Fool’s Point

The sorcerer came to a fishing village in the North, trudging slowly, using his staff as a cane, his Shadow behind him, feeling his age. A boy child ran up, asked: “My Lord?”

“An Inn?”

The boy pointed up the street at an old, solid two-story stone building with a third somewhat ramshackle story of wood built atop it. “There, My Lord. Yilley’s.”

“Come visit me there, in the morning. I will have errands.” The sorcerer flipped him a small silver coin. “With your parent’s permission.”

“Yes, My Lord!” The boy ran off, virtually airborne from excitement. The Sorcerer continued up the road towards the water.

I will take him, wizard. I will take the whole village.

The sorcerer chuckled, “Oh, you’ll do no such thing.”

You have come here trying to hide, to escape, but I am at your heel, and I will take them all, and then you.

“That’s not why we’ve come, Shadow,” the sorcerer scoffed. “That’s not it at all.”

At the edge of the village the path split, one branch heading down to the docks and the other winding its way up to a rocky point overlooking the bay. The sorcerer, in spite of the protestations from his knees, chose the latter.

Will you throw yourself from the summit, to appease me? I will not be denied.

“That’s not it either. You’re as foolish dead as you were alive, Shadow.”

Call me whatever names suit you; I will feast on yours.

“Seven hundred years, no one has figured out my true name yet. I doubt you’ll be the first.” It was, however, the only way the non-corporeal Shadow could possibly hurt him. He continued climbing well past the point of exhaustion, propelled only by necessity: he could not have the Shadow wreaking havoc in the village overnight.

Your arrogance will be your undoing.

“You said that when you were alive. Well, here we are.” He had reached the peak, finding there a burial cairn marked with a stake overlooking the sea. “Take a look.”

This is neither my grave nor yours.

“I didn’t even know that was here. We came for the view, Shadow. What do you see?”

I see the grave and the hill and the village and the ocean. I see—

“The ocean. It stretches out like a blank slate as far as the eye can see, a great seeming emptiness. But even the ocean hides great activity: life teems just below the surface. What of the sky?”

What riddle is this, sorcerer? Are you so desperate to delay our reckoning?

“The sky seems even emptier, and it goes on forever. But even the sky holds birds, and clouds and rain. Beyond it are the numberless stars and planets. Yes?”

Sorcerer, you—

“You are dead, Shadow, by my hand. But you are dead in the world. I could have dispelled you into a void so empty it would drive you mad. I still can. Is one last stab at revenge worth the risk?”

King John’s Highway

I parked her a good ten klicks off the Lane, forced orbit for station-keeping, dialed in, listened.

The Gates are guarded of course. But it’s not the cushiest job in the Imp, so you’re mostly dealing with Sleepers and Marshmallows. Occasionally you get a Perf. The guy on the comms here was a Perf, and he was making it sharp for every lug coming through. Every lug he sees, anyway.

I come by my Whip honestly, which is to say I stole her. Baby. She’s black-body, totally absorbent, no signature at all. It was love at first sight. I hacked the Imp so it was like she never existed in the first place. That was two years ago. Two years, and if you pull a movie off the net without springing the Imp is knocking on your door later that same.

Mr. Perf was yelling at some lug to obey the speed limit in the Lane, really reading him. He had eight Juggers stacked up itching, everybody’s bona fides needing run, nobody to help him, no one good, anyway. I waited until he was deep into his pathology.

I moved in slow, reactionless; letting the big gasbag’s pull do most of the work; careful not to let Baby occlude some moon or some arc of ring or some emissions source, anything that would make me ‘visible’. I’ve gotten good at it, in systems a lot more complex than this. Mr. Perf didn’t have  a chance.

Somebody else did, though, someone I didn’t see.

A crackle over the comms, and then, tightbeam, a Sweet’s voice just for me: “Hey sailor.”

I sourced the beam and oriented and shot back, “Come here often?”

“Only when I need a cheap thrill. Buying a Ticket?” She had the afterimage of a Crorby accent, nearly normed away.

“What makes you say that?”

You’re on my approach. First you’re parked where I would park, then you’re gliding the path I’d take. You’re me, seems like. Except you’re a Dandy and you’ve got a nicer Whip.

“I aim to keep her.”

“I’m not Imp.”

“I know that how?”

“Imp would have called it in. You see the Gatehouse lighting up? You do not. Anyway, you’re ahead of me in my… in our approach. I assume you plan on spiking the Gate after going through? I want a favor. Don’t. Let me go through after you, and I’ll spike it.”

“That’s a risk.”

“And you don’t take risks? Remind me what we’re doing again?”

She had a good point. And she sounded choice. Not that a Sweet can’t sound choice without being choice. “Rendezvous on the other side?”

“What for?”


“That’s a risk.”

“And you don’t—”

“All right, all right. Evil. Where will you be?”

“Have you been on the other side of this one before?” Yorkel: four gasbags and their moons, plus a dozen other gravity wells, plus an asteroid belt, all within 25 AU of the primary. Lots of places to squirrel.


“I’ll be where you’d be if you were me waiting for you.”

“So evil. But tight. See you there.” Her beam shut off.

I was close enough to the Gate by then. I started writing in my code. They’d been buffing the code periodically, but it was nothing I couldn’t candy. Usually as part of the Spike I set it to wipe itself, but this time I set it to reset to norm. She’d have to re-hack it for her own Ticket, but she would have had to do that anyway.

She was going to have to do it fast. As soon as my code executed, the Gatehouse would light up, and they’d scramble towards the aperture looking for their security breach. I’d be gone, but would she?

I had to assume she’d considered that. I pushed my code, and the Gate went to spin, and the field effect glowed, and I punched it. The Gatehouse was just starting to flip out when I was suddenly somewhere else.

Yorkel. Their Gatehouse would be thinking a Jugger was about to come through. It never would, but by the time they realized that me and the Sweet would be long gone. I was already falling away from it on conserved momentum, and who knows, maybe she was already through, falling behind me. And maybe she was Imp, slow-playing me.

I made for my favorite Trojan point, the L2 of one of the smaller moons of the biggest gasbag, the one pouring out enough rads to keep everybody else away. ‘You don’t take risks?’ She’d have to assume I was well-shielded, and be well-shielded herself, to look for me in here.

I parked and dialed into Yorkel chatter. They’d figured out that something they couldn’t see had come through. The Gatehouse was going nuts, patrol boats were everywhere blanketing everything with RADAR, the Imp were screaming for heads, but they couldn’t find any to roll. It would end up being Mr. Perf, back on the other side of the Gate, but that wasn’t my problem. He should have gotten an honest job. It was entertaining listening, for a while. When it was clear they’d given up, I shut down and waited.

Nothing else came through the Gate for four hours. She’d spiked it, all right, spiked it hard.

I was about to give up and make for one of the trading posts in the outer when my comm came to life again. “Fancy.”

“I thought they’d never get that Gate working again.”

“They had to restore from backup. Except I erased their backup. They’re probably running it in test mode now. I’m not shielded enough to stay here that long.”

I could see her, now, below me: a black sliver against the mottled grey of the gasbag’s moon. “Match me in a Hohmann out to the Den. We can link up for the trip.”

“I’ll link up. But don’t count your chickens.”

I laughed. “Evil. But fine.” Anyway, I still wasn’t sure she wasn’t Imp.

Not Far From The Tree

I stopped walking and stared at her.

Mandy’s never been a bombshell-dropper. She is a bombshell, though: she’s in a pinup phase right now, 40’s hair and an outfit like Golden Age Lois Lane would wear. It’s really working for me.

Anyway, you know how when someone says something and your brain just can’t process it, and has to divert energy from the rest of your body in an attempt to ‘buff’ itself long enough to solve the problem that it’s just been presented? That.

“But you can’t.” I held up my hands. “I mean, I can’t.”

My sperm has ‘low motility’. The irony is painfully obvious to everyone involved so shut up about it.

She shrugged. “I’ve been taking shots.”

“Shots? What kind of shots? Have you been seeing a doctor again without—”

“Aren’t you happy?” She asked.

Here’s the thing: it’s exactly what you might expect her to say to me out of dismay because I was freaking out instead of jumping for joy. I’d wanted a kid. We’d tried so hard, for so long, before giving up. But she also knew there were reasons to freak out. The life we lead, etcetera. I’m on the third ‘B’ team, the first two having been wiped out by various bad guys. So. “Where have you been getting these shots?”


“‘Here’ as in, in the infirmary; or ‘here’ as in, in the lab?”

“Here as in our bedroom. Usually in the mornings while you’re training with Rapture and the others.”

She’s good at that: answering a question without really answering it. “And you’ve taken a test? You know you’re—”

“No test. D1 told me.”

D1 told her. I didn’t waste any time wondering how D1 knew before she did.

She’d just been in there. She’d only just found out: it’s where she was coming from when I ran into her. Around the corner, down the hall, through that immense steel blast door that I’ve never even seen open. Mandy’s been in there a lot; it’s how I know she’s more important than I am.



“Yeah. Of course. Okay.” I hugged her. I hugged her tight. I put away all my concerns about being a father who could get killed fighting evil tomorrow or the next day or a month and a half from now. “Okay. Boy or girl?”


“Okay.” I broke into a grin. “Okay.”

I just wonder whether D1 did it to help us because it knew we wanted a baby, or in some shadowy Cape breeding program with my son playing the part of Kwisatz Haderach. And the makeover, was that D1’s idea too? Something to make sure I’d be doing my part often enough without being put on a schedule?

I could ask it; I’d probably even get an answer. It would be a really good  answer, exactly the right answer to allay my suspicions. But would it be the truth?

Though, I hope she keeps doing the pinup thing. I mean, yowza.

Usher III (With Apologies To Ray Bradbury)

“The leather chair is the centerpiece of my collection, my pride and joy, Mr. Garrett. Won’t you have a seat?”

The man — the busybody, the obstacle — sat down perfunctorily, and attempted to resume his diatribe. “Now then, Mr. Stendahl, you simply—”

“Don’t you like it?”

“What, The chair? It’s fine, fine. Please do let’s get to the—”

“The finest leather. Made special by a gentleman I know. The symbol there in the middle of the headrest? That’s not pyrography, but rather a tattoo.”

“So, he tattooed the cow, and then—”

“My dear Mr. Garrett, who said anything about a cow?”

Zombie Drabble #420 “Antisocial”

Sometimes, you just gotta move on.

People get comfortable, forget what’s out there, start acting like things is normal: that’s when they start acting like they’s got issues with each other. Start making trouble. Start fightin’, one against the other.

I wasn’t gonna wait around to watch the place burn down. I got a new place. Run down, water damage, smells worse than the zombies I had to kill to get to it. But it’s safe, and it’s mine.

Ain’t nobody to argue with, ain’t nobody to share with. Ain’t no problems but the living dead, and them I got.