Archive | April 2015

Thimbleful Thursday: Jumping the Gun

In many places, they called it jumping the broom. In Gospeck, it was jumping the gun.

Gospeck was a small colony in an out-of-the-way system, small enough where babies were a welcome and needed occurrence. They were a hard-luck sort of place, a poorly placed colony where the alien creatures attacked with no warning and no pattern. They needed everyone that could to carry babies, as fast as they could, or the colony would die.

They had little time for brooms and no time to wait for proof of pregnancy. They jumped the gun for two-year contracts, one to carry and one to protect, and hoped for the best.

written to Today’s Thimbleful Thursday prompt. In generic-space-colony ‘verse.

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Trope Bingo – Foedus Planetarum – The Tod’cxeckz’ri Paper Part VI

To fill square one-four (caffeine failure) on my card for [community profile] trope_bingo.

First: The Tod’cxeckz’ri Paper Part I

Previous in Trope Bingo: The Tod’cxeckz’ri Paper Part V

No Ao3 standard warnings apply.

Nehanani Jahnan woke with a pounding headache, her head pillowed on something soft and warm. The sound of something thudding down next to her finished the job of shaking her into wakefulness.

She was – she had – “Shit!” She opened her eyes and sat up, sending stabbing pains through her temples. A bag landed near her feet, and her doppleganger-sister waved from the rigging of her ethership.

“We just need to borrow the Maru for a couple days. We’ll be back to get you long before the food and water run out. Sorry!” She had to shout to be heard over the flapping of the sails; even the rigging was out of reach. “Have fun with your ‘temporary husband!'”

“Shit, shit, no. Covair!” Jahnan lifted her voice to a shout, despite her headache. “Covair, it won’t work! Maru won’t work for you!”

“Oh, we can be very persuasive. Thanks, sis! We’ll see you soon.”

The ethership shot away, its sails snapping in a sudden wind, leaving Jahnan standing, swearing, watching it go.

“…nice family.” Yira sounded groggier even than Jahnan felt. “They dumped us, hunh? Where are we?”

“That… that is a good question.” Jahnan looked around. Yira was lying on the ground, surrounded by the three large duffel bags Covair had dropped on them. There was a half-wall past him, and past that, more walls. To three sides of them, what looked like the ruins of an ancient city, crafted in brick and adobe, tumbled outwards. The fourth side was a precipitous drop. “So, a ruined city on a cliff. Could be almost anywhere; I haven’t explored this alternate too much. What’s in the bags?” She began digging in one bag as she asked; Yira grabbed a second.

“I’ve got coffee beans, water, food supplies. Three meters of rope and a tarp.”

“I’ve got more water, clothes – how considerate – another tarp and another three meters of rope.” She inched over to the cliff edge. It was so sheer, it might have been cut or built that way, like a giant building. “The drop is at least fifty meters.”

“Of course it is. Your sister is a real piece of work.”

“Your mother aimed a gun at us. What’s in the third bag?”

“More water, more food, no rope. A flashlight and some flares, two nice knives.” He jangled his cuffed wrists. “Unlock me?”

“Not yet, no. Where were those coffee beans?” She dug in the second bag until she discovered the bag – and a small grinder and press. Those would have to wait. She could chew beans now. “All right. Let’s find out what we’ve got.”

The bags were heavy, but they’d both hauled worse, although Yira’s bound wrists did make things awkward. They took turns carrying the third bag as they paced off the confines of their dump zone.

It was a mesa, it turned out, about a mile on a side, the whole place filled with old buildings and falling-down ruins, and every side of the perfectly-square mesa far too sharp. How the ancients had gotten up here was anyone’s guess – maybe they’d used ladders long since rotted away. How they were getting down – well, obviously Covair didn’t mean for them to. They were supposed to stay here until she came for them.

Jahnan chewed another bean. The pounding headache was beginning to fade. They had one more side of this damned place to walk, and then they could look for shelter.

“Watch out!” Yira’s warning came almost exactly as the creature attacked Jahnan. It looked like some sort of twelve-limbed big cat, all fur and stripes and anger. Jahnan barely had enough time to bring her knife and her duffle bag up to slash and to guard, and then the thing was on top of her.

She rolled, grabbing the creature by the throat, and tumbled sideways until she was out of reach of most of its claws. It took all her strength to bear down on its throat, and she had none left to provide the coup-de-grace. “Yira!”

“Will you unchain me after this?” He was already moving, finding the right angle and driving his knife into the thing’s heart. “This is stupidly awkward.”

“You did all right.” She pulled herself to her feet as the creature twitched. “Not bad at all.” She had a few scrapes, but nothing too deep. She could wash it all off when they made camp. “Let’s finish the circuit and find a roof. This place may be nearly desert but I bet it gets cold at night.”

The second creature attacked them within three hundred feet. This one was mostly lizard, although it was nearly as big as Jahnan. It got a good bite in on Yira’s forearm before they dispatched it.

They managed to kill the third one before it reached them. By that point, they’d gotten back nearly to where they started and the sun was beginning to go down. They turned inward, heading down an old road, stepping over the crumbled remains of buildings and dodging the occasional threat.

By the time they found a standing building – almost in the center of the ruined city – they had killed ten creatures, none of them the same. “Is your sister usually murderous?” Yira wiped the blood from his face with the back of his arm.

Jahnan chewed another coffee bean. Her headache was gone and her entire body felt tight. “No more so than I am.”

“Lovely.” The building had stairs circling the outside, stone or brick in the same dull buff as the rest of the city. The third floor had a door still mostly intact, and, better yet, a floor still intact. If they settled at the very back corner of that floor, they should be mostly safe.

At least from creatures. There was no guaranteeing she was safe from Yira Trembane. Jahnan chewed another coffee bean and found, deep in one duffle bag, both medical supplies and a large bed roll. It was the matter of a few moments to clean and bandage both their wounds. Nothing attacked them. Yira didn’t even say anything; he had not been chewing beans, and he looked dead on his feet.

Not dead, no. Sleeping on his feet. She didn’t want to think about dead. The sun was going down, and there were monsters everywhere. She chewed another bean and leaned against Yira. He was warm, notably and pleasantly so against the chilling air.

“She even gave us a bed,” he murmured. “How considerate. Maybe we won’t d–“

“Shh, none of that.” Her words were slurring. She closed her eyes, just for a moment. Just for a moment.

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Trope Bingo – Foedus Planetarum – The Tod’cxeckz’ri Paper Part V

To fill square One-Five (annoying sibling) on my card for [community profile] trope_bingo.

First: The Tod’cxeckz’ri Paper Part I

Previous in Trope Bingo: The Tod’cxeckz’ri Paper Part IV

If you are reading from Trope Bingo, Part IV is not part of the bingo but an integral part of the story.

No Ao3 standard warnings apply.

Nehanani Jahnan gestured at the vessel floating in front the Maru. The etherboat was a big ship, looking more like a sea caravel than any space-faring vessel – at least, any space-faring vessel in the universe Yira and Jahnan had come from. Its sails were tight against an invisible force – not wind, not out here, but ether. Two great air bladders held it aloft.

And captaining that thing: “Nehanani Covair is my sister. Or my doppelganger, but we’ve always gone by ‘sister’, and she’s younger than me by a few years.” She glanced at Yira, who nodded shortly. He looked more worried than interested, but since she hadn’t released whatever hold the Tod’cxeckz’ret collar had on him, she couldn’t really blame him for that worry. “I met her the first time I ended up in this splinterworld – Yeah. I’ve been here before. This is the fourth time. I think the Maru likes this place, and when the what-if drive gets… conflicting signals.”

She caught her breath. She had to make sure things were tidy before she faced her dopple-sister. “All right. I apologize. You can talk… you don’t have to be quiet anymore. Sch’ket,” she added, the Tod’cxeckz’ret word for end order, just in case.

He put both hands to his throat. “This is why I don’t like what-if drives. A space-twister doesn’t put you into Alternate Universes.”

“Let’s yell later. Right now, a woman with a very similar upbringing to me who happens to be an ethership pirate is about to bring the Maru on board. We’re going to need to work together to get offboard with our sanity intact, and we can’t pull the what-if in an enclosed space. Can you work with me?”

Yira’s eyes narrowed for a minute, and then he nodded. “Thirty days to get this collar off of me, and we’re already down a day. Yes, I can work with you. I’m not going to run away and leave myself stranded in an alternate dimension, especially not one where they go through space in sailboats.

The mechanical claws of the etherboat grabbed the Maru, shaking it slightly. Jahnan nodded. She didn’t trust Yira, not as far as she could throw him, but he had a point.

“All right. Maru?”

“Yeah, boss? Want me to shake the boy up a bit? He’s got a nice butt, you know.”

Oh, yeah. This was one of the universes in which smart ships were smartasses. Jahnan sighed. “I know. Please get him in walking restraints. And we’re on pirate protocols. Take care of yourself and remember that Nehanani Covair is not me. Check?”

“Nehanani Covair is not you. Check.” The guest chair wriggled a little, shaking Yira, pushing him around, and clasping restraints on his wrists.

“Stay close,” Jahnan murmured. “Maru, open doors.”

“Opening doors, boss. Don’t be gone long. You know what happens when I get bored.”

“Yes, hon Maru.” She smiled brightly and took Yira’s arm in a firm grip as the doors dilated open.

Nehanani Covair looked like Jahnan. She looked like Jahnan if bounty hunting had been a far rougher occupation than it had, if Jahnan’s fashion sense had been Military Harajuku, and if Jahnan had never dyed her green hair orange.

Her two associates were much the same: a Pallidus with the notable white skin and oversized mouth, and a probably-a-male of a variant Jahnan didn’t recognize, with pointed, hairy ears and what looked like a thin pelt of fur.. They were both wearing circus military chic, brilliant colors and elaborate insignia. They were also both carrying sabers and sidearms. Covair was smiling, but Covair was always smiling.

“Jahnan! I haven’t seen you since that event on Bolt Hole! And who’s this?”

“Covair.” Jahnan smiled warmly back at her doppleganger-sister. “Maru, Yira, this is Nehanani Covair, my doppleganger-sister. Corvair, this is Yira Trembane, my temporary kiczka-husband. It’s a long story,” she added, before Covair could pester her. “We’re just stopping in on our way to visit Yira’s stepfather.”

“Noted, boss,” Maru whispered into Jahnan’s commlink. “Good call. You’re cuter.”

“Oh, come on, let me show you around the ship, at least.” Covair took Jahnan’s arm. “We’ve added some neat features since the last time you were around our neck of the woods. And have a drink? We picked up a batch of Nevarian Whisky when we were in Yola last time. Here.” She took three glasses from her Pallidus escort and held them carefully while the other escort, the furry one, poured. “To family, wherever they may be.”

“To family.” Jahnan took one glass and nodded to Yira to take the other. “And to crew and associates, friends and good bounties.”

“To all the things that bring in money,” Covair laughed.

It was surprisingly good whiskey, with a hint of something earthy about it and a kick that hit Jahnan almost before she’d finished swallowing.

“..Speaking of which,” her dopple-sister was saying. Or Jahnan thought she was saying; everything was a little fuzzy all of a sudden. “I need to borrow your fancy-pants ship for a couple days, Big sis. Hope you don’t mind.”

Jahnan’s legs and her consciousness failed her, and she landed on the deck, finding it surprisingly soft. Somewhere nearby, Yira made an oof of complaint that sounded as sleepy – as drugged – as she felt. Then there was nothing.


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Trope Bingo – Foedus Planetarum – The Tod’cxeckz’ri Paper Part IV

To fill square Three-Five (au: steampunk) on my card for [community profile] trope_bingo.

First: The Tod’cxeckz’ri Paper Part I

Previous in Trope Bingo: The Tod’cxeckz’ri Paper Part III

No Ao3 standard warnings apply.

It wasn’t that Jahnan thought her captive was serious. He had just admitted to attempting to seduce the lion’s share of his captors, generally to escape.

It was just that it had been a while, and he was a handsome man, if you liked the type – which, she was finding, she did. And his hand was warm, and his fingers just strong enough, and all in all it was more than a little bit distracting.

She slid her fingers over the controls while Yira slid his fingers over her, setting the coordinates he’d given her and checking them – twice – against her navigation charts.

Then she threw the switch, just as Yira demonstrated exactly how thin her ship-silks actually were.

The world twisted, the probabilities aligned, and they came out in open space.

In open…

“That,” Yira complained, “is in no way space-worthy.”

That was a caravel, its sails furled, floating cheerfully in mid- well, in mid-something.

It took just a moment for the Maru’s sensors to pick it up. “That’s because,” Jahnan said slowly, as if the facts might change if she took her time, “it’s not in space. It’s an etherboat. See the balloons?”

“A… Eth… no, no, no.“ Yira thumped his head back against the headrest. “This, this is why I hate what-if drives.”

“And this-” Jahnan lifted Yira’s unresisting hand off of her lap and deposited it in his own, “this is why you should never distract the pilot. Now think quiet and calm thoughts, and I’ll get us out of here.”

“I don’t trust you.” He grumbled and shifted in his seat. Jahnan glared at him.

“I said be quiet.“ She turned back to her consoles as he made a strangled noise. “All right. If we’re lucky…”

“Attention the Maru. Prepare to be boarded.”

“Right.” She glared at her intercom, which had turned on without consulting her. “So lucky isn’t going to be the thing, check.” She brushed her hand over the “transmit” button. “Attention aggressor, we have no room to be boarded. You’d be better off boarding a lifeboat.”

“..Jana? You got a new ship!” The voice on the other end went from mechanical to a squeal of glee. “Nehanani Jahnan, I never thought I’d see you back in my neck of the woods. Hold on, I’m bringing you aboard.”

Jahnan made triply certain the intercom was off before she leaned back in her seat and swore, quietly but eloquently.

Yira made a soft noise, and then another one.

“What?” She was just about done with – “…what?” His tan skin was ashen and he looked more miserable than she’d known he knew how to look.

Very slowly, as if moving hurt, he touched the collar with two fingers – and flinched.

Jahnan stared at him. “What… aw, rot.” She didn’t have time to deal with this. “Does it hurt?”

He seemed to give that some thought, then shook his head.

“Can you talk?”

Again, he thought about it, then shook his head. He looked worried. It was an interesting look on him.

“Can you breathe?

That one didn’t require thought. He nodded.

“All right. All right.” She nodded to herself. “So – That. On the comms, about to bring us into her ship. That is my sister.”


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Three Weeks For Dreamwidth: Three Weeks for Worldbuilding – Science!

The thing about the Lab in the world of Science! is, they are only the good guys by a specific set of morality guidelines – specifically, Liam’s, the head of the Lab.

On the other hand, while they may not be the good guys, in a place where human/rose hybrids are possible, there are people that are worse than them.

Super(*)-villains are a thing in the world of Science!, although there are not so obvious as the comics would have you believe. There are people who have learned how to wire brains to accept and manipulate computer data: they are hackers the likes of which the normal police and FBI have a very hard time catching. There are people who use pheromones or simple mind-control drugs to drive their Ponzi schemes. There are people who implant chips into kidnap victims and use them as unknowing Trojan Horses, or, worse, sell them on the black market.

The Lab tests on orphans. There are always more orphans to be tested on, because there are scientists who release flesh-eating bacteria into the wild for fun, people who make sniperbots for giggles, people who incite riots just to cover a bank robbery.

And if that sounds bleak, well, in some places it is. But there are heroes, as well: the FBI has an Unusual Crimes division. Police have their own scientists. The Red Cross has begun keeping simple gas masks and earplugs on hand at all locations, and, more than that, sedatives; they also have holding locations for those suspected to be under the influence of mind-control… something. And, in every city, there are at least five people who have either biological or mechanical enhancement, who can withstand almost anything the villains can throw at them. They assist the police, the FBI, and the Red Cross on a consultant basis, and keep each other honest.

And under all of this, Liam’s Lab – and other like it – are churning out cures for things like cancer right alongside flesh-eating roses.

Written to kelkyag‘s prompt here.

I still need lots more worldbuilding prompts! Check it out!

(*) Also, possibly, as originally written, Supper-villains..

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Not Rocking the Boat

After Rock, Hard, Now What? and Two Rocks and All The Pebbles.

For the “Do up whatever story/stories suit your fancy or for whomever most wants/needs ’em.” commission and the poll here.

Getting Chress pants turned out to be a bit of a challenge. The laundry kept livery for the palace servants and slaves, true, and it kept uniforms for the guards. But even the broadest and widest of the palace servants were not generally as broad in the hips or the thighs as Chress. And while the guards were a match for him in size, they tended to favor kilts or short tunics; Chress’ opinion on that was short and to the point and decidedly negative.

The head launderer was beside himself trying to help, providing option after option. Finally, he reached into a bin on the other side of the room, the side where they kept the courtier’s clothing. “Sir Nateron is nearly of a height with you, and very… broad. He ripped these pants, and while I’d mended them properly, I had nobody to pass them down to.” He looked worried. “If a pair of mended pants are acceptable for the Princess’ slave…”

Chress took the pants from the launderer and looked them over. They were made of soft brown silk, very soft and very well-made. If you squinted, you could see the place where they had been mended, but it was high on the inner thigh, and it was unlikely anyone would spend too long with their face pressed between Chress’ thighs.

“Nice,” he muttered. He looked up at the launderer. “The nobs here dress like this?”

The launderer nodded. “Well, some of the young courtiers dress more brightly, or more extravagantly. But that’s how many of the older nobles dress, yes, sir.”

Chress barked out a laugh. “Good. Good, this’ll do. I mean–” He coughed quietly. “Princess?”

Arisse did not chuckle, but she did allow herself a smile. “They’re very nice pants. If we’re lucky, perhaps Sir Nateron will rip a shirt as well.”

“Oh, well, shirts may be easier. Some of the guards wear tunics with their kilts–”

“With silk pants?” Arisse raised her eyebrows. “He’ll look like a ragbag.”

“Can’t have that.” Chress’ laugh was a deep rumble, actually quite pleasant. “Well, is there a belt that will fit me there?”

“Oh, oh yes, quite a nice one, too. It was custom-made, but the, ah, commissioner did not like it when it was done.” The launderer tsked and produced a lovely belt the same color brown as the pants. The swirling design in it looked foreign, northern. It made a smile grow across Chress’ face, a slow, pleased expression.

“This will do. This will do nicely.” He looked over pants and belt. “Shoes and shirt can wait, if there’s someone in town who can do them up properly. What about a knife, Princess?”

“The armory is just this way. Thank you.” She nodded at the launderer, and he, in turn, bowed at her. “We may be visiting again.”

“I’ll keep an eye out for anything that will fit your man, Your Highness. Smooth ground under your feet and a light wind at your back.”

As the launderer’s blessing followed them out the door, Arisse thought she saw a twitch in Chress’ shoulders, but his face betrayed nothing, nor did he speak.

If you want more of this story – and this one could go on for a while!! – drop a tip in, ah, the tip handcuffs:

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Needed: A City Name (details below)

So, the world that has Scheffenon and Orschëst has, in a nearby country, another city. It’s south of Orschëst, I believe, and it’s getting the story for “ש is for shemesh, the sun”.

Also the nation this place is part of would be great. 🙂

ETA: Descathesia, via kelkyag.

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April A-Z Blogging Challenge: Q is for Quietness

The Meme Master Post

Q is for quietness leading to mystery: after The Club.

Chloe D’Aushinger and her family were learning quietness.

Chloe’s silent arrest had shaken all of them, from her husband’s mother down to her youngest child. What they were learning now did more than shake them. “It feels,” her daughter Marie whispered, “as if we being changed into different people.”

“And that is both exactly what we are doing and not at all what we’re doing.” The good lady Nicholle had a skill for overhearing things that was nothing short of preternatural.

Marie, who was just old enough to think that adults should be more reasonable and far less silly, raised her chin and studied their hostess. “Please explain.”

“Who you are – who you really are – must not change. Your mother interested us for the same reason that she interested The Doctors.” Nicholle paused, exactly as their tutor did when waiting for them to figure out an answer.

Marie shared a glance with her older brother Tomas. He looked back at her expectantly. Marie worried her lower lip, and said, carefully, “She says things. She says things Mrs. Gershwin – she was our tutor – said I musn’t repeat.”

“She does. And more importantly, she says things that indicate she is thinking. Now, sometimes you are thinking things you don’t wish Mrs. Gershwin to know about, yes?”

She looked directly at Tomas this time, and it was Tomas who stuttered and nodded. “Yes, madame.”

“Well, just as like then, you must learn to project quietness, so that you may be as loud as you want in the privacy of your mind. This comes with some added advantages, of course.” Nicholle looked up as Chloe entered the room, pitching her conversation to include her as well.

“Yes?” Chloe raised her eyebrows. “Do tell?” Mme. D’Aushinger had taken to pacing the length and breadth of their “safe house”, muttering of the wasted time and penning as many missives as her hosts would allow, even while her children were enjoying the unexpected holiday, strange lessons or no.

“While you learn to project quietness, to smile just so while matters are being discussed, to say, so honestly ‘I shall say nothing on that’ when inappropriate questions are asked, when you learn all of that, you project an air of mystery. Soon, people will assume you an expert on all manner of things, and they will make the time and the quietness to come to you. Then, then you may speak without fear of the Doctors, for the Doctors have many foes, and they know how to make silence stick.”

This belongs to the Things Unspoken setting, along with N is for Nereid, O is for Octopi, and P is for Poinsettias.

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Tangles and Knots, Snarls and Combs – Patreon

This story includes portions originally posted and to make a complete story. 


There was something amiss with Winter’s sister.

With the oldest of Winter’s sisters and the most steady, the most easy-going, the least likely to have things go amiss.

Spring had warned him first, in that way that she did, a riddle tied up in a knot, the sonnets are slanting sideways and the seeds are falling all wrong. Then Summer, just something’s wrong with Autumn. 

When their mother had called Winter, do something, he had known things had gotten out of hand. But because it was not he who had seen the problem first but Spring, he went out of character for himself and did things indirectly, looking not for the tangle but for its cause.

He had been young and cocky when he’d taught Spring; it hadn’t occurred to him until much later how much she had taught him. Continue reading