I see that you’ve finally decided to talk to me.”

Danny rolled his eyes. “Well, you know Rafe, I’m trying to forget that you had abandoned the rest of us on Friday night,” he snapped. “So, why don’t you just tell me how your date went?”

“Aw, c’mon Danny! I didn’t mean to abandon you guys! It’s just I couldn’t pass up the chance to be with a girl like Julie!”

Danny abruptly halted in his tracks, causing Rafe to collide into him. “You could have called us, Rafe! Let us know that you would be with her for the rest of the weekend. But you didn’t leave a word or nothing! Just showed up at the hotel, three hours before we were supposed to check out!”

Rafe warily eyed his friend. “Uh, Danny? Not only are you beginning to sound like a jealous lover, you’re also giving me the heebie-jeebies.”

“Goddamit Rafe!” Danny glared at the older man. “It’s not . . . I’m not like that and you know it!” He let out a big sigh. “It’s just . . . well, excuse me for being a worry wart, but you didn’t leave a message, or anything. And by the way, we were all worried.”

Nodding, Rafe said, “Okay, I understand. I won’t do that again. I swear. Besides, Julie would like to get know all of y’all the next time we have furlough.”

“Oh?” The two friends resumed their walk to the field.

Rafe added, “Yeah. We were thinking of all of us spending the day at the World’s Fair.”

“Sounds great,” Danny replied. He paused. “Does Julie know any girls?”

* * * *

Fortunately for Rafe’s fellow pilots, Julie managed to find dates for them. Two weeks had passed since their last trip to New York City. They spent a glorious day at the fair grounds in Flushing, Queens. Later that evening, the group found themselves at the Shubert Theater, which featured the “Streets of Paris” revue and the newest sensation from Brazil, Carmen Miranda. Once the show ended, Rafe and Julie bid the others good-bye and headed for her apartment for more intimate entertainment.

After they enjoyed an hour or two of vigorous lovemaking, the pair laid back on the bed, breathing heavily. A light breeze from the open window cooled their warm and damp skin. “I never said this before,” Rafe said, “but you have a very nice apartment. Sort of big for someone working as a copy girl. LIFE magazine must pay you a nice salary. I wish I could say the same about the Army.”

“Actually, I can’t really afford this place on my own,” Julie replied. She propped herself on her left side, facing Rafe. “I have a roommate.”

Rafe rose into a sitting position. The moonlight beamed through the window and onto his broad chest. “Roommate? Strange, I didn’t know you had one, the last time I was here.”

“Carrie . . . her name is Carrie Menlow . . . is out of town, right now. She’s a secretary for a steel manufacturer,” Julie explained. “She’s in Canada. Montreal, I think. She’s due back in town, next week. I think. She’s . . . very pretty.”

A sly smile plastered on his face, Rafe situated himself on his left side. “Hmm, now I can’t wait to meet her.”

“Oh you!” Giggling, Julie slapped Rafe’s arm. Then she pulled him toward her. “Come here.”

“Yes ma’am,” Rafe murmured. He then lowered his mouth upon hers.

* * * *

Rafe’s introduction to Julie’s roommate came about on the following weekend. And it happened in a manner that took him by surprise. He and Julie were in bed that Friday night, enjoying each other’s company with passionate kisses and caresses, when the bedroom door suddenly swung open.

“What’s this?” a female’s voice asked. Both Rafe and Julie ended their foreplay and stared at the figure standing in the doorway. Rafe had to admit that she was one of the most beautiful women he had ever laid eyes upon. Shoulder-length blond hair curled into a bob, creamy white skin, wide china blue eyes and full lips. And had never seen so many curves on a figure that small. “Julie,” she continued in a voice that hinted East Coast aristocracy, “aren’t you going to introduce your friend?”

Julie sat up, allowing the sheet to slide to her waist. Rafe wondered if she realized that she was baring all to her friend. “Hi Carrie, this is Rafe. Rafe McCawley. You know, the pilot I had told you about. Rafe, this is my roommate and best friend, Carrie Menlow.”

“Oh yes.” Carrie stepped forward. Her eyes roamed lavisciously over the pilot. “The one from Tennessee. I really must visit the South, one of these days. Well,” a knowing smile touched her lips, “don’t let me interrupt you two. Nice meeting you, Rafe.” The smile still fixed on her lips, Carrie closed the door behind her.

Rafe let out a gust of breath. Julie stared at him. “Something wrong?”

“No, it’s just . . .” An embarrassed Rafe paused. “Well, with her barging in like that, I feel as if my mama had caught me with my . . . you know.”

Julie giggled. Then she pecked Rafe’s cheek. “Silly boy! I’m sorry if Carrie surprised you like that. She does have this habit of barging in. But don’t let it bother you. It’s just Carrie being herself.”

* * * *

Rafe could not help but feel bothered. But he kept his misgivings to himself. And when Julie began planting kisses over his face, he soon forgot about her disturbing roommate, Carrie. Nearly two hours later, the memory of Julie’s roommate struck back with the force of a tornado. Which would be Rafe’s way of describing the impact of a second warm body pressing against his right side. A body that did not belong to Julie.

“What the . . .?” Rafe’s eyes flew open. Shock overcame him, as he noticed Carrie’s body beside his. Her naked body. Jackknifing into a sitting position, he cried out, “What the hell are you doing here?”

His outburst awaken Julie. She sat up and rubbed her tired eyes. “Something wrong?” she asked in a sleepy voice. Then she saw Carrie. “Oh.”

“Julie, honey,” Carrie oozed sweetly, “do you mind if I join you two?”

Rafe protested hotly, “I mind, dammit!” Noting her nude state for the second time, he continued, “And what the hell do you think this is? Some damn whorehouse?”

Carrie assumed a wounded expression. “What’s wrong? Don’t you like me?” She glanced at her roommate. “I thought he liked me, Julie.”

Sympathy and a touch of anxiety mingled in Julie’s green eyes. Her hand reached past Rafe’s body to touch her friend’s arm. “Of course he does, sweetie. He’s just a little surprised. Right Rafe?” Her eyes pleaded with Rafe.

No! The word hovered on Rafe’s lips, but he found himself unable to say it. Especially with Carrie’s hand caressing his inner thigh. “This is wrong!” his mind screamed. By the outcry in his head quickly died down, as Carrie’s caresses became less subtle. And Julie began to kiss his face . . . again.

“Please Rafe,” Julie murmured between kisses, “let Carrie stay.” She gave him a lingering kiss on the mouth. “You won’t regret it. I swear.” Then Julie gently forced Rafe flat on the bed and kissed him once more. A gasp left nearly left Rafe’s mouth, as Carrie’s lips replaced the hand on his thigh. Oh well, he thought, whoever said that surrender does not necessarily meant defeat, knew what he was talking about.

* * * *

“. . . date with Bianca,” Anthony was saying. He and the other members of his squad sat inside the Officers’ Mess at Mitchell Airfield, eating dinner. The Brooklyn-born pilot wore a smug smile on his face. “It seems I got a letter from her, asking me if I was available for next Saturday night.”

Billy looked up at his friend. “Lucky bastard,” he growled. “I haven’t heard from Sheila at all. I’ve left her five phone messages in the last three days and haven’t heard a peep from her. Nothing. I mean, what does she think I have? The crabs or something?”

Anthony’s smile grew even more smug. “Well, do you?” he asked, earning a glared from the blond pilot.

Rafe ignored his friends’ conversation. His mind was fixed on something else. Namely, the last three weekends with Julie and Carrie. Rafe did not know whether to feel surprised or ashamed by the fact that he had not resisted the roommates’ suggestion of a ménage a trios. Did that mean in spite of his parents’ efforts to raise a decent Southern gentleman, they had begat a pervert?

“. . . have to wor . . . worry about a . . . a date.” Red’s voice interrupted the Tennessean’s thoughts. “R-Right Rafe?”

Rafe stared at his fellow pilots with bafflement. “Huh?”

A jab into his side by Danny followed. “C’mon Rafe, wake up! Red’s talking about Julie.” He frowned at the other man. “Something wrong?”

“Huh? Oh, no! Nothing’s wrong,” Rafe protested half-heartedly.

“Are you sure? You seemed distracted.” Danny paused. “You and Julie having problems?”

If you only knew, Rafe silently responded. Instead, he shook his head. “No, uh . . . I was . . . I was thinking of something else. About today’s flight maneuvers.”

Anthony shook his head, while he regarded Rafe with admiration. “Geez McCawley! When it comes to flying, you’re all business. A real ace.” Rafe barely heard him.

While the others continued talking, Danny leaned over and whispered in Rafe’s ear. “Okay – Ace – what’s the real problem?”

“Meaning?” a self-conscious Rafe hissed back.

Danny gave the older man a knowing look and murmured, “Meaning, if you’re really thinking about today’s maneuvers, you would be gabbing away. And not keeping it to yourself.”

Rafe shot his best friend a dark look. There were times he wished that Danny did not know him so well. Like now. “Look, it’s not . . .” He paused, longing to find a way to end this conversation. Glancing out of the window, Rafe spotted a familiar figure walk by. “It’s not what you think. Uh, look Danny, can we finish this later? I have . . . there’s someone I need to see.” He stood up and walked away, ignoring the stares of the other pilots.

Outside the Officers’ Mess, Rafe rushed after the man he was looking for – one Sergeant Lynn Greiger. “Sergeant? Sergeant!” Rafe cried out.

The sergeant paused in his tracks, spotted the approaching young officer and immediately stood at attention. He was a short, wiry man in his late 30s. “Lieutenant?” Greiger’s craggy face remained impassive, as he saluted. “May I help you sir?”

Breathing heavily, Rafe returned the salute. “At ease, Sergeant.” He hesitated, as he contemplated his next words. “Uh, may I have a few moments with you? Privately?”

Greiger frowned. “Of course, sir. Shall we walk?” He indicated the direction of the base’s Administration building. The pair continued walking. “So, Lieutenant, how may I help you?”

Rafe finally asked, “Uh, Sergeant, are you married?”

After a momentary pause, Greiger warily replied, “Divorced, sir. Twice. My former wives . . . they didn’t exactly like being married into the service.”

Nodding, Rafe continued, “Do you hang out . . . I mean, I guess you’re very popular with women. Right?”

“Uh . . . yeah.” Greiger’s frown deepened. “Look Lieutenant, what’s this all about?”

Rafe found himself unable to meet the sergeant’s eyes, when he finally blurted out, “Sergeant, have you ever thought about being with . . . more than one woman? At the same time?”

Greiger’s eyes popped out in shock. He stared at Rafe for what seemed like one long moment. Then a bright smile split his craggy face. “You must have heard those stories about me, Lieutenant. I’ll tell you this . . . they’re true. Hell, not only have I thought about more than one woman, I’ve had this happened to me on several . . .” His voice faded way. Greiger seemed aware that he was speaking to an officer. “What I meant was . . . I haven’t really experienced anything like that, but . . .”

Rafe sighed with frustration. “It’s okay, Sergeant. You have my permission to reveal your deepest and darkest secrets.”

“Yes sir! Anyway, as I was saying,” Sergeant Greiger continued in a matter-of-fact tone, “I’ve experienced . . . sex . . . with more than one woman on a few occasions.” Rafe stared at him. “Okay, on several occasions.”

The young officer urged the sergeant to continue. “What happened?”

“Well sir, I met these two women who sort of introduced me to the experience. It was enjoyable for a while. But in the end . . .” Greiger shook his head. “It just didn’t last. Maintaining a relationship like that is damn difficult, sir. With three people involved, one person is bound to feel left out sometime during the . . . uh, . . . you know, act. Soon, jealousies pop up and it’s all over in one messy fight. If you’re gonna have a . . . well, be with two women at the same time, make sure it’s a one shot deal.” Greiger gives Rafe a shrewd glance. “Pardon me, Lieutenant, but are you . . . uh, involved in a . . .?”

Rafe immediately cried out, “No! I mean . . .” In a calmer voice, he added, “I mean, not yet. But my girlfriend and her roommate . . .” He broke off.

Greiger nodded. “I understand, sir. But uh, if you’re planning to get involved with two women, remember what I had said about those problems, sir. It will happen. I assure you.”

A sigh left Rafe’s mouth. “Yeah. Right. Thanks for the advice, Sergeant.” He gave Greiger a quick nod, dismissing the latter.

“Yes sir.” Greiger saluted the younger officer and walked away.

Rafe watched the older man’s back recede into the crowd. He sighed once more, as his thoughts echoed Greiger’s warning. For the first time, Rafe wondered if he had allowed himself into one hell of a fix.

* * * *

Sergeant Greiger’s warning replayed in Rafe’s mind over the next two weeks. And it played havoc with his life. The Tennessee-born officer became more distant with Danny and the other pilots in his squad. In early July barely paid attention to his flight lesson one afternoon and nearly collided with Red’s plane the following morning. The incident resulted in a chewing out by Major Doolittle, the pilots’ commanding officer. By the time the next furlough arrived, Rafe decided to break it off with both Julie and Carrie. No matter how the two women made him feel, Rafe realized that he did not have what it took to be sexually adventurous.

The day of reckoning finally arrived on a wet Friday evening in mid-August. Upon arriving at their Manhattan hotel, Rafe and his friends were surprised to find Julie, Carrie and four other girls waiting for them in the lobby. “Rafe!” Julie jumped up from her seat and rushed toward the pilot. Carrie remained behind, regarding the couple with a benevolent smile.

“Julie,” Rafe replied in a stunned voice, “uh, wha . . . what are you . . .?”

Planting a kiss, Julie said, “Carrie, myself and the rest of the girls thought we would surprise you. There’s a nightclub Carrie and I had stumbled across it, last Wednesday. We’re here to escort you there.”

Rafe summoned up a wan smile. “Sounds great.” A long pause followed.

Then Billy asked, “Who’s Carrie?” Upon mention of her name, the blond-haired woman rose from her chair and joined the group at the lobby’s desk.

Suppressing a sigh, Rafe said, “Oh, yeah. I forgot. You guys never met Carrie, did you?”

“Hi,” Julie’s roommate greeted with a smile, “I’m Carrie. Carrie Menlo. I’m Julie’s roommate.” She said to Billy, “And you are?”

Rafe introduced his four friends to Carrie. He noticed how the blond woman’s eyes roamed appreciatively over Danny. The latter’s face turned red over Carrie’s close scrutiny. “Uh, hi. I’m Danny. Lieutenant Daniel Walker. Ma’am.”

“And I’m Carrie. Nice to meet you.” She held out her hand. Danny shook it. Reluctantly.

Rafe decided to quickly step in. “Uh, listen, we need to check in and get ready. So why don’t y’all continue to wait here in the lobby?”

“And go to this nightclub?” Red asked, frowning. “Aren’t we going to eat, first?”

A sigh left Anthony’s mouth. “Yes Red,” he said in a long-suffering voice. “We’ll have dinner, first. Geez!” The last word came out as a whisper. Red overheard him, anyway.

Julie agreed to Rafe’s suggestion. “We’ll be waiting for you.” She pecked Rafe’s cheek one last time. Then she and Carrie joined the other girls in the waiting area, while the desk clerk proceeded to check in the pilots.

* * * *

The evening started on a pleasant note. The pilots, along with the five women, had dinner at a cheap, but clean restaurant in Lower Manhattan. Then Julie and Carrie led the others to a Cuban nightclub on 63rd Street. Decorated with a tropical theme, the club featured a Cuban band that performed songs like “The Peanut Vendor” and “Perfidio”.

Around one-thirty in the morning, the party finally left the nightclub, weary and slightly drunk. While the other pilots headed back to the hotel, Rafe accompanied Julie and Carrie to their apartments. The moment that the three young people entered the bedroom, Sergeant Greiger’s warnings immediately left Rafe’s mind. Instead, he allowed himself to enjoy himself with the two women, as they indulged themselves on Carrie’s large bed. But the pleasure of their early morning orgy did not last, thanks to a simple suggestion from Julie.

“Rafe?” Julie’s voice sliced through the heavy silence that surrounded the satiated trio.

The pilot heaved a slight sigh. “Yeah?” He lay between the slumbering Carrie and Julie, whom he faced.

“Carrie and I were talking, earlier this evening. About Danny.”

Rafe stiffened at the mention of his best friend’s name. “What about him?” Curiosity and suspicion mingled within him.

Julie hesitated. “Well, we were wondering if you would ask him to join us, tomorrow night. You know, as a foursome.”

“Foursome?” Rafe frowned. “You mean like a double date? I had noticed that Carrie seemed interested in Danny.”

A giggle escaped Julie’s mouth. “A double date? Well, I guess you can call it that. But Carrie and I were thinking of something different. Here at the apartment. You know, a foursome.”

Rafe finally understood. Images of him, Danny and the two roommates cavorting in the bedroom with limbs all akimbo sent him into a state of shock. He understood, all right. Julie and Carrie wanted an orgy that would involve Danny. It was the last straw. Rafe shot up into a sitting position and climbed out of bed. He snatched his pair of boxers from a nearby chair.

“What are you doing?” Julie demanded with a frown.

“Leaving,” Rafe shot back. “For good. It’s over.”

An anxious-looking Julie woke up her roommate. “Carrie! Carrie, wake up! Rafe’s leaving.”

Heavy-lidded blue eyes blinked open. “Wha . . . aa . . . at?”

“Rafe’s leaving. Now!”

The two women stared at Rafe, while he continued to dress. “What’s going on?” Carrie demanded. “Why are you leaving? It’s not even three, yet.”

Resentment tinged Julie’s voice. “It’s about his friend, Danny. Apparently, Rafe doesn’t want him to join in the . . . festivities.”

“Damn right,” Rafe added, as he knotted his tie.

Carrie sat up. “What’s the matter, Rafe?” she said in a condescending voice. “Afraid that we’ll like him better?”

Rafe reached for his jacked and put it on. “Nope. I’m afraid that Danny will like your new . . . arrangement. Or even worse, be disgusted with me. And I’m not ready to lose him as a friend.” He grabbed his cap.

A sneer formed on Julie’s lips. “I should have known. Underneath that uniform, you’re just another hick unable to handle life in the big city. Maybe you’re afraid that your friend might be different.”

Squarely facing the two nude women, Rafe coolly replied, “Trust me, Julie. Danny is as much of a hick, as I am. And I aim for both of us to stay that way. If you want an orgy that bad, why don’t you get in touch with your old friend, Marty. I’m sure he could supply you with another partner or two. Good-bye ladies.”

Rafe turned smartly on his heels and marched out of the bedroom. For the first time in over two months, he felt good about himself. Despite Julie’s cry of “Self-righteous bastard!” ringing in his ears.

END OF PART 5

Top Five Favorite “LOST” Season One (2004-2005) Episodes

Below is a list of my top five favorite episodes from Season One of “LOST” (2004-2010). The series was created by Jeffrey Lieber, J. J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof; and produced by the latter and Carlton Cuse.

TOP FIVE FAVORITE “LOST” SEASON ONE (2004-2005) Episodes

1 - 1.22-1.23 Exodus

1. (1.23-1.25) “Exodus” – This season finale served as a transition in the series’ narrative, as an expedition sets out to find dynamite to open the hatch recently discovered by castaway John Locke. And the raft planned by Michael Dawson finally leaves the island with him, his son Walt, Jin Kwon and James “Sawyer” Ford, resulting in unexpected circumstances.

2. (1.17) “. . . In Translation” – This episode featured Jin’s backstory in flashbacks and the further disintegration of his marriage, when he discovers that his wife Sun had learned English behind his back.

3 - 1.04 Walkabout

3. (1.04) “Walkabout” – While Locke and a few others set on a hunting expedition to find boar for the other castaways, his flashbacks reveal his reason for being in Australia.

4 - 1.11 All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues

4. (1.11) “All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues” – Jack Shephard leads an expedition to find two castaways that had been kidnapped in the previous episode. The episode’s flashbacks reveal the events that led to Jack being responsible for his father’s dismissal from the hospital they worked at.

5 - 1.19 Deus Ex Machina

5. (1.19) “Deus Ex Machina” – In their search for a means to open a hatch they had found; Locke and Boone Carlyle find a Nigerian small plane. And their discovery leads to tragic circumstances. In the flashbacks, Locke meets his parents for the first time, who prove to be major disappointments.

Five Favorite Episodes of “JESSICA JONES” Season Two (2018)

Below is a list of my favorite episodes from Season Two of “JESSICA JONES”, the Marvel Netflix adaptation of the Marvel Comics heroine. Created by Melissa Rosenberg, the series stars Kristen Ritter as Jessica Jones:

FIVE FAVORITE EPISODES OF “JESSICA JONES” SEASON TWO (2018)

1. (2.06) “AKA Facetime” – Super powered New York City private detective Jessica Jones gate crashes an exclusive country club, while hunting for the killer of another enhanced person with connections to Dr. Miklos Kozlov, the doctor who had given her powers. Jessica’s adoptive sister Trish Walker’s addiction to a combat enhancing drug spirals out of control.

2. (2.02) “Sole Survivor” – Jessica stumbles across a new lead on the IGH company at an abandoned clinic, where she had stayed as a girl following the accident that killer her family. Attorney Jeryn “Jeri” Hogarth faces an ultimatum after the secret regarding her Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ASL) gets out.

3. (2.13) “AKA Playland” – Jessica finds herself torn between two worlds and facing an impossible choice after finding herself on the road toward the U.S.-Canada with her enhanced mother Alisa Jones, who was believed to be dead.

4. (2.02) “Freak Accident” – Jessica sets out to find Dr. Kozlov and makes a startling discovery. Trish recruits Jessica’s neighbor and associate, Malcolm Ducasse for backup as she visits a figure from her past, a television director named Maxmilian Tatum who had sexually abused her when she was a child actress.

5. (2.04) “God Help the Hobo” – Between anger management classes and tabloid scandals, Jessica and Trish track down a third patient linked to the IGH company. Jessica’s apartment superintendent, Oscar Arocho, extends an olive branch after their previous quarrel about her powers.

“TOWER HEIST” (2011) Review

“TOWER HEIST” (2011) Review

Years ago, Eddie Murphy had an idea about him and a group of comedians starring in a movie about a group planning to rob Trump Tower. The script developed and changed into an “OCEAN’S ELEVEN”-style caper, leading Murphy to leave the project. When director Brett Ratner continued to develop the idea into the movie’s present story, Murphy eventually rejoined the production.

“TOWER HEIST” told the story about three employees of an exclusive apartment building called The Tower, who lose their pensions due to a Ponzi scheme of a Wall Street businessman, who also lives in the building. The group enlist the aid of a criminal, a bankrupt businessman that also lives in the building, and another building employee to break into the businessman’s apartment and steal back their money, while avoiding the FBI Agent in charge of his case.

One of my favorite types of movies has always been the heist comedy. This is why I am a fan of such movies like “LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS”“A FISH CALLED WANDA” and the “OCEAN’S ELEVEN” series. I do not know if I would place “TOWER HEIST” on the same level as the previously mentioned films. I would not regard it as one of the best heist films I have ever seen, or even one of the best comedies. But I cannot deny that I found it entertaining.

I must admit that I did not believe Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy would ever generate a strong screen chemistry. But in a rather odd way, they seemed to click. I suppose this was due to the fact that Stiller’s more subdued performance perfectly balanced Murphy’s more extroverted one. And they had solid support from the likes of Casey Affleck, Téa Leoni, Alan Alda, Michael Peña, Matthew Broderick and Gabourey Sidibe. I was especially impressed by Alda’s insidious performance as the scheming businessman Arthur Shaw and Sidibe’s portrayal of the sharp-tongued maid Odessa, whose savvy proved to be the group’s godsend on at least two occasions.

Another aspect of “TOWER HEIST” that I admired was the movie’s script written by Ted Griffin and Jeff Nathanson. It was not the most spectacular story I have seen on the movie screen. I had a problem with the movie’s last five or ten minutes. I would reveal what I found troubling about the ending. But if I did, I would give away the story. I suspect Griffin and Nathanson ended it this way to put a little bite in the movie’s ending. It just did not work for me.

However, I did enjoy most of the story. I also liked that one of the main aspects that injected a good deal of suspense into the story was the possibility of one or more of the robbers betraying the others – especially in the case of both Murphy and Affleck’s characters. This is something that is usually common in a heist drama. But I have yet to see such a thing in a comedy, until I saw “TOWER HEIST”.

In the end, “TOWER HEIST” proved to be a solid and entertaining comedy with a slightly weak ending. The movie was also blessed with a first-rate cast led by Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy. And director Brett Ratner did a good job in utilizing both the story and the cast to make a pretty solid film.

TIME MACHINE: Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria (1875-1914)

TIME MACHINE: ASSASSINATION OF ARCHDUKE FRANZ FERDINAND OF AUSTRIA (1875-1914)

On June 28, 1914; Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated in Sarajevo, Austria-Hungary (present day Bosnia-Herzegovina) was assassinated. Also killed was his wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg. Franz Ferdinand was not only an Archduke of Austria-Hungary, but also a Royal Prince of Hungary and Bohemia; and from 1889 until his death, the heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne.

The assassination had been planned by a group of assassins (five Serbs and one Bosnian) coordinated by a Bosnian-Serb named Danilo Ilić. The political objective of the assassination was to break off Austria-Hungary’s south-Slav provinces so they could be combined into a Yugoslavia. The assassins’ motives were consistent with a movement that will later became known as Young Bosnia. Also involved in the plot were Dragutin Dimitrijević, Chief of Serbian Military Intelligence; his assistant Major Vojislav Tankosić, and a spy named Rade Malobabić.

During a meeting held in January 1914, the group discussed possible Austro-Hungarian targets for assassination that include Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The participants eventually decided to send Mehmed Mehmedbašić to Sarajevo, to kill the Governor of Bosnia, Oskar Potiorek. However, Mehmedbašić ditched his weapons, while traveling from France to Bosnia-Herzegovina via the train, when the police was searching for a thief. Upon his arrival in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Mehmedbašićhe tried to search for new weapons. When his searched delayed the attempt on Potiorek, Ilić summoned Mehmedbašić and on March 26, 1914; informed the latter that the mission to kill Potiorek had been cancelled. The group decided to assassinate Franz Ferdinand, instead. Ilić recruited two Serbian youths, Vaso Čubrilović and Cvjetko Popović on April 19, 1914; to kill Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. Unbeknownst to them, three Serbian youths living in Belgrade – Gavrilo Princip, Trifko Grabež and Nedeljko Čabrinović – expressed an eagerness to carry out an assassination. They approached a fellow Bosnian Serb and former guerrilla fighter to transport arms to Sarajevo and participate in the assassination.

Franz Ferdinand, the Duchess of Hohenberg and their party traveled by train from Ilidža Spa to Sarajevo on June 28, 1914. Governor Oskar Potiorek met the party at Sarajevo station. Six automobiles were waiting. Three local police officers got into the first car with the chief officer of special security. Franz Ferdinand, the Duchess, Governor Potiorek, and Lieutenant Colonel Count Franz von Harrach rode in the third car. The motorcade passed the first assassin, Mehmedbašić, who had failed to act. Vaso Čubrilović armed with a pistol and a bomb, also failed to act. Further along the route Nedeljko Čabrinović, who possessed a bomb, tossed the latter at Franz Ferdinand’s car at 10:10 am. However, the bomb bounced off the folded back convertible cover and into the street. The timed detonator caused it to explode under the next car, wounding 16 to 20 people. Čabrinović swallowed his cyanide pill and jumped into the Miljacka River, but his suicide attempt failed. The police dragged Čabrinović out of the river and he was severely beaten by the crowd before being taken into custody. Franz Ferdinand’s procession sped away towards the Town Hall.

Franz Ferdinand and the Duchess returned to the motorcade at 10:45 am. and entered the third card. In order to avoid the city center, General Oskar Potiorek decided that the royal car should travel straight along the Appel Quay to the Sarajevo Hospital. The driver, Leopold Lojka, turned right into Franz Josef Street. After learning about the failed assassination attempt, Princip decided to make another attempt on the Archduke’s life on the latter’s return trip. He moved to a position in front of a delicatessen off Appel Quay. The Archduke’s motorcade made the mistake of following the original route. Governor Potiorek, who shared the Imperial couple’s vehicle, ordered the driver to reverse and take the Quay to the hospital. Lojka stopped the car close to where Princip was standing. The latter stepped forward and fired two shots from a Belgian-made 9×17mm Fabrique Nationale model 1910 semi-automatic pistol. The first bullet wounded the Archduke in the jugular vein. The second bullet hit the Duchess in her abdomen. Princip was immediately arrested. At his sentencing, Princip stated that his intention had been to kill Governor Potiorek, rather than the Duchess. Both victims remained seated upright, but died on the way to the Governor’s residence for medical treatment. As reported by Count Harrach, Franz Ferdinand’s last words were “Sophie, Sophie! Don’t die! Live for our children!”, followed by six or seven utterances of “It is nothing.” These mutterings were followed by a long death rattle. Sophie was dead upon arrival at the Governor’s residence. Franz Ferdinand died 10 minutes later.

Alfred, 2nd Prince of Montenuovo, Franz Joseph’s Chamberlain, hated Franz Ferdinand and Sophie with a passion and with the emperor’s connivance, decided to turn the funeral into a massive and vicious snub. He disinvited foreign royalty, the dead couple’s three children were excluded from the few public ceremonies and only the immediate Imperial family attended. Even the Austro-Hungarian officer corps was forbidden to salute the funeral train. However, this was nothing in compare to the political aftermath of the assassinations.

Not only was Princip captured, but also his fellow conspirators. They were all tried and convicted by early 1915. Ironically, Princip, who had actually pulled the trigger, was sentenced to 20 years in prison, where he died from malnutrition and disease in 1918. Only three of the conspirators were executed on February 3, 1915 – Danilo Ilić and Veljko Čubrilović. Anti-Serb rioting broke out in Sarajevo and various other places within the Austria-Hungary Empire, hours after the assassination. Country-wide anti-Serb pogroms and demonstrations were also organized throughout the Austro-Hungarian Empire by Oskar Potiorek, the Austro-Hungarian governor of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The assassinations produced widespread shock across Europe. There was a great deal of initial sympathy toward Austria. Within two days, Austria-Hungary and its ally, Germany, advised Serbia that it should open an investigation on the assassination, but the Serbian government responded that the incident did not concern them. After conducting its own criminal investigation, Austro-Hungary issued what became known as the July Ultimatum, which listed demands made to Serbia regarding the assassinations within 48 hours. After receiving support from Russia, Serbia agreed to at least two out of ten demands. The government mobilized its troops and transported them by tramp steamers across the Danube River to the Austro-Hungarian at Temes-Kubin. Austro-Hungarian soldiers fired into the air to warn them off. On July 28, 1914; Austria-Hungary and its ally, Germany, declared war on Serbia. Under the Secret Treaty of 1892, Russia and France were obliged to mobilize their armies if any of the Triple Alliance (Germany, Austo-Hungary and Italy) mobilized. Russia’s mobilization completed full Austro-Hungarian and German mobilizations. Soon all the Great Powers, except Italy, had chosen sides. World War I had begun.

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“The Helmsman’s Logs – 2372” [PG-13] – Part II

Here is the sequel to the personal logs of Tom Paris, set around Voyager’s second year in the Delta Quadrant:

_________________________

“THE HELMSMAN’S LOG – 2372”

Part II

STARDATE 49406.28 – Oh shit! What the hell has Tuvok got me
into? And why in the hell did I agree to get involve in his
crazy plan? Okay, I know why. There’s a spy aboard Voyager.
Someone aboard ship may be in contact with Seska and the Kazon.
And the Captain and Tuvok have asked me to help me flush out
this spy. The plan calls for acting like a malcontent – being
late for duty, submitting incomplete reports, tweaking
regulations. And all this would mean coming into conflict with
the ship’s First Officer. Namely Chakotay.

A part of me does not really want to take that step backward. I
don’t want to be that man who first boarded Voyager just over a
year ago. But if it means flushing out that spy . . . Damn! I
only hope that a lot of people will forgive me when this is
over. End personal log.

STARDATE 49415.19 – Operation . . . hell, I don’t know. Bad Boy?
Well anyway, it has commenced. The operation to flush out the
spy.

I began with a little something that was bound to get me into
trouble – an illegal gambling operation. Unfortunately, the plan
called for using Harry. Allow him to win a game of pool to
bolster his ego. Then challenge him and a few others with
another game of chance – namely, predict the daily radiogenic
particle count at the price of one replicator credit per bet.
And I would get to keep a small percentage of the proceeds for
operating the game. This ought to grab Chakotay’s attention and
get me into trouble. End personal log.

STARDATE 49417.21 – Murder aboard Voyager. This morning,
B’Elanna told Harry and me that she found Crewman Frank Darwin
inside an ESP conduit – apparently murdered. Tuvok has already
found the culprit. Namely Lon Suder. I’m not really surprised.
I didn’t know Suder that well in the Maquis. That’s because one
glance at those creepy peepers of his had encouraged me to stay
away. Can you blame me? There seemed to be a violent and
bloodthirsty aura about him. And to think he had killed Darwin,
because he didn’t like the way the other man looked at him. I’m
glad that he never caught me staring.

B’Elanna seemed really shook up over the whole thing. She
complained that Tuvok made a big thing over Chakotay’s failure
to inform him and Janeway about Suder’s character. I replied
that I didn’t blame Tuvok. If everyone knew about my “criminal”
past, why should Suder be exempt? B’Elanna, loyal as always,
didn’t respond well to my remark.

Tonight, the radiogenic sweepstakes will resume. I wonder who
will win the pot. My guess is no one. End personal log.

STARDATE 49420.49 – It has finally happened. The first steps of
the operation to flush out Seska’s spy ended when Chakotay found
out about the sweepstakes and shut it down. And it only took him
two days. He tried to give me the old “I thought-you-could-do-
better”
 speech, but I shot him down with a nasty comment. I
must be honest. I really enjoyed getting Chakotay’s goat like
that. It’s as if this whole mission has given me carte blanche
to express my true feelings.

What I don’t like is earning the other crewmen’s antipathy.
Especially Harry’s. He is my closest friend on this ship. And
ever since being captured by the Vidiians, the crew has slowly
begun to accept me. I only hope the spy will make him or herself
known before I can piss off anyone else.

As for the brains behind this operation – I haven’t seen Tuvok
lately. Instead, I’ve been reporting to Captain Janeway.
According to B’Elanna, Ayala told her that Tuvok had mind
melded with Suder in order to learn the latter’s motives for
killing Darwin. I wonder what happened that led Tuvok to disappear
like that? End personal log.

STARDATE 49458.08 – The operation to flush out Seska’s spy
continues. At Tuvok’s request, I was late for the senior staff
meeting, regarding the latest crisis, looking disheveled. The
problem is that I wish I hadn’t – considering what was being
discussed.

Voyager encountered . . . would you believe this? We encountered
a Cardassian missile here in the Delta Quadrant. And it arrived in
the same manner as we did – via the Caretaker’s array. What made
this situation even more bizarre is that the Maquis had captured
the missile and reprogrammed it to strike a Cardassian target –
namely a fuel depot in a sector far from here. The missile
apparently believed it was still in the Alpha Quadrant, and that
an M-class planet called Ralorka IV was the Cardassian fuel
depot.

B’Elanna confessed that it was she who had reprogrammed
Dreadnought (the Maquis’ name for it) without Chakotay’s
permission. Apparently, the Big Guy made his disappointment known
after he found out in that “damn soft voice of his”.
Typical Chakotay. But I didn’t say so to B’Elanna. Our conversation
eventually switched to my recent “discipline” problems. She
had heard about my recent altercations with Lieutenant Rollins,
regarding my navigational reports. What could I say? That I’m
pretending to be a pain-in-the-ass, so that Tuvok can flush out
a spy? Instead, I lied and told her that Rollins had over-
exaggerated the situation. You know, I almost chucked Tuvok’s
crazy little scheme after that conversation. I don’t know.
Manipulating Harry was bad enough. But for some reason, I really
felt like a heel after lying to B’Elanna. End personal log.

STARDATE 49459.81 – She did it. B’Elanna stopped the Dreadnought
missile from striking Ralorka IV. And not a minute too soon. At
first, we all thought she had deactivated the missile – until I
noticed that it had resumed its course to the planet. Hearing
its voice – B’Elanna’s voice – over the Comm system nearly gave
me the creeps. It sounded so unemotional. So unlike B’Elanna.

After we lost contact with B’Elanna during her second trip to
Dreadnought’s interior, the Captain decided to evacuate Voyager
and detonate it in front of the missile to divert it from
Ralorka IV. I wanted to stay behind and help, but she insisted
that Harry and me follow Chakotay and the others to the escape
pods. Only Tuvok remained behind. Fortunately, B’Elanna
destroyed the missile and we all returned to the ship. It just
hit me. If Voyager had been destroyed, I would have been left
with the messy task of informing Chakotay about the mission to
find the spy. And considering our recent hostilities, I would
have found myself in a sticky situation. End personal log.

STARDATE 49499.09 – It’s been over a month since I began this
mission to trap the spy and I’m getting nowhere. I haven’t been
approached or anything. So, the deception continues. Once again,
I was late in reporting for duty on the Bridge. I must say that
I came up with some pretty lame excuses – like helping Sam
Wildman give birth. Unsurprisingly, no one bought them. And
naturally, Chakotay raised a fuss. The only other action that
occurred was an encounter with a Vidiian ship. It didn’t turn
out that big of a threat. We only found one lifesign aboard – a
female who was seriously ill. Talk about a dull and frustrating
day. End personal log.

STARDATE 49501.45 – Chakotay and I had a fight in the Mess Hall.
A spat, really. And for once, it wasn’t my doing. Okay, maybe it
was my fault, since I was the one who became hostile. But I have
to admit that Chakotay presented me with the perfect opportunity
in his attempt to play the Good Samaritan. He wanted to talk
about my recent problems. Perhaps help me. You know, I almost
laughed in his face. But I didn’t. Instead, I sneered at his
concern for me and accused him of never taking my contributions
to the ship, seriously. I even brought up my suggestion of
investigating a recent nebula. Actually, I knew it was a dumb
idea that Chakotay would surely dismiss. And give me the opportunity
to express my hostility.

Poor Chakotay. I will really feel sorry for him when he learns
About this deception. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t like the guy,
but the shit is really going to hit the fan when he realizes that
the Captain and Tuvok had decided not to include him in this
little scheme. I finally asked Tuvok why he didn’t want Chakotay
to know. He replied that he suspected a former Maquis of being
the spy and he wanted to spare our first officer of any personal
conflictions, considering the latter’s tendency to jump to the
Maquis’ defense whenever one of them encounter any discipline.
Seemed plausible. Somewhat. Okay, it was pure bullshit. I may be
wrong, but I have the oddest feeling that spite and dislike
played a part in Tuvok’s decision. As our indomitable security
chief has stated repeatedly, Vulcans have emotions. They only
suppress them. Yeah, right. This decision to keep Chakotay in
the dark is a sure sign of emotional suppression. End personal
log.

STARDATE 49503.51 – The Doc is in love! Who would have believed
it? Well, I already knew that he harbored some feelings for Kes.
I just never thought he would fall for someone else. Namely, our
Vidiian visitor. I’ve only met her briefly, inside Sandrine’s,
last night. When the Doc told me about her reactions to his
overture, I realized that my original estimation of Denara Pel
had been right. She was shy. Even B’Elanna, who had every reason
to hate the Vidiians, developed a sympathetic regard for her.

After the Doc’s failure with Denara, he asked me for advice. Me,
Tom Paris. Of all people! I guess he doesn’t know about my
rapidly declining reputation. Anyway, I told him about my old
Academy girlfriend, Susie Crabtree, and how she dumped me at the
end of our first year. After word of Caldik Prime got around, I
guess she finally realized that she had been right to dump me.
Anyway, I agreed to help the Doc win Denara Pel back. And I just
came up with an idea. End personal log.

LOG SUPPLEMENTAL – Just paid a visit to Tuvok’s office. He
informed me that it was time to take our deception a notch
upward. A step that should either bring me in contact with the
spy or Seska. I have to create some kind of physical altercation
with Chakotay that will get me in the Brig. Oh great! This
should look good on my record. Sigh! I hate to say it, but Tuvok
is right. So far, the Big Man has barely reacted to my
insubordination. I’m beginning to suspect that he’s a stick of
wood in disguise. Maybe what Tuvok has in mind will finally do
it. Push the situation beyond control. And the sooner I end this
charade, the better. End personal log.

STARDATE 49509.03 – Well, it finally worked. Tuvok’s plan. I
reported on the Bridge yesterday morning, late as usual.
Chakotay coolly informed me that he has found someone else to
replace me at the Helm. Namely Baytart. I know this was supposed
to be an act, but for some reason, I felt a surge of anger. I
really wanted to hit the bastard. Instead, I insisted upon
reporting for duty and that was when Chakotay gave me the
opportunity. He touched me on the arm, but I purposely over-
reacted and shoved him. I have to be honest. It felt good. The
pleasure disappeared when the Captain ordered Tuvok to escort me
to the Brig. For a brief moment, I felt a sense of déjà vu. It
brought back the time when Starfleet captured me after three
weeks with the Maquis. The feeling ended when Tuvok led me to
his office. He assured me that this little stint to the Brig
will not appear on my record.

After twenty-four hours in the Brig, I was released. No one had
come by to visit me. Not even Harry. I guess I don’t blame them.
That reminds me, I have to find out how the Doc’s date with
Denara Pel went. End personal log.

STARDATE 49520.59 – This will be my last log entry, until my
return to the ship. That is, if I ever return. Since my little
spell in the Brig, I have become persona non gratis aboard
Voyager. Only the Doc, Harry, Kes and Neelix seemed willing to
talk with me. The Captain and Tuvok decided it was best to take
the deception to the next level. Leave Voyager and offer myself
as bait to Seska. Tuvok contacted a Talaxian freighter that was
looking for a new pilot. He figured that once the crew learn
about my departure, the spy would contact Seska. I only hope
that . . . (door chimes) Enter! Got a visitor. End personal log.

STARDATE 49526.06 – I am so glad to be back! And to be honest, I
really didn’t think I would make it. Especially after Seska
caught me using the ship’s computer. But it was too late. At
least for her. I managed to discover the spy’s identity before
she could stop me. It was Mike Jonas. Now that I think about it,
I’m not really surprised. There was always something about him
that I didn’t trust. Even back in the Maquis. Too quiet and too
sneaky. And I also remembered that he and Seska used to be quite
chummy back in those days. Well, he’s dead, poor Mike. I don’t
think anyone will mourn him.

Now that I’ve succeeded in my mission, I’ve become very popular
aboard ship. Both Neelix and me. I think that little spot on the
“Breakfast With Neelix” show must have done the trick.
Personally, I found it embarrassing, but Neelix insisted that he
interview me. I don’t know why. He was just as responsible for
stopping Jonas and Seska from luring Voyager into a trap. And he
was the one who killed Jonas.

Most of the Maquis are pretty upset over the revelation.
Especially Hogan. I haven’t seen such embarrassment since Seska
was revealed to be a Cardassian spy. I think the embarrassment
was worse for Chakotay. Not only was he the one who had
originally recruited Jonas, but he also found out about Tuvok
and the Captain’s scheme. I don’t know if he has forgiven those
two for making a chump out of him, but judging from the silent
treatment I have received since my return, he certainly has not
forgiven me. I guess things are back to normal. End personal log.

STARDATE 49537.58 – The Doc’s lady love, Denara Pel, left
Voyager today. We delivered her to a Vidiian colony without
being detected by her people. Both seemed upset, but resigned. It
seemed that the little matchmaking scheme Kes and I had devised,
worked. Good. At least he had a nice romance.

Chakotay has begun talking to me again. Somewhat. At least when
the topic of ship’s business come up. But it’s worse with
B’Elanna. She hasn’t given me the silent treatment, like
Chakotay. Nor has she been hostile. But she seems to make sure
that we’re never alone, together. And during off duty hours, she
usually sticks to Harry like glue. Or remain in her cabin –
alone. I’m beginning to suspect that once again, our friendship
is in serious trouble. End personal log.

STARDATE 49547.7 – God! This has been one bizarre day! Harry .
. . and I mean by Harry Number 2 . . . Hell, I better start from
the beginning!

It all started during Alpha shift. Sam Wildman went into labor,
while we all anxiously awaited news of Voyager’s first baby. It
wasn’t long before I spotted Vidiian ships on the sensors.
Voyager eventually hid inside a plasma cloud to avoid detection.
Once the ship left the nebula, all hell broke loose. The warp
engine stalled, the antimatter supplies began to drain and
proton burst caused a hull breach. We had no idea where the
proton bursts came from, since B’Elanna had not begun to start
our own bursts to stave off the antimatter drain. Then our
situation became worse. The Doctor reported that Sam’s baby had
died, due to the ship’s power drain. And . . . shit! It’s all in
the past and I’m still shaking. B’Elanna . . . B’Elanna reported
from Deck 15 that Kes had disappeared into a mysterious void.
(Pauses) And that Harry had died after being sucked into space.
(Pauses) That news really floored me. I mean . . . Harry was gone.
Permanently. But I didn’t have time to digest that at the time.
None of us did. Before we knew it, another hull breach occurred
on Deck 1 and we had to abandon the Bridge.

What happened? A divergence field had caused sensor reading to
double and every particle on the ship to duplicate. Two Voyagers
eventually formed and there wasn’t enough antimatter to sustain
both vessels. We also discovered that the proton bursts that
were damaging our ship, came from the second one. The Captain
Janeway from the other ship visited ours and explained
everything. I don’t know what plan the two captains had come up
with. To be honest, we didn’t have time for an explanation. The
Vidiians had returned and began firing upon our ships. I mean,
the other Voyager. Captain Janeway #2, in an effort to prevent
the Vidiians from a successful organ harvest and detecting our
ship, initiated the self-destruct button. Both the second
Voyager and the Vidiian ship were destroyed.

Before the two ships were destroyed, the second Captain had sent
over her Harry Kim and baby Wildman to our ship. In the end, Sam
Wildman ended up with her baby after all. And we got Harry back.
Sort of. Hell, I don’t know. This is all crazy. Harry #2 – I
guess I should just call him Harry – had repeated the Captain’s
words that weird was all part of the job of being a Starfleet
officer
. If you ask me, I could do without it. End personal log.

STARDATE 49556.69 – We held a christening for Sam Wildman’s new
baby. The good ensign named her Naomi. Very pretty. Neelix has
been named godfather. During the whole, ungodly mess two days
ago, he had comforted Sam, while she dealt with the loss of the
first baby.

Ever since our encounter with the plasma cloud, B’Elanna has
grown even closer to Harry. I guess I don’t blame her. Even if
there were times when I feel that I’m being shut out. Witnessing
the death of a friend can be very traumatic. I know from past
experience. Which leads me to something else. Namely the odd
looks I’ve been receiving from Harry. I wonder what he had
witnessed. My counterpoint’s death at the hands of the Vidiians?
End personal log.

STARDATE 49583.99 – That’s it! I’ve had enough! I asked Sue
Nicoletti for a date and again, she gave me the brush off. I
don’t know what to believe. That she won’t go on one simple date
with me, or that I’ve been pursuing her for six months. I told
Harry that my nickname for her is “Cold Hands, Cold Heart
Nicoletti”
. Great! I’ve been pursuing an iceberg. I can’t
Think of any other woman aboard this ship that I’m deeply interested
in. Well, there was Kes, but I’ve recently discovered that I’m
no longer in love with her. She’s a warm and sweet woman. Like a
sister. And I’m not really interested in incest. End personal
log.

STARDATE 49608.69 – Dick Bennet is dead. He and two other
crewmen were killed in a shuttlecraft crash, during a geological
survey mission on the moon of Drayan II. Only Tuvok had survived.
Both McCormack and Margot Gallagher are devastated. Especially
Margot. I went to her cabin to offer my condolences, but I don’t
think she was in the mood to receive visitors. I hope she
doesn’t do anything drastic. End personal log.

STARDATE 49654.99 – I used to think what I did on Caldik Prime
was the worst I could image. Maybe it was. But what happened to
Tuvix makes me wonder. I still remember standing on the Bridge,
with him begging us to help him, while Security dragged him
away. What could I do? Order the guards to let him go? Free him
myself? The Captain would have won in the end, and we got Tuvok
and Neelix back. So I just stood there like a goddamn coward. I
am so disgusted. Not only with myself, but with the rest of the
crew. The only person who didn’t seem upset over the whole
matter was Kes. She got Neelix back. I wonder if her experience
with the Ocampans had really changed her. The Captain is wearing
one of those “I did the right thing” expressions. Well, no
one will condemn her. Hell, none of us can. We’re just as guilty for
standing by, while she killed Tuvix. End personal log.

STARDATE 49659.92 – While investigating this planet in the Nyras
system, the Captain and Chakotay were bitten by an insect that
infected them with a deadly disease. In order to keep them
alive, the Doc had them put in statis. At least until he can
find a cure. This has left Tuvok has assumed command of the ship
and me, as acting first officer. Great! End personal log.

STARDATE 49744.67 – It’s over. The Doctor was unable to find a
cure for the Captain and Chakotay’s disease. He had no choice
but to return them to the planet’s surface, where they had been
infected. The planet’s atmosphere helps keep the disease benign.
So, we beamed them to the surface, along with equipment and supplies
for a habitation.

Tuvok broke the news to the rest of the senior staff, during a
meeting. He also added that the Captain had ordered the crew to
continue on to the Alpha Quadrant. That meant Tuvok and I would
permanently become the two senior officers. Oh God! This is the
last thing I wanted – being Tuvok’s XO. I can only assume that
serving directly under Chakotay would be worse. As for Tuvok –
he seemed so damn cold about leaving the Captain and Chakotay
behind. What is it with him? Doesn’t he have any feelings?
(Sighs) Of course not. He’s a Vulcan. And a Vulcan is the last
person in the universe who should be in command of a ship. End
personal log.

STARDATE 49704.69 – I never realized, until today, what an idiot
I’ve been. And a bigot. It took Ayala, of all people, to remind
me.

It all started with Harry, who has been continuously bitching
about Tuvok since we left the Captain and Chakotay behind. All
of us were in the Mess Hall, brooding over our present situation
and the new captain. To be honest, Tuvok hasn’t been much of a
problem. But we were all still pissed by his cold attitude about
leaving our officers behind. I thought that Ayala would
understand how we felt, considering he used to be one of
Chakotay’s right-hand men. Surprise, surprise! Instead, he
reminded us that we were not giving Tuvok a chance to prove
himself as a captain and a leader. He reminded B’Elanna and other
Maquis about how Chakotay had to grow as a leader of a Maquis
cell. And he reminded the Starfleeters that Janeway had to do
the same aboard Voyager. Ayala also added that Vulcan starship
captains were nothing new in Starfleet. He had a point. He
castigated us for not giving Tuvok a chance to grow into the new
role as commander of a starship with a crew dominated by Humans.

I don’t think Ayala’s speech had much affect on the others. With
the exception of a handful from the Security Division, Kes,
Gerron, and our resident Vulcans, everyone else continued to
brood over our new captain. I guess I can now consider myself
part of the former. Mike was right. We should give Tuvok a
chance. Hell, I got one. Why not him? I guess I’ve always prided
myself on being tolerant. Mike made me realize that I had
forgotten about the Vulcan security officer who had not automatically
considered me guilty of murder, last year. Shit! End personal
log.

STARDATE 49808 – Trouble on the Bridge, today. Harry had
detected a Vidiian ship some several light years away. Tuvok
acknowledged the new with usual stoic manner and ordered us to
continue our course. Then Harry made a mistake. He insisted that
we contact the Vidiians to seek a cure for the Captain and
Chakotay’s disease. Even worse, he tried to rally support from
the other crewmen on the Bridge. Between Tuvok’s threats of a
trip to the Brig and my warning, Harry finally backed down.

What the hell was the matter with him? I realize that he missed
the Captain. Hell, so do I. But what he did was stupid.
Especially for a man with ambitions for a stellar career in
Starfleet. End personal log.

STARDATE 49810.13 – He did it again. Once more, Harry tried to
convince Tuvok to contact the Vidiians. He had approached Tuvok
in the latter’s quarters, early this morning. Harry had
apologized for his earlier behavior on the Bridge. He even added
that the Doc was willing to contact Dr. Denara Pel and that
B’Elanna was willing to donate a sample of her Klingon DNA. Now
that took me by surprise! And disturbed me, too.

In the end, Tuvok rejected Harry’s request, reminding him of the
destruction of that Vidiian ship, some three months back. And
once again, Harry lost his temper. (Sighs) You know, maybe we
should contact the Vidiians – if that would keep Harry from
starting a large-scale mutiny. And with the Vidiians close by, a
mutiny is the last thing we need. If that happens, who would
save us? Tuvok is the only one aboard this ship with the
tactical knowledge to deal with the Vidiians. And he can’t do
that, while in the Brig. End personal log.

STARDATE 49813.52 – In the end, Kes managed to convince Tuvok to
contact the Vidiians. I’m relieved, but at the same time, I feel
like a failure. As acting First Officer, I should have been the
one to talk to him. It was my job. Just as it was my job to
inform Tuvok about the crew’s morale, without resorting to
Harry’s temper tantrums. Instead, I kept silent. Some XO I
turned out to be. End personal log.

STARDATE 49818.7 – It worked. We got the cure from the Vidiians,
thanks to Dr. Pel’s generosity. And without Tuvok, we would have
never escaped. Looking back on it, he was right to doubt the
Vidiians’ help. If it had not been for his tactics and Dr. Pel’s
help, we would have never succeeded. Now, we’re on our way back
to the Captain and Tuvok. End personal log.

STARDATE 49853.36 – It’s been almost two weeks since our
encounter with the Vidiians. I feel as if I’m on another ship.
Voyager is on its way back to retrieve the Captain and Chakotay
and the crew is happy. I know that Harry is happy. He has
returned to the ideal Starfleet officer that he was before this
whole incident. But his little act isn’t fooling either Tuvok or
me. I didn’t think Vulcans could deliberately act cold toward a
particular person, but I’ve noticed that Tuvok has been giving
Harry the cold shoulder. I tried to point this out to Harry, but
the big idiot replied that Tuvok had promised not to inform the
Captain about his little insurrection. Maybe, but I wouldn’t be
surprised if she found out what happened, anyway. And that Harry
will live to regret it. End personal log.

STARDATE 49933.57 – It’s been a day since the Captain and
Chakotay’s return to Voyager. I wish I could say that everything
is back to normal. But I would be lying. Despite their
gratitude, our two senior officers did not seem happy to be
back. I would give a month’s worth of replicator rations to
learn what happened during those three months on that planet. I
pointed out the Captain and Chakotay’s subdued manner to
B’Elanna and Harry. The former seemed disturbed, while Harry
dismissed the whole idea. I’m beginning to wonder about Harry.
In some ways, I think he has become even greener since leaving
the Alpha Quadrant. Or maybe he just doesn’t react that well to
change. And that’s not a good trait for a Starfleet officer. End
personal log.

STARDATE 49947.25 – Had lunch in the Mess Hall with Harry and
B’Elanna. It turned out to be a disaster. Harry complained about
Tuvok giving him a hard time on the Bridge, while the Captain
and Chakotay were going over reports in the Ready Room this
morning. I told him what did he expect, after the trouble he
gave Tuvok. I also added that he was lucky that Tuvok never
reported him for insubordination.

Okay, maybe I should have kept my mouth shut, but all the
tension from the past six months had finally got to me. And
Harry’s whining was irritating the hell out of me. He left the
Mess Hall in a huff. B’Elanna demanded that I apologize. Why
should I? Someone had to make Harry realize the consequences of
his actions. He doesn’t realize that he may have screwed up his
Starfleet career for good. Limited as it was, here in the Delta
Quadrant. I said this to B’Elanna and she gave me one of her
death glares before leaving the Mess Hall, herself. Shit! I
really should keep my mouth shut. End personal log.

STARDATE 49950.6 – I apologized to Harry for my remarks in the
Mess Hall and he has forgiven me. We’re friends, again. I can’t
say the same about B’Elanna. She continues to give me the cold
shoulder Not once, during dinner, did she utter one word to me.
I’m beginning to suspect that her attitude has more to do with
the deception I had carried out to flush out Seska’s spy, than
with Harry. At first, I felt frustrated by her attitude. Now,
I’m pissed. I’m getting tired of worrying about what she thinks
of me. It seems as if she can’t make up her mind. If she wants
to be friends again, fine. If not, I guess I can live without
her good opinion. I’ve done it before. End personal log.

STARDATE 49985.91 – Voyager came across a message buoy. From
Seska. It seemed she finally had her baby. Or should I say,
Chakotay’s baby? And Maje Cullah seemed upset by the identity of
the baby’s father. Judging from the expression on Chakotay’s
face, I have a feeling that won’t be going after the child.
Which suits me just fine. If you ask me, this whole thing sounds
like a trap. End personal log.

STARDATE 49987.73 – Chakotay and the Captain have decided to go
after Seska’s baby, after all. Oh God! This would mean heading
for the Kazon-Nistrim stronghold in the Gema system. I had
suggested we contact the Talaxian mining colony on Prema II for
extra help. Even the Doc had a suggestion – use the ship’s
deflector grid as holoemitters in order to project images of
nearby Talaxian ships. Not a bad idea, even though it’s a
deception that probably won’t last. I did consider suggesting
that we call this whole thing off, but I don’t think anyone will
listen. End personal log.

STARDATE 49996.36 – Voyager encountered a Kazon shuttle with an
injured man inside. I recognized him immediately. One of Seska’s
aides – Tierna. Chakotay also recognized him. Personally, I
think we should space Tierna out of the nearest airlock. I can’t
help but feel that we’re being set up. I’ve heard that Chakotay
has his own suspicions regarding our visitor. But as Harry has
continuously pointed out, we are a Federation ship. And that
means giving aid to those who needs it, regardless of our
suspicions. Is it any wonder I never wanted to be a Starfleet
officer in the first place? If the Captain is determined to give
aid to Tierna, I hope she has considered contacting the
Talaxians on Prema II. End personal log.

STARDATE 49999.98 – Tierna has regained consciousness. He
claimed that Maje Cullah had killed Seska, after learning that
Chakotay was the baby’s father. As for the baby – it will be
sent to Gema IV, the seat of Kazon-Nistrim power, to be raised
as a servant. What’s the point of repeating myself? This mission
doesn’t feel right. Besides, I really can’t see Voyager
infiltrating the Kazon-Nistrim stronghold.

Although today is New Year’s Eve, no one is in the mood for a
party. A few of us had gathered at Sandrine’s for a little
celebration. But the party mood died out long before 2373 arrived
and everyone left. Very dismal. End personal log.

THE END