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Spoils of War 18 – The Talker

First: Spoils of War I: Surrender

In the front of the room, a man stood, taller than everyone else, taller than people ought to be and made mostly, it seemed, of leg, and he was speaking, but she couldn’t hear him.

He was still speaking, even though the floor was shaking. He looked straight at Nikol and glared.  Even though she had no idea what he was saying, his presence seemed to surge through her. 

She sat down.  She didn’t pay much attention to where, just in the nearest chair.  Clearly he was saying something very interesting.  If only Nikol could hear it.  Continue reading

Hidden Mall 82: Misplaced Friends

“You’ve always been a coward.”

The voice – her own voice – chased Abby as she walked quickly down the mall hallway.  She knew where she was going. She knew she had her Livs with her, and several others, some Sandies.  No Kevins, no Vics. Not yet. 

“If I have always been one and you know it -” Abby looked over her shoulder but kept walking; kept walking, kept walking.  She could tell in her gut that it was important, but she also knew she didn’t want this other Abby to follow her.  “-then it’s because you’ve been one too. We’re all the same at the root, aren’t we?”

That was so different from what she’d been telling her Livs that she expected ‘Via to yell at her.  Instead, ‘Via smirked at her and, to her other side, Olly squeezed her hand. 

“You’re full of bullshit!  I’m nothing like you!”

“And you know nothing about me.” Continue reading

Running in the Bear Empire 56 – His Grace by the Claw of the Bear Herself

 

First: Running in the Bear Empire
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“You can’t tell me you’re not nervous.”

“I can tell you that,” Deline contradicted.  Carrone’s hand was sweaty in her own. “But why are you nervous?”

“I’ve been sleeping with the Emperor’s second wife,” he muttered, “in case you didn’t notice.  And — and here is your bracelet on my wrist saying that I’m pretty much stuck with whatever you want…”

“Which means that nobody is going to yell at you, even if someone was going to, for sleeping in the bed I wanted you in,” she pointed out.

“I’ll note you didn’t actually say you weren’t nervous.” Continue reading

In Even Paris & Rome

I was listening to “Home” on the radio last night – turns out it’s originally Michael Bublé but I listen to country – and, not for the first time, it struck me that the narrator sounded a little cursed. 

So here we have this. 

🛬 ✈️ 🛫

The taxi smelled strongly of mould and smoke and seemed to hit every bump on the way from the airport to  the hotel. Blake tipped the driver $20 anyway. It was probably not the lady’s fault, after all.

The hotel was a nice one — they always were — but the building next door was undergoing demolition.   The banging followed Blake up the stairs — he’d learned, about elevators — to the tenth floor and into his room.

His next plane tickets and hotel reservations were waiting for him.  Only once in all his time had they not been there, and that time didn’t bear thinking about. 

He shook out his clothes from his carry-on — after losing checked luggage three times, he’d given up — and hung them in the bathroom, put a laundry bag put for Housekeeping, and sat down at the rickety table.

He picked up the room phone and dialed.  555-908-7857. He’d dialed that number so often he called it in his sleep.

In his dreams, someone picked up.  In the good dreams, she picked up.

“The number you have dialed is unavailable.   Please hang up.”

Blake hung up.  He pulled a tiny bourbon from the hotel minibar — legit Kentucky bourbon,  here in… he checked the hotel stationery — Rome. He drank it straight straight from the bottle, finishing it in two swallows, before he considered the hotel stationery again. 

He pulled the curtains open to look at the demolition,  opened the window, and let the dusty air wash over him.

The hotel-branded ballpoint pen worked.  He pulled over a clean sheet of paper and began.

Aug 12, 2011

Rome looks like dust today,  but the sky is bright blue, like the river down past Johnson’s where we used to fish.  

I want to come home.

I slept well on the plane, despite the crying baby.  I feel bad for the kid. It wasn’t her fault.

I want to come home.

All in all, it’s a good day.  I hope yours is going well, too.

I miss you,

Why won’t they let me go home?

Blake. 

 

He folded up the letter carefully, smoothing each crease.  He dug the box out of the bottom of his carry-on, a cookie tin he’d bought, sharing the cookies with the pigeons in — he thought it had been Paris, it might have been Versailles — until he had the perfect size for his rubber-banded stack of letters. 

He had to push the lid shut over the letters now.  It would be time for a second tin, soon. 

Just let me come home

“I want to travel the world.”  He tested the words. They sounded dirty, dusty now, now like they had when he was twenty and full of himself.  Forget this stupid town.

Who knew the elders of his hometown were quite so temperamental — or quite so magical?

According to his tickets — and they were never wrong — he’d be here for almost three whole days.  Blake changed his shirt and headed out for a drink, giving the tin of letters one last pat on the way out. 

 

Post-Scar City – continued

So … let me know what you think about this one?

The Earthers that greeted them as they disembarked were nothing like Adeline had expected. 

They were wearing clean, smooth skirted jumpsuits that were clearly some sort of uniform, little booties with flat heels, and masks covering their noses and mouths.  They immediately handed Adeline and the other Habitaters with her the same sort of masks. 

“It can take up to three weeks for the immune system boosters to completely kick-in,” one of the Eathers explained.  “Until then, you want to avoid as much fluid-to-fluid contact with new people as possible.”

Adeline shared a look with Geordi.  As if they didn’t know basic health protocols! Continue reading

Running in the Bear Empire 55: Coming Home

 

First: Running in the Bear Empire
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The capital city was one of those cities that didn’t so much as rise into sight on the horizon as pop up suddenly when you rounded a bend in the road.  Nestled in the middle of the Bear Mountains, the city had been stopped from expanding further by the need to keep the pass clear through the entire year, including the six to eight months a year where the pass might be covered in snow.  There were buildings carved into the sides of the pass, but by regulation and army enforcement, those buildings were forced to stay back from the edges of the track far enough that even the widest wagons could head through with no problems, even in the worst weather. 

Thus, they went from the vendors leaning over the edges of their balconies, calling down to them about their fine wares, better prices than in the city, of course, and better quality of manufacture as well, around a corner where no vendors had managed to carve homes, into the gates of the city with the buildings looming up above them.  Continue reading

Spoils of War 18 – Promise

First: Spoils of War I: Surrender

“Look…”  Nikol tried to twist to look at the cat on her shoulders without dislodging it. “Look, I’ve got to get Aran. I’m – I’m kind of fond of him, and, I mean, I have a responsibility to him. And — okay, look, if I promise?”

Why was she negotiating with a cat?  She twisted this way and that, scooped the beast up, and, mindful of its claws, held it so she could look it in the eye.  “I am going to go get my friend. But I promise you – I promise you – I will be back and I will pet you when I get back.” Continue reading

Hidden Mall 81: Surely You’re Not Serious? I Am, and Don’t Call me Shirley (I’m Abseil)

“Attention mall Shoppers!  Our Sidewalk Sale starts at the Burlington Coat Factory wing and continues down to the Sears wing.  Hurry over to get the best sales!” The intercom continued to cheerfully advertise a sale to its “shoppers.”

A few of the people behind Abby-and-Vic jumped or shifted uncomfortably.  One of the ones with a gun aimed it at the intercom but didn’t fire. 

“You heard the – mall.”  Abby found she was grinning.  Why was she grinning? This was mad.  It was insane.  “There’s a sale going on.  Come on, ladies.” She turned and headed for the Burlington Coat Factory wing.  Continue reading

Post-Scarcity Mystery

This story started after a binge-listen of Isaac Arthur’s Science & Futurism videos. With Post-Scar City, it’s one of those I-might-continue sorts of things.

~*~

The coffee shop was Teri’s favorite part of the arcology, and that was saying something. 

It had a prime location, by some ways of looking at things – it overlooked one of the farm quadrants, so it had sunlight for most of the day through its broad windows.  Looking that way, you could almost forget you were hundreds of feet above ground. You could almost forget that out the front door was a hallway and a slidewalk that would take you where you wanted to go, instead of a road. 

That wasn’t really why Teri liked it, nor that the barista who worked there most weekdays had stunningly blue eyes and a generous smile, nor the adorable foam art that always seemed inspired by something “outside” in the fields. 

There was this corner table that looked out over the field but was half-hidden by the cream-and-sugar station, and, sitting there, Teri could decide how much people was a good amount for the day.  And, sitting there, tablet and stylus and coffee and scone, Teri could spend hours floating, drawing whatever came to mind, and go back to Residential Ring Three with something done that sparked that amazing feeling of I did something good today

The bright smile and the way the blue-eyed barista would sometimes wink helped, too.  Continue reading

Running in the Bear Empire 54: This Means W-

 

First: Running in the Bear Empire
🐻

Deline was trying to pretend that she wasn’t tense, and she wasn’t doing that good of a job. 

She walked by Carrone and near Ranger Learone, wishing for the casual conversation they’d had the day before.  The rain had held off while they camped, at least, but now, with the capital city looming on the horizon like a monster peeking out through the Bear Mountains, the rain, too, was looming.  It suited her mood, and the tenseness in Carrone’s shoulders, and the worry on the Ranger’s face and in the set of Lord Eigeran’s pace, stomping as if he could kick away his concern.  Continue reading