Archive | March 2019

Haunted House 43: Buying & Selling

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

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A job.  No matter the discussions, she knew what Jasper was offering Kearney.

Mélanie wanted to protest – this is a kid we’re talking about! –  but no matter how young Kearney looked, they were clearly already getting comfortable with being on their own. She smiled instead, like she thought this was a great idea.

Kearney looked between them, coughed a couple times, and seemed to decide.  “Sure. I can do that. But only because the lady here is nice.”

“She is nice,” Jasper agreed.  “She’s quite nice, and I would suggest you remember that as you deal with her.  Because I’m not the nice one.”

Kearney didn’t shudder, didn’t even look all that impressed, but there was a slight change in their manner as they looked at the booth Jasper had been setting up.  “So, where do I put this? What can I do?” Continue reading

Running in the Bear Empire 39: Prices and Paranoia

First: Running in the Bear Empire
Previous: Loyalty
Next: 40: Spies

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Deline didn’t so much freeze as she tried to strip all tells from her body language and expression.  Where’s your loyalty?  That was a good question.  Did she want the answer?

“My loyalty?”  Carrone sneered at the Haloran spy.  “I’m a bounty hunter. My loyalty is to the highest bidder.”

“Then I’ll pay you more than whoever’s paying you right now!  Come on, you know the Haloran government has deep pockets.”

He turned to look at Deline, raised an eyebrow, and looked back at the bounty hunter.  She held her breath.

“You can’t meet what she’s paying me, I assure you.   And I wouldn’t want you to.”

He turned his back on the woman, who kept shouting.  Deline did not smile.  She held his arm and started walking, hoping he would walk along with her.

You can’t match what she’s paying me. Continue reading

Hidden Mall 61: Bad Ideas

They turned around.  Abby forced herself to look at the bodies in front of her.

The ghosts.  They weren’t corpses, they might just be illusions.  This place had certainly given them enough of those already – fakes and shames and traps.

The one that looked like Vic was gesturing to them.

“I – Vic doesn’t even like us,” Liv protested.

“But we don’t like her either,” Abby countered, “and that hasn’t stopped us from saving her life.  Or anything else, you know?”

“This can’t be a good idea.” Continue reading

Haunted House 42: Thieves, Thick As

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

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Mélanie stepped closer to Jasper and surveyed the area.  There were people everywhere. More than half of them hadn’t seemed to notice the shouting at all.  A few of them were looking across the market. A few more were looking at Jasper.

Was she going to have to do Workings again?  Was she even allowed to?

Jasper waved enthusiastically with one arm, balancing the packages with the other.  “George Ridges! I haven’t seen you in forever!” Continue reading

Effects

The battle against the Noknuxo had been raging for months.  The space-faring aliens had clearly superior tech – weapons that were huge and completely incomprehensible that made noises that could not be predicted and left swaths of damage in their wake.  Their lasers were precision-targeted and left holes you could throw a baseball through; their bunker-busters were just insane.

They were fighting the Terrans over a system that was smack in between their two most favored colonies and Terra’s first really successful colony system.  They were down to fighting on the best planet itself, which had serious disadvantages – they were destroying land both groups wanted to live on – but on the other hand, a single hit didn’t end up destroying huge numbers due to atmosphere loss, the way that several of their space battles had gone.

The Terrans were losing.  They were demoralized, and it was making everything that much harder.  The Noknuxo tech was just too advanced.  There was no way that they could win against things that their scientists couldn’t begin to understand.

Suddenly, over a loudspeaker, the echoing, chittering voice of a Noknuxo sounded – in Terran. “Cut!”

“What?” The Terran general looked at her aide.  “Was that right?”

“We’re out of special effects budget,” came the Terran explanation in a Noknuxo clack.  While the Terrans had figured out Noknuxo, the aliens had never bothered to talk in English before this.  “We’re going to have to go to doing this the boring way.  We’re dropping our projections now; you can drop yours and save the budget.”

The general stared across the field as, one by one, half of the incomprehensible machines vanished.  The other half suddenly looked much less… impressive.

Carefully, she leaned into the mike and pushed the translation button. “We have no projections,” she called over the field.  “What you see is as we are.”

There was a chitter and chatter from the Noknuxo side.  “Say again?” came the clicking reply.

“We have no projections.  Everything here is exactly as it is.”

Somewhere behind the General, three of her best scientists were staring into viewfinders at the Noknuxo siege devices.  “General, can you capture one of those?”

“Not while they’re calling a truce,” the General replied, careful to be sure her mike was off.

“Better hurry,” her aide commented.  Looking out at the battlefield, the General could see why.

To a being, the Noknuxo were fleeing.  There was no reply, no request for clarification.  They were simply loading up their remaining ships.

The General had been given this position because of her quick-thinking – which could have been seen as either a positive or a negative, because it came with a quickness to speak as well.  She flipped the mike and the translator on.  “Please,” she called, as if the Noknuxo weren’t fleeing, “name the location where you would like to discuss peace terms.”

She wanted to learn more about fighting a war with special effects.


Inspired by

Hidden Mall 60: A Hero Dies But Once?

Abby took a step backwards, and another, until ‘Via caught her. “Easy,” ‘Via murmured in her ear.  “It’s okay.”

She forced herself to look at – at herself.  Except dripping wet and dripping blood from what remained of a leg, leaning on a Liv who was dripping both water and blood, too.

“The – the sharks.”  She worked her throat.  “Remember? And before that, the fire.  This is – this is all the deaths we could have died.  It can’t be.  We can’t have died this many times.”

“We could have.” ‘Via shifted a little.  “I mean. It’s not I mean.  We don’t know how many malls there are.  We don’t know how many of them anyone came through.  We don’t know if the mall just generated new versions.”

“Some of the malls were fake.  Who told us that?” Liv frowned. Continue reading

Haunted House 41: The Market

First: A story featuring a male keeper and a female Kept.
Previous:  Wants and Desires

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In retrospect, Mélanie thought perhaps she ought to have expected a question like that.  Dressing her in silk, treating her like a partner – she shouldn’t have been surprised that he asked her if she wanted anything.  Wanting her to want things, wanting to get her things, seemed on par with everything else that he’d done so far.

That it took her completely by surprise was a sign she wasn’t paying attention.

She blinked at him. Continue reading

Running in the Bear Empire 38: Loyalty

First: Running in the Bear Empire
Previous: Halorans
Next: 39: Prices and Paranoia

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“Like this place?”  Carrone shook his head.  “No, you weren’t. You were going stir-crazy staying in one place.  I can’t imagine what you’re like at — at home. Cooped up in a single building…”

“Well…” She let a smile linger on her lips for a moment. “It has its benefits.”

“I was trying to explain those to our friend here, but she didn’t want to hear it.  I mean, if she’d listened to me telling her it was an Imperial Cabin…”

“Well, then maybe she might have left when she had a chance.  Unless you were offering to show her exactly how nice the Imperial Bed is…?”

The woman squirmed but said nothing.

“Would you be jealous if I did?” Continue reading

Funerary Rites 43: Stupid Lessons

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Chitter squealed as she was dragged into the back seat, but the moment Erramun was cradling her, she stopped complaining.  “I’m—” She smushed her face into Erramun’s chest.

“Easy, my young friend, easy.  There’s always going to be more that you can learn.  There’s always going to be more that you can do. But you can only grow so fast, and you can only do so much.  It’s a hard lesson to learn, I know—”

“It’s a stupid lesson,” Chitter muttered.  Ezer kept his face forward and drove, but Senga could see him peering in the rear-view at them.

“It is,” he agreed, “but we all have to learn it at some point.  So. I’ll help you get the education you need, but you have to accept that it’s okay.  You made a mistake, yes, but nobody got hurt-”

“You got shot!” Continue reading