Category Archives: Short Fiction

Short Story- Inspection

Thalc pulled his breather mask into place. He took a moment to make sure it fit correctly on his face. The mist was thick near the edge and even after all these years it still made him dizzy. Any more than two deep breaths and he’d have to pull back out of the clouds and he’d need an hour or so to recover enough for another attempt. Some said that fact alone was proof that someone had made these floating lands. The builders being gods, man, or something else depended on who was speaking. He had lost count over the years how many scholars and priests had been lost to the mists trying to find answers. What about the thick mists made the lands float? Why did the lands stay to their gentle migrations? Was there something below the mists? The answer to those questions were variation of people falling to their deaths. Whatever caused the mists held up islands of varying sizes, but didn’t extend to hapless idiots who fell over the edge.

He hooked the latch on his belt to the lead once his mask was secure. The rail extended below the edge of the island. It connected to another sturdy pipe he’d shimmy his feet along. Thalc hated this part of the job. His post was at the edge of the mist and he’d warn people that got too close. Most of the time his daily task was a simple redirection of travelers to one of the raised bridges nearby. Today was not one of those days. No, today he had to inspect the chains.

Years ago, no one knew how long exactly, someone had bound smaller islands together. The links were easily as thick as his chest. They said that a few hundred normal sized chains ran under the lengths of the bridges, but those were built when he was a boy. Somehow the islands stayed in a close enough migration that allowed them to be linked without ever touching. Scholarly types attributed that miracle to the mists too.

Thalc checked his harness as he neared the edge. This was the worst part. He didn’t know why it even had to be done. Someone alone the way had decided the chains needed to be regularly inspected. Toss it to the mists that no one knew how they were built, or how to fix them if something went wrong.

He put his back to the edge of the island as he slipped down flat onto the ground. Slowly he shimmied back into the mist. For an eternity his booted feet hung out into nothingness. This was how his nightmares started. His feet dangling into the mist, the harness pulled taught, and then he’d fall. Luckily, this wasn’t his nightmares. His feet found the jagged edge of the island as the tether pulled taught. He leaned back, gripped the rail, and began his descent into the mist.

After this excursion to the chain he’d have forty days before it had to be repeated. That was unless someone complained. Some cloudborn noble inland would send it down the line that they wanted the chain inspected. The rainy season was the worst of it. A little hard thunder and people who had never even seen the edge thought the chains were shaking.

The tether clinked against the first joint. Thalc latched his secondary line onto the rail, swapped his main down to the new section, and continued his descent. For some reason once he was over the edge he didn’t mind the mist as much. It wasn’t something he wanted to to dwell on. Maybe it was because on the edge he could still see the land while down here it was just the mist. If he fell it wouldn’t be much different than the climb. The mask helped him see through the mist. It gave the world an amber tint and cycled his breath through two chambers.

He feet found the bar at the end of the tether. His hands moved in practiced motions to change the lines over. The progress along the bar was something of a dance. Step, step, pull, latch, and repeat. Tap, tap, brrip, click. Tap, tap, brrip, click. He found the little rhythm had worked into the small moments of his day. Tap, tap, brreng, clank.

Thalc looked down at the line. The lead had pulled away from the island. So much so that it curled back toward him and ended in the mist. He clipped his tether back to the secured section and pulled himself tight against the island. His heart thundered in his chest as he looked for any sign as to what could have done this. There weren’t any claw marks, which meant harpies and cliff birds were out. That was a small blessing. A harpy strong enough to pull the line would have had him for breakfast before he’d be able to scream.

He inched his way closer to get a better look at the ground where the bar had once been. Something big had scrapped along. It had to be a ship. Hopefully one set to drift. A ghost ship in the mists. It happened. Those hit by pirates, bad weather, or fallen to the beasts of the mists were left to drift in the mists until they were smashed to bits or pulled for salvage.

Thalc didn’t want to think about the other option, which of course meant that was where his mind went. He began his slow climb back up to the ledge. Smugglers weren’t uncommon. They’d fly in the thicker parts of the mist to avoid detection. He wasn’t against smugglers. Pirates on the other hand. Some said the mists drove them crazy. They said that their ships would simply appear. Death, pain, and terror was the only thing they traded.

He pulled himself over the edge, unhooked his tethers, and rushed out of the mist. His legs wobbled after a few steps. Thalc made it to his his guard shack. He shut the thick door tight, locked it, and slid down to the floor. Once his heartbeat returned to normal he realized his job was not yet complete. He carefully removed the clutter from around the signal light and tapped out a message. The message was brief. He stuck to the facts.

Inspection incomplete. Rail damaged. Signs point to crash. Thalc.

He looked inland and waited for someone to answer. Hopefully someone on the other side knew what to do.

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Gears

The wind rocked the old airship as it coasted along toward the floating city in the distance. Unlike the ship, the cities age was hard to pin down. No one really knew who built the first flying lands. In fact, no one was actually sure it wasn’t a natural occurrence. They were everywhere and ranged in size from little parcels of land hardly big enough to put a shed on to sprawling tracks that seemed to run forever. Their undersides of the floating islands were dangerous, rocky, and always obscured by thick clouds that made anyone who got too close sick. By and far the strangest thing about the world was that if one ventured deep in the air between the lands there was more of the same mist to greet them.

Fernk snorted awake as the ship rocked again. The old Ovalain chassis took the turbulence well enough, but the port-side stabilizer had seen better days. He waited a moment to see if the ship would jolt again. The hiss of a breeze through the patched panel outside his bunk grew to a howl as the ship lurched.

“Shenar,” he cursed as slid his suspenders back into place.

He was out of his bunk and into the tight hallway in two strides which spoke more to the closeness of the space rather than the length of his legs. Fernk turned sideways and sidled along the path to the closest junction ladder. He descended into the underbelly of the ship, clipped his tether onto a lead, and set to work. The ship could hold ten people if absolutely necessary, but the six crew they had was more than enough. It meant they each had to pull double duty, but it allowed them treasured breathing room.

The mid-low coupling had started to wobble again. He gripped the tether as he moved the lead closer to the jittering piece of metal that had woken him. Fernk slid a nalus wrench from the loop on his pants leg and set to work. The nalus wrench, while it looked like something made for peeling pearls from a harouks nest was the go-to tool for an airship. Well, the old ones like this ship at least.

He gave the coupling one more good twist for good measure. Sweat dripped off the tip of his small bulb nose. He wasn’t exactly a handsome man. The thick, wiry beard didn’t do him any favors, but it was necessary when the patchwork along the hull didn’t keep the chill out.

“You’re supposed to be asleep,” Crey said from behind him.

Fernk turned around to see the fur-covered crew member was upside-down as she spoke. Her prehensile tail wrapped around a wrung on the ladder and one of her hand-like feet grasped the ladder for stability.

“I wish you wouldn’t do that,” he said as he turned back to the panel.

“What?”

She easily traversed the rest of the ladder. Her tawny fur ruffled along brawny form as the air found her through various slits in the patchwork hull. She didn’t wear clothing, aside from the harness, but she didn’t seem to mind the breeze.

“Go inverted like that,” Fernk slid the wrench back into the loop on his pants. “It makes me think I’m wrong-side up.”

“Maybe you are,” she laughed as she did a quick check of the other panels. “Port stabilizer?”

Fernk nodded as he pulled his tether back to the ladder. Crey didn’t use a tether, she never did. She gave him a line about it being a thing of pride to her people. He didn’t know if she was snorting mist, but he’d dropped the issue. She was crew on this ship, just like him, and if the captain didn’t mind if the crazy Garrun didn’t use a tether, then it wasn’t his place to say anything.

“How far ’til land?” He asked as he unlatched the tether.

“You didn’t hear?”

“Hear what?”

“We’re circling ’til we find a friendly dock,” Crey said as she followed him up the ladder.

“What does that mean?”

“It means the ship is busted,” Haru answered from above. His pendulous voice filled the tight space as he watched them ascend.

“The ship’s been busted for a while,” Fernk said as he slid against the wall to let Crey up.

“No,” Haru said as he set his deep set eyes on the pair. “We’re a risk no one wants to take. People’ll take an omen if a ship dies at dock.”

“They just set us to drift then?” Fernk crossed his arms tight against his chest.

“We circle to find a friendly dock,” Crey repeated. “Someone has to owe us a favor or two.”

“Head high and drop,” Haru spoke barely above a whisper. “Let the ship drift.”

Fernk stared hard at the man. This ship hadn’t been what he’d signed on for. It was drafty, rarely warm, and didn’t have much in the way of fulfilling work, but it was home.

“No,” he said as he shook the thought from his head.

This ship was a junker. Everyone knew it. The jobs weren’t coming and even the smugglers had better options. The Ovalain was a dead breed and it was time for the mist to claim this straggler. Fernk looked from Crey to Haru. He gave the man a nod before he headed back to his bunk.

“Set it high and drop,” he muttered as he packed up what was left of his kit.

The pack locked in with his tether. He slid the glider on once everything was in place. What little money he had left was tucked in the interior pocket of the pack. Taking the drop wasn’t exactly the best way to get the pay he was owed, but it was better than waiting as the ship was too far into a drift. Neither of the other two were still in the hall as he made his way to the far junction. This ladder led up.

Captain Ghut stood at the wheel. His one good eye looked Fernk over with a resigned air.

“Ghut,” Fernk tapped his brow with two fingers in greeting. “I’m taking a drop.”

Ghut gave a sober nod. The smash-faced man turned back to the wheel without a word. Fernk wanted to say something. Anything really, but this ship had taken enough of his time. He climbed up the short steps, popped the seal to the outside, and pulled himself up onto the platform. There were two deckguns on rails that were almost as old as the ship. He’d only fired them twice. Once was to learn how to use them and the other was when a harouk matriarch got uppity.

The city below stretched almost to the edge of the island. There was maybe a span of twenty lanks between its wall and open air. The ship was up high enough. It had caught an updraft to help circle around. That or Ghut knew that someone would want to take the drop.

“Cloud breathing fool,” Fernk muttered as he walked against the wind.

He climbed over the platform rail. Taking the drop was simple, in theory. Jump, pull the glider, and drop in on the island below. Fernk took a deep breath. He looked back at the bubble hatch. It would be easy enough to just go back in. No one would blame him.

Fernk turned to face the city and jumped.

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Random Sci-Fi

Owen blinked his new eyes as the lights came on. They adapted quicker than he expected and he found himself facing a display screen with a friendly face smiling at him.

“Good morning, Owen Phillips,” the voice that came out had a modulated edge. “Your orientation will soon begin. Please report to the company liaison once your physical evaluation has completed. Scans of the communication array has identified seven local languages. They have been added to your training. You have seven hundred and fifty-three unread messages.”

The hatch to his pod popped open with a hiss. Owen sat up and looked around. This was his first trip across a galaxy, but he was pretty sure that this wasn’t the docking bay. Red baked earth dotted with thorny underbrush and orange cacti. His pod was lodged in a sun bleached boulder and as far as he could see, he was the only one around.

It was then that Owen realized that he was entirely naked. A panel slid open on the opened hatch to display a thin robe and slipper. Owen put on the robe, tied it shut as best as he could, and put on the provided shoes. He stood up in the pod and found that the slippers were about as thin as the robe.

The sound of an engine growled as a vehicle trundled into sight. It kind of looked like a truck, but the cab was a roll-cage with glass panels attached to a flatbed. The vehicle bounced along the terrain toward him. Owen watched as the truck pulled to a stop near the pod. A thin, ragged man in dusty worn coveralls with one missing sleeve. The guy wiped his forehead with his bare arm and limped over to the pod.

He gave the slightest of nod to Owen as he walked to the back of the truck. The ragged man unhooked a set of chains that ended in hooks and attached them to the pod.

“What are you doing?” Owen asked.

“What?” The thin guy looked up at him.

“What are you doing?” His brain switched to match the language.

“Taking the pod,” the guy attached one of the hooks and moved on.

“Why?”

The guy looked at him, then at the pod. “what year did you launch?”

“Twenty-two eighty-six,” Owen said as he walked along the truck to get a better look at it.

“They freeze you or CCT?”

“CCT?”

“Clone Consciousness Transfer.”

“Yeah,” Owen said. He nodded and looked down at his new hands. “Cloned.”

“Brain should be working fine,” the guy went back to work. “Lots of problems with the frozen ones.”

“That’s,” Owen held the word as he looked back at the guy. “Good?”

The thin guy shrugged as he attached the second hook, “good. Bad. Don’t matter.”

“You’re not with the company are you?” Owen didn’t see any company logos or patches on the coveralls.

“Nope,” the guy looked up and gave a gapped smile. “Independent salvage.”

Owen blinked and looked from the truck to the pod, “you’re taking the pod for salvage.”

“Yep,” the guy hooked the last connection up and walked back to the truck. “What company were you with?”

“Fesilan Mining.”

“Never heard of them.”

Owen blinked again, “what year is it?”

The thin guy tapped his left temple lightly. “June fifth, Thirty-two twelve, Galactic Standard.”

Owen suddenly found it hard to breath.

“You alright?” The ragged guy flipped open a box on the side of the flatbed.

“That’s nearly a thousand years.”

“Yep,” the guy pulled a lever.

The chains began to slowly tighten. Moment by agonizing moment the pod slid from its rocky casing. Owen wobbled as his brain tried to process the news. The new gray matter worked even better as the mush he had been born with. A flood of emotion and memories were eased away into the sound of rain. Owen found his breathing and pulse returning to normal.

“The trip was supposed to take two hundred and fifty years,” Owen said as he watched the pod move. It jolted from the stone and kicked up a cloud of red dust as it clunked onto the ground.

“That’s sub light drives for you,” the guy didn’t bother to look up from his panel.

“Did the ship crash?” Owen looked up at the sky around them. He didn’t seen any streaks through the atmosphere or massive plumes of smoke.

“No,” the guy laughed. “We’d all be dead.”

“What do I do?” Owen held the back of his robe closed as he sat down on a nearby rock. “Is there a company rep I can talk to?”

“I don’t know, kid,” the guy shrugged. “I’m just here for the pod.”

“It’s my pod,” Owen yelled as he stood up.

The guy pulled a wallet-sized block of plastic from his pocket, “by right of professional salvage I claim this pod and its contents, living, dead, or otherwise. You’re out of the pod. You ain’t my problem.”

A rectangular holographic display projected from the box. A long block of text scrolled along. Owens’ new eyes were able to read the words even from about ten feet away. It was a long winded legal version of what the guy had just said. The final sub clause stated that anything outside of the original discovery would require an additional declaration. An addendum stated that living humans, cloned or otherwise, were not eligible for salvage as they fell under the jurisdiction of the slavers guilds.

“Slavers?” Owen yelled.

“No,” the guy huffed, but Owen couldn’t tell if it was out of insult or disappointment. “I just do mechanics and non-humans.”

The thin guy turned to look at the horizon as the pod made it to the edge of the flatbed. He held up a hand and squinted into the distance. The guy casually strolled over to the panel before he spoke.

“Those are slavers,” he pointed to a trio dust trails.

Owen looked to the where the guy was pointing. His new eyes zoomed in to see three roll-cage type vehicles more akin to the bastard spawn of a dune buggy and a minivan heading their way. Instead of clear panels they were blacked out completely. Judging by their speed and the terrain the three buggies would be there within five minutes.

The pod settled into position on the flatbed. Owen watched as the thin man hopped up next to the salvage and closed the hatch. The thin man did a quick check of the chains before he dropped back to the ground. He opened the cab of the truck.

“Take me with you,” Owen blurted out.

“Why would I do that?”

“It’s better than slavery.”

“They aren’t coming for me,” the guy patted the pocket where the plastic devise was. “I’m legit.”

“Yeah, but they’re after me.”

“What’s the big deal?” The guy settled into his seat and closed the door. “They’ll give you a job, a place to sleep, and clothes.”

“I’ll be a slave.”

“What’s you’re training?” The guy sighed and fired up his engine.

“Efficiency Specialist.” Owen replied. “I can fill in wherever they needed me.”

“What makes you think being on your own would be any better?” The guy patted his truck. “I know I make it look good, but you’d be surprised how many people sell themselves into slavery within the first year of hatching. They’re an official guild, it’s on the level.”

“Section two, paragraph three, and subsection ‘a’ states that a human with functional mental facilities in proximity of salvage with a claim on said salvage has the right to a dispute,” Owen recited the words from memory. “I bet those slavers would back my claim on this pod as witnesses.”

“You’d still be a slave.”

“You’d be out of your salvage,” Owen crossed his arms and squared his shoulders.

The guy glared down at Owen, “fine. Get in.”

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Cyberpunk

He jolted awake, escaping whatever danger the fading dream held. Blinking slowly in the darkness he wondered why the lights hadn’t come on automatically with the increase of his biorhythms. He tried to speak and realized something was in his mouth. Sluggishly his brain caught up to the current situation. This darkness was forced, something was over his head, and he had a gag in his mouth.

As frantically as his muddled brain would allow he ran through the last thing he remembered. He was in his bunk, there was a knock at the door and then nothing. Someone had jumped him inside the company barracks, this wasn’t good.

“Ah,” a familiar voice called from behind him. “You’re awake.”

The rough fabric hood was pulled gently off his head and the smiling face of Sergeant Sawyer.

“You’re probably wondering what’s going on right now, eh?” The Sergeant kneeled down next to him and tugged on the pair of handcuffs secured to the floor.

He looked at them in astonishment, whatever had happened last night had really left him groggy.

“Four shipments in six weeks have been hit,” Sawyer drew removed an electronic key from his belt and set it down by the restraint. “All those shipments have three personnel in common.”

His fingers numbly grasped at the thin block and finally took purchase after the third attempt. The fog around his mind was starting to recede, his hands were able to unlock the cuffs on the second try.

“Of those three personnel,” Sawyer directed his attention to a raised hand. “Are a rookie who is rising with a rocket, me, and you. How does that look, Cooper?”

At the sound of his name the world grew sharper. He was suddenly aware they were in the back of a prisoner transport and more distressing, Sawyer had his sidearm drawn.

“The rookie just happens to be making Senior Officer this month,” the Sergeant clucked his tongue. “A position it took you three years to get to and while he has an excellent record you have a few insubordination charges against you.” He smiled again, raising the sidearm to center on Cooper’s chest. “Now who would think to even look at me?”

“It’s kind of odd that I didn’t struggle after escaping my cuffs, eh Sarge?” Cooper had to force the words out through a dry mouth.

“True,” he sighed. “But after the last time they won’t really question me shooting first.”

“There was a last time?”

He nodded sadly, “it seems that there are so many young men who fall to temptation when passed over for promotions.” The smile returned, “But don’t worry, I’ve got quite the reputation for ferreting out corruption.”

Cooper held his hands up, palms down, trying to stall for time.

“Just like you were trained,” Sawyer laughed. “Are you going to try to reason with me next? Maybe try to deal?” He chuckled as he took a step forward. “I’m a sucker for the classics, any last words?”

Dipping to the side Cooper kicked out with his foot, sending the cuffs toward the gunman. The latch brought them up short, connecting with Sawyer’s left knee but the result was more favorable than getting shot. Cooper lunged forward, both of his hands closing on the extended gun and pointing down and crashing his shoulder into Sawyer’s chest.

Sawyer wrestled for the gun, trying to return full control. Removing it from his grasp was going to impossible so Cooper settled for simply disarming. With a quick motion he ejected the magazine and removed the slide on the top of the pistol. Before Sawyer knew what had happened Cooper had let go of the now useless weapon and was now armed with a nice little weapon.

He gripped the disconnected slide, turned and jammed the length of poly-carbonate into the nerve bundle on Sawyer’s shoulder. Once upon a time the Sergeant was a man of action, but now he was a desk jockey, filing reports and only getting down to the gym to meet the company standards. The spasm of pain made him jump back with a yell. Cooper pressed the attack using the slide as an impromptu kubotan forcing Sawyer against the far wall with a barrage of strikes to the forearms, neck, and chest.

A jarring right hand strike sent the Sergeant sliding to the floor with a dazed look in his eyes. Cooper moved quickly, wrenching the gun from the now limp hand and assembling it with practiced ease. All he had to do was lock Sawyer up and drag him back to HQ. There was no way he was taking the fall for this.

“Sarge?” A voice called from outside. “What’s going on back there?”

“Oh damn,” he whispered suddenly realizing that he was standing above an unconscious superior officer holding a weapon.

The few options he had were tossed aside as the hatch on the back of the truck was unlocked and began to swing open. If he was lucky there would be only one officer, if he was really lucky it would be someone he could convince to listen to his side of the story. Cooper looked at Sawyer as he started to come back to consciousness.

“Yeah,” he stepped back toward the wobbly sergeant and crowned him with the butt of the pistol.

“Easy there, Sarge,” the voice called as the hatch locked into place. “We just need to make it look like a small struggle not a straight out-”

Cooper turned to see De Santos silhouetted in the opening. De Santos was dressed in company issue matte-black cargo pants, boots, and olive-drab T-shirt for wear in the off hours. He was also sporting a brand new cybernetic right arm from the shoulder down. In a smooth motion Cooper brought the pistol up and fired two rounds at the junction of man and machine. The traitorous cyborg jerked backward as the shots hit their mark and toppled out of the back of the truck.

Rushing over to the opening Cooper dove through the hatch, hoping to catch anyone else off guard. He tucked into a roll, trying to make a controlled tumble and settle into a position he could easily take aim from. Instead his back crashed into a solid wall and he slumped heavily to the ground onto the crumpled form of a body. There was a muffled groan as he thanked what little luck he had for him to land on top of De Santos instead of the inanimate layer of trash nearby.

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Animal Control & Rescue

Simon looked at the beast that towered over him and wondered how it had found him. A sharp pain in his right arm reminded him of the bloody gash he had received crashing his car into one of the creatures pack mates. Blood trail, stupid rookie mistake, and possibly his last.

The beast looked like a polar bear mated with a gorilla and then got really angry. He knew what it was, a North-American Yeti, usually they stuck to the wildernesses of Canada and even then they weren’t much of an issue but somehow this one and the three that followed it had found their way into Northern Maine, and that was part of Simon’s territory. Technically, Vermont, Maine, Massacheusets, and New York excluding New York City were his territory but that was just arguing semantics.

Taking down the first two while fully stocked and with use of all his limbs was hard, using his car to smash the third one was a desperate move, now he was down to one arm and his gun nowhere to be found. He always wondered how he was going to die, ever since starting this job he knew it wasn’t going to be in bed surrounded by grandkids. Well, there was a chance he would die surrounded by someone else’s grandchildren but then he would probably be a meal and that was a scenario for another day.

He tried to remember what the manual said about Yeti. Was the plural Yetis or Yetii or just Yeti? No time for that now, his brain was wondering, the pain was making him loose focus.

“Yeti,” he said looking into the black orbs of the creature. “Prefers colder climate and enjoys a diet of small game. You are supposed to be extremely territorial but mostly harmless.”

The Yeti growled as it took another step closer to him. One more step and it would be able to grab him and that would be the end. He tried not to move and then it clicked in his mind.

“Catches game by frightening its prey into stillness,” Simon rushed forward and hopped to the side as a large hand reached out for him. “You’re big and scary but slow and stupid.”

Diving under another swipe of a clawed hand he ran back along the creatures tracks. Yeti were notorious for living in caves or creating natural cover by bending trees, if there were any survivors they would be there. Once he found them he would come up with more of a plan.

Adrenaline kicked in, the pain in his arm dulled and the cool winter air was refreshing and brisk. The tracks were easy to follow and he soon found himself facing the opening of an ice cave. Natural run-off had frozen to create a hollowed out area against a rock face. Somewhere in the back of his mind he noted that it was beautiful.

The Yeti was close behind him, they were slow moving but big and once they sped up all that mass they didn’t stop easily. An idea went formed in his mind and he stood on the other side of the ice wall, waiting for the beast. Just as he found the perfect spot the Yeti came into view, charging straight at him and bellowing a roar that made his teeth rattle. With every step closer the beast picked up speed.

Simon dove to the right, sliding face first like a runner praying to steal home, and the Yeti crashed head first into ice wall and bursting on through.

“Oh crap,” he turned over and looked at the chunk of missing ice.

The ice wall was supposed to stop it. Reaching with his uninjured hand to his right pocket he pulled the large tranquilizer needle and uncapped it. He had to move quickly, it would probably still be stunned.

Closing one eye and walking into the cave he could see the Yeti sprawled across the floor of the cave. One of its arms was bent at an odd angle and he was pretty sure its left foot wasn’t supposed to turn that way. It was still breathing, which he guessed was good.

Unceremoniously he planted the needle in the creature’s hindquarters and depressed the plunger. The thing should be out now for at least a few hours, probably more given its injuries. He sat down, using the Yeti as a seat and reached inside his jacket. He pulled a little black box that almost looked like a garage door opener with a small screen and pressed a button. The screen blinked for a moment then the word ‘received’ scrolled across the three inch display in green blocky letters.

A small whimper brought his attention toward the back of the cave. He really hoped it wasn’t another Yeti, even a little one could be a pain in the ass and he didn’t have any more needles.

“Hello,” a shaky voice called.

“Hello?” He replied standing up. “Who’s there?”

“Oh thank god!” The voice yelled.

A young man, maybe twenty years old rushed from the back of the cave and wrapped his arms around Simon.

“I was so scared,” he sobbed. “It ate Robby and our guide, then it dragged me here. I thought I was going to die.”

“You’re going to be alright now,” Simon patted the young man on his back and tried to ignore the pressure on his injured arm. “Help is coming.”

“Anything you want, I’ll give it to you, anything,” the young man sobbed.

“I could really use some back-up,” he sighed looking at the downed Yeti.

“Done,” the kid nodded. “What’s your name?”

“Simon,” he returned the hug. “Simon Kelevra.”

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Filed under Fantasy, Short Fiction, Urban Fantasy, Writing

In Another Castle- Chapter 2

“Guards.” My fathers’ voice rose. There was something in the tone that I didn’t recognize.

“Honor your word, Amanita.” Eirikr the Dragon Lords’ rumble interrupted.

My fathers’ face twisted into something I had not seen since the day my mother died. He raised his hand and waved at Eirikr. “Slay the dragon.”

My mind grasped for answered. How did the leader of an enemy army make into the castle? Did the mystics in the mountains learn how to bend space? I looked to my father to see his face had drained of color. The guards around the room drew their weapons. Eirikr let out a high whistle; a moment later the room erupted in a clatter of noise as serving trays were dumped on the floor. Every gnome in the ballroom brandished wicked long-knives.

“Do you think I would be so easily deceived?” A great row of knife-sharp teeth flashed as the Dragon Lord smiled.

For a moment my gaze jumped from my father to the dragon. The tempo on the dance floor shifted as the fighting started. Potential suitors from across the realms and their entourages found themselves in the middle of a tussle between the royal guards, the desert gnomes disguised as servers, and the small force of lizardmen led by Eirikr.

Two gnomes rushed toward Marius only to have Ludovic boot one to the floor and my short foreign suitor to crown the other was a solid fist.

“My princess,” Marius stepped in front of me. “Please excuse the interruption.”

“Good, Sir Knight.” I held my hand out and took hold of the sword Bellis offered to me. “It is a small thing.”

He looked at the spatha in my hand then back at Bellis who shifted a panel in her long dress closed. She gave a wink to Ludovic, who looked on the verge of proposing marriage, and fell into position on my left. The four of us held our ground as the gnomes turned their attention to my location. Two guards had been stationed on the balcony nearby and they joined our group. I knocked a slippery gnome to the ground with the pommel of my sword and caught sight of Eirikr. The Dragon Lord was closer to me now. His lizardmen had made short work of the guards that tried to stop them.

Two large strides brought Eirikr close enough for his low growl to vibrate my earrings. A single backhand send Ludovic sliding across the floor and a powerful kick tossed Marius out the nearby window. The balcony railing prevented him from taking a long fall, but he didn’t look to be getting up soon. Bellis dipped and danced around three lizardmen as they pushed her farther away from me.

Time slowed as my brain registered the situation. I was alone against this Dragon Lord. The gnomes had busied the guards, the lizardmen had isolated my lady, and Eirikr had dispatched the foreigners. My world was now this dragon and my sword. It all faded away. The kingdom, the looming war, the refugees below.

“Dragon.” I saluted with my sword.

He gave a short nod. “Princess.”

“Terms?” I shifted my feet to adjust for my taller opponent and thanked the gods that I hadn’t chosen the high-heels.

“Your father has already set the terms.” A single clawed finger touched his chest.

“To the death then?”

A puff of smoke wisped up from his nostrils. “No, princess, for life.”

I leapt forward, my sword sung through the air. He sure did move fast for someone so large. My blade flicked to the left, then right. It dipped, prodded, and circled, but I couldn’t touch him; aside from a few superficial cuts on his tunic. He moved so fast. The times my blade slipped passed his guard it would be turned away on his scaled skin. Each little cut in his tunic inspired another wisp of smoke. He was laughing at me.

He juked to the left to avoid my blade. Something underneath his tunic moved. My eyes caught the hint of a gold chain around his neck. We locked eyes for an instant. My blade flew forward and cut the chain from around his neck. A familiar shape fell out of a tear on his chest and he caught it at my eye level. His clawed hand opened to show me the truth.

There in palm of his hand was a signet ring. It looked exactly the same as the last time I had seen it. There was a small dent along the top and the jewel in the center was the color of the stars at night. My father had stopped wearing it when the refugees had arrived.

Eirikr and I locked eyes. He didn’t move as I took the ring.

“Father.” I didn’t scream, but everyone in the ballroom heard me. I had been trained since birth to speak in a royal voice.

The fighting stopped as the room turned to look at me. I looked my father in the eyes as I held up the ring from him to see. He watched as I placed the ring on my thumb and took the hand that Eirikr had held the ring in. I flipped the sword in my grip and handed it to Bellis, who had taken the stillness to approach.

“If you will excuse us.” I motioned to the door. “It would be best if we left.”

Bellis fell into step behind me.

“Attend to our foreign friends, Bellis.”

“Highness?”

“I’ll call for you once I’m settled.”

“Yes, Highness.”

Eirikr looked down at my gloved hand in his. There was a question behind his eyes as he looked at me. I nodded and led him toward the door. He let out a sharp whistle as we made it safely through the ballroom doors. The remaining gnomes and lizardmen filed through the doors and formed up as a protective detail as we walked on.

The ball had been a success, I had found a suitor to deal with the invasion.

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YA Fiction… Attempt #2 – Input Welcome

The new pack of cigarettes sat mockingly on the kitchen table. Her mother stood next to the table with her arms crossed tightly against her chest. Amanda wished that this wasn’t how her morning had started, and yet, there was a brand new pack wrapped in clean, crisp plastic right next to the half empty basket of laundry.

“I can explain.” Her voice came out as a squeak.

“I’d love to hear this.”

“My friend,” her brain searched for a name that wasn’t actually attached to any person her mother knew. “Mary, bought a pack of cigarettes.” She motioned to the pack on the table. “I didn’t want her to smoke, because I know how you’ve said that smoking is bad, and I took them from her before she could open them.”

“And that’s how they found their way into the back of your sock drawer?” Her mothers voice had gone quiet, that wasn’t a good sign.

“No.” Amanda nodded, her shoulders slumped. Nothing left but the truth. “I’m sorry. My friends were saying how I looked like I’m twelve and that I would probably get carded for a Slurpee. I wanted to prove them wrong, so I bought a pack of cigarettes.”

“They didn’t card you?” Yes, the rage had been diverted.

“I.” She smiled at her mother. “Flirted with the guy behind the counter.”

“You what?” Uh-oh, rage back. Her mothers ears turned red.

“Mom, look at me.” Amanda shrugged. “I do look like I’m twelve.”

It wasn’t her wardrobe of jeans, sneakers, and a T-shirt that made her look younger than her fifteen years. Her hairstyle was a cute bob which was just long enough to cover the tips of her ears. She avoided pig-tails and shorty-shorts, anything that would make her look younger. At her full height she stood a few inches above five feet tall.

“I’m the shortest person in my group of friends, if I put on shorts I look like Dora, and anything I do to try to look my age makes me look like I should be on a talk show.” Amanda pointed to the cigarettes. “I wasn’t going to smoke them, they were a trophy.”

“This is a stupid trophy.” Her mother picked up the pack and tossed it in the trash. “You’re grounded, straight home after school, got it?”

“Yeah.” Her shoulders slumped. “I look like a freaking Elf.”

“What did you say?” Her mother snapped, the color drained from her face.

Amanda looked up at her,  this was new. “I said I look like an Elf. You know Santa’s little helpers.”

“Don’t.” Her mother waved her finger in the air. “Never say that.”

“Elves, or Santa?”

One moment her mother was standing by the kitchen table and the next she had her hand against Amanda’s mouth. Her eyes were much too large, it took Amanda a moment to realize her brown eyes had lost their irises. The orbs were now full white with a tiny spot of black for the pupil.

“Mom, you’re scaring me.” Amanda watched as

“Go to school, come right home, and no more of this business.” A strange lilting accent crept into her mothers voice. “I’ll talk to your father once he gets home.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Amanda grabbed her backpack and rushed out the door.

[_-_- NOTE _-_-_]
The story-line with Emilio is being developed into a possible full length selection. If all goes well I might have my first YA offering reading later this year. Until then, I will continue to practice getting the voice right. Oh, and doing my summer course. That’s kind of important too.

I’m thinking of making this one a series too.

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Filed under Short Fiction