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

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. ;)*


Engineers always find a way!

Jens-Peter Oberacker thought the secret research facility for magical craft would be peaceful and quiet–the perfect place to finish his engineering research paper. He didn’t expect a violent gang of thieves to have their eyes on the ships, or having to escape to save his life. Worse yet, he’s now being blamed for the entire thing!

On the run in the last, badly damaged ship, an unexpected encounter with a housemaid on a mansion rooftop saves him from immediate disaster. But why would she lurk on a roof at night? And where did she learn her utter fearlessness of heights?

Perhaps unwisely, Jens-Peter ignores these questions—and the housemaid’s unexpected knife—desperate to find someone, anyone, who can clear his name. And let him finish his paper…


It takes more than a single terraformer to start a new world.

The human colony on the lost world of Not What We Were Looking For faces fracture and schism. On one side of the river, the settlers from Earth remember what it means to live in a free society. In the Marss-controlled city, the governor cancelled elections long ago and strives daily to cement his grip on the inhabitants.

Thaddeus Dawe and the Hudson cousins, including the one who agreed to marry him, save the colony’s last terraseeder from the governor’s political grandstanding, and head for the secret northern enclave started by Thaddeus’ brother. But all Thaddeus’ careful planning takes a wrenching turn when not one but two parties race in pursuit.

Thwarted in his original goal, faced with repairing the consequences of what he does to escape arrest, and besotted by the discovery of newspapers, Thaddeus wrestles with new ventures and roles in which he dare not fail. He must save not only Earth’s microbial legacy but its knowledge base as well. Not to mention, he’s getting married.

But when the governor’s chief of staff decides to weaponize Thaddeus against both the city’s farmers and the newspaper’s publisher, Thaddeus must fight the governor’s attempts to steal the farmers’ land even as someone destroys everything Thaddeus himself tries to build. In the end, he must do what he can to save those his own betrayal put at risk.

Picking up where Under the Earthline left off, The Gear Engages is the fourth book in the gripping science fiction colonization series Martha’s Sons. If you like action, political machinations, and a driven hero, you’ll want to dive in heart-and-head first.

Pick it up now to join the fight for a lost world!

FROM J.J. DI BENEDETTO: Mr. Smith and the Roach.

John Smith has a problem. He’s a retired cop whose pension just got wiped out, and he doesn’t know why or how. Now he needs to find a roommate to help pay the bills.

Sam has a problem. He’s a six-foot-tall talking cockroach and he doesn’t know who created him, or why, or how. Now he needs a place to live.

Thrown together as roommates and amateur detectives, Mr. Smith and the Roach realize their problems might be related.

But those problems are far more complicated than they imagined, and before all is said and done, they’ll run afoul of a Russian gangster, an imprisoned Mafia don, a crooked Wall Street banker, a mad scientist and, maybe worst of all, Mr. Smith’s baby sister.

Can they get to the bottom of an unbelievable plot before someone exterminates the Roach – and Mr. Smith – for good?

FROM NITAY ARBEL: Operation Flash, Episode 1: Knight’s Gambit Accepted.

On March 21, 1943, one man came within a hairbreadth of blowing up nearly the entire Nazi leadership.
In timeline DE1943RG, he succeeded.
Then the conspirators discovered that killing Hitler and his chief henchmen was the easy part.


Alain de Kerauille wants to be a knight more than anything in the world, to win as many jousting tournaments as he can, become wealthy and famous, and gain the hand of the fair lady Emma. As a squire in a noble household, he’s well on his way to success, and when he’s chosen to joust in a celebratory tournament, all of his dreams seem within his grasp. Until his rivalry with a fellow squire reaches the boiling point, threatening to destroy everything Alain has worked for and send his future crashing down around him.

FROM ANNA FERREIRA: The Flight of Miss Stanhope: A Short and Sweet Regency Romance.

Marianne Stanhope is in trouble. Her family is urging her to accept the attentions of a most odious suitor, so she turns to a gentleman of her acquaintance for aid. But Mr. Firth has his own reasons for assisting Miss Stanhope, and it falls to her childhood friend Mr. Killingham to convince her that she’s made a dreadful mistake.

FROM T. L. KNIGHTON: The Last Champion (The Champion’s Cycle Book 1)

When the kingdom of Altria falls before an expansionist lord, the champion Korr is tasked with spiriting off the next in line to the throne as well as a princess who could be used to legitimize the duke’s claim to the throne. Joined by his childhood friend, one of the legendary Rangers of Altria, Korr seeks shelter with the man who trained him to fight many long years ago.

Korr is charged with raising the young king and readying him to take back his kingdom, but a chieftain of the Bohgan people becomes something of an obstacle to that purpose. Can Korr keep King Darvos and Princess Lauranna safe?

FROM KAL SPRIGGS: Valor’s Child (Children of Valor Book 1).

Be careful what you wish for.

Jiden’s parents barely scrape out a living on the dry, dusty world of Century. Jiden wants more for herself and she is ready to step into a bright future, one which may lead her far from the frontier world of her birth. She has no dreams of following in the footsteps of her military family’s heritage, no desire to live a life of hardship.

She’s just got one obstacle in the path to her dreams: five months of military school. She’ll be away from her friends, subjected to long hours and a crushing work load. She’ll learn to shoot, to fight… and how to kill.
Jiden will need every skill she’s learned, because her family’s enemies have put her in their sights. She’s going to have to rise to the challenges in order to survive. She soon learns that her dreams might not be as good as she imagined. With her life on the line, Jiden will need to fall back on the skills she learned and prove that she’s a child of valor.

FROM CEDAR SANDERSON: Vulcan’s Kittens (Children of Myth Book 1)

12-year-old Linnea Vulkane is looking forward to a long, lazy summer on Grandpa Heph’s farm, watching newborn kittens grow up and helping out with chores. That all goes out the window the night Mars, god of war, demands her grandfather abandon her and return to Olympus for the brewing war.

Now Old Vulcan is racing around the world and across higher planes with Sehkmet to gather allies, leaving Linn and an old immortal friend to protect the farm and the very special litter. But even the best wards won’t last forever, and when the farm goes up in flames, she is on the run with a daypack, a strange horse, a sword, and an armful of kittens. Linn needs to grow up fast and master her powers, before the war finds the unlikely refugees…

FROM MACKEY CHANDLER: A Hop, Skip and a Jump (Family Law Book 4).

Lee has a lot going for her, tons of money, true friends who will stand by her, an unexpected bonus of extended life from advanced medical treatments, and a start at unraveling some of the pesky secrets in the stars. But there is so much to do to take advantage of all these opportunities that she’s overwhelmed.
Keeping all they’ve gained may not be easy. Their new allies have received a follow-on delegation from their home world who seem determined to undo everything they accomplished. The Earthies seem inclined to oppose their new exploration claims, and even her helpful new friends from Central are a problem. They seem less forthcoming than she expected, and the fellow Gabriel who lent them a hand turns out to be entirely too friendly for her taste. Eventually everybody is going to find out Lee isn’t just a sweet little girl if you keep getting in her way.
This book continues the merging of the “April” series of books with the “Family Law” series.

FROM CYN BAGLEY: Tiny Joe and the Green Knight Terraforming Co.: Cases 1-3

Most customers are extremely satisfied with the job “The Green Knight Terraforming Co.” does to refurbish their planets. However when there are customer complaints, then the human Joe called Tiny is the person who solves those problems.

Joe’s backup muscle, Donald is there for the occasional times when Joe touches before he looks. Joe, Donald, and the lab animals troubleshoot those problems that need a delicate touch with a hammer. There is a one hundred percent guarantee that this group can fix any customer problem– or fix the customer.

A collection of short stories

FROM AMIE GIBBONS: Scorpions of the Deep (The Elemental Demons Urban Fantasies Book 1).

If you like subtle psychological horror in your urban fantasy, check out this thrilling tale of a war of the human heart vs. evil in “Scorpions of the Deep,” the first book in Gibbons’ new Elemental Demons Series.

There are more things in Hell and Earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy…

Sarah Blakely is in survival mode after her breakup pulls her life out from under her and sends her scrambling back home, depressed and broken after college. She is determined to build a new life and find a new direction. But it’s hard after losing her love, the man she’d planned on marrying. And the refuge of her childhood home, where she should be able to heal in peace, is being disturbed by one weird occurrence after another.

Sarah is not religious, but she is about to find out there are more things in Hell and Earth than are dreamt of in her philosophy.

Backed by her brave, loyal, and god-fearing friend Beau, she must face her fears and find her strength again, before one of those dark things she does not believe in uses her broken soul against her.

FROM CHRIS KENNEDY ET AL: In the Wings: An Anthology of Four Horsemen Universe Secondary Characters (Four Horsemen Sagas Book 7).

Fifteen outstanding authors. Fourteen extraordinary stories. One bestselling universe.

It’s the Twenty-Second Century. The galaxy has opened up to humanity as a hyperactive beehive of stargates and new technologies, and we suddenly find ourselves in a vast playground of different races, environments, and cultures. There’s just one catch: we are pretty much at the bottom of the food chain.

Enter the Four Horsemen universe, where only a willingness to fight and die for money separates Humans from the majority of the other races. Enter a galaxy not only of mercenaries, but also of aliens, hired assassins, and accountants. Accountants?

Edited by bestselling authors and universe creators Mark Wandrey and Chris Kennedy, “In the Wings” brings you a variety of all-new stories in the Four Horsemen universe showcasing characters that—until now—have always been one step out of the lime light. The fifteen authors bring you looks at some of the universe’s minor characters, giving you additional insight into what truly makes the universe tick…and some additional information you won’t get anyplace else!

FROM BRAD TORGERSEN: Lights in the Deep.

Ten astounding tales by triple award nominee Brad R. Torgersen. Go on fantastic new adventures at the bottom of Earth’s oceans and at the edge of the solar system. Meet humans who are utterly alien and aliens who are all too human. Originally featured in the pages of Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine as well as Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show, these stories are gathered here for the first time, along with anecdotes and other commentary from the author.

Features the stories Ray of Light (2012 Hugo & Nebula nominee), Outbound (2011 Analog Readers Choice Award winner), and Exanastasis (2010 Writers of the Future Award winner).

Introductions by Stanley Schmidt, Mike Resnick and Allan Cole.

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: NUMEROUS

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

  1. Thanks again for the books. To my delight a few of these I looked at– I had already bought. And thank you for throwing me back up there. I’m working on getting a few more written soon.

  2. “How could we lose? We had the better troops, the better equipment, high morale… Everything! What did we miss?”
    “We had high quality, true, my lord. But… An ancient terran leader is reputed to have said, ‘quantity has a quality of its own. And they were more numerous.”

  3. The roses were more numerous than he had realized. One that had been buds yesterday was now covered with snow white flowers. A bush with pink and orange blooms, when they were new, had some that the sun had bleached to white and yellow. All about, bees buzzed between them.

  4. This calls for the oldest setting again, which really needs cleaning up…

    “Are you sure you want to take to the field yourself, Your Majesty?” Violet asked, a look of concern in her blue eyes. “The enemy’s forces are quite numerous.”

    “They’re nothing I can’t slice up and bleed dry!” Blaze cut in before his liege could respond. “Especially not with my new assistant here!”

    “I did not ask for your thoughts on the matter, Sir Blaze,” the elf snapped before giving a sympathetic look to the red-haired woman standing on the emperor’s other side. “I apologize, Dame Diane. Are you sure you wish to keep serving alongside this vulgar fiend?”

    “I’ve worked with worse than him!” the newcomer replied, a friendly smile on her face. “I’ve got his number if he tries anything anyway!”

    Emperor Noah Pendragon I again only found himself able to respond with a chuckle before looking over the trio. He hadn’t expected to pick up a new member of his personal guard while quietly helping a struggling region with a vampire problem – one that his mortal enemy’s family had left unchecked no less – but he was glad things had worked out that way. Diane’s combat skills, honed by being a professional vampire hunter, were top notch and she had an engaging, pleasant personality too. It helped that she had always found the duke’s family difficult to deal with and was plenty eager to help him pay for both his rebellion and making use of a vampire to bolster his forces with the cursed undead.

    “I’m sure, Violet,” Noah finally said, a look of sadness crossing his silver eyes. “I have to make things right with her, one way or another.”

    “I still believe this course of action to be utter foolishness.” the elven chancellor stated firmly.

    “And I’m with her on that one for once!” Blaze grumbled, shaking his head. “If Kat’s still that pissed off about that bit of petty bullshit, screw her!”

    “It still looks really bad to have the heiress of the Empire’s most prominent priestly line against us, especially over past mistakes,” the emperor said, his voice slowly showing resolve. “I don’t intend to lose my life or the Empire here but I have to do my best.”

    “And me and Blaze will keep you safe while you do it!” Diane added, twirling one of her dual blades around in her hand before sheathing it on her back, winking at Noah and Blaze before giving Violet her most serious look. “I owe you all that much and won’t disappoint you, Lady Violet.”

    “Very well. May the Pillars protect you all and our Argyros Empire.”

  5. I have read this numerous times and regretted not paying more attention to my numerous family members who have “passed the veil” since I achieved sentience–for they tried to warn me.

    I’m afraid I contributed to the sad state of American decline by my numerous missed opportunities to learn, act, teach, and otherwise enlighten our fellow travelers. And I don’t know how much time we have left. Certainly, at 63 with prostate cancer, I’m rapidly approaching my expiration date. Some of you may live long enough to experience “interesting times.”

    We’ve seen that Rudyard Kipling in The Gods of the Copybook Headings and Ronald Reagan in A Time For Choosing were 100 percent correct. Numerous Bible verses (Isaiah 6:10,Jeremiah 5:21,Ezekiel 12:2,Matthew 13:15,Acts 28:27,Romans 11:8) are still correct and remind us implacably about our political environment. And I’ve been as deaf, dumb, and blind as anyone else.

    May God forgive us all.

    Asleep At The Switch
    an allegory by Chris T.

    I man the tarnished brass lever that throws the switch.
    The scratches and nicks tell its tale to all who man the last resort of this town.
    Many hands have gripped this mighty handle but mine are now the caretakers of this awesome responsibility.
    Others before me have given their time, their sacrifice and their years.
    The ones that I have now relieved are such weary souls,
    Eyes that provided a clear view to the spirit, now have a thick coating of dust that glazes its once panoramic view.

    Nothing has happened here for years.
    Each day runs on the back of another and I find myself drifting in mind and thought.
    Foreground seems to slowly erase and ebb towards the back;
    Malaise is creeping its sleepy mask on my face, on my attention.

    My hand barely grasps the handle anymore,
    And a used paper coffee cup now rests upside down on top of my switch, and my duty.
    The time passes so painfully measured,
    Now that my ruler’s marks have all been erased.
    Why does this town need me, or my sacrifice, or my service?
    It seems the task is unnecessary and irrelevant,
    Like shepherding a flock of sheep in a land with no wolves.

    The snooze button on my alarm clock now has more wear than my brass handle.
    No evidence of my diligence is left and my eyes are now constantly at half-mast.
    Can I still lean into the lever that trips the switch?
    Can I muster enough power to lower the gate and save this town from destruction?
    My muscles have now atrophied and hang loose on my bones.
    So weary am I, not from effort,but from the lack of focus and the never-changing view that awaits me minute after minute.

    I just need a little more sleep, I’ll catch a quick 10 minutes here.
    It won’t matter, nothing ever happens this time of day.
    I am jolted out of my coma-like slumber by an old sound.
    A deep, guttural rumble, low and hidden resonates in the trees,
    An outlining shelter just at the edge of town, a demarcation between lawlessness and safety.

    I snap up and cast my gaze out toward the trees,
    And I am frightened to my core.
    Have I missed the danger, did my slumber pay a terrible cost, will an attack happen soon?
    Nervously, I sweep my vision back and forth,
    Scanning the trees with my hands firmly gripping my handle.
    Beads of sweat rise and their liquid ribbons fall from my forehead and begin to sting my eyes.

    Yellow, haunting, deeply evil eyes, shift side to side behind the trees.
    My focus is crystal clear and my breath is caught in between a swallow and an inhale.
    They spring forth, the thieves, the takers of dreams and lives.
    The wolves race with incredible speed and their nostrils are flared,
    Filled with the stench of apathy and fear.
    Faster and faster they come, never running in the sunlight,
    But, coming at a speed that tingles the spine of the strongest of men.

    My fingers interlock and I squeeze the level with power that could make brass turn to liquid.
    It doesn’t move, I tug, no joy, the wolves have almost reached the gate.
    From the bottom of my feet I feel an electricity that surges,
    From my legs, through my hips, up my spine and landing its power directly in my shoulders.
    One last chance to make the switch trip and the gate to fall.
    I summon the strength from my shoulders and the lever begins to creep,
    Squealing its metallic vibration and starting it’s intended reaction.

    A horrendous shaking of the ground has rocked the foundations of every home in my town.
    I sneak a glimpse downward and see the hind quarters of the wolves,
    They disappear back to the trees and a town is saved,
    And with a last parting shot, a final set of yellow eyes fades into the forest.

    Bang, boom,pow and thump my heart races lodged directly in my throat.
    Although the danger is now over, I can’t release my hands from the handle.
    I am bathed in sweat and shock.
    The cries from the town below rise up to my post up here from my vantage point.
    Their gratitude which tickled my ears, awoke in me a new resolve.
    For they will never know how close to death they were,
    And that was the last time I was asleep at the switch.

  6. He picked up his bag and walked into the courtyard. It surprised him, how many birds of dingy black perched about it. They seldom took flight, and he told himself he imagined their eyeing him, and climbed into the carriage.
    The ones perched on the wayside were harder to discount.

  7. Anderson helped himself up from the post-explosion wreckage of the lab. And by helped himself up, that meant both hands under each arm, and another two lifting the fallen bookcase. In confusion, he realized there were at least another dozen incarnations of himself scattered about the lab, primarily occupied with putting things right. “Well, that’s the last time I put a pickle in the quantum accelerator,” he said, “This looks suspiciously like a super-hero origin.”

    And it was, it was the origin of NUMEROUS!

  8. A silly one:

    “Them Martian tourists show up yet?” asked Clem. He was busy making last minute adjustments to the still before the morning rush.

    “Yeah,” said Delbert. “Looks like they’re noomerouos!”

    “Now just how many is ‘noomerous?’” said Clem.

    “Don’t rightly know. I reckon somewheres between ‘quite a few’ and ‘a shitload!’”

  9. A sappy one:>/i>

    “Margo-Rita was putting me down!” Cari hissed, embarrassed and enraged. “On and on about my glasses and my nooooooomerous suitors. I know I don’t have any! I don’t deserve this!”

    “Margo-Rita’s a pain,” consoled Max. “Besides, she’s wrong. About the suitors, I mean.”

    Cari looked sharply at Max’s blushing face.

  10. “How numerous are the tasks to be done before we go in?” she said. “Weaponry we have. We would need food, and water, and any knowledge we can win.”
    “Win in a reasonable time,” said Celestine. “It may be easier to go in and find out things by meeting them.”

  11. “They can ship things,” said a voice from beyond the doorway. A black-haired woman, very pale, walked out. “Many things. They wouldn’t ship ice. Too bulky, even without melting. And without the competition from those who can freeze things on the spot.” She smiled. “And use pure water for it.”

  12. This actually works nicely for a scene for my current WIP (I SWEAR TO CARP I WILL FINISH AND PUBLISH ONE OF THEM EVENTUALLY!)

    “C. J., can I ask you something?”

    “Yeah, sure.”

    “Were you planning on bringing Velázquez in alive?” Her face hardened.

    “You think I wasn’t?”

    “I think you might have made some comments during the case that might have lead my thinking in that direction.”

    Her eyes bored holes through me as her gaze became distant, unfocused.

    “Do you know how many Native girls and young women disappear each year from reservations around the country each year? Numerous.”


    “Numerous,” she nodded. “That’s as specific a number as I can give you, because nobody bothers tracking the numbers. Not the Feds, not state or local agencies, nobody. Except for Tribal Police, but they’re all too undermanned, underfunded, and overworked to do anything about it, not that it matters because their authority ends at Reservation borders and they can’t arrest or prosecute non-Natives anyways.”

    “But one rich white girl gets snatched and the whole damn country pulls out all the stops to try and find her.”

    “I don’t blame the Corbetts. It’s not their fault, and even if it was, poor Anabelle didn’t deserve what Velázquez and his crew did to her.”

    “Velázquez took someone you knew, didn’t he?”

    “I know a half-dozen girls who disappeared before we turned eighteen. Almost got disappeared myself when I was fifteen, but Papa taught me to fight like a devil, and I had a pocketknife. Stabbed him in the nuts. Velázquez wasn’t responsible for making them disappear. Those all happened years before he started operating stateside. But I checked with the Tribal Elders and Layton PD: he’s suspected in the disappearance of a Comanche woman last year. Did a little digging around, he and his crew are also suspects in the disappearance of a trio of Kickapoo sisters – little girls – in Eagle Pass. Plus dozens of American women and God knows how many Mexican women and girls.”

    “And kidnapping is a Federal offense, and with the crop of judges the current administration is placing all over the country, there woudld’ve been a better-than-even chance that Velázquez and his cronies would never see justice… so my math adds up.”

    “And assuming you’re right, what exactly do you intend to do about it.”

    I sat down next to her, poured myself a tall glass of ginger ale, and took a drink.

    “Ranger Hawk, a wise man once said ‘some folk just need killin’.’ I think we can safely include Juan Bautista Velázquez and his underlings in that category. And while I don’t necessarily condone vigilantism, in some cases frontier justice can be a good thing.” I raised my glass. “To frontier justice.”

    “I’ll drink to that,” she returned my toast, “and to dead slavers.”

    “To dead slavers. May they all burn in Hell. Salud.”

  13. Star Ranger Rasmus Rogers and Wonder Wambat stood atop the hill scything down the horde after horde of attacking lemmings. Wonder Wombat said, “I know that we’ll beat them, Rasmus!”

    “I agree,” Rogers replied, “but why are they”, he stuttered, “so numb or mess, I mean, numerous, I mean murderous?”

  14. “And that, stranger, is the old story of our vanquishing of the Devil Whirlwind Death-Demon from Outer Space, and how some of my own forebears had a hand in it.” Andrew’s voice held a certain pride as he completed the now long traditional toast — “One brave victory for the ages, and may we never see the like again!”

    His companion drank, too; but first said something in low tones and not quite clearly perceptible, but which also sounded suspiciously like “Perhaps.”

    “You doubtin’ me, stranger?” It was not said belligerently, yet both inquiringly and more than a bit… firmly.

    “No, Mr. Glencarline, I am not. For the first, you’ve shown yourself even in our short acquaintance to be a man of estimable veracity.” (This far out from the Core, the 22nd-century fad for 18th-19th century speech patterns was still in widespread vogue.) “For the second,” — and his piercing gaze swivelled from the muddy-looking liquor in his glass to Andrew’s face — “far too many of the details you’ve already given me match to make it easy to doubt your story.

    “And I mean even without inspecting the… artifacts of that time, that you say still rest in your museum here.”

    “Glad to hear it, Mr. Ashkenazy. But match… with what? Just each other?”

    “Your description is very close to one particular kind of alien, as in non human sapient being… from its form all the way down to its preferred weapons and methods of fighting. The Viggnatti are known for attacking newly settled, or otherwise not so well defended, planets — in a way that seems to outsiders at least to aim at proving their considerable sense of racial superiority, in others’ blood.” And he took another drink from his glass, enough to empty it. Then pointed to it, catching the eye of the bartender first, to order another double.

    “But there’s one thing that puzzles me about your story. Not to doubt either your good fortune or your fighting prowess, of course, but it’s surprising to any who’d know the Viggnatti that this one came alone. Not that — thank all the gods and the not-gods, as the Celts used to say — one would regret such a relative… paucity of aggressors; but the Viggnatti, while never seen in truly large groups yet in the wider galaxy, are typically more… numerous.”

    Andrew Glencarline could practically feel his eyes bugging out, at least enough to notice; but he was distracted enough by what the offworlder had just said not much to care. “You mean there’s not only more than one of ’em still out there somewhere, but if any of them e’er show up again, there might be two or three or…” He heard his voice trail off. “Not to doubt you, of course, but the prospect…” And simply shook his head.

    “Yes, indeed. For a single individual to show up, then basically fight on to the death, sounds like one of two things: a callow youth trying to prove his fitness and manhood in one feat, or else an old warrior on the edge of losing his caste status trying to regain it just as singularly… or die honorably in the attempt. In an act of… ‘suicide by cop’ I believe they called it, back before the Dawn Age of starflight and back on Old Earth.” And took a long, slow, measured drink once more.

    “So, you’re sayin’ maybe you could help us with that? I mean, after the way you handled that, ah, what was it you just said, ‘callow youth’ with the six-shooter and bad attitude and… utter lack of sense?” (Finally, too; but here on Coldbear County — the odd but actual name for this world — such… tended to cure itself.)

    “No, Mr. Glencarline, I am not. For the first thing, and as I’ve told you more than once by now, I am not a fighter — at least not any more, not by profession and not by preference. That ship, as they used to say, has sailed — and never you mind that my past has left me with certain… residual enhancements.” And he opened and closed his free hand, almost idly a few times; but still almost as fast as Andrew’s eyes could follow it, and with an odd soft sound as he did.

    And he turned to look Andrew in the eyes once more. “But that’s not so true of all the people I know. Though I’d have to presume that you-all, hereabouts, will not likely want to spend what an active-duty unit would cost, simply against the hazard they might someday be needed in a pinch and on viciously short notice — it still might yet be that some of them are, as I just said, on the edge of ending their status as members of the warrior caste, to put that in bizarrely Viggnatti terms for the sake of irony.” And swirled the scant ice in his drink, pensively, again; before returning his eyes again to Andrew’s own.

    “That is to say and more clearly, Mr. Glencarline, that I know people from my own old unit, or ones very like them, who might still be far more… combat effective, as they say… than I, yet wishing to ‘buy the farm’ in a quite literal way, not the metaphorical older sense. Assuming that they’d be welcome and full members of the community here, of course, just a few more people defending their home against outlaws. But willing to do so both from the front and with a more than usual vengeance.” And drank, rather deeply but smoothly.

    “You know, Mr. Ashkenazy, I think there might just be considerable support for such an idea, given appropriate understandings and… limits on that.”

    “Ah, yes,” he said back with a soft smile. “Too many old samurai breed far too many new ronin, as they used to say once upon a time. Though we might be, by the end of our story, a few beyond seven in number.” And smiled, quick as those other moves of his. “By your leave and with your blessing, of course.”

  15. “You said they were numerous! They’re almost non-existent! Suffering from being numerous, indeed!”

    “No, I said they were suffering from NUMB EROS. They are few due to lack of reproduction. The question for us on this world is… Do we research a dying world and carefully NOT interfere? OR.. do we intervene mightily and give aphrodisiacs a REAL test?”

  16. “He has numerous social contacts and quite a few articles on him,” Izanami pointed out, using the speakers on the holo projector. “It’s a great cover, not perfect but great. Nice little mistakes that nobody would think an espionage service would make.”

    “But?” Emily raised an eyebrow. “So, it’s not perfect. How do you distinguish between a normal person on this scale and a espionage cover.”

    Izanami paused-that had to have been a programmed halt to help us mere mortals to not be unnerved by her-and replied with careful precison, “It’s a tricky question, I agree. There’s some minor faults and they’re all the right kind of faults. Designed to ensure that he’s not perfect, but he’s someone you want to know and pay attention to.”

  17. Meanwhile, in an alternate reality very similar to our own:

    The Senator held up about twenty printed pages fastened together. “The research described in this paper IS gain of function, without question. The grant number for the money provided to fund it is right here on the front page. It tracks directly back to—”

    The gnomish little man in the expensive suit became quite agitated. “You don’t know what you’re talking about! I’m the medical expert! Me! The one that’s lying is you!”

    The Senator drew a thumb across his throat, and a quick-thinking tech turned off the microphone. His mouth was still moving, but the Senator’s voice rolled over any sound that came out with the inexorability of a juggernaut.

    “You are going to hear this, whether you want to or not,” the Senator declared.

    “You have lied to Congress, numerous times. You are lying now. You have spared no effort to obfuscate the truth, but at long last the facts have come to light and they are damning beyond any hope of redemption.”

    “You secretly paid the communist Chinese to modify bat corona viruses in a laboratory they use for military bio-weapons experiments. You tried to conceal those payments by passing them through a third party. That lab has a long record of containment failures due to negligence and incompetence. It was all but inevitable that some of those viruses would get loose, and anybody with a decent understanding of high school biology could have predicted that it would be the one which had been made most contagious to humans.”

    “When it did, you spent four months helping the communist Chinese cover up the outbreak while they deliberately shipped thousands of disease carriers to scores of countries around the world, including the United States and Canada. When your pet pathogen became so widespread that its presence could be concealed no longer, you lied repeatedly about its origin and orchestrated a conspiracy to support those lies and discredit anyone who sought to expose them.”

    “When forced at last to deal with the epidemic you set upon us, you chose the actions that were least effective medically, and most disruptive socially and economically. You abused your authority, denying to doctors and patients alike any access to cheap, common, effective drugs which would have saved tens, even hundreds of thousands of lives. You puffed yourself up with vanity and self-importance while betraying the American people, the responsibility you were entrusted with, and the entire history and tradition of medicine.”

    “I’m not a psychic. I can’t begin to guess why you did those things. I know only that what you did directly caused millions of deaths, indirectly caused millions more, and inflicted trillions of dollars in damages on billions of people. The enormity of your crimes far exceeds any punishment which could possibly be imposed on you. Your callous indifference to the consequences of what you have done marks you as a monster to equal Josef Mengele. I don’t see how you can stand to look in a mirror.”

    After a final, withering glare he turned to the Chairman. “We’re done here.”

  18. Sorry, I had to share:

    Famous presidential quotes:

    “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” … JFK

    “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” … Ronald Reagan

    “My butt’s been wiped.” … Joe Biden

    1. A quote that NEEDS to be:

      Biden: “The filibuster is a relic of the Jim Crow Era.”

      Audience: ”SO ARE YOU!!”

  19. “You’ve heard, Israfel?” said Abraham. “With Zondar-ek-Spreien’s arrival, the saved number exactly 272,258,594,416,455,721,934,432.” He chuckled. “Faithful who promised, indeed. It took 400 gigennia and 72,000,000 planets, but my children are officially as numerous as the stars.”

    “Fine,” said Israfel. “I can blow this Trump now, then?”

    “Oh, yes, go ahead.”

  20. I just have to say, the blurbs on these promo books are getting really good.

    At least four of them were really hooky, and the only reason I haven’t grabbed them is I’m already a lot of books behind on my reading. (And I may end up getting them anyways, because they look fun…)

  21. The final essay question on the exam was deceptively simple; “Name a fictional book and explain its significance in the work of fiction in which it appears.”

    Reggie Waite’s mind immediately went to the Necronimicon. However, Professor Lambert had the same opinion of non-mimetic fiction as Mrs. Peters back in Salem. He might not say “escapist trash,” but the scorn was still clear in his voice.

    On the other hand, hadn’t there been a character in Herman Wouk’s The Caine Mutiny that was writing a book? Reggie remembered writing a book report for Mrs. Peters, but that was three years ago, which now seemed like another lifetime from the perspective of a midshipman at Annapolis. Both the name of the character and the title of his work in progress now escaped Reggies memory.

  22. I had a doctor’s visit today to excise a sweat gland in my back that had gone out of control. Very messy, it was.

    The doctor had an ironic name, and I had numerous opportunities to recall that it is deeply unwise to annoy someone who is going to stick sharp things in my body, so “Doctor Livingston, I presume” did not cross my lips. (Not til I got home, anyway.)

    After an hour of preparation and a bunch if tedious, and somewhat painful cutting (corner case flag raised again: I’m in the 10% of people who don’t have a prompt reaction to/am less than sensitive to Lidocaine (though the epinephrine in the mix had quite an effect), the doctor was done.

    I have now been decysted.

    1. Wise. You never know if you’re going to be the millionth person to say it, at which he would just snap.

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