Published by Nomadic Delirium Press at Shakespir
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Shakespir.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This free preview gives you a brief look at all of the novels that Nomadic Delirium Press has published up to May 24th, 2016. You’ll get a few pages of each novel as a tease, and if you like what you read, please feel free to pick up copies of the actual books for yourself.
By Tyree Campbell
Entry into the estate house had offered but moderate security impediments for the tall woman named Yoelin Thibbony. Encased in black vivar skin, she padded lithely along the darkened hallway that led to the study. She kept to the right wall; the house schematics had indicated four statues on stands along the left wall. The NV goggles allowed her to pick them out one by one as she passed, although they barely showed up against the general background of the hallway. In the goggles, a green line along the bottom of the study door grew brighter as she approached. Now she tensed; the intrusion had transpired easily so far, a sure sign that the unexpected lurked ahead.
When it came, it almost made her laugh. On one step, her sprayshoe-clad foot pushed off against plush carpeting; on the next, the arch of her other foot pressed against something sharp and hard, and she fought the urge to cry out. She paused, took her weight off that foot, and located and picked up the offending object with her toes, transferring it to her free hand. Through the microthin layer of black vivar that covered her fingers she tested the shape of it . . . and stifled a burst of mirth. It was a piece from a child’s toy, a plastic building block, a Lego, of the type found on the floors of homes with children on every world of Corporatia. They never picked up all the blocks, ever. On this occasion the Lego served as a reminder that there were other people in the house, and that she would prefer to avoid them if at all possible.
The woman slid the NV goggles up over her forehead. The line of light under the door to the study, now a mere three paces away, caused barely a ripple in the darkness, although it had been a beacon in the goggles. Her left thumb ticked at the Palmetto in her hand. The reading indicated one person in the study, and his heartbeat rhythms matched the EKG on record for Gunther Middenhill.
She moved to the door, and aimed the Palmetto at the touchpad on the wall beside the jamb. In less than a second she received the entry code: a pedestrian 4321. A tick to the Palmetto entered the code, and the door slid open as she slipped the device into a hip pocket.
The man seated at the desk rotated his floating chair to face her, but he withheld his outcry of alarm when he saw the finger pressed across her lips for silence and the Kreisler Energo in her left hand. As the door snicked shut behind her, she scanned the study, though she already knew the contents by heart. No windows. Three classic oil paintings, two on the back wall, one on the right. The three shelves of a wrought iron etager in the corner bore ancient bric-a-brac. Against the left wall stood an antique oak rolltop desk with artstate trappings, including a multifaceted monitor above the desk. From her oblique angle of vision she could just see that the upper left quadrant of the monitor contained text—a report in preparation, possibly, or diary notes. The chair hovered two centimeters above the carpet. Middenhill’s left hand rested over the chair arm, over the controls there. As yet he had not moved his fingers.
Middenhill matched the hologram she had filched from official records. Several centimeters shorter than her meter eighty-three and paunchy, with a round head, brown eyes, and a pasty tan acquired under a sun lamp. His after-hours casual wear suggested his favorite color was turquoise green, although it did not go well with his tan or his eyes. He had thick arms that were just too short for his body, and facial skin that, at his age of hundred and twenty-two, had twice undergone retrotherapy, although he could still smile. Or frown, as he was frowning now.
Yoelin spoke through the opaque vivar that covered her head like a second skin, in English, in a smoky contralto that might have buckled the knees of an ardent admirer. “I’ll have the cameo opal pendant in the silver setting, on its silver necklace.”
Middenhill stared at her, his mouth open. “What?”
“I’d rather you didn’t tap your fingers on the control panel on that chair arm, Mr. Middenhill,” she said, and fired a yellow laser beam at his lower left leg, just searing the fabric there and the skin beneath it. Middenhill cried out, and stopped when he saw the Energo aimed directly at his nose. “I know it hurts,” Yoelin said softly. “I know you have no security personnel on the estate, so there is no one nearby for you to summon. I know the control panel can alert security authorities in Port of Burkee, but by the time they arrive, which would be ten minutes from now, you would be dead, and I would have the pendant. I know the panel can also awaken the other members of your family, but that would only result in their quite unnecessary deaths.” She paused, and added, “The pendant?”
“It-it belonged to my ex-wife,” he argued. “It was part of the divorce settlement. It’s not worth anything.”
“I am fully aware of its history, sir. But that history is irrelevant to my contract, to this Rescue.”
“Res-rescue? I don’t understand.”
She smiled without mirth. “That’s what I do, sir. I rescue people, and things. In this case, the pendant. I’d like it now, sir.”
“I . . . I have to go get it,” he said. Beads of sweat popped through tightened pores on the retrofitted skin of his forehead. “It’s—.”
“You keep it in the pencil slot in your center desk drawer, sir.”
The air seemed to go out of Middenhill. With a heavy sigh he drew open the center drawer, and peered down at the contents. After a moment, he reached in and fingered the necklace, and finally held it up so that the pendant dangled at eye level.
“Place it on the corner of the desk, and ease your chair back,” Yoelin ordered.
Reluctantly Middenhill complied. “I’ll get it back,” he said, defiance in his tone.
Yoelin picked up the pendant and necklace and tucked them into a pouch on her left thigh, then drew a fingertip across the top of the pouch, sealing it shut. “Mr. Middenhill,” she said, her voice soft again, “even to attempt to retrieve this item will activate the other part of my contract, which stipulates that I am to kill you if you bother Elaine again.”
“I’ll double whatever she’s paying you,” blurted Middenhill. “Triple it, even.”
Yoelin shrugged. “I get ten thousand thalers for the pendant,” she replied. “Fifty thousand more plus expenses if the second part of the contract should be activated.”
Middenhill’s brow furrowed. “But . . . but the pendant isn’t worth more than a hundred thalers.”
Under the vivar, Yoelin smiled sweetly. “Heirlooms usually are over-valued by their owners. But that is not relevant to my contract.” She withdrew the Palmetto and rekeyed the door code, stepping to one side while it opened in order to avoid surprises. Light from the study reached all the way to the front wall of the house, and she could see that the hallway was empty. “I’ll take my leave of you now, sir,” she said. “I do trust we won’t meet again.”
Ten minutes later, Yoelin Thibbony had exited the house, remoted her spaceskiff Sequana back to the estate, and departed from Burkee. Safely ensconced in N-space, she retreated to her stateroom and began to strip. After slipping out of the black full body sock, she peeled off the second-skin layer of vivar, wadded it, and cast it into the recike. Naked now, she stepped to the wardrobe and paused, a what-to-wear expression on her freckled face.
Her personal computer, Abnoba, distracted her with an announcement. “You’ve been pinged.”
Yoelin removed a one-piece terrycloth leisure suit and held it up against her, turning to a full-length mirror to assess her look. The royal blue fabric set off the ultramarine highlights in her long black hair. “Gunther Middenhill finally became curious, did he?”
“Gunther Middenhill did not ping you.”
“Don’t keep me in suspense, Abby.”
Yoelin, about to re-hang the leisure suit, paused. All expression left her face. Her voice, when it came, had lost its smoky edge and was now rough with controlled annoyance. “Tell The Axe to leave a message.”
“He says he is offering one million thalers.”
Swiftly Yoelin slid herself into the leisure suit and made for the bridge. There, she dropped into the captain’s chair, cleared her mind of several memories, and said, “Put him on the commo monitor, Abby.”
A face of hard features appeared directly before her on the instrument console. Yoelin reflected that Exeter never changed much. Even now, five years after she had stopped working for him, and three since she had last seen him, he looked scarcely older. Perhaps there was just a touch more gray in the hair, but the color might have been an affectation. He would not be above combing in some steel coloring to match his eyes, or to lend his aspect a greater impression of experience and gravitas. To judge from his upper body, he had remained fit enough, his shoulders filling out the cobalt blue top half of his outsuit. She guessed he was sitting at a desk, probably on his estate. She could not imagine what he might want, but the fee he had mentioned was too large for her to dismiss the communication without at least granting him a hearing.
“You’re looking well, Yoelin,” he said.
“Yo-e-lin. Three syllables. Accent on the first. What do you want, Director?”
Exeter leaned forward, and she could imagine him folding his arms on top of the desk. “Direct and to the point,” he said. “I’d forgotten how abrupt you can be.”
She doubted that, but made no remark, content to wait.
“Very well.” He spoke carefully now, but with a hushed urgency. “Corporate territorial archives have been stolen. I have been authorized to engage you to retrieve them.”
Yoelin started to decline the assignment out of hand. At the last moment she temporized. “That sounds like something for Corporatia Security assets.”
“Ordinarily I might agree with you,” Exeter admitted. “But there are complications. First, all of those archives have been downloaded onto an unsecured and unregistered Palmetto, and irretrievably erased from our computers. The only records that delineate and authenticate Corporatia territories are on that Palmetto. We want that Palmetto.
“The individual who stole the archives is Manohra Dhu. She seems to have come from nowhere. She obtained employment as a simple records clerk, in which position she worked for over five years. Nine days ago she bypassed security for the information, and departed for Havelox Rest, where we believe she is now.”
After the words “Havelox Rest,” Yoelin heard only the pounding of her heart. A wave of dizziness passed. Why there? Why did it have to be there?
With an effort not revealed in her expression or her tone, she forced calm upon herself. “One of the reasons I left CorpSec was that I wanted to choose when and where I would be expendable,” she told him, and wondered whether his sensors could detect her pulse. “This isn’t it. The answer’s no, I won’t go into The Dragons for you.”
Exeter’s face reddened for a moment, then softened. “I never understood why the periphery of Corporatia was called that,” he said.
She permitted him the diversion; it helped her relax. “Some folks still call it The Sock.”
“I didn’t know that, either. Oh, wait . . . yes, I see. Corporatia occupies four hundred light-years of the spiral arm, with Earth about a third of the way along that cylinder of space, and outlying areas we don’t control would be like a—.”
“Sock. The answer is still no, Director.”
“But why The Dragons?”
Yoelin, who was about to order Abnoba to end the communication, yielded to his curiosity. “It was something the Traders and Locaters and other privateers wrote on their star charts, before the Corporations established their hegemony. It dates back over a thousand years, back to Earth. Off the coast of Europe on the crude medieval maps lay the Atlantic Ocean. But if you went too far out to sea, you might not come back. No one knew what was out there. So the cartographers wrote ‘Here Be Dragons.’”
For more information on this title, please visit:
By J Alan Erwine
The comet tore through the Earth’s atmosphere early on the morning of December 21, 2012. For months, scientists had been predicting that the comet would hit the Earth, but it didn’t. Some said it was a gravitational miscalculation, but many, especially in isolationist America, said it was an act of God. Millions had converted throughout the U.S. as the dreaded day approached, converted to whatever religion would take them. It was these converts, and the fundamentalists who took them in that brought about the rise of the Grand Patriarchs and the fall of the American democracy.
“God has saved us,” Father Esmond had shouted as he was installed at the head of the Grand Patriarchs. Dressed in flowing red robes, Esmond had looked at the crowd and smiled a beatific smile. The crowd swooned beneath his gaze. Tens of thousands of people united in an effort to make a better nation. “Many believed that Judgment Day was upon us, but our faith brought us through, and God saw that we were worth being saved again. Now we must do away with the sins of the former government, and build a government based on the morals God gave to us all. Only with His guidance can we make a better world. Do I have your support?”
The crowd had shouted and screamed. Many in the front row fainted. At the time, no one knew how drastic the changes would be. No one could have known.
Edward stumbled away from the roaring flames and billowing smoke, coughing as he tried to reach the sidewalk. All around him, voices cried out in ecstasy. Each cry coming every time the conflagration behind him grew in intensity. The power of the people’s emotions was overwhelming. Edward could think of nothing but getting away from the scene. He wanted to flee, but just as he was readying to, Edward felt his arm grabbed. Panic raced through him, fearing a soldier from the Guards of the Holy Order had grabbed him. He looked up and was relieved to see the glare of an angry youth. Edward began coughing and gasping even more, hoping to convince the kid he was trying to escape the smoke, and not just trying to escape.
With a disgusted glare, the kid pushed him from the mob, sending Edward sprawling across the pavement. Pulling himself up, Edward frowned at his skinned palms before he began to search for his glasses, which he thought must have fallen off. After a few seconds, Edward realized the futility of his actions. He stifled his laugh. This isn’t the place to be seen laughing. Besides, forgetting that he’d had implants put in six months earlier wasn’t really that funny. He didn’t think he’d ever get used to not wearing glasses. Twenty years makes for a hard habit to break. He suddenly realized he was going to be forty in a few months. One more thing to worry about…if he made it that long.
From behind him, Edward heard the voices reaching a crescendo. He’d seen enough of these burnings to know that the mob had begun to burn the holy texts of other cultures, all other cultures, except for their own Fundamental Christian Bibles. Edward started to shake his head, but stopped suddenly. The action had attracted the glare of a Guard. The man, wearing a long grey wool coat and a polished gold cross, took a step towards him. Edward coughed again and rubbed at his eyes. He shook his head, acting like he was trying to clear it. The Guard seemed placated, but Edward couldn’t help notice that the man’s eyes didn’t leave him.
He wanted to go home, but that seemed out of the question now. With no choice, Edward turned around and joined the crowd, cheering with as much enthusiasm as he could force into his voice as the fire continued to burn. Edward had never smelled a worse odor than the smell of burning books, and he was sure there couldn’t be a more offensive odor.
“Damn radicals,” he mumbled to himself, quickly glancing around to make sure no one had heard.
With the frenzied crowd frothing around him, Edward continued to take furtive glances at his observer. The Guard didn’t seem to be watching him constantly, but Edward did notice that the Guard seemed to be looking at him more than at the others, but maybe that was just Edward’s imagination, or his paranoia. Slowly, the fire began to die down as the mob ran out of fuel and enthusiasm.
Finally, the crowd began to thin. With nothing better to do, Edward stayed and watched them leave, recognizing many of them. People he’d known to be Jewish, Muslim, and Atheist walked away from the smoldering ashes, seemingly happy with what they’d just done.
Do they really believe, or are they just going along in order to make life easier? Or in order to survive?
He walked up to the smoldering ashes of the bonfire and kicked through the sooty remains. Spines of books broke at the touch of his shoes, and the wind carried away small pieces of black paper that had once meant something, but no longer could.
“What a waste,” someone muttered from behind him. Edward turned and saw a man in his late fifties walking away, shoulders hunched. He thought about following the man, but the Guard was staring at him once again. Edward decided to just go home.
The sounds of his worn shoes echoed off the apartment buildings lining the deserted street. There was no traffic. Only the Church and the military drove now. There weren’t even any pedestrians. People tended to stay home unless they absolutely had to go out. The streets also seemed to be getting dirtier, which Edward thought was a good thing. Maybe the first cracks were starting to show in the beatific glow of government that was the Grand Patriarchs.
At least it wasn’t night yet. Edward hated having to see the rats. They’d grown to enormous proportions in the time the Grand Patriarchs had been in power. The obvious symbolism made Edward laugh.
Maybe I should contact the Black Market. I could really use a smoke.
He reached the front door of his apartment complex and stopped. Home wasn’t where he wanted to be. What he really wanted was a cigarette. Even though he’d never been a heavy smoker, it had still been weeks since he’d last had one, but contacting the Black Market wasn’t high on his priorities, especially considering the way that Guard had stared at him. There was no doubt he’d be seeing more Guards in the coming days. Everyone knew who he was, and everyone was waiting for him to screw up, and Edward knew that some day he would.
Edward also knew what was behind the door…a life he’d never expected, but then that was true of what was outside the door as well. Whether he went in, or stayed out, he was still trapped. With a sigh, he opened the front door and climbed the three flights of stairs to his apartment.
He was greeted at the door by his wife, Adriana. He kissed her briefly on the cheek before sitting down at the desk by the window. He stared through the dirty glass at the empty streets below. If he was expecting to see one of the Guards of the Holy Order, or worse, a Charismatic, he wasn’t sure, but he didn’t want to face his wife, or his apartment.
He still had trouble believing he was living in a two-room apartment with paint peeling from the ceiling and walls. There wasn’t even a landlord he could contact, at least not one that would care. Edward, after all, was an intellectual, and thus an enemy of the state in theory, if not in fact.
“Another book burning?” Adriana asked.
Edward pulled his attention away from the window and frowned. He wasn’t sure if he was frowning at her, or frowning because of the day’s events. He continued to stare at her, wondering why he’d married her. She certainly wasn’t attractive, never had been. She had a nose that was too big for her face and a splotchy complexion. He’d once found her green eyes intriguing, but even that had passed. Edward thought he knew why he’d married her. She was one of the smartest people he’d ever met, but that didn’t matter anymore. Free thought had been removed from America by the Grand Patriarchs.
“They were burning just about everything,” he finally answered with a sigh. He knew the real reason why he’d married her. It was what was expected of him, and Edward always did what was expected of him. That was why he thought of himself more as Marionette Silverberg than as Dr. Silverberg.
“Like what?” she asked, trying to smile.
For more information on this title, please visit:
By James Baker
In this time Max Ogilvey and I are a man who had aged indistinctly, without renown. We were re-emerging onto the American scene at a time when the entire male populace of America was impotent; except, as it turned out, for Max Ogilvey. The cause of the culture-wide disorder will receive varying designations, likely a little of both the mental and the physical. The designations will be to account for the spontaneous ungeneration of the entire staff side of the American population.
It would be important perhaps that some understanding of the condition be attained to appreciate the story of me and Max, for it became our road to stultifying success.
The distaff side of the population was flaunting their assets, arising from the purity of their desperation; unloved and lo!, unpregnant for many years. They would be fair game for a man who could get a hard on, that would be without the need to piss. The Max was marching onto this scene.
I was a silent partner. Max was a filthy man. We will use his nom to avoid confusion for his accumulation of multiple personas within the Ogilvey body. The body was dressed in the ragged, vestiged vestments of a priest. It was a long, black robe that flared. He was wearing nothing underneath, for naught was all we could afford for the common bod.
The bod was finally strong at this time, both mentally and physically. This had not always been true. We were now striding onto a stage, into a society that had become frozen while we were out of it into an enforced effeteness.
When Max was only himself within the Ogilvey body, he had opted out of society for sixteen years. He had chosen to forego the tensions of everyday living, becoming a walking Rip Van Winkle. Now we were returning in our drearily rumpled robe.
‘Neath that robe dangled free the sac for the bod’s sperm. The bod had traveled widely during all of those sixteen years. We were in the Crescent City when Max finally re-awakened, something I had tried to get him to do for years.
Our bod was sitting on a curb five feet below sea level. Max was in command and he was holding a book open in reading position. In passing, a young woman looked at the book, then a glance down the long length of Max.
I had enough control in our mind that I established instant rapport with her subconscious. She was married. She was set up very well as in beautiful and nicely tonsured. She felt herself akin to so many of the young women in America in this tenth decade of the twentieth century. She was smoothly athletic and so very sketchily clad.
A soft wind off the delta ployed her fore and aft breechclout aprons as well as the dandling flaps over each of her nipples. As it was for our bod in its indigency so it was with her in fashion. Her scantiness was the latest, fashionably unclad she was clean- ‘neath eye of any beholder.
She was here on the edge of New Orleans’ seedy slums, to continue busy-ness that she and others like her contrive to fill their days. Nearby was a pretentious Ye Olde Antique Shoppe; just for Yuppies. She felt she needed an oddment to abut baby Grande. Her husband was a locally famous pianist. She stopped as a rare frown wrinkled her fair brow. For a second she seemed to doubt her exotic, flaming-hair beauty. The doubts may have arisen because her husband and lovers were all impotent, now she was looking at Max.
Max had not looked at her for he was too absorbed in his book. She had a doubt, so she looked at herself in the cracked mirror outside the nearby barbershop. She fluffed her halo of fiery hair. The mirror was there for that purpose, to advertise the barbershop subliminally and for the vain. She smiled. It was an intimate smile between her and her alter-image. Both were reassured.
Through her eyes we saw the surly visages dimly as they stared out at her from the miraged interior of the shop. The reflection of the potholed street distorted their faces. Even so the hopelessness of their male hunger for her female beauty showed through. Unwittingly her thoughts told me she was unsated of herself as she took note of their spectatorial regard. She was femme fair walking, almost a walking Lady Godiva.
The barbershop quartet’s sheepdog eyes dropped, their shoulders rose and dropped, not purposely a shrug. One said, “In the old days I would’a.” He stopped to figure just what he would’a and another one mocked him.
“Whad’ya mean the old days? Ya’ ain’t past thirty.”
“Thirty-one. An’ I mean when we could all still get a hard on; when my wife treated me like a man an’ not like a chore boy…. well, gol-daug since I cain’t satisfy her.”
Another one said, “We’re all that way, boy; a huge company.”
He replied, “Why?”
It was the question in my portion of the Max mind and I had to figure we would find out in the weeks and months ahead.
The woman turned back to our bod. She mouthed her maundering, “What’s he reading? What a purty smile.” Her lips quivered as she smiled reflexively.
We aroused her curiosity, but she was cautious as she viewed what she assumed was the village idiot. The body was filthy and decked out in its priestly vestments. Max had become aware. I could tell because he was turning the pages by reflex and much too fast. He was allowing strange things to happen to our bod, glandular stiffening.
Sixteen years of habit reasserted itself and he was reading again. She was more than curious as she moved closer to peer over our shoulder. He was holding the book right. She squinted for she would not wear her glasses in public. Vanity was a hard master. She leaned from the waist and peered at Max.
She saw that his lips weren’t moving though his eyes did. He was competent, but not a speed-reader. His near hand moved, dropping down between his legs. He seemed to be…”Max!” It wasn’t often he could shock me, “You’re in mixed company.”
Her thoughts coalesced, causing her eyes to change. Her thoughts touched her groin and Max’s. She was aware of the pleasure of the delta breeze against her hairless…Anyone could have read those thoughts. I was better than most, but still an amateur…”Can he get a hard on?” In the quietness of her thoughts she was explicit. Likely she would not be so in mixed company. I would guess she was descendant of the Creole. She smiled as she twisted her lips to bare white teeth. She spoke aloud in pleasant modulation as though she was in the presence of idiocy…”We women are by nature the keepers of the race’s sexual reality and men are the keepers of the dream, sexual fantasies. We see the sexual activities of our children from birth and most men don’t…” I thought she was echoing Max’s thoughts until I realized she was reading what Max was reading.
She continued in her own thoughts. .”Filthy he is, an idiot he isn’t. If I gave him a bath…? Something about him, body…stop it! My tits are setting up, can he get a…?”
It was easy to read her mind. She told herself not to be so desperate as to pick up filth off the curb…”We’ell I am, but I won’t!” She turned and walked away, away from the one man in America who could still get a hard on.
Max was aware of her as a woman and he consciously acknowledged his pleasure when he had felt her nipples against his back. It was a never mind me. I’d made the Ogilvey body aware of sex before. Max was now independently aware of it. Sex was the best medicine to rout shadows from our mind.
As Max slipped his book into his special underarm pocket, he stood. He watched the young woman walk away. She disappeared into the Antique shop and out of Max’s mind.
He talked to himself…”I must get to California, to the Los Angeles basin to find myself a career there. But, until I make improvements in my circumstances, wardrobe and hygiene I must expect to continue with shank’s mare and now is as good a time as any to get started.”
“Haven’t you forgotten something, Mr. Ogilvey?”
“What? Who said that?”
“It is I, Moxie, Max.”
“Don’t bother. You’re a figment, and I don’t need non-realities anymore. Keep still or keep out of my mind.”
It was as though he waited for me to speak again, but I knew better. I had to continue my policy of non-confrontation avoidance.
I had seen Max getting stronger in the last few years, until he became the strong one. I used to be the dominant persona. He was speaking again as though I didn’t exist.
“Lemme’ see. If I take Hi-way 61 north and west, I’ll be able to cross the Mississippi at Baton Rouge. From there I can hit Hi-way 190 and go west, playing it by ear after that.
“But I gotta’ watch out for those small-town cops.”
I caused Max to turn the bod’s head as we passed the barbershop so that I could watch the envy on the faces of the quartet as they in turn watched the free swing of our long legs. They seemed to be sighing for the freedom implied.
For more information on this title, please visit: