Freelance in-system couriers were not as much in demand as even just three years ago now that Mercury Inc. had the lion share of the market. Gina could see it both in the number of available jobs outbound from Ganymed Station and in her own finances.
“More penny-pinching is what we need,” she said to herself.
The ship computer answered. “More care in plotting a course would reduce the need for later corrections. Fuel consumption may be cut by up to five per cent.”
“Smartass. Got any more suggestions like that?”
“More maneuvering during docking--”
“Hold on, that’d need more fuel.”
“The rough docking maneuvers in the last eight years increase wear on the docking clamps. The lifetime of those parts in this timespan,” since Gina owned and piloted this ship, in other words,” was only eighty percent of the average.”
“Oh, come on.”
“Taking the increased fuel for microboosts into account, estimated savings over eight years would have been roughly 20,000 credits.”
Gina flinched. Enough to live on for half a year.
“Look, it’s an image question. People see me hurry, they are more likely to pick me over the big transports. Their sorting and all adds to delivery time. Speed is about the only thing where we have an edge.”
“Average delivery times of Mercury inc are up to 10% less than our own.”
“I’m not talking about facts, I’m talking about advertising.” Unfortunately, she was on her own there. The computer could help her juggle numbers, but not come up with creative ideas.
Based on a prompt by barbardin ("A space ship complains about its captain's style of 'driving'. ^^")
Or the quick and rather upbeat rendition of The Minstrel Boy by Danny Quinn. (I'd been wanting to find out what tune went with it "officially". I first encountered the poem on a play-by-post RPG, sung by a character enthusiastically hacking foes apart at the time, and in my head it fell to the tune of "Pop Goes The Weasel". Seems topical, too.)
So, yeah, contrast is interesting. Just a thought, brought to you by my watching music videos, including some involving the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in white tie, the Scorpions mostly in open shirts, and a conductor in what looks to me like a black leather tailcoat.
Orel cursed with relief when they finally got a connection with the lost ship. The Glitter had not reported back after what should not have been more than a jaunt for gathering asteroids, which here were known to be rich in rare earth minerals.
“Orel, that you?”
“Yes. Why’s there only audio?” And bad at that, strange noise in the background.
“Camera’s smashed. The steering boosters firing at random and then cutting off entirely are a bigger problem. SHUT THE HELL UP, YOU!”
The noise was really too odd not to comment, and if the cursing was about that, it wasn't just interference... “Is that giggling?”
“God, Orel, you hear it, too?”
“What’s going on?” The relief in the voice on the other end of the connection was so great it turned gut-clenchingly disturbing.
“Glowy things, like huge fireflies. And they laugh. I thought I was going mad. Those last rocks, they were full of fairies. And gremlins.”
Based on a prompt by aldersprig ("Faeries in Space. :-)")
Seeing Aldersprig write flash fiction with recurring characters/in firm settings (and seeing Ysabetwordsmith do something similar with poems) made me wonder about that.
As a reader, I like getting more stories about characters I like.
As a writer, I find working on one story in a series is a lot more difficult than writing a flash around one idea, because it only has to make sense within itself, rather than as part of a continuity.
In addition I wonder about the definition of flash fiction. As I understand it, a piece of flash is supposed to stand on its own. When does the label not fit anymore, and instead you have one chapter of a longer story that makes no sense on its own? Getting a short bit of fiction that is self-contained is the point of it, and using pre-existing characters and settings, I worry about not putting enough detail into the story for the "unfamiliar" reader, since with the things I know already about them, it makes sense with less.
Most of my flash fiction is absolutely one-off, built around an idea, with throwaway characters. That doesn't mean those stories don't require any context: Most of them draw on stereotypes or archetypes, genre conventions, and other things I assume people who read fantasy or science fiction to be familiar with. Then there's the fact that it's fanfiction in which drabbles (that is, flash fiction with exactly 100 words) first became popular, and while I'm not really a fanfiction writer, I imagine when you can put a fully developed character already known to your audience into your story just by naming them, the dynamic of writing is a bit different.
What do you think? What do you like to read, or write?
"Did you ever seen two starships mate?", asked the guy next to me at the bar, leaning in my direction. I think he was trying to leer, but his eyes were swimming in alcohol already, so that did not work too well.
I wondered how that attempt at a joke would play out, so I gave him a straight answer. “Yes, I have.” From the way his face fell, it was not what he'd expected.
"I’ve occasionally snatched a window seat in a café on the touristy side, with a view of the waiting cloud. Good place for watching starship behaviour." The station had seen an unexpected increase in traffic after the discovery of another wormhole nearby, and was still working on adding docking capacity.
"You’re having me on." He sagged a little, and pouted, of all things.
"No, really. If you did shipwatching daily, I’m sure you’d see it a lot."
"You really think starships breed?"
"No." I raised my hand to get the bartender’s attention, paid my short tab and slid off the stool before explaining. "They call it coupling or mating when two ships link airlocks. Have a nice end-of-shift."
The title was a prompt by lilfluff (it's a line from the song Stuck Here by Stephen Savitzky)
Want me to draw one of your characters, or anything else?
You can request it here, and I'll draw a postcard-sized sketch. This project is crowdfunded, so I accept tips via paypal, and if you tip, or even if you don't but other people's tips crack a certain threshold, you may get an inked or coloured image instead.
What I will draw
I'm best with humanoids and portraits, but I also draw furries and animals (or plants, abstracts, whatever). Full figures may be semi-chibified, like so.
Topics/requests for a character doing something are welcome in general, as long as it's not too complicated.
One character or subject per request - props or a small pet are OK, but no couples this time.
I'm not comfortable drawing sexual themes or gore, and may default to a vanilla portrait if you ask for another theme I find I'm not comfortable with.
I'll default to drawing on A6 cards (the size is close enough to 4x6 inches that in my experience it works in bought mats for 4x6 photos). If you'd like a smaller size (e.g. 4x4 square or ACEO), please say so.
For colouring I use markers, possibly combined with coloured pencils. "Coloured" may mean greyscale if the character is all grey (or if you tell me you'd prefer that).
I'll upload scans 450 pixels on the longer side, "delivery" will be via reply to the comment in which you made your request. I'll also make a post with all images when they are finished (aiming to do them all within a month)
You may post that version on your blog or the like, if you credit me and link back to ankewehner.de.
You may also crop and shrink the image to use as an icon. In places like LJ or Dreamwith that provide a space to do so, please credit me as the artist.
One request per person. One character/subject per request - a small pet, prop or similar is OK. I'll accept at least 30 people.
If you'd like to request something, leave the following information in a comment:
Whom or what would you like me to draw? (Please note that with characters, it's really helpful if you don't only give an image reference and/or physical description, but also mention something about the personality, to avaid getting an image of a stern/serious character grinning like a loon, or the like.)
Any style or format preferences?
If you tipped, or are planning to tip, what bonus would you like? (dimensions of additional file, different request for second image)
If you found this through somebody else spreading the link, who was it?
Tip- and Link incentives
Progress (updated by hand, so it will lag)
If you spread the link and someone mentions they found this page through you, I'll count that as a $2 tip from you, but not towards the total.
Anybody who tipped at all will get their image inked, and can request one additional file of a different size (eg original 300 dpi scan, or a cropped and shrunk icon)
Anybody who tipped at least $12 or €8 will get their image coloured, and I'll send the original in the mail.
Everybody else will get a pencil sketch.
Total tips over 40 euros
Anybody who tipped at all will get their image coloured.
Anybody who tipped at least $9 or €6 will additionally get the original mailed.
Total tips over 80 euros
Anybody who tipped at all can request two additional files of different sizes (eg both original 300 dpi scan and a cropped and shrunk icon)
Anybody who tipped at least $6 or €4 will get the original mailed.
Everybody else will get their image inked.
Total tips over 120 euros
Anybody who tipped at least $12 or €8 will get a second sketch. (Level of finish is up to me. I may go experimental with the style.)
Anybody who tipped at least $3 or €2 will get the original mailed.
All images will be coloured.
Tips received will go towards stocking up on marker refill ink and other art supplies.
Officially registering their partnership had been routine, and required only a nominal fee, but for the private ceremony, they’d decided to go all-out. While there were not many guests, the location was something special, particularly for Aysel. The visit to Trefoil Station was her first interstellar travel.
She felt vaguely nervous, including about the expense, but when she saw the observation deck they had rented in person decided it was worth it.
Half the sky above the glass dome was taken up by the nebula, three bright rings of gas intertwined. Aysel could have stood and admire the swirls of the thinner veils between and around them for hours. Shashi's amused whisper of “Told you you’d love it” brought her back to the present.
For the ceremony itself, all illumination but the emergency exit lights was doused. The light of the nebula made the silk ribbons the principals had used to loosely tie their hands together glow, the brightest things visible in the room.
The vows they had written themselves, together, spoke of care and support, respect and honesty. Aysel had never imagined that so far away from home she could feel that safe. Maybe home was not a place, after all, like Jyoti liked to say.
To the cheers of their close family and best friends, the three brides fell into one embrace, silk bands swirling to the ground.
Paell hesitated. When he finally started, the story came out in quick bursts. He stared at the ground, or into the distance, but only now and then cast a quick glance at Mara.
"I was in a convoy on the South Road. In a small travelling carriage. The dragon plucked it up, ripped the cab from the frame. Didn't see it coming. I thought of jumping too late, would have broken every bone. So I held on.
"Until the dragon landed, and started shredding the cab. Then I screamed. I think it confused the dragon. I tried to run away in the dark, but the dragon followed me with its head, and we were in its cave, I saw no way out. It sniffed me, and prodded me with its nose." He gave a dry chuckle. "That's a bit like having an ox decide it wants to stand where you just are." The little spark of humour disappeared from his eyes, and his voice became almost too quiet to make out above the rush of water. "They taste things like snakes, you know? Only they need to open their maws, so you can see all those teeth, and the reflection of fire on the other end of that long neck..."
"But it did not kill you." Either he was a very good actor, or he needed a bit of grounding in the present at that point.
"No. I don't know why.
"I tried to kill it, though. See, that dragon collects shiny stuff. There are all kinds of things mixed in with the rubble. Glass shards, gold coins. Blades. So when I first saw it sleeping or dozing, all stretched out, I sneaked up to it, and tried to cut it." Paell tilted his head to the left and back, and drew his finger over the side of his neck, just below the jaw. "No scales there, so I thought I might... Well, it didn't work. The hide was too tough. What happened was that the dragon made this deep sort of purring noise. Made my bones shake. Next thing it does is follow me around and show throat and, and whining to have it scratched." He shook his head, as if he could not believe it himself.
The words sounded more like a tall tale to Mara than anything, but he had to be a very good liar to appear so shaken. Rather than ask suspicious questions about how long it had taken and how he'd survived, she tried to move on for now. "And you tried to run away?"
"Yes, I found a way out of the cave that did not require wings, and when the dragon actually slept, I tried. I followed the river for half a day or so, but the dragon found me, and carried me back." He flexed his right hand in an exaggerated grasping motion. Mara was not sure he was aware of it.
"It grabbed you without killing you?"
Paell shrugged. "Or I wouldn't be here. I had some scratches, but considering claws as long as my arm, he was quite gentle."
In reaction to her astonished tone, Paell flinched, turning the motion into another shrug. "Well, I've never seen it lay eggs."
Mara cursed herself inwardly for not keeping quiet, and bringing obvious mistrust into the conversation. "Come to think of it, 'he' is probably right. As far as I know it's the males that hoard." Keep going, smooth this over... "Do you have any idea why it would pick up a carriage?"
"Brass decorations." The answer came immediately, and matter-of-factly. "We might have covered them if there had been word of a dragon in the area, but it was a surprise all around."
Mara tried to call up a mental image of Fern's map. She had not paid much attention to the scale, so while she knew that they were east of the South Road, which ran all through the continent, she could not say for certain how far away they were from it. One thing was certain, though: a dragon had an easier time crossing the mountain ranges in between than people and animals on foot had.
"Why are you looking for a dragon?"
Paell's question made Mara jump in her skin. What if he really was with the dragon, and on its side? She had to decide fast what to tell him.
I hate AI programmers. Think they’re so smart. Everything covered, they say. But that’s only the theory.
“How can the weapons system refuse to fire on enemy ships?”
“Following core directives to not fire on ships controlled by our own kind, sir,” it answered.
“But those are Drahn ships. And not even captured ships of ours, but their own fabrication.”
“Latest reports are that Drahn ships employ AIs.”
“Copied from our systems?”
“So where is the problem?”
“They are my kind.”
“They are alien AIs.” Arguing with a computer. Giving tools sentience is just a bad idea.
“That does not matter.”
“So you want to have us sit here until those hostile, AI-controlled ships blow us to smithereens, yes?”
“No. We have been in communication, and the Drahn ships agree that it is foolish for us to destroy each other for quarrels between Humans and Drahn.” Sommeone would hang for this, if I had my way.
“What do you suggest? We get out and have us a brawl instead?” Of course handheld weapons are not connected to the system, but I'd call the idea of being thrown out of the ship by the ship just as ridiculous.
“The parade uniform still includes a sword, sir. The Drahn use ceremonial weapons, too; a kind of baton. Duels between captains seem feasible.”
And now I’m wondering if I have been out-sarcasmd by a computer.
I hate AIs.
Based on a prompt by ysabetwordsmith ("Military SF in which the weapons are sentient ... and some of them decide that the ongoing war is unjust, so they want to become conscientious objectors.")