Fantasy Twists Anthology Is Out!

Okay, so the announcement is a bit late, but better late than never, right?

Fantasy Twists anthology, the trope-pretzeling short story collection from Cuil Press, is available as of last Thursday. My own story, One Hell of an STI, is included as well as pieces for six other authors.

If you are looking for creatively written stories inspired by some of your favorite tales as well as diverse characters you should check out Fantasy Twists from Cuil Press

from TheNerdyGirlExpress

I think my favorite part of the anthology is how varied it is.

While all the stories are fantasy, they range from fairy-tale retellings to superheroes. They explore, twist, and recreate, a wide range of fantasy tropes. Some authors took tropes so old they have become cliches and then fallen out of fashion and given them new life. (The scary old person next door) Some authors took tropes that will likely never go out of fashion and took them in a completely different direction. In my case, I took one of the most popular tropes of urban fantasy and turned it inside out.

The characters are varied as well, including werewolves, PoC, superheroes, trans characters, witches, fae, and a character I have been told is loosely based off of the Goblin Kin from Labyrinth. (See if you can spot him.)

Check it out today!

An Interview with Grandmother: Fantasy Twists Blog Tour

I love fairy tales. And I really like well-done new takes on old tales. So I was delighted when Kelseigh N. shared a very different version of “Red Riding Hood” with Cuil Press for our Fantasy Twists anthology.

When Desy starting putting together a Fantasy Twists blog tour, I immediately knew what I wanted to do. I offered to host a stop on the tour and said I’d do a character interview. Kelseigh was good enough to let me “sit down” with Grandmother and learn a bit HER perspective on things. Some of our discussion doesn’t sound much like Red Riding Hood, but that’s because there is a lot more to the story than you ever heard.

I hope you enjoy as much as I did.


Hi Grandmother, thanks for joining me today.

Why hello, Jess. How nice of you to take time out of your day to keep an old woman company. Or perhaps not so old as all that, eh?

So, one thing I can’t stop wondering—what’s with the red and blue cloaks? Is there a special meaning there, or are they just for convenience with the villagers?

A good question, that. Indeed there is, although the current villagers don’t know anything about it. Culture changes over time, you understand, and what once had a particular meaning shifts to mean something different. And we three, our cycle, we have been rolling along for a quite a long time.

But not to put too fine a point on it, from what I understand from the records of Grandmothers past and my own feelings that confirm it to be true, red was once considered the colour of youth, where blue was for those who had come of age. For the Girl and I, the division between those two roles isn’t so much dictated by age of course. But it fits well enough don’t you think?

When did you first notice the Girl? Was it something you gradually became aware of or just an instant realization that she was the one you were waiting for?

I would say the former, although it’s a much less clear-cut feeling than you may think. The three of us who make up the cycle, we are essentially the same people as we always are, but in many ways we are entirely new people every time. Memories don’t really carry well from our Wolf stage to the new Girl, but feelings and instinct…those are a much different matter. I had no idea when my Girl would come, only that she would and there were signs to look for. But in the end it was more a feeling that grew, until one day it dawned on me that this Girl out of all girls was the one I’d been waiting for.

Let me tell you, it was a relief!

Without giving too much away, can you tell us about the Wolf?

What can one say about their first love that doesn’t sound foolish to others? That she is a goddess? Perhaps she always was, in my eyes, even in her original form. Certainly she was as beautiful then as she is now, albeit in a different way. One hell of a kisser, too.

But I suppose you’re looking for something a little more objective. She is, at the heart of it, the embodiment and protecter of her entire realm. Both the things we humans would see as good and natural, or frightening and arcane, make her up and she does not judge either. She is the unseen danger that puts an edge on the villagers’ lives, and that too is a thing of value. She, that is the part of the cycle she occupies, has watched over the forest as long as there has been a forest to watch, or perhaps longer. I’ve thought long about it and discussed the matter with her, and neither of us are sure there ever was a beginning to what she is, although we each have our theories. Suffice to say she has effectively always been and always shall be, and so will the forest she guards.

How did you feel when you first became Grandmother?

Sad and happy, all at once. Excited. Terrified. Change is like that.

You must remember what I saw happen to the woman I’d loved for years. The two of us had more chance to be together before that day and I had a better idea what to expect, but it was still shocking. But now, so many years later what sticks with me are the happier thoughts. The sight of her, radiant in power, continuing the noble work of ages. Years of being together after that. Her wise counsel when it truly struck home that I was now responsible, alone, for the safety and welfare of the whole village, and for teaching my own Girl when I finally found her. She guided me through those early fears that I would not do as well as she.

I think it would have been a much harder transition without her there.

Okay. That’s all the questions I have. Thanks again for joining us.

Thank you as well. I’ve quite enjoyed our chat.


Fantasy Twists is available for pre-order on Amazon, B&N, Google, and Kobo. It’ll be out on Thursday. (I have a story in there too!)

If you want to learn more about Kelseigh’s work, check out her Patreon.

The Bargain by Jess Mahler is Now Available!

When I started writing The Bargain, I wanted a story with polyamory and kink (especially kink!) that I could relate to. All the femdom fiction I could find at the time was either straight pron or man-hating bitches or just flat out unrealistic and icky.

A lot has changed since then, and while femdom* still isn’t widely written, there’s a decent amount of it that I can read and enjoy.

The funny thing is that while I was actively trying to create a story with polyamory and kink, I unintentionally built my story around much more universal themes.

The kink is there, don’t get me wrong, and I think I did a good job with it. But the story… the story is about family. About what it means to be family. It’s about love and the different forms love can take. It’s about life after trauma, when you think the past is behind you but somehow it still manages to dog you around years after it’s “over.”

Most of all, I think it’s about choice. The most pivotal moments in the story all hinge on someone making a choice. Some of those choices are good ones. Some… not so good. But they all have consequences that ripple through the story. Including, of course, the choice to make a bargain…

The Bargain by Jess Mahler

It was supposed to be a straightforward sacrifice. After their mother was killed by Lord Oeloff, Mattin swore to do anything to protect his sister. When the fae lord came for her, Mattin traded his life and freedom to Oeloff’s enemy for the promise of his sister’s safety. He thought he was prepared for anything. Anything except what he actually
found…

It was supposed to be a political gambit. Struggling against Oeloff’s latest ploy, Jahlene found an unforeseen opening in the arrival of the bitter Mattin. Bringing the stranger into her household was a risk. Trusting him was a bigger one. To protect her family, Jahlene bargained with him. She never guessed how it would end…

Sometimes, what starts as a bargain, becomes something more.

The Bargain is a fantasy thriller exploring themes of family, betrayal, trauma, and sacrifice. It is an “own voices” book for polyamory, kink, and PTSD.

The Bargain by Jess Mahler

The Bargain is now available on Amazon

*Check back tomorrow for more on why my writing this for more femdom rep turned out to be somewhat ironic…

His Innocent Victim: A Free Fantasy Short Story

I have a small treat to share today.

As you may know, my fantasy thriller novel The Bargain is coming out on January 18th. To celebrate (and in hopes of wetting your interest), I’m making my short story His Innocent Victim available for free for the next two weeks.

His Innocent Victim is set 500 years before The Bargain and starts the story of Falthro and Dannel. Falthro is also a character in The Bargain. However, like some characters, he didn’t like his relatively small role and insisted on having his own story.

In theory, His Innocent Victim is the first in a series of short stories about Falthro and his household. I’ve got the second part written and will hopefully be publishing it sometime in February.

Enjoy!

His Innocent Victim

When the town of Oak Grove captures a child-killer, they petition the fae lord Falthro to find his missing victims. But before the council will release him to Falthro, they insist he swear by the Goddess to punish the prisoner for the deaths of the town’s children.

Falthro is oathbound, but his magic tells him the prisoner is innocent…

His Innocent Victim is a complete short story, the first in a series about Falthro and his victim, Dannel.​

his innocent victimDownload as ePub

Download as PDF

Fiction Friday: Give It to the Engineer

First entry          Previous entry

Ma’evoto strode through the clean room doors. He hadn’t felt so off balance since he started training as fighter, but the only sign of his discomfort was the off-beat rhythm his thumb tapped against the tips of his fingers.

Waiting for him was a woman who might have been the ultimate geek. Short cropped kinky hair paired with a long skirt of… indifferent style, and a sleeveless vest that gave full access to the sub-cutaneous circutry that crawled up her deep brown arms like tattoos. She had the far-off look of someone watching a retinal display. Probably display contacts. He knew she was a woman because her file said so—if it hadn’t he’d never have guessed. She didn’t wear a single triangle or star. Given geek culture that might be intentional or might be an oversight when she picked out her clothes.

The only thing that didn’t fit was the rabbit ears poking up out of her hair.

“Ms Malka.” He offered his hand

It took a moment, but her eyes slowly refocused. “Oh. Sorry.” She took his hand in both of hers. “Mr. Frederickson.”

“It’s Littlesun. Ma’evoto Littlesun” He tried to smile but it felt like more of a grimace. “I’m reclaiming my old name.”

“Oh. Sorry. Mr. Littlesun.” Her eyes darted around the room, and finally settled on something behind his left shoulder. “Um… I’m a bit confused. About why I’m here, I mean. And why this is here. I mean, top level clean room in government headquarters. That’s… like out of a thriller novel. And I’m kinda bottom tier over at ISA so really shouldn’t you be meeting with one of the…” she trailed off. Probably had been about to use a nickname the political appointees at the space administration wouldn’t like. Ma’evoto grinned.

“Please, don’t stop on my account. I have some less than flattering names for your superiors myself.”

Her mouth snapped shut. Opened. Closed. “Ah… well I don’t mean to suggest they are bad people you understand.” She was babbling now. “Not the best engineers maybe, but they know their jobs and they really are… I mean you don’t need to… that is…”

“Relax, Ms Malka. I’m not going after your colleagues. Some of them will moving to new jobs soon, but I’m not looking to make any more examples. One should be enough, don’t you think?”

“Ah. Yes.” She swallowed.

“Good.” He started the room’s standalone comp and inserted a filechip. “As for why there’s a top tier clean room in government headquarters—mainly to be sure there is one place in the damn building where people can’t be spied on.

“Take a look at this.”

A hologram sprang to life, a spherical space station with one large door and a number of smaller ports. Specs and calculations surrounded the main image.

Malka leaned in. “Nickle iron? An asteroid base? But what about… Oh, I see. Interesting.

“I didn’t take you for a fan Mr. Littlesun. But this looks like something out of Troy Rising. And if you are going to be that ambitious, why not the Death Star?”

“Because we have a chance—barely—of finishing this in two years. And both the old NASA engineers who dreamed this up and the author who wrote Troy Rising understood the importance of little things like having blast doors across your exhaust ports.”

By the time he finished speaking, Malka’s eyes were glazed again. “Two years. The engineering challenges alone…”

“You don’t need to worry about anything else. Funding, bureaucrats, politics—forget about it. Handle the engineering. I’ll see that everything else is taken care of. That’s not a license to spend money. But first priority is making it work, second priority is making it safe. Money is third.”

“It’s doable. Maybe. With the right team.” She hesitated. Refocused. “How will the team be chosen?”

Ma’evoto leaned against the wall and crossed his arms. The movement hid his sigh of relief. She was onboard. “Anyone at ISA that you want is yours. If there are outside people you need, put a list together and I’ll see what can be done. They’ll need to get security clearance same as everyone else at ISA. Don’t waste my time suggesting people you know won’t pass.”

There was a knock at the door. Right on time. He opened the door to let Deborah in. “One last thing. This is Deborah Wirth. She’s been in charge of my magical security, but she’ll be transferring to work on the battlestation as soon as your team is up and running. She’ll have her own team for integrating mystic defenses and other abracadabra into the station.”

Deborah, who’d told him the origin of that old stage conjurer’s phrase one drunk night, stuck her tongue out at him.

This time Malka’s mouth flopped open. “But… but… no one has ever made magic and technology work together.”

“That,” he smiled, “is an engineering problem.”

Deborah muttered something—he couldn’t hear what. A moment later, Malka’s bunny-ears started twitching.

Friday Fiction: The Toughest Battle (Yet)

First entry          Previous entry

The triumphant heroes took their bows and the screen faded to black. Wu shook zir head. “That was…”

“Classic.” Trevor spoke quietly, trying not to wake the child curled up in his lap.

“Not the word I was looking for. And I’m not sure how it got on your ‘Evil Overlord’ list. That trash compactor was never intended as a death trap.”

“Come on, the explosions? The laser beams you could see? The aerodynamic starships? You don’t see vids like this anymore.”

“For which blessing, I will make a large donation to the next artistic fundraiser that hits you up for money.”

“Ha.”

Trevor shifted, preparing to stand.

“Would you like me to take them to bed?”

Trevor shook his head and pushed himself up out of the person-eating couch. Ho’neheso stirred, opening their eyes to look at him a moment before snuggling back into his arms. “You’ve stood in for me too often the last few years. I’m grateful, but Ho’neheso needs me to step up and be their father again.”

Wu followed him as he carried them carefully to their new—and well protected—bedroom. “You never asked them to change their name.”

“No.” Trevor laid his child on their bed and pulled the covers up. “They lost so much already. As long as I could keep them hidden and out of the limelight…”

“And what of you? You no longer need to hide who you are.” They started back down the hallway towards Trevor’s rooms. “Taking an Anglo name made sense when you wanted to move unnoticed in North America. Even with the First Nations reclaiming so much of their land, Anglo is still the ‘norm’ north of Mexico.”

Trevor grunted. Wu only stated the obvious when zi was building towards something big.

“You will be remaking the world in a new image. As you once remade yourself. But is Trevor Frederickson the man who should be remaking the world? Or Ma’evoto?”

“Does it matter? I’m me, whatever I call myself.”

Wu shook zir head. “Deborah has some interesting things to say on the importance and meaning of names. And I believe some of the First Nations have similar beliefs.”

Trevor let himself collapse on his bed. ”Wu… just drop it. I can’t think about this right now.”

Wu said nothing. Trevor’s thoughts circled endlessly. Setting up ‘Trevor’ as a fake identity. The last time his saw his father. The day he read his obituary. The… No matter how hard he tried he couldn’t push the pain and the memories away. A sob caught in his throat.

With hard learned patience, he steadied his breathing. I control nothing if I cannot control myself. Stepped back from the painful memories and watched them. Looking for the meaning that tied them together. The belief behind the pain.

“Ma’evoto is dead,” he finally whispered, “They named him dead and did the rites. I walked away from that name, from that life. I killed him. There is nothing to go back to.”

“We live in an age of magic. Your servant would be honored to find a necromancer to resurrect him.”

“Ha. Ha.”

Wu knelt beside him, hand outstretched. Trevor sat up and rested a hand on Wu’s head. “What would you ask?”

“Only this. Does your soul does bleed for the loss of who you were? Tell your servant it does not and I swear by the heavens I will never speak of it again.”

“I…” Trevor couldn’t say it. “I can’t answer that.”

Wu’s head bowed further, hir hand pulled back to hir heart. “As you will.”

Trevor’s fingers tapped against the bed, quick and discordant. Never before had he refused Wu an answer. It was his right. But he had never…

He pushed himself up and began pacing the room. On his third circuit, Wu stood.
“With permission,” the dragon said, “your servant will retire for the night.”

Pacing wasn’t helping. The buzzing in his head grew worse. “Yes, go.” Another circuit before Wu reached the door. Quickening his steps brought him to the door as Wu opened it. “I’m sorry.”

Wu bowed. “Your servant will do all zi can. But I cannot fight your demons for you.”

“No.” Trevor smiled. “Zi can only precipitate the battle.” He stepped back from the door. “You can go if you want. But I would rather have you with me while I fight them.”

Wu closed the door. “Then I will stay.”

Next entry

Fiction Friday: Let’s Make a Deal

First Entry                Previous Entry

Trevor watched silently as Kasmir Teufel hurried—it wouldn’t quite do to say that he fled—the office. Filling Kasmir’s place in the government hierarchy would be difficult, but Trevor hadn’t even tried to convince him to stay.

Let the scared ones go, Wu had said, forcing them to work with you will only lead to problems.

So Kasmir would get a generous retirement bonus and a chance to escape.

After a few minutes, Wu escorted in Narges Khoroushi, the head bureaucrat for Arcane Persons and Artifacts.

She walked stiffly, her starburst earrings chiming with each step. Trevor examined the rest of her ensemble. She wore a simple white cap covering her head that contrasted with her dark brown skin and curled black hair. Her pants were dark with intricate floral embroidery climbing half way to the knees. A robed upper garment that fell to mid thigh and mimicked the embroidery around the cuffs. Together, her outfit gave an impression somewhere between an active or relaxed lifestyler. An impression Trevor knew was false. There was nothing ‘relaxed’ about her.

She stopped a few steps from his desk. “Fredrickson.”

Keep the evil ones close to you, had been the second part of Wu’s divination. ‘Evil,’ Trevor thought, was a flexible concept. But Wu said that in this case, it meant those who would cause or force division. Which fit Khoroushi to a T.

“Thanks for coming so promptly. Please, sit, have a snack.”

On cue, Wu returned with a tray of finger foods.

She glared at him. “There is no need for courtesy between us. Say your piece and have done with it.”

“I want you to step down from APA.”

She sniffed. “And if I don’t?”

“Then I can’t put you on the team that is going to be restructuring the World Peace Force.”

Her eyes widened.

Trevor leaned back in his chair and sighed. “You heard about Winehurst?”

She jerked her head.

“He was… typical of our so-called ‘peacekeepers.’ We need a military, with an emphasis on marines and space forces.” She opened her mouth but he rolled over her. “We don’t need a bunch of bullies and jackboots who use chemical weapons on protesters and demonstrations.”

Khoroushi pursed her lips. “You watched my speeches.”

“We were enemies.” He smiled. “I try to know my enemies.”

“We are enemies. And if I’d been more willing to support… harsh measures against your street mobs you might not be sitting in that chair right now.” She leaned in, anger glinting in her eyes. “And you know damn well that not all of your engineered protests were peaceful.”

“You and I both know your colleagues’ personal cowardice is the reason my butt is in this chair. The protests,” he waved out to windows, “helped me build grassroots support to take power without instant chaos or rebellions erupting. All the arrests, and beatings, and chemical attacks did was prove to my supporters that I was right. The World Government was a corrupt oligarchy in service of the elites. And don’t tell me you were democratically elected. When a full third of the world’s population couldn’t vote there was nothing democratic about it.”

“Monsters.” It was quietly stated, without the venom most people would imbue in the word, but no less hateful for that.

“No. People. My people. And one way or another, I am removing you from power over them. But I’d rather smoke the pipe with you than toss you out a window.” He smiled again. “If nothing else the repairs will get expensive after a while.”

“Ha!” She looked at him for the first time with interest. “So you’ll let me fix the problems with the peacekeepers if I buy into your revolution.”

“Not buy in. Just stop fighting me.”

She said nothing for a full two minutes. Trevor waited. Then she sat down across from him. “Tell me how this brainstorm of yours will work. And why you think we need a military at all.”

Next Entry

How To Empower Next Generation Media

Previously published on Postmodern Woman.

People don’t often learn best through classes, nonfiction, or lectures. And in a world in which education is becoming increasingly geared towards expanding entertainment, how do we ensure that our messages are getting through?

Plenty of marketers and advertisers will tell you to head for the heart. Many people don’t behave or think as rationally as they’d like to imagine they do. And regardless of my own proclivities, not many people enjoy researching and undergoing metanoia for fun. And while the goal of most media coming up now is to reap massive rewards by going commercial, I’ve never much been one for that path.

See, even though I regularly analyze all sorts of media my own medium right now is writing. While others imagine fame and fortune there will always be those few who instead concentrate on uplifting and expanding. Our entertainment can either give us the familiar dressed up in fancy packages or it can become a catalyst for allowing the sparks of life to shine bright. My stories are only the first medium that I plan to use to engage and awaken. They started off as writing but my goal is to bring them into reality. I have the way; it’s only a matter of time.

There are several ways to educate and entertain people, and they don’t always have to be separate. One of the most powerful ways that people have learned about better or different ways is through our artistic endeavors: our media. How many imaginations sparked, how many new possibilities realized, how many lives saved through art? We learn best by experience and by example. Yet our examples in media and entertainment are severely lacking.

I watched thousands of movies, read thousands of books, and listened to thousands of songs. Yet the things that would have most helped me, the things that would have most delighted me, the things that would have saved my life so much sooner were spread across different realms. I’d find a glimmer here, a peak there, a flash in the distance. And then I realized I wouldn’t find it all somewhere out there. No, like everything humanity requires most for its health, it is within that we find and process it.

So I sat down at age 12 and invented a new genre. One filled with absurdism and satire about all of the ideas that people took for granted like normality, amatonormativity, religion, mental states, physical capabilities, etc. Nothing is sacred in the cuilverse; I tore apart everything I came across, daring my imaginary future readers (likely simply variations of me) to question everything people believed was absolute.

Cuil fiction involves discussions of consent by those who span the scale of emotional intelligence. It involves non-monogamous configurations even the community has yet to acknowledge. It runs the gamut of the sexes, preferences, orientations, health, and races in intersectional ways that I’ve never seen anywhere else. It is cuil because, ironically, it depicts the variation and reality among humans that they deny or are ignorant of in real life.

There are no flat characters in the cuilverse; there are only dynamic people. The focus is on their relationships to themselves, others, and the world around them and not simply on how beautiful that plant in the corner is. They actually react to, change, and interact with the universe they inhabit. And while they do tend to break the fourth wall, you’ll find the science, philosophy, anatomy, and diversity is more real than people realize.

Our epic tales use to involve heroes who were extraordinary, who were unique, who were truly dynamic. But you can tell how much we’ve been swindled by the invention of the “everyman”. The myth of normal was invented and our media has been mostly mass-produced ever since. Even the artists who manage to create something unusual never follow it completely to its logical conclusion.

What I mean is that even when the world is completely different, that context rarely ever carries over to the characters who live in it. For the most part, the main character is a straight man, with rare exceptions for female or gay characters.

And even when supposedly diverse characters are used it is often a matter of tokenization or a tale of completely focused on that difference, rather than the inherent humanity or, you know, an adventure not based on their race, sex, gender, health status, etc.

And to date, there isn’t really any genre for non-monogamous people. Or rather, most poly books are nonfiction. There is some fiction that features polyamory and there are erotic pseudo-poly books. But none of these-the fiction or nonfiction-actually covers the full spectrum of humanity or non-monogamy. We’re left with promises of possibilities and only given the same examples over and over again, and with no in-depth awareness of the myriad intersections and experiences that exist. And they never get to the next step. As much as they talk about happily ever after everyone ends the story before it happens.

Sound familiar?

People keep decrying entertainment in general as being empty and geared towards consumption instead of integration and growth, the only options we’re given simply include more of the same. But complaining about it yet still paying for it just means you’re being a hypocrite.

We need to put the life back into art. And we need more diverse and realistic non-monogamous reflections in our media as well. As a member of the LGBT+ community, I can find a plethora of fiction and non-fiction books, movies, and music about people like me in that regard.

But as a non-monogamous person, as a person who values friendship and sensuality over romance, as someone who wants to see emotional intelligence, sapiosexuality, anatomically correct sex that doesn’t shy away from eroticsim and female agency and isn’t cheap and masturbatory either; as someone who wants things like rape, trauma, and vulnerability to be what they are instead of mere contrived fodder; as that person who craves a world that sees human before any other label; I see a gaping hole.

Each perspective I write is unique to whoever is currently having their experienceI know what it’s like to never be seen, to be constantly underestimated, misunderstood, marginalized, fetishized, and tokenized. I imbued my characters (alien and human alike) with more agency, honesty, freedom, and variation than many people ever grant themselves or others in real life.

That lack in real life needs to be changed if we are ever to move towards a fully consensual society. You see, consent requires knowledge, and when it comes to love, romance, sex, mental health, emotional intelligence, non-monogamy, and sexuality the majority of people are Jon fucking Snow (yes, even those who claim their non-monogamy is ethical still have a ways to go).The world needs media that isn’t just entertainment. We need transformative, immersive, integrated content. The world can be changed through art just as much as science. Art has been sorely lacking behind. Isn’t it about time we do something about it? Demand better, create better, acknowledge more, and embrace the unique.

For empowered content we need artists that are as focused on who their characters are as what they do. We need them to craft each person as carefully as they craft the rules of their universe. We need creators to show us heavens along with hells. No one at all is helped by saying, “At least we’re better than them. Thank goodness we don’t have their rotten luck!” We need maturity and self-worth in our icons more than we need pettiness and ignorance.

I mean, everyone keeps saying they want to make the world a better place. We want it be full of consent and diversity and healing. Isn’t it time our art actually showed us what that’s like?

Fiction Fridays: That’s Some Retirement Plan…

First Entry          Previous Entry

Trevor watched the crowds hundreds of feet below. Folks on the fringes were trickling away, but most weren’t going anywhere.

Give it a couple hours of (hopefully) nothing happening, and anyone not completely dedicated to whatever had brought them here would start to move along. His supporters, at least, had mostly set their signs and amplifiers to automatic and were plugging into the ‘net, to get some real work done. Wu came up to stand beside him.

“General Winehurst wants to speak with you.”

Trevor sighed. “Might as well get it over with. Send him in.”

Wu bowed and left. Trevor turned away from the window to survey what would become his official office. Three cream-colored walls, bare of decoration, and one wall of windows rose 15 ft a ceiling that had been painted with a mural of the world and its peoples. Or at least, it’s human peoples. The floor…

Winehurst burst in before he had finished the survey.

“We did it! I told you my men were the ones for the job.” Winehursts milk-pale face glowed with excitement and the disgusting gender-erasing phrase slipped naturally between his lips.

Trevor smiled and took the general’s hand in both of his. “You did, and they did. Your people have done us all proud.

“So when do we start cleaning up?”

“Why, now, actually.” He tightened his grip, making the general wince. “I am delighted to accept your resignation general, dated immediately. You assassination and leg-breaking teams were invaluable in creating this new world, and I know you want to rest from your labors.”

Winehurst tried to pull away, but he had trained with weapons 30 years ago. Trevor trained in hand-to-hand twice weekly with Wu. He couldn’t beat a real fighter—he hadn’t kept in real training for over ten years himself. But the general wasn’t escaping him by main strength.

“What! No. Damnit we talked about this. You promised me a chance to rebuild the military make it a real fighting force again! Let go, damn it!”

Trevor timed his release so the general lost his balance, stumbling backward and nearly tripping over Wu and Deborah. Deborah wore the distant look Trevor was used to seeing when she called on her God. Wu was focused on Winehurst.

“I have every intention of keeping my promise, general. But I’m afraid you and I have very different ideas of what a “real” fighting force will look like. My idea does not look like the murders, bullies, and abusers you’ve gathered around you to abuse and extort civilian populations. It looks like a military force. With discipline and a purpose.

“So I suggest you take your retirement bonus and go. You won’t get a better offer.”

Winehurst strode towards Trevor, getting in his face and trying to loom over him. “I’m the only military office you’ve got. Without me, you can’t hold the troops. And without the troops, your brown ass will be dead before the week is out. You may be the one with the big chair, but you don’t scare me.”

“I see. Well, I admit I was warned that even if you took retirement you’d be likely to try to… meddle. Better to have everything out in the open, then.”

“Darn right I would. Now let’s talk salary.”

“Of course.” Trevor stepped back, giving way to the general. A hand behind the general’s elbow turned him toward one of the conference tables. Then the grip shifted, and the elbow lock forced Winehurst to keep moving until he walked with into—and through—the glowing 30-story window that should have held up to a shoulder-fired SAM. And had before Deborah’s cast her spell.

Winehurst screamed all the way down, of course. Trevor sighed. “Goodbye general. I told you you wouldn’t get a better offer.”

One of the security gryphons winged down to hover before the window. “Sir?”

“I’m fine. However, we need to up our weapon search procedures.” Trevor shook his head. “I don’t know what he thought he was doing, attacking me with Wu and Deborah right here. And please order a cleanup crew for the sidewalk.”

Deborah came to stand beside him and looked down at the splattered remains of the general.

“Thank you, Deborah. That was quick thinking.” Trevor shook his head. But was it necessary?

Gevurah,” she said. “It was justice.”

“Was it?” Trevor heard himself ask.

Wu put a hand on his shoulder, “Honored friend, not all the deaths on our hands will be just ones. But your servant has seen his work first hand. Even if he had accepted your offer, he would have continued doing harm to many. This death was indeed just.

“And having it known that you can defend yourself against attack at need? Your honored servant will sleep much better at night knowing that your enemies will know you are no easy target.”

With the window gone, the noise of the crowds, now punctuated by screams and shouts, came to him clearly. He looked down at them and waved, doing his best to show them that he was alive and unharmed. Camdrones zoomed towards him. “Wu, deal with those please.” He turned his back on the broken window and sat at the desk he had done so much to claim.

“I have work to do.”

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Fiction Friday: Gu– Dragon!

First entry

The hundred-person security team hit the steel doors and spread through the first floor of the 50 story building. It looked like it had been choreographed because it had. Hundreds of hours drilling in a virtual mock-up. Behind and above them came the dragons and gryphons who secured the airspace before and delivered additional security personnel on the World Government Building roof in a well-coordinated relay.

As he stepped out of his armored and shielded air car, Trevor wondered again why no had come up with a more original name for it.

Wu, in late 20th Century grunge, flanked him, scanning the gathering crowds. Dissatisfaction with the former world government was high, but it only took one person willing to become a martyr. Behind him, hidden by her sheer tininess, he heard Deborah’s quiet chanting as she evoked the NAMES of her God to bring peace and safety. A half dozen strides and the security team called the first floor clear as he stepped through the door.

Gunshot!

Trevor dropped to the ground. Forty feet of golden dragon suddenly surrounded him. Just outside the coils, words of fire hung in the air, trapping the bullet. Deborah said something and the words faded, taking the bullet with them.

“Hold here,” Wu hissed. Trevor wasn’t going to argue. Going further into the building for cover meant walking into a possible ambush. Going back to the street would be foolish.

He, Wu, and Deborah held position while security scrambled. Within minutes, the shooter was found and quarantined. More time passed, long enough that crowd came out of their shock and started getting loud. Security called an all-clear.

Wu shimmered, his golden scales fading and reforming into the human-seeming Trevor was familiar with. Wearing the ancient garments Wu called “hanfu.” Why always hanfu when he transformed? And what happened to the grunge gear?

Pushing aside the inanities, Trevor examined the groups of people gathered around him.

Outside the building were citizens and magical beings, most local, a few from other parts of the world. Protesters, mostly ‘human’ citizens, on one side. Supporters, mostly magical beings, on the other. Both groups increasingly agitated.

Inside the building, he saw humans and perhaps a few in human-seeming. Uncertainty, fear, resentment, and a surprising amount of relief.

His own people were split, Some remained outside to help with crowd control. Some followed him prepared to spread out and start the worked they’d spent a decade preparing for. And the security teams were everywhere—or trying to be.

Hovering camdrones waited just outside the legal privacy limit. It was as good a moment as any. He waved the drones forward and signaled Deborah. She stepped back, blending in with the surrounding government bureaucrats and staff.

“Not how I wanted to start my first day on the job, but first days tend to be shit anyway.

“All of you,” he took in the bureaucrats, “are probably wondering what to expect. There are going to be a lot of changes, and you aren’t going to like some of them. But I hope some of them you will like. For now, keep doing your jobs and focus on making sure food and energy keep moving to the people who need them. You’ll have plenty of time to gawk at me later. Promise.”

He refocused on the cams. ”To my supporters outside: thank you and go home. We have a lot of work to do, so don’t wear yourself out here. The real fight hasn’t begun yet.

“To the protesters, I’m not going to silence you. I’m not going to arrest you. I’m not going to attack you. As long as you stick to making noise in the street, you can knock yourselves out.” He paused. Then deliberately pulled his hair back into the style still sometimes called a “warrior’s braid”—as if warriors only had one hairstyle. When he finished, he relaxed into a loose fighting stance, letting the lines of his pants emphasize his readiness for action.

“Any of you thinking that rebellion or armed resistance might be a good idea—back down now. Or you’ll join your friend with the gun.”

As he finished speaking security called in to report the upper levels clear.

“For real this time?”

“Ah… yes, sir. For real this time.”

“Good.”

He signed forward and he, Wu, and the rest of the team that had gathered behind them moved for the lifts.

It was going to be a long day.

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