Funerary Rites 37: Throw in (a) Towel

🔑

Senga was sitting between her friends, eating the same pizza they ater every week, soaking up the warmth of people who understood her – at least, who understood everything she had been that didn’t involve this house and –

and

“Chitter?”

“Yeah, Sang?”

“… Did Erramun go to talk to the cook in a towel?”

“Yes, yes he did.”

“Well.  Do you think I should rescue him?”

“Senga, he’s an assassin, he’s older than you, and he’s a tough man.  I’m sure he can take care of-”

“This is the Monmartin family staff, though,” Ezer cut in.

“-you should go rescue him.” Continue reading

Safe

This did not turn out quite like I intended.  Like, within a mile of it. 

Post-apoc fae apoc, Cya (the woman), and an unknown viewpoint male fae.

🚐

He was not, not exactly, stalking her.

For one, he already knew where she lived.

Everyone in this area of the world knew where she lived.

They might not have put one and one together and realized that she was who lived there, but she did not always bother with a disguise, and that particularly red hair was like a flag.

Like a beacon.  Continue reading

Hidden Mall 52: People

“You know,” the voice came from under the blankets where Liv – where Abby’s Liv – had been sleeping.  “I could say ‘you can’t be that bitchy, you’re me.  But you’re all about how we’re all different, isn’t that what you were saying?  So hey, you’re different, you’re smart, go you. Problem is, this Liv isn’t stupid either.  So what’s the problem?”

“Oh, come on, are you all that ridiculously brainwashed or what?”

“Being rude isn’t going to make things any better,” Liv-Skinny pointed out.  “And it’s really not going to help get Abby to do anything for you. Have you ever found that being rude to Abby – yours, mine, any of them – does any good?”

“There’s two problems.”  Abby’d had time to think while the Livs argued.  She cleared her throat now, because she wasn’t sure that this had anything to do with her.  “There’s the problem that Liv here, uhm, Liv-Bitchy, wants a way out of this mall. I don’t know where she wants to end up, but she wants out of here and she was willing to sacrifice both of the other two of you to do it.

“The other problem is – well, something she said.  That her Abby was willing to kill other Abbies to get what she wanted. The One True Abby.  Liv, is your Abby the one that’s been killing Abbies? Is it – is it not the mall? Is it one of me?” Continue reading

Treaty

A prequel of sorts to Lost Day and A Toque for Hill Primus.

“It’s only for a-”

“Ambassador, between us, let’s not mince words.  There’s never an only for a while when it comes to government.  Something exists, and then it continues on. So let’s talk about what we get out of it and what we have to put in.”

“We had to agree to a single arcology to get every other nation putting in to agree to one.   Which is important, because some of those other nations really need the population space. It quadruples the amount of room that a lot of their population will have to live in.  So we’re going to put one – well, we had four buildings in construction already in Virginia, so we’re working with an architectural team to turn those into one big building that can house at least five thousand people.  And every other nation on the committee is doing the same. They’ll be monitored and maintained by the Starlight Hospitality corporation; they’re the ones we have doing a lot of the work on the national parks like the Grand Canyon right now.”

“How are you going to get people to move into a giant skyscraper?”

“For one, it’s not, it’s more like an enclosed town that just happens to be several dozen stories tall.   There’s – there will be, and soon – plenty of accessibility, solutions for power outages, and then, on the other end, nice spaces, good views, plenty of natural plant and animal life, and good shopping and entertainment.  It’ll be like a really nice city, just with no cars and no attached traffic and such. For another thing, we’re going to bribe the first three thousand people. Free rent-”

“You’ll end up with homeless people.”

“Then they won’t be homeless anymore, will they?”  The Ambassador smiled benignly.

“And who is paying for all of this?”

“The Starlight Hospitality corporation is paying for seventy-five percent out the door.  We’re selling rental space for restaurants, stores, and the like to cover the rest, and the rent for anyone over 3000 will cover any unexpected expenses.  Digital commuting allows people to talk to anyone they want without leaving the warmth and safety of their arcology.”

“And what does the Starlight Hospitality Corp get out of this?  Other than the exclusive contract to run these things which, I imagine, will turn them a pretty penny.”

“Well, that.”  The Ambassador cleared his throat. “And there is all of that test market research on an effectively captive audience.  And data on people’s traffic patterns and such. I hear they plan to build another fifty of these things in the upcoming twenty years.  Ours are just their, mmm, their test market.”

“So… they build these things, a treaty forces us to fill them up, and then they get all the money?”  

For the first time, the Ambassador looked nervous.  

“…Yes.  Yes, that is the situation.”

“And we’re stuck with it.”

“Yes.  Yes we are.”

“Then I’m sure—”

Something about the voice made the Ambassador nervous.

“-you’ll be glad to take one of the first apartments there.  

“I will?”

“You will.”

“I… will.”

“For free, of course, since you’ll be one of the first 3000.”

“That’s too generous, really, I can’t—”

“Not at all.  I’m sure your wife and kids will love it.  And you’ll be very comfortable there, right?  You won’t notice being data mined at all! Now come on, I won’t hear no as an answer. It’s a very nice place, I’m told, yes?  And we do want to set a good example, after all.”

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My Arcologies prompt call is still open here

Continue reading

Haunted House 34: Friends

First: A story featuring a male keeper and a female Kept.
Previous:  Thank You

🌳

Mélanie woke next to Jasper and found herself smiling before she had even come fully awake.  He was warm next to her, his arm thrown over her to hold her close in a gesture that seemed less possessive and more cuddly.

She looked up at the ceiling and the very nice light fixture.  “Why?” she asked, very quietly. Jasper was still asleep. She wanted him to get as much rest as he needed.  “Why did you try to stop me?”

There was silence in the house.  This house, she realized, was never completely silent.  It made little groans and squeaks, the branches brushing too close along the outside, the wind moving an old foundation.

Right now, it was making absolutely no noise.

After a moment, a voice barely a breath came to her.  “I wanted to keep you safe.”

Mélanie froze.  The house – the house didn’t like talking.  It had said – written – as much!

But the house was talking to her.  Or, at least, had talked to her.

“Thank you.”  She kept her reply as quiet as she could.  “I’m still glad I saved him.”

Again, silence.  And then, in the same whispered breath, “Me, too.”

She wasn’t going to push the house any more than that.  Mélanie snuggled against Jasper and enjoyed his warmth. If he was going to cuddle her in his sleep, perhaps she’d sleep a little longer.

~

His waking woke her, and she nuzzled against his neck, murmuring things that made no sense against his skin.  He seemed to understand anyway, and nuzzled her back. THe lights dimmed, the curtains thickened, and they had privacy to enjoy each other’s company.

~

Mélanie snugged the robe around her.  Having baths whenever she wanted was a luxury she could get used to very quickly.

She looked at the bathroom mirror. “You don’t have to answer, but I wanted to say thank you again.  I understand, or at least, I think I do. I’ll try to stay a good enough friend to deserve that treatment.”

A moment went by, and then, in the steam in the mirror, a word was written: Friend.

A smiley face came soon afterwards, just beneath it.

“Friends,” Mélanie agreed.  She added her own smiley next to the house’s.

There was a warm feeling in her chest.  She found that she was grinning. After a moment, she said, hoping the house wouldn’t take offense – and that was a sentence that would never been part of her life 2 weeks ago – “this – you’re the first friend I’ve made in, well, since a while before I was captured, and well, it’s kind of funny that my first friend is a house.”

There was a pause.  Then a crude house shape was drawn under the smilies.

“House-shaped person,” Melanie guessed.  “And a very good friend.”

The smilie was traced over, becoming clearer.

Melanie giggled.

“I should-  I should go out and see what Jasper…”  She rolled her shoulders. “Is this for real?  Is he – is he going to get all beastlie now that we’ve, now that-“

In the mirror, the words were written slowly:

He is a good person with some bad habits.

This is for real.

A moment later, the mirror was cleaned very thoroughly.  Melanie combed through her hair until it looked presentable and turned to leave.

A very cute dress appeared in front of her – along with the required underthings.  Melanie giggled.

“All right, all right.  But I’m going to work today.  I hope you know that. There’s a lot I can still do, you know.  There’s a lot I could do to make you more comfortable, too. So let me, okay?  Unless he says I can’t work, and I hope he doesn’t.” She dressed herself and checked again in the mirror.  She looked very 1940’s, and, aside from the bare feet, rather sharp.

“You have good taste in dresses,” she told the house. “Or he does and you pick stuff out well.  Thank you.”

She tried to pretend that her heart wasn’t in her throat – the house had told her this was for real, after all; the house had told her it was okay – as she bounced down the stairs into the kitchen.

Jasper looked up from the table, where he was  – oh, no, he was reading her notes on the slavers.  Melanie’s heart sank, but the smile Jasper gave her lifted it slightly.

“Good morning, beautiful.”

The blush creeping across her face distracted Mélanie from her trepidation for a moment.  Just for a moment, though. She cleared her throat.

“Good morning,” she wasn’t so much feeling daring as not having any idea what one was supposed to do in this case, “handsome.”  After all, he was.

His eyebrows went up and for a moment, before the smile on his face seemed to match the blush on hers, she thought she’d done something awful.  “I could get used to this,” he admitted. “Here, there’s some breakfast and some coffee. You know, the house likes you a lot.”

“I know.”  She sat, noting that he’d gestured at a seat but not said sit, and noting that the fare included steaming-hot cinnamon buns.  Cinnamon buns!  She couldn’t remember the last time she’d had something so rich and sugary – very possibly before the world had fallen apart. “We’re friends.  I like her too.”

“You’re-”  He took a long sip of coffee that was clearly too hot for that and sputtered around the heat while a glass of water appeared at his hand.  He gulped that down and looked at her. “I’m glad. I’m really glad. I clearly chose well at-“

A towel hit him in the face.

“What?”  He looked less irritated and more confused.  “What did I say this time? I’m happy. She’s friends with you.  Friends.  That’s a lot better than the last one!”

Melanie could guess, but it wasn’t her place to say anything, especially not with the towel buffeting Jasper from all sides.

“What? WHAT? You didn’t pick her?  Come on, you have to admit that you like her! You already said it!  Well, implied it!”

Mélanie chuckled. “Come on, House, legally, he’s right.  Me being impressive and you getting along with me is all about him.”  Feeling a little wicked, she added, “after all, isn’t everything about him?”

 

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Running in the Bear Empire 30: Job Description

First: Running in the Bear Empire
Previous: Third

🐻

Deline found that she was staring at Carrone; rather, she realized that she was staring at him when he shifted uncomfortably.

“So,” she spoke carefully.  “You want a life, a life that isn’t being a bounty hunter any more.  You want someone to go home to at night, or someones, a marriage or a joining.  You want people you can look at as partners, as equals; you don’t mind being the junior in a marriage, though, as long as you have a place. But you were planning on settling down and then you went after the wrong rabbit.  Am I close?”

“That’s – that’s it, yeah.”  He huffed and lay down on the floor, staring through the glass at the fire.  “That’s it. So you see why you – you being the wife of the Emperor, that means that you’re in line for the throne when he dies, doesn’t it?”

“Don’t  – you probably shouldn’t make it sound like it’s an imminent thing,” she protested. Continue reading

The Stapler Rebellion

“Class, can you tell me what this is representing?”

The VR diorama  showed two women in early Space era outfits, the one in a tidy romper with a skirt-wrap of a style that was classic enough that it kept cycling around every generation or so, the other in a sloppy scientist’s jumpsuit.  The classily-dressed woman had her back turned on a distraught scientist who was shaking a stapler.

“Oh!  That’s the Stapler Revolution!”  One of the know-it-all students bounced a little. “That’s when — when they changed all the laws about staplers? No, that’s not right.  It’s…” Continue reading

One Hell of a One That Got Away

What can I say?  Country music makes good Addergoole songs.  This one’s light and sweet, as such things go – content warning for discussed violence. 

~

He knew within ten minutes of starting to go after her that it wasn’t going to work.

Oh, he had no doubt he could get some of her time.

He was charming, he knew how to listen – or to at least look like he was listening, but he found with her he didn’t have to fake it much – he was good looking – which around here was like saying he was breathing; everyone met  certain base qualification – and they shared three classes.  He had plenty of time to chat her up. He just wasn’t going to get her.

He already knew it was doomed when she agreed to a date.

He made the plans anyway. Continue reading

The Generation

Amalie had been studying science since she was old enough to scroll through a book reader.  She had spent ten years studying astronomy before moving on to geology and then, in a move that surprised everyone, concentrated on botany for her secondary work.

Her younger brother had focused on astrology and astrogation the entire time, and could tell you from a two-second look at any star chart where they were and which way they were headed.  He wanted to be part of the Navigation Team. He wanted to be part of the Rulers who got to go up onto the Bridge.

Amalie just wanted to know everything.  She wanted, as she explained to her perplexed parents, to eat something more interesting, too, and to make something with a better protein balance that didn’t taste like the same old thing.  And if high-end botany was going to get that, that’s what she was going to study. Continue reading