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Running in the Bear Empire 45: By The Numbers

First: Running in the Bear Empire
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“So there were fifty of them,” Deline murmured.  They stood ready, weapons drawn, listening to the shouts and screams.  “How many do you think we’ve taken out?”

“Over half,” he murmured back.”  The shouting stopped; they fell silent.

Somewhere on the other side of the boulder there, a whole bunch of people were trying to kill them.  It should have probably frightened Deline. They’d already blooded her here, for one. She found she was smiling.  Carrone’s traps were nasty and amazing. The spell-work she’d been pulling out of nowhere was exhilarating. Continue reading

Putting Out Fires (and Lighting Others)

This one is just sort of silly.  Maybe an intro to something?

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Perfect is the enemy of Good

That’s engraved on the lintel of our headquarters.

Well, it would be, but what’s really there is Firehouse 14.

It’s a good building, and the fire company has since moved somewhere else, bigger place, I think, more poles.

We moved in the way we do most things – quickly, efficiently, with a minimum of excess energy.

Which means, of course (of course) that I’m sleeping in an old firemen’s dormitory and so are the other seven of us.

We put out fires, after all.  Sort of. Sometimes we light them.

We’re the Cleaning Team, which is kind of a funny name for us, but it’s what we came up with while drinking vodka one night.  We get things done.

We don’t get them done cheaply.  We don’t get them done elegantly.  We get them done on time and well. (You know: on time, in budget, in scope, pick two.)

And we get them done – if not cleanly, then “cleanly.”

That is.  If it is illegal or questionably moral, It will never come back to us.  It will never come back to you.

If it is shining and bright and just needs to be done quickly, you will get all the lauds and we will be invisible.

Just don’t ask questions.

That, we actually have a sign for, on the front desk, next to the “Quick And Dirty, Done” sign that our secretary came up with.

(We do actually have a “don’t kill the client” clause in our (unwritten) contracts, but that one has its own escape clause (Our contracts are the one thing we didn’t do quick nor dirty).)

Perfect is the enemy of Good.

And let me tell you, you want it done, we can get it done Quick and really, really Good.

 


Written to May 16th’s Thimbleful Thursday Prompt.

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Hidden Mall 68: Sensible 🏷️

For a heart-stopping moment, Abby thought they were back home.

The mall looked normal.  It looked right.  The signs were in the right places, the stores looked normal; even the music sounded right.

“Where is everyone?” Liv whispered.

Abby turned slowly in a circle, moving all of her friends with her.  “Where is everyone?” she repeated.  There was – there was literally nobody around.

“No corpses,” ‘Via pointed out.  “That’s a plus.”

“No anyone,” Olly added.  “Not sure that’s a plus or a minus.” Continue reading

Haunted House 48: Nice Guy

First: A story featuring a male keeper and a female Kept.
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They rode on for a while before Jasper broke the strange silence again – not with anything related to their previous conversation, but just to tell Mélanie more about what he’d found and who he’d spoken to while at the market.  After a few minutes, Mélanie realized that he was giving her notes on his business – the people that he knew to talk to, the ones that he avoided, the ways that he tried to drum up more business. She found herself snorting.

“Networking.  It’s the end of the world – as we know it – and you’re networking.” Continue reading

Running in the Bear Empire 44: Tricks

First: Running in the Bear Empire
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The boulder jutted into the path, cutting it off until someone had carved their own path around it.  From the looks of the trees growing in and around it, it had fallen over a hundred years ago, but Deline could still see how the path had been warped.  It meant that until they came to the sharp edge of the stone, they couldn’t see anything ahead of them.

Carrone stepped ahead of her and she let him, her slingshot ready.  He hissed and took a step back, an arrow flying over his shoulder.

Deline grabbed a handful of components from her hip pack and began a spell under her breath.  Just as she was starting to speak, a voice boomed from the far side of the boulder. Continue reading

Thimbleful Thursday: Here and There

“But who are you?” The woman at the gate was staring at the interloper. “What is your name and what are you doing here?”

“What I am doing here, I have already told you.” The woman popped up her umbrella as an unseasonable and unexpected rain began. “I am here to speak to Madam Thare Oliphant.”

“The current mistress of the house is not Thare Oliphant, and hasn’t been in two hundred and seventy-two years.”

“You’re remarkably well-informed for a gate guard.” Continue reading

Hidden Mall 67: Dormant Malls 💤

Yadira offered them a place to sleep but seemed not in the least surprised when they didn’t take her up on her offer.  She showed them a doorway after that – and seemed more than a bit surprised that they did take that.

“I’m starting to think that it doesn’t matter which door we take,” Abby admitted.  “I think it’s more about our, uh, our mindset or something like that. The way we go through the door.  Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there’s a formula. But -“

“But maybe we oughta just talk to the malls,” Olly finished. “Because maybe the malls can tell us where we have to go.”

“Or kill us,” ‘Via countered.  “Or send us in circles. The malls are not our friends.  I don’t know why anyone thinks they are! The malls are-“

“The malls, you heard her,” Liv huffed.  “The malls, they used to be benign-“ Continue reading

Haunted House 47: Spurious Reasoning

First: A story featuring a male keeper and a female Kept.
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Mélanie brought both hands to her neck.  “Obviously-” she started slowly, not sure how anything she wanted to say would be taken, “I can’t be considered to be on the wrong side of a collar, since I’m not on any side of it.  Though I think you owe me a piercing of some sort, sir.”  She cleared her throat. “And, ah. I want to be here, remember that?  Please remember that?”

“Only if you call me Jasper again.”  He brushed his knuckles very lightly against the side of her neck, just over her hand.  “I haven’t upset you, then?”

“No, sir – Jasper.  No, not at all.”

“You’re sure?” Continue reading

Thimbleful Thursday: Envelope

“What…. what is it?”

Esuyp had been locked up in the old building for months on end, emerging only to do her required part of the settlement’s labor and fix the things that needed fixing, sometimes to eat and even more rarely to sleep.  Qiameth had been running back and forth between Esuyp’s workshop — so they all assumed it was — and the old school buildings, muttering to herself.

Now the thing — the result of every minute of leisure time for two people for over half a year in a settlement where everyone was working steadily — was out in the middle of the Green and the whole settlement was staring at it.

“What is it?” repeated the Eldest.   Continue reading