[BOOKSTORE WINDOW] The Boy in Brown #amwriting #storytelling

The result of my sixth #bookstorewindow fiction writing exercise, inspired by the late Harlan Ellison, based on writing prompts supplied by Enigmatic, Entropymanor, and comics creator David Napier. Wrote it live on our Slack site in about 20 minutes:

The discombobulated devil chicken staggered across the damp cobblestone street, and the boy in brown followed.

“Come back, chick-chick!” the child called after his clucking quarry, his reddish-blonde curls wet from the now-misting rain. He waved the iron skillet over his head. “Let me hit you some more!”

“Fenrin!” The shriek came from above and to the right, where two shutters clattered open and a broad-faced woman stared down, red-cheeked, at the child. “Drop that skillet at once and leave the poor rooster alone.”

The boy hesitated, watched in frustration as the ruffled bird disappeared around the corner toward the Mercantik Bloc. “Awww,” he grumbled.

“Whose skillet is that, anyway?” His mother asked, eyes narrowing.

“I found it,” he said, not looking up.

“There you are!” Old Jasper Boots, wiry silver hair puffing around his mostly bald head, limped onto the Trade Road from Sway Alley. He waved a knotted oak cane at Fenrin, demanding: “Give that skillet back to me right this very moment, you conniving sneak-thief!”

The woman in the window gawked and snapped: “You watch what you call my boy, you rotten drunk!”

Boots stopped to poke his cane in the direction of the window. “Get a good man to raise that silly-haired mutt of yours, Gillen Monstep, maybe I wouldn’t have to call him anything!”

Her eyes widened. She ducked out of view.

“Better run,” Fenrin advised. He knew that look well enough.

“Skillet, boy,” the old man urged.

“You’ll be sorry,” the child warned him. Again. He knew perfectly well why his mother had such a difficult time with relationships. She often ended them. Violently. Something he expected a wise old crack like Jasper Boots to know too.

But wisdom didn’t always amount to intelligence. The old man was still standing on the street, shaking his cane at the boy, when the kitchen knife slammed into his right shoulder.

He stumbled backward, a baffled look on his face as he gingerly tapped the hilt of the knife jutting out. His mouth fell open, then he looked up at the window to see Gillen Monstep holding two more knives just like it – one in each hand.

“Next one goes in the other shoulder,” she said calmly. “After that, I give your other leg a limp.”

“Lunatic woman,” Boots whined.

“I told you to run,” Fenrin said, raising the skillet over his head. “But now I want you to stay right where you are.” He took a step toward the old man.

Jasper Boots turned and limped away as quickly as he could. The boy ran after, shouting, “Come back, chick-chick!”

“My boy,” Gillen said with a smile, setting down the knives and closing the shutters.

[SLACK ROLEPLAYING LOG] Babylon 5: The Jemisin’s Captain

“It’s quite an honor,” Captain Ashwood Gaines says via the face-to-face video screen as he settles into the thin-cushioned chair behind the desk in his quarters aboard the SS Jemisin, a glass of iced tea waiting atop the desk as he offers a taut smile to Earth President Luis Santiago. “Your vote of confidence, I suspect, made it happen. I won’t soon forget that, sir.”

“The Jemisin is a fine ship,” Santiago replies, returning the smile. “Normally, yes, this posting would go to an Earthforce commander. But you’ve proven yourself a capable leader as a member of the intelligence community. It was not so difficult to argue in favor of your value as an asset as we continue to map the unknown and encounter more alien races.”

“Well, she’s almost ready to go,” Gaines says. He takes a drink from his tea glass. “Babylon 5 engineers have a couple of final system stress tests they want to perform. Meanwhile, I’m going to start building the crew. I have the list supplied by Earthdome. I may see what else the station has to offer along those lines.”

“Good luck, Captain,” the president responds. “I look forward to your reports.”

Having been aboard the Jemisin for only a couple of hours, Ru’Toth has little time to settle in. He makes his way up to the captain’s cabin, as instructed to upon arrival, to report for duty. Though the Narn had studied the schematics for the Explorer-class ship, actually being aboard definitely gives the appearance that the schematics didn’t do the ship justice.

Ru’Toth meets his escort outside his quarters, and they follow him to the captain’s cabin – all the while getting glances and stares from the human crew. As he stands in front of the captain’s cabin, he takes a moment the get his thoughts in order before pressing the door chime. While he’s not a member of Earthforce, or the Earth Alliance, he feels it important to respect the ship’s chain of command – regardless if he’s on a special contract for this assignment. “Captain Gaines, this is Ru’Toth. May I enter?” He says after tapping the door chime.

The captain glances toward the door after hearing the chime. “Come,” he says.

The door opens with a swoosh, and the Narn takes several steps in allowing the door to close behind him. His red eyes look towards the captain, offering a polite nod. “Ru’Toth, xenoarcheologist, reporting aboard.” He says, reaching into his jacket and pulling out a datacrystal. He holds it up, takes several steps forward and places it on the desk. “All my documents should be in order, Captain. I am on contract with your government for the duration of your mission.”

“Ah, yes,” Gaines replies, picking up the datacrystal with his left hand as he stands. He extends his right hand to the Narn. “Welcome aboard, Ru’Toth. Glad to finally meet you in person.”

The Narn looks at the captain’s hand, and after a moment extends his own to shake it. “A pleasure, Captain. Your government was rather vague on the details of your mission, other than that my skills may assist at some point.”

“Yes, well,” the captain gestures to a chair opposite him. “Have a seat, if you’d like. I’ll tell you what I can.”

Looking at the chair, then the captain, then back at the chair, the Narn eventually complies and sits as requested.

Gaines sits in his own chair. He pops the datacrystal from one hand to the other. “The mission is fairly simple, really. We’re scouting unknown territory for potential threats and…well, potential advantages. It’s an old, expansive universe full of horrors and wonders in equal measure. So, yes, your skills are liable to prove invaluable.”

“I spent the last few years working for the Earth megacorp InterPlanetary Expeditions, and before that with a number of Drazi and Brakiri xenoarcheologists. I have seen my fair share of alien worlds, it would be exciting to see what the unknown has to offer.” Ru’Toth replies, leaning back as he becomes more comfortable. “You are assembling a diverse crew for this expedition?”

The captain nods. “My experience is primarily around Earth, Mars, the moons of Jupiter.” A slight laugh. “Babylon 5 is about as exotic a port as I’ve ever seen. Really kind of overwhelming.” He shrugs. “In any event, Earthdome picked a lot of the base crew – including, to my surprise, some Minbari. I’ll fill out the rest of the ranks myself, but I could certainly use your input on the xenoarchaeology team. That’s a pretty significant area of study for our mission, after all.”

Ru’Toth nods, pondering what the captain is saying. “Minbari, you say? I’ve worked along some of their Religious Caste in the past. They are very capable. I am surprised, though, that Earth would want Minbari working on an Earth ship… with the war and all.” He offers a slight shrug.

Gaines tilts his head, eyes narrowing as he considers his response. Finally, he answers: “Might not be a matter of *want*. Or, maybe more accurately, what *Earth* wants. We’re going to have priests and warriors on the crew. Multiple governments are investing in this mission, including the Minbari. Let’s just say those investments come with certain conditions.”

“May I ask what conditions those are, captain?” Ru’Toth asks. “As far as I know, the Kha’Ri have no interest in this mission. I am here on my own accord.” He pauses, grinning, “I can only hope the Centauri are not interested in this mission, either.”

The captain clears his throat, sets down the datacrystal, and crosses his arms. “The only race that seems to have no interest in this mission is the Vorlons. They know what we’re doing. They don’t want to tag along. They don’t want to help us. All they want to do is insist that we’re not ready and…” He scratches his chin, pondering. “What was it Ambassador Kosh said? ‘You will not know what you know.’ Which, really, super-helpful.” His smile fades then as he says, “We’re going to have at least five Centauri on the crew, though.”

“Well, I assure you, captain, I will have no issues with any members of the Centauri delegation,” Ru’Toth says. “As for the Vorlons, they rarely become involved in any issues. This comes to no surprise. Even my own government has had little dealings with them over the years.”

“I’m counting my blessings, honestly,” the captain says. “I feel like the Vorlons would create the most blatant sort of nanny state. That’s something I can do without when we’re off in some strange territory where the usual rules don’t always apply.”

“Sometimes rules, regulations and process are good things to fall back on. Especially in regions where none may exist.” The Narn says. “But, I would agree, it is no loss not having the Vorlon here. I suspect that if they were, and we stumbled upon some new technology, they would come up with some excuse for us to hand it over to them. The spoils will be our own, and not to share with them.” Ru’Toth allows for a brief pause. “Is there anything you require of me before the ship departs, captain?”

Gaines thinks about it for a moment, then says: “Send me any special requests for crew and supplies that you’d like for your team. Other than that, enjoy some R&R on Babylon 5 while you can. Once we leave port, we’re gone until we need a resupply.”

[BOOKSTORE WINDOW] Night at Remembrigans #amwriting #storytelling

The result of my fifth #bookstorewindow fiction writing exercise, inspired by the late Harlan Ellison, based on writing prompts supplied by Colchek, Enigmatic, Lamia, and Azureus. Wrote it live on our Slack site in about an hour and a half:

“Breadsticks?” the harpy asked, sliding the wicker basket across the table toward the dumbstruck treant, who stared in horror at the basket.

“Cannibalism,” he rasped.

“I ordered the chicken,” the winged woman with the beak-like nose snarled. “Do you see me whining?”

They sat in a dimly lit corner booth in Remembrigans, which most people agreed was nothing more than a front for the Pineapple Upside Down Mob, but likewise didn’t care as long as the lolo wine kept flowing and Fiffen the Were-Chef served nightmare cuisine.

The treant, who called himself Birch, grunted in disgust as he pulled a brown twist of dough from the basket, dipped it in some kind of black gravy that looked like the ichor of a dying Soul Spider, and gnawed on it with bark teeth.

The harpy, who called herself Shrewd, crouched on the cushion of the booth, clutching the end with the talons of her feet. She smiled as Birch started eating, but kept one hand on the holstered slugthrower and the other on the hilt of a throwing knife. Her amber eyes took in the crowd, scanning for threats.

Birch followed her gaze. “No one knows. You worry too much.”

Of course, like always, he was wrong. First, he saw Soup sidle in through the North Arch, his wet, leathery flippers equipped with neutralizer pistols. Then his own cousin, Salad, whose canopy of green had gone more orange and brown in recent years. The treant with the crossbow lurched in through the South Arch, knocking aside a grumpy-looking Nar-lamb. The Nar-lamb turned with his mouth open, ready to bleat a few choice curses, but ceased and whinnied apologies instead.

FInally, through the double doors of the East Arch, the oozing slug in charge of the Pineapple Upside-Down Mob slithered in and brought the music, amiable chatter, and high-stakes bargaining to an absolute standstill.

“Shrewd!” Fudge Pop roared as the crowd parted before him. “You’ve crossed me for the last time!”

The harpy drew her knife and pistol. Birch fumbled for the fighting staff slung over his shoulder.

Shrewd assured Fudge Pop: “Don’t know what you’re talking about. You got your money.”

“Fudge Pop don’t take croats,” Soup burbled through his gills as he aimed his neutralizers at the harpy and her treant companion.

“Yeah,” Salad rumbled over the sight of his crossbow at the pair. “Who does that?”

“Right,” the mob boss said, pointing a slime-dripped digit across the room at Shrewd. “Those coins might’ve been worth something on Earth in the 11th Century, but they’re just ballast here in the Bleak.”

“Croats?” The harpy shrieked as she scowled at Birch. “You paid them in those old metal shavings? You idiot!”

He opened his mouth to protest, but never got a word out before the blast from her pistol punched through his trunk above his eyes and into the pulp of his thinkbud. He sagged back in the booth. A hundred people in the pub raised their mugs and shouted “Timber!” in unison.

Fudge Pop eyed Shrewd with understandable suspicion. Salad, on the other hand, seemed ready to fire a few bolts into her chest. “Not just yet,” the slug insisted. “I want my payment.”

Shrewd nodded at the red Coleman cooler on the booth next to Birch’s corpse, which was already losing leaves and peeling bark. “It’s all there.”

Soup flapped his floor fins back and forth until he arrived at the booth. He used his bottlenose snout to nudge open the cooler. He peered inside. Looked toward Fudge Pop. Gave a series of squeals and squeaks, then said: “Nice-looking blueberries.”

“Picked them myself,” the harpy assured him. “Birch whined about it the whole time, called it an atrocity and a war crime.”

Salad lowered the crossbow, but said: “He wasn’t wrong. Those are…”

“Delicious,” Fudge Pop replied, glowering at Salad. “Those little blue children are a tasty treat, so rare in the Bleak. Don’t you agree?” He glanced toward the rotting treant with half a breadstick dangling from its mouth. Salad said nothing more.

Soup closed the cooler and collected it under one fin.

“All good?” Shrewd asked the mob boss.

“For now,” the slug said.

[BABYLON 5] All alone in the night…

It was the dawn of the Third Age of Mankind, ten years after the Earth-Minbari War.

The captain and crew of the SS Jemisin count themselves among the inhabitants of an ambitious port of call that’s home to diplomats, hustlers, entrepreneurs, and wanderers.

Humans and aliens wrapped in two million, five-hundred thousand tons of spinning metal, all alone in the night.

This sometimes dangerous place, our last best hope for peace, serves as a touchstone for the daring explorers and scientists aboard the Jemisin.

The year is 2258.

The name of the place: Babylon 5.

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