All posts for the month October, 2015


Duggan was ugly by most Folk standards, and he knew it. His bald head was crisscrossed with scars and his beak-like nose had been broken more often than he could remember. A close encounter with an axe-wielding hare had taken his right ear. His plastron was awash in graphically violent tattooed threats and the entirety of his shell was decorated in kill markings. He would never make it in civilized society, but the big turtle didn’t care. It wasn’t civilized in the hole that he and his partner occupied. It was hot and still in there, and Duggan was bored.

“Hey, Lissa,” he called. His voice was a deep, sepulchral thing, garbled not at all by the butt of the unlit cigar in the corner of his mouth. He always had one there, and only a very few of his fellow troops had ever heard him speak without it in place.

“Send it,” Lissa replied, without turning her attention away from what she was watching. She had her paws wrapped around a rifle, and the stock of it was snugged up tight into the pocket of her right shoulder.

“I thought these dipshits were supposed to move by now.”

“Should be any time.”

He tapped at his chron. “Naw, fam. Shoulda been by now. Maybe half an hour or so ago.”

“Then stop bitching and get your ass behind that nailgun. If they move, we gotta zap ’em first. You want McEnroe and BigButt to win?”

He made a snorting sound. “Those two couldn’t beat you to the punch if you gave them a five-second lead.”

“I don’t intend to give them the chance,” she said. Nimble fingers made a minute adjustment to the holosight atop her rifle without her moving the weapon.

Duggan checked the belts leading into his machinegun again. The waiting was what killed him. The boredom of holding his position while waiting. Once it all dropped in the pot, Lissa knew he’d be the usual killing machine the crew knew him to be, but at the moment, he might as well be chewing off his own claws.

“Me either,” he muttered, patting the stock of his weapon. A garish drawing of a screaming rat was painted on the butt.

“The Cap says we’re in for a lot of action on this one,” Lissa said.

“His mom’s in for a lot of action.”

She laughed at the familiar joke. “Supposedly they dropped in a battalion of rabbits the other day.”

“Good,” Duggan said. “Can’t wait to get me some ears.”

“Frayker said he’s gonna be the first to get some,” she countered. The words were barely out of her mouth when Duggan was back with his usual.

“His mom’s gonna be the first to get some.”

“What have you got against Frayker’s mom?” she asked.

“Not as much as I did last night.”

“Damn, dude, that’s just ugly.”

“So’s Frayker’s mom.”

The two shared a round of laughter. The commentary was an easy back and forth thing with them, and spoke of partners who had held similar conversations many times in the past. Duggan cracked the seal on a canteen and slurped noisily at the warm water inside it. When he offered it, he finally got Lissa to take her eyes off the firing line. She gripped the canteen and hoisted it, pouring water past tiny pointed teeth. Taking a second mouthful that she let sit for a while before swallowing, the mongoose turned back to her rifle. Duggan drained another slug from the canteen before shoving it back into his belt.

“Thanks,” she said. “I was getting kinda dry.”

“Same same. Figured if they aren’t moving, we might as well get a drink. Hell, I’d have brought some of Smitty’s wine if I’d known they were gonna just sit out there on their tails.”

“That shit’s nasty,” she said, a shudder rippling down her back.

“Nasty? Girl, I watched you drink your body weight in that!”

“Think that’s when I decided it was nasty,” she explained. “The hangover that next morning was a thing of legend.”

“Well, if you’re interested, I’ve got a couple bottles back in the hootch when we get out of here.”

“Beats another night of that local beer,” she said, pragmatism winning over flavor.

“That isn’t beer. That shit’s right up there with that grey pasty stuff in the mess hall.”

“Right? What the hell was that?” Lissa asked.

“I don’t know, but it tasted like ass,” he said, leaning against the front wall of their hole. Above them, the logs shifted enough to send a cascade of yellow dust down onto them. Neither of them took any real notice. The dust was a way of life and they had grown used to having it in everything they ate, drank, or slept in.

“It did,” she agreed. “Y’ever wonder whose side the cooks are really on?”

He chuckled.

“I could see you cooking for the toothies,” he said. “Today’s special is cyanide casserole, you beady-eyed shitsuckers!”

“I got a nice hot meal for ’em right here,” Lissa responded as she grinned at his comment. She patted the forend of the rifle. “Let one of ’em pop up their ugly little heads and we’ll see how hungry they are.”

“I’m hoping for more than one,” Duggan said.

“Company strength ain’t just one.”

“I know. I was just saying.”

“I know,” she repeated. “I’m just picturing a couple hundred dead toothies all stacked up in a pile, waiting for the fire units.”

The comment brought a smile to Duggan’s face. “I’ll take mine well done,” he said.

“Aww, damn, man. Why’d you have to equate them to food? Now I ain’t gonna be able to eat my bucket of grey ass-paste when we get back.”

His chuckle began quietly but a moment later he was struggling not to burst into raucous laughter. “Pretty sure that’s a country song,” he said when he had recovered somewhat. Lissa giggled.

“It was raining out, and I couldn’t eat my –” she began. Her voice cut off and she leaned deeper into the rifle butt. Duggan needed no words to tell him what the gesture meant and he stood up into the firing slit beside her, gripping the machinegun and slipping the safety.

The rifle barked beside him, the action cycling and ejecting an empty casing that bounced off his hardened head with a pinging sound. Three hundred meters out, a flash of crimson in the air announced her hit as clearly as any range monitor could have.

“Dinner’s served, you needledick bastards!” Duggan roared as he squeezed the trigger. His boredom vanished as the big weapon thundered and hammered itself into his shoulder. He was home again.

“I’ve lived upon the edge of chance for twenty years or more” – Del Rio’s Song, Imaginos album, Blue Oyster Cult


“Sometimes life ain’t easy,” Tristan said. He flipped the thin-bladed stiletto in his paw, extending it hilt-first to Skeeter. “Take it.”

The matte black hilt seemed darker than ever against the snowy white of Skeeter’s fur. He picked it up and held it, looking at the play of light along the gleaming blade. He hefted it, testing the feel.

“No real weight,” Tristan said, crossing his arms across his chest and leaning against the wall. “Couple dozen grams is all. Once you get used to it, you don’t even think about it being there, ’til you need it, and then it’s in your hand and you’re going to work.”

“You mean, you’ve…” Skeeter began, his words trailing off as he looked with new eyes at the device in his hand.

Lean of weight as Tristan had said, the blade was reinforced by a stiffening spire of steel down its length, lending it a triangular aspect. Much like the leopard who carried it, the weapon seemed purpose built for getting in and back out of a situation.

“Yeah.” The word was delivered with a straight face. There was no braggadocio, no need to inflate past deeds. It was the simple declaration of a lifelong warrior.

Skeeter held it back to Tristan, but the leopard shook his head. A thick claw protruded from his paw and tapped on the long blade.

“First time was on Hephaestus IV. Big rat. About my height, but wider and more muscled. He was guarding an ammunition depot. Took him in the ear. Straight through the head. Guy named Yuri was with me, and he took out the other guard.”

Skeeter swallowed and his gaze became a little glassy.

“If we didn’t get that depot, the rats would have kept shelling our guys. So our unit worked its way forward until we got close. Yuri and I went in at night, all quiet-like. Opened a door for the sappers and lit the sky.”

Tristan recovered the blade from Skeeter, spinning it in his fingers like a drummer at a concert. It vanished into a sheath a few seconds later.

“So like I was saying, sometimes life ain’t easy. You gotta take a chance. Step up and give it a shot. Hell, pup, I lived my life taking chances. One after another.”

“But what happens when you take the chance and it goes wrong?” Skeeter asked. Tristan chuckled, a deep sound akin to a growl.

“Shit happens, you know? Some gambles don’t pay off, but some do. I ain’t ever had anything major go wrong. Missing a toe, got a few scars, and a chunk of my tail is gone, but for two decades kicking rat ass that ain’t much of a price.”

The door opened, letting in a wave of heat that made Skeeter wince. He turned to see Diem step inside. The expression of warmth at seeing Skeeter turned into exasperation when he saw who the young fox was speaking to.

“Gara, pup,” he said, invoking the goddess with his usual casual manner. “You haven’t been listening to this old reprobate, have you?”

“I needed some advice.”

“I was helping him,” Tristan said.

Diem laughed aloud. He unslung his rifle and propped it against the wall, and then went to the refrigerator to pull a beer from its cool confines. “You were telling war stories again.”

“That’s helping!”


“He asked about bravery. About fear. I answered.”

Diem cocked his head for a moment and then nodded. “True. You do have that covered,” he admitted. He spun the top from the bottle and upended it, downing half of it in one prodigious swallow.

“I’m not sure how much of it really applies, though,” Skeeter said. “I mean, I’m not going to war.”

“So what’s the situation?” Diem asked. Skeeter looked at the floor and fell silent. A glance up at Tristan revealed nothing as the other warrior shook his head.

“Somebody picking on you, pup?” Tristan asked.

“You tried to give him advice without knowing for what?” Diem asked. He took another drink of his beer. Setting the bottle on the top of a counter, he leaned backward to sit on the table. His foot drifted forward in a lazy kick that served only to get Skeeter’s attention. When the fox looked up, Diem grinned.

“It’s Miranda,” he guessed. Skeeter’s head jerked up and his eyes met Diem’s.

“Who’s Miranda?” Tristan asked.

Diem made a vague gesture of direction. “Little kitten from up the road a ways,” he answered. “The one you always see Skeeter here hanging around.”

Tristan threw his hands up and howled with laughter. Skeeter shot him a dirty look.

“It’s not funny!” the fox barked at him.

“Oh, no doubt!”

“What’s the situation?” Diem asked again, dropping down until he was close to Skeeter’s height.

“I want to ask her out,” Skeeter admitted.

“I take it back,” Tristan said, waving his hands. “Not funny at all.”

Diem glared at him for a second before realizing the veteran had blanched and was serious. He put a friendly paw on Skeeter’s shoulder.

“It sounds weird, but you were right. Tristan can tell you more about fear than most anyone here. He’s lived through shit that most of us only see in our nightmares.”

“This isn’t war, though!” Skeeter repeated.

“It’s worse, pup.”

Skeeter looked up, his ears perking. “What do you mean?”

“I can roll into a firefight any day of the week. Three possible outcomes: I get dead, I get hurt, or I come out clean. All I’m risking is my life. That ain’t shit compared to putting your heart on the line.”

“You’re not helping,” Diem said.

“Just telling him like I see it. Girls are a whole ‘nother thing.”

“He needs someone to tell him it will work out.”

“And what if it doesn’t?”

“It’s Miranda!” Diem yelled. “She’s head over heels for this little mook!”

Skeeter’s head snapped up once again, eyes widening. “She is?”

Diem reached out and picked up the winter fox by his shoulders, standing him on a chair so they were eye to eye. He leveled a gaze on the youth that had seen enemy troops run in terror.

“You tell her I said anything and I’ll plant my foot up your ass,” he warned. “Now you listen to me. You swallow that fear and go ask her.”

“But what if -”

In a blur of motion, Diem flicked a claw against Skeeter’s forehead. The dull thwack sound echoed in the room. As Skeeter rubbed at his forehead, Diem pointed at Tristan.

“Twenty years he’s danced with fate. He’s dumb and a bit of a dick, but he’s still here. Fear is all that’s holding you back. All you can say is ‘what if’. Well, what if she says ‘yes’, dumbass?”

“I would die.”

“So would I,” Tristan said, ignoring the dramatic tone Skeeter used. “If she says, ‘yes, dumbass’, I’ll die laughing.”


So today’s prompt was “fear”. I didn’t know where to start when it came right down to it. I knew I was probably going to run something in the anthro setting (I have really got to figure out a name for this…) but I didn’t know what to address. My background music gave me the quote at the top of the tale, and I rolled with it. The character of Tristan fell into place – a warrior who relies on his luck even more than his skill, and has done so for an incredible amount of time. I pictured the fear he might have experienced through his years, and then decided to twist it so that it was not the story of his fear that was the focal point. Making him a mentor seemed a good angle, but taking out the idea of him mentoring a younger soldier kept it fresh. Bringing my old friend Skeeter into the mix just added a touch of fun. Hope y’all liked it. Drop a note and let me know if you’re digging these stories.


“Look out there, man,” Buck said, waving his arm in a wide sweep that encompassed everything around them and managed to slosh out a small measure of the wine in his paw. He paid no attention to the loss, jamming the bottle back to his lips for another swallow before continuing.

“Everything we are is out there. We’re all part of the dust that makes up the universe. The same parts that made you and me might have made Arktel or Venophon.”

“I ain’t no planet, man,” Eric said in reply. His eyes were half closed as he looked into the sky. His friend was raving again, as was standard when he had imbibed. For years it had been the same. Buck became more philosophical when he drank, sometimes enough that people fled from the fox when he had a bottle. Eric was more grounded, although he had been known to embarrass many Folk when he had a hit or two of Jazz. The last time he had danced naked on the prow of a tank, using the main gun as a sort of lopsided stripper’s pole. They barely escaped before the soldiers arrived.

“No, but dig it, the same stuff from the beginning of time got spread out everywhere in the universe and we’re all made of it, you know? So, like, you’ve got something in common with the sun and the stars.”

Eric fired a smoke. The sweet mint smell drifted upward, and Buck’s waving hands dissipated the cloud with ease. “So why don’t you hop the next craft out and go visit Uncle Stardust? I mean, if you’re all related and so on.”

“Blow me. You know what I mean. Think about it! The same dust –”

“No more dust, man. No more, please. Talk about anything else.”

“Like what?” Buck asked. His tone was that of a lost child, and for a second Eric felt guilt at having taken the wind out of his friend’s sails as he had.

“We need more wine,” Eric said, rummaging around in the cooler. Only one bottle remained. There were nearly a dozen on the ground, and Eric knew he had only had two. He popped open the top and leaned back against the windshield of the car that served as their couch while they were out here – and their transportation to and from the clearing where they relaxed every weekend.

“We always need more wine,” Buck agreed.

Behind them, in the car, the music changed to something darker and heavier.

“We could, you know,” Eric said, suddenly serious.

“Get more wine?”

“No. Bail on this mudball and go check out the rest of the universe.”

“The fuck?”

“Think about it, Buck,” Eric urged. He thumped a hoof on the hood of the car for emphasis. “Colonists. They always want colonists, so why not us? Making a go of it elsewhere. Away from these stupid-ass jobs we’ve got. Be our own bosses. No more –”

“They don’t have stores, man. Where we gonna buy wine?”

“We can make our own wine! Hell, we can open our own store!”

“Can we call it Buck’s Place?”

“Sure,” Eric said, caught up in the enthusiasm that was sweeping across the pair.

“Where are we gonna go?”

“I don’t know, but I say we do it. You and me, we’ve been beating our heads against a wall for years. Let’s take a chance. Next colony ship, let’s sign up for it!”

Buck grinned and pointed up. “Out there?”

“Yep. I don’t know where we’re gonna wind up, but hell yeah! We’re gonna be out there with the stars, man. That’s where the future is. That’s where we belong. Our future, written in the stars!”




They’re going to know what you did.

Nicky was usually more up front in his cautions, but the simple fear that someone would discover his secrets set Pike’s teeth on edge.

“No,” he whispered in reply.

Look at them, moron. They can see it in your eyes, plain as day. You’re giving yourself away. See how they looked away from you? They know!

“They can’t.”

He moved on beyond the trio of Collies who once more stared at him. He shoved his paws deeper into the pockets of his hoodie, pulling the garment down lower on his emaciated frame. With luck they just think I’m homeless or some such, he thought.

Homeless? They know. One of them saw it. You’re gonna have to deal with them.

“Shut up,” Pike hissed. He opened the flask and took a deep drink, letting the fiery liquor within burn a trail down his throat.

That shit won’t make me go away, dumbass! I’m telling you, they know. The short one on the left. Did you see how she looked at you? Like you were scum. She knows what you just did. She’s gonna tell.

Pike walked on, passing through the security barrier and into the grassland. No one ever stopped you when you were leaving. At most they would caution you about suspected activity in the Badlands. It was only when you came back that you had to be questioned. In his youth, Pike had walked casually into and out of the grassland without ever being confronted.

That was before the rats had come. Four years ago, when they had rigged explosives on the seven members of the touring company and sent them back into the mainland to be human bombs, everything had changed.

“See, Nicky? We’re out,” Pike said with a smile. He lit a cigarette as the grass parted before him. He moved through it as if he was born to it.

They don’t stop you on the way out, Nicky reminded him.

“And if you ain’t ever coming back, who cares?”

Behind them, the day was shattered with the first explosion. The Bell Tower, looming so high over the Maltine Academy, had its base shattered like glass before a wrecking ball. With a creak of tortured stone, it listed to the side and then crashed down onto Hanford Hall with the force of a dozen bombs.

Seconds later, all the doors to Lady Serenity’s Hospital blew outward on the front of a blast wave. Balls of fire spat from the openings, an urban dragon that collapsed in upon itself in a rush of horrible sound.

The Police Station.

The Newspaper office.

The giant chain department store.

The support beams for the enormous Passion Street bridge.

The sounds echoed for the next twenty minutes as, one after another, massive explosions rocked the city. The death tolls would be in the millions.

Wish we’d have got those fucking Collies.

“They won’t even remember seeing us,” Pike said. “Besides, we won’t be on-planet much longer.”

Told you to trust them.

“I know.”

“You know what, goat?” demanded a voice. Pike turned and smiled as he saw the first of the rats. More of them followed and they spoke in turn, but he could not tell the difference between them.

“I know they won’t be coming back after you for a while. They have more important things to deal with now.”

Damn right they do.

“Good to hear. You’ll be wanting transport off world now.”

“Yeah. I can’t hang out here.”

“We have arranged for you to be transported elsewhere. May we count on your continued assistance?”

“You bet. These Folk have been nothing but assholes to me.”

“Excellent,” said a rat. They escorted him further into the grasslands, and behind them explosions continued to vibrate the ground.



Ansel lit the cigarette in blatant violation of the little prohibition sign on the wall. He was two drags in when the door opened and Miss Teller poked her head through the gap. Her mouth was a thin line and her eyes narrowed as she glared at him.

“Just what do you think you are doing?” she demanded. Ansel took a third long pull, and his words were spoken through a thick cloud.

“I’m already getting tagged for the fight. Might as well get it all at once,” he said.

“Get in my office,” she ordered. Her face looked like she had sucked on a lemon. As he passed, she snatched the smoke from his lips and crushed it on the tile beneath her heel. A well-practiced hand shoved him into the closest of the chairs in front of her desk as she waved a paw to clear the smoke smell.

He looked at her with an expression that spoke of numerous previous meetings and an expected outcome that would not be in his favor, but he kept his mouth shut. She looked at him, waiting for him to speak. After a long period of mutual staring, she broke the silence.

“So do you want to tell me what happened?”

“Fight,” he said simply.

“That much I could have surmised from your appearance if I had not been told already. Bloody, filthy, and with ripped clothing tells a story all its own.”

“Must be Thursday,” Ansel shot back.

“Is that when they pick on you, then?”

“Lady, nobody picks on me,” he said. He slapped a paw on his chest for emphasis.

You’re a liar.

“What?” he said, half-rising from the chair. His nostrils flared. Miss Teller looked at him across her graceful muzzle, head tilted to the left.

“Please remain in your seat, Mister Phillips.”

“You called me a liar.”

“I said no such thing.”

“I heard it!”

“Perhaps you did, but not from me. Tell me, if they don’t pick on you, why do you end up back here every other week?”

Because you can’t control yourself.

“What the hell?”

“Language, Mister Phillips!” she snapped, slapping a hand on the desk.

“Tell me you heard that!”

“I did indeed, and there are things I do not have to tolerate.”

“No! The voice!” he said, craning his neck to look all around the office.

You’re the believer here, Ansel. Not her. Why would I talk to her?

“This isn’t funny!” Ansel shouted, jumping to his feet. He knocked the chair over in his haste, and Miss Teller rose from her chair as well, planting her paws on her hips.

“I daresay it is not,” she replied. She pointed to the chair. “Pick that up and plant your butt in it, young man.”

It was the first time Ansel had heard anything even approximating a curse come from the principal, but he did not take the time to appreciate that he had been the one to make her lose control. He was too busy looking around the room.

“Who are you?” he asked aloud.

You really are a dense one, aren’t you? You pray to me and you don’t think I might just listen every now and then?

“No. No fucking way.”

“That’s three days detention!” Miss Teller barked. Ansel was paying no attention to her at this point. He was looking now toward the ceiling, his eyes wide.

“It can’t be,” he said.

It is.

“Why didn’t you do anything? I was getting my ass handed to me every damned day!”

Does this sound familiar, then? “Oh, Gann, just let me be strong enough to fight back and I’ll serve you forever.” And you got stronger. Faster. Meaner. You opened your heart to me and I filled it with raw power. How many of your classmates could stand after fighting six at once?

“That was you?”

I have need of warriors, Ansel. I need guardians for the temples. I need those willing to fight that will carry my words to the masses. Rest assured, it will be a fight. I am not some god of love and peace. My people need me in the trenches. In the mines. In the dark of night, when the monsters come, there will you find my priests, standing as a bulwark against their dark incursions. You said you would serve me. Will you live up to your word?

Ansel nodded, struck dumb by the words. He had always imagined Gann to be a psychological construct of some sort, there to help people deal with whatever was in their hearts or minds, but the thought that an actual god was speaking to him banished that image. He knew now with full and complete certainty that everything his father had taught him was real. It was like opening a door into a room full of pure light.

Miss Teller had flipped the red toggle on the edge of her desk when Ansel stopped talking to her. The office door flew open to reveal the twin wolfhounds that acted as security officers during school hours. Neither one looked to be in a friendly mood.

“Mister Phillips here –” she began, but Ansel cut her off.

“I need a ride,” he said, his voice low and deep. “Whichever one of you two idiots can actually drive needs to take me to the Gannite monastery.”

He turned back to look at his shocked principal. He half-bowed from the waist.

“My apologies for my behavior,” he said. “We all find our way to Gann differently, but He has shown Himself to me today. I will finish my school in His temple.”







Prompt – Awakening

“You know, for someone who’s supposed to be smart, you’re pretty fuckin’ dumb sometimes, Chino,” Harper said. His tone was flat, more a general indictment than a statement with any real malice.

“I didn’t know who else to call.”

“I wasn’t saying anything about that, man. You know I’ll be there if you need me. Just… Goddamn, man. Try to fuckin’ think now and then, yeah? You got some kind of giant brain up in that nugget. Use the damn thing.”

Chino made a chuckling sound. “I’m more the ‘act first’ kind of guy,” he said.

“That’s the problem, pal. You keep acting like this and we’re gonna need to jump a freighter. If the badges don’t come after us, the mobs will.”

“You think so?”

“Faydor already offered a hundred large for whoever took out Sonny Ears. How long til they figure out it was you?”

“You’re not going to tell them, are you, Harper?”

“Nah, Chino, man. I ain’t a snitch. Not even for cash. Especially not where you’re concerned.”

Relief washed over the wrinkled face as Chino cracked a smile around his trunk.

“I love you, man.”

“I know. I love you too, dummy.”

Their shovels clanged as they threw them into the back of the car. Moments later, they were driving north, and the shallow grave they left behind was just another disturbance in the forest floor.





Prompt: Non-romantic love.