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Fighting Time


“Sorry,” the admiral said dispassionately, “The fleet’s full.” With that, the viewscreen went blank. The room fell silent. The brown-haired woman sat stunned in her chair, staring at the screen where the admiral’s face had been.

Lucy was completely thrown. This wasn’t in the plan. Everything had proceeded to plan so far. She had worked her way through academy like a trooper, class after class, assignment after assignment. She had graduated academy with highest honors. Commendation from Skeever himself. Then, ensign on the Borpion. Then up through the ranks, month after month, ship to ship to ship, until she had finally made captain of a transport. She’d spent years slogging away on that thing. Even her choices of partners had been carefully planned, so much so that on one memorable occasion she had written out the moves and dialogue she intended her partner to use during an encounter that turned out to be a lot less romantic than she had hoped. Finally, after all her hard work, now she had the resume, the quals, the recommendations, even a potential first officer recruited, everything she needed. But the exploration fleet had turned her down flat. It made no sense.

“What do you mean the fleet’s full?” she said to the empty viewscreen. She knew the statistics by heart. Earth Fleet had enough ships to hold its own in a scrap, if it came to that, but there was a crying need for more fighters, not to mention more captains for them. The raids on the border planets kept getting worse with each passing year. It made no sense to keep her stuck as a merchant pilot when they had a surplus of those already.

“What,” said Lucy with rising fury, “do you mean the fleet’s frickin’ full?”

At that very moment her viewscreen came alive with an alert. Another raid. It happened to be one of the border planets closer to her. She made a few quick calculations on a pad. It would be hours before the nearest Earth Fleet fighters could get there. As it happened, her transport could beat them. She had a stock of emergency weapons. She had a crew. She was, if anything, over-prepared. But she would be in violation of at least five different regs. They’d never let her in the fleet if they found out.

Lucy smiled slightly. “If.” She picked up a comm. “Pete? Lu. Busy tonight? No? Swell. ” She paused. Heck, she’d gone this far, throwing her usual workman-like devotion to plan to the winds. “Incidentally, before I get to the main reason I called, you seeing anyone?” When he said no, a little startled ,she sighed. “Ah, well. Anyhow…”

She made her battle plans swiftly with Pete, then clicked off the comm, rose from her chair, and stalked out the door of her room, pulling on her flight jacket. “I’ll show ’em the fleet’s frickin’ full,” she snarled under her breath as she stormed down the corridor towards the lift. “I’ll show ’em.”



“”All right,” Maggie said, as her arm stitched itself together again, “What killed me this time?”

The raven-bot chittered a stream of information at her. Maggie swore. “They’re using lasers now?”

The raven-bot chirped an affirmative. Maggie sighed. She shrugged on her cape and started for the door of her small apartment. It was almost time to go on patrol again, and the bad guys were still out there, like they were every night in Edison City. “And now I’ve got to evolve some new shields too,” she complained to the raven-bot. “Because they’re using lasers now. Can’t stick with guns, now, oh no, they’ve got to step it up to lasers! The idiots!”

Working herself up into a fine bad mood, Maggie decided that the best way to defend against a laser was a solid skin of impenetrable diamond, and evolved herself accordingly. This took several minutes of concentration, and gave her a splitting headache, but at the end she felt like she could stand up to the lasers. “Right,” she said to her faithful raven-bot, her voice sounding tinny as she opened her apartment door, “let’s go pound some bad-“

Then she paused. Her head was still aching. What if the bad guys had figured out how to blast through the diamond? What if they came up with something else? She’d been doing the cape thing for a year plus, ever since the government had found about her superpowers and outfitted her with a uniform and the raven-bot. Yet, even with her abilities to resurrect herself and evolve super-abilities at will, even with her constant patrolling, the streets didn’t seem like they were getting any safer. There were always more bad guys, more crimes, more problems. Worse, she kept on getting herself killed. She was on her seventeenth murder now. Suppose one day her super-ability failed her and she stayed dead? What then?

“Screw this,” Maggie said, and turned on her diamond-skinned heel. She marched back inside, the raven-bot following hesitantly afterwards. “Power down, buddy,” she said. “We’re taking a break.”

The raven-bot dutifully powered down, and Maggie went in search of her microwave and a popcorn bag. For once, she was going to enjoy herself. Edison City could take care of itself, surely, for one night, couldn’t it?

Then she paused again. Maybe it couldn’t. The last time she’d been off duty for an extended period, the Rogue Jaywalker had struck without warning, wreaking chaos in the streets. She’d promised the government after that she’d always be on watch. She had a responsibility, didn’t she?

Maggie swiveled to face the outdoors. “Fine. We’ll head out again.”

The raven-bot powered back on in nervous excitement. “I don’t care if they’ve got lasers. Lasers can’t cut through diamonds, can’t they?”

The raven-bot beeped uncertainly. Maggie froze. “What do you mean they can?”

The robot flashed more data at her. Maggie swiveled back and forth uncertainly. “Carbon. No. Steel? Too clunky. Rock. No. Um. Graphene? Maybe. Erm….”

In the end, she whipped up some spider silk and looped out uncertainly into the dark.



This story is part of the Angel Chronicles, and relates to prior events in Incoming. The characters, however, are new.

“So I suppose you want to ask me why I left town,” Benjamin said hopefully, as the bus skidded to a stop.

“Not really,” Allison said coldly. “Now leave me alone, will you? I have a group. They’re from a British wizard community. Very important. Gotta go.”

She waved off the robed passengers from the bus and lined them up neatly on the sidewalk, conjuring up a bullhorn in her hand and giving it a swift tap with her hand. “Right, people? Everyone hear me? Okay. Hear we have the home of Linus Wistwickingham, founder of our beloved magical city. It’s been magically preserved to look exactly as it did the day he left it, moments before he inadvertently blasted himself into a quantum dimension. People didn’t understand magic quite as well back then.”

“And when exactly was that, miss?” one of the tourist wizards asked, raising his hand.

Allison neatly ignored him. “Moving on!” she said. “Next up, the statue of Reginald Cloud-Pomfrey, the only known wizard to have fought in the American Revolutionary War!”

As the crowd oohed and aahed, and Allison tried to remember exactly which side Reginald Cloud-Pomfrey had fought on, Benjamin attempted to catch her attention again. “Look, I had a reason,” he said. “It was important!”

“I don’t care,” Allison said, ushering the excited group down the street.

“But, Allison-”

She whirled to face him, forgetting entirely about the astonished tourists. “I don’t care, Benjamin! We were in danger from the Feds, we could’ve all been dragged off to a lab somewhere or had to fight it out with the military for heaven’s sake and you weren’t there! And you should’ve been!”

There was a long silence. The tourists looked awkwardly at their shoes. One of them coughed nervously. Finally Allison sighed. “Fine. I’ll ask. Just once. Where were you?”

“I wanted to see the aliens.” he said sheepishly.

“The what?”

“Aliens. There was a bunch of people who wanted to storm Area 51 to see the aliens and I wanted to see them too.”

Allison paused. “And?”

“Ah,” Benjamin said. “I had a nice talk with some Air Force people. Lots of guns. Very convincing. Also government guys in suits. More guns.They convinced me I probably shouldn’t stay around there too long.”

“So you don’t know if there are aliens there or not.”



The tourists gave up on the drama and started off down the street. Allison rolled her eyes. “Next time, make sure there’s actually aliens there before you run off to check ’em out, okay? We’ve got spells for that.”

“Right. Yeah. I’ll do that.”



She started finding pomegranate seeds at the doorstep, and knew it was time. Sarah knew all too well that pomegranate seeds were the agreed-upon warning system. It was all arranged. Some in Wistwick, Sarah herself for example, had argued for practical things like sirens or booming klaxon alarms, possibly an array of flashing lights, to warn the community of hidden wizards that their cover had been blown and the Feds were coming. Everyone knew what would happen when the Feds came. The U.S. government would be painfully interested in a community of magical people with powers unknown, who had not as yet made themselves known to the government. It was the mother of all security risks. And so the feds would come, and the wizards would be carted away to a facility somewhere to be locked away or experimented on or worse. Therefore, Wistwick had needed a warning system.

Anna, Sarah’s sister, had felt sirens would be upsetting in the midst of a crisis. Pomegranate seeds were not only much quieter, they also contained anti-oxidants and healthful vitamins. Anna had reasoned that if the Feds were coming, it was the perfect time to snack up and maintain one’s health while one was evacuating.

Sarah, had disagreed, but no one listened to her. That was why she was the janitor at Wistwick High and Anna was Head of Border Security. Sarah was also known to avoid using magic in her ordinary janitorial tasks, which made the other wizards look at her suspiciously. Sarah offered an explanation to anyone who asked, although very few did. “We become too dependent on magic, and it’ll fail us when we need it,” she said. “If I use it for things like mopping floors, and the magic fails, what if I need to mop a floor without magic? What then?”

The other wizards couldn’t quite imagine how this could happen, so they ignored her. And so, the town of Wistwick ended up with a warning system of pomegranate seeds.

Sarah was allergic to pomegranate seeds, something else no one had asked her about. Nonetheless, she knew what they meant when she saw them neatly lined up on her doorstep. She snapped on a plastic glove from her janitorial supply bag, then scooped up the seeds from the step and said a quick teleportation spell. In an instant she found herself on the outskirts of Wistwick, standing on a low grassy rise just outside the school she had spent so many hours cleaning. Before her, a caravan of SUVs rumbled over the fields towards the town. Hardly anyone in Wistwick seemed to have noticed them yet. Then lights flashed on and she heard a distant scream. Evidently someone had woken up to the danger.

Sarah sighed. She flung the pomegranate seeds up in the air. “Townicus vanisho!” she shouted, hoping she’d gotten the words right. Fortunately, she had. Wistwick and all its inhabitants disappeared in a flash, relocating neatly two states over. The Feds had no idea what had happened, which led to a great many bewildered after-action reports and even a Congressional hearing which went nowhere. Anna, meanwhile, insisted her warning system didn’t need changing. “It worked, didn’t it?”

Sarah, and a number of the townspeople this time, ignored her.

When Plans Go Awry


Note: This story follows on from last week’s Wings and Magic.

In my defense, it was a brilliant idea at the time. When you’re hidden in a community of wizards in midwestern North America, your entertainment options are, y’know, limited. We learn invisibility and teleportation spells practically from the moment we first pick up a wand. Easy stuff, right? I just zap myself out somewhere, save some poor innocent sap, zap myself back. No harm done.

It almost worked, too! I saved the girl, and got to do it in front of an angel too. Showy winged jerks with their shiny halos and all. Blasted some sharks to oblivion then zapped back home with no one the wiser. Again, no harm done.

Then that night I got a call from Candy. Candy’s my sorceress girlfriend who runs the counter at the convenience store. We only have the one, on the highway that runs through town. We use it as a front for the normals so they don’t suspect the whole wizard thing. In case they see something funny, they usually say something to Candy, casual conversation like, and then she does a quick memory wipe along with the Snickers bars.

Anyhow, Candy’s also a news junkie, hanging out in the convenience store chatting up normals all day as she does. So she was watching TV that night, and that was how she knew. Next thing I know, I’m getting a buzz on the crystal ball. “Hey,” Candy says. “You remember that thing we talked about? How you were going to sneak off and play superhero?”


“You remember the part where I said you really shouldn’t do it because you’re almost certain to get caught, what with all the social media and phones and everything?”


“And you remember where you said you absolutely positively weren’t going to do it?”


“You did it, didn’t you.”

I review what happened, sure I’d taken all precautions. “Okay, yeah, but I made myself invisible, I used a fake name-“

“You used Squalulus, right?”

“Yeah, well, it sounds impressive, and none of the normals know Latin anymore anyway!”

“Passing over that, let me ask you this,” Candy says. “Did you do a memory wipe?

I pause. “…Ah. No.”

“Well. Guess what. She remembered you. And she caught the thing on her phone. And, oh yeah, you identified yourself and Wistwick by name, so now the whole government’s out looking for us. You brought in the Feds. Way to go, genius.”

Suddenly I have a feeling this is going to put a damper on our relationship. “Look, I can still fix it,” I say. “I can find the girl, wipe her memory, maybe they’ll think it was all a big mistake.”

Candy’s voice changes in the crystal ball. “Maybe not. A whole bunch of SUVs just pulled up in the parking lot. And I don’t think they want Snickers bars.”

Suddenly the crystal ball cuts out. I go for my wand, just as I hear a siren in the distance. It looks like Wistwick’s anonymity just went all to heck.

Wings and Magic

Image courtesy of Jared Rice at Unsplash .

Janey lay blissfully stretched out beneath the sun, completely unaware that she was in mortal danger as sharks circled hungrily beneath her. Fortunately, her guardian angel was up to the mark. With a dramatic flourish, Caitlyn drew her shining sword, unfurled her angelic wings, and prepared to dive-bomb the sharks and deliver some righteous wrath upon them for daring to threaten her charge.

To her surprise, she never got the chance. A blinding bolt of lightning whooshed past her, and and one of the sharks exploded in a blast of steam. Janey nearly fell into the ocean in shock. “No worries, ma’am!” a tremendous voice boomed. “I’m here to rescue you!”

Caitlyn, very much annoyed, looked around for the source of the voice, but saw nothing except for a vague ripple in the air close by. She quickly realized what this had to mean. “Magic,” she sighed. “Wonderful.”

“Look,” she said to the ripple, “I’m already rescuing her! I’m her guardian angel, I have dibs! And what kind of an idiot are you, shooting lightning bolts at the ocean? It’s water, genius. Water and electricity don’t mix!”

“I am Squalulus!” boomed the voice. “Mightiest wizard of the hidden community of Wistwick!”

Caitlyn’s eyebrow arched. Being an angel, she knew her Latin. “Squalulus? Doesn’t that mean Baby Shark?”

“…yes,” said the voice, and suddenly it was much less resounding. “Yes. It does. But-“

“All right, Baby Shark, I know you’re being invisible because you’re a wizard and you think it’s cool and stuff, but playtime’s over,” Caitlyn cut in. “Show yourself.”

“Why should I?” sulked the voice. “I’m the mightiest-“

“Wizard of Wistwick, yeah, heard you the first time. I should be impressed? I never even heard of it.”

“We’re a hidden community of wizards. You’re not supposed to hear of us. Kind of the point.”

Now both Caitlyn’s eyebrows arched. “Ah. And you’re out here trying to electrocute my girl because….”

“ bored. With the hiding.”

“Ah. Grow up, Baby Shark. It’s the way the world works. You get bored sometimes. I’m an angel. I’ve been around for millennia. I was in Angel Choir for three whole centuries. Ever try singing the same part in the same song for an entire decade? It gets boring. You deal. Now how about you magic yourself home or whatever and let me get back to saving my-“

Janey screamed from below. The surviving sharks, paying no attention to Caitlin’s speech above, had decided to go for the kill. There was a flash and a bang, and a very confused Janey found herself surrounded by a cloud of butterflies that had once been sharks.

“You were saying?” said the wizard, sounding distinctly more smug.

“Shut up,” said Caitlyn.

A Baroque Relationship


Image by Ryan McGuire at gratisography

“This can’t be happening, this just can’t be happening!Sherry moaned as she fled past the concert pianist in the park. Why there was a pianist in the park on that Saturday afternoon she didn’t know and was in no mood to ask. Her cell phone was still buzzing with the latest in a string of texts from her most recent date, one Ryan. Things had been going well, and Sherry had even thought they might be getting serious. Then, that morning, they had gone out for breakfast. She had inadvertently forgotten to take her acid reflux meds, had eaten a bit too much waffle, and had proceeded to throw up said waffle all over Ryan’s nicely creased khakis. Sherry was convinced their relationship was over.

She fled on, trying not to think about the shocked look on his face or the lingering smell of waffle sick, ignoring the piano melodies wafting through the park. She was ignoring a good deal else as well, which was why she didn’t see the old man peacefully sipping his tea until she crashed headlong right into him.

“Oh my God!” Sherry yelped. “OhmyGodohmyGodohmyGod are you okay?”

She had said this on instinct, half expecting that the old man would’ve been knocked sprawling, maybe even broken a hip. Out of the corner of her eye she could see some guy snapping pictures, presumably of the pianist, and it would be just her luck he would’ve caught her too, and her imagination was already spinning out a whole tale in which she was identified and arrested for battery and the old man sued her for millions and she died poverty-stricken and alone and-“

“I’m fine,” said the old man, who had decidedly not been knocked sprawling. “I went through the war. Takes a lot more than that to knock me down. Name’s Alvin.”

“I’m Sherry,” she said. “I’m so sorry, it’s just, I was distracted, really bad day, I threw up all over my boyfriend Ryan’s khakis this morning.

“That’s rough,” Alvin said. “Same thing happened to me, sort of. I was out at dinner with a nice girl. Again, back during the war. Harriet, I think. Real fancy French restaurant. Thought I’d be fancy and try something new. Turns out I was allergic. Puked all over her nice dress. Kinda took the fun out of the date.”

“Yeah,” Sherry said ruefully. “I can see that.”

They fell silent, listening to the concert pianist playing happily and obliviously away. He had been in the minors for a while; now he seemed to have shifted into something more upbeat.

“So…” Sherry said at last. “Did it work out for you?”

“Eventually,” Alvin said. “Married her a year later. We’ve been together since.”

“You think I should try again?”

“I would. If he’s worth it, he’ll understand.”

Sherry looked down at her phone, and the texts she hadn’t checked yet. She smiled. “I think maybe he does. It looks like he wants another date.”

“Good luck,” Alvin said. “Maybe skip breakfast, though?”

“Maybe we should. There’s always this guy.” Sherry gestured to the pianist. “Maybe he takes reservations?”

Myna Chang

Dinosaurs. Robots. Kung Fu.


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