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 (unless you’re me or my relative. Deal.) One book per author per week. Amazon links only. Oh, yeah, by clicking through and buying (anything, actually) through one of the links below, you will at no cost to you be giving a portion of your purchase to support ATH through our associates number. I ALSO WISH TO REMIND OUR READERS THAT IF THEY WANT TO TIP THE BLOGGER WITHOUT SPENDING EXTRA MONEY, CLICKING TO AMAZON THROUGH ONE OF THE BOOK LINKS ON THE RIGHT, WILL GIVE US SOME AMOUNT OF MONEY FOR PURCHASES MADE IN THE NEXT 24HOURS, OR UNTIL YOU CLICK ANOTHER ASSOCIATE’S LINK. PLEASE CONSIDER CLICKING THROUGH ONE OF THOSE LINKS BEFORE SEARCHING FOR THAT SHED, BIG SCREEN TV, GAMING COMPUTER OR CONSERVATORY YOU WISH TO BUY. That helps defray my time cost of about 2 hours a day on the blog, time probably better spent on fiction. ;)*

FROM NITAY ARBEL:  Operation Flash, Episode 3: Spring Awakening.


The third installment of the alternate history series where Hitler and Himmler were assassinated in March 1943.
A desperate military situation forces Carl Goerdeler’s Emergency Reich Government (ERG) to make a bargain with the devil.
Across the Channel, Winston Churchill plays for time as he pursues a separate peace with Goerdeler.
Two old acquaintances make the first steps on a long march toward national atonement.
And meanwhile, the ERG’s deadliest enemy lurks within its gates.

FROM NATHAN BISSONETTE:  Kobold and Centaur.


Worst Prom date ever. Steph only went with Sam because nobody else asked her. Besides, it’s just for Prom, right? It’s not forever. But that was before the little man with pointed ears handed them enchanted scrolls that sent them out of this world. Now she’s stuck far from home in a different body. Can Steph and Sam make it home in time to save the Earth without getting killed? Or killing each other? And what about the Prince?

FROM THOMAS SEWELL: Techno Ranger: A Sam Harper Military Thriller.


North and South Korea are on a collision course with the prospect of reigniting war in this action-packed military thriller!

1LT Sam Harper, surfing engineer, tries to fit in on his new job. He’ll risk everything to prevent mass destruction.

Sam’s intelligence analysts identify security vulnerabilities in a government lab in Seoul.

Meanwhile, his CIA ex-girlfriend complicates his life with her spy priorities.

A desperate North Korean general sends a naive Special Forces lieutenant and his team across the DMZ to steal nuclear materials technology.

Sends them disguised to infiltrate the top-secret lab Sam protects.

Sam will need all his combat and technical skills to safeguard those he cares about, but his involvement with a traitor and a CIA temptress may teach him the wrong lessons about who to trust.

FROM MARY CATELLI:  Enchantments And Dragons.


A wizard must produce justice enough to satisfy a dragon.

A young man tries to rob a tiger’s lair.

An enchantress tries to keep a court safe while they ignore the perils of misusing her magic.

A lady finds that court intrigues can spread even to the countryside.

And more tales.

Includes “Over the Sea To Me,” “Dragonfire and Time”, “The Maze, the Manor, and the Unicorn”, “The White Menagerie”, “The Dragon’s Cottage,” “Jewel of the Tiger,” and “The Sword Breaks.”



Ice is a powerful magician and trained warrior. His day job, however, is political analyst, and it is once again election year.

Hopefully with fewer explosions and snipers than the last one, but in the Empire of the One, what sounds like a boring desk job is anything but.

Especially when al old flame gets pissed enough to jump into the presidential race.

Between assassins on the loose, duels to the death, and a sense of something nasty coming his way, Ice is going to be busy.

ALMA T. C. BOYKIN:  Gloriously Familiar: Familiar Tales Book Eleven.


Dragons, fires, a haunted piano, and a haunted young man.

Six stories of mystery, history, memories, and adventure. From a quiet mage with silver knitting needles to an accidental dragon and an ancient story teller, to a Mare of Unusual Size and a Familiar of Unusual Activity, there’s something for everyone in this collection. Meet new friends, catch up with old ones, and wonder with Lilia if André ever will learn.


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: EXTEND.*


*The management wishes to emphasize it is not responsible for the Vignette TeamTM handing you guys these straight lines.  Also it wants to declare in advance that “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I can’t do anything with these three.”

Addendum: I would also like to thank you for prayers.  I’m feeling better. (I think I’ll go for a walk.)  Though still somewhere between baffled at this mass psychotic episode and enraged at the destruction wrought, I now have hope sanity is reasserting itself, at least that brand of very American sanity that consists of saying “No, you can’t tell me what to do.”  I also have found a renewed hope that just as a small dose of a pathogen can vaccinate the potential host against the real disease this bit of craziness will inoculate America against the idea of a government that can violate your rights and destroy your life at will.  No, it’s not guaranteed. Nothing ever is. I also suspect it’s one of those vaccines that needs regular boosts.  But in the sense that the burned hand teaches best, this insanity of “rule by experts” and the (I am sure) pain we’ll all experience for a couple of years might teach us to avoid the worst. Keep praying. – SAH

80 thoughts on “Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike and Book Promo

  1. At some point, I collapsed into the hotel bed, got under the sheets and was out like a light.

    It was the first time in years I had ever been able to get some real sleep without medication or my CPAP machine, and my dreams started out at surreal and went from there.

    The dream started with a long, long dark hallway, probably about fifteen to twenty feet wide, shapes standing along the wall like old suits of armor. The light seemed to fade off into the distance, and I turned in place to look at the hall behind me. Except for a faint pool of light at my feet, the entire hallway was in shadow, and I looked down at my body again.

    It was my female body, the one I had gone to sleep with, wearing an unadorned white dress, the skirt hem just below the knees, the bust pulled in from below with a thick ribbon, and with sleeves that extended down to above the elbow. My feet were bare, and I wore nothing else other than the dress. I turned in place to fully see where I was, feeling the cold marble against the bottom of my feet. Something in my mind both made me want to move and to stand there, unable to go anywhere.

    Then, with the soft popping sound of arc lamps coming to life, lights came on down the hallway, each lamp illuminating the shapes along the walls. It took only a few seconds to illuminate every single shape in the hallway, and they were not suits of armor at all.

    They were mannequins, wearing clothing.

    Wearing armor, in fact. Each one of them wore some kind of armor-some of the armor made of metal, some of the armor made of leather, some of the armor made of cloth. I could recognize all sorts of styles of armor, from the highly practical to the completely ridiculous. Even a chainmail bikini that would barely provide protection against an indecency arrest, let alone a hostile weapon. Each of the mannequins had a weapon in its hands, from swords to spears to bows to weapons that I could barely even name, let alone recognize.

    And, every piece of equipment was damaged.

    The weapons had the wear and tear of tools used to the very edge of their lifetime and limit, the worn spots on leather grips and the cracks in the wooden shafts evident on every one of them. All of the armor was damaged, with cracked leather and massive divots in the metal and torn cloth. And, they all had, somewhere, dark rust red stains on them. Some of them were small but obvious, but most of them were large and very noticeable. And, somehow I could tell that each and every one of them had been removed from the bodies of their wearer, or at least their cooling corpse.

    It was a hallway, a memorial hallway, to those that had fallen. And, I didn’t know if it was a promise or a warning or a threat or something else.

    Some instinct made my head turn, and I saw him standing in the hallway, maybe twenty feet away from me. He had the look of someone from the Middle East, Persian not Arab, dark olive skin and gray eyes, black hair going down past his shoulders, tied up neatly behind his head with a signet ring. He wore a simple dress black suit that probably cost more than a midsize car, a dark blue tie, and I could tell under it his body was the heavily exercised form of a swordsman or a special operations soldier who was vehemently committed to his exercise plan. And, his face and his eyes held regrets that could drown a world in them.

    I stood there, looking at him, and part of me wanted to bow and pay homage to him, part of me wanted to jump on him and run my fingers through his hair and kiss him, and the most important part of me was telling me if you don’t stand tall with him now, you never will.

    Which is what I did. I took a deep breath, stood tall, and looked him in his eyes.

    He nodded and tilted his head slightly, like a bird of prey regarding the world. Then, he said, in a honey-toned voice that had probably launched a thousand lemon fanfictions, “For what is about to happen next to you, I can only offer you my apologies. And, my gratitude.”

    Then, all the lights went out, and the world began to shake.

  2. Oh Sarah, I did a comment via my Kindle Fire and I think I used a bad email address. It went into moderation and IMO you can delete it.

    Oh, I said Take Care. 😉

  3. Oh, my computer is acting strange so my posting may be intermitted. 😦

    1. “Didn’t you give him the extended warranty?”

      “Of course not. He didn’t ask.”

      “You idiot. He’s a dragon. You GIVE dragons the warranty.” The manager looked over at the Customer of Unusual Size quietly breathing out smoke on the other side of the counter. “So you get to tell Mr. Bibliophile that we’ll need to keep the computer here, and to find him a loaner. A very nice loaner. Now!”

    2. My computer is working fine, but I, I am STRANGE. You have been informed, but not warned, because I’m waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay, FAR away from all of you.

  4. “He set them with up with THAT much? That’s… really quite excessive.”
    “Claims experience shows otherwise. Too much is often almost enough, maybe. So he arranges excess to cover for mission and scope creep.”
    “He used to deal with shortages more directly and hated it. See, he’s an ex-tender.”

    1. I will admit that a centaur transformation would have me more than considering staying, but that if the earth needs saving, ah well… my friends are there, so it’s kind of important. My stuff is there, too, but that’s not so important.

  5. Bill covered his face with his hands, wonder how he had ended up in this mess. He Had been a junior controller in the financial management office until all the shakeups had left him as the staffer sent to this “emergency planning” meeting. He just wanted to leave and go home to his wife and kids. But he was “essential” so he had to come in to work, and he failed to run quick enough when the controllers office head had been looking for someone to send in her place, and the news of the latest demonstration delivered by the newly elevated, more “reliable” State Police commander was surely going to set off the Governor.

    “Send your damn police to stop them, you fool! Shoot them if they won’t stop! We can’t have mass unlicensed public demonstrations about this latest lockdown extension upsetting my… our plans!” shouted Governor De’Foos, his face reddening under the spray tan. The new State Police commander recoiled.

    Governor De’Foos visibly calmed himself, sitting back in his very large, slightly elevated chair and continuing in a more even tone. “Look, it’s for their own good. Our new economic controls will remake this entire system, restructuring it in line with the well known historical imperatives. We just need a few more months…”

    Bill heard shouting outside the meeting room – and then several sharp pops and the thud that sounded like bodies hitting the floor. The ornate doors slammed open and the previous State Police commander led a woman and a SWAT team into the room, dropping a pair of tasers with wires still linked to the guards still twitching on the floor and drawing another.

    “What is the meaning of this!” Shouted the Governor, standing up, face red.

    “Governor, this is Dr. Ramirez, and she’s certifying you are infected, so I’m here to escort you to your quarantine.”

    1. Bravo!

      (BTW, what *is* the recommended quarantine for a Marxist infection? I’m guessing life plus 40 years might be safe.)

  6. I am very encouraged by Colorado’s Gridlock Protest. Y’all remember to let the ambulances and fire trucks through, and have a nice day out. ~:D

    I’d like to extend a hearty MYOB! and a heart felt Get Off My Lawn to all the Colorado Karens who are tut-tutting about the revolting peasants today. You don’t get to utterly and abjectly fail at your job of protecting the public and then expect slavish devotion from everybody. We are Humans, we don’t work that way. 😡

      1. They tried this in NJ, State Police arrested the organizer later.

        Did you see that they’re filling DeBlassio the rats ratting line with pictures of DeBlassio the rat.

        Taking Phil, and Bill, and Andy, and Nancy and Chuck and all the rest of the hitler youth together, what they all have in common is being rats. I’d think they’re rats first and commies later.

        Ratting rats that rat.

        1. but but but…. Polis cried at being called a Nazi, because he has Jewish ancestry.
          I never called him a Nazi. i called him a fucking fascist.
          Argumentum ad Dnaorum is bullshit.
          The shame is not on me for calling him what he is, the shame is on him for debasing himself.

      2. Protest aside, may I just say that I envy your nice weather. Today is cold and raining, last few days have been cold and snowing. It was trying to snow today but couldn’t quite squeeze out a flake.

        Canada. Bah!

          1. This is the Universe giving me payback for all those Christmas cards I sent from Arizona back home to Ontario with us relaxing beside the pool with shorts and t-shirts in December. ~:D

        1. Here in Connecticut it can’t make up its mind. Sandals and T-shirt one day, down to freezing the next.

          1. One too many years of that saw my parents retiring from Connecticut to Florida shortly after mom retired. Their new political and meteorological climate suits them much better.

  7. Dear Lady, I hesitate to correct you, but it isn’t “No, you can’t tell me what to do.”. It’s “F*ck, no. You can’t tell me what to do, motherf*cker!”

    1. I usually skip the talking part and continue what I’m doing without comment. So far this method seems to be working, because Karen (male or female version) is at base a coward. Karen would like to -make- me stop, but lacks the guts.

      Also, ignoring a Karen drives them absolutely insane, which is a better revenge than most. Best of all it comes at no cost to me. Set to ignore, drive on, leave them raving in your wake. Sweet! ~:D

      1. The American people are, in many interesting ways, vulgar. We are not the English of whom Kipling said “But, oh, beware my people when my people grow polite.”. Sadly, that breed is gone, even in England.

        The mistake our would-be Masters make is to conflate vulgarity with bluster. In them, the former is almost always the latter. Thus, they are usually astonished when the Unwashed say, “Leave me be or I will f*ck you up.”, and then follow through.

        1. One of the things older son noted is that a lot of people from about thirty down will call me names or tell me to fuck off, and EXPECT IT TO WORK. They expect me to become properly subdued or melt in tears or something.
          When my answer to “you’re a bitch” Is “Sure am. And?” They don’t know what to do with me.
          I don’t know if it’s a flaw in American born and bred women, or in the younger generation. No clue. But I keep running into it.
          Or worse, like twits on facebook today dropping by to say “you’re stupid.”
          WHAT do they think that will do, precisely?

          1. Peer pressure worked on them; why shouldn’t it work on you? They know they were able to enforce conformity in school and they haven’t fully processed that the outside world doesn’t work like that.

  8. Jimmy closed his eyes, relaxing on his bed. It wasn’t much, but it was a place to lay his head. Not as comfortable as his bed back home. And definitely fewer cute girls wanting to occupy it with him out here. But it wasn’t his truck and there were no roadside bombs next to it, so he could relax until it was time to go back out again. Only a few more weeks and this deployment would be over…

    “Hey, Perkins!”
    “Yeah?” Jimmy replied.
    “Captain’s calling a company formation in 15 minutes.”
    “Any idea what it’s about?”
    “No idea, but the rumor is we’ve been chosen to extend.”

  9. Her fingers bit on the stone, fumbled for a grip. She stretched a little farther, found some purchase, and shifted her foot. Nothing to do but hope it grew no worse.
    Her fumbling hand found the top of the wall. She bit her lip and inched her other hand up.

  10. The older man was sitting under a painting of a KC-130 refueling a B-52. “I flew those, you know. The tanker, not the bomber. I also flew the KC-10 Extender, although only in the right-hand seat, never the left-hand.”

    1. Um, KC-135, I hope. I shudder to think of a Buff mating with any variant of a C-130. 🙂

      1. I do think there was a KC-130 variant at some point….. certainly wouldn’t surprise me….

        [consults the Pedia of Wikis]

        Yep, KC-130, first developed in the late 50s-early 60s (deployed in ’62) for the USMC.

      2. Oops, typo. Or it could be a difference in nomenclature between timelines, since there was supposed to be more that would’ve placed it firmly in the Grissom timeline, but got cut off because I hit the post button in a hurry, and then had to run and deal with something else (which is turning into a time and money sink). OTOH, sometimes it’s best to use the Armstrong timeline nomenclature as much as possible, for the simple reason that there are fewer questions about what’s a timeline difference and what’s a mistake.

        1. If your guy flew KC-10s, then I’d definitely have him start out in KC-135s first. KC-135s are 4-engine jets (based off the ol’ Boeing 707), and the KC-10 is a trijet based off the DC-10. KC-130’s a turboprop. I’m just a cake-eating civilian with no aviation experience, but I figure it’d be easier to transition from big jet to big jet than from small-ish turboprop to big jet. And I believe -135s are way more numerous than -130s anyway.

          1. To add more confusion, the fire-fighting variant of the C-130 is (still) flying, though older versions (E rev if I recall right) had to be retired after the wings started falling off. I think they’re still using the J revision.

            For that matter, both the DC-10 and the 747 have been used as firefighting air tankers; the 747 commonly in Alaska, while the 10 has been used in large Left Coast fires.

            A half-dozen years back, we had a wildfire 4 miles north of us (heading NE, with lots of favorable terrain between us and it, so we could relax. A C-130 and IIRC, and another turboprop (Convair something or other, though they were also using P3 Orions that year.)

            Much more interesting than I wanted…

  11. Her breath choked. A hostage? He intended to kill her as a witness, he could not pretend to spare her for obedience, except, she realized in horror, he could.
    The floating figure came closer. An arm tiny with distance was extended toward the pair of them. Then the hand glowed.

  12. She was underneath the airplane, working on the engine, when a pair of boots appeared near her head. They were really nice trail boots, that looked like they’d already put several thousand miles of trail behind them. A voice with a heavy accent came from high overhead. “Is your plane, yes?”

    She didn’t know who the Imperial was, but the day was about to get much more interesting than it had been. She replied as she rolled out from beneath the engine, “Yeah, it’s my plane. Who are you?”

    From the ground, he seemed impossibly tall, and looming in his gear and weaponry, face backlit by the sky and shadowed under his hat. But he crouched slightly, and extended a hand to help her up. As she gripped his wrist and let him help haul her off the ground, he broke out in a smile, voice filled with hope. “We going fly her, yes?”

    She blinked, and cocked her head. “I’m changing the oil and filters right now. Are you looking for the charter guys? They’re across the runway.” She pointed off to the sleek corporate hangar.

    He shook his head, putting a palm out and down in negation. “They no flying us until next week. But I wanting see glaciers now!” For all the muscles and the weaponry, the look in his eyes was not unlike a kid on Christmas Eve, waiting impatiently for the morning. “I hiring you?”

    She smiled. “You can’t hire me; I’m not a business. But all right, let me get this finished, get her buttoned up, and I can take you for a flight.” She put her hands to her back, stretching with a groan. “You can split the cost of the gas, all right?”

    He nodded, smile getting big enough she could see his back teeth. “All right. How I helping you?”

  13. [LONG POST WARNING, and the misspelled dialogue is my attempt at phonetically writing out a drunken Scottish accent]

    “Please don’t jump.”

    Catrina bolted upright at the unexpected voice, nearly losing her balance and tumbling over the rail into the Mediterranean. She turned to find the new bodyguard, the American…. what was his name? She had to fight through the haze that the bottle… bottles?… of vodka had filled her memory with to try and remember. Raincoat? No, that was not it. Ran… Ran… Ran-something. Whatever his name was, he was standing just inside her cabin. Just out of arm’s reach.

    “I really don’t want you to jump,” Alex Rancourt said.

    “Why the fuck do you care whether I jump or not?” she demanded. Or at least tried to: what actually came out of her mouth sounded closer to “Wha th’fook ya cahr eeff ah joomp er noot?”

    “Because I’ve seen men drown before. It’s a really shitty way to die. And then there’s the fact that if you jump, then I’ll have to jump in after you,” he replied with a grin, “And that water looks really, really cold.”

    She stared at him for a long moment.

    “Ya theeng yar sho fookehn funy, doos yah?”

    “No, not really,” Alex said, smile disappearing. “But I figured it was worth a try. But I meant what I said: drowning really is a shitty way to go, and I really don’t want you to jump.”

    “Wah tha fook yew cahr?”

    “Because I’ve been there. And I want you to know that you’re not alone.”

    She stared at him for a few moments that stretched into eternity as her alcohol-infused brain struggled to process his words. Then her face turned about as red as her hair and Alex realized he’d screwed up big time.

    “HAEW FOOKIN’ DAHR YEE!” she screeched. “Yew t’ink yew know wha m’life es laik, ya fookin’ bastard? Yew hahve no idea! Yer a Mister All-American Badass wit’ yer white peekit fence an’ yer… yer… however many brothers an’ sisters an’ a mommy an’ daddy who love ye! Yer mammma ne’er tol’ ye she hated yer guts, ah wager….”

    “If she did, I don’t remember it.”

    “Whassat sp’sed t’ mean?”

    “Mom died when I was two. Leukemia. I don’t remember her at all.”

    “Oh. Bu… yer daa…”

    “He was never around. Had four growing boys to feed, so he was out on the boat before sunrise every day, twenty-four-seven. Usually didn’t make it back home until well after me and my brothers were in bed and fast asleep. Barely ever saw him. So yeah, you’re right. I don’t know what it’s like to have a family that actively despises you. But I know what it’s like to not really have much of a family. And I’m gonna tell you something my best friend in the world once told me: if you quit, then those pinche pendejos win.”

    “Pinching pen day glows? Wha th’ fook issat s’possed t’ mean?”

    “Spanish. Or at least Mexican Spanish. Pancho was from the barrio in East LA. Translates to “effing a-holes,” or so Pancho told me. And the way I see it, as long as you’re still here and still breathing, they lose. But if you jump, they win. And you know as well as I do that they’ll have big ol’ satisfied smiles on their faces when they report you as lost-at-sea.”

    Alex slowly extended his hand out to her.

    “Do you really want to give them that satisfaction? Or do you want to come back inside where it’s warm and dry?”

  14. hey, your protest made it into the local daily scrap! (San Jose Mercury News) full article hidden by paywall, but I saw the headline. Comments under are all, ‘fools. do they want to die”.

      1. Eh, it was just playing with your mind. It will do it again and NOT bring it out soon enough.

  15. She extended her arms to pull out her skirt in a perfect curtsy. That, at least, she mastered in the nursery.
    Lord Tristan bowed. “I would be honored if you permit me this dance, Lady — Autumn.”
    She giggled. “No one will know whom you mean if you speak of Lady Eileen.”

  16. Tar looked at the BATF bureaucrat and smiled. “You say that if I put the video I have of your agents planning to plant evidence on me onto the internet, that you will drag me through the courts until I run out of funds. I believe you will try. Extend me the courtesy of believing me when I say that if you make it necessary to go public, I will create enough trouble to sink your agency. You went outside the law to try to frame me. So far as I am concerned, that means I need no longer play by the Rules, either. I am an expert at Black operations. None of your computer systems are safe from me; I took my first course in computer science from Alan Touring, and I have stayed current. Which is more than I can say for your agency’s systems. No one in the Intelligence Community will help you. I am too useful to the good ones, and the pillocks are scared of me, with reason. Keep your people away from me, and this idiocy will remain embarrassing but not fatal. Push me, and I will wreck you.”

  17. “And a grab stick.” Trina gave her a crooked smile. “Trust me. Everybody, even the experts, carries a grab.”

    She looked at it, drifting above the clothes bundle Trina had clipped it to, knowing she didn’t understand. “How does it work?” she ventured, after a moment.

    “Oh. This one’s a telescoper. There’s a button, here.” A press on the orange button caused the rod to spring out from about thirty-five centimeters to about a meter. “When you come adrift, and you will, at some point, stick this – ” she pointed at the flat plastic hook on the end, also bright orange “- into one of the holds on the walls and pull yourself in. Oh, and don’t point it at anyone close to you. It’s considered rude”

  18. How far it extended, down and down and down, until he could only guess that the patchwork at the bottom was field and pasture. Without so much as a patch of snow on it. He let his breath out, and it was white on the wind. A long walk ahead.

  19. Things you didn’t see on American News. Protests across the 50 states; Berlin Germany; Brazil; Vancouver Canada; Bombay; Jaffa Israel; Beirut and Tripoli in Lebanon; and in Derry there a protest today against the closure of graveyards.

    The European press seems to think the US protests had Trump’s “tacit support”. Don’t see it myself, but there you go.

    The Berlin protest has its own newspaper claiming circulation of 20,000. Both the left and right protested.

    The natives are restless.

    1. Waaaait a minute — how can they close the graveyards when everybody’s dying of the Wu Kung Flu? Don’t they mean they’re open around the clock, with hundreds of extra grave-diggers frantically trying to keep up?
      Bring out yer dead!

      1. It’s Derry, things are different up there.

        It’s almost as though this thing is no more deadly than the seasonal influenza. nah, that’s crazy talk.

  20. And the skateboarders are turning the skate park that the fascists filled with sand into a dirt bike path. Makes one proud.

    1. Irish democracy at work. Almost everyone in the area around RedQuarters who is physically capable of doing yard work and being outdoors was outside yesterday. The garden and hardware places were packed on Saturday. When the state parks re-open, I suspect the hiking trails will be rather full.

  21. [apologies in advance for 1st person AND present tense, this one just kind of naturally came out that way…]

    Every time, I already know.

    Every single time I do this, I start to do this, I set out to do this, I know how it will end — that I’ll be left with this odd lingering feeling maybe I shouldn’t have, at all. No-one ever gets cut or maimed or killed from it (which is by no means assured in certain other areas of my endeavours), and I am hardly ever given to such back-looking far less “regrets” in any other domain of my life.

    But still it persists, and recurs. If there’s any part of me or any of my doings more of Mr. Hyde than of Dr. Jekyll, then surely it must be this — no powder or potion required, not even the merest drop of the demon rum (which I adore).

    My name is Allie (or Allison) Mackenzie, or more properly is mise Ailis Nic Choinneach in my most-native self; and I am a mathematician and a duellist. Occasionally, as with the recent unpleasantness starring one Svetlana Borgia, I can even be something of a political player (which is like cleaning out sewer pipe bare-handed to me, and I’ve done that too) but only at direst need of our Sixth House of Marquesas. (Namely, all our beautiful planet and all the sometimes-ugly people on it, all together for once’t — in an “oh, beware my Country, when my Country grows polite” species of together.)

    “Hoy, there, Mistress Mackenzie! Tha i breagha an-diugh, is latha math dhiubh.” His Gaelic always sounds like it popped up out of a tin, does Tom Stubbs’ best effort, but at least he does often make the effort, and especially in an offworlder that goes for much — “Hello there, Tom, it is indeed the finest of spring days, and good day to you too.” (Using the formal “you” as he did can’t help but sound either fancy or standoffish to me; but I’m a native twice over where that’s concerned, of Marquesas and our high-Highlands too.) A bit to my relief, he does not try to engage me in further conversation just then, even though as a member of the University faculty and a friend, he might well have guessed what occasions I’m about. Nevertheless, I take off my hat to him in farewell, a turned-brim production complete with ostrich-feather plume (that hasn’t been in style anywhere I know of since the long-gone days of the Musketeers of Old Europe, and possibly not even then).

    This is Marquesas, which means in addition to so very much else that we (typically, in most things) make allowances for eccentricity, even the kind that would shame a long-period comet.

    I do try not to set any kind of routine or keep to any discoverable schedule, in these little adventures of mine; surely some people must notice, first, and then know, second; but hopefully (I dare to hope) most such surmise is lost amid the (considerable) background noise. (“Oh, no, it’s heragain!” or the like has surely not reached my ears yet. And well I hope it stays so.)

    Especially given the way I can be something of a minor sensation in my avocation and second calling: I’ve never challenged, never lost a “real” match another challenged me to, never looked for any of the losses (that I can’t count on all my fingers and toes, except easily in binary) or any of the deaths (that I need more than one hand to enumerate simply too). Here on the streets of Liouville City, outside the Red Line that encircles the Free University itself, all the “Laws and Customs” of my world apply. And I’ve seen more than a few open stares at the sgian geal by my side (that owes so much to Lt. Patton’s last cavalry saber, and the later Hungarian tradition, and so much besides).

    Not just before, but even today. (If it’s a toss-up between them staring at the sword by my side or the tits on my front, I have to go with the first.) But I do my best to smile and nod, sunnily as the day. (As I recall the soothing maxim of Mr. Heinlein’s from so long ago now: an armed society is a polite society.)

    And then, almost suddenly despite my half-hour walk, I’ve crossed the Max Planck Strasse and I’m across the Red Line, into the Free University. Where no one can challenge anyone, at least not to a Marquesan affair of honor. (With the traditional weapons our ancestors chose, to avoid the kind that run on the energies that brought us here from the stars, and could lay casual waste to all our world.) And strolling onto that level court known, inexplicably, as the Pit.

    Where one can find all manner of settled wisdom and arrant nonsense; even a few random Marxists still doing their rote cultic duty (I’m still not sure whether we’d have taken our chances better with the acolytes of Cthulhu, but the third millennium is yet young) despite the utter and total failure of every last single attempt at making our stubborn reality bow to that nasty little waster’s particular crack-pipe dream — near four centuries after we wakened to his own personal nightmare become ours.

    But today, it seems, I’m going to be after more difficult prey. For a sign, among the so-many, catches my predator’s roving eye like a flash of movement.


    The young man behind the sign, quite obviously an offworlder, looks so very earnest, almost painfully neat in his presentation — even though he seems to be so ignorant of how well the carmine lettering on his sign echoes the blood of the dozens of millions such — sentiment — has cost till now. (“It’s only got by sword and shot, and this the Dutchmen know!”)

    My twin callings are, in their own mathematically-precise ways, so alike. You’d think my truest patrons would be all the like of Athena, or Sarasvati, or even Sophia, Lady of Wisdom. And sure enough, best I know, they are. (Since even a good, or God willing good-enough, Presbyterian can have her little ventures into the archetypal depths, can’t she? After all, Carl Jung was a parson’s son.)

    But times like these, I’m more a truer fellow-traveller of Coyote. Perhaps even that earlier-model, more temperate Loki, the roguish fixer not the vile villain. And if I still know I’m gonna almost-regret doing it to this innocent later (for all that my little dose of philosophical cowpox might help immunize him against some of the more virulent pox-strains of his later world), still do I walk merrily up to him and say…

    “But what if they pull out a sword and cut off that extended hand, what then?”

    And the bout, again, is on. And as ever, my dark high-Highland blood sings like Hilbert-space music.

    (Based on a pre-existing setting, and one pre-existing character from one of those “lost” vignettes I couldn’t get to “settle” in less than a week.)

  22. Ten seconds.
    Traced the wire. “Go! Get out of here. Before it explodes.”
    The black-robed apparition bowed. Stroked explosive barrels with bony hand. “Sorry… can’t.”
    “Leave me!”
    “Not the only one I must collect today.”
    Pulled the blasting cap. “Extended the time!”
    “Nope. There was another.”

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