UNDER THE SURFACE OF THE STARS A new day. A new dawn
Something woke me early. I knew this day was different.
Stars fell last eve, the dawn blinked of day and night. A woven canopy of twinkling stardust.
This day the Faeries brought the light. Garden Gnomes emerged with shovels in hand, Treasure sacks over their shoulders, ready to work.
Fingering my dragon ring; it wiggled. The air shifted. Red and bronze scales shimmered.
Dainty dragon’s tail curled swirling around my finger, Wing’s flap, eyes opening, yawning wide, As babies do, coughing smoke, inhaling, His first breath in animated life.
Fireflies lit the room dancing with pixies, They knew. Arriving with treats for the tiny dragon.
The earth trembled. My treehouse woke, stretching its limbs. A lumbering giant rocking to and fro — we moved. Over hills and dales, across rivers and oceans, Up and over mountain peaks, somewhere near eternity’s edge, We paused. Listening to the distance march of marionettes approach.
We land with falling stars. A new day, a new dawn.
The Earth thunders beneath our feet. Wind strums the tree; the Forest sings. Wave’s clash and crash, cymbals of attention, To the far-off serenade of a Whale’s song. Fireflies blinking sparks that litter the air. Hearts full of life — children still believe.
We will not be erased. Together we fight— The land of faery arise.
NovaCore sat like a small city in the middle of the dense jungle just 20 klicks from where Akira DeNaga, leader of The Hand, landed his Stealth fighter just outside NovaCore’s detection zone. He activated the camouflage shields as he exited, watching the ship blend into the jungle canopy.
The tranquility of the jungle moon of Pandaria could be deceptive, and yet almost magical. Moonbugs danced in the darkest areas of the jungle, tiny flashes of light in the night.
Akira had one goal. Destroy the Gynnos Seeker Project.
There were dozens of building clusters covering over 25 leagues of ground. The science labs hovered on large daises among the clouds, above jutting buildings that punch the sky. The ground buildings extended 30 feet underground, connecting to the ancient catacomb mazes that ran even deeper throughout the inner planet.
The Hand spies within NovaCore had provided a detailed map of the planet and the building that house the Seeker Project, plus the Pandaria sentries patrol shifts and routes. Automation controlled the science centers and sky labs during sleep cycles. The security detail focused on ground patrol while sentry droids patrolled the sky.
At the main building, Akira placed a communication control device on the outside communications array. He entered the code that had disabled security alerts and allowed entry into the building. The inner lift took him to the roof, bypassing all other levels.
One sentry operated the security post on the roof. Akira pulled on his gas mask, counting to mark time. On the last count, the door opened. He sprayed the sentry, knocking him out before he could stand and react.
Stepping out and moving around the guard post, he flipped the lever that released the sky-hopper. Once he docked with the Sky-Lab above the building, he crossed the sky bridge through arched doors to the control panel, punching in the entry code, GJH289KV834.
The force field dropped. Moving down the hallway to the next door, he repeated the process through three more doors using different codes.
The lab was home to thousands of storage cubes and data panels, and other life forms detained within containment housing cubes.
Akira accessed the database inputting the project ID number, SEEKER-420DALF. Library cubes and panels shuffled and shifted, bringing to the forefront project SEEKER. Instead of biotech data, or bioweapons, or sophisticated bio intelligence, he found living animals.
He read the data file.
Gynnos Mountain Wolves. Genome experimentation. Gene Splice on the bonded pair. Genetically altered for hunting and finding the Gynnos race, specifically the ones that carried the marker of the royal lineage.
Male rejected alterations over six full lunar rotations. Male did not survive. Female survived because of the mutated gene and elevated antibodies that appeared with the onset of the gestation period. Three pups, all born healthy. Project successful.
The female wolf growled, pulling his attention away from the data file. A movement to his right was the only warning he got. An MEC9 robotic sentry appeared, extending an arm and firing at him.
Akira dove to the ground, pinned down between the housing cube and the database. The sentry had grazed his arm with that shot. He checked the wound. It hurt worse than the sun scorch, but he’d survive it.
The MEC9 fired again, hitting the cube control panel, releasing the door mechanism. One adult wolf and three pups jumped out. They watched the robotic sentry instead of him.
He took a deep breath and prepared to stand and fire. The female wolf jumped over the database, ripping the sentries’ firing arm off. Akira fired at its sensor panel, completely disabling the MEC9 unit.
Turning to the database, he entered the code that would wipe all the information about the Seeker Project from the system. Looking at the wolves, knowing the mission requirements, he gripped his blaster and then re-holstered it.
When he retold the story later to the rest of The Hand on their ship, the Hidden Glove, he ended the adventure tale by saying, “I arrived a destroyer and left a savior.”
One of the wolf pups scratched his boot. He picked it up. Mama and the other two wolf-pups were asleep on the palette in the corner of his quarters.
Escaping Pandaria Moon was tricky, but without the wolves, possibly impossible. They were way more intelligent than the average mountain wolf. There had been a genuine connection, a silent communication, between him and them.
Finishing his report log, he input mission complete. He left out the part where he released the wolves before destroying the project.
The real savior of the day? Smiling, he thought, wore a furry suit.
Storytime Quarterly Blog Hop Jan, April, July, and Oct.
Welcome to Storytime Quarterly Blog Hop! Below are the participant links, so you can cycle through and read all the flash fiction stories if you so choose. All stories are around 500 to 1000 word speculative fiction—flash fiction stories. The story I am sharing today is from my Space Opera world Starlight Galaxy series. It is an origin story about the wolf-pup that befriends Bella that you meet in the bigger story. Read with joy, as Holly Lisle likes to say.
Welcome to Storytime Quarterly Blog Hop (January, April, July, October).
This short flash fiction is part of Apocalypse, Signed, Sealed, & Delivered series world. I write a lot of crossover in my Grumpy Old Gods short stories with these characters and world. You may remember Elliot from my story in our Stormdance Publications anthology, Grumpy Olds Gods Vol. 1, my story, ‘Playing Hookie’.
This is an ongoing series world. You may encounter Elliot again in my upcoming story for Grumpy Old Gods Vol. 6 releasing March 2023. Hope you enjoy this fun little moment in time in the ASSD World and Grumpy World. Be sure and check out the other fun stories by authors around the globe in the list at the end of the story, and leave us comments. We love hearing from our readers. Read with joy as Holly Lisle says.
THE PRANCING ROAD HOG MOTORCYCLE CLUB HELP WANTED. APPLY INSIDE.
Rhea gaze lingered on the one rearview mirror, on the motorcycle farthest from the door lined up with ten more out in from of The Prancing Road Hog. She checked her hair one last time, opened her purse, pulled out her lipstick, and then decided against it dropping the tube back in.
Maybe I shouldn’t have gotten all dolled up in my best dress and red heels to apply for a bartender job. Why didn’t I bring a jacket?
Admittedly, she was thinking about the bar’s owner with the red hair and sexy southern creole accent when she got dressed earlier.
A jacket would have toned down the whole look, making it more professional-instead of trying to impress a potential non-date.
Dang it. She needed this job.
Her severance pay from the last job was about gone. Next month’s rent might be late if she didn’t do something soon. Bartending was a temporary solution. She had worked bars in college, and the tips were good. She could do it again. Except… her bad choice in attire might jinx her chances.
Didn’t matter. She grabbed an application by the door as she entered, and hopped up on a bar stool, and noted the current bartender was at the far end serving other customers. When he looked her way, she waved the blank application at him.
He raised his voice so she would hear him. “I’ll let Elliot know you are here.”
She had the application finished by the time the owner of the bar came out to greet her. Her face felt hot. She willed her heartbeat to slow down taking deep breaths.
He leaned over with his face on his hand and nodded at the paper. “Why ya filling dat out, cher? I thought you had an office job closer to downtown Miami?”
“I do, did. I was a toy designer for Tattooed Toys, Inc.” Rhea sighed. “Disney did a takeover bringing in their own team. They gave us all severance packages and let us go.”
“Sorry for dat.”
Rhea shrugged. “It’s been six months. There is not a lot of demand for toy designers in this area. I’d have had better luck relocating to the north pole where there is higher demand and no Disney.”
“It’s a lot warmer in the Sunshine State.”
“Which is why I’m here and not there. I don’t do cold well.”
The idea of going back to her family with her tail between her legs sucked. The thought of all the ‘told you so’ made her cringe. She did not want to spend her life collecting naughty children. “I can’t afford to move to the north pole even if I wanted to, and I don’t.”
“And you’d rather bartend after working an office job?”
“It’s better than going home or working retail.” She batted her eyes and leaned into the bar. “I may not have dressed for it, but I have done the bartend thing before. Besides. You need help.”
“You’re more likely to start a riot in that dress, than help.” Elliot gave her a faux leer.
Rhea’s shoulders slumped. “I wanted to make a good impression. I need this job.”
“Oh, you made an impression, cher,” Elliot said, his grin growing wider. “A lot of eyes are turned this way.”
Before she could respond, three teens, dressed like gangbangers, swaggered into the bar. Her naughty kid sense swung into high gear. This close it was hard to ignore. She swiveled in her seat focusing on them, flicking her tail like a cat ready to pounce.
“Rhea?” Elliott said drawing her attention back to him. He leaned over the bar eyes pointedly on her flicking tail. “I may be, mostly human, but I come from a long line of wizards and seers. You do know that I can see through your glamor, right?”
“You’re a Krampus, so settle down. I’ll handle the kids.”
“I wasn’t going to do anything. It’s just instinct.” Those boys were up to no good. She sensed it. Her nature wouldn’t ignore it, but she did have a choice on what action she took. “It’s been years since I’ve allowed those urges to rule me.” Rhea faced the bar again. “Guess that means I don’t have the job, huh? Can I get a drink?”
“No, you have the job. Just don’t go carrying off my underage clientèle to the Underworld. This is a club. We serve sodas too.” Elliot chuckled, grabbing a glass making her a Peppermint White Russian. “Your favorite.”
“I did.” Elliot was watching the boys as they found an isolated table under a special edition poster of Mount Doom signed by the cast of Lord of the Rings.
Rhea watched Elliot. He knew the boys were trouble too. “They are not all human you know?”
“I do know. Can you start work tomorrow at noon?”
“We have a dress code. Jeans and a handmade ‘Middle-Earth” t-shirt. You can pick your size and color from the selection we have in the back room before you leave.”
“Got it boss.”
STORYTIME QUARTERLY BLOG HOP JANUARY, APRIL, JULY, OCTOBER
“Doors stuck, shelves fell, and don’t get me started on the landscaping.” Albert pointed at the scratches still marring his cheeks. “I thought paint a little and rent it out.”
“It’s a Tudor Revival,” nice, solid pre-Depression construction. “And you know I worked on my Dad’s team, so I can do restoration.” I even had all Dad’s tools in my trailer.
He guffawed in my face. “Jenny, it’s a ruin by a swamp. No one’s lived there for decades, kids just go there to see the ghost lights and get drunk.” Much like he was.
He poured himself another. “Tell you what – you fix it up by month’s end, and I’ll sell it to you for a dollar.”
“A dollar? That’s it?”
He shrugged. “And back taxes, but that ain’t much. And Lynette has to agree.” Lynette had been a friend since grade one; she’d also turned me on to Albert’s latest ‘get rich cheap’ scheme. It was sell or take a bath on those back taxes.
I knew to the dime how much I had in the bank.
I could do this.
We shook hands and he gave me the keys. “Twenty days.”
The outside was ivy and ornate flourishes.
The inside was a place you hid from zombies.
It took me all day to unjunk the place; trash, cigarette butts, empty bottles, unmentionables. I expected dead animals, but even the cabinets were sans vermin. The City of Port Goode wanted to raze the property and make it a gas station or something, but the house had good bones under the rotting flesh. Hardwood floors, casement windows, carved baseboards: the builder had loved this place and it showed.
And under all the slime and grime, the bathrooms… <sigh>
I checked the living room fireplace then built a fire. Cot, sleeping bag, wind up clock and a good book.
Outside, fireflies played in the moonlight. I didn’t get much reading done.
The next day…
Windows stuck. Drawers tried to brain me. My tools moved from room to room, and the power went off – twice! – when I took a drill to a wall. Food rotted and my water smelled funny. I got wallpaper to come off in rotten sheets – thankfully, there wasn’t any carpet anywhere – but the stairs threatened collapse.
I fought back: bleach, wood, nails, and elbow grease. After the first time, I was hauling the trailer with me to get supplies, which ate gas but let me get more at a contractor’s discount. Worked until I was working by lantern and falling over.
And I woke up the next day and…
The zombies had been there and partied. Hard.
So I got up, and started all over again.
It was Monday.
I wanted this place. I loved this place. I needed this place. I’d spent ten days and most of my money.
Dad always said I was too stubborn for words.
I got up – stepped in the obligatory puddle – and rolled up my sleeves. “Listen to me, house. I’ve got ten days to put you right, or they’re going to make you into a parking lot.”
The fireplace belched soot, the pantry door crashed open, and a hippy dressed in leaves popped out, pointing a stick at me. “Get out, stubborn human!”
I didn’t throw the clock at her. “Look, Lady, I don’t know who you are, but I’m fixing this house. It doesn’t deserve to be torn down.”
“My house!” she waved the stick – and kudzu ate my cot.
“Ok,” Palms out, I backed off until the door behind me shut and locked itself. “You don’t want help keeping this place…”
“Keeping?” She frowned at me. “Not ‘gutting’? Not ‘painting white’?”
I shook my head hard. “No! Fixing! Keeping! Restoring!” When she hesitated, I went all in. “I love this place. I’d love to see it back how it was, beautiful, nice…”
She lowered the stick slightly. “Talk, human.”
I spent the morning explaining building codes and eminent domain. Then I got more done in the rest of the day than the previous ten. Bye wallpaper, hello wood paneling – almost everywhere wood paneling, though I got my bathroom.
Every time I went out for supplies, she examined everything I brought back. “Stain, finish, OK, but no paint!”
I lowered my head. “Your house, your rules.”
That got a nod and I got back to work. Almost fell off the roof twice, but there was this tree branch…
The city did it’s inspection three days before deadline. The house ‘barely passed’, but I had the papers in hand when I called Albert.
He was there inside an hour.
“Here, all nice and legal.” I had the new deed all filled out for his signature.
He slid the papers back at me and leered. “I’ll rent it out to you, Jenny. Won’t be that much.”
“That wasn’t the deal, Al.”
The lights went a little dim.
“You have that in writing?” He fondled my new wooden walls. “They’ll look good with some white paint.”
The fireplace spat soot again and the leafy woman stepped out of the pantry, pointing her stick. “Sign papers, man!”
“What is this, Halloween?” He spat on the wood floor. “What are you going to do if I don’t?”
Albert always was a little slow on the uptake.
Lynette signed next to Albert’s scrawl, and I handed her my last dollar. “Place looks like it suits you, Jenny. Your Dad would be proud.”
I stuck the paperwork and the tax receipt in my purse. “Thanks. It was lots of work – more than you’d know. But this place grows on you.”
“It just might. But what’s with the rock sculpture in the living room?”
“Oh that?” I gave her a smile. “Donated by a local artist.”
“It’s so… disturbing. What did she call it?”
About the Author: Chris Makowski
Chris was born in the Pacific Northwest and lived briefly in Hawaii before being reared in New England. After traveling up and down and back and forth from coast to coast, he was dragged kicking and screaming in the bonds of matrimony to the State of Texas and has been mostly residing there ever since with his wife and son.
STORYTIME QUARTELY BLOG HOP JANUARY, APRIL, JULY, OCTOBER
I wasn’t what anyone would call a nice person. I was grumpy, sarcastic, and I’d earned every scar on my body in ways that would make most people have a nervous breakdown.
But nice or not, there were some things you didn’t ignore – not if you saw them and had the power to act. And the hint of power I could feel from the woods demanded action.
“I do believe in fairies, I do, I do…”
I pinched my nose when I heard that half-whispered chant on the breeze.
Damn Peter Pan to hell. The whole play was pure fey propaganda.
I could feel a trickle of power coming from the woods, surprising in the sheer uncontrolled strength but also in the desperation behind it.
Whoever this kid was, they’d managed to crack open the edge of reality like an egg.
Not an easy thing to do.
The whispered chant slipped though the woods, thinning the barrier betwixt and between. I tried to hurry, but my cane was sinking into the soft earth, which was giving my hip hell.
“I do believe in fairies, I do, I do.”
I grimaced. Yeah, I believed in them too, which was why I had a ziplock bag full of salt and mixed with iron oxide in my pocket.
The thing about fairies is that sometimes you ended up calling a unicorn. And sometimes you encountered a redcap. Even the Seelie court was fairly dangerous if you didn’t know what you were doing, and a completely disproportionate number of fey creatures would just eat you if you were in their way. No muss, no fuss.
I arrived and saw a rumpled child in a jacket that was far too light for the weather. Skinny. Frail.
Faintly glowing with power.
I think it was a she.
I glanced at the kid, with very little to indicate whether it was a boy or a girl…not that I knew much about kids, but even with the short hair and clearly mismatched secondhand clothing, there was something delicate.
I clinched my jaw.
They fey liked pretty things.
The sickly-sweet smell of farie power burned my nose as I ran toward the child, casting shields and recklessly spending as much power as I dared.
I dove between the child and something reaching for her, handful of salt and iron making a quick circle.
I pulled the child to me. “Be still.”
“She called us.” The hissing sibilants wound their way from the shadows. I saw the child’s eyes widen.
My lips twisted as I stared into the undulating darkness. “I doubt it was you that she had in mind.”
The darkness inside the shadows laughed. “She didn’t specify.”
I didn’t comment on that. The foolish child hadn’t – an oversight which had once led to any number of children disappearing and never being seen again.
My hands trembled. “Called or not, you can’t cross the circle.” If I could keep them busy until the power faded, they’d have to leave – they couldn’t survive in this magically dry area without power – a lot of power. I looked down at the child.
She didn’t look like much.
Whatever was sitting in the shadows wasn’t fooled by her scrubby appearance. The kid had some serious magical firepower – and all the hallmarks of being completely untrained.
I had a pretty good idea of what was waiting in the shadows, and it wasn’t interested in raising the little girl as a changeling.
It would probably just eat her.
The child was completely terrified and clung to me like she hadn’t been the one calling the thrice-damned things in the first place.
I felt pressure behind me, the hair on the back of my neck raising. I tossed a pinch of salt and iron over my shoulder instead of looking – more than one type of fairy could use the faith of the action against you – the act of looking back lent it power it didn’t ordinarily have. Tossing salt over the shoulder was just good luck – and probably where the superstition came from.
I heard a hiss from behind as the iron fillings and salt hit it.
The child pulled on my sleeve. “What is that thing?”
I kept my eyes on the formless mass. “Hush. Stay still. I will explain later – if there is a later.”
Have I mentioned that I wasn’t good at dealing with small, unfinished humans?
Because I am not.
I felt the power began to dissipate and fed what little power I had left into the shields – it would cost me in a few moments, but I had a terrible feeling that – yep. I felt a jarring attack on the shield as the fey thing in the shadows clawed at the shields with brute force in a desperate attempt to finish what he’d started.
My eyesight dimmed as my hip gave out and I sunk to the forest floor, clutching the child to my side as the shield compressed around us. The rift in between healed- and the fey – realizing that his chance to return was ebbing, fled as the rift sputtered out of existence.
I looked at the child from my seat on the ground. “That was a very foolish thing to do.”
Then I promptly passed out.
I woke up hours later. A cheery fire was burning to one side and the child was poking at it with a stick.
“You should have gone home.”
“No home to go to. And besides, if I had left you, the gators would have eaten you.” She offered me a suspicious-looking bottle of water. I took a quick sip, then another.
“Someone is going to be worried about you.”
“Won’t.” I’m not much for mind-reading, but the word was packed with images that made me think the child was right.
I used a tree to haul myself up. “Put out the fire and let’s go home then.”
The kid looked up at me.
Sometime very soon, when my powers were topped off, the people from her memories would be receiving a visit from me. They would not enjoy it.
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