What You Will (S1 E8): A Queer-er Shakespeare

Season notes: violence, sexism

Some miles south of that place, in another seacoast town, a man long ill from swallowing an excess of saltwater was finally recovered. He sat at a rough wooden table in the small rented room. The inn catered to sailors needing a place to stay between voyages and had not been a restful place to heal. But heal he had. This man was packing what little remained of his worldly goods in a battered leather bag. He packed slowly, reluctantly, but steadily. His name was Sebastian.

There was only one chair in the room, so its other occupant leaned nearby against the wall, a young sailor, Antonio. He looked older than his years from the rough treatment of wind and wave. It was Antonio who had plucked Sebastian from the sea and tended him these past days. He watched Sebastian now with anguished eyes. “Will you stay no longer? nor will you not that I go with you?”

Sebastian shook his head; he would not look at his savior, who had become much more. It was for that reason as much as any other that Sebastian had to leave. “By your patience, no. My stars shine darkly over me:” he had, in fact, begun to suspect that the stars hated him. Why else would they torture him so? “The vileness of my fate might perhaps taint yours; therefore I shall crave of you your leave that I may bear my evils alone:” Now he did look at Antonio, reached a hand out even to lay it on the man’s shoulder. “It were a bad recompense for your love, to lay any of this on you.”

Not one to be dissuaded, Antonio pleaded, “Let me yet know of you whither you are bound.”

“No, sooth, sir: my determinate voyage is mere extravagancy.” Antonio started to speak again but stopped himself, looking away. Sebastian saw the motion and squeezed the shoulder under his hand. “But I perceive in you so excellent a touch of modesty, that you will not extort from me what I am willing to keep in; therefore it charges me in manners the rather to express myself.”

Sebastian paused, looking out into the distance. “You must know of me then, Antonio, my name is Sebastian, though I have called myself Roderigo.” He glanced at Antonio, then looked away. Antonio gave no response, unsurprised that this friend had kept secrets from one he had, at first, no reason to trust. “My father was that Sebastian of Messaline, whom I know you have heard of.”

To this, Antonio reacted, for he had indeed heard of Sebastian of Messaline. That was a well-known name to those who sailed the seas — known for both well and ill before his death. Antonio well understood why Sebastian had said nothing of his connection when he first roused.

“He left behind him myself and a sister,” Sebastian continued, “both born in an hour: if the heavens had been pleased, would we had so ended!” He crossed himself but refused to let his tears fall. “but you, sir, altered that; for some hour before you took me from the breach of the sea was my sister drowned.”

He searched for her, clinging to his broken bit of wood until the salt spray blinded him.

“Alas the day!” Now Antonio moved away from the wall. He squatted down next to Sebastian and rested a hand upon his shoulder. He would have preferred to offer an embrace but recognized from the tension in his shoulders that his friend would not welcome it at that moment.

“A lady, sir, though” he chuckled, “it was said she much resembled me, she was yet accounted beautiful: but, though modestly prevents me from believing that, yet in this I will boldly publish her; she bore a mind that envy could not but call fair.” Now the tears fell, past his ability to call them back. Sebastian scrubbed at his face. “She is drowned already, sir, with saltwater, though I seem to drown her remembrance again with more.”

Antonio pulled Sebastian’s hands away and used a handkerchief to wipe his cheeks. “Pardon me, sir,” he said with a gentle smile, “your bad entertainment.”

“O good Antonio,” Sebastian chuckled and allowed his friend to tend him. “Forgive me your trouble.”

Antonio cupped Sebastian’s cheek with one hand. “If you will not murder me for my love, let me be your servant.”

Sebastian returned the caress but shook his head. “If you will not undo what you have done, that is, kill him whom you have recovered, desire it not.” He hesitated a long moment, then leaned in and gave Antonio a gentle kiss. Before Antonio could deepen it, he pulled away and grabbed up his bag. “Fare ye well at once:” He stood and took two long strides toward the door. Antonio watched him go with full eyes. “my bosom is full of kindness, and I am yet so near the manners of my mother,” Sebastian’s voice hitched, but he forced it under control. “that upon the least occasion more mine eyes will tell tales of me.” A moment of hesitation, then bowing to the plea that Antonio did not voice, “I am bound to the Count Orsino’s court: farewell.”

Antonio watched as he walked out the door, then called, “The gentleness of all the gods go with thee!”

A few moments, he stayed silent, unmoving. “I have many enemies in Orsino’s court,” he murmured, “Else would I very shortly see thee there.

“But, come what may, I do adore thee so, That danger shall seem sport, and I will go.”

The room was paid through the end of the week, and his seabag was, as always, near at hand. It took Antonio only a short time to pack his own things, then he too walked out the door, not looking back.

What You Will (S1, E7): A Queer-er Shakespeare

Content notes: violence, sexism

Maria stood and crossed to the door. “Will you hoist sail, sir? here lies your way.”

“No.” Viola’s voice was weak, her boldness again wilting. She took hold of herself. As she had in many a past prank, she disguised herself behind her brother’s mien. “No, good swabber; I am to hull here a little longer.” She crooked an eyebrow at Olivia and, in her most sarcastic voice, continued, “Some mollification for your giant, sweet lady.”

Unsurprisingly, Olivia did nothing to ‘mollify’ Maria but also did not order Viola removed.

She and Viola stared at each other a moment, then Viola reached out a hand in offering and said quietly, “Tell me your mind: I am a messenger.”

“Sure, you have some hideous matter to deliver,” Olivia replied, “when the courtesy of it is so fearful. Speak your office.”

Viola stepped closer, dropping her voice to a murmur as her brother had done when flirting. “It alone concerns your ear. I bring no overture of war, no taxation of homage,” she lifted her outstretched hand. “I hold the olive in my hand;” Another step closer and her voice a touch softer, a touch deeper. “My words are as fun of peace as matter.”

Olivia was flustered now, looked away, fiddled with her fan. “Yet you began rudely,” she objected. Standing now, pacing the floor. “What are you? what would you?”

A half step back, giving space without retreating. The voice was softer yet, so now Olivia had to strain to hear, to stop pacing and step closer. Viola, within the well-learned mask of her brother’s ways, smiled. “The rudeness that hath appeared in me have I learned from my entertainment.

For the first time, the low voice took on the hint of a whisper: not just soft now but secret. “What I am, and what I would, are as secret as maidenhead; to your ears, divinity, to any other’s, profanation.”

Silence then. The lure was cast, and Viola knew — Sebastian knew, but for the moment, Viola was Sebastian — better than to speak further.

Olivia glanced at her (him — Cesario was who Olivia saw. Viola was perhaps too many people that morning.) Olivia glanced at him and away. The countess had been well sheltered before her father’s death, and this may have been the first time she had met the games of love. Certainly, the duke’s earlier messengers had little sense of how to woo her.

Finally, she decided. “Give us the place alone: we will hear this divinity.”

Olivia used Maria’s stiff exit to gather herself. She was flustered, yes; taken by surprise, but the daughter and granddaughter and sister of counts, a countess in her own right. She made herself don the mask of serenity she wore when she held court, to sit gracefully on her chair. When she spoke, it was in a steady voice and firm tone. “Now, sir, what is your text?”

Viola smiled and began, “Most sweet lady,–”

But this was more what Olivia had expected, and she was able to cut the speech short, “A comfortable doctrine, and much may be said of it.

“Where lies your text?”

Surprised but willing to play along, Viola replied, “In Orsino’s bosom.”

“In his bosom! In what chapter of his bosom?”

“To answer by the method, in the first of his heart.”

“O, I have read it: it is heresy. Have you no more to say?”

Viola stumbled, not ready to give up the task she had been set, but the game had ended too abruptly, and her memories of playing Sebastian were no help. But she was not Sebastian now; she was Cesario. And she knew what Cesario would say, the words bubbling up within her from her heart that was also his. “Good madam, let me see your face.”

“Have you any commission from your lord to negotiate with my face?” Olivia shook her head but continued. “You are now out of your text: but we will draw the curtain and show you the picture.” She pulled back her veil and gave Viola a moment to admire her face. “Look you, sir, such a one I was this present: is’t not well done?”

Vanity, oh vanity, all is vanity!

“Excellently done,” Cesario prodded, “if God did all.”

Stung Olivia jumped to defend her beauty. “‘Tis in grain, sir; ’twill endure wind and weather.”

Cesario smiled. “‘Tis beauty truly blent, whose red and white Nature’s own sweet and cunning hand laid on. Lady,” the soft voice again, entreating, “you are the cruell’st she alive, If you will lead these graces to the grave And leave the world no copy.”

“O, sir,” Olivia flirted now, looking up at him from behind her lashes, “I will not be so hard-hearted; I will give out divers schedules of my beauty: it shall be inventoried, and every particle and utensil labeled to my will: as, item, two lips, indifferent red; item, two grey eyes, with lids to them; item, one neck, one chin, and so forth.” The flirtation dropped the countess spoke again, “Were you sent hither to praise me?”

“I see you what you are, you are too proud,” Cesario spoke with censure now, vanity exposed being the greatest of ugliness.

“But, if you were the devil, you are fair. My lord and master loves you:” and Cesario tried hard not to hear the whisper in his heart — loves you as he can never love me, mismatched monster that I am — “O, such love Could be but recompensed, though you were crown’d The nonpareil of beauty!”

“How does he love me?”

“With adorations, fertile tears, With groans that thunder love, with sighs of fire.”

As he spoke, Olivia listened, leaning forward, taking in the passion and fire that peaked through, burning all the brighter for the love of his own Cesario did not dare — never dared — to show the world.

Shaking off the impact of those words, Olivia dismissed them. “Your lord does know my mind; I cannot love him: Yet I suppose him virtuous, know him noble, Of great estate, of fresh and stainless youth; In voices well divulged, free, learn’d and valiant; And in dimension and the shape of nature A gracious person: but yet I cannot love him; He might have took his answer long ago.”

“If I did love you in my master’s flame, With such a suffering, such a deadly life, In your denial I would find no sense; I would not understand it.” Did not understand it, that Olivia would so easily set aside what he — she. She was Viola; Cesario was only a mask! — would have given all the gold of the Indies for.

“Why, what would you?”

And Cesario — Viola — opened her heart for one time. What she would do if she could… “Make me a willow cabin at your gate, and call upon my soul within the house. Write loyal cantons of contemned love and sing them loud even in the dead of night. Halloo your name to the reverberate hills and make the babbling gossip of the air cry out…” she caught herself, replaced one name with another, and hid her stumble with a cry that reverberated through the house, if not the hills. “‘Olivia!’ O, You should not rest Between the elements of air and earth, But you should pity me!”

Olivia, of course, had no idea that this paean of love was not directed to her. It left her stunned and feeling much she did not recognize. “You might do much. What is your parentage?”

Surprised, Viola stared a moment before answering. “Above my fortunes, yet my state is well: I am a gentleman.”

Shaking her head, Olivia stood and made for the door, made to escape, “Get you to your lord; I cannot love him: let him send no more;” A pause, a thought, a fear and a hope… ” Unless, perchance, you come to me again, To tell me how he takes it. Fare you well: I thank you for your pains:” Eager to give him something though not understanding why she dug out a few coins from her purse. “spend this for me.”

“I am no fee’d post, lady,” Viola sneered at the coins, “keep your purse: My master, not myself, lacks recompense.

“Love make his heart of flint that you shall love; And let your fervor, like my master’s, be placed in contempt!” With a backward wave, and a heart both light and grieving, Viola strode out of the room and towards the main doors. “Farewell, fair cruelty.”

What You Will (S1 E6): A Queer-er Shakespeare

Season notes: violence, sexism

As the fool left, Malvolio re-entered wearing a deep scowl. “Madam, yon young fellow swears he will speak with you. I told him you were sick; he takes on him to understand so much, and therefore comes to speak with you. I told him you were asleep; he seems to have a foreknowledge of that too, and therefore comes to speak with you.” He shook his head and growled. “What is to be said to him, lady? he’s fortified against any denial.”

“Tell him he shall not speak with me!” Now Olivia, too, was scowling, her peace and humor of the moment before quickly wiped away.

“Has been told so,” Malvolio grated out. “And he says, he’ll stand at your door like a sheriff’s post, and be the supporter to a bench, but he’ll speak with you.”

“What kind o’ man is he?”

Malvolio blinked, stammered out, “Wh- why, of mankind.”

Olivia had long suspected that Malvolio’s dislike of humor came from his literalness. The fool did not agree with her, for had known many others with like literalness who had learned to use it to make jokes, rather than squash them. Be that as it may, the Lady likely should have expected this response from him. Thus her rolled eyes were probably directed at herself. Though who can say for sure. “What manner of man?” she asked with studied patience.

“Of very ill manner; he’ll speak with you, will you or no.”

What was the lady thinking now? Who could say. Perhaps she had begun to grow tired of grief. Perhaps the return of her fool reminded her that there was life outside her manor. Or perhaps she was simply intrigued. For all she had long been subjected to the Duke’s advances, to come wooin with rudeness had the sole virtue or novelty.

So instead of dismissing the matter she asked further.

“Of what personage and years is he?

Malvolio’s scowl deepened. “Not yet old enough for a man, nor young enough for a boy;” he paused seeking words to convey his sense of the messenger. “As a squash is before ’tis a peascod, or a cooling when ’tis almost an apple: ’tis with him in standing water, between boy and man.” Giving up the rambling attempt to say what was plain to anyone at his first words, he continued, “He is very well-favoured and he speaks very shrewishly; one would think his mother’s milk were scarce out of him.”

Truly intrigued now, Olivia murmured, “Let him approach,” then started, as if the words had surprised even her. In a firmer tone she ordered, “Call in my gentlewoman.”

After a stunned moment, Malvolio strode out of the hall, calling ahead of himself, “Gentlewoman, my lady calls.”

Maria, of course, came to the call and walked with her lady to Olivia’s prefered receiving room.

“Give me my veil:” Olivia said once she was settled. “Come,” when Maria did not move quickly enough, “throw it o’er my face.” Maria soon had the black lace veil settled across her lady’s countenance, hiding clear view of her. With a sigh, already regretting her impulse, Olivia leaned back into the cushions of her chair. “We’ll once more hear Orsino’s embassy.”

A few moments later, Malvolio bowed in Cesario — that is, Viola — and quickly left the room. The discourtesy of not announcing the Duke’s messenger was not lost on anyone. Viola stepped further into the room looking nervously between Olivia and Maria. Her boldness deserted her at the very moment it won her entrance.

Silence stretched a long moment and Viola nervously asked, “The honourable lady of the house, which is she?”

Olivia had been studying Viola, surprised in spite of Malvolio’s report at how young ‘he’ was. She was surprised again that the Duke’s messenger did not recognize her despite her veiling. New, she quickly realized, not only to the Duke’s service but to the realm. New and intriguing, with exotic accent and coloring. New to the Duke, and perhaps not firmly tied to him.

“Speak to me;” she said, “I shall answer for her.

“Your will?”

Viola bowed to her, took a breath and began, “Most radiant, exquisite and unmatchable beauty,–” the words had felt foolish enough when she practiced them on her way over. Addressing them to a veiled unknow who might or might not be the one she sought crossed over from foolish to madness and she could not continue. She was embarrassed, and becoming angry at the lady (and a small bit Orsino) for putting her in this position. With anger returned her former boldness and she turned to Maria. “I pray you, tell me if this be the lady of the house, for I never saw her.” A stage whisper, “I would be loath to cast away my speech, for besides that it is excellently well penned, I have taken great pains to con it.” In truth is had not been ‘penned’ at all, being the product of Viola’s thoughts on the way there. Though she had ‘conned’ — that is, memorized — it as best she could hoping to avoid making a fool out of herself. An effort now gone to waste.

When no response came, she let herself be drawn into pleading — she was not there of her own will and well they knew it. “Good beauties, let me sustain no scorn; I am very comptible, even to the least sinister usage.”

Take some small pity, Olivia asked, “Whence came you, sir?”

Not willing to get drawn into discussion, Viola replied, “I can say little more than I have studied, and that question’s out of my part. Good gentle one, give me modest assurance if you be the lady of the house, that I may proceed in my speech.”

“Are you a comedian?” Olivia asked.

Viola couldn’t help a small laugh at the idea. “No, my profound heart,” but some imp slipped between her lips and made her continue, “and yet, by the very fangs of malice I swear, I am not that I play.” That confounded the lady and Viola continued quickly before she could ask further: “Are you the lady of the house?”

Done with the game, Olivia replied, “If I do not usurp myself, I am.”

“Most certain,” Viola muttered with a snort, “if you are she, you do usurp yourself; for what is yours to bestow is not yours to reserve.” With a shake of her head she recalled herself to duty. “But this is from my commission: I will on with my speech in your praise, and then show you the heart of my message.”

“Come to what is important in’t: I forgive you the praise.”

” Alas, I took great pains to study it, and ’tis poetical.”

“It is the more like to be feigned,” Olivia snapped, “I pray you, keep it in.

“I heard you were saucy at my gates, and allowed your approach rather to wonder at you than to hear you. If you be not mad, be gone; if you have reason, be brief: ’tis not that time of moon with me to make one in so skipping a dialogue.”

Viola, who had her own suffering when the moon had it’s way with her, winced in sympathy”

Maria stood and crossed to the door. “Will you hoist sail, sir? here lies your way.”

Newsletter subscribers received
the last episode of Season 1 today.
Sign up now to get caught up.

The Good News Is, It’s Not Covid… (Planning Ahead and Going on Hiatus)

The bad news, of course, is that it knocked me on my ass for over a last week.

There’s an old saying about how ‘crazy’ is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Since sometime in August, I’ve been saying that I’d get my buffer rebuilt, and we’d get back to the consistent posting I had for the first half of the year… any week now.

Building up the buffer while keeping on deadline and dealing with all the life shit isn’t working. It’s time for something new.

I had debated taking a hiatus over July to build the buffer back up, and in hindsight, I really should have done that. So instead, I’ll need to do it now. Going forward, I’m going to schedule a 1-month hiatus each year to try to keep a buffer going. We’ll see how it goes.

Unfortunately, there’s another issue — one reason I thought I’d have a chance to rebuild a buffer the past couple of months is because of the stories we’re doing right now. Our current stories already had the plot and characters and everything mapped out, an in-depth outline for Building Family and all the dialog was already written for What You Will.

It turns out I really am a pantser. Writing to spec, even a spec I created, is proving to be way more difficult than the ‘have a rough outline and fill it in as I go’ method I usually use.

For now, as much as I love the idea, I’ll be shelving Building Family. I might come back to it in the future when I have time to work some kinks out and have a solid buffer, but not making any promises.

While What You Will is giving me trouble, it’s not giving me as much trouble as Building Family, so we’ll be picking it back up after this hiatus.

My initial plan was to push through to the end of October and go on hiatus in November. Or even December. But really, that’s just going to lead to more missed posts in the long run. And probably the short run.

However, I’m not going to leave you completely high and dry — especially on such short notice. Regular posting will be suspended through November 12, and we’ll pick up Tuesday, November 16. Between now and then, I’ll share posting snippets, blurbs, and other randomness from my archives each Friday.

Dropping Building Family will leave a hole in the rotation, so if you see something in the snippets and random bits that you’d like more of, let me know. I might be able to make that happen.

Thanks for your patience, and remember folks:

Masks and hand sanitizer aren’t just for COVID!

(Originally posted to newsletter Oct 15, 2021)

Building Family (S1, E8)

Season content notes: transphobia mention, ableism,

In spite of the initial awkwardness, the rest of the evening went well. Following Andie’s lead, they took turns asking questions and giving questions. Nothing was off-limits, but without discussing it, they steered clear of things that might stir up painful memories. Emeka wondered about Orli’s ex but didn’t ask, and no one asked him about his family or how he came to have this big house all on his own.

By the time dinner was over, they were talking about the practicalities of living together. Emeka had been a little worried about the kosher thing, but once Orli explained the details of ‘kosher style’ he figured he could work with it. Shellfish was too expensive to be worth it anyway, and Orli wasn’t going to complain if he or Andie had a cheeseburger; she just didn’t eat them herself.

Andie had gotten quieter as the meal went on, and when they cleared the dishes away, they pulled out a tablet. “I’m going nonverbal,” a computer voice said for them. “Is this okay?”

Emeka had been surprised but didn’t see why it wouldn’t be okay. Orli had laughed. “If you two can put up with my kosher stuff, I don’t know why you’d think that would be a problem.”

“She’s right,” Emeka agreed. “We all got our baggage. As long as that’s comfortable for you, we’ll go with it.”

“How does it work?” Orli asked, gesturing to the tablet.

Andie typed a bit, and the tablet said, “Mostly it’s a standard text to speech program, I type in what I want to say, and the tablet turns it into audio. But I also programmed in some shortcuts for stuff I need to say a lot. Like ‘how are you’ or ‘have a good day.’ ”

“You programmed that yourself?” Emeka asked.

“Not all of it,” Andie replied after a moment. Typing was slower than speech, changing the pace of the conversation. “But some of it, yeah. There are commercial programs available for autistic and other nonverbal folks, but they are mostly expensive and only run on i-stuff.”

“You don’t like Apple?”

“I will give up Linux when you pry it from my cold dead hands.”

Orli laughed and offered Andi a fist bump. “Tux for the win.”

Emeka looked back and forth. “Linux? But you can’t run anything on Linux just about!”

Orli cough-muttered, “Gamer,” and Andie rolled his eyes.

“There’s lots of good games on Linux,” Andie said after a moment. “Just because not everyone likes triple-A bullshit–”

“Bullshit! Name one top game you can play on Linux–” Seeing Andie was typing, Emeka cut himself off.

“I can name dozens, but I only do need to name one. Minecraft.”

Emeka shook his head. “Okay yeah, but–”

Orli’s phone buzzed. She pulled it out and saw a text from her daughter. I can’t believe you are serious about doing this poly stuff.

You never had a problem with your aunt’s relationships, Orli replied.

She’s never been a stick in the mud.

And I have been?

Orli watched the three little dots pop in and out of existence as her not-quiet teenaged daughter debated between seeking mom’s approval and the teenage ‘cool’ factor. Chana was a good kid, school problems aside. But Orli could see more and more hints of the teenage monster-to-be peeking through. She was okay with that. Like many parents, she wanted her kid to have as normal a childhood as possible, and that included one where she felt safe to indulge in teenage rebellions.

Finally, those dots were replaced with words. Are you sure this isn’t some kind of mid-life crisis?

If it is, you can spend from now until you get your first car saying ‘I told you so.’ 

Deal! came the instant reply.

Orli chuckled and turned back into the continuing debate about games and gaming platforms. Chana was another gamer, but most of the game stuff went right over Orli’s head.

She had, however, learned a few things from her daughter. And, she thought soberly, if she was going to be living with these folks, she needed to know more about them than the surface they put on. So she waited until a break in the conversation and said, “I can’t say I really see the point in any of this. There’s lots of fun games I can play on my phone, and they don’t have double-digit price tags.”

Immediately, both Emeka and Andie and turned on her. A moment later, Andie’s tablet blared out, “Danger! Danger Will Robinson!”

Emeka was making a horrified face. “Oh no! There’s a casual in our midst!” He held up his fingers so they formed a cross. “Back! Back demon! We will not be tempted by your foul Candy Crush!”

Then Andie started playing that really ominous music from Star Wars and said, “Throw yourself on the phone, Emeka. It may not be too late to save her.” In the same voice as the ‘danger Will Robinson’ bit.”

Testing the waters a bit more, Orli opened up Candy Crush on her phone and turned up the volume as high as it could go. Then waved it toward Emeka as if to ward him off.”

“No!” He threw himself back in his chair as if he’s been shoved. “Nooooooo…”

Orli started laughing and settled back in her own chair. The laughter was more relief than humor — she generally wasn’t a fan of mocking comedy. But she could recognize the humor in it. They weren’t being mean or derisive or disdainful.

A moment later, her phone beeped. She had a new friend request on Candy Crush from Andie945.

She accepted it saying, “Oh well. At least Chana will stop pestering me to play Civilizations if she has you two around.”

Emeka and Andie looked at each other, Andie flat-faced as always but Emeka with comically wide eyes.

“Strategy gamer,” he whispered.

In his normal voice, Andie replied, “We’re doomed.”

Orli messaged Chana saying, They’re gamers. Emeka plays triple-A games, and Andie plays ‘indy’ games.

Sweet! When can we move in?

Orli shook her head. Teenagers.

What You Will (E4)

Content notes: violence, sexism

It was not suspicion in Valentine’s eyes, though perhaps something close akin when he examined the newest member of the Duke’s court. “If the duke continue these favors towards you, Cesario, you are like to be much advanced: he hath known you but three days, and already you are no stranger.”

Viola, for of course it was Viola who was new come to the Duke’s court, accepted as a foreign gentleman named ‘Cesario,’ stood firm under his scrutiny. “You either fear his humor or my negligence, that you call in question the continuance of his love: is he inconstant, sir, in his favors?”

“No, believe me,” Valentine said, raising his hands and backing away with a laugh, pleased perhaps to learn that the new man was no milksop.

Viola, still confused by the habits of men among themselves, continued to glare at him. For she knew one thing for certain — she must not let herself seem weak. “I thank you.”

What reply Valentine might have made was lost as the echoes of several people striding together came down the hall.

“Here comes the duke,” Viola called, and all in the room stopped what they were doing to give their attention to their lord.

Orsino entered and walked past the corner where Valentine had cornered Viola, with Curio and several others following and scanned the room. “Who saw Cesario, ho?”

Viola stepped forward, pushing her hair out of her face, and replied, “On your attendance, my lord; here.”

The look Orsino favored Viola with was not that of a lord looking at one of his men. Valentine and a few others long in the duke’s service knew that look of old, and worried. But there was nothing they could say. They could only hope the young foreigner would lose the duke’s favor before things became… messy.

They were not relieved by the duke’s words to ‘Cesario.’

“Stand you awhile aloof, Cesario.”

Viola did so, stepping out into the hallway where she and the duke might speak privately. After speaking with the others of his court, Orsino joined her out in the hallway and smiled. “Thou know’st no less but all; I have unclasp’d To thee the book even of my secret soul: Therefore, good youth, address thy gait unto her; Be not denied access, stand at her doors, And tell them, there thy fixed foot shall grow Till thou have audience.”

Viola stepped back, overwhelmed by the lord’s fervor. “Sure, my noble lord, If she be so abandon’d to her sorrow as is said, she never will admit me.” She looked everywhere but at Orsino’s face, knowing too well what she would see there.

He took her shoulder and gave her a little shake. “Be clamorous and leap all civil bounds Rather than make unprofited return.”

“Say I do speak with her, my lord, what then?”

“O,” Orsino paused, having expected more resistance. “Then unfold the passion of my love, Surprise her with words of my dear faith.” He pinched her cheek and smiled, “It shall become thee well to act my woes; She will attend it better in thy youth Than in a nuncio’s of more grave aspect.” He let go of her chin to ape Valentine’s habitual severe expression.

“I think not so, my lord.” She turned away and he thought her embarrassed.

In a gentle voice, he said, “Dear lad, believe it; for they shall yet belie thy happy years, that say thou art a man. Diana’s lip is not more smooth and rubious; thy small pipe Is as the maiden’s organ, shrill and sound, and all is fitting a woman’s part.” He used voice and face to tell the youth that the duke did not think less of him for it, that there was no shame in being young.

Yet Viola found herself even more disturbed, crossing her arms and hunching in to protect herself again the sting. She should, perhaps, have feared for her disguise. But she did not, all she could think was that he saw her as womanly. And that was a pain she did not understand.

Still trying to be reassuring he continued, “I know thy constellation is right apt for this affair.” Turning back to where the others waited, the duke called, “Some four or five attend him; all, if you will. For I am best when least in company.” Turning back to Viola he said firmly, “Prosper well in this, and thou shalt live as freely as thy lord, To call his fortunes thine.”

Unable to bear the conversation further, Viola gave way. “I’ll do my best To woo your lady.”

Orsino grinned and ruffled his hair before striding back down the hallway.

After a moment to collect herself, Viola waved off the others of the duke’s court who awaited her. If she needs to do this, she also would be best alone.

Once she was out of the palace and clear of any who might hear, she gave in to the confusion and pain of her conflicting feelings. “Yet, a barful strife! For him I woo, I wish to be his wife.”

Here, at last, is where I — er — the fool, yes, the fool, enters into the story. This fool was an older fool who had been much loved by Olivia’s father. He did not have the energy or body for the physical antics most expect of fools, but he had a quick wit and a quicker eye. He could, as they say, see further into the millstone than most.

Having been away for several years, on business of his own, he slipped in through the kitchen door, begged a meal off the cook, and went looking for Mistress Maria. He found her in the linen closet counting bedsheets. Which perhaps explains why she was so out of sorts.

“Nay, either tell me where thou hast been” she demanded, “or I will not open my lips so wide as a bristle may enter in way of thy excuse: my lady will hang thee for thy absence.”

As she spoke, she piled sheets one after another in the fool’s arms.

He let her and replied, “Let her hang me: he that is well hanged in this world needs to fear no colors.”

She scowled and turned to count pillowcases. “Make that good.”

Carefully, he slipped a single sheet off of the pile in his arms and returned it to the shelves. “Why,” he said grandly, “He shall see none to fear.”

“A good lenten answer:” She finished with the pillowcases and turned back to him. “I can tell thee where that saying was born, of ‘I fear no colors.'”

“Where, good Mistress Mary?”

“In the wars; and that may you be bold to say in your foolery–” she stopped speaking abruptly and counted the sheets he was holding. Grumbling she added another onto the pile.

He shrugged, “Well, God give them wisdom that have it; and those that are fools, let them use their talents.”

“Yet you will be hanged for being so long absent;” she turned as she spoke, and she turned away, perhaps to hide her face. Mistress Maria and the fool had long been friends and his absence had hurt her as much as angered her. “or, to be turned away, is not that as good as a hanging to you?”

He took the chance to take an extra sheet off of the shelf and add it to his pile. “Many a good hanging prevents a bad marriage; and, for turning away, let summer bear it out.”

“You are resolute, then?”

“Not so, neither; but I am resolved on two points.”

She turned to face him again saying, “That if one break, the other will hold; or, if both break, your gaskins fall.”

He bowed to her, careful not to drop the sheets. “Apt, in good faith; very apt.” He turned to the door. “Well, go thy way; if Sir Toby would leave drinking, thou wert as witty a piece of Eve’s flesh as any in Illyria.”

She flushed, scowled, and went to cuff him on the head but stopped at a familiar footstep. “Peace, you rogue, no more o’ that. Here comes my lady: make your excuse wisely, you were best.” Grabbing the sheets from him she stalked off. Stopped. Stomped back. And dropped the extra sheet on top of his head.

The fool grinned watching her go and folded the sheet back so it lay over his head like a nun’s habit. “Wit, if it be thy will, put me into good fooling! Those wits, that think they have thee, do very oft prove fools; and I, that am sure I lack thee, may pass for a wise man: for what says Quinapalus? ‘Better a witty fool, than a foolish wit.’ “

Building Family (S1, E7)

Season content notes: transphobia mention, ableism,

Emeka debated for the fifth time rearranging the furniture in the living room. Which was a foolish thing to do, with guests arriving in the next few minutes. But it distracted him from his nerves. He’d never been this stressed about a first date before. Was this how people in an arranged marriage felt when they met their spouse-to-be for the first time?

It wasn’t something that would usually occur to him, but Orli had said something about her great-grandparents being in arranged marriages. She said it worked out fairly well for them.

The doorbell rang, interrupting his thoughts. Emeka hurried to open it.

Andie loomed in the doorway, making Emeka step back in surprise. Once he caught himself, he invited Andie in. “Sorry about that. I didn’t expect you to be so… big.”

Andie shrugged. “Yeah, I get that a lot.”

Physically Andie looked exactly like their profile picture — which picture wouldn’t look bad next to ‘nerd’ in the dictionary. But most nerds didn’t have the physique to play linebacker.

“Can’t say I’m surprised. You want a drink? Orli should be here any–” and there went the doorbell again.

Like Andie, Orli matched her profile pic — curly black hair held back in a ponytail, a face marked by strain and lack of sleep. The difference this time was in the nervous energy. She was bouncing on her toes and fiddling with her ponytail.

After letting Orli in and introducing the two to each other, Emeka said, “So… Orli mentioned Hanukkah, that’s Jewish, right? There’s this one kosher restaurant a couple streets over that does delivery. I ordered some stuff from there for tonight.”

Orli grinned. “That’s really thoughtful. I don’t actually keep kosher. I can’t afford to. I try to keep… we call it ‘kosher-style.’ Mainly, that means no pork and shellfish, and don’t mix meat with dairy. But for tonight, that’s awesome.”

Emeka laughed, “See, that’s exactly the kind of thing we need to talk about. Beyond, you know, ‘are we comfortable enough with each other to live together at all.’ Let me get both of you something to drink, and we can talk while we wait for the food.”

After a few minutes, they were all seated in the living room, and awkwardness had set in.

“Um…” Andie said after a moment, “I don’t… I’m not good at… Am I the only one feeling awkward right now?”

“Oh God, no,” Orli said. “This is… I”m usually pretty good with people, and this is just… like a first date turned up to 11?”

“I was thinking that right before you both arrived, I’ve never had a first date that had me this nervous.” Emeka chuckled.

“Oh, Good.” Andie sighed. “I’m… Look, I’d love to do the whole ‘meet someones, fall in love, get a solid triad or quad going, find a place together. You know, the usual poly dream relationship. But I can’t afford to do it that way?

“I’m, well, I’m autistic, and I have trouble with… schedules, and remembering to take my medication, and… it’s called executive dysfunction?

“My parents want me to ‘be independent’ and ‘get my own place,’ but I need help. I can do interdependent, like, I help you, you help me? But I can’t do independent, and they don’t get that. So I need something, like, soon. I’ve looked for roommates, but most aren’t willing to be more than, well, you know, roommates.”

Emeka stared at them for a moment, then turned to Orli. She was looking back at him, looking kind of bemused.

“Sorry,” Andie said in a small voice. “I’m always just… blurting stuff and talking too much. And you can’t want…”

“Hey,” Orli interrupted them. “It’s okay, it’s… my turn to blurt stuff. I… I knew I’d have to say something tonight because It’s not fair to… and I didn’t want you to think…

“I’m monogamous. And homeless. I’m. I can’t do it anymore. I’m trying to raise my kid alone, and I’m in constant pain from fibro, and I can barely keep a roof over our heads. And I just…

“But that’s not why I’m here. I mean, I’ll be honest, I’m desperate enough I might have reached out anyway. But I had to try this because… because I’m tired of being alone. I’m aromantic and nonbinary, so dating is just… impossible. I want family, that’s all. And I said I’m monogamous, but I really don’t… I mean, can an aromantic person really be monogamous or poly or anything like that? I’ve just never tried to have more than one relationship before.

“And I guess I need help too, help to not be alone anymore.”

She took a deep breath. “I read your post, and it felt like something I could have written. About needing family. I promise I’m not trying to take advantage, but if you don’t want me here–”

“Wow,” Andie said. “And I thought I blurted out everything.”

Orli laughed. “I usually don’t… just spew stuff like that. I’m just…”

“hey,” Emeka finally found his voice. “I had my chance to dump everything in that post, only fair you two get a turn.

“That’s a lot to take in, but I’m not asking anyone to leave.

“I don’t care why you’re here, and you both know I got my own shit going on. You’re both here, right? We all want to make this work?”

Orli nodded firmly, though Emeka noticed she didn’t stop fidgeting with her hair. Andie said, “Yeah, absolutely.”

“So, that’s all good. Where do we go from here?”

Andie raised his hand. When Emeka waved for them to speak, they turned to Orli and asked, “If you’re nonbinary, why do you use she/her pronouns?”

Orli laughed, “Do you want the long version or the short version?”

“There’s a long version?”

“It involves Jewish stuff,” she replied. “There is always a long version.”

Emeka blinked, “Really? I don’t know much about Judaism, but I suppose I’m going to learn.

“We got all evening, so what’s the long version.?

Andie nodded. “Long version, please. Then it’s your turn to ask a question.”

“Okay, that works.” Orli nodded, then paused for a moment. “So, 2,000 years ago, when the 2nd Temple was destroyed, Jews had 6 genders…

Already fascinated, Emeka settled back to listen. It sounded like both Andie and Orli came more from desperation than anything else. But Emeka figured he wasn’t one to criticize — it was desperation that had him making that post, right?

Worst case, he’d met two very interesting people.

Building Family (S1, E6)

Season content notes: transphobia mention, ableism,

Orli stared at Emeka’s post for a few minutes, arguing with herself. She wasn’t polyamorous. Hell, she wasn’t even interested in a relationship, as most people understood the term. Not long after Chana was born, Orli had given up on dating entirely because even many Orthodox men had been infected by the modern world and expected something she couldn’t give them.

But she is tired of being lonely. She wants to know more about this idea, to build a family. It can’t hurt to ask, after all. Holding her breath, she sends this Emeka a message request.

Her grandmother used to talk about how it was done in the ‘old country.’ How a matchmaker would arrange a marriage. The old woman had no patience with falling in love. “first comes love,” she would say. “Oy, what nonsense. Marry a good man, child. Marry a man you can trust. You will build a life together, yes? And with that life together will come love.”

To her surprise, Emeka accepted her message request almost immediately. “I saw your post,” she said, “about building a family?” which was no different, really, than building a life together. Sometimes old wisdom still applied in the modern world. “I’d like to hear more.”

After three days, Emeka had been almost regretting his post. He still thought it could work, but he hadn’t expected the dumpster load of shit that would result from sharing it. He should have — it wasn’t like he didn’t have tons of experience with how people would react to a new idea.

Amid the attacks, well-meaning criticism, and sleaze had been two people reaching out who seemed really interested in what he was offering. Andie, who he know casually from some of the polyam meetups in town, and this person Orli who he’d never heard of before. But she’d been a member of the group for a couple of years, apparently one of those folks who preferred to lurk.

Orli couldn’t help laughing at Emeka’s explanation of how he’d come to this idea. “Oy, the fans! I’ve managed to avoid the Whovians, but I’ve been friends with some Trekkies and the way they got over those new movies.”

“Yes!” Emeka replied, “Don’t get me wrong, the show is good, I see why they like it, but…”

“But it’s almost as bad as football fans? No! European soccer fans.”

“Canadian hockey fans.”

“I don’t know, that’s going a bit far.”

“A bit.”

Emeka was surprised to realize he was grinning.

Orli’s phone rang and she went to answer it, grumbling about the endless spam calls. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a spam call, it was Chana’s school. Again. Orli answered, already knowing what she would hear.

Yup, Chana was being sent home from school early.

She grabbed her keys and purse, the pulled up the Messenger app on her phone as she walked down the stairs of the boarding house and out to the car. “I’m going to need to go,” she said, letting the voice recognition type the message for her. “My kid is in trouble at school.”

“You have a kid? How old?” Emeka’s reply popped up as she started the engine.

Orli sighed. She should have expected this, kids were always a deal-breaker. “14,” she types quickly. She closes the app and pulls out of her parking spot.

The car pulled out smoothly and she patted the dash. One of her last conversations with her parents, they’d had a lot to say about the amount of money she spent maintaining the car. She should have put the money into keeping up with rent or saving up for an actual apartment, they said.

So did lots of other people. But if she didn’t have a car to get to work with, then soon she wouldn’t have a place to pay rent on. She was so sick of people judging her life and decisions without understanding it.

When she pulled into the school parking lot, she checked for a reply from Emeka.

“Fourteen is the worst. I got in all kinds of trouble at that age,” it read, “Go ahead and rescue your kid from whatever the school’s dumping on them. I’m off today, so just tag me whenever you get back.”

She blinked and re-read it.

The next half hour was a frustrating routine of talking with the vice-principal, waiting while Chana collected her things, a drive ‘home’ with a fuming silent teen.

The boarding house was skirting the edge of legality on a good day, and Orli wasn’t surprised to see the neighbors sitting on the front porch waiting for their next ‘customers’ as she hurried Chana inside.

But the roof was free of leaks, the heat worked, and the tenants mostly minded their own business. It wasn’t where she wanted to raise her daughter, but it was safe and cheap enough she could get each of them their own room — privacy being critical for both parent and child once the teen years arrived.

Once Chana was settled in to do her homework, Orli sat back down at her computer — one of the few things she’d managed to hold onto from before — and stared at the conversation with Emeka that was still on the screen.

She enjoyed that conversation. And he hadn’t been scared off by a teenage kid. They were both looking for family.

“What school district are you in?”

Meadowsweet, Season Finale

Season Notes: This is essentially a heavy nonconsent/dubious consent story set in space that’s as close to erotica as I come. If you are uncomfortable with noncon, explicit sex and/or rape, or fictional slavery, skip this story entirely. Violence.

Efe interrogated the surviving hijackers. Zdenko, to Moira’s relief, was smart enough to understand that torture as an interrogation technique has some significant… drawbacks. So Efe, friendly, shy, Efe with her plates of brownies and cups of tea, got chatty with the hijackers. At first, they hadn’t told her much of anything, insisting they were ‘just’ hired muscle.

Which was true, but as Efe got them relaxed and chatting, she managed to learn a bit more than that. Enough to know that turning them over to the local authorities would be a waste of time. And their employer was from out-system and smart enough to use cutouts. The pallet they’d been after had five different cargo containers on it from three shipments. Two of them had high priority seals: if Zdenko opened them, he’d lose the contract and possibly end up in an admiralty court.

Most likely, the crew agreed, a merchant feud had spilled over onto Meadowsweet. One of the hazards of being a free trader and as soon as they were rid of the shipments, they would be free of the whole mess. By and large, it was a far better outcome than they might have hoped for.

Though Ildar remained mystified and annoyed at how they’d managed to track down and identify Meadowsweet so far from any planet.

Moira stayed out of the way until Efe finished the interrogations and tucked the hijackers away where they couldn’t get into trouble. (Zdenko nearly shot them out of hand, but decided that would be going a bit far given that it was his crew who started the shooting.) Then she tracked down Zdenko.

“Five percent.”

“What?”

“Five percent,” she repeated. “Sitting emergency bridge watch and helping hunt down hijackers was not part of the job description.”

Zdenko blinked and tried to glare at her. “It’s not a job, and you do whatever the hell I tell you.”

“It’s not a job? What is it then?”

“It’s… You know what it is!”

She raised her eyebrows, “So? You’re paying me a percentage of profits for services rendered. That’s the definition of a job.”

“Moira,” he growled, “You are not crew, you are…” he trailed off. Not once since she’d boarded the ship had he actually said the word.

“Yes?” She put her hands on her hips, daring him to say it.

He couldn’t. He cursed and spun to punch the wall.

“You don’t like being a villain, captain. And I don’t see you as one. So stop trying.”

Zdenko glared at her. “I can’t let you be crew, Moira. I need you in my bed. I need to know you will never try to tell me no. If you do, one of these days, I’m going to hurt you.”

“You’ve hurt me already, trying to protect me. Have you heard of shunning? I can now tell you from experience that it is an absolutely miserable experience.”

“What? When?” He reached for her, stopped himself.

She laughed, and the bitterness in it took even her by surprise. “Verda parasite is a planet-sized bitch.” His jaw dropped, but she continued before he could say anything. “And I’ve never heard of anyone lasting as long as you without treatment. In the process, you saved me and several other women from the slave trade, so I can’t even complain about how you did it. I have no intention of telling you ‘no.’ Not only do we have a bargain, but I have no intention of being stuck on a flying tin can with a man gone Verda crazed.

“But for God’s sake, stop trying to play pop psychologist. Stockholm is a bloody myth. Keeping me separate from the rest of the crew while you treated me like an object and not a person was far more likely to start ‘brainwashing’ me than letting me be a part of this damn ship.”

Moira started quietly, but by the time she finished, she was screaming right in his face.

When she finished, Zdenko wiped his face clear of her spittle and stepped back a pace. He said, “No need to hold back, woman. Tell me how you really feel.”

Moira glared at him and, for some reason, that made him chuckle. And then he was giggling, and Moira was having trouble holding her glare because she was trying not to laugh, but she couldn’t hold it back any more than he could, and soon they were both laughing so hard they couldn’t breathe.

When they finished, Zdenko let himself flop down to sit on the floor, and Moira was leaning against the wall clutching her sides.

Zdenko looked up and asked, “You really don’t mind?”

“It might surprise you,” she said, gesturing to her body, “but in my prior life, I did not have people beating down my door to give me amazing orgasms. I don’t mind the sex at all. But it would be nice if you could treat me like a friend rather than a fuck.”

His jaw dropped again. “A friend? How could you… after everything… I mean…”

“No, we aren’t friends. But in spite of everything, I’m impressed by you, Zdenko. Maybe if we give it a chance, we could be friends.”

The shock was slowly replaced by a wide grin. Zdenko stood up and held out a hand to her. “Alright, let’s see where it goes. Welcome to the crew, Moira.”

Moira returned his grin and took his hand. “To a beautiful friendship.”

He laughed and used their clasped hands to pull her to him. The kiss started gentle but deepened, leaving them both panting. “Now get out of those damn clothes.”


That’s it for this season of Meadowsweet. Thank you for your patience with me the past few weeks. Moira, Zdenko, and company will be back next year – maybe we’ll finally get a look Ezra’s fish.

But until then, there are more stories to tell. Next up is What You Will.

Viola is in love with Duke Orsino

Duke Orsino is in love with Countess Olivia

Countess Olivia is in love with Cesario

Cesario is really Viola in disguise…

or is he?

Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is a very queer play,

But what if you could make it queerer?

As usual, paid newsletter subscribers are 6 weeks ahead of the website. If you want to get the first six episodes of What You Will now, go sign up today.

Meadowsweet, S1 E11

Season Notes: This is essentially a heavy nonconsent/dubious consent story set in space that’s as close to erotica as I come. If you are uncomfortable with noncon, explicit sex and/or rape, or fictional slavery, skip this story entirely. Violence.

Moira, watching on her datapad, was shocked at how fast the fight had been. She had never seen a real fight before — brawls, teenaged dust ups, yes. Tournaments, many. But not this kind of life-and-death violence where nothing was for show and every move was calculated for maximum damage.

She was still grappling with how quickly everything had changed when Zdenko stuck his head back through the door.

“Stay here, I’m locking the door behind me. We need to take out the rest of them and find their ship.”

Moira nodded convulsively, staying safe behind a locked door sounded like the best idea she’d ever heard. Still… “Wait… how can I talk to you?”

Zdenko looked at her like she’d been talking an old Earth language — Mandarin maybe, or Thai, rather than galactic standard. “What?”

She waved the datapad at him. “I can see what they are doing. Shouldn’t I have a way to tell you?”

He blinked, then said, “We can monitor the security feeds through the bridge.”

Skullfire, able to hear better than most of the crew, shouted from the common room, “Don’t be a fool captain. We can’t leave anyone behind to monitor security, we need every claw we have.”

“But–”

“Lock her in the bridge instead. She’ll have full access to security there and if they try to take the bridge, she’ll be able to tell us.”

Zdenko looked like he wanted to argue, but after a moment gave a curt nod. “Fine. Get in the bridge. But no funny business. You can use the ship’s intercom from there.”

It took a moment for everyone to realize there was no way she was getting herself to the bridge. So set up something like an old-fashioned bucket brigade, with Moira as the ‘bucket’ being tossed from one to the next until she was strapped into one of the bridge seats. Ildar gave her a 30 second class on using the ship’s intercom, and then she was alone and locked in an area of the ship she’d never before set foot in.

After a tentative attempt at controlling the security panel, she decided to continue relying on her datapad for everything except the intercom. Use what you know was the most common sense law of any combat.

She didn’t pay attention to the plans the crew were making, instead turning her attention to the cargo hold and eternal cameras. The two hijackers she and Zdenko had seen in the cargo area a few minutes ago were still there. But instead of searching for the crew, they were searching the cargo itself, reading off the numbers stenciled on various cargo containers. Carefully she flicked on the intercom, trying to activate it only in the crew common area. “They’re looking for something in the cargo.”

Apparently, she got it right, as the hijackers didn’t react to her words and the crew all looked toward the camera and Zdenko gave her a thumbs up.

On the externals, she didn’t see anything. Which made no sense — there had to be a ship somewhere. They weren’t in what the crew called the Deeps — the vast empty space between solar systems. They were, however, on the far edge of an Oort Cloud, which meant they had to be at least 10,000 AU from their destination. (Moira didn’t know much astrogation, but she knew that much at least.)

For the hijackers’ purposes, they might as well be in the Deeps — they had to have a ship somewhere nearby.

Of course, that raised the question of how another ship had found them. This wasn’t a random hijacking, not if they were looking for something specific in the cargo. Moira might not know anything about spaceships, but she knew enough history to be able to figure that much out for herself.

Moira didn’t stop to wonder why the ship had exterior cameras. Those with some knowledge of space ships and space navigation tended to assume that visual navigation would be useless to a space ship. What good was light detection when traveling faster than light? They were right, as far as it went. But to each task it’s tool. Video was useless, even at the best enhancements available to anything the size of a ship, for seeing much further than a couple dozen miles away even in the airlessness of space. But gravitonics and other sensors used to avoid asteroids, rogue comets, other ships, and the rare deep space hazard at high speed were completely useless for such critical (if low speed) tasks as aligning with a stations’ docking ring or zeroing in on a landing field.

And since they needed to have cameras anyway, and cameras were cheap, most ships had lots of them. If nothing else, it was easier to use the cameras to check for external damage than send someone out in a spacesuit.

Because Moira didn’t know that there ‘shouldn’t’ be cameras or why, she didn’t know about the other sensors any ship had as a matter of course, or how to check them. So she didn’t see the small high-speed cutter sitting with its lights out a short distance (in interplanetary terms) from Meadowsweet.

While Moira was searching the space for the ship that had to be there, the crew was zeroing in on the remaining hijackers. “Sneaking” wasn’t really possible in a cargo hold. Especially one with the gravity turned off. So they didn’t even try. Just spread out a bit and moved toward the noise the hijackers were making.

The fight itself … well, it would probably be a mistake to call it a fight. It ended up being more a complex game of hide and seek that ended when Efe got a clear shot at one of the hijackers and Skullfire pinned the other against one of the cargo pallets.

The two surviving hijackers were tied up in the crew’s common area. The bodies were searched and tossed out the airlock. Later, when Ildar reviewed the logs, he found the hidden ship. It started building acceleration immediately after the two bodies went out the airlock.