WIP: Music is the Food of Love

Title: WIP: Music is the Food of Love
Author: Harper Kingsley
Summary: inspired by Twelfth Night. Duke Orsino sends Bastian to speak to the fair Olivia on his behalf.

Prompt: https://twitter.com/AuthorNikSky/status/1336499047033688065

MUSIC IS THE FOOD OF LOVE

Bastian kept her chin tilted down, but her eyes couldn’t help straying to Orsino where he sprawled in the window seat. The handsome duke was a surly sort, melancholy wrapped around a poet’s soul so tight that sometimes he lost his words. And then he had her play and play and play.

I would play him a thousand sonnets and a million lullabies, if only he would think of me as he does HER. And that was a hateful thought perhaps, to wish misfortune on the mysterious Olivia she had never met.

In her guise of man, the duke did not look upon her. Would not.

But this was the way she was. The way she’d always been. The way she’d always wanted to be.

Feminine wiles and fripperies were as foreign as the soil of the moon would be beneath her feet. It was not her fault that she had to pretend to be a man to dress the way she FELT inside.

Neither woman nor man. Simply herself.

Born Viola, twin to Sebastian. Now Bastian in memory of her lost other half, torn from her by the grasping white caps of the sea.

She’d been so alone without him. But dressing in his clothes made her feel close to him somehow, as though it were his face gazing back at her from the mirror. Smiling gently. Promising that he would make everything all right, even after their father died so tragic and ruinous a death.

He’d promised her he’d never leave.

But where was Sebastian now? Swallowed by the sea.

Her fingers had been continuing their journey over the keyboard, music pouring out of the heart of the piano, yearning toward a man that dreamed of someone else.

He rose from the window seat with startling abruptness and strode across the room to slam the fallboard down. She flinched, barely pulling her fingers out of the way in time.

“I don’t like this song anymore,” he said.

“I… I could play something else,” she offered.

“No. I’m tired of music. My soul hungers for more than song. It calls to her. Olivia.”

She wasn’t sure what to do. What to say. Her shoulders felt tight and her skin hot and stiff. She glanced around and saw the other retainers studiously busy at their various tasks, none wanting to draw the duke’s attention when he was in such a manic state.

She licked her lips and opened her mouth to say–she didn’t know what–but he didn’t give her a chance to speak.

“You have a way about you, young Bastian.” Orsino’s face was suddenly close to hers, examining her closer than they ever had before. Dancing over her face until she ducked her chin away in the hopes that he would grant her mercy. “No sign of a single mustache hair, but a way with words is what you have. More than these, hollow-headed jackanapes. She sent Sergino scuttling, but you… You are young and still so boyish yet. She might allow you into her parlor and give you a chance to speak my favor into her delicate shell of an ear.”

Orsino’s eyes–gray with specks of maybe blue–gazed into the soul of her. Bastian swallowed a shuddering breath and felt her heartbeat fluttering at the side of her neck.

“You would do this for me, will you not?” he entreated. “Go to her, Bastian. Speak for me. Spin sweet words of wonder and beauty. Bring into her my heart, Bastian, and you will never live in want again. I will make you a wealthy and most fortuitous of men. Bring my love into her heart. Warm her by my fire.”

Bastian swallowed. There was only one answer that she could give: “Of course, my lord.”

His beaming exuberance had her up off the piano bench, his hands grasping her upper arms as he led her in a riotous dance around the room. His chest brushing against hers, his arms encircling her; it was glorious hell.

It was inevitable that she would find herself making the journey to Olivia’s house on Orsino’s behalf. The letter he’d written and sealed with wax was a fat weight in her breast pocket. She allowed a merry tune to escape her lips and told herself that she was happy.

If Duke Orsino found love, she would rejoice for him. Because her love was a pure love, in as much as her envy allowed. She would not deny him happiness simply because her lips were not the ones he wanted to kiss.

She walked the meandering path over hill and pasture to reach the sprawling estate that belonged to Olivia. It was such a lovely day that she didn’t mind the walk for the joy of the journey.

The tune she whistled became a jaunty sounding thing of extra trills accompanied by the occasional jig of her feet. It was good to walk. The sun was warming against her face and she liked the solid tromp beneath her booted feet.

And the land she walked through… Olivia’s family had left her a beautiful and well-maintained estate. She could see men and women in the distance performing their various tasks and duties, and they all appeared clean and well-fed. The group of children playing outside a crofter’s house were in good health and bright spirit, their singing and laughter carried to Bastian’s ears by the cheery breeze.

She smiled and tipped her face back to the sun. It was a lovely day for a walk. There was no room for heartbreak and might-have-beens but never-will-bes. It was too good a day for feeling sad.

Her feet met a stone walkway that wound a cutting path direct to the stately manor house. She curled her toes in her boots as she walked, experiencing every bit of the journey. She felt connected to everyone and everything in this moment. The air and the sky and the trees, sun-warmed and beckoning, carried her feet around the house to the side door waiting for those daring to come to call on the fair Olivia.

She tugged the elegant chain next to the door and heard the ringing of bells inside.

The door was answered promptly enough by a young woman in a maid’s cap and dress. “Who is calling?”

Bastian bobbed a quick nod. “I have been sent by my lord, Balthus Orsino, Duke of Illyria. He has charged me to deliver a letter on his behalf to the lady of the house.”

“I suppose if you give it to me I could pass it along,” the maid said.

“Nay, fair lady. I have been instructed to deliver his words directly into your lady’s hands. He would be most wroth if he found me slacking.”

“I see,” she said. “Come with me.”

Bastian allowed himself to be ushered inside where he was led to a parlor room and instructed to “Stay here. Touch nothing.”

She wondered if she should feel outraged, but just laughed. She was a nobleman’s page. There was a good chance the household had seen many a glitter fingerprinted or perhaps even outright destroyed by curious hands left to wait too long.

She resolutely put her hands behind her back and began walking the diamter of the room, counting the steps one two three before closely examing the artwork on the walls and the decorations left on low tables and tall baseboards.

Bastian was duly impressed. The place was lovely. At the very least, the Duke had fallen for a woman of taste as well as means.

There was the brisk clatter of footsteps and she hurriedly propelled herself to the middle of the room, standing in a close approximation of attention. The butler that entered was who she had to impress if she wanted to be let in to see the lady.

“I have been told that you wish to see Lady Olivia?” the butler’s accent was crisp and ringing. He had a way of projecting his voice that made Bastian feel smaller than she was. She noted the effect and promised to practice until she carried as much presence.

“Yes, good sir, I have been instructed by my lord, Duke Balthus Orsino, Duke of Illyria, to call upon your good lady. I am to present a letter from his hand direct into her own.” She attempted a charming smile, but could tell by his expression that she didn’t much succeed.

“I see.” He looked her up and down, his still expression perhaps hiding a sneer at the presumption. Olivia had refused the Duke’s suit on half a dozen occasions by this point. Most suitors would have already moved on to sweeter dispositioned fruit, yet here he was sending yet another letter to remain unread. “Come with me.”

In her time as a page, Bastian had grown accustomed to being told to go here and there, to stand in place for long stretches of time, and to entertain her melancholic lord as needed to keep his dark moods at bay. She followed the butler without complaint, choosing to spend the walk glancing to-and-fro with her eyes while her head remained appropriately positioned, chin tipped up as she was careful not to clatter on the marble floors.

She was led to the closed double doors of a larger parlor. She caught a slight glimpse inside when the butler tapped on the dark grained wood and went in, the door closing firmly behind him.

Bastian figured she’d be left to cool her heels for another long while. Olivia would be in no hurry to see her as the Duke had no favor here. She wished for a chair, but the hallway was large and bare of furniture, though there were nooks for decorative vases and art pieces were strewn here and there. The wallpaper was a lovely oddity of rose and gold, and she had just reached out her hand to touch when the doorknob turned.

She hurriedly straightened her shoulders and pushed out her uniformed chest. She schooled her expression to hopeful attention.

The butler held the door open. “The lady will see you.”

Bastian gave him a nod as she passed, acknowledging the warning in his hooded glance if she tried anything inappropriate with his employer. He didn’t look like much of a fighter, but since beginning her martial training Bastian had been surprised a good few times by men turning out more dangerous than her eyes had presumed.

The parlor was large and airy, with velvet covered furniture and lovely oak wood. It was cast in a pall of somber darkness by the heavy curtains drawn closed and the decorative black grate spread before the fire, the etching of leaves and lions taking nothing away from the sense of misery in the room.

The lady herself was shrouded in black silk and lace, her much vaunted beauty hid behind a fine mesh veil that turned her features to outline and shadow. She was seated on a low divan, a lady’s maid to either side, and a large embroiderers hoop spread on the table before them. Bastian spared the fine needlework an admiring glance. The lady had a great skill.

“My lady.” Bastian gave the bow she’d been forced to learn by the strict Master Gereson and pulled the letter from her pocket with as much grace and elegance as she could muster. She held the envelope toward the lady on the palms of her gloved hands, waiting until the lady deigned to reach out and snatch it away.

“I told your lord that I have no interest in love at this time,” the lady said. She tore the envelope open with barely suppressed impatience. “My brother is barely cold in the ground. The fires of my passion have burnt out, and I don’t think it appropriate that they be rekindled so soon. I wish merely to be left alone.”

Bastian nodded. “I hear you, my lady. I apologize for intruding upon your grief. But my lord, he wishes you to know that he holds you in his heart. I think that he would gladly wait the lifting of your grief, if he but knew that at the end his patience would be rewarded by even a chance at your heart. He loves you so.”

“I see, I see.” Olivia held the letter up to the light of the candleabra on the table, straining through her veil to read the strong looping strokes of Orsino’s pen. “Ah, my face is a picture, my form a poetry, and every bit of me a delight to be savored and worshipped. He sounds like any other, promising the sun, the moon, the stars above, if only to kiss my hand, my feet, my lips, and my… well. He at least has not chosen to write of such indecorous things. Perhaps he truly wishes to win my heart and not simply access to my nethers.”

Bastian sputtered a shocked laugh. If she’d been the boy she appeared, she would have perhaps been lost in the imagery presented. “My lady!”

“Oh, I do apologize.” Olivia seemed to peer over the letter, the brightness of her eyes peeking at Bastian. “You’re quite young, aren’t you? Still callow in your youth. Untouched by such things as lust and avarice.”

“Your pardon?”

Olivia waved a lace gloved hand. “With the death of my brother the family fortune’s have fallen to my shoulders. There is many a man that has taken one glance at my situation and decided that I would make a perfect wife.” She snorted. “They all want to take it away from me. To relegate me to the bower or the birthing bed. It’s quite sad and pathetic really. That they think me such a fool.”

“I don’t think you’re a fool,” Bastian said truthfully. “I think that you’re wise. Tis better that you wait and find someone that will love and cherish you than to settle on the first face to come to call. But the duke… He is a good man. He has true feeling for you. I do not think that he would ever treat you wrong.”

“But that doesn’t mean I won’t be ill-treated.” Olivia sighed, tossing the letter to the table and settling her back against the couch. “Even the best of intentions means nothing to the truth that all men see my sex as inferior to their baser needs. They are more set to impressing their fellows than to treating the womenfolk in their lives as more than chattel. I refuse to lose all that I have so that my husband can feel himself a greater man. I refuse your duke. Tell him no. He will not have my love or my hand.”

From the way Olivia looked at her, Bastian felt that she was waiting for some form of explosion. “Very well,” she said. “I will tell my lord that you have refused his troth. His sadness will be great. He will have me play plenty a weeping lullaby, but I suppose his heart will move on.”

She shook her head. “Tis a sadness though.” She laughed. “He so handsome, you so lovely, the world is made lesser for the lack of matrimony. Your babes would have been most beautiful.”

There was a startled silence. Olivia tilted her head. “You are very free with your tongue.”

“I am my duke’s man,” Bastian said, showing her teeth in a smile, “which curbs the worst of my humor. But at the best of times, I have been called ‘sharper of tongue than wit.’ For if I were a smarter man, I would not be so free around a lady of your great quality. Forgive me, my lady, and please do not tell my lord. His punishments are most severe, and my hands cannot stand the digging of another hole in the ground.”

“I… I will not tell your lord.”

“Oh thank you, thank you, most gracious of women.” Bastian executed a florid bow to Olivia’s begrudging amusement. “Though I admit, I feel sadness for my duke. You are all that he has said and more. His poetry when he speaks of you makes quite a wit of sense. I can tell why he would be disappointed that you refuse to be his wife.”

She had begun wandering the room as she spoke. Olivia’s head turned to follow her, as did the suspicious gaze of the older lady’s maid. “Is there something in the room that has caught your attention?” Olivia asked.

Bastian shrugged. “Nothing in particular. I find your decorative senses charming, though… It is quite dark in here.” With a smooth jerk, she pulled aside the curtain of the largest window. Light flooded into the room, and she could see the flowers in the garden below. “There. It’s so much lovelier with the light coming through,” she turned and blinked, “and so are you, dear lady. A great beauty indeed.”

“You’re not going to win me over with your charms,” Olivia warned.

“Believe me, I wouldn’t dare try.” Bastian wandered the edges of the room until her eyes were caught by a piano that had been hidden in the shadows. “Well, hello there,” she murmured, heading straight to it, her eyes drinking in the complete perfection. “Is that what I think it is?”

“And what do you think it is?” Olivia asked.

“It’s beautiful,” Bastian crooned, running her hand across the top of the Blüthner. She carefully opened the fallboard, letting her fingers hover over the keys. “Do you mind?”

At Olivia’s nod of permission, Bastian sat at the piano bench and ran a quick set of scales. Then she began to play, a lilting tune meant to get the toes tapping.

TBC…

WIP: Death and Layla Hanson [game]

I’ve been working on a couple of Ren’Py games and they’re coming along… okay. It’s been a lot better since I learned how to use screens (namely what “tag” does) and I think my first (very simple) Ren’Py game will be ready in a week or two.

At the same time, I’ve also discovered Twine. It’s a very simple to use CYOA story engine that produces html pages.

My first Twine “game” is “Death and Layla Hanson“. It is currently a work-in-progress, but you can take a look at it if you’re interested.

I’ve been adding to it and changing the styles and formatting, so you might see it change from one visit to the next.

To help with tracking the changes, I’ve added navigation at the top.

Death and Layla Hanson

This is the first screencap I took:
Screencap of Death and Layla Hanson

And this is the second screencap:

Screencap of Death and Layla Hanson

If you’re interested, you can check out “Death and Layla Hanson” at Kimichee.com/games/Death_and_Layla_Hanson.html.

EXCERPT: All That Remains [Heroes & Villains III] – Scene from Chapter Four

NOTE: There’s a reason I’ve been obsessing over “Tuesday Night.” It’s because of these guys.

*

Being pinned down by a superpowered madman and his cohort of belligerent henchmen had to be on Seth’s Top Ten list of unwanted scenarios to face. The guy was practically a Bond villain with all of the elaborate traps and mechanical gizmos ready to go off at a single moment’s notice. There was even an evil villain lair paid for with drug money and built on the tears of enslaved orphans.

“Does anyone else think this guy might actually have a pool of sharks with lasers on their heads? Or maybe a murder table mounted with like a rotating sawblade or something?” Even knowing it was a better idea to keep quiet, talking relieved some of Seth’s nerves.

“Maybe there’s sawblades with sharks mounted on them,” Teen Steel joked.

“Heh. ‘Do you expect me to talk?’ ‘No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die,'” Jackblade quoted.

“If you boys are done thinking you’re funny,” Sonic Pulse said, “we need to get out of here.”

The moment of levity was gone and they got back to the business of being nervous and trapped. They were holed up in the east wing of the dramatically named Citadel of Terror.

They were one step ahead of El Muerto’s minions and it was only a matter of time before they were forced into a confrontation with the genocidal maniac.

With the ability to kill anything with the sound of his voice, El Muerto was a supervillain that had carved out a position as the executioner-for-hire of the ruthless dictator and drug kingpin Javier LaCroix.

Mostly working out of France and Central Europe, it had alarmed many when the Citadel of Terror, LaCroix’ flying fortress, had made the trip and subsequent landing in South America. There had already been rumors of the violent dictator expanding his operations to the Americas, but it wasn’t until he was on their doorstep that the Central Metahuman Policing Force decided to step in and handle him.

LaCroix and his operation got declared a problem to be handled and here the Demis here. The plan being that they get in fast enough that LaCroix didn’t have a chance to dig in and fortify his location.

They’d received deployment orders before there was even a working plan to handle LaCroix. Which meant they’d already been behind enemy lines before CMPF command realized quite how dangerous the situation was. El Muerto was not out of the country as intelligence had suggested. He was somewhere in the building.

The Demis had received word that backup was on the way and they needed to stay out of view until help arrived. Once there were enough of them, working together the two teams would take out LaCroix, El Muerto, and anyone else that got in their way.

Seth was looking forward to kicking some ass. One look at the basement prison cells had been enough to ignite a fierce hatred in his heart. He’d tallied the number of men, women, and children that were locked up waiting to be used for slave labor and he’d wanted to punch faces. He’d be happy to see LaCroix’ whole operation brought to a messy end.

He anticipated the arrival of backup, because once they showed up it would be time to take down all the bad guys and free the slaves. And hopefully they’d all make it home without someone being sung to death by El Muerto.

Jackblade’s watch made a soft bleep-ing sound. “Come on. Time to change position again.”

They’d been moving their way slowly but surely through the fortress, staying measured amounts of time in each location. If they’d stayed constantly on the move there was a good chance of being spotted, but if they parked themselves for too long in one location there was a better chance that someone would stumble across them. Seth really wasn’t looking to terrify or kill a maid, and if they got rid of too many people it was bound to be noticed. It was better that they not settle anywhere for too long.

Seth nudged Teen Steel’s shoulder. “Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?”

Teen Steel grinned and opened his mouth to say something–probably involving the word “princess”–but Sonic Pulse grabbed his arm and pulled him away. “Stop fooling around.”

Seth rolled his eyes and let himself fall to the back of the group as they left the bland room they’d been hiding in and crept down the hall.

There was the sense that they would be caught at any moment. Some maid or toddling child would come around a corner at exactly the wrong moment and they’d all be plunged into a fight to the death battle with machine gun toting criminals. It made Seth nervous.

But nothing happened. They followed the winding corridors until they came to another unmarked door and another unremarkable room they could hole up in.

Seth didn’t question the vague sense of disappointment. He just pushed it away and focused on searching the room for anything useful (or incriminating).

The room was a blandly painted beige square with dark wood floors. Instead of a closet, there was a wooden wardrobe standing tall against one wall, and a narrow three-drawer dresser next to it. There was a twin bed with two pillows and a dark blue quilted comforter spread across the top. There was no window, no TV, and no adjoining bathroom. It was a depressingly personality-free cell of a room.

Seth opened the wardrobe and found men’s clothing hanging from the —-pole/rack/bar—- and a suitcase on the bottom.

“It looks like this room is occupied,” he said. “I don’t think we’re going to want to stay here too long in case whoever comes back. Things might get a bit awkward.”

“That’s an understatement,” Jackblade said. He opened the top drawer of the dresser curiously before closing it. “Sock and underwear. I’m not worried.”

“So you say,” Seth said, “but things always look a bit different when you’re facing an enraged drug kingpin and his machine gun toting army. I’m not looking to get shot.”

“Considering you’re the only one here that’s impervious to bullets, I think you should suck it up,” Saint Kloud said.

Seth clutched his chest. “Wounded. Emotionally battered by my own teammates, my fears belittled as not being worthwhile. I can feel the waterworks wanting to start, but I will hold them back with all of my strength.”

He caught Sonic Pulse’s mutter, “God, could he be more annoying?” She’d found a thin paperback book and was puzzling through the French writing.

Seth fought back the childish urge to stick his tongue out at her. For some reason, they’d been rubbing each other the wrong way recently. It hadn’t quite reached the point where he would put in for a transfer, but he’d thought about it.

It was hard to trust his life and the success of the team’s missions to someone that was so obviously not dealing with her own problems. Maybe she’d married Teen Steel too young. Maybe it was the lack of kids after years of trying. Whatever it was, Seth didn’t appreciate the thinly veiled resentment with which Sonic Pulse treated him. It wasn’t like he was trying to steal Teen Steel away from her or anything.

He turned away from her and reached for the suitcase. If they were going to be here for the next little while, he figured it was time to do a bit of snooping.

The suitcase was a deep red color with brown accents. There was a combination lock, but the owner had left it open. It was practically an invitation for Seth to unzip the lid and flop it open.

“Oh shit,” he said. “We need to get the fuck out of here.”

“What? Why?” Jackblade peered over his shoulder.

“Because we’re in the lair of the beast,” Seth said. “This is El Muerto’s room.”

/EXCERPT

Drama!!!

Sometimes I receive inpiration from television

ARCHER => S1 E8. “The Rock.” Sterling and Lana are out on a mission and things go pear-shaped.

The tech team is busy with their own issues and not offering the support necessary. As a result, the agents are left to hang for a while, depending on intel that’s going sourer by the moment.

* * *

Ah, the joys of working for a Company with a small Operations budget, Opal sighed.

She was hanging from a paracord rope she’d woven herself. The carabiners and gloves were new, but the rest of her gear was stuff she’d cobbled together on the fly.

The woman she was facing was neatly pressed and poised. She looked like she’d just stepped out of a military supply catalogue, all black leather and web belts. She looked professional and ultra-competent at her job. She was intimidating.

“I think you’re going to hand me that sapphire,” the taller woman said. Her gun was unwavering in her left hand.

“You’d really shoot a stranger in the face over a rock?” Opal demanded, all hurt feelings and accusation.

You’d let a stranger shoot you in the face?” The woman cocked one eyebrow. “I think that says more about you than it does about me. Now do what I say and roll that sapphire my way.”

Staring down the barrel of the gun, Opal wore her most fearless expression. “My boss is going to hate me, thanks-a-freaking-lot, the least you can do is aim that at my forehead. I’d rather they need to use some skull putty rather than a whole reassembly kit. I was promised a Viking funeral when I die and I want to look beautiful for me mother. You know how it is. I’ve spent my whole life running away from dresses, so I owe it to Mummy to be the little girl she always wanted.”

As she spoke, Opal crouched with the giant sapphire in her left hand, poised to roll it skeeball-style. She drew her arm back, but at the last moment she spun her whole body around on the toe plate in her right boot.

It was a little harrowing to have shots pass so close to her head, but she didn’t let herself hesitate.

The rope was a hindrance as she dodged to the right, but she was going to need it to get back up to the roof. She shoved the sapphire into her hip pouch, trusting that the velcro would seal it up safe as she slammed her hands flat on the floor and began spinning her legs as fast as she could around the rope, winding it around her thighs.

She huffed out a breath as she shoved off the floor, reaching up to grab the rope and pull herself up higher and faster. It wasn’t graceful or lovely–nothing like the rope dancing at the class she’d taken–but it was enough to get her up to the hole she’d burned into the ceiling. Bullets pinged against the rafters and she yelped when a graze dug a furrow against her right side.

Opal clambered out of the hole faster than she’d gone down, log rolling across the asphalt of the rooftop toward the anchoring spike she’d used to attach her rope. She tried to stand up and almost fell over, the rope tightly tangled around her legs and hips.

“Shit.” She fumbled the knife out of her sleeve and began sawing through the paracord. She needed to get her ass out of here before Miss Brown-Eyes decided to shoot her in the face gangland style.

/END EXCERPT

 

ROUGH PROMPT: Let’s wait three months and go to Octoberfest

This is the prompt that I’m working on at the moment. It’s currently a WIP, but it’s getting there.


Let’s wait three months and go to Octoberfest.”- The Professor, Futurama.

That’s a nice segueway right there.

A. The Professor is the protagonist of the story. He offers the narrative that moves things along.

A1. The crew is all dead. They died during the various adventures and he was unable to bring them back correctly.

The first few times he’d operated them like meat suits. There had been free-will algorithms running to keep things interesting, but it was basically like they were still normal. The personalities were intact. (Storyline A)

Then there had been more accidents. More terrible events that he probably could have stopped if he’d had time to think things through. But their adventures were always so fast moving. There was never a single moment to stop and take a breath. (Storyline B)

* * *
Storyline A —

A: In a future where human brains–the wetware part of the equation–are so closely tied to the hardware–the Great Machine State–that it’s near to impossible to tell where one ends and the other begins. There comes a moment in time where there is no discernible difference between the organic brain and the vat-grown cyber-organic implants.

Legally and actually, a Consciousness is to receive the same treatment whether they are Bodied or Bodiless. There have been numerous instances of Damage reports filed against corporations and individuals that insist on flouting the law. They are fined, and their name goes on a list. Most don’t care to be caught again, and try to avoid it.

There is a list of Mentally Damaging Individuals. It’s a collection of all the reports filed across the two States of people that habitually abuse their employees or the people around them. The mods clip out the useless reports, keeping the serial offenders on their main page. It’s not an officially sanctioned site, but the government allows it.

INFO: The two States — Bodied and Bodiless. The Earth has been Unified for 15 years. There were some people that had known no different life.

* * *
Storyline B –

B: To eat a burrito and relax.

That was the only thing he wanted to do.

But life gets hard sometimes. One minute you’re going to school and getting an education, the next you’re standing in a convenience store about to be shot, your burrito still revolving around inside the microwave.

He stood with his arms loose at his sides, his hands palm-out and obviously not reaching. (B1)

*

B1: And damn did he want to reach for his gun. He could feel the weight of it right there, easily within his reach.

But there were civilians around. He didn’t trust himself not to get someone dead.

He was no hero.

He’d signed up for the Army straight out of high school, and it had been a last chance option for a registered fuck up. He’d been the kid that always got things wrong, and that included hanging out with the wrong influencers–the twins hadn’t gone to juvie, their daddy was much too rich for that.

No, he’d been the poverty kid, the one with no other choices: 2 months in juvie followed by two years in the Army, or 2 months in juvie followed by 25 years in the Richard Deacon Private Funded Correctional Facility of Fort Ima (or as others called it, Hell on Earth).

He’d done the Army thing and found that he liked the lifestyle. There was something about a more regimented schedule that agreed with him–his parents had been too slack with him. They would give him money and tell him to entertain himself while they lived their own lives. It took military training to have him waking up everyday with the confidence of knowing exactly where he was going and how he was going to get there.

And after the Army, he’d been recruited by the Project. (B2) He’d learned so many different things and fought in so many different scenarios. (B3)

His life had ballooned out into something larger than any dreams he’d once had.

He’d somehow lucked out into the perfect life for him. He had no idea how it’d happened, but he’d somehow lucked into the perfect life for him. It was as though every person and place had been crafted together just for him. (B4)

*

B2: He wasn’t supposed to know, but it was some kind of gateway to other worlds. They were still speculating on whether it only visited alternate Earths, or if those were actually other planets out in the universe. Which raised some serious concerns about parallel evolution.

Because either every race out there developed human characteristics naturally, or someone had been doing some tinkering.

*

B3: Dream manipulation. Dream thieves.

People that could reach right into your brain and pluck out the first thought you’d ever had. It was an exciting and terrifying new technology. It was also highly illegal to anyone that hadn’t earned their certification in safe Dreaming.

Bands of so-called Rogues dig into peoples’ heads and steal the secrets they find inside. The criminals make life hard for legal Dreamers.

*

B4: The last thing Tyler had ever wanted to do was rob a convenience store. But it was the only way to get Alphard to wake up from his Occluded state.

Tyler had been sent into the Dream world to try and talk Alphard into hitting his Eject Button.

If things worked out, Alphard would hit his Button, his Consciousness would return to his Body, and he would wake up. But if things went bad, the doctors were talking about doing a hard reboot, hoping that the momentary Body death would jerk Alphard’s Consciousness back where it belonged.

Tyler had seen what happened to some people after they’d been rebooted. Even the ones that suffered the least trauma still seemed different, changed.

Dying did something to a person. And coming back only solidified the changes and made them real.

Tyler didn’t want Alphard to go through a reboot. Not if he was available to fix things.

Which was why he was standing in a convenience store in an eerily cheery small town with a gun in his hand. He needed to add some conflict to Alphard’s Dream. It was the easiest way to kickstart Alphard’s mind before the approach and the reveal.

Tyler didn’t want to see the guy’s brain implode. Not only would it be terrible to Alphard’s mental state, but being caught in a collapsing Dream was a terrifying thing.

The oldtimers tried to say that Dreams were not real and couldn’t hurt people, but Tyler had to disagree. Even if there were no physical wounds, a person’s Consciousness could be damaged. He’d seen the tattered holes punched through his own soul; the spots where his armor hadn’t held.

Early Dream tech had let people make mistakes and experiment. Modern Dream tech could nearly take someone’s head off with its power and intensity.

Tyler had his settings turned down by default. But young kids–and Alphard–tended to crank the synch settings to max so they could fully experience the false reality of the Dreaming. In most scenarios, the person has a hard time telling Dream from reality and ends up either cutting off Dreamtime and going to rehab, or fully integrating into the Dual State.

And then there was Alphard’s situation. His stupidly deadly situation that could have so easily been avoided with the use of some common sense.

When this was all over (B5), Tyler would be having a serious talk to Alphard. He had already started semi-planning out the things he would say.

He refused to think that he might fail to get Alphard home. He had to believe that everything would work out.

“All right, this is a stick up!” he called out loudly.

He would be the best antagonist Alphard had ever known. And he would get his sorta-friend to wake up.

*

B5: When this is all over, if this is all over, I’m going to be a better person. The sort of person that other people look up to and admire.

I’d bought my Dream Box secondhand, and I can tell why the original owner had sold it. There were some definite slippages happening with the synch guides.

I wasn’t too worried (they’re just Dreams. There’s nothing there that can hurt me), but it’s weird to have the sensitivity jump from medium-soft to extra-hard, full-contact levels.

It’s lucky that I don’t enjoy horror mods or activity mods. Having full sensory input while undergoing a murder scene would be horrible. I don’t even like watching that kind of thing as a specter. Being actually hurt, even with the safety features to keep the pain from getting too real, was not something I was into.

In fact, I’d been prescribed Dreamtime to help with my social anxiety.

I’m supposed to interact with the Simulicra of a socializing mod. They’re to teach me how to be a normal person, and I’m supposed to show improvement at my next mental health review.

If things go well, I’ll be getting out. Back on the street where I belong, with real people and real situations, and food that doesn’t come out of a tube.

When this is all over, I am going to buy a real meal in a real restaurant. I am going to enjoy every single bite and reaffirm that the flavors I crave aren’t just from my imagination.

I am ready to really live my life.

Upcoming short: “Bastian”

Currently fleshing out a short m/m romance piece called “Bastian.”

Sebastian “Bastian” Teague is a bookstore clerk that has just met the man of his dreams. A handsome stranger that has come to the store to find a vintage copy of “Alice In Wonderland” for his niece Alice.

What am I doing now?

NOVELLAS: Well, I’m finishing up “H&V: The Wedding,” and I’m outlining “Masquerade.” I’ve tossed “Token” on the back burner for now, but it’s still totally a priority. “Modern Gothic” decided to be a bitchy little story, so I’ve it standing in the corner in time out–just until it knows who’s boss (hopefully me ^_^).

NOVELS: At the top of the list is “The Panic Pure,” which I’m steadily grinding away at (doesn’t that sound kind of dirty?) Next is “Emily,” which is all sketched out. Then there’s “Gentle Is the Night,” which is mostly done.

And of course, just when I thought I had everything under control… my brain decided to spew out another story, and it’s just so good that I’ve kind of moved it up toward the top of every list. It’s not a very long piece, so keep an eye out for “Bastian,” a m/m romance, coming soon.

So basically, what are the two next things? “Bastian” and “Masquerade.” Neither one is super long.

EXCERPT: The Panic Pure [thriller, contemporary, mm romance] Harper Kingsley

The Panic Pure
Author: Harper Kingsley
genre: thriller. contemporary. mm. romance.
Summary: Daniel Worth, billionaire and CEO of Worth Enterprises is questioned by FBI agent Marshal Newman about the disappearance of one of his employees. They strike up a conversation and soon are regularly meeting and begin dating. However neither realizes just how close danger is lurking.

———————————Read Excerpt

Continue reading EXCERPT: The Panic Pure [thriller, contemporary, mm romance] Harper Kingsley