Saturday, May 31, 2014

Only Sweeter, Part 10

First - Previous

"I need a potato."

"What?" Jayne is clearly and unsurpsingly confused.


"Twelve colors of protein in the kitchen, three of which can be combined to emulate the taste and consistency of a potato, but will not work to build your stepper device. However, sufficient spare parts exist in the engine bay to provide the rest of the build. Ask the Doctor. I'll tell Kaylee what you need."


The Serenity kisses the cheese gently, and once it's down, she glances at me and smiles. "You're welcome."

"Doctor, you heard the girl." I hold out my hand. "Potato."

"What? I don't just keep potatoes on hand just for any old situation. I'm not one of Jackie Tyler's boyfriends."

"Then would you go get one from your stores please?"

"Oh, alright."

"Thank you." I closed my hand and let it drop to my side.


Kaylee and River returned before the Doctor, and drop a box at my feet which contains more than enough parts for one, and at first glance, I suspect two or three. All three of us sprawl on the floor of the cramped cockpit, effectively stealing it from Mal and the rest of the crew.

River recited the schematics as we built them, keeping up a steady patter until the Doctor returned with a bushel in a brown bag. We each snagged one, popped in it the box, and sealed it shut.

"Now what," asks Kaylee, looking dubiously at the device.

"I think we should do this outside," I start, and River nods in agreement. "And one at a time. No telling where we'll come out."

Everybody parades down to the airlock.

I step out first, trying to breathe normally. The ground looks soft but is actually quite firm under my feet. I stretch for a few moments, then toggle my switch East.

In a moment I'm back, stepping so suddenly I feel the sickness rip into me twice at the same time. I wave Simon off when he starts to come to my side and help me from where I've crouched, heaving. Once I've caught my breath, I explain, "Not that way. The Nether. Hell. Fire and lava and so much pain. Go west."

Before they can dither between whose turn it is, Kaylee hits her switch. She's gone for several minutes, but just as I'm starting to fear for the worst, River grabs my hand and pulls me sharply to one side. In the next instant, Kaylee appears in the space I've just vacated, and she's holding an apple. She heaves too, for a moment, but half as violently.

She tosses me the apple, and I pull out a pocket knife, slicing off a bite, and popping it into my mouth. "No grizwald, but delicious. It's safe. Come on through."

I toss the apple to Zoe, blade stuck into it deeply and safely, and hit the switch.

Next - All parts of Only Sweeter

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

From the Internal Narrative of Callidus Igni

I stood in the shadows and waited, biding my time. The night was young, and I still had plenty to do. Early evening sprites passed by me, skipping in their ignorance of my presence, and though we were of the same world, I did not show myself to them.

My assigned quest was easy, tailored well to my nature: to lead adventurers astray.

"Callie, you out there?" A whispered call tore through the air, seeking me, but I did not expose myself. "Come on, Callie, we're not going to fall for your tricks this time. Fool me once, shame on you. fool me twice--I can't be fooled again!"

I twined the threads tethered to my cloak carefully, deciding whether to take the challenge. This one was not my intended target, but I would have plenty of time before he strolled by to reset the trap. I pulled the second frayed string on my left wrist, and the branches shuffled and bowed lightly under the spinning weight of a concealed pulley.

 "Ah, there you are, my good fellow. If you would be so kind as to join us on this fine evening."

I bobbed the hanging lantern and set it swinging slightly.

"Come now, don't make this harder than it has to be."

Truth be told, it didn't terribly matter who or how many I led astray, only that it would be done, and to double-tap (so to speak) a prior victim would likely be worth so much more in the end. I pulled the first string on my left wrist, and a second lantern fell, seventy degrees around the clearing from the first.

"Oh, did you bring some friends this time?"

I grinned deep within my hood. Even their group narrator was looking peaked. Right wrist this time, and I completed four of the spokes of the wheel, leaving only one, in the direction of my own self. With a spare fingertip, I brushed a button on my wireless remote that wasn't technically approved by the rules, but neither was it overtly or directly banned; creativity was necessary and expected for a character of my nature. Or at least, would be, if there were many others out there.

A murmur rose from the wireless speakers I had secreted around the ring, except by where I waited. It started rising to a wordless crescendo, and as the track neared its peak, I took my foot off the piece de resistance, the last thread, which was actually heavy, black nylon rope. As the slack was picked up by falling weights, all four lanterns swung towards the center, and then up. My victims screamed, crouched, and ran towards the opening in the ring.

I extended my staff out from behind my hiding spot and tripped the lot of them. Two quick button presses extinguished the hanging lanterns and lit the one on my staff in quick succession, and I leaned over them, the shadows beneath my hood deepening.


I think their narrator fainted for a few seconds, and he was better off than the others. Judging by the smell, none of them would be welcomed by their tentmates until they'd at the very least changed clothes. I waited until they were all settled down, and then, with my will still lit, I wisped back into the forest, waiting long enough for them to depart before resetting the system.

This was going to be fun.

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Monday, May 26, 2014

Dream: 26 May 2014

After we crossed into the fields close to the memorial, the dome umbrella refuge to fall down again. Only our kindness to Schindler (the ghost of the dog) saved us, and he held the blue slaves away from us. His power so limited, there was little more he could do, until we discovered his cabinet would block the signals. We asked him to teleport their leader into the next cell in the series, after the cabinet, and shortly we heard banging from the inside of the drum that was precariously balanced beside us. The army immediately fell silent, but with Schindler's energy exhausted, we were no longer protected upon his hilltop, and shortly found by others who disbelieve our reasons for being there. They unbalanced the drum, and it rolled quite a ways down the hill before fetching up against the fences around the memorial, at which point it was opened, and the dead body of the leader was found.

She proposed to me, and we're now out on our honeymoon. I'm taking a moment to write this down while she fills up the gas tank on her green motorcycle.

The female character in this dream looked physically similar to Zoe Saldana, but was neither identical, nor a manifestation of the actress herself.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Only Sweeter, Part 9

First - Previous

"What can I say? There's always something new around the corner," the Doctor finished.

"That's what I like about space," the Captain amended, "No corners."

I perked up. "Ion clouds."


"Corners in space. Sorry, bad memories, I know."

The glare in the crew's eyes soften at my apology, and the ever-present questioning returns.

"So, Ace, it's time for your story."

I rest my eyes on River Tam and set my jaw. "You know." And then point it at the Doctor. "And so do you but you refuse to believe it."

"The Fourth Wall."


Jayne raises his hand with surprising politeness. "Hold on. What's this fourth wall shit?"

River pats his shoulder tenderly. "It's the wall between the show and the audience."

"So, what then? You're from one of those shows?"

I shook my head. "It's how I know your inside jokes; I'm from the audience. In my home world, you're the show. Well, Arnie, you're from a book."

"So how do we end?"

"Jayne, he doesn't know. He's not part of the story."

He accepted River's explanation with a grunt, despite clearly wanting to press the issue further.

"So what do we do with you?"


"Do you have any directives, quests, places you need to be? Where is home for you?"

"Earth-that-was is home, early twenty-first century. Originally, I just wanted to go home, but I've realized there's no-where I less want to be than there. I doubt you'd accept me as a member of the crew, since I hardly bring any skills to the table, but I'd like to travel with you for a time, if you'll let me. Maybe even stand in for a Shepard where I can."

Kaylee wiped at her eyes, trying not to let the tears shows at the rising memories, and Simon pulled her against him.

"I'll confess, though, Doctor, I'm not sure I could handle the bustle of your lifestyle. However, if they won't take me, I'd appreciate if you could give me a lift, preferably to the fifteen century of Earth-that-was instead."

The Doctor looked surprised. "Not to the splendors of the twenty-first? Or later still?"

"I'm more of a Dark Ages, pre-Renaissance kind of guy."

"I'll see what I can do."

I nodded my thanks, but before anybody could say another word, a load roar shook the ship.

"Who's flying this thing?" River starts in a dead prefect imitation, "Oh, right, it's me."

I share a grim grin with her, and she leads the rest of us to the cockpit.


"What is that?" Jayne asks the unasked question as everybody stares out the front of the Serenity.

"Dragon, I'm afraid." He stares dumbly at me. "What? It's no more mythical than Reapers."

The Dragon wheeled over a cheddar-yellow island, upon which dance thin black beasts.

"Wonderful. Just bloody wonderful." I watched the scene for a long moment before realizing they were waiting for me to say something more. "Yes, sorry. I've faced this one before. If you can dock--"

River turned to comply even before I finished speaking.

"--on the underside of the island somewhere. Oh, and don't make eye contact with any of the smaller guys."

"Why not? I ain't afraid." Jayne fondled his gun.

"Bad things. Just trust me. And for once, that gun won't do anything but make things worse." To the rest, I added, "Best use River's Last Stand method."

Captain Mal caught my eye and nodded slightly, before starting to bellow orders. The bottom levels of the island wheeled into view, and there was already a ship waiting for us. Its balloon was largely collapsed, but I still could make out the name printed on the side.

"The Mark Trine. Bloody wonderful."

All parts of Only Sweeter

Thursday, May 22, 2014

If Tomorrow Ever Comes, Part 2 (Mature)

Mature Content

Part 1 available here.


Years Ago

"You have to decide which is going to be more important to you, family or work."

"Since Kiv... it's been an easy choice."

"We know, Ace, and we're not upset. We miss you, but we understand."


Weeks Ago

"When I saw you out there, yesterday, riding to work, I felt so proud of you, doing whatever you can to make ends meet. I just wanted you to know."


Months Ago

Every half-year or so, I revisit the old dating site accounts, change up some of the descriptions: who I am, what I'm looking for, what I'm doing with my life... This last one caught me this time, and I changed it back to something it had once been, long ago, when I first signed up:

"Working enough to not have to worry about money, but not too much to not have time to enjoy it."

Not that it mattered terribly, hardly anyone ever bothered to stop by and read it.


Almost Every Day

It was so tempting, instead of stopping at work and locking up my bicycle, to just keep riding, keep going, and leave it all behind. Once you get into that rhythm, get that steady sense of motion, get the feeling that you could just keep pedaling forever... and you never want to stop.

Sometimes, I wish I didn't have so much tying me down, not the books or the computers or the hard copies of things I've written or the need to pay for a place to put it all, and I could just live on the back of my bicycle.

I could live like that, if I could just let it all go, but letting go... like change, that was something that bothered me, something that I was almost willing to admit that I feared. And fear of it was not even something death itself could claim, only fear of what would happen to those I left behind.

But I couldn't do that, I wouldn't do that, and so I reigned in the impulse and chained up my bike, obediently walking in to my scheduled shift, even as I ever wished and considered otherwise.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

If Tomorrow Ever Comes (Mature)

Mature Content


They didn't understand, and that's why I jumped...

When you spend the kind of hours I do, alone, on the computer, or in the apartment, or out on the road, all of it alone, you think about things, things that would never come to you when you were surrounded by people, or even just in regular contact with them.

Some called it shyness, some called it quietness, some called it anti-social behavior. Some thought I was damaged or traumatized or broken in some way. Some thought I was retarded. Maybe it was some of these things, but certainly not all of them.

I wasn't retarded.

They would never understand, probably never could, and that's why I jumped...


Weeks Ago

There was something not quite right when I turned on the hall light to my apartment. Normally, I felt tall after a long ride on my bike, home from work or errands or wherever. My head was off, or rather, unusually so, badly enough that I actually noticed.

I wheeled my bicycle in, staggering a bit to navigate it through the sharp turns of my entry, on its back wheel, then on both as I backed it awkwardly into the space between my trailer and the front window.

I don't have a big place, but it's mine.


Years Ago

"It's not big, but it's under seven hundred a month." John opened the screen and the front door, and let me in ahead of him. The yellow-beige walls shone in the late morning light. The local highway hummed pleasantly past, filtered by a large bush across the walk.

I turned sharply to the left past the coats-closet and found a small room, barely ten-by-ten, and then another, kiddie-cornered to the right, and then snaked around to a kitchen and finally a bathroom.

"I know it's small, but..."

"It's perfect. I have my checkbook; how much did you say the security deposit was?"

"Five hundred, if you have good credit."

"I have good credit."

"We'll see."


Weeks Ago

I booted up my computers even before I fully settled in, since they take some time to warm up, and I needed to record my ride. I needed to crash into bed, and hopefully dream-filled sleep soon, but my odometer was old and tended to lose its numbers over long nights. Also, I worked again the next morning, and would need it clear for the next session.

They took their own sweet time about it, as they do, but by the time I was settled and ready to queue up my programs.

An itching in the back of my mind started up as I finished up entering in my numbers, and I've handled the itching long and often enough not to let it stew and blister. I dutifully open up a blank word-processor and let the itch go.


Years Ago


"This is Kiv's mom. I hope I'm not interrupting anything." Her voice sounded wrong, somehow.

"I know; no, you're not."

"I know you and she... broke up... a few days ago, but I know you cared about her a lot..."

"What's wrong?"

"She... she died. This morning. Her diabetes. I'm... sorry. I thought you should know."

"Thank you. Thank you for calling me."

"I need to call... oh, you were the first person I thought of, I haven't... I have to call... I'm sorry."

"it's... I understand. Don't let me keep you."


Days Ago

The numbers on my webpage were down, and my mood too, slipping back into the Stopped Caring stage. I added an iron pill to my daily regimine just in case it was chemical, and settled down in front of my screens.

I could have gone out and spread the few pennies that I'd earned since the last plunge in my numbers, but I didn't. I was in Stopped Caring.

I could have gone out to the social networks, plead with the few souls I had still following me who weren't bots to read a page or two, or cherry pick a few things they might like to read, but I didn't. I was in Stopped Caring.

I could have gone out to my research projects, my writing projects, my website projects, any of a number of things that were works in process on and about the web, but I didn't. I was in Stopped Caring.

Instead, I went out to my video feed and picked up what had come in since the last time, zoning out while the emptiness in my head and in my heart faded away into numbness.


Months Ago

"I have to raise the rent again. I'm sorry. It will be in the new lease. The city just keeps rasing the price of everything."

I nodded.

"If you're interested in signing up for another year, that is."

"I am."

"Alright. I draw up the new lease."



Weeks Ago

I started snooping message boards for pointers on living with less. That's how I'd picked up the bicycle trailer. A few pages later, I was reintroduced to diving. The hardest part was getting past the initial revulsion, is what all the following pages agreed.

That wasn't a problem for me. Some things never seem to be a problem for me, and other things that come so easily to some are difficult.


Days Ago

My feed was emptying out now, which meant I had to go looking for something else to provide me with sustained numbness. But if I had to work for it, it wouldn't be numbness. If I had to work for it, it wouldn't divert my mind much at all, and that wasn't nearly enough.

It was my mind I needed to numb, to silence, to still. It was my mind and heart that felt so empty and broken when I was in Stopped Caring. It wasn't something I could fix, that anybody could fix. It was just something I had to push into cold numbness until it faded into the background once again.


Weeks Ago

As I rode to work that Sunday, along my usual route, someone called out to me.

"Ace? Is that you? Ace!"

I was pushing my margin of time to change so I didn't stop, didn't ask, didn't have any priority higher than getting to work.

I wanted to ask, "How do you know that name?"

I ride the same route every shift, but I haven't seen her since. I've been out of the loop of anyone's lives for so long, I can't imagine anybody who that could be, as young as she was.

I'm keeping my eyes open, my margins wider, and my priorities straighter since, but to no avail.

I never work anywhere long, at least, not once I start opening up to who I really am inside. Nobody wants to be around that, and I already feel people here trying to reach under the surface with me. I won't let them.

I mustn't let them in.


Continue reading...

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Only Sweeter, Part 8 (Mature)

Mature Content

First - Previous

"And here we are." The doors of the blue box flung open, just as I led the crew down into the cargo bay, and two gentlemen stepped out.

"Sorry, Doctor, but this isn't the Icarus. This isn't my ship."

"No, you're right, it's not. Sorry about that. But it is a ship. I think. Hey you, up there! Is this a ship?"

Captain Mal tried to barge past me, but I put a hand on his chest and stopped him cold. He looked down at my hand, then back up to my face, and then repeated it again, before trying to surge forward. I put the index finger from my other hand on his lips, and said, quite fiercely, "No."

Inara would have been proud.

"Yes, it's a ship, and no, it's not the Icarus."

"You know the Icarus," asked the gentleman not wearing a bow-tie.

"Well, I know of the Icarus." I continued down the stairs to the and Mal tried to continue with me, but I glared at him. He froze, his mind clicking and stalling, trying to shift gears and figure out what was going on. "Sit. Stay."

He glared back, looking all the more bewildered, but stopped.

"It's complicated."

The strapping fellow with the bowtie stepped around his friend, muttering, "Yes, it usually is," before speaking up in a tone that indicated he wasn't fully aware he'd spoken the previous line aloud. "I'm sorry, who are you?"

"This is Serenity, a Firefly class 03-K64 transport spaceship; behind me, you see the crew, with illustrious Captain Malcolm Reynolds behaving like a good little puppy dog, and I... don't belong here."

He pulled a device out of his jacket pocket and waved it at me, it's light sputtering when pointed in my direction. "No, you most certainly do not," he murmured again, still attractively unaware. "You still haven't said who you are."

"You're right, I haven't." I snagged one of his suspenders as he circled me, and pulled him in closer, examining him myself. "But though I would love to play doctor with you and see where things lead, why don't you tell everyone what you've just realized."

"What I've just realized?" He stepped back, away from me, and the suspender snapped, causing him to wince beautifully. I wanted to do it again.

"About where I'm from."

"About where you're... from?"

"Come on, now Doctor, haven't you figured it out by now? Or are you still telling your little screwdriver there that it's not possible?"

"How did you... It says.. No, certainly not, quite impossible."

I sighed. "Come on, River wouldn't hesitate."

"How do you... Oh, fine. You're from the other side of the Fourth Wall, whatever that means. I've never heard of anywhere called Fourth Wall, so it couldn't possibly exist--"

"Are you omnipotent too now?"

"I'm a Timelord, I'll have you know."

"I do. Traveling hither and yon in your little Tardis. Mummy and daddy must be proud. I know it's hard, but you can stop treating me like a muggle."

"Like a what?"

"Now hold on here, just a minute." The gears finally engaged, and Mal finished descending to the cargo bay floor. "What makes you passenger think he can treat this captain like a..." He paused, and turned back to he crew, seeking support and prompting.

"Little puppy," Jayne supplied, eagerly.

"Like a little puppy!? And you! Who are you and what are you doing on my ship? Nice suspenders, by the way."

The Doctor stroked his own absently. "Why thank you."

"Boys, boys." I held up my hands, and shot a sharp look at Arno before he too could open his mouth and weigh in with his own problems. "As much as I'd love for all three of us to unzip and compare sizes, this isn't the time or the place. Let's all just have a nice little sit down, we'll get all sorted, and maybe finish getting something in our bellies while we do. I'm sure the Doctor would be happy to provide some fresh victuals from his innumerous stocks as a peace offering to supplement my own. Maybe even some apples," I glanced at him, and he nodded, "to whet our appetites. Afterward, if you don't like what he has to say, then you can try to toss him out the airlock. What say you?"

The Doctor looked a little green at the last part, equally as nauseas as Jayne looked eager, but nodded. The Captain nodded too.

I draped my arms over both of their shoulders, and we awkwardly marched three-wide to the kitchen.

All parts of Only Sweeter