The Lesson

The Lesson (1,011 words)


Blink in fear if you can understand me.

Excellent. You’ve studied English. That will make this easier.

Well, easier for me.

I’d tell you not to worry but I think we both know we’re past that. I can tell you that the paralysis isn’t permanent. You should be happy about that.

It’s you own fault, you know. No, it is. I’ve never understood you busybody archaeologists who have a need to disturb the graves of the long dead. You’re never so happy as when you find an unmarked grave with a skeleton and trinkets. The burial benediction is “rest in peace”, not “rest in peace until somebody gets curious and digs you up to figure out why you were buried with your gold jewelry.” If you’d left well enough alone, you wouldn’t be in this predicament now.

Yeah, yeah, I know. You thought this was a dead world. You had no idea. You’re doing this to expand the boundaries of science. You treat what you find with reverence … while you put it on display in a museum somewhere. Well, you’re not the first alien race to visit Earth. You’re not even the first to make the mistake of digging me up. Unluckily for the others – or perhaps luckily, depending on your point of view – they were … incompatible.

Specifically, they tasted bad.

Hmm? Oh. Some joker once called me a carnivore on a liquid diet. I killed him for that. I don’t have much of a sense of humor. Scientifically, I guess you could call me a hemovore. Me? I always preferred the classical term: vampire.

You look confused. I’m guessing your species never spawned a vampiric variation. That might be good or bad. On one hand, no one will know how to deal with you. On the other, you’ll have to work out some of the rules specific to your race on your own.

Yes. You. We’ll get to that in a minute.

Have you ever met the alien race that’s short, maybe half my size? Blue and hairless? You have? So did I … briefly. They tasted like batteries. Now, you, you taste better than them but still pretty bad compared to the humans I enjoyed so much. It’s like the difference between muddy, silty water in a stagnant pool and pure, crystal clear water straight from a spring. You can live on both but you know what you prefer and would hate to have to live only on the one that tastes so bad. I imagine I’ll taste like the stagnant pond to you.

Yes. That’s how you make more like yourself. First you drink most of their blood until they become paralyzed and close to death. Then you feed them your own blood to bring them back from the edge. You’ve had the first part of the process. That’s why we have this chance to … talk.

While I’m thinking of it, some other rules. Sunlight will burn you to a cinder. The older and stronger you get, the longer you can tolerate it but it will kill you eventually. You have to drink blood to survive. As for me and my kind, silver and garlic cause burning wounds and a wooden stake in the heart will paralyze us but none of them will kill us by themselves. Sunlight, fire, beheading. That’s it. That’s what you’ll need to avoid. As for the rest, you seem bright. You’ll figure it out.

You want to know why. I suppose I can understand that. After all, I don’t know why, myself. The vampire who made me didn’t know how we came to be. Who knows? Maybe it was a spontaneous thing. Maybe an alien vampire visited Earth long ago and create the first human vampires. At least you’ll know how your kind of vampire was created. As for why ….

I’m tired, my friend. The human species killed itself, oh, at least a century ago. Or was it a millennium? You lose track of these things in the ground. Your planetologists probably told you how: a combination of climatological changes and nuclear exchanges, capped off by a deadly virus or three. Stupid. I fed off the carrion for as long as I could, then rats and other small mammals for years after that. It was a dull, meaningless existence. I thought about walking into the sunrise more than once, especially after the rest of my kind did so. Instead, I chose to sleep under the earth, to let oblivion claim my soul after I starved to death, insensate, resting in peace.

Then your little blue friends woke me up, about thirty years ago. I killed them but I wouldn’t make them like me. I wouldn’t give them that gift. You’ll live many times longer than your fellows, at the cost of drinking their blood. You’ll gradually discover special abilities as you grow in power. I can’t tell you what to expect. It seems to vary from individual to individual. My maker, for example, could actually pass through walls like a mist. I never figured that out. On the other hand, I was able to control animals while they reacted violently to his presence. I do regret that I’ll never know what special talents you will develop as you grow in your power.

You look concerned for me. That’s sweet but my time is up. I am the last of my kind and it’s time I make way. You are the first of yours. You might thank me, in time. You might curse me for eternity. Either way, you are my childe, my legacy to the universe, humanity’s final legacy.

Now, watch closely. Your last lesson. I use my own sharp nails to cut into a vein close to the surface of my skin. Here. Drink. When you are done, I will leave you safe in this tomb. Stay here until the sun sets, then rejoin your colleagues. Survive.

Me? I’m going to go outside. I haven’t seen the sunrise in a very long time.

I’m told it’s beautiful.


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The Resolution

The Resolution (747 words, 2017-01-01)


“Don’t you think you’ve had enough?” the bartender shouted over the laughter and celebration in the pub.

“Don’t Worry!” Tommy shouted back after finishing one pint and ordering another.

“What do you mean, don’t worry?”

Tommy pounded his fist on the bar and shouted, “Attention! Friends!”

The din lowered somewhat as the patrons nearest the two men turned to see what was going on.

“My good friend, Jack, our noble bartender,” Tommy shouted, “just asked me if I’ve had enough!”

“No!” came back most of the voices, drowning out a very few, “Ayes!” and a lot of laughter.

“Well, it’s time for my New Year’s Resolution! I resolve….”

“Not to drink any more?!” shouted one of the crowd, being helpful.

“Not to drink any less?!” shouted another person, raising their glass to the old joke.

“When the clock strikes midnight and it’s the new year,” Tommy began. He waited for the cheers to die down after mentioning the reason they were all there. “When the clock strikes midnight, I will be going on the wagon and drinking nothing but tonic water.”

A round of cheers and boos and various sounds of disbelief greeted this announcement, and the crowd went back to their revelry.

“Seriously?” Jack asked.

“Seriously,” Tommy replied. “I’ve wasted half of my life with drink. It’s been fun but it’s time to get sober and do something with the rest of it.”

Jack looked into his regular customer’s eyes, expecting to see the usual mischief but saw instead only the earnest truth. “Do what?”

“Whatever I want,” Tommy replied. “Something respectable. Work harder. Get married and have kids. Something worth remembering. I’ll still be coming in here for the enjoyment of it, just not for the beer and whiskey.” He looked at his pint. “But I’m not there yet, lad! I’ve an hour to go until midnight and I’ll try to drink this place dry before then!”

He did his best, finishing four more pints and a half-dozen shots of whiskey. The bar turned its attention to the TV where one of the channels was showing the official countdown.

“Ten! Nine! Eight!” the rest of the bar was chanting as Tommy downed one final whiskey and started chugging his final beer.

“Four! Three! Two!” the bar continued as he finished his beer and wiped his mouth.

“One! Happy New Year!”

Tommy cheered with the rest and then let out a tremendous belch. He turned to the bartender. “Tonic water with lime, Jack,” he ordered. A few second later, he accepted his drink and observed the crowd, still doing their best to reach an alcohol-fueled unconsciousness. He wasn’t too far away from that himself, after that final push. Turning back to the TV, Tommy was the first to notice that the fireworks on the screen didn’t look right.

When he saw the laser beams from the alien ships start firing into the crowds, at first he thought the channel had been switched to a sci fi movie, but he realized it was still a live news feed.

The announcers quickly began showing footage from all over the world, Sydney, Beijing, Moscow, London, New York, Los Angeles – all of them under heavy attack from what could only be described as flying saucers. No one else in the pub had noticed yet, too caught up in their celebrations.

Tommy, very unsteadily, held up more by the press of the crowd than his own sense of balance, made his way to the window and looked outside. Even here, he could see the beams lancing down into the city, and moving his way.

He made his way back to the bar, got Jack’s attention, and shouted, “What’s the oldest, most expensive whiskey you have?!”

“It’s an Irish one. Knappogue Castle, 1951.”

“I’ll take the bottle.”

Jack’s eyebrows went up. “You’ll have to settle your tab and pay up front for that.”

Tommy handed over his credit card.

The bartender took it, ran it for an obscenely high amount, and when it cleared, he dug into a locked cabinet and came up with an unopened bottle. “Your resolution didn’t last that long,” he said as he handed the bottle to Tommy.

Tommy looked at the TV screen once more as the reporter was vaporized live, on air, by the aliens. Some of the other partiers were starting to realize something was wrong.

“Suddenly,” Tommy said, opening the bottle and drinking directly from it, “the way I’ve lived my life doesn’t seem like such a waste.”


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Oh! The Humanity! – The Tale of the Dragon

OTH – The Tale of the Dragon


“Picking up a distress signal, Captain.”

Marco Matsuda looked up from his novel and sighed. Due to the nature of faster than light travel, coming across distress signals from one, ten, a hundred years ago was quite common. In spite of that, regulations required every ship to stop and render assistance if the signal was relatively recent. That required analyzing every signal picked up by ship sensors. Of course, with every accident and wreck, another signal was added to the growing cacophony of distress among the stars. When Marco was a young man, if they encountered one distress call on a trip, it was an event, one which created an opportunity for betting on which ship’s final cry they had encountered. He’d won his cargo carrier, the Dragon, on one such bet with a drunken captain who was desperate and foolish. Now, though, it seemed he couldn’t even read a whole chapter without having to double-check some ancient cry for help.

However, regulations were regulations, and if he hoped to keep the Dragon, he had to cross every t, dot every i, and record an analysis of every distress call they encountered. Still, he was lucky, this trip. His cargo was Gorillanian bedding spheres: high volume, low mass, greatly desired and not prone to spoilage.

“Slow and confirm signal, CC,” he said, letting his new first mate do the work. “Time code, then ship registry.” He examined his memory and frowned. Then he examined his not quite legal external memory. He had stored every known distress call, location and time, from which he could calculate precisely which one the ship would be picking up in this sector of space. His frown deepened. There was nothing. There shouldn’t be any distress call in this sector at this time. That would mean only one thing – his luck was about to change for the worse.

“Time code ….” the voice of his first mate trailed off. “Sir! Time code three-point-three-four Terran hours ago!”

“Damn,” Marco muttered. Louder, he said, “Confirm it, CC. I don’t wanna have to change course unless we have to.” Even as he said it, he pulled on his boots and then grabbed his jacket. He knew it would be confirmed.

He arrived on the bridge just as his first mate said, “Sir! It’s … oh, there you are. Signal confirmed. It’s an ICL ship, the Humanity.”

Marco scowled. Worse and worse. ICL was notorious for refusing to pay salvage or rescue fees. Even if all he found were bodies, he’d have to dump half his cargo to load them, and the fuel costs would be exorbitant. He’d be lucky if he managed to keep the Dragon.

He did the calculations. Three and a half hours in the escape pods for the light speed signal to reach him. Twenty minutes transit time to the location of the signal if he came out right on top of it. Bad idea. He had no idea what the Humanity ran into. Stray comet? Pirates? Maybe one of the Six Known Races was on the warpath and he just hadn’t heard about it yet.

Marco looked over at his Squirrelanian first mate, Chittering-Courage, although technically she was his one and only crew member since the Dragon was heavily automated. The Squirrelanian was a great choice. Hyper-alert when on duty, and smaller than any of the other Known Races, meaning far less mass to boost. Low oxygen needs, as well. She was a perfect crewmate … unless Squirrelania had gone to war. Those little furry suckers were incredibly fierce and annoyingly competent at interstellar war. He hoped that it wasn’t the case or he might find himself in need of rescue, too.

Marco made up his mind. As much as he’d like to claim the better part of valor and continue on, reporting the signal to the proper authorities after he arrived at his destination, that kind of discretion wasn’t in his nature. Neither was letting people suffocate or starve in an escape pod. Still, there was no need to be reckless about it. “Take us to a point three sublight hours from the distress signal. We’re going to be cautious.”

“Aye, Captain,” CC replied. “Changing course. Time to arrival in the area, twenty Terran minutes.” She glanced up at him. “We’re going to lose the cargo, aren’t we?” she asked.

“Probably,” Marco replied. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay, Captain. I’ve saved quite a bit during my time among the stars. It’s the Squirrelanian philosophy to prepare for the lean seasons. Besides, think of it this way. If we can save anyone important, we might make more off the publicity than we ever could with the cargo.”

“Kisirien!” Marco swore in Interlang. “That’s all we need. No more overpaid, no-questions-asked cargo runs. No more hush-hush passenger transport. I’m gonna lose a fortune.”

“I thought this run was legitimate?”

“It is, CC. It is. But I liked the gray area runs. I’m going to miss them.”

The Squirrelanian bared its incisors in an approximation of a human smile. “Cheer up, boss. Maybe everyone will be dead and no one will care about us.”

Marco shook his head. “I can’t be that lucky.”

An hour later, he knew he wasn’t.

The Eye of the Dragon had to dump all but a tiny fraction of its Gorillanian bedding spheres to fit all of the living survivors, and the surviving Gorillanians so thoroughly abused the spheres on board that they were a total loss anyway. When the Eye of the Dragon limped into the space dock with almost no reserve fuel left, the ship and its crew were hailed as the “Saviors of the Spaceways” and the “Merchants of Life.” Interstellar Cruise Lines didn’t pay a single credit to them because they’d only rescued people and not the valuable engines and ship tech, which were scavenged by raiders before anyone could mount a full salvage operation. Their income from interviews and such was miniscule, since they weren’t the most photogenic of people and several high profile passengers were far more popular guests on the interstellar news broadcasts.

As Marco had feared, his less reputable customers stopped calling him to make deliveries. Even the reputable ones were hesitant to hire him, since they knew he had dumped his cargo to rescue people, who were not beneficial to the corporate bottom line.

Luckily, he found a buyer for the ship and he signed on as first mate under Captain Chittering-Courage, with a new name for the ship.

“Eye of the Terror-Bird is ready to depart, Captain,” he said.

“Very good, MM. Let’s get back to work.”

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Oh! The Humanity! – The Barman’s Tale

Oh! The Humanity! – The Barman’s Tale


Aboard the Interstellar Cruise Liner Humanity, Chief Bartender Isaac Miyamoto Oltar had seen everything. He could make over two thousand concoctions from memory and, in the ship’s computer, he had stored the recipes for another three thousand drinks, powders and edible items designed to alter the moods and inhibitions of the six Known Races. He had made planetfall on every inhabited world and space station in the Association of Known Races. He had watched fads come and go. He was there when Earth became the Sixth Known Race in the AKR.

As a bartender, he watched as Earth drinks became the rage on every world. He had mixed martinis, sidecars and Singapore slings. He had poured shots of every ancient brand name liquor producer on Earth during the boom, and more than a few start up companies trying to cash in on the craze. He watched as the craze for Terran alcohol faded and most of the companies which had expanded their operations too far and too fast had faded and collapsed. He still missed the maker of his favorite liqueur, Irish Mist. When they announced their failure, he had spent every spare credit he had and stocked as many bottles as he could afford. That was forty years ago and he was down to his last bottle. He was saving that one for his retirement.

On board ICL Humanity, he had watched as the rich and powerful from all six races tried to amuse themselves and distract themselves. Some were hardcore drinkers, working their way through every possible combination in his repertoire. Some ordered the exact same drink, prepared the exact same way every time. Some disdained liquids entirely and requested only certain foods with properties ranging from hallucinogenic to soporific to stimulant. For some, their poison of choice had to include something to ensure that their sexual drives were up to the challenge of their much younger companions. For others, such additives were unnecessary as they retired to their cabins in groups of two or three or seven or whatever the beings chose to indulge their appetites.

Through it all, of course, champagne maintained its allure as the drink of celebration.

“Barkeep!” called the Terran businessman returning from Gorillania. “Champagne for my table and keep it coming!”

“Two glasses of champagne, my good human,” came the smooth voice of a Furballan. “She said yes.”

“Champagne for everyone!” called the Elfinnic wheelball team captain. “Elfinnics rule!”

Isaac would smile, murmur the appropriate reply, and pour the drinks, letting the party flow on. Others in the bartending guild had tried for the spot as chief bartender on this, the most luxurious ship in the ICL fleet. There were the tenders who did tricks with bottles and glasses. There were the ones who told jokes and became the life of the party. There were tenders who could have had a string of degree letters after their name for the amount of psychological, psychiatric and love advice they gave. When one such tender asked ICL management why Isaac had gotten the plum assignment, she was informed that it was the evaluation form all passengers were asked to fill out upon their departure. Whenever they were asked how the bartender was, those with tricks or jokes or advice had customers who loved them and some who resented them. Only Isaac was so unobtrusive, every reference to him on the forms was along the lines of, “I don’t really remember him but my glass was always full and had the right drink in it so I guess he was good.”

Isaac was good at his job. He mixed and poured, nodded and smiled, and never let the customers get to him. In the end, he’d seen it all. This particular cruise was a hedonistic tour of the home worlds of the Known Races. He’d had no less than dozen requests to join a guest or a couple or a group for some after hours fun, even given his advanced age, but he merely quoted the company rules and added, “Someone still has to mix the drinks.”

It was the nature of the displays on this cruise, however, that had led him to his decision: this would be his last cruise. He was tired … tired of making drinks, tired of letting the humanity and other races roll over him in waves every day, tired of watching as all six races seemed to be racing headlong toward a galaxy of leisure seekers, with no more concern for other people than what those people could get from them in the short term. None of the dozen who had propositioned him on this cruise had any intention of caring about him … they just needed someone different to spice up their jaded sexual adventures. When he was younger, that sort of adventure was interesting when he was working ships that permitted such things, but given a choice between the complications of sex with strangers and the complications of a life alone, he found as he grew older that he preferred the life alone.

His shift over for the night, he made his way back to the room he shared with another tender. To save space, ICL had chosen to “hot bunk” its crew, figuring that if their shifts didn’t overlap, they might as well share a bed. He checked the lock on his steamer trunk and found that his indolent roommate had tried to pick the lock. He opened it and found that his roommate hadn’t just tried, he’d succeeded … and his last bottle of Irish Mist was missing.

Isaac sighed deeply. Perhaps he’d let it go too long. He should have retired before now. He called Ship’s Security to report the theft. They’d complain about being summoned for such a small theft, so he also brought up on the ship’s screen a current auction estimate for an unopened bottle of Irish Mist. He noted with interest that it was currently selling for more than he made in a year. That should get the ShipSec men interested.

There was a knock at his door. Isaac opened the door and allowed the ShipSec into his room.

“What is it, Chief Bartender Oltar?”

“Theft, sir.”

“Petty theft is to be handled in port, Chief Bartender Oltar.”

“I know sir, but this isn’t petty.”

The ShipSec sighed. “What was stolen?”

“A bottle of liqueur I’ve been saving for my retirement for forty years. I’ve brought up a current auction price so you can see its value.”

“Fine, let me see this valuable bottle of booz … what the hell?!”

“That was my reaction, sir, when I discovered that my roommate had broken into my steamer trunk and stolen it.”

“Come with me,” the ShipSec said.

“Yes, sir.”

As they left the room, the ShipSec called for the current location of Bartender Third Class Alonzo Mtumbo Petrograd. Receiving the location, he led Isaac to the third class lounge. As they entered the lounge, Isaac saw his bottle on the bar between Alonzo and one of the first class passengers. Seeing the ShipSec, Alonzo slumped.

The ShipSec approached the pair. To the passenger, he said, “Sir, you are in the wrong lounge. If you’ll please leave, there is a matter we must discuss with this bartender regarding stolen property.” Pointedly, he added, “You weren’t trying to purchase that bottle, were you, sir?”

“It’s my bottle,” the man said brazenly. “I was actually trying to sell it.”

“A simple scan of the bottle will show my fingerprints and a faint symbol scratched into the bottom of the bottle. If the gentleman can describe the symbol, I would be happy to admit my mistake.”

The passenger paled. “Wait! Wait a moment. This isn’t my bottle. I don’t know where this one came from. If you’ll excuse me, I need to go search for my bottle.”

“Of course, sir,” the ShipSec said.

The passenger left in a hurry. The ShipSec turned to Isaac and asked, “Can you draw that symbol?”

“Of course. May I use your tablet?”

The ShipSec passed Isaac the computer tablet and the Chief Bartender drew a symbol which combined all three of his initials overlaying each other. The ShipSec picked up the bottle and examined the bottom of it carefully.

“Confirmed,” the ShipSec said. “Bartender Third Class Alonzo Mtumbo Petrograd, you are bound by corporate regulation under suspicion of theft. Chief Bartender, will you please take over the shift of the accused until a new shift schedule can be arranged?”

“Yes, sir,” Isaac said. It was a small price to pay to get his property back. He stepped behind the bar, carefully placed his bottle securely under it, and assumed his professional demeanor. As he was led away, Alonzo never said a word, not even to apologize for what he’d done.

Isaac had been in the upscale lounges for most of the last five years but he still pulled an occasional shift in third class to remind himself there were all kinds of beings.

“Hey, old stuff. Wanna hook up with me and my three husbands after your shift?”

Well, okay, there was a less diverse clientele on this particular cruise.

Then it happened. A shuddering sound rumbled through the ship. Isaac, a man who had been on ships for two thirds of his life, looked up.

“That’s not right.”

The ship lurched and several of the passengers were knocked onto the floor.

“That … shouldn’t have happened.” Isaac looked at the shipwide communication screens and found that they were offline. He looked around and saw the clients getting back on their feet, most of them rather unsteadily. Mentally consulting the employee manual, he announced, “Please remain calm, everyone.”

That’s when the klaxon went off. “All passengers and crew, please report to your designated lifeboats. Please remain calm. All passengers and crew, please report to your designated lifeboats. Please remain ca ….” The alarm was cut off suddenly as there was an explosion deep within the ship.

The passengers in the lounge started tottering toward the exit and he made a quick count. Seventeen. The first one stopped at the door, causing the ones behind him to stumble and several to fall again.

“Boy!” he called to Isaac. “What’s this wall, here?”

Isaac walked quickly to the door and saw that the emergency bulkhead had dropped. He didn’t know if it had dropped due to a malfunction or if there was death pressure vacuum behind it.

“I’m afraid we’re trapped here for the duration,” he said. “Don’t worry. Interstellar Cruise Lines has never lost a ship in transit in its thirty year history. Until that bulkhead is lifted, drinks are on the house.”

Some of the drunks continued to try to lift the emergency bulkhead. Isaac ignored them. A dozen space marines in full muscle-assist exo suits wouldn’t be able to budge that door. He looked at the port hole on the far side of the lounge. The port holes were a nostalgic touch included by the ship’s builders as a throwback to the old days. Most passengers never looked out of the port holes but, from time to time, Isaac enjoyed watching the color-shifted stars streak by. As soon as everyone had their drinks in hand, Isaac picked up a tray under the pretense of going to clean up a spill and headed toward that small window on reality.

As he approached, he could already tell that the ship had dropped out of hyperspace. That was a bad sign. He saw the stars drifting by in normal time. Also a bad sign, since that meant they weren’t even at relativistic speeds. Still, gravity plating was intact and powered. It couldn’t be that bad.

That’s when he saw the ShipSec who had assisted him float by the window, with the thief Alonzo right behind him. Isaac stopped pretending to clean up the mess and went straight to the window for a clear view. Outside, he saw the ICL Humanity in pieces. Bodies, pieces of ceramic and metal, and the occasional lifeboat drifted by. He realized the section they were in was spinning.

Isaac stared for a few more minutes, letting the magnitude of the disaster sink in. There had to be death pressure outside that bulkhead, with no way to extract the passengers alive. They must be on battery power. The gravity plating would last for years … but the air they had was all they had.

“What’s wrong, boyo?” an elderly woman called from the bar. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

Isaac looked at his reflection in the mirror and then at the passengers. Eighteen ghosts, to be precise, he thought.

He went back to the bar, pulled out his bottle of Irish Mist and opened it.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, pouring himself a large tumbler of the golden, honey infused whiskey, “last call.”

The End.


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Oh! The Humanity! – The Tale of Passenger Four Thousand Three Hundred Twenty-One, and Guest

Oh! The Humanity! – The Tale of Passenger Four Thousand Three Hundred Twenty-One, and Guest


On board the Interstellar Cruise Liner Humanity, one of the passengers was having the worst trip of his life. For a number of reasons, most of them quite legal, he had invoked the privacy regulations of the ship and was referred to only as passenger Four Thousand Three Hundred Twenty-One, which was often shortened to Four three two one, although never in range of his hearing.

For his very first interstellar business trip, Four Three Two One had taken the ICL ship most known for its wild parties and luxurious appointments, The Humanity, to get from Earth to Gorillania. He could have taken one of the more purposeful interstellar transport ships. He could have avoided the trip altogether and done his business through the FTL communications system set up. Unfortunately for him, his current mistress insisted that traveling aboard The Humanity would be a life broadening experience.

It was broadening, all right. His mistress had “broadened” her sexual experience with three of the Ships’ Companions, two crew members, four business men from four of the non-human Known Races and one business woman from the fifth.

Unfortunately, while she was having such a good time spreading her legs (or cheeks) for any stranger with half an urge, Four Three Two One had found himself one of the oh-point-two per cent of interstellar travelers who was subject to hyperspace sickness. He was unable to hold anything down except small amounts of nutritional liquid supplements. He suffered migraines that standard pain killers could only barely temper. He just wanted the damned trip to end.

The door to his room opened.

“Still feeling bad, Pooky?” his mistress asked.

“Yes,” he said sourly. He’d only explained to her three times that hyperspace sickness wasn’t something you could get over.

“Darn it,” his mistress said petulantly. “I wanted to use our bed.”

“I’m still not up for that,” he said, holding his head. He felt like vomiting again.

His mistress giggled. “Not you, silly,” he said. “I found the most amazing man with the longest … you know … down in the third class sauna. He has to share his quarters with two other people and we wanted a little privacy while he shows me a certain trick he says he picked up from a Xenoi Ship’s Companion.”

“You want to bring him here?” Four Three Two One managed to croak.

“Well, of course,” his mistress said.

This time, Four Three Two One did vomit.

“Oh,” his mistress said, moaning. “Well, now we can’t do anything here until we get this cleaned up. How long do you think it will take for the cleaning staff to get this cleaned up? Jonnee is waiting,” she finished in a whine, dropping onto the loveseat in a huff.

Before Four Three Two One could summon the strength to scream at her, the ship … shuddered. Suddenly, he felt perfectly fine.

“That can’t be right,” he said.

“What?” his mistress asked.

“We’ve dropped out of hyperspace. I’m not sick any more.”

“Great,” his mistress said. “Could you please go out and get the maid, then? Jonnee and I can use the chaise lounge until she’s done.”

“That’s it!” he yelled at her. “I didn’t bring you on this ship to watch you fuck anyone who winks at you. You could show a little decorum for the man who ….”

That’s when the klaxon went off. “All passengers and crew, please report to your designated lifeboats. Please remain calm. All passengers and crew, please report to your designated lifeboats. Please remain ca ….” The klaxon alarm was cut off suddenly as there was an explosion deep within the ship.

“What’s that?” his mistress asked. “Why do we have to go to the lifeboats? I’m sure Jonnee is going to be in a different one than me.”

Four Three Two One stopped the rant he was about to start. “I just can’t believe how bad this trip is going.”

“I know,” his mistress said. “I was so looking forward to that new trick.”

“Let’s go,” he said. He went to the door. Opening it, all he saw was wreckage and the remains of what was probably a human male once upon a time. The passageway was completely blocked. There was no way they were going anywhere.”

He closed the door.

Turning to his mistress, he said, “We’re trapped. We can’t get to the lifeboats. I don’t know how much air there is.”

“What about Jonnee?”

“Jonnee is dead, out there in the hallway,” he said.

“So we wait here until someone rescues us?”

“Until someone rescues us,” Four Three Two One said, “or until we run out of air and die.”

“Oh,” his mistress said.

Four Three Two One couldn’t tell if she understood that they were both dead … that no one was coming. Sometimes, he wondered what he saw in her.

His mistress stood and stretched. She undid the clasp on her dress and stepped out of it. Four Three Two One watched the taut, young skin as she stretched. Her hands brushed against her nipples, stirring them to hardness. She turned and began walking toward the bathroom.

“Ah,” Four three two one, murmured. Now he remembered. “There are worse ways to go.”

He came up behind his mistress and cupped her breasts, letting her feel his erection.

“Oh, not now, Pooky,” she said. “I’m not in the mood and I’ve got a bit of a headache.”

She slipped from his grasp, entered the bathroom and closed the door.

Four Three Two One just stood staring at the closed door. Now she has a headache? He went to the miniature bar, opened it, and began downing every bottle in it.

He heard the sound of a bulkhead crumpling, knowing what it meant.

“Pooky?” his mistress called from the bathroom. “Could you order room service, please?”

Passenger Four Thousand Three Hundred Twenty-One put a hand on his head and said, “Worst … trip … ever.”

As last words go, perhaps not the most original but certainly apropos.


The End.

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Oh! The Humanity! – The Socialite’s Tale

Oh! The Humanity! – The Socialite’s Tale


Brasilia Days would have smiled in maleficent glee if smiling wouldn’t have caused her skin to begin wrinkling. She could have afforded the best rejuvenation treatments, of course, and one day she would, but there was no need to hurry such things along. She was twenty-five terran standard years old, beautiful, spoiled, extremely rich and well aware of all of those traits in herself.

“That’s wickedTM,” she said into the ship to planet communications network. “How much did we get from them?”

“Everything they had, and then some” her attorney replied. Brasilia couldn’t remember his name: Carson or Thorson or something prosaic with a -son at the end. “Mr. and Mrs. Geraldo Kevyn Schwarz have been forced to surrender everything they own and agree to pay fifty percent of their salary to you for the rest of your life, pursuant to the copyright infringement decision handed down by Judge Lohan.”

Brasilia nodded. “That should teach them to use my trademarked phrase without permission or licensing rights. What did they use it for, again?”

The attorney smiled. Brasilia made a mental note to replace him when she was next on Earth. She didn’t want her lawyer having wrinkles. They might be contagious.

“Technically, they were referring to an ancient musical play but we convinced the judge that the Schwarz family could have said ‘that is’ or ‘it’s name is’ without infringing on your trademark.”

“Whatever,” Brasilia said. She paused to sip from her Arcturan Snowball Fizz. It had gotten too warm. She gestured to a waiter. When he arrived, she said, “This drink was supposed to be one degree centigrade. It’s at least three, maybe four.”

“I apologize, Miss Days. It was one degree when I delivered it to you ten minutes ago.” She glared at him and he said, “I will get you a new one.”

“See that you do,” she said. Turning back to the attorney, she asked, “Can I sue the cruise line for not serving my drink at the right temperature?”

“Why not?” the attorney replied. “False advertising, maybe.”

“That’s wickedTM. Do it,” Brasilia said, disconnecting the transmission.

The waiter returned with a fresh Arcturan Snowball Fizz. He bowed and departed without a word.

Brasilia looked at the drink. She no longer wanted it. She rose from her lounge chair and posed in case anyone was watching. Left hip pushed out to the side, head tilted just so, right hand behind her head (but careful not to mess up her hair), left hand on her hip. She noticed seven attractive young men and two stunning women watching her. No one with an image recorder, though. “That’s not wickedTM,” she said. She was hoping to sue someone else for violating her image rights but it seemed that everyone on the ship was aware of her litigious personality. She gazed at the nine people watching her and chose a pretty young man. The women were too pretty … someone might comment that they were prettier than her.

She walked to her chosen prey and said, “Come with me.”

The man followed her back to her suite, the best on the ship of course.

“Let me see you first,” she commanded.

The man disrobed. He was in perfect form, with a penis easily in excess of twenty-five centimeters.

“That’s wickedTM,” she said. “You’ll do.”

An hour later, bored, she kicked him out of her suite.

He left without saying a word.

Brasilia went to the cage where her pet, a purebred arctic fox, lay sleeping on a cushion made of the finest Gorillanian vege-silk. “Hello, Snowy,” she cooed. The fox looked up at her drowsily, yawned widely, then turned around and went back to sleep.

Brasilia stared at the animal, a slow rage building. She summoned a porter.

Moments later, there was a discreet knock at her suite’s door.

“Enter,” she commanded.

The porter, a slender woman with dark brown skin and raven black hair, entered. Brasilia noted with ill-disguised temper that the … the servant … was almost as beautiful as she was. “This animal needs to be put down immediately. See to it.”

“Put down, Miss Days?”

“Put down,” Brasilia said. “Put to sleep. Euthanized. Exterminated. Killed.”

“Why?” the porter asked. “Did it harm someone? Is it ill?”

The heiress’s rage erupted. “How dare you question me! Do you know who I am?”

“You are Brasilia Days,” the porter replied.

“You impertinent … peon!” Brasilia screamed. “What is your name?!”

“Aliana February, Miss.”

“Well, Miss February, I’ll have you terminated! I’ll sue you and your whole damned family for insulting me! Get out, get out, get out!”

“Of course, Miss Days,” the porter said, picking up the cage with the fox. She left and closed the door quietly behind her.

* * *

Aliana heard a lamp hit the door behind her. The fox in the cage barked once in alarm.

“Don’t worry, little one,” Aliana said. “You’re safe, now.

* * *

Brasilia stared at the broken lamp. It was an original Squirrellanian Azure Crystal lamp, carved by Chipmonkian the Elder, the finest crystal sculptor of the Known Races. Brasilia very carefully stepped on one of the larger remnants and crushed it, listening to the tinkle of the breaking crystal. In spite of the risk of wrinkles, she smiled. “That’s wickedTM.”

An hour later, Brasilia was relaxing in the sonic bath when the ship … shuddered. She fumed. That was the last straw. She emerged from the bath and didn’t even bother to put on a robe. She marched to the communications screen and said, “This is Brasilia Days. Connect me to my attorney.”

“Unable to comply,” the screen replied.


“Unable to comply,” the screen replied.

“What do you mean you’re unable to comply?”

“Unable to comply,” the screen replied.

“Listen, you pitiful machine. I’m Brasilia Days and I ….”

She was interrupted as the klaxon went off. “All passengers and crew, please report to your designated lifeboats. Please remain calm. All passengers and crew, please report to your designated lifeboats. Please remain ca….” The klaxon alarm was cut off suddenly as there was an explosion deep within the ship.

Brasilia stamped her foot. “A lifeboat? It had better have champagne.”

She went to her wardrobe and opened the door. She knew that there were thirty-seven outfits, neatly arranged and color coordinated with matching shoes, luggage and accessories. What does one wear to a lifeboat, she wondered. Something comfortable, obviously, but not too comfortable. After all, when she was rescued, there would be news crews and she wanted to look her best for them. Maybe she should wear something comfortable on the lifeboat and then change into something dazzling for the rescue? Oh, but how could she be sure she wouldn’t clash with another passenger … or worse, have one of them in a cheap copy of her designer outfits … or even, she could barely think of it, her colors clashed with the other people on the lifeboat.

Wait. There was a thought. How many people was she going to be sharing the lifeboat with? Hmm, she thought, not-smiling gleefully. She could sue the cruise line for that … stress due to insufficient personal space on the lifeboat. “That’s wickedTM,” she said.

Brasilia decided on a sheer black number molded to fit her body perfectly. She then packed three matching dresses in three vibrant colors, with their associated accessories, in a small travel bag. She called for a porter but there was no answer.

I’m going to have to carry my own bag, she thought to herself. I’m going to have to carry a bag like a servant? Oh, they are so going to be sued when this is over.

She picked up her bag and struggled with it. She made it to the door and opened it. There were people running by, yelling and screaming. In her suite, the noise cancellation equipment had blocked out the cacophony. Brasilia found it very disturbing.

Spotting a crew member running by in his white uniform, she called, “You, there! Boy! Come carry my bag.”

“Fuck you, lady!” the man yelled over his shoulder, not breaking stride even for a second.

Brasilia stared after him in shock. No one talked to her like that. Not even her father talked to her like that after she had sued him for emotional cruelty and taken over his entire business empire. How dare he talk to her like that? “What’s your name?!” she demanded at his fleeing back. He didn’t respond. “That’s wickedTM,” she said.

A rumbling series of explosions inside the ship made her decide it would be better to get off the ship first and sue them later. She struggled to bring her case into the passageway.

What are all these people doing on the Super Premiere Deck, she wondered. She added it to her growing list of complaints.

Finally, she flowing with the crowd, she found a lifeboat.

“Oh, there you are,” she said. “Here, boy. Take my bag and lead me to my seat.”

“Your name?” the crew member asked.

Brasilia Days stared for a moment as if slapped. “Don’t you know who I am?” she demanded.

“No, ma’am.”

“Ma’am?! How dare you call me ‘ma’am’! I am Brasilia Days. Now take my bag and lead me to my seat.”

“I’m sorry ma- … er … Ms. Days. You’re not on the list. This is not your lifeboat.”

“What do you mean it’s not my lifeboat. It’s a lifeboat and I demand to take my seat.”

“I’m sorry, Ms. Days.” The ship bucked again. “There’s only one seat left. I can offer you a choice. If the person we’re waiting for doesn’t show up by the time we’re given the order to launch, you can have her seat. Or you can make your way to your assigned lifeboat. Do you remember which one it is … from the lifeboat drill.”

“Oh, I never go to lifeboat drills,” said Brasilia Days. “It’s always a waste of time. Now let me in.”

“I can’t do that, yet,” Ms. Days. “You can wait for a chance or you can go to your assigned lifeboat.”

“But I … I …,” she began. It was time for some waterworks, time to play the poor little rich girl. She took a deep, shuddering breath and said, “But I don’t know where I belong.”

The crew member shook his head. He looked as his computer pad and tapped a few commands. “Brasilia Days?” he asked.

She let a tear fall from one eye and nodded. Inwardly, she thought, I am so going to sue this serf and his family for everything they own. She let her mind drift to the future when she would see his family thrown out of their home, with everything they own now in her possession. She’d look at them with as much disdain as she could muster, which was considerable, and she would say, “That’s wickedTM.”

“Here we go, Ms. Days,” he said.

She picked up her bag and took a step forward but he held out his hand,

“Your lifeboat is two decks up, and three sections over. I’ve notified them that you’re here and alive so they won’t leave until the order is given. If you leave that case behind and run, you might make it. Or you can take your chances waiting here.”

“What?!” she screeched, her “poor me” routine forgotten.

“Hold the boat!” someone called running down the passageway.

Brasilia turned and saw that little peon of a porter, something February, carrying a suspiciously familiar cage.

“That’s my cage!” Brasilia said. “That’s Snowy!”

“There you are,” the crew member at the door to the lifeboat said. “We’ve been waiting.” He turned to Ms. Days and said, “Sorry, Ms., Days. This lifeboat is full with its assigned personnel. You’ll have to get to your own.”


Aliana February, Ship’s Porter Second Class, slipped by the heiress and said, “Hi, Freddie. Any problem bringing my new pet along?”

“Of course not, Ali. It’s cute. You can put its cage under your acceleration chair. It should fit.”


“I’ll give you a hundred million credits for your seat,” Brasilia Days, suddenly desperate. “It’s more than you could make in a dozen lifetimes, a hundred, a thousand lifetimes.”

“No,” Aliana said as she stored the fox’s cage under her chair.


“No. It means ‘I won’t.’ I mean, what would a peon like me do with that kind of credit? Someone like you would just sue me for it.”


“I’m sorry, Ms. Days,” Freddie, the crew member at the door, said. “This boat is full and we cannot take more than the maximum allowable occupancy. I know who you are, now. Ali told me about you. Interstellar Cruise Lines doesn’t want to risk a lawsuit by carrying additional people and risking others’ lives. You’ll have to get to your own lifeboat. I’m sure you understand.”

“What?” she repeated again.

The crew member tapped a command into his computer pad. “Crewman Frederick Mays, reporting. All assigned personnel present and accounted for. Lifeboat Seven Two One ready for launch in two minutes.”

He closed the door on Brasilia.

Behind her, in the passageway, part of the level above collapsed, trapping her.

As she watched the lifeboat launch without her, all she could do was stare after it and say, “That’s wi -…”

As if the universe was reacting to that phrase, the part of the ship in which she stood exploded before she could finish.


The End … thankfully.



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Oh! The Humanity! – The Tale of Anya, the Ship’s Cat

Oh! The Humanity! – The Tale of Anya, the Ship’s Cat


Her name was Princess Alexandra Nikolovna Yeltsina Ailurania but everyone called her Anya. She was fed only on the purest filtered water and the finest real animal protein … no vegetarian meals for her. Aside from the Captain, she was the only member of the crew who had the run of the entire ship. All she had to do was rub up against any of the crew members with her snow white fur coat, give a shake of her tail and look them in the eye. By tradition, the crew would interpret what she wanted without her uttering a sound and do what she requested, whether it be open a door, give her a meal, or stroke her belly.

Having a ship’s cat was an ancient tradition for Interstellar Cruise Lines. Even though interstellar travel had been possible for only a hundred years, ICL had previously been in the interplanetary transport business and, before that, they had started as a business running a line of container ships on the oceans of Earth itself. Through all of those changes, every ship had been bestowed with a ship’s cat, all of them descended from the cat owned by the founder of the company, who had begun his days as a ship captain, himself. Of course, gone were the days when the ship’s cat had to catch rats for a living. These days, the tradition was maintained more as a marketing ploy than out of any need for pest control.

Anya moved through the ship with all the assurance in the universe that the ship and everything on it belonged to her. In other words, she treated it just like any other cat would.

That evening, after descending to the Humanity’s kitchens for her evening meal, she wandered upward to the observation domes. Unlike the humans and the other five Known Races, who frequented the domes only when the ship was in normal space, Anya preferred to gaze outside while the ship travelled in hyperspace. What made the other sentient beings uneasy, edgy or downright nauseous was ultimately soothing for the long-haired white cat. When she got there, however, the door was closed and there were no crew members around. She sat in front of one of the doors and waited. And waited. After a while, she grew bored of waiting and went looking for a different window.

While walking along the outer edge of the vessel on one of the middle decks, she found a door she had never been through before. Behind the not quite closed door, she could hear two beings, humans by the scent, engaged in mating. She poked one paw at the crack in the doorway and, sensing body heat, the door obediently opened.

As the door “whooshed” back, the two humans were startled and ceased their mating for a moment. Anya was a well-traveled cat and had seen such things many times before. Instead, what intrigued her was the window at the other end of the small chamber.

“Oh,” the woman said. “It’s just Anya.”

The man, breathing heavily, said, “That’s not the pussy I’m interested in.”

The woman said, “I’m not sure if I can, not with her watching.”

Anya, ignoring them both, walked over their prone forms and jumped up to a horizontal control panel, so as to get a better view out the window.

“Her highness isn’t watching,” the man said.

The woman giggled, then nodded. They resumed their actions.

Anya continued to ignore them, fascinated by the odd swirling of hyperspace outside the small window.

Suddenly, the ship … shuddered.

“Did you feel that?” the woman asked.

The man stopped and listened. “I’d like to take credit for that but I think something’s happened. We should get back to our stations before ….

The ship’s klaxon began sounding.

“Oh my gods,” the woman said, her voice tense with fear.

Anya had noticed the alarm and mewed imperiously. She wanted the sound to cease so she could enjoy her view in private.

The captain’s voice came over the shipboard communication system. “All passengers and crew, please report to your designated lifeboats. Please remain calm. All passengers and crew, please report to your designated lifeboats.”

“My lifeboat is on the other side of the ship,” the woman cried.

“I know,” the man said. “Mine, too. We’re going to have to run for it.”

The captain’s voice continued. “Please remain ca…. ” The klaxon alarm was cut off suddenly as there was an explosion deep within the ship.

They had hastily rearranged their clothing and were moving to the doorway but were thrown back by the shock.

“Too late,” the man said. “Stay here. We’ll wait as long as possible.”

“But what if others come?”

The man went to the door and looked out. When he looked back, his face was grave. “I don’t think that will be a problem.” He looked out again and yelled, “Here! This lifeboat is free! We have room for eight more.”

Four people (a Gorillanian, two humans and a Xenoi) stumbled toward the lifeboat. As they entered, the woman helped them strap in while the Gorillanian said, “I believe we are the only ones who made it to this level before the passage way was constricted.”

“Constricted? Constricted how?” the man asked.

“It’s as if the entire ship … twisted,” one of the human newcomers said.

Anya didn’t understand the words, of course, but she knew that these beings were stressed. Besides, they were no longer in hyperspace and the ordinary stars in the window weren’t as interesting, now. She jumped down into the lap of the woman crew member, who had strapped herself into the lifeboat seat.

“Anya!” the woman said in surprise.

A sudden hissing sounds came from the door way and Anya hissed in reply.

“Smart cat,” the male crew member said. “That’s escaping air. We’re out of time.” He closed the door to the lifeboat and sealed it shut. As he walked to the pilot’s chair, he said, “Moriah, watch Anya. She’s our good luck charm. Everyone else, hold on. I’m going to separate us from the Humanity.

The lifeboat began to pull away from the liner. Anya didn’t know what all the commotion was about, but she was in the warm lap of a person, everyone had begun to relax again, and there was a pleasing rumble coming from the lifeboat’s engines.

She purred. It was good to be a cat.



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Oh! The Humanity! – The Crewman’s Tale

Oh! The Humanity! – The Crewman’s Tale

I was too young to remember the disaster that claimed The Humanity. My aunt told me that the marketing of the disaster put all previous disaster marketing to shame, to the point where every single passenger and crew member had books and movies made of their lives – even if no one knew anything about them. Her “favorite”, she once told me in an archly ironic tone, was about a young man named O’Malley. Here is the story as she told it to me.

Oh! The Humanity! – The Tale of Alexander Christopher Saint John O’Malley – being the fictionalized account of the Flux Drive Engineer Third Class and his terrifyingly tragic yet quietly heroic last moments of life aboard the fatefully doomed star liner ICL Humanity, as reconstructed from ship logs, eyewitness accounts and insurance investigation analysis, by the galactically famous author of such thrillers as “The Spy Who Raced the Eternal Night” and “The Twenty-Seven Deaths of Marcus and Julia Smith-Jones”, Ariella Babbington Lee.

Alexander Christopher Saint John O’Malley, Flux Drive Engineer Third Class aboard the ICL ship The Humanity, looked at the readout from a gauge in his area and said, “Hey. That almost looks like . . . .”


The End.

My aunt told me it cost her half a month’s wages to get a rare printed-on-paper first edition of that book, and its downloadable version stayed on the best seller list for nearly thirteen years.

That’s why I became a writer.


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An Eye for an Eye, Blood for Blood

An Eye for an Eye, Blood for Blood – a “Forever Knight” fan fic

Screen Shot 2018-12-13 at 1.42.57 AM

“I do not think you grasp the reality of your situation, Nicolas.”

The blond vampire struggled against the chains which held him but they were thick steel, designed for those like him. “Release me, Janette.”

“No, Nicolas,” she said. “I had regained the mortality you, yourself, had sought for so long. You turned me back into a vampire against my wishes. For that, there must be a reckoning.” She paused. “You owe me, Nicolas.”

The raven-haired Frenchwoman had once been a childe of Lacroix like Nick but, through a strange series of events, was now Nick’s own childe. She was proving to be as defiant with him as he had been with his own sire.

“I’m sorry,” Nick said, his voiced short and clipped. The strain of his bonds as they held his limbs at odd angles was beginning to show. “After nearly eight hundred years, I couldn’t bear to lose you.”

Janette came up to Nick and stopped mere inches from him. With her left hand, she caressed his cheek. For a moment, Nick thought she might relent and free him but, after a moment, she turned away. “Non, mon amour. Not this time. You took away my mortality.”

The elevator door slid open and a woman with brown hair stepped into Nick’s loft.

Janette’s eyes flashed and she opened her mouth to reveal her fangs. “Now I shall take away something equally precious to you – your favorite mortal.”

“No!” Nick roared.

Natalie looked up, startled. Before she could move, Janette was upon her. Janette drained Natalie and then opened her own wrist to let Natalie drink. Nick could only watch in horror as the mortal he loved was turned into a cursed creature like himself.

Nick couldn’t bear to watch any more. He closed his eyes and wept.

~ ~ ~

Author’s Note: 300 words. I wrote this some time back when I’d been watching “Forever Knight” DVDs. For those of you who know how the series ended, this is a bit of alternate history. For the record, “Forever Knight” is owned by a number of corporations. I am seeking no monetary gain from this story (my blog isn’t even monetized) and if asked to remove the story by the copyright holder, I will of course remove it immediately.

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Patience – a Tale of Vengeance

Patience. That was her name and that’s what she had learned to cultivate.

She was well concealed in her hole on the small hill that overlooked the crypt in the cemetery where she was expecting her targets. Three nights earlier, she had excavated a tiny earthen cave just wide enough for a body, but somewhat longer. She needed the extra length for the rifle.

She had blocked up the entrance to the hole with enough camouflage cover that she could block out any glint of light from her position. The final layer being a section of sod from the far end of the cemetery where no one would miss it, from the outside, no one would ever know that she was even there. It was like being buried alive but she knew that if her enemies suspected where she was, she would be buried quite dead.

She had closed up the hole each morning and slept, knowing her targets would come only under cover of darkness. The hunger and thirst began to gnaw at her after the first twenty-four hours. She had a tiny amount of compact nourishment but tried to hold off. She knew from past experience that the physical deprivation would heighten her senses, her figh-or-flight response, until she was capable of pure focus on her target. The SWS-25 sniper weapon system was an amazing tool even without that edge, but with these targets, she wanted every edge she could manage. The sensory enhancement would last for two days, then she would have to satisfy those needs or the lack of sustenance would reverse itself very quickly and decrease her abilities unacceptably.

The one thing she could not control were the dreams.

On the second day, she dreamed of her sister. The dream was always the same. Patience was in a garden maze. She could hear her dear, sweet Rose calling out for her. Every time she turned, though, Patience found only another dead end. At the third dead end, she heard Rose call out as the men approached. Patience tried to claw her way through the brambles of the labyrinth but the sharp thorns cut into her flesh and prevented her from getting through. She heard Rose scream and she ran through the maze, trying to find her. She smelled the smoke and knew she was finally getting close. And then her sister’s screams stopped. In the dream, she rounded the final corner and ….

… woke up, stifling her own scream.

A year ago, the four men she was hunting, who had been seeking Patience for the last two years, had caught up with Rose. She could only imagine the indignities they had visited upon her, and her imagination was only too eager to supply and endless parade of horrific deatails. Unfortunately, imagination was all she had because, when the men were done, her sister was nothing more than a pile of charred bones.

As the second night fell, she re-checked her weapon. The SWS-25 is a fragile thing, relatively speaking. Because of its need for better than pinpoint accuracy, a lot of the durability of older sniper rifles (which were mostly just precision versions of normal combat or hunting rifles) was eliminated. The result was a lightweight weapon capable of consistently ending men’s lives live at three times the distance Patience was planning. She carefully checked its delicate optics to make sure no smudge or speck of dirt would interfere with her shot. The weapon was perfect … but her targets didn’t show that night. If they held to their pattern, they would definitely show the following night.

Reluctantly, she slept.

On the third day, she dreamed of her husband. That dream always changed. This time, they were running. It seemed they were always running. They had run halfway around the world but still the four men pursued them relentlessly. Why couldn’t they leave them alone? In the dream, though, there were never any answers. They wanted her husband dead and they wanted her dead and they were never going to stop. They ran through the streets of a city. It was an old city, with buildings made of stone rather than wood or steel. She could hear them coming up behind her. Reachinga fire escape, Connor boosted her up to the ladder but it was stuck and her weight couldn’t push it down. Her husband told her to climb up and hide and he would lead them away. She didn’t want to be parted from him but he insisted. She hid ont he rooftop and watched as the four men appeared at the end of the alley and chased her husband. She wanted to call out, to distract them, to let them find her and save her husband but fear gripped her throat. She couldn’t make any sound at all and then they rounded the corner and were gone. She heard shouting and cursing and then awful, wet sounds. The men came back around the corner, covered in blood, her husband’s blood. Then one of them saw her and ….

… she woke up, this time screaming.

Quickly, she came back to herself and quieted her nerves. She listened carefully but heard no one near her nest.

“Stupid,” she thought to herself. She resolved not to sleep again until this was over, one way or the other.

As she waited, she thought back to what had actually happened to her husband, just a little more than three months previous. She didn’t know how they found him or how many of them were in on it. All she knew is that, when she found him, he had been hacked to pieces. She had cradled his head in her lap for an hour before she finally knew she had to leave him behind or the men would come back and finish her as well.

With both her sister and her husband gone, though, she was done running. It was time for her to begin hunting them.

She had spent the last three months planning the details. She knew by now how they operated, what they could be expected to do. She had researched them on the internet and in the newspapers. She found a pattern, something she could use. Her husband had always had contacts among the criminal element all over the world. Acquiring the SWS-25 Sniper Weapon System was surprisingly easy. Since it was, by design, not an automatic weapon, it could be obtained using the far less stringent rules for hunting rifles. She practiced with it endlessly at a shooting range a hundred miles away. When anyone asked, she said she was planning to surprise her father by outshooting him at the next family competition. No one bothered her after that. At the end of three months, she was ready.

She’d have to sacrifice an innocent person to make her plan work but that no longer bothered her. She had been an innocent person. Her husband, perhaps, was not quite so innocent but her sister had been the most innocent of all and had never harmed anyone. The men she was hunting, however, didn’t care about that. She knew that she was becoming a monster, taking an innocent life, but the men she hunted were ultimately responsible. If they had left her alone, none of this would have happened.

As night fell, she readied herself. Her senses were at their sharpest, fueled by the hunger of her body. She rechecked her weapon. Everything was perfect.

The arrived an hour after sunset. “Probably want to go out whoring once they’re done,” she thought to herself.

They were cautious, keeping to the shadows. As they reached the crypt, Patience sighted her weapon on them, judging wind and distance and elevation. When their leader was in her sights, she felt a burning desire to pull the trigger immediately but she stayed her hand. They were all too nervous, now. She had to wait. Inside the crypt, an innocent girl had been set up as bait for the men, bait that she knew they could not refuse. She’d have to let them kill her. Only after they had killed would their guard be down.

The four men entered the crypt. Shortly afterward, she heard the girl’s screams. It felt like forever but she knew it was less than thirty minutes when the four men reemerged. Three of them had blood on their clothes. The fourth, their leader, looked back into the crypt, lit a flare and tossed it in. Patience adjusted her night scope as the flare ignited something flammable in the crypt. She had expected that. All four men were perfectly backlit.

She took a breath, let half of it out, held it and gently squeezed the trigger as she had been taught, as she practiced so many times. One of the men collapsed suddenly. None of the others had heard the silenced shot.

As they gathered around the man, she calmly chambered the next round and took aim at the next man. A moment later, he was down, a head shot. The remaining two suddenly realized what was happening. They drew ther handguns and began looking around, trying to spot the shooter.

Her third shot took the youngest dead center in the chest. That spooked the last one, the leader, and he began to run out of the cemetery. An old man, he wasn’t very fast. She chambered her fourth shot, and led the man carefully.

Her fourth shot clipped the man on the hip. He went down but he wasn’t dead. Unfortunately, he also had cover, now. Still, the edge was hers. She crawled out of her hole and began walking down the hill.

The man saw her and began firing wildly at her. Five shots missed her completely. The sixth struck her high on her left arm but she didn’t even feel it. He pulled the trigger again but the gun clicked empty.

He tried crawling away but the pain in his hip was too much. She pounced on him and struck him in the jaw, hard, stunning him.

“Not dead yet?” she cooed to him. “Don’t worry. We’ll fix that. You killed my husband. You killed Rose.”

“Rose was already dead,” the man said venomously.

“No, she wasn’t,” Patience said. “Not until you murdered her. Tell me, did you burn her alive or did you have the grace to kill her first?”

“I set my daugther free,” he said, glaring up at her. “I wanted to set you free, too.”

“I am free, father,” she said. “Until you killed Rose and Connor, all I wanted was to live in peace. Now they are dead, and nothing is going to stop me from taking my revenge.”

“You’re not my daughter, you worthless bitch. You whore.”

“You’re trying to get me to kill you quickly, aren’t you, Daddy Dearest?” She smiled, revealing her fangs. “Oh, don’t worry. You will die. But not yet. Not for a long, long time. You see, you named me well.”

She struck her father once more, knocking him unconscious. Bending over his unconscious form, she lapped at the blood coming from his bullet wound, easing the worst of her thirst. It wasn’t serious. She had a special place all prepared. He wouldn’t die until she decided it was time for him to die … after he had suffered everything she had inflicted upon her sister and husband. She would take her time.

After all, she was Patience.


The End.


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