Flash Fiction: A Slayer To Come

Today’s story is inspired by Dragon Empress by Michelle Monique.

“You came all this way to see me?” She said. She called herself serpent queen, but she bore no dragon blood. I knew such things; I could sense it. Though she commanded the wyrms, they didn’t do so out of respect. The truth lied in the orb before her thorn.

She was a gile, something like a humanoid reptile. Her skin was scaled and horned, but she bore the features of mammals, with an armored bosom covered only by a leather corset and gown. The leather looked bovine, but I could see where strips of draconic skin had been used for seams and wyrm gut for stitching. Her attire was smart. I’ll give her that. The gut and skin would lend her power, but if the entire dress was made of the draconic flesh she would be their pawn instead. The throne she sat on was also covered in cow leather, although wyrm knuckles made up the arms and a pair of collar bones supported the back. The entire display was setup to channel dragon energy without it consuming her.

“Tell me, dragon-slayer. Are you here to kill me, or just my children?”

“Both,” I said. “Your dragons defile the land, and your will is the cause. But more than anything, I’m going to destroy that rock of yours.”

The orb was sitting on a pedestal the queen could reach by leaning forward enough in her chair. It rested on a velvet cushion, a red nearly identical to the tone of the underside of the queen’s gown. The orb wasn’t smooth or polished, but it was refined. Were it a perfected orb the fight to come would not likely go in my favor. These hearts were powerful and they lent energy to the dragons effected by them. The more it was perfected the better the results, but it took a skilled hand to smooth the stone without shattering it. This serpent queen did not have such a skilled craftsman, thankfully.

“You boast too much for my liking, slayer. But, I am generous. I know there are others like me out there in control of their own armies. To have an agent like you to assist me against them would be most beneficial, don’t you think?” She smiled, revealing two rows of razor sharp teeth. That was cosmetic. Gile have teeth like men, and while some are sharp, most are reasonable like in any animal. I hope it had hurt to do that to herself.

“Are you so blind?” I asked. “My presence alone is weakening your hold on your wyrms. Time enough and I’d drain your little stone and they’d try to consume us both.”

It was a bluff. The charms I wore were weakening the influence of the heart but never enough to break the hold she’d have. I needed her to attack me first though. That’s how my sword, Bitter, worked. It would act as a normal blade were I to attack someone first, but if someone else were to strike at me the blade hastened my movements against them. It was not a blade for someone who would sneak about.

The queen looked to her orb and the four young wyrms in the room with us. I could see her faith in the artifact fading. Now, if she just took the bait.

Her command to the wyrm might have been mental, but she nodded when she gave the command. The pressure changed around me as the large form tried to crash into where I had been standing. Bitter had already commanded me to unsheathe her, and by the time I realized she had me jump I was already coming down on the wyrm’s head. The strike was perfect, hitting between the bone just above the eye socket, where the optic nerve and the brain could be hit from a vertical attack. My blade severed the creature’s sight and its ability to breath in one stroke. I stepped off just as it’s bleeding brain screamed at its body to rise and try to gasp for air. Its head swept past my back as it moved back in a panic. The perfect blow. It would die in moments once it finished suffocating.

The queen looked terrified, and I could feel the emotions of the dragons around me wash the area with fear, confusion, and awe. I flicked the blood and brain matter from Bitter and pointed the blade at the orb.

“Now then, Serpent Queen, I must fulfill my oath.”

Not much to say about today’s fiction other than to point out how total bad-ass that photography is from the inspiration.

Serial Fiction: Hands – Ep 006

“So how is he?” Deron asked.

Dr. DeProspero looked exhausted. When Glen was brought in, Deron had called the Doctor’s emergency line. He had drove in immediately and had spent the last two hours with Glen in the ICU.

“Not good. Not good at all.”

The two of them were in a special waiting area outside the intensive care unit for family and lawful associates. The countless wrappers of gum and candy Deron had gone through while trying not to scream his head off made for quite a pile on the table between them.

“His exertion tonight was so overwrought that I’m afraid that even if his burns heal, he may never feel his hands again. He may regain some slight movement once the muscles repair, but as he stands now I can only recommend total implant replacement.”

“But he won’t able to project through cybernetic hands.”

The doctor tilted his head down towards Deron.

“That may be for the best. Mr…”

“Travis. I took his name,” Deron said, unconsciously rubbing the band on his left hand.

“Right, Mr. Travis, Glen’s current position as a projectionist may not be best suited for him. While he may be proficient beyond what you or I can do with simple parlor tricks, but his continuous injuries do not lend him to continue in the field as a professional. Much like any physical sports athlete of a similar age, it may be best to consider other endeavors.”

“Dr. DeProspero to ward three. Dr. DeProspero to ward three, please,” the hospital intercom speaks said.

DeProspero stood and turned to Deron.

“A nurse or me will be back shortly to give you an update. As I said he is stable and once we’re sure he’s ready you can visit him. It shouldn’t be much longer.”

“Okay. Thank you, Doctor.”

Deron stood up and offered to shake the doctor’s hand. Instead of shaking it, DeProspero cupped it between both of his hands.

“We’re doing everything we can for Glen right now, but soon he’s going to have to make a hard choice. I hope you’ll be there to help him keep his own health in mind.”

Deron nodded.

“I will. Always.”

*****

“Hey floppy,” Deron said as he stepped into Glen’s unit. He had been moved from the general floor to a private unit in the ICU. The date clothing had been stripped from him, and he was now wearing only a light hospital gown and massaging socks. Two large boxes were strapped to his arms and Deron could see blue liquid inside. The liquid was too opaque to see Glen’s hands and he was thankful for that. Several lines were attached to Glen’s right arm; an IV drip, a line checking his pulse, an energy strip, and a few others. A mask covered his face below his eyes and a clear tube from that lead to a pump next to the side of his bed. Above all the equipment was a triangle pointed down and a rune of the Kahm The-Solace. Seeing that ward against possession gave Deron a certain level of comfort.

“Looks like they’re giving you the good meds.” Deron looked at the IV bag hanging next to Glen.

“Yeah, feels like it. I can’t feel anything.” Glen was weak, but he was breathing strongly.

“That so? Well you had me worried sick.”

“I know.”

Deron reached over and ran his hand over Glen’s forehead. Glen sighed in comfort.

“Well, you feel that.” They both chuckled.

“Did the officer come by yet?” Glen asked.

Deron nodded.

“He did. I gave a report and he said he’ll be back to take yours once you were up for it. He said to thank you.”

“What did I do?” Glen had closed his eyes as Deron had started to rub his thumb in a light circle on his forehead.

“You got the slinger. Officer Lance said the patrol found the weapon about half a block away with its barrel melted. The mugger threw it away and they said they have prints from it.”

“Hey-hey, go team Travis.”

A nurse pulled back the curtain to the ICU and smiled at Deron.

“Hi there. Just checking his vitals. You are?”

“His partner.”

“Okay. Good, glad he’s got someone to take care of him. He’s been a sweetie.”

“Don’t spread rumors. I’m a badass,” Glen said, his eyes now sealed and his breathing becoming light.

“Looks like you’re about to drift off.” The nurse chuckled. “Don’t worry, you can stay with him for a little bit. The doc will be in shortly to give him a review before we send him to a room, but you’re not in the way.”

“Thank you,” Deron said.

“Okay, all checks out. I’ll be with you again in a few minutes. Get some rest, Mr. Badass. You’ll need it for healing.”

Hands is a serial fiction series set in the Draco Artificium universe. Read the first piece here. Find the rest of the series here. New episodes go up Wednesdays.

Status Report – April 2016

It’s the first Monday of the month, and that makes it update time.

The first quarter has now come to a close. Three months of self-publishing goals and deadlines have passed and where do we stand? March was the start of a weekly serial fiction. In addition to the Monday/Friday serial fiction we’ve been putting out we’ve kept up this project to par. I say to par because we didn’t get the overflow I wanted for the short fiction. Instead we’re still writing week to week and in some cases missing the Patreon week-a-head-of-time goal. That’s passing but it’s not great. Since we’ve talked grading scale here in the past I think that earns at best a B. Yes, it’s good we’re writing but we’re not taking that extra step we need to accomplish our end goals.

The Novel is somewhere around 15k. It’s nowhere near complete and that’s really my fault. I got distracted, pure and simple and for two weeks now I’ve set a Friday deadline of 20k words. Well, now it’s time to up the ante. I know I can do 3k a day. I did it several times over the last few weeks, days when I wrote both flash fiction and a short story. Those are great things but they’re not my goal. The novel is. So That’s the gauntlet, 3k a day this week. 30k total by the end of Friday. That’s with flash fiction as well out there. It means I need to have between 3.5-5k writing days every day this week to meet my deadline, but this is necessary. I’ve been saying the novel will be done by December, January, February, and March so far. April is the final deadline, and with the current word count and my goals of 70-80k words for the story, I’m going to need 15k a week to get there. Current grade for novel writing: D

So that’s our April goals:

  • 15k for the novel each week.
  • Complete all of April Flash fiction by April 15.
  • Get back to weekly podcasting.

Flash Fiction: Golden Fields

“Where you able to find the way?”

Bryan smiled.

“Am I not here?”

Roland gave him a playful shove and the brothers laughed at their joke. It felt good to laugh, especially in these darker times. The days were full of sadness, and the loss of a great friend and leader weighed heavily on each of the brothers’ mind. They were heading west, to the great city by the coast. There they would meet with the rest of their party. Gal had suggested the gathering after the past night’s events, and each of the group travelled along the salt coast to find those who would honor the fallen and to prepare the gathering. Roland and Bryan would be the last to arrive, having spent the night in the home of their fallen leader. His parents, shadowed and heartbroken, declined to travel with them. They would honor their lost son in their own way.

“Do you believe these events are occurring, Roland?” Bryan asked.

The western sun blinded them a moment as they crested the last large hill towards the coastal city. Here the golden color stretched across fields and small hills until reaching the outskirts of the city. Clay and brick took on masks of light and shadow until the city hugged the sea and the entire body of water looked ablaze with fire.

“With the miracles I have seen, no, I have a hard time coming to grips with these days, brother.”

They paused there a moment, watching clouds pull in and dance before the sun. At first only the wind joined them but soon the sound of sandals on the pressed dirt of the road joined the soundscape. The figure coming up the hill was tall, lean, and filled the men with warmth as he was washed in the sun’s light.

“My fellows, why do you idle on the road towards the sea?” the new arrival asked.

“We pause for reflection, my friend,” Bryan said. “The evening’s beauty inverts the mirror of the darkness of these past days.”

The new arrival raised his brow.

“Darkness you say? While I see cloud I do not recall it hiding the sun or basking us in shade for more than a few minutes of leisure.”

Roland chuckled, “No. Not true darkness, but we have lost one of our great men of the world. He was taken from us, judged, punished for his light, and slain. My brother and I go to the great city to morn him.”

“It seems you walk with a shadow over you then. I would walk with you, if you’d have me. Perhaps I may grant some light over these shades.”

The brothers both nodded.

“Certainly, fellow traveler. Thought he is lost to us; his words are not. He would have you walk with him as a brother, and so join us as a brother.”

They continued down the road, towards the great coastal city and its glowing rooftops. Where two brothers walked in the shadow of loss, three walked forward in the light together.

Flash Fiction: Swarm Bonds

Today’s story is inspired by Bloop, by Ian Jun Wei Chiew

“The site is beautiful. When did it get commissioned?” Rav was moving towards the stream that ran through the site. The crisp ruby color of the water was glowing, and it illuminated many of the nearby spires.

“About two weeks ago. Architect designed it on a dare from the Second High Magistrate.” Wess was the escort for the sortie, and had brought Rav here to review the work the Crafters had completed several hours ago. “They worked through the weekend and I must inform you, they used your swarms.”

Rav paused, taking his vision away from the rounded metal hills and floating spires around the site. He pointed to himself and Wess nodded.

“You’re joking! Mine? The Second High Magistrate’s private crafters used my swarms to make this?” He cheered and looked at the site again in deeper admiration. “This is a dream. I just know it. I’m in my holo-suite with a downloaded dream.”

Wess laughed.

“No. No, little Hatcher, you’re not. The life you brought to existence has proven its worth.”

Rav had fallen to his knees, and was looking at the bank of the water. The ground was a glass like material. From a distance it looked smooth but up close he could see it was crumpled into multiple little hexagon shaped tiles. This gave the surface grip while near-perfectly reflecting the ruby light of the glowing stream.

“Look! Here,” he said. “There’s my markings! How did I not see that earlier?” He was indicating a small chip in each of the hexagons. It was a series of bumps that would be missed by the naked eye, but all Hatchers programed their swarms with some signature. Rav choose the world pattern lines where a thread of his genetic imprint could be found.

“Perfection, my pupil. Truly. The Second High Magistrate is pleased. Not just with the Architect’s quick design or his Crafter’s work, but with the stability of your swarm. The Architects are already working on another project for her, and they are working closely with the Crafters. They also want to work closely with you.”

Rav gasped, and looked to his guide.

“Wess, I. They want me for another project? So soon? I thought they preferred to source many swarms.”

“Of course they do. But the Second High Magistrate is more conservative. She likes to work with what has proven to work. Which is why you are officially informed of your promotion to chief Hatcher of Triforn-Three.”

That was it. Rav felt consciousness escape him a moment and nearly fell flat on the ground before the swarm lifted up and caught him. The ground curved and then lifted until he was in a seated position when Wess came over to him, laughing.

“Are you okay?” Wess said between chuckles.

“Chief Hatcher of an entire planet? Wess. Wess, I don’t know if I’m ready.”

“You are, my pupil. You are. You’ve earned this. I’ve seen your swarm. I’m standing on the fruits of it as we speak. Your creations are ready to do more than just design a beautiful garden that will be torn down the next time some official gets bored. They’re ready to take part in building an entire world.”

He looked at Rav and smiled, then leaned in and gave him a kiss on the forehead.

“You have come so far since I first met you as a little birth. My pupil, I am so happy of you. From the small little world we come from, you now move to design a giant. I couldn’t ask for more. I couldn’t be more proud.”

The swarm helped Rav lift up and as he caught his bearings he looked around once more. The design of this garden wasn’t his. The exact building wasn’t either, but the heart of the works belongs to the strength of his creation. His sigil was on every stream bank, every plant, every standing spire. It was a fraction of what was to come, of a world built by the labors of his brain. He looked to Wess and beamed. He could do it. He knew it now. It was time for him to prove his worth.

Serial Fiction: Hands – Ep 005

Deron laughed as Glen praised the dinner again.

“I think you had a better time than I did,” he said.

They were riding an auto-chariot back home, travelling along Greater Reid street into the south Welsprin district. Dinner had been extravagant, and the booth in the private section had offered luxuries they’d never see without sacrificing weeks of Deron’s pay. That alone was enough to have the night cement itself as an evening the two would never forget. They had followed up the outing with a visit to an inner ring club they liked and despite it being a week night the place had been packed. Between wine and dancing, the two were somewhere between completely energized and exhausted. Now it was nearing two am and they were heading home.

“Maybe,” Glen said. He was already pressed against Deron’s chest. His mind sat somewhere between the warmth of his partner and the flush feeling the wine from dinner gave him. Glen looked at Deron and leaned up, kissing him at first with a simple peck and then a deeper connection between their lips. Deron pulled back a second and gasped, smiling and laughing with warmth from the sudden deep exchange. He leaning down and cupping Glen’s cheek before kissing him back, taking in the moist lips and heated breath from his partner.

“Maybe,” Glen said again, this time between light pecks and the occasional squeeze and tug on Deron’s leg and stomach. “Maybe the night is still not done.”

Glen was already kissing Deron’s bare stomach with his partner was running fingers through his hair when the chariot chimed at them.

“Notice. Your destination is no longer available. Due to routine maintenance of the grid, your destination is not available at this time. Please select from the following options for new destination.”

“What?” Deron said, his mind somewhere lost in the fog of Glen’s touch and several glasses of wine still in his body.

“Notice. Your destination,” the chariot started to repeat.

“Yeah, we heard that,” Glen said. He huffed in annoyance, as his sexual desire now turned to frustration. The chariot had pulled up a projection window that he pulled over. It showed a large three dimensional rendering of New Castle and the part of town they were arriving in. Welsprin was dark on the map, as were a few other nearby neighborhoods. The destinations the chariot offered were far to the north of their home, but Glen could see a closer location two blocks to the west of their apartment, a street south of Lord and just inside the Iron Wall district.

“Looks like we can redirect there,” Deron said. “I don’t mind a little walk to get this baby weight off.”

“Oh you got a bit of a food baby?” Glen said playfully, reaching over to touch Deron’s still exposed belly. He had pushed his stomach out, to make himself more curved looking but when Glen touched him, he quickly found himself being tickled.

“Ack! No!” Deron said, playfully slapping Glen’s hand away. “No messing with the food baby!”

“Driver,” Glen said between light laughter, “Take us to this address.”

“There will be a charge for change of destination.”

“Bull. Connect me to your dispatch.”

The display switched almost immediately to the view of a Dwarven man sitting in a cubical. His eyes were thin and the smile he attempted seemed lost in his tired expression.

“New Castle Gold Chariot dispatch and customer service. We’re here to move you. I’m Lance, company ID ED0981. That’s ED as in East-Downs. and I’m here to help. What can I do for you?”

Glen took a deep breath to start to chew the guy out when Deron nudged him over. The similarities between their work spaces wasn’t lost on the gaijin office worker.

“Evening Lance. Sorry to bother you. I know it must be a rough night with maintenance going on like this,” Deron said, hoping to disarm Lance with sympathy.

Lance nodded on the screen. His thin eyes perked a bit, coming out of automatic response mode from Deron’s greeting.

“It’s been a doozy.”

“Yeah, must be getting a couple of calls. We’re in a bit of a trial here too. The chariot is saying our destination isn’t valid anymore because of south-east side maintenance but it isn’t letting us redirect to a much closer destination. At least, not without a fee. Can you give it a look?”

The dwarf had already started to type and shared windows were popping up around the display link to him.

“Ah yeah, I can see why you’d rather be there. The thing just doesn’t want to get off the ring as early as It’d need to. Give me a minute to talk to it.”

Glen had started to run his fingers over Deron’s back while he talked, and Deron playfully swatted him away. He had a feeling either the magician was going to pass out on him soon or neither of them would be getting any sleep tonight. Either way it was going to be quite a day dealing with the aftermath at work tomorrow.

“Destination updated,” the chariot said.

“And there we go,” Lance said, now with a smile on his face.

“Wonderful. Thank you so much, Lance. Hope we weren’t too much of a bother.”

“Nah, happy to help. And unless you need anything else, you two have a lovely evening.”

“Nope, all good.” Deron said. Lance nodded and the connection closed. The window left behind a message asking how employee ED0981 did, and Deron reached out to slide the marker to the five-star level. “Now then, where were we?”

*****

The ride to Archer and Sullivan went by faster than either man wanted. Deron kept fighting to keep his shirt on while Glen did everything he could to touch as much of his lover as was possible in the cramped cabin. The chariot came to a halt in front of a Rose-Arms, the local convenience store Deron stopped at most morning for breakfast. The sight of it made his stomach grumble but the sexually charged lush kissing his neck distracted him from the thought.

“This way, sweetie,” Deron said, aiming them east along Archer. Although Sullivan marked the line between Iron Wall and Welsprin, the buildings here were more the style of the former district. Welsprin mostly relied on newer apartment complexes and renovated condos for the upper-middle class and well-to-do creators that made up the arts districts. This side of Welsprin kept the charm of the older parts of the city, relying on Iron Wall’s heavy brownstone city blocks. The ones in Welsprin where nicer and cleaner than the Iron Wall district, but the similarities between this area of town and Iron Wall couldn’t be missed.

Most of the buildings here had lights on the first floor but were darkened above street level. Lobby lights and street lamps brought a warmth to the shadows of the evening, and the occasional chariot passing flashed their lights along the avenue. There wasn’t any other foot traffic that Deron could see, so it was like the block belonged to the two of them this evening.

“Keep your head up, silly one,” Deron said. “We’re almost home.”

Glen had started to nod off a bit. He continued to try to reach for Deron but the long ride, the alcohol, and the weight of the day was starting to get to him.

“Come on, just a block.”

They had crossed past two apartment buildings when Deron stopped them. He wasn’t as attuned as Glen was but he was sure he felt something. It was like a muffled sound being held back by a strange pressure. He looked behind them and across the street but nothing seemed wrong or out of place. Just the distant sound of traffic and Glen’s light breathing.

He started them moving again, but with each step he felt something was wrong. He wished Glen was soberer so he could ask him what he felt. That might have been why when the shockwave of pressure came he was able to keep himself from being completely knocked over. Glen wasn’t so lucky, as he stumbled back towards the alley between two of the apartments. As the spell dissipated, Deron found himself caught on the side of one of the brownstones.

“Credit sticks, now,” a male voice said. Deron had caught himself on the wall, and was trying to look up at the speaker but his eyes locked on the slinger in their attacker’s hands. “Now!”

“Oh shit,” Deron said, and reached for his pocket. He’d never been mugged before, and his first instinct was to turn and run but he couldn’t see where Glen had gone. He wanted to look but he couldn’t take his eyes off the weapon aimed at him. He pulled at his pocket and found his credit stick was stuck. He cursed and yanked but instead of the stick coming out cleanly it flew from his pocket to the ground.

“You kahm-lovin’ idiot,” the mugger said. He took a step closer to Deron when a wheel of fire erupted in front of him. The surprise plasma knocked him off balance and he staggered back while trying to keep the gun in his hands.

“How dare you!” Glen screamed. He came out of the alley all fire and dragon-raged. His training in the theater and his years handling burning magic mixed with his alcohol laden mind, causing him to make the choice to attacker their mugger. Fire poured from his hands like angry claws and he shot forward as flames propelled him by his feet. The mugger tried to raise the Wagg-Otto short-slinger at him but Glen had already directed a wave of fire towards the man’s face. The onslaught wasn’t as intense or effective as a spell meant to actually harm but the illusion of the intensity of flame was enough to frighten their attacker away. Glen still sent waves of flame towards the man as he fled, but none of them connected, lacking the intent to truly do harm.

“Oh thank Khams,” Deron said, breathing a sigh of relief. He collected himself and picked up his credit stick before stepping over to check on Glen. His heart sank when he saw the aftermath of the magical display.

Tears were welling up in Glen’s eyes while his hands, blackened and smoking, where held out before him. Blisters that had long ago healed had welled up and were bursting, and pieces of his flesh sizzled from the heat of the heavy casting. The mastery Glen had used on stage had kept him from too sudden of an injury but this exertion while unfocused and drunk was too much.

“By the one on high, what have I done?”

Hands is a serial fiction series set in the Draco Artificium universe. Read the first piece here. Find the rest of the series here. New episodes go up Wednesdays.

Flash Fiction: Setting The Sails

Today’s story was inspired by photography by Gary Clutterbuck. Like most inspiration for flash fiction, I found the original inspiration picture on Deviant Art.

The smile wasn’t fueled by knowing she was right. That helped, but it wasn’t the heart of the happiness. It was also being supporting by the magistrate. After ten years of sky calling, they had finally chosen Delia to be their spear. Today they had granted her captain status of The Anvil, the fastest combat vessel for the entire magistrate fleet, and she’d need that speed in the task assigned to her. In four hours The Anvil would be sent off to locate and find the rogue caller, Arana Forge, her sister.

“Captain on deck,” a young ensign said as she approached the birthing pod for The Anvil. The group of sailors pulling themselves into ranks and stood at attention, awaiting her approach. Their uniforms were sleek and black things, worn for armor protection but to also channel each of their natural abilities to manipulate gravity around them. The uniforms shared the same material of the hull of the magistrate’s ships, allowing a crew to keep a vessel aloft for days at a time if needed. Her own dress was informal, and designed more like the uniforms worn back in the day ships like The Anvil were designed. More elegant and wavy and less pressed and military. The style wasn’t preferred by the magistrate’s navy, but it helped her channel far more than the simple standardized uniforms.

“At ease,” she said, her voice carrying over the sounds of the maintenance and crews beyond the berth they stood in. Her crew lowered their arms and folded them behind their back in one quick motion. “Good,” she thought, “a seasoned crew.”

“At ten-hundred hours, The Anvil and crew will be departing Port Saint Georgette. We aim for the maelstrom colonies, southern coast. Our mission is the retrieval of the rogue clipper, His Open Trust. This ship is crewed by the rogue caller, Arana Forge. And yes, before any of you ask, that is my sister. We will aim to take her alive, but in the interest of the magistrate, her navy, and her people we will not settle for an escape of this rogue agent even if that means Arana’s death. Are we understood?”

“Yes sir,” the crew said in unison.

“Good. I want this ship sky worthy within two hours. Ensign?”

The same young man took a step forward then twisted on his heel to the gathered sailors.

“Crew, dismissed!”

The sailors broke ranks and moved back to their work posts. The ensign turned back to his captain.

“Captain, Ensign Karn Flown, we should have no problem having her sky worthy within the hour. Are you hoping to depart early, sir?”

“No,” Delia said. “I want the crew ready to go but I want us to share a meal before we go.”

“Sir?” the ensign said. Delia looked to his uniform.

“Consider it a family tradition handed to me from my parents. Before a long journey or an important event, they always fed us to comfort us. As this will be this crew’s first time hunting what was once a friendly vessel and possibly friends and for me family, it will be both a hard journey and a hard task to complete. Besides, warm food on a morning like this wouldn’t hurt, wouldn’t you say, Ensign Flown?”

The ensign was writing something down but nodded. He looked up when he realized he was expected to answer.

“Oh, yes Captain Forge. Of course, sir.”

“What are you writing down?”

“Orders for the cook, sir. I assume you’re looking to have something a little special compared to our normal chow, so I’m preparing him an order for stock to pull from our berth’s store.”

“Ah, a sailor who thinks on the move and the future contents of his stomach. Excellent. Carry on then, I’ll be in my quarters. Dismissed.”

Ensign Flown saluted Delia, and hurried to a few men and women gathering supplies near the rear of the ship. The captain watched as they took and read the orders from the Ensign. From this distance it looked like they chuckled. She let it go and headed towards the boarding rope for the ship.

The Anvil rested in its berth, wings and arms held up by the large iron and steel beams of the warehouse. The ship was a sleek clipper, built to catch the wind while having her sky callers direct her. Most ships consisted of a set of large wings built to the sides of the vessel, and sails on the top and bottom of the vessel to catch the wind and help the callers on board guide the ship gently through the air. The anvil was different. She was built in segmented cones, each ending in a wide sail that could be fanned out to catch the wind but quickly pulled back under light armored plating. She wouldn’t be able to handle a heavy barrage, but she was designed to be fast enough to not have to. The weave of sky stone in her hull would let a team of skilled sky callers press her forward at incredible paces, although she could see immediately that long battles would be hard in the ship. It would demand much from her crew in combat, and require long periods of rest afterwards.

She took the boarding rope in hand and focused on her dress. The sky stone built into it begin to glow lightly as her natural talents fueled them. Escaping gravity, she used the rope to pull herself up. Traditional ships like her previous vessel, The Promise of Dawn, were decked ships, meaning they had large areas on the top or bottom of the ship that sailors could stand in the open air. The Anvil didn’t have such a space, at least not in the front or on the bulk of the ship. It was a sealed ship, with its hull coating all sides of the ship space and the only access points being hatches built every one-hundred-and-twenty degrees. The boarding rope was attached to one of these panels, and Captain Delia entered her new vessel for the first time.

I’m toying with this story. Unlike most of the flash fiction here, this piece has ended up in my serial fiction folder. The concept of the story sort of took off (pun intended), and I’d like to see what Captain Delia Forge does in the hunt for her rogue sister. I wonder if she can actually carry through with killing her or if family will win out over national loyalty. We’ll see. If I do end up exploring her fate, I’ll update this and future stories in the series as official serial fiction.

Flash Fiction: Rainbow

“Are you kidding me?” Ace said over the comms. We were travelling as quickly as the blades would let us, but the winged suits just couldn’t match the speed of the target. “How is it going so fast?”

“Something other than traditional propulsion?” Jeevan offered. “We’re going pretty fast ourselves.”

“Yes, but you’re wearing the latest in Iconica, Alpha-1,” Leoncio said back at the tower. “I’m not reading anything radioactive besides you three, so it’s not Praeter Hominum. Nothing tech either.”

“Don’t say it,” Ace said.

They were sweeping across the landscapes of central Yzamire. The land was uninhabited for the most part, and served as the wing’s current training and testing grounds. It was during one of these routine tests that Marina spotted the rainbow pattern in the distance. Leoncio confirmed the radar hit, but couldn’t confirm what it was. By then the three of them, Marina, Jeevan, and Ace, were in pursuit.

“Can you get the locals to scramble something our way?” Marina asked.

“Negative. They don’t want anything to do with our territory. Something about the feedback from you three screwing up their jets. Unless this thing started to become a problem to their citizens, they won’t touch it near us.”

“Great, ‘I’m sorry we took too long to help you, we figured the super heroes could handle something insane.’ That makes me feel comfortable,” Ace said. “I’m going to try to increase my burn. Jeevan, got my left?”

“I’ve got your left, Ace.”

“Ugh, I really wish you wouldn’t say super heroes,” Marina said. She had moved to the rear of them. Ace’s maneuver should bolt him forward as he pushed his energies into the wing suit. Jeevan’s projection would help with sling shooting him forward. It was the maneuver they had been practicing all week.

“Oh, get off it, Marina. They think anyone with powers is some sort of costume wearing idiot. Ours just happens to be para-military. Adjusting, now.”

Ace’s metal wings flared as his energy surged through the wings. Jeevan’s sleek form dived in behind him and a radiant shield started to form around her. Ace tilted, and the shield streaked out small tendrils of power against his wings. Both projections flared and the flying man zipped ahead.

“Alright, I’m gaining on the target. Leon, you have my feed?”

“Confirm, Alpha-2. I do. But you don’t want to hear what I’m reading, remember?” Leoncio said.

“I hate magic,” Marina said. “So unpredictable.”

The rainbow colored form grew larger as Ace approached it. They had already observed from a distance the object wasn’t flying right, but now Ace struggled to understand it’s flight at all. It wasn’t moving constantly, rather it was stopping then moving like a video that was buffering. It would stay still for a second then fling itself forward at an incredible pace. Its body wasn’t built for flight either, lacking wings, propeller, turbines, or anything else that enabled human flight. It was like it didn’t care that it should be falling.

“This thing is hurting my head,” Ace said.

“Alpha-2, let’s not approach any further,” Leoncio said. “If that’s something mystical, I’d want to get the Corporal on it.”

“The kid? You want the kid near this thing? I don’t think so,” Marina said.

“Can it, Marina. Leoncio, confirmed. I agree with your assessment. Ace, pull back.” Jeevan said.

“Sure thing, once you tell it to let me go.” He had felt the tug once he could see the strange square box properly. It was a flying a brick, with arcane carvings all over the surface. This was the source of the radiant light as most of the sigils glowed in different colors so bright they were visible in the mid-day sun. Its jaunts were getting slower and he could feel it pulling him too it faster and faster.

“Come again, Alpha-2?”

“I’ve been trying to slow down but my readings show I’m accelerating. I’m only putting enough energy into my wings to keep me aloft. I think the box is curious about me too.”

“Can you dive?” Jeevan asked.

“Let me try.”

It was like moving against a thick syrup. He shifted his wings down and pushed with as much energy as he could project into the wings. They flared as the lights on the ship also flared. An emotion of frustration and annoyance washed over him before he felt himself jerking away from the vessel. It accelerated it’s spacial skipping pace as he broke away. By the time he recovered, it was already a spec on the horizon.

“You okay?” Marina asked, flying close to him.

“Yeah, I am. I just wish I knew what they wanted with me.”

“Well, get ready, Alpha-2,” Leoncia said. “My readings show it’s turning around.”

Serial Fiction: Hands – Ep 004

“The elevator will just be a second, Miss Nejem,” the gaijin concierge said. She didn’t bother reading his name plate. The New Castle children were all the same boring clods, groomed to an ideal form of perfection that rang hollow and boring to her.

Husniya Aliyyah Nejem was here to meet with her master’s local spy master. It was a common practice amongst the wyrms to spy on rivals, and while local clutches often sought local talent such a trusting nature wasn’t always permitted for those beyond the misty boarders. Azial, her master, had been lacing cities like New Castle, Gar Raesa, and Greater Borrano for generations and in time these cities bore the fruit of skilled spies lying in wait.

The elevator came back down a minute later, absent the two poorly dressed men. The hume concierge seemed to be surprised when they were waiting for his return.

“My apologies, Miss Nejem,” he said, quickly rushing out of their way.

“Move Bakir, move,” her gaijin escort said. “Inform the host immediately, on foot.”

Aliyyah smiled as the hume ran off towards a stairwell. The gaijin concierge seemed to understand the insult against her, and was punishing his subordinate for her. At least New Castle had some manners.

The third floor of Ilahi was coated in a warm patches crimson and gold. Each table was a secluded nest with seating for up to ten in thick leather buckets. The tables were ringed with old world wood and the surface was smooth stone with a slight coating to reduce the sound of fine china brushing against it. The menus were made of slight projections that showed fully rendered versions of each dish, complete with chemical squirts for odor and flavor suggestion. The master chef here didn’t leave anything to chance, and if a patron received something they didn’t like it would ultimately be their own fault.

“This way, Miss Nejem.” He lead her towards the outer banks of tables, where the neighboring building obscured any pleasant views and the tables were outfitted with panels showing more pleasant vistas of New Castle and lands beyond. Most of the tables were unoccupied here, except one now containing the out of place men and their wide smiles. She caught a better glimpse of them as she passed, noticing the highland hume’s scared and bandaged hands. Was he a bodyguard? Unlikely. Too unobservant of her and their surroundings. Those were magical burns though, and the type caused by one’s own casting. Still, his mannerism indicated he didn’t belong here so didn’t come from money. Why was he here then?

“Madam Nejem,” said a large orc man as her escort brought her to their shared table. “It is a pleasure.” The spy master didn’t bother to rise for her, but instead kept his eyes on the aisle as she slid into the booth. He nodded to the escort and at once the gaijin vanished from their table. The orc glanced out once more then turned back to Aliyyah.

“Welcome to New Castle. I take it your flight was full?”

“Only in the head,” She said, responding to his requested phrase. The man relaxed a hair and nodded.

“Good, good. I’m glad to hear that. Pardon this though,” He said, as she felt a large foot brush against her leg. She stiffened in surprised but then gritted her teeth as she felt the connection spark.

My apologies, Aliyyah, but this is the only truly secure link,” his voice echoed in her head.

“I think I’ll try a white tonight, what do you recommend for dinner?” She asked out loud.

It is understood. Give your report.

“If you are going with a white, I’d suggest one of the local specialties of fish,” he replied. He was a typical large New Castle resident. Though this spy master, his name unknown to her, was of the blood of Azial he looked bloated and fat compared to the men born and raised in the city-state of Etza. His orc heritage didn’t bother her as, like her gaijin blood, his lineage had been tempered in the years under the dragon. Unlike the other city states of the current era, Etza had long held Azial in high regard and it was only natural the dragon had taken over.

They are here, but I fear they are in the hands of an enemy. A servant of one of the Duke’s Lords.

Do you know which Lord, which servant?” she asked. She idly flicked through the virtual menu until she found something that appealed to her pallet.

His name is unknown, but he serves Deus, one of the more competitive of the Lord of New Castle.

We are familiar with the wyrm. Then it is likely Allaway. Ever has he been a thorn.” Roswell Uilleam Allaway was a name known to many of the collectors beyond New Castle. He was a fierce combatant with hands in many of the cities. She had personally seen fit to the destruction of his network of spies, The Daggers, that he had injected into Etza. For the agent of a lord and not a Duke, he was formidable.

“The fish it is,” Aliyyah said. “What are you having?”

“What you had,” he said with a sly smile.

Then you have quite a task ahead of you. Ross is no easy quarry. But all is not lost, there may be a chance you can draw him out.”

“Oh?” She knew he wouldn’t bring the charms out in the open, and would unlikely wear them himself. They didn’t belong to Azial, but to one of Azial’s silent parents. In their slumber the charms and any other artifact would grant power to their users without the typical bonding curse, but Ross wouldn’t risk using them as that would exposure their imprint to the world.

“In a few weeks there is a gala event. The Winter Solstice next month is a favored holiday of Tyrant.”

Aliyyah chuckled in her head while she ordered the items from the menu.

“Tell me, does he bare himself in the open for such gatherings?”

“No, not him, but his lords do, briefly. And they often escorted by their loyalists.”

“Are you suggesting a direct assault against a dragon and his prize collector?”

“No, no, only that it will be a guaranteed time both collector and wyrm will be out of their lair.”

Aliyyah nodded, but paused as laughter broke from the nearby table.

Do not panic, I have already identified those two. The unmared one is a simple clerk. The burned man is a performer. A magician alone.”

“A Magician you say? Tell me, do the lords of New Castle hold their own events before the grand gathering of their Duke?”

Hands is a serial fiction series set in the Draco Artificium universe. Read the first piece here. Find the rest of the series here. New episodes go up Wednesdays.

Flash Fiction: Crashing

“I hope you’re right about this plan, Erik,” Ariel said.

“What? The Boxelites don’t like downing a two billion credit bird?” Erik said over the comm.

Ariel took a few still of the crash before heading towards the brush. The Weibs Schiff Class H Explorer, a “WeChe,” was shattered over the field below her. The WeChe had brought her here for the recon run Boxelites core wanted on Dunderite, but EI Division had already confirmed the Dunderites knew the recon was coming. Erik, her CO, knew any runner sent to scan the system was going to be shot down. This was their alternative plan.

“I’m still not sure they’re going to believe that flash body,” Ariel said.

“That’s only if they get the head,” Erik said. “Look, we put enough explosives into the cockpit and into the clone’s skull that they won’t get jack. Besides, the body belonged to a dead lady anyway. Even if they do clone her again to figure out who was on board that WeChe, it will take them at least a month.”

“I’m coming up on the ridge overwatch.” Dunderite was lower gravity, 0.85 earth normal, so she was made good time. “I’ve got at least two hot spots on scope. A scattering of bodies on the ground too.”

The base below was cloaked in darkness and without a moon to reflect ambient primary light from her low light scope was nearly useless too. Only thermal was showing anything, but her own heat might give her away as she approached. The suit concealed much of her heat, but the coils wrapped down her legs into her shoes was making her legs start to sweat. The cool ground she was crouched over was helping, but the suit could only compensate so much at once.

The base lit up as a third vehicle kicked to life. Several of the soldiers climbed inside and it and one of the original vehicles launched from the base towards her. She rolled to the side under some underbrush.

“They’re investigating. I’m heading down,” Ariel said