Sunday, April 8, 2012

Thirty-Six: A Matter for Blood

“We may have a problem,” said Tashel Ban.

Dinner was on the table, just bread and beans—we’ve been at Star’s Reach long enough that the tastier end of our supplies have started to run short. Still, everyone looked at him. Everyone but Eleen, I ought to say; she sat there, not looking at anyone or anything, the way she does when there’s trouble and she can’t do anything about it. Tashel Ban had papers in his hands and he was looking at Thu, and that meant a very particular kind of trouble.

Thu said nothing, and after a moment Tashel Ban went on. “We found another paper on Cetan science and technology, probably the last one that the people here had time to put together—it was written about three years before Star’s Reach was abandoned. Not much different from the last one, except that it refers to another paper, and we were able to find the other paper.

“You’ll remember that the Cetans have their own way of getting electricity from sunlight, unlike anything humans ever tried. That’s what the other paper is about. Some people here decided to try to figure how that worked from what they’d already learned about Cetan technology. They—” He shrugged. “The compounds the Cetans use aren’t stable in an oxygen atmosphere—they catch fire as soon as electricity starts flowing through them—but they were able to figure out the basis for the effect, and find compounds that will work here. So—” He looked straight at Thu. “We have a formula for a Cetan technology that could change the way we get energy here.”

Thu considered that for a moment. “Does it differ from the solar cells the old world made?”

“The principle’s the same. The details aren’t. The old solar cells, they were made using technologies we don’t have any more; I know people back in Nuwinga who’ve made solar cells of a sort, but it’s a slow expensive process. This technology isn’t slow and it probably won’t be too expensive, once some work gets done on sources for the chemicals.”

“Chemicals.” Thu repeated the word as though it wasn’t something you say around good people. “How toxic?”

“They’d have to be tested. Still, the result seems to be chemically stable, and it’s recyclable.” He used his hands to show a ball the size of someone’s head. “Imagine something that looks like glass, about this big around, with a wire going into the center of it and a net of fine wires all over the outside. Light shines on it and kicks electrons into motion, and they flow out the wire that goes to the center and back in through the net around the outside. The Cetan ones last for about thirty of our years, then have to be melted down and remade. Here, they hadn’t figured out how long they would last, but something like that’s probably a good guess.”

“How much power will come from it?”

“Depends on location and season. My best guess, from the figures in the paper, is that each of them will produce around a hundred watts under average conditions—say, five of them would equal your ordinary farmyard wind turbine.”

Thu just looked at him for a long moment, then: “You say they will not be too expensive. As expensive as a wind turbine?”

“Less than that,” Tashel Ban answered. “As a guess—and it’s no more than a guess—once these were being produced in fair numbers, you could probably buy a five or six hundred watt system for about as much as a wind turbine would cost you.”

Another long silent look from Thu, and then, unexpectedly, he laughed. He doesn’t laugh often, but when he does it’s a great rolling laugh that fills up whatever space he’s in. Tashel Ban looked baffled, probably wondering what the joke was, which was what I was wondering just then, too. The others watched and waited.

“You expect me,” Thu said then, “to invoke our bargain and settle our disagreement with knives, because farmers in Meriga will be able to choose between wind and sun to power a few light bulbs and a fan in the summer? No. My requirement—” He tapped a finger on the table, hard enough that it rang. “My requirement is that nothing we find here will give humanity the chance to do again what they did to the earth. Wind turbines have not done that. Solar water heaters have not done that. I see no reason to think that these solar cells will do that—and I do not grudge the farmers their light bulbs and cool air in the summer.”

There’s a kind of tension you get in a place where a fight’s about to start, and everyone knows it; and if the fight isn’t going to happen after all, and everyone knows it, the moment when the tension lets go lands like a punch in the stomach. I know I swayed, and I’m pretty sure most of the others did, too. Berry didn’t, though. He glanced at me, at Thu, and at Tashel Ban, and then said, “I wonder how hard would it be to figure out whether there’s anything later than that paper on the computer.”

Tashel Ban thought about that for a moment. “I could probably do it now. We’ve found enough files with dates that it should be possible to figure out the raw code, and search.”

“That might be a good idea,” said Berry then. “I’ve been thinking, and it seems to me that we have to do two things before we can let other people know about any of this.”

We were all looking at him then. “First,” he went on, “is finding out if the Cetans have sent us anything that might hurt Mam Gaia, or humanity, or Meriga or the other nations. Second is finding out why the people here—” He glanced sideways at Anna, who was watching him with no expression on her face at all. “—why they died. We could do both by finding what information they left that’s later than this.”

“True,” said Tashel Ban.

“There’s another factor,” Eleen said then. “The radio.”

“Also true,” said Tashel Ban, as though the two of them had talked about it before, which no doubt they had. He turned back to Thu. “Before we make a decision about making all this public, we also need to know what’s happening in Meriga. If war’s broken out—well, then things are going to be rather more difficult.” He gestured, palms up. “So I’d like to propose that we assemble the radio receiver. Just the receiver, to listen; we can leave the transmitter for later.”

That was another part of the agreement I mentioned a while back, the one I got Thu and Tashel Ban to settle on before we left Cansiddi. Tashel Ban brought his own radio gear with him when he came to join us in Sanloo, a transmitter and a receiver, both of them with the tubes taken out and packed in wool to keep them from breaking on the road. They stayed that way after we arrived, because we’d agreed that no word of what we found, if we found anything, was to go out until we all agreed on what to say.

Thu thought a moment, and then said, “That will be acceptable.” I glanced around at everyone else and asked, “Anyone disagree?” Nobody did, and so that’s what Tashel Ban is doing right now, muttering to himself as he makes sure the tubes are still good and figures out how to hook the radio up to one of the antennas outside. Anybody with two bits of common sense would be pretty much frantic to know what’s happened in Meriga while we’ve been gone, since the Presden was probably dying when we left and jennels were busy raising armies to fight each other, but what I’m thinking about instead is Thu - how we met, and how he almost killed me.

That happened not long after I got to Memfis. As soon as Berry and I got settled in at the ruinmen’s hall there, I went to the misters, explained to them what I was there for, asked about the records of past digs, and told them about the Walnut Ridge Telecommunications Facility and the contract dig I’d agreed to do with Jennel Cobey. They knew a fair amount of that already, of course, since ruinmen carry news with them when they travel, but they didn’t know all of it, and it’s one of the courtesies that you don’t dare skip when you’re planning a dig in someone else’s region. Of course I planned on bringing the Memfis misters and prentices into the dig, and paying them with Jennel Cobey’s money, and I let them know that; and I also mentioned, which they already knew, that I hadn’t managed a dig myself before, and would welcome the local guild’s help with that; and between the prospect of money up front and the chance to help find the way to Star’s Reach, they were pretty pleased with me, and gave me all the help I needed.

It turned out that the the ruin of Walnut Ridge Telecommunications Facility hadn’t been worked yet, either. Memfis was a big city in the old world, even bigger than it is now, when it’s the largest city in Meriga. Some of the ruins around it are buried deep in river mud and water, and won’t be at any risk of being touched by a ruinman’s shovel until Mam Gaia decides she wants a different climate again and the sea draws back a good long ways to the south, but there’s a lot of ruins less hard to get, and the guild’s only been working them since after the Third Civil War. It wasn’t too hard to figure out where the place was, and so all I had to do was get the money from Jennel Cobey, start hiring people and getting supplies together, and make a start on the dig.

I sent the jennel a letter right away and started making arrangements. That meant visiting the houses of each of the misters in the Memfis guild, first of all, and making deals over dinner and whiskey; after that was done and I knew how many misters and prentices I’d have to set up with food and tents and the like, it meant visiting the merchants that outfit ruinmen with the things they need, and making deals with them—usually with no dinner and whiskey in sight, since most of them will take a ruinman’s money but won’t stoop to eat or drink with him. So I went from place to place with somebody’s prentice to show me the way and Berry trotting alongside me to prove that I was enough of a mister to have a prentice of my own, and fairly often I got the feeling that somebody was watching me.

Someone was, and I found that out the hard way one night.

Berry and I went to visit a provision merchant that afternoon, and stayed late. The merchant’s name was Danna; she was short and round and pleasant, and got into the provisions trade because she had family in the ruinmen’s guild, so we got dinner and whiskey; I don’t doubt that she meant to show off the sort of provisions she could get us, too. By the time we settled on a deal, or as much of a deal as I could make before Jennel Cobey got my letter and replied, it was well after dark, and though I wasn’t quite tipsy I wasn’t far from it. We went down the steps onto the street and the door of the merchant’s closed behind us, leaving us in the next thing to perfect darkness, since the moon was down and we were outside the gates of Memfis. We had only a few blocks to walk to get back to the ruinmen’s hall, and there was nobody else in sight, so we started off without any particular worries.

Then a shadow came out of a deeper shadow to one side and blocked our way.

I stopped, not too sure of myself. The shadow stood there for a moment, looming over the two of us, and then said in a deep voice, “You have a dead man’s letter. I need it. If you give it to me now, you will not become a dead man yourself.”

What startled me then wasn’t that somebody would be willing to kill me to get my copy of the letter; I’d been waiting for that since Berry and I left Shanuga all those months ago. What startled me is that I had the letter with me, and this person knew it. Now it’s true that I’d taken it with me to a couple of other merchants by then, since news about the letter had gotten around and I could usually get a better deal on provisions if I let the merchant see and handle the copy I had. I didn’t think of that just then, though. I could have simply handed over the letter and gotten a new copy from Jennel Cobey, too, but I didn’t think of that just then, either. All I could think of was that somebody was trying to take my one hope of finding Star’s Reach away from me.

I pulled my pry bar out of my belt, and the shadow turned into a man and jumped at me.

I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen anybody else move that fast. I was just barely able to jump out of his way, and flailed at him with the pry bar; that made him duck to one side, and probably kept me from getting spitted, because he had a knife in his hand—I could just about see it as he moved. I had more reach with the pry bar than he had with the knife, so I dodged past him, as fast as I could, and snapped the pry bar out at the back of his knee, one of those nasty little moves that leaves your enemy down on the pavement where you can kill him or just go away, your choice. It hit — I could feel the shock right up the bar — but I might as well have clobbered a rock; he spun around and came at me again, as though I hadn’t hit him at all.

There’s a kind of nightmare I’ve had now and again all my life, where I’m being attacked in total darkness by somebody I can’t see, and nothing I do makes any difference. This fight was like that. I think I landed three or four good hard hits with the pry bar, and none of it seemed to do a thing to the man who was trying to kill me. He just kept coming at me, and I kept jumping away and hitting at him. I knew that he would wear me down if the fight kept going much longer but I didn’t have a spare moment to think of anything else I could do.

Then he came at me again, and I was just that little bit too slow getting out of his way, and by the time I landed I could feel something wet spreading along my side. The pain flared a moment later: not a deep cut, but bad enough. He moved toward me, slowly, testing. I shifted my grip on the pry bar and got ready to stuff it down his throat.

Boots pounded on the cobblestones, then: dozens of them, fast. My attacker turned, stopped, and tried to run, but the moment of hesitation lost him his chance. Dark shapes blurred in a confused scuffle, and something rose and fell. I knew the shape at a glance: a ruinman’s shovel.

Light flared near my face, half blinding me: a lantern, and Berry holding it. It wasn’t until then that I realized that I hadn’t noticed where he was since the fight started, and guessed that he’d gone for help. “He’s hurt!" Berry shouted, and some others in ruinmen’s leathers came over, got me down on the street and started doing something with my side.

I couldn’t quite see my attacker, just a hand here and a foot there pinned down under a fair-sized mob of burly ruinmen. They’d brought shovels and picks, which only get brought out for fighting when it’s a matter for blood.

“Kill him?” someone asked, and I was dizzy enough that for a moment I wondered if he meant me.

“No.” One of the guild misters—I recognized him, or almost—shook his head. “He goes back to the hall. If he’s somebody’s hired knife, we’ll find out who, and then...”

He didn’t have to finish. It wouldn’t have done me any good if he had, though, because the street was starting to spin around me, and the lantern got very faint and far away, and so did everything else for a good long time.

17 comments:

John Michael Greer said...

Apologies for the delay in getting this written! I'd hoped to get back onto the earlier schedule, one story by the end of each month, but as Trey would put it, I've had a mother of a lot to get done in the meantime, and as the story moves toward its conclusion, getting all the details right and loose ends tied up is becoming a challenge. Still, with any luck I'll be back on schedule shortly. In the meantime, enjoy.

Robert Mathiesen said...

Thank you! This chapter is very much worth the wait.

Greg in Busan said...

Thanks for this, JMG. I have been reading the Archdruid Report semi-regularly for a year now, and I read The Long Descent and The Ecotechnic Future. The Ecotechnic Future probably changed my worldview more than anything I've read in 10 years or more. I came across Star's Reach about a month ago, and read Chapters 1-35 in about 3 days. I'm looking forward to seeing where this story goes!

BrightSpark said...

Wow, I'm interested in this new style of solar collector. I suspect that the Cetans may have been purchasing books from Lindsays as well! What I'm wondering is if the solar idea is basically a thermionic valve working more or less in reverse.

hari said...

Thanks for another great chapter! I've been looking forward to it. I recently read everything written up to this date for the 3rd time. I seem to do it about once a year. :)

Surprised may not be the right word. But I suppose I was a little surprised to hear you talk about role playing games in the comments last month. It stayed in my mind, in any case. Star's Reach has made a huge impact on my own imagination, and ideas of world creating and gaming. Well, actually, The Ecotechnic Future gave me a real curiosity to see a post industrial world and Star's Reach has been slowly satisfying that curiosity.

I'm interested in GURPS myself (but not only GURPS, and I haven't actually played for a long time). I often read the forums at SJGames. It's full of very creative and intelligent people. It wouldn't be wrong to say that the people respect original ideas. The post industrial slow collapse genre that Star's Reach is a part of and that you promoted with that contest last year, I'm pretty sure it doesn't exist in any RPG. Your created world is original, believable and backed up with tons of intelligent ideas. I think it would make a great world for an RPG.

I'm sure I could blabber a fair bit more about this subject, but I've probably written enough already.

John Michael Greer said...

Robert and Greg, thank you!

Spark, heck of a good question -- though I'm not sure Lindsay's delivers to Tau Ceti! My very rough sense of the Cetan solar spheres is that the principle's much the same as in a conventional (i.e., Terran) solar cell, but that they've got a way of making it work all through the transparent mass: once you have an electrical potential (negative at the center, positive at the periphery) electrons and "holes" kicked loose by photons drift through the mass toward the appropriate poles, producing a nice steady current. The spheres stop working after thirty years or so because of UV-induced chemical changes in the substance that gradually renders it opaque. Beyond that, I have no clue!

Hari, thank you! The challenge is simply that I haven't played for a couple of decades, and never did have a good sense of what goes into designing a RPG. I'd need somebody with a background in RPG design to work with. Given that, I think a very lively, gritty role playing setting could be built on the Long Descent scenario.

Thomas Daulton said...

Greetings, JMG and my fellow Merigans! Thanks for the chapter and as I said last time, such a small delay is not important compared to the high quality evinced so far.

I just ran across this interview in Wired Magazine:
Vernor Vinge is Optimistic (Also downloadable as a podcast)

You might recognize Vernor Vinge's name or even have read his books. He's a venerable, influential writer who writes about future panaceas like the Singularity with a pretty good style (although I think his wife, Joan D. Vinge, has a more engaging and personable sci-fi writing style).

In the above linked interview, he talks a lot about the Singularity, which I know JMG strongly disfavors. On the other hand, he talks briefly about civilizational collapse, with some similarities and some differences to JMG's writings.

His main difference is that the survivors of the collapse would have the advantage that they know technology is possible and works (our primitive ancestors had no such knowledge), and therefore would rebuild a technological civilization, sans fossil fuels, very quickly. JMG diverges in that he proposes the survivors would blame energy-intensive technology for the crash, and therefore avoid many aspects of technology. An interesting exercise in compare-and-contrast.

Quote: how difficult it is to come back from a civilizational collapse? I’m going to say some optimistic things here, and I don’t mean them to trivialize what happens if you had a civilizational collapse.

…The difference between us and us, say, 10,000 years ago … there are obvious differences, like the level of our technology. But there’s another, more important difference, and that is, we know it can be done. I think the human race wandered around for tens of thousands of years sort of bouncing from one stupid, mean-spirited solution to another, because we had no idea what could be done.

Now, one aspect that you brought up was how we’ve mined all the easily accessible stuff. I disagree with that, with one exception — fossil fuels. I agree when it comes to fossil fuels. But almost every other resource —

…the stuff that we mine, we have concentrated that. I imagine that ruins of cities are richer ore fields than most of the natural ore fields that we have used historically. And not only at the level of ore, but at the level of all sorts of technological things. Just pre-built steel beams in large cities are all over the place, and they’re quite hard to make.

With higher sorts of technology, it becomes more and more debatable whether it would still be working, but it’s obvious that a lot of bulk technology is just there for the picking up. And this would make things go very, very fast when combined with the notion that we’d know what’s going on. Depending on how far we got knocked back, we’d have lots of detailed knowledge, even humans that remembered what things were like.

…in a world where there were no ruined cities… that would be something that would be very problematical to happen in any near-term sort of way.


I see the validity of JMG's counter-argument, (and I bet most readers here do too), that a complex technological society is not really possible as we know it without the cheap energy of fossil fuels. Still, I wanted to point out an interesting divergence of philosophy. Some other writer could write a "Star's Reach" type of story where post-crash humans were accepting and desirous of technology, but were severely limited in its availability.

hari said...

I can think of a couple of different ways to approach making an RPG of Star's Reach or the Long Descent or Ecotechnic Future.

The simplest one would be to do something similar to Star's Reach, free and online. There's a fair bit of precedent for this. There are some generic systems that you could legally use with very minimal reworking. Then again, that's beginning to verging into the land of random guys put up webpages for the created world that they've been playing in for the last several decades. In short, it might not get attention.

Another idea would be to try to find someone with a good sense of games systems to help you and find a publisher who would get behind you. Success in that field could be pretty sweet, but I doubt it would be worth the effort if it ever actually did work out.

My suggestion would be to try to sell it to SJGames as a world in their Infinite Worlds setting. There are a couple of good points to this. First of all, worlds for Infinite Worlds are something listed on the company's wishlist (http://e23.sjgames.com/gurps-wish-list.html#infiniteworlds) and would be much easier to actually get published. Second of all, the issue of game mechanics would be pretty minimal in comparison to any other option. You would simply use GURPS rules and have to learn how to write up stats in GURPS for characters and templates and what not. The forums I mentioned before are a great place for help with that kind of thing and the entire book would be edited by the big systems gurus before being published. The big problem would be that you'd be basing your imagined world in someone else's. This means that you would be obligated to spend some time talking about a few different opposed world hopping organizations and how they get along in your future earth. You could actually use that to your advantage somewhat and largely ignore it by keeping it close to as simple as, "no one's interested in this world cuz there's not much to take from it. most visitors from other worlds are futurists from earlier periods trying to get a sense of what might happen in their own world".

I'm sure you can tell that I like that last option the most. It's very doable. It's on the company's wishlist, "Those titles are pre-approved: these are books we want to publish, and we're asking you to consider writing them." And also, you'd be immediately tapped into all of the fans GURPS already has, much better than starting at zero yourself. Each of the other books in the Infinite World series sold between roughly 400 and 550 copies (http://e23.sjgames.com/hot.cgi?lmt=20&company=21748&gsys=GURPS+4th+Ed.&gtype=&genre=Alternate+History&date1=2005-01-01&date2=2012-04-10&ord=qty). 10 to 24 thousand words of mostly fluff (as opposed to system) is also a lot less of an undertaking than I can imagine any other RPG being.

Aside from the first link I gave you, there's one more that would be very important if you actually decided to do this, the guidelines: http://www.sjgames.com/general/guidelines/authors/author.html

hari said...

Oh, and if you continue to entertain any ideas of putting it all into RPG form in any way at all, there are a couple of things you should probably think about. Two issues, both of them mentioned in the first link to the wishlist. First, "Guidelines for characters – both PC recruits and NPC allies and enemies." Who are the characters? Are they ruinmen? Soldiers? Scholars? Members of Circle? Merchants on the Misipi? Travelling entertainers? And what's up with Plummer anyways? The possibility of being someone in his position or one of his nameless friends would definitely have to be included. You'd also have to include out of worlders if you did the Infinite Worlds thing that I recommended. The second issue is adventure seeds. What do you offer in terms of junk to do for these nameless friends, ruinmen, and travelling entertainers with hidden purposes? Obviously ruins are good adventure seeds. But you'll need ideas that will get other types of characters moving as well. A lot of this could be borrowed from existing RPG material and other media and simply transported over to your world. But it would be very necessary.

Thanks again for all the good writing. I'm meaning to buy a couple more books of yours now that I have a little more money. :)

John Michael Greer said...

Thomas, well, one of the complexities of the Star's Reach setting is precisely that some aspects of old technology are very much in demand -- think of Trey's comments about salvaged electronics parts, or the references to wind turbines. Others, which are blamed for ecological disaster, are taboo -- which doesn't keep people, like the blacksmith a while back, from dabbling in them if they think they can get away with it. The broader point where I differ from Vinge, of course, is that in my view the absence of concentrated cheap energy sources makes anything like a modern industrial society impossible. Still, especially in science fiction, there's always room for variation!

Hari, hmm. I have a soft spot for Steve Jackson Games, having played Illuminatus! with some enthusiasm back in the day, but I'm not at all sure that this is what I'd have in mind -- not least because the baggage of the wider setting conflicts sharply with a core theme of the story (which amounts more or less to "here we are and there's no other world for us to hop to); also, the "infinite worlds" are historically divergent from ours, and the world of Star's Reach is ours, as accurately as I can project it, four centuries or so down the line.

If I had more time than I do, I'd likely do a supplement for them in the Disasters! series titled Disaster: Peak Oil; might be an interesting project for anybody with the interest and the background, especially making a slow disaster fascinating -- not hard, really, since you'd have a very rich adventure-generating process in the failure of high technology, the struggle to hold onto energy sources, political and military maneuverings, etc., etc.

Tony said...

100 watts comes to just about all the direct sunlight that falls on a sphere 40 cm wide - those solar spheres must be pitch black to be that efficient!

If only there were a way for the Cetans to send messages about their history to us with some kind of context that would make it make sense to human minds... one wonders what they thought of those strange monolithic creatures living in a corrosive atmosphere, and if anything that we sent to them beyond simple physical descriptions made any sense.

Unknown said...

Disaster: Peak Oil sounds like a good game to me. Particularly if it involves cooperation, competition, and elements of chance, like the real world.

I'm not familiar with the other Disasters games, but I definitely would be interested in a board game or other low tech version of this. I get together periodically with a few friends, one of whom used to design face to face games, and we are trying various games out. I favor games that can be played in short as well as long duration forms, since it's hard to find enough adults with more than an occasional evening to spare for such pursuits.

(Deborah Bender)

Bill Pulliam said...

Re; solar spheres... the PV effect is the PV effect, our own particular implementation of it to generate electric current works well for us at this point in the universe but is far from the only way it can happen. In a general sense, biological photosynthesis is similar to the PV effect -- light excites an electron, which then flows through an electron transfer chain that does work by assembling carbohydrates from CO2 and H2O.

So I hope Trey gets at least one traditional delta pig-out on whatever seafood now thrives in the Misipi estuary breaded with whatever grains come down the river and fried in peanut oil!

By the way, JMG, you do know that many of the locals in this area already pronounce the name of that state and that river as "Missippi," don't you?

Larry Kollar said...

Seems like a lot of the more recent episodes have introduced new characters who have "been there all along." I'm interested in knowing about Thu though, and how he managed to not only survive but get into the Star's Reach group.

The Cetan solar collector sounds interesting. I've been farting around with a 30W panel lately; I use it to charge my cellphone and other mobile devices, and have learned enough to be comfortable splurging on a somewhat larger system — about 400W, enough to (like the farmers) run some lights and a fan or two.

Disclosure: I've recently become a staffer for the TuesdaySerial site. I hope you'll consider putting a link to your story on the TuesdaySerial.com collector. (Next Tuesday, of course.) Free publicity, and you don't need to create an account.

xhmko said...

That's about right! I've saved this story into a word document so that I could catch up on the story and then, as I reach the end of this latest chapter it ends with suspense and now I have to wait!

In the course of my reading though I have picked up on a few minor spelling mistakes and the like - and I'm not talking about 'meedas' - which if you like I could pass on to you. It's no biggie but every little bit helps.

Ryan said...

Just a "thanks you" for keeping this novel going. I think we all are getting to know how it must have been for people in the 30's and 40's (50's?) who tuned in each week to their favorite radio series. You might consider (not seriously, considering your time constraints) doing a podcast of yourself reading the story. It would be interesting to hear your voice. Thanks again.

Raymond Wharton said...

I am going to go out on a limb and say that the in story estimates for the efficiency of those spheres are a bit optimistic, and its hard to compete with leaves for return on investment. But such a trick could be nice for a farmer in a low wind area.

Also, holy cow on a guy that can take a few crow bar swings and keep on fighting. Figuring that Trey must have a fairly decent swing that puts or last king in near super human range. I would love to see his character sheet, must have pretty boss stats, or Trey flubbed his rolls maybe.