Life Lessons to be Learned from Superheroes

I want to start this off by saying I love superheroes. I think that is a little obvious given my topic choice for the blog, but the main reason i care so much for superheroes and their stories, are the lessons they can teach. Whether it’s about standing by your friends, standing up for the weak, taking responsibility for your actions, or even just admitting when you’re wrong; superheroes can deliver these lessons time and time again.  Batman, Captain America, Spider-Man, Vision, Superman, Aquaman, Moon Knight, Ghost Rider, Wolverine, they all can demonstrate important values that should be emulated in everyday life. Take for example Steve Rogers aka Captain America, the scrawny kid from Brooklyn who became a household name around the world.

When Steve Rogers decided to enlist all he wanted to do was serve his country. He was rejected. Time and time again he would try and he got rejected every time based on his size and medical conditions. He persevered, until one last try when he met Dr. Erskine; and his whole world changed. In Captain America: The Fist Avenger, Dr. Erskine takes an interest in Rogers for the super soldier project due to his commitment. He asks him if he wants to enlist to kill Nazis, Steve responds with ” I don’t want to kill anybody, I don’t like bullies, I don’t care where they’re from”. Dr. Erskine gave Rogers a chance and beyond everyone else’s wildest dreams he was chosen for the project. The reasoning, ” A strong man who has always known power will lose respect for that power, but a weak man knows the value of strength and knows compassion”, this quote was delivered by Dr. Erskine when he was asked by Steve why he had chosen him. Captain America has carried this with him his entire life and it continues to be a large part of his character (up until he is revealed to be a secret hydra agent?) we’ll just forget about that part. Another great lesson that Captain America has taught us is to never give up. You could argue that every hero embodies this trait but hear me out first. During Infinity War, Thanos got the infinity gauntlet. Thanos is powerful enough as is, but give him the gauntlet with all the infinity stones and he become unstoppable. This is shown when all the heroes across the universe band together to stop him… and he mops the floor with them in 30 seconds flat. With the heroes strewn across the ground Thanos triumphantly declares himself the victor, and then something happened. Despite the loss of his shield, his team mates laid out on the ground before him, defeat staring him in the face, Captain America stood up. He stood in front of Thanos and declared that “as long as one man stands against you, you’ll never claim victory”.  Thanos mocks him by saying “Noble sentiments from one who is about to die”. Captain America stands, resolute, staring Thanos in the eyes and replies with ” I’ve lived my life by those words. They’re well worth dying for”. Bottom line is that Captain America stands for the impact one good man can have on history regardless of the odds stacked against him. Captain America is just one of many that stand as an inspiration for many, Peter Parker aka Spider-Man is another great example.

Peter Parker, brilliant, determined, courageous, nerd. Peter grew up in Queens and lived with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben due to the death of his parents at a very young age. He was very gifted in science but not so much in the athletic department. One day while on a trip to a science lab he was bitten by a radioactive spider. This spider bite re-wrote sections of his DNA giving him amazing spider like powers.  His origin is tragic and remains as one of the best backstories in comics today. Once bitten by the spider he was performing in a circus as an act to earn some extra cash (some relaunches change this to fighting in a wrestling ring to earn money). One night after performing a criminal was racing towards the elevator located behind Peter and a security officer shouted for Peter to stop the criminal. Peter side stepped allowing the criminal to pass and told the security that it wasn’t his problem. The criminal then went on to shoot Peter’s uncle Ben, the closest thing he had to a father after his natural father’s death. Peter arrived just in time to witness his uncle’s death. He vowed to hunt down the man responsible for Ben’s death and to make him pay. One of the last things his uncle had said to him was “With great power, comes great responsibility”, this mantra is known by every Spider-Man fan and is uttered by the character many times over his run in comics and mass media. When Peter hunts down the man responsible for killing his uncle Ben he hesitates and ends up letting the criminal go because he knew vengeance was not the answer. He decided at that moment to don the Spider-Man persona and fight crime so that what happened to his uncle would never happen to anyone else. One of the worst tragedies to befall Peter was during Amazing Spider-man #121, when Green Goblin had kidnapped Peter’s girlfriend Gwen Stacy. In an effort to force Spider-Man to make a difficult decision, to stop Goblin or save Gwen, Goblin throws Gwen off of a bridge. Peter quickly shoots a web line catching Gwen around her middle and pulls to stop her fall. When Peter pulls Gwen up he realizes that the force from him pulling her to stop her fall had snapped her neck. Peter is distraught over the whole ordeal and it stands as his single greatest failure. Peter blames himself for what happened to Gwen, which further cements what his uncle Ben told him, with great power comes great responsibility. Peter is a shining example that if you have the ability to do something you have the responsibility to do it and to own it if it doesn’t work out. Moving over to the DC comics side of things, a hero who stands as a symbol for many, Batman.

Bruce Wayne was born into one of the richest families in the world, the Waynes. Their fortune was made primarily on various technological innovations along with some weapon and medical advancement. When he was 8 years old he and his parents had gone to see the Mark of Zorro at the Monarch Theater in Park Row also known as Crime Alley. It started to rain so the family decided to cut through an alley and everything changed. A man (later revealed to be Joe Chill) was waiting in the alley and shot Thomas and Martha Wayne over a wallet and a pearl necklace. Young Bruce watched his parents die in front of him forever scarring him and changing him into the boy who would eventually become Batman. Bruce travels the world for many years learning every form of martial arts and detective skills. He returns to Gotham taking up the mantle of Batman and beginning his crusade against the criminals of the city. One of the coolest aspects of Batman is that he stands as an ideal rather than a physical person. Yes, he is a physical person in the sense of someone has to be out there in the skin tight armour fighting the good fight, but it doesn’t always have to be Bruce. In both, Battle for the Cowl and Knightfall, Bruce was incapacitated in one form or another. This opened the gates for other worthy successors to become Batman. Azrael took the mantle up in Knightfall while Bruce healed, and while he fought his way back through time after Final Crisis, Dick had taken up the cowl because there always has to be a Batman in Gotham.  One of the reasons Batman is so relatable is that while he is considered a superhero, he has no actual powers to speak of. For all intents and purposes Batman is just a man, a man with billions of dollars of gadgets and gear, and trained to peak human perfection, but just a man none the less. He stands as a testament to what you can become if you set your mind to something and are determined to see it through.

Batman
Never Give Up

These heroes remain as some of the greatest teaching utensils of core values and consequences. Whether it’s being a good person, taking responsibility for your abilities or becoming who you want to be through determination, I (and many others) have learned plenty from our heroes. I would wager that for most people aged 18 -30, we learned more about being a good person from fictional characters than we ever did in a classroom.

Ethically/Morally Difficult Choices In Comics

Comic books, whether they be DC or Marvel or any imprint in between, have been utilizing their ability to discuss hot button topics to the greater population. From DC comics tackling drug habits with the Green Lantern/Green Arrow story arc of Snowbirds Don’t Fly, to Iron Man’s Demon In A Bottle story arc from Marvel which tackles alcoholism  and its effects, to the most recent Marvel event Civil War 2; comics have brought everyday struggles to the forefront.  Probably the most recurring theme in comics, besides the struggle between good and evil, is the making of ethically and morally grey choices. Each company has made characters that toe this line as a profession: Red Hood, Punisher, Rorschach, Deadpool, Moon Knight, and Wolverine to just name a few.

One of the most prevalent examples of this kind of choice comes from the Remender run on Uncanny X-Force. In this run the X-Force is tasked with killing the reincarnated version of Apocalypse, one of their big bads. The problem with this mission, the reincarnated Apocalypse is just a small boy named Evan. When the team finally learns all of the facts surrounding their mission it divides them down the middle. Half of them believe that the child has done nothing wrong and therefore doesn’t deserve death, the other half believe that the mere fact he is capable of such evil is enough to warrant the hit. An argument breaks out between Deadpool and Wolverine on what should be done. During the argument, team member Fantomex, “takes care of the problem” as he puts it so nobody else would have to deal with that on their conscience. Deadpool is understandably upset and admits that he is a soulless, money hungry, good for nothing mercenary but he also adds ” I’ve never killed a kid”.

The guilt weighs on Fantomex so much that without the team knowing he clones Evan and raises him on a secret farm. When Fantomex dies on  a mission the team finds the farm and the reincarnated Evan.  While Evan did have some close calls with the darkness within him he ultimately held on to the teachings of his “father”, enough so to earn him an acceptance to the School for Gifted Mutants.  Deadpool visits Evan in his dorm room and they have a very heart to heart chat. Deadpool tells Evan to stop referring to himself as Apocalypse because that’s not who is. Evan thanks Deadpool and tells him that ” at my lowest point.. you were the hero that showed up to save me”, this comment leaves Deadpool at a loss for words because nobody has ever called him a hero before. Deadpool ends the encounter in a fashion that only he could, by stealing the meditation book recommended by Wolverine and leaving porno mags as he shouts ” I left you something you’ll get more use out of!”

This type of dilemma is becoming more and more mainstream in comics as more and more laws are being questioned in our own societies. The arc from Civil War 2 by Marvel deals with preemptive strikes as well as their consequences. A brief rundown of the Bendis run is as follows: A new Inhuman named Ulysses is given the power of foresight. Nobody knows how accurate his visions are but Ms. Marvel and a group of fellow Avengers don’t want to take that chance, so they use the visions to launch a counter attack. Their first strike puts them against Thanos, the big bad that the MCU has been alluding to for the past 5 years, and it does not go the way they want it to. It ends with She-Hulk taking a rocket to the chest and ending up in a coma and War Machine getting punched full force by Thanos and severing his spine. Despite the casualties the team prevails and defeats Thanos. This doesn’t bode well with Iron Man as his best friend has been murdered on an unsanctioned mission. The entire event comes out of the statement Steve Rogers made when shown project Insight in the Winter Soldier movie “I thought the punishment came after the crime”. Iron Man and his side believe that Ulysses powers are too untested to use as a preemptive strike tool and Ms. Marvel and her side don’t want to risk innocent lives if something can be stopped before it starts.

An example of a dilemma experienced by a singular character would be the instance where Daredevil had the choice to shoot Punisher in the head or let the Punisher kill a gang of criminals. This hit hard for Daredevil because, as one of the most religious and conflicted characters in comics, he has a strict policy of no killing. To say he is a little messed up is an understatement, he is devoutly catholic but runs around in a red devil themed suit beating on criminals… Putting that aside, this stands as one of the biggest moments for the character of Daredevil. He has the chance to stop the Punisher with one pull of a trigger, but it would compromise everything he has come to know and believe in his entire life. Netflix’s Daredevil show did a great job of illustrating this interaction in Season 2. The interaction from the show comes with a line that will echo with Daredevil for the rest of his career through his numerous moments of doubting whether he is making a difference and if he should give in like the Punisher has. The line is delivered by the Punisher as he is preparing for an assault on the Dogs of Hell, he says ” …the difference between you and me is that when you hit them they get back up; when I hit them they stay down!”; to add insult to injury he then sits down and stares at Daredevil saying ” You’re one bad day away from being me”.  This alone causes Daredevil to questions his methods and his impact on the city he so much loves and is willing to die to protect.

There are so many examples of ethically ambiguous choices in comics that I can’t hope to mention them all, but rest assured that most of them causing some sort of title wide event that will change their respective universes at its conclusion.

Is my Smart TV Spying on Me?

First guest post!

This post comes from Kyle Helm, from the Royal Military College of Canada. Kyle is currently working on his Master’s in Computer Engineering with particular emphasis on Computer and Network Security.

 

Is my Smart TV Spying on me?

 

The answer is probably not, let me explain…recent headlines have naturally been full of doom and gloom but one that caught my eye (and many others) was the most recent WikiLeaks publication under the title of “Vault 7”, this leak while certainly substantial may not be the earth-shattering news that some seem to think it is.

 

What you may have heard or read already are things like “The CIA has bugged all Samsung Smart-TVs” or “The CIA is spying on Americans everywhere” or some such headline that makes it sound like everything with an electrical current may be watching you. I think it is important to say right now that you can ignore all of these headlines, or YouTube videos etc because well frankly they are bull-shit.

 

So what did get leaked? Well it amounts to essentially part of (a large part) of the CIA’s toolbox in the field commonly referred to as “hacking”. Tools, exploits, and other content that is used to (a) compromise a target, (b) solidify control of that target, (c) Maintain command and control of that target and a variety of helper tasks that all boil down to gaining intel from a target which is somehow networked or computerized whether that be a one time exfil of files, using that device to monitor the physical world, using that device as a stepping stone to another device, damaging a device or operation, or simply setting up a way in for later if they do decide they want something. Now all of this may sound scary to those that do not have real exposure to Computer and Network Security, but really it is all pretty standard fare and no need to panic.

 

So “hacking” what is it? Well it sure as shit isn’t what you see in the movies and on TV with someone on either side and whoever can type faster wins (what it is not http://www.hackertyper.com/ ). Really it is hundreds of hours of careful study of software, networks and systems looking for vulnerabilities. A vulnerability being a way in which is a result of someone not setting something up properly (you should really not keep default passwords on things), or it may be something wrong with a piece of software (say some server software such as a web-server) that can potentially be exploited. These vulnerabilities when found vary in their value depending on what they are, do they let us take complete control of the box, or just maybe let us crash the box, or even just the vulnerable component? or anywhere in between. This means that when you find a vulnerability in a piece of current software (for example let us say you found a vulnerability in the latest version of Windows 10 that lets you steal Administrator privileges from being a simple user) that knowledge both of it’s existence and how to exploit it is worth more than gold. You cannot simply tell everyone because then Microsoft finds out and they patch it, now your exploit is near worthless. What all this boils down to is teams of people that work in this domain hoard these things for their own use (or sell them to the highest bidder), they want to find their own vulnerabilities, build their own exploits and their own specialized set of tools. This toolbox is what was leaked, which in essence shows us a list of capabilities that the CIA has within this domain. If you dove into any intelligence agency (Canada’s CSE for example) or even some of the more sophisticated organized crime groups you would find much of the same.
So back to the original question, am I being watched? Well to be honest I cannot answer that for certain, I don’t know who you are, what you have done, where you are, etc. What I can say is that this leak is comprised of a list of capabilities and no indication of how, when, or where those capabilities have been or will be employed. What I can also say is that the CIA is focused in foreign intelligence, and is not permitted to conduct operations on American soil. By that mandate yes they can have assets in the US, and servers which they employ as they reach out to conduct operations but they cannot bring those capabilities to bear against targets in the US. So to the question of am I being watched, well I do not know for sure but unless you are living outside of the US and could reasonably pose a threat to the US, its interests or its allies then probably not. At least not by the CIA.

Prologue

The elevator hummed as it neared the top floor.

The General took a deep breath; the future of humanity in the intergalactic conclave rested on his ability to persuade the council. The door slid open and the aide to senator Galian stood waiting for him.

“Good evening General, Are you ready to enter the chamber?”

“May I have a moment please?” the general asked quietly.

“Certainly, but I caution you don’t take too long, the council does not like to be kept waiting.” The aide said as he turned and walked into the council chamber. The general turned to look out of the window. The conclave’s council chamber was located on the top of the tallest spire in the massive citadel. The citadel spanned what seemed like the entire horizon, but in reality it was only 200 km2. Which is still massive compared to anything on earth, but then again they weren’t on earth.

The citadel was built by the Carians, a race of space travelers whose physiology closely resembles that of a lion.  Each Carian stands roughly nine feet tall, they have muscular arms and legs, their hands and feet end in sharp retractable claws and their mane of hair flows down to their shoulders. Their body is covered in a very fine fur that keeps them warm even on the coldest planets.  The Carians are considered to be the bravest warriors in the entire galaxy. In battle they fight to the last man, they will never give up and they will never surrender, in schools the children are taught to equate them with the Spartans of ancient Earth. As the general stared out over the citadel, he recalled the battle that brought humanity to the grim realization that they were not alone in the galaxy.

He was just a sergeant at the time, in charge of training the new recruits, on Beta Earth, in extravehicular combat in zero gravity; they were in the middle of a training exercise when the first ship appeared. They were sleek and black in colour, very metallic looking, which gave credence to their origin as synthetic species. The ships began shooting at the orbital defense canons and the fighter launch hangars of the training grounds of the facility. They demolished with very little opposition. They used an unknown form of technology to make a subspace jump into the atmosphere of the planet, thus rendering the satellite defense platforms useless. They started with the major defensible positions and then moved to the barracks. They used underground, aerial and land assaults to overwhelm the defenders before they even had an idea of what was going on. The attackers looked like machines, but their bodies appeared to be a liquid. They moved with a grace equated to deer as they bound through the woods, and their shape never stayed the same. The only thing that was constant in their form was a large metallic weapon that looked to be, somehow, grafted to their liquid frame. He and his men were returning from a field training exercise when they stumbled upon the attack.  They watched as their friends were cut down in front of their eyes by an overwhelming force, like a dark metallic wave was washing the base clean. He grabbed his men and hid behind the mess hall. They all looked at him wondering what was going on. Their eyes were filled with sadness and confusion; they looked to him for guidance.

“I don’t know who or what is attacking us boys, but I do know this, they picked the wrong planet! They think that we’ll just lay down and let them wash us clean off the face of this planet? I say we show them what humans are made of”! He hissed as he hefted his weapon.

“But Sarge, the only weapons we have are training rifles with blanks, we don’t have anything that can hurt…whatever they are…” the medic said meekly.

“First thing’s first, we can’t kick ass without our ass kicking gear. Wolfe, I want you Michaels and Brown to get to the armory and bring us back all the weapons, ammo and ordinance you can find.”

“HOO RAH SARGE!” they whispered as they skirted around the mess hall building and bee lined it for the armory.

“We need to find out where these things are weakest so we can kill them”. He told his men as they peered around the corner looking to find a dying alien.

“Got one Sarge! He’s still kicking, but it doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere” the rookie said as he and the corporal dragged the alien over. As they dragged the invader, over they could finally get a good look at them. Their body was indeed liquid, but they appeared to be encased in some sort of armour that held them in a solid form and allowed for the attachment of the weapon to the right forearm. The face is what intrigued the sergeant the most, it didn’t have any features. It was a swirling blob of metal, no eyes or nose or mouth. He pulled his knife out of its sheath with a click; it would appear the creature heard the click because it started flailing it’s arms and writhing on the ground.

“Hold it down boys”! The sarge hissed at the men watching the alien writhe on the ground. Four of them jumped forward and held the alien down, one on each appendage as the sergeant approached. The sergeant used the tip of his knife to poke the armour that held the creature together; he discovered his knife slipped right through it as if he was slicing through butter at Thanksgiving dinner. As the tip of the blade touched the swirling metallic liquid inside the armour, the creature let out a very high pitched screech. “SHUT IT UP BEFORE IT ATTRACTS MORE”! The sergeant hissed at his men. His men looked at each other confused; the creature had no mouth so they had no idea where the screech was coming from.  Eventually, Jenkins, the one holding the arm with the weapon attached to it, held his hand on the face where the mouth should have been and the screeching quieted but it did not stop. The sergeant pulled the knife out of the alien’s armour and the screeching stopped altogether. “We can hurt them boys! Get in close if you have to and use your knife, but they bleed when you cut them! Which means they can die!” he pointed down as he said this, the metallic looking liquid was oozing out of the hole and onto the ground.  The liquid appeared to shimmer with ever colour but when looked at it directly it appeared a very dark grey. Jenkins stood up and looked at the alien as it lay on the ground bleeding from the wound the sergeant had made, he stepped over it letting the sweat drip off his chin. As some of his sweat hit the ground a drop of it landed on what was oozing out of the alien, there was a sizzling sound and some foul smelling smoke as the ooze bubbled until it was gone.

“What did you do Jenkins?!” Sarge asked astonished.

“Nothing Sarge! I swear! I just stepped over it!” Jenkins said defensively.

“You didn’t put anything on it or drop anything on it?!” Sarge inquired.

“I mean, maybe some of my sweat dripped onto it, but that’s it” Jenkins said.

“Rollins!”

“Sarge!” Rollins replied

“Give me your canteen!”

“Sure thing Sarge” Rollins said as he handed over his canteen. The sergeant unscrewed the top of the canteen and poured some water over the wound he had caused with his knife. To his amazement, the creature began to writhe on the ground with its limbs flailing. The weapon that was attached to its arm started to fire as the creature flailed.

“Jenkins! Stop that arm from moving…” the sarge yelled but even as the words left his mouth he saw the weapon point at him. He could feel the shot hit him, it seared through him, like a hot coal through ice; clean cut no shrapnel. The shot imbedded into the wall behind him for a couple of seconds and then disintegrated into dust. He dropped to his knees and keeled over onto his face. Blood began pumping out of his body at an alarming rate; with every heartbeat he could feel it leaving his body. He was rolled over onto his back by Jenkins, he yelled for the medic; as he tried to stifle the bleeding, but the Sarge knew it was no good. He had sent the medic to the armoury to grab them weapons and he could feel he wouldn’t last much longer. Jenkins tried to stop the bleeding as much as he could, but it seemed to do as much good as trying to stop a colander with your hands. The blackness was clouding his vision, he rolled his head to see Rollins taking the knife to the alien and tearing into it like a rabid dog. The alien finally stopped flailing and layed still, Rollins emptied the rest of his canteen onto the corpse and watched as it sizzled and bubbled. Sarge was snapped back into alertness by Jenkins, who had injected him with a shot of adrenaline out of his field pack. This brought pain, pain he had never experienced before, a white searing pain that was non diminishing, that seemed to intensify as pressure was applied to the wound.

“Stop Jenkins!” the Sarge managed to say. “Just stop, help is not coming; you’re going to have to find a way to do this without me.”

“Don’t say that! Michaels will be back soon and he’ll patch you up, just you wait.” Jenkins promised.

“I’m done son, I’m tired of fighting, I’ve fought all my life, and it’s time I let go.” He could feel the darkness coming back with a vengeance his vision clouded; he could feel cold hands gripping him. He looked up and he could see a doorway covered in a curtain emerge out of the black. He tried to get a bearing of his surroundings, but it was just pitch black, no light except for the glow the doorway gave off. He began to walk towards the doorway, each step he took he could hear different moments from his past. He heard his parents calling him for dinner on his sixth birthday, he heard his older sister saying her graduation speech and he even heard his grandfather telling him how proud he was of him for enlisting.  As he got closer and closer to the doorway it got colder and colder, he could see his breath rising in the air before him and he felt like he was suffocating under ice. As he neared the doorway a hand reached through to grab him. When it made contact with his skin he felt a sharp pain and the sound of an aerosol can, he looked around and the hand retreated back into the veil. Suddenly, everything came back, all the light, the colour, the smell of blood and dirt and the pain. That unbearable pain that he felt; when Jenkins was putting pressure on his wound. He felt a sharp sting in his leg and the pain started to leave, like the ocean tide as it retreats back into the vast sea. He turned his head to see Michaels standing above him, a can of quick clot foam in his hand.

“Please tell me you didn’t waste the quick clot and morphine on me, Michaels…” Sarge whispered as he layed on the ground.

“We need you Sarge, more than you know.” Michaels replied in a quiet tone. “Let me finish patching you up before we do anything stupid” he added as the Sarge attempted to stand. Michaels went to work with his med kit. He stuffed the wound with extra quick clot powder, covered it in a waterproof bandage and then wrapped it in gauze. It wasn’t pretty, but it would do. As Michaels finished patching the sarge up he stood up and faced his men.

“What do we do now sarge?” Rollins asked as he stared at him

“We are going to take back this base! We are going to break these aliens here and now. We will send them back to where ever they came from and WE WILL BE VICTORIOUS!” The Sarge stated

“But there are so many of them! They’re unstoppable. They took out the entire corps, what are we going to be able to do?” Jenkins said defeated as the rest of them murmured in agreement.

Sarge sighed as he looked at their faces. “I’m not going to lie to you; it’s not going to be easy. We are outmanned and we have no knowledge of the enemy. We will fight, we are the only ones standing on this rock to stop them from conquering, and we might not make it. But we will not give an inch, we will stand where the others have fallen, I have faith in you men, I have faith that we will prevail. And as long as we have faith in each other, we can win.” His men looked at him again, the defeat on their faces replaced with cold hard resolve. Even in the face of certain death, they never lost their faith in him. “Alright boys, what kind of ordnance are we looking at?”

“We grabbed everything we could Sarge, a lot of it was untouched. It didn’t look like anyone had been there. They must’ve been killed before they knew what was going on.” Brown stated. “We got a rifle, two pistols, 6 extra mags, 4 grenades and a tactical knife apiece. We have 2 shotguns between the 5 of us as well as 2 grenade launchers with 12 rounds each. We have a Kevlar vest each as well as optics and radios.”

“Alright boys… Let’s go to war!” Sarge stated as he racked the slide on a pistol.

“HOO RAH!” was the resounding cry as they all suited up. Sarge gave the sign for radio silence as they moved out around the side of the building. He peeked around the corner to see what they were dealing with. Most of the aliens had disappeared, there were at least 30 still picking through the carnage around the base. He spied an overturned supply truck and motioned for everyone to follow him. They moved swift but with very little sound, it only took 15 seconds for all 5 of them to cover the open ground between them and the truck.

“Alright, we know that knives hurt them and water really messes with their shit, so put your bayonets on and keep your knives close. We’re going to go with 2 squads, one squad to my left and one to my right; I’ll go straight up the middle.  Each squad takes a shotgun and a grenade launcher. Use the launcher sparingly; make sure there is at least 2 in the kill zone before you fire. Ill head over to the water tower and drop that son of a bitch on their heads. Standard attack procedure, staggered fire and when you have to reload drop to the ground. Only use the shotguns if they get close, they’re loaded with 12 gauge buckshot, so they should punch a nice hole right through them. Don’t get hit by their weapons, you saw what one shot did to me; DO NOT get caught in the open, use the bodies as cover if you have to. We know they can feel pain and we know they can bleed, this means that they can die.” He paused as he looked at each of them individually and nodded. “I want you all to know that it has been an honour to have trained you men and to fight by your side.” He put his hand into the center of the circle. Each of them put their hand on top of his in turn. “Through Blood and Sand…” he whispered to them.

“We will prevail!” they all replied in unison. With that, they broke into their squads and spread out across the battlefield taking cover behind overturned vehicles.

“Radio check!” Sarge barked over the radio.

“One good! Two good!” was the reply from Jenkins and Michaels.

“Three good! Four good!” came the reply from Rollins and Brown.

“Comms are reading five by five” Sarge replied. “Everyone grab a target make sure there’s no overlapping, but hold your fire. Two clicks of the comm when you have a target.” eight clicks resonated through the comm link and the Sarge knew the men were ready. “I’ll start this off; wait till you hear my shot before you open up.” Sarge warned as he hefted his rifle. He picked his target; he could see it clearly in his scope. It was beside a blown out barracks picking through the corpses of his fallen brothers and tossing them aside looking for something. He took a breath in to center his crosshair on the alien’s head, or what would’ve been the head if it had a face, and squeezed the trigger. He felt the recoil of the rifle and watched as the round tore through the alien’s head. There was a scream and the alien fell to the ground and began flailing. He heard 4 distinct other shots and saw 4 other aliens drop. “Weapons free! Let ‘em have it!” he shouted. He started forward at a jog, popping rounds off at any alien he could see. As he ducked to reload he heard his men opening up and shouting “GET SOME!” as alien after alien dropped. As knelt to reload he couldn’t help but think that this battle sounded an awful lot like the great displays of fireworks they used to have in the U.S.A of the old earth. He’d seen video recordings of them in school, but nobody had celebrated like that for a long time. He popped back up and started running towards the water tower, he could see three aliens in front of him and they had turned to face him, he grabbed a grenade from the back of the vest where he had tucked them. He pulled the pin and pushed the primer button, then he threw it at their feet as he continued running forward firing his rifle. One of the aliens looked down at the grenade and a screeched in anger. The grenade exploded and rendered them into a silvery grey mist. Sarge reached the water tower and turned around to see the last of the aliens fall to the ground.

“Looks like we don’t need to water after all Sarge!” Rollins shouted from his position at the blown out barracks. As Rollins turned to check that there were none sneaking up on him, the one that Sarge had tagged to start the fray off stood up and pointed its weapon at Rollins.

“GUN!” was all the Sarge had time to say before he watched Rollins get ripped to shreds by the mysterious rounds from the rifle. The rest of them emptied their mags into the resurrected alien just to be sure it was actually dead. Michaels was sprinting over to Rollins to check on his status. The sarge dropped the emptied mag out of his rifle and watched it hit the ground. As he saw it fall into the dirt he noticed some of the silvery grey liquid the aliens were made of sliding across the ground to one of the dead ones. It filled the bullet hole in the chest and it began to move and get up.

“They aren’t dead! Blow them up! Sarge yelled as he fumbled for a new mag on his vest. He spun his rifle around so the bayonet was pointed at the alien and drive the bayonet through its face. He looked up and to his horror all the aliens they thought were dead began to move and start to rise. He loaded a fresh mag and began shooting them as they started to stagger up to their feet. “MICHAELS! DROP THE WATER TOWER WITH THE GRENADE LAUNCHER! NOW!” Sarge shouted over the comms.

“But Sarge you’re in the blast radius!” Michaels warned.

“DO IT NOW OR WE ALL DIE!” Sarge barked back.

Michaels Raised the grenade launcher and squeezed off two rounds at the support beams of the water tower. Sarge felt the intense heat from the high explosive rounds and was thrown from his feet into the bushes 15 meters away. The water tower tipped and then collapsed, causing a veritable tsunami of water onto the battlefield. The water washed over all the bodies, human and alien alike. There was an ear splitting screech that pierced the air as the aliens began to bubble and sizzle. Michaels, Brown and Jenkins were knocked from their feet and the force of the water knocked the sergeant unconscious as he was thrown around like a rag doll. The men stood up and coughed over the smell the aliens made as they dissolved; then splashed through the water until they found the sergeant face down in the water. Michales flipped him over immediately and checked to make sure he was breathing. To his astonishment the sergeant opened his eyes and smiled.

“Good thing there’s no brass left on the base.” The Sarge said with a wry smile. “They’d have your ass for hesitating to follow a superior’s orders.”

“I think you have a concussion…” Michaels laughed as he sat the sarge up.

“Well one thing is for sure” sarge said as he plugged his nose. “They’re definitely dead now.” They all laughed in unison until they heard a noise in the buses behind them. They all whipped around, Sarge having lost his weapon when he was thrown quickly drew his knife, and aimed at the source of the noise.

“We know you’re there! Come out now!” Sarge shouted towards the bushes. They were amazed to see a giant lion like creature walk out of the bushes and face them.

“I mean you no harm.” The creature said to the team

“What the fuck are you?!” Michaels shouted.

“I am a scout from the Carian battle cruiser Pride and Justice. I was sent to scout the battlefield before our combat force arrived.”

“So you’re an alien too?!” Brown asked as he moved is finger onto the trigger.

“My species is at war with this affliction and has been for quite some time.”

“Affliction? Are these aliens that we killed today a disease?” Sarge asked.

“They are not of my species’ creation” the scout replied. “They are from the blackness that births all other darkness.”

“Very poetic… wait a minute. If you’re alien how can we understand you?” Jenkins asked.

“We have a tiny machine that is implanted in our throat that acts as a universal translator. This allows us to communicate with all forms of life.” The scout replied.

“Alright then. One last question… Can we trust you?” Sarge asked.

“You have nothing to fear from me.” The Scout replied.

“Stand down men. He’s obviously not here to kill us; he could’ve done that when we were all standing in the water.” Sarge said.

“Are you the only scout here?” Brown asked.

“Yes I am.” The Carian replied.

“You’re a huge space faring civilization and you only send one scout to an entire planet? Seems like you guys need to learn some things…” Brown laughed.

“You misunderstand me; I tracked your radio signal from orbit and found you.”

“Our radios are encrypted against every type of signal we know of.” Brown stated.

“But not every signal my people know of.” The Scout replied.

“That still doesn’t explain why you would only send one scout to an entire planet.” Brown replied snidely.

“ Yours was the only signal I detected that was not of their origin.” The scout stated pointing at one of the dead aliens.

“You mean to tell me that we’re the only people with radios on the entire planet?!” Jenkins inquired.

“No, I mean to tell you that you’re the only life form on this planet that is not of their creation.” The scout replied. The team all looked at one another; they all had a look of horror on their faces. The sarge was the one to ask the question that none of them would.

“Are we the only ones alive on the planet?”

“Yes.” The Carian responded. “Come with me to my ship and you will get the answers you seek. You will also be able to contact your people to let them know what happened here. My commander will want to speak with the leader of your planet immediately.” The sergeant looked at the men, they all looked right back at him and nodded. He turned to the Carian and with conviction he said.

“Lead the way my friend.”

Vigilantism

This is an essay I wrote for my Advocacy class in school. We were told to pick a topic that meant something to us. I had just finished binge watching Daredevil Season 1, and the topic of vigilante justice is one of the focal points of the series.

Vigilantism

We all know the story, an individual commits a crime and a vigilante shows up to save the day before disappearing off into the night. Real life is not like this.  There are no superheroes to swoop in at the eleventh hour and win the hearts of the crowd with their heroics. Whether it’s Batman, Spider-Man, Captain America or even Superman, heroes have been around to save the day in comic books for countless decades. Sadly this is not the case for the world we live in.  We have to trust that the justice system works and we have to be complacent with its verdict.

Vigilante justice is becoming more commonplace and ever growing issue in the Canadian Justice system. Webster’s dictionary defines a vigilante as a member of a volunteer committee organized to suppress and punish crime summarily when the processes of law is seen as inadequate.  So what happens when the verdict delivered is not the favoured opinion? Do you take the law into your own hands and become a vigilante? Individuals are taking the law into their own hands more often. From cases like Rehtaeh Parsons, where the victim’s mother has specifically requested vigilantes to stand down, to cases of convicted pedophiles being run out of town by angry citizens.  Parents viciously motivated to keep them out of their cities and towns.

Vigilantism can also be productive in isolated cases; however, we cannot put faith in the hope that the vigilantes would adhere to the modern definition of justice.  Vigilantism is in itself, a crime.  It’s a removal of a person’s rights under the guise of the public well-being. This is a legal dispute that has been around since the introduction of the Hammurabi Code in ancient Babylon.  Most vigilante cases occur within the realm of socially acceptable punishment, i.e. posters being put up to run a pedophile out of town.  There are some isolated cases within the last few years that have showcased a personal brand of justice. There was a case in Montreal in May of 2013, a young man was beaten by a group of drunks who were out after a night at a bar.  The victim’s mother stabbed one of the attackers in the upper body before the police intervened. This lends more to the classical brand of vigilantism wherein vengeance is the primary motive.

The parallel comics draw to our own world is that the cops refuse to stop vigilantes, because they’re doing what they could only hope of doing. The police in the comics understand that while the system works most of the time and that there are certain cases where vigilantism is necessary. Some laws used to state you could reply with deadly force if you witnessed a violent crime, these laws have since been amended for one reason; simply put, an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

Sometimes, vigilante justice can be beneficial if you work within the realms of the law.  Media is peppered with vigilantes who work within the law.  For example, Batman, the DC Comics superhero who is famous for his own brand of justice. While he has a strict no killing policy, he does utilize fear and pestering to the point of harassment as an effective interrogation tool; there are many real cases of this type of vigilantism across the country. In Hamilton, Ontario some local mothers banded together to drive a convicted pedophile and rapist out of town.  In the summer of 2014 Keith Constantin, the offender in question, was released after five years in prison for the crimes of sexually assaulting a seven year old boy and a forty five year old blind woman. He first moved to the Gage Park area of Hamilton, Ontario.  But he was soon met with a horde of angry mothers who forced him out of their community. They used a variety of tools to force Constantin out.  The most effective was the printed photos of him posted along with descriptions of his crimes on every pole in the town.

After Gage Park he moved to Stoney Creek where he was met with a similar show of hostility. A local mother, Sarah, took it upon herself to create a Facebook page that had posters similar to the ones distributed in Gage Park and an online petition, “Stop the government from allowing him to live in our city” which quickly gathered over 2,000 signatures. Eventually the stress and pressure from these ‘vigilante’ groups became too much for Constantin to handle, he broke his curfew and is now back in police custody.

In 2011 a young girl named Rehtaeh Parsons, of Nova Scotia, was sexually assaulted by four young boys at a party.  The boys had taken pictures of her during the attack, which were then distributed around her school.  Rehtaeh became the victim of cyber bullying and emotional & psychological bullying by from her peers.  As a result form the shame, Rehtaeh attempted to take her own life.  In April of 2013 she was taken off life support, three days after her failed suicide. Her mother released a statement saying that she does not want any harm to come to the boys accused; she wanted to let the justice system do its job. This is evidence that in this case a certain degree of vigilantism could be beneficial to discourage further attacks like Rehtaeh.

Vigilante justice is a topic that many would consider to be a slippery slope. It does prove to be an effective method of dealing with criminals; however, there needs to be limitations set so as not to encourage violent frontier style justice. All across this country, from Montreal to Hamilton to Halifax, vigilantes are stepping up when the justice system has failed. Vigilantes are created of necessity, nothing more.

What Cosplaying means

As I gear up to begin work on my next Fan Expo costume i am reminded of this past year at Fan Expo 2016, when both Chris and I received one of the best gifts someone could ask for. Before your mind races guessing what type of awesome loot we would receive at a convention let me simplify it for you; we received something only parents would understand, the admiration of children.

When we made our costumes for the year, Chris decided to go as Flash from Injustice Gods Among Us and I decided to go as one of my favourite characters Moon Knight from the Marvel Now! comic run, we made them because we liked the characters and thought it would be cool to go as them. As we began our tour of the floor on the first day we made our way down into the south building where the majority of the vendors are located. We had been asked to pose for a photo by some convention goers who really liked our costumes and had some questions about how they were made. As we prepared to head onto the convention floor and begin our journey into artists alley, a young boy ran up t Chris and Shouted “FLASH!”

Chris was a little taken aback and responded with a generic “hello”. The young boy then began gushing to Chris about how he loved him (Flash) and that he was his all time favourite hero. He dragged his little sister over by the arm and pointed to Chris and said “Look! It’s Flash!” his little sister looked up at Chris towering over her and smiled the biggest smile I have ever seen a child make. The young boy asked Flash if he could get a picture with him and his autograph in the colouring book he brought. By this time the boy’s parents had come over and were just as excited for the boy to have found Flash.

When the boy asked for the autograph Chris was taken by surprise and he looked to the mother for approval. Chris had the look of ‘Should i tell him I’m not the real Flash?’ and the mother silently mouthed to just go with it. Chris turned back to the young boy and smiled and said “Of course you can!” . The father picked up his camera and directed the photo op and snapped a picture of the duo. The young boy reached into his bag and pulled out a Justice League colouring book and a pen. He quickly flipped to the Flash’s page (which he had coloured in himself) and asked for his autograph. Chris snagged the pen and wrote Flash on the page and the young boy gave him a big hug before the parents ushered the kids away saying that Flash had to save Central City. Chris turned back to me and i asked him if he was okay and he just replied “I wasn’t ready for that” he picked up the bag containing our Monsters and we proceeded down Artists Alley.

 

My interaction came after we had finished in Artists Alley and had decided to take a break before heading back out onto the convention floor. Chris had gone to the cosplay room to fix a piece of his costume that had become unattached. I was waiting at the bottom of the escalators just inside the door in front of the Rain energy drink display. I had my back to the escalator door and was watching some of the convention goers taking photos and talking to other cosplayers. I heard someone walk up behind me, but i assumed it was just someone going to walk past me into the convention when I hear a meek voice ask “Mr. Knight?”

I turned around to see a young boy maybe 7 or 8 looking at me. When i turned around his face broke into a big smile and he motioned for his dad to come over with their camera. His dad rushed over just as excited as his son. The boy said ” It’s Mr. Knight dad! It’s really Mr. Knight!”

I responded to him by saying “Mr. Knight is out for the day, my name is Mr. Grant”, both the boy and his dad laughed and asked if they could get a photo with Mr. Grant then. “Of course!” I responded and i posed for the photo. The boy stood in front of me and we snapped the photo. he asked if they could take one more with him holding onto the truncheons I had made. I handed him the truncheons and took a different pose as the dad snapped the photo. The boy handed me back the truncheons and began telling me all about how he loved Moon Knight and how he wished Moon Knight would get his own series or movie soon.  I agreed with him and told him that Moon Knight was one of my favourite characters and that he should check out one of the booths because they have a lot of Moon Knight stuff. The boy whipped around and asked his dad if they could go check it out. His dad smiled and said of course they could. As they were walking away the dad turned to me and said ” Thank you for that, on of the only things he wanted was to see someone dressed as Moon Knight.” As the pair of them left i leaned back against the wall and took a deep breath.

Chris came down the escalator and found me leaning against the wall and I told him what had just happened. he smiled and said “It feels good to mean that much to someone doesn’t it?”

“Damn right it does” i replied as we picked up our bags and headed back onto the convention floor.

To Start Off

This is the post excerpt.

I started this blog to discuss something I have been passionate about for a long time, comics. I have always been fascinated with the superhero culture and being a part of it, even if just as a consumer,  has been a great experience. Superheroes have led to some very drawn out discussions with friends and other individuals on other forums, which i think is great to open others up to some characters they might not be familiar with. In particular, the age old debates of which hero would win if it came down to a fight. Those discussions always tend to bring out the best in everyone.

I intend to try and post at least one thing a week to help to clear my mind of everything rooting around up there. As time progresses there may be more than one post a week but i will try to always post at least once. Look for my upcoming documentation of my next Cosplay costume for Fan Expo 2017!