Ensign Jessalyn placed her hand on the counter palm down and swore when the display read out clearly LOW BAL. With a scowl, she pulled her hand back and shoved both into the pockets of her uniform. After a day like today, she’d really needed that drink. There had been five new leaks in critical sectors. Five! Turning away from the counter, she scuffed her booted toes against the steel beneath her feet. They would need to dock with another vessel for welding supplies at the rate this was going, and maybe even get an excursus team to go repair hull damage on the outside. Not that she really believed the senior officers would approve excursus unless it was the only option. Not after the last time.
“Yellow Blue Blue sector is cleared for recreational freedoms.”
The voice echoed through the shipboard comms and Jessalyn sighed. There was another thing her sector wouldn’t be getting anytime soon. Not with the critical failure rate on the rise. If water breached the hull, they were all doomed. Everyone on board knew that. Problem was, no one wanted to learn the skills needed for the Blue Green Blue sector advanced maintenance jobs. Either, they languished in Blue Green Purple cleaning the head and gathering refuse for the recycling levels or they went up to at least a Green start-code sector with a nice cushy desk job, a chance at officer ranks, and rec freedoms more than once in a patrol cycle. Maybe there were kids down in Purple start-code families who might want to come up to Blue, but she never saw any of them. They worked even lower in the ship than she did, down in the engine rooms. She’d heard once that, even though it was against ship life parameters, the kids down there worked too. Small hands were good for grabbing things that could get stuck in machinery, or so the stories said. Not that she had time to think about that. Not with her monitor buzzing again. She pushed the comms button on the side of it and then spoke clearly.
“Blue Green Blue, report to ship sector Gamma Seven. Situation critical level 2. Ensign Jessalyn en route.”
She had another emergency to clean up before Red Sector noticed.
I know I don’t normally preface my writing, but I feel like this one needs it. This is the (largely unedited) opening to my novel-in-progress for NaNoWriMo this year. Just a snippet, a teaser. Just enough to whet the appetite, as it were. If you have any feedback about this, I would love it. More especially since I’m hoping to publish the completed work when it’s…you know…completed. So without further ado, please enjoy the first 425 words of Second Chances.
Continue reading “Second Chances – Teaser”
Thousands upon thousands,
all singing the sweet symphony of life.
Humble gears, part of the machinery,
but far more in truth.
Mothers, fathers, daughters, sons,
outcasts, rebels, heroes and kings.
The past, the present and the future,
dancing through time and space.
Never does the great machine falter,
never a stutter or a hiccup.
Each little cog, gear, and screw is found a place
together they march on.
Have you ever wanted to hear one of my stories read out loud? Well, today’s the day! My story “The White Elephant” is being featured on the podcast 600 Second Saga. You can find it by going to that link, by going to it directly or wherever you listen to podcasts.
I’m really excited about this, and I hope you are too. So thanks for reading here, and thanks for listening if you do.
Friends and family come together
To break their bread as one
With turkey, ‘tatoes, gravy,
Some veggies and the pie’s all done
It’s time to set the table
The company’s near here
For this joyous celebration
We have but once to year
Happy Thanksgiving, Dear Readers 🙂
I’ll be back on Monday
The princess nodded to her brother as she pulled his chainmail on over the padded gambeson she wore.
“You just need to keep them distracted for a few hours. That should be long enough.”
He looked nervously at his twin and then nodded. Then he stepped up to help her don the rest of the armor that would mask her identity and protect her.
“Don’t forget my surcoat, Lena.”
Her eyes were distant, her mouth moving silently in the words of the prophecy that had led them to this road. She shook her head a little at his words.
“Of course. Can you help me into it, Henry?”
Hours later, the palace cheered and saluted as the young Prince Henry took to the road with a band of knights. They were bound for the distant mountains where there dwelled an ancient creature that had been stealing down into the valleys at night to make off with the children of the villagers that dwelled there. If anyone wondered why the Prince didn’t remove his helmet or why his twin sister wasn’t there to see him off, they said nothing.
She was written
They keep her locked away
A fortress of prose
In a desert of grammatical sand
But she sings
And flowers grow with petals of flame
As the verse comes forth
She is the muse of night
They keep her locked away
A prisoner of society
She is art and reason
In an unfair world
But I have braved the desert
Have scaled the fortress walls
I have beaten back her captors
And taken for my own the princess of night
The third Wednesday of every month, at least during the summer, was girls night. That’s what my boss said when she left the shop in my care. So, I was expecting to be alone in the old barn surrounded by odds and ends until closing time. I wasn’t expecting a teenage girl in a Day-Glo blue archery camp t-shirt and a woman a few years older than me in a neat blouse and flowered skirt to come walking in through the door within short order of each other. The younger girl spoke first.
“The Huntress says you know.”
The other woman relaxed visibly.
“Oh thank the gods, I was starting to think I’d taken a wrong turn. When my boss said to come to the home of the forgotten things, I never pictured a junk shop. Even if she did give me an address.”
I looked between the two of them, relaxing the grip on the chunk of stygian iron in my pocket.
“Well then… I wish my Lady had told me I’d have company tonight.”
Unceremoniously, I shifted a box of records to the floor and sat at the now-cleared off patio table. With an airy gesture, I motioned for the other two to sit. Names weren’t exchanged, but that was to be expected. The lawyer took a seat but the young archer didn’t, she paced. After a long silence, the lawyer spoke. I was starting to suspect she didn’t like silence.
“Do either of you know why we’re supposed to meet?”
I stayed silent. The archer didn’t. She was dynamic and mobile in a way that the overcrowded barn did not tolerate and it was starting to get on my nerves.
“I would guess,” she started, “that they don’t want us to be alone. We know who they are and that sets us apart. But that makes us kind of like a little group.”
I expected the lawyer to object, even sparing a moment for a mental laugh at the image the thought conjured. But she nodded.
“That makes sense. We’ve seen things that are…hard to explain. Or impossible.”
The archer stopped dead in her tracks, her expressive face closing.
“She…she turned a man into a stag. We ate him. I killed him. I…I didn’t mind. The gun was aimed at my face! And I like venison a lot. He was going to hurt the kids, I think…and…”
She was shaking and I stood, grabbing her by the shoulders.
“Tell it from the beginning.”
My voice sounded like hers for a moment, like my Lady’s. That clear and calm tone that radiated confidence. The girl’s shoulders slumped and she nodded. Slowly, the story came out of her and I nodded.
“He’s been judged and found Punishment. You did the right thing.”
The easy smiles were back on her face now.
“I know, she told me. But I needed to…to talk to someone else, I think. You know?”
The lawyer spoke softly then.
“How did you do that?”
It took me a second to realize she meant me. I knew I was just staring at her like an idiot.
“You pulled the ghost of the memory out of her.”
“I did what?”
Then I looked at my hands and saw the shadows there. With a quiet curse, I pulled it together into a ball and cast it down into the Underworld.
“I…have no idea. But it’s good to know I can.”
I looked back and forth between them for a moment and then sighed.
“I’ll go grab some sodas and a deck of cards. We can all talk and sort this out, alright?”
Octavia was waiting. Waiting for Breccan to return from his hunting trip, waiting for the right words to come to her mind, waiting for the sign she’d prayed for. She knelt before her small shrine and took down the statuette of Juno for the fourth or fifth time that day alone.
“Lucina Juno…What do I do? Please? I need something, advice, a sign, anything. I need to be sure before I tell him.”
Now, she paced again. Periodically glancing towards the horizon. He would be here soon. He’d promised. Last night had been the first night of the full moon and he’d promised to be here. She rested her hand on her stomach, wishing she knew the answer to tell him.
Breccan walked through the door with a string of rabbits in his hand and a smile on his face. He’d missed her so desperately while he’d been gone and now he could hold his Octavia in his arms again. He’d been later than he’d meant to, having had to hunker down for a few hours during a lightning storm, but now he was back. Octavia lay sleeping on their bed, tangled up in the blankets. He hung the rabbits by the hearth to deal with in a bit and sat on the edge of the bed, brushing her curly hair out of her face.
Octavia turned slowly, opening her eyes.
“Brec! You’re home!”
She sat up quickly, pulling him into her arms. That got a surprised laugh out of him and he kissed her forehead.
“Sorry I’m later than I planned on.”
“No, no, it’s fine. I have news for you.”
“Oh you do, do you?”
She made more room for him in the bed and impatiently waited for him to get his boots off before snuggling against him. She took his hands in her own and rested them on her stomach.
“I’m pregnant, Breccan. We’re going to have a baby.”
Never let anyone tell you dragons aren’t real. They’re as real as can be, I promise you that. They used to be everywhere back in the Old World, Europe and the like, but you won’t find them there anymore. Knights and dragonslayers moved in and that was that. Like the pilgrims later to come, they left to seek a better life in a new land. It was a long trip across the ocean but they made it, eventually landing in a lush green land. There were humans here too, but they didn’t fear the dragons and they lived in peace together. Time passed as it always does and the great dragons began to fade. But they didn’t leave. They laid down in the forests, letting sleep come upon them. Plants began to grow on their backs, whole forests with trees and teeming with life. You can still see them, if you know where to look, though. And on a cool, clear New England night, you can still see them smoke in their sleep.