Sunday Book Plug and Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

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FROM LAURA MONTGOMERY:  Like a Continental Soldier.

The starship Valerie Hall failed to reach the terraformed world of its original destination. Instead, it found a habitable substitute where the settlers split into two factions. First Landing devolved into a rude replica of medieval despotism. Seccon might promise more.

Or so hope Gilead Tan and his companions.

Gilead spent three centuries in cold sleep, held there by a First Landing custom that decreed only one sleeper could be awakened every fifty years. Once awake, Gilead freed two dozen of his fellows—all soldiers like himself—and led them into the wilderness.

Close to two hundred civilians still lie trapped in the decaying cryo-cells of First Landing. Their captive slumber haunts him.

But despite its vaunted freedom, Seccon has one rule. No one goes back to First Landing.

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FROM ALMA T. C. BOYKIN: Oddly Familiar: Familiar Tales Book Four.

Ah, October, when the ghosts, and spirits walk, and the Off Ramp of Doom falls quiet. Too quiet…

Lelia Chan and her Familiar, Tay, continue learning about magic and what mages do. When a customer drops a strange silver disk in Belle, Book, and Blacklight, it starts a chain of events that pull Lelia deeper into shadow magic. André Lestrange and Rodney return to help sort out the off-ramp. Someone else returns, someone who wants to open doors best left closed. Lelia and Company have their hands and paws full dealing with the forces of darkness and bad jokes.

Evil walks on All Hallows Eve. It’s up to Lelia and Tay to send it back where it belongs. Or else.

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Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

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: star

37 responses to “Sunday Book Plug and Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

  1. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    The younger traveler asked “What happened to this world”?

    The older traveler replied “Some idiot magician attempted to pull a star down to his tower”.

  2. FLASH!

    Henry dove for the ditch, uncaring of contents.

    Counting.

    The wind came.

    Division.

    Stay down – only five miles since Dr. Feldner’s lab.

    Winds reversed. Only now did Henry stand up and look back.

    “Thinking big is fine. But go small on the first test of laboratory astrophysics, fool!”

  3. That night, I fly from the safehouse to the Upper West Side, and lower myself down onto the roof of the 20th Precinct Station, right in the middle of the roof extension on top of the roof. It takes a few moments to hex all of the video cameras on the roof, the hexes waiting for the trigger command, and I pull out the burner cell phone. Randall had given me a briefing on Detective Ethan Craigmore, and what I had learned was interesting.

    “Third generation NYPD, almost stereotypically Irish,” he told me. “His grandfather and his father both were detectives, and he became one after a few years. Former United States Army, Infantry and Airborne and Ranger. Not a man you want to be on the wrong side of, or be a foe of. Won a Bronze Star for rescuing a family while under fire from ISIS in Iraq, still has some shrapnel in him from it. Married, one kid with a second on the way, and he’s been living in the precinct for the last month, trying to find the kidnapped girls.”

    My fingers dial the number of Detective Craigmore’s personal cell phone and I watch as the phone rings. There’s the sound of a connection, and a voice says, “Craigmore here, who is this?” The voice is perfect New Yorker, the sound of a thousand detectives in every movie with a hero in the NYPD.

    I find my voice and say smoothly, “Good evening Detective Inspector. My name is Serenity Rose, and I want to help you to find the lost girls that you are looking for.”

    I can hear a momentary pause, and I can hear some paper rustling around as he’s trying to write a note, probably to tell someone there to trace this call. “How can you help me to find them, might I ask?” he replies.

    “I was thinking magic and sorcery,” I muse cheerfully over the phone. “I can place us at least five hundred meters close to them, which would narrow down the search area considerably.”

    “So, what would you need to find them?” and I can hear some more sounds in the background.

    “If you have any physical evidence from the kidnapping of the girls-preferably anything with fluids, I can use it to track them. You do not have to remove them from the evidence bags, I just need the objects themselves. Laws of sympathy and contagion, you realize,” I reply and decide to amuse myself by pulling my legs up into a lotus position and float in mid-air as I wait.

    “Oh, certainly,” and I can barely hear the sarcasm in his voice. “If you will come by, we can talk about it.”

    “Well, I am here now,” I reply cheerfully, “On the roof of your precinct house that is, Detective Inspector. If you could be a darling and bring them up here in a few minutes, we can get started and the sooner we begin, the sooner we can bring the girls home.”

    There’s a moment’s pause, and he says, “Well, I’m looking at the cameras and I don’t happen to see you there.”

    I snap my fingers, for the sheer drama factor, and trigger all the hexes. “And now?”

    There’s a long, drawn-out pause. “Nice trick. How did you do it?”

    “Magic and sorcery,” I reply. “Should I come back later with some coffee and decent donuts, or just wait until you get here?”

    There’s another long, drawn-out pause. “Twenty minutes,” he says. “Can I reach you at this number?”

    “For tonight, at the very least,” I reply.

    “I’ll call you back in a minute,” and the phone disconnects.

    I’m trying to decide what emotion I’ll use when I see Detective Craigmore, and I decide that amusement will be the best. I’m waiting on the roof, patiently, and in about seven minutes, several uniformed officers come out of the doors on the building’s north and eastern sides, sweeping the roof. I reactivate my veil, and watch as they check the roof, pistols and shotguns drawn. There’s the temptation to do something funny with them, but I quash that immediately. You don’t play pranks on people with guns, you treat them and the people carrying them with the respect of anyone with a dangerous tool in their hands. They do a decent, if somewhat uninspired sweep of the roof and one of them calls on his radio that there’s nobody on the roof. I can hear faintly somebody saying the cameras are still out, and they officers look around a bit more.

    The phone buzzes in my pocket, and I pull it out. Detective Craigmore is calling, and I answer. “Good evening, Detective Inspector,” I say cheerfully. “How much longer do I have to wait?”

    “I’m just waiting for the evidence to get here,” he says smoothly. “Is there a reason why you have to wait on the roof, and not inside?”

    “Easier for me to leave if one of the lads up here with a trench broom gets twitchy,” I reply, and take a good long look at two of them in my field of view. “One of them has really bad trigger discipline, finger on the trigger of his shotgun. Do you want his badge number?”

    “I think we can deal with that later,” Detective Craigmore sighs. “I’ll be up there shortly.”

    “Please warn your lads to put their guns up and to not be so jumpy,” I ask. “I do not want anyone to go to Emergency tonight.”

    There’s a soft chuckle on the other end, “I think we can both agree on that,” and the phone disconnects. A few moments later, the radios of the officers on the roof go off, and the officers holster their pistols and point their shotguns to the sky. According to my clock, it takes less than ten minutes for Detective Craigmore and his partner, Detective Mary Sprawling, to come up to the roof. Craigmore looks like he’s been sleeping in a cheap suit, but his eyes are sharp. Detective Sprawling’s eyes are even sharper, emerald green in a face of polished mahogany.

    In Sprawling’s arms is a large evidence box. Craigmore comes to the middle of the roof and half-yells, “Okay, I’m here-where are you?”

    “Right over here, Detective Inspector,” I reply, just loud enough to be heard over the sound of traffic, and I walk across the roof, take a step off into mid-air, and use several magic tricks to keep walking towards him.

    Namely, what he sees is this-I step off the roof, and use the flight systems in the Regalia to support me in mid-air. I keep “walking” towards him, as if I was walking along a helical spiral with his head being the center of the helix. Using telekinesis, my clothing remains undisturbed by gravity, and when I finally stop “walking,” I’m about four feet away him, perfectly upside down, and seemingly undisturbed. “Thank you for your help, Detective Inspector,” I say, looking at him from being upside down.

    “It’s Detective,” he replies, and shakes his head. “Could you…come down? That has to look uncomfortable.”

    “Very well,” I nod, and flip over in mid air, to land softly on my feet. “I assume your partner has the evidence?”

    There’s the scuffling sound of shoes on the rooftop behind me, and I tilt my head slightly while I’m looking at Craigmore. “You may want to tell the lads behind me to relax a bit. I do not want to hurt them, or you, or anyone else that does not deserve it,” I point out curiously.

    Craigmore waves a hand and says, “She’s got a point. Let’s play this really calm.” The scuffing sound stops, and I take a step towards Sprawling. She twitches, and carefully puts the box down on the ground, and steps back from it.

    Before I can do anything else, Craigmore holds a hand up and says, “I want to ask you a question.”

    “Yes?” I look at him curiously.

    “If I let you do this…you need to bring us along to find the girls. Are you willing to do that?” he asks me, looking at me carefully.

    “Yes, I will,” I reply instantly. “If you promise to listen to me when I tell you what we need to do when we get there. I do not doubt your bravery or competence, Detective. But, this is something outside of your remit. I want to make sure you go home tonight, alive and well.”

    Craigmore thinks about this for a moment, and nods. “We have a deal,” and he lowers his hand. I take a step towards the box and think about what I will do next.

    “Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” Sprawling asks me, and I tilt my head towards her.

    “Very much so,” I reply, and decide to engage in a little bit of showmanship. I carefully remove the lid from the box, setting it to one side, and I start to pull objects out of the box with magical telekinesis. The first few objects come out and I start casting the tracking spell. The first two objects don’t register, but the third one, a heavily-worn teddy bear with many honorable scars neatly sewn up does.

    I can hear the shoes of the officers surrounding me leap back as the spell works, but I don’t stop there. Three more objects, one of them with disturbing brown stains, register as well, and with the four objects, they are all pointing in the same direction-to the east and slightly to the north. I let out the breath I didn’t know I had been holding, and put everything back in the box, and calmly put the lid on. “Thank you, Detective Craigmore, for believing me,” I say.

    “So, you can find them,” he replies instantly. “I need you to show me where they are.”

    “I will not be able to find them any closer than five hundred meters,” I point out. “That is…about five by three blocks?”

    “And a lot of area to search. We can help you narrow it down even further,” he points out.

    I consider this and tap my finger on the mask, covering my chin. “Do you have an unmarked car available to use?” I ask.

    “We can pull one out of the garage now,” Sprawling offers. She points a thumb at the northern entrance to the roof. “Head down and get in?”

    “I will meet you out front,” I chuckle, and walk towards the edge of the roof. “See you in a few minutes,” and I take the last step off the roof, triggering the flight systems and the veil, vanishing from sight, and lowering myself carefully down just below the ledge of the roof.

    Craigmore steps over, and mutters, “Damn, we had to get the weird ones.” He turns around to talk to someone, probably Sprawling, and says, “We’ll need to have ESU ready when we find the girls, and we’ll need an unmarked car. Let’s get going,” and he vanishes from the ledge of the roof.

    I decide to hang there, waiting, as he leaves and I can hear the rest of the officers getting off the roof.

    This night is going to be…very interesting.

    • Do we really have to wait for next Sunday’s vignettes to find out what happens next?????

      • A few minutes later, an unmarked black sedan that couldn’t be anything other than a cop car, pulls up in front of the precinct, and I can almost imagine Craigmore leaning out a window and honking the horn.

        I float over to the car, land, drop the veil, and tap on the passenger’s side window with Sprawling sitting there, using the ball at the end of Whisper. She startles a bit, and rolls down the window. “Okay, so where are we going?” she asks.

        I get into the back seat, pull the seatbelt on, set Whisper down beside me, and activate the tracking spells. “We will have to go north and east, so a right on Columbus, a right on West 81st Street, and a right on Amsterdam Way. From there, it is playing by ear, Detectives. And, like I said, we can only get within five hundred meters.” I laugh softly. “Think of me as your irritating sister in the backseat with the map saying, ‘are we there yet?’”

        “Do you know how far?” Craigmore asks as he pulls out.

        “Only direction, sorry, Detective” I reply, and we drive for a bit.

        Craigmore asks, “What’s with the mask?”

        “Hostages to fortune, Detective. I have enough hostages to fortune that I want to protect them as much as I can,” I say after a moment. “Too many ways to find out a person’s identity in this age of selfies and smartphones.”

        “So, where are you from?” Sprawling turns slightly in her seat to look at me. “You sound British.”

        I give her as much of an offended look as you can wearing a mask. “Hardly British, Detective. I am from Edinburgh by birth, only recently arrived here.”

        “So…what is going on?” Craigmore glances in the rear view mirror for a moment, and then back onto the road.

        “You have an evil wizard that is going to use human sacrifice to summon a monster,” I point out primly. “Mostly to try and kill me before the secret systems of the world stop the monster first.”

        “Do you know who this wizard is?” Sprawling ponders.

        “If I had a clue on that, I would be trying to find them first and asking them questions. And, yes, ‘asking them questions’ would probably involve several interrogation techniques that would violate their civil rights,” I reply cheerfully.

        There’s a long pause, and Craigmore says calmly, “Okay…,” and we cross West 110th Street and the tracking spell suddenly swings a hard right, pointing East. “Right turn as soon as we can, yes?”

        “Oh yes,” I say. “We might be going to the Bronx tonight.”

        It takes a few minutes for us to get to Martin Luther King Boulevard, and we turn onto it. “Exactly what are you?” Craigmore asks as he comes to a stop at a stoplight.

        “I’m a Solist,” I reply. “Think of me as the magical equivalent of a SAS lad, and you have about the right idea. We are the ones that go beyond the streetlights to fight the monsters that live out in the dark.” The light changed and we pulled forwards again. “It is not the sort of job that I would suggest for a career counselor, but I am good at it.”

        The car continues on towards the Willis Ave Bridge, and I watch at the tracking spell twitch a bit. “Still on the right path, Detective.” I take a glance behind us and say, “How many of your SAS lads and fellows are following us?”

        “At least one unmarked car, and there’s an ESU team following us,” Craigmore replies after a moment. “Not enough time to get a helicopter up.”

        “I need to ask this-could you ask them to play this very calmly? I will not use the term ‘tap dancing in a minefield,’ but your SAS lads are probably very good lads. But they might not be…right for what is needed when we get there,” I ask as we roll onto the bridge, the brown-painted metal looking odd under the arc lamps.

        A moment passes, and I say, “We should stay on surface streets. I suspect that we’re getting closer to where we need to go.”

        “41st Precinct is up that way,” Sprawling offers. “We can stop there and see if there’s anything useful.”

        “If we can not find anything immediately, I promise we will go there. I will even come inside if you ask,” I chuckle as we turn onto Bruckner Boulevard. “I think we are getting close, or at least on the right path. Let us stay on this street for now.”

        There’s a long pause, and Sprawling turns around for a moment. “Miss Rose…may I call you Serenity?”

        “Well, it is my name,” I point out. “And your question?”

        “You’re…trying to be covert, as much as you can. Is there a reason beyond…as you put it, ‘hostages to fortune’?”

        I ponder this for a moment. “I do not know what the position of your government, especially at the Federal level, is for wizards. The people that work for me…have compiled enough information to make me worried that if I were to go to them, they would regard me as the primary threat.”

        “Feds would screw anything up,” Craigmore mutters. “So you came local, to save them.”

        I’m quiet for a moment as I watch the tracking spell begin to twitch and point more to the East. “I think the next right turn you can make safely, Detective. And, yes, I did. I am in this to save lives, as many as I can, from monsters.”

        The unmarked car turns onto Leggett Ave and the tracking spell begins to twitch a bit more, pointing more south. “I think we are getting closer, Detective. Stay on this street, for as long as you can.”

        “Will have to turn onto Randall Ave in a block,” Craigmore points out, and he pulls to a stop at the light. It takes a minute, but at the corner of Randall Ave and Tiffany St, the tracking spell begins a wild, gyrating dance, pointing somewhat South East of our location.

        “Okay,” I say calmly, “we just hit the five hundred meter limit.”

        “So, follow along here until we get outside the limit?” Craigmore asks.

        “That would work,” I replied and we drove along silently until we hit Halleck St, when the tracking spell starts to work again. “Make a right turn here, I think, it is somewhere between here and Tiffany St.”

        We hadn’t gone a complete block before the spell went chaotic again. “It has to be somewhere in there,” I note. My fingers work the map software on my cell phone and I think for a moment. “Let us try going down E Bay Ave first, and work our way up.”

        Sprawling pulls out her phone, and makes a call. “Dispatch, this is Detective Sprawling,” she says and reads out a series of code words. “I need anybody at the 41st Precinct to check the records and see if there’s been any changes of ownership in the last month of warehouses south of Randall Ave.”

        I can’t hear the words on the other side of the phone, but all I can do is watch the map, and we’re about to turn onto E Bay Ave. Sprawling puts the phone down and sighs. “They’ll ask-it’s not like the movies, when we can find this out in five minutes.”

        I look out the windows of the car and consider the warehouses. I don’t know what I’m looking for, but I glance at each of them as we go by. “I am looking for anything that might help,” I offer politely.

        “Such as?” Craigmore asks as we pass by Longfellow Ave.

        “Magical traces, markings of recently taken down ‘for rent’ signs, maybe something visual,” I reply, and let my eyes sweep both sides of the street quickly.

        As I’m doing this, Sprawling’s phone rings with a hilariously bubbly J-Pop tune and she grabs for it as quickly as she can to answer it. “Sprawling here,” she says and waits a moment. She pulls out a notebook and starts to jot down notes. “Thank you,” and she hangs up the phone. “Local uni makes notes on when places are taken in and out of rental agreements. He says that there were two places around here that just got rented in the last three months, one on Coster Street and one on Viele Ave. They’re trying to run down information for us now.”

        I wait a moment, and I say, “J-Pop, Detective?”

        “I had to blend in with some strippers for an undercover assignment,” Sprawling replies defensively. “It was the only music I could stand for that job.”

        “You have good taste,” I reply, and say, “Detective Craigmore, this is your show. Where do we check first?”

        Craigmore thinks about this for a moment. “Coster Street. Do you have the address.”

        Sprawling offers him the address and we turn onto Coster Street. As we drive by the warehouse on Coster Street, there’s nothing there. No sense of anything, no sense of prana flow, nothing but an ordinary warehouse. “This probably is not it. Let us try the one on Viele Ave.”

        Craigmore turns onto Viele Ave and we start to drive by that warehouse. It’s a warehouse, perfectly ordinary. So ordinary, I’m wondering why I’m even trying to pay attention to it. After all, it’s just a warehouse.

        Wait a minute, I think, where is that idea coming from? “Detective,” I say calmly, “loop around, facing the other way, so we can look at the warehouse on Viele Ave.”

        “Why?” Craigmore asks. “It’s just a warehouse.”

        “It is just a warehouse,” I say, partially falsetto. “Perfectly ordinary, plain, no reason why anyone should pay attention to it, should they?”

        There’s a long pause, and Craigmore says, “That’s…what I was thinking of it, too. Exactly what I was thinking of.”

        “Let us turn around and stop for a moment, and look,” I suggest, and we loop around the block to find a parking space a block away, on the opposite side of the street. I’m looking at the warehouse, the perfectly ordinary warehouse, and I chuckle.

        “You know what this is?” Sprawling asks. “Because all I see is an ordinary warehouse.”

        “Because that is what it is,” I reply. “A perfectly ordinary warehouse. No reason to pay attention to it, is there? Seen one, seen a thousand. No reason to really look at it, after all. It is just a perfectly ordinary warehouse.”

        There’s a long pause, and Craigmore mutters, “Shit. That’s magic?”

        “It is a SEP ward,” I reply. “The ward makes you think that the warehouse is somebody else’s problem, nothing you should worry about because it is an ordinary warehouse. Whomever set up the ward had it perfect-not too much to make the warehouse go away, not too little that you wonder why you are not supposed to be paying attention to it.”

        I undo my seatbelt and roll my shoulders. “Now, it is time to do my job.”

        Craigmore turns around in the seat and looks at me. “Wait a minute. I can have ESU here in ten minutes, and we can have professionals breach the warehouse. Call it an emergency from a CI contact…,” and he pauses as I hold up my hand.

        “Detective, I am the professional in this circumstance,” I interrupt gently. “Sending in your SAS lads could be the worse thing we could do. The wizard might have set up a magical or a non-magical IED of some sort, or have some kind of guardian there.”

        I pick up Whisper from the seat beside me and roll it around in my right hand for a moment. “Detective, if you promise me you will hold off the lads for thirty minutes, I will investigate and only initiate in direct self-defense or defense of another,” I offer.

        Craigmore sighs and looks at Sprawling. “ESU will be here in about eight minutes,” Sprawling notes. “She does have a point.”

        “Thirty minutes starting from now,” Craigmore replies after a moment. “If I don’t hear from you by then, we’re going to breach.”

        I check the charge and the signal on my cell phone, set the timer for twenty minutes, and make sure everything is set on vibrate. “I will contact you as soon as I know anything,” I reply, and open the door to the car. I step out, take a good solid step away from the car, trigger my veil and flight spell, and fly upwards to the nearest roof that overlooks the warehouse.

  4. “Stars and crosses – and dots. That’s it?”
    “Exactly. National insignia markings moved from a wide variety of variously colored designs during the First World War, simplifying during that war, to more simple designs that were more easily distinguishable during the Second World War, all to simplify IFF in an age when detection and identification was purely visual. Naturally the layout of various aircraft was the primary method of determining who to shoot at, but insignia were also important.”
    Sue checked her chrono and look across the rest of the class – they all looked engaged, even Midshipwoman Moriarty wasn’t nodding off. Good.
    “Okay, we’re about at the end of our time today. Your assignment for next Tuesday is five thousand words recapping the basic IFF principles and practical implementations that early air combat carried forward from prior naval warfare practices, describe what happened when electronic detection superceded visual, and apply your insights to the current deep space problem of IFF in interplanetary engagements. Questions?”
    From the corner of Sue’s eye she say the door to her classroom start to swing open. The mid sitting closest to the opening door took one look at who was entering and exploded to attention, shouting “Attention on Deck!” The rest of the mids popped to attention as well as an Admiral and a clutch of aids followed Sue’s boss, the Commodore in charge of the military history department, into her classroom. Commodore Peterson, the Admiral, and all the aids looked grave at best, and Sue’s stomach clenched.
    “Excuse us, Commander, but Admiral Hoyt needs you right now.”

  5. The young princess was pale and delicate, barely any color in her cheeks or lips, her blond hair verging on white, her white dress sleeveless and unadorned. Her only adornment was in her hair: a string of pearls, that hung a single silver star on her forehead.
    “That’s the royal blood that’s going to lead the war to put down the sorcerer?”
    “She has to be. The sorcerer made plans to stop the others.”

  6. Star light, star bright,
    First star I see tonight!
    I wish I may, I wish I might …

    Oh, crap, it’s a meteorite.

    • Willow frowned at the steadily growing streak of light, her fists planted on her hips as the light grew steadily low in the eastern sky, falling toward the hoirizon. “Aren’t they supposed to be done with the water drops? If they keep tearing chunks off the moon, we’re not going to have a satellite left!”

      Rowan shrugged, and leaned back on the blanket far enough the star disappeared below the lowest walls of the dome. So far, the relaxing night under the stars proved a riot of insect noise and the gentle breeze was dancing all over his ship-borne air-leak instincts. And she still wasn’t looking particularly up to the idea of kissing. “There’s a rocky core under the ice, right? And we need the oceans, to regulate the temperature and make it colonizable out there, right?”

      “Yeah, but the clouds they make when they crash and splash cover what sun we get already, and I’m tired of grey days. I came down for good fresh food and room to stretch, and no having to wait my turn at the sunlamps!”

      “Well, I happen to have a fruit salad here. Shall we share it while we wait for the big badda boom to reach us?” By the brilliant smile on her face as she spun around, and the enthusiastic way all her curves bounced as she plopped down, he thought there might be hope for kissing yet.

  7. “Wear your best clothes. I’m taking you to a new fusion joint tonight!”, I said.
    Cynthia looked at me and asked, “What kind? German-Lebanese, Mexican-Chinese, or what?”
    I looked at her in confusion. “Nah, none of that. I mean *real* fusion. I’m going to make you a star!”

  8. Georgia was the star athlete in her small northwestern town. But puberty changed everything – she became buxom and broad-hipped. She stopped competing in sports and concentrated on music. By the time she was 22 she was a member of the musicians’ union and working freelance in the Hollywood studios.

  9. The dark of the forest had closed on him. The last glare of light had faded to a dull glow and eventually nothing. The smell of the mold of the old growth and the hint of growing things filled his nostrils. Shortly it was washed out by the stench of fire, charcoal and ash. He had been running for hours it seemed with the foliage impeding every step of his way.
    He laboured to keep his breathing steady as he had been taught all those years ago, yet he failed and fell to his knees when he finally reached the smouldering clearing. It was empty as he had feared. Lifting his eyes to the darkening sky he tried to track the climbing star that was the ship he should have been on.
    His tracking eye found it and he followed it until it dwindled out of view. Still he moved his head on the possible trajectory until there was a new star in the sky that grew bright and then in a blink vanished.

  10. The battle damage was severe. Only the emergency lights were functioning. Ship was tumbling on all three axes, and worst of all, the gravity control was bouncing from 0 to 5 in random directions. Right, left, then up. I flew into the ceiling head first so hard I saw stars.

  11. Saw this today: Twinkle twinkle little star/ do you know how much loved you are? Seemed appropriate to share.

  12. Feather Blade

    Starkle, starkle, little twink,
    From the mainstream press you drink
    Hearing badthought makes you REEEE
    8-chan calls you NPC
    Stakle, starkle little twink
    How I wonder if you think?

    ———————————————–
    too mean?

  13. Donald Stephens

    The Moon came over the horizon first, and for a few seconds was the morning star. At this distance, it was only magnitude 3.6, and the Earth’s advent washed it out in Al’s binoculars – not surprising, for one of the brightest objects in the sky.

    Al enjoyed a bit of Moon-chasing. It took his mind, for a moment, off of what had to be the most frustrating research efforts he’d ever been involved in. At the end of Mars’s last northern summer, the sterile samplers had returned with soil containing hydrocarbons, possibly degraded amino acids according to the models. So, this spring, the Mars Life Project had sent them here, in the middle of Casius, with a lab of their own and heavier mobile units, for a closer look. Maybe this time they would find something.

    Since then, nothing. The mobile labs still returned various hydrocarbons, some of which might have been something when it was scoped up, but nothing resembling a cell, DNA, RNA, or anything else they recognized.

    And his left wrist itched abominably, not for the first time this week. Al made a mental note to see the station’s doctor. It was probably nothing, but SOP for a forward base was to have every ailment checked, no matter how trivial. An evacuation would take two weeks by ground, and three days by ship, which might be too long for a major illness.

  14. The rain had long stopped when the moon set. She thought it must be around two or three a.m. Stars were visible through the window. A rustle in the hay behind her made her shiver at the thought of mice and other small creatures. Even the feral cats weren’t exactly comforting. She looked back at the window. Another star had appeared and was slowly brightening …. was too bright to be a real star. A night time drone? Could it see her?

  15. Although it was customary to visit a settlement’s Wall of Honor upon arrival, Howie Waite wanted to make one final visit to the one here in the Roosa Barracks before he left for Mars. He still remembered the awe he’d felt the first time he saw it, all those years ago when his parents had brought him here for the fiftieth anniversary of the original lunar landing.

    The three panels of polished stone now bore more names, a memorial of the terrible things that had happened in the months and years after the Expulsions. Yet the fundamentals of this place had not changed: the Stars and Stripes on the right and the NASA flag on the left, the seven stars and crescent moon emblem of Grissom City worked into the doors.

    Which was as it should be. The purpose of a memorial was not merely to inform, but to bind present to past, so that all future generations would remember with heart as well as head.

  16. Hey I just wanted to check, when I tried to buy Oddly Familiar amazon said it wasn’t available for purchase. Anyone else getting that? I’m buying from amazon.com. Ok on with the show!

    Garnet pulled herself onto the jut of rock with the last of her strength. She lay panting and shivering under the moonless sky. She was alone, without food or water and unarmed to boot. Garner had miraculously avoided drowning but if she couldn’t find fresh water soon she’d be dead in a couple of days anyway.

    She was already desperately thirsty. She gazed up at the reeling stars above trying to get her bearings. Garnet wasn’t an expert at navigating by starlight but she could tell which way was north.

    Where had that storm come from? One moment they were sailing under clear evening skies, the next a powerful storm seemed to form right on top of them. It lasted long enough to capsize the ship and smash her wreckage against the treacherous cliffs of a nearby island. It was uncanny. As if the storm was a living thing bent on the ship’s distruction, that calmed once the job was done.

    There were things in the water, picking off the surviving crew. Garnet heard screams cut off suddenly and the desperate splashing as the doomed men struggled for the surface. Once or twice she heard someone wailing as they were plucked out of the water and carried away at speed.

    Grarnet had used her magic to send up flairs to try and blind whatever it was. But she knew there was nothing she could do against their foe. The water around her was crowded with a roiling mass of scaley coils. Winged shadows circled above.

    She readied a wind shield, casting about for anyone she could save. But there was no one she could reach in time. Her shield snapped into place just as a massive pair of jaws closed around her. The monster tried to crush her shield and shake her senseless by turns. She enlarged her shield until she was too big to fit and it spat her out.

    Larger shields put more of a strain on her but she kept them that way until the biggest creatures stopped batting her around between them and returned to easier prey. She could attack from inside but she’d lost count at twenty big swimmers. That didn’t include the flyers or the persistent small ones that kept trying to pin her to the sea bottom or fighting over her. It took everything she had to give them the slip.

  17. “That’s not something you see every day. Not one shooting star but ten in a row.”

    “Get down, right now. Flat on the ground, or better yet in a hole or ditch.”

    “Why? What’s going on?”

    “I was on Kwajalein in the ’80’s. Trust me on this. GET DOWN NOW!”

    ***********

    having observed the re-entry of MIRVed missiles, I still occasionally have nightmares of this scenario.

  18. The star rested cool in her hand. So this is what stars were in this world. She turned the strange, luminescent sphere over, but it spun back to its original position of its own volition. Curiouser and curiouser.

    _Yes we are_ whispered through her mind.

    She reflexively blocked the thought. Dangers untold, indeed. Her hand tightened on the surface of the star… no the container in which the star was captured. She would have to take this back to the Nexus… with a warning.

  19. Like a Continental Soldier
    Ooooh, I need to get that one. Though the first one seemed a bit… contrived in a few spots, it was decent.

  20. analytical-engine-mechanic

    [For anyone who might be nostalgic for the Sunday Vignettes, and tolerant of a ‘bignette’-length variation on *last* week’s theme of ‘star’…]

    “So can you tell me how you get the *rest* of the energy?”
    And, yes, I was still half-teasing Hannah about having a project so secret it had been unknown even to me. But only half…

    “Yes, I can. But better, I should just show you.”

    And once again the hackles raised on the back of my neck. There was nothing *overt* in her voice beyond that strengthening of her Scottish accent, shifting away from the rest of our society back ‘homewards’ into her own Albannach / Nihongo high-Highlands culture, “just us chickens here.”

    But somehow, it seemed like some long slow majestic music *ought* to be playing in the background; the way I’d ‘heard’ something very much like the processional from Holst’s “Jupiter” as I’d half-run down the East Steps of Langmuir House a few months back — long formal skirts held up in my hands and the plans for Dotoressa Doolittle’s Raid drawing themselves in my head.

    Except, this time a lot more like “The War At Home.” Because suddenly, it was about to be.

    If there is any kind of sense in me that detects anything like destiny, it was pegging the meter right then. So I just waited on her to do what she’d said.

    “Eto prikaz.
    “Set maximum critical opalescence all fields, all constraints valid.
    “Eto prikaz, eto pravda.”

    And then I gasped. Noting the old pre-turn-of-the-millennium conceit of using another language to set a verbal command mode — this is a command, this is the truth — and noting also the flat tone people often use to talk to machines.

    But what I saw was a pen-and-ink drawing from Carlotta’s paper notebooks come fully to life. Scattering sunlight from otherwise invisible scalar fields in vacuum. Instantly visible, simply by changing a minor parameter of the field.

    Literally something I’d never expected to see in my lifetime, as it could never ever now be in Carlotta’s own regardless.

    I heard my own voice come even flatter than Hannah’s had. Almost without any trace of my emotion. As if my words were irresistable in their escape.
    Though with perhaps a perceptible trace of the Piedmontese of my youth back on New Canaan.

    “That’s a gradient flux-tube generator. Full scale.”
    (But of course, they couldn’t really *work* any smaller; either full-scale, or toy.)

    “Yes. It is, and ready to go.”

    “Then proceed.” I simply made the decision and said it. Years of being a space pirate queen, I’d have to say, will do that to you. Even if you’re also a properly authorized one, letters of marque and reprisal and all. Or maybe especially.

    And I realized I’d sounded like one, too. Planetary existential emergency or not.

    Hannah Mackenzie’s face lit like a child running the table flat bust, on the best Christmas morning ever. “Thank you, Izabella.”

    And she turned to the observation window like she was turning to address a waiting army. Sword at her hip, like a cavalryman of Old Earth centuries ago, or like the high-Highlander of Marquesas’ twenty-third century she actually was.

    “Eto prikaz.
    “Fire main drive as preset, maximum instrumentation, single pulse mode.
    “Eto prikaz, eto pravda.”

    And she made the last two words sound like the sincerest prayer in Russian ever uttered. With a look on her face like the fiercest woman-warrior either old Scotland or Old Japan had ever produced — not merely a genius to rival my late girlhood best friend Carlotta herself.

    And a red sun bloomed in the middle of the tube, near the cylindrical end and opposite the nozzle exit that widened like a trumpet.
    A fusion fireball, red-shifted and filtered by the fields around it into something you could actually afford to look at. A hundred tons of deuterium ice, or so her notebook had said, at smallest size to operate. Lit by the fields containing it.
    And the red sun moved slowly, majestically, over hours-long seconds, down the length of the flux tube, yellowing and brightening as it went.
    A deft drawing in red and sepia ink, there made moving reality.
    As a deep, musical hum sounded through the viewing bubble, and surely also through the whole ship. Unless that was faked..?

    “The brightening is an illusion, the field lets more optical power through, while the actual temperature drops almost adiabatically. The song is real, though; even across vacuum, the fringe field of the tube couples to our structure.”

    The song. The song of a gradient flux-tube generator, that made every known energy producer the human race had ever built look puny, running before my eyes.

    The red sun moved faster and faster, perhaps three or four seconds to transit the tube and vanish in a stream of ghostly faint violet (and surely also violent) incandescence. Its momentum counterbalanced in impulse to the asteroid that anchored the flux tube and the generators that made it.
    Which was now, come to think of it, the next thing to a navigable spaceship. (And for that matter perhaps a Westenra-Singh drive starship like the one holding us, too…)
    Hannah and I looked at each other a long moment, and then she spoke.

    “If she were a ship, her name would be… Carlotta Kour.”
    Almost as if in direct, respectful, courteous counterpoint to the old Scottish jibe “and if my granny had wheels she’d be a wagon.”

    And of course it hit me like a punch to the gut. Her last name had been Singh, a surname handed down father to daughter. But in the Sikh original, her name as a girl would properly have been — that. Kour, princess, not Singh, lion.

    Kour. Rhymes with “power” — and oh, my dear God.
    Hannah was inviting *me* to do something. So I did.

    “First light, Carlotta Kour.”

    It started as a dedication to a new telescope, especially a big one. But it also, from the very first one built by the Westenra sisters, became the naming in fire of every Ulam-drive, Orion, nuclear-pulse spaceship (or starship) ever made.

    Launched, or at least named, not in champagne but nuclear fireball plasma.

    The ship we were on now I’d named Il Mio Cuore, This My Heart more or less.
    After her. And of course our Richard.
    Now, I’d gone and done it with the truer name she’d never used herself.

    “Eto prikaz.
    “Fire main drive, high vigilance, repetetive pulse mode, demand regulation.
    “Eto prikaz, eto pravda.”

    And the red sun re-lit, and moved down the tube in a second.
    Did it again, and again.
    As its song flowed and ebbed and flowed again. On and on…

    “Izabella?” I looked at her as if coming out of a brief trance.

    “Before I send the message home, our ‘the Italian navigatress’ one, I have to say something to you.” She looked serious, more than I’d ever seen her.
    Even looking at the Empire’s planet-killer on the screen, several endless hours ago, that could drill a hole dozens of miles wide through a planet like ours, then let the hole collapse in a cataclysmic ruin of all around it.

    “It’s not original, but it is heartfelt.”
    She faced me and took my hands in hers. (And they say Scots are reserved.)

    “So shall she leave her blessedness to one,
    When heaven shall call her from this blessed darkness,
    Who from the sacred ashes of her honour
    Shall star-like rise.”

    I’d held Carlotta’s actual ashes, handed to me in a miserly soyplast box by the planetary, Empire-loyal government that had imprisoned her and then let her be murdered in their jails. By “accident” as they said.
    Had burned her body to ash, left me holding what was left.
    And touched off everything I and others had done ever since.

    From out of, as Hannah had just said, the sacred ashes of her innocent honor.
    More than half a millennium later, that Will Shakespeare guy still had it cold.
    And as always, I could only do my poor best in return.

    “Now the honor is yours and mine, Anna Nic’Choinneach.
    And her blessedness already far more yours than mine.”

    She ducked her head a little at that, then looked me straight in the eyes again, her own bright with unshed tears. I’d said her Scottish name like she did, more like Anya in Russian or Aine in Irish. And known she’d have refused my gift the customary three times first, immaterial as it was, if only she could.

    She did not need to say anything like “I don’t deserve it but I’ll do my best even so.” It was redundant, being already understood. Being already demonstrated.

    What she did say was coldly practical, as fit her two warrior cultures in one.

    “Then let’s get ready to go kill a killer and save the world.”

    [Written, mostly, last Sunday night.
    Based, as may be obvious, on considerable existing characters and events.
    Thanks to Seanan McGuire for using that Shakespeare quote in one of her books, it’s even more eerily appropriate in full length (last scene, ‘Henry VIII’) than it might seem here.
    And thanks also for the ‘star’ prompt, which crystallized this all…]