Archives for posts with tag: Speculative Fiction

6.3.18.LADIESSMALL

Updated for 2020! Published in print in seven countries and as an ebook on eighteen markets worldwide.
As I mulled over my published short fiction (now forty stories), I found seven wildly different stories with one thing in common–a heroine totally unlike me. I’m the girl next door. I have no idea where these strange ladies came from.
In The Oniomancer (Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine), a Chinese-American punk bicycle messenger finds an artifact on the street. In Guardian (Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine), an African-American gallerist resorts to voodoo to confront a criminal. In Felicitas (Desire Burn: Women Writing from the Dark Side of Passion [Carroll and Graf]), an immigrant faces life as a cat shapeshifter. In Stripper (Unique Magazine), an exotic dancer battles the Mob. In Triad (Universe 2 [Bantam]), Dana Anad lives half the time as a woman, half the time as a man, and falls in love with a very strange lady. In Destination (Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction), a driver takes three strangers from a ride board on a cross-country trip as the radio reports that a serial killer is on the loose. In Transformation and the Postmodern Identity Crisis (Fantastic Alice [Ace]), Alice considers life after Wonderland.
Five stars on Facebook and Amazon! “Great work, Lisa Mason!”
“Hilarious, provocative, profound.”
From Jeanne-Mary Allen, Author on Facebook and the Book Brothers Blog: “Kyle Wylde and I are thrilled to have found such a talented, dedicated, and brilliant collection of shorts in Strange Ladies: 7 Stories…Your style/craft is highly impressive.”
From the San Francisco Book Review: “Strange Ladies: 7 Stories offers everything you could possibly want, from more traditional science fiction and fantasy tropes to thought-provoking explorations of gender issues and pleasing postmodern humor…This is a must-read collection.” http://anotheruniverse.com/strange-ladies-7-stories/
From the Book Brothers Review Blog: “Lisa Mason might just be the female Philip K. Dick. Like Dick, Mason’s stories are far more than just sci-fi tales, they are brimming with insight into human consciousness and the social condition….Strange Ladies: 7 Stories is a sci-fi collection of excellent quality. If you like deeply crafted worlds with strange, yet relatable characters, then you won’t want to miss it.” http://www.thebookbrothers.com/2013/09/the-book-brothers-review-strange.html#more
And on Amazon: 5.0 out of 5 stars This one falls in the must-read category, an appellation that I rarely use.
“I have been a fan of Lisa Mason from the beginning of her writing career, but I confess that I often overlook her short fiction. That turns out to have been a big mistake! I have just read Strange Ladies thinking I would revisit a few old friends and discover a few I had missed. Well, I had missed more than I had thought, and I regret that oversight. This collection was so much fun! I loved each and every story and enjoyed their unique twists, turns, and insights. I thank Ms Mason especially, though, for the high note ending with the big smiles in Transformation and the Postmodern Identity Crisis. Uh oh, I guess I still am a child of the summer of love. Well played. You made me laugh at the world and myself.”
From Amazing Stories. com “I’m quite impressed, not only by the writing, which gleams and sparkles, but also by [Lisa Mason’s] versatility . . . Mason is a wordsmith . . . her modern take on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is a hilarious gem! [This collection] sparkles, whirls, and fizzes. Mason is clearly a writer to follow!”—Amazing Stories
5.0 out of 5 stars Great collection that will make you think
Format: Kindle Edition
“My definition of a good short story is one that you keep thinking about for days, and this book had several of them.”
Strange Ladies: 7 Stories (“A must-read collection—The San Francisco Review of Books). On Nook, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo.
On Kindle at US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Netherlands.
Strange Ladies: 7 Stories is in Print in the U.S., in the U.K., in Germany, in France, in Spain, in Italy, and in Japan.
Join my Patreon page at https://www.patreon.com/bePatron?u=23011206 and help me while I recover from the Attack. I’ve got delightful new stories and previously published stories, books excerpts, writing tips, movie recommendations, and more there for you with more on the way.
Visit me at www.lisamason.com for all my books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, worldwide links, beautiful covers, reviews, interviews, blogs, round-tables, adorable cat pictures, forthcoming works, fine art and bespoke jewelry by my husband Tom Robinson, and more!

 

ALEXA.CVR.MED.LARGE.5.17.17

From Goodreads came the first review of One Day in the Life of Alexa:
One Day in the Life of Alexa
, by Lisa Mason (Bast Books) incorporates lively prose, past/present time jumps, and the consequences of longevity technology. Kosovo refugee Alexa enrolls in a secret pilot program designed to extend her life span. Her best friend, Marya, is not accepted, but Marya’s infant aka “Little Monster” is. As the decades roll by, Alexa adapts to a life of constant measurement and surveillance. [Plot spoilers omitted] In reflection, the book is as much about the enduring trauma of war as it is about longevity technology, and in this it feels more like mainstream than science fiction. Mason’s skill as a writer sustains a quick, absorbing read with an appealing narrator and subtly powerful emotional rhythms (like the repeated refrain, “No matter how long I live, I will always remember this”)
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35200314-one-day-in-the-life-of-alexa#other_reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Lisa Mason doesn’t disappoint us on that issue and gives us a look …
By R Bruce Miller on October 1, 2017
Format: Kindle Edition
“Scifi is nominally about the future and the impact of technology on society. Lisa Mason doesn’t disappoint us on that issue and gives us a look at a desirable biotechnology with some serious long-term and unforeseen consequences. However, like all the truly great scifi writers, what she really writes about is you and me and today and what is really important in life. Alexa lives an improbable life and yet, somehow, is a very real everywoman. Solzhenitsyn would have appreciated the homage. Cats! Grow your own organic food! Yes, there is much fun to be had on this journey, but the message nonetheless is solid and important. I enjoyed every word even though this book spoiled my day because I had no choice but to read it in one sitting while drinking too much coffee.”
And here’s another five-star review, and then I’ll let you decide:
“[Alexa] finds her internal resource that allows her to survive many more days in a much more uplifting manner than poor Ivan Denisovich. Discovering where her strengths [lie] is not depressing but uplifting for this reader.” On US Kindle https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0711PP65J
“I truly loved Alexa. The homage to Solzhenitsyn was wonderfully well done. Your concept and characters were on the mark and very timely. Bravo!”
Book Description:
Alexa Denisovitch
, a refugee from Kosovo during the 1999 war, is just seventeen when she is accepted by GenGineer Laboratories as a Tester for Longeva, a revolutionary additive that may significantly extend her longevity.
But becoming a Tester has unintended consequences and Longeva causes devastating unforeseen side effects.
Confronting environmental, political, and personal perils of the future, Alexa must grapple with the tough questions of life, love, and death.
So there you have it, my friends. The novel is short, but I took a long time researching and writing it.
One Day in the Life of Alexa is in Print in the U.S., the U.K., Germany, France, Spain, Italy, and Japan.
Now an ebook on BarnesandNoble, Kobo, Apple, and Smashwords!
One Day in the Life of Alexa is also offered as a Kindle ebook at US Kindle, UK Kindle, Canada Kindle, Australia Kindle, France Kindle, Germany Kindle, Italy Kindle, Netherlands Kindle, Spain Kindle, Brazil Kindle, Mexico Kindle, India Kindle, and Japan Kindle.
Join my Patreon page at https://www.patreon.com/bePatron?u=23011206 and help me while I recover from the Attack. I’ve posted delightful new stories, previously published stories, book excerpts, movie critiques and recommendations, and more exclusively for my patrons.
Visit me at www.lisamason.com for all my books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, worldwide links, beautiful covers, reviews, interviews, blogs, round-tables, adorable cat pictures, forthcoming works, fine art and bespoke jewelry by my husband Tom Robinson, and more!

 

9.6.17.TGA.1

New Review of The Gilded Age at http://sfbookreview.blogspot.com/2017/12/the-gilded-age-by-lisa-mason.html:
“The world of 2495 is at an unsustainable twelve billion population. Zhu Wong is a Daughter of Compassion, a group working to enforce the birth restriction laws. She is in jail awaiting trial when she is recruited by the Luxon Institute for Superluminal Applications (LISA, I love the acronym) to t-port back to 1895 San Francisco. She accepts the deal. Her mission is to find Wing Sing, take her and the aurelia to the mission run by Donaldina Cameron. In 1967 Wing Sing’s daughter will eventually give the brooch to Chiron at the end of his stay in the Summer of Love project.
Zhu finds Wing Sing, but she doesn’t have the aurelia. They are captured by a Chinese gang. Zhu is bought away from them by Jessie, a madam, Wing Sing stuck with the Tong. Zhu does work for Jessie, but is more valuable as a bookkeeper so avoids becoming a prostitute. Daniel Watkins is the son of a real estate magnate coming to San Francisco to collect on debts. He is low on funds and is referred to lodging at Jessie’s where his life becomes entwined with Zhu’s. Somehow Zhu is attracted to this heavy drinking smoker who has distinct views of women. Despite herself and her mission, Zhu cares about Jessie and Daniel.
I loved the character of Zhu. Somehow I wasn’t repulsed by Daniel and Jessie. They are more a product of their environment doing what they can with their sense of right and wrong. Very enjoyable, I read the last two hundred pages straight through. This is definitely a stand alone novel, though Summer of Love is mentioned several times. I’ll have to read that one as a prequel rather than book one.”
And this is from Library Journal:
“The discovery of a golden brooch that should not exist in the 25th century prompts the Luxon Institute to send a young Chinese woman 600 years back in time. She arrives in San Francisco in 1895 to prevent the future from altering the past. This sequel to Summer of Love (LJ 6/15/94), seen through the eyes of an observer from the future, juxtaposes the tempestuous, sprawling milieu of boomtown San Francisco with its shadowy underside of prostitution and decadence. Mason’s graceful prose and her skill in orchestrating a complex and satisfying plot make this a solid purchase for sf collections.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
This is from a reader:
https://www.amazon.ca/Golden-Nineties-Lisa-Mason/dp/0553373315
5.0 out of 5 stars Hypnotic Read
By,Robin Booneon Published on Amazon.com|Verified Purchase
“Lisa Mason’s Summer of Love and The Golden Nineties both have this quality – you want to reread them as soon as you’ve read them. Her writing conveys an abiding love of San Francisco, and interesting bits of California history are woven into the storylines. The writing is so compelling that you feel as though time travel were a possibility. I hope she writes more of these San Francisco fantasies!”
And this is from Publisher’s Weekly
https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-553-37331-8
“Mason’s sequel to Summer of Love is a delightful expansion of that work and a major step forward for her. The tale centers on Zhu Wong, a Chinese national whose lawyer plea-bargains her release from prison so that Chiron and his companions from the previous novel’s Luxon Institute for Superluminal Applications can transport her 600 years into the past to find a macguffin called the aurelia. Once in San Francisco, 1895, Mason brings the environment and the times to life with her rendering of the city’s activities, especially its corruption. The several historic personages who appear–including Frank Norris, Jack London and Susan B. Anthony–are all given dimensions that reflect the rigor of Mason’s research without leaving the reader overburdened by minutiae. Zhu Wong finds herself embroiled in a world of decadence and prostitution; she sees friends and companions abuse themselves with such things as alcohol, cocaine and corsets. As with Karen Joy Fowler’s Sarah Canary, Mason uses the novel partially to explore the role of women in society. As Zhu grows to understand the hypocrisies of the 1890s, she becomes even less comfortable with the presumptions of her own time. She creates several “closed time loops,” apparent paradoxes that impede her mission–and, perhaps more important, thwart her own desires. Eventually she finds her way out of the time loops and in the process teaches everyone–including herself–a few lessons about life. Her bravura performance with this book should both leave the reader wanting more and solidify her position as one of the most interesting writers in science fiction.
And this just in from an Amazon.com reader
Buy It
By Uke Enthusiast
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
“One of my favorite books. I am delighted it is back in print. A thoroughly entertaining time travel story supported by vivid characterizations and settings.”
Book Description: The year is 1895 and immigrants the world over are flocking to California on the transcontinental railroad and on transoceanic steamships. The Zoetrope demonstrates the persistence of vision, patent medicines addict children to morphine, and women are rallying for the vote. In San Francisco, saloons are the booming business, followed by brothels, and the Barbary Coast is a dangerous sink of iniquity. Atop Telegraph Hill bloody jousting tournaments are held and in Chinatown the tongs deal in opium, murder-for-hire, and slave girls.
Zhu Wong, a prisoner in twenty-fifth century China, is given a choice–stand trial for murder or go on a risky time-travel project to the San Francisco of 1895 to rescue a slave girl and take her to safety. Charmed by the city’s opulent glamour, Zhu will discover the city’s darkest secrets. A fervent population control activist in a world of twelve billion people, she will become an indentured servant to the city’s most notorious madam. Fiercely disciplined, she will fall desperately in love with the troubled self-destructive heir to a fading fortune.
And when the careful plans of the Gilded Age Project start unraveling, Zhu will discover that her choices not only affect the future but mean the difference between her own life or death.
“A winning mixture of intelligence and passion.” The New York Times Book Review
“Graceful prose. . . .A complex and satisfying plot.” Library Journal
“Rollicking. . . .Dazzling.” Locus Magazine
“Should both leave the reader wanting more and solidify Mason’s position as one of the most interesting writers in science fiction.” Publisher’s Weekly
The cover, by San Francisco artist Tom Robinson, is styled to look like an 1890s billboard.
The Gilded Age is BACK IN PRINT! Order the beautiful trade paperback in the U.S., in the U.K., in France, in Germany, in Italy, in Spain, and in Japan.
The ebook
is at BarnesandNoble, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords and on Kindle worldwide at US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Netherlands.
So there you have it, my friends
. Bantam Books, a division of Random House, published this as The Golden Nineties. Yes, I changed the title. I think the new title is better. (Wish I’d thought of it in the first place) This is the Author’s Preferred Print Edition.
Whether you’re a longtime reader or new, I hope you enjoy this classic!
Join my other patrons on my Patreon page at https://www.patreon.com/lisamasonfantasyandsciencefictionwriter?alert=2 I’ve got delightful new stories and previously published stories, writing tips, book excerpts, movie recommendations, and more exclusively for patrons.
Donate a tip from your PayPal account to lisasmason@aol.com.
Visit me at www.lisamason.com for all my books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, blogs, roundtables, adorable cat pictures, forthcoming works, fine art and bespoke jewelry by my husband Tom Robinson, worldwide links, and more!
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4.22.17.SOLATTCOVER.BIG

In the February 2020 Writing Tip on Patreon, I discussed the importance of the three-act structure for your screenplay, novel, or story as a means for maintaining narrative momentum and viewer/reader interest.
In the January 2020 Movie Review on Patreon, I gave a detailed analysis of the film Captain Marvel, which earned worldwide box office of over a billion dollars and made the screenwriter the hottest property in Hollywood. I watched the film twice, the second time with a stop watch and a notepad and pencil. The writer hit all the right marks.
And so should you. After you’ve finished a complete first draft (or second draft or tenth) and you’re still struggling to make the story move, consider analyzing the story with a three-act structure in mind.
In this post, I’m going to analyze my novel, Summer of Love, which remains my bestselling book (both in ebook format and as a trade paperback) after I first published it in the 1990s with Bantam Books (a division of Random House). The book was a Finalist for the Philip K. Dick Award and a San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book of the Year.
Note
: For the Bast Books edition, I edited out some 20,000 words of youthful excess and the book is still 100,000+ words.
Some fans, the kind of reader who rereads the book every year (seriously) didn’t like the edits and complained about the deletions (which this kind of fan notices).
Some fans appreciated and loved the edits and sent me emails saying “Thank you for doing this.”
You can’t please everyone, as the Ricky Nelson song goes, so you as a writer must do what you know is right. Editing out the excess verbiage made the three-act structure become clear to me and also clarified the relationships between the three main characters. Editing was definitely the right thing to do, and the book is much better.
Now then.
Summer of Love has its own internal complex structure. I found seven key days over the historical summer of 1967 during which some notable celebration occurred.  Within those seven days, three point-of-view characters tell their personal stories and perspectives on the events.
So there are twenty-one chapters. The trade paperback is 404 pages long.
Susan Bell (a.k.a. Starbright) is a fourteen-year-old runaway to San Francisco, to the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood where the Summer of Love took place.
Chiron Cat’s in Draco is a twenty-one-year-old time traveler from five hundred years in the future who has journeyed to 1967 on a vital mission to save the Universe.
And Ruby A. Maverick is a thirty-year-old, half-black half-white shop owner, a successful “hip proprietor,” who is a long-time resident of the neighborhood and the moral center of the story.
Act One is the setup of your main characters—where they start out in the story, a physical description of them, their motivations and goals, the initial obstacles set out for them, their initial physical actions.
Also, you should set up the location where the action takes place—but don’t get too hung up on this, you’ll have plenty of room to develop further location details as you go along. Also don’t get too hung up on physical descriptions of the characters—this too can be further developed.
In Act One, that’s a lot of material and complications to cover. Because an effective Act One should only be about 25 or 30 percent of the total length of the project. Act One should end with the plot spinning off in a new surprising different direction for your characters.
In Summer of Love, Act One is comprised of the first five chapters, ending at page 121, 29% exactly of the total length. (I’ll attempt to put as few plot spoilers in this analysis as possible!)
In Chapters One and Four, Susan arrives in San Francisco at dawn. She’s seeking her former estranged best friend, Nance, who ran away to the Haight-Ashbury a month earlier and sent her a postcard. Susan knows no one, has a limited amount of money. She meets a rock-n-roll band she idolizes and is seduced by their manager. She goes to live in the band’s communal house, works for free for them, and is sucked into the Haight-Ashbury life. She briefly meets Ruby, with whom she has a contentious meeting.
In Chapters Two and Five—(Note the book is internally structured on a round-robin between the three characters) Chiron also arrives in San Francisco via a time machine from the far future. He sets out on his vital mission, why he’s been sent here, and compares and contrasts 1967 with his own future time. Using a guideline, he seeks and finds Ruby at her shop, and is taken in by her. He works for a wage at the shop, lives in a room in her quarters above the shop, and sets about the investigative work he needs to do to accomplish his mission.
In Chapter Three, Ruby gives her personal view of the 1960s, her former relationship with the band’s manager, the idealism of the counterculture and also the corruption already beginning. She is suspicious of Chi and perhaps starting a new relationship with Leo Gorgon, a radical anarchist.
Chapter Six begins with a brief POV by Susan as she is betrayed by the band’s manager and wants to leave the band’s communal house, then switches to Ruby’s POV, as she encounters Susan again.
The plot spins in a new direction when the contentious meeting between Ruby and Susan becomes sympathetic. Ruby insists that Susan come to stay with her and Susan first meets Chiron, who wonders if she is the breakthrough he’s searching for to accomplish his mission.
Act Two, Chapters 6 through 16, involves mounting complications and difficulties for all the characters, and complications between them too, over that fateful summer. Also the community’s historical escalating violence and corruption. (No plot spoilers!)
Act Two ends when, again, you spin the plot and the characters off in a surprising new direction, which begins Act Three.
Act Three should only comprise 20% or 25% of the total project, during which you must accelerate the action and the fulfillment of the characters’ goals until you reach the denouement and conclusion.
Note:  I read a Booker Prize winning very long novel that dragged out Act Three so much, I no longer cared what happened to the characters at the end and skimmed through too many tedious pages to get to the freakin’ end, already. Don’t be that author.
To read my final analysis of Act Three of Summer of Love and to discover the very important Midpoint, please go to my Patreon page at https://www.patreon.com/bePatron?u=23011206
. Friends, readers, and fans, help me after the Attack. I’ve posted delightful new stories and previously published stories, writing tips, book excerpts, movie reviews, original healthy recipes and health tips, and more exclusively for my heroic patrons! I’m offering a critique of your writing sample per submission.
Visit me at www.lisamason.com for all my books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, blogs, roundtables, adorable cat pictures, forthcoming works, fine art and bespoke jewelry by my husband Tom Robinson, worldwide links, and more!

ALEXA.CVR.MED.LARGE.5.17.17

I wrote this short novel, in my signature tight, bold style, in….well, several years ago, going over the text, editing the story over a few years. Bast Books published ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF ALEXA in 2017. The heroine survives many, many disasters over her long life, including the Godzilla virus in 2071.
From page 187 in the print book: “Two weeks ago a wildly virulent myxovirus—dubbed “Godzilla” by media wags—had slaughtered ten million in China. Godzilla had wended its way over the ocean—no epidemiologist could explain how, other than the virus was airborne—and culled two thousand lives in our own Willow Grove.”
By the way, I named my heroine Alexa after Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who wrote One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich about the horrors of being imprisoned in a Stalinist gulag. Not the AI app.
“Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.” Voltaire said that.
From Goodreads came the first review of One Day in the Life of Alexa:
One Day in the Life of Alexa
, by Lisa Mason (Bast Books) incorporates lively prose, past/present time jumps, and the consequences of longevity technology. Kosovo refugee Alexa enrolls in a secret pilot program designed to extend her life span. Her best friend, Marya, is not accepted, but Marya’s infant aka “Little Monster” is. As the decades roll by, Alexa adapts to a life of constant measurement and surveillance. [Plot spoilers omitted] In reflection, the book is as much about the enduring trauma of war as it is about longevity technology, and in this it feels more like mainstream than science fiction. Mason’s skill as a writer sustains a quick, absorbing read with an appealing narrator and subtly powerful emotional rhythms (like the repeated refrain, “No matter how long I live, I will always remember this”)
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35200314-one-day-in-the-life-of-alexa#other_reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Lisa Mason doesn’t disappoint us on that issue and gives us a look …
By R Bruce Miller on October 1, 2017
Format: Kindle Edition
“Scifi is nominally about the future and the impact of technology on society. Lisa Mason doesn’t disappoint us on that issue and gives us a look at a desirable biotechnology with some serious long-term and unforeseen consequences. However, like all the truly great scifi writers, what she really writes about is you and me and today and what is really important in life. Alexa lives an improbable life and yet, somehow, is a very real everywoman. Solzhenitsyn would have appreciated the homage. Cats! Grow your own organic food! Yes, there is much fun to be had on this journey, but the message nonetheless is solid and important. I enjoyed every word even though this book spoiled my day because I had no choice but to read it in one sitting while drinking too much coffee.”
And here’s another five-star review, and then I’ll let you decide.
“[Alexa] finds her internal resource that allows her to survive many more days in a much more uplifting manner than poor Ivan Denisovich. Discovering where her strengths [lie] is not depressing but uplifting for this reader.” https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0711PP65J
“I truly loved Alexa. The homage to Solzhenitsyn was wonderfully well done. Your concept and characters were on the mark and very timely. Bravo!”
Book Description:
Alexa Denisovitch
, a refugee from Kosovo during the 1999 war, is just seventeen when she is accepted by GenGineer Laboratories as a Tester for Longeva, a revolutionary additive that may significantly extend her longevity.
But becoming a Tester has unintended consequences and Longeva causes devastating unforeseen side effects.
Confronting environmental, political, and personal perils of the future, Alexa must grapple with the tough questions of life, love, and death.
So there you have it, my friends. The novel is short, but I took a long time researching and writing.
One Day in the Life of Alexa is in Print in the U.S., the U.K., Germany, France, Spain, Italy, and Japan.
Now an ebook on BarnesandNoble, Kobo, Apple, and Smashwords!
One Day in the Life of Alexa is also offered as a Kindle ebook at US Kindle, UK Kindle, Canada Kindle, Australia Kindle, France Kindle, Germany Kindle, Italy Kindle, Netherlands Kindle, Spain Kindle, Brazil Kindle, Mexico Kindle, India Kindle, and Japan Kindle.
Join my Patreon page at https://www.patreon.com/bePatron?u=23011206 help me while I recover from the Attack. I’ve posted brand-new stories and previously published stories, book excerpts, writing tips, an offer to edit your writing sample per submission, and more exclusively for my patrons. You can also make a one-time pledge.
Visit me at www.lisamason.com for all my books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, worldwide links, beautiful covers, reviews, interviews, blogs, round-tables, adorable cat pictures, forthcoming works, fine art and bespoke jewelry by my husband Tom Robinson, and more!

9-24-16-illyria-smll

1
It begins with a crow, always with a crow. Its raucous caw. A crow swoops down on the tilt of my countertop and pecks, hunting for meat, for anything in these hungry times.
I shout, I swing my broomstick. The crow flaps up and fearlessly returns, picking at my onions and parsnips shredded not by a cook’s blade, but by the bomb.
After the explosion, two crows circle over Saza’s baby. She leaves her daughter squalling in the rubble while she runs to the well for water to douse the flames turning her kiosk into ash. Before I can reach the child, before Saza can, the crows feed on the baby’s face.
Madness rules Illyria.
A Dox threw the bomb, I’m sure of this. The Dox don’t strap incendiaries to their chests and make mincemeat of themselves the way the Rippers do. The Dox blow up other people, then go watch porn on the Instrumentality.
Yesterday I saw Dox militiamen hanging around Coppermine Square. Laughing, toking ciggs while our townfolk went about their business, sifting through wares in the kiosks, sipping coffee in cafés, tossing vinjak down their throats at saloons. Hurrying off to their bureaucratic jobs in the ugly cinderblock buildings downtown.
I knew what they were. Tall and knotty, in the way of mountain folk. Long, bony faces, contemptuous eyes. Dox militiamen don’t wear military uniforms. No militiaman—Dox, Cath, or Ripper—wears a military uniform. Not these days.
They wore armbands with the sign of the Doublebar on their biceps. Bandoliers of bullets, holsters buckled on blue-jeaned hips. T-shirts with cult insignia from our extinguished HomeWorld. Flowers crowning a grinning skull. Greasy lips, a flapping tongue.
Did I summon a peacekeeper? Of course not. Plenty of Dox have fled the Bleaken Mountains and settled along the Catha seacoast, seeking shelter in our town of Coppermine. During the days when you and I lived in the mandated apartment on Via Ledge, we had a neighbor, a jolly widow who kept caged songbirds and collected porcelain figurines. I cried when a gang of Rippers slit her throat, shot the birds, smashed her figurines.
But you said, “I’d have slit her throat myself. She was a Dox.” And we had an ugly quarrel.
It’s not illegal for Dox militiamen to hang around Coppermine Square. Not illegal for them to flaunt their firearms. Everyone owns a handgun in Illyria. You and I keep our rifle and handgun hidden at our cottage. They’re much too dear to carry in town where a gang could stick you up and steal them.
Now Coppermine Square lies burning, shattered by the bomb. The sirens of catastrophe wail.
Saza darts among the rubble, her eyes anguished, her voice a rasp. “Oh, Maya, it’s Yuri.”
She needn’t say more. I’ve feared this moment every day of our lives. My heart leaps up and lodges in my throat.
That’s when I run to you, my love. Down the cobblestone streets to Doloros Infirmary. On Via Chagrin, I dodge feral dogs growling over fresh meat on the leg of a corpse. The corpse of a person—man or woman, I can’t tell—who was once a descendent of the Settlers on NewWorld.
2
You sprawl on a cot in the ward where they’ve taken you.
“It’s a concussion, ma’am,” the doctor informs me, “he’s brain-dead. The rest of him will be dead by nightfall. I’m sorry, there’s nothing we can do.”
The doctor explains what’s irretrievably crushed inside you. Her words are a chaos I can’t comprehend. She and her assistants move on to the next mangled patient.
I sit beside the cot. I’m glad the bomb didn’t damage your face. I couldn’t bear to see your face torn apart.
They’ve taken you off life support, and I touch your golden hair threaded with silver. Touch your cheek, the white keloidal line of the scar from when you fought the Rippers in Torrent Province. I’m tempted to tug open your eyelids, to glimpse the startling blue of your eyes so unlike mine. But I don’t want to see the stare of the lifeless. I smooth my forefinger over your thin lips, so very unlike mine.
How we used to joke about the inevitability of this moment. Many an evening we sat before the fireplace in our cottage, guzzling deep from a bottle of vinjak.
“I’ll die first,” you’d say. “I trot out the handgun like a good Cath and go serve whenever the militia calls us up. I’m bullet-fodder.”
“You’re tough and strong,” I’d say. “And I’m older than you. Me, I’ll die first.”
“Don’t be absurd. You’ve got good genes. Didn’t your grandmother live to be a hundred-three?”
“She lived in peace and plenty. I’ve never had peace and plenty.”
“We’ve got peace and plenty now.”
“These days won’t last. And I’m much older than you. I’ll die first, and that’s that.”
“Who will cook me spicy beans stew?”
“You’ll find some woman. You always do.”
“My days are numbered. A Dox bomb will spill my brains. Or a Ripper bomb.”
“Who will reach me down the cider vinegar when I want to cook spicy beans stew?”
“You’ll find another tall man.”
“You’re my only tall man.”
Then you retired to your bedroom, I to mine.
I never loved you more than I did on those evenings.
Saza tiptoes into the ward, bringing me a bottle of pivo. She whispers sympathies, tiptoes out. She’s a good neighbor, but I can’t expect more. She’s cremating her tenth child tonight.
I down the bottle, wringing out memories of our days together. I doze.
Outside the window, a crow caws.
3
When I wake, you’re miraculously awake. You’re breathing, shouting, your blue eyes wide. Blood from the back of your skull spatters. The doctor and her assistants attach life support tubes, whisk you away.
Hope seizes me.
You’re alive, ass-kicking alive. Isn’t that just like you? “Never take no for an answer,” you always tell me.
I hurry to my vegetable kiosk, shake my broomstick at the damn crow. The bird spits out shredded onions and parsnips, wheels up and wings away, its caw fading in the roar of the bomb.
Our townfolk reassemble shards of earthenware jugs and set them on their shelves. Calk chinks in the bricks, polish the timbers. The feral dogs prowl off to the Bleaken Mountains. Saza hugs her baby daughter to her breast. The crows flap up, searching for easier prey.
I shake droplets off the leafy tops of carrots, tuck a pretty melon, green with pink stripes, in the wagon you built for me.
I wave to the vendors on Coppermine Square, cart fruit and vegetables to my garden. I attach tomatoes to their fuzzy stems, thrust carrots and parsnips in their rows of fertilized soil. Honey bees buzz, depositing pollen into the stamens of the flowers.
Extra produce I can for our lean winters. In our kitchen, I peel off wax seals from the mouths of jars, pour boiling water into my cauldron, reassemble pieces of peaches.
You and I, we argue about Illyria.
“So what if the Rippers invade the mountains, kill the Dox, steal their food?” I tell you. I take your cup of coffee, pour it into the pot. “What has that got to do with us?”
You’ve returned from the mountains, gaunt from the paltry rations, exhausted from the ten-day battle, filthy with sweat and blood. You give me that look. “It’s the right thing to do, Maya.”
“The right thing is for you to stay home. Go to your job at the windmill factory and help me in the garden.”
“Catha’s copper mines lie at the border. Our windmills, too, sending energy through the Bleaken Corridor. If the Rippers conquer the Dox, what do you think they’ll do next?”
“Gloat over their war spoils and buy fancy cars from Starica.”
“You are so naïve. They’ll threaten us. Threaten Catha’s peace and security. And our access to the Bleaken Corridor.”
“I see. Our access to the Bleaken Corridor, that I can understand. But you? Rushing off with the militia? You’re pushing the years, Yuri. I’m pretty sure I saw a silver hair in all that gold.”
You’re a handsome man, as I’ve always told you. This talk of aging offends your vanity. “They call up the militia, I go. Like I’m supposed to. Like I always have.”
“I think since Janabelle kicked you out of her house and you can’t stand being around me, you like marching off with the boys.”
“Have a good day, Maya,” you say, your blue eyes icy. You’re very offended I should mention your breakup with Janabelle after you left me for her. You crawl off to your bedroom, slam the door.
Have I taken you in? Have I kept your bedroom just as you left it? I should tell you to go to hell, but I don’t. This is our cottage. After all your women, you still belong to me.
I just want to cook spicy beans stew and live my life in peace. Live out my life with you, my love.
I will die first.
4
In Torrent Province, the Rippers unearth from a mass grave ten thousand male Caths—grandfather, father, son, grandson. They tamp out the flames of burning Cath villages, piece together the torn clothes of ten thousand violated women and girls.
I watch the Instrumentality, bear witness. The shattered skull of a child sucks in her brains, bone fragments slap together, silky hair thrusts into a pink scalp. Her screaming face. Her sweet smile.
You march off.
You march back.
The Cath militia calls you up to unleash hell. You pull on your black T-shirt with the red ban-the-bomb sign from our extinguished HomeWorld. Wrap your armband with the Crossbar around your biceps, strap on bandoliers of bullets, buckle a holster on your blue-jeaned hip. You keep your gear and weapons at our cottage, not at Janabelle’s house in Coast City.
I’m infuriated at how you use our cottage as your secret clothes closet. But my fears for you confronting the Rippers—who care nothing about life, their own or anyone else’s—overcome my anger.
“Don’t go,” I beg. “Haven’t you served enough? You’re in the prime of life, Yuri.”
“The last time our militia went to set things right in Torrent Province, we lost a thousand men. If the militia needs me, I must go.”
I’m desperate so I say desperate things. “What about Janabelle? What about your kids?”
You whirl on me, towering over me. “I thought we were not to talk about Janabelle. Or our kids. I’ve provided for them. They’re not your concern, Maya.”
“What about me?” I say. “Have you provided for me?”
“I taught you how to use the rifle. You’ve got our cottage, your garden, your kiosk on the square. You’ll be all right, Maya. You always are.”
“What if I’m not all right? What if the Dox march in while you fine militiamen march off doing your duty and slit my throat and burn down our cottage?”
But you’re off, your boot heels pounding on the gravel. Waving good-bye with a flip of your hand.
5
Hammerist workers topple the statue of Stann, the Velvet Fist. I wouldn’t miss the civic ceremony for anything. I stand in the crowd at Coppermine Square and watch, a confusion of feelings in my heart.
Descendants of the Settlers who claimed Hammer, a land northwest of the Catha seacoast, control a vital energy source powering Illyria. Acres of wind farms, the steel propellers whirling in fierce, cold storms. Once the winds were a bane to the Settlers. Now they’re a source of wealth and power for their descendants.
Times change.
The Hammerist Empire collapses in bankruptcy, slowing the gale force of cheap abundant power to a weak breeze. It turns out the price of energy was artificially fixed by the Velvet Fist. Currencies of Catha, Dox, and Ripp collapse. Shelves in the kiosks are bare.
Militias rise up in every province and prey upon their own people. I cried when militiamen ransacked the lovely, two-hundred-year-old Coppermine Public Library. When they finished ransacking, the militiamen burned the building to the ground.
My stomach rumbles with hunger. A mold ruined half the harvest of my garden. I sell what I can salvage, keeping only a few onions and carrots. I haven’t eaten meat or cheese in months.
Has any good come of the collapse of the Hammerist Empire and its grip on us? Yes, it has. A Central Committee no longer dictates where I, or any other Cath, must live. I produce my family deed and the interim city council allows me to move back into our cottage. After the unhappy days at the mandated apartment on Via Ledge, I’m thrilled to haul moving boxes, clean up the mess the assigned families made, arrange my furniture and my knickknacks just the way I’ve always liked.
The Hammerist workers, wearing armbands with the sign of the Hammer, carry off the statue of Stann in a truck. And then I see you in the crowd with Janabelle.
You see me, too. You say something to her, thread through the crowd to me.
“Let’s go home,” you have the nerve to say, taking my elbow. I should wrench my arm away, but I don’t. I let you guide me through the crowd. You stop in a saloon, buy a bottle of vinjak. We walk down the cobblestones to our cottage.
“Reach me down the cider vinegar?” I say.
You pluck the jar off the top shelf, sit at the kitchen table like always as I whip up spicy beans stew.
So. Is she the last one?” You’ve had many other women before Janabelle.
You shrug, take a swallow from the bottle. Isn’t that just like you. Buy me a bottle, then drink it yourself.
“You have kids with her?” I take the bottle from you, take my own swallow.
“You really want to know?”
“No.”
Your sullen resentment and my fierce jealousy poison my little yellow kitchen.
But you’re you, Yuri. You never take no for an answer. You won’t allow my love to get in your way. You go to the half-bath off the kitchen, take from a drawer the oak-handled hairbrush. You stand behind me while I sit at the kitchen table, uncorking the bottle of vinjak, and brush my hair.
“So thick and dark,” you murmur, unknotting tangles. “Like sable. The color of sable.”
“Not a white-haired hag yet?”
“You’ll never be a hag. But I do see a few strands of white,” you tease me.
“I don’t think so.” I check in the mirror all the time.
“No, your hair is dark as ever,” you concede. Lying like you always do.
You take unfair advantage of my moment of pleasure.
“I don’t see our predicament ever ending,” you say.
“That’s fine, coming from you. You’re the one who’s slaughtered Dox and Rippers with your own hands.”
“I’m not happy about what I had to do. That’s my point. I’m the one who has a right to ask. Why do you plead for peace in the face of evil?”
“I plead for peace when peace is the right thing.”
“When someone intends to kill you, peace is not the right thing. You must defend yourself and your family. We’d be dead if people like you had their way.”
I shudder. You have no idea. But I only say, “I understand defending yourself against a predator.”
“Do you?”
“Sure. Last week, I saw a crow circling my garden. When I left for Coppermine Square, he pecked my sweet corn to bits. Today he was after my raspberries. I saved those berries from a blight. They’ll fetch me three months of income. So I got out the rifle and shot the bastard dead.”
“Good shot.”
“You taught me well.”
You’re silent, brushing my hair. “You don’t think your peace comes with a price?”
This isn’t a question. It’s your declaration of what you believe I believe, and I resent you for presuming.
But I don’t challenge you. I don’t start an argument. An argument will only lead to conflict. Illyria is cursed with enough conflict. I don’t want conflict with you. Never with you.
I say, “I know there’s a price. That’s why I protect what’s mine.”
6
You’re so tall, so virile. Your biceps, an astonishment. You work out in the bathroom, lifting barbells.
I discover white threads in my sable-brown hair, pluck them out with tweezers. I rub skin cream in the lines fanning out from my eyes. It must be very good skin cream because the lines fade. Still, I fret about things I cannot change.
You laugh. “Maya, you’re beautiful as ever.”
I believe you. I’m so proud when we walk arm-in-arm through Coppermine Square, and our townfolk say, “That’s Maya and Yuri.”
To learn the dark secret of Maya’s past, a secret she can never tell to Yuri, please join my Patreon page at https://www.patreon.com/bePatron?u=23011206. Friends, readers, and fans, help me after the Attack. I’ve posted delightful new stories and previously published stories, writing tips, book excerpts, movie reviews, original healthy recipes and health tips, and more exclusively for my heroic patrons! I’m also offering a critique of your writing sample per submission.
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CHROME.MED.295.KB

CHROME
Lisa Mason
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright 2019 by Lisa Mason.
Cover, colophon, and art copyright 2019 by Tom Robinson.
All rights reserved.
PUBLISHING HISTORY
Bast Books Ebook Edition published July 9, 2019.
Bast Books Print Edition published August 13, 2019.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage or retrieval, without permission in writing from the publisher.
For information address:
Bast Books
Bastbooks@aol.com
Thank you for your readership! Visit Lisa Mason at her Official Web Site for her books, ebooks, screenplays, stories, interviews, blogs, cute pet pictures, and more. Enjoy!
March, 2020 Excerpt
8
Snatch Job
Creepin’ cryptids, Kinyonga hates hot bloods. Especially young hot bloods with their stink of fur and sweat and mating hormones. Especially young rodents, the humblest Blend of the hot-blood humble.
Let’s face it, ol’ Jimi the One and Only hates kids. He is a walking no-kid zone and not just baby goats, which is what “kid” means, if you want to get technical. He hates Chrome kiddies of every Blend, including baby chameleons.
So they’re cute. So what. Baby leopard Blends are cute. Baby boa constrictor Blends are adorable. Baby scorpion Blends are the darlingest things. Until they grow up big enough and mean enough and poisonous enough to rip out your throat, strangle you, or sting you to death.
Now that is a fitting meditation for Blend Day. Day of grief. Day of despair. Chrome wouldn’t have baby leopard Blends, baby boa constrictor Blends, or baby scorpion Blends if it weren’t for the Tweakers and the Twitchers.
So what happened to the Emirk technicians of two-and-a-half centuries ago? The Tweakers or the Twitchers, as they’ve come contemptuously to be called in the Chromian lexicon. What became of them?
Kinyonga snickers. You can’t fool Mother Nature for very long.
Soon after Kinyonga’s human ancestors were modified with chameleon genes, an aerosol-borne Plague struck Chrome. A genetically mutated mix of bird flu and swine flu and a touch of fascist flu. The Plague killed every human being, every last Tweaker and Twitcher on the planetoid.
Only the Blends with their radically tampered chromosomes could resist the swift, virulent, and highly contagious affliction that started out with a sore throat and violent sneezing and, in a day or two, resulted in death by excruciatingly painful paroxysms.
So don’t fool with Mother Nature, the Blends often snicker.
Kinyonga smacks the rat girl across her pointy gray face. She snaps at him, sinking her teeth into his wrist, drawing blood. Dang, these Feralists and their freakin’ fangs. Why don’t they have the decency to file them like every other civilized Reformist?
The cabbie glances in the rearview mirror with his big bovine eyes. But he doesn’t open the Security Eye on his dashboard or tap his Tatt and wink the cops about a suspicious altercation in the backseat of his cab.
So, okay. A stand-up bull.
“Don’t worry about it, quarryman,” Kinyonga says to him, slugging the rat girl’s jaw hard. He shakes his wrist loose from her nasty little fangs. Considers stabbing her with a dart from his blowgun, knocking her the hell out. Then he decides against it. A waste of good poison. “There’s another twenty credits in it for you when you get us where we’re goin’ to and keep your snout shut.”
The Big Boss had advanced him a generous allowance of free-trade credits to grease paws and claws in this latest installment of the secret evil endeavor. That suits Kinyonga just fine. He should require such generosity in every client’s contract from now on. Free-trade credits are the best kind of currency. Untraceable, good for everything everywhere you go, and tax-free. Don’t leave home without them.
Naturally, he’d skimmed fifteen percent off the top for Number One. Plus he didn’t lease a hydrocar like the Big Boss had told him to, but hired the cab instead. Which saved him another bunch of credits for the better purpose of lining his own pockets. Maybe he’ll remember to thank the Big Boss for the working capital. Or maybe not. Jimi Kinyonga doesn’t do gratitude.
The rat girl flops on the car seat, stunned by his punch, a stain of blood on her thin gray lips. The cabbie continues to stare in the rearview, his hand edging toward the Security Eye.
Perhaps an explanation is in order. Kinyonga sighs, an appropriately heartfelt long-suffering sigh. “She’s, like, my step-niece, three times removed. Messy, messy bond-mate breakup, y’know? Her dad kidnapped her after using up his visiting days. I’m just returning her to her ever-lovin’ mommy. Rats, they are the best when it comes to family. Love them rat kiddies to death. Watch the freakin’ road, okay?”
“Try your step-niece forty times removed,” the cabbie lows gloomily but obediently returns his eyes to the hectic traffic.
Every vehicle on Chrome uses polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells, the blue and pink canisters of oxygen and hydrogen gases bubbling merrily on hood or boot. But there all similarity among the vehicles ceases and the Blend of the driver often shapes the vehicle’s style.
A utility vehicle the size of a canary’s country cottage lumbers by, the flap-eared elephant driver plowing through traffic without a glance left or right. Dim-witted or oblivious? Both and then some, in Kinyonga’s astute psychological analysis.
A lean, muscular sports car helmed by a lean, muscular jaguar slinks swiftly amid knots of stalled beetle cars. Chunky flatbed trucks driven by rams or impalas bully their way through the gridlock. Bang! Two trucks trade fenders, and the burly drivers climb out, antlers curving from their foreheads. They push up denim shirtsleeves over buff biceps, spoiling for a fight.
The pastel avian cars are the most ridiculous, in Kinyonga’s aesthetic opinion, with their winged front fenders, fancy feathered tails on the back. Some birdbrain of a driver glides her gorgeous hot-pink Falcon sedan through the traffic in erratic swoops, suddenly switches course, and, amid squealing brakes, honking horns, and angry curses, flutters off in the opposite direction.
High above the herds and swarms on the streets swoop sleek silver flivvers. These are the exclusive transportation of visiting Emirk executives and the elite Chromian Blends who staff the Emirk Intelligence Agency. Emirk Corporation leases its used flivvers to the Chrome City police. By Emirk regulations, the Chromian police are only permitted to use the worn and dingy second-hand flycraft, and only for high-alert emergencies.
How can Emirk justify its control of Chromian skies, ol’ Jimi wants to know? Because Emirk claims exclusive legal ownership of the airspace over Chrome. Emirk claims exclusive legal ownership of everything on Chrome. Who can challenge that?
We Chromians can. Kinyonga snorts in disgust at the arrogant insectile flivver droning in the sky above him. Emblazoned on wing and tail, the Emirk corporate mark, the stylized blood-blue “E” inside a silver square.
“One of these days,” he mutters, the scarlet and turquoise patterns swirling up and down his arms in the heat of his anger, “one of these days, we Blends will ride in the sky, too. Our sky.”
But his Chromian revolutionary sentiment doesn’t jive with the task at hand. He gets down to it.
The rat girl, recovering from his punch, lurches up squealing. Wiggling her pink fingers behind her back. Kinyonga whips her around, winds more duct tape around her wrists so she can’t tap her yellow Tatt and wink for help. Dang, these kids. Have they no respect for their elders? She’s sobbing and squeaking. Far more trouble than he thought she’d be when he’d spotted her on the trash-strewn street of Mysburgh.
Two uniformed dog cops on hydrocycles cruise by, lane-splitting amid the traffic. They slow down, glance inside the cab the way dog Blends do. Not keenly curious like a feline, but looking around. Snuffling around, picking up scents. One cop has the long, narrow snout of a German shepherd, the other flat-faced and pug-nosed like one of them Oriental breeds. Pekinese? Lhasa apso? Kinyonga can never keep straight all the breeds of domestic dog Blends on Chrome. Like he should know about some person with a tongue hanging out of his mouth.
Kinyonga shoves the rat girl face down on the car seat, sits on top of her. Summons up the image of someone respectable who typically would be riding in a commercial cab. Camouflage, baby. He camouflages himself as a young corporate executive. A spaniel in a smart three-piece business suit, button-down shirt, and necktie. The chunk of a faux-gold watch on his wrist. His hand resting not on the rat girl’s neck, but on a shiny black faux-leather briefcase. He spreads his jaws, smiles pleasantly.
The dog cops nod and speed away.
He hisses with relief and reassumes his chameleon identity. That was a serious stretch of his transformative talents, camouflaging himself out of whole cloth. Out of a stereotype, without an actual surrounding background for him to feed off the images. Camouflaging out of his emotional need of the moment.
That’s the only time when his unruly chameleon emotions work in his favor.
Awesome, Number One, he congratulates himself.
The rat girl lies quietly beneath him, subdued. He doesn’t want to suffocate her. He’s supposed to deliver her, like, alive. He slides off her, and she starts squeaking and flailing around again.
His brilliant mercurial mind hits upon a solution. “Muzzle up and sit still,” he commands her in an adult voice. “No one is going to hurt you, honey.”
That settles her down. If only everyone was so easy to lie to.
The bull cabbie pulls out of the stream of traffic on Broadway, speeds onto an off-ramp leading to Outer Chrome Road. The highway stretches before them, a bleak ribbon of concrete taking them far away from the hustle-bustle of Chrome City. Far away from the littered streets of Mysburgh, from Rodentia Valley. Far away from everything civilized on Chrome.
It’s good to head away from the City. Too many cops. Too many diurnals with their prying eyes. But Kinyonga frowns, not relishing where they’re going. He leans back in the seat, mulls the job over.
Who witnessed this latest sorry caper? No one, that’s who. Almost no one. There’s the cabbie. Kinyonga may have to take him out later, as in a snuff job. But maybe killing him won’t be required? Kinyonga considers the question. The cabbie and his sponsor will want to do more business, lucrative business, with a cut-throat mercenary like Jimi Kinyonga. The cabbie will keep his snout shut, if he knows what’s good for him.
Everyone wants to do more business on Chrome, the Blends like to say.
Then there was the little turtle he spotted camping out on the sidewalk. In Mysburgh, of all places for a reptile to be. That made no sense. Which arouses his suspicions. He took note of the black-and-gold design on her carapace. Pretty, pretty. Unusual, too, from what he’s seen of turtles and tortoises, who live on the east side of Cretaceous Way. The turtles and tortoises he’s seen mostly have unremarkable carapaces of drab olive. She—he knew she was a she on account of the frilly dress—seemed to be asleep.
But maybe not. The turtle could have been watching him from inside her carapace. Number One does not discount the watchful reptilian eye of a Blend who set herself down where she did not belong.
They watch. They listen. They spy.
And no one knows they’re spying, huddled up inside their carapaces. He’s heard strange tales about turtle Blends. Tortoises, too.
She could have witnessed the kidnapping. Could have seen him, with his own distinctive markings. Could have seen the cab with that tacky billboard on the roof.
She could have seen everything.
This information isn’t something he will share with the Big Boss anytime soon. This information is Kinyonga’s very own personal business. He may have to take out the turtle, too, as in eliminating her. But later. Later.
The bull cabbie speeds down Outer Chrome Road, navigating the cab toward the district where the Big Boss has instructed Kinyonga to take the snatch job. It’s a long drive, but the streets will be emptier. Everything is emptier in that forsaken place.
After this gets done, he’s off to the second part of the job. A much tougher assignment than the snatch job. He’s not looking forward to it. Hades.
“Step on it,” Jimi Kinyonga hisses. Then clamps his jaws shut. Dang, he hates having to small-talk with a cabbie.
9
Naja de Capello
Do not taste the air. He resists the ancient urge, applying all his will. All the years of his schooling, his self-discipline. He clasps his shapely cold hands beneath the table. Clasps them so tightly, his knuckles ache. He blinks his eyes against the overly bright lights in the conference room on the sixth floor of the Capitol Building. Concentrates on the voices around him. Yapping, growling, hissing. Lilting.
Facilis est descensus. The descent to hell is easy.
Do not taste the air. Do not.
A human being—an Earthian, a pure Earthian—presides at the head of the conference table, the ebony tabletop so polished it shines like a long, black mirror. The lilting voice belongs to her. In the course of two centuries dealing with the Plague, Emirk Corporation has vastly improved the safesuits. This latest visiting corporate executive sits comfortably inside a transparent bubble surrounding her entire body. Her oxygen supply and waste products units are tucked in a sculptural nodule below the base of her spine.
The safesuit amply reveals her perfect human face. Her eyes as blue as jewels. The crisp curls of her peach-colored hair. Her perfect womanly figure, a figure fashionably clad in a business suit the color of Emirk blood-blue. The Emirk corporate mark—the stylized blood-blue “E” inside a silver square—decorates her lapel, the earrings on the lobes of her tiny pale ears, a ring on the finger of her right hand. The ring on her left hand is a gold-and-diamond wedding band.
Her six human bodyguards, in safesuits and blood-blue uniforms, form a phalanx around her, gripping the latest deadly make of handheld assault weapons from Earth.
Two dozen Chromian bodyguards stand watchfully around the human entourage, gripping less powerful, less modern guns. But they’ve got guns, too. Also serious assault weapons. The Chromian bodyguards wear blood-blue uniforms, the Emirk corporate mark on their lapels. “Emirk Intelligence Agency” flashes across the backs of their jackets. With their perfectly filed teeth, smooth waxed faces, and no trace of a tail, you might almost mistake them for human beings.
Except for one thing: they don’t wear safesuits. That’s the tip-off. They don’t fear the Chromian air, the Chromian water, the Chromian food. Why should they? No matter what cosmetics they’ve applied or surgeries they’ve endured, they are Blends. Extreme Reformist Blends, to be sure. But native Chromians immune to the lingering Plague.
Naja de Capello happens to know these particular bodyguards are Doberman pinschers. In spite of the filing and waxing and cosmetic surgery, there is no concealing the lean ferocity of their ancestral beast. Not from his eyes.
De Capello doesn’t often see any kind of weapon carried openly by Blends on Chrome. Since Liberation Day, weaponry on Chrome has been declared illegal by Emirk Corporation, except for the imported guns worn by the elite E.I.A. officers. Worn, too, by Special Forces officers patrolling high security areas—the Emirk space shuttle launchpad in the Airfield District, the Emirk headquarters in downtown Chrome City where the visiting executives must sequester themselves when they’re not presiding over meetings like this.
As a Chromian government official, of course De Capello carries an illegal concealed handgun. An antique Walther PPK with eight rounds, which he bought for an exorbitant sum on the black market. The rounds he parcels out judiciously. Blackmarket bullets are difficult to come by and expensive. He sniffs, indignant. As a high-ranking official in the Bureau of Human Affairs, he ought to be able to carry a weapon legally. He’s exposed to Feralists every day.
These days, criminals and crazies get their weapons, all kinds of weapons, on the black market. Chromian politicians, too.
Do not taste the air. Do not.
To read the tense and eventful confrontation between Naja de Capello and the Earthian Emirk executive, Mrs. Fraternale, please join me at my Patreon Page at https://www.patreon.com/bePatron?u=23011206 and help me after the Attack. I’ve posted delightful new stories and previously published stories, writing tips, book excerpts, movie reviews, original healthy recipes and health tips, and more exclusively for my heroic patrons! I’m even offering a critique of your writing sample per each submission.
Visit me at www.lisamason.com for all my books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, beautiful covers, reviews, interviews, blogs, roundtables, adorable cat pictures, forthcoming works, fine art and bespoke jewelry by my husband Tom Robinson, worldwide links, and more!