Category Archives: Short Stories

Short Story: The Tack #1 – Finale


I entered the laboratory cautiously, wary of an ambush. But there was no sign of anyone.

Except him.

With his back turned to me, Ron showed a casual, chilling unconcern. It tainted the air, a sharp antiseptic even through the mask’s filter.
Everything done led to this moment. Friends, standing with a world between us. A curious reversal, that his perfectly white lab coat contrasts with my darkened defense suit. The villain standing in light and the hero living in darkness.
But darkness is just the space between lights, merely the bridge meant to carry us towards it. I see that now. Though it is a long path, to reach the light, it should be. Endurance is how we achieve justice.
The sound of my footfalls fills the room. The hum of electrical current. The muted city traffic far below.
“Join me,” Ron says, without so much as a fraction of a reaction to my arrival. “You should see.”
I can barely conceal my anger. “Is this the part where you explain your scheme of world domination?”
“It bears no explanation. Look below us, my friend–”
“FRIEND!” My outburst, not a question but a condemnation of the term, carried a near echo. “You killed my wife. You killed my father. You have murdered thousands with your empire.”
“Is this the part where you recount my sins, o judge and executioner?” He remained unperturbed. “I know them all too well. I remember every death. Can you do that?”
I find my rage carrying my feet closer as he continues to talk. “Even now, your memory of the faded and failing marriage degrades, is romanticized into something it never was. Your father neglected you in the name of revenge, and a great many pointless aggravated assaults. Yet you would defend them? Seek to avenge them?”
I slowed my approach. I can’t let him anger me. He wants me teetering over the abyss. “Some of us don’t do vengeance. Some of us learned to live without it.” I take my mask off. There’s little point to it now. “I’m not my father. And you are not his son.   Your father–”
“Gave birth to my father.” He finally turned to look at me, solemn and calculating. I felt unsettled all of a sudden. “My father gave birth to my creator, which in turn created me. No matter. You’re here to stop me from ‘world domination’, I’m here to explain to you that you can’t. And you can’t, you see. I’m already in control of much of the world’s economy, its most powerful leaders. I provide sustenance for billions of people. And I can extinguish them. This process started long before you entered those doors. I needn’t go into further detail, save to say that a healthy percentage of mankind will shortly die. As they ought to.”
“Then why haven’t you killed me yet?”
“You know why. Surely you’ve deduced it by now, or I’ve overestimated you.”
He looked at me, and a trace of the young man I once knew gleamed in those eyes again. I suddenly felt sick inside. “You wanted me to join you.” I bent over, as if the wind had been knocked out of me. “All this death…all to persuade me?”
“Yes. All for your sake.”
“Because you had to suffer firsthand, the grieving of widows, orphans…the loss of brethren.”
“What does that mean?” I trembled with rage. “You were just a kid, you couldn’t have!”
“Of course not. But someone else could have, if properly persuaded. Willis died as the first martyr of our great cause, Kenneth. Your wife was the last. And you, now forged by the fiery wounds inflicted, will stand with me to create a world where none of this happens again. To anyone. Ever.
“No young husband should ever have to hold his dying wife in his arms and see what this world does to the pure and the innocent. No brother should witness an assassination of his own flesh and blood. No son should bury his father so soon. These are the futures we create.”
“Illness,” I groaned as my hands wrapped around his throat. “Why should killing you be wrong at all?”
“It’s not what it would do to me,” he said, “but what it would do to you.”
“Make me feel a whole lot better?”
“You’ll do the same as I, one day, and ask yourself: why stop here? Why is this too far, and not far enough? You think I’m the only monster in the menagerie?”
I growl and squeeze his throat harder. He merely smiles at me, his skin turning red as his circulation slows. “Ash it wash my father,” he gags, “youshallbemyshon…”
I tip over, into the abyss. And then I grab hold of the edge again, loosening my grip. “I’ll not make another murderer.”
“Ah, but you will. You just did. How many more lives are worth your conscience, Kenneth? Are you really so sacred that you would sacrifice these people to yourself? You should be killing me on the idea that it might make a difference, even if it didn’t. We both know it. So do it. Kill your conscience, and save this world you would protect.”
“You’ll get three squares a day, a padded cell, and the world will retain its billions of people. Because that’s not the man I am.” I released my grip on him. “Your plan will be unraveled. Your people locked away and disarmed. Your drugs destroyed, your diseases purged from the innocent. And you will face justice. These things, I promise.
“This day, and all days, I will be a thorn in your side. I’ll save this world from men like you.”
Ron felt the back of his neck, sensed the difference. “What–?”
“The nanites your father injected you with. Or however it happened. A sonic frequency combined with a near-undetectable electrical impulse can shut them down. You have nothing to fight with. And you, like most men like you, value your own life above any so-called plan to save mankind.”
The spotlight of a police helicopter shone brightly in the window. “THIS IS THE POLICE! PUT YOUR HANDS ON YOUR HEADS AND SURRENDER IMMEDIATELY, OR YOU WILL BE FIRED UPON!”
Ron knelt down and put his hands on his head. I followed suit. Tactical teams wearing biohazard suits swarmed into the laboratory, fanning out, their heavy weapons trained on us both.
Ron laughed. “Well, look at that. You can always count on the police.” He turned and looked up at them as two police yanked his arms behind his back to put the handcuffs on. “Will there be room for two, by any chance? My friend and I are staying the weekend.”
As the police put handcuffs on me as well, I blew out a breath of frustration. “Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me.”



No idea if anyone actually read this, but it’s one possible ending to a superhero story I’ve been bouncing around in my head for awhile.  I don’t think I’ve got the tone right, and I feel like I made the bottom drop out of it at the end, but it’s a start.  I particularly wanted to have the first half of the story feel like a typical gritty detective story, and the second half turn the whole concept on its ear, and not have a fight as the finale.  I’m still working out how I would do that, but I just wanted to write again and I went with what came to mind this time.

Sleeping Mountain: Lydia’s Road

A cold morning brought news of her husband’s death, and she hit the road.  Rage and revenge carried her every step.

Lydia showed no reaction when Endeni came that night, bearing the news with heavy solemnity.  He would have urged her to be calm, if she’d betrayed a hint of what was next.

Her son was pretending to be asleep at the time, and she could not bear to push through his pretense, for once.  She would bring back a Koton’s grisly head before bringing news that he was now fatherless.  Any Koton would do.

Her bow and arrow in hand, her boots crunched on the dirt below.  The sun was barely up, but in the mist it barely seemed to matter.

Her son would be behind her soon.  The boy was stubborn, and there was no sense trying to stop him.  Endeni would take Edsar under his wing now.  For the best.  Ai-dus would have wanted that. And what do I want?  Lydia thought.

A road.  A direction.  A chance to fight back.

A future for her son.

She had brought her short sword and dirk as well as a full quiver of arrows.  She was plenty strong–her late husband often said so admiringly, and it was true, she knew–but a long sword would slow her down.  The Kotons were fast.  There was no settling for fast enough when the shadow of a thirty-foot wingspan appeared.  You had to move, and you had to go for the throat.

Two hundred thousand warriors were not fast enough on that dread day, when war had bled the Mountain of most of its best men and women.  But not her.

The peace hard-won by those brave souls had now been breached by the filth.  The reasons why didn’t matter.  It wasn’t as though a peace treaty could be forged with unthinking mongrels.

Now was the time of war.  And swords and arrows were the tools available now.  There were other ways to wage war, ancient ways rife with riddle and superstition.  And at the other end, ways modern and fierce, and for her, unknowable–well south of here, in the hands of more prosperous folk beyond her land.

North was the library city of Tcej, the repository of the local sages’ knowledge.  It was almost certain her son was going that way.  She would scout ahead for him, and if possible, clear the area of Koton hunting flights.

Kotons hunted in flights of four or five, with a very wide hunting ground chosen.  Often there appeared to be only one because the others would cleverly cover their approach.  They could walk, but more like apes than men.  Stealthily, like the mountain lions she had read of in ancient lore.  Villages kept watch out of fear that a hunting flight might engage in a nighttime incursion.  Kotons were not nocturnal, but then Lydia had not met every variety.  The sages recorded what they could spare time to record during the war, and there were enough varieties of Koton to fill a library–or a city of libraries.

Each step filled her with a growing dread.  Times were changing.  The Sleeping Mountain grew cold, a dread cold like the freshly dead.  There had to be a reason.

She couldn’t allow herself to feel afraid, any more than she could allow herself to grieve.  She had to act now, keep moving, or she would fall apart.

The barest echo of a scream.  Beastly, hungry.  A howl, a screech.  A guttural roar.  Five.

Too far away.  Too far.

She would lose Edsar.  She would lose her only son, the last of Ai-dus she had left.

Her boots were already crushing grass and pebble as she charged back the way she came.  So they took the Hard Road.  On a Koton ranging, that would have made sense, but even then, no fool would venture forth with one sword and a mere boy.  My boy.

The Koton screams sounded closer.  They had spotted their prey.  Lydia stopped, aiming her arrow in a circle around herself.

Too close by.  Too close.

She realized her mistake.  The Kotons may have been animals, but they had an intelligence that was all too human.

One pretended to be far away, and the others played along.  The Kotons weren’t hunting her son.  They’re hunting me.


She had only time to fall to the ground, twisting her body and loosing an arrow at the Koton frighteningly close above her.  It groaned, snatched the arrow from its midsection with a claw five feet wide, then soared into the air, hoisting the arrow as a primal warrior might a spear.

She got to her feet and kept running, not even sparing a look at the sky.  The old training came back to her like a buried memory, unbidden and horrible to hold, yet familiar.

She was too far out in the open; a treeline was just ahead, a few more moments…

And they were before her, blocking her path, four of them grabbing the ground hard enough to make fat mounds of dirt and grass.  They shook their heads at odd angles and fixed leathery gray eyes on her, another collective low rumble breathing mist into the air.

She was done.  Four of them, and one still in the air, holding my arrow.

Lydia folded her bow and drew her short sword in one fluid motion.  She lunged and dropped into a roll, her sword slashing as two Kotons leaped at where she once was.  She opened one from throat to belly.  Its bulk dropped before she could get clear, trapping her ankle beneath it.

Lydia drew her dirk and stabbed wildly, catching another Koton in the face.  She sat up and barely avoided another set of snapping jaws, hacking at them with her sword.

Suddenly the fourth Koton gurgled disgustingly in front of her, and Lydia hurled her short sword, catching it square in the maw.  The blade melted and hissed–and the Koton’s face did the same.  She scrambled to her feet at last as it fell before her.

An arrow whizzed by, forcing her to lurch to her right, though not fast enough to avoid the massive wing that swooped down and slapped her.  She flew several feet and rolled several more, then slammed into a tree hard enough to knock the wind out of her.

She groaned in agony.  Still struggling to take a breath, she got both hands out in front of herself.  She raised her head, watching as a Koton looped around quickly and hovered above her, its shadow interrupting the light.

A grotesque smirk did not help its gray, detestably misshapen head, its face a sick mockery of a man’s face, its eyes large, bloody, a sickly yellow-red.

It spoke with a rumbling sneer, a deep mockery.  “A human female.  Rare among the warriors.  You must be strong indeed.  The strong die more slowly.  But the strong still die.”  It paced around her as she got to her feet. “You show no fear, female warrior.  Your valor has earned you your life today.”

“Filth,” Lydia groaned.  Despite the pain she felt, her training took over, blending with rage and adrenaline.  In a fast motion her bow shot open and she sent an arrow through its throat.  She watched it gasp, then fall over.  She watched its life leak away with a sense of both relief and revulsion.

“You do not know what is to come,” it said, taking a shuddering breath, its claws grasping weakly at the arrow that would prove fatal.  “The plague that will fall upon all of your kind…it…will eclipse…your light…for all time…”

Hatred and doubt warred within her as its final gasps escaped into the air.  There was nothing more to be done.  Their presence made evident what the beast had uttered.

A new war was due to begin.  And extinction awaited the losing side.