Life has been busy and this blog has been quiet. I’ve been working on the sequel to Dragonslayer, pitching a new series of books and seeking out new opportunities, so I haven’t really posted much here.
But I saw a thing on Facebook and so I figured I’d write an article listing some very good reasons why Sexist Jokes aren’t bad.
This concludes the article.
Thanks and see you next time.
The thing about Blog Tours, is that I can’t help feeling like I’ve already put everything worth saying about the book I’ve just written into the book. And so I don’t know what to write about when it comes to going into other people’s spaces. So I asked a number of my fellow authors for help, and got a lot of good advice. So very big thanks to Nicki J Markus, Sue Brown, Anne Barwell, Laura Lascaro, Anna Butler and especially Kelly Jensen, for the advice, ideas and offers to guest in their digital spaces. As you can see I’ll be visiting a fair few of them.
So, for this blog tour, I’ve decided to provide you all with some extra special things I’ve never put out anywhere else. A look at how Dragonslayer began, a brand new short story set over a century before the events of Dragonslayer and not part of the novel, and a recipe inspired by some of the fantastical food from the fantasy world of Twitterlight. There’s also going to be several chances to win an ebook from my backlist, so if you don’t own them all already and aren’t going to run out and buy them all right now, you can follow the tour to try your luck!
18th September MM Good Book Reviews – The Origin of Stories
20th September Sue Brown Stories – Why Fantasy?
25th September Nicki J Markus – The Offering
26th September Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words – Catch up with Matthew Lang
27th September Love Bytes – How to Cook Tarantula in 7 easy steps
28th September My Fiction Nook – The Winged Traveller Guide to Aer Goragon
1st October DSP Blog – Do Haerunwoln Have Pouches?
Once I’ve recovered from all of that, I’ll also be stopping by Anne Barwell’s site, Drops of Ink for a post launch chat. I hope you’ll join me for at least some of the tour, if not all, and if you haven’t already pre-ordered your copy of Dragonslayer DSP Publications, head over to or your favourite online bookstore to reserve a copy now. You’ll find a full list of shop links on the Dragonslayer page on over here.
Thanks for stopping by and see you next time!
“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” – Albert Einstein.
When the door slammed behind Arkara, she jumped, and immediate turned on the light on her omni tool, dimly lighting up the mounds inside the room, and the absence of her companions. The light was wan, and flickered, casting more shadows than revealing details of objects. Her foot pushed down on something soft, and she pulled back, crouching down to see what it was.
The body was smaller than her foot, with a naked form and only tiny, bony nubs on its head and back gave any indication of the headplates and hump that might have grown. Its soft hide was covered in tiny scales and was a mottled yellow and green. It’s eyes were an opaque, cloudy white and it was still damp with amniotic fluid. Bits of membrane and eggshell clung to it and as she glanced around, she realised that’s what all the mounds were made of – thousands upon thousands of Krogan stillborn. Off in the distance, a white-blue light flickered, and it looked like there was a corridor on the far side of the room, off beyond the mounds of the unborn dead. Picking her way across the room was a slow process, as she moved carefully, shuffling her feet forward rather than crush the corpses around her.
When she finally reached the hallway, she found the light was coming from a cloning tank, set into a recess in the wall, and the either the power to the tank was on the fritz, or the the light was going. Staring up the hallway she saw all of the tanks had flickering lights, and in each tank was a clone of Khel Ghyal, each wearing her face. Their face. As she approached the first tank she stared into the bubbling liquid, the clone’s eyes opened and stared at her through raging red pupils. The clone’s expression didn’t change, but it held her gaze with its own, unblinking eyes. It followed her as she stepped back and on towards the next tank. Each clone’s eyes opened and glared at her in silent accusation and keeping a wary eye on them, almost made her miss the ceremony at the end of the hallway. It was a makeshift dias, with an archway made of welded steel with rose vines growing up around it from pots at is side. There were rows of empty chairs and a broad shouldered, male Krogan in a formal black and blue suit standing before an Asari in a grey dress.
“Well, hey there Arkara,” Mridi said. “Fashionably late to your own wedding?”
Krogan weddings were non existent affairs, really. The genophage had made mating a matter of racial survival and genetics, not love or feelings. Those krogan who found love in the arms of other races—typically asari—would adopt whatever rites they had, but this? This wasn’t normal.
She took a hesitant step forward and felt the swish of fabric against her legs. Looking down she found herself in an embroidered red silk brocade dress, the gold thread glinting in the light of her omni-tool. It was what the krogan of old had traditionally worn according to Ghyal. Although whether that was during wedding ceremonies was debatable, and Arkara either hadn’t had a lot of time to read, or had forgotten what she’d read prior to leaving Tuchanka for the first time. Then the groom turned, and she saw the half-destroyed face of Thek Targev, his smile wrecked from the shotgun blasts that he’d taken to the face. When he turned towards her, arms open in greeting, she could see the grey of Mridi’s dress through the hole in his skull.
Turning, Arkara bolted back down the corridor of cloning pods. She’d take the stillness of the unborn over the walking corpse that was Targev any day.
“This can’t be real,” she muttered as she put her head down and bolted, only to slam into something soft and rather squishy.
Panting, she turned and saw Mridi, still in her grey dress and sprawled out on the floor, rubbing at her head. “Ow, girl, what was that all about? Where are you running off too?”
“This isn’t right,” Arkara said, staring at the asari. “How’d you get ahead of me?”
“I’d like to know when you become a wall exactly?” Mridi asked, pulling herself to her feet.
Somewhere in the background, fans started up, and she could hear the whisk-thud of industrial fans pulling the air past both of them. In the walls, the lights on the cloning pods flickered out, leaving them lit only by the eyes of the clones and Mridi’s biotics. Only biotics didn’t really give that much light. There was a sheen and a glint arond the biotic controlling the mass effect fields, sure, but for all that they didn’t produce a lot of light. Arkara blinked, and suddenly the clones and tanks were gone, and she could see Anar, wobbling slightly as he thrust into the air, tentacles splayed before him threateningly.
“Make your move,” Anar said slowly.
“Make my move? Why would I need to do that?”
Anar started to circle, using his anti-grav thrusters to keep a wary eye on his adversary.
“This one isn’t very good at fighting walls—but even walls make mistakes eventually. So make your move.”
“Anar, I’m not wall. I’m a Krogan. You should know this.”
Anar paused, and he shuddered and relaxed. “Oh,” he said. “You’re a lot harder than this one remembers.”
“Um…thank you, I think.”
“You’re not like the other hallucinations,” Anar said. “But you can go away now.”
“What? Other hallucinations?”
Anar drifted forward and poked Arkara with a tentacle. “Oh. Please forget this one mentioned that.”
Somewhere in the room behind her they both heard Elias’ frustrated voice. “No, that’s Cicepia, she’s Turian.”
“We’ll talk about it later,” Arkara said. “It sounds like the others need our help.”
“Yeah,” Red Cicepia said. “You kinda look like Rayne, but I know she can’t muster the force of will for a Singularity, and she didn’t walk into this junker of a ship, so…yeah. Logic says it’s you. Plus you know, who else would be weak enough to fall for whatever this is?”
“Talk if you like, I’m not falling for it,” Cicepia said, and focused her mind, creating a warp field that would weaken make it easier to attack her red doppleganger. Just as the blue-black glow settled around her form, she disappeared.
“Where did you go?”
“Uh, it’s a tactical cloak, sweetie. You know, that little thing I mentioned I fixed recently?”
“Quit that patronising attitude.”
“Cicepia, dear think. We all came through the door, but disappeared right? We’re all here. We’re all still here, but we’re seeing different things. I gave your daughter a music cube with a tracker in it. We tracked her to your parents—no wait, your in laws’ place? And then we came here.”
Green Cicepia suddenly looked at her, with an odd look on her face. “What is your problem this time? Can’t handle yourself not being perfectly blue?”
“Oh,” Elias’ voice came. “And now you’ve got Sync.”
In the background, Cicepia heard the slow swish of fans, and blinked. The blood that had pooled at her feet drained away to reveal a dusty metal floor, and she saw Sync floating in the air in her singularity. She didn’t see Elias but then, she wouldn’t, based on what he’d said. Snapping her fingers, she dropped the singularity, allowing her friends to fall to the floor.
Sync looked up at her and scowled. “You want to come onto my ship, and beat the shit out of me?”
Closing his eyes, Sync switched his vision to infra red. “Okay everyone I can see if we don’t want to use light—” he started, and then realised he was alone. Ahead of him were two long rows of tables piled with stuff, the one on his left piled high with artificial limbs, ranging from solid plastic mannequin parts and wooden hinged arms through some of his early models of titanium and omnigel alloy and a few that were covered in synthskin, including a fully articulated foot. Off to his right he heard an organic thumping sound, and glancing at the other row of tables he saw organic parts. There was brain, intestines, lungs and his vision was drawn to a heart, somehow still beating.
“This guy is a sick bastard.”
“Do you like my work?” a familar voice asked.
Sync pulled out his pistol and aimed towards the voice, his vision tracking a human man who was walking towards him, a heavy pistol aimed directly between Sync’s eyes. He was dressed in a lab coat, the front stained with some sort of brown.
“Al! Where is it?”
“Where’s my ship, Al?”
Sync’s mouth fell open, “I—”
“I thought we were friends. I really did. Alabond Finston and Dane Anderson would solve the enigma of death itself, but then you…you thieving bastard!”
“Dane… you got to understand man, I needed to save her. I needed to save my wife and I needed your machine to do that and I needed a way out and the only one that I had any chance of getting away in was the ship.”
“My ship! Not ‘the’ ship! My ship!” the pistol jabbed forward, and Dane’s finger tightened on the trigger.
“Okay, okay, your ship. Your ship was the only escape route I had.”
“Escape? You escape and leave me holding the bag? Do you know what you put me through? The questions, the ethical implications the… how could you do this to me, Al? How could you do this to her?”
“Dane, I promise I’ve changed, man. I’ve met some people. They’re good people and they’re really smart. I can fix this. I can get you your ship back once we’re out of here—I can. We just have to find my friend’s daughter first and—”
“I don’t believe you.” Dane’s face was drawn in sadness, anguish and resignation. “I don’t believe you.”
“I’m going to count to three,” Dane said. “And if you don’t tell me where my ship is before then, I swear to God I’ll blow your brains out.”
Something clicked inside Sync’s head. Dane was human. Dane didn’t like his experiments in Cybernetics. Dane was a non-cybernetically enhanced human in a pitch black room with no light. “Dane how can you even see me?”
“No really, how can you even see me?” he asked as he carefully took a step to the right. Dane’s arm didn’t move, and his gun continued to point into nowhere.
Sync stepped quietly backwards and to the side, raising his own pistol to point at his onetime colleague.
“Three,” Dane’s head turned to look straight at him and his hand moved so quickly Sync didn’t have time to react as the gun fired and there was a searing pain in his head and then nothing.
He awoke with a start, his face stuck to the pages of a book and a crick in his neck. He must have fallen asleep in Beatrice’s room. Her dress was still there, displayed behind glass, and he glanced down at the green journal, bound with real leather. He’d read it so many times but her words always gave him comfort.
I could hear a circular saw cutting through something. I’m sure it was flesh and bone. I haven’t smelled burning flesh since the reaper war, but I remember it vividly. I was lying on a table, I think it was a padded table, and all I heard was the whir of the saw starting up. He was there, in a white lab coat. I remember his new hands were complete, bands of omnigel on a titanium alloy frame. For lightness, he’d said, but I heard his footsteps before I saw him.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
He smiled. “I’m going to make you better,” he said, his artificial eye red while his smile was white, toothy and even. “Trust me.”
“Al, no, stop this, please…”
“Shh,” he said, leaning over me. “It’ll be all right.”
I struggled, or tried to, but he held me down, and then I felt the sting of a syringe, and—
Sync slammed the book shut and stared at the embossed cover. He’d never done that. He’d never, ever done that. Slowly, gingerly, he pried open the covers of the book again, and stared at the blank pages inside. They were all blank, without any writing on them at all. Perplexed he grabbed for another journal, only to find it empty, and then another, and another. All blank. All of her words gone. Glancing around the room, his eyes fell back to the glass display case and written on it in black ink were three words: Al, please stop!
Dropping the books, Sync edged towards the door, feeling his hands tremble. Behind him, the door swooshed open, and he fell backwards, his feet tripping over a tray outside the door, sending burnt peanut butter and chocolate cookies flying everywhere. Burnt. Otto didn’t burn anything in the kitchen. Someone was in the kitchen. The door to Beatrice’s room closed, cutting off his view of the defaced case, and staring at the familiar metal door it was easier to focus on reality. Taking a deep breath, Sync went to see who was in the mess hall, although he passed no-one in the corridors of the ship. Inside the kitchen, things were…floating. There was another tray of burnt cookies, as well as kitchen utensils, cutlery, and an assortment of soda cans and cheezy puff bags that had shown up when Anar had come on board. Walking towards the cookies, Sync found himself being picked up in a mass effect field, and he twisted in the air to see Mridi standing in the corner of the room, the sheen of dark energy surrounding her as she controlled her biotics. Grinning at him, he closed her fist and he, along with everything being held up into the kitchen, slammed painfully onto the floor, and he barely had enough time to bring up his own barrier to cushion his fall.
“You want to come onto my ship, and beat the shit out of me?” he asked, glaring up at her as he rose to his feet.
“Excuse me?” Mridi snapped. “I just got you out of that thing and now you’re snapping at me?”
“Hey Miss Temper-tantrum, we don’t know what he’s seeing. Quiet you,” a third voice said.
Looking back he saw Cyrus climb off the floor, although he was certain the Salarian hadn’t been there previously.
Sync went to use his new omni-whip but his omni-tool sparked and almost seemed to short out.
“Sync, snap out of it,” Cyrus said. “We don’t have time for this.”
“Snap out of what, Cyrus? I just got attacked by that damn asari over there.”
“No, that’s Cicepia. She’s a Turian. I’m Elias. We didn’t bring Cyrus with us onto the other ship, remember?”
“What are you doing?” Turning to the doorway, he saw Anar, in his mech, flanked by Dane.
Sync looked at his onetime ally, the memory of last night’s dream still fresh in his head. “What you are doing here Dane?”
“Dane? Who’s Dane?”
“Sync thinks he’s being attacked,” Cyrus said. “By Mridi, excepts that’s Cicepia. You can see that’s Cicepia, right?”
“Yes, of course,” Anar said.
“Oh good! That’s a relief.”
“Cicepia?” Sync stared at the Asari.
“Yeah,” Mridi said. “Have been this whole time.”
Sync stared around at the people in the mess hall. “Elias, you’re using a tactical cloak?”
“And you two?” he asked, gesturing towards Anar and Dane.
“This one is Anar,” Dane said, raising a hand towards his chest. “She is Arkara.”
Sync slowly looked between the other four. “I remember…going into a freighter looking for Cicepia’s daughter, right? Did that happen?”
“We’re on the ship,” Cyrus said, although his voice was slower than the Salarian normally spoke. “Right now.”
Sync blinked, and the bright lights of the mess hall faded into dark emptiness of a cavernous cargo hold, the only light coming from Anar’s bioluminescence a Arkara’s torch. “What was that?” he asked.
Back to Chapter 28
Kill the dragon, marry the princess, and rule the kingdom. It’s a fantasy come true… if you’re straight.
Adam is a chemistry student and martial artist, active in his local chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism. But none of that prepares him to be the savior of a faraway land locked in perpetual dusk.
In a world of shape-shifters, necromancy, and religious politics, Adam is fated to slay the golden dragon, Khalivibra, and defeat its mind-controlling sorcery to help Princess Esmeralda of Aergon retake her city. Tradition dictates he’ll rule by her side—but Adam is much more interested in Duin, a warrior who changes to beast form in the light of the sun… or fire.
Adam hopes he and Duin might end up together when their ordeal ends. But first, the reluctant hero, the spell-casting heir to the throne, the beast-shifting object of Adam’s desire, a six-legged cave lizard, and any allies they can gather must do the impossible… and live to celebrate their victory.
Dragonslayer is an upcoming novel from DSP Publications, now available for preorder. It will be released on the 25th of September, 2018.
Publisher: DSP Publications
Direct from DSP Publications
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“The law is only a defense against those who agree to be bound by it.” – Thane Krios
Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip.
Somewhere in the distance, liquid was falling off something and hitting the ground. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. It was a regularly irregular sound that came from somewhere up ahead in the emptiness of the cargo hold.
“I wish I’d bought that new omni-tool now,” she muttered, as she pulled out her gun. Not that it would do her much good. She was a decent shot. She could hit a target in the firing range just fine. But out in the field she relied upon her voice and her biotics more than she relied on her gun. When she’d been working with partners, or a squad, her lack of expert marksmanship hasn’t been an issue. Now, as she stepped towards the source of the sound, it suddenly was one.
Beneath her, the floor was slick with something that puddled underfoot, and she nearly slid off her feet. Squatting down she ran her gloved hand through the liquid, and found it damp, warm, and sticky, with a salty tang in the air that registered immediately in her nostrils. Blood.
Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. It was louder now, and suddenly there was more dripping, beating an irregular staccato onto the floor. First it was two drips, then three, then more than she could make out individually until it sounded as though something was being poured onto the floor and splatter, and the blood was rising, now around her ankles as she slogged through it, trying to find the far end of the cargo bay walls. She needed light.
Holstering her gun, he pulled out a flare and lit the end, and found herself nose to nose with…herself.
“Boo!” the other Cicepia said with a toothy grin.
Cicepia nearly dropped the flare, but instead stepped back, pulling out her gun instead. Her doppleganger wore a red dress. It wasn’t as revealing as the clothes the Asari often wore, or as full as some of the human styles she’d seen, but it was a design that took the best of that silhouette and made it into something that screamed ‘Turian’. Absently, she noted the angular panels and stitching. You’d never be able to find that in the shops.
“Who-” she started.
“I’m you. Sort of.”
“What did you find there Cicepia?” Another voice asked. It sounded like she did when she played back her interrogation tapes. You always sounded different when recorded as opposed to in your own head. Moving so that she could see both figures without having to turn her back on them, Cicepia saw another doppleganger, dressed in a dazzling emerald green dress of a similar cut to the first, and with glowing green eyes.
“What is the meaning of this?” Cicepia asked.
“You tell us,” Green Cicepia said. “You’re the one who brought us here.”
“I did no such thing. Why do you look like me.”
“Because we are you, silly,” Red Cicepia said.
“Quit pulling this shit. What’s going on?”
Red Cicepia cocked her head to one side. “Oh, Cicepia, Cicepia,” she said. “If only you knew.”
“The truth about Octavius of course.”
“What makes you think you know any more than I do?”
“We know plenty. Plenty,” Green Cicepia said, walking forward, seemingly unconcerned her shins were pushing through the blue-black pool of blood they were standing in. “But it seems like you know a bit about us as well. Been busy doing some snooping. Or at least, getting someone else to do your snooping for you. Smart, Cicepia, well, almost.”
“No it is smart,” Red Cicepia agreed. “Just not as smart as us.”
As the doppelganger in read turned her head, Cicepia saw a familiar bullet wound in the head. She’d snagged a copy of the autopsy reports. Her autopsy reports. It seemed like so long ago now.
“At least I’m not dead.”
Both of her other selves grinned. “Some things are worse than death, dear.” Green Cicepia said.
“Why am I here?”
“Because you need to learn when to leave things the fuck alone,” Red Cicepia said. “I should have. But at least I didn’t abandon my daughter.”
“That was all you,” Green Cicepia said, nodding. “You foisted her off your your grandparents years ago. No wonder she’s gone.”
“You’re a failure, Cicepia,” her dead red self said. “A failure as a mother, a failure as a C-Sec Officer, and all this snooping and half truthed lies? You’re a failure as a Turian. You can fool everyone else, but you can’t fool us.”
“No, you can never fool us.”
“Does it help you fall asleep at night? Telling yourself it’s all for a good cause? That the ends justify the means?”
“That’s what Cerberus told itself.”
“Shut up both of you!” Cicepia snapped. “I’m here for Talia. And you’re in my way. Or I’m in my way. I’m not really sure, but here’s the thing: I don’t care who or what gets in my way, I’ll get it out of my way if I have to. And that includes myself.”
“Are you sure that’s what’s best for her?” Green Cicepia asked. “A washed out deadbeat mother like you?”
“And aren’t you on some dangerous mission to regain some sense of pride and possibly fucking die in the process? You’ll let her risk all of that?” Red Cicepia said.
“Sounds like someone’s nominating herself for mother of the year there.”
“Move,” Cicepia said. “Or I’ll move you.”
Both Cicepias grinned, and biotics flared around them. “Fucking dare you,” Red Cicepia said.
Cicepia felt the blood pound in her head and she flicked her hand forward, and the dark energy swirled down the familiar neural pathways as a mass effect field sprung into existence, pulling both other Cicepias into the air.
“Cicepia, put me down this instant!” Red Cicepia snapped.
“I don’t care if you are me, I’m going to find my daughter!”
“Cicepia, this is Elias. You’ve got me in a singularity. Now put me down.”
Elias jumped when he heard the cargo bay doors shut behind them, and then he flicked on his night vision. It hadn’t exactly been standard issue, but it had been the one thing he’d recovered from his father’s suit back when…. Well. Back then. In the greenish monochrome of night vision, the cargo bay looked smaller than he thought it would, a narrow, room empty of anything—including his companions.
“Pi, where’d everyone go?” he asked.
“Crea—or —lias ias ias -a-wry tet tet ette…” Pi’s voice glitched out into static.
“Pi, are you all right?”
“Ssom— ng oong ge ge ger tet tet why ne ne…”
Elias hurriedly checked his suit, clamping down on all the seals and switching the suit into a sealed, envirosuit mode. There didn’t seem to be any mechanical or software malfunctions.
“Pi, this really isn’t the time.”
“I’m sorry, Pi is unavailable right now.” The voice was still male, but it was…chirpy. Pi never did chirpy.
“Who am I talking to then?”
“I’m sorry, Pi is unavailable right now. I’m sorry, Pi is unavailable right now.” The voice changed in pitch and speed, distorting through the vowels and sentences, like Jamak when he overdid it with that vintage record player Elias had got him once upon a time. “I’m sorry, Pi is unavailable right now. I’m sorry, Pi is unavailable right now. Pi is unavailable right now. Pi is unavailable right now, r-r-right now…”
Sighing, Elias gave up and looked around, and saw his name on the walls. Or two of them, anyway.
It was as if his vision was a spotlight, picking up words written in blacklight pen. Only his vision wasn’t a spotlight and night vision typically relied on the infra-red spectrum, not the UV spectrum. On the right hand wall, he could see his name written out in smooth, cursive script with lovehearts and other whimsical doodles. On the left, the writing was angry jagged, and contained words like “sucks” and “die”. It was like fan mail. On walls, with weird hallucinatory visual tricks.
On a hunch, Elias tried calling the Endurance.
“Greetings, this is the Ashru. Please state your name.”
Elias paused. The Ashru had been decommissioned and was now the centre of a thriving town on Rannoch. They were mining bauxite and studying plant symbiosis as well as cashing in on tourists looking to see the Ashru after he’d made it on Citadel’s Got Talent.
“Elia’solor nar Ashru,” he said eventually.
“Elia’solor. You’re returned to the fleet.”
“…sure. Why not. Let’s go with that.”
“And what knowledge have you brought back that will better the lives of the Quarian people?”
Elias shut his jaw with a click. No-one ever went back to the same ship upon completion of their pilgrimage. That was the whole point of the pilgrimage. Rite of passage, useful salvage and genetic diversity. “A chemical compound that allows dextro-protein based lifeforms to safely consume and derive nutrition from levo-protein food sources.”
“That sounds very useful indeed. Welcome back to the fleet, Elia’solor.” The hatch he—they—had entered through opened into the stark light of a Quarian liveship.
“Thank you,” Elias said. “Keelah Selai,” and he ran in the opposite direction.
Of course, as fate would have it, he ran straight into a mass effect field and found himself being pulled up into the air.
Surely hallucinations didn’t do that too.
Twisting around in the field he saw Rayne, her arm outstretched and a look of determination on her face.
“You…cheated!” she snarled, her face contorting in rage.
“You know I know that you can’t actually do that, right?” Elias said. “You mentioned it in your interview about military service and how you never learnt how to do that.”
The image before him flowed and morphed, flowing in a strangely organic fashion between Rayne’s form and that of Cicepia. What the hell was in that dust?
Thanking the ancestors for developing the in-suit neuro control interface, Elias brought up the commands for the ventilation system and turned on the cargo bay extractor fans. Stealth was compromised at this point, and as if to emphasise the point a burst of automatic gunfire rang in his ears. Blinking, he tried to focus on where the shots had come from, but he couldn’t see anyone. It was probably Anar or Arkara.
He hoped it was Anar or Arkara.
The room was dark, and Anar could feel the dusty air of the Cargo hold clinging to his skin.
“Someone really needs to clean up in here,” he muttered. “Did this one mention it doesn’t do well in dry conditions? This one always finds it needs far too much moisturiser after desert missions.”
The door clanked shut behind him, sudden enough to push air currents into the room, causing the dust to swirl in eddies that he could feel around his tentacles.
“Solid waste excretions, Elias, you could have provided this one with some warning,” Anar said.
From the quarian there was no reply.
Rising up towards the ceiling, Anar turned started to glow. Or sing. Colour, pattern and intensity were simply ways to communicate complex ideas at speeds far beyond that of vertebrate speech. A conversation with an alien took almost a hundred times more slowly than between hanar, and it was almost a relief to shout at the speed of normal speech after spending years without contact with other hanar. As his form flickered through white-blue and a pattern of bright yellow green, he lit up the rows of military green crates below. And no one else. But they were just there. He heard thunder rumble somewhere outside, the sound muffled by the ship’s hull, but he couldn’t see any footprints. Arkara would have left footprints in the dust. The perfect rows of crates gave him the shivers. They were very much perfect, aligned to the millimetre it seemed. Despite the ground being covered by a thick layer of dust the crates were pristine, sitting perfectly on the dusty floor as though they’d been placed but a minute ago. By flying people.
As he floated over the rows he heard a boom, as if something had slammed into one of the crates. Floating closer, he found one that was just slightly out of line with the others, but there was no indication of anything hitting it from the outside.
“This one’s hallucinations are getting out of hand,” he muttered. “This one needs to speak with Doctor Lennox about tampering with this one’s serum.
As he picked up his song again, he started hearing a similar song—an echo in a different voice, humming along with him. Stopping, he let the song and light fade, and the echo stilled, picking up again only when he did.
Behind him another booming sound drew his attention to a different crate, now out of line with the rest of its precise row. Clutching his rifle he floated down to the crate, aimed his gun at the lid, and used two free tentacles to throw the lid open, aiming the barrel of his gun at the inside of the crate.
The crate lid fell to the ground, raising a cloud of fine, grey dust. The crate was empty. The humming continued, but was now overlain by another sound—a sobbing. Probably humanoid, and probably male. Floating back up to the ceiling, Anar followed the sound. The room ended, and narrowed to a corridor. In the doorway was a humanoid figure, humanoid in shape with purplish blue skin.
The sobbing stopped, and the man turned towards Anar, shielding his face from the glow of Anar’s bioluminescence wit a three fingered hand. “Anar?” the figure said. “What are you doing here?.”
For a moment, Anar simply stared at his friend, taking in Chris’ sunken eyes and gaunt frame. “Is it really you this time?” he asked.
“Is it really you this time?” Chris asked, his lower lip trembling.
Anar lowered his gun. “Of course, numbnuts.”
A semblance of a smile crossed Chris’ features. “It is you. Anar, we have to get out of here. I’ve been searching for an exit for ages and…I don’t know where I am.”
“What happened to you?” Anar asked. “This one has been searching for you…everywhere.”
“I don’t know,” Chris said. “I don’t…the last thing I really remember is the merc job, and then…I was here. And I don’t know where ‘here’ is, or how to get out. It all looks the same.”
Anar glanced around for chains or restraints, but found none. Starting forward he paused. “How did you get here?” he asked.
“I told you I don’t know! I don’t remember!”
“This one knows that feeling.”
Chris reached out and grabbed Anar’s tentacles. “You’re not going to leave me, right? Please don’t leave me. I don’t know how to get out and I want to go home. I want to go back to our game and back to the way things were!”
“There is no going back, Chris. Not for this one, anyway.”
“No…” Chris said. “Don’t say that, please don’t say that, I thought you were real. You always say that!” Turning, Chris bolted away up the dark corridor.
“Okay,” Anar said. “This isn’t the normal hallucination.”
Around him a rumble built, low and slowly crescendoing. It was a familiar laugh, a familiar, maniacal laugh.
“Let this one out!” Anar yelled, pounding the wall with two fisted tentacles. “Let this one out!”
Bringing his tentacles to his bell, his skin flushing crimson red as he tensed, grabbing his gun and firing at the ceiling. Bullets were good. Bullets were good. Bullets shot things. Shooting this was good. Shooting him was good.
Above him the ceiling cracked and buckled, and a body fell from the ceiling—a human woman, with red hair and a redder dress, soaked in blood.
Anar stared, dropped his gun and sank to the ground, his tentacles going out to cradle the limp form, her body still warm to the touch. “Fuck you Simon!” he swore through his sobs. “This one will end you it swears!”
He should put her down. He knew she should put her down, pick up his assault rifle and go and find Simon. But he couldn’t. Running footsteps from the corridor made him look up. Maybe Chris was coming back. Out from the darkness, he saw a humanoid figure, but as it came closer into the light of his bioluminescence, he saw a familiar blond man in a green jacket, face contorted in crazed glee. Letting go of his fallen love, Anar tilted his thrusters and flew directly at the madman, tentacles outstretched to strangle.
“Run, run, run, as fast as you can,” Simon cackled. “You can’t catch me.”Simon’s footfalls where heavier than Anar would have thought, and the man bowled him over, rolling into a predatory crouch as he rounded on Anar. “I’m the gingerbread man.”
“When did you become a wall exactly?” Anar grunted as he righted himself in the air. Simon just grinned, watching, and Anar drew himself into a defensive posture. “Make your move.”
“Make my move? My move? What are you on about this time?”
Anar started to circle, using his anti-grav thrusters to keep a wary eye on his adversary.
“This one isn’t very good at fighting walls—but even walls make mistakes eventually. So make your move.”
“Anar, I’m not wall. I’m a krogan. You should know this.”
Anar paused, and the form before him flickered and suddenly Arkara was standing in front of him, in full battle armour. “Oh,” he said. “You’re a lot harder than this one remembers.”
Continue to Chapter 29
Back to Chapter 27