Sunday Fiction Challenge and Promo

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For some reason I didn’t get a vignette prompt today.  Either my faithful challenge-makers were busy or more likely the internet Hamsters ate it.

So, instead, I’d like you to use the above visual prompt for the BEGINNING of a novel.  (If you’re seeing this on Facebook, you’ll have to click through. Facebook doesn’t let you choose the post image, and I suspect this one will be of the last book promoted.)

Remember either in old style editor offices or on Amazon, when they look at your sample, you must catch them in the first 100 to 150 words.  So make those as intriguing as possible and if you can hint at the genre and subgenre the novel will be and how the plot will develop.  It’s a slightly different challenge but one that will sharpen skills needed to do well either in traditional or indie.

Let’s see what you do.

*Note these are books sent to us by readers/frequenters of this blog.  Our bringing them to your attention does not imply that we’ve read them and/or endorse them, unless we specifically say so.  As with all such purchases, we recommend you download a sample and make sure it’s to your taste.  If you wish to send us books for next week’s promo, please email to bookpimping at outlook dot com.  One book per author per week. Amazon links only.-SAH*

FROM DAVID L. BURKHEAD:  Shiva’s Whisper (FutureTech Industries).

51prnifrigl

 

The Third Eres War is over.Lieutenant Commander Nobuta Tanaka hopes to avoid a fourth. Working as the Military Liason the the embassy on the Eres homeworld, he aids in the delicate negotiations between the Eres and the Terran Confederation. Yet something strange is happening in Eres space. The Eres are almost too willing, even eager, to reduce forces along their mutual border, a willingness that sets some in the Terran High Command to look for the trap hidden in the Eres agreement.When Tanaka’s counterpart in the Eres government calls him in to deal with the case of a Terran freighter that had a run in with…something, something which made the freighter a very political problem for the Eres, Tanaka learns that the threat is greater than he knew.As matters escalate, Tanaka’s superiors face the threat of war on a scale that neither humanity nor its allies have ever faced before. And while some seek to avoid a fourth Eres War, others are more than willing to fight a Final Eres War.None of them imagine the true nature of the threat they face and by the time they learn, it may already be too late.

67 responses to “Sunday Fiction Challenge and Promo

  1. It’s not like I don’t have other stories I’m working on, and now I have this in my head.

    Thus starts the opening:

    “It worked,” the scientist said. “We are not sure how yet, but it worked.”
    “Where did it open to?” the General asked.
    “We cannot be sure, but we believe it was the northern Atlantic, somewhere west of Iceland,” another of the scientists replied. “Unfortunately, when we opened the mirror, sea water began to flood through. It quickly filled the room, killing a few of our technicians. We were able to disable it before it could flood the whole floor.”
    “Can you replicate it?” the General demanded. “Can you direct where it will open?”
    “We believe we can,” the lead scientist replied. “I know that some want to call it magic, but everything is tied into the physical world somehow. This is nothing more than advanced technology that we don’t yet understand, but we will.”
    “You have six weeks,” the General said. “I want one that can let men move through unhindered ready for operation in six weeks. Don’t disappoint me.”
    The scientists looked at one another and watched the General and his entourage of aides, lackeys, and hanger-ons as they exited the laboratory.
    “What are we going to do Wernher?” the younger scientist asked.
    Wernher von Braun turned to his colleague a look of dismay on his face.
    “I do not know Wilhem,” Wernher said. “But we cannot let these monsters have control of this technology.”

  2. Sintra E'Drien

    Clearly, it was a frame-up.

  3. I’ve read Shiva’s Whisper, it’s a good time. I highly encourage it, but only if you like your Space Opera a well written blend of military action, political machinations and exploring alien culture. Oh, and exploding spaceships.

  4. “My God, Lisa, I just had the strangest dream,” Jack said as he stumbled into the kitchen.
    Without turning from the stove she said, “Oh? Tell me about it?”
    Jack sat heavily in a kitchen chair. “It was our house, but everything in was wrong… things kept moving around and changing. It was so strange… it really bothered me.”
    “That does sound bad.”
    “And the worst part was, I kept thinking I’d woke up, but I was back in the dream. I hate those kinds of nightmares.”
    The woman turned from the stove, a steaming plate in her hands. “Well,” she said, putting it down in front of Jack, “There are three things you should know.”
    Jack blinked at her in confusion.
    “First,” she said, “I’m not Lisa. Lisa died, remember? She killed herself.”
    Jack stared at her, trying to remember. His mind felt so fuzzy and strange.
    “Second, you’re still dreaming,” she went on.
    She gestured at the plate. Jack glanced down. On it was mass of squirming maggots.
    “And third, you can’t wake up unless I let you.”

  5. It was impossible.
    Even as he looked at it, he knew it was impossible, but now he had to deal with the impossible.
    How the hell do you clean up something like this?

    {that’s about as creative as I get and it molded into a “Tom” by Dave Freer story as I looked at it. Tom is going to need help from a certain Goth Sex Kitten on this one}

  6. William studied the mirror on the floor in front of him, wondering how the scrying spell had failed, when he heard the splashing of water. Twisting around, he saw the waterfall coming from the painting, and blanched. Spinning back, he scanned the symbols around the circle frantically. Suddenly, he groaned. “Oh, no,” he whispered. “I accidentally used the symbol for ‘wall’, instead of ‘floor’, and it connected the painting to its home instead of the mirror.”

    William knew he had to close the portal as soon as he could. The painting was not of a natural place in this world, which meant, because the source of imagination and dreams was subconscious connections to other worlds, that he had NO idea what could be on the other side.

    Working with panicked speed, he erased several of the symbols around the circle and began chalking in new ones. As he was completing the next-to-last one, he heard slapping sounds coming from behind him. Risking a glance back, he saw several small fish flopping in the water on the floor, and more jumping in the water beyond the picture frame. Further back, there was a line of fins just showing above the water. He blanched, suspecting that it was a sea serpent, and by the size of the fins, it might be just small enough to make it through the frame. Turning back, he drew the final symbol, relit the candles, and began chanting, just as a rattling, as of the picture frame bouncing against the wall, began, followed by a louder splashing than before, and finally, a slithering sound, as of chain mail being dragged over a railing…

  7. Anchoring the portal to a picture frame might make it less obvious, but that wasn’t the same as safe.

    “Look, can’t you just move it on that side?” Lisa frowned at the rolling waves.

    “We tried, but it’s deep water, there’s nothing to push against. And it’s up in the air a bit, we had a hell of a time getting back. But we’ll get a small motor and a small boat and see what we can do after your mother leaves. I mean, it’s just two days, what can go wrong?”

    “A storm? An unusually high tide? Mother deciding to dust everything?”

  8. Stopping the waterfall was relatively straightforward, involving only a basic dis-spell. The walls and floor of the basement room were well cured concrete, and there was a drain on the floor, so the seawater was only a minor nuisance. Getting the smell of the sea out of upholstery would be next to impossible, but I’d never liked that sofa much, which was why it was in the basement to begin with.

    “That,” I said, “Is why one shouldn’t move one’s lips when reading certain books.”

  9. Donald Stephens

    The small sphere emerged suddenly, with the crackling pattern of energy that showed its origin Gate, over the city of Portage.

    The onboard computer was heedless of the constant flow of ships entering and exiting the Gate, connecting Earth with the rest of the universe. Instead, it deployed a drogue parachute and tried to place a phone call to the research lab that had sent it out. But the lab was long gone, for the sphere had traveled far, and there was no answer from the great city that had grown up since its departure. So the tiny computer turned on the red-amber lights on the top, and an audio alarm, so that humans could find it after it splashed into the lake below.

    ******

    Tech-Officer Oraten Bell had the watch-board. A person was always backing up the computers, for Gates were dangerous. A Gate was directly connected to every other Gate in its group, however far away they might be in space, and many times enemies had used this to attack a planet or city. So the computers watched every emergence, and because a surprise emergence might not be an attack, people watched the computers.

    This was one of those hard cases. The thing was tiny, only 75 centimeters across, and a singleton. It also had an impressive array of warnings: unknown device, unknown entry pattern, unknown communications request, unknown transponder. He had confirmed the automatic rerouting of traffic around whatever this was, so he could shoot it if he had to, but had held back from the firing key, because it wasn’t venting.

    A bomb would have exploded or accelerated by now. A bio-attack would have to either vent, or deposit its payload in the lake. As long as it wasn’t doing either, he would wait for the computers to search the historic files for a match. If he had to, he could destroy it and cook its contents, but he didn’t want to. There were two examples of unknown civilizations finding Compact members by sending probes through Gates, just for starters.

    In the meantime, his board was lit up with information requests, and after fifteen seconds, he had nothing to say. At that point, by protocol, the watch-captain commed him.

    “T. O., you’re coming up on the decision point.” Captain Iris Waddon reminded him.

    “I know, ma’am, but it hasn’t done anything offensive yet, and we -” he cut off as the computers finally updated. It had taken twenty-five seconds, but there was a match, and he gasped as three of the warnings disappeared.

    Device: Type One boomerang ball. Unknown entry pattern. Communications: obsolete local protocol #37. Transponder: UA-IDRL 26. Confidence: 1 – 10E-7 (visual).

    Standing orders specified his answer to Captain Waddon: “Captain, I have a positive identification on the unscheduled emergence.”

    “I see it, T. O.” Awe colored her voice. “This is – I’ll clear the recovery with Waterside directly. They won’t argue with me as much. Cover the rest as usual.”

    “Yes, Ma’am.” As if this was usual. A type one boomerang ball was older than the Compact; older than the Old League; as old as space. Sixty-two centuries had passed since a research team had sent thirty probes blindly through Earth’s Gate, to find out if there was anything on the other side. Nine had never returned.

    Until now. Oraten went through his duties in a dream, pushing the ID out to all the outstanding information calls, releasing the firing arcs for travel, and all the other details, but his eye was on just one transponder code. And so he watched, as a legend descended into history, deployed its parachute at 200 meters, and settled on the surface of Mud Lake.

  10. Donald Stephens

    The small sphere emerged suddenly, with the crackling pattern of energy that showed its origin Gate, over the city of Portage.

    The onboard computer was heedless of the constant flow of ships entering and exiting the Gate, connecting Earth with the rest of the universe. Instead, it deployed a drogue parachute and tried to place a phone call to the research lab that had sent it out. But the lab was long gone, for the sphere had traveled far, and there was no answer from the great city that had grown up since its departure. So the tiny computer turned on the red-amber lights on the top, and an audio alarm, so that humans could find it after it splashed into the lake below.

    ******

    Tech-Officer Oraten Bell had the watch-board. A person was always backing up the computers, for Gates were dangerous. A Gate was directly connected to every other Gate in its group, however far away they might be in space, and many times enemies had used this to attack a planet or city. So the computers watched every emergence, and because a surprise emergence might not be an attack, people watched the computers.

    This was one of those hard cases. The thing was tiny, only 75 centimeters across, and a singleton. It also had an impressive array of warnings: unknown device, unknown entry pattern, unknown communications request, unknown transponder. He had confirmed the automatic rerouting of traffic around whatever this was, so he could shoot it if he had to, but had held back from the firing key, because it wasn’t venting.

    A bomb would have exploded or accelerated by now. A bio-attack would have to either vent, or deposit its payload in the lake. As long as it wasn’t doing either, he would wait for the computers to search the historic files for a match. If he had to, he could destroy it and cook its contents, but he didn’t want to. There were two examples of unknown civilizations finding Compact members by sending probes through Gates, just for starters.

    In the meantime, his board was lit up with information requests, and after fifteen seconds, he had nothing to say. At that point, by protocol, the watch-captain commed him.

    “T. O., you’re coming up on the decision point.” Captain Iris Waddon reminded him.

    “I know, ma’am, but it hasn’t done anything offensive yet, and we -” he cut off as the computers finally updated. It had taken twenty-five seconds, but there was a match, and he gasped as three of the warnings disappeared.

    Device: Type One boomerang ball. Unknown entry pattern. Communications: obsolete local protocol #37. Transponder: UA-IDRL 26. Confidence: 1 – 10E-7 (visual).

    Standing orders specified his answer to Captain Waddon: “Captain, I have a positive identification on the unscheduled emergence.”

    “I see it, T. O.” Awe colored her voice. “This is – I’ll clear the recovery with Waterside directly. They won’t argue with me as much. Cover the rest as usual.”

    “Yes, Ma’am.” As if this was usual. A type one boomerang ball was older than the Compact; older than the Old League; as old as space. Sixty-two centuries had passed since a research team had sent thirty probes blindly through Earth’s Gate, to find out if there was anything on the other side. Nine had never returned.

    Until now. Oraten went through his duties in a dream, pushing the ID out to all the outstanding information calls, releasing the firing arcs for travel, and all the other details, but his eye was on just one transponder code. And so he watched, as a legend descended into history, deployed its parachute at 200 meters, and settled on the surface of Mud Lake.

  11. Jane Meyerhofer

    The tall beautiful woman sitting on the leather couch looked up as we were brought in. She smiled but Duchenne would have flunked her. Not real at all. On other walls pictures of marvelous, sunlit, unreality abounded. Often books were incorporated in the pictures in fantastic ways; one picture showed a maiden gazing across an abyss to a glorious mountain city. But the picture above the couch showed merely an ocean. No boats, or islands, or birds, yet I thought with longing of all that water in this land where so far there had been none.
    My companion turned white. “She’ll toss us into that mysterious substance. It eats bones. I’m sorry that this is the end, not the beginning.”
    “It looks like plain water!”
    The beautiful woman spoke to me. “Yes, all the water in this world, which I have locked up there. And who knows what will happen to you in it? If you are of this world it will melt you but if you aren’t … Why then I think you … drown? In with her.”
    A guard on my left reached into his back quiver and pulled out a long thin object with handholds, rather like an old time scroll but much larger. Another guard grabbed one set of handholds and walked behind me. The scroll object unrolled and a third guard suddenly grabbed my shirt and drew me back into the sheet like object. A slingshot?!
    Suddenly I was flying through the air towards the picture. Just as suddenly the ocean scene shifted. Clouds appeared and a storm seemed imminent. In an emergency you can think very quickly. I decided that if I had a choice I didn’t want to go through that frame so I tried to grab it as I passed and I succeeded! It helped that I used to do gymnastics. When I grabbed the frame the picture tilted sideways, the woman screamed, and water poured over the frame into the room, over the couch and across the floor. The woman melted into a white froth, as did one guard who hadn’t fled fast enough.
    My companion had stood his ground though his fear had been overwhelmingly real. And the water washed over his feet and did not melt him. He came up to the frame and saw me clinging to the edge and pulled me back in the otherwise empty room.
    “So you aren’t from around here either?”
    He smiled — a real one — and shook his head, then bent and kissed my knees.
    “And not from Earth either,” I thought, but did not say.

  12. Donald Stephens

    The small sphere emerged suddenly, with the crackling pattern of energy that showed its origin Gate, over the city of Portage.

    The onboard computer was heedless of the constant flow of ships entering and exiting the Gate, connecting Earth with the rest of the universe. Instead, it deployed a drogue parachute and tried to place a phone call to the research lab that had sent it out. But the lab was long gone, for the sphere had traveled far, and there was no answer from the great city that had grown up since its departure. So the tiny computer turned on the red-amber lights on the top, and an audio alarm, so that humans could find it after it splashed into the lake below.

    ******

    • Donald Stephens

      Tech-Officer Oraten Bell had the watch-board. A person was always backing up the computers, for Gates were dangerous. A Gate was directly connected to every other Gate in its group, however far away they might be in space, and many times enemies had used this to attack a planet or city. So the computers watched every emergence, and because a surprise emergence might not be an attack, people watched the computers.

      This was one of those hard cases. The thing was tiny, only 75 centimeters across, and a singleton. It also had an impressive array of warnings: unknown device, unknown entry pattern, unknown communications request, unknown transponder. He had confirmed the automatic rerouting of traffic around whatever this was, so he could shoot it if he had to, but had held back from the firing key, because it wasn’t venting.

      A bomb would have exploded or accelerated by now. A bio-attack would have to either vent, or deposit its payload in the lake. As long as it wasn’t doing either, he would wait for the computers to search the historic files for a match. If he had to, he could destroy it and cook its contents, but he didn’t want to. There were two examples of unknown civilizations finding Compact members by sending probes through Gates, just for starters.

      In the meantime, his board was lit up with information requests, and after fifteen seconds, he had nothing to say. At that point, by protocol, the watch-captain commed him.

    • Donald Stephens

      Tech-Officer Oraten Bell had the watch-board. A person was always backing up the computers, for Gates were dangerous. A Gate was directly connected to every other Gate in its group, however far away they might be in space, and many times enemies had used this to attack a planet or city. So the computers watched every emergence, and because a surprise emergence might not be an attack, people watched the computers.

      This was one of those hard cases. The thing was tiny, only 75 centimeters across, and a singleton. It also had an impressive array of warnings: unknown device, unknown entry pattern, unknown communications request, unknown transponder. He had confirmed the automatic rerouting of traffic around whatever this was, so he could shoot it if he had to, but had held back from the firing key, because it wasn’t venting.

      A bomb would have exploded or accelerated by now. A bio-attack would have to either vent, or deposit its payload in the lake. As long as it wasn’t doing either, he would wait for the computers to search the historic files for a match. If he had to, he could destroy it and cook its contents, but he didn’t want to. There were two examples of unknown civilizations finding Compact members by sending probes through Gates, just for starters.

    • Donald Stephens

      Tech-Officer Oraten Bell had the watch-board. A person was always backing up the computers, for Gates were dangerous. A Gate was directly connected to every other Gate in its group, however far away they might be in space, and many times enemies had used this to attack a planet or city. So the computers watched every emergence, and because a surprise emergence might not be an attack, people watched the computers.

      This was one of those hard cases. The thing was tiny, only 75 centimeters across, and a singleton. It also had an impressive array of warnings: unknown device, unknown entry pattern, unknown communications request, unknown transponder. He had confirmed the automatic rerouting of traffic around whatever this was, so he could shoot it if he had to, but had held back from the firing key, because it wasn’t venting.

    • Donald Stephens

      Tech-Officer Oraten Bell had the watch-board. A person was always backing up the computers, for Gates were dangerous. A Gate was directly connected to every other Gate in its group, however far away they might be in space, and many times enemies had used this to attack a planet or city. So the computers watched every emergence, and because a surprise emergence might not be an attack, people watched the computers.

      This was one of those hard cases. The thing was tiny, only 75 centimeters across, and a singleton. It also had an impressive array of warnings: unknown device, unknown entry pattern, unknown communications request, unknown transponder. He had confirmed the automatic rerouting of traffic around whatever this was, so he could shoot it if he had to, but had held back from the firing key, because it wasn’t venting.

      A bomb would have exploded or accelerated by now. A bio-attack would have to either vent, or deposit its payload in the lake. As long as it wasn’t doing either, he would wait for the computers to search the historic files for a match. If he had to, he could destroy it and cook its contents, but he didn’t want to. There were two examples of unknown civilizations finding Compact members by sending probes through Gates, just for starters.

    • Donald Stephens

      Tech-Officer Oraten Bell had the watch-board. A person was always backing up the computers, for Gates were dangerous. A Gate was directly connected to every other Gate in its group, however far away they might be in space, and many times enemies had used this to attack a planet or city. So the computers watched every emergence, and because a surprise emergence might not be an attack, people watched the computers.

      This was one of those hard cases. The thing was tiny, only 75 centimeters across, and a singleton. It also had an impressive array of warnings: unknown device, unknown entry pattern, unknown communications request, unknown transponder. He had confirmed the automatic rerouting of traffic around whatever this was, so he could shoot it if he had to, but had held back from the firing key, because it wasn’t venting.

      A bomb would have exploded or accelerated by now. A bio-attack would have to either vent, or deposit its payload in the lake. As long as it wasn’t doing either, he would wait for the computers to search the historic files for a match. If he had to, he could destroy it and cook its contents, but he didn’t want to. There were two examples of unknown civilizations finding Compact members by sending probes through Gates, just for starters.

    • Donald Stephens

      Tech-Officer Oraten Bell had the watch-board. A person was always backing up the computers, for Gates were dangerous. A Gate was directly connected to every other Gate in its group, however far away they might be in space, and many times enemies had used this to attack a planet or city. So the computers watched every emergence, and because a surprise emergence might not be an attack, people watched the computers.

      This was one of those hard cases. The thing was tiny, only 75 centimeters across, and a singleton. It also had an impressive array of warnings: unknown device, unknown entry pattern, unknown communications request, unknown transponder. He had confirmed the automatic rerouting of traffic around whatever this was, so he could shoot it if he had to, but had held back from the firing key, because it wasn’t venting.

    • Donald Stephens

      Tech-Officer Oraten Bell had the watch-board. A person was always backing up the computers, for Gates were dangerous. A Gate was directly connected to every other Gate in its group, however far away they might be in space, and many times enemies had used this to attack a planet or city. So the computers watched every emergence, and because a surprise emergence might not be an attack, people watched the computers.

      This was one of those hard cases. The thing was tiny, only 75 centimeters across, and a singleton. It also had an impressive array of warnings: unknown device, unknown entry pattern, unknown communications request, unknown transponder. He had confirmed the automatic rerouting of traffic around whatever this was, so he could shoot it if he had to, but had held back from the firing key, because it wasn’t venting.

    • Donald Stephens

      WordPress is literally auto-trashing any part of this I post beyond this point.

      • Could be some really stupid words causing it to filter it out. That is to say, stupid in the sense that it’s stupid for the words to cause it to happen.

        • Donald Stephens

          Tech-Officer Oraten Bell had the watch-board. A person was always backing up the computers, for Gates were dangerous. A Gate was directly connected to every other Gate in its group, however far away they might be in space, and many times enemies had used this to attack a planet or city. So the computers watched every emergence, and because a surprise emergence might not be an attack, people watched the computers.

          • Donald Stephens

            This was one of those hard cases. The thing was tiny, only 75 centimeters across, and a singleton. It also had an impressive array of warnings: unknown device, unknown entry pattern, unknown communications request, unknown transponder. He had confirmed the automatic rerouting of traffic around whatever this was, so he could shoot it if he had to, but had held back from the firing key, because it wasn’t venting.

            A bomb would have exploded or accelerated by now. A bio-attack would have to either vent, or deposit its payload in the lake. As long as it wasn’t doing either, he would wait for the computers to search the historic files for a match. If he had to, he could destroy it and cook its contents, but he didn’t want to. There were two examples of unknown civilizations finding Compact members by sending probes through Gates, just for starters.

            In the meantime, his board was lit up with information requests, and after fifteen seconds, he had nothing to say. At that point, by protocol, the watch-captain commed him.

            “T. O., you’re coming up on the decision point.” Captain Iris Waddon reminded him.

            “I know, ma’am, but it hasn’t done anything offensive yet, and we -” he cut off as the computers finally updated. It had taken twenty-five seconds, but there was a match, and he gasped as three of the warnings disappeared.

            Device: Type One boomerang ball. Unknown entry pattern. Communications: obsolete local protocol #37. Transponder: UA-IDRL 26. Confidence: 1 – 10E-7 (visual).

            Standing orders specified his answer to Captain Waddon: “Captain, I have a positive identification on the unscheduled emergence.”

            “I see it, T. O.” Awe colored her voice. “This is – I’ll clear the recovery with Waterside directly. They won’t argue with me as much. Cover the rest as usual.”

            “Yes, Ma’am.” As if this was usual. A type one boomerang ball was older than the Compact; older than the Old League; as old as space. Sixty-two centuries had passed since a research team had sent thirty probes blindly through Earth’s Gate, to find out if there was anything on the other side. Nine had never returned.

            Until now. Oraten went through his duties in a dream, pushing the ID out to all the outstanding information calls, releasing the firing arcs for regular travel, and all the other details, but his eye was on just one transponder code. And so he watched, as a legend descended into history, deployed its parachute at 200 meters, and settled on the surface of Mud Lake.

          • Donald Stephens

            This was one of those hard cases. The thing was tiny, only 75 centimeters across, and a singleton. It also had an impressive array of warnings: unknown device, unknown entry pattern, unknown communications request, unknown transponder. He had confirmed the automatic rerouting of traffic around whatever this was, so he could shoot it if he had to, but had held back from the firing key, because it wasn’t venting.

          • Donald Stephens

            This was one of those hard cases. The thing was tiny, only 75 centimeters across, and a singleton. It also had an impressive array of warnings: unknown device, unknown entry pattern, unknown communications request, unknown transponder. He had confirmed the automatic rerouting of traffic around whatever this was, so he could shoot it if he had to, but had held back from the firing key, because it wasn’t venting.

          • Donald Stephens

            This was one of those hard cases. The thing was tiny, only 75 centimeters across, and a singleton. It also had an impressive array of warnings: unknown device, unknown entry pattern, unknown communications request, unknown transponder. He had confirmed the automatic rerouting of traffic around whatever this was, so he could shoot it if he had to, but had held back from the firing key, because it wasn’t venting.

            A bomb would have exploded or accelerated by now. A bio-attack would have to either vent, or deposit its payload in the lake. As long as it wasn’t doing either, he would wait for the computers to search the historic files for a match. If he had to, he could destroy it and cook its contents, but he didn’t want to. There were two examples of unknown civilizations finding Compact members by sending probes through Gates, just for starters.

            In the meantime, his board was lit up with information requests, and after fifteen seconds, he had nothing to say. At that point, by protocol, the watch-captain commed him.

            “T. O., you’re coming up on the decision point.” Captain Iris Waddon reminded him.

            “I know, ma’am, but it hasn’t done anything offensive yet, and we -” he cut off as the computers finally updated. It had taken twenty-five seconds, but there was a match, and he gasped as three of the warnings disappeared.

            Device: Type One boomerang ball. Unknown entry pattern. Communications: obsolete local protocol #37. Transponder: UA-IDRL 26. Confidence: 1 – 10E-7 (visual).

            Standing orders specified his answer to Captain Waddon: “Captain, I have a positive identification on the unscheduled emergence.”

            “I see it, T. O.” Awe colored her voice. “This is – I’ll clear the recovery with Waterside directly. They won’t argue with me as much. Cover the rest as usual.”

            “Yes, Ma’am.” As if this was usual. A type one boomerang ball was older than the Compact; older than the Old League; as old as space. Sixty-two centuries had passed since a research team had sent thirty probes blindly through Earth’s Gate, to find out if there was anything on the other side. Nine had never returned.

            Until now. Oraten went through his duties in a dream, pushing the ID out to all the outstanding information calls, releasing the firing arcs for travel, and all the other details, but his eye was on just one transponder code. And so he watched, as a legend descended into history, deployed its parachute at 200 meters, and settled on the surface of Mud Lake.

          • Donald Stephens

            This was one of those hard cases. The thing was tiny, only 75 centimeters across, and a singleton. It also had an impressive array of warnings: unknown device, unknown entry pattern, unknown communications request, unknown transponder. He had confirmed the automatic rerouting of traffic around whatever this was, so he could shoot it if he had to, but had held back from the firing key, because it wasn’t venting.

            A bomb would have exploded or accelerated by now. A bio-attack would have to either vent, or deposit its payload in the lake. As long as it wasn’t doing either, he would wait for the computers to search the historic files for a match. If he had to, he could destroy it and cook its contents, but he didn’t want to. There were two examples of unknown civilizations finding Compact members by sending probes through Gates, just for starters.

            In the meantime, his board was lit up with information requests, and after fifteen seconds, he had nothing to say. At that point, by protocol, the watch-captain commed him.

            “T. O., you’re coming up on the decision point.” Captain Iris Waddon reminded him.

            “I know, ma’am, but it hasn’t done anything offensive yet, and we -” he cut off as the computers finally updated. It had taken twenty-five seconds, but there was a match, and he gasped as three of the warnings disappeared.

            Device: Type One boomerang ball. Unknown entry pattern. Communications: obsolete local protocol #37. Transponder: UA-IDRL 26. Confidence: 1 – 10E-7 (visual).

            Standing orders specified his answer to Captain Waddon: “Captain, I have a positive identification on the unscheduled emergence.”

            “I see it, T. O.” Awe colored her voice. “This is – I’ll clear the recovery with Waterside directly. They won’t argue with me as much. Cover the rest as usual.”

            “Yes, Ma’am.” As if this was usual. A type one boomerang ball was older than the Compact; older than the Old League; as old as space. Sixty-two centuries had passed since a research team had sent thirty probes blindly through Earth’s Gate, to find out if there was anything on the other side. Nine had never returned.

            Until now. Oraten went through his duties in a dream, pushing the ID out to all the outstanding information calls, releasing the firing arcs for travel, and all the other details, but his eye was on just one transponder code. And so he watched, as a legend descended into history, deployed its parachute at 200 meters, and settled on the surface of Mud Lake.

          • Donald Stephens

            This was one of those hard cases. The thing was tiny, only 75 centimeters across, and a singleton. It also had an impressive array of warnings: unknown device, unknown entry pattern, unknown communications request, unknown transponder. He had confirmed the automatic rerouting of traffic around whatever this was, so he could shoot it if he had to, but had held back from the firing key, because it wasn’t venting.

          • Donald Stephens

            This was one of those hard cases. The thing was tiny, only 75 centimeters across, and a singleton. It also had an impressive array of warnings: unknown device, unknown entry pattern, unknown communications request, unknown transponder. He had confirmed the automatic rerouting of traffic around whatever this was, so he could it if he had to, but had held back from the firing key, because it wasn’t venting.

          • Donald Stephens

            This was one of those hard cases. The thing was tiny, only 75 centimeters across, and a singleton. It also had an impressive array of warnings: unknown device, unknown entry pattern, unknown communications request, unknown transponder. He had confirmed the automatic rerouting of traffic around whatever this was, so he could shoot it if he had to, but had held back from the firing key, because it wasn’t venting.

            A bomb would have exploded or accelerated by now. A bio-attack would have to either vent, or deposit its payload in the lake. As long as it wasn’t doing either, he would wait for the computers to search the historic files for a match. If he had to, he could destroy it and cook its contents, but he didn’t want to. There were two examples of unknown civilizations finding Compact members by sending probes through Gates, just for starters.

            In the meantime, his board was lit up with information requests, and after fifteen seconds, he had nothing to say. At that point, by protocol, the watch-captain commed him.

            “T. O., you’re coming up on the decision point.” Captain Iris Waddon reminded him.

            “I know, ma’am, but it hasn’t done anything offensive yet, and we -” he cut off as the computers finally updated. It had taken twenty-five seconds, but there was a match, and he gasped as three of the warnings disappeared.

            Device: Type One boomerang ball. Unknown entry pattern. Communications: obsolete local protocol #37. Transponder: UA-IDRL 26. Confidence: 1 – 10E-7 (visual).

            Standing orders specified his answer to Captain Waddon: “Captain, I have a positive identification on the unscheduled emergence.”

            “I see it, T. O.” Awe colored her voice. “This is – I’ll clear the recovery with Waterside directly. They won’t argue with me as much. Cover the rest as usual.”

            “Yes, Ma’am.” As if this was usual. A type one boomerang ball was older than the Compact; older than the Old League; as old as space. Sixty-two centuries had passed since a research team had sent thirty probes blindly through Earth’s Gate, to find out if there was anything on the other side. Nine had never returned.

            Until now. Oraten went through his duties in a dream, pushing the ID out to all the outstanding information calls, releasing the firing arcs for travel, and all the other details, but his eye was on just one transponder code. And so he watched, as a legend descended into history, deployed its parachute at 200 meters, and settled on the surface of Mud Lake.

          • Donald Stephens

            This was one of those hard cases. The thing was tiny, only 75 centimeters across, and a singleton. It also had an impressive array of warnings: unknown device, unknown entry pattern, unknown communications request, unknown transponder. He had confirmed the automatic rerouting of traffic around whatever this was, so he could shoot it if he had to, but had held back from the firing key, because it wasn’t venting.

            A bomb would have exploded or accelerated by now. A bio-attack would have to either vent, or deposit its payload in the lake. As long as it wasn’t doing either, he would wait for the computers to search the historic files for a match. If he had to, he could destroy it and cook its contents, but he didn’t want to. There were two examples of unknown civilizations finding Compact members by sending probes through Gates, just for starters.

  13. Ok, so I had a couple of beers. Ok, it was two six-packs. But when the picture on the wall sprung a leak and inundated my living room, I was certain it wasn’t the beer, as it was only 3.2.

  14. Donald Stephens

    I’m having trouble posting new items, so this is a test message.

  15. I realized I’d been playing “World of Warships” a bit too much when I saw the seascape start leaking all over the couch.

  16. Elina couldn’t tell exactly when the painting began to change, but she felt certain that it began sometime after her mother died. It had always been on the wall, a decoration only the few of her mother’s eclectic visitors ever noticed. She never understood their fascination with the old ship, what fear they saw in the clear skies above or the calm seas beneath. She never understood her mother’s affection for the uncanny strangers who became their infrequent family. The strangers Elina forbid from ever setting foot in her home again after her mother was gone.

    She didn’t understand why the ship’s sails shifted from billowing white to tattered brown, or why the sky gleamed pale blue one day and clouds blew in the next. The sea could be the calmest blue in the morning, or show green waves capped in white by the evening. Two years since her mother’s passing, and Elina couldn’t tell if the painting reflected her moods, or imparted them.

    “You’ve never seen because you never wanted to,” her mother said on the night of her death.

    “I stopped trying when I was twelve,” Elina responded, exasperated by the decade-old conversation.

    “‘Lina, you’ve resisted all my attempts to prepare you, but you must still face this whether or not you’re ready.”

    “Oh bullshit, mother. You’ve been forcing this cryptic nonsense on me for years. You abandoned dad, your job, and your real friends so you could have hushed conversations with ren-faire rejects about a mediocre painting that’s been in the family for three hundred years. I don’t want anything to do with it!”

    Her mother’s tired eyes welled with pity. “Seeing is not your choice.”

    Those were the last words her mother spoke. They were yet more words Elina didn’t understand, ending another conversation that sent her to bed in anger.

    Since then, she saw. At first she was fascinated by it, then unnerved. She had no idea what to think of her mother, or how to contact her mother’s “friends”. When ignoring the painting didn’t work, she hung a sheet over it and achieved a small measure of peace.

    Now she stood in a growing puddle of saltwater, confused and terrified by an unnamed sea spilling from the painting onto the couch. She couldn’t tell if the painting depicted the approaching storm outside, or if it caused it. The ship was nowhere to be seen.

  17. The sound of dripping water made me turn around. While my uncle’s old house had many leaks, with new ones discovered every time it rained, today was a beautiful, sunny day without a rain cloud in sight. Searching for the source of the sound, I realized that Uncle Jonathon’s seascape painting was hanging at odd angle. The water in the picture was running out of the bottom corner of the frame.

    As I stood there gaping, the painting shifted even more and the drip became a small waterfall. I jumped up from my comfy chair and grabbed the painting and straightened it on the wall. The miniature waterfall stopped.

    “Uncle Jonathon!”
    “What?” came the grumpy reply from the next room.
    “Your painting is dumping water into the library!”

    A brief, startled silence was broken by the sound of a chair scraping back followed by rapid footsteps. Uncle Jonathon appeared in the doorway to the library looking slightly alarmed.

    “What did you do to it?” His tone was slightly accusatory as he stared first at the painting and then at me.

    “Nothing! I was standing here looking for a book when I heard a dripping sound. The painting was tilted and then it tilted more, presumably from the weight of the water. That’s when the drip became a waterfall and I called you. Why do you think I did anything? I straightened it up and the water stopped. What the hell kind of painting is that?” I was angry and scared. Paintings, even those showing the ocean, are not supposed to spill water into the library.

  18. analytical-engine-mechanic

    Lucy Barnes suppressed a shriek, dropped her book on the armchair where she’d been sitting, and ran to open the French doors that faced south, catty-corner to the lowering fall sun. Instinct alone carried her that far, half-boots sloshing through inexplicable (but clearly not impossible) cold water, cool breeze through the balcony’s doors warmer than the chill (but somehow warming) wind out of the… doorway, the painting had somehow become.

    She’d been reading the opening scene of “Voyage of the Dawn Treader” — dreamed last night of sitting in the Wood Between the Worlds, a “big dream” in Jungian high style, looking down into a bog-dark pool full of stars. But now…

    She rushed back to the painting, with its cold (and very un-Narnian) level horizon. She’d see if–

    No, this was engineering, not science. She gathered the Will and the Idea around her like a sweater in the Professora’s bicentennial house, and as she planted her feet firmly in front of the antique early-21st-century sofa and took hold of either side of the frame, *knew* it would turn while the scene (or world) beyond would not.

    And it did, easily; and it did not, steadily.
    And the pouring water stopped, though it still eddied sluggishly toward the balcony.

    But still the world beyond called to her, as surely as she had called to it.
    [more like 200 words, but hopefully still teaser-length]

  19. Christopher M. Chupik

    Warning: Paint still wet.

  20. The railroad contractor trudged across the lumberyard towards his private rail car. He’d been on his feet for 72 hours. The Yukon’s midnight sun allowed for 3 shifts a day, so the White Pass railroad crews were working around the clock.

    He heard the sound of 2500 pounds of dynamite explode and glanced at his watch. Right on schedule, he thought. He turned around in time to see the mountainside burst open and a landslide of boulders roar into the river. He watched the cloud of dust disappear around the bend.

    Mr. Michael’s rail car had the warmth and luxury of a well-upholstered San Francisco parlor. Heavy maroon curtains darkened the windows. He stretched out on the couch and fell asleep. He dreamt of a waterfall cascading down the mountainside, bursting into the rail car, and tipping his couch into the choppy river below. The cold water felt good.

  21. The picture makes me think of Narnia. And/or Oz.

    • Yep. My first thought on seeing “use this picture for the beginning of a novel” was:

      There once was a boy named Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.

      *grin*

    • *grin* Same here.

      “How Narnian.” More will some shortly, I’m sure.

  22. The sofa was a nice touch.
    A painting that becomes real and spills ocean water into the room where it hangs was decidedly old hat.
    Been done.
    Yesterday’s news.
    Utterly predictable.
    So, the diamond-tufted couch with over-sized rolled arms was the key to unlocking the trauma blocking the subject’s memory of her missing three days.
    And it was up to Doctor Rill, staff psychologist for the espionage service, to unlock those memories, and lead them to the terrorists who had kidnapped the agent on their trail, drugged her, and would have killed her, if it hadn’t been for the unfortunate car accident that forced them to leave her behind and disappear into the snow-covered forests of the Western slope.
    A sofa and a red pillow.
    “What would Freud make of that?” wondered Rill, as he took his seat at the head of his own office couch while his assistant fitted the neuro-translation helmet over the agent’s short-cropped red hair.

  23. “John!” Megan called as she hurried carefully down the wide stairway. She did not want to slip on the polished wood. “John, where are you? I need you. We have a leak.”

    She hoped he heard her and she wouldn’t have to search all the downstairs rooms. This house, this mansion, was so big – twenty rooms not counting the pantry and four bathrooms and the dressing room bigger than her bedroom back in the States – even after a week here she still wasn’t sure where everything was.

    Fortunately, her husband stepped out of the study and caught her arm just as she reached the bottom of the steps. ” Here I am. What is the problem? You said a leak?”

    “Yes. In the sitting room upstairs. The Gold Room you call it? Anyway, water is dripping from the corner of the painting over the sofa there. I think there may be a leak in the wall.” She paused to catch her breath.

    “Did you check behind the painting?” John asked as he turned her to go back up the stairs.

    “I tried. But the frame is too heavy for me – I only managed to tilt it and that made the drip worse.”

    “Well, let’s go take a look.” he said reassuringly. The house was rather old and it was quite possible there was a leak from the roof or something. Ireland was rainy in the winter, he remembered from his childhood.

    They reached the doorway to the Gold Room and stopped dead. Megan gasped. John stared unbelieving at the large tilted oil seascape on the end wall. Dramatic storm clouds seemed to be pushing the waves right out of the massive gilt frame to pour in a torrent down on the huge leather sofa and onto the floor. The carpet was already soaking wet and the water was moving towards the door.

    John shook himself into action and gestured to the far side of the room. “Megan, go and open the doors onto the balcony there. I’ll get the painting.” She obeyed in a daze, pulling back the heavy drapes and opening the french doors wide.

    As he stepped behind the sofa and grasped the frame, John was grateful that the painting was not quite as heavy as he had feared, with all the water pouring from it. Still, it was awkward to lift it off of the cleats, and more awkward to carry it across the room still spewing water. He managed to get it through to the balcony, where he leaned it faceout against the railing so the water could cascade harmlessly onto the walkway below. It did not surprise him that the back of the frame was quite dry.

    “Very funny, Robert,” he muttered. “You can turn off the waterworks now.”

    He strode back into the room, to see Megan by the drenched sofa, her finger in her mouth and a puzzled look on her face. “It’s salt water,” she said. “It’s really ocean water. Why? How?” The shock was wearing off, he saw, and she was starting to shiver in reaction. “And the wall is dry. John, what is going on? Is this a joke?” Her voice did not quite crack.

    He pulled her into his arms and hugged her for a few moments. “I think I know what happened, and I will try to explain, but not here.” Still holding her, he walked her to the doorway where he jerked the old-fashioned bell pull twice. “I will ask Mrs. Burnham to cleanup the mess here. Why don’t you wait for me in the study? And pour us each a brandy, perhaps?” She nodded and he watched her draw a deep breath and walk, not too shakily, to the stairs and down.

    When the housekeeper appeared, John explained very briefly what had happened. Mrs. Burnham, who had been long in service in the house, merely nodded and said she would do her best to restore the leather sofa and dry the carpet and he and his wife were not to worry about the damage. She smiled as she practically shooed him out of the room.

    Megan was sipping cautiously at her brandy when John entered the study. She no longer looked on the verge of hysterics, and he once again gave silent thanks that he had married a woman of strength and common sense and courage. She would need it. He lifted his own snifter to her as a toast, and took a couple of swallows.

    “Have a seat, love, and I’ll tell you my theory about the painting and all.” She said nothing but settled into a comfortable chair as he sat himself on the edge of the desk.

    “Do you remember when we first met in Vancouver, and I told you about my family in Ireland and all?”

    “Yes. And about the big house you grew up in with your grandmother, and how you hoped to go back someday to visit. I remember. It seemed such a lovely dream.”

    “And after we married, you wanted to know more about the family history, and you laughed when I told you about the claims that some of my ancestors were witches and practiced magic. Mostly good magic, of course,” he added. “And you said it sounded like a charming legend but nobody believed in that nowadays.”

    “I remember, ” she said carefully, and took a larger sip.

    “Did I tell you about my cousin Robert, the one who is two years younger than I am? The one I never could get along with because he resented me for coming to live with our grandmother?”

    “What does Robert have to do with what happened upstairs? He lives in Dublin, I think you said, and that is 100 miles from here.”

    “Yes. Well, when Grandmother died three months ago, and I learned that she had left this house to me, along with enough money to keep it up, I was surprised but pleased that she remembered how much I loved the place. Unfortunately Robert, it turns out, had thought it was going to him. He is very bitter about it, and wrote to tell me so. He said in his letter he would make sure I regretted it.”

    “But there isn’t anything he can do, is there? I mean, everything is legal, right?”

    “You are right, everything is legal and the estate is truly mine, free and clear. In the normal run of things, Robert could do nothing but resent it.”

    “But?” she asked. “What is not normal about this?”

    “My cousin Robert is a witch.” he said flatly.

    “You’re kidding. Aren’t you?” she asked, her voice trailing off as she remembered the seawater pouring from the painting upstairs. She managed to gulp down the rest of the brandy without choking, and held out the glass for more.

  24. I stood up and stretched, finally done scrubbing the colorful mess off the floor when I heard the noise to the left of me. I turned and saw the old painting had tilted and water start pouring out. A bit surreal, but as the soft giggling coming from the wispy figure in the corner indicated, something I’d need to deal with fixing for a bit longer.
    *sigh* Lesson number 23…never give LSD to a genie.

  25. ‘Almost Narnian, ’ I thought. As I studied the picture I couldn’t help but recall the scene from the third book in the series. ‘Assuming you believed in talking Lions and Endless winters.’ Of more immediate concern was trying to figure out why there was a portal in the painting allowing water to flow out, across the couch and onto to floor. The fact that the puddle in front of the couch wasn’t very large was another puzzle.

    “Can you tell me when this started?” I pointed at the waterfall. The shimmer of power around the frame warned me that if I tried to tamper with the magic behind it, I’d be in for a nasty shock.

    “Last night, as the old ba …, er, lady next door got angry at me. We’re in the middle of a bleeding drought and she keeps watering her lawn every night. Last night I told her if she didn’t stop I’d call the cops and report her.”

    An older lady, with an apparent interest in water, capable of causing water to flow from a painting suggested he had crossed a water spirit. “Do you happen to know where she is from?”

    “Where’s she from? I don’t know, Europe maybe. What difference does it make?”

    “Perhaps nothing, perhaps everything.” I started mentally cataloging the different water spirits. At least I probably wasn’t dealing with one of African or Asian origin. They tended to prefer talking to one of their own. I turned and started for the door.

    “Wait, aren’t you going to do something about this?”

  26. Pingback: Sunday Fiction Challenge and Promo — According To Hoyt | WyldKat's Lair