Shifting species

Shifting species

Hi, I’m Jimmy Manley. I’m a shapeshifter.

Sounds badass. Makes people think of fangs, and howling at the moon, and rending shit. I mean, shifting species, right? Sets expectations.

You know what isn’t so cool about that whole shapeshifter thing? Yeah, you don’t get to choose what you turn into.

Take me, for example, although you probably aren’t going to want to in a minute…

I’m a were…goat.

Yah. I’m the ‘butt’ of every joke. I get asked if I’m always horny, or only in my other form. I don’t get told to go away, though. I get told to butt out, or hoof it.

My main offensive skill is that when I fart, I clear the room. No, aha, buts about it.

There was this one time in high school, and another birthday party I definitely wasn’t invited to (that’s…well, not cool, but normal), but the cool kids kept rubbing my nose in it. After a week of really unsubtle hints, I also knew where it was being held.

Did I mention my system really has issues – like, Geneva Convention level of issues – with coriander?

So I had a really nice curry that Saturday. Delicious. And then I took a little walk after dinner. They’d really done a nice job decorating the garden. I’m glad I got to see it empty to get the full effect.

Invocation error

Invocation error

Invocation error

Whichever idiot said magic was a shortcut should try powdering bulrushes; I swear I laminated my sinuses with them after the first few minutes.

Error: you have cast an undefined invocation.

“Told you the pentagram was too wiggly,” Toluk muttered. I glared in his general direction. The damned neon error message that had engraved itself on my retinas meant that I didn’t have a precise directional lock, but I did my best to sight back along that self-righteous comment.

“You were the ass who said clockwise, schmockwise.”

Frankly, anytime I actually need the blood of a real virgin for something, Toluk’s the one I’m going to use. With that attitude, no way he gets laid. Not to mention, I’m pretty sure I’d have queues of volunteers to hold him down.

Anyway, the decidedly icky topic of Toluk’s virginity aside, I wasn’t any closer to Frogs in the Bogs. The way this invocation was going, I might just about manage to give someone with a particularly bad case of diarrhea a mild French accent for half an hour.

Past and Present

Past and Present

The carvings on the druid stone read: “When the stone breaks, a flower will rise.”

Amaranthe’s been dreaming, caught between past and present. When you’re a teenager living in a French village so small they turn the streetlights out at midnight and the nearest cinema is ten kilometres away, there isn’t much else to do—but these dreams are odd. They feel too real, and they’re all set in her tiny village, at a time when the time-worn stones of the old church were sharp and pale and new.

Amaranthe dreams as Pierre, when Petromantalum, the place where the roads meet, was the largest settlement in the area. The small church built by holy men twenty years ago has attracted the attention of the old gods, awoken by the Christian bells and the smell of blasphemy, and from the mountains and the forest, the rivers and the standing stones, the ancient magic is rising.

Old and young, healthy and sick are dying between one breath and the next, and the echoes of their passing murmur in men’s minds, driving those left to the ragged edge of sanity. The men of the Eastern cult do nothing but pray to their singular god and call the deaths His punishment for sin.

The son of a legionary and local woman, Pierre is a misfit, caught between two worlds. A generation ago, he would have joined the Legions. Now, with the might of Rome fading back into the East, there is only one way he can fight; with his mother’s weapons, and the magic bequeathed to him as her son. No man is a match for the power of a god, but Pierre’s sacrifice buys sanctuary for the village at the crossroads for nearly two thousand years.

When the first death strikes, a week into the autumn term, Amaranthe surrounds herself with her friends, goes shopping in the city, and convinces herself that it’s poor timing. At the second, she tells herself that it’s coincidence. By the third, she realises that she’s the only one who knows Pierre’s secret – and the only one who can stop the deaths.

What they don’t tell you about biometrics

What they don’t tell you about biometrics

My boss was lying on the floor.

That wasn’t a problem in and of itself; given the layers of security on this station, it should be reasonably unlikely that anyone who didn’t know her would be in a position to report her to the powers that be.

The pool of blood and the missing hand, on the other hand, were definitely problems, and unfortunately those were all mine.

I rechecked my helmet display, admiring the clueless series of green reads. Whatever or whoever was in here collecting body parts was apparently something completely outside our security program’s experience. It seemed over-optimistic to expect that my heads-up display wouldn’t be equally clueless if my mystery guest decided to add my head to their collection.

Happily, unlike my very ex-boss, neither my head, my hands, or anything else I need to do my job are vital to getting into anything important. I’m a firm believer in the first rule of biometrics: never use a body part for identification you can’t do without.

I slid out of my boss’s office, carrying the largest bit of my own personal collection out, loaded, and ready for use.

My name is Shayanna Willow Anstrim, because three of my parental units were dancers. I chose the Special Forces, instead.

Mary Jane, gateway to the galaxy

Mary Jane, gateway to the galaxy

Gateway to the Galaxy

“It damaged the gateway drive.”

That much was obvious. If the chair being completely dark didn’t give it away, the curl of smoke rising from it might’ve been a clue.

“You think?” Ir-a-tuan’s weight leaving it didn’t bring the gadget back to life, although it did clarify that it wasn’t the chair smoking. “Shit! My ass is on fire!”

Kind of a shame. Ir-a-tuan’s species runs to fur, and the smell was more than the enviro filters wanted to cope with. Hard to blame them on that. While he put out his fire, it seemed like time to find out where we were about to land. Gravity’s nasty shit. That thought was too good not to share.

“Hey, gravity gets everyone down.”

Ir-a-tuan stared at me, the morose expression bifurcated by a single curl of smoke. Apparently his sense of humour was suffering from the stress. “Do they have gateway?”

“G-A-T-E-W-A-Y.” Amazingly, the computer displayed a lot of entries. “Ir-a-tuan! They do!” The computer was doing its thing, picking up information from local sources, and a picture of the globe zoomed in. “We need to land here. They use something for gateways called Mary Jane. The best Mary Jane on the planet comes from a place called Texada.”

“Calculating,” the computer said. “Destination: Texada, locality: British Columbia.”

The landing was smooth, and then the ship shuddered.

“They are shooting us up!” Ir-a-tuan’s language skills were letting him down. The computer clearly showed a welcome wagon, jammed up against the landing gear. Its nose was an interesting fractal shape. It didn’t look very threatening.

“It’s just the locals, welcoming us.” At least they hadn’t blocked the ramp, and unlike the gateway drive, that still worked. Ir-a-tuan looked doubtful, but I was too desperate to get away from the singed ass-fur.

“Greetings! We need Mary Jane!”

The two males at the end of the ramp were staring. They were also unnecessarily tall. The computer angle hadn’t been quite accurate.

“Dude,” one of them finally said. “Dude, did the UFO-guy just ask us for Mary Jane? Aren’t they supposed to, I dunno, probe us, or ask to see our leader, or something?”

The computer fed a suggestion to my headset, and I spread my arms. “Dudes! Take me to your dealer!”

Dreaming of reality

Dreaming of reality

It’s cute how people try to break everything down into manageable chunks. It’s like watching a five-year-old doing a jigsaw, and turning that last piece of sky around five times to get it to fit in a four-sided hole.

I especially love listening to them on the science of dreaming. ‘Dreaming is a mental filing system.’ ‘They’re metaphors for your repressed sexuality.’ ‘Did you know that every face you see in a dream is the face of someone you’ve seen, at some point in your life?’ Actually, by sheer dumb luck, that last might be the one point they aren’t wrong about.

I suppose everyone has to get lucky sometime…there’s a thought I’d’ve lived happily without.

Anyway, thank the Consciousness, dreaming isn’t a mental filing system, so I won’t have to face the images that calls up some night.

Dreaming is what the conscious mind remembers when you travel between realities. There you go. The big secret, Guide for Dummies style.

Because the human mind is basically a thin skim of intelligence (very, very, very thin in most cases) wrapped around a consciousness that started out remarkably recently as a kind of slime with ambitions (you’ve heard this story, yes?) – essentially, it can’t contain and process what it experiences. When you fall asleep, you travel between realities. It happens to everyone. Your only solution is never to sleep again, and we know what the experts say about that.

Ever had to deal with people who can’t remember to how to tie their shoes or that they had an appointment scheduled? Chances are good those people are falling through this reality, have no idea why they’re here or what they’re supposed to be doing, and consequently aren’t coping well. (Don’t worry, they’ll wake up – with some odd memories about odder dreams.)

On the flip side, if you’re one of those people who has dreams like immersive films, complete with sound, smell and every other sensation, and you can actually remember them once you wake up…well, you’re wasting your life at whatever you think you’re doing. Give me a call, we’ll do dinner. If you’re one of those rarities, you have the ability to travel realities intentionally. Seriously, give me a call. We need you.