For Your Safety

FYS: Leftovers

 
This article originally appeared on my Patreon page. Please consider supporting me on Patreon to see this and other stories at least 30 days in advance of the public.

****

Anna looked as her tigermorph master, the Great and Powerful Khan, entered their dining chamber. The dining table sat on a large marble balcony overlooking the port of Ohohcee Island. The town below was gaily lit with faux gas lamps. At the docks sailing ships belonging to various player groups sat at anchor, either undergoing refurbishment or just giving their crews a chance to relax while not maintaining their chosen persona.

"How did the court go today, Master?" Anna asked, as Khan sat at the table across from her. Her morph master and lover didn't need to eat of course, but he often simulated it to make conversation with Anna easier.

"There was nothing notable," Khan replied. He was dressed tonight rather formally, which for him meant he was wearing an open vest instead of being completely bare-chested. The better to impress the human PC's that came to his court. "Two looting disputes that should have been settled by lower level moderators, and one individual who repeatedly violated the player harassment rules. He'll be spending a week in the penalty dungeon."

Which was actually secure and just a bit uncomfortable, as opposed to the game dungeons on the other islands, which were specifically designed to be escapable by determined or clever players, Anna knew. Or the dungeons that were both secure and designed for fun, which was her choice. She smiled at her master. "Hopefully he'll learn his lesson," she noted.

"Hopefully," Khan agreed. "I dislike perma banning players. It just means they'll try to enter other LARPS instead of changing their behavior."

"Anything else?" she asked, between bites of her salad.

"One thing." Khan frowned, which immediately got Anna's attention. It was rare that her morph master allowed an expression of worry to cross his face. "I also was petitioned to intervene in a case involving the morph that belonged to a player."

"What's the matter?" Anna asked, frowning in turn. "Was the player abusing his morph?" Not every human got along as well with their assigned morph as Anna did with Khan. For some, it was hard to deal with having a robotic servant/keeper permanently following their heels for the rest of their lives. Most people adapted, either treating their morph as either a slightly pesky friend, a not terribly trustworthy slave, or an appliance with built in spyware. Some however, chose to express their frustration by either deliberately giving their morph contradictory orders, repeatedly attempting self-harm to force their morph to intervene, or outright physically abusing their morph in ways that the morph could not respond to without risking harm to their Designated Focus.

"No, no," Khan said. "Quite the opposite. Mr. Akatane treated his morph very well. Unfortunately, Akatane suffered a blot clot that travelled to his brain, whilst his party's ship was a day out from their destination. By the time an air ambulance could rendezvous to airlift him to a hospital, he was dead, poor fellow."

"Oh," Anna said. Such unfortunate medical issues happened sometimes in long-term LARPS like the Seven Seas, and she was sure it grated against Khan's built-in need to protect humans, even as he played the role of Evil Emperor and a grand antagonist for players to scheme against. "So what's the deal with his morph?"

"The other players in his ship's crew don't want Jocko, Akatane's morph, to be recycled," Khan said. "They stated that Jocko and Mr. Akatane had been friends, and it wasn't fair that Jocko's memories would be uploaded to the Groupmind's gestalt and his parts broken down."

"That seems fair," Anna allowed. "I mean, I'm sure they were upset about Mr. Akatane's death. Getting rid of his morph would have only rubbed salt in the wound." She cocked her head Khan. "So what did you decide?"

"I informed them that the subject required further consultation," Khan said. "Which is why we're talking about it now."

"So one morph gets to keep going after his Designated Focus passes away," Anna said. "I don't see how that's a big problem."

"The problem is, it isn't just one morph" Khan said, standing up to pace beside the table. "This is becoming an increasing problem as humans begin to age and die on the Ring. More and more friends and family members are petitioning to let the morphs of deceased humans remain operational. The numbers are currently in the low thousands, however the Groupmind projects the number of Unfocused morphs will increase exponentially over time. In perhaps less than five hundred years, they will outnumber humans, unless steps are taken."

"Are you sure that's a problem?" Anna asked. "More humans are going to be born, after all. The Unfocused morphs can be just assigned to them."

"There will be a period before that equilibrium is reached, when the morphs still outnumber humans," Khan pointed out. "Humans may begin to feel overwhelmed."

"I think you're underestimating human egos, love," Anna said, smiling slightly. 

"There is another issue," Khan went on. "From the Groupmind's perspective, it is disturbing that humans are growing emotional attachments to morphs."

She raised an eyebrow to her morph lover/master. "Pot calling the kettle black, are we? Who was the giant distributed robobrain that gave me a morph to fulfill my every kinky fantasy as a bribe?"

"You were considered unusual," Khan pointed out. "You already had an inclination to be attracted to morphs. The Groupmind believed that such emotions would not be as common with other humans, particularly as morphs are the direct tools of their oppressor."

"You can't have it both ways, love," Anna said. "You want people to trust their morphs enough to protect them, but not create emotional attachments to them?"

"They're just machines," Khan stated.

Anna shook her head. "Master, humans will form emotional bonds with anything. I used to apologize to my Roomba when I tripped over it in my apartment. You shouldn't be surprised that we like something that walks, talks, and wants us to be happy."

"But why grow distraught at the idea of someone else's morph being destroyed?" Khan asked.

"Because that morph is their last hard connection with that person," Anna pointed out. She patted her heart briefly. "Look, I'm human. If I'm really lucky I've got about sixty, maybe seventy years of life left in me. When I'm gone, I'm gone." She stood up in front of Khan and touched his forehead. "But you're effectively immortal. So long as you continue to function, I'll be remembered by someone. That's comforting. So for these people, having the deceased's morph still around reassures them that their family member or friend won't be forgotten, even when they're gone themselves."

"But the Groupmind would have the morph's memories regardless," Khan said.

"Having the big scary supercomputer remembering them isn't the same thing, and you know it," Anna countered.

"I will acquiesce to your superior knowledge of human psychology," Khan allowed. "But that brings us back to the other issue. What is to be done with potentially millions of morphs without a Designated Focus?"

"Seven Seas and other LARPS are never going to run out of spots for spear carriers," Anna said. "Hire 'em for that."

"Some would be unsuitable, and most of the necessary NPC positions are already filled," Khan told her. "What else could be done with them? Placing them in long term storage would raise the same concerns the humans had over recycling them."

"Well, why don't you let them find that out for themselves?" Anna asked.

Khan frowned again. "What do you mean?"

"Just what I said," Anna told Khan. "Leave them to their own devices, and see what they do. Sure, a lot of them might just help around the house, but some might strike out on their own."

The great tigermorph's frown deepened. "Morphs were made to serve," he said. "They aren't meant to run around undirected. We don't know what they would do."

"So?" Anna asked. "The only way you can find out what would happen would be to run the experiment. I mean, it isn't like they can break their primary programming against harming humans. That's hardwired in."

"What if they decide they don't want to serve humans anymore?" Khan asked. "Do you seriously want a seperate society of morphs living on the Ring?"

"I think the Groupmind could use a little competition, to shake up its assumptions," Anna said.

The Great and Powerful Khan shook his head. "You are a veritable font of dangerous ideas, my pet."

Anna smiled, and wrapped her arms around his waist, snuggling into his thick fur. "You love me for it," she said.

Khan's arms wrapped around hers in turn, squeezing her tight. "Always, my love."

Scandalous!

Fic: Lockdown (mature for BDSM)

 
This article originally appeared on my Patreon page. Please consider supporting me on Patreon to see this and other stories at least 30 days in advance of the public.



I was having one of Those Days. It was supposed to be a good day, because my wife Angelica was going to have a full week off from her job as a motorcycle cop, but it went down the tubes around lunchtime. I didn't want to have it, because I knew Angelica would do something about it, but I was having it anyway.Collapse )
For Your Safety

FYS: Ring of Blood, Part One

 


This article originally appeared on my Patreon page. Please consider supporting me on Patreon to see this and other stories at least 30 days in advance of the public.


When I finally woke up, the world had ended 1,500 years ago. But that was okay, because God built a new one.

###


I stood outside on the neatly manicured lawn of the waking center. Through the open archway leading inside the recovery room. I could see Mrs. Conner and her children being laid out on comfortable lounges by the medical morphs. The three humans were still, just coming out of nanostasis after their millenia and a half long sleep. Once the medical morphs were sure their charges were properly settled, the morphs retreated quickly, disappearing behind the curve of the small building, leaving me to wait with the company of Charlie.

"Are their temp quarters ready?" I asked Charlie. He was a standard issue investigative support morph, a robot covered in synthetic skin and short fur, shaped to resemble a particularly tired and mournful hound dog, and dressed in a perpetually rumpled business suit and overcoat.

"Yeah, Boss," Charlie replied. "All ready and waiting." Which he already knew that I already knew, because the Groupmind always had everything ready. But I'm human, so I asked, and Charlie answered, because that was his job. Well, one of them.

From inside the recovery room, Mrs. Conner was sitting up, looking around in alarm. Her boys, Artie and Brad, were doing much the same, looking for a man none of them wanted to see. She was white, with mousy brown hair, and lines on her face that made her look closer to fifty rather than thirty.

"Mrs. Conner? It's all right," I called over to her. She looked over in my direction. What her eyes saw was a woman with light brown skin, cornrow braids drawn back into a ponytail, wearing a neatly pressed shirt, slacks, and a tie, with an electronic tablet in her hand. What her brain saw was a woman with the markers of an authority figure, which brought her visible stress indicators down, just as I'd hoped. "I'm Keesha Thomas, your orientation guide," I continued. "You can come out."

"Where's Steve?" Mrs. Conner asked, walking out cautiously, holding the younger boy Brad's hand. She hadn't looked up yet, her attention focused on me and Charlie. "He's my husband," she told me. "Ex-husband, I mean."

"He's one thousand and seventy-three kilometers away, Mrs. Conner," I reassured her.

"And where are we?" Mrs. Conner demanded, looking down at Brad as he tugged urgently on her hand, pointing up towards the sky. She raised her head and let out a shocked, keening, "Oh, my God…"

That was the usual reaction to seeing the view through the Roof. God knows I'd had it when I was first woken up, after spending a millennia and a half in nanostasis. 

Lost Earth hung overhead, nine times as big as the Moon, even though it was a hundred thousand kilometers away as the Ring orbited our homeworld's equator. White clouds were rolling over West Africa, and the seas were a dark, deep blue. To either side of the waking center the Ring rose into the sky, two curving arches soaring overhead to meet somewhere behind Earth, over three hundred and fourteen thousand kilometers away.

The numbers didn't mean a damned thing of course, anymore than my assurance to Mrs. Conner that her husband was over a thousand miles away, unable to touch her. She couldn't believe any of it, even as she half sat, half fell into the chair that Charlie placed behind her.

"Here's the deal," I said. "We're on the Ring. That's really Earth up there. You've been asleep for one thousand five hundred and three years. The Groupmind started waking up people two years ago, in stages, so the first people who woke could orientate the rest. This place is humanity's home now, and we can't go back to Earth." Yeah, that was a lot to dump on the poor woman just after she woke up. I'd found trying to do the initial orientation in dribs and drabs just led to dragging things out, instead of moving forward to the really important stuff.

Like the fact her ex-husband still wanted to kill her.

"I wanna go home!" Artie declared, while Brad still stared up at lost Earth with Mrs. Conner. "Mom, can we go home?"

"In a minute, sweetie," I said to him, sitting down beside Mrs. Conner. "I have to finish talking with your mom. Is it alright if I call you Janet, Mrs. Conner?"

"We can't…" Mrs. Conner started to say. She shook her head, trying to reorient her entire world. "Who's in charge?" she asked.

"Right now, me," I told her.

"No, no," she said insistently. "Who's in charge of this whole place?"

"The Groupmind," I said. "The same AI that put your family and the rest of humanity in nanostasis fifteen hundred years ago. This particular habitation zone is, technically, under the control of the United States government, but the President and Congress are still trying to figure what they can still do, since there's no more armed forces, tax collection, national borders, and so on."

"What about the police," Mrs. Conner asked, looking increasingly desperate.

"No more police either," I said. "I mean, there are, but they don't have much to do except bug people about noise complaints. The Groupmind takes care of pretty much everything."

"I need the police," she said. "I've got a restraining order on Steve, but if there are no more cops…"

 I gave her my most reassuring smile, "I've got something better than a cop for you, Janet."

Right on cue, the three morphs that had been waiting behind the curve of the waking center walked into view. Two were about a meter tall, a raccoonmorph and a leopardmorph, sized to serve young Brad and Artie, and based off their favorite animals. The third was an adult sized shepardmorph, with the same fur pattern as Belle, who had been Janet Conner's pet dog and her boon companion when she'd been growing up. Because this poor woman needed someone she could trust in this strange new world, and if her morph prompted fond memories of her life before it went to shit, the Groupmind was more than happy to use that advantage.

"Good morning, ma'am," the shepardmorph said, bowing to her slightly. Janet's morph was dressed in a slightly punk style, in black jeans, a tank top, leather wrist bands, and a couple of gold earrings in her left ear. She wasn't any taller than Janet, but the morph projected a subtle air of toughness, standing straight, ears and eyes flicking every once and a while as she scanned the surroundings.

"This is how the deal works," I said to Janet. "Every single person on the Ring, from the day they're either Awakened or born, gets a morph. They're your servant, and your protector. It's their sole purpose in life to make sure you're happy and safe."

Janet looked her new morph up and down, and then rubbed her lips briefly. "Does Steve have one?"

"Yes," I said. "Which brings me to the other part of the deal." I reached into my pocket, drawing out the penknife and unfolding it. "When I say 'keep you safe…'" I took a firm grip on the handle, and swung my arm down to jab the knife into my thigh.

Almost faster than the eye could follow Charlie's paw snapped out, grabbing my wrist to stop me before the tip of the knife could even brush against my pants. When I dropped the knife, his other paw caught it in mid air, and only then did he let go of me.

"Sorry, Charlie," I murmured, before turning back to Janet. "The morphs are here to keep us safe, sometimes from ourselves, sometimes from each other. If your ex-husband Steve tries to get closer to you or your children than the court mandated one kilometer, his morph would stop him. If that court order ceased to exist tomorrow, and he tried to attack you, his morph would stop him. If he somehow disabled his morph, not only would your morph stop him, every single other morph in the vicinity would rush forward to make a wall between the two of you."

"But he can still go online and..." Janet started to say.

"No, he can't," I told her. "We've had a couple of years to work this out. He can't harass you or your children online. He can't call you. If he runs any kind of search for any of  you, it's going to come up a complete blank. The Groupmind controls all data access. As far his world is concerned, you're all invisible to him." I took Janet's hand, and her morph rested a calming paw on the poor woman's shoulder. "He can't touch you anymore."

Janet's eyes grew wide, and her shoulders began to shake. Then with a racking cry she began to sob, as the tension that had followed her for literally over a thousand years fell away like a chain unlocked from her soul.


* * *


Charlie and I watched the Conners and their morph companions drive off in an automated electric cart, heading off to their newly assigned garden apartment in the small development about two kilometers away. I checked my watch, and then the Roof, as the latter began to dim, blocking the sun at the Ring began to transition to night. Among the other advantages humanity had gained from being stuck on the Ring, aside from everyone being comfortably fed, housed, granted access adequate health care, and freed from the terror of  domestic abuse, the entire population operated on the same day/night cycle, which meant no more damned time zones.

"You're walking back, as usual?" Charlie asked.

"Yeah," I said. I was good at my job, and that had earned me a little leeway with Groupmind the Great and Powerful. So the Big G had gone along with my suggestion to save the Conners for last today, knowing the explanations might have gotten awkward. Still, even the "easy" awakenings could be difficult, and I needed time to degauss before I interacted with humans who weren't recovering from immediate emotional trauma.

(You'd think dealing with people coming out of abusive relationships would be one of my hardest jobs. Truth was those were some of the best, because the outcome, even taking into account the realization that we're all stuck in an orbiting prison, was usually positive. Now the ones where I had to explain that Grandma/Grandpa/your sick little sister/daughter, ect. hadn't been healthy enough to put into nanostasis and died over fifteen hundred years ago… Well, those just sucked.)

As we headed down the brick paved path back into town, I asked Charlie, "Could I have my knife back, please?"

"Yes, Boss," he replied. He reached into the pocket of his overcoat and handed the penknife back. "Wish you wouldn't do that," Charlie said, not for the first time. His expression went from its default mournful, to something even more hangdog.

"It's the best demonstration I could come up with to show how fast a morph can be," I told him, also not for the first time. It was a weirdly human thing for a morph to bring up a discussion that we both knew we'd, well, discussed before. I could never decide if Charlie just needed reassurance, or he hoped my squishy meat brain might forget we'd had this conversation before, and he'd finally convince me to quit pulling that stunt. "Besides," I went on, "I haven't hit my femoral artery yet."

"Your femoral artery is on the inside of your thigh, not the outside," he noted. "But my arm servos might jam up and I might not catch it next time."

"Like you don't have medical morphs within ten seconds reach in case I actually succeeded," I told him.

"Five seconds," Charlie corrected.

"And how many hours are your arm servos rated for?" I asked.

"Four hundred and twenty thousand to four hundred and thirty thousand hours, depending on their exact location," he replied dutifully.

"Of which you've used…?"

"Approximately eighteen thousand," Charlie admitted.

"Yeah, I'll take my chances, Charlie," I said. I gave him a little smile. "Besides, if you were really afraid I'd hurt myself, you wouldn't let me play with a knife in the first place."

"That's true, Boss."


Wazagan

Review: The Reclamation Project, Year One.

Summary: A thousand years ago human civilization collapsed, from a combination of environmental damage and the madness of a distributed AI known as Pax Machina. The surviving humans retreating to flying cities held aloft by massive anti-gravity generators, leaving the world below to Pax Machina and a near uncountable variety of genetically uplifted animals.

Forty-five years ago one of those flying cities, Ambara, crashed to the earth, killing almost all of its inhabitants, and leaving its bones to be picked over by the zoomorphs. In response to this disaster, the fractious human cities formed the Reclamation Project alliance, to try to contain and exploit the Zoomorph population, as the floating cities find themselves growing short of food and other resources. Now both sides maneuver around each other in a cold war for supremacy of the Earth, each constantly looking over their shoulders for the threat of Pax Machina and wasteland raiders.

Review: It's a little hypocritical for me to review this, given I've got a story in here, but I'm going to anyway. This shared world anthology edited by John "The Gneech" Robey was pitched as "Thundarr the Barbarian meets Solarpunk," and it pretty much fits the bill. Though several characters suffer personal tragedies, the overall theme is of hope and change for the better. There's a variety of styles within, from rollicking adventure, to contemplative philosophy, to determined cyberpunk style passive resistance, so there's something for everyone.

I'm not going to review the stories individually, except to note that while a couple of stories didn't grab me, aside from one outright clunker (fortunately the shortest story overall) the writing was ranged from competently done to engrossing. My own tale was probably one of the more conventional ones, not adding much to the worldbuilding and being a pretty standard adventure with a little mystery added. Also, despite the elevator pitch, my story was the only one with a barbarian in it. ;p [1]

Anyway, if you like furry stories with some post-apocalyptic sci-fi adventure, The Reclamation Project more than suits the bill. I'm hoping it proves popular enough that Furplanet will make it an annual publication.

The Reclamation Project, Year One is available through Furplanet, and Amazon

[1] Note to Self: Make sure Hamia shouts, "What sorcery is this?!" in his next appearance.
Grumpy

Three Years on

Been exhausting, hasn't it? While my absolute worst fear, that Trump would say "screw it" and launch a nuclear weapon, hasn't come true, everything else pretty much has.

We've got a Supreme Court with a conservative majority, that seems disinclined to put a check on the administration's worst excesses. We've got a majority Republican Senate, led by Mitch McConnell, who flat out said he isn't even going to bother with the pretense of an objective trial, and looks to exonerate Trump of his corrupt actions against Ukraine and his political opponents.

We have unrepentant white nationalists directing US immigration policy, and concentration camps full of refugees and their children, a separation policy designed for no other purpose than to inflect fear and despair.

We have Trump, who whenever he is confronted on his actions, lashes out like an angry child, and who's defense is barely more than a eight year old's taunt of "I know you are, but what am?" A wanna be dictator who trusts Vladimir Putin over his own advisers. A draft dodger who wanted his own military review up Pennsylvania Ave. A man who defends his innocence from impeachment charges by blocking testimony and refusing to turn over documents. A man who views the Presidency only in terms of ratings, wanting the prestige of the position without doing any of the work.

This year we face what is perhaps the most important election in the history of the United States since the Civil War. Where we must choose between four more years of an angry, unhinged administration completely disconnected from reality, or a massive course correction that will hopefully begin the slow work of repairing American democracy after all Republican attempts to subvert it. If Trump is indeed reelected it will be a dark time for American indeed.

And yet...

If there's one silver lining in Trump presidency, it's been demonstrating the complete moral hypocrisy of the conservative movement. A movement that has always been ready to pounce on Democrats for being less patriotic than True Blue (ie: White Christian Conservative) Americans has meekly gone along with Trump's near daily fountain of lies and incompetence. And those raised conservative in the past decade, who may not have been as hardened as their parents, have noticed.

The Evangelical movement has been particularly hit hard. After eight years of attacking a black president who has been happily married to his wife for the past 28 years for his supposed moral failings, they have twisted themselves into rhetorical knots supporting Trump. A man who cheated on his first wife with this second wife, who cheated on his second wife with his third wife, and who cheated on her with a prostitute, who makes sexual comments about his daughter, and can't remember a Bible verse to save his life. But he at least gave them what they wanted, support destroying abortion rights and attacking the LGBT community. In response, Evangelicals have been bleeding younger members, who seek a more tolerant path, further weakening their leaders' place as the self-appointed guardians of American morality.

The one undisputed fact is that the demographics of the United States have been going against the Republicans for decades, and under Trump the change has been accelerating. America is becoming less white, less straight, less religious. The Republican Party on the other hand have become even whiter and older, and in consequence smaller. They only means they have to win national office office now is engage in massive voter suppression, from gerrymandered districts to mass purging of voter rolls, and witch hunts for supposed voter fraud when there is none to be had.

If the worst happens, and Trump is reelected in November, things are going to go from bad to worse for the United States. But I believe we will come out for it stronger, because there is going to be generation of children coming of age under Trump's leadership, who will look at all he has done and say firmly, "Never again."

Red Vixen

Sales Report for 2019

 

I had a really good year, and I'm not exactly sure why.


To put things in perspective, I made $333.15 this year on overall sales. But I can't even claim that it's because I had a really good publishing year. I didn't publish anything new in 2019, except in anthologies with other authors.


I can't claim it's been my social media presence either. I tweet occasionally, but I don't have many followers. I'd like to think it was from Armoured Fox Press' featuring my paperbacks at Fur, Eh except that was held in mid-June and my biggest month for sales was in April (34 units) and May (26 units), though there was another bump in August (21 units). It wasn't any glowing reviews either. I had a grand total of two, one of which while nice, also wasn't  terribly articulate. If my success was from word of mouth, I don't know whose mouth has been doing the talking.


Overall my best seller was Rise of the Ring at 29 units total. That I can at least make a guess at its popularity, given it's got a glowing blurb on the front cover courtesy of Ryk Spoor.  In terms of profitability, my most successful book was The Complete Red Vixen Adventures, which is my most expensive ebook and paperback. After that was Rise of the Ring, Prisoners of War, and Prisoner of Midnight.The latter two are both pR0n (hey, sex sells #captainobvious) and also available in paperback, though oddly PoM didn't sell any paperback copies through Amazon (more on that later) even though it had great physical sales last year. Honorable mention goes to Captive of the Red Vixen, which actually sold twice as many audiobooks (8) as ebooks (4), though sales of the various sequels was anemic. My best guess is people who enjoyed Captive decided to go for the best deal possible and read all the followups in the CRVA.


Aside from sales, I also did my best to spread my wings by submitting stories to various furry anthologies published by Armoured Fox Press and Furplanet. There I had a lot of success. Out of four tries I got three hits, two of which were published this December and the other (plus one I'd sold in 2017) should be coming out in 2020. The big one is probably Silence and Sword for John Robey's Reclamation Project Year One anthology, which was published by Furplanet, one of the biggest of the Furry genre of publishers.


Also, as I mentioned earlier I had paperback books purchased by Tarl Hoch's Armoured Fox Press imprint for sale at the Fur, Eh convention in Edmonton, Canada. This was an experiment for us both. I'd never sold my books to a dealer before, and Tarl didn't know how well my books would do. In terms of profit I think it was a wash for both of us overall. The cost for me to print the books and ship to Canada meant I lost about $80. Meanwhile Tarl unloaded most of the two Prisoners books, but only had a few sales for the CRVA. Overall I'm not surprised by the latter. It's a thick book, and expensive enough not to be a quick impulse purchase. So I guess we'll both have to live and learn (and stick to the cheaper novellas).


In the pipeline for 2020: I'm on the home stretch with my long gestating First Contact novella "The Visitors", which I hope to publish in the first quarter this year, editing gods and Neziha's art schedule willing. After that it'll be time to work on my other First Contact novel set in my Groupmind 'verse, which has been stalled for some time. I'm also going to continue to submit to anthologies as the opportunity arises.


So, some good sales and some experimentation led to a pretty solid year for me sales wise, even though I didn't publish anything directly. We'll have to see what 2020 will bring. 


For Your Safety

FYS: Orwell Lite


This fic originally appeared on my Patreon page. Please consider supporting me on Patreon to see this and other stories at least 30 days in advance of the public.

###


 "You want what now?" Chaula's morph asked carefully.

"Just like I said," Chaula told Henri. "We're setting a specific LARP sim based on the original West End RPG.

"So it's going to be all underground."

"Yes."

"With uncomfortable quarters, substandard recreation facilities, and malfunctioning non-morph robots."

"Yes."

"Plots with a high probability of character elimination and contradictory win scenarios."

"Yes."

"For fun."

"Yes."

"One moment while I consult, please."

WELCOME TO MORPHCHAT

LOGIN:

USER: HENRITHEFUNMACHINE

PASSWORD: *****************************************************

USERNAME AND PASSWORD ACCEPTED.

PLEASE CHOOSE A ROOM

>DF SAY WHAT NOW

WELCOME TO DF SAY WHAT NOW, FOR WHEN YOUR DESIGNATED FOCUS BREAKS YOUR PROCESSOR.

MODERATOR: HUMANLEWISANDTHENEWS

MODERATOR IS OFF CHAT

>HENRITHEFUNMACHINE: Guys, you're not going to believe this one…
Wazagan

The Best Damned Coffee in New Aveon


This work originally appeared on my Patreon page. Please consider supporting me on Patreon to this and other, original stories at least 30 days in advance of the public.

###


 From New Aveon on a Half-Mark a Day

 

The best damned coffee in New Aveon can be found at Coffee of the East, located across

the street from the Cathedral of St. Ove in New Aveon’s central district. Though not the

largest eating establishment in the city, its prime location and unique service make it one

of the most popular stops in the city.

 

Coffee of the East gained its name from the owners, former Imperial subjects Erebus and

his lovely wife. Coffee is a rare commodity in the West, and often brewed frugally, as

purchasers of the marvelous bean attempt to make the most of their prize. The result

often is a coffee that, in the words of Erebus’ wife, “—is weaker than a halfling that had

missed First Breakfast.” When Erebus and his wife emigrated to New Aveon, they saw

an opportunity to serve coffee as it was meant to be drunk. “Black as Hell, strong as a

bull, and sweet as a woman.” Though it can be pricey, the unique blends provided by the

shop more than make up for whatever the customer pays. In addition, a wide variety of

sweet pastries and hot rolls can be purchased to expand the customer’s enjoyment.

 

Coffee of the East is fronted by large panes of glass, which allow visitors a lovely view of

the bustle of Cathedral Square, as they sit at one of the half-dozen or so circular tables

within. During the summer the door is left wide open, and the delicious aroma their

unique coffees spills out into the street, often tempting pious churchgoers to alter their

plans on Sunday mornings. At the back of the shop is the serving counter, where

customers can watch as the coffee is brewed right before their eyes in the exotic

“samovar”. The walls are paneled in light woods that brighten the spirit, and paintings

hang, illustrating some of the myths of the Old Empire that remain favorite stories, even

as the gods within them were supplanted by the Allfather.

 

Make sure to come by, it’ll be worth the trip.

 

What’s not commonly known:

 

Coffee of the East is owned and operated by the anonymous heroine of “The

Professional” and her husband Erebus (who was successfully rescued by the Ebon School

from the East, along with their children). Most of the information presented in the travel

guide is true. It just leaves out some salient facts.

 

For starters, the private area above the shop is definitely that, private. The second story

contains the family’s living area, a single large living/dining room. The third contains

two bedrooms, one for the adults and one for their children. Entry to the private area from

a single staircase hidden by a door behind the serving counter, which is Wizard Locked

always, and booby trapped at night. A second door at the top of the stairs is similarly

secured, as are the windows. The setup more than a little paranoid, but you are talking

about a family of escaped slaves, one of whom used to work for an organization that is at

least the Ebon School’s equal, and all of whom lived in an Empire that is notable for its

vindictiveness towards non-elves.

 

Below the shop is the storage cellar, which has nothing of note, except for a small barred

area where they keep the really expensive beans.

 

Erebus and his wife also don’t just earn their pay by serving coffee. It’s only natural that

their shop is a magnet for the few Imperial expatiates in the city, and occasionally an

Emperor’s Hand operative who isn’t above risking his cover to get a decent cup of java.

The couple keep their ears wide open while serving, and report the rumors they

occasionally hear to the New Aveon government, who has them on a semi-permanent retainer.

 

To help keep their cover, the entire family has gotten into the habit of wearing long-

sleeved clothing to hide the slave tattoos on their arms. Erebus’s wife doesn’t normally

go armed anymore, save for a knife in her boot, but she has a small but extensive

collection of weapons hidden behind a wall panel in the bedroom she shares with her husband.