Bob Nothin On You

A long strange trip...

2008.12.09 18:59 A long strange trip...

A great place to space your face.
[link]


2017.06.29 08:09 MrDanger Cats Down Under the Stars

A subreddit devoted to the [Jerry Garcia Band](http://jerrygarcia.com/bands/), the primary side project of [Jerome John "Jerry" Garcia](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerry_Garcia), lead guitarist and vocalist for the [Grateful Dead](/gratefuldead).
[link]


2020.10.26 15:56 rich4a1 LIVE from the Midnight Circus Featuring Kurt Allen

LIVE from the Midnight Circus Featuring Kurt Allen
https://preview.redd.it/fyg998hrdgv51.jpg?width=1088&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=e2dffb121a9b745fcd5944ad7f214acd5a05ec17
https://www.makingascene.org/live-from-the-midnight-circus-featuring-kurt-allen/
Making a Scene Presents the PODCAST of LIVE from the Midnight Circus Featuring Kurt Allen
This is the Voice of Indie Blues, the future of the blues. Artists who embrace the diversity of the blues that always has and still is being created from it’s roots. These artists understand the blues is a living art form that is driven by innovation and creativity. These are the Indie Blues Artists!
The Robert Cray Band This Man
Annika Chambers-DesLauriers & Derrick Procell Black Man’s Justice
Peter Veteska & Blues Train Running Like A Dog
Peter Veteska & Blues Train Baby You’ve Got What It Takes
Dustin Arbuckle & The Damnations My Getaway
Dustin Arbuckle & The Damnations You Got To Go
Dennis Jones I Hate Hate
Danielle Miraglia Famous for Nothin
Danielle Miraglia You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go
Mick Kolassa If You Can’t Be Good
JD3 & The Jondo Trio Whatchucan
Jack de Keyzer Just For The Funk
Nora Jean Wallace Evidence
Ben Levin Time Brings About a Change
Dione Taylor Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around
Then we have an indie blues double shot block and interview with our featured artist..
Kurt Allen Funkalicious
Kurt Allen Graveyard Blues
makingascene Kurt Allen
Kurt Allen How Long
Kurt Allen Voodoo Queen
Shaun Murphy 4. Am I Losing You
Shaun Murphy 6. Old Love
Dudley Taft One In A Billion
Dudley Taft All For One
Artur Menezes Come On (feat. Joe Bonamassa)
Vanessa Collier 11-Heart On the Line
Kerry Kearney Thank You, Jesus (feat. Sam “Bluzman” Taylor)
Bob Margolin For My Teachers
Jeremiah Johnson Daddy’s Going Out Tonight
Clay Melton Secrets
Patrik Jansson Band A Love Like Yours
Alastair Greene The New World Blues
Malaya Blue Down To The Bone
Devin B. Thompson Something You Can Do Today
Kevin Burt Better Off Dead
Seela Misra Safety Blanket
Kirsten Thien 07_Better Or You’re Gonna Get Burned
Eric Johanson Hammer On The Stone
Honoring the Past, Praising the Present, Empowering the Future
TUNE IN THE BEST IN INDIE BLUES RADIO AND BECOME PART OF THE Indie Blues Movement
Celebrating the Diversity and Power of the Music created by artists that acknowledge their roots are in the Blues!
Making A Scene! is the #1 Resource for the Indie Artists and the Fans that Love them!
submitted by rich4a1 to makingascenemag [link] [comments]


2020.10.25 13:08 rich4a1 LIVE from the Midnight Circus Featuring Dudley Taft

LIVE from the Midnight Circus Featuring Dudley Taft
https://preview.redd.it/nox5mpqye8v51.jpg?width=1088&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=83477d3d6c854bc7692e3b3fa070bbbc9583a314
https://www.makingascene.org/live-from-the-midnight-circus-featuring-dudley-taft-2/
Making a Scene Presents the PODCAST of LIVE from the Midnight Circus Featuring Dudley Taft
This is the Voice of Indie Blues, the future of the blues. Artists who embrace the diversity of the blues that always has and still is being created from it’s roots. These artists understand the blues is a living art form that is driven by innovation and creativity. These are the Indie Blues Artists!
The Robert Cray Band This Man
Annika Chambers-DesLauriers & Derrick Procell Black Man’s Justice
Peter Veteska & Blues Train Running Like A Dog
Peter Veteska & Blues Train Baby You’ve Got What It Takes
Dustin Arbuckle & The Damnations My Getaway
Dustin Arbuckle & The Damnations You Got To Go
Dennis Jones I Hate Hate
Dennis Jones Like Sheep
Danielle Miraglia Famous for Nothin
Danielle Miraglia You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go
Mick Kolassa If You Can’t Be Good
Mick Kolassa I’ve Seen
JD3 & The Jondo Trio Whatchucan
JD3 & The Jondo Trio Holding On Tight
Jeremiah Johnson Unemployed Highly Annoyed
Jeremiah Johnson Daddy’s Going Out Tonight
Then we have an indie blues double shot block and interview with our featured artist
Dudley Taft I Will Always Love You
Dudley Taft The Devil
makingascene Dudly Taft
Dudley Taft One In A Billion
Dudley Taft All For One
Jack de Keyzer Just For The Funk
Jack de Keyzer Let’s Do It
Nora Jean Wallace Evidence
Nora Jean Wallace I’ve Been Watching You
Ben Levin Time Brings About a Change
Dione Taylor Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around
Bob Margolin For My Teachers
Shaun Murphy 4. Am I Losing You
Shaun Murphy 6. Old Love
Kurt Allen How Long
Kurt Allen Voodoo Queen
Artur Menezes Come On (feat. Joe Bonamassa)
Vanessa Collier 11-Heart On the Line
Kerry Kearney Thank You, Jesus (feat. Sam “Bluzman” Taylor)
Clay Melton Secrets
Patrik Jansson Band A Love Like Yours
Alastair Greene The New World Blues
Malaya Blue Down To The Bone
Devin B. Thompson Something You Can Do Today
Kevin Burt Better Off Dead
Seela Misra Safety Blanket
Kirsten Thien 07_Better Or You’re Gonna Get Burned
Eric Johanson 05_HammerOnTheStone_EricJohanson_BelowSeaLevel
Honoring the Past, Praising the Present, Empowering the Future
TUNE IN THE BEST IN INDIE BLUES RADIO AND BECOME PART OF THE Indie Blues Movement
Celebrating the Diversity and Power of the Music created by artists that acknowledge their roots are in the Blues!
Making A Scene is the #1 Resource for the Indie Artists and the Fans that Love them
submitted by rich4a1 to makingascenemag [link] [comments]


2020.10.25 06:02 the_bad_cosmonaut The Box [HR]

“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery None but ourselves can free our minds”
-Bob Marley
My whole existence is within my box. All day I live in my box.
“Deep inside this lonely prison where the pleasures are so few;
Where the walls are strong, and the days are long and there's nothin' new.”
-Merle Haggard
It’s a good size box, smaller than some, bigger than others. When I reach my arms out I can almost, barely, kind of feel either opposing wall. This is true in every direction in my box. Except up and down, they are the farthest points. Up is the most different, up can’t be touched. Neither scratching, crawling nor jumping help get there, up is just too far away. Down, down is much easier. Down is always there, laying at the bottom. If up was life anew then down would be what ever this constant existence is. I am really alive down in my box. If my existence had an address it would be 123 Down Ave. Boxville.
“When I was young. I never needed anyone. And making love was just for fun. Those
days are gone”
-Celine Dion
There is not much company in down, just wretched deathly things. Nothing really ever goes on in down. No words spoken, songs sung, tunes hummed, stories told, only once did I think I heard language of any kind. An echo, tráeme dios, from the lowest point in down. It still reverberates in my head today; I don’t even know what it means. Maybe it’s a wish.
“My wish came true. When I met you. I've searched and searched. My whole life
through”
-Elvis Presley
I wish a lot and hope. I lay here down and wish. I hope for a plane, a plane to take me up. Up and up, climbing higher and higher. Down would be farther away than its ever been before and I would take a long jump from this tall plane, ending all this nonsense. I am always startled back when I realize down is the ultimate destination of that long jump. No escape, at least not by jumping.
“Some bright morning when this life is over. I'll fly away. To that home on God's
celestial shore. I'll fly away”
-Johnny Cash
Perhaps, I would just endure the flight no jumps taken. Just let the pilot take me to the next destination. Someplace across the ocean with castles and gentle shores, a place to rest. Anywhere peaceful, anywhere away from down. I want to feel the hot sun on my face again, the cool rain soak my hair and icy snow nip at my nose. There is no weather in my box or sunsets. Just darkness and chills at the bottom.
“You've been through this before. An' you swore this time you'd think with your head”
-Pat Benatar
There is a light that hangs above the limits of up. The light is almost used up, blocked by a tarp and the depth of my box, before it even has a chance to reach down. I know it’s there. On the right kind of night, a ray or two might make it through. A ray or two of hope. It is transfixing like some alien visitor dully hovering right above in their ship. If I am being honest on a windy night, I can imagine it seeming to be some sort of game, looking up. Ping pong, badminton, volleyball anything that required the light to pass back and forth over a net, like it sometimes does with the bars. Hopes and dreams are the only real tools left down at the bottom. They never seemed to be enough.
“Maybe then I'll fade away and not have to face the facts. It's not easy facin' up, when your whole world is black”
-The Rolling Stones
I guess that makes it a good box, a strong box, a treasure box. My treasure box.
Treasure box seems like the right word for it. What I put inside my box is precious to me. That is why I put you there, you are precious to me.
“Flesh and blood needs flesh and blood. And you're the one I need.”
-Johnny Cash
Nearing full consciousness Barb was beginning to make out more and more manic ramblings along with several small crumbs of music. The meaning behind the ramblings was not familiar to her even though the source was. She did not understand. She was in a pit of darkness, an underworld. As she began to pull herself up towards the light she was immediately stopped by throbbing. The steady pace of a well-timed bellows marched on the right side of her skull. One whisper left her lips as she returned laying at the bottom, a one-word question, “why?”
“Still enough time to figure out. How to chase my blues away. I’ve done alright up to now.”
-Whitney Houston
A tiny corner of the tarp opened up and a small bright beam of light shown through reaching Barb at the bottom. A frantic set of wolf like eyes crept over the tiny opening blocking most of the light beam. “What have you done?” she asked from the distant bottom, unable to do much else. “You weren’t supposed to find out. I can’t help it” said her captor timidly. “Bullshit”, she quickly shot back, “our parent did not raise this.” She was still trying to come to terms with the reality of what she witnessed her own brother carrying out. “I’m sorry” crept out of him shyly, “but I can’t hide who I am anymore.” At that moment Barb saw the last bit of her brother Robert fade away. What was left she did not recognize, and it had transitioned back into that manic thing from before.
“You sure are looking good. You’re everything a big bad wolf could want.”
-Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs
“Shut up you bitch” he hissed like a venomous reptile. “You just had to ruin it didn’t you?’ Barb was unsure of what she “ruined” but knew it involved this manic thing that used to be her brother and a withered away dead girl. A lot of them judging by her new surroundings. She also knew this manic thing was right when it said there was not much company down at the bottom. Just dirt and bones, that is all she could sense in the darkness of the bottom. “I forgive you and want to help you Robert. I was just a little scared at first. Let me help you.”
“Critics say we can’t, but Obama says we can.”
-Kidz in the Hall
Barb knew very little about this manic thing or this new world but did know they only way out of it, out of this hole, was to fight, a fight. She had to swallow and stand firm with everything that was about to be thrown at her. “Do you mean it?” said a returning shy voice. “Yes, Robert I love you, I was just scared. Now please come down and help me up out of here. It’s a little hard to stand with my head throbbing.” “I’m sorry, I hit you, I hit you pretty hard, but I was just scared at first like you.” He replied. “let me get the ladder. I am sorry I hit you Barb.” Barb began to ready herself down to her bones for the battle that was to come.
“And each time I tell myself that I, well I think I’ve had enough, but I’m going to show you, baby, that a woman can be tough.”
-Janis Joplin
She waited. Waited for the tarp to be pulled. Waited for the bars to be opened. Waited for the ladder to be dropped in. Waited for that manic thing to descend down to the bottom. She waited. Waited with bone shards of unknown and unnamed victims in her hands. She waited.
“We got to fly over the land, over the sea. Fate unwinds; and if we die, souls arise. God, do not seize me please, till victory.”
-Patti Smith
With a loud clunk of the ladder, she knew. She was ready. It was going to end, in a moment. Barb took solace knowing she would not bow down to evil and that one way or another It was going to end.
“As it was in the beginning. So, shall it be in the end. Let’s get together and feel all right.”
-Bob Marley
submitted by the_bad_cosmonaut to shortstories [link] [comments]


2020.10.23 18:11 rich4a1 LIVE from the Midnight Circus Indie Blues Double Shot Oct 2020 #4

LIVE from the Midnight Circus Indie Blues Double Shot Oct 2020 #4
https://preview.redd.it/5uwh7v4ecvu51.jpg?width=1088&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=5e3ebb9871e6418939b2a91581464c15a0ddf7aa
https://www.makingascene.org/live-from-the-midnight-circus-indie-blues-double-shot-october-2020-4/
Making a Scene Presents the PODCAST of LIVE from the Midnight Circus Indie Blues Double Shot Show!
This is the Voice of Indie Blues, the future of the blues. An Indie Blues double shot of artists who embrace the diversity of the blues that always has and still is being created from it’s roots. These artists understand the blues is a living art form that is driven by innovation and creativity. These are the Indie Blues Artists!
The Robert Cray Band This Man
Annika Chambers-DesLauriers & Derrick Procell Black Man’s Justice
Peter Veteska and the Blues Train Running Like A Dog
Peter Veteska & Blues Train Baby You’ve Got What It Takes
Dustin Arbuckle & The Damnations My Getaway
Dustin Arbuckle & The Damnations You Got To Go
Dennis Jones I Hate Hate
Dennis Jones Like Sheep
Danielle Miraglia Famous for Nothin
Danielle Miraglia You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go
Mick Kolassa If You Can’t Be Good
Mick Kolassa I’ve Seen
JD3 & The Jondo Trio Whatchucan
JD3 & The Jondo Trio Holding On Tight
Jeremiah Johnson Unemployed Highly Annoyed
Jeremiah Johnson Daddy’s Going Out Tonight
Jack de Keyzer Just For The Funk
Jack de Keyzer Let’s Do It
Nora Jean Wallace Evidence
Nora Jean Wallace I’ve Been Watching You
Ben Levin Time Brings About a Change
Ben Levin Carryout or Delivery
Dione Taylor Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around
Dione Taylor Down The Bloodline
Bob Margolin For My Teachers
Bob Margolin Star of Stage and Screens
Shaun Murphy 4. Am I Losing You
Shaun Murphy 6. Old Love
Dudley Taft One In A Billion
Dudley Taft All For One
Kurt Allen How Long
Kurt Allen Voodoo Queen
Artur Menezes Come On (feat. Joe Bonamassa)
Artur Menezes Free At Last (feat. Josh Smith)
Vanessa Collier 11-Heart On the Line
Vanessa Collier Bloodhound
Kerry Kearney Thank You, Jesus (feat. Sam “Bluzman” Taylor)
Kerry Kearney Runnin’ Weepin’ Tremblin’
Clay Melton Secrets
Clay Melton Wind & Wave (ft. Kam Franklin)
Patrik Jansson Band A Love Like Yours
Patrik Jansson Band Same Thing All Over Again
Alastair Greene Find Your Way Back Home
Alastair Greene The New World Blues
Malaya Blue Down To The Bottom
Malaya Blue Down To The Bone
Devin B. Thompson I Ain’t No Good
Devin B. Thompson Something You Can Do Today
Kevin Burt Better Off Dead
Kevin Burt I’m Bustin Out
Seela Misra When The World
Seela Misra Safety Blanket
Kirsten Thien 07_Better Or You’re Gonna Get Burned
Kirsten Thien Sweet Lost And Found
Eric Johanson Live from the midnight circus
Eric Johanson Riverbend Blues
Honoring the Past, Praising the Present, Empowering the Future
TUNE IN THE BEST IN INDIE BLUES RADIO AND BECOME PART OF THE Indie Blues Movement
Celebrating the Diversity and Power of the Music created by artists that acknowledge their roots are in the Blues!
Making A Scene is the #1 Resource for the Indie Artists and the Fans that Love them
submitted by rich4a1 to makingascenemag [link] [comments]


2020.10.16 00:17 ProZombieHunter Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Terminator Run.


https://preview.redd.it/mw19vjb82ct51.jpg?width=1920&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=50cd1e4397b66d024641ec0335ab81debb73444a
So a while back I did a 'terminator' run where I kill everyone in Human Revolution to see how the game reacts. I decided to try it again with MD to see how the game reacts. Turns out... not much.
Prologue- Doesn't seem to notice if you personally kill Singh. I also dropped the fire team, too, but it doesn't seem to have registered with the game either. Didn't have time to deal with the chopper, oh well.
Prague Act 1
Amusingly, when you attack the refugee augs in the poor district sewer, they'll use a stock NPC phrase about augs revolting.
Killing Edward or Irenka before you've registered a card will, obviously, fail that questline. The other one will also vanish.
In uptown Prague, if you shoot up some of the establishments, go to the poor district then come back, there will be police tape and sometimes cops there too.
If you go into a Naturals train car, and kill the cop that stops you after, they'll respawn but not be hostile.
TF29 proper is a peace zone, as is Koller's workshop. Praha Dovoz is not a peace zone and Marcie can be killed. Also she was the only NPC I was able to succesfully defenestrate. Ha-ha, historical hijinks.
Golem City
Starting your rampage at the beginning causes Dusan's wife to not spawn.
The cops can be hostile to Gallois and his guards and will kill them
Prague Act 2
If you kill the Tubehouse guy, the viewing party won't spawn
Even if you kill The Builder in Act 1, Josef Severn's body will still be found as normal in Act 2. Maybe he is MachineGod Jesus?
Masa Kadlek still spawns in the Red Queen, but won't give you her sidequest.
The merc at Future-Past Antiky will spawn and can be hostile with police.
If you kill Radich, the TF29 big board guy will say his body was found in a wheat field, even if you've also killed Otar. Maybe Otar is Divali Je- dammit I already made that joke.
Killing Dobromivila after she gives you the map, will have Jensen report to Delara that he got the map off her body.
The screams from the explosion at Stanek are not from NPCs but a seperate soundfile. Also, the two NPCs that gawk at the explosion spawn as part of the scripted event and not existing population.
Radich's message to Stanek plays even if he's dead, which makes sense as it's obviously pre-recorded. Side note, I shot at the TVs on a whim and apparently they don't shatter even after dumping a full mag of pistol in them.
Otar's Casino will repopulate if you've shot it up in Act 1.
At the fork I opted to do the Alison route, as I had already shot up the bank before in both acts. I also intentionally tanked the social combat scene, cause what am I doing here, a save people route?
If you stab Nomad before you go in the Church, he'll respawn after. Maybe he was only mostly dead?
So, if you don't give Miller OR Vega the Pocket Secretary, when Miller briefs you, Adam will talk as if he gave him the pocket secretary.
GARM
Not sure how I did it, but I unlocked a secret ending where Bob Page, David Sarif, and Tracer Tong throw Adam Jensen a surprise birthday party, then they all dance.
...Joking, of course. Nothing special happens here. Moving on...
Prague Act 3
The Punk in the Neon dealing apartment and the guy who lives in the apartment the cops bust into at Zelen complex both respawn.
There are two thugs in the Tourism center. Also, I'm sure it's been there in the previous acts before, but while I'm here, what the hell is a Serif truck even doing there in the first place?
APEX
Nothin. If you attack Tarvos at the start before initiating combat, Jensen will say they shot first. No special dialogue for openly killing people at the part either.
submitted by ProZombieHunter to Deusex [link] [comments]


2020.09.27 07:04 Axol- random story I came up with will losing my sanity slowly in this subreddit I call it Tari Malfunction (this is based off The Tari Abnormal) :this might suck btw:

So whos your day been
Tari: kinda fine so far
Mario: hey guys I'm back with the drinks
Saiko: finally that took forever
Tari: what held you back
Mario: *insert random thought*
. . . is he ok?
Saiko: hard to say
Mario: anyway let me just... slowly place the drinks on the table
*mario places the drinks on the table*
Mario: wow and I thought something back was gunna hap-
*the table lifts up and spills all the drinks of Axol and Tari*
yep saw that coming
*Taris cyborg arm starts sparking*
Tari: uum that hasn't happened before...
Mario: . . . NAH ITS PROBABLY NOTHIN, wanna play a game
Tari: ok that sounds fun what game?
Mario: Super smash bros.?
Tari: sure I guess... Axol you wanna try
ok... I guess I can try
Saiko: can I play next *wrestling bells go off* I WANT TO KICK SOME A**ES
Tari: ok lets do a turn system then
*5 minutes later*
Tari: Mario you just jumped off the stage
Mario: I thought I was payer 3
no that's me
*Taris Cyborg arm sparks again*
Tari: uuuuuuuuh
what's wrong?
Mario: yeah Tari what's wrong?
Tari: I don't know my arm is acting up agai-
*lightning comes from it and hits everyone in the room but Saiko*
Saiko: WHATS HAPPENING?!
Tari: I DON'T KNO-
*everyone hit by the lightning disappears*
Saiko: what the heck... wait why is the tv static
(meanwhile)
Tari: ow my head... huh where am I?
*Tari gets up*
Tari: this looks oddly familiar...
Kirby: POYO!
Tari: huh? Kirby?? wait a minute don't tell me I'm in another game
Kirby: *confused Poyo*
Tari: got to find the others before they die
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
Tari: that didn't take long...
GET AWAY FROM ME YOU CRAZY FOX!
Fox: *H I Y A H INTESNIFIES*
Tari: oh jeez what can I do...
(meanwhile)
SMG4: soo what's the last thing that happened before they vanished...
Saiko: lightning appears and shocked all three of them
Rob: thats weird
Octo-Melony (is this a BenJojo reference?): well its normal to most of us
SMG4: true
(meanwhile [again])
Tari: uuuum I GOT IT! *pulls out out controller from Wofti 2018* I can just control Kirby
*Tari activates the control and connects it to Kirby*
Tari: alright lets save my friends
SOMEONE HELP ME FROM THIS DARN FOX!!
*Kirby jumps in a kicks fox off the stage*
G A M E !
oh thank goodness
Tari: that was a close one
Thanks little pink guy
Tari: hey Axol nice to see your safe
Oh hey Tari I was just thanking this pink guy from saving me from that crazy fox man
Tari: yeah Kirby is pretty powerful... anyway do you know where mario is
(background)
Mario: gunna fly for you!
huh?
*Mario rams into Axol*
Found...him...
Tari: asked and answered
(meanwhile)
Bob: COME ON YOU STUPID THING WORK
*Tv turns on*
Bob: WOW THAT ACTUAL WORKED... NEAT
Shroomy: it took 1 hours but we got the tv working
SMG4: ok lets see if there's anything unusual about it
Saiko: why is Tari in the game
SMG4: wait what
Octo-Melony: well that explains where they went
(back in the game)
Tari: ok maybe if we glitch the game it will send us back
worth a shot
Mario: OKIE DOKIE!
*Mario starts a B.L.J*
Tari: uuum what are you doing
Mario: breaking the game
*mario starts to going faster causing the game to slowly break*
Mario: AND THIS IS TO GO EVEN FURTHER BEYOND
*Mario goes so fast that he loses format and flings in a loop causing the game to crash*
*Mario, Axol, and Tari reappear in front of the TV*
Tari: ow.. uuh why is everyone here?
SMG4: well that solves the problem cya guys
I am so confused...
Saiko: you should be you just go sucked into a game nearly beaten to death by a fox then experienced an ending of a world
Mario: I'm gunna go get spaghetti now
submitted by Axol- to SMG4 [link] [comments]


2020.09.20 19:49 TAHaywood Richard "Quickdraw" McCallister: A Eulogy - Chapter 16

When the Tamani blew a hole in his ship, his friend, and his career, Richard McCallister called it quits. But when he gets word of another alien incursion, with his friend's family in the line of fire, he charges back into danger on the outskirts of settled space to yank them out of the maw.
That was his plan, anyway. But things don't usually go according to plan.
Cover Art
First Part
----------
I sat down.
The bar on Terra Prime was darkened, with the lights turned all the way down to what some would probably refer to charitably as ‘mood lighting’. Me, I would have been happy to be able to see my drink, but that was neither here nor there.
Clay seemed happy. That was my first thought as I glanced up to him, across the table. He had a glass of….something. He clutched it like a lifeline, his cheeks flushed red and a wide grin sprawling across his face.
“C’mon, kid,” he said, reaching across the table to slap my arm. “Cheer the fuck up, will you?”
I forced a smile. “I’m plenty cheery.”
“Don’t give me that shit. You look like someone just pissed in your rations. Stop actin’ all glum.” He lifted his drink—the drink I was suddenly quite sure was not his first. “We’re on leave! It’ll be over soon enough, so enjoy y’self a little. Got no reason to be all down, eh?”
I forced myself to smile back at him, but behind the pleasant veneer, my thoughts were a turbulent mess. Sure, we were on leave. We’d been stuck inside Terra Prime for far longer than I’d expected, given we were supposedly just dropping off the wreck of the stricken Libre courier—but TerraCorp had taken the opportunity to give the Rheasilvia a retrofit, ahead of a convoy escort job in a few days.
Which was good, of course. Upgrades were good. But being stuck in close quarters with a mess of sailors, in the height of Solaran luxury, with a pile of money that many of us couldn’t spend while in the black, made for an interesting time.
And above all else, the memory of the communication I’d received that very morning hung in my hand.
It’d been addressed to me, of course. To my full name, which was fairly unusual. Most of the internal communications on the Rheasilvia were more informal than that. And it’d come from TerraCorp Resources, which had been enough to put a knot in my stomach.
They’d processed my inquiry about a transfer, it said. They found the idea most suitable, it said—and they’d sent along a smattering of ships with openings for mechanics of my skill and rank. No guarantees, it said.
But I’d looked at the lists. Larger ships, all of them, with many acting as the in-between for the Dust and the Heartland loop. Compared to the Rheasilvia, which spent the vast majority of its time servicing Dustworlds and ferrying colonists to and fro, it sounded...well, it sounded like a step up.
Clay’s booming laugh pulled me out of my thoughts. I put the smile back on my face, lifting my cup for another sip.
I needed to tell him.
But how the hell was I supposed to do that, my thoughts shrieked back in the next moment. How was I supposed to break that news to him?
Just come out and say it. Don’t be a coward. I sucked down a deep breath. “Hey. So-”
“Lissen.” Clay’s hand slapped the flat of the table between us with a crack loud enough some of the other patrons jumped. He tended to have that effect on people. “Kara’s pesterin’ me to come back for another stint. Spend some time with Ada and Quinn.”
“Well, she is your wife,” I managed weakly. “It’s not unreasonable.”
He nodded, making a face. “Right, right. Only, how’s I’m supposed to leave the Rhea alone that long? I can’t-”
“You’ve got enough leave saved up,” I said. “Plenty of time. Take a month. Go back and-”
“Yeah,” Clay mumbled, still nodding. “Yeah, yeah. Think the captain would let me do that. Prob’ly.”
“I’m sure he would,” I said. “And-”
I clamped down hard. I’d been able to tell him that I could manage the Rheasilvia on my own. I could look after the ship while he went and enjoyed his leave. But how could I promise something like that when I wasn’t even sure what the next few months would hold?
“Ahhh, you’re right,” Clay said with a grin. “It’d be damn nice to see them again. Even if it means gettin’ dirtside for a while.”
I chuckled sourly. “You going to quit on me? Become a farmer?”
He shook his head, then, violently. “Nah. Hell no. I like where I’m at, just…” He frowned, tightening his hands around his cup. “It’d be nice to see ‘em more’n a couple times a year, y’know?”
I didn’t know, not really. What he had with Kara seemed wonderful, but...it’d never been my priority. And, hell, the thought of raising kids from afar seemed like an absolute nightmare. “Whatever you say,” I said, grinning down at my drink.
His hand balled up into a fist, still lurking between him and I—and then he leaned forward, grabbing my wrist before I could pull away. “Lissen,” he said, his dark eyes intense. “It’s worth it.”
“I-I know,” I stammered. “Really, Clay, I wasn’t-”
“Dint seem like much,” he said, not budging. “Not at first. Was’n so sure about it, m’self.”
I stopped. The words he’d left unsaid burned between us. “But?”
“But, then, when I looked into those brown eyes, well.” His face split into a smile, without even an ounce of shame in it. “That was it, kid. I knew. Thas’ what I was s’pposed to be doin’. Right there.”
Heat climbed my cheeks. “Yeah, I get it. But-”
“You don’t get nothin’,” he muttered, shaking my arm like a doll’s. “Shit, son.”
His fingers tightened about my wrist, digging in until it verged on painful. “We ain’t gonna fly these systems forever.”
“I-I know, but-”
“We’ve all got an expiration date.” He smiled, his fingers loosening ever so slightly. “It’s all about what y’get done with the time you’re given. What you build your life around.”
The two of us were like an island, a quiet patch amidst the steady roar of the bar. He was wobbling in his seat, sure, and I was getting the feeling that he was clinging to my arm as much for stability as any sort of impact, but his eyes were dead serious. I just nodded. It didn’t seem like he wanted words, right then. He just wanted me to listen. Old coot.
He grinned toothily, as though recognizing I’d given up my protests. “Thas’ it, though. You gotta be thinkin’ bout your eulogy, Ricky.”
That was a new one. “Fucking what?” I said, stifling a laugh. “Damn it, Clay, go easy on the drinks. You’re-”
“Let a man finish!” he said, verging on bellowing. The smile on his lips never faded, though. “What I’m sayin’, is, you gotta keep in mind what comes after. When folks look at your life, what the hell’re they goin’ to think? Will anyone even remember?”
“Don’t think anyone’s going to be forgetting you anytime soon, if you keep yelling like that.”
“Aw, shaddup,” he said, letting go of my arm with a laugh. “Those kids, though.” He smiled, with all of the smugness and the sarcasm fading away until genuine joy remained behind. “If they’re the one thing I’ve done with my sorry-ass life, that ain’t so bad.” He nodded—then turned on me with a flash. His hand plunged into his pocket. “Look. Jus’ this last week, Quinn done started-”
I winced, seeing the familiar holodeck emerge. That did it, I knew. Clay loved to corner a conversation, and once he’d pulled out the pictures, he’d keep at it all goddamn night.
I’d never get a word in edgewise from here. My mind still whirled with the names of ships and the thousand lines of paperwork that went along with a transfer, but...I let it slide, let it fall away. There’d be a better time, I told myself. It wouldn’t do to interrupt Clay when he was so happy. When he’d gotten himself all worked up like this. Besides, with his current inebriation, he’d probably forget it all anyway.
Another time. I filed the announcement away, leaning on the table more heavily. I’d bring it up...later. Yeah.
We’d ship out two days after that, it turned out. A simple job, or so I’d thought. Of course, it’d be anything but.
And if I’d have known I would never get another chance, I’d have told him everything. I’d have stayed there with him for hours and hours, letting him talk himself dry. I’d have drunk it all in, listened to every word he said and etched it all into my memory. I’d have told him the truth.
I don’t regret much in my life. But I do regret that.
—————
Too many people. There were so damn many people.
McCallister shoved his way through the crowd, his mood turning sour in an instant. A part hung from his hand—an element for the ship’s water storage and filtration system, fresh-fabricated down at the colony’s mine-attached foundry. He grimaced. Jason had been all too eager to help, after their face-to-face meeting.
Oh, he knew better than to think it was any sort of true charity on the man’s part. Jason was jockeying for a better status on the ship, along with every other damn family in the colony. On a logical level, he didn’t mind. It meant the ship was swarming with mechanics, all ready and eager to leap to his bidding.
On a practical level, that meant he needed to have a bidding for them to do—and he’d never signed up to be the colony’s engineering lead. “Out of the way,” he muttered, shouldering past a tall, gangly colonist.
The center of Solovei was starting to look more like a hubworld market than the isolated colony it was. This, too, was ostensibly a good thing. People were taking the evacuation notice seriously, and starting to filter in from the outside homesteads. But damn it, he could hardly walk.
It was fine. He’d hitch a ride back out to the ship, away from the town’s heart, and-
“McCallister!”
He groaned. Another one? He twisted, glaring back over his shoulder.
Lily pushed her way through after him, squeaking past in the gap he’d left. A grin stretched from ear to ear across her tanned, freckled face. “Slow down,” she said, only gasping a little. “Good God, I thought I’d get crushed in there.”
“It’s...a bit much,” McCallister said. He hefted the part, waggling it meaningfully in her direction. “Can’t really hang around, though. I’ve got to get this back to Reid and-”
“I know, I know, you’re a busy man.” Lily sucked down air, reaching up to smooth her ponytail. “You’ll get there faster with some wheels.”
McCallister paused, eyeing her. He did need a lift, but…”If you’re offering,” he said at last. “I know you’re busy coordinating the masses here.”
She rolled her eyes, casting a hand back toward the milling colonists. “Aw, well, I set Clark to it.” Her grin turned vicious. “Boy’s needin’ a bit of practice. His yellin’ voice is a bit weak.”
If McCallister listened, straining his ears over the noise of the crowd….he could hear a single voice bellowing over the rest. A familiar one. He winced. “That’s just not nice.”
“Nonsense. Builds character. Come on.”
She turned away, still grinning, and started picking her way around the edge of the crowd in the direction of the security station. McCallister followed on her heels. If she was offering ,and she was serious, well, it saved him having to flag someone else down.
“Reid’s been workin’ well for you, then?” Lily said, glancing back to him.
He nodded, a tiny smile curling at his lips. “It’s...yeah.” He shrugged. “He’s a quick learner. Picks it up fast. I’ve got him handling the teams in the lower decks, right now.”
“I’m glad.” Lily bobbed her head in a nod, emphasizing the words. “Boy’s got a good head for that sort of thing. Sees all the little movin’ parts. That’s hard to teach.”
McCallister snorted. “Yeah, he’s getting along pretty well.” It’d...taken a bit of working, to get him that far. At first, he’d just turned ghost-white when McCallister had turned him loose among the teams sent from various colony-based companies. He’d locked up completely.
But, well, McCallister could be convincing when he needed to be. It’d taken a bit of cajoling and a few sharp words, but he’d gotten the security-officer-turned-mechanic back on track.
Lily chuckled. “That’s cute. You’ve got yourself a liddle apprentice, eh?”
An apprentice. He turned, shooting an irritated look her way, and found her smiling smugly up at him. “Don’t you-” he began, but stopped. He recognized that look. Protesting would only encourage her. “Whatever,” he mumbled. “It’s just for a bit. We’ll be off the ground soon.”
A wall dropped behind her eyes, wiping her smile away and turning her expression cold. “Right,” she said.
Inwardly, McCallister kicked himself. He was an idiot. Lily might be a bit of a bitch at times, however playfully, but at the end of the day she was just like the rest—a person trying to cope with the impending destruction of their home and all they’d ever known. “Sorry,” he mumbled. “I know...I can’t imagine how hard this is.”
“Yeah, it’s a real shame,” Lily said, more quietly. She snagged his sleeve in the next instant, tugging him away from a rapidly-swelling crowd and leading him deeper into an alley. “I’m not sure what to tell people. How to let ‘em know it’s all goin’ to work out.” She chuckled softly. “Not really sure it all will, truth be told.”
“It’ll work. We’ll make it work.”
“Maybe.” She shook her head slowly, still working them deeper into the colony. Every twist and turn they made, something seemed to stand in their way—a hauler, a crowd, a stack of crates waiting to be ferried to the ship. It was like the whole town had been turned into a dockyard. “I...I dunno. Solovei’s...it’s our home. The thought of findin’ another place like it is a bit unnervin’.” She snorted. “Hell, the thought of findin’ another world we can breathe on is bad enough.”
“We’ll find one,” McCallister said, casting his eyes ahead. Damn it, there had to be a clear path somewhere. “The galaxy is full of planets. Might have to look a while, but...we’ll find one.” His gut churned. They might be aloft for a long time. Months. Maybe even years. How would they keep going? How would they sustain themselves? Somehow, he didn’t think TerraCorp would be helping them any. Not unless they got their arm twisted hard.
Lily only sighed. “Seen a lot of worlds, then, have you?”
He grimaced. “I...a fair few.” Snagging her wrist, he pulled them down another route as a hauler whipped from a side alley and plunked down in the middle of the road. “The corp kept me running around while I was in the service.”
“What’re they like?”
“Pretty much like this,” he muttered.
“Come on. Just-”
“I spent most of my time in the Dust,” McCallister said, shooting her a sidelong look. “Most of the Dustworlds are, well, pretty similar to Solovei.” He grimaced. “Dry. Questionably habitable for humans.”
Lily frowned, hurrying forward through a gap in traffic. “I don’t get it. There’ve got to be some decent worlds out there.”
McCallister snorted. “Sure. Of course there are. And they’re snapped up for the bigwigs, or the rich folk looking for an escape. Precious few of those worlds are ever true Dustworlds.
“Oh.” She fell quiet for a moment, then, chewing on what he’d said. “Well. I guess.”
“Right. So-”
“What about you, then?”
He blinked. “What?”
She lurched closer, skittering back from a surge in the gathered masses. “You sound so down on most’ve those places. Ain’t there nowhere you do like?”
“Not really,” he muttered.
“What’s that?”
“I prefer space,” he said, rolling his eyes. “There’s more room. Less dirt. And-”
“What?” Lily said, furrowing her brow and glancing back to him. “That’s so...depressin’.”
“Hey.”
“An’ you’re that way ‘bout everywhere? There’s no planet out there that strikes your fancy?”
He shrugged. “Not really. I’ve never really-”
“Shit. Not even your stompin’ grounds? Everyone’s got a home. ”
That got a chuckle out of him. “I guess. That doesn’t mean I liked it, though. Why do you think I joined the corp?”
Her expression turned crafty. “Another Dustworld? Maybe a desert. Or a swamp planet? You do have a damp look about you. Maybe-”
He sighed. “I’m Terran.”
Lily stopped. For a moment, she just blinked. “Oh.”
Oh, indeed. “I left for a reason, and I’ve never really wanted to go back. Space is plenty.”
She nodded, but didn’t seem to have a lot to say to that. McCallister watched for a moment, mulling her reaction over. ‘Home’ wasn’t something he tended to bring up much, even when he had people around to bring it up with. Would she get pushy about it? Would she try and win him over to the colonial lifestyle? He’d seen a few of those, in his day—the sorts that’d try and convince you to stay dirtside, giving up the spacefaring way for some stability. Especially after they’d seen him piece back together whatever critical system they’d royally fucked up.
Lily just glanced to him, though, her eyes a bit sad but her expression neutral. “Well. I s’ppose. Come on, then.”
McCallister glanced up—and there, at the end of the block, he saw the familiar peaks of the spaceport, together with the security building. The part in his hand hung heavier with every step. “Right.”
“Even still,” she said as they stepped forward on the final leg of the walk. “Careful. I’m thinkin’ Wyatt likes havin’ another fellow with some know-how around the colony.”
Ah, there it was. “No.”
“And Julian’s grateful for you takin’ the lead on the coordination, here.”
“Julian should do his own damn job once in a while.”
Lily chuckled, brushing back a strand of strawberry hair. “Yeah, yeah. Anyway-”
“Like I said. No.”
She winked up at him. “We’ll see.”
McCallister groaned. There was no winning. She was as bad as Kara. He just had to stick to his guns. He was delivering Kara and the kids to somewhere safe. That was all. He’d have done his duty after that, and he could go back to his own business. He just had to keep his eyes on the target.
And keep a step ahead of the scheming colonists he ferried.
Shooting a tolerant, amused look Lily’s way, he stepped out in front as the security building loomed ahead. One hand grabbed the handle, pulling the door open even as he took his hat off with the other. “After you.”
Lily traded his look for one of her own, an eyebrow cocked. “Just think about it, that’s all I’m sayin’.”
“Go.”
She laughed, skittering inside. He sighed, then stepped around the door and-
Noise. It filled his ears, screaming down like a deafening wail. McCallister flinched, clinging to the glass-and-metal frame of the door as his world wobbled.
His mind raced, fighting to catch up as the horrible shock of it ran through him. What was it? Where? Was it danger? Was he-
His chin snapped up. The noise—it was coming from overhead. There. A speaker unit sat perched atop a pole set just inside the spaceport. The wail was coming from there, echoed by similar screeches from across Solovei.
The alarm. Realization settled home like a hammer, smacking him straight upside the head. He was frozen, his mind perfectly blank. There was only one thing it could be—and if he thought back through the chaos of the reconstruction process, he’d heard this noise before.
Through all of it, one singular truth shone clear in his mind, unbothered by the chaos and the adrenaline and the thought-destroying noise of it all.
Whatever time they’d had left, it’d just run out.
Next Part
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2020.09.16 13:44 TAHaywood [Richard "Quickdraw" McCallister: A Eulogy][Derby] Chapter 16 - Why Me

When the Tamani blew a hole in his ship, his friend, and his career, Richard McCallister called it quits. But when he gets word of another alien incursion, with his friend's family in the line of fire, he charges back into danger on the outskirts of settled space to yank them out of the maw.
That was his plan, anyway. But things don't usually go according to plan.
Cover Art
First Part
----------
I sat down.
The bar on Terra Prime was darkened, with the lights turned all the way down to what some would probably refer to charitably as ‘mood lighting’. Me, I would have been happy to be able to see my drink, but that was neither here nor there.
Clay seemed happy. That was my first thought as I glanced up to him, across the table. He had a glass of….something. He clutched it like a lifeline, his cheeks flushed red and a wide grin sprawling across his face.
“C’mon, kid,” he said, reaching across the table to slap my arm. “Cheer the fuck up, will you?”
I forced a smile. “I’m plenty cheery.”
“Don’t give me that shit. You look like someone just pissed in your rations. Stop actin’ all glum.” He lifted his drink—the drink I was suddenly quite sure was not his first. “We’re on leave! It’ll be over soon enough, so enjoy y’self a little. Got no reason to be all down, eh?”
I forced myself to smile back at him, but behind the pleasant veneer, my thoughts were a turbulent mess. Sure, we were on leave. We’d been stuck inside Terra Prime for far longer than I’d expected, given we were supposedly just dropping off the wreck of the stricken Libre courier—but TerraCorp had taken the opportunity to give the Rheasilvia a retrofit, ahead of a convoy escort job in a few days.
Which was good, of course. Upgrades were good. But being stuck in close quarters with a mess of sailors, in the height of Solaran luxury, with a pile of money that many of us couldn’t spend while in the black, made for an interesting time.
And above all else, the memory of the communication I’d received that very morning hung in my hand.
It’d been addressed to me, of course. To my full name, which was fairly unusual. Most of the internal communications on the Rheasilvia were more informal than that. And it’d come from TerraCorp Resources, which had been enough to put a knot in my stomach.
They’d processed my inquiry about a transfer, it said. They found the idea most suitable, it said—and they’d sent along a smattering of ships with openings for mechanics of my skill and rank. No guarantees, it said.
But I’d looked at the lists. Larger ships, all of them, with many acting as the in-between for the Dust and the Heartland loop. Compared to the Rheasilvia, which spent the vast majority of its time servicing Dustworlds and ferrying colonists to and fro, it sounded...well, it sounded like a step up.
Clay’s booming laugh pulled me out of my thoughts. I put the smile back on my face, lifting my cup for another sip.
I needed to tell him.
But how the hell was I supposed to do that, my thoughts shrieked back in the next moment. How was I supposed to break that news to him?
Just come out and say it. Don’t be a coward. I sucked down a deep breath. “Hey. So-”
“Lissen.” Clay’s hand slapped the flat of the table between us with a crack loud enough some of the other patrons jumped. He tended to have that effect on people. “Kara’s pesterin’ me to come back for another stint. Spend some time with Ada and Quinn.”
“Well, she is your wife,” I managed weakly. “It’s not unreasonable.”
He nodded, making a face. “Right, right. Only, how’s I’m supposed to leave the Rhea alone that long? I can’t-”
“You’ve got enough leave saved up,” I said. “Plenty of time. Take a month. Go back and-”
“Yeah,” Clay mumbled, still nodding. “Yeah, yeah. Think the captain would let me do that. Prob’ly.”
“I’m sure he would,” I said. “And-”
I clamped down hard. I’d been able to tell him that I could manage the Rheasilvia on my own. I could look after the ship while he went and enjoyed his leave. But how could I promise something like that when I wasn’t even sure what the next few months would hold?
“Ahhh, you’re right,” Clay said with a grin. “It’d be damn nice to see them again. Even if it means gettin’ dirtside for a while.”
I chuckled sourly. “You going to quit on me? Become a farmer?”
He shook his head, then, violently. “Nah. Hell no. I like where I’m at, just…” He frowned, tightening his hands around his cup. “It’d be nice to see ‘em more’n a couple times a year, y’know?”
I didn’t know, not really. What he had with Kara seemed wonderful, but...it’d never been my priority. And, hell, the thought of raising kids from afar seemed like an absolute nightmare. “Whatever you say,” I said, grinning down at my drink.
His hand balled up into a fist, still lurking between him and I—and then he leaned forward, grabbing my wrist before I could pull away. “Lissen,” he said, his dark eyes intense. “It’s worth it.”
“I-I know,” I stammered. “Really, Clay, I wasn’t-”
“Dint seem like much,” he said, not budging. “Not at first. Was’n so sure about it, m’self.”
I stopped. The words he’d left unsaid burned between us. “But?”
“But, then, when I looked into those brown eyes, well.” His face split into a smile, without even an ounce of shame in it. “That was it, kid. I knew. Thas’ what I was s’pposed to be doin’. Right there.”
Heat climbed my cheeks. “Yeah, I get it. But-”
“You don’t get nothin’,” he muttered, shaking my arm like a doll’s. “Shit, son.”
His fingers tightened about my wrist, digging in until it verged on painful. “We ain’t gonna fly these systems forever.”
“I-I know, but-”
“We’ve all got an expiration date.” He smiled, his fingers loosening ever so slightly. “It’s all about what y’get done with the time you’re given. What you build your life around.”
The two of us were like an island, a quiet patch amidst the steady roar of the bar. He was wobbling in his seat, sure, and I was getting the feeling that he was clinging to my arm as much for stability as any sort of impact, but his eyes were dead serious. I just nodded. It didn’t seem like he wanted words, right then. He just wanted me to listen. Old coot.
He grinned toothily, as though recognizing I’d given up my protests. “Thas’ it, though. You gotta be thinkin’ bout your eulogy, Ricky.”
That was a new one. “Fucking what?” I said, stifling a laugh. “Damn it, Clay, go easy on the drinks. You’re-”
“Let a man finish!” he said, verging on bellowing. The smile on his lips never faded, though. “What I’m sayin’, is, you gotta keep in mind what comes after. When folks look at your life, what the hell’re they goin’ to think? Will anyone even remember?”
“Don’t think anyone’s going to be forgetting you anytime soon, if you keep yelling like that.”
“Aw, shaddup,” he said, letting go of my arm with a laugh. “Those kids, though.” He smiled, with all of the smugness and the sarcasm fading away until genuine joy remained behind. “If they’re the one thing I’ve done with my sorry-ass life, that ain’t so bad.” He nodded—then turned on me with a flash. His hand plunged into his pocket. “Look. Jus’ this last week, Quinn done started-”
I winced, seeing the familiar holodeck emerge. That did it, I knew. Clay loved to corner a conversation, and once he’d pulled out the pictures, he’d keep at it all goddamn night.
I’d never get a word in edgewise from here. My mind still whirled with the names of ships and the thousand lines of paperwork that went along with a transfer, but...I let it slide, let it fall away. There’d be a better time, I told myself. It wouldn’t do to interrupt Clay when he was so happy. When he’d gotten himself all worked up like this. Besides, with his current inebriation, he’d probably forget it all anyway.
Another time. I filed the announcement away, leaning on the table more heavily. I’d bring it up...later. Yeah.
We’d ship out two days after that, it turned out. A simple job, or so I’d thought. Of course, it’d be anything but.
And if I’d have known I would never get another chance, I’d have told him everything. I’d have stayed there with him for hours and hours, letting him talk himself dry. I’d have drunk it all in, listened to every word he said and etched it all into my memory. I’d have told him the truth.
I don’t regret much in my life. But I do regret that.
—————
Too many people. There were so damn many people.
McCallister shoved his way through the crowd, his mood turning sour in an instant. A part hung from his hand—an element for the ship’s water storage and filtration system, fresh-fabricated down at the colony’s mine-attached foundry. He grimaced. Jason had been all too eager to help, after their face-to-face meeting.
Oh, he knew better than to think it was any sort of true charity on the man’s part. Jason was jockeying for a better status on the ship, along with every other damn family in the colony. On a logical level, he didn’t mind. It meant the ship was swarming with mechanics, all ready and eager to leap to his bidding.
On a practical level, that meant he needed to have a bidding for them to do—and he’d never signed up to be the colony’s engineering lead. “Out of the way,” he muttered, shouldering past a tall, gangly colonist.
The center of Solovei was starting to look more like a hubworld market than the isolated colony it was. This, too, was ostensibly a good thing. People were taking the evacuation notice seriously, and starting to filter in from the outside homesteads. But damn it, he could hardly walk.
It was fine. He’d hitch a ride back out to the ship, away from the town’s heart, and-
“McCallister!”
He groaned. Another one? He twisted, glaring back over his shoulder.
Lily pushed her way through after him, squeaking past in the gap he’d left. A grin stretched from ear to ear across her tanned, freckled face. “Slow down,” she said, only gasping a little. “Good God, I thought I’d get crushed in there.”
“It’s...a bit much,” McCallister said. He hefted the part, waggling it meaningfully in her direction. “Can’t really hang around, though. I’ve got to get this back to Reid and-”
“I know, I know, you’re a busy man.” Lily sucked down air, reaching up to smooth her ponytail. “You’ll get there faster with some wheels.”
McCallister paused, eyeing her. He did need a lift, but…”If you’re offering,” he said at last. “I know you’re busy coordinating the masses here.”
She rolled her eyes, casting a hand back toward the milling colonists. “Aw, well, I set Clark to it.” Her grin turned vicious. “Boy’s needin’ a bit of practice. His yellin’ voice is a bit weak.”
If McCallister listened, straining his ears over the noise of the crowd….he could hear a single voice bellowing over the rest. A familiar one. He winced. “That’s just not nice.”
“Nonsense. Builds character. Come on.”
She turned away, still grinning, and started picking her way around the edge of the crowd in the direction of the security station. McCallister followed on her heels. If she was offering ,and she was serious, well, it saved him having to flag someone else down.
“Reid’s been workin’ well for you, then?” Lily said, glancing back to him.
He nodded, a tiny smile curling at his lips. “It’s...yeah.” He shrugged. “He’s a quick learner. Picks it up fast. I’ve got him handling the teams in the lower decks, right now.”
“I’m glad.” Lily bobbed her head in a nod, emphasizing the words. “Boy’s got a good head for that sort of thing. Sees all the little movin’ parts. That’s hard to teach.”
McCallister snorted. “Yeah, he’s getting along pretty well.” It’d...taken a bit of working, to get him that far. At first, he’d just turned ghost-white when McCallister had turned him loose among the teams sent from various colony-based companies. He’d locked up completely.
But, well, McCallister could be convincing when he needed to be. It’d taken a bit of cajoling and a few sharp words, but he’d gotten the security-officer-turned-mechanic back on track.
Lily chuckled. “That’s cute. You’ve got yourself a liddle apprentice, eh?”
An apprentice. He turned, shooting an irritated look her way, and found her smiling smugly up at him. “Don’t you-” he began, but stopped. He recognized that look. Protesting would only encourage her. “Whatever,” he mumbled. “It’s just for a bit. We’ll be off the ground soon.”
A wall dropped behind her eyes, wiping her smile away and turning her expression cold. “Right,” she said.
Inwardly, McCallister kicked himself. He was an idiot. Lily might be a bit of a bitch at times, however playfully, but at the end of the day she was just like the rest—a person trying to cope with the impending destruction of their home and all they’d ever known. “Sorry,” he mumbled. “I know...I can’t imagine how hard this is.”
“Yeah, it’s a real shame,” Lily said, more quietly. She snagged his sleeve in the next instant, tugging him away from a rapidly-swelling crowd and leading him deeper into an alley. “I’m not sure what to tell people. How to let ‘em know it’s all goin’ to work out.” She chuckled softly. “Not really sure it all will, truth be told.”
“It’ll work. We’ll make it work.”
“Maybe.” She shook her head slowly, still working them deeper into the colony. Every twist and turn they made, something seemed to stand in their way—a hauler, a crowd, a stack of crates waiting to be ferried to the ship. It was like the whole town had been turned into a dockyard. “I...I dunno. Solovei’s...it’s our home. The thought of findin’ another place like it is a bit unnervin’.” She snorted. “Hell, the thought of findin’ another world we can breathe on is bad enough.”
“We’ll find one,” McCallister said, casting his eyes ahead. Damn it, there had to be a clear path somewhere. “The galaxy is full of planets. Might have to look a while, but...we’ll find one.” His gut churned. They might be aloft for a long time. Months. Maybe even years. How would they keep going? How would they sustain themselves? Somehow, he didn’t think TerraCorp would be helping them any. Not unless they got their arm twisted hard.
Lily only sighed. “Seen a lot of worlds, then, have you?”
He grimaced. “I...a fair few.” Snagging her wrist, he pulled them down another route as a hauler whipped from a side alley and plunked down in the middle of the road. “The corp kept me running around while I was in the service.”
“What’re they like?”
“Pretty much like this,” he muttered.
“Come on. Just-”
“I spent most of my time in the Dust,” McCallister said, shooting her a sidelong look. “Most of the Dustworlds are, well, pretty similar to Solovei.” He grimaced. “Dry. Questionably habitable for humans.”
Lily frowned, hurrying forward through a gap in traffic. “I don’t get it. There’ve got to be some decent worlds out there.”
McCallister snorted. “Sure. Of course there are. And they’re snapped up for the bigwigs, or the rich folk looking for an escape. Precious few of those worlds are ever true Dustworlds.
“Oh.” She fell quiet for a moment, then, chewing on what he’d said. “Well. I guess.”
“Right. So-”
“What about you, then?”
He blinked. “What?”
She lurched closer, skittering back from a surge in the gathered masses. “You sound so down on most’ve those places. Ain’t there nowhere you do like?”
“Not really,” he muttered.
“What’s that?”
“I prefer space,” he said, rolling his eyes. “There’s more room. Less dirt. And-”
“What?” Lily said, furrowing her brow and glancing back to him. “That’s so...depressin’.”
“Hey.”
“An’ you’re that way ‘bout everywhere? There’s no planet out there that strikes your fancy?”
He shrugged. “Not really. I’ve never really-”
“Shit. Not even your stompin’ grounds? Everyone’s got a home. ”
That got a chuckle out of him. “I guess. That doesn’t mean I liked it, though. Why do you think I joined the corp?”
Her expression turned crafty. “Another Dustworld? Maybe a desert. Or a swamp planet? You do have a damp look about you. Maybe-”
He sighed. “I’m Terran.”
Lily stopped. For a moment, she just blinked. “Oh.”
Oh, indeed. “I left for a reason, and I’ve never really wanted to go back. Space is plenty.”
She nodded, but didn’t seem to have a lot to say to that. McCallister watched for a moment, mulling her reaction over. ‘Home’ wasn’t something he tended to bring up much, even when he had people around to bring it up with. Would she get pushy about it? Would she try and win him over to the colonial lifestyle? He’d seen a few of those, in his day—the sorts that’d try and convince you to stay dirtside, giving up the spacefaring way for some stability. Especially after they’d seen him piece back together whatever critical system they’d royally fucked up.
Lily just glanced to him, though, her eyes a bit sad but her expression neutral. “Well. I s’ppose. Come on, then.”
McCallister glanced up—and there, at the end of the block, he saw the familiar peaks of the spaceport, together with the security building. The part in his hand hung heavier with every step. “Right.”
“Even still,” she said as they stepped forward on the final leg of the walk. “Careful. I’m thinkin’ Wyatt likes havin’ another fellow with some know-how around the colony.”
Ah, there it was. “No.”
“And Julian’s grateful for you takin’ the lead on the coordination, here.”
“Julian should do his own damn job once in a while.”
Lily chuckled, brushing back a strand of strawberry hair. “Yeah, yeah. Anyway-”
“Like I said. No.”
She winked up at him. “We’ll see.”
McCallister groaned. There was no winning. She was as bad as Kara. He just had to stick to his guns. He was delivering Kara and the kids to somewhere safe. That was all. He’d have done his duty after that, and he could go back to his own business. He just had to keep his eyes on the target.
And keep a step ahead of the scheming colonists he ferried.
Shooting a tolerant, amused look Lily’s way, he stepped out in front as the security building loomed ahead. One hand grabbed the handle, pulling the door open even as he took his hat off with the other. “After you.”
Lily traded his look for one of her own, an eyebrow cocked. “Just think about it, that’s all I’m sayin’.”
“Go.”
She laughed, skittering inside. He sighed, then stepped around the door and-
Noise. It filled his ears, screaming down like a deafening wail. McCallister flinched, clinging to the glass-and-metal frame of the door as his world wobbled.
His mind raced, fighting to catch up as the horrible shock of it ran through him. What was it? Where? Was it danger? Was he-
His chin snapped up. The noise—it was coming from overhead. There. A speaker unit sat perched atop a pole set just inside the spaceport. The wail was coming from there, echoed by similar screeches from across Solovei.
The alarm. Realization settled home like a hammer, smacking him straight upside the head. He was frozen, his mind perfectly blank. There was only one thing it could be—and if he thought back through the chaos of the reconstruction process, he’d heard this noise before.
Through all of it, one singular truth shone clear in his mind, unbothered by the chaos and the adrenaline and the thought-destroying noise of it all.
Whatever time they’d had left, it’d just run out.
Next Part
submitted by TAHaywood to redditserials [link] [comments]


2020.09.07 20:44 subreddit_stats Subreddit Stats: choralmusic posts from 2019-09-07 to 2020-09-06 14:44 PDT

Period: 364.72 days
Submissions Comments
Total 435 1121
Rate (per day) 1.19 3.07
Unique Redditors 265 480
Combined Score 5024 2617

Top Submitters' Top Submissions

  1. 594 points, 51 submissions: steinweg
    1. Eleven year-old Leonard Bernstein, future conductor, composer, pianist, author, educator and humanitarian, climbing a mountain with his father, Samuel, in 1929. (55 points, 11 comments)
    2. Robert Shaw conducts final rehearsal for Severance Hall, Cleveland Orchestra premiere of Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Psalms with the Cleveland All-City High School Chorus and Children's Choir, March, 1968. (53 points, 19 comments)
    3. Robert Shaw, conducting, with violinist Isaac Stern - San Diego Symphony, 1957. Photo credit: Bill Ramsey. (48 points, 0 comments)
    4. Robert Shaw - Autographed score The Passion According to St. John - J.S. Bach - from performance at The Meadow Brook Festival, 1967 (47 points, 4 comments)
    5. Locus iste a deo factus est - Anton Bruckner Tenebrae Choir, Nigel Short, conducting (32 points, 12 comments)
    6. A silk handkerchief with the manuscript for "Keep the Home Fires Burning" by Ivor Novello. The opening melody bears a resemblance to Gustav Holst's Christmas setting of "In the Bleak Midwinter." (31 points, 4 comments)
    7. Leonard Bernstein - Autographed Choral Score from Mahler Symphony No. 2 - performance by The Cleveland Orchestra and Cleveland Orchestra Chorus, Blossom Music Center, July 9, 1970. It was his only Cleveland appearance. Find link to this matchless performance in my comments. (28 points, 7 comments)
    8. Be not afraid, from "Elijah" - Felix Mendelssohn - Chorus and Orchestra (live performance) Silvertown Auditorium New Apostolic Church, Cape Town, South Africa (21 points, 2 comments)
    9. Tchaikovsky - 1812 Overture - live performance by Swingle Singers (20 points, 2 comments)
    10. A very young Robert Shaw (center right) helping Fred Waring (center left) serve cake to service men in NYC. Bob Shaw was developing a choral ensemble for Waring and the "Pennsylvanians." (18 points, 2 comments)
  2. 177 points, 10 submissions: whatatwit
    1. Sir Stephen Cleobury, who directed the choir at King's College Cambridge for nearly four decades, has died aged 70. (39 points, 4 comments)
    2. Joseph Shabalala, founder of famed vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, dies at 78. (32 points, 2 comments)
    3. Choristers of the Coronation: One time boy choristers fondly recall 1953, and the magical experience of singing at Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation. (26 points, 0 comments)
    4. [UK] Gareth Malone's National Choir: Gareth Malone announces a new initiative to bring together both amateur and professional performers around the country as we experience day to day social distancing. (22 points, 2 comments)
    5. Choral Evensong, King's College, Cambridge (from 2016): A recording of a 2016 live broadcast from the Chapel of King's College, Cambridge, in memory of Sir Stephen Cleobury who died a week ago Friday. (15 points, 0 comments)
    6. Celebrating Sven-David Sandstrőm (who died 2019/06/10): The Swedish Radio Choir with pieces by Sven-David Sandstrőm alongside motets by his revered Bach. (BBC European Radio Sharing) (14 points, 2 comments)
    7. BBC Radio 3 - Through the Night, Bach and Part from Estonia: Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir sing Bach and Arvo Part. (10 points, 0 comments)
    8. Christmas Around Europe: Vienna, Copenhagen, Madrid, Tartu, Helsinki, Reykjavik, Malmo, Stuttgart, Ljubljana, Gdansk, Riga, Merseberg and Sofia (~ 13 1/2 hrs. not all of these are choral) (ignore 'previous' when on episode 1 the BBC is being underfunded) (9 points, 0 comments)
    9. Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) Mass in B minor, BWV 232 Choir: Balthasar Neumann Chorus. Orchestra: B'Rock Orchestra. Conductor: Ivor Bolton. (BBC European Radio Sharing) (5 points, 0 comments)
    10. There are a few choral questions in this episode of Counterpoint (Series 33, Heat 4) from the BBC. (5 points, 0 comments)
  3. 164 points, 8 submissions: Matthew1428
    1. Stunning arrangement of two beautiful Wailin' Jenny's songs "Long Time Traveller - Swing Low Sail High" by Luther College Nordic Choir (35 points, 4 comments)
    2. "And So I Go On" by Jake Runestad....I discovered this song yesterday, and have not gotten the second half of the piece out of my head since I first heard it (30 points, 10 comments)
    3. What are your favorite choral pieces by women/people of coloqueer folks/etc.? Let's celebrate those voices and what they bring to the world of choral music! (28 points, 19 comments)
    4. Since you all appreciated some Jake Runestad in the last post, get a kick of this!!! "A Silence Haunts Me" (24 points, 10 comments)
    5. Ave Maria by Kevin Memley (21 points, 5 comments)
    6. Kim André Arnesen - What is Peace? (17 points, 1 comment)
    7. Go Tell It on the Mountain Stellenbosch University Choir (8 points, 8 comments)
    8. Alright....let's talk about our favorite collegiate choirs! (1 point, 1 comment)
  4. 157 points, 1 submission: BeardedForHerPleasur
    1. Light & Chest Colds (157 points, 1 comment)
  5. 138 points, 6 submissions: treeguy345
    1. Lamentations of Jeremiah - Randall Stroope. Had the opportunity to sing this with Stroope himself conducting! (36 points, 9 comments)
    2. Alleluia - Jake Runestad. One of my favorite pieces. (30 points, 2 comments)
    3. Music of Stillness - Elaine Hagenburg. The first piece that brought me to tears. As a bass 2, having a low D flat was nice too! (25 points, 10 comments)
    4. Ezekiel - Stacey Gibbs. The most fun piece I’ve ever had the privilege to perform! (16 points, 3 comments)
    5. Nothin’ gonna stumble my feet - Greg Gilpin. One of my favorite spirituals. (16 points, 3 comments)
    6. Alway Something Sings - Dan Forrest. One of the most moving choral music pieces I’ve ever heard. (15 points, 2 comments)
  6. 117 points, 3 submissions: babybitchboi
    1. Hope you're all safe and healthy, wanted to share something that sparked joy with me today- VOCES8: Earth Song - Frank Ticheli (60 points, 6 comments)
    2. VOCES8: A Boy and a Girl - Eric Whitacre (55 points, 1 comment)
    3. "protect yourself from infection – The Crossing / David Lang" - fitting during this pandemic (albeit, recorded last summer) (2 points, 0 comments)
  7. 112 points, 6 submissions: lapapinton
    1. All Star (As An English Madrigal) (SATB Choir) - Arranged by Nathan Howe (36 points, 4 comments)
    2. Slovenian choir sings Mia Makaroff's "Butterfly" (21 points, 3 comments)
    3. O Radiant Dawn (J. MacMillan) with Score (20 points, 1 comment)
    4. MSU Chorale: MLK - U2 (arr. Bob Chilcott) (17 points, 2 comments)
    5. Trinity College Choir and Helen Charlston: "How do you keep the music playing?" (14 points, 0 comments)
    6. Libera sing "Do You Hear What I Hear?" (4 points, 0 comments)
  8. 99 points, 4 submissions: trbleclef
    1. 45 of 60 people who went to Washington choir practice have coronavirus (44 points, 3 comments)
    2. Is Singing Together Safe In The Era Of Coronavirus? Not Really, Experts Say (37 points, 9 comments)
    3. High SARS-CoV-2 Attack Rate Following Exposure at a Choir Practice — Skagit County, Washington, March 2020 (12 points, 2 comments)
    4. Choirs may have to remain silent long after society reopens (6 points, 2 comments)
  9. 98 points, 6 submissions: hankyolkoo
    1. A virtual choir of myself singing the Shrek theme lol (30 points, 10 comments)
    2. Acapella arrangement of the original Spider Man theme :) (19 points, 6 comments)
    3. Autumn Leaves (acapella)/어텀 리브즈 (아카펠라) (15 points, 0 comments)
    4. Bob's Burgers Intro (acapella cover) (12 points, 0 comments)
    5. A Quiet Place (original arrangement) (11 points, 0 comments)
    6. I cover everything done by the voice in The Bells of Notre Dame (choir & solo) (11 points, 2 comments)
  10. 89 points, 1 submission: Jamster444
    1. Happy Valentine’s Day! (89 points, 5 comments)

Top Commenters

  1. steinweg (75 points, 46 comments)
  2. bronathan261 (50 points, 21 comments)
  3. knickknacksnackery (40 points, 6 comments)
  4. keakealani (37 points, 19 comments)
  5. Matthew1428 (33 points, 15 comments)
  6. WildUnit (31 points, 4 comments)
  7. etzpcm (30 points, 14 comments)
  8. BenjiMalone (29 points, 5 comments)
  9. choir-mama (28 points, 8 comments)
  10. RABlackAuthor (28 points, 6 comments)

Top Submissions

  1. Light & Chest Colds by BeardedForHerPleasur (157 points, 1 comment)
  2. Happy Valentine’s Day! by Jamster444 (89 points, 5 comments)
  3. GIA Publications announce they are no longer publishing works by Daniel Elder by tasmimiandevil (73 points, 20 comments)
  4. Hope you're all safe and healthy, wanted to share something that sparked joy with me today- VOCES8: Earth Song - Frank Ticheli by babybitchboi (60 points, 6 comments)
  5. This is what we are singing this semester. And yes, I have the highest line 😱 by Hera2990 (57 points, 19 comments)
  6. Eleven year-old Leonard Bernstein, future conductor, composer, pianist, author, educator and humanitarian, climbing a mountain with his father, Samuel, in 1929. by steinweg (55 points, 11 comments)
  7. VOCES8: A Boy and a Girl - Eric Whitacre by babybitchboi (55 points, 1 comment)
  8. Robert Shaw conducts final rehearsal for Severance Hall, Cleveland Orchestra premiere of Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Psalms with the Cleveland All-City High School Chorus and Children's Choir, March, 1968. by steinweg (53 points, 19 comments)
  9. About two weeks ago I got to work with one of the greatest living composers out there. Such a genuine person and truly amazing director by DarkKnight5231 (51 points, 1 comment)
  10. My chorus did a thing. by Pergmanexe (49 points, 7 comments)

Top Comments

  1. 21 points: BayouDeSaird's comment in This is what we are singing this semester. And yes, I have the highest line 😱
  2. 20 points: WildUnit's comment in GIA Publications announce they are no longer publishing works by Daniel Elder
  3. 19 points: beaulee15's comment in w h a t
  4. 18 points: BenjiMalone's comment in What is the highest note (optional or required) ever written for a soprano 1 in choir?
  5. 18 points: knickknacksnackery's comment in New bass, struggling to "cover" voice, any techniques?
  6. 18 points: sirrustalot29's comment in Do you know what these little notes under “-sur-“ and “-cut” mean? (Soprano I in movement 4 of Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana)
  7. 14 points: LeatardoDaVinci's comment in Suggestions for medical memorial service
  8. 14 points: Tintinabulation's comment in post allstate sadness
  9. 14 points: uglygerman's comment in What is this famous choral music?
  10. 14 points: yeehawhoneys's comment in 45 of 60 people who went to Washington choir practice have coronavirus
Generated with BBoe's Subreddit Stats
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2020.09.06 19:47 TAHaywood Richard "Quickdraw" McCallister: A Eulogy - Chapter 13 (Part 1)

When the Tamani blew a hole in his ship, his friend, and his career, Richard McCallister called it quits. But when he gets word of another alien incursion, with his friend's family in the line of fire, he charges back into danger on the outskirts of settled space to yank them out of the maw.
That was his plan, anyway. But things don't usually go according to plan.
Cover Art
First Part
----------
It was strange.
We’d hurried into the system, carried on an emergency jump. We’d all dropped everything we were doing, turned to this new task as though it was all that mattered. We’d charged in like a bolt of lightning.
And now all I could do was stand there. Waiting.
“Anything?” I whispered, staring out the porthole.
I heard Clay sigh behind me. “I told you, kid. Ain’t nothin’ new gonna be comin’ for a while. You might as well-”
“I know.”
Clay was right. I knew damn well he was right, which was what made it all the more painful. Once we’d come through the system, we’d been able to sit and watch the reports start to file through. No one cared what two of the ship’s mechanics were up to, after all. Our duty station was here, and so here we were. Waiting for something. Anything.
But those reports were...horrifying. Libre Prime had been a major colony. A million people had lived on its surface, all living and working and going about their business.
Now, Libre Prime was silent.
People always talk about standing around in times of crisis. About not knowing what to do, how to help. It’s a turn of phrase, little more. So I’d thought. But here we were, with a million people dead in front of us, and all I could do was stand there and stare out the damn window. Those sentiments of not knowing what to do rang a lot more true.
“And the signal?” I whispered.
The silence was more prolonged, this time. Finally, Clay sighed. “About what you’d expect. Ain’t stopped screamin’ since we cleared the jump.”
“...Right.” I’d seen the sensor readings myself -- hell, it was one of the reasons I was over by the window, instead of hovering at the console with Clay. Staring at the system map was not good for my stability in that moment.
Not when we could plainly see the clustered dots of ships flitting around Libre Prime.
Ships that were very much not Solaran.
“Calm down,” Clay said, his voice low. “They’re all the way over there, and we’re all the way over here.”
“But if they see us-”
“If the Tamani see us, then we’ll turn tail and run. We’ll be gone into jump afore they can bat a giant alien eyelash in our direction. So calm down.”
I nodded, staring out into the endless black through the porthole. “I guess.” The deckplates hummed under my feet, undeniable evidence that Clay was correct. They were keeping us at the ready, with the engines fired up and prepared to go at a moment’s notice. I chuckled sourly. Hell, we’d be spending the next month cleaning out the whole rig, after the rough treatment we were giving the poor thing.
“Don’t guess nothin’. Just listen to what I’m tellin’ you.”
“Go to hell, Clay.”
He laughed at that. There was no real amusement in the sound, but I didn’t mind.
The minutes slipped away. I leaned back, sagging against a desk. “It’s just crazy,” I murmured. “We were so close. And already-”
A pad on Clay’s desk beeped. I stiffened, whirling, but he’d already pressed a hand to his earpiece. “Perez. Go.”
I stared. Clay’s eyes flicked back and forth, bouncing from the pad to the walls, from the shuttles back to the desk. “Understood,” he said at last. “We’ll be ready.”
And then his eyes snapped to me. His hand fell away from his earpiece. “Rick,” he said, pushing away from his desk. “Come on. We’re shifting to the main bay.”
“W-What?” I said, freezing. The main bay was only used at stations -- we had to stock the Rheasilvia somehow, after all. But mid-flight, there was just...there was no reason. “What do you mean, we’re going to-”
“Orders came in,” Clay said, and his lips curled down into a scowl. “They spotted something. A signal from the edge of the system.”
My blood chilled. “Another Ta-”
“Not a Tamani ship,’ Clay said with a quick, violent jerk of his head. “A Solaran ship. A courier, most like. Small thing.”
A Solaran ship? Humans? “From the colony?” I said. “Do you think-”
“It’s possible they were makin’ a break for it,” Clay said. “Board thinks it’s worth tryin’ to scoop it.”
“B-Bring it in?” I squeaked, earning myself a derisive look. “B-But, if we get spotted-”
“There’s a chance someone might still be alive on the thing,” Clay said, more quietly. “So come on. Do your duty, kid.”
I rocked in place, the world shifting under me for a perilous moment. It’d be a risky play -- but...survivors. We had to try, I knew. Even if it meant a hasty retreat after, we couldn’t leave without at least giving them a shot.
I nodded. And when Clay turned on his heel, making for the door, I followed.
Wordless, we made for the main bay.
-----------
Like it or not, it was go time. McCallister twisted, stumbling back from the still-spreading pool of aether. “Hey!” he cried, lifting his chin and shielding his eyes with the pad. “You two!”
The distant figure of Reid spun to face him. McCallister heard him call...something. The words disappeared into the in-between, but he recognized a question when he heard it.
“Get ready!” he bellowed, fixing his gaze on the pair. “They’re coming!”
They’re coming. Such a simple phrase. It was really, really hard to mesh something as straightforward as that together with “the human-murdering, nigh-unstoppable aliens are heading this way.” And here he was, waiting around for their arrival. Somewhere along the line, he must’ve done something to kill a lot of brain cells.
It was just a drone swarm, he reasoned. That was all. And they were on land, not up in space.
It’d be fine.
Probably.
Something crackled around his feet, and he jumped back. “Shit,” he mumbled, finding a tiny fire starting to spread from the furiously-glowing pool of aether. Absentmindedly, he kicked at the flames. They were in the middle of a godforsaken wasteland, and there was about to be a lot more to worry about than a measly shrub-fire, but it helped focus him in. Calm him down a little.
Move, damn it. Get ready. He took a step away, freezing at the last moment and darting back in. His arm. He couldn’t very well leave it behind, and he’d like to make sure the damn thing made it through the fight okay. It’d been very, very expensive. Hell, he wasn’t even sure he’d be able to replace it. TerraCorp wouldn’t be hiring the crafters they had last time, that was for sure.
Scooping it up along with his overcoat, he bolted. The canyon was decently narrow and littered with boulders taller than he was. He hurled himself behind one, tossing his overcoat into the deepest, darkest shadow he could find.
His arm, he tossed on top of the jacket, praying it’d stay there. A chuckle rumbled up from his gut. Here they were, about to be blasted into pieces, and he was worried about the damn prosthetic.
The skin on the back of his neck prickled, standing on end. A low hum rose over the plains. McCallister’s blood froze. Pressing himself against the boulder, he reached down, wrapping his hand around the grip of his pistol. It warmed at his touch, powering on.
With that small comfort to hold to, he leaned out, peering around the edge of the stone.
A quartet of silvered shapes dipped and darted over Solovei’s landscape, appearing and vanishing behind hills and gulleys. Their course was clear, though -- straight toward them. He smiled grimly. The aether had done the trick, though. If only he’d figured that little gambit out earlier.
McCallister grinned, a bead of sweat dripping down his spine. Well, he’d figured it out in the end, and staging their fight away from anyone who might get caught in the middle had its positives. Now they just had to win.
“Fucking hell,” he mumbled under his breath, forcing himself to lean back in. He raised the pistol, then, eyeing the symbols glowing along the side of the capacitor. Fully charged, and fully operational. Good. Others might call him asinine, but damn it, keeping his rigid habits had saved his ass this time.
Working quickly, he crouched, dropping the pistol to the dirt and scowling furiously. He’d forgotten just how painful trying to function with just one arm could be. A toggle sat at the base of the barrel -- he worked it quickly, watching the symbols morph and change.
The Tamani were strong. Very strong. He’d need more juice than a stun-round to take down their drones. Half power, then. Something like that’d burn a hole clear through the soft tissues of a human, and leave a gash in anything more solid. Any other day, he’d have considered it overkill.
This was not any other day. Grabbing hold again, he lurched upright, throwing himself back against the stone. They were close. The hum was louder now, rising over the steady crackling of the fires and seething at the edge of his senses. It wasn’t just the hair on his neck standing upright anymore.
Mustering his will, he inched out. The four drones were closer, now. Very close. He sucked down a deep breath, fixing his eyes on them. Closer. Just a little closer, and he’d start. They flew over the dusty terrain like blurs -- although, seeing as they were coming straight for him, it was hard to tell exactly how fast they were going. Fast enough.
“Hope you’re ready!” he cried again, not tearing his eyes off the drones to get a look at his friends. They’d be ready or they wouldn’t be. There was no more time, as the roar of the drones’ engines grew to new heights. There. They were slowing, the engines modulating down. Glimmers of light shone from their bows, coursing across the ground. He grinned. Not gonna find it. Not this time.
The drones entered the canyon, gliding with terrifying ease. They were small, he realized, no more than half the size of the skimmer they’d taken out of town. Just like the full-size versions, they were each formed from smooth, gracefully-curving arches of metal and lacquer. And just like the ships, they each had a mess of crystalline shards embedded in their backside.
His hand tightened around his pistol. Carefully, he brought it up, fixing his eyes on the drone out front. They were still moving, still dipping and bobbing around each other like it was a dance. Networked together? Are they positioning off each others’ signals? Or are they-
McCallister shook his head. It didn’t matter. They were here. If they wouldn’t sit still, then he’d have to manage.
The tip of his pistol came up. The display flickered to on, filling his vision with numbers -- ranges, and speeds, and a reticule showing where he’d need to fire. McCallister grinned. All aftermarket, of course. The lead drone appeared between the crosshairs.
Tightening his finger about the trigger and praying he wasn’t making a horrible, horrible mistake, he-
Gunfire crackled out across the canyon, somehow sharper and more strident than in the range. McCallister flinched. Lily and Reid. Laser fire sprayed from their positions at the top of the canyon walls, flashing down toward the intruders.
No. Not toward the drones -- over them, and past them. Right into the canyon wall. Rock and stone screamed, falling in a deafening clatter.
McCallister grinned, his heart thudding in his chest, and hurled himself out from behind his cover. The drones spun in place, pivoting to face the new threat.
They never saw him. The reticule flashed green. He fired, his breath dying in his throat.
The pistol shrieked. The force of the recoil rattled his arm, testing his one-handed grip. A bolt of crimson light blossomed from its barrel, lancing with unerring aim toward the first drone.
And McCallister watched in horror as it bounced straight off the hull.
“Shit,” he gasped. “Shit, shit shit.”
Just in time, he remembered himself -- and leapt back behind cover as the drone spun. Its fellows had vanished into a cloud of dust and debris, but McCallister knew better than to assume that’d be the end of them. No, these were Tamani drones.
And he’d just lit a fire under their asses.
Something slammed into his boulder, sending slivers of rock and stone cascading down over his head in a pale mockery of the avalanche they’d just spawned. McCallister had never moved so fast in his life. Bracing the pistol against his cover, he toggled furiously. Half power hadn’t done shit.
Full power, then. He’d have to recharge between shots, and he’d burn through power reserves at a fearful clip, but he needed more oomph.
The sound of Lily and Reid’s gunfire hadn’t slowed, and now, he could hear them bellowing something over the din. Gritting his teeth, McCallister spun back out, his pistol snapping to the ready.
A black scar sat streaked across the leading drone’s hull. He noted the mark through the panic-fueled blur of his thoughts. He could do it, he just needed a little more. And -- a lucky break. A chunk of rock sat atop the thing’s bow, pinning it to the ground. Its engines roared as it fought to clear the debris.
Not a chance. McCallister brought his weapon to bear again.
This time when the pistol went off, it was more than just a blossom. A starburst of energy gathered around the tip of the barrel, dancing with oranges and yellows at the edges like some kind of perverse, deadly flower. And this time, when it tore free and screamed across the distance, it thrust his arm back and skyward. His shoulder popped ominously.
But this time, he saw the drone’s hull pucker -- and give way, shattering to nothing under the blow. The voices of Reid and Lily rose louder.
Before he could say a word, they started firing again, their shots zeroing in on that wound.
With a final crunch and a puff of something inside its guts exploding, the Tamani drone lay still.
The sight of it lying in the dust and dirt sent an electric shock through McCallister’s veins. They’d done it. They’d killed one of the things.
Well. Not an actual Tamani. And not one of their actual ships. Just a drone.
But still. They’d killed it.
“In!” McCallister heard Lily roar, the woman’s voice rising impossibly over the chaos for the single, pointed word.
“In” indeed. McCallister paused a moment, fighting to collect himself, and leapt out from behind his boulder.
Another instant saw him clambering to get behind it again, cursing loudly, as light shot from the dust cloud. Lasers. Not his, and not from either of his friends.
The drones hadn’t been crushed to pieces, then.
Well, that figured.
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2020.09.06 19:44 TAHaywood [Richard "Quickdraw" McCallister: A Eulogy][Derby] Chapter 13 - The Battle Opens (Part 1)

When the Tamani blew a hole in his ship, his friend, and his career, Richard McCallister called it quits. But when he gets word of another alien incursion, with his friend's family in the line of fire, he charges back into danger on the outskirts of settled space to yank them out of the maw.
That was his plan, anyway. But things don't usually go according to plan.
Cover Art
First Part
----------
It was strange.
We’d hurried into the system, carried on an emergency jump. We’d all dropped everything we were doing, turned to this new task as though it was all that mattered. We’d charged in like a bolt of lightning.
And now all I could do was stand there. Waiting.
“Anything?” I whispered, staring out the porthole.
I heard Clay sigh behind me. “I told you, kid. Ain’t nothin’ new gonna be comin’ for a while. You might as well-”
“I know.”
Clay was right. I knew damn well he was right, which was what made it all the more painful. Once we’d come through the system, we’d been able to sit and watch the reports start to file through. No one cared what two of the ship’s mechanics were up to, after all. Our duty station was here, and so here we were. Waiting for something. Anything.
But those reports were...horrifying. Libre Prime had been a major colony. A million people had lived on its surface, all living and working and going about their business.
Now, Libre Prime was silent.
People always talk about standing around in times of crisis. About not knowing what to do, how to help. It’s a turn of phrase, little more. So I’d thought. But here we were, with a million people dead in front of us, and all I could do was stand there and stare out the damn window. Those sentiments of not knowing what to do rang a lot more true.
“And the signal?” I whispered.
The silence was more prolonged, this time. Finally, Clay sighed. “About what you’d expect. Ain’t stopped screamin’ since we cleared the jump.”
“...Right.” I’d seen the sensor readings myself -- hell, it was one of the reasons I was over by the window, instead of hovering at the console with Clay. Staring at the system map was not good for my stability in that moment.
Not when we could plainly see the clustered dots of ships flitting around Libre Prime.
Ships that were very much not Solaran.
“Calm down,” Clay said, his voice low. “They’re all the way over there, and we’re all the way over here.”
“But if they see us-”
“If the Tamani see us, then we’ll turn tail and run. We’ll be gone into jump afore they can bat a giant alien eyelash in our direction. So calm down.”
I nodded, staring out into the endless black through the porthole. “I guess.” The deckplates hummed under my feet, undeniable evidence that Clay was correct. They were keeping us at the ready, with the engines fired up and prepared to go at a moment’s notice. I chuckled sourly. Hell, we’d be spending the next month cleaning out the whole rig, after the rough treatment we were giving the poor thing.
“Don’t guess nothin’. Just listen to what I’m tellin’ you.”
“Go to hell, Clay.”
He laughed at that. There was no real amusement in the sound, but I didn’t mind.
The minutes slipped away. I leaned back, sagging against a desk. “It’s just crazy,” I murmured. “We were so close. And already-”
A pad on Clay’s desk beeped. I stiffened, whirling, but he’d already pressed a hand to his earpiece. “Perez. Go.”
I stared. Clay’s eyes flicked back and forth, bouncing from the pad to the walls, from the shuttles back to the desk. “Understood,” he said at last. “We’ll be ready.”
And then his eyes snapped to me. His hand fell away from his earpiece. “Rick,” he said, pushing away from his desk. “Come on. We’re shifting to the main bay.”
“W-What?” I said, freezing. The main bay was only used at stations -- we had to stock the Rheasilvia somehow, after all. But mid-flight, there was just...there was no reason. “What do you mean, we’re going to-”
“Orders came in,” Clay said, and his lips curled down into a scowl. “They spotted something. A signal from the edge of the system.”
My blood chilled. “Another Ta-”
“Not a Tamani ship,’ Clay said with a quick, violent jerk of his head. “A Solaran ship. A courier, most like. Small thing.”
A Solaran ship? Humans? “From the colony?” I said. “Do you think-”
“It’s possible they were makin’ a break for it,” Clay said. “Board thinks it’s worth tryin’ to scoop it.”
“B-Bring it in?” I squeaked, earning myself a derisive look. “B-But, if we get spotted-”
“There’s a chance someone might still be alive on the thing,” Clay said, more quietly. “So come on. Do your duty, kid.”
I rocked in place, the world shifting under me for a perilous moment. It’d be a risky play -- but...survivors. We had to try, I knew. Even if it meant a hasty retreat after, we couldn’t leave without at least giving them a shot.
I nodded. And when Clay turned on his heel, making for the door, I followed.
Wordless, we made for the main bay.
-----------
Like it or not, it was go time. McCallister twisted, stumbling back from the still-spreading pool of aether. “Hey!” he cried, lifting his chin and shielding his eyes with the pad. “You two!”
The distant figure of Reid spun to face him. McCallister heard him call...something. The words disappeared into the in-between, but he recognized a question when he heard it.
“Get ready!” he bellowed, fixing his gaze on the pair. “They’re coming!”
They’re coming. Such a simple phrase. It was really, really hard to mesh something as straightforward as that together with “the human-murdering, nigh-unstoppable aliens are heading this way.” And here he was, waiting around for their arrival. Somewhere along the line, he must’ve done something to kill a lot of brain cells.
It was just a drone swarm, he reasoned. That was all. And they were on land, not up in space.
It’d be fine.
Probably.
Something crackled around his feet, and he jumped back. “Shit,” he mumbled, finding a tiny fire starting to spread from the furiously-glowing pool of aether. Absentmindedly, he kicked at the flames. They were in the middle of a godforsaken wasteland, and there was about to be a lot more to worry about than a measly shrub-fire, but it helped focus him in. Calm him down a little.
Move, damn it. Get ready. He took a step away, freezing at the last moment and darting back in. His arm. He couldn’t very well leave it behind, and he’d like to make sure the damn thing made it through the fight okay. It’d been very, very expensive. Hell, he wasn’t even sure he’d be able to replace it. TerraCorp wouldn’t be hiring the crafters they had last time, that was for sure.
Scooping it up along with his overcoat, he bolted. The canyon was decently narrow and littered with boulders taller than he was. He hurled himself behind one, tossing his overcoat into the deepest, darkest shadow he could find.
His arm, he tossed on top of the jacket, praying it’d stay there. A chuckle rumbled up from his gut. Here they were, about to be blasted into pieces, and he was worried about the damn prosthetic.
The skin on the back of his neck prickled, standing on end. A low hum rose over the plains. McCallister’s blood froze. Pressing himself against the boulder, he reached down, wrapping his hand around the grip of his pistol. It warmed at his touch, powering on.
With that small comfort to hold to, he leaned out, peering around the edge of the stone.
A quartet of silvered shapes dipped and darted over Solovei’s landscape, appearing and vanishing behind hills and gulleys. Their course was clear, though -- straight toward them. He smiled grimly. The aether had done the trick, though. If only he’d figured that little gambit out earlier.
McCallister grinned, a bead of sweat dripping down his spine. Well, he’d figured it out in the end, and staging their fight away from anyone who might get caught in the middle had its positives. Now they just had to win.
“Fucking hell,” he mumbled under his breath, forcing himself to lean back in. He raised the pistol, then, eyeing the symbols glowing along the side of the capacitor. Fully charged, and fully operational. Good. Others might call him asinine, but damn it, keeping his rigid habits had saved his ass this time.
Working quickly, he crouched, dropping the pistol to the dirt and scowling furiously. He’d forgotten just how painful trying to function with just one arm could be. A toggle sat at the base of the barrel -- he worked it quickly, watching the symbols morph and change.
The Tamani were strong. Very strong. He’d need more juice than a stun-round to take down their drones. Half power, then. Something like that’d burn a hole clear through the soft tissues of a human, and leave a gash in anything more solid. Any other day, he’d have considered it overkill.
This was not any other day. Grabbing hold again, he lurched upright, throwing himself back against the stone. They were close. The hum was louder now, rising over the steady crackling of the fires and seething at the edge of his senses. It wasn’t just the hair on his neck standing upright anymore.
Mustering his will, he inched out. The four drones were closer, now. Very close. He sucked down a deep breath, fixing his eyes on them. Closer. Just a little closer, and he’d start. They flew over the dusty terrain like blurs -- although, seeing as they were coming straight for him, it was hard to tell exactly how fast they were going. Fast enough.
“Hope you’re ready!” he cried again, not tearing his eyes off the drones to get a look at his friends. They’d be ready or they wouldn’t be. There was no more time, as the roar of the drones’ engines grew to new heights. There. They were slowing, the engines modulating down. Glimmers of light shone from their bows, coursing across the ground. He grinned. Not gonna find it. Not this time.
The drones entered the canyon, gliding with terrifying ease. They were small, he realized, no more than half the size of the skimmer they’d taken out of town. Just like the full-size versions, they were each formed from smooth, gracefully-curving arches of metal and lacquer. And just like the ships, they each had a mess of crystalline shards embedded in their backside.
His hand tightened around his pistol. Carefully, he brought it up, fixing his eyes on the drone out front. They were still moving, still dipping and bobbing around each other like it was a dance. Networked together? Are they positioning off each others’ signals? Or are they-
McCallister shook his head. It didn’t matter. They were here. If they wouldn’t sit still, then he’d have to manage.
The tip of his pistol came up. The display flickered to on, filling his vision with numbers -- ranges, and speeds, and a reticule showing where he’d need to fire. McCallister grinned. All aftermarket, of course. The lead drone appeared between the crosshairs.
Tightening his finger about the trigger and praying he wasn’t making a horrible, horrible mistake, he-
Gunfire crackled out across the canyon, somehow sharper and more strident than in the range. McCallister flinched. Lily and Reid. Laser fire sprayed from their positions at the top of the canyon walls, flashing down toward the intruders.
No. Not toward the drones -- over them, and past them. Right into the canyon wall. Rock and stone screamed, falling in a deafening clatter.
McCallister grinned, his heart thudding in his chest, and hurled himself out from behind his cover. The drones spun in place, pivoting to face the new threat.
They never saw him. The reticule flashed green. He fired, his breath dying in his throat.
The pistol shrieked. The force of the recoil rattled his arm, testing his one-handed grip. A bolt of crimson light blossomed from its barrel, lancing with unerring aim toward the first drone.
And McCallister watched in horror as it bounced straight off the hull.
“Shit,” he gasped. “Shit, shit shit.”
Just in time, he remembered himself -- and leapt back behind cover as the drone spun. Its fellows had vanished into a cloud of dust and debris, but McCallister knew better than to assume that’d be the end of them. No, these were Tamani drones.
And he’d just lit a fire under their asses.
Something slammed into his boulder, sending slivers of rock and stone cascading down over his head in a pale mockery of the avalanche they’d just spawned. McCallister had never moved so fast in his life. Bracing the pistol against his cover, he toggled furiously. Half power hadn’t done shit.
Full power, then. He’d have to recharge between shots, and he’d burn through power reserves at a fearful clip, but he needed more oomph.
The sound of Lily and Reid’s gunfire hadn’t slowed, and now, he could hear them bellowing something over the din. Gritting his teeth, McCallister spun back out, his pistol snapping to the ready.
A black scar sat streaked across the leading drone’s hull. He noted the mark through the panic-fueled blur of his thoughts. He could do it, he just needed a little more. And -- a lucky break. A chunk of rock sat atop the thing’s bow, pinning it to the ground. Its engines roared as it fought to clear the debris.
Not a chance. McCallister brought his weapon to bear again.
This time when the pistol went off, it was more than just a blossom. A starburst of energy gathered around the tip of the barrel, dancing with oranges and yellows at the edges like some kind of perverse, deadly flower. And this time, when it tore free and screamed across the distance, it thrust his arm back and skyward. His shoulder popped ominously.
But this time, he saw the drone’s hull pucker -- and give way, shattering to nothing under the blow. The voices of Reid and Lily rose louder.
Before he could say a word, they started firing again, their shots zeroing in on that wound.
With a final crunch and a puff of something inside its guts exploding, the Tamani drone lay still.
The sight of it lying in the dust and dirt sent an electric shock through McCallister’s veins. They’d done it. They’d killed one of the things.
Well. Not an actual Tamani. And not one of their actual ships. Just a drone.
But still. They’d killed it.
“In!” McCallister heard Lily roar, the woman’s voice rising impossibly over the chaos for the single, pointed word.
“In” indeed. McCallister paused a moment, fighting to collect himself, and leapt out from behind his boulder.
Another instant saw him clambering to get behind it again, cursing loudly, as light shot from the dust cloud. Lasers. Not his, and not from either of his friends.
The drones hadn’t been crushed to pieces, then.
Well, that figured.
Next
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2020.09.06 14:02 IBMadMan It was Their Shore [Part 4-Finale]

Part 1: Our Move
Part 2: Shells and Shellfish
Part 3: Gray Water
Part 4: Horns in the Storm
There was an unspoken agreement in the house to not talk about the things in the well again. After it was all said and done we had our little family meeting. It was more like a frantic series of us talking over one another while we fought back the urge to get violently ill all over the place. After that attempt at a cathartic vent session the events of the day along with whatever I saw or heard were tucked away in the back of my memory, hidden from the light of day.
The Sycamore’s began dropping by a little more frequently. I found it incredibly annoying and rather rude to just “pop in” to “see how their neighbors across the water were holding up.” Elliot and Gary consistently passed it off as a kindness by older folks as well as a relic of generations passed. Still, I knew they had a working phone and could give us a heads up at any time and they just chose not to.
I had also made good friends with a younger couple named Sarah and Helga, Hel for short. They lived on the outskirts of town, but ran a little fishing and tour boat out of the launch. The kind of operation where local families would take their kids for a tour of the marsh and coast out further than they were allowed to swim or the occasional tourist who opted for the “authentic small town vibe” instead of their city and pay to get taken out for a quick photo op. Sarah and Hel quickly became pretty good friends and offered me a ride to the island whenever I got home so one of the boys didn’t have to come back and get me.
One afternoon as Sarah and Hel dropped me off I heard loud music coming from the back of the house. The only way I could describe it was as if a free form jazz ensemble was given folk instruments and told to go nuts while recorded through a pile of rags for graininess. With a little more searching of the land I found Elliot and Gary already top-ten drunk with Mr. Sycamore on the back porch. I asked Sarah and Hel if they wanted to come in for a bit. Since it was late enough in the afternoon and they had no tours on the books they decided to call it a day and join me.
Gary was dancing around in an attempt to mix peacocking at whatever euro-trash clubs he visited while deployed and a blind moonshiner’s jig. Mr. Sycamore sat in one of the chairs wildly stomping his foot nowhere in time with the music. If it had a tempo that was. Elliot was in the corner doing some peculiar display of unrehearsed performance art while starting a new painting.
“Hey, guys,” I called out as I stepped onto the porch.
Mr. Sycamore turned down the music and gave me a gentle nod. Elliot stared at his canvas, still gyrating to the silence, and splashing paint in a weird daze. That was, until Gary stumbled over to give me a great big welcome with a hug and kiss on the cheek. That pulled Elliot out of his trance. He crossed the porch in lightning speed and hip-checked Gary out of the way to grab me about the waist, lift me off my feet, and plant a deep kiss on my lips with a twirl.
“Well, hello to you too,” I said as he finally put me back down where I started. I mean, I blushed, but I still feel weird admitting that. Like I’m being too girly or something.
He didn’t say a word. He just placed a more gentle kiss on my forehead and whipped about on his heels to return to his painting. I may be making things up, but a small part of me is certain that he gave a quick, almost territorial, glare to Gary as he went.
I introduced Sarah and Hel to everyone. Gary immediately went into overactive flirtatious mode. Watching him deflate when they explained he was barking up the wrong tree before they lay a kiss on one another was both equal parts heartbreaking and hilarious. Seeing the look of disgust flash across Mr. Sycamore’s face was infuriating.
Switching gears from flirtatious to humble host, Gary ran to grab the three of us a drink. I kicked off my shoes and fell into one of the chairs with the first sip of the concoction the boys had put together. I never thought about making a mojito with scotch instead of rum, but it worked all the same.
Immediately, Mr. Sycamore called out to the three of us who lived there. “I got a serious question for y’all. Now, forgive me if I’m bein’ too forward. I don’t mean to pry or nothin’. But, I saw some smoke coming from this way not too long ago. Just doing some cleanin’ up I assume. Not getting into any business that ought be best left to someone a bit more experienced I hope.”
How fucking dare he question us like this. This isn’t his house. This isn’t his land. We aren’t his children. This isn’t his problem. This isn’t any of his damn business.
I guess Gary could see the rage boiling under the surface of my face as he swiftly took the reins on this one. “We just needed to get rid of some old wood planks Elliot replaced around here,” he explained. “She was more than a little pissed at us for not properly recycling and everything, but we were lazy assholes who didn’t want to do multiple runs back and forth to shore to get rid of them.” Admittedly, that little detail about me getting mad was a stroke of genius. Mr. Sycamore seemed to believe it.
Sarah and Hel seemed more than a little confused about the whole exchange. Luckily, as far as I could guess, living life in a southern town and running a boat back and forth off the coast gave them a real keep your head down and don’t make any waves type of mentality. No pun intended.
As the calendar turned a few more pages leading us into fall we got used to how things worked on the island. The crustacean situations still appeared from time to time. We started to keep a log and found that the crabs gave up after an average of fourteen hours, but the shells stayed for at least three days before disappearing without notice.
A couple of times I checked out a series of field cameras used for extended recording of wildlife even through the elements. These ones took a quick snapshot every five seconds and recorded thirty seconds of video when the motion sensors were tripped. Between the random large wave peeking into view coupled with the gulls and crabs we had plenty of video to go through. Occasionally we would catch sight of something cresting out of the water, gray and smooth, followed by a wide, splashing tail. But, dolphins weren’t uncommon in this area, so nothing major to report there. The only confusing part was that the shells never moved while the cameras were on. When we found the beach clear we would match time stamps and the shell designs would be gone within an hour of the camera powering off or getting blinded by a lens flare once passed the initial three day mark.
The air got cold quickly. All the salt and humidity protected us from frost build up, especially on the island, but that first morning walking outside for a cup of coffee and expecting it to be in the seventies to find it was a good thirty degrees cooler was something you never get used to. That drastic and sudden drop is again, quite common in the area, but still catches you off guard. The warm air blowing up from further south on the Atlantic trade winds fights the cold water as long as it can, but once it breaks it breaks hard.
Elliot finished the exterior of the lighthouse just in time for the cold to settle in. I hate that he had to work in the blazing sun and swelter of the southern summer, but being shielded from the bitter and chilling winds of the fall was good too. Six of one and half a dozen of the other I guess.
Standing at one-hundred-twenty-four feet tall (thirty-seven-point-eight meters for metric users, which the U.S. should be by now) it was truly beautiful. An emerald green and blinding white spiral wrapped all the way from the brick base to the steel gallery. The railing of the gallery and the cupola, which I learned is what the top is called, was a heavy black. New glass glistened across the lantern panes.
Locals were starting to take notice of the lighthouse’s rebirth. So much so that the city reached out to Elliot and offered him a bonus if he were to focus on getting the inner workings of the top functional within the month. They wanted to make a big display of having it up and running for some annual fai block party thing they do. I have to admit, the idea of having the lighthouse kick on for the first time in decades as the start to a firework show over the water was breathtaking.
Sarah and Hel gave me a heads up that they were taking off for a few weeks to drive around, visit some family, and take a bit of a late vacation. I established a strict schedule with Elliot and Gary to make sure that someone was back at the launch to pick me up after work. Everything had been running smoothly for a bit.
Late in the afternoon on an especially cold fall day I got tied up at work longer than usual. My supervisor thought it would be great to wait until lunch to let me know that the city council was having a meeting with some state and federal representatives to discuss the budget. I had to put together a packet arguing the importance of my role and studies to maintain funding for our department. My answers were short and sweet, but the sixty-eight pages I had to fill out about it was soul crushing. That is the power and efficiency of the bureaucratic process at work for you.
I tried calling Elliot and Gary on the landline to let them know I was running behind schedule, but no one answered. This was strange, but nothing to be alarmed over. Elliot could just be up in the lighthouse working and Gary could be running some errands around town. There were a million possible explanations. That was until I heard the thunder rattle the windows of the lab.
Lost in page after page of mandated paperwork I failed to notice the storm creeping in from the coast. The skies were almost pure black with the moon and stars lost somewhere beyond. Then came the rain. Sheets and sheets so tightly packed that they slapped at the glass like a solid hand. A smack across the face from Mother Nature herself. The world outside sparked in a blinding white for the blink of an eye. It was enough to cause an instant headache if only from how tightly my pupils tried to snap shut. Finally came the next roar of thunder.
Maybe the storm hit the island first and they were just busy boarding up, laying out bags of sand in case of flooding, and all the other preparatory measures we had laid out. That’s it, they were just hard at work making sure everything was safe and sound. At least that’s what the optimistic voice in my head told me. The other voice whispered threats that they were already losing their last bubble of air while drifting further and further under the water. Separated, each was trapped beneath a piece of wood or brick as the water slowly rose up to swallow them whole. Gary was struggling to pull Elliot free from a broken post that had speared through his shoulder and stapled him to the dirt.
For the million possible good explanations there must have been a million and one horrible things my imagination concocted. I wasn’t much for imagination these days, unless it involved making up terrible scenarios.
I wrapped up my paperwork, dropped it on the “reports in” pile on my supervisor’s desk, and made a mad dash to my car through the storm. Most of the town was fine, but the closer that I got to the boat launch the more and more flooded the streets were. A part of me thought it was the safer option to just get a room and keep trying to get ahold of Gary and Elliot. But I knew that I needed to get home and check on them myself. If I were to lay money on the table, the smart bet would be that the most likely case was that they were sitting in Gary’s car at the launch just waiting for me to arrive with rooms already booked and that the storm was just blocking all cell service.
The water was already halfway up my tires when I pulled into the parking lot at the boat launch. Tossing my shoes in the passenger seat I rolled my pantlegs up over my calves and ran into the storm. I still kept my umbrella out and overhead, but it did virtually nothing to keep me dry. I saw Gary’s car and ran over to find it locked and empty. I would have lost that bet quickly. Gary and Elliot were not here waiting for me. The most recent crash of thunder died down, but a swirl of echoes chased after it from all directions.
There are cliffs along the coast about forty-five miles south, but those shouldn’t be creating an overlap all the way up here.
Once out on the dock running along the launch I looked out to the island. Lights beamed from the house on the island telling me two things: 1. Elliot and Gary were still there and 2. None of the windows had been boarded up or covered.
“What in the God’s good, green Earth are you doing out there?” I heard a familiar and still grossly annoying voice call from somewhere behind me and away from the lot.
“Get yer ass inside somewhere safe right quick like!” Mr. Sycamore yelled before I could respond.
By the time I turned around the old man was already rushing at me down the dock. His thick raincoat and hat flapped and glistened in the stormy winds. “Mr. Sycamore, have you seen either Elliot or Gary come through here yet?”
“What you mean have I seen ‘um?”
“I can’t seem to find them or get a hold of them at all. Have you seen them come through?”
“Not at all. Figured I just missed the lot of ya come through when I was shutterin’ up the old home. I told y’all as soon as you hear them sirens to get yer asses to the mainland and safe!”
So those weren’t echoes of the thunder, but the high-pitched foghorn like noises that we were warned about when we first moved to the island.
“I just got back from work. I need to find them.”
“Go get yer’self somewhere safe. My lady’s inside prepping up some supper. Help yer’self while I go get those two numbskulls back here.”
“I’m going with you!” I shouted.
“Like Hell you are. I’ll take care of this and get them back.”
“Listen, I’m going with you. I won’t say it again.”
Admittedly, I mostly wanted to go and check on my fiancé and friend, but a small part of it was to show this leathery, sunbaked fossil that women were not to be locked away prepping up some supper when things got dangerous.
Mr. Sycamore continued to object as I jumped into his beaten aluminum john boat. Eventually, I wore him down and with a groan he agreed to let me tag along. I hardly consider going to my own home to check on my own loved ones letting me tag along, but that is an argument for another time.
The water was the harshest and choppiest I had ever experienced it. We weren’t reaching the threat of sinking or capsizing yet, but the hard slaps against the sides and heavy rains had us taking on water fast. On more than a few occasions we took the waves like ramps and got caught in gusts of wind. The bow would hang high for a moment as we rocked from side to side from the force of the violent storm. Each time we would eventually stabilize, but each time it took longer and longer to do so.
The usually quick ride from the launch to the island took us nearly half an hour; it still felt much longer than that. The constant threat of a watery grave has a way of warping your perception of time. All of Einstein’s theory of relativity and what not.
The closer we got to the island, the louder and stronger the horns got. Now I could hear them as clear as day even through the rain, waves, and thunder. They were just like Mr. Sycamore had described, for the most part. The high-pitched foghorn was accurate, but that wasn’t the full story. There was a deep and short howl just before each one. I guess that could be the foghorn kicking on or the bulb filling with air. I’m not exactly sure how foghorns work. At the end they trailed off rather than cutting abruptly. There were also no sharp changes. Another corner of my general ignorance is mechanical engineering, but I’ve worked with enough machines to recognize that they have sharp and metallic tones. I’ve also worked with animals enough to know they have more of a gentle ebb and flow and rounded quality. These were the latter.
These because there wasn’t a single horn blaring. From what I could count there were at least six of them going at any given moment.
Mr. Sycamore drove the boat up to the small dock and I jumped off before he even finished tying it off. Sloshing through the mud and puddles I made my way to the front door with the old man hobbling after me and shouting. In the cacophony of other noises I couldn’t make out a word he was saying.
As I took the top step to the porch I realized that there were no lights coming from inside the house and a fair amount of the windows were already cracked or completely shattered. I tugged on the door, but it was locked. Fighting and fighting, as hard as I tried I could not get the damn thing open. Mr. Sycamore finally caught up with me as I stood there struggling with the door.
“Get the damned thing open already,” he yelled.
“What does it look like I’m doing?”
“Use yer fucking key.”
“Don’t got one.”
“What?”
“I don’t have a fucking key!”
The old man groaned and stepped through one of the smashed out windows. Once inside, he made his way over to the door and unlocked it for me. I lunged through the door and out of the thick of the storm. It was still windy, wet, and loud, but nowhere near as bad as it was outside.
“Now, where the Hell are them boys?”
“I don’t know!”
“Stick with me, right. We’ll find those little bastards soon.”
Before I could even make comment or note, Mr. Sycamore took off through the house calling for Elliot and Gary. I ran into the kitchen to see if I was just missing them somewhere. Honestly, I wasn’t thinking perfectly clearly. I barely registered that a glass sat on the counter filled with milky gray water. Before I could say anything one of the windows looking out the back shattered with a burst of heat rolling in. That’s when I realized that the lights I saw from the mainland were coming from the back porch.
I took off in a run, pulling Mr. Sycamore with me. Bursting through the door to the back porch I immediately fell back. The light was coming from a roaring fire on the porch. The roof, now engulfed in fire, was the only thing protecting the flames from the storm.
Mr. Sycamore grabbed me under the arms and started pulling me away from the door when I caught a touch of shouting from outside. Wrestling out of his grip the old man struggled to hold me in place while he yelled for me to stop it and that this was for the best. I eventually wiggled out of his hold and sprinted out the backdoor again.
Making my way towards the steps I caught a glimpse of Elliot’s paintings strewn across the porch. The usual bright colors and cool tones drizzled with a joyous splay were coated in thick reds, blacks, and dark blues. Splatters and slashes fired across the canvas in violent bursts. These weren’t new paintings, but new coats of paint covering the old ones I loved.
The shouting grew louder and the horns continued to roar. I did not have time to analyze the paintings much and continued down the path towards the beach.
As soon as I crossed through the dunes I found where Gary and Elliot were this whole time. The two of them rolled in the wet sand, stripped completely naked, wailing on one another. Even through the storm I could see puffs of blood bursting from torn skin and busted lips. I screamed for them to stop. I screamed for their attention. They just continued fighting.
I felt Mr. Sycamore brush passed me from behind. Thinking he would be able to help, I ran down the beach to where Elliot and Gary were fighting. They wrestled atop a new image made from shells. I grabbed at Elliot and Gary, whichever I could get my hands on, but they kept sliding out of my grip. Looking back to see how far away Mr. Sycamore was I found him stripping off his clothes, never missing a step.
“What are you doing?” I called out to him. “Get over here and help me!”
Mr. Sycamore didn’t give me as much as a glance.
Rushing over to the old man, I grabbed his arm to pull him over to where the two were fighting. As I clutched around his wrists he jerked his arm and sent me stumbling back. Landing flat on my ass in the soaking wet grass I looked up to see the completely nude form of the old man glare down at me with his eyes; whites, iris, and pupils, clouded over the same milky gray as the water ran.
I couldn’t find the words to ask him what was happening or where he was going.
He just huffed, turned back towards the water, and walked out.
Jumping to my feet I called out for him to come back. I screamed for him to stop, to hear me and snap out of it. He didn’t notice or pay attention. I kept pleading and screaming as he walked further and further into the water. He was about chest deep when suddenly he was pulled under in a flash and gone.
As much as I wanted to fall to the ground and just give in to the circumstances and cry, I couldn’t do that. At least for the sake of Elliot and Gary. I turned back to where they were fighting. This time, I found them on their feet rushing towards the water. They still fought, pulling each other back. It was like they were racing to the shoreline and both were willing to win by any means necessary.
The only thing that I could think to do was throw myself in between them and their finish line. I got in front of them just before they reached the water’s edge. Bracing for impact as I wasn’t sure if I was going to be thrown aside, tackled, or what, but I knew I had to be ready. The entirety of my body tightened. I rolled into myself, lowered my center of gravity, clenched my fists, and covered my face. I was as ready as I was going to be.
Then nothing.
I stood there so long, wrapped into myself, that my body started to go numb from the chilling rain and harsh winds. Hesitantly, I moved my arms and opened my eyes.
Elliot and Gary were standing shoulder to shoulder just a couple of feet away from me. Their eyes were clouded over in that same milky gray and they just stood there staring. Not staring at me, but just passed me. Their attention was transfixed on something behind me. Something in the wake and the shallows.
Then I noticed that the horns had stopped.
Slowly, I turned around and was quickly met with what had them so transfixed.
Figures were raising from the water. Smooth, feminine forms of deep blues and greens and very different shapes and sizes. Some had long hair matted to their face while others had long and thin blades of flesh running along their head and face. The one thing they did have in common were long slits pulsing along both sides of their throats.
I joined Elliot and Gary in just staring at them. What were these creatures and what were they doing here?
Then slowly, one swam across the surface of the water stopping just short of the shore. Reaching out a hand towards the three of us it peered around. Seeing none of us move or react, it took a deep, quick inhale before opening its back. And there we had it, the source of the high-pitched foghorns. From this close I could see the rain reverberate around the sound that pushed my hair back even against the wind.
Elliot and Gary went into a frenzy, fighting to get into the water first again. I grabbed at them and pulled back as much as I could. Without me noticing, two of the things had swam to either side of me and ripped me away from the boys. Before I could take in a deep breath they pulled me into the waves and fully under the surface. I kicked and punched and wrestled as hard as I could, but these things were far too strong. As soon as I felt a slight bit of give in their grip I was met with the sudden sensation of dozens of needles simultaneously stabbing into my freezing flesh. I looked down at my arms, blood seeping from between their clutches, and saw the wide tails, smooth as silk, treading the water.
The next thing I knew, Elliot and Gary were entering the water slowly. All I could do was watch as Elliot and Gary’s legs passed by, those things grabbed at them, and then the two were pulled underwater as well. Another scream escaped me, blowing out what little air I had left. All I wanted in that moment was to look into Elliot’s eyes once more, but all that looked back were those cloudy, milky gray orbs in his face.
One of those things pulled Mr. Sycamore next to them.
A burst like something heavy falling into the water came from closer to shore. I turned my head to see one of them dragging two wooden cages behind them. Trails of that thick slime swirled in the water behind them as those globs pushed and pulsed against the sides. Approaching the boys, who floated there with a look of determined euphoria coating their faces, it opened the cages and spilled the balls out, leaving them to float in the water around us.
They bobbed in the current for a moment before starting to violently shake and pull. One by one the globs tore open and a small gray and blue streak burst from them. Once free, they would dart around the water until eventually finding their way over to the boys. Cuddling up to them I saw their forms slowly fade to slightly lighter tones. It was almost as if the last remaining bit of body heat is what they sought. Thirty or so of them gathered, pressed against the bare flesh of the boys just floating there.
Slowly, Elliot and Gary opened their mouths and the little things went into a frenzy. As quickly as they could they swam to their mouths and forced their way in. I could see their throats and stomachs swelling with each and every one that slithered inside of them. Once they were all in, their bodies fell limp and began to sink.
Things started flickering black like a light switch was being turned off and on inside my head. I caught stop motion glimpses of the creature dragging they boys’ bodies off and into the sea. The one that approached us on the shore swam over, cupped my face in its hands, and kissed my forehead.
The next thing I knew, I was waking up on the shore. Coughing so violently and expelling so much water from my lungs I thought I would surely pass out again. I heard loud horns coming from the distance and forced myself to my feet. Looking out to sea I saw nothing approaching. I came to realize that the horns were coming from the main land.
Walking through the house, or more likely stumbling, I saw the fire on the porch dying. Once in the living room I could make out the shape of rescue boats fighting the current and storm, trying desperately to make their way to the island. All I could do, as if in some form of autopilot, was move about the room surveying the damages. Anything to keep me from thinking about what I just witnessed and coming to terms with the fact that the love of my life surely wasn’t coming back.
A mixture of police, firefighters, and coast guards filed in and surrounded the house. Draping me in a blanket they lead me out to one of their boats. A soft meowing noise stole my attention and I found Sandy hiding under the porch. Quickly, I wrapped her up with me and continued to the boat.
Back in town I had to give my report of the events. A grief counselor eventually signed off that I was an unreliable narrator given the traumatic experience as an explanation for my odd story. The official ruling was that the fire started due to wind knocking over something unidentified. Elliot, Gary, and Mr. Sycamore were listed as missing persons presumed to have been lost by being thrown overboard while trying to flee the island. I knew that was complete bullshit, but had no evidence or authority to prove otherwise.
My lab agreed to transfer my contract to a different office focusing on freshwater ecosystems. This let me move away from the coast. My younger sister moved in with me claiming it was so she could get out of our hometown for a bit, but I knew it was because everyone was worried. I will admit, I don’t think I could have survived living on my own after that. Since that night I have been metaphorically beating my head off of the wall trying to make heads or tails of the whole thing, so her distraction helped. I’m also pretty close to Elliot’s family and still go by there for dinner occasionally, but it’s really hard to be around them for too long now.
My new job seems to be going well and the city’s money to try and make this all go away has really gone far out here in forest country. But it would never be enough to make me forget.
Though I have yet to learn what exactly happened on that little sliver of land off the coast, a few lessons have stuck with me. If the beach has been marked and there is a crustacean situation, just find a new place to swim. When the water comes out gray, clean it thoroughly, and if you don’t have the tools or know-how, find someone who does. Finally, if you hear what sounds like high-pitched foghorns coming from the sea, get away from the water as soon as humanly possible. I still can’t completely explain it, but it doesn’t need to make sense to me for me to that it’s dangerous.
submitted by IBMadMan to libraryofshadows [link] [comments]


2020.09.06 01:19 MRSMORTGUY The lyrics in 'Old Town Road' by Lil' Nas X are a reference to the climax of [Hot Fuzz].

Officer Angle literally takes a horse down an old town's road and then rides on it till he can't go further; "can't ride no more".
Furthermore, "horses in the back" refers to how Danny kept Nicholas in the back of his car to help him escape the wrath of N.W.A.
"horse tack is attached" refers to all the literal armory attached to Nick.
While Nick doesn't wear a hat the rest of his outfit excluding his shirt is "matte black with black boots to match" (and he's looking stylish too).
"You can whip your Porsche" refers to how Danny Gives that woman who was shooting guns on her bike 'whiplash' by slamming her with his car door (idk if the car was a Porsche, but it's still a car)
"I been in the valley" refers to the famous Gloucester valley (remember, Nick was moved to Sandford, Gloucester)
"You ain't been off that porch" proverbially refers to how the SPD had never had to face a real murder case "never leaving their porch" (as in never having to do any of the hard police work).
"Ridin' on a tractor" refers to the farmer Nick had to face immediately after returning to Sandford.
"Lean in on my bladder" could be referring to the weird amount of times we see characters taking a leak in the film
"Cheated on my baby" and "you can go and ask her" obviously refers to Nick's former love seeing someone else (Dave, obviously, not that bob guy, he's fuck-ugly).
"My life is a movie", duh, but also how Nick starts living like he was in a buddy-cop movie by the end of the film.
I can't connect everything to "bull ridin' and boobies" and "cowboy hat from Gucci" yet, but "Wrangler on my booty" puts us back on track with a reference to the police force ("wranglers") chasing down the neighborhood watch.
"hat down, cross-town, living like a rockstar" refers to the end of the movie where nick has the time of his life living like a star, a rockstar, perhaps.
While Nick didn't buy a guitar he "spent a lot of money on" spray cans and stuff before his return to Sandford.
I can't connect "baby's got a habit" to anything other than Danny's excessive movie habit.
While Nick doesn't own a Maserati sports car (because he's not a police officerman from Dubai) he does "ride down rodeo" back to the village of the year.
Nick doesn't seem very stressed in his return to Sandford, as "he's been through all that" bullshit before he went away.
And the last two verses refer to the LPD wanting Seargent Angle back and Nick wanting to stay because he kind of likes it in Sandford.
And finally the most DAMNING piece of evidence...
There is a running gag throughout the movie about how nobody tells the SPD receptionist nothin'... and guess what the chorus of 'Old Town Road' is!
TL:DR Hot Fuzz is better than Shaun of the Dead don't even think about @ ing me. They're both still awesome movies, all the films in the cornetto trilogy are.
submitted by MRSMORTGUY to FanTheories [link] [comments]


2020.09.02 17:57 TAHaywood Richard "Quickdraw" McCallister: A Eulogy - Chapter 9

When the Tamani blew a hole in his ship, his friend, and his career, Richard McCallister called it quits. But when he gets word of another alien incursion, with his friend's family in the line of fire, he charges back into danger on the outskirts of settled space to yank them out of the maw.
That was his plan, anyway. But things don't usually go according to plan.
Cover Art
First Part
------------
“Two weeks.”
I made a face, shaking my head. “It’s not going to be anytime this month. No way.”
Clay rapped his knuckles against his desk, scowling across the office at me. “Damn it, you idiot kid, listen when I talk. Two weeks, I said.”
“But-”
“The higher-ups can’t hardly wipe their asses without fuckin’ the whole thing up,” he said. “I’m tellin’ you. Two weeks before we get called out to run a rescue operation on the damn place.”
I pursed my lips, shaking my head, but couldn’t quite argue with him. “Maybe.”
“Not maybe. Absolutely. I know you think you’re hot shit ‘cause you’ve been here a couple years without gettin’ your ass shitcanned, kid, but-”
“The array seemed to be working when we left,” I mumbled.
I wasn’t looking at him, but I could almost hear Clay rolling his eyes. “Sure, sure. It always looks fine. But then the damn thing’ll break, cause they’re runnin’ it ragged, and then they’ll have nothin’. And then the orbit’ll start to fill up with ships what can’t leave. And then they’ll shelter at the colony, which does not have endless food, might I remind you. And-”
“I get it,” I groaned, pressing my hands to my face. “Do you really enjoy hearing yourself talk that much?”
I did look, at that one -- and peering through the cracks in my fingers, I watched Clay lurch toward me. “Why, you little-”
The scream of an alert from his console brought both of us up short. We froze. I swallowed. “Clay. Is that-”
The blood drained from his face. “Shit,” he whispered.
Whatever he was going to say next, it disappeared under the scream of the alarms from overhead. The comm crackled to life in the same moment.
“All members, stand by,” I heard Captain Taylor say. His voice was thin, but steady, in that sort of ‘I’m holding myself together, damn it’ way that I was really, really coming to hate.
It always meant bad things were coming.
Something flickered at the edge of my vision. I stiffened -- but Clay leapt toward the porthole, all but pressing his nose to the glass.
I gripped my seat more firmly. “Uh. Is...Is that…”
Clay tore his eyes off the expanse before us, shooting a fearful glance my way. He didn’t say anything. But he did step back, angling himself away from the window far enough for me to get a peek.
I didn’t need to look outside. Not really. Clay only had one alarm rigged to his console. Only one thing that meant a damn. Only one reason why he’d look so damn terrified.
I looked, though. And I watched, mute, as something slipped by us. A handful of somethings, in fact.
Ships. Slender and graceful, with rounded arches and curves that no TerraCorp ships could match. It was my first time seeing them in person, but...I’d heard the stories. I knew what I was looking at.
Utterly beautiful and utterly deadly, the handful of Tamani ships slipped by the Rheasilvia.
“W-What,” I began, but my mouth went dry. “W-What s-should we-”
“Sit,” Clay breathed. “Don’t do nothin’, kid. Just- Just sit. Sit tight.”
Sit there? It felt wrong. Every fiber of his being screamed to jump up and do...something. But he wasn’t a gunner, and he couldn’t reinforce their armor. Not in flight. He was helpless.
More than ever, he realized that much.
“Hold,” he heard Captain Taylor murmur through the comm.
“They’ll leave us be,” Clay whispered. “They always do. They’re in Solaran space, not the other way ‘round. Long as we don’t look like trouble...they’ve leave us be.”
I stared out the porthole, nodding dumbly. Part of me whispered how much it sounded like Clay was trying to convince himself, not me. The rest of me was still shrieking its terror.
The Tamani ships slowed, coming nearly to a halt alongside us for a long, perilous moment. I drank in the sight of their vessels, with what almost looked like...crystals, jutting from their afts. I’d been shoulder-deep in ships and machinery since I could walk. I’d never seen anything like them before.
Whatever they were looking for, whatever they hoped to glean from staring us down, the moment passed. Those crystals of theirs glowed brighter, filling the void around us with a brilliant green haze.
And then the ships shimmered, rippling like they were little more than a mirage.
In another heartbeat, they were gone.
The comm crackled to life behind me. “All clear,” Captain Taylor said. “Good work, everyone. Back at it.”
The comm died. The hum of the Rheasilvia picked up again, like the ship was awakening. Back at it, he’d said.
But Clay and I sat there long after the announcement faded, staring out into the black.
---------
McCallister sat, frozen, and watched as the ship vanished from sight.
“Huh,” Lily said. She was staring, too, her green eyes heavily lidded. “That’s different.”
“Great,” he muttered, dripping his face into the palm of his hand. “Just what we needed.”
“Hey, now,” she said elbowing him without taking her eyes off the burgeoning shapes of Solovei. “You don’t know why they’re here. Maybe they’re just-”
“Really?” McCallister said, shooting her a sidelong glance.
She winced. “Ah...probably not. It was worth a try?”
He ground his teeth together, turning his eyes back to the town. “It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why they’d show up now,” he muttered.
Lily’s lips pressed together, forming a thin line. She just pressed the accelerator harder, hurrying them back along the dusty, lonely road.
McCallister’s thoughts raced. They were here. TerraCorp. Maybe-
“Maybe they’ve changed their minds?” Lily said, her voice soft. “Maybe they realized they’ve got enough time. They could scoop us off the dirt, haul the colony back to-”
“TerraCorp doesn’t have colony transports lying around,” McCallister said. “They’re pushed to their limits most months just getting new colonies up and running.”
Lily laughed quietly, shaking her head. “Fat chance, then?”
“Sorry.”
“That’s fine,” she mumbled, drooping back into her seat. They bounced along another long moment, the cab quiet. She sighed. “I really liked this place, y’know?”
“...Sorry for that, too.”
“Just sucks.”
He grinned wryly. “I know.”
Even as he comforted her, though, his mind never left the town ahead -- and the ship they’d seen settle to the ground. If they were here, then they’d realized something was up. Something had changed. If they’d lost the Tamani signal, then...they wouldn’t care. They’d just shrug and stop their evacuation. Bryan would probably call to give him the all-clear, if he was able, but that’d be it.
His gut twisted. Bryan.
His eyes flicked to the antennae tower in the heart of Solovei, then to the sky above. Wyatt had sent their signal through the satellite array. It’d...It’d probably look normal enough. They were sensors, after all. Sensing things was their job. Surely Solovei used them on the regular.
If TerraCorp was paying attention, though, they’d see it. They’d already sent word of McCallister’s...instability. Their new scans would put a target on the whole colony, in TerraCorp’s mind. They knew, it screamed.
And Bryan was still in their grasp. McCallister’s eyes tightened. His heart ached. Get out, he willed. Don’t let them find you. Don’t let them know. You protected Kara and me. Now protect yourself.
It wouldn’t matter. Bryan had already gotten out -- or he never would. That was the reality of life.
“Okay,” Lily whispered, and he sat up a little straighter. The first buildings passed by their hauler. Solovei. They were back. “Listen, big guy. I know you fancy yourself some sort of rogue, but-”
“I’m not going anywhere near them,” McCallister hissed.
Lily blinked -- and then glanced over, a smile flickering at the corners of her lips. “What, I don’t even have to convince you?”
“I’m not stupid.”
“Could’ve fooled me.” Looking at his expression, she snorted. “Look. I’ve got to see to them. It’s my colony, after all. But you?”
The hauler lurched to a stop. McCallister grabbed the handle, his eyes snapping forward again.
The spaceport waited ahead, bristling with engine columns from the few ships within. And bodies. White-clad bodies. His pulse thrummed higher.
“Go,” Lily said, staring at the TerraCorp employees. “I’ll handle this. Don’t be seen.”
“Are you sure you can-”
“Get the hell out of here, cowboy,” she said. “Now.”
McCallister grinned, bobbing his head in a nod, and tugged the brim of his hat a little lower. The door to the hauler came open with a clank.
No sooner had he toppled out than the engine roared. The hauler accelerated the last bit to the spaceport’s fence, coming to a halt in a parking slot. He saw her leap out an instant later.
Stay out of sight. His senses screamed, stuck on high alert. But- Don’t go too far.
This was TerraCorp, after all. There were...so many ways this could go badly.
Buildings pressed in around the port, houses and shops and sheds. He turned down the nearest alley, plunging himself into the shadows before anyone could spot him. He’d been...different, back in his corp days. A little better-shaven, with hair a little shorter, and probably a little rounder, if he was being honest. He’d always been in uniform, too. Basically, added up, he’d been a different person. In more ways than one.
They wouldn’t send anyone after him that he’d served with -- and they wouldn’t recognize his current self from the staff ID photo. He’d pass muster at a glance, if he was lucky.
He just never was lucky, was all. So pushing it seemed...unwise.
As quickly as he could without totally blowing his cover, McCallister jogged down the alley. All the way to the end, and then if he took a left, that should put him-
The alley dead-ended into a side road that barely qualified as bigger. But when he glanced left, he saw only ramshackle houses -- with the spaceport at the end.
Score. A grin on his face, he hurried toward it, hurling himself between two sheds at the very edge of the fence. They were solid, as was the metal plating of the barrier on this side of the port. He should be out of sight. Should be.
Lily’s voice cut across the quiet. “I’m tellin’ you-”
“This is his ship, though, isn’t it?” a crisp male voice said. “It’s registered to one Richard McCallister.”
“And I’m tellin’ you that I don’t know that asshole,” Lily snapped back, her voice rising. “Never seen ‘im in my life. Sorry, friend, but you-”
“Right,” the man said, dubious. “But his ship is here.”
“Maybe it got stolen. Maybe your records are wrong. Hell, maybe-”
“You’re sure you don’t know anything?”
McCallister crept forward, eyeing the edge of the fencing. Under no circumstances could he be seen by them, and yet...he wanted to be close. He wanted to be ready, in case something went horribly, horribly wrong.
It always seemed to, when TerraCorp was involved. Even more so when Lily was telling stories like that.
He pressed his eye to a crack between the fencing and a post just in time to see the white-clad man take a step closer to Lily. “Miss Anderson, I’m sure you respect how ridiculous this sounds.”
“I know, I know, but-”
“You don’t have to have seen the man for him to be here.” He rolled his eyes. “I trust that you have docking records? Entry logs?”
A hint of red blossomed in Lily’s cheeks. Hidden under the polite, cheery facade she wore, though, McCallister saw a decidedly stubborn light appear in her eyes. “Well, now,” she said, bobbing on her heels. “We do, of course. We work a tight operation down dirtside, if you’ll believe it.”
The TerraCorp man waited, staring down at her. A tic appeared in his temple, under his short-cropped, salt-and-pepper hair. “Well?” he said at last. “Go get it.”
Lily sat back, her face going slack. “Ah, geez. Look. The system’s already runnin’ a whole other gig, and those records are big.”
“I don’t care. I need-”
“Like, big-big. It ain’t just the port authority on that database, see. We’ve got personnel records. Farm outputs. Hell, the damn timeclocks are constantly feeding in to-”
“Just get those logs for me,” the TerraCorp man hissed through gritted teeth.
Lily’s eyes went wide, and she let a huff of air out. “Oh. Well, yeah, I can get you the logs, sure.”
“Wonderful.”
“It’ll just take me a bit, see.” Her voice never lost its cheerful, companionable air, even as McCallister saw a hint of what could only be glee slip into her eyes. Carefully hidden, of course.
He could almost hear the TerraCorp man’s teeth grinding together.
“How long?”
She lifted a hand, dragging her fingers lazily through the tied-back waves of her red hair. “Oh, gee. I dunno, really. It’s a bit complicated, and that system’s busy, like I told you. I’d have to wait till most of the processin’ got done for the day before I could start.”
“And?”
Lily shrugged. “Could have ‘em for you tomorrow, maybe the day after. Once we filtered through.”
A dangerous light shone in the man’s eyes. “And you expect me to believe that?” he said, his voice low.
From his hiding place behind the fence, McCallister’s blood chilled. Lily was holding her own. She was lying for him. But he couldn’t ask her to face down the corp for him.
There had to be another way.
Before his wary eyes, he saw the TerraCorp man advance toward Lily. “Now, listen, woman. I’m not sure why you’re getting in my way.”
“I ain’t, really,” she said, holding her hands up as if to mollify him. “System’s just slow. Like I said.”
“If you don’t stop interfering with our orders, then I’ll arrest you too.”
Lily’s lips curled up the faintest, tiniest bit. “Your orders, eh? What’d you say y’all was here for?”
“Theft of State secrets,” the man spat.
She scratched at her head again, shaking it back and forth. “Ah, see, that’s where it gets a bit weird, doesn’t it? Since your liddle company ain’t really the government, per se. Y’all come around with your talk of espionage and treason, but it ain’t really that. Sure, maybe the guy stole a few scraps of data from you. Maybe you haul him into court.” Her eyes snapped up to his. “But don’t you bring that State business into my port. This is Solovei, not your damn-”
The man’s arm snapped around, nearly faster than McCallister could follow. His fingers spread wide, angling toward-
An angry slap of flesh on flesh echoed through the spaceport.
McCallister gasped, stiffening. His hand plunged down, latching about a reassuring, solid mass of metal and wood. The pistol thrummed under his fingers, coming alive at the touch.
Ahead of him, though, the man’s open palm hovered in midair, nowhere near its target.
Lily’s fingers dug into his wrist, holding his arm clear. “That ain’t nice,” she said, her voice ominously soft. “That ain’t nice at all, outsider. Didn’t your momma ever tell you not to hit people?”
No. McCallister’s fingers closed about the grip of his pistol. It wouldn’t end here. He could already see the man tensing, pulling himself upright for the next blow. Because there would be another blow, of course. Uniformed figures were starting to hurry over, drawn away from the landing gear of the corp shuttle -- and none of them looked happy.
It’d come to blows, and knowing Lily, it’d come to a fight. They’d storm through Solovei and get what they came for. Hell, they might not even need to. Once things came to open conflict, there was no telling how TerraCorp would act.
Unless he acted first. The pistol’s grip warmed under his palm. He had a decent angle. None of them knew he was here. He could take them out before they hurt Lily -- or anyone else. And then-
And then he’d have to figure out what came next, his thoughts shrieked. He’d have to come up with a story. An explanation, to keep the corp from just razing the colony from orbit.
He couldn’t just stand by and do nothing, though.
The man’s teeth were bared, by then, his eyes tight with pain. Lily’s fingernails dug into his tendons, sinking a little deeper with every second he didn’t back down. He snarled, trying to twist away. She let him go, finally -- but he squared off, lifting his other fist. “Uppity little-”
In that moment, caught between the two of them, time seemed to slow to a crawl in his mind. He could see everything. Every little detail, outlined in perfect relief.
His pistol was in his hand, sliding free of the holster. Even through the adrenaline-soaked panic, he saw the lights flaring along its length. I’m ready, it seemed to say.
Lily was falling back, her hands rising before her defensively. Her eyes were narrowed, glued to the man.
The man who was starting to lash out again, a strange light in his eyes. What was his goal? Where was this going? Was he just going to attack anyone who didn’t do what he said?
How long has it been since anyone didn’t leap to obey his orders? The thought whispered through his mind in that eerily calm moment.
And then the moment unfroze, and-
“Chief!” a man cried. A familiar man. Footsteps rang against the packed-dirt paths of the town.
Reid shot past, white as a sheet. “H-Hey! Chief!”
The TerraCorp man stopped dead in his tracks -- and then dropped his arm, turning toward the security officer as though nothing had happened.
Someone else was jogging along behind Reid. And panting. McCallister glanced back over just in time to see Wyatt go wheezing past.
The engineer slowed, his eyes flicking up to meet McCallister’s before dropping to the pistol that even then gleamed in his hand.. His brows pulled together slowly. “Um.”
“W-What’s going on?” Reid said, hurrying up to take his place alongside his boss. “Is everything-”
“Mr. Lewis here is from the corp,” Lily said. “Just landed lookin’ for some help executin’ an arrest warrant.” She shoved her thumbs into the pockets of her pants, rocking back on her heels just as casual as could be. “Seems we’ve got a dangerous criminal runnin’ around. Accordin’ to him, anyway.” She cocked an eyebrow. “A Richard McCallister. Seen anyone like that wanderin’ around?”
Wyatt’s eyes snapped back up to McCallister’s.
Shit. McCallister held a finger over his lips, willing the engineer to understand. The pistol still hung heavy in his hand, ready to bring back into the action at a moment’s notice.
But maybe...maybe this would work.
“Uh,” he heard Reid say, and looked back. The officer stood by Lily, a scowl on his face. “...No?”
Right answer, McCallister thought. From the corner of his eye, he saw Wyatt start moving again, creeping closer to the spaceport.
Mr. Lewis made an irritated noise. “That’s fine, Ms. Anderson, but I still need-”
“Oh, right. Pardon me, and all that. The logs.” Lily smacked the back of her hand against her forehead, rolling her eyes. “Look. I can’t promise nothin’, but I can start-”
“Let’s not begin this again.”
“But that’s how it is,” Lily muttered. Someone stumbled -- the engineer, no doubt -- and she looked up. A smile cracked across her face in the next moment. “Sweet. Ah- Mr. Lewis, meet Wyatt. Solovei’s engineer. He runs all our systems. Here, the man needs your help, Wyatt.”
McCallister crept over to the edge of the fence, each movement slow and careful. He had to see. A moment before he leaned out, he stiffened, yanking his hat off.
And then he peered around the corner, just far enough to catch a glimpse.
Wyatt shuffled closer to Lily, eyeing Lewis askance. “Um. What, uh. What did you-”
“Fellow wants the access logs,” Lily said, taking a step away from Lewis. Her eyes never left him, though. “Help a guy out?”
“Oh,” Wyatt said, blinking. “Well, uh. The system is still in lockout while it processes the day’s labors. I can start pulling them once the last of the farms have transmitted their data, but-”
“Jesus Christ,” McCallister heard Lewis mutter under his breath. He couldn’t really fault the man. Either Wyatt was entirely in on Lily’s game, or Solovei had the single worst computer system he’d ever seen.
Designed by TerraCorp, of course. On a budget. And built by the lowest bidder. And then assembled by untrained, unskilled colonists. And left to slowly disintegrate under the years of independent colony rule.
Lily...might not be lying. McCallister smothered a laugh.
She spun back toward Lewis, her face sunny again. “There, you heard the man. So’s, we can help, it might just take a bit. Care to stay over? We’ve got a fine hotel in town. We’ll get you set up fine, get you some-”
“Just- Just start pulling them,” Lewis snapped, taking a step back. McCallister didn’t miss it -- his eyes lifted skyward, as though he was watching for something. Something, indeed. McCallister snorted. They didn’t want to spend a single damn second down here more than they had to.
“All right,” Lily said placidly. “Safe travels back to your company.”
McCallister winced. Damn it, Lily, don’t bait him.
Lewis took a step away, back toward his ship, and the white-uniformed figures behind him started disappearing through the hatch. “Get me those logs, though,” he snapped. “Immediately. And if you see him-”
“Really, this is a small colony and a big planet, I’m sure wherever he-”
“Hold him,” Lewis said, enunciating each word carefully. “The man’s insane, and he’s armed, and there’s no telling what kind of stories he’ll tell. But he’s a danger to everyone around him.”
“Well, I’m sure we can-”
“View him as hostile. If you can secure him without harm, fine. Otherwise?” Lewis’s eyes darkened. “Do what you need to. Protect your colony, duster.”
Shoot him, in other words. McCallister glared at the man, chewing his lip. Granted, if they found him on Solovei, they’d ‘take’ him -- and probably push him out the airlock as soon as they broke atmo. Classy as ever, the corp.
Lewis was stalking away, though, leaving the spaceport feeling oddly empty. Their ship roared to life, the engines firing.
A wave of noise and heat washed across Solovei. The corp’s bulky, blocky shuttle lifted off the ground and accelerated back toward the black. Fast, McCallister noted. Not hanging around, then.
He knew why, too. His eyes stayed glued to the shuttle until it was little more than a speck in the sky, counting the seconds. When the Tamani came, they’d claim anything on the planet as infringing on their space. Something to be destroyed, in other words. Of course, ‘on’ was a bit of a grey area. But it meant the safest place to be was well outside the atmosphere.
McCallister sighed. That was where he’d wanted to be.
With TerraCorp gone again, though, he stepped out from his hiding place. The pistol slid back into its holster on his hip, going quiet and cold again as his hand released it.
They were all looking at him, when he glanced up. Lily, and Reid, and Wyatt. He chuckled sourly, shaking his head. “Sorry about that,” he said. “I...guess they figured out I was here.”
“You think?” Lily said. But her voice was mild. “They’re always goin’ to be upset over somethin’. Not your fault.”
Her accent was softer, he realized. It was only when he dropped away that he realized it. An act? A pretty show for TerraCorp’s man, to lower her to ‘country bumpkin’ status in his mind?
Wyatt cast a sidelong glare at Lily. “Although, I have been telling you we need to update the processors for a long time. Maybe now you’ll-”
“That’s a problem for the future, Wyatt,” she said, waving him away. “Figure Julian heard that?”
Wyatt made a face. “He’s the one who sent me. Couldn’t get away from his work.”
He couldn’t get away -- or did he just want to pass off the unpalatable task on his underling? McCallister looked over the city to the low, red-brick form of Solovei’s city hall. Or had Julian been trying to keep his nose clean, to wash his hands of the whole situation? It’d be a lot easier for TerraCorp to claim rebellion if the colony’s administration was in on it. And if they did that…
“We need to hurry,” he said, his pulse accelerating again.
Lily glanced his way. “What? Why? We’re already hurryin’, don’t you think?”
“The ship. The colony ship. If TerraCorp knows what we’re doing, they can find the ship. They can blast a hole in it, leave us to-”
“Chances are they don’t know,” Lily said, more quietly. “Ship doesn’t exactly have any aether in it right now.” She jerked her head back toward the truck. “It’s all here, innit? Once we fuel it all the way up, sure, their scanners will pick it up better. We’ll...have to figure somethin’ out.”
“But-”
“Their shuttle’s got no guns,” Lily said. “They’d have to bring one of their enforcers into the atmosphere. Seems they’re a little spooked, eh?”
She’d noticed it, then. McCallister nodded. Her confidence was oddly contagious. “Yeah. I guess. They probably know what’s coming.”
“Then they won’t push boundaries,” she said. “We’re fine for now. Probably.”
Until they loaded up and finished.
Until they reached orbit
Once they were out in the void of space, would things change?
Lily had put it perfectly, McCallister decided. That was a problem for the future. “Thanks,” he said, more softly. “For not just handing me over. That...wouldn’t have ended well. Mostly for me. But-”
“Shit, the rest of us are still hard at work on this thing,” Lily retorted, turning on her heel to stride toward the truck. “You don’t get to take a dirt nap just ‘cause you’re new here, Quickdraw. Put your damn hat on and let’s get back to work.”
McCallister grinned.
He put his hat on.
And then he got back to work.
Next Part
submitted by TAHaywood to HFY [link] [comments]


2020.08.31 19:56 Fairyhaven13 My second day at Disney World and Everest is dark today. (5)

Previous
Day 2 p. 1
Day 1 p. 1
The carnival music carried over the rooftops, lingering in every window, the glass damp with condensation and the slight rainbow sheen that the distant lights brought. The song was tainted by the cry of panicked toons just waking up from a mindless slumber. How long had they been wandering around the fair grounds, oblivious to their own needs in favor of playing another ring-toss game? I hoped none of them were too sick to stand. I hoped that the Toy Story toys could get a good hold of the area, and make sure none of this happened again.
We were heading away from the blinking bulbs and flashy signs, and into what appeared to be a ruin. Or, at the very least, a ghost town. The buildings still stood, but they were dark and empty. It made the glow of the carnival contrast even deeper.
Some of them still resembled Animal Kingdom. Terra-cotta walls with wooden supports jutting out of every level, and tattered tapestries hanging above every door. This was the Asia section of the park; more specifically, the Nepal-themed section. But, between every cleverly-disguised cement-moulded building, there was another construct that didn't belong. Italian cabins from Pinocchio. Sandstone modules from Arabia. Danish cottages, modern offices, a French thatched roof or two. What they all had in common was that they were distinctly empty.
This wasn't the stillness that the upper Root had. There, you could tell that there were other people around, just out of sight in the fog. It was just that they were carefully avoiding each other; going about their own business, working for the Jabberwocky, or possibly just trying to survive. Here, there was no one. Not a soul in sight.
Doors hung open on their hinges. Windows were cracked, walls were scarred. Something terrible happened here.
"What is this place?" I asked. Brer Fox switched from looking at some broken shingles to staring down the rope he held. It was the rope the fairies gave us, twisted around his wrist like a leash.
Honest John, who was tensely keeping a steady pace at the other end of the rope, flicked an ear without looking back. The knot was tied around his waist, leaving his arms free to move. It was the type of knot Brer Fox used in his traps, so John wasn't going to be able to undo his new belt anytime soon. "This was where the carnival guests lived. Most of them got shuffled to my show in the project."
I grimaced at an overturned snowcone cart. Its partition was bent, and the shaved-ice containers were spilled open on the ground. Clearly, the transition hadn't been a gentle one. "If most of them are there, where are the rest?"
John didn't answer.
Brer Fox stuck to my side, fur bristling. He kept sniffing the air and looking displeased. I leaned over to whisper. "What's up with you?"
"I ain't smell nothin'."
"I guess that means no one here is cloaked, then."
"The houses don't smell like nothin' either. Or the ground. No wood, no plaster, no rocks, no cee-ment, no nothin'."
Why did everything have to be so weird here? People who were visible, but not really there because of brume (or, in my case, being dead). People who were invisible, but all the senses said were there, because of being cloaked. Buildings and walkways that were also visible, but lacked both people and any evidence of their existence. Did that mean the buildings were all brume?
I switched to ultraviolet vision. There was a little purple, but not in the huge amounts Baloo had before he was sapped of his essence. The buildings were just... less. Less than real.
Come to think of it, did Baloo really need to be sapped like that? Considering the whole essence-gathering project, what if the Godmother did that on purpose? That would be really bad. I would have to check whether or not his jar was still at the treehouse, later.
The battery had been her idea, but the jar already held brume before Baloo's essence got shoved into it. Technically, it had all the pieces to remake him, if we could find the framework. I recalled the contraption that was the Big Bad Wolf. Was that the early stages of a toon coming to life with brume and essence? But, then, a lot of the other toons didn't have that brume. Brer Fox didn't. Neither did Foulfellow. So, there was a difference, somehow, between the toons created, or recreated, by brume and essence, and the toons that were dreamed up by the Sleeping Tree. I just didn't know what, yet.
It was also worrying that I had somehow tapped into the Jabberwocky's presence in my head. I'd been hoping that making the battery would hold him back a little, based on how he'd screamed when it happened. But, then, the Godmother had said that she couldn't sever the connection entirely. I couldn't hear the giggling at the moment, so maybe it was just when I was more emotionally vulnerable.
Something occurred to me as I thought. "You said those toons lived here?"
I heard John stifle a sigh. "Yes. This was their happy home-away-from-home for a while."
"How long of a while?"
"Oh, years."
"Years??" I stumbled a little, causing Brer Fox to reach out and grab me, which then led to John nearly tripping over the sudden halt of the rope. He looked back at us impatiently. "How can it be years? How long has the Tree of Life been asleep?"
He blinked, then gave a disbelieving laugh. "You really think all of this is here because some fancy tree fell asleep?" He shook his head. "You new lot, you're all so naive to how this works. Just because it's how you were born doesn't mean everyone else is like that. This place existed long before that tree's dreams did."
I gaped at him. "But, this world is in the tree's Roots! And, there are more in the Branches! We're in the tree's dreams!" Could Lewis and Milo have been that inaccurate? But, they were supposed to be way smarter than that.
"That's true enough. It hasn't always been like that, though. This world was its own before the tree reorganized everything to be a part of it. I will admit, the world is much more defined and solid than it had been before the tree fell asleep. Almost like it's becoming more real. I suppose the influx of human essence is to thank for that."
I thought of the Bug's Life queue with all its animals staring at me, and the spider webbing it all up, and felt sick. I wondered if the spider's goal was gathering essence like the Toy Story Mania did.
John tugged on the rope pointedly. "If you're done asking questions? It's not good to linger here for too long."
Brer Fox and I glanced around at the empty homes and quickly picked up the pace again.
"Where're we goin'?" My friend called out.
This time, the other fox did sigh. "To the meeting place where I arrange the sale of those essence lights. It will look a bit suspicious to have an extra tail like this, though!" He was either talking about the rope, or about us behind him, but either way, the point was the same.
"Nuh-uh, we ain't trustin' you as far as we can toss you!"
"Yeah, you're too slippery for that. Sorry."
John glared back at us. "Well, then, how am I supposed to arrange a meeting between you and my superior? If they don't trust us, they won't show."
Brer Fox bared his teeth. "If they skedaddle, they ain't gettin' their worm back."
The conman made a frustrated noise. "Is that posturing really necessary? We all know you're scary, you don't need to flaunt it!"
My friend growled, and I felt the need to stop the argument before it could get ugly. "Who exactly are we seeing, here? And, with the monopoly you've evidently had on this town, why would they be skittish enough to run rather than confront us?"
There was a scratchy laugh from one of the rooftops. "He just doesn't want to be seen like this! It hurts his fragile, widdle dignity."
John gave the building a furious look. "Stupid, feathered menace! I thought I told you to stay out of my business!"
"And I told you, I don't give a darn." There was a flutter of wings, and Iago glided into view from behind one of the chimneys. "Look at you! Karma finally kick your keister?"
"I'll kick yours, you little--" And, once again, my mediation was required.
"You're not working for his boss?"
The parrot squawked a laugh. "As if I'd be that dumb! The old lady's gone crazy, especially right now. I'm guessing you're to blame for that?"
Brer Fox and I shrugged at each other, but John gasped. "She's heard already? But, this shipment only just fell through!"
'And, she was watching the whole time." Iago gestured smugly towards Expedition Everest in the distance. "You forget how tall her tower is? 'Cause it's pretty tall."
The conman rubbed a hand over his eyes. "What about my contact? Is the deal off?"
"How should I know? I don't work for you. All I know is, the bat's on lockdown. No one coming in or out of her so-called 'manor.' So, if that dingbat friend of yours lives there? I'd guess she's stuck there, too."
I held up a hand, feeling a little silly, but unsure how else to get his attention again. "If you don't work with them for the essence, then do you work for the Jabberwocky?"
His laugh was harsher this time, more bitter. "Nope. I want to go home, sure, I got friends waiting for me and all that. But, I don't want his brand of closure. I don't want any part of it. I had my fill of working for greedy, old tyrants." He scrutinized me. "What about you? You here to shake things up?"
"That's always what happens," Brer Fox commented. "Even if we ain't lookin' to do it."
I nodded. "You could say that. We're here to fix a friend of ours; we think her essence got taken, or something similar to that, anyway. But, that ended up making us stop Foulfellow's racket in the carnival, and we'll probably end up ruining whatever this old lady's got going on, too."
Iago grinned, which was very odd to see on a bird. "Sounds like my kinda people! How about I tag along, huh? I could do with a little more rebellion around here."
Brer Fox narrowed his eyes. "Whatcha gettin' outta it?"
"The warm, fuzzy feeling of stopping a bad guy?" All three of us gave him unimpressed frowns. "Alright, so maybe I want to see what kinda loot the lady's horded for herself. I'm still on your side!"
My friend looked to me. Maybe he figured I would know better, being a human and all. Oh, man, and I forgot that no one else here knew that. That was probably going to come up at some point. "Why not? The more the merrier."
"Great!" Iago took flight a short distance above us. "I'll lead you around back, there's a couple old staff entrances that she never blocked off right."
John clasped his fingers together. "Well! Now that you have your guide, I suppose that means our deal is fulfilled. I'll be taking my leave--"
"And letcha tell everyone high 'n' low that we's here?" Brer Fox tugged on the rope forcefully, making the other fox stumble.
I hesitated, then shook my head. "The deal was to get you out of the carnival, not to let you go. If we do, you're going to go right back to hurting people. It won't end."
The conman opened his mouth indignantly, but Iago scoffed. "He'll do whatever the old lady tells him to, if it gets him his friend back. Even if it won't, but try getting that through his head!"
John did his best impression of a growl, although it wasn't a very good one. He really wasn't much of a wild animal. "At least I have people I'm trying to remember!"
"You think I don't, you twerp!" Iago dived at the fox, pulling at his ears and then soaring upwards before the claws could get him.
I held my hands to my head, breath cold. "Would you all just stop?? You're like a bunch of children!"
Brer Fox gave me a wary look, probably recalling the last time I said 'stop.' Iago, oblivious to that, snickered at John, who just sulked childishly. I took a deep breath, gripping my wand tightly to feel the warmth. The Vorpal Wand should probably have been in my bag, where it would be hidden. I was too concerned about the presence in my head to have the presence of mind to be careful, you might say.
...That was awful. I'm so glad I didn't say that out loud.
I took another deep breath instead, and waved at Iago. "Let's just go."
"I would rather not!" John snapped.
"Well, that's too bad!" I retorted. I wished Baloo were here. He was good at this sort of thing. "You either come with us willingly, or we have to tie you up and carry you."
"We could hide 'im in one of these empty houses," Brer Fox murmured.
"I bet he'd love to stick around here all by himself, eh, Foulfellow?" Iago did another swoop, a little to high to swipe at.
John looked like he was about to panic. "You know what, the manor doesn't sound that bad, I'll just accompany you there." I tilted my head a little, wondering what it was about the little town that he was so afraid of. Then I heard a rumble from down one of the allies.
"What was--"
"We'd better hurry, or the bird will lose us!" The conman yanked on the rope, pulling Brer Fox forward, who grabbed me and dragged me with him. Iago laughed again and flew on, though this time there was a faster edge to his flight, and we all really did have to jog to keep up. What were we running from? Did I really want to know?
I slipped in a puddle, black water splashing up my spats. Brer Fox dragged me for several feet, while the inky liquid sloughed off my legs. By now, I had enough experience with this to know that I was only getting back on my feet when Brer Fox was good and ready to stop treating me like luggage. I groaned and glanced back at the black trail I was leaving. The liquid was trembling, but I didn't think we were stepping that heavily. It actually looked like it was rolling backwards. Back towards the... alley...
Where a car-sized blob of black was oozing into the street.
"Uh, guys? What the heck is that thing??"
"What's what?" John didn't look back. "I don't know what you're talking about, let's focus on moving faster!"
"Just keep hoofing it, kid!" Iago called out.
I grit my teeth in frustration. "Brer, let me run!" It took some legwork to get both knees curled up beneath me, and then another few frog-hops after that, but finally I was standing on my own weight again, running as fast as I could to keep up. The fox eyed me sideways, but just pulled me faster. The streets flew by as we followed Iago's lead. Turn right, turn left, cross a bridge I didn't remember, when did that playground get there? Before I knew it, I was thoroughly lost.
Every glance back produced another shade of black in the corner of my eye. Just out of sight, around a corner, in an alley, in a dumpster, pouring from a window, slithering out of a manhole: dark, thick, viscous. It was coming.
Brer Fox soon overtook John, grabbing him with his other arm and pulling us both forward. I heard a window shatter. The sidewalk began to shift to broken chunks and grass. A car alarm blared; why was there a car here?? What was this, Toontown?
The buildings spread out more, became less frequent. A shadow spread over the area, cast from the mammoth, monolithic form that rose above us. Mount Everest; so much more than Expedition Everest had been, so much taller, more there. This was a real mountain, and felt more existent than any of the town we'd been running through so far.
A wide creek was coming up; the sidewalk ended there, without a bridge. Brer Fox wasn't stopping, and neither was the blob behind us. I used my other arm to grab the hand clamped over my wrist, pulling myself even with the fox. The grass was getting wet, sticking to our feet. Brer Fox's tail stuck straight out, and John did the same--I glanced at them, and tried to do that with mine, just in case it had something to do with the balance. We were crouching, and Iago was urging us on from the other side.
Then we were airborne.
Never underestimate the jump of a panicking fox who's already used to vaulting over everything he can just to be obnoxious.
The water was right below us, and I knew we were weighing down, I could feel it. I curled up my legs tight, tighter than I knew I could do, until I was a little, mutant ball soaring beside Brer Fox. He stuck his legs out, aimed right at the shore, and it felt like an eternity before we landed.
Then we hit the ground; Brer Fox skid on his feet like a professional vaulter. I rolled a couple somersaults and unfurled onto my back. John flailed and hit the dirt face-first. Iago burst into laughter.
I sat up and twisted to look across the water. The black blob was now the size of a truck, and hesitated at the edge of the shore. It gingerly touched the water, and some of its inkiness spread out like paint. It reared back, as if in pain. The dark spot in the water drifted away. The blob sat there a moment more, and I felt like it was watching us. Then it turned and squelched away.
John rubbed his face as he picked himself up, spitting dirt and grass. "This is why I didn't want to come here!"
"A little late for that." Brer Fox pulled me to my feet.
The conman glared daggers at him. "Would you stop saying that?"
"Not saying it don't make it less true."
The two foxes clenched their fists and took a step forward. I dove between them to stop the fistfight before it could start. "Quit it! I mean it, somebody's getting lashed to a tree if this doesn't end now!" I had no idea how else to discipline them. They were taller than me, and stronger than me, and I didn't have the luxury of sending them to their rooms, so I had to pretend to be tough.
Brer Fox grumbled under his breath and stepped back. John crossed his arms and pouted again, and I wished, I wished I could make him sit in the corner, he was such a child.
Iago sat in a tree, watching the proceedings with glee. What history did he have with the conman to make him so bitter? It was probably none of my business. "You done picking grass out of your fancy jacket?" Said conman sneered at him. "Good. Welcome, lady and gents, to Hell Hall." The parrot waved a wing at the mountain.
It was definitely larger than life, in more ways than one. That was already pretty different. But, there was a lot more to it than that, now that I was looking. The whole thing was covered in stone walls that scaled the sides. Mortar mosaics swirled around the brickwork of the construction. Dark shingles and iron rails accented each roof, balcony, and staircase, turning the mountain into a crooked, gothic mansion. It didn't look the least bit stable, but somehow, every room stayed where it step-laddered up the rocky face.
This had definitely taken time to build. And, that meant John wasn't lying about how long the town had been here. How long the world had been here. It meant that I had a lot to rethink concerning toons and how... legitimate they were.
More immediately important, it meant that we were heading to this rickety mansion now. Hell Hall sounded very familiar to me, but I couldn't quite place where I'd heard it before. I looked at John, whose pout had faded into a vague concern as he took in Everest. "Have you been here before?"
The fox shook his head. "I always met my contact in a gazebo up the river a ways. I was never allowed near the manor."
"You definitely won't be now that you flubbed your project!" Iago remarked, making John do that almost-growl (keep practicing, you'll get there eventually). "Like I said, she's got the place locked up tight, so you're not getting in through the front. Or, you know, any of the windows, or balconies. Unless you can fly, which you can't."
I gave my wand a thoughtful expression. I'd have have to look into it later.
"I've been watching her for a while, though, so I know she's ignored some of that old train-station-looking-thing on the bottom. Thinks it's too ugly to do anything with."
"How long you been watchin' her?" Brer Fox asked.
"A while," Iago repeated. "Anyhoo, follow me, and stick to the trees. Don't want her to see us coming." With that, he began flutter-hopping between trees. We had to scramble after him before we got left behind.
These woods were heavily shadowed by the mountain, and even with Iago's bright colors, it was sometimes hard to spot him. I focused more on Brer Fox, who was running nose-first. I wished I'd gotten Stitch or the Cheshire Cat's sense of smell, so that I could follow the scent, too. As it was, both John and I had to let my friend take the lead again. I'd have to find a way to thank him later without making him feel awkward. He was really pulling his weight today.
John sidled up beside me as we ran. "Is he always like this?"
"Like what?"
He waved a hand in the other fox's general direction. "So... aggressive? Antagonistic? Obnoxious, perhaps?"
I shrugged. "Obnoxious, definitely. A little headstrong. But, he's my friend."
"How unfortunate for you."
"I'm pretty headstrong, too, so it evens out. We work well together."
John sniffed. "You could do better. I know a thing or two about being part of a team."
I rolled my eyes. "Oh, please. You'd sell your mother for a quick profit."
He gasped dramatically. "I'm hurt! Surely you don't think so lowly of me?"
That earned a flat look. "You have foul in your name."
"Prejudice!" He cried, causing Brer Fox to turn back suspiciously. "What? Don't get us lost, the bird is still going!" My friend huffed and went back to leading. John lowered his voice a bit. "Prejudice, I say. I can't help the name I was born with."
"How do I know you didn't pick that name?"
"The name I picked was Honest John!"
"Which, as has been established, is completely hypocritical."
"You don't know what I might be capable of."
"No, I don't." I turned and made full eye-contact. "Do you?"
That made him pause, just long enough for me to turn back and keep following Brer Fox in silence. The conversation was effectively curbed.
It was true, though. Before yesterday, I would have thought of my new friend as nothing but a cheap, Disney villain. Only out to make rabbit stew from his story's protagonist. But, now he'd proven to be both loyal and more-or-less honorable. He wasn't the character he'd been formed from. I didn't know if the same could be said for John. I didn't think he knew. Currently, it was still obvious he couldn't be trusted, though, and I wasn't about to let down my guard.
The trees thinned. From up in the branches, there was a scratchy, "Shhh!" We stopped beneath Iago's perch, hiding behind the trunks. The Expedition Everest station sat before us, empty and forgotten in the mountain's 'modernization.' Not a soul was in sight, although there was a bit of brume at the edges of the trees. The forest itself might not be fully developed; John said earlier that this world was more real than it had been before the Yggdrasil event. Who knew how little reality there was, the further you drifted from the focus of the world?
The shadow of the mountain was dark enough that, if I didn't know what the station looked like, I wouldn't have recognized its shapes. The rest of the manor had lights in every window, but not this section. It really had been left behind in the remodeling. Whoever lived here couldn't appreciate good themes. I always thought the queue looked kind of pretty, myself.
Brer Fox leaned over to me. "What're we gonna do when we get inside?"
That was a good question. "Find John's contact, maybe, and get information from her about how the mansion is run."
"She'd certainly be more forthcoming than the actual owner of the mansion," John reluctantly agreed.
"You don't want to run into the owner," Iago added. "She'd have you emptied faster than you could blink."
I nodded. "Okay, so that's our plan for now. Avoid the owner, get to the contact."
"I don't like this plan." The conman looked almost as nervous as he had back at the carnival. "It's too risky."
"S'better than most of our plans." Brer Fox gave me a long-suffering look. "Which're usually just run."
"Hey, running's worked so far." Wow, come to think of it, we really hadn't thought about anything we did yesterday, had we? We were really bad at this.
"Are you coming in, or not?" Iago hopped off his branch, gliding towards the station. Brer Fox nudged me and followed, crouching low. I mimicked him, and for once felt grateful that I was shorter. John kept behind as far as the rope would allow, though I heard him fiddling with the knot. He wasn't going to undo it. If there was anything Brer Fox did right when hunting rabbits, it was tying knots.
We crept into the clay building, ducking under the colorful, tattered flags, which had been ripped free and now dangled limply from the roof. Inside, the queue was how I remembered it; old-fashioned wooden desks, tables, and shelves full of fake artifacts and archaeology books. Framed pictures on the walls showed different expeditions, and thick, wooden railings barred us from interacting with the props. Which were all probably still fake. The mountain might be real, now, but this was still a dream world of sorts, and there was no way these items could suddenly be from the real world. At most, they just looked more realistic than before.
My companions looked curiously at the decorations as we navigated the line. I would have to explain the concept of theme parks to them later. The most they knew of would be fairs and carnivals like the one we left.
One noticeable difference was that everything was coated in a fine layer of dust. There were cobwebs on the knickknacks and brickabrack, and the little adventurer's cot had much grayer sheets than I remembered. This had been abandoned for a longer length of time than Lewis and Milo's world had even existed.
The end of the queue was noticeably modified. There was no coaster train waiting on the tracks for us, and the whole of the ride was blocked off by a stone wall with a thin, black door centered right on the tracks. I thought about using my wand to light up the room, then thought better of it and tucked it into my bag. "Is that a servant entrance?" I whispered.
"That's my guess," Iago whispered back.
"How about I just wait here for you?" John scrabbled at the rope with his claws, but they were pretty dull and did nothing to cut the fibers.
"No!" Brer Fox and I hissed. Before any more complaints could start up, I walked over to the door and tested the knob. It was locked. "Crud. Anyone know how to pick a lock?"
I knew the answer as soon as the question left my mouth. We all turned to look at John. He frowned deeply. "No. Absolutely not. I don't want to go inside, I'm not crazy like you."
Iago landed on a rail, looking resigned. "You can't convince him, he's too much of a coward."
The conman clenched his fists. "I am not a coward, I just have sense."
"Yeah, that's why you sided with the loonies the moment they flexed their muscles!"
"You could have come with me! At least I didn't leave our arrangement."
Brer Fox and I looked back and forth between the two. This was extremely uncomfortable. There wasn't anything I could say to stop it, though, because this was a little deeper than immature bickering. Whatever I said could reasonably be responded with, 'it's none of your beeswax!' And, I wouldn't be able to blame them for that. I hoped they wouldn't get too loud before they pulled themselves together.
"Yes, you did! You left to work on their stupid project, even though you knew it wouldn't work! I wanted to stay where we were and keep picking pockets. We had a good thing going!"
"We weren't going anywhere! I didn't want to settle for that!"
"Oh, because you accomplished so much by signing up to be a minion again. You're a coward, Foulfellow."
"I am not!" The fox stomped forward, pointing at me. "Give me something to pick the lock with."
"Uh, okay." I dug around in my bag and pulled out a paperclip and a bobby pin. John snatched them and got to work on the door. It only took a minute before the knob clicked open. The fox waved at the entrance with a flourish.
"There, see? I can do teamwork."
"Sure." Iago's voice was like vinegar. He hopped off the railing and landed on my head. "Let's see what we have to work with."
Brer Fox headed in first, sniffing in the doorway and then nodding at me. I went after him, whispering a tiny 'thanks' to John, which made Iago scoff again. I felt like it was important to show gratitude, even if the work hadn't been done willingly.
I stumbled when I stepped inside. The air felt... heavy, somehow, and I heard a slight buzzing. Brer Fox straightened me up as John shut the door behind us. It was very dark, and I could only make out indistinct shapes close to the walls. "Is there a light switch or something somewhere?" Wait, did these guys know what a light switch was? "It, uh... it's a little tab screwed to the wall." I felt the foxes move to the walls to feel them, and I tried to do the same. As I got closer to the wall, the buzzing got louder; it was insistent, almost like a voice, but definitely not the Jabberwocky.
I rubbed my ears and stepped back, just as Brer Fox whispered a, "got it!" Light flooded the room, and the buzzing increased in pitch. I scrunched my eyes shut, my ears flattening against the noise. What was that? It was so loud, painfully so.
A tap on my shoulder reminded me that we didn't have the luxury of standing around. I opened my eyes, ready to work on our next move. It wasn't either fox that got my attention, though. They both stood frozen, gaping at the room. It was Iago's wing that still hung by my shoulder, as if he was too distracted to pull it back up. I put the pain in my ears aside to focus on my surroundings.
A good dozen toons stood rigidly, lined up against the walls. I thought for a second they had noticed us. Then I saw their eyes: empty, black holes. There was nothing there. Golden bells were fastened to the walls behind each head. The figures stood stiff and upright, like dolls posed in their cases, mouths hanging a little agape, unblinking. They were all animal-based toons. As I stared, one of the bells rang, and that toon stepped forward. His shoulders didn't move with his steps, nor did his head bob; he walked like a cement zombie, not giving us a glance as he left the room.
Even worse than this was the decor. A striped rug, leather wraps around the storage cabinet, abstract vellum paintings, fur tapestries all over the walls in various patterns just mashed together. The only common trait was that each piece had the distinct swirl of eyes in the corners, tucked into the patterns, peeking from each transitional line. And every eye, every single one, was staring at us.
The buzzing was so painfully loud.
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2020.08.31 08:46 ChrisKoleszar The Duxbury Chronicles "The Dumpster"

The Duxbury Chronicles
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“Rain fell on the roofs of the just and the unjust, the saints and the sinners, those who knew peace and those in torment, and tomorrow began at a dark hour.”
- Robert R McCammon, "Mine"
August 6th, 1982 was a day in Duxbury that no one liked to talk about. No one who is still around who remembers it anyway. It had been a hot one. Hot, humid, and most of all, wet. It had been that way all summer.
“Unnatural.” The old timers were wont to say.
By mid-summer rainfall all along the East coast had hit records not seen since the 20's. The nearby swamps and rivers had deepened. Dark, murky water encroaching onto lands normally dry. The Duxbury Bogs, and the North Hill Marsh Sanctuary in particular had been cause for concern.
By mid-July (Courtesy of the Bogs) Pilgrim's Highway had been flooded over. Blocking Mayflower Street all the way down passed East Street. Island Creek Pond, and the North Hill Sanctuary had joined forces. Turning the lands that divided them into one giant wilderness of muck, and water.
And by the end of July it looked like Cranberry Bog, and Pine Lake were on the verge of rising up high enough to join the other two. And submerge the whole damn area. It had been an ugly business already.
Homes in and around Pettibush Lane, Maple Pond Lane, and Evergreen Street had already been lost to flooding. And there had even been talk last weekend during the Duxbury Town Hall Council Meeting of the possible necessary evacuation of Tinker's Ledge Road if the rains kept up.
That had gotten people buggin'. Markus McDuff had leapt up, and shouted with the vigor of a man half his age. Declaring that “They'd have to drag his dead body” off his Apple Farm if they came to evacuate him.
There had been a grasshopper boom as well. Everyone said it was because of all the rain. The population thickened as one got further from the busier streets. Certain sections of the Whiton Woods were so thick with the little green insects that it was hard to describe in words.
One had to “see it, to believe it”. On some of the trails every step one took would literally be accompanied by a multitude of tiny springy sounds. As the brainless bugs leapt away from whatever giant passed them by.
They hadn't been the only insects to flourish in the unusually wet weather. The Cicadas had come out in force for the season as well. And they sang their summer songs with an unprecedented fervor. Every evening around dusk, they'd alight in the branches of the trees and chirp up at the brilliant shifting purple, and orange canvas in the sky.
In the trees all along Island Creek the insects seemed to be especially prevalent. There were certain sections of the creek where one would have to practically shout to be heard over the buzzing cacophony. It was, needless to say, not a good season for insectophobes.
Despite all the climate issues the “tourist” season (small as it was) did not seem to really suffer. Which had been quite a relief to the local business owners. And ever since August started it hadn't rained. As a result the general mood around town was brighter than usual.
But on this early afternoon, one resident's mood was especially chipper. Deputy Robert Maxwell was walking down Harrison street with a particular “pep” in his step. That was because he had just scored a dyno date with the town Betty!
A bodacious babe by the name of Mary Barbadino. She'd been the morning waitress at Alice's Restaurant for going on three years now. Bob had grown up in Duxbury, and had always liked Alice's. But it had become his pre-shift breakfast spot pretty much every day since he'd first laid eyes on Mary in that tight-fitting waitress uniform. Even on his days off.
He still couldn't believe his luck! Bob, at the ripe old age of thirty seven, was not exactly known for being a lady's man. He wasn't some hoser or anything. But he was no primo stud either.
And she'd approached him! He’d known that Mary had broken up with her boyfriend Marcus Greene four months prior. But he had never had the cajones to do anything about it.
The situation between Mary and Marcus was like a badly written movie. Marcus and his posse were the local tough guys. He and his crew always seemed to be getting into trouble. Be it a fight at the local bar, or a “domestic dispute” at one of their biker parties.
If it was true that in life everyone had a role to play. Then it was Marcus's destiny to be an asshole. That's not what had stopped him from making a move on Mary however. Bob was a Roller after all. He'd just been too chicken.
So this morning when Mary had come over with a cup of coffee in hand and slid into the empty seat across the table from him, he'd been struck speechless for a few seconds. The conversation had been quick, and direct. Mary talking, and Bob mostly nodding, and trying to keep his mouth from hanging open.
She'd wanted to know if he was interested in catching a movie after her shift. Bob would have watched the bunkest movie in the world with Mary. He'd quickly agreed, and the two had made plans to meet when she got off at five.
The Deputy made it to the corner, and took a right onto Washington Street. He was headed to Barry's Meats. The local butcher shop. Barry was legendary in the region for his kielbasa. And tonight after whatever movie they ended up seeing, he was going to surprise Mary with a better meal than Alice's had ever put on a plate!
He walked briskly. Passing Beaver Brook Lane, and making a mental note to stop at Snug Harbor Wine on his way back home. It was nearly 12:30, which gave him approximately four and a half hours to get dinner made, get dressed, and be back at Alice's.
He’d originally been scheduled to be on duty until six. And had agreed to meet Mary without giving it a second thought. After realizing his error, he'd been worried that the “boss man” wouldn't be accommodating to his sudden plans. But after he made it back to the Station, Sheriff Copper had been all to happy to give him the night off.
In truth Copper at first been as incredulous as Bob had initially been. But the Sheriff was a good (if not gruff) man. And with a hearty laugh had granted his request. Giving him a hard pat on the back, and leaving him with the wise words – “Happy hunting son!”, as he had walked out through the Station doors.
He swiftly passed by a group of children playing in Washington Park. Off in the distance a baseball game was going on. He vaguely remembered seeing a flyer earlier in the week stating that the Duxbury Dragons would be playing their first game of the season today.
Across the street loomed the Saint John's Evangelist Church. The ancient stone structure cast a long shadow across the street. Bob only gave it a cursory glance as he passed it by.
He was not a religious man. Though his Mother regularly attended. In truth the place had always kind of creeped him out.
He looked around. He didn't see the local Pastor, Father John anywhere. Which he ironically thanked God for. The short fat man was always lurking about somewhere in town. Always looking to “add to the flock” as he put it.
“Lurking.” No. That wasn't the right word for it. For all their brief encounters, and by all accounts Father John was a pleasant man. Known for his charity work, and volunteering at the local soup kitchen in fact. He felt like a dick for having the thought in the first place, and quickly pushed it out of his mind.
By the time he had crossed Freeman Place, and was walking alongside the monolithic structure of the Hudson Bank; His thoughts had once again returned to Mary, and what exactly he'd done to make this morning so different than all the countless others. He glanced to the left. Looking at his wavy reflection as he passed by the floor-to-ceiling windows of the massive building.
Well, he had started working out. In fact in the last two months he'd lost almost twenty pounds! A big part of that was the change up in his diet.
Egg whites and coffee for breakfast, instead of pancakes. Salad for lunch instead of a burger. Come to think of it. Hadn't Mary been the one to first suggest his change up in breakfast?
Or maybe it was his fresh new 'stache. At first he'd been hesitant to try and grow one. Stylized facial hair had never been his thing. But he quickly realized that it was totally choice. His mom said he looked like Tom Selleck...
Bob was enwrapped in these thoughts as he reached the corner. He wasn't looking in any particular direction. And only half heard the quick, panicked steps. Just before someone came sprinting around the other side of the building, and collided straight into him.
The Deputy was knocked off his feet. Landing hard on his back. He managed to keep his head from bouncing off the pavement. But for a few seconds he saw stars anyway.
“Bab!” He recognized Boston George's voice. He sat up, and attempted to bring the man into focus.
“Oh Babby thank Gad it's you!”
Bob began to slowly climb to his feet. But the skinny forty-something man was faster. He practically leapt up, and dashed over to the Deputy. Offering him a hand, and helping him to stand.
“We got a real situation here Babby!” The man was saying. His eyes darting around frantically. In that moment he looked like a rabbit that had just escaped a wolf.
Georgey McCabe, or “Boston George” as he was known by the locals, had gotten his name because of his heavy accent. And because well... He was from Boston. Which could be quite a big deal in some circles within such a small town.
He was a “born, and bread Irishmen of the Big City on a Hill”, as he was wont to say. Bob had never been, but he imagined that Georgey was a pretty accurate representation of the average Bostonian.
Boston George had moved to Duxbury from Beantown three years prior. He always seemed to have a lot of money. Though no one knew exactly what it was that he did.
He drove a candy apple red BMW M1. Almost always with the top down. Even in winter. Anywhere he went with it he drove like a man on his way to save the world.
Georgey had accumulated quite an impressive pile of tickets and citations since coming to Duxbury. But he always had the money to pay off his fines, and so had remained on the road.
“For now.” Sheriff Copper had said to Bob one night at the station.
Copper didn't like Boston George. Though Georgey seemed oblivious to the fact. He kept speeding. And the Duxbury Police Department kept profiting off his “stunt man” antics.
Bob had never ticketed Georgey personally however. He and the Irishmen had become some-time poker buddies shortly after his arrival. The Deputy liked to gamble once in a while. Georgey loved it. And the man had one hell of a poker face.
Over the last two years he'd taken far more of Bob's money than Bob had his. That was for sure. The man also liked to sometimes go out “day drinking” as he put it. And as he took in George's disheveled appearance, he began to suspect that was exactly what the man's afternoon activities had consisted of thus far.
The thinning hair on his head stuck out in tufts pointing in all directions. His Aloha shirt was only half tucked into his shorts. Bob realized that the man was also missing one of his flip-flops.
But there was a distinct panic in Georgey's eyes. A sort of wild terror that gave him pause. The man was talking he realized. Thickly accented words flowing out of his mouth a mile a minute. Though he had no idea what he'd been saying.
“Take a red Georgey!” Bob shouted, raising his hand in a silencing gesture as he did.
George fell quiet. For a few seconds all that could be heard was the chirping birds, and George's ragged breathing.
“What. Is the problem?” He didn't have time for this.
“There's-...” George gulped in a lungful of air. Trying to steady his voice. “There's some kind of manstah in the dampsta behind Bahn’s Maket. And I think it got Old Man Pete!”
“What?” Bob asked. Truly at a loss.
“Oh for Gad's sake Bab! I'm tellin' you that there's something in the damn dampsta behind Bahn's Maket! And I think it got Pete!” The man was quickly becoming hysterical.
“Okay. Okay.” Bob said. Raising his hand once again in a placating gesture. “So tell me what happened.”
“I was sittin' outside Lux Cafe. Out in one of the chairs on the patio. Just having a drink ya'know?”
At this Bob quirked an eyebrow. Georgey didn't seem to notice.
“Anyways, so I'm sittin' there out on the patio when I see Old Man Pete come out of his store, and go around to the back alley with a bag full of trash.”
Peter Barne's was the elderly owner of Barne's Market. The local Grocery Co-op. Pete was in his seventies, but had moved like a man half is age up until his wife Edna had passed last winter.
Since then Pete had developed a noticeable stoop in his stance. Now he walked with slow, pained movements. These days he seemed to look at the ground more than anything else.
In truth it pained the Deputy to see the old man slowly fall apart. Bob had known Pete since he'd been just a boy. He'd been known as “Old Man Pete” even back then. But in those days he’d sported a full head of gray hair.
“-So like after five minutes go by.” Boston George was saying. “I notice that Petey hasn't come back out from the alleyway yet. So I stat worrying that the poor old bugger's hurt himself or something ya'know? So I get up, and I go across the street to go check on him.”
Bob knew the area George was referring to well. It was called East Cove Plaza, and was consequently the only spot on Surplus Road that had any businesses on it. Four to be exact.
All located around one square block. Barnes Market, and the Red Herring Diner on one side of the street. East Bay Salon, and Lux Lounge on the other.
Up until a year, and a half ago there had only been three businesses. But Lux had opened up next to East Bay. It was this “new age” hippie cafe/bar. It was owned by this unbelievably sexy red-headed fox named Gretta Thompson.
She'd moved to Duxbury about two years ago. And after about six months had opened up shop. That was all he really knew about her. He'd never been in the bar. Though it had simultaneously become a hit with the younger locals, and an endless source of gossip for the elders.
“So what did you find when you went to go check on him?” Bob asked. Feeling a faint sense of apprehension as he did so.
“That's the thing Bab.” George said in a hushed tone. “There wasn't no one back there when I got up there. Just an empty alleyway with the dampstah in the back.”
“But I got this real weird feelin' Bab. This real weird feelin' that Old Man Pete was in that dampstah.” Georgey continued.
Bob already did not like where this was headed. Though admittedly he had absolutely no freaking idea where this was headed.
“So I get to like about ten feet away from the dampstah, and somethin's telling me. Somethin's telling me not to get any closer. So I call out Pete's name. Feeling a bit silly as I do, mind you.”
Bob smirked despite himself. Yes. Silly was one word for it.
“And just as I say his name there comes the sound of trash slammin' around. And I mean a loud sound! And the dampstah...” George trailed off as he gave a shudder. “The dampstah Bab... It jerked towards me!”
Bob raised an eyebrow.
“The dumpster jerked towards you?” The words just didn't sound right.
“Yeah Bab. And I mean like three *freakin*' feet!”
“So what did you do?”
At this George looked incredulous.
“What did I do?! I fackin' ran for my damn life! That's what I did Bab!”
“Okay. Okay.” Bob said. Raising his hands once again. “Let's go.”
“Go where?”
“Back to Barnes Market.”
“Back?”
“Yes.” He said. Pinching his nose. “Back to the Market.”
“But-.”
“Common Georgey.” Bob cut him off, and started walking...
Five minutes later they were moving down Surplus Road. Almost halfway to their destination. Up ahead loomed the wooden bridge that went over Bluefish River. The raging waters echoing off the surrounding trees that bordered the street on both sides.
Bob had kept up a brisk pace. Partly because he was worried for Old Man Pete. And partly because of his rapidly shrinking timetable. George to his credit, had kept up.
“Are you sure you don't want to call for backup Babby?” He half shouted over the thundering river, just as their feet met weather worn wood.
Bob glanced down at the rushing waters of the Bluefish as they clunked along. The river was normally more than a dozen feet below the bridge. On this day however was half that. If it got any higher, the city would have to close off the bridge.
“Not quite yet George.” He shouted back. “I think I'd like to check things out for myself before I go and do that.”
After another moment they were across the river and back on asphalt. With each step the thundering of the Bluefish faded.
Bob looked up at the looming trees on either side of them. The White Pines had grown more full, and lush than ever before. Bob gazed off into the shadows of the surrounding forest.
There was pretty much nothing for about the next quarter mile. Nothing but trees, and encroaching swamp water that is. Pretty much everything West of Tremont Street was flooded.
But thankfully the four businesses that made up East Cove Plaza had thus far been spared from the weather. Being located about a half mile East of Tremont, on the corner where Reynolds Way crossed Surplus.
As they walked, Bob reflected on the dumpster in question. It was a fifteen yarder if he recalled correctly. Situated between Barne's Market, and the Red Herring for the convenience of both businesses. With all the flooding it really wouldn't be too outlandish if a bear, or some other critter had made it's way down and jumped in looking for food.
They came to a flooded part in the road just as they hit the intersection of South Station Street. The water stretching all the way to the woods on both the right, and left. They wordlessly walked to the right.
Entering the edge of the woods, they used the rocks, and roots to keep their feet as dry as possible, as they made their way. The water stretched on down the street for a good twenty feet before relinquishing it's hold on the road.
Soon the surrounding forest gave way once again to a suburban sprawl. Up ahead in the distance stood East Cove Plaza. He felt an inexplicable twinge of apprehension at the sight of the buildings. And for about a second, he really did want to call for back up.
But what would he tell dispatch? Boston George thinks that there's a monster in the dumpster behind Barne's Market? Yeah. That would go over well.
After another moment of walking they had reached the front entrance of Barne's. The “now open” sign still hung in the window. Bob opened the door, and stepped inside. They were greeted by the refreshing coolness of the air-conditioned store.
“Mister Barnes?” Bob called out.
No answer. Save for the soft hum of the air-conditioning unit. Bob walked deeper into the store. Swiveling his head this way, and that, as he continued moving down one of the aisles.
“Pete?”
Again no answer. This wasn't good. Something was up.
“I'm tellin' ya he's not in here Babby.” Boston George said in a hushed tone from behind.
“Officer Maxwell?” Came a voice from the back of the store.
Both men turned to see Pete's nephew Doug Jenkins emerge from the back storage room. Doug was in his forties. He seemed to possess an endless supply of plaid shirts, and blue jeans that he wore no matter how high the temperature was. A nice guy. Though a bit slow.
“Hey Doug.” Bob said, with a wave. “I was just looking for Pete. Have you seen him?”
At this Doug shook his head.
“I was supposed to meet him here. We're going down to the dinner at Saint John's tonight. But I can't find him Bob.”
That last part carried with it a tone of worry.
“Don't worry Duggy.” Bob managed a smile. “We'll find him. I'm going to take a look around outside. Why don't you stay here in case he shows back up?”
Duggy nodded.
“Okay.” He said.
“Cool beans. Alright, me and Georgey here are gonna take a look around back. We'll meet you back here in ten minutes if we don't find him.”
And with that George, and Bob turned and walked back out. The sticky summer heat practically slammed into them as they stepped through the doorway. Together they walked in silence to the entrance of the alleyway.
They rounded the corner, and just stood there for a moment. The area was empty, save for the hulking form of the dumpster that stood in the back. It was a big, ugly thing. Standing about six feet high. And yeah. It was a fifteen yarder.
“There's no way Pete fell in there.” Bob thought to himself as he scrutinized the hunk of metal.
There was something off about it though. But he couldn't quite put his finger on what. At first glance it appeared the same as it always had.
It was just as rusty, and weather worn as ever. Still the same dirty green color, with the words "Patterson Waste Disposal" written in big white letters on it's beat up exterior. He was pretty sure that Boston George was right though. The Dumpster seemed like it was farther from the back wall than normal.
Maybe George had been partially correct. Perhaps some bear or something had wondered down and climbed in looking for food. Again considering the flooding it wasn't outside of the realm of possibility. After all the wildlife was known to wander into town from time, to time.
Bob moved cautiously forward and then stopped when he was about fifteen feet away. Some vague, primal instinct warning him not to get any closer.
He stood there in silence for a moment. Listening for any sign of movement from within the rusty metal structure. Nothing. Not a sound. He straightened, and let out a sigh. Jesus. He was being ridiculous.
Boston George was just buzzed. Pete Barnes had just gone out on some sudden errand, and forgotten to lock up. Yeah, that was it. He started to turn back to George when he noticed the shoe.
It was just lying there about three feet in front of the dumpster. It was black. That was about all he could tell from this distance.
But he knew. He just knew that it was a black Penny Loafer. And there was only one guy around here who sported those kind of kicks.
“Mister Barnes?” Bob called out toward the dumpster. Knowing full well how ridiculous he would look to his peers in that moment. He received no reply.
He took a few more cautious steps forward. Calling out again. Once again being answered with silence.
God what if he had fallen in?! As impossible as it seemed. What if Barnes had fallen in, and was lying broken and bleeding, right now, as he stood there like an idiot?!
“What's goin' on fellas?”
A voice suddenly asked from behind, causing both men to jump. Bob turned around only to see Christie Villarmarin's Pug like face. Christie was the “owner” of East Bay Salon.
What that really meant was that her husband, District Circuit Court Judge Troy Villarmarin; Had bought his incredibly unpleasant wife a business. So as to keep her out of his hair. And quite literally in someone else's.
“Everything alright Officer Maxwell?” She asked innocently.
Bob didn't really dislike people as a rule of thumb. It was not in his nature. But *God Damn* if Christie just didn't naturally piss him off.
She was one of the town gossip “ring leader's”. As his mother always put it. Christie had an affinity for other people's business. Her Salon only amplified her powers. Bob noticed a few of Christie's customers/cronies had gathered on the sidewalk in front of the Salon, and were watching their conversation with rapt attention.
And God Dammit if he didn't have time for this! It was going on 1:15 and he hadn't even made it down to Barry's yet! Christie was a shark, circling a piece of meat on a hook. But he wasn't going to give her one bite.
“Yes ma’am.” Bob said. Beaming. “We're just looking for Old Ma- Mister Barnes. I think he may have stepped out and forgotten to lock up.”
“Oh.” Was all Christie said. Mirroring the Deputy's smile right back at him.
For a moment the two just stood there, beaming their smiles at one another. Boston George looked back and forth between the two of them. Lifting an eyebrow in confusion at their “smile duel”.
“Why good afternoon everyone!”
The three turned to see Father John, standing with Sheriff Copper and Deputy David Quimby. The Priest was dressed in his usual black underwrap. He was carrying a cake with pink frosting in a big tupperware. The short, balding , round man wore his usual warm toothy grin.
“Bobby!” The Sheriff said in greeting, and began walking up.
“Great.” Bob thought.
Copper nodded at Christie.
“Ma’am.”
“Sheriff.” Christie smiled. This time the expression was genuine though.
Copper reached Bob and gave him a clap on the back.
“Don't tell me you got stood up?!” He said. Letting out a great bellowing laugh as he did.
“No Sheriff I-.”
“I'm just teasin' you Bobby.” Copper cut him off. “Ol' Duggy told me about Mister Barnes.”
Bob noticed Doug poking his head around the corner.
“I told the Sheriff you was looking for Pete.” He said.
“Thanks Doug.” Bob replied.
“Me and the boys here were just on our way down to get ready for the Church Cookout tonight.” Copper said with a grin.
He turned to face the others.
“Now this right here is a shining example of an outstanding Officer of the Law. Even off duty, right before a big date no less, we find Bobby here still ensuring the safety of our citizens.” He laughed once again. His big belly bouncing up, and down.
“A date?” Christie quirked an eyebrow at this.
“Shit.” Bob thought.
“Yes Deputy Maxwell.” Father John cut. Smiling up at Bob, who stood a full head taller than the man.
“You truly are a good man, aren't you? You know you are always welcome in God's house my son. Perhaps tonight you, and you're lady friend might stop by, and partake in the festivities?”
“Th- Thank you Father. We just might do that.” Bob lied.
“Tell ya' what Bobby.” Copper said. “Why don't you go run along, and let me handle finding Mister Barnes?”
Bob let out a sigh of relief.
“Thanks Sheriff. I owe you one.”
The Sheriff waved this off with a grin.
“Don't mention it Bobby. But before you go, do you have any leads?”
“Leads?” Bob asked, not understanding.
Copper laughed.
“Yeah ya'know?! Like any idea where Barnes might have got off to?”
Just then there came a brief, faint echo of shifting trash from within the big green dumpster behind them. Everyone turned.
“I don't know. But I noticed a shoe that looks like one of his beside the dumpster.”
“Um. So did you take a look?” Quimby asked.
Deputy David Quimby could have passed for Larry Wilcox's twin. He acted like it to. The all American high school football hero, turned cop. Every day on the job you'd think that Quimby was acting out an episode of Chip's Patrol.
The man was wearing his pump-action Mossberg 590 strapped to his back. Though of course he didn't need it. The Deputy almost always had the weapon on him. He thought in made him look tough. And in truth it really did help him get laid.
“I actually just got here a minute before you did.” He answered. “I was about to look. But George said that he thought there was some kind of animal in the dumpster. So I was... Assessing the situation before approaching.”
“Hah!” Quimby exclaimed in a clearly fake laugh. Slapping a hand across one knee. “Ya'll are scared of a racoon in a dumpster?!”
“It ain't no racoon Officer Quimby.” Boston George replied in a foreboding tone.
Christie Ackerman huffed.
Bob just ground his teeth. Partly because he couldn't think of an adequate retort. But mostly because the answer might very well be “yes”.
That's when Bob realized how quiet in had gotten. The near constant chirping of chickadees was suddenly absent. He tried to remember if he'd heard any birds when he'd first gotten to the neighborhood.
“Don't none of ya'll worry you're pretty little head's off.” Sheriff Copper said as he began walking down the alleyway. “The Sheriff's on the jo– Oh what in the Hell?”
The Sheriff looked over the other's shoulders. Bob turned. The small group of onlookers from the salon had been joined by a few curious younger folks from the cafe. They were now gathered in the middle of the road watching them.
“Alright!” The Sheriff shouted toward the street. “There ain't nothin' to see here people! We're just havin' a conversation, and ya'll are wastin' your time if you're hoping for some action.”
“And since ya'll are grown up's I don't think that I have to lecture you on how dangerous it is to be standing in the middle of the road. Now I suggest that ya'll git!”
A couple people shuffled their feet. But no one really moved. The Sheriff huffed, and turned back around to face the dumpster.
“Fine.” He said. And began walking.
“Sheriff.” Father John said. And Copper paused. “I'd be careful. The woods, and swamps are not far away. And there's no telling what may have crawled out of the bogs this time of year.”
The Sheriff smiled.
“Awe Father, you're concern for my well being is truly touching. But I'm a big strong man, and think I can handle some little woodland critter.” He winked, and continued moving forward.
Copper walked up to the dumpster while the others watched with trepidation. Everyone except Quimby. He was standing there with his hands on his hips. Smiling ear to ear. No doubt thinking about how he was going to tell everyone at the Station about Bob's newfound dumpster phobia.
The Sheriff made it to within a foot of the dumpster and looked in. Nothing happened. He turned around to face the others. A big shit-eating "I'm better than you grin" plastered on his face.
"Ya'see fellas." he said. "There ain't nothing to be afraid of."
"Are ya' sure sheriff?" Boston George asked hesitantly.
Copper shrugged, and turned back around. Stepping up to the lip of the dumpster, he stood on his tip-toes to get a better look.
"Whatever animal it was prob-." The Sheriff's words caught in his throat and his body froze up like a dear in headlights.
"Jesus, Mary, and Jose-!" Copper's words were cut short as the two hundred and thirty pound man was violently ripped off his feet. Simultaneously there came a small explosion of trash. Garbage whizzed by, and Copper's uniform billowed as if caught in a strong gust of wind.
The big man went up, and over the edge. Disappearing in a blur. He didn't even have time to scream. Everyone instinctively back-pedaled.
The group of onlookers that had gathered in the street quickly herded themselves back across to the sidewalk on the other side of the road. The smaller group that had been near the dumpster practically leapt backward to the lip of the alleyway.
Deputy Quimby shouted in surprise. Christie screamed, and Bob joined her. To the passerby it might have sounded like the two were having a "damsel in distress " screaming contest. If they had been Deputy Maxwell, to his credit, would have won.
"Oh my Gaaad! Oh my Gaaad!" Boston George was shrieking over, and over as he back-pedaled into the street. His hysterics were abruptly cut short as he was suddenly struck by Henry McDuff's truck.
Marcus's son hadn't even noticed Boston George until the man was rolling up onto his hood. The farmer panicked as George smashed into his windshield. Simultaneously jerking the wheel hard to the left, while slamming on the breaks.
A split second later the rusty, red pickup smashed into a car parked in front of East Bay Salon. George went rolling off and over the hood of the other vehicle. Falling over the other side, and disappearing from McDuff's view almost as quickly as he'd appeared.
The open bed of the truck had been literally overflowing with freshly harvested apples. Upon impact, the fruit erupted out of the bed like a volcano. Creating a small apple tsunami that rolled across the street.
The screeching of tires forced Bob's horrified gaze from the the spot where Sheriff Copper had recently occupied, to the street behind him. But only for a moment. Once he realized that it was just a car accident he quickly snapped his gaze back down the alleyway. Pulling out his service revolver as he did so. Carnivorous dumpsters taking precedence over car accidents.
For a moment everybody just stood there in silence. Then there came a great rumble from within the Dumpster that to Bob, sounded like a giant burping. At the same time several pieces of trash shot up high into the air.
The crowd took another collective step backward as the assorted debris came raining down. Clattering, and clanking to the ground between themselves and the alleyway. Glass shattered. Empty metal cans went bouncing across the pavement.
The smaller group at the edge of the alley raised their hands over their heads protectively as garbage came falling to the ground all around them. A big aluminum can bounced off Bob's shoulder. It didn't really hurt, but it did make him jump.
The last thing to land was the Sheriff's hat. The brim had a jagged tear that looked like a shark had taken a bite out of it. The sight of the hat was apparently Quimby's breaking point.
For a second later the man let out a howl that was one part terror, and one part war cry. He raised the Pump Action (which Bob only now realized the Deputy had unslung from his back) and the weapon “BOOMED!” deafeningly. It happened so fast that Bob hadn't even had time to shout at him to stop, or he could hit the Sheriff.
The buckshot struck the side of the Dumpster. Sending out a shower of sparks. But as far as Bob could tell it failed to penetrate the thick metal.
Quimby continued moving forward. Pumping his shotgun and firing over, and over. Howling like a madman all the while.
**AUTHOR'S NOTE*\*
Hi! To anyone who might be familiar with my writing style, you'll already know that I don't know how to write a "proper" short story. It's a character flaw.;)
Anyway if you made it this far and would like to read the rest. I'm going to have the remainder posted in the comments section below. Labelled as (PT A, B, C, ect) Anyway. hope you enjoy the rest!
submitted by ChrisKoleszar to DrCreepensVault [link] [comments]


2020.08.28 00:30 memeswriter What Was The Orgone Committee Part 2

An analysis of the Charter as a form of Oligarchic Acollectivism. by Emmanuel Goldstein The parallels between Autarchy and the form of government described in George Orwells 1984 are interesting to say the least. These are outlined below for your convenience: 1. Everybody has an equal opportunity for access to the group synergy. As OBrien explains to Winston that entrance to the inner party is by exam and not contingent on nepotism or race at all. 2. There are three social rungs- High, Middle, and Low. Or Blue Yellow and Red. Or Inner Party, Outer Party, and Proles. 3. The top level is subject to frequent upheaval and purges from within itself to insure maximum performance. 4. A primary goal of both the Autarchy and Oceania is to create new languages to shape consciousness. The differences are also instructive: 1. Autarchy is a form of Oligarchic Acollectivism, that is rule of the Inner Party member of themselves and no others. Autarchs have no Authority of any kind as Autarchs over any of the other Circles. 2. Ingsoc was a philosophy of reducing the possible combinations available to human consciousness through doublethink, while the principle of dontjustthink is based on consciousness expansion. 3. Ingsoc was based on the limitation of all emotions to hate and fear, while Autarchy is based on the premise of love which contains all other emotions within its scope. 4. The purges of the Committee Autarchs are self administered rather than other administered. 5. The selection of the Autarchs is by the players of the game who are not Autarchs, rather than the other way around. Sex is peace. True Will not Slavery. Consciousness is strength.
  1. The newspeak of Ingsoc is predicated on the elimination of words, the newspeak of the Autarchy is predicated on the expansion of words, alphabets, images, and communications technologies, and thereby consciousness. The purpose behind this Charter is to provide our Game with a set of rules. Rules are what make Games possible. Since no form of governing is better than the people who live by those rules, our energy and attention have been focused almost soley on the mechanisms that screen and select people with the inclination and/or the ability to rise in rank. Interested in communicating? Write to: Orgone Committee P.O. Box 614 Vanbrunt Station Brooklyn, NY 11215 SEX IS PEACE TRUE WILL NOT SLAVERY CONCIOUSNESS IS STRENGTH Wiccoid-Panpaganite Clique The Wiccoid-Panpaganite (W.P.P.) clique of the Orgone Committee (O.C.) is the branch of the O.C. which is devoted to following the path of the Earth Mother and the Horned God (in their various aspects). Besides the Oath of Silence and Goodwill the only "laws" that bind any member of the W.P.P.'s are the two rules of Wicca. "And ye harm none (including yourself) do what ye will.", and "Abide ye must by the law of three...if ye does good then good ye shall receive in return and three-fold, but if ye do bad then too shall ye receive bad in turn three-fold." These two "laws" are the basis for a non-dogmatic system which has myriad forms on this plane of existence. The W.P.P. is interested in working with consciousness expansion on many planes and is accessible to any individual who considers themselves Wiccans, Pagans, or Pantheists (belief that all things are inherently divine) and who abide the laws stated above. Some of the Sub-committees that the current W.P.P. are involved in are the Communication S.C., the Runic S.C. (a branch of the Communication S.C.), the Dream S.C., and the Land Co-op S.C. The structure of the W.P.P. clique is similar to that of the O.C. in that consensus is the desired system, but when that system falters the members of the highest circle in that O.C. branch of the W.P.P.'s may offer their wisdom and aid in overcoming the difficulties. The W.P.P. believe that love is the most powerful force in the uni/multiverse. It is the basis for most of the working in the W.P.P. We strive to become wiser through understanding ourselves and our surroundings. ...May your path fill you with wisdom and wonder... Blessed Be Interested in communicating? Write to: Orgone Committee P.O. Box 614 Vanbrunt Station Brooklyn, NY 11215 SEX IS PEACE TRUE WILL NOT SLAVERY CONCIOUSNESS IS STRENGTH Correspondences of the Three Circles Red Circle: Motto/Koan: SEX IS PEACE. Plane: Physical, Body Alchemical Element: Salt Golden Dawn Degrees: Neophyte, Zelator, Practicus, Philosophus. Taoist Principle: Yin Power: To Know, To Dare Weakness: To Fear Life Period: Birth Astrological Signs: Cardinal Animal: Sphinx, Hawk Uniform: Anything Red, nothing yellow or blue. Magickal Tools: Computers, Workout/Sports Gear, Hobby Equipment, Artists Tools Chakras: Root, Spleen.
    Yellow Circle: Motto/Koan: TRUE WILL NOT SLAVERY. Plane: Mental, Astral Alchemical Element: Sulpher Golden Dawn Degrees: Adeptus Minor, Adeptus Major, Adeptus Exemptus. Taoist Principle: Yang Power: To Be Silent Weakness: Power Life Period: Growth & Decay Astrological Signs: Fixed Animal: Unicorn, Dolphin Uniform: Anything Yellow, nothing red or blue. Magickal Tools: Money, Any Deadly Weapon Chakras: Navel, Heart, Throat.
    Blue Circle: Motto/Koan: CONCIOUSNESS IS STRENGTH Plane(s): Spiritual Alchemical Element: Mercury Golden Dawn Degrees: Magister Templi, Magus, Ipsissimus. Taoist Principle: Tao Power: To Will Weakness: Old Age Life Period: Old Age, Death and After Astrological Signs: Mutable Animal: Phoenix, Monkey Uniform: Anything Blue, nothing red or yellow Magickal Tools: Body, Life Force Chakras: Brow, Crown. Interested in communicating? Write to: Orgone Committee P.O. Box 614 Vanbrunt Station Brooklyn, NY 11215 SEX IS PEACE TRUE WILL NOT SLAVERY CONCIOUSNESS IS STRENGTH Charter of the Neo-Thelemoid Clique The structure of the Neo-Thelemoid Clique is identical to that of the Orgone Committee Charter Except in the following: A. You must accept the Book of the Law. B. The Circle Titles are: Man of Earth, Lover, Hermit. C. For the Yellow Circle Initiation and Ordeal you must take Wine and/or Strange Drugs as a part of it to enter. D. There is a Ruling Body of the Council of Hermits which is the absolute governing body. All initiates must acknowledge Their Apostolic Succession from Nothing, Nothing at all except the Will of the Council of Hermits to administer and the Will of the initiates of the lower degrees not to stop them from administering, disputes in this case to be settled by whatever means the parties Will. E. We recognize the following as specialized factions within our clique, and The Council of Hermits has authorized them to operate independently of our administration according to the wills of the members of these organizations: The Bavarian Illuminati, Knights of Malta, The Unilateral Commission, The Inner Party, The Cult of Beh-oh-zod-oh, O.T.O., A.A (all of the Six different A.A.s we have communicated with.), Meta-Agnostics, A.M.O.R.C., S.O.T.O., Kenneth Grant's O.T.O., The College of Thelema, The Church of Scientology, H.O.L.G., The Order of the O.K., L.E.L., and two others that wish to be anonymous. F. Our first priority as an organization is to cultivate and establish the New Aeon. The New Aeon is, quite simply, bigger than Thelema, bigger than Liber Al, bigger than Crowley, bigger than any of the growing numbers of Thelemic organizations, in fact bigger than anything other than the human species itself, whose curerent evolutionary phase the New Aeon is a metaphor and name for. G. Our second priority as an organization is to apotheosize archetypes other than Crowley to embody the New Aeon. The necessity of this is clear in the face of the clear fact that Uncle Al was not born after 1904! H. Our other priorities are written and concealed in Liber Al Vel Legis, Chaps 1 to 3 in the facsimile of the original writing at the back of each edition. Interested in communicating? Write to: Orgone Committee P.O. Box 614 Vanbrunt Station Brooklyn, NY 11215 SEX IS PEACE TRUE WILL NOT SLAVERY CONCIOUSNESS IS STRENGTH History of the Orgone Committee The Orgone Committee is a very, very serious and very, very secret association of the best and brightest. Wer'e numbah wunn! Our history began when the first stroke of lightning zapped the roiling surface of Earth's primal sea, transmuting amino acids and nucleotides into DNA, the very first "living" molecule. (Note: many members maintain that our history officially started when the Big Bang began the ball bouncing with the first swirlings of sub-atomic particles that appeared mere microsceonds later.) When the first DNA molecule decided to pull up a chain of carbons to re st its aching helixes on, we were there. But nothin g has thrilled us all as much as when we convinced the first of the blue/green algae to try sexual reproduction! From there on in it was a breeze. More recent activities have included coaxing arboreal apes to walk on their hind legs, encouraging agriculture through teaching beer brewing, inspiring a slightly tipsy Sumerian shaman into pressing a sharpend stick into clay, and twitching a branch so sending an apple to thud hollowly on Sir Issac Newton's noggin. The Orgone Committee is a body of initiates in whose hands are concentrated the knowledge of the following bodies: a. The Order Of the O.K. b. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence c. The Order of the Illuminati d. The Knights Templar e. The Hermetic Circle f. The Mayan Priesthood g. The Golden Dawn h. The Inner Party i. The Cult of B.O.Z.O. j. H.O.L.G. k. The Neo-Thelemoid Clique l. The Santo-Yoruba Clique m. The Gardenarian Tradition n. The Welsh Tradition o. The Wiccoid-Panpaganite Clique p. Certain Martial Arts Masters q. The Toltec Seers r. The Tantrick Diddlers s. The Meta-Agnostic Clique t. The Novus Ordo Secularum u. The A A v. The Runemasters and Runemisstresses w. The U.F.O.'s In more remote times, the constituent originating assemblies of the Orgone Committee have included such people as: Badfeet (The caveman who invented the wheel), Notooth (the cavewomen who first grabbed a burning branch off a lightning struck tree), Hermes, Hypatia, Lesbia, Cybele, Lao Tze, Siddartha, Krishna, Merlin, Paracelsus, Isis, Osiris, Horus, Hadit, Nuit, Ellegua, Aristotle, Heracles, Aphrodite, Diana, Odin, Ankh-Af-Na-Khonsu, Arthur, Gueneviere, Odysseus, Pythoness, Mescalito, Quexacoatl, John Dee, Sir Edward Kelly. More recently: Don Juan Mateus, Aleister Crowley, Wilhelm Reich, Sigmund Freud, Gerald Gardner, Albert Einstein, Thomas Alva Edison, Joan Of Arc, Franz Bardon, Nicholas Tesla, Dion Fortune, George Orwell, Gandalf-The-White, Ischade, Bob, Israel Regardie, Arthur Frane, Emmanuel Goldstein, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Booker T. Washington, Bozo The Clown. The names of living Masters and Mistresses are never revealed. This most recent manifestation of the Orgone Committee has been active since 1984.Within six years we have created a network of Wiccans, Magickians, Anarchists, Artists, and Mutants. Our numbers fluctuate wildly, but year by year the network grows as its usefullness and power increases. Most of those who work with us prefer to remain anonymous. (Can you blame them?) The First Land Co-op Subcommittee Biannual Report by Emmanuel Goldstein The Land Co-op is a pivotal part of the Orgone Committee's plan for the 90's (ev). We propose to create a community, based on the following principals:
  2. To foster the physical, mental, and spiritual evolution of the people living as members of this community directly, and people in other places indirectly as an example of a new archetype for living. Most simply put, we will be developing a society that is itself evolved as to have room in it for individuals who have developed all possible aspects of their personalities. A society that needs many specialized individuals in a rigid hierarchy is closer to the insect hive than a society that prepares its members for many functions in a network of relationships based on talent. This will be done lingually, politically, culturally, economically, religiously, sexually, biologically, neurologically, technologically, magickally.
  3. Create a social contract allowing maximum energy access for the maximum number of people. By this we mean money, property, electrical, etc.
  4. Create direct access to new maps of reality by speaking and learning a new language.
  5. Forge and foster a successful internal economy in this community which shall be centered around complete energy and food self-sufficiency.
  6. Aid the goals of the Political Action Subcommittee by giving them a workable model for small community building blocks.
  7. The legal structure of this coop is to be a cooperative. Everyone will own their own parcel of land and home, and there will be community held property such as the power generating equipment, roads, etc. Depending on the advantages/disadvantages offered by each strategy we may adopt any number of structures above this such as church, or S chapter, or not-for-profit, or nonprofit legal status. These will be researched in turn. The Land Coop concept is the capstone to the pyramid of projects wherein we currently concentrate on how to implement our hypotheses, theories, and intuitions about how to create the best possible environment to foster human evolution. Linguistically: we are beginning to create a New Language. It is verbal, manual (based on American Sign Language) and glyphic. It is an attempt to consciously reshape the mental maps imposed by languages. More research is needed! We need a language for all members of the land coop to allow for a) More efficient communication b) More efficient thinking and conscious expansion and c) Solidarity. Familial: We reject the idea that the nuclear family is the only or even the best way. We need to establish new archetypes. What are the alternatives? How have they worked? Politically: Our ideas around this are for a computevideo/media cyberdemocracy. Diversity. Competing interests that keep each other in check. Culturally: Between video, music, visual arts of every kind, magazines, books, pamphlets, and whatever springs up we expect that to take care of itself! Economically: Energy self-sufficiency, food and as total self sufficiency as possible. Community ownership of certain things, personal ownership of other things. Less rich and poor. Decentralization as much as is possible. Diversity. Educationally: Teach people how to think and give them an environment that encourages them to do so. It shouldn't be too hard to come up with something better than what exists in the school systems in America today. Religiously: Many different faiths, all jockeying for power to keep each other in check! Biologically: health maintained. Life extension. Many alternate practitioners. Pure food, water, air. Ecologically: Respect for the environment. No waste! Lots of room for people to mutate in their own ways! Technologically: High High High tech as possible! Technology is a key to this aeon of human evolution. It is changing everything more than anything else, both for good and bad. Neurologically: All of the above. None of the above. Sexually: Diversity expected! See Reich. Make up your own mind one way or another. We desperately need new archetypes that free us from the patriarchal\Osirian idea that a heterosexual dyad/nuclear family is the only proper way for humans to bond/breed. Magickally: All of the above. We need information about Locales in the U.S., good for this land coop. For the Political Action Subcommittee the following is necessary:
  8. Low population density.
  9. Rich in farmland, long growing season and solar, wind, hydroelectric, and geothermal if possible.
  10. Far from major nuclear targets.
  11. Any other natural resources or good positioning for other reasons? Legal, economic, transportational, game & hunting etc?
  12. Rural or small town or other?
  13. Local ordinances regarding own energy, business, education of own children, building.
  14. Local religous background of folks.
  15. Major local industries, economic trends?
  16. Political behavior in area.
  17. Information about where other groups, communes, covunes, etc, are set up. All info possible. People specializing in engineering, computers, linguistics, farming, education, sociology, psychology, medical, security, economics, business administration, law, mechanics, architecture, crafts, video producing, arts, For the Land Coop, all of the above information is needed plus Psychopharmacology, Artificial Intelligence, martial arts teachers, farmers, and Technicians of every kind. Feel no shyness about contacting us with information about your skills and other assets should you be interested in getting involved. Diversity Freedom is relative to the number of options you have. As an evolutionary strategy we have adopted diversity. Decentralize as much as possible. Give as many people as possible a fair chance at a successful life. The Thelemic Formula: maximize combinations = maximize possibilities and/or options. This is inevitable in a society that is attempting to align itself to the evolutionary trend of higher capacity for the individual as the unit of society. By combinations I mean any kind of interactions. Examples: When two chemicals react. When two people make love. When you eat something. Genetically speaking the more available combinations of genes the more possible it is for new evolutionary avenues to open. Ecological Responsibility We must as individuals be prepared to make changes in our daily lives to make it possible for the environment of this planet to continue to sustain us. Here in Brooklyn, New York City, the municipality has finally begun to get involved with recycling bottles, cans, and paper. They distributed plastic blue cans for collecting. There's just a little more work to do. When I throw something out, I have to choose to put it in the regular garbage, or the recycling bag. I have to remember to put the blue can out on another day than the regular collections. This is the very first of the kind of adjustments that we will have to increasingly make as the resources of our world continue to be mismanaged and squandered as much as they are now. Sexual Revolution New archetypes of sexual roles and behaviors. Sexual revolution is as necessacary as technological, economic, political revolution. To quote N. Dorfin: "...What about being quiet when you jerk off so no one else will hear? If you can get people to do that, you can get them to do anything." Evolution The species has reached the point where more conscious control of our evolution is possible than ever before. The next step is into Space. We work to hasten the establishment of self-supporting human populations in other places than the surface of this planet. The new technologies that result from this will help us solve our problems here on Earth. You may wish to form your own Orgone Committee. You may already have your own weird/fun/master plan which you might feel would benefit from sharing something with us. Write to us. Share this information with your friends: Feel free to make copies of it and distribute it to them as long as you a. do not charge more than the cost of copying it for it, and b. do not change it. Let us know about your own various weirdnesses. Send us copies of your zine, or even tapes of your music, or videos of your whatever. We're always looking for new information for our resources list. If what you send us is truly intense, we will mention it in the next issue, along with how our readers can get in touch with you. If it's intense and we want to print it, we'll get in touch with you and ask you if its OK for us to do that. It is in all our best interests to network amongst ourselves! More combinations! Free exchange of information serves us in a way remarkably similar to the way an isolated gene-pool benefits from the influx of new breeding stock. We have a lot to learn from each other. Interested in communicating? Write to: Orgone Committee P.O. Box 614 Vanbrunt Station Brooklyn, NY 11215 SEX IS PEACE TRUE WILL NOT SLAVERY CONCIOUSNESS IS STRENGTH Blessed Be Fellow Orgonic Orgonians! The Plans are whizzing away. Although it will take years for the seeds of the Engineer's Sub-Committee to have work on the Prime Material Plane, the astral work being done on the Land Co-Op is growing at an ever increasing rate. Project Outreach is going smoothly. The information that was and continues to be discussed is being offered to the masses as they are able and willing to hear it. The Engineer's are glad to see so much activity on the board here and would like to offer our thanks for your continued diligence in our partial seclusion. The next General Meeting will be happy to hear our latest reports on the Water Battery, and the Tidal Harvest plans for the generation of 24 hour year round electrical energy needs of the Land Co-op. The timetable is set at seven years at the moment of this printing,as far as the first cornerstone ritual is concerned. We would like for all members with the proper clearance to please begin to cogitate what they would like to put in the cornerstone of the Orgone Committee Recreational and Serious Magic Work Spa. Would like to talk more but there are places to read about and theories to study. Blessings of Odhinn and Bestla, May your path be filled with Wisdom and Wonder, Sex is Peace/True Will Not Slavery/Consciousness is Strength Faunus Land Co-op Engineer's Corps of The Orgone Committee Meta-Agnosticism Without Tears Dear Fellow Committee Member, You write inquiring as to the relative merits of Meta-Agnosticism over, say, Anarcha-Eristianism, and, in the same line of your otherwise rather vacuous missive, ask to quickly sum the points of the practical application of my Clique's Official Party Line as you (the phrase "rather snidely" springs to mind) put it. In twenty-five million words or less you further specify! Very well.
    1. Understand that everything you know is uncertain, including uncertainty.
    2. Identify the elements of your conscious and unconscious self and develop these elements of these faculties. These being: first your knowledge of your self and the world around you, second your feelings/intuitions, third your will -- the Life Force that enables you to live and grow, fourth your daring -- the moment by moment course of action you choose. Never falter from directing your development for balance first, power second.
    3. Step by step, get into the habit of developing and balancing these faculties every day. After 10-20 years relentless practice, it will get to be a habit all the time.
    4. You'll know what to do then. -- A.P.B. Orgone Committee Language Subcommittee Report Summer Solstice Report 1990 E.V. Greetings from the language labs! latest news is the beginning adaptation of American Sign Language to meet the needs of a Telescreen oriented society. The earlier resolutions to eliminate the is of identity are being further developed by a united effort of the Neo-Thelemoids and Wiccoid-Panpaganites. Instead of "is" we use "as". Examples: I as chairman of the Language Subcommittee instead of I am chairman of the Language Subcommittee That guy as stupid. Replaces That guy is stupid. Or Take: Neo-Thel is the most survival enhancing philosophy. And make: Neo-Thel as the most survival enhancing philosophy. Or: The Orgone Committee is the best Initiatic body ever! Becomes: The Orgone Committee as the best Initiatic body ever. Heres: I am the master, you are the slave. Now: I as the master, you as the slave. All Jews are evil. Now: All Jews as evil. I am right! The less certain: I as right! When we say that something "is" we invest it an identity that has a solidity which is more absolute than human experience and speculation indicates. To say that someone "is" something is to unnecessarily restrict their identity to that one thing. It allows us to foist consuming roles on others and ourselves simply because of the inaccurate piece of mental territory that the word indicates and creates. It allows us to be lazy and get into the habit of investing words with a level of reality that does not get us the results we need. At this stage, we are not seriously implementing the Agenda Items concerning the creation of a hieroglyphic written language which the Committee is resolved to have created by 1994 (e.v.that is). Naturally, any and almost all suggestions by the membership are welcome, and will be added to the language labs database. Please address any correspondence Attention: Language Subcommittee. Interested in communicating? Write to: Language Subcommittee C/O Orgone Committee P.O. Box 614 Vanbrunt Station Brooklyn NY 11215 Look for the Newspeak Dictionary in 1991-92 e.v. SEX IS PEACE TRUE WILL NOT SLAVERY CONCIOUSNESS IS STRENGTH
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2020.08.21 18:34 TAHaywood [Richard "Quickdraw" McCallister: A Eulogy][Derby] Chapter 9 - Close Encounters

When the Tamani blew a hole in his ship, his friend, and his career, Richard McCallister called it quits. But when he gets word of another alien incursion, with his friend's family in the line of fire, he charges back into danger on the outskirts of settled space to yank them out of the maw.
That was his plan, anyway. But things don't usually go according to plan.
Cover Art
First Part
------------
“Two weeks.”
I made a face, shaking my head. “It’s not going to be anytime this month. No way.”
Clay rapped his knuckles against his desk, scowling across the office at me. “Damn it, you idiot kid, listen when I talk. Two weeks, I said.”
“But-”
“The higher-ups can’t hardly wipe their asses without fuckin’ the whole thing up,” he said. “I’m tellin’ you. Two weeks before we get called out to run a rescue operation on the damn place.”
I pursed my lips, shaking my head, but couldn’t quite argue with him. “Maybe.”
“Not maybe. Absolutely. I know you think you’re hot shit ‘cause you’ve been here a couple years without gettin’ your ass shitcanned, kid, but-”
“The array seemed to be working when we left,” I mumbled.
I wasn’t looking at him, but I could almost hear Clay rolling his eyes. “Sure, sure. It always looks fine. But then the damn thing’ll break, cause they’re runnin’ it ragged, and then they’ll have nothin’. And then the orbit’ll start to fill up with ships what can’t leave. And then they’ll shelter at the colony, which does not have endless food, might I remind you. And-”
“I get it,” I groaned, pressing my hands to my face. “Do you really enjoy hearing yourself talk that much?”
I did look, at that one -- and peering through the cracks in my fingers, I watched Clay lurch toward me. “Why, you little-”
The scream of an alert from his console brought both of us up short. We froze. I swallowed. “Clay. Is that-”
The blood drained from his face. “Shit,” he whispered.
Whatever he was going to say next, it disappeared under the scream of the alarms from overhead. The comm crackled to life in the same moment.
“All members, stand by,” I heard Captain Taylor say. His voice was thin, but steady, in that sort of ‘I’m holding myself together, damn it’ way that I was really, really coming to hate.
It always meant bad things were coming.
Something flickered at the edge of my vision. I stiffened -- but Clay leapt toward the porthole, all but pressing his nose to the glass.
I gripped my seat more firmly. “Uh. Is...Is that…”
Clay tore his eyes off the expanse before us, shooting a fearful glance my way. He didn’t say anything. But he did step back, angling himself away from the window far enough for me to get a peek.
I didn’t need to look outside. Not really. Clay only had one alarm rigged to his console. Only one thing that meant a damn. Only one reason why he’d look so damn terrified.
I looked, though. And I watched, mute, as something slipped by us. A handful of somethings, in fact.
Ships. Slender and graceful, with rounded arches and curves that no TerraCorp ships could match. It was my first time seeing them in person, but...I’d heard the stories. I knew what I was looking at.
Utterly beautiful and utterly deadly, the handful of Tamani ships slipped by the Rheasilvia.
“W-What,” I began, but my mouth went dry. “W-What s-should we-”
“Sit,” Clay breathed. “Don’t do nothin’, kid. Just- Just sit. Sit tight.”
Sit there? It felt wrong. Every fiber of his being screamed to jump up and do...something. But he wasn’t a gunner, and he couldn’t reinforce their armor. Not in flight. He was helpless.
More than ever, he realized that much.
“Hold,” he heard Captain Taylor murmur through the comm.
“They’ll leave us be,” Clay whispered. “They always do. They’re in Solaran space, not the other way ‘round. Long as we don’t look like trouble...they’ve leave us be.”
I stared out the porthole, nodding dumbly. Part of me whispered how much it sounded like Clay was trying to convince himself, not me. The rest of me was still shrieking its terror.
The Tamani ships slowed, coming nearly to a halt alongside us for a long, perilous moment. I drank in the sight of their vessels, with what almost looked like...crystals, jutting from their afts. I’d been shoulder-deep in ships and machinery since I could walk. I’d never seen anything like them before.
Whatever they were looking for, whatever they hoped to glean from staring us down, the moment passed. Those crystals of theirs glowed brighter, filling the void around us with a brilliant green haze.
And then the ships shimmered, rippling like they were little more than a mirage.
In another heartbeat, they were gone.
The comm crackled to life behind me. “All clear,” Captain Taylor said. “Good work, everyone. Back at it.”
The comm died. The hum of the Rheasilvia picked up again, like the ship was awakening. Back at it, he’d said.
But Clay and I sat there long after the announcement faded, staring out into the black.
---------
McCallister sat, frozen, and watched as the ship vanished from sight.
“Huh,” Lily said. She was staring, too, her green eyes heavily lidded. “That’s different.”
“Great,” he muttered, dripping his face into the palm of his hand. “Just what we needed.”
“Hey, now,” she said elbowing him without taking her eyes off the burgeoning shapes of Solovei. “You don’t know why they’re here. Maybe they’re just-”
“Really?” McCallister said, shooting her a sidelong glance.
She winced. “Ah...probably not. It was worth a try?”
He ground his teeth together, turning his eyes back to the town. “It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why they’d show up now,” he muttered.
Lily’s lips pressed together, forming a thin line. She just pressed the accelerator harder, hurrying them back along the dusty, lonely road.
McCallister’s thoughts raced. They were here. TerraCorp. Maybe-
“Maybe they’ve changed their minds?” Lily said, her voice soft. “Maybe they realized they’ve got enough time. They could scoop us off the dirt, haul the colony back to-”
“TerraCorp doesn’t have colony transports lying around,” McCallister said. “They’re pushed to their limits most months just getting new colonies up and running.”
Lily laughed quietly, shaking her head. “Fat chance, then?”
“Sorry.”
“That’s fine,” she mumbled, drooping back into her seat. They bounced along another long moment, the cab quiet. She sighed. “I really liked this place, y’know?”
“...Sorry for that, too.”
“Just sucks.”
He grinned wryly. “I know.”
Even as he comforted her, though, his mind never left the town ahead -- and the ship they’d seen settle to the ground. If they were here, then they’d realized something was up. Something had changed. If they’d lost the Tamani signal, then...they wouldn’t care. They’d just shrug and stop their evacuation. Bryan would probably call to give him the all-clear, if he was able, but that’d be it.
His gut twisted. Bryan.
His eyes flicked to the antennae tower in the heart of Solovei, then to the sky above. Wyatt had sent their signal through the satellite array. It’d...It’d probably look normal enough. They were sensors, after all. Sensing things was their job. Surely Solovei used them on the regular.
If TerraCorp was paying attention, though, they’d see it. They’d already sent word of McCallister’s...instability. Their new scans would put a target on the whole colony, in TerraCorp’s mind. They knew, it screamed.
And Bryan was still in their grasp. McCallister’s eyes tightened. His heart ached. Get out, he willed. Don’t let them find you. Don’t let them know. You protected Kara and me. Now protect yourself.
It wouldn’t matter. Bryan had already gotten out -- or he never would. That was the reality of life.
“Okay,” Lily whispered, and he sat up a little straighter. The first buildings passed by their hauler. Solovei. They were back. “Listen, big guy. I know you fancy yourself some sort of rogue, but-”
“I’m not going anywhere near them,” McCallister hissed.
Lily blinked -- and then glanced over, a smile flickering at the corners of her lips. “What, I don’t even have to convince you?”
“I’m not stupid.”
“Could’ve fooled me.” Looking at his expression, she snorted. “Look. I’ve got to see to them. It’s my colony, after all. But you?”
The hauler lurched to a stop. McCallister grabbed the handle, his eyes snapping forward again.
The spaceport waited ahead, bristling with engine columns from the few ships within. And bodies. White-clad bodies. His pulse thrummed higher.
“Go,” Lily said, staring at the TerraCorp employees. “I’ll handle this. Don’t be seen.”
“Are you sure you can-”
“Get the hell out of here, cowboy,” she said. “Now.”
McCallister grinned, bobbing his head in a nod, and tugged the brim of his hat a little lower. The door to the hauler came open with a clank.
No sooner had he toppled out than the engine roared. The hauler accelerated the last bit to the spaceport’s fence, coming to a halt in a parking slot. He saw her leap out an instant later.
Stay out of sight. His senses screamed, stuck on high alert. But- Don’t go too far.
This was TerraCorp, after all. There were...so many ways this could go badly.
Buildings pressed in around the port, houses and shops and sheds. He turned down the nearest alley, plunging himself into the shadows before anyone could spot him. He’d been...different, back in his corp days. A little better-shaven, with hair a little shorter, and probably a little rounder, if he was being honest. He’d always been in uniform, too. Basically, added up, he’d been a different person. In more ways than one.
They wouldn’t send anyone after him that he’d served with -- and they wouldn’t recognize his current self from the staff ID photo. He’d pass muster at a glance, if he was lucky.
He just never was lucky, was all. So pushing it seemed...unwise.
As quickly as he could without totally blowing his cover, McCallister jogged down the alley. All the way to the end, and then if he took a left, that should put him-
The alley dead-ended into a side road that barely qualified as bigger. But when he glanced left, he saw only ramshackle houses -- with the spaceport at the end.
Score. A grin on his face, he hurried toward it, hurling himself between two sheds at the very edge of the fence. They were solid, as was the metal plating of the barrier on this side of the port. He should be out of sight. Should be.
Lily’s voice cut across the quiet. “I’m tellin’ you-”
“This is his ship, though, isn’t it?” a crisp male voice said. “It’s registered to one Richard McCallister.”
“And I’m tellin’ you that I don’t know that asshole,” Lily snapped back, her voice rising. “Never seen ‘im in my life. Sorry, friend, but you-”
“Right,” the man said, dubious. “But his ship is here.”
“Maybe it got stolen. Maybe your records are wrong. Hell, maybe-”
“You’re sure you don’t know anything?”
McCallister crept forward, eyeing the edge of the fencing. Under no circumstances could he be seen by them, and yet...he wanted to be close. He wanted to be ready, in case something went horribly, horribly wrong.
It always seemed to, when TerraCorp was involved. Even more so when Lily was telling stories like that.
He pressed his eye to a crack between the fencing and a post just in time to see the white-clad man take a step closer to Lily. “Miss Anderson, I’m sure you respect how ridiculous this sounds.”
“I know, I know, but-”
“You don’t have to have seen the man for him to be here.” He rolled his eyes. “I trust that you have docking records? Entry logs?”
A hint of red blossomed in Lily’s cheeks. Hidden under the polite, cheery facade she wore, though, McCallister saw a decidedly stubborn light appear in her eyes. “Well, now,” she said, bobbing on her heels. “We do, of course. We work a tight operation down dirtside, if you’ll believe it.”
The TerraCorp man waited, staring down at her. A tic appeared in his temple, under his short-cropped, salt-and-pepper hair. “Well?” he said at last. “Go get it.”
Lily sat back, her face going slack. “Ah, geez. Look. The system’s already runnin’ a whole other gig, and those records are big.”
“I don’t care. I need-”
“Like, big-big. It ain’t just the port authority on that database, see. We’ve got personnel records. Farm outputs. Hell, the damn timeclocks are constantly feeding in to-”
“Just get those logs for me,” the TerraCorp man hissed through gritted teeth.
Lily’s eyes went wide, and she let a huff of air out. “Oh. Well, yeah, I can get you the logs, sure.”
“Wonderful.”
“It’ll just take me a bit, see.” Her voice never lost its cheerful, companionable air, even as McCallister saw a hint of what could only be glee slip into her eyes. Carefully hidden, of course.
He could almost hear the TerraCorp man’s teeth grinding together.
“How long?”
She lifted a hand, dragging her fingers lazily through the tied-back waves of her red hair. “Oh, gee. I dunno, really. It’s a bit complicated, and that system’s busy, like I told you. I’d have to wait till most of the processin’ got done for the day before I could start.”
“And?”
Lily shrugged. “Could have ‘em for you tomorrow, maybe the day after. Once we filtered through.”
A dangerous light shone in the man’s eyes. “And you expect me to believe that?” he said, his voice low.
From his hiding place behind the fence, McCallister’s blood chilled. Lily was holding her own. She was lying for him. But he couldn’t ask her to face down the corp for him.
There had to be another way.
Before his wary eyes, he saw the TerraCorp man advance toward Lily. “Now, listen, woman. I’m not sure why you’re getting in my way.”
“I ain’t, really,” she said, holding her hands up as if to mollify him. “System’s just slow. Like I said.”
“If you don’t stop interfering with our orders, then I’ll arrest you too.”
Lily’s lips curled up the faintest, tiniest bit. “Your orders, eh? What’d you say y’all was here for?”
“Theft of State secrets,” the man spat.
She scratched at her head again, shaking it back and forth. “Ah, see, that’s where it gets a bit weird, doesn’t it? Since your liddle company ain’t really the government, per se. Y’all come around with your talk of espionage and treason, but it ain’t really that. Sure, maybe the guy stole a few scraps of data from you. Maybe you haul him into court.” Her eyes snapped up to his. “But don’t you bring that State business into my port. This is Solovei, not your damn-”
The man’s arm snapped around, nearly faster than McCallister could follow. His fingers spread wide, angling toward-
An angry slap of flesh on flesh echoed through the spaceport.
McCallister gasped, stiffening. His hand plunged down, latching about a reassuring, solid mass of metal and wood. The pistol thrummed under his fingers, coming alive at the touch.
Ahead of him, though, the man’s open palm hovered in midair, nowhere near its target.
Lily’s fingers dug into his wrist, holding his arm clear. “That ain’t nice,” she said, her voice ominously soft. “That ain’t nice at all, outsider. Didn’t your momma ever tell you not to hit people?”
No. McCallister’s fingers closed about the grip of his pistol. It wouldn’t end here. He could already see the man tensing, pulling himself upright for the next blow. Because there would be another blow, of course. Uniformed figures were starting to hurry over, drawn away from the landing gear of the corp shuttle -- and none of them looked happy.
It’d come to blows, and knowing Lily, it’d come to a fight. They’d storm through Solovei and get what they came for. Hell, they might not even need to. Once things came to open conflict, there was no telling how TerraCorp would act.
Unless he acted first. The pistol’s grip warmed under his palm. He had a decent angle. None of them knew he was here. He could take them out before they hurt Lily -- or anyone else. And then-
And then he’d have to figure out what came next, his thoughts shrieked. He’d have to come up with a story. An explanation, to keep the corp from just razing the colony from orbit.
He couldn’t just stand by and do nothing, though.
The man’s teeth were bared, by then, his eyes tight with pain. Lily’s fingernails dug into his tendons, sinking a little deeper with every second he didn’t back down. He snarled, trying to twist away. She let him go, finally -- but he squared off, lifting his other fist. “Uppity little-”
In that moment, caught between the two of them, time seemed to slow to a crawl in his mind. He could see everything. Every little detail, outlined in perfect relief.
His pistol was in his hand, sliding free of the holster. Even through the adrenaline-soaked panic, he saw the lights flaring along its length. I’m ready, it seemed to say.
Lily was falling back, her hands rising before her defensively. Her eyes were narrowed, glued to the man.
The man who was starting to lash out again, a strange light in his eyes. What was his goal? Where was this going? Was he just going to attack anyone who didn’t do what he said?
How long has it been since anyone didn’t leap to obey his orders? The thought whispered through his mind in that eerily calm moment.
And then the moment unfroze, and-
“Chief!” a man cried. A familiar man. Footsteps rang against the packed-dirt paths of the town.
Reid shot past, white as a sheet. “H-Hey! Chief!”
The TerraCorp man stopped dead in his tracks -- and then dropped his arm, turning toward the security officer as though nothing had happened.
Someone else was jogging along behind Reid. And panting. McCallister glanced back over just in time to see Wyatt go wheezing past.
The engineer slowed, his eyes flicking up to meet McCallister’s before dropping to the pistol that even then gleamed in his hand.. His brows pulled together slowly. “Um.”
“W-What’s going on?” Reid said, hurrying up to take his place alongside his boss. “Is everything-”
“Mr. Lewis here is from the corp,” Lily said. “Just landed lookin’ for some help executin’ an arrest warrant.” She shoved her thumbs into the pockets of her pants, rocking back on her heels just as casual as could be. “Seems we’ve got a dangerous criminal runnin’ around. Accordin’ to him, anyway.” She cocked an eyebrow. “A Richard McCallister. Seen anyone like that wanderin’ around?”
Wyatt’s eyes snapped back up to McCallister’s.
Shit. McCallister held a finger over his lips, willing the engineer to understand. The pistol still hung heavy in his hand, ready to bring back into the action at a moment’s notice.
But maybe...maybe this would work.
“Uh,” he heard Reid say, and looked back. The officer stood by Lily, a scowl on his face. “...No?”
Right answer, McCallister thought. From the corner of his eye, he saw Wyatt start moving again, creeping closer to the spaceport.
Mr. Lewis made an irritated noise. “That’s fine, Ms. Anderson, but I still need-”
“Oh, right. Pardon me, and all that. The logs.” Lily smacked the back of her hand against her forehead, rolling her eyes. “Look. I can’t promise nothin’, but I can start-”
“Let’s not begin this again.”
“But that’s how it is,” Lily muttered. Someone stumbled -- the engineer, no doubt -- and she looked up. A smile cracked across her face in the next moment. “Sweet. Ah- Mr. Lewis, meet Wyatt. Solovei’s engineer. He runs all our systems. Here, the man needs your help, Wyatt.”
McCallister crept over to the edge of the fence, each movement slow and careful. He had to see. A moment before he leaned out, he stiffened, yanking his hat off.
And then he peered around the corner, just far enough to catch a glimpse.
Wyatt shuffled closer to Lily, eyeing Lewis askance. “Um. What, uh. What did you-”
“Fellow wants the access logs,” Lily said, taking a step away from Lewis. Her eyes never left him, though. “Help a guy out?”
“Oh,” Wyatt said, blinking. “Well, uh. The system is still in lockout while it processes the day’s labors. I can start pulling them once the last of the farms have transmitted their data, but-”
“Jesus Christ,” McCallister heard Lewis mutter under his breath. He couldn’t really fault the man. Either Wyatt was entirely in on Lily’s game, or Solovei had the single worst computer system he’d ever seen.
Designed by TerraCorp, of course. On a budget. And built by the lowest bidder. And then assembled by untrained, unskilled colonists. And left to slowly disintegrate under the years of independent colony rule.
Lily...might not be lying. McCallister smothered a laugh.
She spun back toward Lewis, her face sunny again. “There, you heard the man. So’s, we can help, it might just take a bit. Care to stay over? We’ve got a fine hotel in town. We’ll get you set up fine, get you some-”
“Just- Just start pulling them,” Lewis snapped, taking a step back. McCallister didn’t miss it -- his eyes lifted skyward, as though he was watching for something. Something, indeed. McCallister snorted. They didn’t want to spend a single damn second down here more than they had to.
“All right,” Lily said placidly. “Safe travels back to your company.”
McCallister winced. Damn it, Lily, don’t bait him.
Lewis took a step away, back toward his ship, and the white-uniformed figures behind him started disappearing through the hatch. “Get me those logs, though,” he snapped. “Immediately. And if you see him-”
“Really, this is a small colony and a big planet, I’m sure wherever he-”
“Hold him,” Lewis said, enunciating each word carefully. “The man’s insane, and he’s armed, and there’s no telling what kind of stories he’ll tell. But he’s a danger to everyone around him.”
“Well, I’m sure we can-”
“View him as hostile. If you can secure him without harm, fine. Otherwise?” Lewis’s eyes darkened. “Do what you need to. Protect your colony, duster.”
Shoot him, in other words. McCallister glared at the man, chewing his lip. Granted, if they found him on Solovei, they’d ‘take’ him -- and probably push him out the airlock as soon as they broke atmo. Classy as ever, the corp.
Lewis was stalking away, though, leaving the spaceport feeling oddly empty. Their ship roared to life, the engines firing.
A wave of noise and heat washed across Solovei. The corp’s bulky, blocky shuttle lifted off the ground and accelerated back toward the black. Fast, McCallister noted. Not hanging around, then.
He knew why, too. His eyes stayed glued to the shuttle until it was little more than a speck in the sky, counting the seconds. When the Tamani came, they’d claim anything on the planet as infringing on their space. Something to be destroyed, in other words. Of course, ‘on’ was a bit of a grey area. But it meant the safest place to be was well outside the atmosphere.
McCallister sighed. That was where he’d wanted to be.
With TerraCorp gone again, though, he stepped out from his hiding place. The pistol slid back into its holster on his hip, going quiet and cold again as his hand released it.
They were all looking at him, when he glanced up. Lily, and Reid, and Wyatt. He chuckled sourly, shaking his head. “Sorry about that,” he said. “I...guess they figured out I was here.”
“You think?” Lily said. But her voice was mild. “They’re always goin’ to be upset over somethin’. Not your fault.”
Her accent was softer, he realized. It was only when he dropped away that he realized it. An act? A pretty show for TerraCorp’s man, to lower her to ‘country bumpkin’ status in his mind?
Wyatt cast a sidelong glare at Lily. “Although, I have been telling you we need to update the processors for a long time. Maybe now you’ll-”
“That’s a problem for the future, Wyatt,” she said, waving him away. “Figure Julian heard that?”
Wyatt made a face. “He’s the one who sent me. Couldn’t get away from his work.”
He couldn’t get away -- or did he just want to pass off the unpalatable task on his underling? McCallister looked over the city to the low, red-brick form of Solovei’s city hall. Or had Julian been trying to keep his nose clean, to wash his hands of the whole situation? It’d be a lot easier for TerraCorp to claim rebellion if the colony’s administration was in on it. And if they did that…
“We need to hurry,” he said, his pulse accelerating again.
Lily glanced his way. “What? Why? We’re already hurryin’, don’t you think?”
“The ship. The colony ship. If TerraCorp knows what we’re doing, they can find the ship. They can blast a hole in it, leave us to-”
“Chances are they don’t know,” Lily said, more quietly. “Ship doesn’t exactly have any aether in it right now.” She jerked her head back toward the truck. “It’s all here, innit? Once we fuel it all the way up, sure, their scanners will pick it up better. We’ll...have to figure somethin’ out.”
“But-”
“Their shuttle’s got no guns,” Lily said. “They’d have to bring one of their enforcers into the atmosphere. Seems they’re a little spooked, eh?”
She’d noticed it, then. McCallister nodded. Her confidence was oddly contagious. “Yeah. I guess. They probably know what’s coming.”
“Then they won’t push boundaries,” she said. “We’re fine for now. Probably.”
Until they loaded up and finished.
Until they reached orbit
Once they were out in the void of space, would things change?
Lily had put it perfectly, McCallister decided. That was a problem for the future. “Thanks,” he said, more softly. “For not just handing me over. That...wouldn’t have ended well. Mostly for me. But-”
“Shit, the rest of us are still hard at work on this thing,” Lily retorted, turning on her heel to stride toward the truck. “You don’t get to take a dirt nap just ‘cause you’re new here, Quickdraw. Put your damn hat on and let’s get back to work.”
McCallister grinned.
He put his hat on.
And then he got back to work.
Next Part
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2020.08.18 07:41 Epiphanated First time doing Molly since 2014 TRIP REPORT

1:00 A.M EST Dropped an unknown amount of MDMA with grapefruit juice. A customer at my work asked me if I party and I said "yes." He said what are you into and I said Shrooms, LSD, and Molly since I'm taking a break from Marijuana. He gave me a hefty amount of Molly for free whidh I haven’t actually done since 2014.

Current situation? I told my housemates I’m going to bed. They don’t do what I do so it’s better they don’t know. I have a large amount of gum , Golden Apple Ice Cubes by Ice Breaker, an ashtray, a pack and a half of Camel Crush Menthol cigarettes, a lot of water, and Naphcon-A eye drops for the morning. Oh and I have Wet Platinum lube in case the feeling strikes my loins.

My goals for the night listen to a lot of music, read articles, meditate with Astral Projection Music, read about “sexual transmutation,” write my poetry, and keep y’all updated.

1:15 A.M EST Got a preloaded playlist of 25 songs. Starting with Brother by Alice in Chains MTV Unplugged version. Might add some Gorillaz Plastic Beach songs to the playlist just because.

1:25 A.M Pupils are starting to dilate. Presently listening to The Trip by Still Corners. Sound is starting to pick up. I just popped my first piece of gum, Mirrors by Justin Timberlake is now playing as I post this at 1:37 A.M

Update 1: 1:50 A.M. Playing Slow Ride by Sublime reading The Art of "Rolling." I'll add an about me here. I am 6 foot 3, male, and I weigh about 170-175. I estimate that I took about 200mg's. Interstate Love Song by the Stone Temple Pilots is now playing. I'm typing this between reading the article, adding the songs that I have on shuffle to a new playlist that I will plug in the morning. It's now 1:57 A.M and I See You by Missio is playing. I put Jungle by Tash Sultana next.

Update 2: It is now 2:07 A.M. I have Hallowed Be Thy Name by Iron Maiden playing. I'm sitting in my room with the door locked in the dark, fan on, another piece of gum popped, cigarette lit, and window open with the blinds raised. I just finished the article the Art of Rolling and I'm going to attempt to post a picture of the amount of Molly I took on Imgur for y'all. Maybe y'all will know how much I took. There were two rocks inside the capsule that I downed. End Hallowed Be Thy Name and enter? Glycerine by Bush. Might put on For Whom the Bell Tolls by Metallica or Mellowship Slinky in B Major next.

Update 3: It's now 2:24 even though I thought it was 2:27. My first lapse of the night. On Melancholy Hill by the Gorillaz is playing now followed by Glitter Freeze by the Gorillaz as well. I am now trying to figure out how to post my Imgur video properly so that I don't get this post banned. For some reason, Plastic Beach songs keep playing kind of killing the mood. Now I have Marshmello's remix of Alan Walker's Sing Me To Sleep. I'm sure no matter what song I play would sound good but I'm sticking with this one.

Update 4: Unfortunately it doesn't look like I can post any links based off of Rule 3 so I will follow it but I will post to my own profile if possible. Silent Ocean's by Generationals is now playing. I'm feeling bug eyed, rubbing my face a lot, moving my tongue like a person possessed, and bobbing my head. Now comes Home Sweet Home by Motley Crue, 2:37.

Update 5: I changed my Reddit Avatar to a picture of my friend Molly. It is 2:47 now. I played Fade Into You by Mazzy Star then some of the Cloud of Unknowing by Gorillaz which I ended up skipping. What now runs through my headphones is Ride by Wild Painting. I think I will play Wings by Haerts next, Yes that is how the band spells their name Haerts. Zoned out for a sec. Wings by Haerts is now playing and I accidentally saw that Ain't Nothin Bout You by Brooks and Dunn is next. 2:53

Update 6: 3:00 A.M. I just took a precautions check on the status of my housemates. I.E looking away from my computer for the first time towards the door with one headphone removed. 6th Avenue Heartache by the Wallflowers is now playing in my headphones. Next is Low by Cracker. I have not moved on from TheDEADotOrg website. But my next website is a short internet accessible book A Practical Guide to Sexual Transmutation. I'm rolling heavy with a piece of gum and my 3rd cigarette? of the night. After this playlist I will do some meditation from an Astral Projection music video on the internet and then I'll write my poetry. Once in a Lifetime by Stick Figure is now playing. One of my favorite bands of all time and I've met them three times. They remember me at every show and the keyboardist always waves. 3:10 A.M.

Update 7: I took a detour from my Spotify to go on the internet to play Blackmill's Home. Honestly, my whole intention with this has been to try to "trigger" myself into memory and this song Home now at its epoch at 5:13, Chateau by Angus and Julia Stone, and Welcome Home Son by Radical Face always do just that for me. It is now 3:16 and I am rolling face still quiet and unbothered. I will tag this as a long post. I am remembering being out in Colorado and all the wonderful experiences I had and people I met for 14 months. I think I will compile a photo album after I meditate and then I'll write my poetry with my love's in mind. 3:19 A.M EST

Update 8: 3:30 A.M. I have yet to pee because I made sure I was empty before dropping and who likes taking a pee break that might ruin the intensity, I dunno. I’m going to drink some water now yes, I know. Superfast Jellyfish just wrapped and now it’s Circles by Post Malone with Tripping Billies by Dave Matthews Band Live at Fenway Park next. I just love the violin and the lyric “like yellow flames she dances.” I’m still reading from theDEAdotCom but after will be Sexual Transmutation Guide. I skipped Mountain Time by Joe Bonamassa Live just because it’s too long for my current attention span now 3:40 still rolling listening to Golden Years by David Bowie on his Station to Station album but I rolled thru Hey by the Pixies and Welcome Home Son by Radical Face which I will save for my meditation. Now at 3:45 I am craving some classic rock. Listening to Voodoo Child to start. I downloaded the book and it’s only 21 pages. 3:46

Update 9: My eyes are still bugging and I keep moving my neck around like Michael J. Fox, and rubbing my face. I just finished All Along the Watchtower and then Purple Haze from my Classic Rock playlist and now I am on Stairway to Heaven. I think this will be my peak at 4:00 A.M but please correct me if I am wrong. That drum breakdown at 7:15 by Jon Bonham is amazing. Now I need some fat frickin bass so I am playing Free by Phish, then Cocaine by Eric Clapton then Hey You by Pink Floyd because it's Pink Floyd then White Room by Cream because "goodbye windows" then Call Me The Breeze by Lynyrd Skynyrd because of that darned piano solo then maybe I Heard It Through the Grapevine cover by CCR because that outro. 4:10

Update 10, I know: 4:11 I just finished reading from theDEAdotOrg so now I'm finally going to read the 21 page book. Cocaine by Eric Clapton just wrapped and now it's Hey You. I'm going to take a break from updates, still happily rolling. I'll be back -
Update 11: Have yet to take my pants down and I'm trying to avoid that. I'm still high and I'm kind of tired of it
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2020.08.16 16:02 Angel466 [Bob the hobo] A Celestial Wars Spin-Off Part 0131

PART ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY-ONE
“Angelo, if you live through this, I’m going to murder you,” Lucas murmured to himself as the car wove through the early morning traffic.
He saw Angus’ eyes flick to his in the rear vision mirror and rubbed his lips as if he could hide the words.
“Has Angelo always been this much trouble, sir?”
“For as long as I can remember, he’s been in one type of trouble or another. Most of it’s been harmless stuff, but this isn’t on him. It’s on me. I should’ve busted his ass when I realised he was turning tricks and losing control of the situation. I knew better, yet I let Robbie talk me into turning a blind eye. None of this would’ve touched us if I’d have just done my job twelve months ago and put him through the system to get a slap on the wrist.”
“I think you might be being a bit hard on yourself, sir.”
Lucas watched the buildings as they flew past the window. “And here’s me thinking I haven’t been hard enough. It’s shit like this that makes me question my other choices.”
“Robbie can be very influential once he sets his mind to convincing someone of something. It won’t happen so much anymore, but you are definitely not to blame for this.”
Lucas met his eyes once more in the mirror. “Why do I get the feeling there’s a whole lot more to this story that you aren’t telling me?”
Angus’ eyes pinched at the corners, indicating a smile. “Because you’re a good cop with exceptional instincts.”
“And…you’re not going to tell me, are you?”
“No, I’m not,” Angus agreed with a chuckle.
Lucas watched the traffic for a few seconds, then asked, “What would you do, if you were me?”
He watched Angus’ chest rise and fall in a deep sigh. “That’s a very loaded question, Lucas. Career-wise, I would be sticking close to Daniel Nascerdios. He likes you, and if anyone can elevate your position within the police force, it’s him. As for things in your home life, everybody approaches them differently. You’ve definitely had a few hot coals added to your juggling act, but so far you’ve managed to keep them all in the air.”
“Is there anything going on between him and Detective Quail that you know of?”
Again, that I know something you don’t know look came at him through the mirror.
“You are a pain in the ass, Angus. You know that, right?”
That brought a chuckle from his driver. “I have been accused of that a time or three,” he agreed. “The most important thing you can do for yourself right now is to be true to yourself. With the situation the way it is, you will have more contact with the Nascerdios than anyone alive, and they are very influential people. At times, when you feel as if they are pushing you into a corner, remind yourself of where you came from and what it is to be you.”
Lucas frowned. “What sort of corners?”
Angus turned his head to look at him directly. “You love being a cop. But what if Llyr started leaning on you to quit so you could become Sam’s full-time bodyguard?”
It was Lucas’ turn to sigh. He could see Llyr trying that. “Yeah, I hear ya.”
A few minutes later, Angus pulled up outside the hospital and Lucas let himself out before Angus could reach the door. “Will you be requiring further transportation, sir?” the chauffeur asked, standing in his own doorway.
Lucas didn’t answer straight away. “To be honest, I’m not sure. If we need to start a full search for Angelo, we’re in entirely the wrong borough and I’m not going to be much use to them on foot.”
Angus looked at the time. “I do not need to be back at the apartment until eight-forty-five, sir. I can give you until then.”
“I appreciate that, Angus. Thanks.”
* * *
Angus watched Lucas go inside, then he dropped back into the driver’s seat and closed the door. As much as he wanted to sit in the drop-off zone, two minutes wasn’t long enough to think things through. So he went around the back of the hospital and racked the car in the South Lot, accepting the ticket that would be paid when he retrieved it. Then, he went across to the Bellevue Sobriety Garden where he sat amongst the flowers and various sculptures.
“Is everything alright, Angus?” a male voice asked from directly behind him, who hadn’t been there when he sat down.
Angus swivelled on the seat to see his father standing over him and inclined his head. “Just taking a moment, Eechen. This situation with Sam is getting more convoluted by the second.”
Hasteinn smirked and lifted his chin to also look at the greenery. “Running a front line war is easier because the line between friend and foe is so readily defined.”
“Did you want something of me, poppa?”
Hasteinn shook his head. “Not particularly,” he admitted. “Just seeing where your head is at. I’ve been monitoring your communications with Sam and Llyr’s guards.”
“I expected no less.”
“Nor should you. You’ve lost ground with me after that fiasco with the sex club. I expected better of you.”
Yes, it would be a while before that went away, even if things were semi-alright between him and Daniel. “I can still return to the front lines …” He stopped when his father shook his head.
“No. You’ve bonded with young Sam and his people. Their naivety has endeared them to you in a way you can’t afford on the front lines. Reminding you there is more to life than war will be good for you.”
Angus’ gaze narrowed. “You think my connection with these young humans is going to have me pining for another family of my own?”
Hasteinn was unrepentant. “Coraltin died a hundred and forty-two years ago, Angus. Generations have come and gone since then. Your momma is right. It’s time to move on.”
“Out of respect for you, I won’t roll my eyes at that.”
“That, and you know you can’t run fast enough.”
Angus’ lips twitched into a wry smile. “That too, poppa. That too.”
* * *
Lucas gave himself the once over as he rode the elevator to the third floor. He knew he didn’t have to, but he couldn’t help himself. This was the first time he’d be facing the Major Case Squad in uniform. He didn’t count the interview Susan did with him during that first meeting.
When the doors opened, he was treated to a dressing down that could only be procured from a lifetime of living in the Bronx. It didn’t technically cross the line into abuse, but it did go right up to that line and lean over it to enjoy the view on the other side. “HOW THE HELL DID YOU HEAR NOTHING?!” Susan roared. “DID YOU PASS YOUR LAST HEARING TEST, OFFICER EADE?! IS THAT YOUR PROBLEM?!”
“No, ma’am … I mean, yes, I passed my hearing test, ma’am,” the poor officer blustered.
The riot act was happening at the other end of the hallway, but there was no avoiding it. Every other officer looked straight ahead and glanced uncomfortably in that direction from time to time.
The officer the detective was bellowing at was a full head taller than her and she had to look up to yell at him, but that didn’t seem to slow the little Pitbull down in the least.
“Detective Quail?” Lucas asked once he reached ground zero, hoping to buy his fellow officer a moment’s reprieve.
“WHAT?!” Susan swung towards him as if to rope him into her beratement. But then she recognised him and caught herself. “Dobson,” she said, in a more normal voice. “I didn’t recognise you in uniform.”
“I thought it was appropriate if we were going to be doing a door to door search. People wouldn’t answer my questions if I wore casual clothes, ma’am.”
“Yeah, well … don’t get used to it. You don’t belong in dress blues.” She thumbed at the officer she’d been addressing. “Idiots like him do.”
“Ma’am!” Lucas said, with a reprimanding tone of his own. The uniform was worn with pride by the better part of thirty thousand officers and wasn’t to be treated as a fool’s rank.
Susan’s shoulders squared, but before she could speak, the elevator at the other end of the hallway opened and Daniel Nascerdios stepped out. “Oh, good. You’re both here.” He held his hand against the elevator doors and beckoned them both over to him.
Susan shot Lucas a furious look and stormed towards the elevator.
“Thanks, man,” Officer Eades whispered ever so quietly, causing Lucas to turn his head and wink quickly at him before following in Susan’s wake.
As they both got on to the elevator, Daniel released the doors and pushed the button for the ground floor. “So what exactly did I just miss?” he asked, looking from one to the other and back again suspiciously.
“Nothin’,” Susan griped.
Lucas pretended not to hear the question.
Suddenly, the lift slammed to a halt, even though Daniel’s hand was nowhere near the floor panel. “I don’t have time to deal with the two of you getting your noses out of joint with each other. A large chunk of our case is running the streets with the biggest target on his back next to the president himself, so whatever the fuck it is that's got you two bent out of shape, sort it the hell out! That’s an order.”
Lucas looked at Susan. He didn’t have a problem with her. He just wasn’t going to let her abuse the uniform.
“Don’t you ever correct me in front of another officer again,” she snapped.
“Then don’t imply every cop in uniform is only there because he’s an idiot,” Lucas countered.
After a few seconds of silence, Susan snorted and bobbed her head. “Fair,” she grumbled, holding her hand out to Lucas in a peace offering.
Lucas accepted the handshake gracefully.
“Good,” Daniel said, and just as suddenly as it stopped, the lift started again of its own accord. “For a second there, I thought I’d had a career change into a kindergarten teacher.”
* * *

PART ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY-TWO

((AUTHOR’S NOTE: Well, it has finally happened. My cockiness has beaten me in a big way. Remember all those time I spoke of character cards and how I pull them out with each part I write? I never bothered with Lady Col, because she is the main character of the whole series, and I was sure I knew her backwards enough that I wouldn’t need to.
Hence, 'ego … meet reality’.
Having gone over her character card this morning, I realised I have made a mistake with her. At this point, which is a long way into the future of my books, she has a second, designated bodyguard with her at all times. A small, petite, African/American woman barely five foot nothing that is never far away from her. Even more so than Bianca, who can be sent away from time to time.
This woman’s name is “Dee” and while I may do a formal ‘introduction’ of her when she meets Sam, I’d appreciate it if you could all assume that she has been there all along. (Even in theatre – she scrubs up and is standing at the back of the theatre, neither touching nor helping – just watching Lady Col. She doesn’t speak much at all and is always somewhere close by. As time permits, I will go back and feather her presence in and around Lady Col, but in the meantime, please accept my apology on this oversight.
Yes, Dee is much more than she appears. Three legs, four arms, big wings and shiny gold plate armour. (as a teaser to those in the know) ))

((All comments welcome))
I made a family tree/diagram of the Mystallian family that can be found here
For more of my work including previous parts or WPs: Angel466
For those who want to read this from the very beginning: Part One
FULL INDEX OF BOB THE HOBO TO DATE CAN BE FOUND HERE!!
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2020.08.10 00:45 welcometosouthapp Welcome to South App #2: "Campus 5-0"

Welcome to South App #2:
https://preview.redd.it/yjkwcmvc22g51.jpg?width=2365&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=1aeb599b9653585277e9c705c7d6a935c1a144da
Sunday, August 9th, 2020
“Hall check! Wake yo' dumb asses up.”
Winston wiped the grit out of his eyes and checked his phone. 6 AM. He sucked last night’s Cheeto dust off his fingers and ripped a violent fart, causing Tai to spring up from his bed.
“What was that?!” Tai piped up. “And...what’s that smell?”
“Armadillos,” said Winston, lighting a cig. “Liberal town stinks of ‘em.”
Somebody pounded the hell out of the door. “Winston! Tai! I said hall check!”
“Fuuuck,” Winston slurred, hopping off the top bunk. He smacked his head on the way down, landed on his ankle, and dropped his cigarette.
“And that would be the new R.A.,” Tai sighed, shuffling to his feet. “Voice sounds kinda familiar. Welp, our shenanigans were fun while they lasted.”
They emerged into the bright hallway in pajamas. And to their surprise, every student stood next to their door at attention. Some were swearing. Others were sweating. And strangely, there was no R.A. in sight.
“What the hell’s going on here?” Winston muttered.
“Dude, get to attention before he comes back!” hissed Connor: a lanky, nerdy guy with a bowl cut and glasses.
“Is this some kind of joke?” asked Tai. “Somebody must be playing a prank on us or-"
Suddenly clothes, shoes, snacks, beer bottles, and a sex doll flew out of the room at the end of the hall. “Jackpot!” bellowed a voice from inside. “That’s a fuckin’ minor-in-possession charge right there!”
Then, it occurred to Winston: that voice was familiar. Suddenly, his taser mark burned like Spidey Sense. Winston jogged between rows of trembling students, ignoring the suffering cries of “Don’t do it!” and “He’s bigger than you!” In the doorway, Winston saw him: Lionell the bus driver. He sat with his back turned in a swivel chair, browsing his hallmate’s laptop. He appeared to be making himself right at home, his combat boots crossed on top of the desk.
“Looks like the simps in this room are fond of big-titty goth bitches!” he yelled out, scrolling through the browser history of 4K porn.
Winston took a deep breath. “Hey, uh...Mister Lionell?”
Lionell swiveled around to face him. His eyebrows furrowed like two lightning bolts beneath his freshly-waxed head. “Ah, Winston Panty-Pissin’ Beavers. Care to tell me why the fuck you ain’t in formation?”
Winston would rather swallow his own vomit than his pride. “Uh, yes sir. First of all, I wanna apologize for the way I acted on the bus. I was a bonafide douchebag. But I also wanted to ask: can I please get my gun back? My dad gave it to me, and-”
Lionell shot to his feet. He marched over to Winston like a true Marine. Slowly, he reached into his BDU pocket and withdrew the Colt Single-Action Army, cradling it in his calloused hands like Oliver Twist asking for porridge.
“Is, uh…this whatchu want, Mister Beavers?” Lionell mocked in a high-pitched voice.
“Yeah, man!” Winston chuckled nervously. “I’d mighty appreciate it.”
“Go on then!” Lionell snapped. “Take it. But if you do, I’m gonna charge yo’ ass with discharging a firearm near a public highway, destruction of private property, and attempted hijacking of a motor vehicle! And Lionell’s my government name. It’s Deputy Hardy to you.”
Lionell snatched Winston’s hand and placed the gun inside it. The warm muzzle fit his hand perfectly - exactly why his dad had chosen it for him. And it pained Winston that much more to hand the Colt back to Lionell. Winston had reluctantly made up his mind.
“That’s what I fucking thought,” Lionell sneered. “You’re a pussy, and daddy would be ashamed." Lionell pocketed the gun and marched out of the room, down the hall of petrified students. “Ya know, I’d say daddy shoulda left yo’ ass on a tissue. Then again, why waste a perfectly good tissue, ya dig?”
Lionell reached Room 309 and stepped inside.
“We gotta do something about this son of a bitch,” whispered Tai, as a seething Winston came to attention next to his room.
“Dude, there’s not shit we can do except comply,” whispered Connor, shaking his head. “Most of us have shit in our room way worse than alcohol." Connor pressed his finger against his nostril and pretended to snort cocaine. “Look, the way I see it: we just gotta let the R.A. do his thing. Let’s face it: we’re Lionell’s bitch.”
Holy fucking shit!” Lionell cheered. “I gots me some goodies in this room.” He walked out with a bag of Winston’s hand-cut tobacco, a jar of moonshine, and a few boxes of .45 ammo. But Winston’s anger paled in comparison to the sheer horror on Tai’s face. Under Lionell’s arm was a binder with big, bold letters reading HAWT BOOK. Tai’s eyeballs nearly popped out of his skull.
“He cannot...read...that book!” Tai whispered, gripping Winston’s shoulder.
“Sheesh, dude,” Winston said with a shrug. “Quit your bitchin’. He done took my Alabama moonshine. A few inbreds died making that batch.”
“Mine’s worse, roomie,” Tai’s voice cracked. “Much worse.”
***
Four floors up, Gigi opened her eyes to the sun in her face. She stared up at the ceiling, a visible heatwave cooking the room. One of these days, the paint would melt off the ceiling and coat her entire body while she slept.
Like Winston, Gigi was a member of the Top Bunk Club. And she too had rolled off the bunk and twisted her ankle more than once. On this day she sat up too quickly, feeling a rush of hard cider to the head. She felt herself tumbling down, down, down - landing squarely on the bean bag chair below.
The room spun above her head, her heart pounding in her throat. She slumped over, crawling across the soft, white shag carpet. Gripping the towel rack, she pulled her body up, bent over the sink, and threw up. She flopped onto the cold tile floor, smiling as the nausea left her body.
Somebody gently tapped on her door.
“Sarah?” Gigi called out, her voice hoarse and dry. “Um...can you grab me a Sprite?”
“Oooh, my-a Gigi!” called out an Asian lady. It was Kim Moon: Gigi’s mom. “How are you? Did you have much drink? I cannot wait hear everything!”
Gigi lay in a fetal position, covering her mouth. “M-mom?!”
“Yes, my-a Gigi!” replied Kim. “Please open door for hall check. I am your new R.A!”
Gigi projectile vomited on the shag rug.
Minutes later, Kim was on her knees scrubbing the rug while Gigi sat on the futon. Kim had raided Gigi’s cabinet for rubber gloves, bleach, and an old towel. She aggressively scrubbed the carpet until that one spot was much cleaner than the rest of it.
“Like I always tell-a you,” Kim said, looking up. “Cleanliness next to godliness." She smiled, displaying a row of pale yellow teeth. Her black, thinning hair draped down the back of her neck. She was even shorter than her daughter.
“Um...yep!” Gigi laughed nervously. She sipped a Sprite, pulling her knees to her chest. “So...what exactly is going on?”
“My-a Gigi,” Kim cooed, cradling her daughter’s face in her gloved hands. “My heart-a broke when you leave. I cry and cry, then I finally close up shop be with you!”
Back in suburban Atlanta, Kim ran a small farmer’s market out of a shed on her property. Gigi spent her adolescent and teenage years harvesting vegetables and selling them in exchange for a weekly allowance. Kim always swore that Gigi (or possibly her bratty little sister, Catherine) would someday inherit the house and family business.
“Why-a don’t we start our hall check? I bake-a cookies for all you ladies while we tell story of baby Gigi!”
***
Tai and Winston stood at attention, while Lionell paced the hallway with Tai’s HAWT BOOK in hand.
“I told y’all motherfuckers I done struck gold!” Lionell bellowed.
As Lionell approached, the students’ faces burned red. Lionell stopped in front of the room across the hall. “Now what’s...yo name?”
“C-C-Connor,” said the bowl-cut kid.
“Ah, mah’fuckin’ Connor! That right there’s a hwhite boy name." Lionell flipped through the binder. And while the other students stared in horror, Winston was the only one fighting to hold back a laugh.
“Ah, Connor in Room 308!” Lionell read from the binder. “Pros: tight ass; confirmed six-pack. Cons: probably not bi-curious; probably a top. Overall rating: 7/10.”
Winston exploded into laughter. “Damn, Connor, you’re tied with Fat Will!" William, the chunky neckbeard down the hall, gave a hesitant thumbs-up. In Tai’s binder, Will had also scored a 7/10 for having a size-13 shoe size and being a sloppy eater.
“I ain’t done yet, funny boy!” Lionell yelled in Winston’s face. “I done saved the best for last. The mah-fuckin’ creme-de-la-creme. Wiiinston Beavers!”
“Ha!” Winston interrupted, pointing at the 3/10 Leftward-Sloping-Penis-Rick down the hall. “That means you’re officially in last place, bitch!”
Earlier, Tai had been sweating bullets. But after having his deepest, darkest secrets broadcasted so theatrically, his expression was dull and lifeless.
Winston Beavers: my temporary college roommate,” Lionell read. “Cons: leaves his dirty boots on the carpet, doesn’t wash his sheets, doesn’t wash his scrotum, drinks milk from the carton, everything he touches turns into Cheeto dust, and the room smells like dead armadillos when he’s around.”
Winston stopped laughing.
Pros: good snacks,” Lionell sneered. “Final score: 0.5 out of 10.”
“This is horse shit!” Winston yelled, punching the wall. He stomped down the hall of cringing students. Tai trailed behind while the thunderous laughter of Deputy Hardy faded behind them.
“Wait, hold up!” Tai called out in the stairwell. “Just let me explain."
“Ain’t nothin’ to explain!” Winston shot back. “Apparently, I’m a temporary roommate. So I ain’t gonna show my armadillo ass around Firewater much longer.”
“Okay man, I admit it,” Tai said, throwing his hands up. “I’m not sorry for writing that, but I am sorry you had to hear it. Besides! It’s not like it’s something that can’t be fixed. I have a wide array of hygiene products that’ll help with at least a quarter of the things on that list!”
Winston scoffed like a wild hog. But his expression softened as he mulled it over. “You got any of that...sandalwood cologne?”
“Hell yes I do!” said Tai, perking up. “I’ve got creams, lotions, salves, colognes - you name it! Roomie, allow me to become your personal fabulous assistant! Why, I’ll have you looking spiffy for Miss Claire Dansby in no time.”
“Now you’re talking my language,” Winston said, shaking on it. “Deal.”
They entered the 700 Hall to the sound of giddy laughter. The ladies gathered around the petite Miss Kim, who sat in a stool in the middle of the hallway. Like Kindergarteners, they watched earnestly while the woman held a photo album.
“And dis one,” Kim squeaked, pointing at one of the photos, “is my-a Gigi during first birthday. She eat-a cake, and eat, and eat. She get very, very fat! And you no notice now, because she smaaall as Oompa Loompa now.”
The women howled with laughter while Gigi sat slumped against the wall, wishing she would melt into it.
“And how-a can we-a forget!” Kim gasped. “Dis one is my-a Gigi dressed-a like Neenja Turtle. She has-a Neenja Turtle jammies, Neenja Turtle bedsheets, and even-a Neenja Turtle potty!”
“Sorry Ma’am, we gotta go!” announced Winston, grabbing Gigi’s hand. “Sunday brunch is about to start.”
“Oh!” cried Kim. “Why, hello! Handsome gentlemen stay for my-a cookies?”
But the three freshmen were already out the door.
***
The Chubby Beaver Cafe rewarded Sunday brunch to hungover early birds on campus. A full spread of “Beaverific” entrees: bourbon maple chicken and waffles, crepes stuffed with fresh fruit puree, and virgin screwdrivers (i.e. BYOB). The main attraction: a giant hand-carved ice beaver statue.
But the distraught Winston, Gigi, and Tai were sickened by the thought of fine dining. Instead, they drowned their sorrow in a mile-high stack of bacon on a plate. While they silently munched on sadness and grease, Sarah swept by with a crepe and a screwdriver. She plopped down in the seat next to Winston.
“Helllo, lovelies!” she greeted. Unlike the other three pajama slobs, she wore a long, purple skirt and newly-braided dreadlocks. Sarah was rushing a week early, having spent the night stargazing with a co-ed hippie fraternity.
“What’s with the plate of animal carcasses, bro?” Sarah asked, sipping her drink. “Does a pig have to die for you to live?”
“Fuck it, I’m full,” growled Winston, pushing his plate across the table. Tai and Gigi turned away like dogs refusing to eat.
“Geez, who rained on your parade?” Sarah asked, cracking open a shot bottle of vodka and discretely pouring it into her orange juice.
Winston pointed at the entrance. “See for yourself.”
The freshmen watched a group of men and women stroll into the cafe, dressed in their Sunday-best attire of black tailored suits and dresses. And yet, in context, it seemed like they were marching to a funeral.
“Wait,” Sarah whispered. “That’s the-"
“Campus 5-0,” Winston finished. He stood on top of his chair. “Code red!”
Immediately, every student scrambled to hide their weed, mini liquor bottles, and pain pills. Several students pulled their hands out of their girlfriends’ panties. And the conversation shifted from scoring molly to scoring into the South App Honors Program.
“Wait, that’s the bus driver, right?” Sarah asked, pointing out the freshly-waxed bald head in the crowd. “God, tell me he’s not your R.A!”
“He is, oh God he is!” Tai moaned dramatically. He grabbed a handful of bacon, stuffed it into his mouth, and crawled under the table.
Lionell reached into his pocket and made his hand into the shape of a gun. He aimed it at Winston, shut his left eye, and "fired." Winston didn’t so much as move a muscle while Lionell blew on his hand, placed the “gun” in his pocket, and got in line for waffles.
“Um...I’ve got it worse - tenfold!” Gigi laughed nervously. On cue, Momma Moon approached their table wearing a long, black dress.
“O-a, my-a Gigi and friends!” Kim greeted, folding her hands in front of her waist. “When you-a leave, I unlock your-a door and do all your laundry!”
“What?!” Gigi choked. “You have a key to my room?”
“My dear-a, I need keep an eye on you as your R.A! I not go anywhere! I need make sure you safe and clean. All your thong-a, and even your granny panty.”
With that, Gigi grabbed a handful of bacon, stuffed it into her mouth, and slipped under the table to join Tai.
And now only the two siblings remained. Kim reached over and stroked Winston’s beard. “It’s-a been long time since my-a Gigi have strong American friend take-a care of her. You make sure she-a be good girl while she get teeth degree.”
“Uh, sure thing ma’am,” Winston replied while Kim gave him a boop on the nose with her finger.
“You-a fluffy man. You look handsome if you no fat.”
Sarah burst into laughter, downing the rest of her screwdriver. But Kim picked up Sarah’s empty glass, traced the rim, and placed a finger in her mouth. “Oooh, naughty, naughty. I think you put alcohol in there-a. That means-a I impose 7 PM curfew for week.”
“What?!” screamed Sarah. “You bitch!”
“Oooh, careful,” Kim cooed, picking up a slice of bacon and pointing at Lionell across the room. “If you no comply, I tell big cop man that you minor in possession." She spun around and walked off, nibbling on the bacon like a chipmunk.
Sarah snapped the glass at the stem. “Let’s sabotage these fuckin’ R.A.'s!”
Winston narrowed his eyes, watching as Lionell poured a cup of runny batter into the waffle iron. He rotated the handle to start the timer, and his carb cake began to cook.
“Now’s our chance,” Winston said, springing up from his chair. “Follow me, sis.”
“What about them?” Sarah asked, pointing under the table.
Winston grabbed the plate of bacon and lifted the tablecloth. Tai and Gigi immediately snatched it up like cave trolls, feasting in their underground lair.
“All that pork and they’re skinny as rails,” Winston muttered to Sarah.
“Ah, I see Momma Moon hit a nerve with you,” Sarah teased, rubbing his belly. “Are you out to impress her now? Or is it her daughter you seek?”
Winston scoffed as he and Sarah weaved through tables of hungover students. “Nah, just Claire,” he replied.
“Ah, I knew it!” Sarah laughed. “Your southern damsel in distress. So, you wanna know a secret that only a woman would know?”
“Hit me.”
“It’s gonna take a lot more than good looks to score with a woman like her.”
“Explain.”
“The solution...is that there is no solution. You have to be born into it. Sorry!”
At the waffle station, Lionell lifted the handle and grabbed his waffle, imprinted with the S.A.U. Beaver logo. And as he searched for the maple syrup, Winston dangled it in front of his face.
“Got a wager for ya, Deputy,” Winston proposed, dousing his waffle with syrup while Lionell furrowed his brow. “And the stakes are mighty high.”
“You got ten seconds,” Lionell snarled, “Before I stomp yo’ ass in front of your sister." Sarah took a sip of her fresh screwdriver, middle finger up.
“Whoa, easy tiger,” said Winston. He poured a scoop of batter into the waffle iron and slammed it shut. “I’ll put it like this: you look like you’ve eaten from a pig trough once or twice in your life.”
“You got some fuckin’ nerve.”
“Hey, I have too! Nothin’ to be ashamed of. Your colleague over there called me out on my weight too. You’re an American. I’m an American. So let’s do what we Americans do best: have a good old-fashioned eating contest.”
Lionell paused. He swiped a knob of butter with his knife and slathered his waffle. “Now what’s in it for me?”
“Simple. If you win, you get to give me a 7 PM curfew for a month." Sarah suddenly spat out her screwdriver, clutching Winston’s sleeve. “And if I win, you get the fuck out of my hall.”
A gleaming smile washed across Lionell’s face. Students began setting their phones down to eavesdrop. The waffle iron alarm went off. Lionell swiped the fluffy waffle and dropped it on a plate.
“Aight, Beavers. But I get to decide what we eatin’. Annnd march!”
Lionell snapped to attention, about-faced, and marched down the buffet line. Winston quickly slathered his waffle with syrup and butter, following behind. At the chicken station, Lionell grabbed the tongs and swiped a piece of growth-hormone fried chicken for both of them. Five slices of bacon to top it all off.
That’s it? Winston thought. This is just any given Tuesday for me.
But instead of heading back to a table, Lionell about-faced to the waffle station again. “I ain’t through with you by a damn sight,” Lionell warned. “I’m about to get diabetic on yo’ ass!”
Lionell and Winston cycled through the buffet line, layering the waffles, chicken, and bacon three more times. By now, Gigi and Tai had joined the crowd of gossiping students. When Sarah recapped the challenge, Gigi crossed her arms, containing a large belch in her throat.
“Wow, how can Winston eat all of that?” Gigi groaned. “Is he from this world?”
“You’d be surprised,” Sarah chuckled, shaking her head. “My brother is a bonafide carnivore. Hell, he used to have this YouTube channel. What was it...ah, Feng Shui of the Gut. He’d upload these crazy eating challenges once or twice a week. My parents couldn’t keep a full pantry. And let’s just say it got to the point where they made Winston buy his own toilet paper.
That mental image seared in Gigi’s mind as the two competitors sat down with their two-foot-tall stacks of grease. And since Winston’s gut would certainly be “feng shui’d” this afternoon, Tai thanked God that their dorm bathrooms were down the hall instead of in their room. All eyes were on them. Not to mention, several live video feeds. Winston and Lionell placed their paper napkins on their laps, gripping a knife and fork in their fists.
“One last finishing touch,” Lionell declared. “Waiter! Bring me some ranch.”
Magically, a student worker swept by with a ladle of ranch dressing. Lionell drowned their chicken and waffles with the stuff. The color drained from both Winston’s and Sarah’s face. Even she knew he was doomed.
When Winston was a wee lad in Trinity, he’d grown up pouring ranch dressing on his school pizza, corn nuggets, and hot dogs. But all of that had come to a halt in middle school. One day, he’d brought a cobb salad for lunch to impress the football cheerleaders. And after taking his first bite, he had pulled a long strand of gray hair out of his mouth. Courtesy of a lunch lady who had always refused to wear a hairnet. Needless to say, Winston had never touched ranch dressing ever since.
“Go, fat boy!” Lionell barked.
Winston shook the memory and dug in. He tried to saw the soggy waffle stack with a butter knife. Lionell simply grabbed a handful of food and stuffed it into his mouth. So Winston tossed his silverware aside and went to town. The syrup, ranch, butter, and chicken grease coagulated in his stomach. But he trucked through, sickened by the thought of a sunset curfew. And by now, there was a clear divide in the crowd: the faculty and staff backing Lionell and the students cheering for Winston.
“Gonna beat that bitch ass!” Lionell scoffed between bites.
Lionell was a food machine, shoveling down the first layer like he was born for it. Now Winston could eat his way out of trouble too. But the watered-down expired ranch stuck to the back of his throat. He switched his approach, fetching his napkin and wiping off each piece of bacon and chicken. He scarfed those down with ease. But the longer the waffles sat there, the more they puffed up in size as they soaked in the ranch.
“Fuck me,” Winston groaned, washing his food down with a glass of Mountain Dew. Meanwhile, Lionell looked like a mental patient, his cheeks and chin coated in grease and dressing. Winston looked down at the sweet, salty, gooey, gelatinous pile of batter. His stomach churned as he felt something rise from his stomach to his throat...
“Drink this, bro!” Sarah yelled, tilting Winston’s head back. She poured a steady stream of Pepto-Bismol into his mouth. And now, the flavor of stale bubblegum was added to the milky, tangy ranch. Time stood still. Winston suddenly imagined a tiny lunch lady sitting in that pink bottle. Holding a fishing pole. Casting a fishing line down Winston’s throat. A line made of her own hair.
Winston turned to his side and threw up on the floor.
It was over. Lionell stood to his feet, holding up a clean plate and dragging his tongue across it. Winston panted on hands and knees while Sarah and Tai lay hands on him. Gigi rushed back with a refill of Mountain Dew.
“On the bright side...I got the whole thing on video so we can still put it on your YouTube channel!” Gigi cheered.
“Wh-what? Who told you about that?” Winston looked up, feeling a second wave coming.
Before Gigi could answer, Kim came by with a mop and a bucket full of chemicals. “I clean, I clean! Remember, my daughter: cleanliness next to godliness!”
***
At 6:55 PM Sarah lay on her bunk reading an H.P. Lovecraft novel she borrowed from Evelyn. Gigi was organizing the massive pile of clean panties on the futon, courtesy of Kim. At the age of 18, she couldn’t bear the thought of her mom sorting through the different shapes, sizes, and colors. Once again, she wished lightning would just strike her dead where she stood…
Somebody knocked on the door.
“Oh, looks like curfew check,” Gigi said. “Good thing you’re already in the room!" Without looking up from the book, Sarah flipped her off. Gigi grabbed her comforter and draped it over Panty Mountain. But when she opened the door, it was Winston. He was holding a 6-foot metal pole.
“Howdy,” Winston said, slipping in and closing the door. “I heard you’re part of the Top Bunk Club, so I got ya a safety bar.”
“Oh, cool! That’s very thoughtful of you, Winston! I almost died this morning when I fell off.”
But Sarah saw right through his brother’s facade. “That’s obviously not why he’s not here,” she muttered, bookmarking her place and sitting up in bed. “He’s trying to avoid his curfew. Look, bro, can’t you just admit defeat every now and then? It sucks. But if I’m following the rules, then so can you.”
“Hey check this out, sis,” Winston proposed. He propped the safety bar against the wall and sat next to hidden Panty Mountain. “All I gots to do is hang out here for a little bit, and then we can all sneak out and go to trivia at that pizza joint downtown.”
Before they could consider it, there was a single, thunderous pound on the door. “Winston, I know yo’ ass is in there!” Lionell yelled.
“Shit,” Sarah hissed. “Quick, get in the closet!”
“Hey, I ain’t like my roommate, ya know." But Sarah grabbed Winston’s shoulders and shoved him in, closing the rasta sheet. Gigi took a breath and opened the door.
“Deputy!” Gigi greeted. “Quite the lovely post-curfew evening on campus. What say ye?”
But Lionell walked straight past her into the center of the room. He put his hands on his hips, admiring the clean and tidy living space. Sarah’s prog-rock band posters. Gigi’s bulletin board containing OCD-level to-do lists.
“Ya know, for such a cozy girls’ room,” Lionell pondered, “it sho’ smells like a boy came up in here and took a giant steamy shit.” He eyed the massive pile on the futon and grabbed a corner of the comforter. “There you are! So you think you can do whatever you want like you fucking own South App! Well, you’re fixin’ to have bruises on yo’ knees when I’m through with ya!”
Lionell flung away the comforter, revealing Gigi’s entire collection of panties. Her jaw hit the floor, and Sarah shot to her feet.
“Look, he’s not here!” Sarah asserted. “He’s back over at the cafe for wing night, stuffing his face as usual. Matter fact, he wants to meet ya there for a rematch, if you-”
But Lionell heard none of it. For the first time, the lines on his face softened, and his eyes nearly teared up at the beautiful sight. He picked up a pair of frilly, blue panties and held them in front of his face. Gigi stammered in absolute horror.
“G-get the fuck out of here, you f-fucking asshole!" Gigi spat.
Sarah lunged for the panties, but Lionell’s giant hand shoved her back onto the bed. He whipped out Winston’s revolver and pointed it square at Sarah’s forehead. “Now, now. This is between me and this little Asian piece of ass directly adjacent to me." Lionell casually gestured to Gigi with the gun before pointing it back to Sarah. “Now, Miss Gigi. Allow me to make a proposal.”
Winston watched everything unfold from behind the rasta sheet. With the closet being a few long strides away, he had no opening for a surprise attack. Especially against a Marine. He watched Lionell bring the panties up to his face and inhale deeply.
“You see,” Lionell casually explained to a mortified Gigi, tears welling up in her eyes. “I must admit, you have some mighty fine taste, as evidenced by the smorgasbord in front of me. But all I smell is detergent. Now say you...wore one of these for a few days, and then gave it back to me? Matta fact, how would you like to have your first year of tuition and books paid for? Why I’ll even sweeten the pot!" Lionell tightened the grip on his gun to remind Sarah not to try anything. “I’ll disappear from Firewater, and your two retarded boy-toys will neva have to see mah ass again. Thass right. Gigi Moon, yo’ entire tuition, fees, football tickets - everything paid in full. And you won’t eva have to work a day in a greasy dish pit or stocking shelves at Walmart. All’s you have to do is live with me in my apartment...and be my little yellow-bone slut."
Lionell reached into his tight pants and began touching himself. Winston crouched down behind the curtain. Lionell gritted his teeth, pressing the gun more firmly against Sarah’s forehead. Suddenly, Winston pushed off on his heel, emerging from behind the rasta sheet. As Lionell gasped, Winston speared him in the gut, tackling him to the ground. The gun flew out of Lionell’s hand, sliding under the futon.
“Fuck you, cunt!” Winston yelled, straddling Lionell and throwing punches at the face. Lionell struggled to free his hand, which was still stuck in his tight pants. But he caught one of Winston’s punches and rolled with him on the ground. Now Winston had a 300-pound man on top of him. Lionell struck him repeatedly with a ham-bone fist. All the while, he struggled to free his other hand from his pants.
“I take krav maga, bitch!” Sarah yelled as Gigi and Sarah took turns kicking Lionell in the ribs from either side. But Lionell shook them off like fleas, convulsing with anger in a steroid rage.
“Gigi...the gun,” Winston muttered through bleeding lips. Lionell flung Sarah against the wall, apparently knocking her out. Gigi nodded, dashing toward the futon, while Lionell finally freed his hand from his pants.
“Open yo’ mouth, motherfucka,” Lionell roared. He gripped Winston’s throat with one hand while raising that other smelly, sweaty hand to Winston’s mouth. “You gonna learn today,” Lionell whispered, jamming his entire fist, finger-by-finger, into his mouth. “You gonna taste what it means to be conquered by a motherfuckin’ BBC, you filthy little - *OOOF*!”
Lionell froze, his eyes shooting wide open. And slowly, he leaned to the side, capsizing like a ship. He fell unconscious. Through blurry eyes, Winston saw Gigi gripping the safety bar like a katana.
“Um...turns out that was a pretty thoughtful gift!” Gigi cheered.
***
An hour later, half of Firewater Hall congregated in the main lobby. They gossipped among themselves while a cop car drove off with former Deputy Lionell Hardy. The four freshmen sat on a sofa in the corner, sipping Starbucks.
“Holy shit,” Tai reacted after the others recapped the fight. “That asshole must have been roided up to be able to take all you guys on!”
“Tell me about it,” Winston groaned, pressing his Frappuccino up to his swollen cheek. “I don’t know if I’d be here if Gigi hadn’t gone Mark McGuire on his ass.”
Gigi sipped her Frappuccino as she tried to figure out whether that was the name of a Renaissance painter or NASCAR driver.
“Well, I would’ve saved the day with my deadly roundhouse kicks,” Sarah declared proudly, standing to her feet. “If only Gigi would have distracted him like I asked.”
Gigi took her shoe off and threw it at her. The four freshmen laughed. And interrupting the playful banter was a middle-aged blonde lady with a short bob haircut. She stood on top of a chair and cleared her throat.
“Excuse me, I need everyone’s attention, please. I’m Karen, Director of the Resident Assistants Program here on campus.”
“She totes looks like a Karen,” a sorority girl whispered. Another smart-ass in the crowd made a police siren noise with his mouth.
“Why, yes,” Karen continued. “Sometimes known colloquially as the, um...Campus 5-0. Now then! I see we have had quite the eventful evening in Firewater. And that is why I want to address the status of our…unmonitored 300 Hall." Winston and Tai suddenly perked their ears up. “Effective immediately, the 300 Hall will no longer be under direct R.A. supervision.”
Winston’s and Tai’s jaws dropped to their floor as they exchanged goofy-ass smiles.
Karen held her hand in the air to stop the commotion. “Yes, yes. I do want to advise you. That doesn’t mean that there will be no law and order on the 300 Hall. Underage drinking and weed are serious offenses that could have you expelled and put away in prison for the rest of your life. I assure you that the other R.A.’s are liable at any time to monitor the 300 Hall at their own discretion. Have a good night, and be safe.”
Most students began filing back up to their rooms. But an all-too-familiar face pranced up to Gigi and crossed her arms in front of her slim waist.
“Oh! My-a poor Gigi!” Kim cooed, wrapping her arms around her daughter and kissing her forehead. “I wish I still be here protect you from bad man. But it look like mah service no longer needed anymore.”
Gigi tilted her head to the side, staring at Kim’s cheerful expression. Then Gigi slowly panned over to Sarah, whose face tensed up, trying to hold back a laugh.
“What’s...what’s going on?” Gigi asked them.
“It worked!” Sarah snickered. “Oh, my God, it fucking worked!" Winston and Tai stopped discussing hallway Slip-and-Slide plans to listen in.
“I’m so confused?” Gigi laughed nervously.
“Oh, Gigi...you are almost as naive as you are kind!” Sarah said condescendingly. “Why, Kim was never your R.A. in the first place. Alas, t’was all a masterful plan concocted by yours truly. And Kim played the part beautifully, I might add.”
Sarah gave Kim a golf clap while Kim crossed her legs and gave a polite curtsy.
“But Mom! If you’re not my R.A….then who is?”
“I am,” interrupted Evelyn, the front desk security. She set down her book and walked over to them. She was looking a little less emo than usual with her curly jet-black hair. Yet, she still found it in her heart to don ripped jeans and grey painted nails. “Now don’t you worry, kid,” Evelyn said, putting her arm around Gigi’s shoulder. “If you’re gonna smoke and drink, just keep it out of plain sight. If I see it, then you have to share it. Capiche?"
Gigi slowly nodded her head, her throbbing head trying to process it all. “Oh, and one more thing,” Evelyn added. “No threesomes in the bathroom, please. We don’t have HAZMAT suits, ya know. Just keep that shit in the room, and we’ll be good." Evelyn gave Sarah a side-eye. “Unless it’s a female threesome, of course.”
***
Back in the girls’ room, Gigi’s laundry was put away, Winston’s blood was cleaned up, and the safety bar was secured on the top bunk. At her desk, she typed away at her Honors Program admissions essay. Sarah and Evelyn lounged on the futon, swearing at each other over an intense Mario Kart race. And as Gigi tried to form a thesis on why dental hygienists were more important than brain surgeons, her phone buzzed. A text from Winston.
Hey, can you come down here and bring me my gun? My hands are tied right now. It’s under the futon, right?
Gigi walked over to the futon and got down on hands and knees, blocking the gamers’ view of the TV. Sarah scoffed while Gigi crawled under the futon and reached as far back as she could, feeling around for the gun.
“Damn it, Gigi - you messed up my blue shell!” Sarah complained, flinging her controller across the room.
“Aww, don’t fuss at her,” Evelyn teased, staring down at Gigi’s smooth, toned legs that stuck out from beneath the futon. “She’s so fun-sized!”
Gigi crawled out and shot to her feet with the revolver in hand. “Careful what you say, roomie,” she said. “You were knocked out, so you didn’t bear witness to my epic sword skills! I don’t think you wanna provoke a ninja with a gun!”
“You’re holding it upside down,” Sarah sighed.
“Oh.”
Gigi stashed the revolver in her purse and headed down to the 300 Hall. She raised her hand to knock...then decided that, after today, the four of them were officially on a “no-knock” basis.
“Hi, boys!” Gigi cheered, opening the door. Winston sat in a chair in front of the mirror while Tai stood behind him, styling his hair to the side with pomade. Winston was dressed in a white collared shirt, a grey tie to match his dress pants, and snakeskin cowboy boots. “Wow, Winston,” Gigi mouthed in awe. “You look....um, different! Is that sandalwood?”
“Yeeep,” Tai answered, pulling out a razor and trimming Winston’s beard. “Our man no longer smells like a gym locker room. And I’m sure she will appreciate that.”
“Oh...and who might that be?” Gigi asked suspiciously.
“Miss Claire Dansby,” Winston answered, lighting a cigarette while Tai worked behind him. “I reckon we’ll be running into her tonight.”
“Oh, um...cool! Is she going to be on our trivia team? I mean, after today I think the four of us make a pretty good team, but another brain couldn’t hurt!”
Tai and Winston averted their eyes. An awkward silence while the razor buzzed.
“Yeah, Gigi,” Winston trailed off, taking a drag. “There’s been a change in plans. Claire is actually hosting karaoke at a bar downtown. It’ll just be me and Tai tonight. We’ll have to take a rain check on trivia. Sorry ’bout that.”
“I’m his wingman for Claire!” Tai interjected, wiping Winston’s face with a hot towel.
Gigi just stood there as Tai worked his magic, transforming this good ole country boy into a future country star. And as the scent of sandalwood flooded her nostrils again, she knew she had to leave the room. Not because she hated it, but because she was afraid to admit that she loved it.
“Well, in that case,” Gigi began, placing her hand on the doorknob. “I hope you find immediate gratification in crafting twangy southern anthems for a bonafide like-minded Alabama ten! I do regret to inform you that the proper authorities have confiscated your metal-projecting apparatus!”
Blank stares from Winston and Tai.
“I mean...have fun with your woman! And it looks like the police took your gun as evidence.”
Before Winston could respond, Gigi was already in the stairwell, heading back up to her room. Sarah and Evelyn were on their feet with controllers in hand, screaming at Mortal Kombat.
“Get over here, you fucking asshole!” Sarah yelled, mashing buttons.
“I don’t think I shall!” Evelyn retorted in a British accent. “Looks like you’re…frozen in fear!”
Gigi silently walked past them. She sat down at her computer and typed the first thing that came to her mind: My name is Gigi Moon, and I should be in the Honors Program because I have no fucking social skills whatsoever. But tonight, I proved that I can make up for it with my epic ninja skills!
Only 4,963 words to go, she thought.
But very little writing was done that night while Sarah and Evelyn mashed buttons and took turns screaming “Fatality!” at the top of their lungs. Finally, Gigi put her headphones on. She pulled up YouTube and searched for Feng Shui of the Gut. A hundred videos of Winston’s old ridiculous eating challenges.
One of the most popular videos caught Gigi’s eye: I [email protected]#KED UP! STRANDED ON THE TOILET. She clicked Play. Right away, there was a close-up of a younger and skinnier Winston, no older than 16. The camera was zoomed on his clean-shaven face. And yes, he was clearly sitting on the toilet.
Yee-haw, fellers!” greeted Young Winston, sweat dripping down his forehead. “Welcome back to Feng Shui of the Gut. Earlier today, I decided to scarf down a five-pound bag of Sugar-Free Haribo Gummy Bears! I’m sorry, did I say today?" Winston leaned forward until his face filled the entire frame. “I meant yesterday! I’ve been stuck on this (BLEEP)ing toilet for 24 (BLEEP)ing hours!
Maybe it was procrastination that kept Gigi glued to the screen. Maybe it was morbid curiosity. But while Sarah and Evelyn took turns ripping each others’ spines out and lighting each other on fire, Gigi binged through all 100 of Winston’s old videos. Most revealing were dozens of fast food reviews. In these videos, Winston would eat a burger in his truck while talking about politics, religion, and women. He even went on a 10-video spree chronicling his war against a yellow jacket colony at his mom’s place.
When Gigi’s head hit the pillow at 3 AM, she felt as if she knew Winston Arnold Beavers better than she knew herself. Most notably: chicken wings was his favorite food, curry would make him dig a hole if there wasn’t a toilet nearby, and he absolutely positively despised ranch dressing.
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2020.08.07 17:55 mialbowy Vanquishing Evil for Love [Ch 8]

Prologue

Chapter 8 - Foreign Affairs

After Sammy and Julie finished their flirting, they went through their morning routines, ending with another simple breakfast. Then it was time to go.
The mountain pass flat enough, they mounted the horses and rode along, steep slopes either side, rocky. Path narrowing until they couldn’t stay side-by-side, Julie moved in front to lead. However, she thought it seemed safe enough. From what she saw as they went along, there were no precarious boulders or places to set up an ambush, just the odd rock to avoid.
Still, it took them most of the morning to get through. When they did, though, another incredible sight greeted them. Similar yet different, a vast expanse of greenery covered the rolling hills of Sonlettier. While there were trees, they were different trees, and the grass seemed to be a different colour, more bright or, rather, more yellow, she thought; the grass in Schtat was a more mossy green. Especially with the sun high, the landscape seemed light and almost like a painting. Well, she conceded that the paintings she’d seen may well have been of the Sonlettian countryside—a lot of artwork came from Sonlettier.
“Should we camp for lunch?” Sammy asked.
Brought out of her thoughts, Julie nodded and said, “Yeah.”
The slope more gentle on this side of the mountain range, they led the horses down to the nearby tree line. While it had been somewhat humid on the Schtat side from the recent rain, the air now felt crisp, cooler, ground dry. Settled in the shade, they left the horses to graze and ate another meal of rations, the taste sweetened by some berries that had fruited. Julie was thankful that she at least knew wild berries well from her training.
Once the midday sun softened, they set off once again. Although the slope wasn’t too steep, they chose to go by foot, not wanting to push the horses. Sammy took the lead and tried to take them along the mountain range. “The smugglers and like go down, so it would be best to avoid those villages,” she said on the matter.
By nightfall, they had set up a camp and boiled water, and even had fresh rabbit meat to eat alongside some mushed up hard tack. After a quiet night, they carried on, heading down from the mountain range where they then rode along the valleys between rolling hills, Sammy bringing them to streams at midday and again by evening. While journeying, they also picked up more nettles and other bits, the area they were now in less picked than the smuggler’s path they had followed before. So their meals were, while still mostly rations, at least flavoured and accompanied by something more flavourful than boiled river water.
Their third day of travel in Sonlettier went much the same until the late hours of the afternoon. Following a stream, they arrived at a busy village. On the one side, houses hugged the riverbank and spread out from there, loosely lining the few roads that Julie could see. At a guess, she thought there were probably a hundred odd buildings.
And odd houses they were, made of pale sandstone, roofs tiled—far different to the whitewashing and thatching common to Schtish villages. The closer Julie looked, the more differences she noticed: the height of the doors, the size and position of the windows, the windowsills. Even the weeds looked to be different, splodges of colour that straddled both the red and blue sides of purple.
Julie felt fairly disorientated by it all. Uneasy. A place familiar at a glance, foreign upon inspection. That thought reminded her that it actually was a foreign place. For the first time, she had finally left the country where she had lived her whole life. A very late realisation.
Before she could twist herself in any more knots, Sammy spoke up. “It is rather quaint, isn’t it?” she said.
“Yeah,” Julie replied.
Arriving at the edge of the village, they stopped to dismount at Sammy’s urging; she gave, “Sonlettian custom,” as the reason. Julie soon enough noticed a man leading a horse on foot rather than riding it, which made her feel relieved that Sammy knew about the custom.
Although they found their way onto the main road through the village, there was little room to spare, people going this way and that, chattering in a language Julie could only assume was Sonlettian.
When they reached the square at the centre of the village—a massive space with a paved floor—it became clear why it was so busy. Fuel for a bonfire stacked as tall as a person, countless buckets (some filled with water, some presumably waiting to be filled) surrounded the pile, and there were garlands of bright flowers strewn on the lampposts. Stalls had been erected at one side of the square, some already heavy with wooden cups of beer and battered snacks, a couple selling garlands and trinkets, most still empty.
Between all that, people rushed back and forth, adding more fuel or swapping empty buckets with filled ones. Children laughed and screamed, were being merry, being scolded and assigned chores, clinging to busy mothers and struggling to help busy fathers. Elderly folks stood to the sides and watched with expressions that ranged from sentimental to grumpy, some entertaining young children, others snapping at whoever happened to be doing something nearby.
It took Julie a good minute to take everything in, such a chaotic scene. The Royal Palace had certainly held large events, but those had always been such an organised chaos with a strict hierarchy of servants telling lower servants what to do, everyone well-trained to be conscious of their surroundings and have little presence and be quiet.
Sammy reached over and squeezed her hand, taking her out of her thoughts. Careful of the crowd, they shuffled along the road to the other side of the square, following it until they came to a stable near the edge of the village.
With the horses put up, they split their baggage between the two of them. Before they started walking back towards the centre of the village, though, Sammy held Julie’s hand. “It wouldn’t do to lose each other,” she said.
Julie said nothing in reply.
So they idly ambled along, taking in the sights as they went on their way to check the couple of inns Sammy had seen earlier. In the little time since they’d been by, the vast square had grown busier, seemingly everyone in the village bumbling around.
Sammy came to a stop, Julie nearly bumping into her. Looking in front of them, Julie saw the reason for the stopping: an old lady. Hair grey and skin leathery, she held a broad smile on her small mouth, eyes still bright for her age. But what surprised Julie was that this old lady spoke fluent Schtish, sounding every bit a Hopschtat girl.
“Ey, you two ain’t from ol’ Schtat now, are ya?” she asked, voice clattery.
Sammy smiled and bowed her head. “We are, ma’am.”
“Wot’s a pair o’ lasses doin’ out ’ere?” she asked, only to shake her head and talk to herself. “Nay, Marge, no need to pry.” Then she went back to speaking to them, asking, “Ya lovelies got a sty?”
“That is… a sty?” Sammy asked, unsure.
Marge cackled, her laughter sharp and rattly. “Not Hoppers, ey? Ah, beg my manners,” she said, tugging the edge of her cloth cap. “Ya got a place to stay?”
Sammy thought for a moment and then gave an honest answer. “We are looking for one,” she said.
Marge nodded vigorously, her cap very much looking like it should have fallen off, her face wobbling. Then she turned around, giving the old man there a slap on the shoulder.
“Oi,” he said, a deep yet sharp sound.
“We got guests—introduce yerself,” Marge said, punctuating her command with another light slap.
He clicked his tongue, audible even with all the background noise. “You ’ave guests—I don’t remember askin’ anyone over,” he said, grumbling.
“And how many of yer guests did I ’ave to pop out, ey? Remember when we was just gone ’ave a pair of tots? Got one fer e’ryday o’ the week!” she said, a threatening finger waving in front of his face.
He clicked his tongue again. Rather than argue any longer, he let out a huff, arms crossed and mouth in a scowl. Reluctantly, he looked past Marge at Sammy and Julie. “Name’s Pete.”
“There now, was that so ’ard?” Marge said to him before turning back to them. “And I’m Marge. We bin married near a century now—or so it feels.”
Sammy laughed at the joke, sounding natural, while Julie was still stuck somewhere near the start of the conversation. “I hope our marriage will last as long,” Sammy said, squeezing Julie’s hand as she did.
“Oh, believe me, it’s nothin’ special. When ya meet the right man, just tell him, ‘Sorry, luv, already got a fella back home,’” Marge replied.
Julie’s stomach dropped hearing that, knowing that Sammy would say something. But Sammy surprised Julie with a rather subtle answer.
“Oh, I think I’ll say something like that to any man who asks,” Sammy said lightly, laughter colouring her tone. Then, before Marge could say anything else, she tugged Julie a little forward. “I am Sammy, and this is Julie.”
“A pleasure,” Marge said, touching her cap.
“It’s all ours,” Sammy said as Julie chimed in with, “Us too.”
Marge had another cackle before turning to Pete. “Wot ya standing around fer? Not gonna help the lasses with the bags?” she said, nudging him with her elbow.
“Just smother me in ma sleep if ya want rid of me,” he said.
While Julie froze up, Sammy giggled, covering her mouth. After a moment, she said, “Is the house far?”
Her question successfully pulled Marge away from teasing her husband. “Nay, just a hopskip.”
To Julie’s relief, Sammy kept control of the conversation as they began the slow walk to the elderly couple’s home, most of the time spent listening to Marge detail her children’s various accomplishments, getting sidetracked every other sentence. However, Julie found it almost reassuring to listen to someone speaking Schtish in this foreign place. And she was surprised at how popular the couple seemed, many people giving warm greetings (or so she presumed, unfamiliar with Sonlettian) as they went.
Fortunately, it really wasn’t far and, something Julie had learned to accept, Sammy was carrying the heavier packs. She wasn’t entirely sure, but she thought the air felt cooler as well; the heat had liked to linger into the evening back in Schtat, yet the sun hadn’t set and already there was a chill to the wind, sharpened by her sweat.
Coming to a stop, Marge said, “Here we are, lovelies.”
Julie turned to look where Marge gestured. The house, while broad, seemed squashed, other houses either side of it, but it was still on the large side. Two storeys tall, windows also peeked out of the attic. Like most of the buildings in the town, it was made of yellow-grey sandstone chunks, a little stained by weather, and the clay shingles added colour, albeit muted by the approaching dusk. Built against the road, there was no room but for weeds, and even those were small as if regrowing after being plucked out recently.
“There was a lot of us ’ere back in the day,” Marge said, talking as she walked the last steps to the house. “O’ course, we wanted to pass it on to the kids, but, well, ya know—grow up in a village, all they wanna do is leave fer the cities, ey?” She followed with a short chuckle.
Meanwhile, Pete had stepped up to the door and knocked twice on it, then gave it a heavy shove with his shoulder. Despite the force, it only opened ajar. Another shove gave enough room to actually enter.
“Old hinges,” Marge said, nodding.
Sammy nodded as well. “I see,” she said.
Marge leaned over and whispered, “Up to me, I’d ask one o’ the young men to fix it, but ya know a man gets stubborn when ’is pride’s on the line.”
Sammy giggled, and she spared Julie a knowing glance.
They filed inside—Sammy and Julie barely fitting through with their packs—but made it no farther before a young woman’s voice echoed from the far side of the house. “Back already, are ya? I told ya, it’s not gonna be any better this year, and I don’t wanna hear how it was back in your day! What good does that do me? Not like I can do anythin’ ’bout it. If anythin’, is your generations fault. Should a taught ’em how to put on a proper festy, then we wouldn’ be in this—”
Emerging at the top of the stairs, the young woman caught sight of the guests and abruptly stopped. Only, it took her a noticeable second to put on a smile, and the next moment fluent Sonlettian flowed from her lips.
Julie had no idea what the young woman was saying, but she imagined it was something along the lines of, “Why didn’t you tell me we were going to have guests?” Whatever was being said, it sounded almost melodious, vowels long and flowing, consonants soft.
The woman herself gave a similar image, someone in her late teens who was not wanting in femininity. She had a modest height and held herself well, long hair that looked well-brushed, face soft and touched by the sun and by blush, her movements full of grace as she descended the stairs. A small smile and bright eyes completed her first impression, and what an impression she left on Julie.
“No bother, these lasses a’ from Schtat,” Marge said.
The woman showed mild surprise, but it grew as Sammy spoke in fluent Sonlettian. And Julie, despite still having no clue what was being said, instantly became enthralled. That familiar and pleasant voice sounded oh so dainty, music to Julie’s ears. Such a beautiful language.
When Sammy finished her couple of sentences, Julie broke her gaze away, happening to glance at the woman; it seemed like Julie wasn’t the only one enthralled.
The moment didn’t linger, though, Marge breaking in for introductions. “This my second daughter’s youngest, Paumé,” she said, her accent shifting for the name. “We call her Pam ’round the house.”
Sammy gave Pam a slight curtsey, pinching the one side of her riding habit. “A pleasure to make your acquaintance. I am Sammy, and this is my Julie.”
Julie felt her chest tighten, pushing through the feeling to bob her head in greeting.
As if Pam had also noticed the possessive, her gaze went between Sammy and Julie for a moment, her own greeting delayed. “Ah, yes, I’m Pam. It’s good to meet you,” she said, finishing with a shallow curtsey.
“Ey, what ya tryin’ ’mpress ‘em for? They ’eard ya hollerin’ like a mad dog. That’ll teach ya to talk ill of yer elders,” Marge said.
Pam wilted under the words, picking at the hem of her sleeve, the blush on her cheek darkening into splotches.
However, Sammy seemed entirely unfazed by the exchange. “If we could put down our things, won’t you tell us about the festival?” she said.
Julie had to admire how Sammy could phrase things so well.
“Right, no point dillydallying,” Marge said, and then she turned to Pam. “Ye’ve bin cleaning—wot rooms are best? Ta’s and Fi’s?”
But Sammy interjected. “Oh, we will be sharing a room.”
Julie was rather used to that by now. And as always, she noticed that it wasn’t a question: she and Sammy would be sharing a room.
“O’ course. Bit scary—two lasses on their own, far from home. Anyway, Pam’ll thank ya fer sparin’ another room to tidy,” Marge said, taking it in stride.
With that said, Pam led them upstairs and then to the room at the end of the hallway. A fairly big room, it stretched from the front to the back of the house and had two single beds spaced along the far wall, a gnarled wardrobe between them that had an awful lot of character. Other small pieces of charismatic bedroom furniture littered the place, a broad window on one side letting in the last of the day’s light. Everything rather bulky, it felt a bit cluttered despite the space, but it was a pleasant feeling, the wood natural and far from claustrophobic.
As they had no plans of staying more than the one night, they only put down the packs in front of the wardrobe, no intentions to unpack.
Silent in the doorway, Pam lingered, watching them. Sammy casually looked over and their eyes met. With a polite smile, she asked, “Is there something you wished to say?”
“Oh, no, sorry,” Pam said, eyes wide as she shuffled back.
Sammy softly giggled behind her hand, and Julie noticed a mischievousness in those eyes that was usually directed at her the moment before a teasing. Proving her intuition correct, Sammy stepped over to Julie’s side and held her hand, bringing up her other hand to rest on Julie’s shoulder.
“Did you perhaps want to ask if we are lovers?” Sammy softly said.
Julie’s heart thumped, but her reaction was otherwise muted; she didn’t know if that was because she was growing used to it or because she felt Pam wouldn’t make a fuss. With a few of these “confessions” behind her, she felt like her anxiety stemmed from the attention it brought, so she didn’t dread the (probably) mild reaction of Pam near as much as whatever Marge would have said.
That was what she thought over in the long moment of silence before Pam finally answered. “Y-yes,” she whispered.
Sammy’s smile grew into something natural. “We are, albeit still taking our first steps together.”
A myriad of emotions looked to swell just beneath the surface of Pam’s face, her lips twitching with unspoken words, eyes unable to look their way, fiddling with the hem of her sleeve. And when she again found the courage to speak, she only managed to draw in a breath before Marge’s voice echoed through the house.
“If they wanna see the festy, Fi’s got some rags lyin’ ’round,” Marge shouted.
As if caught with a mouthful of snacks before supper, Pam scrunched up, head bowed as splotches coloured her cheeks. “Yes, gan-gan,” she loudly replied.
After a second of silence, Sammy spoke up. “The festival is tonight, then?” she asked.
Pam weakly nodded.
“What is it for? I am afraid I do not know of any events this time of year,” Sammy said.
“It’s to… celebrate the end of the sowing, and pray for a good harvest. We’re pretty far south, so we sow early,” Pam said, not exactly mumbling, but choosing her words carefully.
“Ah, yes—the fet des cootyua. I always heard of it being held in Anaber, but—as you said—it does stay warm in these parts,” Sammy said, her hand moving from Julie’s shoulder to excitedly gesture as she spoke. Once she finished, though, she turned to Julie and that free hand joined her other one, sandwiching Julie’s hand between them. “Oh we must attend, yes? I have heard so many beautiful things about it.”
Julie had no reason to oppose and there was a brilliant smile accompanied by pleading eyes to persuade her, making her quietly said, “Sure,” an easy reply.
In a blink, Sammy leant forward and left a kiss on Julie’s cheek, the next moment her eager gaze on Pam. “May we see the clothes?” she asked.
Pam looked more stunned by the kiss than Julie, and Julie was very stunned herself. That had been their first kiss in front of someone else, after all, and she couldn’t imagine what Pam thought of seeing such a thing. It was one thing to be strange, so long as one kept it in private, but Julie thought that Pam would surely have found it disgusting.
Only, when she looked, she couldn’t quite tell what Pam was feeling, her expression blank.
After another moment of silence, Sammy stepped forward and tugged Julie with her. The movement brought Pam back to life. “Y-yes,” she said, quickly turning around. With similar haste, she scurried down the hallway.
Sammy tittered as she and Julie followed Pam. Back by the stairs, Pam opened a door into a smaller room, just the one bed inside, yet it had a larger wardrobe as well as a tall chest of drawers with a mirror on top.
“There’s a lot o’ dresses in ’ere,” Pam said, opening the wardrobe.
She wasn’t lying. Rather than a rail, the inside wall was neatly dotted with pegs to hang clothes on—and there wasn’t one spare. Really, it gave an impression of some strange piece of art: weirdly shaped columns of contrasting colours, stuffed neatly within a wooden frame.
“Fi was a bit… popular. She liked dresses and, well, her sweet’arts liked making her ’appy,” Pam said, only to cringe once she finished. “Sorry, ya don’t wanna hear ’bout that. And I don’t mean to make her sound…. She’s very kind, and pretty. When I was a tot and my maa visited ’ere, Fi always played with me, so she’s… a really good person, and she deserves to be a bit spoiled.”
That time, she fell into a moment of reminiscence rather than regret at her waffling. However, she quickly sobered, burying herself into the wardrobe to hide her blush.
“’Nyway, dresses…. Wot a’ ya lookin’ fer?” she asked, voice muffled by the dresses.
Julie looked over at Sammy and saw her with a strange expression. To Julie, it looked almost sentimental, as if Sammy herself was fondly remembering something from her childhood. But that didn’t stop her from answering Pam.
“For Julie, something like maroon—oh she looks good in browns with hints of red. For me, white or something light so we have a good contrast,” Sammy said.
“Right,” Pam said, and then said it again but softer to herself. She rifled through the collection of dresses from one end to the other, finally taking out a pair of dresses. “These good?” she asked as she held them up.
Sammy took the brown one first and she held it to the fading light before holding it in front of Julie. “Yes, this looks perfect,” she said, smiling.
Julie felt her heart beat quicker at those words, unsure why. She didn’t have long to think why either, Sammy moving on to the other dress.
“What do you think? Does this suit me?” Sammy asked.
It took Julie a moment to realise those questions were directed at her, another moment to look at the dress. The colour rather reminded Julie of pearls—not that she’d ever seen any up close—and the style had a youthfulness to it, something she thought a girl might wear to a dance. And she thought that that style rather suited Sammy: pure, unaffected by the world.
“Yeah,” Julie simply said.
Sammy’s smile became blinding. Indeed, when she turned and directed it at Pam, Pam had to look away. “We shall borrow these if we may,” Sammy said.
“Ah, yeah, o’ course, no problem,” Pam mumbled.
“Then, shall we go change?” Sammy said to Julie, and she quickly followed up by asking Pam, “Oh and I am sorry for burdening you further, but could you assist us? I am not familiar with how we should do up our hair for the festival.”
Pam gave a smile and nodded, then walked to the door.
However, before they changed, Julie had something she needed to take care of. Having never had a need for euphemisms, she hesitated over what to say until Pam stepped into the hall. “Um, is there a place I can… pick flowers?” she said.
Pam turned around with a mild frown. “We ’ave some in the garden, but the geiarlon at the festy are cheap a’ chalk?”
Between the two of them, Sammy merrily giggled to herself. Then, leaning towards Pam, she spoke a few words of Sonlettian that cleared everything up.
“Oh! Oh,” Pam said, her mouth settling into a cute, embarrassed smile. “There’s a’ outhouse through the kitchen,” she said to Julie.
“Thanks,” Julie replied, her own smile, while also embarrassed, more of a pained one.
Not wanting to linger, she went off on her own little journey. Her knowledge only took her to the bottom of the staircase; from there, she investigated the hallway, one room closed and the one opposite it a lounge. Further along, there was a cupboard under the stairs, then another closed door on one side, but, to her relief, the other door was open ajar and lit inside, the worktop speaking of a kitchen.
That relief only lasted a moment.
Inside the room, she was greeted by Marge. “Ah, Julie was it? Some’in’ the matter?”
Julie froze in place for a long second, far from used to actually talking to strangers (especially with Sammy around). Given her state, she was also rather focused on something else.
With her thoughts failing her, she blurted out, “I need to pee.”
“That’ll be the outhouse, then,” Marge said, nodding along. She then turned and gestured at the door just past her. “Can’t miss it.”
“Thanks,” Julie mumbled; unable to muster a smile this time, she just bowed her head.
Fortunately for her, the rest of her journey went without a hitch, even the trip back. But her footsteps slowed in the upstairs hallway, coming to a stop by the door as she heard Sammy speaking. With the door only open a sliver, she couldn’t see Sammy and Pam from where she stood, just listen to them.
“… wanted to kiss a woman?” Sammy asked.
“Yes,” Pam said, barely above a whisper.
And Julie couldn’t move. Hearing those words, she instantly recalled the sorts of things Sammy used to get up to, and assumed this was another of those times. Yet, unlike the past, her heart began to ache in her chest, painful.
That feeling distracted her, bringing to mind an intense anxiety that she was ill. In the growing silence after Pam’s answer, the anxiety consumed Julie, a hundred things it might have been flickering through her mind, a light-headedness narrowing her vision, legs growing unsteady. Each second dragged out longer than the last. She leant against the wall, trying to regulate her breaths as she’d been trained to do under pressure.
Before she could get herself under control, though, Sammy started speaking again and, as always, Julie couldn’t help but listen.
“I do not know much beyond my own experience, but I did have that same curiosity, and only with regards to women—never men. The urge to be near them and make them smile and laugh, to touch and kiss them, to connette them. Though now, I may appreciate the beauty of other women, but those feelings are for my Julie and her alone.”
In the moment of silence that followed, Julie settled down. Only, her mood like a pendulum, it swung beyond calm as a kind of manic energy bubbled up inside her. Pushed by it, she couldn’t stay still and so opened the door wide enough to fit through.
Inside, her gaze sought out Sammy first, who was sitting on the one bed. Pam, then, stood a few paces away, face splotchy and hands wringing, and she stared at Julie with wide eyes and a thin mouth.
Sammy smiled at Julie. “Is that better?” she asked.
Drawn back to Sammy, Julie nodded and walked over, taking a seat close by Sammy’s side. Still bubbling over, Julie felt the need to do something and so, acting on impulse, she leaned over and left a light kiss on Sammy’s cheek. As she pulled back, Sammy’s hand found hers and gave it a squeeze.
Acting like nothing had changed, Sammy looked at Pam. “I have not learned enough about those who are like us to give any meaningful advice. However, what I can say is that there is no feeling more euphoric than finding someone who not only accepts you, but returns your affection.”
Pam gently nodded while unable to meet Sammy’s eye.
Sammy laughed a few notes with her free hand covering her mouth. “Let us talk tomorrow—we have a place to be tonight.”
“Y-yes,” Pam said, nodding.
So they prepared for the festival.
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