Tag Archives: #SOCS

The World That Was

This isn’t a sneak peak at anything from the Technophobia universe, just a little vignette in an experimental format. These 1000 words contain the following prompts:
Chuck Wendig at Terribleminds
Linda Hill at Stream of Consciousness Saturday #SoCS
Julie Duffy at Write On Wednesday
Bree Salyer at #FFC2018
 

I think that I always knew that I was different. I wasn’t like other adults that I knew. I know, it’s not something you expect someone to admit. Most people will tell you that they weren’t like other children. Me, I’m not like other adults. I’ve tried time and again to figure it out, but it always eluded me. It’s like a scene from a… Well, this is going to shock you. I can trust you, can’t I? It’s like a scene from a book, but a book that I’ve never read. Right, no one reads books, except… I see the realization behind your eyes. Yes, I’m a librarian. You know, in the world that was, that word had a completely different meaning.

There are lots of words that existed once before, but are lost to the decay. “Gun” is one of those words. The easiest way to explain it is that that we used chemicals to launch a piece of metal at mind-staggering speeds. Right? Something like that up here? It would kill us all. Don’t look at me like that. It was an occurrence all too common in the worlds that was. People then weren’t confined to metal and plastic. They experienced endless vistas of sky and rock. So beautiful…

That’s, um. Well… That’s not to say that we don’t have beauty up here. I’ve sat for hours in the ring. Just watching. The black field with so so many points of light. Then she presents herself. The ancient Greeks called her Gaea. The equally ancient Romans called her Terra. I can only imagine what those ancient peoples saw when they looked up at the sky. But Gaea, or Terra, is just so sad now. I’ve seen images of her in books. Blue waters, green landmass, and puffy clouds of white.

What? I told you I’m a librarian. I go down to the surface all the time. Remember? I’m different from other adults. If I make you uncomfortable, you can leave. I know that you didn’t know who you were going to meet. No? Okay. Where was I? Oh, yes, the world that was. Right, how we killed Terra. Right, or Gaea. Well, those chemicals that fired hunks of metal at incredulous speeds? We kept making them bigger and faster. More chemicals, refined and shaped hunks of metal. And the chemicals? Explosions that could destroy great swaths of land and everyone on it. You can imagine, we almost caused our own extinction. We ravaged her, you know. We ravaged each other. We became so obsessed with how to hurt one another…
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Space Combat

This is sort of a reply to Linn Fergus’ recent post on space combat. My friend, Eric Larson, and I discuss a variety of things, and space combat happens to be one of them. He helped come up with this treatise. Here are the seven prompts worked into these 990 words: Terrible Minds, #SoCS, A Beautiful Mess, #52weeks52stories, The Writing Reader, Write on Wednesday, and #FFC2018. This isn’s officially part of Days Until Home, but it could be…
 

“There is a lot of space, more of it than humans can comprehend. If every person in this room had a billion children, each child could have their own area of space a billion miles wide, and we’d still have plenty of space left. So fighting for control of space is stupid. Armed conflict is most often a result of scarcity of resources, and space is a resource we have in unfathomable abundance. Why risk death, and spend resources for any piece of space, when you can just go have this other,” Jeremy Thompkins waved his hand to the side, “empty space next door?”

He leaned forward, and gripped the lectern. “What is scarce, and worth fighting for, is land. Rocky moons that we can reach are a major hassle, and we need rocky moons to make everything from space stations to underwear.” Jeremy paused as a smattering of laughter rippled through the room. “‘Hassle’ doesn’t quite cover it; these moons are like winning the lottery. These are the resources people will continue to fight over, and die for. Which brings us to the only space worth fighting for: orbital space.”

“Controlling orbital space around a moon or planet controls the resources below. From orbit you can knock out most communications, much of their surveillance of the surface, and even hamper their ability to navigate. Not to mention dropping kinetic projectiles on their infrastructure with devastating effect.” Jeremy’s knuckles turned white for a moment as he gripped the lectern. Hopefully, he thought, none of these fresh-faced contracts will experience what I did in Australia. He continued, “Sixteen days is the record that a population on the surface has held out while an embargo force controlled orbital space above. That was because the besieging force was limited, and they wanted to capture as much of the infrastructure intact as possible. No sense having to take time building new stuff if you can just use their stuff. Which was only partially successful in this case since the defenders engaged in “scorched earth” tactics – destroying or sabotaging their facilities before surrendering. This has been the last resort tactic of a retreating defender for centuries.”
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Goodbye Razor’s Reef

I’m a tad over at 1032, but the first draft was at 1500 words, so I’m done cutting. My friend, L. Fergus has written 22 books about an angelic anti-hero named Kita. Razor’s Pass is the name of one of the books in the series, and hopefully will be published soon. This rambling doesn’t have anything to do with the world of Kita, other than I stole the names of a few places in Birthright, and Razor’s Pass. This one is chock full of prompts: Terribleminds, #SoCS, The Writing Reader, and of course, Bree Salyer’s #FFC2018.

The rough-hewn wooden door creaked when she pushed it open. The creak was nothing new, and yet again, Nany wished she had paid the coin for a spell that would’ve silenced the annoying sound. But, as was all life in Razor’s Reef, her meager coin was reserved for the necessities.

A deluge of precipitation threatened to follow her into her humble dwelling. The rain seemed to have a mind of its own. Nany paused, and examined the ribbons of water pelting the pane of crystal set into the wooden door. The individual droplets coalesced into a cloud, and then formed the rough outline of a face. Damn those elementals, Nany cursed silently. The mass of droplets seemed to respond to her sour mood, and the torrent against her door intensified.

Nany closed her eyes, and drew breath in through her mouth. Holding it, she focused on a tiny rivulet that wandered down her cheek from her wet hair. The water started to vibrate, then subsume to steam. Her eyes snapped open, and the accompanying exhale focused her power. She was aware of each droplet, and its proximity to her body. Her eyes flared a subtle purple, and she willed the droplets back to the murky water.

The shriek of the elemental echoed in her head. She felt a twinge of guilt, but water elementals were notorious tricksters. This particular elemental was especially troublesome. Most would realize their place, and scurry back to the Razor’s Sea. This one decided to resist her magical command.

The elemental continued to solidify. The small eyes, and flowing hair almost looked real. A strong jaw, and feminine neck became obvious as the droplets coalesced from top to bottom. Nany centered herself, and reinforced her aura. She drew power from the wooden floor, and by extension the rocky land below. The elemental grew hazy for a moment, and the beautiful eyes showed a profound sadness.

Nany paused. The elemental’s lips curled upward, and the droplets continued their downward journey. An ample bosom formed, and Nany felt a flush rise on her cheeks. Elegant legs finally reached the ground, and the elemental stepped toward Nany’s door. The mist continued to gather, and the elemental became more and more dense. The scene behind her faded as the elemental forced light to refract through droplets, and form color. Her eyes were as blue as the sky on a clear summer day, but they reflected like an animal. Her skin was a pale brown, like the trunk of an Amara tree. A simple green tunic covered enough of her amazing body to keep her modest.
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Scandalous Contradiction

This is a continuation of Permanence, but if you missed it, you can still read this. Both parts are still not an official part of Days Until Home. But, and you have to imagine me leaning in close and whispering conspiratorially, there could be an announcement this summer about that… Anyway, these 1,487 words are from the following prompts: Terrible Minds, Inspiration Monday, The Writing Reader, Sunday Scribblings 2, #3WW, & #SoCS.

* * *

Adelaide was eager to disembark the Juniper Jumper. Even with no advance notice, information brokers found their way into tickets for the short hop from Earth to Luna Station. Some were able to purchase their passage on the atmospheric jumper by purchasing their tickets on the exchange. Those that were tardy ended up paying a premium on the secondary market. At least one information broker stood with her equipment at the boarding gate and simply offered each patron before they boarded triple and quadruple the going rate for tickets. To the young couple who intended to vacation on Luna, a delay of only twelve hours was worth is for the exorbitant profit they would make reselling. Even after paying the taxes on their windfall, they still would have enough to upgrade their accommodations and tuck a little away for the next tax season. She wondered how many ticket holders were re-accommodated to later flights. Adelaide frowned at the euphemism often employed by the corporations. It was an offense to language that they would hide their true actions behind innocent words like that. The flagrant disregard for, and the lengths to which they go to violate an individual’s rights was almost an anticlimax when she saw it in person.

Adelaide did her best to keep out of the digital eye of the brokers. Paparazzi, she remembered the archaic term for the ambush journalists. They were like bitches in heat, their tongues wagging and doing everything to catch her eye. They knew that with Adelaide and Erika traveling together, something was going on. Even a year after their return to Earth and six months after the Kerwood Nine stood trial for the destruction of the mining ship they were still newsworthy. Those that cared about such things knew that there were at lease two other Kerwood survivors living on Luna Station, plus both Jeremy and Old Vicky found their way on board regularly.

Erika complained constantly about the intrusion into their privacy. Adelaide shrugged and shared a knowing and sympathetic smile with the flight crew. At least they kept themselves professional, she thought. The same couldn’t be said for the information brokers.

Adelaide’s years of spacefaring allowed her to know the exact moment that they switched from the fractional gravity aboard the Juniper Jumper to the full-G of Luna Station. Most people knew that something was up when their stomachs lurched from aft to “down” as the jumper aligned itself with the station’s rotation.

As an engineer, Adelaide appreciated the complex mechanism that allowed the station to rotate around the space elevator that tethered the monstrosity of steel and Lexan to Luna. Adelaide would never admit it to anyone, but she felt the pull of Luna. It was as if she was coming home after a particularly long contract.

Adelaide saw one of the flight crew poke her head into the first class cabin and lock gazes with her. Her reaction was slight, and the crewmember nodded and retreated to the cockpit.

“Hey,” Erika pouted when Adelaide grabbed her by the elbow and moved down the narrow aisle.

“We don’t have time for a show,” Adelaide hissed to her companion.
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Starfall CH05 – The City That Always Sleeps

[2760 words – Prompts: Inspiration Monday, #3WW, #SoCS] April will be the nitrous-fueled ending to Starfall. All the chapters will be double-length plus. The last week of April will be crammed full of bonus chapters. We’ll make a bound edition of the unedited web serial of both Moonrise and Starfall available for you all in May.

* * *

The wipers squeaked against the windshield wiping away the mosaic of raindrops turning the world outside to a kaleidoscopic – a prism of sudden purity and calmness. Frank Massey ran a finger over parched lips, one hand on the wheel, listening to the pitter-patter of the light rain. Sullen thoughts racked his brain as the van anonymously rolled worn off tires across a city at closing dusk. Unintentionally he slowed down at intersections, weary eyes inspecting the hovering figures on glistening sidewalks purchasing something to get them by to a better tomorrow. No one in a city of six hundred thousand batted an eye at the beat white van with the green swirly letters – “Brady’s Bakery.” No one cared where they went and what they did.

Each life was caught in its own dazzling momentum; some were carried to the megaphone screeches occupying main streets, others to a retreat embracing either Globe or the night at the anticipation of the Nightprowlers. Massey saw this eruption as a pulsating thing, like a wave, heated at the center then retreating to the periphery and again like a storm, fuming, returning, bringing fire to its middle and pulling back. Like breathing, air halted in flimsy lungs while the hands steady the gun and the eye aims setting the crosshair on a bull’s eye. Then comes the slow, meticulous exhale, a pure focus on the target. And it ends with a bang.

The van steered clear of neighborhoods that went lights out at night. That’s where most people hid, that is the ones who didn’t go begging Globe to cure them. White collars got a knock on the door and a polite escort. Other people weren’t so lucky. Shit, Massey thought, no one was lucky. There were no lawyers for this kind of crime, the crime of being born different. Sure, some took to trials, some took to the Movement of Tomorrow but most ended the wrong way.

“The war we spoke of before, I didn’t imagine being physically out of it. I’m not one for getting my hands dirty but girls love to play too. I don’t mind a little blood on me. Instead, we got peace parades drawing even more attention to this and vigilante groups playing neighborhood watch.” Anne’s whispered voice startled him.

He cleared his throat and allowed a glance at her long figure, lazy on the seat, legs crossed, arms tucked into the folds of her jacket. “They are decentralizing Globe’s empire. The more noise they create, the less he furthers his agenda.” Besides you know who’s leading those vigilantes, Massey added silently. She had wanted Joaquin active in this war and he was in his own way. His followed silence allowed her to push the conversation further.

“Maybe you’re right. Maybe I’m used to a different kind of… exchange between warring parties. Lately I keep finding myself thinking, trying to figure out why Globe wants this rearrangement of things. Looking at this world I don’t think it’s ready to become something more, so I can’t see where he finds the silver lining that justifies all he’s doing. You know, for centuries I hated, Temujin and his offspring and their drive to eradicate us and implement their own faulty DNA. I hated the fact that he won. I thought of your kind as simple and pitiful, not worth walking this Earth. Now though… I think this world might be better off with people like me in the shadows and people like you, no offence, going berserk on Black Friday and enjoying crappy reality TV. And now, I find myself in that reality and I can’t stand idly by. This has become like a bad déjà vu only this time a psychopath is trying to supersoldier what little is left of my kind potentially destroying the entire world order in the process.”
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Starfall CH03 – Neon Camouflage

[1100 words – Prompts: Inspiration Monday, Terrible Minds, #3WW, Sunday Scribblings 2, The Writing Reader, #SoCS]

The American flag pin came off his lapel and he left it on the glass table. It wasn’t needed anymore. He loosened his tie with his hands in his pockets. The elevator took him down to the truer world he inhabited, the right one in the making. Two months ago, Globe had entertained the idea of killing Doctor Lee, or having one of his lackeys do it. But, he had to consider the lost data, the fatal error that cost him a setback had been accounted for, courtesy of Lee. The progress was still slower and Globe wished that he had Joaquin in a glass jar too. He was not fully satisfied with the progress but content enough. A super the “Nightprowlers” had brought after one of their raids was a close enough match to the existing assets to boost the system, add to the flow. The children comatose on their beds in their blue room were finally resonating on the level Globe needed them to, harvesting the DNA within their cells with Lee extrapolating it, adding it to the batch. A piece of Bree or so Globe hoped. He would know soon enough, the first trials had already begun. Little butterflies they were hatching pure data in beautiful colors. Globe chuckled. Who knew supers had colors running inside of them? Sindi made sure they stayed colorful on the news too.

Globe busied his lower lip staring up at Kristoff in his glass casket. The power juice would do wonders Kristoff would never see and if he fell asleep thinking he was superior, Globe was half sorry he wouldn’t wake up to a world controlled by Gods and Goddesses greater than him. Globe smiled at the notion of allowing Kristof to behold the divine.

Someone, however, was stealing his toys from him, hindering much needed experiments. Bree was full of riddles about that, riddles that chilled his nights and invaded his dreams. She told him she went to play with the kids from the blue room. The exploration of that dream world was a much wanted side task for him. Globe had to wonder what other dreams she barged into. One thing at a time, he had to remind himself.

Playtime was over. Globe returned to the elevator his mind full of promises and threats. Whoever was whisking away supers from him was soon going to find themselves in a deep, dark hole. Tonight, however, was all about appearances; he was about to go wine and dine with the rich and powerful, charming them into submission. Tomorrow he would play his part. He would go watch Miles Jensen take the needle, a seal to his conquest against supers. It felt good to be mayor.

* * *

The frame in his house, a proud young man with a shiny badge was a frame lodged into his skull, a constant blur in his tired vision. He was jealous of the face in the picture and the face was disappointed in him; the past judging the present. What he saw in the rear-view didn’t fit his vision of the past.
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19 – Negotiations

Cover-RM

It’s been 16 months since I’ve written anything for Victorious Maiden. The recent art by my daughter necessitated I at least try to continue the story. These 1042 words incorporate prompts from Chuck Wendig, The Writing Reader & #SoCS.

* * *

Kamaria sat across from Talib and pushed bread around her earthen flatware. The olive oil had soaked into the rough bread a while ago and it left shiny trails on her plate. Well, she thought, not her plate. She looked across the table at Talib and each child at her side. Her eyes shifted first to the child to her right, then to another child to her left. These last four children now shared a bond with her. Their parents had fallen in the battle against the bandit horde. The pair next to Talib was brother and sister, but the children on the bench next to her were orphans with no one to comfort them.

Talib pushed his plate away and cracked the bones in his neck. First to the left, and then to the right. “I must look for Jezebel,” he declared and rose to his feet.

Kamaria met his gaze. “You’d abandon us?” she asked, a lilt in her voice betraying her disbelief.

Talib sighed. “I have to rescue Jezebel,” he insisted.

The feeling of betrayal from only days before washed over her. She clenched her jaw, her mind replaying the scene of Talib and Jezebel together in front of the fire. “I’m shocked that evil lurks in your soul, Talib,” she scoffed. “Only someone with evil is his heart would abandon five orphans and go chasing after that-“ Kamaria closed her eyes and tried to focus her rage. “Girl,” she continued.

Talib’s lips quirked into a crooked smile. “Evil?” he asked. “Then I guess doing a good thing sometimes means being evil.”

Kamaria slammed her palm against the table hard enough to make the plate jump. The flush that crept up her cheeks matched the pain that flowed along her arm. The orphans to either side of her flinched at her outburst. Talib returned to a sitting position and reached across the table, placing his callused hand over hers. She felt the heat from his body traverse the same synapses as the pain from only a moment ago. She blinked and slid her hand out from under his. She ignored the splinter she picked up in her palm, and clasped her hands below the table.

Her mind again wandered to the time in the Dawn Forest. Talib’s words hung like an albatross around her neck. She knew that Talib was not evil. In her heart of hearts, she also admitted that Jezebel was not evil either. A harlot, maybe, but not evil.

She sighed. “I’ve heard that the Marquis and the Denizens of Dawn are in our tiny village. Maybe you should leave the rescuing to the professionals.”

Talib opened his mouth to protest, but was interrupted by the shifting of their rough-hewn bench. Two women Kamaria’s age sat on each side of the increasingly crowded table. One seized the bread from Kamaria’s plate and popped the whole piece in her mouth.

The other tilted her head to the side, and admonished her companion. “Asis,” she hissed, “manners.”

Asis brushed crumbs from her tunic. She let out a loud belch, stood, stepped away from the table, and offered an insincere curtsy. Her eyes darted from one empty glass to another. She shrugged, grabbed the bowl of olive oil, and slurped loudly. The orphaned children snickered and even a scowl from Kamaria did nothing to prevent the chorus of giggles. Talib even allowed a smile to transform his stern features. Asis’s companion rolled her eyes.
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Moonrise CH42 – No Guts, No Glory

moonrise-standard

[1085 words Prompts: Tina on Flickr via Terribleminds, #3WW, Sunday Scribblings 2, #SoCS]

“How can we…” The dude with knife tattoo cleared his throat and raised his voice. “Why we talking to this fool? He loco!”

Joaquin shook his head. “You fools have powers and all you’re doing is sittin’ here playing counsel? That’s some lame shit! You should be out there.”

The woman looked up at him. “And what are we supposed to do ‘out there?’ Rob banks like the other people with these abilities? Kill someone? We’re no one! And we can barely contain our powers.”

“Contain them?” Joaquin spit back at her.

“What do you think this place is, Fight Club? We’re trying to learn how to control this thing, how to suppress it. We want normal lives,” the woman continued.

Joaquin aimed an impish smile at her. “But you don’t need to do that mama, not when you have me. I’ve seen what others like us can do and it ain’t some petty ass pick and run. We’ve led armies, fought nations. We can do some crazy shit! I’ve seen a guy age people jus by touchin’ em. I’ve seen this immortal chick take a handful of shells and walk on.”

The silence they returned to him made Joaquin wave his hand. They didn’t buy his crap. “What kind of powers do you fools have anyway? I’ll show you mine if you show me yours. C’mon I ain’t biting. I’m jus’ like you earning it hard.”

The teenager was first to raise his hand though reluctantly.

“Put your hand down mijo, we’re not in a classroom.”

The boy cleared his throat. “I have x-ray vision but it’s kind of like a super sight. I can see through pretty much anything.”

The languid security guard had remained silent until that moment let out a sigh. He took a knee and thumped the ground with his fist lightly. Joaquin felt a high-pitched vibration in his ears. The ground beneath his feet vibrated and that vibration threatened to turn into a quake but the man removed his hand. “Can’t do full earthquakes but can sure knock you down on your ass and keep you there.”

The woman looked uncomfortable. “I’d rather tell and not show. My ‘ability’ is to create a vacuum of space around you. As in Cosmos. Crushing you and choking you with absolute zero if I lose my temper. It lasts short though, so…”

Joaquin brandished a wide white-toothed smile. “Imma turn you pussies into superheroes. You’ll be vigilantes tomorrow payin’ back Globe for Miles and all those of us he turned to enemies of the public.”

“You and what right, mano?”
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Moonrise CH38 – Noise Mirage

moonrise-standard

[1040 words, prompts: Inspiration Monday, Terribleminds, Sunday Scribblings2, #SoCs, #3WW]

Massey descended the steps of the hospital building and dialed Anne’s burner. The call went straight to voicemail. This was nothing unusual. After all, Anne had to tread carefully with Major Globe.

Massey sighed and started to record his message. “Anne, I’m going to Harlow Island. I think our mutual friend might have gone there. I’ll explain when…” The ratcheted slide of a pistol was audible enough to make Massey pause.

He heard falling footsteps, heavy boots on cement. The static of a police radio overrode the white noise that was his city trying to slumber. The noise was a mirage replacing common sense. Their flashlights awoke the night, basking it in a cruel bluish light. It was a light that blinded him for a moment, and then he blinked, bringing the beams back into focus. Black, glinting riot visors glared at him. Their eyes were hidden to prevent him from gauging their resolve. Black rifles aimed at him, ensuring no confusion at who they were after.

One of them spoke his voice muffled by the mask. “Detective Frank Massey of the Seattle Police Department! You are under arrest for harboring a dangerous super, withholding and interfering with private information belonging to The Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

Massey dropped the phone and smashed it with his boot before kneeling on the ground with his hands behind his head. He doubted his efforts to conceal his secret communication would survive even the most cursory inspections. He hoped that Anne had the sense to dispose of her own burner.

* * *

At the entrance to the hospital, Silas pulled Anne back. “Wait. And… Watch,” he told her. A scandalous wink betrayed his lust for showmanship.

He leaned against a wooden telephone pole. His eyes narrowed at the scene unfolding a few yards away. Time began to bend when he clicked his fingers, but it didn’t stop completely. It slowed down, so all surrounding movement was a prolonged explosion of colors and distorted sounds. People’s voices still carried in the space between, ricocheting and overlapping. The cacophony was beautiful as it was horrifying.

Silas took Anne by the hand through the cluster of sight and sound and led her up the steps. She caught sight of her friend as he left the hospital. His footsteps fell lazily, the look on his face content. Anne understood what Silas had wanted to show her. The hidden observers were quiet as shadows of ten men fell upon Massey. The time bubble caused the images to jump like snapshots from an instant camera coated with a filter of high contrast and exposure. People moved like ghosts, but they were so very much real only Anne couldn’t reach out and touch, nor warn. She watched a progression of heavily armed men glitch through Silas’s volatile world of living mannequins. One black-clad image left behind a trail of slowly fading copies. At the final stage of action the ghosts coalesced into a solid image.

She sighed, her throat parched. She thirsted for action but was forced to play her role. Silas’ display was unexpected and inconvenient though perhaps she should have considered it was happening since Globe had been so furious on the phone. He couldn’t blame himself for neglecting obvious clues. It annoyed him to be foolish. So he took it out on Massey and put him in the spotlight of a political and federal scandal. Discredit was a tool to divert focus from more than just a rebellious detective and his motley crew of misfits and fringers. No, Anne thought, misinformation was weaponized long before today.
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Moonrise CH35 – Hot Dog Heaven

moonrise-standard

[1050 words – #3WW, Sunday Scribblings 2, #SoCS]Anne played her part masterfully. She pulled in contacts, set meetings, offered a cash reward. They would find Joaquin soon, she assured Silas and Globe. They just had to wait for word to roll through the dents and cracks filling the city. Information always presented itself for the right amount of green. It really was all about the Benjamins.

Silas sat at a picnic table with a quaint umbrella beside an aluminum carport and shoved his hot dog into his gaping maw. His dark eyes flickered along the line of patrons. The stainless steel stand was a regular fixture in front of the lumber yard on Sixth Street. Some people appreciated the wit of Pat, the proprietor. Magnets adhered to the metal sides of the trailer proclaiming, “We cheat the other guy and pass the savings on to you,” and “Best hot dogs in this parking lot.” There was even a plaster dachshund nestled in a hot dog bun with ketchup and mustard on top. Others came for the premium ingredients that Pat used or the friendly smile from a man who prided himself in offering a quick, tasty meal for less than a fiver. A few years ago, the city had even tried to make Pat pay a ridiculous fee on top of his business license by passing an ordinance. Their reasoning was that too many food carts and trucks were hurting the ambiance of the city. The outcry from Pat’s regulars and a local AM radio station just down the street put an end to that particular piece of legislation.

Anne watched Pat pull a bottle of mustard out of a cooler and draw two straight lines on her monster dog, followed by a zig-zag line of ketchup. He produced a pair of tongs and dished out onions, tomatoes, and neon green relish onto her monster dog.

“Celery salt, and pepper,” Pat asked, the hot dog resting in an aluminum foil embrace. A boom box played hard rock softly in the background.

Anne tilted her head and rolled her eyes at Pat. “Oh, Pat, you incorrigible tease, you know what I like.”

Pat grinned and dusted the spices on her hot dog before carefully folding the aluminum foil and placing the package neatly on the table in front of him.

Anne opened her coat and reached into her red clutch. She offered Pat a five-dollar note.

“Meal deal?” Pat asked.

Anne smiled and nodded.

Pat stepped around the corner, and the telltale sound of a cash register sounded over the boom box. He held up a pair of quarters, but Anne waved him off and lifted the door and rummaged around to find a can of soda. She examined a selection of chips and cookies behind a plastic sliding door, eventually selecting a bag of name-brand corn chips.

“How exactly do you know Joaquin?” Silas asked after Anne sat at the picnic table across from him.
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