Murine Honor

If you’ve tried to ride a cat into battle, you should know it doesn’t turn out well.

Original

The enemy lined up in the distance. Their snarls and growls made me shiver, the tremble shaking me to the bones. “Steady on,” my mount purred.

I took a breath, calming myself, reaching forward to scratch behind his pointed ears. “Nerves like steel, whiskers like wind.” I repeated the battle mantra, imagining the steel in my bones. It was a pretense, imagining strength where there was none – I knew how easily my bones, tiny in comparison to the enemy, would break. And yet, it worked. I was calmer, and ready. Continue reading “Murine Honor”

Impression

‘Camping’

This is the second story in what I call the ‘Soul’ series, based on artwork by Kleg.(DeviantArt)

Artwork:RV, by Kleg(DeviantArt)

Original

The RV – and me, laying on top of it – came into sight on the laptop’s screen as I piloted the drone up the hillside.  My fingers danced over the keyboard, angling the camera to keep the RV in view.  I eased the drone into the corridor that the road carved through the forest, and had it shed altitude as it closed in for a landing.  As it settled to the roof beside me, I saw myself through the drone’s camera, shadowed but illuminated by the laptop’s screen.  I smiled to see myself, and I watched my lips twitch into a smile.  I’d never quite get used to that.  I turned onto my side to dismounting the camera from the drone, connecting it to my laptop.  I heard the ping that indicated the footage was downloading. Continue reading “Impression”

Pivotal Moment

Two siblings engage in a fight with sticks. To their parents, it looks like childish fun, but to the kids, it is an epic duel to the death.

Original

His breath heaved, his body sagging, but alert. Sweat dripped into my eye, and I blinked to clear it. Somehow I knew, I knew that it was coming. He’d seen the opening and the blow was coming. I lifted my own blade, steel meeting steel, but he leaned hard into the blow, throwing me to the ground through greater strength and weight. I saw the shadow against the sun and rolled as he struck the earth behind me. I pulled my knees up and rolled directly into a kneel, scrambling up. He struck before I could get my footing, pressing his attack, forcing me to stumble, then stumble again to get my footing.

He’s too aggressive, I realized. But he was bigger than me, faster. Would it be enough to take advantage of? I might fight magnificently and still, lose. But I would lose anyway. The only thing left was to bet everything on this strike. My life, my cause, my princess. They would live or suffer based on one moment.

I stumbled back again from his furious assault. Again, I fell. Again, he lunged to strike while I was down. I thrust my sword forward as my back struck the ground – combined with my backward motion, the forward thrust was almost motionless, but his body provided the power. He thrust his chest against the blade, his own aggression delivering the deathblow.

“You . . . never taught me that.” Blood dripped down the blade, coating my hands like hot grease.

“I taught you all you know, big brother . . . but not all that I know.” I lifted my foot, bracing his body, and directed him to fall to the side.


Out the window, Jonathon and his brother were playing. Jacob was writhing on the ground, pretending to die, and the younger Jonathon was up and cheering in glory.

“Do you think Jacob lets him win, honey? Is that healthy, to pretend to lose? Or should we encourage it? I just don’t know.”

“They’re boys, honey. Let boys be boys.”

Gentle Slayer

The Brave Knight has been kidnapped against his will by the Beautiful Princess, now it’s up to the Scary Dragon to go rescue him.

Original

I awoke in bonds, hanging from my wrists. I lifted my head, taking my bearings; the inside of a cabin, perhaps a peasant dwelling. No tapestries, no trophies, no portraits, the furniture all made of unadorned wood. The wood wasn’t local, and though plain, the craftsmanship very good. A silver cross on the wall. Perhaps not a peasant’s home, but a tradesman’s, or a priest’s. Simple, but not poor.

My armor, which I had been wearing while out riding, lay piled on the table along with my sword belt. I twisted to look behind me – I had been tied to a support column, and there were cuffs of metal on my wrists, secured by a tightly fastened bolt. I could cry out, but would anybody hear me? I heard no horses or carriages, no sounds of human civilization.

Best not to alert my captor yet, if I could help it. I crouched, bracing my feet on the floor, and pushed back against the support column as hard as I could; perhaps I could break it. I strained against it with no luck, then lifted away, and slammed my back against it. “Don’t bother dear, the house is very sturdy.” I snapped my head up, and a familiar face came out from deeper within the house.

“Princess Ravencort? Karina? What the hell is going on here? Quickly, get over here and loose these shackles.”

She looked at me, a little surprised, then giggled, a sound like pure crystal. “Oh, Prince. Don’t fear. I kidnapped you.”

Continue reading “Gentle Slayer”

Trial by Engine Failure

In the future, to pass college you no longer must pass written finals. Instead, you are simply dropped into a real life scenario related to your major, and left to fend for yourself with your new found knowledge.

Original

I wasn’t worried. I wasn’t studying to be a doctor, after all. I didn’t get a degree in Emergency Management. I was an engineer. How bad could this be? I stepped up to the chair, and seated myself, as the doctor droned on.

“As part of your graduation exam, you will be placed in a real-life scenario requiring the use of your skills. To do this, you will be transited to an alternate universe briefly. Be advised that there will be consequences to your activities there. Your placement will branch into a new parallel universe, and the people there will go forward dealing with the consequences of your performance. Do you understand?”

The doctor paused for a precise moment, then began speaking again. He’d given this speech a lot, it seemed. “While there, you may be exposed to stressful events. Be advised that any extremes of stress that may threaten your health will return you from your presence there, and a re-examination will be required. You will not . . . .”

He droned on, and on. I had stopped listening at this point, waiting for it to be over so I could build a clock or repair a generator, or maybe design some primitive waterwheel. The doctor cleared his throat. I looked up, embarrassed. “I’m sorry. Could you repeat the last sentence?”

“Do you agree to the terms and conditions as detailed?” His eyes fixed on me, disapproving. He knew I hadn’t listened to a word.

“I do.”

Continue reading “Trial by Engine Failure”

Healer’s Horror

Tell the story of a superhero whose powers sound harmless on paper but are terrifying when put into action.

Original

I made my way to the curb, the airport noise fading behind me, lifting my arm for a cab. “Chris! Christopher?” I lowered my arm and turned.

“You are?”

“I’m Jessica. John’s roommate.” She blushed a little, saying that. Blue eyes, brown hair, ample curves, the kind of girl he liked. I quelled my curiosity, though. “I was told there wasn’t much time. Take me to him.”

“This way.” She led me into the parking area, to her car. I watched the scenery as we drove, passing the Pentagon, then the Potomac passing by. Through a jungle of office buildings, into a neighborhood full of green grass and trees, scattered with old brick apartment buildings.

I ran my fingers through green leaves as we went to the apartment building. I was used to cities being an ocean of pavement. She opened the door, leading me into a small apartment. “So let’s not waste time taking coats and making tea. Where is he?”

A voice called from the next room. “I’m in here . . . I’d recognize that ego anywhere.” I followed the sound, pushing the door open. “Christopher . . . you made it. The Good Doctor himself.”

I smiled, struggling to show no response. This was a man with unbreachable skin, limitless strength, a man who had incredible grace, honed from a lifetime of struggling not to crush everything he picked up. And he was lying there like a dead fish, weak as a child. A pot sat by his bed, ready to be puked in, I guessed. “I was told it was poison . . . may I?”

He nodded, and his weakness worried me. I pulled the gloves off my hands and examined my senses. I could feel the spread of my bones and veins and nerves like most people could feel the positions of their limbs, and as I touched John’s arm, I felt his body too, as if it were an extension of mine. Every cell, the intricate web combining to form a human being . . . and a lot of tainted blood.

In processes that defied biology or chemistry, I coaxed the tainted cells down his arm. I instructed his skin to part at his wrist, and picked up the pot, holding it under his arm to catch the corrupted fluid. “Ow.” He squirmed, though the cut I’d opened was small. “Shit. What are you doing?”

“I told your body to bleed. God, you’re such a baby. You act like you’ve never been cut in your life.”

“I never have been cut in my life. That HURTS.”

I scowled, mostly for theatrical effect. “Pray you never lose your power. You’d probably cry like a girl the first time you stubbed your toe. There, I’m done.”

“Chris. I still feel like shit. Why am I still so weak? Keep going.”

“Look, John, Ironheart, you may be impervious to damage, but this poison binds to your blood cells and prevents them from carrying oxygen. I couldn’t remove the poison without removing the blood.” I lifted the pot I’d been coaxing blood into. “You just lost all this. You’re tough, but you still take time to build up blood, and you still get tissue damage if you can’t oxygenate . . . are you even listening to me?”

“Sure. Yeah.” Of course, he wasn’t listening. “But I need to be out there. The cyborg guy, we think he’s going to attack another lab today.”

The Cyborg Guy? That’s the best you got?”

“He’s new in town. He’s going after military-grade laser weapons. I can’t just lay around.”

He tried to sit up again, and with one finger on his chest, I pushed him down onto his back; this man, who would lift a car like a piece of fruit any other day, dropped by the touch of a fingertip. I kind of liked that. “I’ll handle him.”

He scoffed.”Look . . . I know you’re as fast and as strong as a body can be, but he’s literally a machine. Human ability can’t beat him, and he can electrify his body. You wouldn’t be able to touch him. Even if you could, how would you hurt him? You can’t fuss with people’s insides if they don’t consent.”

“Jonathon . . . Ironheart. Trust me.”

Jessica had been watching, and she frowned, at this. “Christopher, you told us you couldn’t affect someone who was resistant to you. Was that a lie?”

I looked at Jessica, letting my exhaustion show; I was tired of the conversation fast. “That wasn’t a lie, and it’s not how I intend to handle him. It’s none of your business cutie, and John, it’s none of yours, either. You can trust me, or not. But if you don’t give me an address chrome-dome is walking out of that lab with lasers tonight.”

It took convincing. When I left, I think they both half-expected it to be the last time they saw me. At home I worked to support a team; The Good Doctor wasn’t a solo warrior. I looked at the lab, watching it from a distance. I should have an hour or so. It would be long enough. I reached down, touching a blade of grass. The grass hadn’t sufficient awareness to resist me, and immediately I had a sense of the whole plant and the spread of its roots. I initiated processes that just couldn’t be explained by science. Cascades of complex changes, chemically and biologically impossible, flowed from my simple wishes.

The roots of the grass tangled with the next plant, and the next, until the entire field of grass was a single organism. The roots sought deeper, seeking out life. Insects and worms were caught in their grasp, infected by my influence as roots grew into them, tying everything beneath me into a single network of life. I began drawing the grass underground, and gathering biomass from deeper in the earth, spreading out, turning the organic matter turning into a vast underground organ.

In time, I formed a giant underground heart, sheathed in bone, carrying a reservoir of thousands of gallons of organic mush – something like blood. It would leave a void of life that the earth beneath me would take months to recover from.

Time to shift my focus. Bone began to grow, now. Like tree roots, they grew in tendrils, hair-thin at first, infiltrating the tiniest cracks in the building’s foundations. I grew them all through the foundations and the walls, saturating the hidden spaces with bone filaments. I began channeling blood through the bone and into the vents and the crawl spaces. Membranes formed between spurs of bone, rudimentary ears. Nerves spread to connect them to me, letting me listen as blood poured into the building, filling the hidden spaces with mass that I could use.

I heard him first. The whine of a jetpack, then the blue light from his exhaust as he dropped to the ground, and began hacking the electronic lock. His body really was almost entirely metal. How much of him was still flesh? He got in easily, of course. I never intended to keep him out.


Everything seemed quiet. I looked down at the facility, lowering my altitude and landing at the door. I pulled a jack out of my wrist, ripping the casing off the card-reader bare-handed. I plugged myself into the diagnostics jack, and within a few moments, had bypassed security.

I moved through the facility, quietly as a six-foot tall metal cyborg could. I was picking up some odd sub-acoustics. Creaking, dripping. Something was wrong here. But the laser lab wasn’t far. That’s when blood started coming out of the walls.

“Freaking scientists can’t even keep their science in the bottle . . . careless bastards. What kind of creepy B-movie bullcrap is going on in this place?” I hurried toward the stairs. Blood was pooling on the floor, and I saw meat beginning to squeeze out of dome of the ductwork. “Shit. This isn’t fricking funny.”

I pounded up the stairs. Whatever was happening was happening throughout the building. Some spiky formation was creeping inward from the vents, filling the halls. I grabbed one as I passed, glanced at it. Rigid, but porous, marrow in the middle. Bone. “Shit. Shit. Shit.”

I kicked through the door of the lab. I didn’t care about alarm anymore. Once I had the lasers I could carve my way out of any corner. The room was a cloud of bone filaments. They’d overgrown the prototypes, bone getting into the cracks and growing – as I watched, one of the prototypes snapped in two, from the pressure of the roots growing from within – like a tree root splitting stone.

I suddenly realized that this wasn’t just weird. I was in a great deal of danger. And it didn’t help when, in the meat that had been growing over every wall, eyes began to open.

I broke, and I ran. This was too much. This was a horror movie or a nightmare. The bone and meat had overgrown every hallway by now, blood an inch thick across the floor. I crashed through it, smashing it, but as it grew thicker and fused, I was having a harder and harder time. I had to ram the growths several times now to make any headway, and I kept slipping in the blood. I was uncomfortably aware that the corridor I’d cleared was closing up behind me, and that amidst the spiky mesh of bone filling the halls, more and more eyes were opening around me. I began screaming as I flailed at the bone, smashing eyes, trying to force my way free.


He had bought himself a few minutes when he thrust his arm into the web of bone I’d built, and detonated a grenade. It tore his arm off, but being what he was, that was probably replaceable. Still, I had him again soon. Spraying the jetpack fuel and igniting it bought him a little time, too, but his electric discharges were almost useless, killing bone without breaking it.

Bony threads worked their way into his chassis, got into the seams of him, and grew into the interior. Over the course of twenty minutes, bone tore his chassis and body apart. Over the next few hours, I drove the monster I’d created to secrete various acids for the various metals he was made of, digesting him. I wasn’t a fan of surprise comebacks.

I gave one last instruction to this grotesque organ I’d created – decay. Everything I had created would begin dying on a cellular level, breaking down into mush and grit.

I opened my cell phone and dialed a number. John – Ironheart – answered on the first ring.

“It’s done. I’m afraid I killed him.”

“Christopher . . . how?”

“Trade secret, I’m afraid.”

“Seriously, you can trust me.”

I knew better, though. Nobody wanted to know the true extent of my abilities, not really. I was accepted, sometimes even revered as a healer, a man who could save your life, and trusted because my power relied on consent. My team at home relied on me for my support, but that could quickly change if they saw the extent of my abilities. What I did was nightmare fuel. It could have come straight out of a horror movie, Resident Evil or something.

“Jon. You trusted me to handle this. Trust me when I say that you don’t want to know.”

Star Wars, by George R. R. Lucas

Write me the original Star Wars movie story, only you are George R.R. Martin.

Author’s note: I’m not very familiar with the expanded universe or with concepts like grey Jedi, so forgive me if I get some nuances wrong.

Star Wars

By George R. R. Lucas

“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”

My mind fogged over. It was hard to think. Only one set of words came easily, struggled to escape, a concept that wanted to take root and grow. “These aren’t the droids we’re looking for.”

And it was true. They couldn’t be. I knew something was wrong, but this one concept, this central idea took root in my understanding of the world, fit itself to the core of who I was like a puzzle piece. To remove it would be to leave a hole in my soul.

“He can go about his business.”

This pressure was tied to the first concept, already firmly rooted, and grew. I fought it, and I struggled. My blaster rose, slowly, sweat dripping into the inside of my helmet. The old man in front of me frowned, and intensified his gaze. I could feel my mind being crushed by the growing roots of his influence. “They can . . . go about their business.” Continue reading “Star Wars, by George R. R. Lucas”