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

Sorry this is so late. WordPress ARGH.-SAH

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

Honestly, some authors and their pushy self promo…. ahem:
FROM SARAH A HOYT: Lights Out and Cry (The Shifter Series Book 5)

It is New Year’s Day in Goldport Colorado, the most shifter-infested town in the known universe.
At the George — the diner where shifters gather — Kyrie is about to give birth, Tom is getting psychic messages from the Great Sky Dragon and Rafiel is looking for information on why the mayor exploded.
Fasten your seat belts. This is going to be a fast ride into adventure and shape-shifting, after which things will never be the same.

FROM LAWDOG: The LawDog Files: Revised and Expanded

The entire sworn personnel complement of the department consisted of the Sheriff, the Chief Deputy and two patrol deputies.

That was it.

I miss that county.

To me, law enforcement is tracking an Alzheimer’s patient for four hours through the boonies after he wandered away from home; answering a 911 call because a rattlesnake is about to eat a nest full of baby birds; and scaring off ghosts because the lady of the house lost her husband ten years ago, her children live out of state, and you are the only outside contact she gets.

For me, being a cop is about keeping an eye out for a black-and-white dog of indeterminate ancestry, red bandanna, whose 9-year-old owner is crying his eyes out.

Most new officers will start out in medium-to-large cities/counties and never know what it’s like to patrol when your only back-up is 45 miles away as the cruiser drives – and asleep in bed, to boot.

So, I tell stories and hope that through those, the Gentle Reader can get a glimpse of what it’s like to be a Western small-town, rural Peace Officer

FROM MARY CATELLI: Through A Mirror, Darkly

What lies behind a reflection?

Powers have filled the world with both heroes and villains.  Helen, despite her own powers, had acquired the name Sanddollar but stayed out of the fights.

When the enigmatic chess masters create a mirrored world reflecting her own home and the world about it, it’s not so easy to escape.  All the more in that the people of that world are a dark reflection of all those she knows.

BY J. ALLAN DUNN, BROUGHT BACK BY D. JASON FLEMING: 3 Western Adventurers: A pulp omnibus

Three western-set adventures by masterpulp adventurer J. Allan Dunn!

Dead Man’s Gold

The old prospector knew he was dying when he shared his secret, in parts.Now four friends have to work together to find his rich vein of gold, fighting the elements, claim jumpers, angry Indians, and each other.

Turquoise Cañon

Jimmy Hollister just lost everything he hadin a stock market crash. After a life of polo and caviar, he cheerfully starts building up his life again, eventually following a girl to Arizona and starting a goat ranch. But hostile neighbors want to make dead sure he never learns the secret of Turquoise Cañon!

The Man Trap

When Jimmy Crewe returned from his prospecting expedition, he discovered that his best friend (and the man who funded his expedition) had disappeared. As he looked into it more, he found that a series of men, in several cities across the country, all with certain similarities, went missing in circumstances that, when compared, roused the suspicious mind. Now, Jimmy is going to find the answer to this mystery — what is the man trap, who is luring these men in, and why?

    This iktaPOP Media omnibus edition includes introductions giving genre and historical context to the three novels within it.

BY EDMOND HAMILTON, BROUGHT BACK BY D. JASON FLEMING: Corsairs of the Cosmos (Annotated): The Interstellar Patrol Volume 3: The classic pulp scifi space opera

In 1930, Edmond Hamilton wrote three more installments of his Interstellar Patrol series of stories for Weird Tales before taking a break from galaxy-spanning space opera. In 1934, he wrote one last story for the series, and then left space opera alone for most of a decade.

Corsairs of the Cosmos collects these final four stories, in which the Milky Way galaxy is menaced by a rogue comet(!), a mysterious cancellation of gravity that threatens to rip apart the galaxy, and an attack from within a “cloud”, inside of which visible light cannot exist, along with the titular final tale, recounting the time when the Patrol had to deal with intergalactic pirates stealing stars out of the galaxy to rekindle their own.

    This iktaPOP Media edition includes a new introduction giving genre and historical context to the collected stories.

FROM KAREN MYERS: Second Sight: A Science Fiction Short Story

A Science Fiction Short Story


Samar Dix, the inventor of the popular DixOcular replacement eyes with their numerous enhancements, has run out of ideas and needs another hit. Engaging a visionary painter to create the first in a series of Artist models promises to yield an entirely new way of looking at his world.

But looking through another’s eyes isn’t quite as simple as he thinks, and no amount of tweaking will yield entirely predictable, or safe, results.

FROM LEIGH KIMMEL: The Wolf and the Well-Tempered Clavier

With the coronation fast approaching, the Cathedral of St. George the Dragonslayer cannot afford trouble. But come it does, while the cathedral choir director is at the Dragon’s Breath Organ, practicing the anthem he wrote at King William’s own request. While explaining some technical terms to his understudy, the choir director decides to show off a little.

In the process, he releases an ancient menace from long before humanity came through the worldgate to this place. An entity that strikes him blind, and threatens further harm to anyone who tries to play the Dragon’s Breath Organ.

However, they dare not disappoint His Majesty, not on the most momentous day of his reign. Someone must cleanse the Dragon’s Breath Organ of this malicious entity, and the choir director cannot. So the task falls to Miss Anne Teesdale, understudy organist.

Now she must delve into the history of the cathedral, and the mysterious ancient magic that fills the organ’s windchest. A secret that may well cost this young woman her life.

Or worse, her sanity.

An Ixilon story.

FROM FRANK HOOD: The Devil’s Due

A controversial aging rocker reminisices about his start in the 70’s and tries to set the record straight about his mysterious, unknown love.

FROM HOLLY CHISM: Normalcy Bias: Look closer…things aren’t always what they seem to be.

Look closer. The things that you’re assuming you’re seeing? May not be what you think. Is that really a mouse, or is it a Brownie? Is that really an owl? Is that polished gemstone a stone…or an egg?

We take so many things for granted. Some of them may be harmless, but many are a lot less so. I wonder how many people ignore red flags every day, because they only see what they expect to see?

This collection takes what’s “normal” and asks “What if it’s something more?”


While removing a prototype sensor from the prow of her new Alliance battleship, the Ausa, Captain Elizabeth Goodwin and her crew encounter a setback when one of the engineers sent to remove and stow the device is injured in an accident. Before the other engineer can help the man, the two are surrounded by amoeboid creatures which seem immune to the effects of vacuum.

Thought to be hallucinations experienced by early spacers who had been alone in deep space too long, these creatures – known as “angel fish” – startle the crew by their sudden appearance. Despite her misgivings, Goodwin allows three of the aliens to be taken aboard for study. But less than an hour after the aliens have been brought on the ship, one of Goodwin’s men is killed and another is seriously wounded.

Her search for both the murderer and the escaped “angels” soon leads to a disturbing revelation. Eventually, Goodwin must decide which threat is greater: an old enemy of the Alliance, or the fabled “angels” encountered by the first explorers from Terra.

FROM SABRINA CHASE: Red Wolf: Exile Part 1

Same map, different world.
Nic Duncan must prove she has what it takes to follow her uncle into the Special Forces. To get his backing she infiltrates a lawless area of postwar Asia posing as an adrenaline-junkie hiker. Checking out a newly discovered cave follows naturally as part of her cover.
But in that cave she encounters a strange artifact—and when she emerges, the world she knows no longer exists. While the terrain remains the same, every sign of civilization has disappeared. No road, no power lines, no GPS, nothing.
Starving and desperately searching for a way back, Nic discovers the relics of the past have vanished too – and the pre-technology people she encounters either terrified of outsiders or ruthless killers.

Can Nic find any safety in this strange yet familiar world … and what must she sacrifice to get 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: Dangerous

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

  1. “The more dangerous you are, the more polite you have to be,” he answered. “Otherwise, you spook people.”
    “Then Little Brother is not dangerous?” she asked, a serious question since he had given her a serious answer.
    But he just laughed. “I guess Little Brother never got the memo,” he said.

    1. This makes me think of John Clark from the Tom Clancy books. (The polite part, rather than the Little Brother Part.) Probably my favorite character from all the Jack Ryan stories.

      If this is a cliche, it’s one I really like – the ‘polite but terrifying’ person. I think Rupert Giles is a pretty good example, among others. Nicely done!

      1. I’m doing this as a response, because otherwise it will log me out, log me in under an identity that never existed and… be wordpress.
        The moment was dangerous, balanced between hope and dread, between eternity and the end.
        “Between freedom and slavery,” someone said.
        “But so is always,” the Speaker answered. “When freemen stand between their homes and the desolation of war. The only thing novel is its being at home.”

      2. Reminds me of the father of a friend from high school. Gentleman was ex-Special Forces. Most polite individual I think I’ve ever met. Also the scariest: he gave of a very calm “f*** with me and I will kill you” vibe. And you could tell he was analyzing everything: keeping tabs on the exits, mentally calculating “if this individual pulls a weapon or tries to get me in an arm lock, what’s the most efficient way to neutralize them with minimal collateral damage?”, etc.

        1. My wife’s friend refer to me as her charming but scary husband. I just laugh anytime I hear that. I don’t consider myself to be terrifying at all; but then I don’t know what’s on that side of the Overton Window.

  2. “That’s Lady E? She doesn’t look…”

    “Dangerous? She hates bullies and dislikes being put on a pedestal. So she keeps a low profile but you really don’t want to see her angry. Then you’ll see just how dangerous she can be.”

      1. I sort of based her on Emily from Chris Nuttall’s Schooled In Magic series.

        This is how some might see Emily.

  3. Spacebum Bob stowed away in the cargo hold on the Earth Mars ferry.

    The blonde, in the bar, in the one and only major martian city, breathlessly asked him, “Wasn’t that very dangerous?”

    Spacebum Bob replied: “Not at all my dear, if you can hold your breath for three weeks.”

  4. When I swore my life to the service of the god of evil, I didn’t expect to spend it fighting demonic cults. But when Dev’el gives an order, it’s best not to question why.

    Then the Lord of the Underworld commanded me to protect a holy warrior, and I found myself dragged along on the man’s foolhardy rescue mission. Now I’m fleeing the followers of every demonic prince known to man in the company of a heroic paladin, a renegade cultist, and an eight year old girl with a secret.

    Richard might kill me if he learns who I work for.

    Erika will kill me once she’s wreaked vengeance on the cult that cast her out.

    Ooshie is far more dangerous than she should be, and every cultist we fight seems to focus their fire on her.

    I just want to make it out of this alive. But the way things are going, I’m not holding out much hope…

    1. Very Interesting!

      One thought is that maybe the Being who gave the order to the narrator isn’t the Being that the narrator swore to serve. Which would cause more problems for the narrator. 😈

      1. That would be rather interesting… I’ll try to keep that in mind for later chapters/books, but in this case, the two are one and the same.

        This is the back-of-book-blurb for my current project. It may shift as the story moves forward, but at the moment I think it’s accurate/intriguing enough.

          1. Nobody. 😉

            Now the God of Evil may fear something/someone and is being forced to “do something” It dislikes because something worse would happen if It didn’t do that something. 😈

          2. In terms of my worldbuilding at present, anyone and everyone. As long as they’re willing to pay.

            If you phrased the question as “Who does the god of evil fear?”, the answer would be very, very different.

            1. Yes, it is a comment.

              But the comment’s meaning is “I’m not going to answer that question.” 😀

            2. Schrodinger’s comment.

              Being aware of the crowd here, I will state on the record that no kitties were put in harm’s way in the course of generating this comment.

    2. In other writing news, I think I just gained Achievement: Recalcitrant Characters.

      I did not expect them to figure something out so quickly. But there were a lot of hints, and it does feel somewhat earned….

      So either I work on removing a few of those hints and making it more difficult, or I run with the revelation as-is. I’m probably going to go with the latter option. It’ll work out. I think.

      This concludes my venting, have a pleasant evening.

  5. (I argued with Amazon for two frigging weeks over that omnibus. And only realized near the end that part of why they seemed to be being so stupid, repeating arguments that they had already declared answered to their satisfaction, among other things, was because without my noticing, I was arguing with two different groups/people. They had, without making it obvious, made the conversation into two separate “support” threads. So one would say “this is a good answer, now about that”, and the other would go “but we’re still not sure about this”. Short-short version: The reason the subtitle is “a pulp omnibus” was because someone, somewhere, thought using “western” in both the title and subtitle would be “misleading” for readers.)

      1. I’m rather sure the department that vets and approves public domain books for publication is the Unnecessarily Complicated & Annoying Dept. Even when there is no possible reason to hold up publication, they find reasons, more often than not.

      1. It’s amazing to me how they solve problems by creating ever-more problems. There are many rules that I recognize good reason for them having, even while I smack my forehead that they couldn’t come up with something less… stupid.

  6. “Look, it can’t be dangerous. If it was, the rangers wouldn’t allow it to roam without fences an’ stuff. I’ll show you. Watch this!”

    “And that, brothers and sisters in the faith, is why we are gathered here today.”

    Behind her hankie, Aunt Myrtle whispered, “John Earl never did have the brains god gave a gnat.”

  7. The Horns was exactly the sort of bar you’d expect a bar fight in. Dimly lit, dirty, filled with dangerous men and cheap drinks of high alcohol content, with heavy tables bolted to the floor and chairs that slid on tracks, nevertheless its patrons and regulars inevitably found something to pummel each other with.

    Normally this was not a problem. Old Heet, owner, bartender, bouncer, and cook knew his clientele. They generally paid for the damage, one way or the other.

    But every now and then, things went a little… sideways.

    The quiet man in the battered coat sat at a corner table, nursing a Smasher Plus. It was a drink made to be guzzled down as quickly as possible, so one would not notice the vile taste but get the dubious benefit of the caffiene, alcohol, and slightly fishy flavored concoction quicker. Yet there he sat, sipping it slowly.

    The fight on the main floor progressed from shoving to slapping to punches, kicks, and stomps. Most patrons watched the growing melee. Old Heet watched the new guy.

    ” ‘Bout time to armor up the bar, Cleve. Grab the shutters boy, quick now.”

    “Whuh- buh-” The scrawny bottle washer blinked owlishly at his boss as his brain attempted to catch up with his ears.

    “Ah said NAOW, BOY! GIT!”

    The fight was now in full on furball. Patrons were being thrown as much as punches. One of the bolted down tables was smashed flat. One fighter had another by the ankles, swinging him around and into other fights nearby.

    The man being swung passed over the quiet man’s table. The stranger drinker merely lifted his mug a touch higher, without a single change of expression. Then he took another sip.

    Old Heet finally smacked the shutter release himself. His employee was currently nursing a sore head, courtesy of a well swung mug. Heavy nanosteel slats hammered down onto the bar, nearly severing a hand that was hastily snatched away. The last thing the grizzled bartender saw as the quiet man looking at the broken handle of his mug with an expression of mild consternation, as if contemplating a minor inconvenience like a sticky deck plate or a squeaky door.

    For a moment, the fight continued on as usual. Shouts and grunts of pain interspersed with cursing and the irregular, meaty sound of something solid hitting flesh.

    Then a howl pierced the chaos like a hot knife through thin plastic. It was the kind of sound a man made when being disemboweled, the old bartender thought. Lungs still worked fine, but the sight of your insides suddenly becoming outsides…

    It wasn’t the last unsettling scream of the night.

    Wet squelching sounds. The hiss of high pressure liquids. Screaming. Begging. And more meaty sounding thunks and smacks.

    After a few minutes, the screaming and the begging stopped entirely. The bottle washer was still staring glass eyed at the ceiling, breathing but not precisely aware. Old Heet sighed. The cleaning bill was going to be steep this time.

    A faint tapping sounded at the armored shutter, like a polite knock at the door.

        1. Yep, that is the “what is” part of my question?

          IE He may appear to be human but is actually something else. 😈

    1. Oh, this is epic! I particularly like the last sentence. And the graphic descriptions of noises work really well in terms of horror. ‘The greatest fear is fear of the unknown,’ and ‘The monster’s only scary until you see it,’ are two concepts I’ve heard that definitely apply there.

      1. Cheap tricks, mostly. Horror writing’s mostly in the setting of the tone. SNAFU, unspeakable gorefestiness, unknown. Rising tension, hide the action, only hint at the horribleness. Then the pause, like the eye of the storm.

        If you want to stretch out something like that, you add in chase scenes, cat-and-mouse action, stuff like that to add tension. Got to intersperse pause points though. Pacing is key in horror- reader fatigue leads to TBAR.

        Chaining together horror scenes is old hat. Not difficult. The tropes are dead easy, pun intended. Writing a decent horror story is easy. Writing a really good horror story… not so easy.

        I don’t really do it any more. I prefer to write things I like to read, like sci-fi. But if anybody needs tips or primers for horror, I gots a few.

  8. “At least it’s not so dangerous,” said Ava.
    “It may be even more dangerous,” said Delia.
    Charlotte-Rose rolled her eyes. “More dangerous in the long run, if we do it wrong, but less for the nonce, so they let us do it underage, as long as we are in time.”

  9. Of course this was going to be a competitive prompt but I think we all knew which group would answer the call!

    “That him?” one of the men hiding in the shadows asked his companion.

    “Yep. Heh, look at him, trying to look tough.” the other man scoffed, taking note of the mild-looking, pale young man wearing a black leather duster over a BDU shirt and pants of the same color. There were some silver accents here and there breaking up the monotony but none of that impressed the lurkers. They just saw what looked like an easy target.

    “Wait a bit, then we strike.” the first man said, holding up a hand.

    The target wandered into the right range and the men leapt out, only to be knocked off his feet by a violent explosion. The second man looked up and his eyes went wide. It couldn’t be. That kid had a gunblade?! That meant…

    He didn’t have time to contemplate the error of his ways. The young man lowered his weapon in the manner of a samurai, swirling winds gathering on the blade before he swung it in a backhand arc and pulled the trigger, focusing the wind into a sonic lance and launching it at the man. There was very little of him left once the blast hit.

    The first man got to his feet just in time to witness his companion’s brutal demise and screamed when he, too, saw the stranger’s weapon. They had chosen one of the most dangerous men in all of Baldraz to try to rob and now they were going to pay with their lives. His would-be target closed the distance before he could react and the last thing he saw was a blinding flash before the black and silver gunblade came down on his head.

    “Anyone else?” the young man asked, keeping the regal, black and silver weapon at the ready as his brown eyes scanned the empty streets. If there were any more members of that particular gang, or any other, looking to challenge him they clearly thought better of it. He sheathed the weapon, satisfied that he wasn’t in immediate danger, and proceeded to the house he was in this decrepit part of Bleidabrik to visit, knocking on the door.

    The slot in the door slid open as dark brown eyes set in a wizened brow glanced out with a look of dark amusement. “I see trouble found you again, lad. Are you going to need my first aid kit?”

    “No, Dr. Dunst,” the young man replied. “This blood is from some would-be muggers, not me. They never knew what hit them.”

    “And that’s why you’re the Gunblade Emperor,” the old man replied, closing the plate and opening the door. “Come in, come in. Anders is as impatient as always so we had best not keep him waiting, Vincent.”

      1. Thanks, though it’s not original. It’s borrowed from Squall and Seifer’s weapon of choice in Final Fantasy VIII, which Square Enix brought back for the Gunbreaker class in Final Fantasy XIV, though Fox knows a lot more about XIV than I do. Not to be confused with the Garlean version of it in XIV!

          1. Glad you’re finding it interesting, then! I played way, way too many games as a kid, especially Japanese RPGs like Final Fantasy, so it’s been a huge influence on my creative stuff. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say Vincent, his setting, and the cast are the results of throwing Final Fantasy VIII, Valkyrie Profile, Trails of Cold Steel, and I’d say Xenogears and Vanguard Bandits too, into a blender and just working with the results.

            1. It’s fun to file the serial numbers off stuff you like, isn’t it? Particularly when you can then introduce characters from different worlds who would never actually meet outside of fanfiction.

              1. Particularly when you can straighten out illogic.

                The fun thing is that a lot of my stories are serial-numbers-filed-off and no one’s recognized one yet.

  10. Lucie’s mouth twisted a little. She wiped the blood off her blade. “Would it be dangerous for me to know?”
    “Possibly. Would it be dangerous for me to know more about you?”
    “More dangerous than this swamp?”
    “Dangerous enough to be noticed on top of it.” Autumn looked at mud.

    1. Just a thought.

      Q: “Would it be dangerous for me to know?”

      A: “It would be more dangerous for you to not know.”

      [Very Big Grin]

      1. They don’t care at the moment. They are two total strangers who have witnessed crimes against their families that have left them completely isolated in a society where that matters and in a swamp as well. Neither one is quite certain the other can be trusted.

        1. Nod, but whenever I hear the question “Would it be dangerous for me to know”, I think of that answer. 😉

  11. It might be dangerous to linger. Odd though it would be for his father to be dying just as he returned, it would be horrible to miss the hour because he lollygagged.
    The grooms and stable boys scrambled out to get the news, he suspected, but they took his horse.

  12. Dangerous? Yes, all of life is dangerous. Seeking freedom is dangerous. Willingly accepting the chains of slavery is dangerous. Look at the fate of the Jews who surrendered to the SS in the 1930s and 1940s, the fate of the “kulak” farmers who surrendered to the “Committees of the Poor” in 1918-1923, those with books or eyeglasses under Pol Pot (1976-1979), et cetera.

    I do not know how I would have behaved if I was around San Antonio de Béxar in late February to early March of 1836. I like to think I would have joined Travis, Bowie, and Crockett on the barricades; but I have never faced that type of test. (I did stand nuclear alerts with a SAC bomber crew in the late ’70s, and I did face off with cancer twice; but my tests were different than those of the men at the Alamo. And I have failed still others.)

    We have dangerous times ahead. Let us resolve to “die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country – Victory or Death.”

    PS, I hope the formatting works.

  13. The pirate was walking down the corridor oblivious to the danger hiding farther down the passageway. Leave it to old Man Simon to send me on this goose chase he thought to himself.
    “Go on down there and check out that door sensor Worm food” Simon had ordered.
    “C’mon Simon it’s not that the Calistans know we are here, they’re on the other side of the moon. Besides those old relay’s always give out false positives” he had complained.
    “Ya daft bugger go now or I’ll throw you out the nearest hatch without a suit and it’s third Mate Simon to you Worm food” Old Simon had again ordered.
    So he grabbed his heavy toolbox and a couple of relay replacements, they were so shoddily made half were bad new. It wouldn’t be so bad but they had cut back on the rations lately and he was weak from the hunger. This outer hatch was the farthest from the busy spaces and passageways where most of the pirates conducted business. He was still grumbling about being sent all the way down here.
    Staff Sergeant Stacy Tanaka sat waiting, she could hear his grumbling all the way down the passage. She was in a little alcove that had been put in so personnel could step out of the way of carts and other powered equipment as they made their way up and down the passages. A good designer, or at least a Calistan one, would have put a squad room in down here and guarded every door with troops not just sensors, dangerous mistake on their part. Not that she was complaining much, every little bit helps. She eased her Katana out of its scabbard, it wasn’t a family heirloom from old earth, it was a modern manufactured blade made from Calistan steel. It was hungry since it hadn’t been fed since they took over the pirate ship that led them here. Stacy waited, Marcus wanted it quiet and a Katana was ever so quiet and even in this time of magnetic pulse rifles and sidearms it was still ever so dangerous.
    The Katana would slice right through the soft suits these pirates used. Not that she cared, she lived to kill pirates, they had killed her only brother and she had actually loved her brother. He was also the last Tanaka male, their line had ended with his death. She would make the pirates pay dearly for that. Just a little closer she thought. The swing of the blade was unhampered by the soft suit he wore, aided by the strength of her coming from a higher gravity planet and this planetoid’s weaker gravity the blade was but a flash of silver. Worm Food fell in two pieces to the deck blood was starting to ooze all over the deck. She dipped one finger in the blood and quickly wrote on the bulkhead.
    ‘Mind your feet, Dangerous footing’
    “Come my pretty, time to feed” she said to her blade.
    She laughed and moved down the passageway looking for more pirates to kill.

  14. It was a sort-of typical real-estate office in Los Angeles. This one carried on a Louis Quinze theme in the cheap reproduction furniture and decor.

    The only two genuine things there were the full-sized guillotine in the corner and the broker – my partner, Dan Giroux.

  15. “I can’t believe you house mice!” cried Skidoo. “There’s a big world outside waiting for us!”

    “There are owls. And wolves,” answered Nibbles. “The dangers are endless out there.”

    “Granted,” said Skidoo, “but haven’t you noticed there’s a cat in here?

    “Yes, but at least we know where he is.”

  16. “Years ago, I remember challenging Lily to walk along the top of a wall on our property,” said Nigel Slim-Howland. “She took a few steps, then fell off. Oh, how she cried!”

    “Was she damaged?” asked Jenkins.

    “Not at all. She was only warning me away from trying dangerous stunts!”

  17. “They been pushing at us for weeks, now. We pushed back normal, but it not always work. We cans always call on the deep power, nothing in this world stand up to thems. But it cost us our peace in mind, after. They pushing us, but we be danger, us.”

  18. Another shadow loomed, and another, both hanging in the air, out of the glow’s range. The glowing figure pointed his hand, and bolts of light burst from his fingers, tearing into them.
    It is too dangerous to stand and gawk, Marcus told himself, but he picked another way to run.

  19. “I know the work is a bit less than safe, and that a keeping a sense of humor without going overboard – so to speak – helps. I don’t mind the designs on the gear…”

    “But? I hear a but in there…”

    “Would it be too much to NOT call them Danger-oos?”

  20. “Oooh, ooh, danger noodle!” The extremely tipsy unaltered human– one of only two in the group of over a dozen people.
    The target of his suggestion snorted along with the laughter that drew.
    “I am not using a code name that sounds like a rude joke, and informing people it’s ancient slang for a snake wouldn’t help.”
    A third member of the group– a greenish woman with pointed ears– started to choke.
    Pocket python!
    “Why did you guys decide I needed a code name, anyways?!”

        1. Of course, sometimes people discard Tradition and painfully learn that there was a reason behind Tradition.

        2. :looks at road out front, which needs work again:
          If everyone is driving in the same spot so identically that they make a divot, there’s generally a reason for it.

  21. “So why haven’t the cosmonauts called us for help, if their situation is so dangerous?” That was one of the technical specialists, a perfect example of the Geek if Shelly had ever seen one. “I mean, how’s it going to help them if they die just because they can’t possibly allow Americans to see inside their base?”

    While someone else might have responded with a cutting put-down, Admiral Chaffee remained pleasant. “It’s easy to forget just how paranoid the Soviet government can be, or how vindictive. When Leonid Gruzinsky returned to their embassy in Washington DC after helping us get the Aphrodite astronauts safely to Earth, he literally didn’t know whether he’d be rewarded or punished. And if it were the latter, there was a real possibility that his entire family could face repercussions. Maybe not actual imprisonment, the way things were done back in Stalin’s days, but at least demotions and expulsion from the Communist Party.”

    Yes, Mr. Life Support Engineer was getting the picture of just what was at stake for the cosmonauts, and quite possibly their families as well.

  22. You ever thought leaves dangerous? Me neither! But when one leaps up from the ground and tries to crawl inside your best friend’s head to make a nest, your opinions tend to change a bit. Also you start carrying a pretty substantial burner and flinching whenever the wind picks up, which gets you a lot of weird looks. But hey, it’s not all bad! You did start the first interplanetary war. That has to get you a few bragging points, right?

  23. Despite Deborah’s…misgivings, we were out and through the tunnel-an old but well-kept steam tunnel, if I had to make a guess. And, it was very well-kept. Overhead LED lights-just enough to be able to see where you were going, but not too bright. And, somebody with an obsession with electronics had built a signal board system. At two checkpoints, I had to push a button to indicate that I was passing those points and I suspected there was a log kept. Only to ensure that if there was a problem, the right people would know, of course. From there, we made it to our exit point.

    As promised, there was a retractable periscope wrapped up in an oiled cloth and I stuck it up through the grate. Clear of anything that was a risk, I turned on my cell phone and waited for a network signal. My burner phone connected immediately and I tapped out a quick message to Viola. There was a reply in a few seconds, and I considered the location.

    Even here, behind a half-wall section to serve as a windbreak, things were thoughtful. There’s a simple flat concrete bench-just enough space to sit down while you wait for your ride. There is a signal box for when you arrived from your escape-or were leaving. A small electric heater and a ventilation fan on a timer was built in the wall, just enough to cut the cold. Oh, and well-placed drainage pipes in case snow and ice melted when you turned the heater on. The ladder was stamped steel and was built so that you could climb up easily, and the grate over our head only looked rusty and worn, with concealed springs to make it easier to raise and lower.

    It was cold, but the heater did help and Deborah was hunched down in her jacket, staying warm. I opened the signal box and looked at the light board there. There were eight lights, all labeled, and the last three lights were green-waiting for me to signal that I had accomplished my next task to escape. I tapped the two buttons that signaled arrived at the station and waiting for a ride, the green lights turned red. If I was coming into the school, the red light would turn amber, then green for me to proceed to the next point.

    This was someone that had figured out all the steps in a proper form of industrial engineering or a logistics degree of some kind and I had to be impressed. My phone buzzed and there was a text message waiting for me-Ready to pick you up-and I gave Deborah a gentle nudge. “Our chariot awaits,” I smiled, and found the final thing I would need to leave-the key in the leaving the campus box. I had to turn it to the “off” position and pull the key out, because the same key unlocked the grates outside lock. I’d need the key to get back in, and stick the key into the box to start coming back in. The lanyard goes smoothly around my neck, I hide the key under my blouse and we’re climbing up the ladder.

    Viola and Kiokyo are waiting in a proper SUV-with four-wheel drive, snow tires, and two of the most dangerous women I know in my life just in case something goes wrong. “Hide under the blanket until we’re near the freeway proper,” Viola tells us, letting us into the back seats. “Got a thermos of hot chocolate waiting for you.”

    “Thank you,” I reply, bow slightly, and slip into the back seat, and Deborah has been arranging herself under the blanket. I buckle myself in, slip in, and discover…that Deborah has placed herself under the blanket so that I have to hold her up on my shoulder while we’re leaning over. So, I get under the blanket, pull it over us, and I can feel Deborah’s shoulder on mine…and there’s that warm feeling of connection that I have with Sayuri. That I almost have with Mariana. Just…the rightness of having her here with me.

    The SUV rolls out of the spot, and I’m asleep in moments, stress relieved because of where I am and who I’m with.

  24. Given the spells for restful sleep that came standard on the cabin beds, it shouldn’t be possible for him to be thrashing and muttering the throes of a nightmare.

    She stood slightly away, empty water glass in hand. Even being splashed hadn’t woken him, and calling his name had only made things worse.

    She wavered, clenching and unclenching her hands. He was a fighting man, and she knew that one did not shake such men awake without risking injury. But nothing else was working.

    She took a deep breath and reached for his shoulder.

      1. Trauma of the “I fought and sealed my evil doppelganger who was trying to vivisect my ally” variety, with a fair bit of pre-existing “I failed my (different set of) allies (even though they are all still alive)” guilt mixed in, and a hangover from being under the influence of mind-control magic for… a while.

        You know how dreams are, they don’t care if none of those have anything to do with the others.

          1. He was doing alright with the guilt and the hangover, but yeah, the evil doppelganger was a bit much.

  25. As I opened the front door, I stopped and then cursed myself. Back I went, and slid my phone, ID, and keys in my pockets, and then checked and holstered my loaded and chambered pistol. That’s how dangerous 2023 had become just to take an exercise run around the neighborhood.

  26. Marius started putting on the greaves to his space armor.

    And across the room, Francezka looked at him… a certain way. Not the way a man’s wife might look at him, because they were colleagues and First and Second in command of this particular mobile outpost of the Service, but a bit the same quizzical way; or even a trifle like a suspicious fishwife might, in the half-barbaric markets on the ragged northern edges of the Empire.

    “What are you doing, Marius?” (Said in that inquiring tone of voice, too.)

    “I had this strange thought that since this is supposed to be a survey and conditional-contact mission, I might go outside and see if those ones with the feathers on their heads might be up for a bit of First Contact.”

    Now she really did look somewhat like an irked fishmongress, hands on hips and all — and while he was from the outlying fringes of the New City, she did come from a thoroughly provincial background herself. “Are you simply and floridly insane after all your years among the stars, Marius? First the littlest lizards show up after we land, then the bigger Thunder Lizards arrive and start to fight over this suddenly-interesting forest clearing, then the really fast little ones pop up and everyone starts trying to shed as much blood as fast as they can… and then finally, the upright-biped ones, that look like lizards with feathers on their heads, come onto the scene and chase away all the rest with what look like primitive firearms.

    “And it’s just then, after all that dramatic action, you suddenly get it into your likely-addled head to want to go outside and have a chat? With what just proved themselves to be the apex predators of all the bloody lot? Haven’t you considered that might be a little… dangerous to do?”

    “Precisely, my dear Francezka. Your last point is the telling one. You too know the wars are not going well; you know the Senate and the Emperor both have asked every one of us, but especially we of the various Services, to do what we can to tip that hazardous situation over toward the better.” And as he continued to methodically add the various bits of actual armoring over his pressure suit (not strictly needed here, but also potentially useful in many ways) underneath, he went on, with a soft smile that was somehow both wistful and calmly bloodthirsty at the same time–

    “I can’t help wondering, looking at those latter scenes of magnificent and efficient carnage, just how effective a few legions of allies like those manly feather-lizards might be, on the Home World or some of our fractious colony planets. Now of course there are many obstacles, or even possibly outright impossibilities, between now and here and there and then; but I really do believe it’s my duty to go outside and have a go. In full impact and ballistic armor, of course, ready to seal up against gas, and with you at the remote controls of all our guns backing me up all the way.”

    And Marius smiled again, a little less wistfully, a bit more the other. In that specific way that said he would win this point, by logic or by rank.

    And his second-in-command sighed. Genuinely, and not for effect.

    “Do try not to get your ass shot off, Marius, really. I’ve gotten all too accustomed to your ugly face these past dozen years.”

    (And finally, a vignette that’s well under the 8K limit beyond which risks The Implacable Moderation-Purgatorial Wrath of Willie Pete — as written, no editing-down required!)

  27. “Well, in a few words,” she said, swirling dark, rich, half-sweet wine in her glass carefully in the low gravity, “Marquesas is… quite beautiful. And, of course, home. Hardly anyone’s favorite holiday spot, though; ours is rarely a showoffy, touristy kind of beauty, and out On the Rim it’s not convenient to the bustling bee-swarms of the Empire of Man.” And drank, a brief, appreciative little.

    “There’s a line from an old turn-of-the-millennium song we adopted ‘way back, a bit mutated let’s say, for the cooler seasons on the Old East Coast: ‘our cold steel rain’ — our famous, infamous sleet. Which of course happens when rain freezes, usually right after melting into being from snow. Most planets, it’s rare, or mixed up with actually-freezing rain. Transitional between plain rain in the warm season and outright snow in the cold. But back home, it’s almost a fixture for several months. Not ever consistent, yet stubbornly recurrent.”

    Again she smiled, almost-obviously re-feeling its sting on her face.

    “Just when that raw damp chill that’s so good at slicing through whatever you’re wearing to get to you, at keeping all sticky and dewy, packs up and goes — all a-sudden there the sleet is instead, smacking you in the face with how nice it’s not, to be out in it, quite a different way.” Nicola laughed. “Sure I’m on the ball to impress you, on how wonderful Marquesas would be to see. Sitting here with you now, Garrett, in the lovely middle of this all.” Waving her empty hand at the sub-urban street rising around them… though of course, he had to guess, that’d all mean a bit different to her; seeing it all (trying, this glorious afternoon) at least halfway as she might.

    Newly. As if he’d been born and raised, also, to another world and star.

    It wasn’t one more day-trip to New Sydney Down Under for him, either, it couldn’t be. As he was already coming half-clearly to understand, it was different to all he’d done before, doing this now with her.

    The street really was a street; two lanes of broad sidewalk, like the cafe where they sat, then pedestrian walkways, and inside both smooth roadways for wheeled and aircushion vehicles, flanking a central line of tall trees and lesser plantings. In an urban canyon roughly five or six stories tall, cut deftly into native rock under a graceful bright arch of “sky.”

    Subterranean-urban. Classic ‘Old Mars’ design.

    Soaring a hundred-plus feet over their heads was the rock of the ceiling. Because, of course, this was Mars, old-Mars at that, and a few dozen yards of rock on top of you was all sorts of useful. To cut the incoming cosmic radiation to almost nothing; to pressurize the rock and make it stronger in compression and over-counteract the ten tons per square meter of almost Earth-sea-level air within; to keep those sturdy feet of rock between that comfortably-pressurized air and unbreathable Martian air never even thick enough to keep pure oxygen thick enough for you to breathe it…

    “At least you can see your sky, Nick. About anytime you want. Here, or at least in Sydney, we make do with a bright whitewashed barrel-vault of not quite ‘heaven’ — and” (he pointed) “that dazzly spotlight you see on the ‘ceiling’ — right where the sun would be if it shone. If you’ve taken the trouble to learn, you can even tell time by it pretty well, like up on the surface. Except, never a sandstorm blocking sight of a sun-patch. No rems to take as you look.”

    She smiled softly, languidly at him in return.

    “Sure, long as you can follow the angles close enough, long as you’ve kept up with that huge up-to-an-hour equation of time you have here, between mean solar time and true, from clock to sundial time.” She waved it away, as if anyone could do it. “But do you ever miss it? The weather, the sky? I mean, no clouds, no rain, no sleet, no snow, no such thing ever, just this day and this night and your slow seasons here…”

    Garrett smiled back, took another taste of his ale from back home (to him) in Hypatia Colony. “Sandstorms do a pretty good job blotting out the sun, sometimes for days and days on end. And we have clouds, real ones of ice or dry ice ‘way up in the sky. Not so often, more at dusk and dawn than midday, but we have them. Some towns have ‘windows’ you can see real sky through, always, only feet of water thick to cut the cosmic.”

    Smiled broad over the lip of his tankard. “And, if you’d guessed it never rains, in NSDU, you’d be wrong. Never to inconvenience the locals or the visitors, hardly ever in the day and usually to a known schedule, often at different times on either side of the street. And never sleet; it’s about sure there’d be… complaints. But it does, certain special days, get cold enough e’en here to almost compel a jacket.” He made ready to explain how ‘compel’ and ‘Martian’ were near incompatibilities, like quantum position and momentum, indefinable laid too close together…

    And something soft and stealthy and quite indecently swift slapped them both mildly but sharply. With a quiet report to accompany. As he reacted himself, in trained alert and quizzical alarm, he could see her expression change, almost feel a bit of what she felt. Nick had been looking, and talking, quite relaxed; now she looked alert as he felt, and potentially quite altogether dangerous.

    Comforting. So like home.

    Daughter of Borgias, scrolled through his mind. True Daughter of Marquesas, where they have five governments or none. While he listened for his netbox on broadcast alerts and advisories — the format was world standard, though NewSyd’s details’d be different from his own — and heard no tones, no chords. (Not even the one that told, ‘net comm lost.’)

    “Not normal?” Nick asked. In almost a combat-talk staccato.

    “Shock waves, never. And smoke, like that behind you? Never kosher, in a hab volume.” It was dark-gray, almost black; to his very not-experienced eyes looked to be from some deeply under-oxygenated explosive like the classic TNT.

    “Thing about Mars,” he said as he watched her turn (quick like a bird) and look at the oily-dark bloom maybe half a mile down the street, past one of the cross-junctions where emergency pressure doors were already lowering to half-closed (they could drop full-closed like a portcullis very fast), “is we’re only mostly libertarian, live-and-let-live types. Always a few, who want to order everyone else around, think they ought make them dance to their own mad little tune. Heads full of Marx-rot, Divine Right of Whatever, Shiny New Social Order cack. Or pure assholery.”

    She’d been working swiftly at something, under the table; now she laid it out. Gardner-Minetti automatic, nice little gun. “You came prepared.”

    And she smiled, flashed that smile, again but too briefly. “Easy to get through Customs, being from Marquesas. We learn all this in school, in gym class. You?”

    He grinned back. “You know how Hypatia, the real historical person, died?”

    “Well enough. Won’t ask, don’t tell on the rest?” Another tight but genuine smile.

    Garrett felt himself smile, yet more homelike. “So it’ll surprise you not that Hypatia Colony raises no sons or daughters to be victims, or be easy or cheap to kill. And I’m not an offworlder, so my stuff’s a bit less… compact.” Kicked his small (but heavy) duffel, under the table.

    Heard a familiar bell-chime, one he’d not heard ‘for real’ before. Turned to see krypton-green words of a ‘neon’ sign lit in the window, the thick pressure window, of the cafe, in English and Italian. SAFE REFUGE.

    Hooked his thumb at it. “That’s there for us if we need.”

    And Nick looked at him, a way no-one else ever had. “Stick with me, if you will, Garrett Fitzgerald. We each know things the other doesn’t, we will do better if we do.” Held out her hand.

    He took it, with something like a soft electric jolt.

    Like that shock wave.

    Later years, he’d reckon that the moment they really met.

    1. (In case it’s not already at least semi-obvious, this one straddles two prompts, both ‘holiday’ and ‘dangerous’ — this is one that didn’t quite work, to the 8K not-tempting-moderation ‘limit’ at least, from last week until this week’s 2nd starting point came on the scene.)

      And, for anyone who might be wondering where the story goes from here, these two have already appeared in an earlier (for us) but later (for them) vignettte (on ‘share’):

      (Of course, this mini-story appears twice that day. Because, as ever, WPDE.)

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