Sunday Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike – Slim and Beautiful

Sunday Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike – Slim and Beautiful

So what’s a vignette? You might know them as flash fiction, or even just sketches. We will provide a prompt each Sunday that you can use directly (including it in your work) or just as an inspiration. You, in turn, will write about 50 words (yes, we are going for short shorts! Not even a Drabble 100 words, just half that!). Then post it! For an additional challenge, you can aim to make it exactly 50 words, if you like.

We recommend that if you have an original vignette, you post that as a new reply. If you are commenting on someone’s vignette, then post that as a reply to the vignette. Comments — this is writing practice, so comments should be aimed at helping someone be a better writer, not at crushing them. And since these are likely to be drafts, don’t jump up and down too hard on typos and grammar.

If you have questions, feel free to ask.

Your writing prompt this week is: petite

63 thoughts on “Sunday Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike – Slim and Beautiful

  1. Martin looked at the horse he was told to climb up on. It appeared to tower over his tall form. He gulped nervously before grabbing the saddle horn and scrambling up to the amusement of Jackson. At least he managed to end up facing the right way.
    “Don’t you have anything smaller?” he asked.
    “Now son, that there horse is rather petite compared to most of the other ones.”

  2. “What happened to you”?

    “Well sir, that rogue may have been petite but she’s also a powerful telekinetic”.

  3. “I am decidedly against it.” said Carl, “Stones made from animal companions? Far too creepy for me.”

    “Hey, they used to make diamonds from remains.” chimed Rachel, “How’s that for creepy?”

    “Yeah, I guess so, but even if the idea wasn’t squick, the name for the stones.. really now… pet-ite?”

    1. “Yes, Pet-ite. The similarity to petite is intentional. They’re little stones.” Rachel replied.

      “I think you’d need to be far more a little stoned to go for such a creepy thing.”

      “Hey, I only said that this option exists. Not that I wanted to do it to any of ours.”

      1. “Good, I’ve no intentions of having PETroliths haunting me.”

        Carl mused for a while, hrmming to himself, so he thought.

        “Alright, what?” asked Rachel, having had quite enough.

        “Well, maybe some of our neighbors…”

        Carl failed to dodge the pillow.

        “You know, it’s a good thing you aren’t actually evil.”

      2. You could make the Pet-ite from the ‘little stones’ obtained when you ‘fixed’ your companion, then affix them to his collar. In a way, he’d still have all his equipment on him.

  4. Princess Daisy looked over her new half-orc bodyguards with a sniff of derision. “What are they called, Guard-Captain?”

    “Slim and Beautiful, milady.”

    “Neither of them appears particularly petite nor attractive.”

    “Soldiers’ irony, your Grace. Thus the hill giant guarding the castle gate named by his brothers-in-arms, ‘Tiny’.”

    1. And the bald one over there is called Curly, and the really stocky one is called Slim. The twins are both called None. Only fools get between Slim and None. The most dangerous one, though, is Petite Poteet; all her sides are bad.

  5. Advantages of being a petite, 5’2″ female as a senshi? Everybody underestimates you, everybody thinks you’re the “cute little girl” (1), you have access to the most amazing range of clothing (2) and your uppercuts are groin punches on 90% of your opponents.

    Disadvantages of being a petite, 5’2″ female as a senshi? Everybody underestimates you, you’re so short that I’ve needed a booster seat at quite a few places, I need a ladder when I could have reached up at least two years ago, and just about everyone thinks you’re “cute”. Even when you’re wearing a latex vamp dress that emphasizes every curve (3).

    (1)-Long, nearly hip-length red (wig) hair done in a ponytail helps.
    (2)-At my rank of Solist, my budget is “the GDP of Brazil,” and I had fallen in love with several designers of gothic lolita and cosplay fashion in Japan. It is entirely possible that I am the major supporter of at least three designers.
    (3)-Keep your ID handy, always. I ALWAYS get carded when I want a drink. Always.

  6. Ermenberga was petite for a Frank, and looked even more so beside her towering brother Clovis who was even taller than Clodin. But as she approached the warmth of her smile seemed somehow to make her grow to fill the Hall as Clodin stepped from his chair to greet her.

  7. “Merde. They’re going to murder each other.” Phillipe muttered to Drake as they watched their leaders stand up from the poker game, chests out and heads forwards, One waving angrily at the other’s cards, hands heading for their guns. The rest of the players were backing off rapidly. “It’s your place, brother. You’ve got to do something to stop this!”

    “Already handled.” Drake replied quietly. He tucked his cell phone away, then put his fingers to his lips and let out a piercing whistle that stopped everybody else in the smoky apartment. “All right. Let’s…” His words were interrupted by a knocking in a slightly oddball rhythm. “Hold that thought. Act friendly.”

    Before anyone could object, Drake crossed to the door and unlocked it without checking. When it opened, they had to look down – a petite woman with a frazzled cloud of red hair stood there, glaring up at him. She was wearing a black crop top advertising a video game, purple pajama pants with little cartoon bats, and actual pink bunny slippers stood here, staring back up at Drake. He smiled, and she sighed, shoulders slumping, and held out a glass jar to him. “Pleeeeeeeeeeease.”

    He took it, and twisted the lid until the seal broke with an audible crack. Opening the lid, he sniffed. “Ooh, nice honey. What are you making?”

    She stared straight ahead at his solar plexus and muttered. “I was going to make baklava until I couldn’t get it open. So it was going to be spanakopita instead, but the phyllo dough is not cooperating, and it’s all a mess.”

    He spun the top back on until it was just snug, and handed it back. “If you make it, I’m really good at making evidence disappear. Just bake it anyway and bring it on over.”

    She lit up, and bounced on her feet. “I can do that! I’ll bring some baklava, too!”

    Behind him, one of the guys asked, “Is it half as sweet as you, honey?”

    She gasped, leaned sideways to look behind him, and started turning red. “Oh, my gosh! You have people over! I’m so sorry! I’m not dressed for company!”

    “They’re my family. They’re not company.” Drake smiled down at her, as she turned deeper red. Behind him, a ragged chorus of greetings started.

    “Oh, no! Give my love to your father, and I’m so sorry, but your mother will totally understand I have to get back to the kitchen!” She snatched the honey jar back, and fled.

    Drake waited until her front door slammed, and closed his own. Turning back around, he smiled, shaking his head, and told the poker players, “Don’t you even start.”

    “Bunny slippers. She was wearing bunny slippers.” The rage from moments before was replaced with open laughter.

  8. When the smoke cleared the Ingrid Newkirk Brigade had been decimated 10 times over — scarcely 1/e remained.

    The medical researchers had finally noticed the animal rights fanatics.
    They intended to chase down to the last petite, and mount zir head with the placard “A boy is not a rat!”.

  9. A while ago we had a guest post from Laura Montgomery about launch licenses and the FAA.

    Update 1, the Flat Earth rocket guy is getting dinged for not having a launch license.

    Update 2, I wanted to know what happens when petite, fashionable FAA space lawyer meets giant, satellite launching tank. Well, now I know:

    “Athena was lounging outside in the evening sun, reading a book. When things got stressful, as they were now, she found that the act of reading calmed her down. She was reclining on a chaise lounge under a little shelter, not much more than a nylon tent fly stretched between a couple of rocks and a saguaro cactus. On the other side of her little west-facing nook in the mountainside was her immense combat chassis, railgun pointing east-northeast toward the Atlantic Ocean and Holland. She had been busy launching communications satellites and firing specially constructed autonomous drones into orbit behind them, adding to the prodigious weight of firepower already circling the Earth. Presently she was taking advantage of a pause in the action to enjoy a little chill-out time. With the sun low in the Arizona sky, she had a perfect view of the coming sunset.
    Not coincidentally, she had a perfect view of the only road coming into the area as well. There was a dust cloud on that road, a rare sight indeed. A car was coming. That meant someone important from the government, because there were Army Rangers controlling that road. They had orders to keep gawkers and crazy people away from the titanic Valkyrie sitting on the old garbage dump in the valley. It kept driving over mountains and shooting things the size of cars into orbit at odd moments, they didn’t want any civilians getting squashed.
    Athena shaded her eyes and watched as the car pulled to a stop at the bottom of the hill she was on. A well-dressed woman got out and looked around. She saw Athena’s little tent fly and set off with a determined stride. There was a path up to where Athena was sitting, she would be safe enough coming up the slope by herself.
    “We have a visitor,” said a disembodied voice. Invisible fingers grasped Athena’s hand and squeezed gently. “Want me to trip her?” It was Kurio, the robot ninja. Completely hidden even from Athena’s Valkyrie sensor suite.
    “Tempting,” said Athena with a smile. “But no, that would be rude. Save it in case she gets out of line.”
    “Good plan,” said Kurio. “I’ll be around.”
    “Yay,” said Athena. “Don’t go far, I’ve got another string of launches scheduled, and I know you hate being outside for that.”
    “Rodger-dodger,” said the voice, receding up the rock face. Kurio was climbing. She liked to have an altitude advantage.
    Athena sipped her drink and went back to her book. She looked up when footsteps crunched in the hard stone of the pathway. The woman was mid-thirties, slim and trim, with a no-nonsense air of authority. Dark blue power suit with slacks, Prada pumps now a little dusty from the path, dark hair cut in a fashionable bob and a $300 pen in her jacket pocket. She had a briefcase in one hand.
    “Good afternoon, ma’am. I am Laura Montgomery, from the FAA field office in Phoenix.” The lady extended a hand.
    “Good afternoon, Laura. I am Athena,” she replied, rising from the chaise to shake. She towered over the petite woman, who did not show any sign that she was intimidated by Athena’s six foot height.
    “I hoped I would find someone here today,” said Laura. “Are you by any chance the owner of that vehicle over there?”
    Athena smiled widely at that. “More that this body is an instantiation of the vehicle’s sensory/motor system. A finger, if you will. The vehicle is Athena.”
    “They told me this was going to be interesting,” said Laura frowning. “I’ll cut to the chase here, ma’am. You’ve been launching into orbit without a launch license.”
    “Yes,” said Athena cheerfully. “I’m going to launch some more in a few minutes. Did you come to watch? Or are you a space lawyer?”
    “I came to deliver a cease and desist order, and a notice that you’re being charged under section forty-two dash A of the FAA launch regulations,” said Laura firmly. She reached smoothly into her case and extracted a sheaf of papers, which she handed to Athena. “You are hereby served.”
    “Well, thanks for that,” said Athena, putting the papers unread on the chaise next to her book. “Got time for a drink? The sunset is nice from here, and I have a few minutes before my next launch window.”
    The lawyer was not diverted by Athena’s show of cheek. “You do realize the fine for an illegal launch is almost $300,000?” she said frowning. “How many missiles have you shot out of that thing?”
    “It’s a railgun,” said Athena proudly. “Longest range gun in the Brigade. Nike can beat me for throw weight, Skadi has me on rate of fire, but I can reach the farthest without rocket motors on the projectile. I put a couple in geosynchronous orbit earlier today.”
    “How many?” repeated the lawyer sternly.
    “Today? Twenty so far. All told? A bunch,” said Athena. “Over two thousand rounds since I began operations out here in the desert. You may have a little trouble collecting those fines, though.”
    A strangled giggle from the top of a nearby boulder had Laura looking around suspiciously. “Who else is here? I’ve got more papers to serve on anyone connected with this launch operation.”
    “My girlfriend Kurio,” said Athena. “She’s a ninjabot. Didn’t they warn you that you were walking into a bunch of killer robots?”
    “The soldiers did,” admitted Laura reluctantly. “I decided to come anyway and see for myself, since you haven’t squashed any of them yet. They spoke highly of you. This is a legal matter, Miss Athena. You need to take this seriously. The FAA has the power to attach all your property and assets in perpetuity. They sent me over here from Washington DC to start that process in motion.”
    “You didn’t even know where we were before you got to Phoenix, did you?” said Kurio, shimmering into visibility on top of the boulder. She was all in black, lying prone with her chin in her hands, feet waving idly in the air, looking down over the side of the boulder. Just her eyes were showing through her mask. A black rifle on a bipod pointed off across the valley, covering the path. “Your superiors dropped you in the sheep dip today. You should probably think about that a little.”
    “Something else you should be thinking about is who built a machine like me, that can shoot straight into orbit,” said Athena. “More importantly, why? Who needs two thousand satellites? And why am I stacking up six hundred million bucks worth of FAA fines, when I should have gone through channels like everybody else?”
    “I’m not concerned with those questions,” said Laura firmly. “That is not my mission. I’m here to enforce the regulations and serve these papers on you both. Miss Kurio, please come down here.” She reached in her brief case and pulled out another sheaf.
    “Perhaps you should,” said Athena, looking up at Kurio. “She won’t go away otherwise, and I have launches coming up. It isn’t safe for her out here.”
    “She is much more polite than the EPA minion who was here the other day,” said Kurio judiciously, kicking her feet. “Did you mention the bill we are preparing for Uncle Sam? And that we’re not humans, and we have no legal existence?”
    “I did mention I’m a giant tank and you’re a killer robot,” said Athena with a small smile. “Perhaps she hasn’t put that together yet.”
    “I am prepared for that,” said Laura sharply. “These papers serve the owner of the launch facility, and any personnel associated with it. Come down, please. Right now.”
    “I’m not a human, I’m a semi-biological artificial intelligence,” said Kurio, pulling back her mask so Laura could see her cheeky grin. “I’m not personnel, I’m equipment. Can you serve a truck? I’m a truck.”
    “I can confiscate equipment and serve on the owner,” said Laura confidently, but a small worry line began to show on her forehead.
    “I don’t have an owner,” giggled Kurio as Athena’s smile widened. “I am a cognizant and self-motivating artificial being. Owning me would be slavery, confiscating me would be improper confinement without charge. Kidnapping, really. I might take offense.” She waggled her eyebrows at Laura impudently. “You, madam space lawyer, are trapped with two killer robots, a giant tank, and an unprecedented legal problem. There is no one you can charge. Having fun yet?”
    “No. There is sand in my shoes,” said Laura belligerently, now becoming angry. “I’m standing on a mountain in the middle of nowhere, talking to people who are acting like children. Please come down here and be served. I’m not going to ask you again.”
    “We are children,” giggled Kurio. “That’s another thing. We aren’t even a year old yet. So even if you manage to charge us, and even if you find some miraculous way to have us declared persons before the law, we are under age. And before you say parents, let me remind you about the artificial part of artificial intelligence. Can you charge little orphan babies under the launch regulations?”
    “I’m sure there’s a way,” said Laura flatly. “Don’t forget the cease-and-desist order. I can have the bailiffs out here in an hour if you breach that.”
    “Can bailiffs arrest a little orphan baby?” asked Kurio innocently. “Children are unable to form legal intent you know.”
    “How about a baby the size of a shopping mall?” asked Athena. “I think you’ll find the most they can do is yell and stamp their feet.”
    “Not my problem!” said Laura fiercely. “I’m a lawyer, not a cop. I don’t handle enforcement or collections. I represent the regulator. You two need to pay that fine, and stop your illegal launches!””

    Things begin to go a bit down hill for Laura after that. 🙂

    1. Groan. Ok, first I’m not at the FAA anymore.

      To continue: Oh, wow. Just wow. On the one hand, I was pleased to be trim. On the other hand, I’m about 5’8″ so I think “petite” got abused. On the third hand, I went and looked up what the Commercial Space Launch Act defines as a person. According to 51 USC 50902 a person is “ an individual and an entity organized or existing under the laws of a State or country.” Arguably your AI is a person just by dint of existing. I think your AI needs a launch license.

      1. *giggles* From our last meeting, you definitely project, slim, trim, and up to intellectual fighting weight. Also, a whole lot more energy than me!

        …and yes, I’m now having a mental picture of you beta-reading this whole section and arguing both sides.

        *wanders off, leaking giggles*

        1. Hah. I do try to figure out the right answer. Either the law has developed to recognize AI’s or it hasn’t in the above scenario. If it has, the AI needs a launch license as a person. If the law hasn’t, someone built that AI and that’s who needs the license. (And Phantom argued the other side just fine.)
          Also, purely in the interests of reality, I never got to do anything remotely like this. I did once consult with the local Marshalls and wonder who was supposed to supply the yellow tape. That’s it.

      2. “Arguably your AI is a person just by dint of existing.”

        That would be an epic court battle, don’t you think? Its a giant tank, not a woman. How does the law decide personhood? Pretty sure in Canada that would take an act of Parliament. Which they might consider cautiously, if a Valkyrie was sitting on the front lawn of the Parliament buildings.

        You could go after the original maker of the technology, but she’s an alien artificial intelligence. Hard to confiscate extra-orbital assets. Or you could go after George McIntyre, but he’s a 100 foot dragon, and a foreign national. Can the FAA attach the property of foreign nationals?

        Athena, being a millitant sort of person, is using compliance as a weapon. By filling out the launch license paperwork for every launch after the fact, she’s going to drop it all on them in one shot. Thereby immobilizing the entire FAA bureaucracy while they try to process 2000 launch waivers at once.

        Something else evil that I thought of later on, if Athena runs up -billions- of dollars worth of launch fines, and then pays them, and keeps doing it, isn’t she going to end up having considerable power over the FAA by reason of owing them so much money?

        That’s what happened to the tobacco companies. They owe SO much money that the state governments are propping them up and increasing their sales. They have become a protected and special pet of government by -losing- the lawsuits.

        1. Can’t remember the exact quote, but it went something along the lines of:

          “When you owe the bank ten thousand dollars, the bank owns you. When you owe the bank ten billion dollars, you own the bank.”

        2. In the United States Athena could be recognized as a person either through the courts or by an act of Congress. Making her creator an ET doesn’t mean that the ET doesn’t need a license, and if AIs were recognized as persons, the ET AI would need a license. See, much of launch technology today is autonomous, computer controlled. Someone built that and it’s the builder or the operator who needs the license.

          For accuracy, a few more things: 1. Any foreign national launching from the United States requires a license. 2. You can’t legally ask for a waiver after you’ve violated the statute or regulations. 3. What you are describing are not loopholes in the law but someone strong enough not to comply with it. There’s a relevant difference between whether the law covers your activities or not and whether you are just getting away with non-compliance. 4. I’m not brave enough to walk up to a tank like that. Just sayin’. 🙂

        3. Also, if I were a judge, I’d use the ability to make decisions independently as one of the criteria for determining personhood. It could only be one of the criteria, because computers now do things that could be characterized as “decisions.”

          1. This is a thing in the story. Athena has semi-autonomous drones. The satellites she’s launching have human-scale intelligence, but they aren’t cognizant. They’re machinery, essentially, and run by Turing machine serial computation. Like the dream smart-bomb. They can choose their own targets and get it right just like a human pilot. But they don’t set the mission, Athena does.

            They are also lippy. They mock the target first. ~:)

            A judge making the “personhood” call based on independent decision making would get it wrong. Self-driving cars make decisions all the time, independently. I think that currently we are getting quite close to technology that can pass the Turing Test and fool a human being. We may soon have this exact lawsuit scrolling through the courts as some goof tries to get his toaster declared a person.

              1. There have been some attempts to get chimpanzees and/or gorillas declared “persons” over the years, usually by bunny huggers.

                That a chimp is not a person is obvious. It can only be argued against by someone with an agenda, like an animal rights activist. They’re trying to make a company let the chimps go, and this is their current effort. Pretty weak-sauce as legal theories go.

                But, being an Anthropology grad, there is a lot more support for the contention that a chimpanzee could be considered a “person” than even the most sophisticated Turing machine. For one thing, Chimpanzees are demonstrably cognizant, while a Turing machine is going to be most definitely not. Even dogs have cognizance, lots of mammals do. Reptiles, bugs and fish, not so much. Robots are like bugs, but dumber.

                A chimp is not a person because it can’t take part in human society. It has no ability to make and keep agreements, it can’t follow through on a plan, can’t reason, can’t understand the consequences of its actions, and so forth.

                A machine that could do those things but only emulated self-awareness and cognizance might be able to participate in human society better than a chimp, but it wouldn’t be a person. Which only goes to show how far we have to go before a true artificial intelligence can be created. It has to be better than a chimpanzee. Right now we struggle to make robots better than ants.

                1. I liked the summary that the Quantum Vibe webcomic came up with (can’t find the strip in which it appears, so this quote is from memory): “Anything that can understand the concept of rights, and apply that concept to itself, is a person and has rights.” In that scene in the comic, the point was arguing that an AI was a person and that therefore, to own her would be slavery. (And the AI, as presented in the comic, *was* indeed a person).

        4. “If you owe the bank a billion dollars and can’t pay, the bank has a problem.”

          “People who go broke in a big way never miss any meals. It is the poor jerk who is shy a half slug who must tighten his belt.” — RAH.

  10. She agreed. She had never felt so small and young at the university, not even the day she had arrived. She looked at the back door. For a moment, she though she saw another student, but then realized that blond hair, moving, was her own reflection.
    Then Professor Browne burst in.

  11. Smiling brilliantly the buxom redheaded lass stood to her full height, arched her back and held the lop-eared bunny up in her cupped palms. “Eet is lovely, is eet not?” she cooed. “Do not you weesh to pet eet?”

    All attention focused on her, they never heard the soft “snikt!”

  12. *tongue firmly in cheek* Well, I’m petite enough that I can be described as chibi, and have been known to fall short of expectations (apparently, people think I should be a lot taller), and I’ve gotten a head start on the shrinking part of the Asian Aging Process. Hey, I’ll probably be like Cologne (Ranma 1/2, not the city) by the time I’m white haired.

  13. The vintner’s description of the Petite Sirah made her drowsy. She drank the offering in two gulps, slipped out the back door, and continued her drive along the Silverado Trail. A side road would soon give her access to the river, and she would invigorate herself with a quick swim.

  14. A spicy scent hung in the air, reminiscent of the fragrance of fine incense. As I entered the room, soft music began to play.

    Curious, I looked around for the performer, but saw only a floor harp of rich golden wood. The column had been carved in the form of a petite young woman. Could the harp be playing by itself?

    And then I realized that the girl was alive within the wood, ensorcelled by some vile dark magic to become a part of the magic harp. “Is there no abomination so terrible that Gorlath will not stoop to it?”

    “Not Gorlath, alas.” The speaker was a tall, slender man with the drained look that comes when a magician extends his life too far beyond its normal limits, even by light-magic means. “This magic is far older than the Tyrant of Maroa, and dates from the height of the Coastal Empire. The verrin tree was deliberately driven extinct to put an end to that particular enchantment. However, there is a legend that House Imperial once had a counter-charm to break the enchantment and release a harp-girl, but it was lost by treachery. For that reason we have refrained from destroying every magic harp we find, in hope that one day we can rediscover or recreate the lost knowledge and set all of them free.”

    I mouthed some polite words, but inwardly I wondered about the wisdom of bringing these poor lasses, like as not raised as slaves, into a world changed beyond recognition by the passage of centuries.

  15. (Delete if this double posts)

    It was a small ship. Petite, even, measured against the mighty bulk of her sisters in death.

    Huge battleships, kilometers long, holding tens of thousands of souls as they lived and tried to hold back the tide that would eventually sweep Jupiter colony, Mars, and eventually Earth itself into the pages of history. Of thirty trillion men, women, and children, the barest tithe were evacuated. Here in the old homeworld’s moon’s highest orbit was the graveyard of the home fleet. The pride of mankind stood here, stood in the teeth of oblivion and died.

    Died damned hard, hard enough to save that tithe, hard enough to allow the remnants to get away. To rearm, rebuild, and return to drive the invader out, and reclaim what once was theirs. The Battle of Ceres was merely days old, and scout ships had been dispatched to discover the fate of those they had left behind. The tiny ship amidst these giants was a puzzle, one Captian Everts was determined to solve.

    “Boarding team approaching the target vessel, Captain.” The ensign could hardly be considered young. Young in service, perhaps, but her skill and tenacity had won her a commission in this young fleet. Everts was a product of that system himself, poached from the merchant service before the stardust was even off the refugee fleet’s boots.

    “Let’s see what that have to say. Battered as she is, I’m surprised her hull isn’t cracked. I wonder-”

    “Power reading!” Ensign Liu barked as automatics slammed shield generators to full power and thrusters rammed the ship on a random vector to avoid the threat-

    That never materialized.

    “It’s coming from the ship, sir. The little one. It’s… barely even reading. Hell, the boarding team are practically touching the hull.” Everts glanced at the plot, noting that ‘practically touching distance’ was on the order of just under a kiometer. Which in ship-to-ship combat it was. That close, and you were either docking, or ramming.

    “Boarding team to Celerity.” The grizzled marine sergeant sounded bored. But then, he always did, even when the ship rang like a drum to incoming fire…

    “Celerity actual.”

    “Got a weak signal from the target. Cannot refine. Retransmitting.” Short, and to the point, as always. At a nod from the ensign, he confirmed receipt.

    “We’re on it. Let’s see what they have to tell us, eh?” A few short moments later, the AI recognized the apparently ancient civilian coding and a strange feminine voice echoed through the bridge.

    “This is Spitfire to any remaining Terran ships. Do not approach. Alien bioform onboard. Destroy this ship at safe distance. Do not approach under any-” Gunfire punctuated the recording. The sound of tortured metal screeching, followed by a clang and a thud, then silence that lasted for almost a minute. The recording did not stop there.

    “To hell with this. This is Spitfire actual. I’ve set the reactor protocols to overload. We’re running dirty red over here. Turns out the bugs don’t like it any more than we do, but the nanite packages survive. I’d recommend dropping this hull in the sun if you can. To the best of my knowledge, none of the other wrecks are infected. Not unless they seeded them after they killed me, that is.

    “Don’t have much time.” The voice was growing weaker. A cough rattled wetly in the speaker’s throat as she continued, “Destiny still has supplies if you’re scavving. I heard there were some cryopods seen drifting in the deep dark, back in the Oort cloud. Who the hell knows where they are by now. Courageous has some intact sensor logs, but I can’t read them. Damned military encryption.”

    “If you’re human, good luck to you. Damn bugs are taking over all our real estate, but we’ll kick ’em in the teeth before long, you’ll see. Did what I could here.” Cough, rattle. “Don’t none of y’all give up now, y’hear? Humanity’ll be back. We look after our own.” The fading voice was a whisper now.

    “Always thought I’d get to see that big, bright light as they blew me away. Heh. That’s irony for ya. Anyway. Last call. This is Captian Lisa Caro, Spitfire 851-FC. Signin’ off now.” And with a click, she was gone.

    Captain Everts stroked his shaggy black beard and sighed. Just one story among many. No less poignant for that.

    “Boarding team, break off. That ship’s contaminated. We’ll pick you up.” Two clicks was his only reply.

    He looked down at his bridge console as if seeing it for the first time. Plot images danced in the tank. Technical readouts hovered, telling him the drives were healthy and fuel was nominal. Defensive weapons and shields were back on standby, as were the tiny throw-weight in missiles and cannon. A smooth running machine, crewed by the best there was in the fleet- at least he thought so. The best of the last.

    “I want to know,” he said slowly, “what happened here. Every damned thing. Go active. If a mouse farted here in the last fifty years, I want to know what he ate for dinner. Get me a fix on when this happened, and we’ll take a hop outsystem to see what the old light has to tell us.” No one argued.

      1. *chuckle* Lisa and Everts aren’t *quite* done yet. It may be late today or tomorrow once it gets hammered out.

        This is part of a gobsmackingly huge project that’s been eating my time up for a while. I can see bits and pieces of the whole, but the little stories, like the Spitfire, are easier to do in small chunks.

      2. Mini-chapter two is up. Click-y the name-y.

        Also, for those who asked, Holm is in process. Will update whenwe get to a decent stopping point (i.e. not in the middle of stabbing things).

  16. “Ah, ma cherie, tens-moi pres.”

    “Giggle. Mmmm.”

    “Ah, mon amour, ma douce, ma petite prout.” Charles started nuzzling Aneta’s neck.

    The slap rattled his teeth. By the time he’d recovered, she’d grabbed her coat and was out the door.

    That shouldn’t have happened. Brigit had coached him all afternoon.

    1. Good one. Though I didn’t have the vocabulary to get it. I just noticed he’d gotten the endearment wrong and Googled “prout.” Not that the real thing makes much sense in English, either…

      1. And an excellent cautionary tale about the value of “a little knowledge.” *I* certainly wouldn’t trust my French in a situation like that.

      2. “prout” is one of those dual meaning words it can mean either fart or pet. Then there’s petite chou (little cabbage) which can be used in many different ways as well. Read this one fantasy novel where the main character was going nuts trying to figure out what everyone else was talking about when using the cabbage phrase.

        1. To be honest, I chickened out. I had a different word in mind, one much more likely to cause a face slap, and just the sort of thing Brigit could have told him to say. I wanted to keep it PG, though.

        2. Thus my distrust of my own knowledge. I knew “chou” but not “prout.” And a quick google didn’t bring up the “pet” aspect. I just thought he’d gotten similar words crossed.

    1. Just checking to see if it was intentional. Just double checked and both are correct. douce=doux=sweet

  17. “So, you see, the body, it lies here.”
    “He was trying to get to the commode?”
    “Yes! And died before he could reach it.”
    “How did he die?”
    “Murder, apparently.”
    “Yeah, he was a diabetic, and allergic to chocolate.”
    “So the murder weapon was…?”
    “Indeed. Death by petit fours.”

  18. Gently risqué:

    She eyed the tiny robed skeleton standing at the foot of the bed.

    “It’s just a little death,” he murmured. “Ignore it.” He shooed it away with one hand, while doing things with the other that made her gasp and tremble.

    “I’ll show you the other kind shortly.”

    1. With apologies in advance –







      He looked at the two digital timers – how he missed hour glasses – and glanced at the ceiling. There – a tiny crack ran diagonally from the crown molding through the light fixture. He was not surprised a human would assume an attic floor would hold a water bed, but, then, nothing really surprised him.

      A bit of dust fell from the ceiling.

      He took out a third digital timer.



      The small figure opened a tiny umbrella, as his tall counterpart opened one of his own.

  19. Second try since first disappeared, as all things do, in moderation:

    As the scullery lad dumped a broken antler and pieces of charred skeleton on her workbench, the new earl sneered at her. “You claim to be a master woodturner. Make something from that, if you expect to eat.” He stalked out behind the boy, slamming the shop door behind him.

    Ignoring the insult, Jenny examined the pile thoughtfully. Soon the half-size treadle lathe was spinning true as her sharp gouges shaped a graceful one-and-a-half-inch platter and two smaller plates from the stag’s shoulder blades. The solid upper tines became a pair of delicate stemmed wine goblets.

    From the perforated base of the antler she turned a tiny flared bowl, its rim a confection of lace. And from the shank bone a petite threaded ring box, fit for a diamond solitaire.

    Hearing the earl’s heavy tread approaching, Jenny smiled in satisfaction at the collection of work neatly displayed on a clean rag on the bench. She had created a feast of miniatures that should sate even the earl’s ravenous hunger for novelties.

  20. The large man seated at the table gave the menu a baleful look, which he soon turned upon the waiter. “Petite sirloin? Does that come from skinny cows? Wouldn’t undernourished cows have less meat on them? Don’t you have any steaks from well-fed cattle?”

    The waiter was silent for a moment, his face frozen. Then it unfroze, and he politely explained that it was a particular cut of beef.

  21. The body looked like a small, blonde woman, dressed in blue shorts, a white tee-shirt, and sneakers, like a student out for a morning run. It was not, however, human. It was a companion, and Inspector Wiley watched as the technicians tried to work out make, year, and model number.

  22. “Vampires can’t fly. It’s impossible. We shouldn’t be using this.” claimed the petite vampire. “Sure they can. That’s what they told the Wright Brothers. Jesus gave us rockets because He meant for us to use them.” “Crashing is not flying.” “Don’t worry. We’ll eventually brute force a control systems solution.”

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