New Science Fiction and Fantasy Collection

I have just released a new science fiction and fantasy collection. It contains ten short stories.  Some of these have appeared in anthologies, but the majority of the collection are brand new, never before seen stories.

If you want to pick it up, here are the links:

amazon buy2 Buy-from-Barnes-and-Noble Kobo-Buy-Button2 SmashWords_Button

Meanwhile, I’m working like crazy on a new series I’m really excited about. The first two books will be out in July. Now, back to writing!

 

Orycon 35 Schedule

My one convention appearance this year will be at Orycon in lovely Portland, Oregon. Here’s the info: http://35.orycon.org/

I’ll be on six panels over the course of the three days. Here’s my schedule:

Publishing Your Ebook
Roosevelt            Fri Nov 8 2:00pm-3:00pm
You’ve just gotten back the rights to your backlist! Or you have a
manuscript you KNOW will find its audience. What next? Make it into an
ebook and get it out there making you some money. Where to publish, how to
publish, and how to get help.
MeiLin Miranda, Annie Bellet, Dave Smeds, (*)Kamila Z. Miller, Tod McCoy,
Peter A. Smalley

One Lump of Science, or Two?
Ross Island          Fri Nov 8 4:00pm-5:00pm
How much science does science fiction need? What’s more important, the
tech or the story?
Richard A. Lovett, Patrick Swenson, (*)Gordon Eklund, Annie Bellet, David
W. Goldman

Hybrid Vigor: Choosing Both Traditional and Self-Publishing
Hamilton             Sat Nov 9 1:00pm-2:00pm
Don’t believe the True Believers on both sides of this non-existent
divide: you can be both a traditional AND a self-published writer. Learn
how to let the project choose the path.
(*)Annie Bellet, Phoebe Kitanidis, Tod McCoy, Ken Lizzi, Jennifer
Brozek

The Real Middle Ages
Ross Island          Sat Nov 9 6:00pm-7:00pm
Why do writers love the Middle Ages?  What do writers leave out or get
wrong?
Annie Bellet, (*)Blake Hutchins, Renee Stern, Alma Alexander

Audiobooks
Madison              Sun Nov 10 11:00am-12:00pm
Selling the rights, ACX, hiring a narrator or–gulp–doing it
yourself!
David D. Levine, Annie Bellet, Mark Niemann-Ross, Phoebe Kitanidis

BBC Sherlock, Orphan Black, Etc.
Morrison             Sun Nov 10 12:00pm-1:00pm
Which new shows are the best?
(*)Dave Bara, Annie Bellet, Brian J. Hunt

 

(Yeah, that little * next to my name up there? They made me a moderator of one of the panels. Mwahahahaha…ahem. I’ll be good. Probably. Maybe. I’ll try at least :) )

Until then, writing ALL the things. Also attending a week long workshop on writing Science Fiction. Because hopefully I never stop learning.

Award Eligible Fiction

It’s January, so I guess that means it is time to put up a nice handy list of award-eligible fiction.  I have a bunch of fiction eligible in various categories for the Hugos plus I am in my second and final year of Campbell Award eligibility.   So here’s a list of things and the categories they are eligible for.  If you are interested in reading something for award consideration and you would like a free copy, please email me at anniembellet AT gmail DOT com or you will also find that most of my stuff is available free or inexpensively as ebooks on the web (or in paperback in the case of my novel).

Hugo Award Eligible things:

Novel Category:

Fantasy novel, published in March 2011.  Click picture to go to Amazon page for details (or check out my “read my fiction” page in the sidebar).

Novelette Category:

The Light of the Earth As Seen From Tartarus- Hard near-future SF novelette published January 2011

Delivering Yaehala- Otherworld Fantasy novelette published December 2011

Crawlies- SF short story, published in the collection The Spacer’s Blade & Other Stories, January 2011

 

Short Story Category:

Pele’s Bee-Keeper- SF short story, published in the collection Deep Black Beyond, September 2011

I, Vermin- SF short story, published in the collection The Spacer’s Blade & Other Stories, January 2011

The Spacer’s Blade- SF short story, published in the collection The Spacer’s Blade & Other Stories, January 2011

The Scent of Sunlight and River Daughter and La Última Esperanza and Roping the Mother- from the fantasy short story collection River Daughter and Other Stories, October 2011 (all four stories in this collection are eligible)

Flashover (A Remy Pigeon Story)- Paranormal Mystery, December 2011

Of Bone and Steel and Other Soft Materials- SF story published in Mirror Shards: Volume One, August 2011

Nevermind the Bollocks- SF story published in Digital Science Fiction Issue #2, July 2011

Broken Moon- Fantasy story published in the collection Gifts in Sand and Water, May 2011

Lists- Fantasy flash fiction published in Daily Science Fiction, December 2011

Love at the Corner of Time and Space- SF flash fiction published in Daily Science Fiction, June 2011

 

That’s all of it, I think. Enjoy!


 

Casimir Hypogean: Chapter Nine

Casimir Hypogean: Chapter Nine

(Catch up on earlier chapters here)

Chapter Nine

            A small tick in his clean-cut jaw was the only sign Amos Levich, chief of security for the Special Projects division of BioCore Pharmaceuticals, felt anything at all about the news two of his network systems security analysts had just brought him.  He scrolled through the collected data on his PUDI, willing it to make sense but mostly just getting a headache.

            “Let me see if I have this correct,” he said in careful, measured tones, “That power hub break-in caused a leak in our server security?”

            “Yes, sir.” The older of the two analysts, Michael, swallowed audibly.  Though average in height and build with a gruff, sparse appearance, Amos had a reputation for being a man no one wanted to piss off.  His job was his life, and he took security for the company very seriously.

            “Humor me, kid.  I’m an old man and slow sometimes.  How does the power going out, in a district our building isn’t in, leave an opening in our wires?”  Amos leaned back against his stark grey plastiform desk.

            The break-in had been underneath the Kajipe central station, while the main center for BioCore’s Special Projects was located in West Morrow near the Central district edge.  BioCore’s main building was also located in West Morrow.  Their systems should be closed, accessible only from within the system itself.  That was how Amos understood things from his spec manuals.  Technology of it wasn’t exactly his strong point and he was smart enough to leave the details up to the network administrators.  The two administrators in front of him were the leads of that team and supposedly the best of the best in their field.  Amos grew more skeptical by the moment as they shuffled nervously in front of him.

            “Well, sir, our system is closed, but we still have servers that have to have a hard, I mean, physical, location.  We rent a server room in the Totsi Electronics building, due to its proximity to a. . . well. . .”  The grey-haired admin swallowed again and glanced at his companion.

            “We were piggy-backing onto a government black box.  A super server, if you will, for the use of its array and private Wires.  You can only access these directly at the site of the server, so we’d hardwired our way in.”  The freckled, paunchy middle aged admin, Seth, picked up the explanation.

            “So I take it that if we can hack into this ‘black box’, someone else could also?”  Amos waved a gloved hand impatiently.

            “It shouldn’t have been possible, but with the right mix of a hard hack onsite and then a power failure causing a system reboot, yes,” Michael confirmed.  “The servers are protected in electronically locked boxes that are nearly impossible to destroy, but you can get in at the actual physical location if for example, the power fails.  The locks would then fail.  The only way to kill that power though is from the central station or a main power hub.”

            “Wouldn’t the server also shutdown? I recall something on the newswires about interruption in certain Wires and feeds last night,” Amos said.

            “Yes, sir.” The freckled admin nodded. “But that doesn’t mean the information just goes away.  If you shut down your PUDI or one of those monitors,” he motioned to the bank of security cam screens that lined the wall behind Amos, “the information in the hard drives doesn’t cease to exist.”

            “Cut to the part where there was a breach.” Amos sighed.

            “Someone managed to hack into our partition on the server.  When we went in this morning to repair it once everything was back online, we noticed the lockpad broken and the security system had been tripped but nothing seemed to be missing.  Then we found tracers, data moved around a little.  Sometimes that happens when the servers are cleaning up after a reboot.  But it can also be a sign that data-mining programs have been rifling through.  Very sophisticated ones,” Seth said.

            “You are sure it was hacked? And that they got information off of it? Information about Special Projects?” Amos asked.  He tried to remember this satellite office in his records but he didn’t think he’d taken care of security for anything like that.  Might have been his unfortunate predecessor, if it was set up years ago.  It was still his problem now, however and that didn’t help the growing headache one iota.

            “Yes, sir.” Michael nodded. “We checked everything multiple times.  Someone was in there pulling encrypted information from our partition.”

            “These files are what they got?” Amos cued his PUDI to scroll through the files Michael and Seth had sent him earlier before he called the meeting.  The files were test results from the first stages of the project.  Obviously someone had stored the data onto the remote server as a standard backup procedure.

            Amos cursed under his breath.  Both administrators intelligently stayed silent.  After a few minutes that stretched on and filled the quiet room with breathing and tension, the chief of security refocused his eyes on the two men.

            “Can you trace who did this?  There were Hunter-killer drones on site, right?” He glanced at another screen where he’d quickly pulled up the security manifests for all the offices. “Why didn’t those get these people?”  A small relief there, since the purchase order confirmed it had been done years ago, before his tenure here.

            Another nervous swallow. “I don’t know, sir.  It was done right there at the site and the reboot from the power failure wiped the tracks.  Someone retrieved their programs and the data.  I don’t know if there was anything we could have done differently, sir.  They should have a hell of a time breaking the encryption though, if they even can.”  He looked as though he couldn’t decide whether or not to be proud of himself for that.

            “Who else knows about this?” Amos folded his arms.  He certainly wasn’t thrilled.  These two might be the best of the best, but clearly they were just good enough to cause trouble and not skilled enough to fix it.  His headache intensified and he resisted the urge to press his fingers to his temples.

            “Just the three of us. Seth discovered the program traces and came to me to confirm his suspicions.  We thought we should go straight to you, sir.”  Michael said.

            “Good.” Amos nodded, mostly to himself. “Thank you both.  You may go. If you discover anything else about this, you are to come straight to me.”  They both nodded and turned to leave.

            “And gentlemen, if anyone else finds out about this, you will be terminated.” Amos’s voice was calm and threaded with steel.  The two administrators looked back at him with pale faces and nodded again.  It was clear to them that ‘terminated’ didn’t mean fired.

            Amos waited until the door had sealed itself behind the two men before he walked slowly around his desk and sat heavily in the greenish-grey plastiform chair behind it.  He swiveled around to face the wall of monitors.  His brown eyes focused on the upper left hand screens whose cams observed the small labs.  A handful of men and women in light green lab coats moved carefully around the sterile manufactured steel tables with vials and handheld dictation devices.

            Head pounding like a drunk on a locked door, Amos cued up Dr. Tylour Blanc’s call sign in his PUDI but didn’t instruct it to place the call.  He reviewed the pitifully small amount of information his network security admins had been able to collect for him.

            “There’s been a breach.” Amos muttered to himself.  “Someone got the first testing data files, so they’ll have the basic gist that BioCore is up to more than just making pharmaceuticals, sir.  Oh, and by the way, we have no idea who got into the server, how much they might be able to extrapolate from these files, and absolutely no way to find out the answer to any relevant questions you might have, boss.”  He chuckled mirthlessly.  “Oh yes. That would go over so well.”

            Dr. Blanc was the head of the BioCore and more importantly for Amos, the brains behind the Special Project division.  Amos didn’t ask questions, but he knew that what was going on in those labs wasn’t legal or likely very nice.  Dr. Blanc had high ambitions and he was a ruthless man who’d made it clear to his head of security that getting in the way of those ambitions would be the last thing anyone ever did.  It was equally clear that what was good for Dr. Blanc would be good for Amos.

            “A rising tide floats all shit,” he murmured and shook his head.

            Amos leaned back in his chair.  If he was going to keep this quiet from his boss, he’d have to eliminate the two administrators and any data that could trace the breach or lead back to him.  It was a hard choice to make, either way.  Telling Dr. Blanc would almost certainly get him fired and likely killed.  Not telling him would cost two lives.

            Either way the two network administrators would die.  It wasn’t so hard a choice, after all.

            Amos sighed again.  He’d have to get his own hands dirty since he couldn’t trust anyone else to remove the two in a way that wouldn’t trace back to the Chief of Security. He’d take it slow though.  They weren’t likely to cause him much trouble yet.  It would be best to see how things played out in the next week or two.

            After a few more minutes of processing his options, Amos rose slowly.  He deleted the unmade call to BioCore’s President from his PUDI.  Running a gloved hand through his close-cut, graying hair, he walked out of his office.  There were two accidents to plan and a security breach to cover-up.  It was going to be a long month.

(Continued Soon with Part Two!)

Casimir Hypogean: Chapter Eight

Casimir Hypogean: Chapter Eight

(Catch up on earlier chapters here)

Chapter Eight

            Lucien toweled off his body, evaluating his abs in the fogged mirror.  He’d been working lots of shifts lately and letting the morning crunches slide.  Sloppy of him.  An alarm chimed suddenly inside his PUDI, the warning signal that someone was coming down his hallway.  He left off his vain musings and pulled on a pair of pants as he headed through the bedroom leaving damp tracks across the plush cream carpeting.

It was Sif.  Lucien had been expecting her sometime that week, knowing she’d run out of her Drift vials soon.  Her pale skin was painted with black markings, the kind used to confuse the facial recognition programs in the drones and various surveillance cameras.  She was also stumbling gracelessly to his door, making more noise then he’d ever heard her make in the years he’d been her Drift supplier.

He had the door open before she’d reached it.  Her green eyes were glassy as they stared up at him and she just shook her head, pulling out a small metal spike from a pocket in her black pleather belt.

“Poisoned. Hunter-killer drone,” she said, stumbling past him toward the main examination room.

Lucien caught her elbow and gently guided her to the secondary room.  His patient was still recovering in there, out cold on the table.

“All right, I can analyze the chemicals, come on, sit down here.”  The secondary room was set up much like the first, only far smaller and without the moveable lights and adjustable tables of the main.

He noted her slight recoil from the space.  Sif had an intense dislike of examination rooms, probably from her youth as a science experiment.  He’d asked her once what really bothered her, wanting to know more in a clinical way than a personal one, and she’d only shrugged and said “it smells like blood someone tried to wash away, over and over.”

Now she said nothing, just sank into the chair and ripped open her sleeve for him to see the tiny wound.  It was puffed up and the skin, so delicate, so inhumanely pale, was an angry bruise now with deep red lines shooting through it.  Her superior immune system was fighting as hard as it could, but losing slowly.

He pressed two fingers to her wrist.  Her pulse was sluggish and he guessed the poison had a paralytic in it.  Cheap, lazy chemists.   Lucky for Sif, however.  There were far deadlier substances available, for the right price.

“I’ll give you a shot of Drift, it’ll help until I can make an antidote.” Lucien talked as he worked, swabbing the dart for a sample.  The hollow tube had a sack inside that ruptured when it struck and many tiny holes along its length to let the poison seep out into the wound.  It hadn’t gotten deep in Sif and plenty of the stuff remained on the dart turning almost sticky as it evaporated and dried.

Sif bit her lip and some of the light came back into her gem-like eyes as he loaded a syringe with Drift for her.  Her perfect mouth curled into a half smile as the drug settled into her damaged veins.  The relief was instantly apparent. Her face smoothed out into the doll-like perfection that Lucien could never get enough of looking at.  Some would find her uncanny.  Not he.  He appreciated the level of skill and decades of research and experimentation that had gone into creating the genies.

Her friend, Ryg, now.  There was an unfortunate accident of nature and science.  A necessary byproduct of experimentation, but sadly still living on.  Ryg was as disgusting to Lucien as Sif was beautiful.  He still repaired and did what he could for the abomination.  He was a doctor and keeping something like Ryg alive was a point of personal conflict.  Mercy killing it would be preferable, but Lucien knew the day he did that would be the end for him.  Sif would end him.

Sif was almost perfect and perfectly deadly.  The need for the chemicals in Drift was her only weakness and it bound her to him more firmly than if he’d tied her down with all the chains in Casimir.

“Shh, easy,” Lucien told her as he laid her back on the table.  She didn’t want to relax under his hand but he kept firm pressure on her uninjured shoulder and she relented, letting him feel her over in a mostly clinical manner. “I have more supply for you, though not as much as I’d like.  Things have been tight with the worry over the Council nomination.”  This was, of course, a giant lie.  He had people in his proverbial pocket all the way from street dealers to administrative staff for the Council families themselves.  Drift, pure, clean, untainted Drift, wasn’t any harder to come by now than before the suspected assassination.

“I’ll take it,” Sif said, closing her eyes.

“Paying with credits, or. . .?” Lucien left his ungloved hand on her thigh, watching that lovely doll face.

“Or,” she said so softly he might have mistaken it for a sigh if he hadn’t been watching her lips.  She didn’t open her eyes as he smiled and his hands started to rove again, this time gently removing her clothing.

His heart started beating a familiar rhythm and his loose, drawstring pants suddenly felt too tight as arousal hit him in a hot wave.  Her body relaxed completely and Lucien knew she was taking herself away, deep into the quiet, crazy mind of Sif, deep where no one could reach her.  She was soft, pliable flesh beneath his dark hands, so warm and paper pale.

This body could kill him in an instant and it thrilled him.  This was the real joy, real power.  He bent low and drew her thick gold hair from its braid, burying his face in it. She smelled of paint and sweat and something underneath so sweet and tangy, like fresh cut goya fruit.  Lucien stood up and soaked a cloth in water.  Gently he washed the paint from her face and then stroked the cooling damp rag down her naked body.

“Sif,” he murmured and she turned her face away, bringing another smile to his face.  Not so deeply gone, then.  Still here, still feeling his presence, awake and aware of her submission to him.  Good.  Still smiling, Lucien reached for the ties on his own pants.  Tonight hadn’t turned out so poorly after all.

* * *

            Ryg wasn’t alone when Hex finally got back to the apartment.  Kadin’s presence wasn’t that surprising because Ryg had said the job that had just gone completely sideways was one he’d contracted through Kadin.  Hex didn’t recognize the tall woman with skin as smooth and dark as finely lacquered wood.  Her eyes were a rich brown, flecked with violet in a way that reminded him of his daughter’s eyes and caused an instant dislike the roiled like a tangible thing in the air between them.

Ignoring the confused look on the woman’s face, Hex focused in on Ryg.  He looked smaller somehow, curled in his chair in front of the screens with even more of a kicked in expression than normal.

“The whole thing went to the roaches,” Hex said.  He knew he should establish who this woman was before he blurted out about the damn job, but screw it.  Her being here, Kadin being here, Sif not being here.  It was too much.  “Non-lethal patrol drones? Really?”

“What happened? Where’s Sif?”  Ryg craned his head around, looking for her in the room beyond.

“Don’t know.”  Hex shoved the image of her sprawled in a concrete hallway, convulsing with poison as Grey Guard burst in, shooting her on sight just because of what she was.  Or not shooting her.  There were worse things and a genie wasn’t a person at all to the Guard.  Hex knew what they might do to her; how they might take her if she wasn’t dead.  He’d been one of the Guard once, half a life ago.  Before the law said his illegal second child had to die.  Before his wife had died instead with a Drift needle still in her veins.

“Shit,” Ryg muttered.  “She’s got her PUDI set to bounce.”

“And Tommy isn’t responding either,” said Kadin.

“Who is Tommy?” Hex started to ask and then glanced at Kadin. “Wait, “the Mouth”?  That Tommy?”  Tommy “the Mouth” was a scrappy little code junky.   Hex felt he was unreliable, but had nothing solid to complain about.  Tommy mostly dealt with Ryg when they had to deal with him at all.  Eggheads speaking the same language and all that.

“Yeah,” Kadin said with a heavy sigh.

“And who the hell is she?” Hex jerked a thumb at the woman standing around like she’d rather be anywhere else.  Not that he blamed her.

“I’m Nico,” she said with a shrug of her slender shoulders as if to acknowledge that her name would mean less than worms to him.

“Great,” Hex said.  “So what were we really doing up there in Kajipe?  Something that took a code junkie and a drift junkie apparently, yeah?”

“I’m not a Drift junkie,” Nico said when Ryg just pressed his lips together and looked like he was going to take a year or two to compute a reply.

“Sure, sweetheart,” Hex muttered, giving her a disgusted look, “and I’m not a man.”

Her eyes narrowed but she half-smiled, saying “well, I’ll just take your word on that one,” and suddenly Hex started to like her a little more.

Not enough to thaw out fully.  Junkies were unreliable, even the smart ones.  Maybe especially the smart ones.

“It’s my fault,” Kadin said, holding up placating hands.

Hex got the impression from the quick look Ryg and Kadin shared that they’d been talking over their PUDIs about what to tell him, so he glared really hard at Ryg, imagining how his scrawny white neck would feel if he gripped it and shook until all the metal bits and pieces and maybe some truth fell out.  Shaking wouldn’t make Sif get back any quicker, or make her any safer.  He took a very deep breath and waited for whatever story they were about to spin him.

“You can’t tell it all to Sif,” Ryg said softly, surprising Hex.  Ryg and Sif shared everything, like twins almost.  He’d learned quickly, years ago, that he couldn’t get between them and didn’t want to be there even if he could.

“Tell what?”  He felt very tired, the long night and the adrenaline dump coming up on him like a thick bat to the head.  He backed up a couple steps and leaned into the wall, crossing his arms.

“We hacked into a government black box.  At least, we might have.  Tommy has the drive and he’s missing,” Kadin said.

“That office you and Sif were in was patched into the government hard wires and it created a leak.  I used that chip I sent you with to load in programs to get me into the servers below.  My programs collected data using keywords and dumped it onto a drive, which is what we’re now missing,” Ryg said, anticipating Hex’s questions. “But I’m not sure it worked.  The power got cut sooner than I expected I guess, because the security and stuff in that office wasn’t what I expected either.  That’s listed as an administrative filing office, not a sophisticated server room.  And definitely no records of Hunter-killer drones.”

“And we don’t know if Tommy was successful.  He went offline and now isn’t responding on his PUDI.”  Kadin shook his head, worry creasing his dark brow.

“Sif, too.  Not a good sign.” Ryg hunched over further, looking translucent and hollow, as though his clothes hung on an empty frame instead of bone and flesh.

“Nothing on the Wires about anyone being picked up?” There was always a chance, Hex knew, that this would leak quickly.  It’d been well over a couple hours now and the illegal Wires would still be running even though it was past curfew.

“Nothing,” Ryg said. “A little chatter about the Guard being called out to the Totsi Electronics building and then nothing further.  The power grid is up again, so they’ve got the Guards from the hub.  But they won’t be able to tell them much.  That part went off fine.”

“If they had Tommy or Sif, we might not know until morning.” Nico shook her head.

“If they have Sif, she’s dead.” Hex didn’t mean to say it so flat and hard like that, but he couldn’t help himself.

“No, they won’t get Sif.  Not Sif,” Ryg said it more like a prayer than a statement.

“Why hack the box? Is there credit in this?” Hex remembered the promised six hundred.  Didn’t seem likely now.  But they could have had a buyer for this information, whatever it was.

“The appointment,” Kadin said.  “We wanted to collect any data on the nomination for the new Councilor.  That could be worth a lot of credit to the right people, maybe even saleable to more than one group depending.”

Hex chewed the inside of his cheek and thought about it.  It was a gamble, but he understood what they’d been thinking now.  That six hundred was gone for sure and that made him a little sick inside and angry again.

“You conned us,” he said to Ryg, not caring that it made the hollow man flinch as though physically threatened.  “You’re right, Sif will be pissed.  You know how she feels about anything to do with the Council.  That’s your problem.  You don’t tell her if you want, but you’ll be explaining the missing credits.  Six hundred.  Each. You pull that number out of your mechanical ass?”

“Hex, please,” Ryg said, shivering now.  He looked as though he might cry and Hex wondered if he still could with all the implants.  He felt mean and small and exhausted.

“No. Explain the rest later.  I don’t care.  I’m going to bed.  Wake me up if I need to shoot someone.  Otherwise, fuck off.”  He slammed his way out of the room and across the common space, kicking a pillow as he went. It hit the far wall with a very unsatisfying fuft noise.  Hex flopped down on his mattress and closed his eyes.

Come back to me, Sif, he mouthed in the dark.  Eventually he fell asleep waiting for the sound of a door that didn’t open and he dreamt restless dreams where a violet-eyed girl asked him if she could have breakfast yet.

(Continue Reading in Chapter Nine)

Casimir Hypogean: Chapter Seven

Casimir Hypogean: Chapter Seven

(Go here to catch up on previous chapters)

Chapter Seven

            Dr. Lucien Graeme had just come home from a mandatory ten hour shift at the Ijipe Morninglight Clinic and all he wanted to do was take a long, scalding shower and curl up in his bed and surf the Wires until he fell asleep.  He walked up the last flight of steps to his door, noticing the blood trail that slowly grew from droplets on the hallway floor to a ragged smear along one dingy blue wall outside his door.

It seemed there truly was no rest for the wicked.

Lucien’s day job was as a surgeon for the city clinics, beholden to the Council and its dictates for his livelihood.  And while the pay was enough to survive on, it certainly didn’t allow for Lucien’s own expensive and often less than legal tastes.  The easiest way to afford his toys and the extra rations was to run his own clinic and go on being a doctor long after official hours were over.  Casimir had a seething underbelly of not quite legal people doing not quite legal things, and sometimes those things led to injuries that would be inconvenient to explain.

So he stitched up and patched up and medicated all sorts of criminals and in return got paid, sometimes in credits, sometimes in favors, most often in goods or services.  Lucien thought of himself as a very reasonable man.  He always found ways for his extracurricular clients to settle their debts.

The boy curled up in a ragged ball outside his door this time wasn’t someone Lucien had seen before.  He stared up at Lucien with bruised-looking eyes too big for his thin face.  Not a boy, a man, but a skinny, unkempt one, clutching a satchel and a badly broken arm.

“You the doc?” the man said through chattering teeth.  Lucien recognized the signs of shock and wondered how far this idiot had come with that arm.

“Sure,” he answered, unlocking his door.  The hallway was clear, his PUDI was linked into his private wires and monitoring the security system installed.  Lucien owned the entire floor of this section.  He liked his privacy and needed the space to hold all his specially acquired equipment.

He helped the man up, noting his dilated pupils and unsteady breathing as well as the thin film of sweat coating the guy’s face.  Definitely in shock.

“I’m Dr. Graeme.  How’d you find me?”  Lucien asked as he half carried his patient through the foyer and into his after hours examination room.  It was highly unlikely this sucker was working for the Grey Guard or anything.  Even they wouldn’t go so far as to give someone a compound fracture just to uncover an illegal medical practice.

“I’m Tom. A friend said, I mean,” the man said, shivering. “I can pay.  Friend said you fixed up people who aren’t on the official forms.”

“Let’s get an IV in you and set this arm, then we’ll worry about payment,” Lucien said in his best bedside doctor voice.

Tom seemed to relax at that, though he didn’t want to let go of the satchel until he was assured it would just sit on the floor until the procedure was finished.  Lucien got him comfortable and pulled on gloves.  Everything was laid out in a neat, orderly fashion, but sometimes he missed having a competent nurse.  Too much risk, however, and a nurse would have to live in the flat to be any real use since his after hours clientele were erratic at best.

What he didn’t tell Tom was that what he was adding into the IV would knock him out.  The man’s thin face smoothed out and his jaw went slack as Lucien counted back slowly from fifty as he got his implements ready and assembled what he thought he’d need on a tray.

With his patient blissfully unaware, Lucien was free to examine the arm.  A hand-held x-ray imaging machine slowly scanned and loaded a picture of the broken arm.  The radius was the bone sticking out of the skin, and it was fractured into three pieces.  The ulna looked better, but had a nasty fracture as well with hairline spidering of the break all through the bone.  He’d lost a lot of blood as well but at least his tendons looked mostly undamaged.

A quick slide and check revealed blood type and Lucien started a bag going.  Tom’s heartbeat was steadier now that he was on painkillers and unconscious.  Lucien took a deep breath and tucked his mask up over his nose, pinching the bridge.

It would be easiest to amputate the arm at the elbow.  Otherwise this would take a pin or two, a lot of stitches, and using one of the special breathable casts he’d acquired from the clinic.  Far, far simpler to just remove the damaged arm at the elbow.

Underneath the mask, Lucien smiled.  Simple was for hacks and quacks.  This arm was a challenge, and as tired as he was, he still couldn’t resist the lure of putting something so broken back together again.

Besides, the man had said he could pay.  Amputation was so much cheaper than surgery.  Tom would pay, Tom would be grateful.  A little consideration now might yield unknown dividends in the future.  Small-minded men where the ones who didn’t plan ahead, didn’t seek longer term advantages.

Lucien’s foot tapped the satchel as he pulled up his chair next to the examining table.  He made a mental note to go through the bag this man had clung to through all his pain and trouble, a bag that might have something to do with how his arm was crushed in the first place.  Later.  Now, now was the time to begin his latest masterpiece, now he would deal with this ruined arm and make it whole again.

* * *

            Sif figured whoever had come up with the design for these stupid Hunter-killer drones must have been the god of con artists.  The little drones were quick, but their hovering depended on magnetic forces, so their movements were simple to predict.  They also hummed a little, the kinetic motors creating an almost aural static that a normal human ear might have been able to track, but her ears did just fine.

The Hunter-killers also broke easily, not being designed at all for slamming into walls and floors at high speed.  Against a slow, stupid thief with no night vision, she could see the darts working. Maybe.  These drones were never going to have the chance to find out.

Using her PUDI as a mini-map for the building, Sif led the drones away from the stairs she’d sent Hex up.  There was another way to the roof from here if she went out a fire escape access point and she wasn’t averse to a little climbing.  The hallways dumped into each other, one winding corridor after another, and she knew this was taking too long.  Hex would be well away by now, however, and the drones seemed to have given up pursuit.

She was nearly to the door when the whir warned her.  Sif dove to the side, dropping down.  A sharp prick stung her shoulder but she ignored it, twisting and rolling down the hallway in a half-tumble.  The murmur of the drone’s motor located it for her and she was up again, kicking off one wall to gain height as she leapt and smashed the annoying thing into the concrete and plaster wall.  It lodged there, humming angrily.

Sif’s arm started to go numb and she could almost feel her cells curdling and dying as the poison tried to invade her system.  With one hand she plucked the dart out of her shoulder.  It was thick and short with the dark gleam of the poison coving half its length, seeping out from the hollow center through invisible holes.  So tiny a thing.  She tucked in gingerly into a pocket in her belt.

It wouldn’t kill her. Probably.  But it meant a detour on the way home.  She felt the familiar hunger in her blood.  She needed more Drift, she was burning through her body’s resources too quickly doing everything she’d done tonight and, now, fighting off the poison.  There was nothing else for it.  She’d have to go see Lucien and barter something other than credits for his services and her drugs.

            With a grimace, Sif slipped out onto the fire ladder and into the neon-lit night.

(Continue Reading in Chapter Eight)

My Orycon 33 Panel Schedule

Yes. They are putting me on panels. Seriously. It’s a squee Immareelritur moment.

So here is where you can find me during Orycon 33, which takes place in Portland, OR from Nov 11 to the 13th.

Fri Nov 11 2:00:pm- 3:00:pm The Real Middle Ages
Why do writers love the Middle Ages? What do writers leave out or get wrong?
(*)S. A. Bolich, Donna McMahon, Annie Bellet, Renee Stern

Sat Nov 12 11:00:am- 12:00:pm Heinlein’s Rules
What are Heinlein’s rules of writing, and should you follow them all to the letter?
Steven Barnes, (*)Edd Vick, Mike Shepherd Moscoe, Mark Niemann-Ross, Annie Bellet

Sat Nov 12 12:00:pm- 1:00:pm Kung Fu vs Wire Fu
Are your fight scenes realistic? Even if they are, do they work on the page? What makes combat feel real, what makes it clunk, and how much blood you can get away with splashing on your readers.
Sonia Orin Lyris, Rory Miller, (*)Steve Perry, Annie Bellet, Steven Barnes

Sun Nov 13 1:00:pm- 2:00:pm Self-publishing, the new vanity press?
Will going it alone work or not?
John C. Bunnell, (*)Jess Hartley, Annie Bellet, Victoria Blake

Sun Nov 13 2:00:pm- 3:00:pm Getting your first professional sale
An author can struggle for months or years before achieving their first success, but even after writing their opus, they can be tripped up by a process which is both entirely new to them and yet critical to their success. This panel describes what an author may experience as they revel in their first success.
(*)Jess Hartley, Mary Robinette Kowal, Annie Bellet, Edward Morris, EE Knight

So if you are in town, Orycon is a pretty sweet little convention.  And you could watch me get kicked out after being mobbed by my fellow panelists (note: mobbing is not promised.  But my friends have always said my special superpower is that I can make anyone want to hit me and I have some pretty strong views on writing as anyone reading this blog might have noticed, so I predict at least a few sparks in some of these panels).  I also am doing the writing workshop and have multiple victims stories to read and critique for that, which any of my fellow Clarionauts can tell is my favorite thing, ever. Really.

It should be fun though. I enjoyed Orycon when I went a couple years ago, and it is neat to be able to come back as an invited panelist.  Shows that even though I still feel like I’m sitting in the ditch, I have actually come quite a ways in the last couple years with this whole writing thing.