Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike and Book Promo

Book Promo

*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. If you feel a need to re-promo the same book do so no more than once every six months. One book per author per week. Amazon links only.-SAH*

FROM MEDRON PRYDE:   Forge of War (Jack of Harts 1)

51umq9l8xkl

 

In 2205, we learned the answer to one of the oldest questions of all time. Are we alone? They brought medicines with them that nearly wiped out diseases, and extended the human lifespan into the centuries. They helped us study advanced technologies, and expand our colonies hundreds of lightyears from Earth. It was a golden age that many thought would never end.

Jack grew up in a world at peace, his only interests, partying and girls. But when a sneak attack killed millions of Americans, and wiped out almost everything and everybody Jack knew, he volunteered to serve and get some payback. But the Marines want more than people looking for revenge, and cybernetic partners demand a higher commitment. If Jack wanted to earn his commission as a Marine Corps fighter pilot, he had to let himself be forged into something stronger than he’d ever felt the need to be. A man willing to live up to the name of his squadron. A Cowboy.

Historical note: The Marine Corps fighter squadron that is a central part of this story was named in honor of the real life Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 112, the Cowboys. Because of these aviators, and everyone else who has served, I am free to write this story. I will never forget.

FROM L. DOUGLAS GARRETT:   Remember When: a work of fiction

41klt7z1ndl

He had met someone amazing, but then he got pulled back into The Trade. He had to become David Cox again, and his lives were about to converge in a way he had never faced before.

Remember When is a slice-of-life espionage thriller that builds on images of 1983, a cracked mirror reflection of things that were and pieces of might have been. “A story reminiscent of Miami Vice, with a dash of the 80’s music scene” is brought into tight focus in this novella length telling. Everything comes together in Los Angeles in the days before the US Festival. He’s there, or is he? “When you see the price they’ve paid…”

FROM STEPHANIE OSBORN: Break, Break, Houston (Division One Book 10)

51oxdber2bel

If Division One can’t find Omega, Echo will die.

When Alpha One sets out on an emergency assignment to rescue the NASA mission to which Omega once had been assigned before it ends in catastrophe, all hell breaks loose. But galactic medicine can save Echo, even from the brink of death…

Or can it?

What’s left of Echo’s mind—after he is resuscitated—rejects his life, his love, and his friends. Devastated and distraught, a heartbroken Omega flees Earth, deliberately losing herself in the galaxy on a dangerous, self- assigned mission, without realizing that she holds the key to Echo’s survival. Fox and the others must find her before Echo dies…again.

FROM STEPHANIE OSBORN:  CAMPBELL: The Sigurdsen Incident (Childers Universe Book 6).

41z4pd3lzcl

IS SOMEONE TRYING TO KILL MARY RAO?

Captain Mary Rao, Jablonka’s planetary tactical officer, seems to be under the gun from all angles, but neither the Sigurdsen Base military police nor the counter-intelligence investigations personnel believes that it’s anything more than a confluence of accidents.

Lieutenant William Campbell of the CSF Intelligence Division believes differently. What he doesn’t know is who or why.

And if he can’t figure it out soon, he could die with her.

FROM NITAY ARBEL:   Operation Flash, Episode 2: Hinges Of Fate

51733fqykjl

Killing Hitler had been child’s play in comparison with figuring out what to do next.
After the coup, the Reich was split into two. Bormann in Munich is Führer of a remnant Nazi state. Goerdeler’s Emergency Government in Berlin fights Bormann on the inside while waging a two-front war with the Allies on the outside.
But a secret meeting abroad may be a game-changer.
Meanwhile, Goerdeler’s special assistant Felix Winter investigates what turn out to be crimes beyond even the conspirators’ worst fears…

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: SHARE

 

32 responses to “Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike and Book Promo

  1. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    “Share love? My young apprentice, we are Demons. We feed on the power, life-force, minds and perhaps souls of other Ultras. Even among ourselves, sexual pleasure can become a struggle of which of us feeds the other.”

    “Then there’s no chance of me having a real marriage with my fiancée?”

    “Well to be honest, I know of no cases of it happening but most of us in my time didn’t even try. Our sexual relationship were mostly between one of us and a person we had already enslaved mind & body. The only real marriages as you think of them were between one of us and a standard human. We can feed on standard humans but we don’t lust for their minds & life-force as we do with other Ultras. I fear for your relationship with your fiancée but I won’t forbid it as long as she understands the very real danger for her.”

  2. “You’re gonna share those, right?”

    “Sweetheart, I love you, but touch my Duck Donuts and I will rip your heart out and show it to you.”

  3. Donald Stephens

    Claudia couldn’t reach her hair dryer.

    Bad enough that the pocket universe had opened in the floor of the cupboard she shared with Rita, it was also three feet deep. She could see the hair dryer, but she couldn’t stretch her arm that far.

    She got up, unbent her back, and went to get a clothes hanger she could bend into a hook.

  4. The old codger behind the desk waited until Lizzes was out of the shack, targets and stapler in hand, before he winked at Oleksii. “Good choice of a date, son.”

    “It’s not a date.” Oleksii grumbled. “And don’t you go telling everyone she is. She’s just my neighbor! I don’t want trouble near my house.”

    The bright blue eyes in a wrinkled face that had weathered over eighty years and three wars were laughing at him, and he didn’t enjoy it one bit. “I’d say you got plenty of trouble… at least D-cups worth, right there, and no wedding ring. I know you, son; you’ve been shooting alone since you first rolled up here. If you’re sharing your ammo with her, it’s a date.”

  5. Bellangere and Hesperia laughed. Brayed, more like. Rosine’s gaze flickered over the window, where the night was cool and quiet and did not glare.
    Perhaps she and Florio should leave this company entirely. Bellangere had tried to cheat them out of their share of treasure once, even if only once.

  6. “These,” she intoned, “will be your companions. They are wise in the ways of the world that you enter. They will share with you the knowledge that you need to survive.”
    Aidan’s mouth just twitched.
    At least, thought Carrigiana, he did not think that such knowledge would keep him safe.

  7. The line at the registration desk was as long as it had ever been back in the days when the conference was held Earthside. Large systems computing had moved to high orbit some time back, and the people who ran the systems wound up moving with it. It only made sense the conference did too. One thing hadn’t changed, though: the big banner across the entrance.

    “SHARE. It’s not an acronym. It’s what we do.”

  8. “I had heard that you were here,” said Minette. “Or rather, my mother did. Since I must fare forth in adventure, being a bloodkin, she thought you were the best company that I might gone.”
    “I suppose you want your share of the treasure,” said Rogier.
    “Of course,” she said.

  9. Her eyes were as green as the rest, though brighter than her hair and darker than her skin. “You have no right. That is our knowledge sprung from our land. You may not speak of it.”
    “Very well,” said Alara. “Since you insist, I will not share it with you.”

  10. With a snap, they prey’s neck broke and it went limp. Gasping for breath, Caener let go. After tracking it all day, he’d finally had some luck. His success meant food, shoes, and maybe a bowstring. Caener started butchering the body.

    “Hey pal,” the voice grated softly “where’s my share?”

  11. “Hi! What are you doing?”
    “I found this bunch of old stock certificates in the attic. I’m trimming a few to use as background in my scrapbook project.”
    “But why these instead of some prettier paper?”
    “Because I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be a share cropper.”

    50. 😉

    • Three, two, one, *twang* Carp away!

    • I’m suddenly reminded of the shares of Intel stock some lady found in her attic, granted to her back in the late 70’s. (Actual paper shares, not receipts) Turns out that a few hundred shares after something like 18 splits were worth quite a bit of money, and Intel freaked out cause they discovered that they had a lot of unaccounted for shares out there.

  12. Max’s head wasn’t in the game – he was only barely aware of the punch-pass coming his way. Why should I bother? he wondered. We share nothing. She’s a scholar, and I’m just a stupid ball player!

    He noticed neither Cari in the stands, nor the defender bearing down on him.

  13. Solist In Large is in editing, and looking for a cover artist. To share a snippet with the right word-

    The rest of the week?

    THWAP!

    “Posture, ma chatounette!”

    THWAP!

    “You pour with your left hand, the right hand over the top of the pot, ma chatounette.

    THWAP!

    “From the heel of your foot to the ball of your foot, no more than the space of your foot between your steps, ma chatounette.

    THWAP!

    “Posture, ma chatounette! You are only wearing a one inch heel and have only two books!”

    THWAP!

    “Each bite should not be any larger than a quarter, ma chatounette.

    THWAP!

    “Roll your hips in each step, ma chatounette. Your center of gravity is lower and your movements should emphasize this.”

    THWAP!

    “Posture, ma chatounette! You should be standing perfectly with only a two inch heel and three books!”

    THWAP!

    You get the idea.

    At some point on Friday, after one particular set of impacts with the crop, I had to stand there (with excellent posture, two books, and a three inch heel), and I suddenly had this thought come through my head and it wouldn’t go away. And, all I had to do was laugh at it, which I did. My hand went in front of my lips, and I just let myself giggle for a few moments, until Charlotte paused, came over and asked, “Ma chatounette, will you share what is making you smile so much?”

    I make myself stop laughing, and lower my hand from my face. “I just realized that if I was three years older or we were willing to lie profusely about my age, we could record what we’ve been doing the last week and hit so many different sexual fetishes it wouldn’t even be funny,” I smile back, my posture perfect and the books not shifting at all.

    Charlotte looks at me with an absolutely confused expression on her face, and then, her hand covers her mouth and she laughs, an absolutely beautiful noblewoman’s laugh that makes me smile profusely in an elegant, dignified sort of way. She lowers her hand and smiles with me. “In three years, let us revisit this conversation,” she nods, and finds a third book. “Posture, ma chatounette. Always start with posture.”

  14. Why did I bother buying a ticket? wondered Cari in the grandstand. Max won’t know I’m here, and I doubt he’d care. We share nothing in common. Ball is his life!

    The crowd’s gasp distracted her. When she saw why, she sprang to her feet, wide-eyed, hands over her mouth.

  15. analytical-engine-mechanic

    (This is even a bit longer than usual. Sometimes inspiration is… plentiful. Hopefully it’ll be worth the trip.)

    He was obscurely grateful the short-hop omnibus pulled up, with a soft whine of regenerative braking, right next to a door to the terminal building. Dazzling as that sight of (mostly) clear blue sky had been, going down the stairs from the orbit shuttle and across the well-worn duracrete and into the ‘bus, his first steps on his now-adopted world of Marquesas, there was still something a bit unsettling about all that unlimitedly-open space and its air moving on its own.

    {Shut ye up, Garrett}, he told his inner disquiet firmly. {If you’d’a wanted to stay away from all that, you could’a stayed on Mars.} He pulled his hand-case from the bag on the back of the seat in front of him, and looked over at Nick, a sight he’d never tired of beholdin’ and doubtless never would.

    “Ready?” she asked, in that staccato rythmn of hers, what he still perceived as the faintest trace of an Italian accent coloring her English. She had nothing to hand-carry, beyond what was already stuffed in the many pockets of her beige linen coat. (“Here the carriage companies compete against each other, always or almost always never to lose your luggage. So you can actually mostly trust ’em with anything.”) “It’s not like this is going to be ‘One small step for a groom, one giant leap from Hypatia Colony’ since you already went there, did that just now; but stepping into Astropolis Port Hall has been known to be… bemusing.”

    “Ready as I’ll ever be,” he found himself saying neutrally. And then, with a bit more of both the older British strains in his Hypatian accent and also firmness in his voice as he looked her in the eyes, “And that’s enough.”

    Nick held out her left hand, platinum ring on her finger and silver bracelet on her wrist both winking in the unfiltered sulight. (“I want it all, the wedding ring on my finger and the Langmuirs’ bracelets too, on one wrist for betrothed and both for married. And though I want enough gold in the platinum to make it a wedding ring, I want enough tungsten in it to make it structural. Diamond is for semiconductors and skyhook cables, not for me to wear.”) And he took it in his right, as wordlessly, and he thought of (but did not sneak a look at) the platinum-alloy ring on his own left hand.(“‘And stronger than steel… That’s the power of love,'” she’d quoted the old song as spec.) It was literally as strong as even high-alloy steel, with enough cobalt to make it quite magnetic, too, and almost twice as heavy as lead, to boot.

    One more thing, now, they both shared.

    They were, it turned out, the last people off the ‘bus, and the driver even smiled and winked at them, as if it were obvious (or perhaps becuase it was). As he stepped down to the sidewalk, still half-bemused, he realized she’d matched him smoothly step for step and move for move. Perhaps, someday someway, he’d “carry her across the threshold” somewhere — but he doubted it would be today, or even nearly that soon. And realized she, shadowing him so, was no more than keeping her earlier word. (“I want it to be like that line out of that old vaudeodrama: ‘Whenever you look up I’ll be there, and whenever I look up there you’ll be.’ And that’s what I mean to do.”)

    Besides, she was the native here; it was far more, in local terms, as if she was bringing him home than it could be any other way.

    “Now remember, this is one of the oldest buildings on Marquesas, it was not just built to last but to impress. So don’t be put off any by our ‘fancy’ as your kin back Redside might say.” As they continued to walk, just a few steps over the wide sidewalk and through the double doors that slid invitingly open well before they reached them.

    Just inside the doors was a bright red line inlaid prominently in the (marble?) flooring. And a standing sign rimmed in the same with a red cord falling down to the line in the floor to make the connection unmistakable. BEYOND THIS POINT YOU ARE SUBJECT TO THE LAWS AND CUSTOMS OF MARQUESAS. And then in smaller, frillier type, “Use of appropriate lethal force is authorized.”

    And seeing it, stepping over that line with her, he found he knew what that old expression ‘a thrill of recognition’ meant… that last sentence applied to *him* now. Not only that lethal force could be applied to him, but *by* him.

    Just as much, or very nearly, as by the girl at his side, daughter of Borgias old and new. Maybe reluctantly lethal, but resolutely and relentlessly so at need.

    And he felt the weight of the Minetti-Gardner .32 automatic in the pocket of his own coat, a dozen and a half shots triple-base-propelled at 4300 fps, so unlikely or even vehemently contraband a thing at almost any other port… not simply as a physical weight, but now as a responsibility, even an obligation.

    “Garrett?” The one word was enough to stop him in his tracks, and his moving thoughts as well, though there was no tug on his hand.

    “Look at me.” They’d come far enough inside the Port Hall they could find an island of space by one of the large support pillars, all to themselves without being at all in the way. “Whatever they say, whatever happens at that party we are going to soon — you’re home, we’re home, now you’re home with me.” And the blue-green depths of her eyes seemed, once again, deep as the deepest sea. “If they make me choose between them, and us — I choose us.” And by the same alchemy he’d seen only a few times before, those eyes flashed purest, Cherenkov blue. Not since that day they’d met, so far away, in fire and smoke and blood. Her hands had moved to hold both of his, as he’d done in return, as if there was no-one else there who mattered at all. Daughter of Borgias…

    So many things he could’ve said, but… “I know. I have known, for some time now,” was what he found himself saying without forethought. “And if we ever do have to go hat in hand to the Langmuirs to beg them to take us in, my dear lady, you’re already dressed the part.” And he looked at the 19th-century old American custom given 23rd-century life again on her wrists, under his hands.

    And like a dark cloud riding away on the wind, a radiant smile replaced her earlier, radioactively… serious expression. She held her arms out to either side, as if she were facing the setting sun at Langmuir House, and said “Is mise…”

    And then dropped her arms and shook her head. “No, I’ll save that. Let’s go.”

    And as he turned to take her again-outstretched left hand and move deeper on into the Hall with her, he began to see, and really for the first time, where they’d been standing.

    {Soaring}, he decided to himself. {That’s what this building feels like}. Two or three normal stories up to an arched and cross-vaulted ceiling that looked as built to last as an Old Earth cathedral. And there were pictures on the ceiling, inspired (he suddenly felt certain) by Old New York’s Grand Central Terminal.

    But what really seized your attention were the models. Years ago he’d done a virtour of America’s Washington’s Smithsonian Air and Space Collection, all the original aerospacecraft hanging from the ceiling. And though these were surely only repros, and many had to be far-smaller scale models, massed as they were (and parsecs from Old Earth), they were… wholly impressive. And he found himself just looking, no talking, knowing Nick would follow his lead in that, while she led him wherever they were going next.

    X-15 hypersonic. The LEM “Eagle” of Apollo 11. The first BFS, fully reusable to orbit. “Though the Truth May Vary” of the first Jump around space instead of through it, courtesy of the Westenra sisters. USSF “Torch of Liberty” with her system-spanning gas-core-reactor drive, by those same twins. “Wright Flyer” that conquered the air at last. Giffard’s “le Premier” that had nearly done the same 50 years before. “Spirit of St. Louis” that had first…

    And he realized they were approaching one of several desks, or counters, here under a wide-spread flag that looked even to him like the old Borgia coat of arms — but surely there’d never been an ink-dripping dip pen there, far less a prism dispersing light (to blazon Cally Borgia’s ancestral Marquesan invention of a means to measure absolute velocities, surely).

    Borgia. Ceoghan, or Cohan. Freydisdottir. Vargasz (or Vargas in Hungarian). Langmuir. The Five Great Houses of Marquesas, which together were either the five governments of this planet, or nothing at all of one, as you pleased.

    There was also a wide banner ‘Minor Houses’ with assorted badges around the words too small for him to see, and a plain other ‘Tourists and Aliens’ too.

    She had dropped his hand to pull out a handheld from her coat, as she fronted the person at the counter, some sandy-haired man about her age.

    “Nicola Anastasia Erzébet Teller-Borgia, de Borgia, returning. Re-registering as Nicola Anastasia Erzébet Teller Fitzgerald-Borgia, de Borgia, newly married.” To his ears, that whiff of Italian in her English had just gotten notably stronger.

    “Yes, I see, and congratulations, Mrs. Fitzgerald-Borgia. Is that provisional?”

    There was a slight, edged chilling of her expression, probably invisible unless you knew her well. “Until the Newlyweds’ Ball.” (Each House had its own way of making a choice whether or not to accept an offworld marriage. But if they did, the spouse, or spouses as with the three Langmuirs recently, became full not provisional citizens and remained so for life. If not… well, sometimes they lost a child to another House.)

    “Very well, then all is in order. Welcome back, and good luck go with you.”

    But she made no move to move away, fiddling instead some more with her handheld. “Introducing to you Garrett Fitzgerald-Borgia, late of Hypatia Colony on Mars.” And *then* she moved aside.

    “Garrett Allan Fitzgerald-Borgia, arriving. Provisional,” — and he found himself taking, quite despite himself, a long look at his wife — “until the Newlyweds’ Ball.” And the smile she gave him in return for that, was what some men had been known to walk half the Valles Marineris in a pressure suit to earn. “And till then probationary of House Borgia.” He was amazed by how easily all the words came to him. And how that weight in his pocket was a duty, now, to protect his new countrymen around him as he could and was needed to do.

    “Very well, Mr. Fitzgerald-Borgia, congratulations. Welcome to Marquesas, in a way I don’t often get to wish. And if I might… blessed be.”

    He’d actually noticed the hammer pendant hanging at the man’s heart, but some way or other not… taken much notice of his notice. “Blessed be ye, and may the Three Ladies of the Well guard your Wyrd with skill and grace.”

    And then, just that swift, he was flying among the past again.

    “That was well done,” Nick was saying to him. “Though as we’d just discussed a minute or two ago, we might even have to do something like that again.”

    “Most worlds, you couldn’t ever do that. Go, what could you say? Government shopping..?”

    “Hah. A pox on all grabby offworld ‘governments’ and their power monopolies. ‘Our way or no way,'” she quoted, in what was briefly even a creditable Hypatia Colony accent, hard and edged. “Here on Marquesas, we know how to share.”

    She leaned closer to him, and raised up only a bit on her toes, so their faces were barely any distance apart. “And I do mean, Garrett Fitzgerald-Borgia de Borgia, we know how to share.” And though she came no closer and made no move to kiss him, the sound in her voice and the look on her face promised him… everything. Absolutely everything, in bed and out, through fire and smoke and blood. Per momento, per sempre, as they said in her native tongue. For now, for always. And he smiled, as he realized he’d spoken aloud.

    “Per momento, per sempre,” they said again to each other, as if by arrangement.

    And they walked, hand in hand, under the machines that had brought Man to the waiting stars, toward their world waiting before them.

    (Based on some pre-existing background and settings.)

  16. Professor Badness

    With a squeal, Jack was pulled from under the enormous couch. The chubby fingers that dragged him into the light were chubby and clumsy; almost dropping him as he was lifted an impossible height from the ground.
    “Put it down!” an impossibly booming voice called. A much bigger form moved behind his captor, looking down at the figure clutched in the enormous hand.
    The hand swung through the air, the g-forces almost making Jack blackout. It stopped suddenly over a table the size of a city block.
    He was bonelessly dropped on the table, rolling over a plate the width of a house.
    “That’s better,” the booming voice continued. “Remember, you’re supposed to share!”
    More immense heads popped up over the edge of the table, many chubby hands reaching for the diminutive man.

  17. analytical-engine-mechanic

    [2nd try, splitting the text to route around WP Moderation Limbo, crosses fingers…. hopefully somebody else will find this worth it.]

    (This is even a bit longer than usual. Sometimes inspiration is… plentiful. Hopefully it’ll be worth the trip.)

    He was obscurely grateful the short-hop omnibus pulled up, with a soft whine of regenerative braking, right next to a door to the terminal building. Dazzling as that sight of (mostly) clear blue sky had been, going down the stairs from the orbit shuttle and across the well-worn duracrete and into the ‘bus, his first steps on his now-adopted world of Marquesas, there was still something a bit unsettling about all that unlimitedly-open space and its air moving on its own.

    {Shut ye up, Garrett}, he told his inner disquiet firmly. {If you’d’a wanted to stay away from all that, you could’a stayed on Mars.} He pulled his hand-case from the bag on the back of the seat in front of him, and looked over at Nick, a sight he’d never tired of beholdin’ and doubtless never would.

    “Ready?” she asked, in that staccato rythmn of hers, what he still perceived as the faintest trace of an Italian accent coloring her English. She had nothing to hand-carry, beyond what was already stuffed in the many pockets of her beige linen coat. (“Here the carriage companies compete against each other, always or almost always never to lose your luggage. So you can actually mostly trust ’em with anything.”) “It’s not like this is going to be ‘One small step for a groom, one giant leap from Hypatia Colony’ since you already went there, did that just now; but stepping into Astropolis Port Hall has been known to be… bemusing.”

    “Ready as I’ll ever be,” he found himself saying neutrally. And then, with a bit more of both the older British strains in his Hypatian accent and also firmness in his voice as he looked her in the eyes, “And that’s enough.”

    Nick held out her left hand, platinum ring on her finger and silver bracelet on her wrist both winking in the unfiltered sulight. (“I want it all, the wedding ring on my finger and the Langmuirs’ bracelets too, on one wrist for betrothed and both for married. And though I want enough gold in the platinum to make it a wedding ring, I want enough tungsten in it to make it structural. Diamond is for semiconductors and skyhook cables, not for me to wear.”) And he took it in his right, as wordlessly, and he thought of (but did not sneak a look at) the platinum-alloy ring on his own left hand.(“‘And stronger than steel… That’s the power of love,’” she’d quoted the old song as spec.) It was literally as strong as even high-alloy steel, with enough cobalt to make it quite magnetic, too, and almost twice as heavy as lead, to boot.

    One more thing, now, they both shared.

    They were, it turned out, the last people off the ‘bus, and the driver even smiled and winked at them, as if it were obvious (or perhaps becuase it was). As he stepped down to the sidewalk, still half-bemused, he realized she’d matched him smoothly step for step and move for move. Perhaps, someday someway, he’d “carry her across the threshold” somewhere — but he doubted it would be today, or even nearly that soon. And realized she, shadowing him so, was no more than keeping her earlier word. (“I want it to be like that line out of that old vaudeodrama: ‘Whenever you look up I’ll be there, and whenever I look up there you’ll be.’ And that’s what I mean to do.”)

    Besides, she was the native here; it was far more, in local terms, as if she was bringing him home than it could be any other way.

    “Now remember, this is one of the oldest buildings on Marquesas, it was not just built to last but to impress. So don’t be put off any by our ‘fancy’ as your kin back Redside might say.” As they continued to walk, just a few steps over the wide sidewalk and through the double doors that slid invitingly open well before they reached them.

    Just inside the doors was a bright red line inlaid prominently in the (marble?) flooring. And a standing sign rimmed in the same with a red cord falling down to the line in the floor to make the connection unmistakable. BEYOND THIS POINT YOU ARE SUBJECT TO THE LAWS AND CUSTOMS OF MARQUESAS. And then in smaller, frillier type, “Use of appropriate lethal force is authorized.”

    And seeing it, stepping over that line with her, he found he knew what that old expression ‘a thrill of recognition’ meant… that last sentence applied to *him* now. Not only that lethal force could be applied to him, but *by* him.

    Just as much, or very nearly, as by the girl at his side, daughter of Borgias old and new. Maybe reluctantly lethal, but resolutely and relentlessly so at need.

    And he felt the weight of the Minetti-Gardner .32 automatic in the pocket of his own coat, a dozen and a half shots triple-base-propelled at 4300 fps, so unlikely or even vehemently contraband a thing at almost any other port… not simply as a physical weight, but now as a responsibility, even an obligation.

    “Garrett?” The one word was enough to stop him in his tracks, and his moving thoughts as well, though there was no tug on his hand.

    “Look at me.” They’d come far enough inside the Port Hall they could find an island of space by one of the large support pillars, all to themselves without being at all in the way. “Whatever they say, whatever happens at that party we are going to soon — you’re home, we’re home, now you’re home with me.” And the blue-green depths of her eyes seemed, once again, deep as the deepest sea. “If they make me choose between them, and us — I choose us.” And by the same alchemy he’d seen only a few times before, those eyes flashed purest, Cherenkov blue. Not since that day they’d met, so far away, in fire and smoke and blood. Her hands had moved to hold both of his, as he’d done in return, as if there was no-one else there who mattered at all. Daughter of Borgias…

  18. analytical-engine-mechanic

    [Part 2 of above, and begging Sarah’s pardon for having, one more time, inadvertently triggered moderation. WPDE!]

    So many things he could’ve said, but… “I know. I have known, for some time now,” was what he found himself saying without forethought. “And if we ever do have to go hat in hand to the Langmuirs to beg them to take us in, my dear lady, you’re already dressed the part.” And he looked at the 19th-century old American custom given 23rd-century life again on her wrists, under his hands.

    And like a dark cloud riding away on the wind, a radiant smile replaced her earlier, radioactively… serious expression. She held her arms out to either side, as if she were facing the setting sun at Langmuir House, and said “Is mise…”

    And then dropped her arms and shook her head. “No, I’ll save that. Let’s go.”

    And as he turned to take her again-outstretched left hand and move deeper on into the Hall with her, he began to see, and really for the first time, where they’d been standing.

    {Soaring}, he decided to himself. {That’s what this building feels like}. Two or three normal stories up to an arched and cross-vaulted ceiling that looked as built to last as an Old Earth cathedral. And there were pictures on the ceiling, inspired (he suddenly felt certain) by Old New York’s Grand Central Terminal.

    But what really seized your attention were the models. Years ago he’d done a virtour of America’s Washington’s Smithsonian Air and Space Collection, all the original aerospacecraft hanging from the ceiling. And though these were surely only repros, and many had to be far-smaller scale models, massed as they were (and parsecs from Old Earth), they were… wholly impressive. And he found himself just looking, no talking, knowing Nick would follow his lead in that, while she led him wherever they were going next.

    X-15 hypersonic. The LEM “Eagle” of Apollo 11. The first BFS, fully reusable to orbit. “Though the Truth May Vary” of the first Jump around space instead of through it, courtesy of the Westenra sisters. USSF “Torch of Liberty” with her system-spanning gas-core-reactor drive, by those same twins. “Wright Flyer” that conquered the air at last. Giffard’s “le Premier” that had nearly done the same 50 years before. “Spirit of St. Louis” that had first…

    And he realized they were approaching one of several desks, or counters, here under a wide-spread flag that looked even to him like the old Borgia coat of arms — but surely there’d never been an ink-dripping dip pen there, far less a prism dispersing light (to blazon Cally Borgia’s ancestral Marquesan invention of a means to measure absolute velocities, surely).

    Borgia. Ceoghan, or Cohan. Freydisdottir. Vargasz (or Vargas in Hungarian). Langmuir. The Five Great Houses of Marquesas, which together were either the five governments of this planet, or nothing at all of one, as you pleased.

    There was also a wide banner ‘Minor Houses’ with assorted badges around the words too small for him to see, and a plain other ‘Tourists and Aliens’ too.

    She had dropped his hand to pull out a handheld from her coat, as she fronted the person at the counter, some sandy-haired man about her age.

    “Nicola Anastasia Erzébet Teller-Borgia, de Borgia, returning. Re-registering as Nicola Anastasia Erzébet Teller Fitzgerald-Borgia, de Borgia, newly married.” To his ears, that whiff of Italian in her English had just gotten notably stronger.

    “Yes, I see, and congratulations, Mrs. Fitzgerald-Borgia. Is that provisional?”

    There was a slight, edged chilling of her expression, probably invisible unless you knew her well. “Until the Newlyweds’ Ball.” (Each House had its own way of making a choice whether or not to accept an offworld marriage. But if they did, the spouse, or spouses as with the three Langmuirs recently, became full not provisional citizens and remained so for life. If not… well, sometimes they lost a child to another House.)

    “Very well, then all is in order. Welcome back, and good luck go with you.”

    But she made no move to move away, fiddling instead some more with her handheld. “Introducing to you Garrett Fitzgerald-Borgia, late of Hypatia Colony on Mars.” And *then* she moved aside.

    “Garrett Allan Fitzgerald-Borgia, arriving. Provisional,” — and he found himself taking, quite despite himself, a long look at his wife — “until the Newlyweds’ Ball.” And the smile she gave him in return for that, was what some men had been known to walk half the Valles Marineris in a pressure suit to earn. “And till then probationary of House Borgia.” He was amazed by how easily all the words came to him. And how that weight in his pocket was a duty, now, to protect his new countrymen around him as he could and was needed to do.

    “Very well, Mr. Fitzgerald-Borgia, congratulations. Welcome to Marquesas, in a way I don’t often get to wish. And if I might… blessed be.”

    He’d actually noticed the hammer pendant hanging at the man’s heart, but some way or other not… taken much notice of his notice. “Blessed be ye, and may the Three Ladies of the Well guard your Wyrd with skill and grace.”

    And then, just that swift, he was flying among the past again.

    “That was well done,” Nick was saying to him. “Though as we’d just discussed a minute or two ago, we might even have to do something like that again.”

    “Most worlds, you couldn’t ever do that. Go, what could you say? Government shopping..?”

    “Hah. A pox on all grabby offworld ‘governments’ and their power monopolies. ‘Our way or no way,’” she quoted, in what was briefly even a creditable Hypatia Colony accent, hard and edged. “Here on Marquesas, we know how to share.”

    She leaned closer to him, and raised up only a bit on her toes, so their faces were barely any distance apart. “And I do mean, Garrett Fitzgerald-Borgia de Borgia, we know how to share.” And though she came no closer and made no move to kiss him, the sound in her voice and the look on her face promised him… everything. Absolutely everything, in bed and out, through fire and smoke and blood. Per momento, per sempre, as they said in her native tongue. For now, for always. And he smiled, as he realized he’d spoken aloud.

    “Per momento, per sempre,” they said again to each other, as if by arrangement.

    And they walked, hand in hand, under the machines that had brought Man to the waiting stars, toward their world waiting before them.

    (Based on some pre-existing background and settings.)