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

Book promo

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. A COMMISSION IS EARNED FROM EACH PURCHASE.*Note that I haven’t read most of these books (my reading is eclectic and “craving led”,) and apply the usual cautions to buying. – SAH

*Void or abridged where forbidden.**
**The author DOES NOT HAVE A medical license, and is not impersonating a medical doctor***
***Given the wide variety of plain silly she’s written in her life, you’d best download a sample first, to make sure it’s your kind of silly and not someone else’s kind of silly. Thanks.

STILL ON SALE FROM SARAH A. HOYT: Dipped, Stripped and Dead (Daring Finds Book 1)

A Dyce Dare Mystery
When she was six, Dyce Dare wanted to be a ballerina, but she couldn’t stop tripping over her own feet. Then she wanted to be a lion tamer, but Fluffy, the cat, would not obey her. Which is why at the age of twenty nine she’s dumpster diving, kind of. She’s looking for furniture to keep her refinishing business going, because she would someday like to feed herself and her young son something better than pancakes.
Unfortunately, as has come to be her expectation, things go disastrously wrong. She finds a half melted corpse in a dumpster. This will force her to do what she never wanted to do: solve a crime.
Life is just about to get crazy… er… crazier. But at least at the end of the tunnel there might be a relationship with a very nice Police Officer.

FROM SARAH A. HOYT: Odd Magics: Tales for the Lost

We hesitate to mention, but this book would obviously make a very good stocking stuffer.

Odd Magics
This is a very strange collection of fairytales, recast for modern life. In it the prize isn’t always to the fairest, the
magic is rarely to the strongest.
But lonely introverts do find love, women who never gave it a thought find themselves at the center of romance.
Doing what’s right will see you to the happily ever after.
And sometimes you have to kiss an accountant to find your prince.


FROM ALMA T. C. BOYKIN: Hunter In Shadows: Familiar Generations Book 2

Odd magic moves in Devon County. Someone is scattering spells in the courthouse. As the year turns to winter, twisted magic stirs, awakened by the mysterious spell caster. Or was it?

Jude Tainuit and his Familiar, Shoim, guard Devon County’s magic users, and others. That is, when Jude isn’t working at the bakery, helping the herb-wife Martha O’Neil, and wincing at his Familiar’s jokes. When Martha makes her claim to a long-abandoned piece of land, dark power moves to stop her.

As mild charm spells become threats, and strange creatures stalk the nights, Jude, Shoim, and their allies struggle to find the source of the trouble. The Hunter in Shadows must act, but how?

FROM CEDAR SANDERSON: Crow Moon: A Collection of Fantastic Tales

Eight fantastic tales of swords, sorcery, love and justice.

The honeymoon is over…. before it even began. Nico and Emie face the biggest decision of their lives, and hope that it won’t kill them.

Cecelia’s dowry is a worthless field, and a friendship begun in a macabre deal.

Soleh fights her way out of a cruel marriage and swears vengeance by the lost gods of a dead clan. She rides with the darkest of companions at her side.

In a breath of air on an unmasked face, the worth of a life is laid bare.

Amaya Lombard faces her past, risking her future, in the very place where her magic was stripped from her blood and bone.

He answered his son’s call for help, but nothing could have prepared him for what his son had done… and expected him to take care of.

The boyar’s son must marry, to save his lands and people. The domovoi bids him wed, but she will only come to him if he fills her every request. Can he swallow his gorge long enough?

Lom rides for the goblin camp, death along the path. His bargain will have a cruel cost…

FROM KAREN MYERS: Monsters, And More: A Science Fiction Short Story Bundle from There’s a Sword for That

A Science Fiction Story Bundle from the collection There’s a Sword for That

MONSTERS – Xenoarchaeologist Vartan has promised his young daughter Liza one of the many enigmatic lamedh objects that litter the site of a vanished alien civilization.

No one can figure out what they’re good for, but Liza finds a use for one.

ADAPTABILITY – The Webster Marble Deluxe Woodsman, Model 820-E, has been offline for quite some time. Quite some time indeed.

Good thing Webster has a manual to consult, and a great many special functions.

FROM C. V. WALTER: Healed by His Alien Nurse (Alien Brides Book 7)

Captain Michael LaGrange and Damina have been negotiating over their future together since the day they met. Both stubborn, both cautious, neither wants to make a decision either of them will regret. Desire and friendship build into a need they can’t ignore any longer.
Unfortunately, duty has to come first and they find themselves on a good will tour prior to the Prince’s wedding.
When something goes wrong at an event, they’re forced apart, and into the machinations of a shadowy conspiracy. Kidnapping, injury and a mysterious illness conspire to keep them apart. To get together they’ll have to get away but they’re surrounded by enemies and good allies are hard to find.


Charlotte Fisher lives under colliding skies.It’s the second half of the twenty-first century, and mankind has reached Earth orbit but not much farther. Orbital debris is a by-product of the industrial activity, and it’s dangerous both to everyone up there and the bottom lines of the corporations offering a prize to get rid of it. Charlotte heads up a team chasing the Manx Prize for the first successful, controlled de-orbit of a dead satellite. To win, she and her team must out-think and out-engineer a cheating competitor, dodge a collusive regulator, and withstand the temptations offered by a large and powerful seastead.The sky’s not the limit. It’s the challenge.If you like hard science fiction, impossible odds, and a touch of romance, you’ll love Laura Montgomery’s Manx Prize. Buy Manx Prize to join the race for space today!

FROM ANNA FERREIRA: Christmas at Blackheath.

Agnes Rawlins would never dream of showing a melancholy face to her brother’s guests. She may be a spinster, and treated little better than any common housekeeper, but she is responsible for bringing Christmas cheer into the dark and rambling Blackheath Manor, and she does not shirk her duty, even when she has little reason to celebrate.

William Marlowe, Viscount Claridge, has reluctantly accepted an invitation to spend the Christmas season at Blackheath. It’s not his first choice- how anyone could wish to spend time in the gloomy manor house is beyond him- but when he meets the kind and gentle lady of the house, he finds that Christmas at Blackheath might not be so bad after all.

FROM DOROTHY GRANT: Between Two Graves (Combined Operations Book 4)

He swore he wouldn’t be back while his parents lived…

Now, almost thirty years later, AJ is going home.

Ordered to attend his mother’s funeral in the rugged northern border of the Empire, AJ is baring old wounds to his new wife, and burying familial feuds.

But the past won’t die that easily, and grave secrets will threaten all the survivors and the women they love. Because the Feds are after AJ’s unwanted inheritance…

And they’re willing to risk a war to get their hands on it.

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:Familiar*

*Miz Boykin to the white courtesy phone.

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

  1. The Inquisitor and his Familiar moved quietly deeper into the forest. A child’s life was at stake. The Dark Coven planned to sacrifice her to gain power.

    Carefully, they passed through the Dark Veil.

    The Coven leader screamed “You are a fool Inquisitor! You can’t match our power!”.

    The Inquisitor quietly said, “You are the fool to imagine that God doesn’t give power to His Own in order to defeat ones like you.”

    He called up his Power as his Familiar took its True Form.

    Note, servants of Inquisitors were often called familiars. 😉

  2. The android dealer slapped down the last card.
    “I bet a hundred”, said the creature to the left.
    “I’m in and I’ll raise a thousand.”, the other player called.
    “Sigh, I’m down but I will match your bet, Four mil yer know is just too big a pot to leave

      1. I hearda that thing they call sleep. One of these decades, Imma take two weeks off and try it for once, just to see what all the fuss is about.

  3. “Musical bread? How did you manage that?”

    “It’s the flour of course; the location of the mills induces resonance, harmony with the location. Fantastic fun – use the proper three notes in your bread, get a beautiful chord for your sandwich! Choose the wrong notes, well, dissonance with every bite; subtly tell your guests your feelings, I’m told.”

    “Pastry flour? Desserts?”

    “Yes, of course!”

    “Well, I must have some of that.”

    “Ah, you have me at a disadvantage. In stock I have only one note, a fine FA-mill-iar soft red winter wheat. Will that satisfy?”

  4. She was familiar with what everyone said, except that it had always been her parents, or her older brothers when they saw it, or servants. She wondered what strangers of her own birth would say.
    She folded her hands and looked up. They stared. They would not say a thing.

  5. Assuming, of course, that the paths would not vanish behind her. Onward, she walked, across the lighted paths. If she had wanted such security as mortals might have, she would have stayed in familiar paths, where the magic was all such as she was familiar with.
    And neglected all this.

  6. “I don’t like him. He seems too taken with her for me to be comfortable.”
    “Yes. He is acting too familiar for my comfort.”
    “So, what do we do?”
    “Send her away for a bit. Then… convince… him to take his overly inquisitive eyes elsewhere.”

  7. As he walked across the student quad, Elmer the Aspiring Wizard noticed the wiggly, wobbly woodchuck eyeing him from under an oak tree.

    “Clyde!” Elmer yelled. “I know it’s you spying on me!”

    Clyde appeared next to Elmer. “Howdja know?”

    “You always use the woodchuck,” said Elmer. “Every single time!”

  8. Cari held the sweatshirt in front of her. “Max must have forgotten it,” thought Cari, “I suppose I really ought to mail it to him.” Max and his parents moved away months ago, but his absence still hurt.

    Cari buried her face in the fabric. “I can still smell him.”

  9. Everything about here felt far, far too familiar. The hallways, the deep “we believe that the Edo period of absolute social stratification was the best of all worlds” in everything that was happening, meant I couldn’t lie to myself.

    Somehow, I had gotten myself trapped in the Academy at Shikoku. And, I had to get out.

    Without any of my magic.

  10. The cat strode in purposefully. Morgan sighed, leaving her “new” stack of ancient tomes for later. Her customers could be touchy, and something about the cat set off alarm bells.

    “May I help you?”

    “My re-bound grimoire. It’s Tuesday.”

    “Oh! You sent Mittens. I thought you seemed… well, you know.”

  11. “Did you know,” said Nigel Slim-Howland, “the customer service agents at the motor vehicle bureau are all Howland Technologies companions?”

    “Are they?” said Mr. Hughes. “I was just there recently. My agent struck me as someone I grew up with.”

    “Exactly,” said Nigel. “They’re designed and programmed to seem familiar!”

  12. Hearing a familiar sound can make us happy, sad, confident, or even afraid.

    Be the familiar sound that inspires those around you to be better.

  13. Inside, the light was greenish, everywhere, but the place looked familiar. He had been in hunting lodges before. If this one was sparse in the trophies, it was still the rooms and corridors, and the rough wood that they fancied.
    The most likely place for a garden was the center.

  14. As Jane walked into her hostess’s living room, she felt more at home than she had since moving to California. Card tables complete with scoring tablets, pencils and ashtrays were set out and she was surrounded by the familiar cadence of Southern accented speech. There was even a dish or two of bridge mix on the side tables. Jane, who had been playing bridge since she was in college, relaxed and gave Lurie an encouraging smile.

    Her friend beckoned her over to chat with Elaine, a woman she knew slightly from PTA meetings. “I’m so glad to hear you play bridge!” Elaine commented. “Lurie says you’ve been coaching her.”

    “She’s been real helpful,” Lurie replied. “I haven’t been playing as long as she has.” This was an understatement, as Lurie had quit school to support her mother and siblings at age sixteen. To her, Southern California was a paradise. She and Jane had met as next door neighbors, and Jane was trying to introduce her to card games and books as an alternative to daytime television. It had taken a promise from Jane to partner her in the game before Lurie would accept the invitation to the bridge party.

    “Have you heard any more about, you know. What happened?” Elaine asked next. “Lurie says you found the body! Was it really right across from the school?”

    “In the construction site,” Jane nodded. “I was walking my daughter to school – fortunately she didn’t see much. There’s been talk of some sort of financial bad dealing associated with that project but I haven’t heard anything directly.”

    Elaine looked alert. “Well, what I heard – ” but a glance from Virginia, their hostess, cut her off.

  15. The light was blinding, coming in through the front viewport despite all the optical shielding that should have been engaged. Captain Lucian could vaguely hear the alarms ringing through the bridge, the rushed movements of his officers, but his ears were ringing as if all of Earth’s sirens were blaring at once. He wondered if one could die of this, if sensory over-stimulation could become fatal.

    It occurred to him that he should probably close his eyes. But somehow – he couldn’t. There was a pattern to the light, there were colors, shapes, something more, something curious

    And then it stopped, and the nebula outside seemed to vanish into blackness.

    And there was a stranger standing on his bridge.

    Wait. Was it a stranger? There was something oddly familiar about the figure – Lucian could have sworn he’d seen the eyes before, at least. And he looked human. Which was surprising, this far out from Earth. Particularly given the lightshow. No, this couldn’t be a human,

    The… person didn’t move from where he was standing. (He looked like a he, so Lucian was going with that for the moment.) He seemed to be entirely occupied with his own hands, staring at them as if they were a pair of exotic beasts that might bite him. Dark eyes of a faintly Middle Eastern shape, so very familiar. About a head taller than Lucian, the same height as his brother back home, but with a thicker build, much more like his father’s…

    Oh. And the eyes were Adaya’s. Exactly Adaya’s, he just wasn’t used to seeing them on a man’s face.

    Be polite, be polite, for God’s sake, don’t start a war… Lucian cleared his throat. “Greetings,” he said, thanking God and all the saints for the translator tech they’d managed to barter for so many worlds ago. “Do you understand this language?”

    The man started, his gaze flying from his hands to Lucian’s face, eyes wide. (Adaya’s eyes should never be that wide, she would never show surprise, not unless it was a ploy of some sort…)

    “Ah! I -” he stopped, staring into space. “I,” he said slowly, as if savoring the words, “understand you.” A child’s smile appeared on his face. “Yes! I understand you!”

    His eyes shifted back to Lucian, and he started forward quickly. Lieutenant Efran started to raise her weapon, but even before Lucian could tell her to stand down, the figure tripped over his own feet and hit the deck facefirst.

    Lucian winced. Stars about us, even the Delri weren’t this… He didn’t even know how to finish the thought.

      1. Ah, so you caught my inspiration! I’ve been binging on Star Trek clips from YouTube recently. John de Lancie is absolutely fantastic!

        As for this guy… yeah, he’s not anywhere near well-enough acquainted with matter-based beings to carry off Q’s… Q-ness just yet. Captain Lucian somehow found his way into a nebula no other race has ever entered before (environmental dangers to be determined later), and thus came across the energy-based lifeforms that live there.

        Those lifeforms spotted something very, very strange, and decided to send off someone to investigate. Specifically, the individual of their race who’s most interested in new experiences. Only problem is, the ‘Ambassador’ took on a matter-based form to be able to communicate better, and that’s going to have a steep learning curve no matter how much he/she/it/whatever likes trying new things.

    1. Nice to see you throwing in some sci-fi, too! I do need to get back to a particular crew of mine if all the characters caught up in this high stakes battle of sorceresses and their knights (with mechs!) will give me enough of a break to do it!

        1. It’s not mine either, which made this particular group showing up – and sticking around – after a blurb prompt Sarah gave us ages ago especially surprising. I haven’t even replayed the Mass Effect series or read anything in the vicinity of space opera in ages at the time either! It’s probably a good thing I’ve got my hands full with other games right now since all I need is to be juggling one more setting, and one in a genre I don’t really get either!

  16. As Connor crossed the terrace, he was halfway aware of Marshal Gruzinsky talking with Elaine. However, it was only after he was inside that Connor realized he’d been able to understand them.

    Seeing Lisa at the sideboard, Connor decided she was probably his best source. “Say, didn’t Elaine used to speak Russian with Spartan?”

    Lisa shrugged. “You know, I don’t really pay that much attention. But then, I studied over there, so half the time I don’t even realize when people around here switch back and forth between languages.”

    Connor could appreciate that. Although he’d studied Russian to meet his foreign language requirement as an undergrad, he’d discovered just how superficial his knowledge was when he came here. Thankfully, all of Spartan’s Own had enough English to get by.

    Lisa’s brow furrowed in thought. “Come to think of it, they switched about the time they started getting closer. I don’t think she was comfortable switching to ty with him, and given their age difference, he’d be uncomfortable with her continuing to use vy — you probably haven’t noticed how, whenever she’s in a group that’s speaking Russian, she carefully avoids the second person when speaking to him.”

    Connor shook his head. “‘Fraid my Russian isn’t up to that. Just know the distinction exists, and it’s super-important not to mess it up after you’re about twelve, and it’s hard to understand when English doesn’t have it.”

    “Actually, English used to have a t/v distinction. You can still see it in Shakespeare and the King James Bible, but it had pretty much died out on both sides of the Atlantic by the Revolutionary War. According to what one of my linguistics teachers told me, it was because the Quakers were going around thee-ing and thou-ing everyone, even the King, and nobody wanted to be mistaken for a Quaker, so everybody else stopped using the singular second-person altogether.”

    Connor essayed a wry smile. Like his ur-brother, he’d been raised in the Society of Friends, although he had drifted away from it in college and pretty much stopped altogether while in the Navy.

    1. Interesting. I was vaguely aware of the difference between ‘thee’ and ‘you’ being the informal and the formal, respectively. But I’d never heard that about the Quakers!

  17. Gruel. For a moment, the familiar food made his eyes sting. He bent his head over it and ate, faster than he had known that he could eat. The girls bolted theirs as well.
    Outside voices rose, declaring the ash heap was too large, and they had to go elsewhere.

  18. You know Karen, you got two collections from “There’s a Sword for That” but I can’t find “There’s a Sword for That”. 😉

  19. Traditional Chinese New Years – Year of the Pig, Dragon, etc., have been updated for modern times. Years will alternate good or bad luck, and have socially-relevant themes. The next Chinese New Year’s theme is “women’s rights”, and will not bring good luck. It really will be a fem ill year.

  20. “Look, I’ve tested it, and its thaumic radiance matches your magic’s. Are you sure it’s not yours?” His roommate shoved the pinioned raven at him.

    He stepped back before it could do him injury. “I haven’t tried to summon mine yet, and I’ve never seen this one in my life.”

        1. I think in some cultures, seeing your doppelganger means you’re going to die. But your idea sounds just as reasonable – it probably all depends on your personality, and whether the doppelganger exactly matches it.

  21. “Took you long enough,” the small black cat said.

    Oh no. Cats don’t talk. Jude kept that thought very quiet as Lucy stared at the small feline.

    “Ah, what did you say?” Lucy asked, pure puzzlement on her face.

    “I said it took you long enough. The service is good, but the food’s a little dry.” The cat stood, stretched, and blinked up at the pair. “And you need to strengthen your shields. Just because Jude and Shoim have wards and shields on the house is no excuse for you to get lazy.”

    It took all of Jude’s self control not to laugh – or wail – as Lucy realized that she had been “blessed” with a Familiar.
    [No, this is NOT canon.]

  22. Follow-up to the last one…

    “Goodness you’re a mess, Vincent,” Carys sighed, though she had to leave helping him out of the damaged Ashleshia to Brad and the Baldrazian engineers near him. “Don’t tell me you actually like spending time in that old lich’s office.”

    “Fraulein Lafrenz makes the trip worth it for most of us, Dame Carys!” one of the soldiers said, eliciting laughter from his comrades. “She could have stepped right out of one of Herr Carter’s magazines!”

    “Hey! Not in front of the lady, Jakob!” Brad admonished, though he still couldn’t keep a wide grin off his face.

    “Oh? She ‘could have stepped right out of one of Brad’s magazines?’ Is that the real reason you keep getting hurt, Vincent?” Carys’ violet eyes flashed dangerously as she spoke, sending a chill through the Undying soldier’s body.

    “C-Come on, Carys!” Vincent stammered. “When have I ever not picked up a good scrape or two fighting Edmund?”

    “Vincent may be a foolish child about many things, but you never had to worry about him succumbing to Sabrina Lafrenz’s superficial charms, Carys,” Ashleshia said, her mechanical voice silencing the crowd. “He is aware that she is as wicked as anyone who has ever thrived working for Walter Dunst.”

    Carys’ scowl softened at the draconic mech’s words, though she still gave Brad and the engineers an exasperated sigh. Vincent was relieved in his own way, too. He had been half-expecting Ash to hand Carys some line about how he had only ever had eyes for her the whole time.

    “Well. We have a lot to explain to you and little time to do so, especially if you must go in for treatment soon, Vincent,” the sorceress said, giving the men present a pleasant, yet cool and professional, smile. “His Majesty Friedrich and Her Highness Renata are waiting along with Marshal Steinmann in the command room. I am not very familiar with this fortress, so if you could show me the way?”

    “Su – I mean, it would be my pleasure, Carys.” he replied, remembering a line Ash had told him to practice.

    “Just what is going on here…?” Vincent wondered, motioning for Carys to follow him as Brad began one of his usual arguments with Ash. “There are way too many VIPs here for this to be one of our many ‘beat on the Mad Empress’ army until she gets bored’ war with Arev…”

    1. Interesting. There are a lot of names being thrown around, which made it a bit challenging for me to follow, but the tension is good. Vincent’s last thought there is nicely foreboding, in a ‘things to come’ sort of way.

      1. Glad you’re still enjoying it and sorry about that! I’ve got a lot of trouble keeping track of this bunch, too, believe me! Renata’s shown up a few times already and if you remember the vignette with the war council the king overseeing the meeting was indeed King Friedrich of Baldraz and the marshal was there too. And just wait until Walter and Sabrina actually show up in one of these vignettes… A necromancer doctor and biologist with tremendous political influence and his supermodel witch apprentice/receptionist is quite the sinister combination!

  23. “Mckenna? Thomas Mckenna?”

    He unwound himself from the frame of the waste-steam pipe assembly he’d been at debugging, or trying to… “What do you want?” (He’d not said “On a Christmas Eve’s Eve in port and holiday shorthanded.”) The nondescript, tall-ish man in the shabby shop coat looked a touch familiar, as if he’d seen him on one of the skilled-labor crews lately; nothing definite, with an odd sense he’d seen him somewhere much farther back.

    “Might I have a word with you, maybe down the hall a bit?” With a tiny toss of the head that seemed to hint at indicating the blowout shelter, right at the dead-end of this maintenance alleyway. “Something that might go better without the audience.” And jerked his head again, at the laborer stolidly torque-tightening flange bolts with a recording torque wrench, one of the most madly boring jobs in all the hundreds of thousands of tons the Fireball had. The strong, silent, cheerful, easy-going guy the others mostly called The Monk.

    “Kinda busy at the moment. And you would be..?”

    “Ally Kardosian; or maybe Steven Karnes, of the Ninth Street Tigers. Take your pick, Thomas Mckenna, or maybe Thomas Hardy.” His voice shifted only a bit over the sentence, but suddenly he sounded just like the guys from back home. A place Tom spent years and light-years getting far-away from.

    The Tigers… that was years and lifetimes, a ‘life’ or two ago.

    He’d also produced something out from under his coat: one of those ‘dual use’ sorts of things, that could as easily be a tool as a weapon. “This is an F-laser, by the way, and not a low-powered one. Don’t know if you’ve ever seen one of ’em, right up-close, so look at that there iron bracket on the dotlight.” Red, helium-neon colored laser dazzle showed Tom a spot two feet from his head.

    There was a soft, whirring sound; and the thick steel sort of dimpled in and disappeared in roughly a half-inch circle, so that inside of a couple of seconds, you could see right through the hole. Thomas let his gaze rest on the gun, as it whirred again, caught the telltale rainbow-fog sparkle of stray scalar-field energy where a firearm’s ‘clip’ might be. Cheap or boosted, not so precise or safe. Leaky but surely workable, a thug’s sort of gun built to impress. Like an internal-combustion engine with no muffler.

    Most likely, with that kind of storage, sub-milligram amounts of energy; plenty to vaporize (softly and silently) tons of matter on one charge.

    Kardosian-or-Karnes smiled, rather coldly even by Tigers standards. “Very next thing to an old-timey ‘disintegrator gun’ science ever yet made.”

    Now there were two holes in the bracket, almost touching. The same effect would make holes in pipes, or people, or anything not transparent to its UV cutting beam. “Nowhere to run, you, either; almost nowhere to hide and never for long. You see nothing, hear nothing, do nothing, you slanty little monkey,” — this aside to the Monk — “maybe you’ll make it home still breathing to your monkey mama tonight.”

    There were great and wonderful things to serving on an Ulam-drive ship, huge enough to dwarf any dawn-age Saturn V or Starship, pushed along by rhythmically-exploding nuclear bombs; small and intimate crews with mutual knowledge and trust wasn’t one of them. Especially when an old Belter ship had been half-stripped before being redone lately, now these crazy “Orion” drives were ‘in’ again. Lots of patched-together, lots of people needed to smooth rough edges between reliable old and cobbled-up new. Lots of easy opportunity to “run off and join the circus” here.

    “You, Mister Hardy,” — his mother’s maiden name back in the day, only it was Harding and his corrections had never took — “not going to be so lucky. But you go nice and gently into that decompression hut back there, maybe you’ll go more gently into that good night. Lots of ways to go more harshly, you see, with one of these.” And he smiled, fondly or even a bit wistfully. “Good times, good times.”

    The Monk, who Thomas remembered was also called Satoshi, had slowly and silently taken off his sandals. Out of easy sight of the tall man who was pretty clearly a Tigers claw. Now the Monk moved with the same economy of motion as always, but… differently. Meditatively.

    As if every motion was a flowing seamless part of a meditation or a drill. A graceful way that made every move a prayer, an offering; and he began to see how maybe ‘The Monk’ wasn’t quite the opprobrium it sounded.

    Especially among ones for whom “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” was far closer to a commandment and a way of life than a mere saying.

    “Long way out here from Ninth Street, Mister Karnes. Hard to see why even the Tigers would ever bother.” Thomas was back in his old-home voice, now, not crazy-brave but solidly even-tempered and showing no weakness at all.

    “New broom sweeps clean, Mister Hardy. New Man On Top says we settle all the old red lines in our Book — clear all the old accounts. Suddenly one of our old Tigers sees you in a bar on Parcheesi, she snaps a pic and she shoots off a scrap of text, and one domino knocks another… you know.”

    There was no toothpick in his mouth, to shift from one side to the other for punctuation or emphasis in the old Ninth Street way; but there might just as well have been. “And surely the album of… just deserts to just deserters of our Cathouse, let’s call it, will do pour bien encourager les autres for an fair long syne to come.” Again that wistful smile.

    Purest Ninth Street vernacular. Authentication handshook.

    The Monk had backed away and further into the eraserman’s blind spot by two or three steps, after setting down the wrench and removing both his shoes, all in utter graceful silence. Now he bowed slightly to Thomas (or maybe also to the newcomer) and started to move. Like an avalanche. And Thomas fixed his eyes on the inch-wide circle of the laser’s emitter and had to feign no fear at all. “Anticipation won’t make it taste any l-”

    Karnes folded by the neck, thrown forward untidily, and fell in a heap. It wasn’t in Thomas’ routine experience, but he still knew a broken neck when he saw one; though he’d been more concerned with catching the F-laser and keeping the dead man’s finger off the trigger. Thousand-psi live steam pipes, fifty-kilovolt DC feeds, all sorts of don’t-touch-it in here…

    Satoshi, The Monk, bowed to Thomas over hands clasped by the waist, in a posture even he knew as “the Enlightened One in me blesses the Enlightened One in you.” Still with that wildly fluid grace, that made 105% standard gravity look like Moon-fractional gee. “Should I be the one to report to Security, Engineer Mckenna, or should you?” It wasn’t even a half-minute trip to the wired phone in the blowout hut, but it might as well have been a century, before. Wireless anything did not do so well, here in the metal bowels of a jump-capable starship, even on port active standby.

    “I’ll do it, Satoshi, isn’t it? He was aiming this thing at me.”

    “Yes, Mister Mckenna. Satoshi: the smallest fractional-coin value of one of those old Dawn Age crypto-commodities; the very closest one can get to nothing and still be something. As humble as I can simply manage.” And he smiled a very different kind of wistful smile. “It is said that even such a revered saint as Milarepa of old Tibet started out as the blackest of sorcerers. Perhaps for such as me and you, then, redemption may yet come.”

    And he turned to pick up the recording torque wrench and return to his meditations and devotions, as if they’d never been profanely interrupted at all.

    (Hat tip to “O. Henry” for “A Retrieved Reformation” — and femtosecond pulse lasers really do exist and really do things very similar to what’s described here…)

    1. Nicely done! I like this ‘Monk’ character a great deal, and you did a good job handling the tension of being held at sort-of-gunpoint. (Those are real? Yikes.) I like this Monk character, he’s an interesting enigma. And definitely seems like the kind of guy you want on your side in a fight.

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