Outta the Woods Yet?

The big cat had been chasing Pren for heart-rending minutes when she managed to skid into a cave she’d never seen before.  She shimmied through a hole that was barely big enough for her and scooted up into a little ledge area. The cat might wait for hours for her, so she made herself comfortably before she pulled out the flint and steel and lit her torch.

The walls of the cave glittered and shone the way that sometimes a small piece of rock would.  The whole area was smooth, rounded, like she had scooted up from the cave into something even less natural than her tree-house.

On the far side of the room was a lever.  Pren looked at the lever. At least, it was a stick poking out of the wall at an angle.  Her mother had shown her how to use things like that to set traps for animals, when she had been small.  When her mother had been around. It might dump her into a net or drop something on her, although both the floor and ceiling looked sturdy enough in the torchlight.  It might drop something on the cat.

The cat was trying to get up the hole she had slipped through.  One clawed paw batted upwards, bigger than Pren’s foot.

She scooted backwards and pulled the lever.  Even a trap was better than being eaten by a cat.

She fell backwards as the wall opened up, into a brightly and smooth room full of strangers and shining lights.

Continue reading


When you listened to the old-timers talk, the problems were mostly space.

When you actually listened to them, the problem was space in specific areas, or space that someone wanted, or something like that.

But there was a “crowding issue”.  There were issues with too many people in NYC.  There were issues with lots and lots of people in places on the other side of the globe.  There were problems with obsolete technology.  As far as Rhini could tell, there had been a whole bunch of problems like that, or things people had thought were problems, and some really rich people had thought those problems were going to take over the world. Continue reading


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.”

Want more?


My Arcologies prompt call is still open here

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

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

Quite Pleasant

Story written to @SkySailor’s prompt on Mastodon, because it is that sort of day. 

Content warning: Non-consensual sex (not in detail but definitely there), incarceration, impregnation, transportation, and almost anything else you can think of that ends in – ation

Continue reading

Thimbleful Thursday: Zonked

I think the best warning for this one is: This creeped me out.  No body horror but brain horror.

“We have an agreement.”  The woman’s smile was fake.  “You signed the papers, the money has been deposited, and you are ready to comply.”

“Yes.”  Tepha nodded shortly.  “You have my thumbprint.  You have my consent, and I’ve seen the money in the account.”  She put down her Access – the cheapest possible one, but it did show her things like bank accounts.  She’d done the three swipes necessary to take the account out of her name.  She couldn’t touch it anymore, and that was important.

“Good.  Now, I know you’ve probably heard some things about the Procedure.  Half of those are lies and the other half… well. You’ll find out soon enough.”

Considering the things Tepha had heard, that was not remotely comforting.  

It didn’t need to be.  She wasn’t here for comfort.

She sat down in the chair the woman indicated.  She closed her eyes.

“We can’t sedate you for this part, but don’t worry.  Most people lose consciousness very quickly.”

She didn’t know if that was a good thing.  She knew – if half the rumors were true – that nothing was the same after you’d been Zonked.  She knew – if even a quarter of the rumors were true – that it wasn’t reversible.

None of that mattered.

The wires attached to her head.  The pill set on her tongue, a wafer that tasted fakely of fruit.  She felt it dissolve. She felt a sudden jolt of pain. And then…

Then she felt nothing.

“There we go.”  The woman removed the wires and waved her hand in front of Tepha’s face.  The eyes tracked. There was no expression.

“Good.”  The woman nodded.  “Stand up and go through the blue door.  Follow the instructions you are given.”

Zonked people were cheaper than robots, could often still handle independent thought, and the price of feeding and housing them was minimized by their lack of want.  If the woman found them creepy… feeling was not part of her job description either.

The woman who had been Tepha did as she had been told.  There was nothing in her to suggest any desire to do otherwise.

Written to July 19th’s Thimbleful Thursday prompt: Zonked Out

Want more?

Kaijune: How Cuute

The worst thing you can say about an enemy is “Aw, how cute.”

Not because you risk offending them – we’re talking someone who is already an enemy, for one, and in this particular case, we’re talking about things that would have to go through a whole translation process to sort that out, because they definitely don’t speak English.

No, because the moment you say cute, you’ve stopped thinking of the thing as an enemy and have started thinking of it as something to hug, to protect, to coddle.

This was a big enough problem when the things the news insisted on calling the Lilliputians invaded.  Well, visited.  They weren’t as small as the ones Swift visited in his Tales, but they came up to about an average adult knee and they were what my daughter called “chibi”: their features looked exaggerated and childlike.

But that was them.  When the rabbits appeared, well, then we had really big problems.

Really, really big problems.

Have you ever seen a grown adult soldier arguing with their officers that they can’t shoot the bunny?  Have you ever seen a tank sat on by a bunny big enough to start nibbling on the flag hanging off the twenty-seventh floor?  Have you ever seen the hairball from a hare that size?

Okay, so back up a bit.

It hadn’t even started with the Lilliputians.  It had started with some sort of humanoid-like grey people with giant eyes, and it turned out they ran an intergalactic tourist agency – I have been told, time after time and in painstaking detail, that they are not tourists, that tourists is a provincial back-water Earth concept, but people who are not scientists travelling to new places to see how they live sounds a lot like tourism to me.  Anyway, the problem with tourism (or splet!clogk, or irri♫arren↓) , as I’m sure anyone who lives in a picturesque place could already tell you, is getting the damn tourists to leave.

So may be the Lilliputians weren’t invaders, and they did go home when we convinced them that their visas had expired, but the rabbits…

Look, nobody even knows if they’re sentient.  They don’t talk to me, they don’t talk to the consul, the Grey Folks aren’t even sure how they got here. But they might be cute and they might be fluffy and now nobody wants to shoot them, sure. But the amount of shit a building-sized rabbit leaves is pretty impressive, and let me tell you, that ain’t cute.

“splet!clogk” and “irri♫arren↓” aren’t necessarily meant to be pronounced by a human mouth but I was thinking that the ! in splet!clogk is a tongue click and the gk makes sort of a choking noise; the ♫ is a whistle and the ↓ is for a drop in pitch. 

Thimbleful Thursday: Vent

Content warning: Barbie nudity discussed, technology/human hybrid

“The trick has always been balance.” Idella Passmore had that dangerous combination of skilled enthusiasm and charisma; the tour group was listening intently, despite having no idea what she was talking about. “You want sufficient technology to retard or stop decay, of course, but people want to be people. This particular model involves a cybernetic torso with a RealSkin(tm) cover. Most of the organs have been replaced, but the brain remains and the heart continues to pump blood. In some cases, we choose to keep the uterus; in some we replace the heart with a technological marvel like our HeartPump2000.” Continue reading

World Building June Day 4-5 History and Civilization

It’s World-Building June!  So I’m building Worlds!  Aerax/Expectant Woods over on Patreon, and Bear Empire and a new thing here!

It’s also June WorldBuilding – so we’re getting two sets of prompts.  After I exhaust the answers I’ve written, I might just default to Inspector Caracal’s questions.

Warning: Long post.

Bear Empire
(The setting for Carrone and Deline, Chased in the Bear Empire)

4. What’s its history? (How did it come to be?)

The legend most often told about the land was that the Bear grew tired of swimming.

That is: There had been a land far to the south, but the Bear was too warm all the time, and the Fox found that its fur was the wrong color all the time.  The Cat was being hunted by the ones that did not care about its mighty roar, and it wanted more trees, and the Lynx wanted some place where it did not get mud in its toes and sticky sap in its fur.  

So they all worked together, and they climbed onto the Bear, who was the largest of them, and they swam and swam and swam.

And when the Bear was tired of swimming, she curled up in a shallow place in the water, and the others curled up around her flanks, and there, the new land formed, both of and for the creatures who had swum so far.

That’s just one telling.

There were several tribes of people who each followed an Animal deity, and that animal’s magic and power.  And after a time, the Bear people decided that they should be in charge of everything, and started conquering.

It is said that they stopped for five reasons:  There was nothing to the north but ice. To the west were the mountains, and the Bear lumbers too much to cross them easily.  To the east was the ocean, and the Bear did not want to make another mighty swim. And to the south was a river blessed by one who had been here before, and they did not wish to dishonor her by fouling it.

And while these things had slowed the Bear down, the other groups had quietly changed their names, and in some cases the deity they gave honor to, so as to confuse the Bear, who was hunting down and consuming only the other animal-totems.

Or so it has been said.

The Bear Empire has lived as it is for about four centuries, and there is a lot that is lost in allegation and history.  Who you ask might change an answer, when you’re going back that far.

What is known is that there were several Kingdoms with animal deities, and now there is the Bear, and that the Bear did unabashedly conquer and conquer… and then stop.

Some whisper that a Bear the size of an empire simply has a very long hibernation period, but within the nation, they say simply “this is the size of the Bear” and believe that that means everything that it needs to.

5. What sorts of civilizations and architecture fill your world?

Ooh, goody!  *rubs hands together*

All right, we’ve already noted the Bear, the Deklegion, the Halorians, and the Carrup… Car… Don’t know which part of that is the nation and which part is the people.

With the exception of the Bear, these nations are a little bit bigger than your average Western European nation.  They vary in specialties, available technology and magic, and in culture.

The Bear Empire, especially the Heart of the Bear, that valley and the surrounding three mountains that make up the capital and the believed-home of the Bear Nation, like pointy architecture.  Everything has roofs that reach up for the sky in a sort of absurd height. They also build in what they call “Winter-Walls” and “Summer walls”; the winter walls are exterior and made largely of doors, so that when opened in “summer” (the slightly warmer season” breezes are aimed properly into the house.  There is a corridor, just wide enough for someone to walk through, between these sets of walls in many cases, although in some it is filled with straw or wood or other such things.

As you move south and towards the mountains, you also get a great deal of in-ground structures, what we would call “earth-sheltered.”  Often this takes the form of a dwelling built in a declivity between two slopes, with the always-pointed roof being one of the only parts visible.  That roof, too, might be covered with moss, so that you end up with just a very pointy-looking hill.

Moving towards the ocean and also southward, the stone that is the predominant building material in the far north is replaced by wood.  You still end up with tall, pointy structures, but they are brown instead of grey, and sometimes built, in dryer areas, of stacked wood covered in a hardened mud mix for the first floor, before going on to boards above that.

The exception to this is temples.

Those are generally built in a round shape referred to as the “sleeping bear”, often in a stack of 2-5 rounds, all of them with an opening in one section.  You enter the Bear through the mouth and exit it the same way.

The Union of Space
(an entirely new setting (probably))

4.  What’s its history? (How did it come to be?)

The United Space of 2407 has been a federated nation for almost 300 years.  Breakthroughs in the mid-to-late 21st century in medicine and technology heralded and were heralded by a series of social changes in which humans, shaken up by a series of catastrophes, became both more interested in worlds beyond earth and, to put it very simplistically, became better people (on average).

The colonies were formed as part of a wave of colonization in the early 2300s and late 2200s after a breakthrough in space travel made other M-class planets not a matter of generations of travel but of months or a couple years.  

Several attempts were taken at colonization, but the first ones lacked any rigorous protocols.  Thus, the University created a study, gained funding, and colonized ten M-class planets with 1000 people each.

At about the same time, several corporations were hoping to lay claim to the vast untapped wealth of these planets — and to the research possibilities held therein.  They, too, populated their own colonies, not collaborating with the University in all cases.

Scribe is a beautiful and rich planet; it is unsurprising that two groups wanted it.  While technically the University group made landfall first, it’s been eighty years, and they landed within a couple planetary months of each other.

5. What sorts of civilizations and architecture fill your world?

Although United Space as a whole is one federated government (simplified overarching laws, a defense military, infrastructure, a basic support system,simplified taxes, and a tricameral system of democracy), there have been several groups which have settled different planets within “easy” reach with the new star drive.

The current legal system of the United Space declares that each planet must obey a certain set of laws and may otherwise be self-contained until they reach the point where they wish to trade with the rest of United Space.

The University colony’s core is built of 3d-printed/”replicated” buildings that all look very similar: nine? blocks of ten houses each are built with interspersed sales buildings, parks, and two stretches of farmland; some farmland still surrounds this city core.

These core buildings are quadplexes; each quad is a 4-bedroom house designed to hold at least 4 adults and possibly 2 children each, so that each quadplex originally held 8 to 16 people.

These houses look very square and tall, with hip roofs and very thick windows.

Outside of that core section, the oldest houses look very similar.  Most of those are built in a duplex style, often with a small courtyard between two duplexes.  Those too are 3D printed, made of a strong concrete-like substance, and like the quadplexes, they have very thick walls, very thick windows, and are three stories and a shallow attic tall.   They all have deep basements, and solar panels provide electricity inside as well as water heating and some house heating/cooling.

Many of the buildings throughout the original colony and both sub-colonies have the same basic look: The winters are cold here, the summers warm, and thick walls help moderate heat changes.  The replicator is available and still functions (it was built to function for 150 years and makes its own replacement parts), and so people still build at least the core of their homes and businesses that way.

However, newer homes often incorporate more hand-crafted materials; while an original house might have hand-carved or at least individually 3D-printed and hand-designed trim around the windows and doors, newer homes go for elaborate trim, wooden and stone decorations, reed tapestries on the outside, and so on.  

Cal Questions, Bear Empire


4- What kind of day and seasonal cycles do people who live there experience?

The Bear Empire has long days in the summer and long nights in the winter, culminating, in the capital, with the Day of the Bear in the summer (24 hours of sun) and the Night of the Howl in the winter (24 hours of darkness).

Their winter is long (in terms of Earth Months, it would be from late September through early June) and in the middle of it is quite cold.  Their summer is brief and pleasant.

Their growing season, thus, is very short.  They grow a great deal of root vegetables, with oats being their primary cereal grain.


5 — what is the weather like?  Is it natural, artificial, or a combination?

The Bear Empire has some very agressive weather.  Blizzards are common in the winter season, sometimes coming super early or rather later in what would be called “winter” by more southern nations.

In addition, storms — sleet, thunderstorms, freezing rain — they are all common, especially in the two months of “spring.”  Those storms can actually be more dangerous than the blizzards. Winter gets cold, yes, but spring will get you freezing and soaked.

Most of the weather is natural.  There are a few corners of the Empire where one of two things will contribute to kinder weather over, for instance, farmland or a particular festival or ceremony:

Magery can mitigate some weather, the sort of storms that come up unexpectedly.  It would take five people working intently to shift a storm so that the weather might, say, rain on a field but not hail or sleet on it, or to make the weather directly over a parade be more mild.

The Blessing of the (I’m going to call them totem spirits for the moment) can sway an entire weather pattern, but this requires the concerted work of many priests of that totem spirit, or many “lay priests”.

Cal Questions, Union of Space


3- What type of climate does it have? Wet or dry, hot or cold?

Many parts of United Space have technologically-balanced

The University Colony is in a sheltered area. Its weather is more mild than the surrounding area, which tends to be cold in the winter, warm in the summer, and generally windy, whereas the University Colony does not get as hot or as cold, although when it gets wet, it really gets wet.  Its snowfalls can be inches to a foot more than surrounding areas, but its days below 0F are far fewer than the surrounding areas.

The two nearby colonies are set in similar areas, protected by hills and set near wide bodies of water.  

The Company Colony has weather that is neither as cold in the winter (It rarely snows, but it does get rather rainy for a couple months) nor as mild in the summer, with temperatures reaching 100F on a regular basis.  It is not as sheltered as the University Colonies, and it is further from any large body of water – trying to stay away from the potential sight of the University Colony boats.

Questions? Thoughts?  Tell me!