Need a job?


Pre-Paid Legal Independent Associate

Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. is looking for new associates to get the word out about this exciting opportunity to have an entire firm of legal specialists on your side with plans starting as low as $25/month. We’re a national company, 37 years old and with stock that has never dropped once in the entire history of the company. Set your own hours and be your own boss because as an associate you are in business for yourself– but not by yourself, and you can feel good knowing that by giving people their own inexpensive access to high quality legal representation, you’re making a difference in the world.

No interviews, no driving, no drama! Just go to the site, fill out the form, purchase your startup kit, and go! Skeptical? I was too, but working as an associate of Pre-Paid Legal is literally so profitable that you only have to sell two or three plans to make back the cash you put down to start and start making a profit of your own. How does all this work? People just don’t know that they can get this quality of legal representation for such a reasonable price. Your job: spread the word, and get hard cash daily for every referral. It doesn’t get any better than that.

To become a Pre-paid Legal Associate and earn great money and have more time to spend with your family go to

A little about the company:

Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. was one of the first companies in the United States organized solely to design, underwrite and market legal expense plans. For a low monthly fee of $25 or less, the Company's legal expense plans (referred to as memberships) offer a variety of legal services in a manner similar to medical insurance plans or HMOs.

The Company currently provides legal services to over 2 million families across the U.S. and Canada. Plan benefits are delivered through a network of independent provider law firms. Members have direct, toll-free access to their provider law firm rather than having to comb through a yellow-page style directory for a referral. Provider firms are carefully selected and the quality of service is closely monitored to maintain the high standards of Pre-Paid Legal.

Check it out for yourself! You won’t be disappointed!

Wednesday Writing Prompts XX

1. Between television and novels there lies a middle ground which has gone almost forgotten, simmering steadily in the darkness with its own life and its own undeniable charm. I speak of course of the radio drama, and in its heyday, it was an art all its own. Craft your own radio drama, or at least a script that could be used for one (or perhaps a story that centers around one.) Be creative, give life to this almost forgotten means of telling a story, and see where the intricacies and idiosyncracies of this unique medium take you!

2. In today’s world, we worry about time, about money and about events in the future that could suddenly go wrong, but on the whole, this worry is a relatively modern thing. (as far as humanity goes.) Do you think it’s a permanent change? Do you think that people will worry about these things from here on out, or do you think these worries are temporary? Will worrying shift to some other focus (like, say, some unfathomable concept that we cannot currently grasp) or go away altogether? Project yourself into the probable future and write down what you think people will worry about in the centuries to come. Now– work it all into a story.

3. Would you survive as a character in a horror movie? Consider some of the terror flicks you’ve seen in your lifetime and how well you might survive in them. Now, set up your own “horror movie,” featuring you (or a pseudonym) as the star. Write your story– even if it ends in horrible disembowelment and death, put it on paper and run with it. Remember, sometimes in horror, it’s okay if in the end, the bad guy wins and everybody dies.

4. Write a story that begins with a death. (There are a million ways you could go with this.) It could be that the story unfolds at a wake or funeral, it could be that the death is the first step in the main character’s journey, it could be that the death of someone close to the main character triggers the story and the events that are meant to unfold around him or her, or it could be anything else. Think about it for a while, and then write the best idea that comes to you.

5. Anyone who’s really gotten into gardening can tell you stories about “volunteer” plants. The basic idea is that sometimes, some seeds left over from the previous season’s garden (or from a garden that someone else planted there years before, etc.) actually sprout randomly from the soil in the same plot as plants that have been intentionally placed there that season. Write a story about a mysterious volunteer plant that looks like something familiar (a tomato plant, a pumpkin vine, etc.) but ultimately becomes stranger and stranger– not enough to warrant weeding, but just enough to make the gardener curious enough to let it grow.

6. Think about something that you’ve always wanted to do with your life (like becoming a plastic surgeon or going to law school.) Now, imagine every door between you and that goal were suddenly thrown open. How would you go about achieving your dream? What would it feel like? What would you have to do to get there? Now, write your story.

7. Imagine for a moment that some miraculous new source of cheap, renewable, sustainable and zero-emission energy were suddenly discovered either here or somewhere else. What kind of impact would it have on our world? On our economy? What would people do? Would it become widely used, or fiercely regulated? Be creative, try something new, and see where the idea of the ultimate energy source takes you!

8. Working from the premise set by #7, now imagine that, only after all the good and happy, miraculous events had come to pass and society was firmly hooked on this new source of energy, it turned out to have some profoundly terrible secret. Where does it really come from? What kind of horrors are involved in the making and/or processing of it? Is it brokered by some Faustian bargain that ultimately comes with some terrible price tag which humanity has to pay? See where the idea takes you, and feel free to try anything that reaches out and grabs you!

9. Write a story about a transient whose life is suddenly and drastically changed by a discovery he makes while digging through a dumpster. What does he find? How does it change his life? For better? For worse? Are things harder but ultimately more rewarding? Be creative, try a few different ideas before you settle on one and write your story.

10. Brainstorm the basic premise for a movie (Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back or giant robots attack, one man has the secret to defeating them, action ensues, etc.) and then pick real life actors to play the roles (Who’s the boy? The girl? The leader of the giant robots?) Give them defined roles, write down a few pieces of dialog or random quotes from the movie, and then write your story.

One Woman, One World, Seven Wallpapers (Click for full size)

Wednesday Writing Prompts XIX

1. Write an action sequence of epic proportions. Focus entirely on the action itself, infuse every sentence with awesomeness, and don’t worry about any other aspects just yet. Leave the science, the character development, the background info and the various explanations for later. For now, write only the action– be the action, live it, feel it. Once you’ve got the scene down, take some time to satisfy that itching need for wordiness, but only after you’ve looked at the piece as it stands and taken the time to truly appreciate the beauty of simplicity.

2. Do something truly experimental with your writing as a craft. Create something new and interesting that catches the eye– do something with your writing that you’ve never done before and have never seen anyone else do before either. Take it as far as you can, leave a mark on someone’s life, or at the very least, strive to give someone a WTF moment. Hell, you could even write something in Shakespearean form and then run up to random strangers and read it or something.

3. Write a story in which the main character is directing the action at a distance, like an operator or a Captain relaying orders to troops in the field. Convey and capture the fact that, even though the main character isn’t in the thick of it, he or she is still tied inextricably to everything that the men and women in the field have to deal with face to face. Capture the tension, the fear– show the reader what it means to lead, and what it means to follow.

4. Imagine what it would be like if you suddenly could not sleep. It doesn’t have to be insomnia– it could be any cause of suddenly not being able to sleep– even as far as trying to stay awake in the face of some terror that only comes when you’re asleep. Be creative, do something with this idea that hasn’t been done before, but never lose sight of it in your story.

5. Write the secret life of someone young and successful. Consider what kind of dark and unexpected secret someone like, say, a high powered lawyer or corporate exec might have. Sure, on the outside it’s all business suits and cocktail parties, but what about in his or her alone time? Is there a change of personality, a change of masks or ideologies? Is the leader of some international corporate conglomerate secretly an alien from Proxima Centauri? An ageless creature out of fantasy? Be creative, see where it takes you.

6. Write a story that centers around a hat. It could be any kind of hat, with any kind of story of its own behind it. Be creative, see where your ideas take you, and never lose sight of the hat. It doesn’t have to be your protagonist, but make it a critical enough piece of the story that its removal would leave a gaping hole that could not be filled. Is it a fruit-covered old ladies’ hat? A beat up baseball cap? Something else entirely?

7. Write a story where the fantastic is just outside the walls of the mundane– literally. What kind of a world stirs and sprawls just beyond the tall fence of some surrealistically and painfully average sort of existence? Spend some time thinking about how you could breathe life into this idea– do you take the surreal route of little Timmy with his white-picket fence house that stands as a black and white island in the middle of a sea of rainbows, or do you go with something grittier and more realistic, like the traditional white protestant family that moves into a wild and multicultural neighborhood? Try different things, be creative, look for the third path, but most of all, have fun with it. Don’t let it get too serious.

8. Create some brand new theme restaurant (like Outback, the Elephant Bar, or Bubba Gump) and then set a story there. Don’t just use the restaurant as a flat backdrop– give it life, make the characters interact with it, make it such an integral part of the entire experience that to remove it would ultimately be like removing an entire character.

9. There’s a penetrating ambiance of profound loneliness that sets in when one gets out on the open water in a boat. Think about this as you write a story– how does this sense of utter aloneness touch you? How does it make you feel? (Other than alone) What does it make you think of? Jot down some notes, work a little on it, and picture yourself aboard that boat as the sun dips in the sky and sinks slowly down the horizon. Now, work it all together into a story.

10. Consider the story of Atlantis. Is it a myth? Is it a distorted story with grains of truth embedded within it? Is it something else altogether more fantastic? Write a story that either happens at or involves the tale of Atlantis. Be creative, do some research, and see where the story takes you.

Cygnus War Wallpapers (Click for full size)

Sessions Excerpt

Wednesday Writing Prompts XVIII

1.) Consider for a moment (regardless of what you may believe) the idea of reincarnation. If you had a choice in the matter, what would you choose to come back as? Would you try a new life as an animal? A person? The same person? Something else entirely? Would you exist on the same planet or choose another one altogether? How about the same dimension? The same reality? The same universe? Back or forward in time? Spend some time thinking about it, then write the story of this new life.

2.) Write a story that happens in a world where body parts are modular, able to be replaced, traded, given away, etc. Don’t assume that this has to fit within any one genre– think about the kinds of stories that could arise in a world like this, then write one of them.

3.) The possibility of multiple dimensions, realities and universes that run parallel to our own has excited scientists, dreamers and writers since the very birth of the idea. Take a moment to consider what it would mean to suddenly have access to these other planes of existence, how it would change our reality, our existence. How would it effect everyday life? What new jobs would it create? What new hazards? What new boons? Make it real, bring it all down to earth, and use it all to write a story.

4.) Create a myth about yourself that just might seem probable, that strangers might believe if you told them seriously enough. It can be anything from the simple to the fantastically complex. Give yourself a title, a name– be creative, feel free to throw in wacky details, and most importantly, make sure to have fun with it.

5.) Write a piece of flash fiction less than seven sentences long but packed with meaning, metaphor and detail. While you are writing it, consider each word carefully. Waste no space, and make each sentence a story in and of itself, no matter how obscure or abstract that story may be.

6.) Write a story that takes place in or involves a cornfield. Create an atmosphere of your choosing (fear, love, anger, anything that strikes you) and then tie it directly to the cornfield. Make the cornfield the central metaphor for that atmosphere.

7.) Spend some time thinking about love. Do you believe in it? What do you think it is? Chemical? Spiritual? A mixture of the two? Something else entirely? How do you feel about the idea? Now– write something that incorporates those thoughts and feelings into the storyline.

8.) Losing a close friend can be a very painful experience, something that can damage a person severely and for a long period of time. Write a story where a character’s close friend is lost and he or she must learn how to cope with that loss. How does the story unfold? Does the main character recover? Become bitter? Angry? Or does he or she just give up on living, unable to continue without that faithful friend beside them? Be creative, see where the story takes you as you write it.

9.) Write a story that takes place aboard or involves a night train. Think about the feelings of riding a train, the differences between older locomotives and newer ones. Think about it all for a little while, and then consider– every train has a destination. Where does yours go? What kinds of interesting things does it pass through? Where are the passengers from? Do they all get off at the same place?

10.) If someone were to offer you a chance to live out the rest of your life on another world, in another reality, or in some other wholly different place from that which you are used to, would you go for it? Would you have doubts? Fears? Issues to work out? Write a story about this offer, then consider whether or not you would choose to accept it.

Wednesday Writing Prompts XVII

1.Think about the place where you’ve felt the most at home. It could be the memory of a childhood home left behind long ago, it could be somewhere you currently live, or maybe even a place that isn’t static– like the arms of a relative or a lover. Write about it, set a story there, or start a story there. Put the feeling of being home into a story, a piece of poetry, the start of a grand novel, or whatever you feel inspired to write.

2. Come up with a totally surreal (and maybe even “laughable”) idea – like steam locomotives that ply tracks of light through the heavens and achieve FTL speeds while carrying passengers between planets. Now, take that gnarly idea (or go for more than one idea) and write a serious story that features it. Make it dramatic, real, something where the story overshadows the unconventional elements without making them extraneous. Something that makes people go “woah” or “wtf?” without losing them to silliness or weak storylines.

3. Spend some time brainstorming the most utterly alien creature you can think up. Use beyond thinking– come up with a great, amazing idea and then take it several steps deeper and further. Remove familiar elements of earth life, even if it makes you feel weird (we’re going for utterly alien here) like standard ways of consumption, standard forms of communication, the configuration of body parts. Consider what might have evolved on another planet, what traits might have been more advantageous than others in a totally different environment. Now, write a story that includes that completely alien being. (It doesn’t even have to be Sci-Fi– it could be anything from magic realist/surrealist to alternate history to fantasy.) See where your ideas take you, and remember to always take that one great idea another step further.

4. Most people hate the 9-5 grind and feel trapped within it, cogs and gears in a never-resting machine that only gives the individual about as much recognition as a luddite might give a single component on a computer board– until it blows out. And such it is that sometimes people caught in the grind utterly snap. Write a story that incorporates these elements. It could be the final thoughts of a company man the instant before he commits some horrific deed, the deed itself, the suicide note, a survey of the damage he does on his way out, or anything else you can think of. Remind the world that the 9-5 grind isn’t as great and happy as the smiling corporate image of working America might have us believe it is.

5. If the world as we know it were to suddenly collapse, what would it be like? Would you survive? How? Write a story that deals with this. What would happen to people all over the world if suddenly massive solar activity wiped out and fried every piece of electronics on the planet and killed the entire power grid for weeks on end? With a failing economy, no refrigeration and no heating or cooling, would the cities become mad, uncontainable zones of crime and rioting? Would the fabric of society drop out beneath the teeming mass of humanity, leaving only those on the fringe to struggle with their tomato gardens and pet goats? Use your imagination, play with ideas, show us a more real “day after tomorrow” than anything we’ve seen yet.

6. Have you ever built anything with your own two hands? A model? A ceramic vase? A box in a wood shop? Think about the process, about how you felt while you were building it and about how you felt when it was done. Now, take those feelings, those emotions and sensations, and put them into a story. Let the reader experience the feeling of creativity, of the creation of idea in the mind, the process of giving it life, and the sensations that play on the heart when it is finally finished, whether they be good or bad.

7. Tattoos are truly an interesting subject. To some, they are taboo, synonymous with long-haired liberals, radicals, sailors and biker gangs. To others, they are a statement of something deeper, an aspect of the personality that comes through, painted in the skin as a permanent symbol of a part of the soul that might otherwise never be seen. Spend some time thinking about tattoos, how you feel, how others might feel, things people have said about tattoos, tattoos you might want or have gotten in the past, etc. and then write a story that incorporates some of these ideas.

8. Everyone lies now and again. Some people do it all the time, and some do it so rarely it seems almost as if they’re angelically honest. Think about a lie you’ve told, big or small, and then think about where things went from there. Were you eventually caught in the lie, or was it a huge lie that no one ever questioned and that stands to this day? Now, write a story about it, looking at that lie from any angle (or multiple angles!)

9. Give sentience to an object for a while. Think about what it might be like to be a doorknob on the door of a busy shop, what it might be like to be the knife on a soldier’s hip, the one copy of the exam that gets left out when students are absent on test day. What’s it like to be that object? How does it feel? What is it thinking about? What’s the crisis, the climax? Be creative, and see where the thoughts of an otherwise inanimate object take you.

10. Some people put a lot of credence into astrological symbols, while others do not. Think for a moment about how you feel when it comes to the zodiac and the meanings hidden in the symbols within it. Now, write something. It can be as simple as a conversation between two people who hold opposing points of view, or as out there as some surrealist envisioning of fantasy that involves symbols of the zodiac as keys to unlocking some mystical power. Be creative, see where your ideas take you, and spend lots of time brainstorming for that cool idea that is just a step further than the last awesome idea you had.

The Cygnus War (Episode 1)

It was sleek, fast, deadly. Typical Coralate semi-atmospheric fighter, but still no match for Tessa’s Seindrive 4 Blasterchild. The underslung Agere PD cannon on the nose of her rig alone could turn the Cygnan into swiss cheese from 50 meters away with a good shot, and it was a peashooter compared to the other ordinance she was carrying. They didn’t build strong ships on Cygnus, but they knew how to build an engine like nobody’s business.

The skies over Tarsis 12 were a deep afternoon purple, visceral against the rich reds and pinks pooling up from the dark aquamarine line of the horizon, and the Cygnan was a hot spot of brilliant silver in the glowing crimson reticle of her heads-up-display. 762 meters and arcing to the left at 2837 km/h. Hauling ass, but still running on conventional drive. Too risky to run the sublight stuff this far into the atmosphere.

Lips tightened, a sharp smile spreading across her face. Her fighter was cutting edge Terran technology, the best that the Commonwealth’s Galactic Naval Division had at its disposal, and tuned as tight as monowire by the best techs back on the Von der Tann IV until it pushed the envelope right to the edge in every direction and then some. The gravity couch was the only real custom piece– something to counteract the effect of the increased G’s the rig’s hyper-tuned drive kicked off at full speed, but throw it into a dive with the engines on full burn in normal atmosphere, and even the gravity couch couldn’t keep you conscious for long. “Just long enough,” a tech had told her once, “for you to black out the instant before you leave a smoking crater on a nice green patch of alien soil.” Hell of a way to go.

The Cygnan was looping and twisting near the horizon now, accelerating and decelerating in harsh bursts as he harassed the colonial gear blasting useless flak into the atmosphere from the ground. Briefly, she considered sending a volley of her wing-mounted Finsternis-XI warheads screaming after him, but the countermeasures on Cygnan vessels were as legendary as the engines that gave them their speed, and it would be about as useful as throwing rocks at flies– the Cygnan pilot would either have to be blind or real unlucky to get clocked by something as clumsy as the Finsternis-XIs. Better to save those for bigger, slower game.

“Screw it,” She cursed under her breath, gloved fingers tightening eagerly over the dual wing of the throttle control. Close-in fighting was better anyway; you got to watch the way the Cygnan’s rigs burnt as they fell, trailing hot rainbows of flame out of every hole in the hull until they nosed into the ground and imploded, caught in the short-range blast their destabilizing Singularity drives produced as they popped back into n-space along with whatever was left of the pilot, the airframe, and anything else that happened to be within five meters.

There was a flash of light from the ground– probably a hydrogen tank going up. No point in waiting around, letting the Coralate rip up the colony unchecked. She bit the inside of her lip and jammed the throttle forward.

Twin Icarus I610F conventional Deca-bypass quantum hotcoil pods, each originally rated in excess of 348 kilonewtons of thrust at their highest settings, answered immediately, Schrödinger vectoring panels dilating into nth dimensional space as the Seindrive hurtled forward and closed the distance between her and the Cygnan in a matter of seconds.

But the Coralate pilot saw her coming– in the next instant, he was looping up and out of range of the majority of her hardpoints, the Seindrive’s AI tracking him and blaring as the g-forces of sudden deceleration rolled off the rig like waves of turbulent water. Tessa bit her lip harder, eyes flicking, flying across the HUD. He was cutting in close, nosing over from a climb, forty-one meters off her seven, his plas-flechette railcannons heating up.

Reflexively, she flung the Seindrive over onto its side and pumped the throttle, just hard enough to put her ahead of the screaming cloud of blinding, superheated particles that scorched the air in her wake. 196 meters ahead of him now, the Cygnan diving square off her six. Pretty typical Coralate move; the little blue bastard was probably cussing in that weird click language of theirs.

Working quickly, Tessa swung the nose of her rig up and over, pumping the throttle lightly and putting the Cygnan roaring past her at ten o’clock. Two seconds to prime the argon-ion L-web emitters and jam the caps off a line of Rapier A5 rockets, half a second to nudge the rig sixty degrees to the left...

She mashed the thumb trigger, and the Coralate fighter dove.

Reflexively, she yanked the Seindrive to the right, swearing, peeling away from her payload of explosives and hot blue light in a sharp turn as they passed harmlessly over the diving Cygnan. Rising, the rockets tried to reorient themselves to follow the Coralate fighter, but the rig’s countermeasures kicked in at the top of their climb and scrambled their sensitive tracking systems, sending the warheads twisting aimlessly off into the heavens.

She swore again, fingers working the two halves of the throttle control wing as she jerked the rig around and dove after the Cygnan, the colony a sprawling mass of blue-green and pavecrete grey smeared across the ground beneath them.

This guy was a hotshot, no question about it, but it wasn’t like she hadn’t dealt with Coralate aces before; during a four-week campaign in the skies of a modest green gas giant called Erinye, she’d lost both wingmen to the indirect fire of a Cygnan warship and had been limping back to the Von der Tann IV in her old Seindrive 2 Ignus when she’d run across a squadron of four wicked little Coralate fighters out for Terran blood. They’d already taken down eleven other Terran rigs using hit and run tactics and a few flashy dive-and-roll maneuvers that weren’t covered in the holobooks, and seeing Tessa’s beat up Ignus powering hard for home, they made the mistake of taking her for an easy mark.

By the time she’d finished with them, leaving two spinning listlessly toward the planet’s core, one taken down by a lucky shot to his drive and the last desperately trying to escape on one engine, they’d shot her rig all full of holes. She hadn’t made it out of that fight much better off than they had– her ordinance racks were empty, the old model L-web emitters had overheated and turned themselves to slag, and three of the four barrels in the little auto-fire rail-lance that had been replaced by the Agere PD cannon in later Seindrive rigs were jammed and totally nonfunctional. Add to that the fact that only half of the S-vectoring panels were still live and capable of dilation, the reactor was leaking dangerous amounts of radiation, and both overworked 02 recyclers sounded like antique washing machines, clanking with the effort of replenishing oxygen that was draining out of a dozen tiny pinholes and fractures at an alarming rate– Tessa had to admit that she’d been lucky to make it back to the Von der Tann IV alive.

Quick corrections by the Cygnan she was after brought her mind back to the chase; spinning and darting, he yanked himself out of the dive and leveled out, Tessa coming up hot behind him. Her finger tightened across the trigger for the Agere reflexively, but before she could squeeze off a line of fire, he threw his fighter into another spin and went hurtling off to the right. 1742 km/h and rising. The plasmatic tracers carved an arc of hot lines through the sky in his wake.

This time it was reflexive– Tessa’s fingers went tight around the throttle control as she rolled the Seindrive over and went after the Cygnan again. He was darting left and right like crazy, trying to shake her off his tail and get her in his sights again, but she kept up with him, matching his every move, ready to send another line of tracers his way the instant she had a good shot. The Coralate fighter spun suddenly left, then jammed the retros and went spinning back right for a half second before the pilot cut the thrusters and dropped the thing a hundred meters instantly. Keeping his rig straight and level until she was practically right on top of him, he flipped the fighter over its blunt, silvery nose and hit full acceleration, jamming out of there inverted, another line of Agere tracers scorching the air behind him.

Tessa’s fingers tightened across the throttle; the Agere wasn’t going to be enough. She primed the L-web emitters again and pumped the throttle.

“Yeeeeeeeeeeee haaaaaaaw!” Static lanced through the radio. Something shot overhead with a buffeting shockwave and went blazing after the Coralate fighter, something covered in peeling red paint, plates of shiny new aluminum, and wide swathes of oily rust. “Move over sweetheart, this Ciggy’s all mine! Hah-HA!”

Want to know what happens next? Check out the episodes below (all free!) and then see where this edge-of-your seat sci-fi thriller takes you! (Check the pane on the right for episodes 51+)

Episode #1
Episode #2
Episode #3
Episode #4
Episode #5
Episode #6
Episode #7
Episode #8
Episode #9
Episode #10
Episode #11
Episode #12
Episode #13
Episode #14
Episode #15
Episode #16
Episode #17
Episode #18
Episode #19
Episode #20
Episode #21
Episode #22
Episode #23
Episode #24
Episode #25
Episode #26
Episode #27
Episode #28
Episode #29
Episode #30
Episode #31
Episode #32
Episode #33
Episode #34
Episode #35
Episode #36
Episode #37
Episode #38
Episode #39
Episode #40
Episode #41
Episode #42
Episode #43
Episode #44
Episode #45
Episode #46
Episode #47
Episode #48
Episode #49
Episode #50

Pink Carbide (Chapter 1 peek)

The nightclub loomed out of the darkness like a squat golden temple.

A stylized Eye of Ra blasted cold neon-white light through the misty night from its perch above the entrance, suspended at the peak between a pair of thick, rectangular pillars that leaned lightly against the almost garish surface of the outer wall like a pair of massive sentinels, watching the street below with silent, eyeless gazes. The entrance itself was a mammoth double-door done up in a vivid shade of eye-rending scarlet and set into the surface of the wall, framed by the pillars and the luminous eye– outside, a few scattered members of the night crowd lounged around, some smoking, others trying to hide less legal activities. Typical clusters of teens and twenty-somethings representing practically every fashion mainstay stood out among the crowd like nanoprojection holo-ads on the pages of a silicon magazine. Retro-punks clogged the sidewalk in droves, the dim light thrown off by street lamps glinting dull yellow off black leather coats, waggling chromed tongue studs and a collection of bioluminescent piercings. A few denim and flannel suits of the loud, glaring and clashing colors that had only recently come back into style again punctuated the crowd, each a rainspotted and darkly rich column of color in the night.

Someone proud of their bicep rolled back a lime-green sleeve and flexed, showing off a cheap subdermal holo-tattoo that projected a fuzzy image of an orange sport bike making loops across his pale, rippling flesh. The hoarse cackle of a young woman so high on something low grade she could hardly stand echoed through the night while the bouncer, clean shaven with a smooth and polished scalp, pulled absently at the edges of his black tanktop, warily watching a pair of shivering teenagers hunched over crumpled, hand-rolled cigarettes.

“Be careful.”

It sounded so loud in the night. Brent nodded silently to his partner, quickly, not risking a glance over his shoulder for whatever glances might flick his way. The door of the glossy black hoversedan closed softly, hiding her face behind darkly tinted glass.

Turning to the club, he pushed a pair of cliche’ mirrorshades up to the bridge of his nose with a thumb. He’d done this kind of thing countless times before; sure, not at a nightclub where neuro-nan use was the standard and accepted practice, but– he grinned suddenly, what was there to worry about? It was going to be easy, in and out, just like they’d planned.

The traces of an amused smile stole across his lips. It was typical Aiko– her confidence only seemed to flag when the job didn’t require blowing the walls out of a civie business or a hobo-infested warehouse with an assault rifle.

As he approached the nightclub and pulled down the edge of his shades just enough to shoot the huge, tattooed bouncer a look, an implant imbedded in the cornea of his right eye switched on, transmitting an RF datacluster with his name, rank, number, and organization along a coded frequency that the other man acknowledged with a smile and a quiet “ ‘lo.” Standard procedure. Nothing to worry about.

Another RF datacluster went out, an electronic key mentally triggered by the bouncer, and the massive red door swung open, releasing a wave of thundering base that pounded into the street like crashing surf. Beyond the threshold, beyond the wall of urban night that encroached on the doors from behind him, the club opened out to distant walls of gull-gray pavecrete and an ocean of sweaty, vibrant dancers that undulated against one another like waves in a pulsing sea of liquid silver. He licked his lips apprehensively.

The air inside shimmered with billions of air-capable nanomachines, an iridescent chrome cloud that spread among the convulsive dancers like some kind of visible virus. He more felt than heard the door close, then pulled off his shades and coat, handing them to an all-too cheery Ja-Serve droid whose french-maid outfit reeked of stale sweat and old alcohol. She thanked him quickly in her chipper, piping voice, then curiously asked him if he was looking for anyone in particular. Not even sparing her a glance or a word, he lifted his hand in a dismissive gesture and disappeared into the crowd, already intent on his target.

The room was blasting with ZatVam, a mindbending amalgam of techno-jazz and death-metal muzak accented with the twisted sounds of a high-frequency distortion piano, a chorus of synthesized, screaming, double-electric, reverse reverberation violins, and a bass beat that would have easily put any 21st century rave to shame.

Bodies slick with perspiration and sticky with swathes of generously applied bioluminescent dermal hallucinogens pressed in against him as he made his way through, moving with the collective beat the dancers seemed to feel more than hear, some of them so high on neuro-nans they could do little more than wiggle and twitch while they chuckled silently to themselves and stared, wide-eyed, at everything around them. It would have been any straight cop’s dream bust, had there still been any straight cops left in Los Angeles.

His arms and hands began to take on a silvery sheen as he pushed through the crowd, moving with them as he moved beyond them. The nano-drugs floating in the air brought on an instant, easy buzz and gave the music a hypnotic quality that was just as easy to get lost in, but still he pushed forward, his neon-green eyes fixed on the reason for his visit, the woman that he had come for, the target for the trade.

She danced within the mob, convulsing and twitching to every beat and musical nuance in a way that transcended the movements of everyone around her; every dextrous shiver and stab of her fingers wove colors in the air, tiny isometric projections from her nails that hung in the silvery dust momentarily before they dissipated, only to be replaced by new and different patterns of new and different colors. The other dancers gave her a noticeable amount of space, little more than a few inches, but it was more than the orgy of flesh had allowed for anyone else, including himself.

She was the vision of youth and beauty, a twenty-something wrapped tight in a blindingly orange skirt that crept half-way down her thighs, fringed with rivets and rhinestones, with a neon-green LED trail along the edge of every pocket and seam. Blues and reds slipped across her high-collared, sleeveless shirt of faded yellow denim as she ran her hands in opposite directions near her exposed midriff, tracing the black and silver trim, then bringing them to her vibrant, clear blue eyes and threading them through her short, wild blond hair. Faded purples and greens danced across her face as she locked eyes with him, just for a moment, then went back to dancing, her painfully pink lips curving into a smile beneath her sharp, angular nose.

He hesitated for a moment, stunned, then began moving again; a few steps put him within her circle and, as he began to move, trying to keep up with her, she turned her back on him. He began to dance slower, unsure of what to do, until she reached back and grabbed his hands, pulling him up against her.

The crowd gave them a nearly imperceptible amount of extra space as she brought his hands forward and held them against her legs, keeping his sweaty palms pressed against the cool, smooth skin of her thighs.

“You’re late.” Her accent was soft, yet distinctly German; she smiled to herself as she let go of his hands and began her colorful finger-tip borne light show again.

“I’m sorry, Cylea.” He managed. This close, he could smell the sweet scent of jasmine wafting off her, likely from a built-in nano-deodorant skinweave, sterilizing and scenting every drop of sweat that oozed from her body. Her skin’s texture and color gave away her use of all sorts of nanocosmetics, stuff that cost thousands of dollars anywhere but the black market. Long gone were the days of hours spent on makeup and tanning– specialized skinweaves made the elusive super-model effect permanent, and Cylea had all the upgrades.

“Have you got my package?” It was hard to keep his eyes off her ass.

“You got the cash?” She asked seductively, pressing back against him, knowing it was turning him on.

“All five-hundred K on an untraceable credit chip, just like you asked.”

“Then, Ja!” She whispered excitedly, turning to face him. Phosphorescent neon trails of green and gold hung in the air between them for a moment as her arms encircled his neck. “All two-hundred und eighty-two illegal pages of it for your viewing pleasure!”

A smile of his own began to creep across his face as he moved with her, the nano-drugs in the air making everything hazy and numb. Briefly, he regretted not having the nanofilter chemical processing definitions for his still mostly organic liver updated in the last six months. Still, the buzz felt nice, and it was getting better with every passing moment. He hardly felt Cylea’s fingers tracing the NSL-U jack at the base of his skull, half mistook it for the onset of a hallucination.

“What...” He chuckled, unable to fight the rush anymore. “Hey, that tickles.”

“Does it?” She laughed. “Don’t worry, mein liebe, it’ll be over soon.”

“What are you doing?” Somewhere, in the back of his mind, he was worried, but chemical-borne euphoria had taken control, leaving only the buzz, the smiles, the laughter, the music, and her... God, she was sexy. Almost too sexy. His pants tightened in agreement.

“Mmmm,” She pursed her lips, then ran her tongue slowly and alluring across them as she pushed something into his NSL-U jack. “Just a little credit check, stud. Nothing serious.”

“Oh, ok,” He laughed nervously, forcing himself to concentrate on keeping up with her moves. Everything began to dull around him, leaving only her in perfect clarity as they danced, arms wrapped around each other. An eternity passed, or perhaps a minute; it was impossible to tell. He laughed as she yanked the jack out and looked away suddenly.

“Is that it, baby?” He grinned, too lost in the sensation to notice the sudden change in her mood. “Do I pass?”

When her eyes met his again, there was darkness there, animal in nature, full of fear and anger kept restrained, tight under firm, cool resolve.

“You’re a cop.” She stated plainly.

“Nope!” his grin widened. He felt like he had known her his entire life, like he could tell her anything; something was wrong, but it felt wonderful. Wasn’t this the girl he was supposed to bring to justice? Yeah... as if justice ever had anything to do with it. Maybe, if he could get a few minutes alone with her... He sucked in a sudden breath, then forced the thoughts away. “I’m... I’m actually with the FBI.”

“Damn,” She looked away again, “und I was just starting to like you too.”

He drunkenly lifted a finger and opened his mouth to say something, but she cut him off with a quick, feisty smile. “Hey, do you know what German girls are good at?”

The expression on his face and the bulge in his pants told her he had a few ideas; good, he could think whatever he wanted.

“Why don’t you come with me to the back of the club,” she gave him her most seductive smile and ran one long finger down his chest, tracing a line of pink and purple to his belt. “I’m sure that my friend...uh... Erika, und I, will make you feel right at home.”

He chuckled excitedly as she gently kissed his cheek, then started off for the nearest wall. Cooing, she caught him and gently steered him through the crowd and toward the rear of the building. He was so high now that he couldn’t do much more than drool and chuckle as she supported him from behind– he had absolutely no sense of direction, and didn’t even seem to notice when she finally slipped away, pushing through the crowd and heading straight for the bar.

Her heart was racing by the time she burst from the swaying and bouncing sea of sweaty bodies and shouldered her way between a thin, pasty-looking woman and a brutish man covered in tattoos that looked like they had been done the old fashioned way, using real ink instead of nanoinjectors and synthpigment. The bartender looked up, cut-off mid-sentence, and met her eyes instantly, arching one bushy brown eyebrow at her from under the brim of his brown, felt, outback-style hat as she leaned in against the bar, worry clear on her face. “Jack! Jack, there’s a cop! An agent! There’s a fucking agent of the fucking FBI!”

She glanced nervously back over her shoulder– no sign of the cop. Fucker! How had they found her? Her eyes darted back to the bartender, ignoring the startled and wary couple divided on either side of her. “I think he’s a straight-runner... I mean, he’s acting like her’s noxxed out of his mind, und I doubt he’s faking, but...” She blinked, caught her breath and forced a smile. “Mein Gott, Jack, Would you mind handling it for me?”

He gently set down the mug and the rag he had been polishing it with, then breathed a sigh as he watched her for a moment with his deep, grey eyes. Everything he wore was black or brown, all felt and dark leather or synthetic crocodile-skin, making him look like something out of a cheesy Australian travel brochure in a silicon magazine.

“Alright,” his accent was perfect, especially considering that neither he or anyone in his family since before his grandfather had ever lived in the country, much less visited it. He pointed one gnarled brown finger at her. “But that’s another one you owe me. I am keepin’ track y’know.”

She smiled as he tipped the edge of his hat with a grin and winked at her, then his eyes flicked from the brute to the girl and he managed an even “‘scuse me” before exiting the bar and disappearing into the crowd, the polished grip of a handgun sticking out of the back of his thick, leather belt.

Cylea wasted no time; a moment later, she was outside, pulling on a long, dark coat fringed with grey and white fur as she sprinted down the street toward a dark alleyway. Only the bouncer noticed her hasty departure, smiling silently after her as she disappeared into the night. It wasn’t the first time something like this had happened, and it wasn’t likely to be the last; she had too many friends and contacts at the club to stay away for long.

Assuming she didn’t get caught before she made it back again.

But then, she was a smart kid, always had been, and if anyone was be able to catch her, even someone like the feds, they’d probably have slapped her behind bars a long time ago.

Want to read the next chapter? Check your local bookstore for a copy of Pink Carbide or ask them to rush you your copy today! You can also order online through many major bookstores (Barnes & Nobel, Borders, etc.) or pick up a hard copy though (or a kindle copy, if that's your preferred format).

You can also pick up an electronic copy (PDF) here for the strip-down price of $2.98!

Blog Archive