Friday flash fiction – Seetha’s Race

This is how Seetha the shark hunter raced the Brazen Armada to save her people.

Malleus, he of the red-plumed hat and the whispering tattoos, commanded the pirate fleet’s raids throughout the Cloudy Archipelago, pillaging stores and killing all who resisted. The small navies of Greater Insalata and the Cherubi Straits gave chase, hunting for the Armada’s brassy sails. But the pirates were swift and Malleus was cunning; they flew to their hidden strongholds and hid while the navies searched in vain.

In time, Malleus’s eyes turned to the fringes of the archipelago, where the Tu’olo people lived in peace.

The Tu’olo dived for gleaming pearls and juicy sea slugs. They brought down broad-winged seabirds with their darts. They tended to cliff vines groaning with plump hafich-fruit. And they hunted sharks from the backs of tamed kilshada, the sea serpents of the archipelago.

The best of the Tu’olo hunters was Seetha, who tamed the great serpent Shrillsong at just thirteen. Eighteen now, she was still a lean runt with nut-brown skin and broad swimmers’ shoulders. Her catches were legendary. Hooting and whistling from Shrillsong’s back, she could bring down a shark as big as eight drunkards laid head to toe.

It happened that an emissary from the inner islands sailed her skiff to the Tu’olo islands, ahead of the Brazen Armada. Mochai Vale was red-faced and ginger-blonde, with an Insalatan’s well-fed bulk. She came bearing gifts of yellowgrass wine and spicy cheese, but also a warning. “The Brazen Armada is coming,” she warned the Tu’olo elders. “They will steal what they can and kill what they cannot. You must flee.”

The Tu’olo people were too proud to ask their rich cousins for help, but they were not so foolish as to discount the emissary. They packed their goods and moved to the cliffs, where caves offered uncomfortable shelter from the raiding pirates.

True to Mochai Vale’s promise, the Brazen Armada came in their ships with gleaming sails and blackwood hulls. They spilled ashore and plundered what the Tu’olo were unable to secure.

But the pirates were angry, for Malleus had promised them pearls on strings, pickled birds, and potent jugs of fermented hafich-juice. They found nothing so grand. In their wrath, they burned down the birthing huts and ancestor shrines of the Tu’olo.

In their arrogance the pirates thought nothing of Seetha and the other shark-hunters. As they pushed their little-boats laden with Tu’olo trinkets into the waves to rejoin their brass-sailed sloops, the kilshada boiled up from the surf in attack. They coiled about the little boats and crushed their timbers. The Tu’olo shark-hunters cut the throats of flailing pirates. The kilshada ate their skins and made a reef of their bones.

Watching from his flagship, the Hammer of Winds, Malleus raged. He signalled his fleet to loose their arrows on the serpent-riders, but as the deadly rain fell, the Tu’olo drew deep breaths and drove their steeds below the surface.

The pirates gave chase in their fury; their sails filled with spell-summoned winds. The harpooners on their bows speared the kilshada stragglers as they surfaced to let their riders breathe. The Tu’olo serpent-riders sliced themselves open so they could not be taken, and sank with their steeds.

Seetha and the other Tu’olo led the Brazen Armada away from their islands. Though the pirate vessels were swifter, the kilshada-riders knew the waters well and evaded their hunters all through a night and into the next day.

One vessel outsailed the others and caught up to the Tu’olo shark hunters. Seetha wheeled Shrillsong about and prepared to sink the small boat but she spied Mochai Vale on its deck instead. Vale carried another warning. She said, “Your beasts are clever but they will tire long before Malleus’ anger ebbs.”

Seetha said, “The pirates should have stayed far from our islands.”

“But they didn’t, and you’ve killed some of them. Now Malleus must kill you to save face before the rest.” Mochai Vale smiled. “But I have a plan, if we both are brave enough to challenge the Brazen Armada.”

Mochai Vale sailed to the Hammer of Winds under a flag of parley, to present an offer to Malleus. She said, “The Tu’olo challenge the Brazen Armada to a race. One hundred miles from here to the Thumbtip Islands. If the Armada wins, then the serpent-riders will join the pirates and fill their bellies with shark meat forever. If the Tu’olo win, you will leave these waters and never return.”

Malleus agreed to these terms. A race would amuse his pirates and so strengthen his hand. He struck Mochai Vale down and threw her in a hold. His flag-master signaled the Tu’olo: “Let the race begin.”

The serpent-riders fled and the Armada gave chase. Seetha, who with Shrillsong could dive deeper and swim faster than the rest, pulled ahead of the others. The pirates followed; their arrows flew constantly, and with improved luck. One by one the Tu’olo fell behind, exhausted or struck, until only Seetha and Shrillsong remained.

Seetha beat them to the Thumbtip Islands, a dozen dozen knobbly spouts of grey stone rising from mist and churning waves like the hands of drowning giants. Though the race was won, Seetha knew they would not honour the terms of their deal.

As they closed, she nudged a piercing cry from Shrillsong. At once the sea came alive with dozens of kilshada fingerlings: Shrillsong’s brood. They flung themselves onto Malleus’ deck and lashed out at his crew with teeth and the deadly whipping bodies.

The pirates drew swords as the fingerlings wriggled and bit.

Distracted, they didn’t see the Insalata Navy spring from the Thumbtip forest to surround them. Navy Captain Vale shortly emerged to accept Malleus’ surrender.

Seetha called the last baby serpents to follow her home to Tu’olo. As they parted, she told Vale, “Don’t come back to Tu’olo.”

But the Tu’olo people are hospitable, and so she added, “At least, not without more wine.”

I’m not sure I have much to add to this, except that I like pirates and sea serpents.
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Call This One a Draw – My 2017 in Review

At the turning of the year, it is the custom among my people to reflect on what has passed and what is yet to come.

Some spectacular moments, but mostly a cold and lonesome trudge from there to here

Of course by “my people” I am talking about self-absorbed writers on the internet, and by “reflect” I mean complain and self-sabotage. Which in fairness is not a terrible summary of 2017.

I’d like to leave aside the toxic waste fire smouldering its way through the political systems of the English-speaking world (which a special shout-out to New Zealand, who seemed to keep it together better than most). But realistically, spending the entire year watching helplessly as civil institutions were not so much eroded as blasted with high-pressure acid hoses, while a great orange paralysis tick tried to bloviate the world into a limited nuclear exchange, and various other supposed servants of the people demonstrated themselves to be almost clownishly venal and corrupt, it’s kind of hard to ignore all that.

It certainly had an impact on my work. Looking back on my resolutions for the year – which I will allow are more laughable intentions than concrete plans – I wanted to write a trilogy of novels by the end of December. As I write this, it is very nearly the end of December and I am quietly confident that the remaining 200,000 words of that target will not scrape in under the NYE wire.

The first book – a YA science fiction survival adventure called A Flash of Black Wings – is drafted. The sequels are outlined and ready to go. In theory at any point in 2017 I could have cranked out some editable manuscripts in three to four months. I’ve never pulled the trigger on them. They’ve stayed in the “Ready to go” drawer.

Why? Among many reasons, the foremost is I decided I just didn’t want to write them. Not that there’s anything much wrong with them – they’re fun action-adventure romps with friendships, drama and numerous objects exploding – but having written the first one, I found myself unenthusiastic for taking on the sequels. It wasn’t fatigue or an unusual failure of confidence – I just didn’t like the book that much. It didn’t feel like a strong enough opening hand.

So what did I write instead?

Up until mid-year, I worked on longer stories – several in the 10-20k range. A couple of them were finished, a couple are still ongoing. I completed the first story in the Orphans’ Moon serial, which runs in my subscribers-only newsletter (which is free, by the way).

I also wrote a long fantasy Western story, finished a couple of nagging projects and sent them out on submission, and started what looks like a novella-length yarn pitting doomsday-seeking cultists against an ancient and uncooperative dragon.

Then in July I started the flash fiction project.

Having a weekly writing commitment has been great for feeling productive – I’ve always responded better to hard deadlines than vague commitments. I’ve posted a complete short story by 7:30 am every Friday morning for the past six months or so (this week’s Christmas-themed story was the 25th). So far I haven’t missed one, though it’s been close on occasions. The glue is still wet on a few of them.

Oddly, the weekly flash goal has boosted the rest of my writing. I’ve finished a couple of extra short stories, including two anthology submission pieces, and started several others. Until I went through the spreadsheet where I record my writing sessions, I thought it had been a lean year. In fact I’ve been as productive as ever, if not moreso.

If I go by my publication stats, that’s where 2017 comes across as a mild disappointment. I’ve kept up a pretty disciplined routine of submitting stories to publishers – online magazines, anthologies and so on – with only middling success. I’ve been grateful for a handful of acceptances, but so far only one has come out (‘Burn the Future’ in Andromeda Spaceways 69). I have a maddeningly large stable of stories due out sometime in the uncertain future.

So the year was bookended by my two publications – ‘Mnemo’s Memory’ in The Worlds of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Volume 2 in January, and ‘Burn the Future’ in December’s Andromeda Spaceways.

Not bad, but I feel like I can do better in 2018. More on that in another post.

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Friday flash fiction – Nestled in the Gift Wrapping

‘Twas the night before Christmas
The house was at rest
All happily ignorant
Of the snake in their nest.

The Girl cleared her throat loudly, freezing Nick in his tracks. The words of his suppression spell died unspoken on his lips; flames continued their gentle dance across the glowing fireplace embers.

“Hello, Santa,” said The Girl, as Nick turned slowly. “What do you call this?”

She held up a gift-wrapped box, sliced and peeled open to reveal its contents. Black lumps and a rain of midnight dust spilled into a pile on the plush carpet, glinting with rainbow colours reflected from the blinking lights on the fir tree in the corner.

“Hello Gwendoline,” said Nick, keeping the sigh from his voice. Every year, there were one or two such encounters, slipping through the web of invisibility incantations Nick’s team wove about him. The important thing was not to hurry through it. Every child deserved their due, and a mistake could be costly. “You’re up very late for a Christmas Eve.”

The Girl shook her dark pigtails crossly. “I asked you for a puppy, or a telescope, or a book about butterflies,” she declared, dropping the box to count off on her fingers. “Not this!”

“That is coal,” said Nick evenly. He brushed the crumbs of a delicious cranberry-chocolate chip cookie from his whiskers, deciding he should lean into the wise old uncle routine. That usually played well with the precocious kids with a dash of attitude. “That’s what I leave for the children on my Naughty list.”

“Naughty list! I don’t think so! I’ve been on my best behaviour all year!” Again, The Girl brought out her listing-fingers. “I gave my bike to Stacey next door. I helped Raymond from my class with his maths all year. I even walked all the dogs in the neighbourhood for free!”

Nick considered this. No child he’d ever met could put a lie past him, and Gwendoline Cordoba, of 1440 Gennaro Drive, Caine Heights, was not lying to him now.

And yet…

“You seem very sure of yourself. All right, let me check my list.” He pulled out his tablet and ran a search on her name. Sure enough, her claimed accomplishments were listed, and more besides. She was helpful to her parents, conscientious with teachers and classmates, and scored in the top quintile on the Kindness Index.

The Girl tapped her foot. “Well?”

“This is very impressive, Gwendoline. You’ve been very Nice indeed. My research elves must have made a mistake.”

Nick’s sack contained a number of contingency presents for just such an occasion; he was about to set the tablet down and rummage for a substitute gift when he noticed the blinking alert at the bottom of Gwendoline’s file. The snarling goat-faced Krampus icon, reserved for the Naughtiest of children.

He clicked on the link, and gasped.

He said, “Oh,” and “Hmmm,” and made various other noises to cover his shock. He looked over his unnecessary spectacles at the little girl waiting expectantly for his verdict. She was short for eight years, with lightly tanned skin and swept-up ears pinning back her dark braids. She looked angelic and perfectly normal.

“What does it say?” she demanded.

“It says,” said Nick, a little shakily, “that you are an accessory to kidnapping.”

The Girl folded her arms. “I am not!”

“It says you’ve impersonated a human child.”

The Girl scoffed. “I’m a kid!”

“It says you ate seven neighbourhood cats in the last month alone.”

“Wait, how is that a bad thing?” The Girl screwed her face up in confusion. “It’s not like they were dogs.”

Nick dropped into a dining chair and poured himself a generous measure from the brandy bottle set out for him. He usually didn’t imbibe, but the occasion called for it. “Gwendoline, are you aware that you are a Changeling?”

“A what?”

“An imitation child left behind by the Alfkin to replace the human children they steal.”

The Girl heaved a big sigh of relief. “Oh, I thought you were calling me something bad. Of course I knew!”

Nick tapped out a quick message to Penelope, his security chief, a pixie with fourteen years of SEAL training and covert ops experience. The recovery team would be mobile within the hour, hunting for whichever sparkling candyland, endless masquerade or pirate-riddled magic island to which the original Gwendoline Cordoba had been dragged away. With any luck she could be restored to her own bed before her unsuspecting parents awoke to an unpleasant Christmas morning surprise.

“I’m afraid you can’t stay here, child,” said Nick.

“Why not?” The Girl crossed her arms again and looked very prepared to pout as well.

“Because very soon, you will begin to experience the strong desire to eat your parents and dance on their bones. I really can’t allow it.”

“Eat Mummy and Daddy? Don’t be silly. They’re not cats at all.”

Nick stood up. “I’m not sure how it works with Changelings,” he said. “Perhaps you’ll mistake them for cats, just once, and that will be that. Nevertheless, I think you should come with me.”

The Girl, who was not at all Gwendoline but was also not yet convinced about it, said, “Where? I’m not allowed to go with strangers.”

“Very sensible,” said Nick, “though I would point out you know perfectly well who I am. More to the point, you are also not a human child of eight but rather an Alfkin of at least two hundred years of age, whether or not you happen to remember the fact at the moment. So you can either come and work with me at the North Pole or –“

“Or something bad will happen to me?”

Nick shrugged. “I won’t sugar coat it.”

The Girl said, “But I don’t want to make toys for other kids!”

Nick took her by the hand. “Who said anything about toymaking? It’s Krampus-hunting season. What do you say to learning some knife fighting and Krav Maga?”

Season’s greetings, one and all. I probably should have written this story for last week, but to be honest the week leading up to the holiday break was frantic, not festive. It’s all calmed down a bit now, but the break is short and the new year looms. I won’t get a long rest, but I will get enough time to clear the worst of the weeds from my garden, and in some years that’s as much as you can ask for.
Wherever you’re reading from (and hello to the mysterious readers in Malaysia, Korea and Poland who visited the website this week…) I hope you’ve had a wonderful end of year, however you may happen to celebrate. If you care to join me again in 2018, I’ll still be right here with a new story every Friday morning. And with any luck, I may have something new for you before long.
Sayonara 2017. Can’t say I’ll be sad to see the back of you!
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Friday flash fiction – Reptoid Aftermath

How did I end up here? Tell you what, pinkface. You catch me some of those rats over there, I’ll let you in on the deal. Make it snappy. I’m not much of a storyteller when I’m hungry.

Cough. Cough. Mmm. Yeah, these are some of those fat riverbank frekkers? You’ve got a good eye for verminflesh, kid.

Okay, okay. So lemme ask, how old are you? Fifteen? Sixteen?

Thirty? Really? Ah, well, you pinkfaces all look the same. Doesn’t matter how many orientation seminars they made us sit through, some of us just never learned the knack of telling you apart.

Whatever. So you probably remember what you were doing the day our ships arrived? No, don’t tell me your frekkin’ story. Why would I care? I’m talking about the ships here.

They were beautiful. Real works of art. Like snowflakes the size of Hawaii, dressed to impress. Glitter-crackle surfaces casting mosaic reflections of the oceans and forests and cities below. Sweet bass hum in D minor. We had a small army of psychologists work for eighteen months to maximise the impression on human senses.

What? Yeah, of course we believed in psychology. What, you think we were like the Xenu-botherers? We’re not all grifter cartels, buddy.

Huh? Yeah, I guess you’ve got a point there. We didn’t exactly play you straight, did we?

Anyway, what most people didn’t know was that the ships were just for show. We’d already been here for years, getting ourselves into positions of power, building networks of quislings and suckers. You know the drill. It all went according to plan – suborned governments were primed to accept the technological wonders offered by the visitors from the stars. Cures for cancer. Zero-emissions energy generation. Carbon-fixing nanofilters. Anything we thought you’d go for. Turns out you’d go for just about anything.

The Uprising? Soo-Ying Bronson and her rebel confederation? All our work. We ran most of the cells, and fed false info and pre-planned operations to any groups we didn’t control. Yeah, they had a few photogenic wins, blowing up this convoy and that state dinner. That was my job, you know. I was in Motivational Counter-Operations. I designed insurgent ops for the rebels, targeting any of our people who didn’t make their work quotas. Don’t worry, I made sure they always took out ten of yours for every one of ours. “More to eat for the rest of us,” is what we used to say.

Well obviously we were here to eat you. It’s our thing. Roll up to some likely rock covered in half-smart apex predators, smarm up to the table, and get stuck in. Preferably before atmospheric warming, anthropogenic or otherwise, makes the place uninhabitable.

We cut it frekkin close with you lot, lemme tell you.

Why didn’t we pen you up and farm you sustainably? Frek with that. Do I look like a rancher to you? Nope, eat and run, that’s our philosophy. We can live on vat-grown meat between planets if we have to. Most of us just hibernate until the ships find us a new feeding ground. Space travel’s boring.

What went wrong? I think maybe you can tell me, can’t you? Fine. If that’s the way you want to play it, I’ll speculate.

I think it was an engineered virus. I’m no epidemiologist, but from the contagion rate I think someone with a lab and an ethical blind spot probably modified something tropical and virulent. Influenza, maybe, but I put my money on ebola. It was a ballsy move, whatever it was. Could have wiped your species out. Talk about cutting your nose off to spite your face.

No of course we don’t have an expression like that. Do you see a nose here? No, you do not.

Anyway, whoever it was, it worked. Maybe thirty percent fatal, five percent immune, and the rest of you?


It wasn’t just that you’d introduced a contaminant that built up in our systems and gave us the reptilian equivalent of gout. You also tasted bad. Like frekkin’ foul.

We couldn’t get out of here fast enough. Well, some of us couldn’t, anyway. I was tunnelling with my DC crew planting high-ex charges under the Washington Monument, so I missed the bug-out signal. Just my bad luck.

I don’t blame them for leaving me behind. I’d have done the same to them. But I tell you, the sight of all those mirror-ball ninja stars disappearing into the night like an ass-backwards meteor shower brought a lump to my throat.

That was a joke. What, you don’t have a sense of humour?

I guess you don’t at that. You probably let that gun do all your laughing.

You must be one of those tracers I’ve heard about. Take it from me, it’s a dead-end career. I haven’t seen many of us around lately.

You using some sort of fancy molecular scanning tech, or do you just sniff us out? Oh? Not going to tell me? Not even as a professional courtesy?

Fine. I’m not really curious.

Well, thanks for the rats, I guess. This is the last one.

Can I at least finish my din—

My original plan for this story was to have it be a sequel to one of the great paranoid science fiction movies of the 1980’s, John Carpenter’s They Live. But in the end it owes much more to one of the not-greatest science fiction television series of the 1980’s, V. Because the Visitors from V, for all their glam stupidity, did have one outstanding low-key horror element, being their unappealing but visually compelling dietary habits.
If you liked this story, or others in this improbably-unbroken run of weekly flash fiction, I invite you to check out my newsletter. I’ll be putting out a *cough* special edition before the end of the year, with a very cool preview for something I’m Not Talking About Yet.

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Friday flash fiction – Commander Cello and the Vexatious High Tea

Adeline Cello arrived precisely late to her appointment at the Lacuna Luna. The Civil Discourse’s urgent provisioning and refit gave her the perfect excuse to cancel, but she knew she couldn’t avoid her family forever.

As she scanned the tastefully-appointed restaurant’s polished stone furnishings and bottle green lighting, her sister’s voice rang out behind her.

“My dear Adeline, have I kept you waiting? I do hope you can forgive my tardiness. You always were the hastier twin.”

“Irmonica, darling, how splendid you look,” replied Adeline, stuffing her instant irritation hastily away in its customary compartment and snapping her fingers at the head waiter. “How commendably you’ve applied yourself to your weight regime. You’re positively muscular.”

Irmonica Cello, the minutely elder of their generation, shuffled her shoulders inside a three thousand selene jacket. “I’m afraid we can’t all be the beneficiaries of experimental LEF bone-density treatments, dearest. Some of us have to defy gravity using the traditional methods.”

“Oh, surely your producers pay for all your procedures? I imagine their list of tweaks is never-ending.”

Adeline dropped into the scalloped embrace of her shell-shaped chair, adjusting her sleekly-boned frame into a comfortable position.

Irmonica accepted a padded insert from the silent waiter and lowered herself with a stiff-necked grace. She waved away the offer of a wine list and ordered calcium waters for them both.

“What brings you and your band of intrepid Argonauts home to Mother Luna, Adeline? I understood you were engaged in some dramatic interdiction mission to Mercury.”

Adeline’s fingernails flicked at the printed chrysanthemum decorating their table. The artificial petals burst into clouds of silicon flakes. “It was a highly politically sensitive refugee crisis, as a matter of fact. A crisis, I might add, which I personally steered to a peaceful resolution. If you paid more attention to those newsbursts you read, you’d know it was the top-ranked PopScope story of the year.”

“Hmm? I thought the vortex-kitten infestation on Tethys Outpost was top,” said Irmonica. She projected a holoticker display into the space vacated by the ruined flower. A torrent of news scrolled between them and disappeared into the table. After a moment she heaved a sceptical sigh. “Oh well. I can’t be expected to keep up with your military nonsense when I have so many social duties to attend to.”

Adeline scowled. “This again?  I have an important job, Irmonica. I don’t have time for charity balls and debutante cage fights.”

Irmonica’s pose – raised chin, starburst iris flares and one arched eyebrow – was what Adeline thought of as her elder-sister-by-seven-minutes stance. “Are you not,” she asked with an artificial gravity that put Persephone Station to shame, “Adeline Cello of the Tranquility Cellos?”

“Give it a rest, butterfly,” snapped Adeline. “You give weather reports for a planetoid with no atmosphere! You commentate celebrity moon buggy races! For Aldrin’s sake, Irmonica, last night you interviewed a talking parrot who’s been in quarantine stasis for forty years.”

“Mister Creswell had some very interesting insights into pre-Contretemp culture,” sniffed Irmonica. “All of which is beside the point. While you’re off gallivanting about the solar system suppressing radicals, the board of trustees has asked serious questions about your commitment to the family’s community responsibilities.”

“Gallivanting? My duty is to the Lunar Expeditionary Force! I keep insubstantial gadflies like you safe from seditious undesirables!” Adeline slammed her fist on a table made of titanium-rich pyroclastic glass, denser than blast shielding. It hurt and produced an unsatisfying noise.

“Really? You and what crew?”

“What?” It was Adeline’s turn to flinch. She was too worked up to hear her mandible implant register a message notification.

“Oh yes, I know about the mutinies and desertions. A word of advice from a gallivanting butterfly, darling. If you must give in to the urge to blog about your loyal followers, don’t vid yourself in front of an empty flight deck. And don’t think you’ll replace them anytime soon. Word is that your name is poison with the recruitment guilds in the lava tunnels. Even they can’t find any desperate enough to sign on with you!”

The waiter, summoned by an urgent alarm from the microgravity sensors in the furniture, raised a finger and cleared his throat, but a sharp look from the Cello sisters sent him scuttling back to the kitchens.

“Face it, Addie, you’re a hopeless space commander. Without your family name and Grandmere’s fortune, you wouldn’t have a commission at all. Your career is a one-act comedy and the curtain’s closing.”

“Oh you radioactive little tailing pit!”

Irmonica beamed with cultivated smugness. “Well if you must resort to insults, little sister, perhaps my remarks aren’t so insubstantial after all.” She pointed at the subdermal alert glowing across Adeline’s index finger in a tied-string pattern. “Are you going to answer that?”

Unable to immediately put her hands on anything light enough to throw, Adeline played the waiting message directly to her tympanic membrane. After a moment, she stood up with a cold smirk spreading across her face.

“I’m afraid I can’t stay to eat, Irmonica. Duty calls.”

Irmonica rolled her eyes. “You. Don’t. Have. A. Crew.”

Adeline smiled. “That was the quartermaster’s office,” she said. “The Civil Discourse has been selected to test the next generation of military androids. I’ll have a full complement within the hour. Tethys Outpost, did you say? That sounds like the perfect spot for a shakedown cruise. Sayonara, sister!”

And with that, Commander Adeline Cello strode from the Lacuna Luna with her head held high.

Irmonica drummed her fingers patiently until her sister finally disappeared into the transit tunnels, she ordered a drink and placed a call.

“Cello to Intel Central. Pass on my thanks to the QMO. Codename Troublemaker is primed for a plausibly-deniable counter-insurgency operation on Tethys Station. Plant some authentic-looking gravity fluctuation reports. Make them look like interdimensional cats or something. Then put a mop-up crew on standby to pick up any rebels she misses.”

“Good work, Colonel Cello.”

This one is a shameless sequel to the previous Commander Cello story. I’m conscious that I don’t want to lean too heavily on sequels for the Friday flash stories, but I couldn’t resist exploring the Tranquility Cellos further.
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