An Excerpt


Chapter 2

Day Fifty-Nine-One of 4001 Cycle News Feed: Ruling Enzi Outline

“Today’s news feed outlines an act of terror by the New Men Terror Group at the upper levels of Residential Apartment Living Complex for skilled-employ members in the city of Narowii. The main perpetrator exploded an illegal weapon that killed two MilPolits members. The blast destroyed four air-level-six-six-two apartments. Two bio-humans were injured.

Note: the main perpetrator, Ms Tiera Allen, Exxa-designate, is considered extremely dangerous and should not be approached. To assist the criminal would enact Exxa-designation to any participant, whether coerced with force or not.

The Ruling Enzi Family offers peace and harmony.”

None of her friends or associates would be of any help now that the news was out. A reward for information was posted on every site in the region. Tiera had no choice. She needed to disappear. News flashes popped up on every post, in every pane, on every reflective surface. The alerts flashed up so often that the night sky under the floats that held the upper levels aloft was as bright as early dusk. None of the street people would get any sleep, and it was all her fault. She walked past a couple who were too involved in each other to notice the shawl slide from the woman’s arm. That’s what she got for slumming – everyone knew Exxa’s stole everything. As Tiera walked into a darker, more fetid laneway, two street Exxa tried to grab it off her; she fought for it, kept it – she was more desperate. One of them looked at her face, dropped wide eyes from contact, and disappeared as fast as a DezDruz snorter.

It was cold. She had no shoes. No therm-ix outers. At least now there was something to wrap over her head; to hide her hair and partially obscure her facial ID tattoos. Some mud helped, too, even if it stank. Before this necessity, she’d never considered if dirt on the ground stank.

Of course it could, she just never considered it. Her life was clean, regulated. Everything happened at the right time, in the right place, in the right sequence. Her life was upper level – not down in the slums with the Exxa’s and the urchins and the drekkus.

Her parents told her stories of people forced to make other choices, to fight for the right to live. Tiera thought they were just stories, meant to scare recalcitrant children. Stories from the ancients; fables from another time and place, where nothing was sure and life was short. The main theme of the stories: how all cells fought to live; that humans were simply a collection of sentient cells. Her mother’s voice in her head brought tears that shivered on her muddy lashes, drizzled a line through the layers of dirt on her cheeks.

Move on, keep moving. Where? The dark alleys and laneways between the floats and grids were more ominous than the well-lit traders markets, but . . . could she go into such a public place? Would she be safe? Did she dare take a risk like that? The bright lights felt dangerous, menacing. There would be cam-ix – and most of the cam-ix were hidden, wouldn’t be visible to unenhanced eyesight, which she had, but it would still require her to be in their view as well.

Maybe she was wrong about everything. Life wasn’t safe. There was just a thin veneer of civilisation, and underneath it was always a fight for dominance. For power. Control. Why were there street people, urchins, lowers, Exxas, if everything was well ordered, well structured, well run, as stated in the Ruling Enzi daily rendition of life statements?

Why hadn’t she thought of this before now?

Tiera was now one of the outers, the Exxas, someone with no recourse to any legal representation. Technically, an Exxa-designate, because she still had her sub-dermals. Her links would be blocked, so the legal sub-d’s were of no use – drekkus! They’d track them!

Drekkus! Fequat! She should have thought of that. Vortex-worm – activate; obliterate all access points to her sub-d’s – all of them, for the moment. She could reactivate the necessary things later. When she found somewhere safe. There were other resources, but not too soon. Needed to ensure security protocols, and get close to a safe energy source. Later.

Why had her parents done this without her knowledge? Why make her a target? Not just Tiera, also themselves – who else? Those five women – were they dead because of this? Why?

It wasn’t what good people did. She was alone, on the streets, without access to any necessities. Oh, yes, and WANTED for murder and property destruction. And probably Terrorism drekkus. Anything else?

Feet in shoes tapped on the solid pebble-ix behind her. Stood still, waited for them to pass. They didn’t look. She couldn’t stay there. Needed to get out of sight. Moved into the deeper shadows. Time, a little time to think. Would have to do without food; hide in the vehicle until . . .

Who could she go to for help? Who would know a way out of this mess; or if that wasn’t possible, who would know how to make her into someone else? Make the old Tiera disappear? The way she made her dermal link disappear; the way she’d made her mini-hymag vehicle disappear?

The new program worked, and worked too well. Tiera almost knocked down a person who wandered casually along the pathway without looking. If she didn’t remember that her vehicle wasn’t visible to the human eye spectrum while the program was active, she’d be captured, taken in as exxa. It wouldn’t do her cause any good for another death or injury to get added to the list of her crimes. She hid the vehicle under a pile of wind-blown drekkus at the drain opening for excess water dispersal from the air-levels.

Her waste, yesterday.

Needed to be more careful, to consider the potential consequences of making a choice she was not sure of. Needed to be absolutely certain of everything if she wanted to live long enough to find . . . what? The purpose and reason behind it all. A good place to start. Absolutely necessary to think like an intelligent being. Like her parents, like . . .

His face popped into her mind without a blur, without hesitation. A clear picture, a sense of home and . . . pain. Loss and betrayal. He was a person who’d disappeared without a trace. Aren Hunter. The man who lost his reputation and career in one abrupt plunge into corruption should be able to do what a law-abiding citizen could not. The very last person she wanted to see. He didn’t need to know the real reasons, did he? If she kept the need insignificant, and just said something like . . . what?

What would be appropriate for a situation like this? A need for somewhere quiet to mourn? No. Her face was all over the news posts, all over the comms. Even street people looked away from her like she was more dangerous than MilPolits. Which she was.

Her life was in danger, with nowhere to go, and all her friends, acquaintances and colleagues would believe she’d murdered two MilPolits, because that’s what the news posts reported. Tiera would have to tell Aren the truth. She would have to lay herself bare. Take the scorn. Take help, any help, from anyone. Even him.

Now, how to get in touch with him?

An excerpt from a novel, copyright Cage Dunn 2016.


Fish ‘n Stinks

from Dogs n Cats n Us

Karel Jaeger

“What the hell is that smell?” Pat gagged as he spoke. The smell was rancid, cloying, so rich it clung to everything in the vicinity. He leaned down closer to the dog. “It’s you, isn’t it? What did you get into?” He held two fingers tight to his nose. “Into the bath with you, young lady, until that stink is gone, gone, gone. Or you’ll be living in the tool shed for the rest of your natural life.”

The tool shed was El’s favourite place, so it wasn’t a threat, but at night she slept in bed with him. If she wasn’t there, he got the bad dreams and the sweats and the ghosts. So he had to get her clean. And it was already late, nearly dark.

He’d only just got home from work – late again. And that dark oily substance had the smell of rotten fish, or whale blubber, or … Pat couldn’t think of anything worse. And he knew there was a whale down on the back beach. And he knew El got out of the yard during the day when he was at work.

The neighbours told him about her exploits; they fed her and patted her and made a fuss of her. Most nights, Elaine brought her home, skulking along in an obedient, head-lowered con by the side of Elaine’s wheelchair.

Not like he minded. Elaine was … Well, she was better than he deserved, so he couldn’t think like that. It was always a good chat when El was brought home. The highlight of his day.

He wasn’t allowed to take a dog to work with him, but he would if he could. Poor El probably needed the extra attention to stay strong against the dream demons. He was sure the dog didn’t sleep at night, that she watched him all the time for the first sign so she could lick him and cuddle in next to him, so he could feel safe and loved. Alive. Not buried under tons of earth. Not crushed.

He carried her into the bathroom, realised he’d got the stuff all over his blue work-shirt and the new logo-tie. Too bad if he stank at work – maybe it’d be enough for them to sack him. He waggled his head at El as she began the struggle against the known enemy of bath-time. It was warmer than the sea and she loved that, but …

“If I could, sweets, I’d do it, you know. I’d leave that place and spend the days with you. We’d go to the beach and fish and swim and run around like kids.” He slid the plug into the bath with his toe as she wriggled harder. The tap gave him grief as he pushed with his whole foot against the faucet until the water gushed out and splashed everywhere.

Pat lifted his foot higher to push the spigot back to the centre. El shoved her back legs against his stomach. His upper torso unbalanced. His foot slipped on the now wet floor. The dog went up into the air, all fur and claws and yips as Pat went down. He heard it when his head crunched on the tiles; wondered who would turn the tap off. El landed on his chest, rolled, yelped and leapt off.

He lived alone, except for El. No one would turn the tap off. No one would find him. Pat tried to move, first his hand, then a foot. Nothing happened. At least he could still think – could he speak?

His mouth opened, but not enough. The lips were barely separated. She was there; she licked his lips, whined. He heard the clicker-click of her claws on the tiles as she ran away.

It’s what he would do. Leave the mess behind. Not look back. Not think back. Not go back. He prayed El would go to someone who could love her with all their heart, and not use her like a dream-catcher, like their own personal angel or fairy-mother or whatever it was that he made of her loyalty. He wanted her to be free of the needs he had.

Pat closed his eyes when the blackness of night filled the room. He felt the burn of tears as they trickled down the side of his face. The only thing he’d miss would be that dog.

“El,” he tried to speak. “El, girl, I love you.” It was the best he could do as the cold settled in his limbs. Maybe this was what it felt like to let go. Maybe this is what happened to …


A loud white light burned into his skin. He heard words, but they didn’t make sense. It was as if hundreds of people were trying to speak all at the same time and their voices were bright white lights. Pat wanted to tell them to shut up, but he sensed something else. Well, smelled it. That stinking rotten whale smell. El!

“El,” he whispered, as the tongue rasped his face, wiped the tears away.

“It’s alright, Pat. It’s me, Elaine, from down the road. We got the medics here. You’ll be right. The dog came and got me, didn’t you, girl?”

“El,” he said; the sound more solid in the cold air. “Her name’s El. I love her.”

“I know, Pat. You love El.”

“El, I love you,” Pat said.

“And I love you, too,” Elaine said. “We both love you.”



The E-Publishing Side

On the cusp of publishing your story/novel/opus? E-publish or self-publish or …?

The questions that come after completion of the major work seem overwhelming, but consider this: it’s the best distraction for a long enough period of time that you can completely push the work out of your head and focus exclusively on something that is so much more and so radically different from the creative side that your mind will clear.

When you finish the process of looking at the ‘how and where’ of publishing your words and you re-read your mss – how much easier do you think it’ll be to see the tiny little flaws you couldn’t see before? I’ll tell you – soooooo much easier. And it’s all because you took your focus elsewhere. Here. To the publishing questions. So, think of it as a good thing, of value to you, the writer.

Publishing 101:

For e-books – and this is probably the best start unless you want to submit to a ‘big five’ publisher:

Format the document in the best way possible. Read how the e-saler wants it, learn it well and do it. Smashwords has a whole document on the best way to format your story and you need to follow the instructions. Why? Because if you stuff it up and the formatting is wobbly, wrong, or has only one word on each line/page etc. do you think a reader will go beyond their first look? I wouldn’t, and nor would you. So, do the formatting properly.

Amazon is a little trickier, but if you find somewhere to convert your document to e-pub (for free or otherwise), then use this site to check how it looks before you put it up (not for commercial use; single-use non-commercial only – commercial users can buy it). If you think you know how to format – think again! Things get chewed up because you used a particular software program, something’s hidden in the background (like bookmarks), something’s funny about the non-true-type font you used for your heading or centering, or …

Do the formatting before you even think about submitting to the e-salers. Do it now. The first few times may take some effort, but after the first few (dozen, or so, by my recollection) you can (maybe) trust yourself to do the quick skim before submitting (and if you do this, what have you lost? Those first 3 days, that’s what).

The reason you want to do this part so carefully, with so many finicky checks and balances?

The first three days. That’s how long you have to get the ‘new’ skimmers. These are the people who look for new stuff that comes online. If you have a good title and a great cover and get people looking inside, these are the three days that count. As soon as you press publish, the countdown starts. Three days to stay in the flash of light of e-saling. A good cover with a good title that shows the genre, audience and what that story is about on the inside can get you 80-800 looks a day (your writing will determine whether there’s a sale or not) – a non-cover with a rubbish title will get you precisely none/nil/zip.

And there you have the intro to e-publishing your story. The info’s out there, you just have to understand that it’s there for a reason, and it makes sense to make the most of the effort you’ve put into that story/novel/opus, doesn’t it?

K. Jaeger 2017.



A Full-Fledged Feature of Shorts

We have grabbed the shorts and pulled them up and here they are:

What’s in there?

Stories Written by:
Cage Dunn
Shannon Hunter
Karel Jaeger
Rose Brimson
Cisi De

Cat’s Eye                                        The Old Man and His Desert
The Truth About RumpledStiltedSkin: A Very Ugly Old Man
To Tell it How it Really Is               The Garden of Souls
Shrine                                               A Quiet Night
Practical Issues                                The Storm
A Thought                                        Was it a Light?
Gone                                                 Someday, or The Day After
Maneki Niko                                    Survive
Cat Whisperer                                  Burglar!
Baban                                               Tones of Dawn


Schedule for 2017

It was going to be Wednesday, but this week it was Tuesday – whatever day it is during the week, that’s going to be a short story day; we’ll give you a story linked to something that compels the words to come forth (like the Daily prompt word). One day each week, you get a story from one of the collaborators.

The other day, usually on Friday or the weekend, it will be a tool for writing- or life! One of the two. Check out where the doc version lives (under Craft Skills, Tools and Weapons for Use).

Either way, what you get is two posts each week, not always on the same day, and not always by the same person.

We are a team here: Cage Dunn, Rosey Brimson, Karel Jaeger (there are more, but they want to remain silent at the moment – later, we’ll set them forth later).

There you are, and here we are, and we hope you enjoy our foray into story – either as a reader or a writer!