Anvil. Part 14.

“Get to the interceptor,” says the Anvil, gritting her teeth. As Chun, Jimmy and Olsin exit stage left, she flexes her fingers and tenses. Autonomic sensors and variable defence pattern assessments are whirling around her brain. Her HUD is flashing multiple warnings, red, red, red. She’s outclassed by the hulking armature before her.

Shi-Cho is relaxed, almost casual. He doesn’t take his eyes off the Anvil. All his sensor readings indicate his power levels and damage capacity easily outweigh his opponent’s. He’s aware, however, sensors can be deceived, and challenges are measured by more than just heads up display data.

They move simultaneously, twin blurs of motion. The impact of collision cracks like thunder, shaking the room and making Chun and her companions stumble as they climb into the nearest jet—Shi-Cho’s interceptor. “What the holy,” says Jimmy, grimacing. Chun frowns and points to the rear bench, climbing in after him. Olsin takes the flight chair up front, strapping in and activating the console. Multi-turbine engines churn into motion.

Shi-Cho fires his MWEs blindly, but the Anvil has his arms held up and away from her bulk. Her own MWEs are out of their forearm housings, pointless in this position. She headbutts the big armature hard, but the resounding crack leaves both none the worse for wear. Their legs strain against the deck as they vie for position. Holes appear in surrounding walls like magic, plasteel melting like butter as random MWE shots miss their marks.

“Not bad,” says Shi-Cho. “But my little upgrade hasn’t shown what I can really do, yet.”

“Less talk,” replies the Anvil through clenched teeth.

She senses Shi-Cho’s power level increasing. At the same time readings show her own levels dropping–strength, leeched away. Staggering, she releases her grip. Shi-Cho’s fist strikes her chest and pain receptors go wild as she’s flung back into the hangar’s rear wall, crumpling the plasteel like foil.

Shi-Cho brushes dust from his shoulders. “This new model has a parasite flange. When we’re close enough I can drain your energy and supercharge my punches.” He smiles, smugly. “Just thought you’d like to know.” Shi-Cho marches forward through the debris, an ominous premonition veiled in dust and smoke.

The Anvil rises, fires her MWEs directly at his skull. The invisible beams have no effect. Moments later a Microwave Dismissal Field registers on her sensors—it must have been cloaked. She returns the MWEs to their housings. No point leaving them out. She can taste the iron of synth-blood in her mouth, smell her fear as if it was a tangible, lingering scent in the air.

“You are hopelessly outgunned,” says Shi-Cho. “Want to give up now?”

“I’ll take my chances,” says the Anvil, not as audaciously as she would have liked.

“I hoped you’d say that.”

The next impact drives the Anvil through the wall into the room beyond. Metal and plasteel debris, dust and synth-blood fill the air. She’s conscious of multiple wounds across her body. Pain is a constant cloud, mulling through her brain, racking her body. Damage inhibitors work overtime to repair her, taxed to their limit. The last thing she sees before passing out is Shi-Cho leaning over, a huge hand reaching down.

* * *

Memories flood her senses: she sees a boy, fresh out of cadet school, raising his first plasma rifle; now a teenager, making his way efficiently through a zero-g assault course; a weary adult male in jungle fatigues, sniping insurgents with gola rounds.

At the same time her daughter, laughing and playing on the rooftop garden of Bester tower. Several guards stand protectively around her. The Anvil sees the child smile at the man she pictured earlier, this time in a business suit. He smirks in return, puts his hand to an earpiece, responding to orders from an unknown source.

The Anvil is rudely awakened, screaming as her left arm is torn from its socket.

* * *

Lady Chao finishes Shi-Cho’s soldier off, twisting his neck until it breaks. The body drops listlessly to the floor. Alida looks on, eyes and mouth wide, blood-spattered face pale.

“Come now, Alida,” says Chao. “If you want to be my assistant, you’ll need to be made of sterner stuff.” She strides off to the waiting orbital shuttle, hanging vertically within its launch chamber and visible through the room’s transteel windows.

Alida stumbles behind her, glancing nervously back to the closed iris door they entered through prior to taking out the troops. “Won’t they shoot us out of the air?”

Chao smiles. “They will try.”

* * *

Olsin hovers Shi-Cho’s interceptor just outside the ruined hangar, fifty metres above roiling waves. The rain has started again, great torrents of water shadowing the surrounding buildings, flyers and seas below. Around them Shi-Cho’s fleet is assembled: multiple troop carriers, interceptors, bombers. They choke the open space between the waveruins, flitting this way and that, all with pre-assigned tasks, none paying attention to Olsin’s jet.

“Now’s our opportunity to get out of here,” she says.

“Of course, not until we have the Anvil,” says Chun, watching the gaping gash in the hangar entry for any signs of movement.

Jimmy glances anxiously from port to port. “It won’t be long before these guys realise we’re not their boss.”

Olsin grips the flightstick tighter.

* * *

Shi-Cho holds the Anvil’s left arm aloft, synthetic blood dripping, frayed plasti-synth muscle fibres dangling from bicep and tricep joins. Subdermal mesh closes over the gaping wound under the Anvil’s shoulder, protein revitalisers and antishock gels flooding her system. Her HUD registers massive system damage.

“This would make a nice trophy,” says Shi-Cho, before tossing it aside. “But I’d rather have your head.” He reaches down, fingers enclosing the Anvil’s mouth and lower jaw.

She murmurs something through his grip. Shi-Cho’s eyes widen as the world turns phosphor white.

* * *

The hangar erupts, a massive explosion ejecting debris into Shi-Cho’s interceptor. Most of it bounces off the vehicle’s shields. Olsin and her passengers are buffeted left and right by the blast. “What in the holy was that?” cries Jimmy.

“We have to go, sugar,” says Olsin. “Look, the guy is hot, but if we don’t move it we’re going to end up swimming, and I hate swimming.”

“Not yet,” says Chun.

* * *

The smoke is thick. Most of her sensors are out. The Anvil clambers over Shi-Cho’s unconscious form, shaking and weak-kneed, falling every few steps. Synthetic blood leaks from numerous gashes and tears across her male body. Her power is almost shot—a full discharge was enough to take out Shi-Cho temporarily, but she has nothing left. She can barely make it to the edge of the hangar, where flames play tag around distorted metal and transteel detritus. The Anvil collapses.

A shadow appears, tethered to nowhere, consumed by oily smoke. “Of course, you can stay here if you want,” says Chun. “But I think you’d rather be elsewhere right now.”

The Anvil manages a tight-lipped smile as Chun wraps an auxiliary tether around her battered form, then signals Olsin to reel them in.

To be continued…

Missed earlier instalments? Click here.

What is ANVIL?

ANVIL is a deliberately unplanned, multi-part short story I’m creating week-by-week to challenge myself as a writer (I’ve done this before with The Sale – check it out). My intention is to write an episode as often as possible, generally (but not always) ending with a cliff hanger, then work out how to solve the dilemma and continue the story. I have no idea how the story will progress, no idea what it’s about until I get there.

Only you can tell me if it’s successful, or not. I hope you enjoy my continuing experiment.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

Inconsequence. A poem.

Spectacularly inconsequential,
a life subsumed
in lack of meaning
and purpose.

A breeze blows through
and every tinder brush
and tumble weed
seems like it’s heaven sent.

 

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

The Not-So-Burning Bush. A short tale.

I haven’t written a flash fiction for a while. Here’s my poor attempt at romantic fiction.

Cheers

Steve 😊

I was ensconced in the bush, its leaves and branches irritating and scratching my face. Completely hidden, I craned my neck to hear what was said, while trying to maintain some sort of focus on Jenny. I could see her back through the foliage.

“…and I just couldn’t believe what she was telling me, y’know? Like, the guy she’s been going out with has been cheating on her for weeks, and she knows it, and she’s still seeing him. Is that pathetic, or what?” The other girl nodded and they both laughed. A few more words and her friend left for a lecture across campus. Jenny sat on the bench near the tree I was hiding in, started checking her iPhone.

At that moment, a sparrow landed next to me on a branch near my head. It was so unexpected that I yelped involuntarily, spun, fell through the bush and collapsed on my back on the pavement next to the bench. My head hit the concrete with a crunch, and I’m sure I saw stars. Yes, just like in cartoons.

Jenny swore, startled by the sudden miracle of a man from a not-so-burning bush. She stood over me, looking concerned (I assume for my potential medical condition, and not for any perceived mental condition). “Jacob? Oh, my God, are you all right?”

I was swearing. “Yeah, yeah, I’m fine.” I rubbed the back of my skull, tried to get up, decided I felt better lying there. “I take that back. No, I’m not.”

Jenny kneeled next to me, unsure of what to do. Students walked past, amused, bemused, uncaring, or a combination of all of the above.

Jenny raised an eyebrow. “What were you doing in that bush?”

“I think I might have a concussion…” Avoidance is the better part of valour, so someone once said. I think it was me, just now.

Jenny frowned as it dawned on her. “Were you stalking me?”

“No, I was just…resting in the bush. For a moment. Getting my bearings. Bird watching. I love trees.” Lying on my back, rubbing my painful head, coming up with terrible excuses. I was the cover model for lame. “Yes, I was stalking.”

She crossed her arms, tilted her head in that delightful way she did when she was being judgemental. “Oh, my God, that is so creepy. And I used to think you were cute.”

“You thought I was cute? I had no idea.”

“Obviously, or you wouldn’t be hanging out in bushes, spying on me.”

“Would you like to get a coffee, or something?” In hindsight, probably not the best time to ask, but I was hurt, desperate and concussed, covered in leaves, scratches and embarrassment. Probably could try for the sympathy vote. Or an insanity plea.

Jenny laughed. She laughed so much she had to wipe away tears. After about a minute of further humiliation, she smiled. “I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but okay.”

“Really? You just caught me stalking you like some crazy guy.”

“Oh God, you really are an idiot, aren’t you? I said yes, already. Shut up, get up, and let’s get that coffee, before I change my mind.”

Jenny helped me to my feet. I stumbled a bit, grinning all the while.

“Am I going to regret this?” she said.

“Maybe,” I said. “Maybe not.”

We both smiled.

Haiku Friday. A lone haiku.

Trepidation. A haiku.

My trepidation
lingers like dirty feet on
too-clean front door mats.

Haiku is a Japanese poetic form with a strict 5/7/5 syllable structure. But you knew that already.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Stand and Deliver. A poem.

Quick stop. Quick start.
The car sputters like an old man
who’s walked better roads than these
but only just remembers how.

Simple arrangements
for endearingly simple times,
handed across the threshold
to smiling eyes with insouciant grace.

The tarmac beckons,
the junkyard dog barks and moans,
its lassitude temporarily forgotten
in the whine of acceleration.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry, available at most online book sellers. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Life of the Party. A movie review.

Saw Melissa McCarthy’s new movie the other day. I’ll admit up front that I am a McCarthy fan. I like her sassy, in-your-face and inappropriate witticisms. I guess they remind me of my own big mouth. Her movies tend to be overly formulaic, though, as scriptwriters and directors stick to the McCarthy formula her core audience admires.

Life of the Party is a bit like that, but in this case, McCarthy is a recently-divorced mother who goes back to her alma mater to finish the last year of her archaeology degree. Oh, and her daughter is attending the same campus. Let the fun begin. McCarthy plays the motherly role well, limiting the language and capturing the fish-out-of-water mother mannerisms well.

life of the party

Yes, the movie is funny—not overwhelmingly so, but it was enough to keep me amused for most of its running length. The story is clichéd and the characters stereotyped, but McCarthy’s likeable enough to carry it through.

Life of the Party is one for the McCarthy fans. If you’re not an admirer of her performances, you won’t be after this, but if you are you’ll have a good laugh and leave the theatre with a smile on your face. I did.

Rating: C

Emptiness. A poem.

Empty like the bottomless glass,
the view from here so circumspect.
Empty like the void above,
between star shells and light effects.

Empty like the cheerless heart,
opened upon a mortuary slab.
Empty like a suicide vein,
eyes open wide for every stab.

Where does this emptiness end?
How will it be filled and when?

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

REckLEss. A poem.

HEre I am

REckLEss when you’re ARound.

Should I STay

Should I GO

Should I CHance the EBb and FLow

A MOment’s INdecision

And I’m CAught up in YOur SHow

ONce again I’m REckLEss

BUt I’ve noWHere else to

GO

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Anxious Thoughts. A poem.

Sweat on brow,
an
incessant
reminder.
Heat that censures
from deep within,
the cloying depths
of double-shotted anxiety.

Wait, breathe, wait,
all analgesic flutter.
Harder
to
escape,
these walls abound and
heighten further with
every calamitous thought.

Relax, they say,
think of brighter,
cleaner, fluid things,
that wax and wane like
a somnambulant moon.

Remember, lest you forget:
you are not the fear,
and
the
fear
is
not
you.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Anvil. Part 13.

Olsin leads the motley crew of escapees through gleaming corridors towards one of the many tower hangars. As they approach a corner she places a hand on the Anvil’s groin and whispers “Wait, sugar.” Her hand lingers for an uncomfortably long time, then waves them onwards. Olsin’s carbine is at her shoulder, eye to sight, darting the weapon back and forth as she aims and walks.

The building rocks to the sound of a muffled explosion. “What the holy was that?” says Big Jimmy, glancing up as several hovering glowglobes flicker above.

“Of course, it sounds like Bester’s men have found this place,” says Granny Chun. “We need those weapons now, Olsin.”

Olsin grimaces as the building rocks again to the sound of numerous distant thuds. “This way,” she says. “And move it.”

***

Shi-Cho watches with satisfaction from the cockpit of his interceptor as Lady Chao’s Triad headquarters is pummelled and pounded by a succession of missiles and plasma beams. Gun emplacements erupt, hangars spew flame and debris, communications arrays splinter and fall. He’s surprised the building is so robust—obviously internal armour and a strengthened superstructure—it didn’t look like much to begin with, but outward appearances can be deceiving.

He addresses his commanders in the concealed fleet by com. “One carrier to each entry port or hangar, another two carriers at ocean-level to prevent any boats leaving. External assault will be over soon and internal opposition may be high. I want Lady Chao taken alive. Anyone else can be terminated.”

A hologram of Bester appears on the console, his face livid. “Shi-Cho! I thought I told you I didn’t want to make enemies of the Triads. I’m informed that your fleet has assaulted Lady Chao’s tower. Is this your version of diplomacy?”

Shi-Cho smiles, but keeps his attention on the attack. “Listen boss, do you want your daughter back or not?”

“Of course, I do, but—”

“Then let me do the job you’re paying me for.” Shi-Cho flicks the holo off.

***

Guards run left and right, rushing to defend demolished hangars and other entry points. Smoke fills the corridors as Olsin leads the group to an armoury. Her palmchip opens the sliding door and she ushers everyone in as she keeps watch. “Grab what you need and make it fast,” she says.

The external attack appears to have ceased; the building no longer stutters and shakes, the occasional electrical failure and cry of wounded echoing through haze-filled corridors denote its passing.

The walls of the armoury are filled with gun racks. The Anvil watches as Chun and Jimmy seize flechette carbines and plasma pistols, flashcans and frag grenades. Chun takes a pumpgun for good measure. Both strap on armoured vests.

The Anvil activates her MWEs, popping them out of their forearm housings. Her sensors are on full alert, scanning the surrounds, sensing body heat through walls, calculating movement vectors and intercept algorithms. “Ready?” she says.

Chun cocks the pumpgun for effect. “Of course. Feels good to be armed again.”

Big Jimmy pouts. “I’d rather have my Magnum any day. Let’s go get it back.”

The Anvil raises an eyebrow. “And Violet.”

“Yeah, yeah, her too.”

They meet up with Olsin outside, who eyes the MWEs cautiously. “Don’t even think about using those on me, sugar,” she says.

The Anvil frowns. “I gave you my word.”

“Yeah, well you can walk in front from now on.” Olsin nudges the Anvil with her carbine barrel. “Straight down here, then turn left. There’s a hangar about twenty-five metres down that corridor.”

Chun and Jimmy hold their carbines at the ready, covering the rear as the party moves forward through the smoke.

***

Lady Chao clutches the armrest of her ornate throne, crushing the antique wood with durasteel fingers. The hologram in the air before her plays out the battle, showing the de-cloaked carriers and interceptors surrounding and docking with her tower. Separate views show firefights and skirmishes between her guards and assault teams on various levels.

“Should have known not to trust Bester,” she says, sighing.

The tall aide-de-camp standing beside Chao shivers and self-consciously straightens her uniform. Her shoulder length blonde hair glimmers with biocrystal highlights in the glowglobe light. “It appears the battle is not in our favour, Lady Chao,” she says nervously.

“You have a wonderful capacity for stating the obvious.”

Chao rises and the aide cringes, expecting a physical rebuke. “What’s your name?” says Chao.

The girl stammers in response. “Alida.”

“I’m going to need you to accompany me to my orbiter, Alida,” says Chao.

Alida’s face brightens and she bows. “Thank you, Lady Chao. I am most honoured you feel me worthy to continue as your assistant.”

“I may need a human shield,” says Chao, exiting the room with Alida close on her heels.

***

Shi-Cho strides through wreckage and torn and bloody bodies. Assault troops in blue exo-armour on each side of him cover his entrance. He addresses a nearby Captain. “Update?”

“Ground resistance at all entry points has been neutralised,” says the Captain, standing to attention. “Sporadic skirmishes further into the superstructure. We should have a retrieval team at Chao’s inner sanctum within minutes.”

Shi-Cho smiles. “Good. Anything else?”

“We have a fireteam at the cellblock reporting that one of the guards was found dead and the cells empty.”

“Continue with sweeps. The synthetic and its companions are on the loose. Advise your men to be cautious when approaching—the armature is dangerous and its companions are probably armed by now.”

The air erupts with gunfire as flechette rounds ricochet and burst. Armour and limbs are shredded as frag grenades detonate. MWE blasts take out the remaining guards, heads erupting in pulpy masses. Shi-Cho stands amongst the detritus, dust and a few scratches marring his otherwise perfect countenance. The captain lies sprawled on the floor beside him, his skull flowering like a bloody rose.

“Of course, this may be a good time to surrender,” says Chun, appearing through the smoke, her pumpgun raised expectantly. Olsin, Jimmy and the Anvil appear beside her, cannons bristling.

Shi-Cho rubs his palms together gleefully. “You’re the armature that’s given everyone so much trouble,” he says, nodding to the Anvil. “Remember me? You tossed me through a wall.”

The Anvil grins, shrugs. “I’m sure you deserved it at the time.”

Shi-Cho laughs. It’s a creepy, grating laugh that sets all on edge. “I’ve been looking forward to a rematch.” He clenches his fists, which glow with a pale, internal light. “You’re not the only one with hidden surprises.”

The Anvil scans the big man in front of her. The previously ‘human-elementary’ reading is now lighting up with all sorts of emergency vectors and warnings. “Let’s get this over with, then,” she says.

To be continued…

Missed earlier instalments? Click here.

What is ANVIL?

ANVIL is a deliberately unplanned, multi-part short story I’ve created to challenge myself as a writer (I’ve done this before with The Sale – check it out). My intention is to write an episode as often as possible, generally (but not always) ending with a cliff hanger, then work out how to solve the dilemma and continue the story. I have no idea how the story will progress, no idea what it’s about until I get there.

Only you can tell me if it’s successful, or not. I hope you enjoy my continuing experiment.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

Half-light. A poem.

Sweat and toil and creaking
springs, grasping fingers and the scent of hallowed
limbs. Perfect and imperfect rhythms in
motion, bestial howls and fire and tender
susurration, collated in the
half-light of a muted TV.

From this vantage point we survey the hedonic
battlefield, where dust and smoke dissipates and we
victors rejoice with liquid tongues and golden
perspicacity. The half-light lingers;
we prepare to charge into the fray again.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Everyday Rhythm and Poetry

Here’s an exercise I did for Uni, a fair while ago. Use the question for a writer’s prompt, if you like.

Do some exercise, listen to some music, or even listen to the clock tick. Find an everyday rhythm and write a poem of no more than 7 lines in response to the theme ‘Women’. After writing your poem, tell us if finding an everyday rhythm helped you or hindered you in your writing practice?

Woman. A poem.

Round and round it
goes, the anxious tide in ebbs and
flows, her conversation running on and
on, but leaving me with nothing

How I mourn my woman’s
song, but she’s long gone, a
whirlpool like no other

Stephen Thompson

The washing machine clunked and whirred through its cycle. Watery imagery crept into my poem in the first two lines (probably because I had no idea where I was heading at that point. I knew it had to be about women. Then, as usual, it became personal. Most of my poems are). I’m not sure if the machine’s rhythm helped at all.

I’ve been a musician for about 30 years, starting as a drummer and percussionist and then moving into guitar and singing, so rhythm and syncopation are things that come naturally to me. My ex-wife hated my constant hand and finger tapping.

When I write, I like to establish a natural flow. My recent experiments with enjambment on my blog have mixed up that rhythm a bit, and even though I used it in this poem, I found I maintained a rhythmic consistency.

Maybe the wash cycle did help after all.

Cheers

Steve 😊

Dragon’s Ahoy! Like Chips Ahoy, but with less chocolate…

Time for another of my Laidback DM posts, and a new free map! I love drawing maps for D&D adventures. I have far too many, though, so I’m giving them away every chance I get.

This week: Dragon’s Lair!

This large cave system has a number of shelves that vary the level of the terrain throughout the caverns, making for interesting challenges for the party. You can make the shelves any height you want, of course—the bigger the better. There’s also lots of hidey holes between pillars and stalagmites.

What the dragon doesn’t realise is this cave system’s original plunderer inhabitants built a number of well-disguised secret passages. Or maybe it does realise, and woe betide any characters that use them…

Dragon's Lair Map

Above: Actual map size is 14cm x 20cm. Just right click and save.

This map is free to use for non-commercial purposes, as long as you acknowledge me and my website stevestillstanding.com. If you want to use it commercially, please send me an email and we can talk terms.

Happy Gaming!

Steve 😊

Backseat. A poem.

Random musings and the
explicit constancy of touch,
a quickening cadence
strafing the scene like
machine gun fire.

This beckoning equivalent,
captured in steamy windows
and whispered expectations.
Here on this unsubtle backseat,
fertile new world exploration
begins and ends.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Unknown. A poem.

She does not and will never know me.
She will never read between my lines.
She will never walk the halls of my history.
She will never cry a tear for me.

But I have known her.
In the briefest of shimmering moments,
caught between copious minutes
of self-involved convolution,
in dreams, memories
and facile fantasy;
I have known her well.

How I wish she would know me,
would read between these devoted lines,
create a dutiful shared history
and cry winsome tears of joy with me.

And that I would not remain unknown.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

The Night. A poem.

The night is not my friend.
I lie here, encapsulated and encumbered
in darkness’ vice-like grip.

The night is not my friend.
I lie awake, turning and tossing,
trying to escape
my funereal thoughts.

The night is not my friend.
But it returns to goad and sway,
to play me for the fool
and make my wakefulness its own.

The night is not my friend.
And yet, its routine is so reliable,
so infallibly certain,
that I wait with expectancy
for it to claim me.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Stray Thoughts. A poem.

Stray thoughts, like alley cats,
prowling amongst the refuse
and detritus of my memories.
Sally forth the dogs of war,
to clear these backwaters
and scare away this pain.
Until stray thoughts wander
back to sully my streets again.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Avengers: Infinity War. A movie review.

Okay, okay! I said I wasn’t going to the movies this week, but I did. Couldn’t help it.

Avengers: Infinity War is a star-studded extravaganza, the culmination of ten years of Marvel world-building. It’s one of those movies that fans will love to death— you need to have seen the previous movies to be truly invested in the backstory, the characters and their tribulations—but one that may not be very accessible to anyone who’s a casual Marvel movie-goer or first timer (read: confused if not fluent in Marvelese).

avengers-infinity-war

Thanos, the big bad guy intent on balancing the universe by wiping out half of every living being in existence, is well-developed and almost sympathetic at times, which makes a change from smirking on his big throne. He wants the six Infinity Stones, which were formed at the creation of the universe and represent all sorts of comic-book hokum but really just make Thanos impossibly powerful once he has them. There are lots of big battles, big action set pieces, big team ups, and decent jokes—more than enough to keep me and any other Marvel fans happy.

There are also lots of deaths. So many, in fact, that you just know the next movie in a year’s time will ‘rectify’ the situation, which left me feeling the stakes were a bit pointless. That being said, I still enjoyed the ride.

A friend of mine commented she would rather have waited for both movies on DVD so she could watch them back-to-back. I feel in the long term that will be the preferred viewing experience, however Avengers: Infinity War is a movie that looks great on the big screen and should be experienced that way.

If you’ve read my blogs before you’ll know I’m no fan of the Disney corporate monstrosity, but I really enjoyed this movie and recommend it heartily for invested Marvelites. Take my money, you devil-mouse you.

Rating: B+

What I’ve been Watching.

No movie reviews this week, but I’ve been watching a lot of Netflix lately (Australian Netflix – some of these series are on different networks in America and Europe). I haven’t found a series on the streaming service I haven’t liked, yet.

Here’s a short sample of what I’ve been watching:

Stranger Things – 1980’s nostalgia and Stephen King homage. Kids on bikes and strange goings on in a mid-west American town. An awesome must see.

Rating: A+

13 Reasons Why – thirteen tapes left by a suicide victim indicting the people who directly or indirectly caused her to kill herself. Gripping and confronting.

Rating: A

Lost in Space – remake of 1950’s TV show, updated. A family lost on another world after a space-borne attack, trying to escape before the planet or their shady companion kills them. A bit slow at times but the character development and Dr Smith make up for it.

Rating: B

Black Lightning – family drama centred around a high school principal who brings his superhero alter-ego out of retirement to fight crime bosses and manipulative secret government programs. Still finding its feet but lots of promise for the second season.

Rating: C+

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency – quirky and out there detective story about time travel, parallel dimensions, coincidence versus determinism and friendship. Wondering what Elijah Wood’s been doing since The Hobbit?

Rating: A

Santa Clarita Diet – mum’s a zombie, and dad and daughter are fine with that. But the zombie virus is making life difficult… Blackly comedic and violent.

Rating: B

Altered Carbon – noir-style sci-fi mystery; the world’s richest man’s murder can only be solved by a reanimated terrorist. Dark, violent and deep.

Rating: C+

Riverdale – Archie, Veronica, Betty and Jughead updated from the comics for the 21st century. Dark, over the top soap opera.

Rating: C+

Ozark – a mob accountant sets up a money laundering business in the Ozarks, failing to realise just what he’s up against. Jason Bateman and Laura Linney are superb in this Breaking Bad-wannabe.

Rating: A

An Unfortunate Series of Events – based on the Lemony Snickett books, this excellent series has an absurdist sense of humour. Neil Patrick Harris steals the show.

Rating: B+

Jessica Jones – hard-ass alcoholic detective superhero from Marvel. Surprisingly deep.

Rating: B+

Atypical – comedy/drama about a high functioning autistic boy, his search for a girlfriend, and his neurotypical family. Enjoyable, but a little stereotypical at times.

Rating: B

So, what have you been watching on Netflix lately?

Steve 🙂

Tinder Time. A poem.

Flick left, swipe right.
A pallid, Saturday night
police line up of unambiguity,
measured by nervous
fingertip and amygdala.
A feature-filled array
of fatuous smiles
and narcissistic natures,
whereby motherly and mad
skip hand-in-hand with the
otherworldly and overwrought.
Consider this winsome
wheel of fortune,
spinning around and around
but never coming back to the one
I truly want
and can’t live without.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

It’s about time for a free Dungeon Map!

Time for another of my (currently) irregular Laidback DM posts, and a new free map! Map drawing for D&D adventures is my thang. I have far too many maps, so I’m giving them away every chance I get.

This week: Border Keep!

Reminiscent of the original Gary Gygax classic D&D Keep on the Borderlands castle, this outpost is much smaller, but can be filled with murder, mystery and intrigue…Of course, I leave that up to you, intrepid DMs!

Border Fort Map

Above: Actual map size is 14cm x 22cm. Just right click and save.

This map is free to use for non-commercial purposes, as long as you acknowledge me and my website stevestillstanding.com. If you want to use it commercially, please send me an email and we can talk terms.

Happy Gaming!

Steve 😊

Preludes. A Poem by the Master.

Preludes
By T. S. Eliot

I
The winter evening settles down
With smell of steaks in passageways.
Six o’clock.
The burnt-out ends of smoky days.
And now a gusty shower wraps
The grimy scraps
Of withered leaves about your feet
And newspapers from vacant lots;
The showers beat
On broken blinds and chimney-pots,
And at the corner of the street
A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.
 
And then the lighting of the lamps.
 
II
The morning comes to consciousness
Of faint stale smells of beer
From the sawdust-trampled street
With all its muddy feet that press
To early coffee-stands.
With the other masquerades
That time resumes,
One thinks of all the hands
That are raising dingy shades
In a thousand furnished rooms.
 
III
You tossed a blanket from the bed,
You lay upon your back, and waited;
You dozed, and watched the night revealing
The thousand sordid images
Of which your soul was constituted;
They flickered against the ceiling.
And when all the world came back
And the light crept up between the shutters
And you heard the sparrows in the gutters,
You had such a vision of the street
As the street hardly understands;
Sitting along the bed’s edge, where
You curled the papers from your hair,
Or clasped the yellow soles of feet
In the palms of both soiled hands.
 
IV
His soul stretched tight across the skies
That fade behind a city block,
Or trampled by insistent feet
At four and five and six o’clock;
And short square fingers stuffing pipes,
And evening newspapers, and eyes
Assured of certain certainties,
The conscience of a blackened street
Impatient to assume the world.
 
I am moved by fancies that are curled
Around these images, and cling:
The notion of some infinitely gentle
Infinitely suffering thing.
 
Wipe your hand across your mouth, and laugh;
The worlds revolve like ancient women
Gathering fuel in vacant lots.

Following is a (very) brief analysis I did of this poem for a course:

This is a pretty cool poem by a master of the form. As you can see, I’m full of insightful analysis this morning. But ‘pretty cool’ is about all I can muster today, even with the benefit of my morning coffee (ahhhhhhh, coffee…).

Oh, all right, if I must. I do want some marks, after all.

Eliot uses figurative imagery extensively in this poem. The street is personified, a living thing people inhabit, a world that reflects and impacts them. Time and motion is distinct in every facet of this poem, each of the preludes a different part of the day.

The first stanza is almost exclusively literal: day’s end, when all the day’s concrete acts and ‘grimy scraps’ are washed clean by the downpour. The second stanza is the morning, with people rising to recommence the ‘masquerades’ of their lives. The third stanza flips to second person view point, with the protagonist dreaming and waking into his dark and sordid existence (oh, how I identify with this poem). The street is personified again here, like an animal with little understanding of what it sees each day (perhaps the way the street’s inhabitants perceive their world). The fourth stanza is evening; the street is an ‘infinitely gentle, infinitely suffering thing’, a living and breathing extension of the people existing there, ever the same and yet ever-changing, reflecting old and new, the passage of time and the mundanity of life.

Well, that’s how I see it, anyway. Maybe you see it differently?

Cheers

Steve 😊

Morning Coffee. A Poem.

Whorls of heat haze fumigate the air,

an ocean of dark and broiling depths

mirroring a bleak and surly heart.

Your lidless eye reflects the scorn, 

a barely bitter taste that lingers

like cyanide clarity on the tongue.

Oracle of peerless enlightenment,

an uncaring nurturer, soon gone.

sleep in

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Anvil. Part 12.

Granny Chun is led sedately to a cell opposite the Anvil’s. She catches a glimpse of the big male skull behind the tiny transteel window as she is pushed gently into her cell by two armoured guards. Prison guard Olsin smiles at the Anvil as she palms the door closed and waves the escort away.

“Like the look of him, huh?” says Hanx, relaxing with his feet up on his console. He’s wiping his sidearm with a soft cloth, a smokeless e-cig hanging from the corner of his mouth.

Olsin drops into a revolving chair next to him. “He’s pretty hot for a biomachine.” She twists a finger through her golden locks and absently fingers her scar, eyeing the Anvil’s cell door.

Hanx guffaws. “You’ll do anything,” he says, smoothly rubbing the cloth around the autopistol’s barrel.

The Anvil returns to her bench. She keeps scanning the room, over and over, until the repetition becomes a meditation.

***

Chao and Johnston are walking a steely corridor, it’s length broken at two metre intervals by ornately potted orchids hovering in suspensor-pods at various heights from the floor. Chao is flexing her durasteel fingers, as she often does when she thinks. Johnston deferentially walks a few steps behind.

“I want the girl moved off world ASAP,” Chao says. “I’ll reach out to Bester as soon as I know she’s locked down. She’s not secure here.”

“I’ll get on it straight away,” says Johnston.

Chao stops suddenly and Johnston almost collides with her. She turns and looks him in the eye. “No mistakes,” she says. “I can’t stress this enough—anything goes wrong and I will find you.” Johnston shrinks under her gaze. “There is nowhere you can hide.”

“There will be no mistakes,” he says, his voice breaking nervously.

***

Shi-Cho has assembled a troop of armatures and mercenaries, the best that money can buy. He has twelve assault carriers, ten interceptors and almost thirty armed drones. His cloaked fleet is en route to the city’s underside and from there down to the waveruins, where the tides play languidly with the rotting towers like they’re vestigial toys of yesteryear.

The tiny hologram of Bester flickers momentarily as the fleet passes through the gaps between the overcity’s airborne spires and tethered transtubes. “I want you to contact the undercity triads. They’ll have the best idea about where Violet might be.”

Shi-Cho smiles as he flexes his powerful new armature muscles. “No problem, boss.”

“I don’t want a war with the triads,” says Bester. “They’re good customers. Don’t be afraid to get a bit pushy, though—this is my daughter we’re talking about. Violet must not be harmed. If a hair on her head is damaged, I’ll hold you responsible. And if you think that new armature body will protect you from my wrath, think again.”

Shi-Cho grimaces and salutes mockingly. “Your will be done, Mister Bester.”

***

Johnston and Kanji arrive at the door to Violet’s cell, ignoring the two lounging guards. Kanji’s vicious metal arm, adorned with spikes and razors, glints wickedly in the glowglobe light. The ruby-red sensors where her eyes should be are unsettling.

“We’re moving the asset,” says Johnston. “Open the door.”

Olsin stands and strides over, carbine at the ready. “On whose authority?” She’s shorter than the two mercs, but her eyes are fiery—she takes her job seriously. Hanx watches from his seat with wry amusement.

Kanji smiles, displaying rows of disconcertingly filed teeth. “I suggest you do it.”

Hanx flicks the switch to the cell door and it slides smoothly open. “Nobody tells us nothing,” he says.

Violet stirs from her sleep, rubs her eyes and stares vaguely at the figures before her. Johnston fires a tranq dart into her chest and the little girl drops like a stone. He lifts her body gently and leaves the cell block, Kanji walking behind, eyeing the guards.

The Anvil’s cries are silenced by the surrounding walls, but the muffled sound of her manacled fists beating on the doorframe brings Olsin over. The guard hits the com and hears the Anvil’s screaming voice: “They can’t take her! You need to let me out of here now!”

“Settle down, sugar,” says Olsin. “Save your energy—you aren’t going anywhere.” She shuts off the com and settles back down in her chair as the Anvil continues to pound on the door.

***

Shi-Cho closes off the hologram. The third triad boss he’s spoken with and none have any idea about Bester’s daughter. There are another seven controlling the sprawling undercity waveruins.

Next: Lady Chao in District 7. Here’s hoping she knows something, he thinks.

***

The Anvil’s internal clock tells her three hours have passed since Violet was taken. She stopped trying to break down the door after ten minutes—the manacles draining her strength made it a useless proposition from the start.

Outside the transteel observation port, she can see Hanx and Olsin playing cards.

Across the way, Chun is at her window. She’s signalling with her fingers; an old army code, somehow ingrained in the Anvil’s mind. She wishes her memories of motherhood were as complete.

Bribe the girl, signals Chun. She likes you. Play on that.

The Anvil taps on the glass. It takes a good few minutes of this before the guards notice and roll their eyes. Olsin gets up and fingers the intercom. “What’s up?”

The Anvil holds her bank account palm hologram up to the tiny window. “I need out of here,” she says, smiling. “As you can see, I have enough money to pay my way.” Olsin’s eyes widen. “If that’s not enough I can help you in other ways.” The Anvil raises her male eyebrow in what she thinks may be a sexy way, unsure if it comes across as leery. She’s not used to being in a man’s body, after all.

Olsin calls to Hanx, who reluctantly comes over. The Anvil continues: “Free me and my companions, escort us to a jet and you can have as much as you need to start a new life.”

Hanx rubs his shaved pate thoughtfully. He glances at Olsin, who’s considering her options. “Chao would track us down and kill us,” he says. “I like being alive.”

Olsin stares at the Anvil’s masculine face beyond the transteel. His eyes are very blue, his jaw looks like it was chiselled from steel; she likes that in a man—synthetic or not. She puts a carbine shell into Hanx’s gut. As he collapses to the floor in disbelief she fires another into his skull. Quickly to the console to kill the zipcameras and another flick to open the cell doors.

The Anvil steps out, manacles and neck brace glowing. Olsin strides over to her and kisses the armature longingly on the lips. “I want the money and you,” she says. Olsin presses the carbine between the Anvil’s eyes. “But how do I know I can trust you?”

Granny Chun stretches and files into the corridor between the cells. “Of course, we need weapons and an escort. It would not be wise to try and fight our way out of here. Of course, we need you.”

Big Jimmy walks over to stand beside Chun, looks up to her. “I want my gun back.”

The Anvil holds out her manacled hands. “I give you my word I won’t renege on the deal. I owe Jimmy as well.”

“Damn straight, you do,” says Jimmy.

***

“I have Bester’s daughter,” says the hologram of Lady Chao. “But she’s not in my district. I’ve hidden her away so we can…negotiate a return.”

Shi-Cho’s eyes narrow. “It would be in your best interests to hand over the girl.”

Chao laughs and the hologram flickers. “I’ve had her placed in a transluminal containment field in transit. That’s a tachyon sensor block, in case you don’t know. You won’t find her.”

Shi-Cho frowns. “Perhaps we should talk face-to-face.”

“Meet me at my tower—you know where to find me. You alone, and no one else.” The console hologram flickers and fades.

Outside the interceptor’s cockpit windows, Chao’s misshapen district tower looms in the dark, the crashing waves below hidden in the murky night. Behind Shi-Cho’s interceptor, his cloaked fleet hovers silently, untraceable. Not quite a transluminal field, but the next best thing.

The HUD in his eyes shows the planned trajectory of multiple missiles toward the tower, faintly glowing paths targeting flight decks, gun emplacements and communications dishes. One thought and the missiles are away, gliding silently through the air, each seeking their final destination. Shi-Cho activates his fleet com.

“Lady Chao is to be taken alive,” he says. “Other than that: no prisoners.”

To be continued…

Missed earlier instalments? Click here.

What is ANVIL?

ANVIL is a deliberately unplanned, multi-part short story I’ve created to challenge myself as a writer (I’ve done this before with The Sale – check it out). My intention is to write an episode as often as possible, generally (but not always) ending with a cliff hanger, then work out how to solve the dilemma and continue the story. I have no idea how the story will progress, no idea what it’s about until I get there.

Only you can tell me if it’s successful, or not. I hope you enjoy my continuing experiment.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

Haiku Friday. ‘Isolated’, a haiku trilogy.

Isolated – a haiku trilogy

1. Veil
If only I could
take away the coal-black veil
encompassing me.

2. Crown
My only constant:
crown of thorns, heavy on my
lonely, empty heart.

3. Walls
Do you hear me cry?
Perhaps the walls I built here
block the noise too well.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Brief. A poem.

The briefest of moments
to us, passed between,
and I was, for the briefest time,
momentarily happy.

I crave the briefest moment
to spend with you again.
For in that fragile moment,
I am, forever, briefly sane.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Rectified. A poem.

I wish that I could rectify
all my copious sins and lies.
I wish I could rebuild the trust
I stole from you with prurient lust.
I wish I could remove the stain
upon my family’s blessed name.
I wish I could reset this life,
changed so paltrily now to strife.

But I cannot rectify these things.
And so I must abide with them;
regret, it seems, my only friend,
goes ever on, until my end.

 

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry. To find out how to buy a copy, click here.

Chasm. A poem.

I stared into the chasm
and it stared right back at me.
My cries echoed off its pithy walls
until I nestled silently
in its precipitous embrace.

The chasm walls engulfed me;
the sky above sequestered and aloof.
The comforting, yet uncomfortable
damp and dark engaged my palate
until I could consume no more.

The walls around, too slick to climb,
the asseveration of escape beyond me.
I realised, then: I’d made this fracture
my cold, igneous bed, within which I lay.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Would. A poem.

Would you shed a tear for me
when I’m gone or about to go?

Would you wave as I depart,
smile awhile, wander alone?

Would you care if I passed away
from this world, from this fray?

Would you be lost if I moved on,
a wilderness, your compass gone?

Would you shed a single tear
when I leave this place, gone from here?

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Consequence. A poem.

If I had my chance again,
would I change the things I did?
I am so invested in this pain,
and have lost, yet gained so much,
it was surely
meant to be.

And if I had my chance again,
would it truly set me free?
We only learn from hurt, it seems,
from bitter consequence
and suffering.

God found me there,
alone in my electric chair,
death’s certainty suddenly
uncertain.
I reached out in return
and embraced the grace
that He did bring,
acceptance,
the consequence of things.

Do I need my chance again?
It seems not, for this humbler life
accedes to the betterment
of consequence.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry. To find out how to buy a copy,
click here.

Artifice of Love. A poem.

I wish she would read
this artifice of love
and know my asinine attempt
to swim to her waters
‘festina lente’,
my yearning to sweep
her off her feet
and cushion her
with desirous imposition,
is meant solely
to glorify her absolute
magnificence.

Perhaps, one day,
my muse of truth
will read and understand
that everything I write
is for her alone,
and that my need to
rest in her arms
is beyond all measure.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry. To find out how to buy a copy, click here.

Leibster and Versatile Blogger Award Noms—thank you, thank you, thank you!

Thanks so much to Follypen, who nominated me for both the Leibster and Versatile Blogger awards.

You can find Follypen’s wonderful site at this link: https://follypen.wordpress.com/

I’m gonna cheat a bit (as I sometimes do with Award-thingies) and refer you to a previous nomination of mine for some faintly amusing Leibster award answers and questions:

Some Leibster Award Goodness: I’d like to thank the academy…

I’m going to cheat AGAIN and direct you to some of my previous posts for Versatile Blogger Award nominations for some not-quite-so-controversial and possibly-funny-but-who-am-I-to-judge questions and answers:

Versatile Blogger Award Nomination – Woo hoo! Cheers and thank you 😊

Versatile Blogger Award 2 – Thanks muchly!!

And if you don’t want to read humorous stuff, how about some of my depressing poetry instead:

Steve’s angst-filled and depressing poetry (isn’t it about time he got a life?) 

Thanks again, Follypen! I know this is not the best response but I’m so time poor at the moment that this is all I could do (excuses, excuses!)

Cheers

Steve 😊

Indifference. A poem.

Every indifferent look
is broken glass,
slicing my already
severed heart.

Your indifference,
(bricks laid by me),
is the wall separating
our dual Berlins.

Your indifference
is the pendulum
that crushes me whole:
nothing left
and nothing right.

Every indifferent look
leaves me lost inside
and needing so much
more in life.

The All or the Nothing is my first e-book of poetry. To find out how to buy a copy, click here.

Swim. A poem.

Dewdrops on my skin
as I rise from your embrace.
Your satin caress beckons
and I return to your verge.
Each twist and turn I take
moves me closer to apogee,
whence all efforts expire.
Here within your tidal girth,
I float in liquid suggestion.
Here amongst deliquescing salt,
I make my mark and plough you deep,
from here until eternity’s siren call.

If you liked that, then you’ll love the poems in my first book The All or the Nothing! And at just $5.99 for 62 poems, that’s less than 10 cents a poem!
To find out how to get a copy, click here.
Support starving poets everywhere!

Wrecked. A poem.

My gallants and topsails,
tattered, torn and twisted;
shrouding the devastated deck
like grasping lichen on a forest floor.

My ship creaks and moans,
weary and spent from the storm;
a mass of broken timbers,
of shredded hopes forlorn.

The watery maelstrom pulls be down,
slaking this unholy, melancholy thirst,
grasping my hull solemnly
in an abattoir grip; a grating death rattle.

In the dank, dark green encircling below,
where dead men tell timeless tales of woe,
my ship will join my vacant hope,
upon the coral, where loneliness is sowed.

If you liked that, then you’ll love the poems in my first book The All or the Nothing! And at just $5.99 for 62 poems, that’s less than 10 cents a poem!
To find out how to get a copy, click here.
Support starving poets everywhere!

Anvil. Part 11.

The Anvil struggles groggily to her feet. The room is silent. “What did I miss?” she says.

Lady Chao and Granny Chun are still kissing.

“Somebody want to fill me in on this development?” says the Anvil. Violet runs over to her and grabs her leg protectively. Sarain’s EMPG is at the Anvil’s head again. “No fancy moves,” says the oversized mercenary.

Chao and Chun separate. Chao blushes and steps back, realising the entire throne room is watching. “Of course, it’s good to see you, too,” says Chun with a wink.

Chao straightens her sleeves. “I knew you were at the District 7 tower,” she says. “We’ve been keeping tabs on you and Bester’s daughter since you arrived a few weeks ago.”

Chun smiles. “Of course, you didn’t drop in for a visit?”

Chao’s demeanour is fashioned in stone. “I’ve been very busy.” She steps back to the throne and sits. “Place the armature, the midget and the girl in separate holding cells. I will interrogate Chun.” A number of wry smiles around the room immediately disappear under Chao’s sullen stare.

Jayle winks at Johnston and whispers “I’m sure that will be a long discussion,” emphasising ‘long’.

Big Jimmy crosses his arms. “I’m not a midget,” he says. “I’m shorter than average.”

***

The powered manacles on the Anvil’s hands and feet match her glowing neck brace. The gentle hum of control atrophiers are a constant reminder that while held here she is unable to activate her strength, weapons or regenerative capabilities. It doesn’t prevent her assessing the cell’s capabilities and weak points, however. After a few minutes she gives up: it’s obvious she’s stuck here with no way out.

The cell is small—each wall five feet long and eight feet tall—with a steel bench and toilet on one side. The door across from the bench is a seamless part of the wall, with the exception of a tiny transmetal window at head height. The cell is completely sound proof.

The Anvil thinks about her predicament. She has a burning need to get Violet to safety. But how? She is frustrated not only with her inability to carry out the task, but with the infuriating lack of memories to go with it. Aside from the few visions she had earlier, no fresh recollections about her daughter have come forth. She’s still not sure how she feels about the child.

Was Angelique Bester a doting mother? Or was she just married to Bester for the money? No matter how much she tries, the memories remain locked away like diamonds in a security vault. Locked away, much like the Anvil is now.

***

Big Jimmy paces left and right in his spartan cell, muttering to himself. “Never should have agreed to take them out in the Clarissa,” he says. “Knew all that money was too good to be true.”

Every once in a while he feels for his magnum, but it’s not resting on his hip where it usually is. “This will look nice on my wall,” he says, mimicking Jayle’s higher pitch. “When I get out of here I’ll show you where it’ll fit nice, sister.”

***

Violet sits on her bench, nursing her teddy and sucking her thumb. She’s not sure why she’s here, or where the Anvil and Granny Chun have gone, but she’s sure they will return for her soon. She lays down and goes to sleep.

***

Olsin checks the tiny cell window to see the little girl asleep on the bench. She shakes her head. “I don’t get how that kid is so calm,” she says, glancing at Hanx, the other guard. “If I was that young, I’d be freaking out right now.” Olsen runs her fingers along a long facial scar, then through her blonde tresses, and rebalances her carbine in her other hand.

Hanx, a tall wiry fellow with a shaved head and silver eyes, leans against the wall, smoking an e-cig. “Forget it,” he says. “That’s not your problem. No way either of them is getting out of here. Just relax.” He inhales the e-cig, exhales a plume of nothingness. “Be thankful you weren’t on the fireteam that got funked going after these guys.”

***

The rooms of Chao’s secure quarters are huge, lavishly adorned in a mishmash of Chinese, Japanese and Korean stylings, taking up an entire level of the building. There are no windows—peaceful holographic visuals from a forest with Japan’s Mount Fuji in the background are projected just above the surface of the surrounding walls.

“Of course, I have to ask,” says Chun, cradling a cup of shoujiu in one hand as she reclines in a hovering portachair. “What do you intend to do with the Anvil and Violet? Oh, and Jimmy, of course?”

Chao downs her cup and places it on a hovering tray. It fills, as if by magic, via a very expensive subluminal nutriment processor, invisible to the naked eye. “You’re not really in a position to ask, Chun.” Chao drinks from her refilled cup. “But if you must know, I intend to negotiate with Bester regarding the girl.”

“Of course. The others?”

“The armature can be rebirthed. It’s an expensive piece of hardware that shouldn’t go to waste. As to the little fellow, he can join my organisation or a death match. I don’t really care one way or the other.”

“Of course, very generous of you.”

There is a long and uncomfortable silence that follows. Chao sits in another portachair opposite Chun, crossing her legs and fingering her cup aimlessly. Chun keeps her eyes on her captor.

“Why did you leave?” Chao’s voice has softened, almost a whisper.

Chun leans forward, smiling whistfully. Her face is a mass of lines and memories, each crease a dedication of years. “Of course, you know why, Chao. You were focussed on your business interests. I was focussed on myself.”

“So, you became a nanny to the stars.”

“Of course, as good a job as any. Believe you me, being a nanny for hire for overbearingly pompous rich people can be pretty stressful.”

Another pregnant pause. “We could have had children.”

Chun sighs. “I don’t believe that it would be ideal to raise children in this…environment.”

Chao stands, all business again. She places her cup on the hovering tray. “And I suppose dragging a child through the waveruins and out to sea was ideal.”

Chao rolls her eyes. “Lady Chao, I appreciate the drink, but I think that perhaps our business is at an end.”

Chao scowls. “I agree.”

Four armoured guards stride into the room and take position around Chun’s portachair. “Of course,” she says. “You always were very efficient.”

***

Shi-Cho flexes his new fingers. He can feel the power cascading through his limbs and body. He still looks human, but the fiery plasma and enhanced cyberaugs below the surface make him much more.

“The prototype M-series armature,” says a miniature holographic Bester, projected from the console of Shi-Cho’s interceptor. “Easy to acquire since I own the company. I won’t bore you with the specs. No doubt you’re absorbing them now.”

Shi-Cho’s eyes glow momentarily as the inlink feeds data directly to his synapses. “Now this is more like it,” he says.

“Good dog,” says Bester. “Now go and get my Violet back.”

To be continued…

Missed earlier instalments? Click here.

What is ANVIL?

ANVIL is a deliberately unplanned, multi-part short story I’ve created to challenge myself as a writer (I’ve done this before with The Sale – check it out). My intention is to write an episode as often as possible, generally (but not always) ending with a cliff hanger, then work out how to solve the dilemma and continue the story. I have no idea how the story will progress, no idea what it’s about until I get there.

Only you can tell me if it’s successful, or not. I hope you enjoy my continuing experiment.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

Ghostly. A poem.

Am I a ghost to you,
incorporeal as mist,
drifting on the fulsome breeze,
far beyond your view?

What would it take
to anneal this brume,
a somatic conversion
to make me real?

Your fugue is my grave;
Here I will linger on
until I fade completely
from your uncaring heart.

If you liked that, then you’ll love the poems in my first book The All or the Nothing! And at just $5.99 for 62 poems, that’s less than 10 cents a poem!
To find out how to get a copy, click here.
Support starving poets everywhere!

Stuffing. A poem.

The stuff of yearning dreams
and wanton, empty years,
stuffed to the seams,
stuffed with regret.

How much more stuffing
could this vagrant heart beget,
stuffed full to bursting,
stuffed with loneliness.

If you liked that, then you’ll love the poems in my first book The All or the Nothing! And at just $5.99 for 62 poems, that’s less than 10 cents a poem!
To find out how to get a copy, click here.
Support starving poets everywhere!

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