Tag Archives: Terribleminds Challenge

Christmas in a Strange Place (Orig Pub 12/23/2011)

Terrible Minds Flash Fiction Challenge – Christmas in a Strange Place

“She won’t mind if you wake her.” Bodecia leaned against the bulkhead. Foxin tilted his head to the left and returned her study. One hand splayed across the glass of the cryo-unit.

“Why would I bother her when she programmed the damned thing herself?” His hand stroked the glass. “You’re here after all. It’s not like I’m alone.”

The former general huffed out a laugh. “Foxin, I’m not human. I can pretend, but I don’t feel the way a human does. If you need her for your ceremony tonight, wake her up. She’s a Romantic. She’ll understand.” He needed someone to share the night with, someone who would feel something about it or offer her own traditions. Bodecia had none of that. Sentimentality was not something her initial programming included.

“That’s part of the problem.” He sighed. He crossed the room to stand in front of her and meet her eyes. They were of a height, though his gymnast’s build was slightly larger than hers. He gestured toward the cryo-unit where Captain Starr rested. “She’ll think it means something. Even if she is still officially mourning.” His hand strayed to the widower’s mark on his temple. It was a small rectangle, about an inch long and half an inch wide. “I have doubts that I count as much more human than you are anyway.”

If she weren’t an AI, she might have winced at the bleakness of his tone. Foxin was human, though he had experimental accelerated healing. She’d never seen anything to match it, but not even Captain Starr had managed to get the entire story from him. The tone of voice decided her. She would stay with him to be sure he didn’t give into the frustrations of being the lone human awake on the ship. The ship would alert her to any obstacles. She followed him to the corner of the cargo hold he’d claimed for his own. His bedroll lay in the deepest part of the corner. A small display of shiny objects from the ports they’d visited for refueling decorated a dark green cargo box. They glittered in the diffused blue light.

Foxin pushed his dark brown bangs behind his ears. A small gold ring pierced one lobe. The Bi’Ho thief she’d worked with during the War had kept one too. “What does the ring mean?”

“Oh, my coming of age and contributing to the creche. Nothing much.” He shrugged.

She filed the information away for when Starr asked her about it. “What are you doing?”

He smiled, but didn’t answer. His hands moved quickly to assemble a small metal table. The light of the cargo hold seemed to be swallowed by the black finish. A large pot of what smelled like cinnamon tea was warming on a heat-pad. “Will you join me, General?” He made a sweeping motion to the other side of the small table.

“Of course.” She settled on the floor, mirroring his position. “So long as you explain.”

Foxin inclined his head. “Our Lady of Chaos rules our lives, but she does not exist alone. On this night we celebrate the birth of her consort, Order.” He placed a small clay dish of clear liquid on the table. The smell was sharp. A showman’s flick of his wrist made a flame appear between his fingers. The liquid ignited with a soft whump.

“On Earth Prime, we are told, this day coincides with the returning of the light and the lengthening of the days. The rebirth of the sun. No matter how far we travel between the stars, we must always remember to welcome the return of the light.” He carefully poured two half-cups of tea. No, she realized, it was something sweeter, headier. He offered her one of the delicate jade tea cups with a small bow. She gave him a commander’s nod as she accepted.

Holding his own cup he met her black and green eyes evenly. Very few people managed to do that. “With mulberry wine we celebrate the birth of light and the start of a new year. What is your wish for the coming year?” His voice held the cadence of ritual.

She considered. “May we successfully reach Earth Prime with our cargo and ship intact.”

“A noble wish.”

“And what do you wish for, Foxin?”

He studied his wine. “May the Lady see fit to guide my enemy into my hands and free me from my quest.”

Bodecia inclined her head. She copied Foxin as he put one palm under the cup and tipped the entire contents into his mouth. He set the cup on the table next to the fire. “Okay. Now let me get some real mugs and we’ll sit by the fire and you can tell me stories of battles I should be too young to remember.”

“And you will tell me stories of heists gone right and I will tuck you in when the wine finally hits.”


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Sugar and Spice (Orig Pub 1/5/2012)

ED: 8-4-2020: This is the seed which eventually became the book of the same name. (Avail. Amazon, B&N, and most other retailers. Or on Golden Fleece Press.)

This is part of the latest Terrible Minds Flash Fiction challenge. You should wander over and take a look at what else is hiding there.

The challenge was to take 2 sub-genres and smash them together. I ended up with a Dystopian Sci-Fi Cozy Mystery. Not sure how well that worked, but there’s new characters and I think I’ll find them another story or three.

Sugar and Spice

Spinner’s gas mask hung around her neck. Her goggles held back tousled blonde hair. “Someone nabbed the Hellion.”

Blagger opened one brown eye to peer at her through his goggles. “In a smog-storm? Idiot. There’s no escape.”

“If we don’t figure it, the Sugars will blame one of us.” Spinner tucked her gloves into her hip-pouch.

“Gov’ll take care of it. Lunch is on the table.”

“Thanks, Blagger.” She ate the bread and cheese with gusto.

“How’d you hear about this?” He rubbed at an itch behind his ear. He smacked into his radio and it jumped to life. “Damn it.” He pulled it off.

“If you listened to your radio, you’d hear the good gossip,” she said.

He gestured rudely at her. “So who do you figure for it? One of the new mechs?”

“No, I did their checks myself. It’s a Sugar.”

“Can’t be. They wouldn’t know how to find it.”

“Maybe one of them brought someone or maybe one of them isn’t actually a Sugar.” Her smog-grey eyes glittered under the yellow lights. “I’m going to change. Cover me?”

“I’ll say you need a keeper as you’re sick in the head.”

She stuck her tongue out at him. “You’ll look after me?”

“If the others don’t get back in here, they don’t deserve to look after you.” Blagger smirked.

She returned his previous gesture. “Are we hosting anyone the Sugars brought down here?”

“Nah. They’re in the Wings.”

“Get changed, if you’re coming.” She went off toward the showers. Blagger turned on the radio.

“You and Princess Spinner are going to be haunting the Wings?” The butler chuckled. “Find it or you’ll report to me for descaling detail.”

Blagger shuddered. “Yessir.” He changed into almost respectable pants and a sheer white shirt.

“You look like a whore,” Spinner said. “Perfect.” She wore a simple red dress that showed off her curves. Her hair was slicked back. Traces of oil clung to her nails. She looked like a nameless girl trying a little too hard. He offered his arm and escorted her up to the Wings — the main servants’ area. The guest’s Crusts roomed here. Spinner opened the first guest door. She gave it a quick look. “No.” Three more rooms were dismissed. The fourth room caught her attention.

Blagger leaned against the wall while she searched. He crossed his arms and one of the guest Crusts gave him an appreciative leer. He winked. “When I’m done with the Miss.”

The maid blushed and giggled. Nothing but a Sugar getting off with the hired help. Spinner clung to him with an overly bright smile that made her look like she was two cups of 120 proof in. “This is the servant. We just need to find the master,” she murmured into his ear.

“Hey, now, Miss here wants to know who’s Crust we just inconvenienced.”

Spinner hid her face when the passing maid gave her a knowing smirk. “Mr. Bennett. In from The Shapiro.”


“Can you find me a picture?”

“Don’t be insulting, woman.” Blagger logged into the servant’s system with Marsden’s password. He pulled up the visiting Sugars’ dossiers. Bennett was a slick looking man with dark hair and bright blue eyes. He wore a beard that had been out of fashion for at least five years.

Spinner hummed. “Very clever. He shaves that off who’ll know him? Where’s he set up?”

“Level fifteen. Yellow room.”

Another level up and they wandered into the party. Spinner grabbed glasses of 5 proof red for each of them. He sipped at the weak proof and they circulated through the party. It was small, only about 600 people. Mistress Long glanced at them. Her yellow eyes widened for only an instant, then her lips curled into a smile. Spinner relaxed against his side. “I knew there was a reason I still worked here.”

“Luck and lies.” They clinked glasses.

The Sugar-side tube sped them up to the 15th floor. Spinner frowned at the locked room. “Watch for me.” She rewired the lock and hid the evidence as the door slid open. “Start looking.” She pointed at the window. He understood immediately. The storm was lifting. They didn’t have much time. The Hellion Circuit was 100cm sqaure flame colored box with black leads. The circuit that would keep them alive if there was a house emergency.

“Thieves in my room?” Bennet’s sounded like a smug Felid. Blagger turned to see if he could see evidence of cat’s ears. Bennet held a stunner on Spinner.

“I just lost my earring,” Spinner said. “We were a little too enthusiastic.”

Bennet chuckled. “You’re no more Sugar than me. I’ll just report this.”

“Oh?” Spinner raised her brows. She leaned forward. “So they can find the Circuit sitting here in your drawer? That’s not going to happen. In fact, I’m just going to take this.”


“And you leave with your man.”

“Blackmail, little girl?”

Blagger didn’t hide his wince. Poor bastard. Spinner’s eyes narrowed, the sun glinted off of the implants that let her see. Bennet’s head jerked back. His aim slipped. Spinner moved in a quick arc of arms and legs that left her standing on his chest.

She kicked him in the chin. Her spin-kick was a thing of beauty. “Damn, I didn’t have anyone to bet with.” Blagger turned the in-room radio to the Crust channel. “Marsden, clean up in 15 Yellow.”

“I’ll contact the authorities. Don’t get blood on the carpets or you’ll clean it with your tongue.”

“Right, Boss.” Blagger offered his flask.

“You read my mind.” She took a slug.

“He’s wanted on Aramis, Marsden.” Spinner held up Bennet’s datapad. “Stole the Miranda Chip from The Royal Hotel.”

“Take the circuit and reinstall it. We’ve had recorders running since the loss was discovered.” Marsden gave them a small smile. “Good work. If you’re tired of the pit, there’s going to be an opening in security.”

Spinner just laughed and hugged the circuit to her chest.


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