Browsing Category

K23 Side Story

Fiction K23 Side Story

K23 Side Story: An Unnatural Love

Warning the following story deals with mature sexual content. Reader discretion is advised.

Out of all the sick, twisted individuals in New Delta, the Deltan Adult Female Brac’tai Love Association, or DAFBLA, had to be near the bottom in Private Detective Felicita Johnson’s estimation. She investigated sex crimes and while she put away individuals who were arguably far worse than DAFBLA, t took advantage of the naïve members of a species not even in the same phylum.

Brac’tai were harmless tentacle creatures that didn’t reproduce like any other creature in Terrall; it was hard to even call their mating practices “sexual.” The process was the exact opposite of how most people assumed it was. Despite that, perverted women preyed on them for their own sexual gratification by making Brac’tai think they were playing “harmless games.” Despite being very smart creatures, hominid sexuality was something they could never understand.

DAFBLA had been around for decades, but law enforcement could never convict them of sex crimes. It was hard to argue in front of Legaltron that what the women were doing was rape, since the Brac’tai were willing, if clueless, participants. Then DAFBLA started purchasing ads on walkway screens in order to recruit new converts at the DAFBLA headquarters in Tower S-13.

This was law enforcement’s chance; DAFBLA was violating prostitution laws. Prostitution was only legal in the Red Light Tower, Tower S-17.  This was not because of moral objections to prostitution, but rather to ensnare the criminal elements who invariably controlled much of it, legal or not. That was done by charging offenders with solicitation for prostitution outside of the Red Light Tower. In many cases, prostitutes would meet their clients in the tower and leave to go elsewhere, which was a crime. Numerous pimps had gone to the Penitentiary because of it.

Now Felicitia had her opportunity. She filed criminal charges with Legaltron, the super computer that acted as New Delta’s court system.  A court date was set for 12/24/10020 at 11:00 in Courtroom D in Legaltron Tower, Tower R-18.

“Now hearing Johnson vs. DAFBLA,” Legaltron’s voice spoke over the loudspeaker. In the front was a giant screen with usual computerized judge and exhibit sections. “Speaking for the Defendants is Srintella Casbren. Both sides will present opening remarks during which there will be no objections from either side.”

Felicita and Strintella sat at tables on opposite sides of the main aisle. Srintella was a very high priced Deltan elf lawyer, pretty and dressed in a power suit. The reason why she was defending them was because she was a member herself. Sitting next to her was DAFBLA’s president Leonor Cummings. She was a fat, middle aged human with terrible skin who had to have more problems getting men to screw her then ogre females did. Not even ogre males would touch her.

Sitting next to Felicita was her assistant, a young human female named Bella Goslen.

Behind them in the galleries, were dozens of DAFBLA hominid members, of varying races, ages and attractiveness.

Felicita would go first. She stood. “My case is very simple. DAFBLA is a prostitution ring that operates inside their headquarters in Tower S-13. Their ads are little more than solicitations for hominid females to pay to have sex with Brac’tai, who themselves are essentially DAFBLA’s slaves. The evidence I will present will be simple and fact-based. They are soliciting for prostitution outside of the Red Light Tower. Nothing more, nothing less.”

Felicitia sat. There were boos and jeers from the audience.

Next it was Strintella’s turn. She stood and began to pace around the front of the courtroom as she spoke. “The Deltan Adult Female Brac’tai Love Association is about love between an adult hominid female and a Brac’tai. The plaintiff would have you believe that Brac’tai cannot feel sexual love. They can. DAFBLA is simply a dating service that pairs up women and Brac’tai for a relationship of exploration. The ads we ran were really no different than other dating services. The dues women pay are merely administrative. Furthermore, we will show that Ms. Johnson is after us because she has an agenda. She is unfairly persecuting us for practicing alternative sexualities.” The audience clapped as she sat.

“How are we going to beat that?” Bella whispered. “She’s not wrong.”

“Don’t worry,” Felicitia said. “Trust me.”

“It is now time for formal arguments and evidence presentation,” Legaltron said. “Plaintiffs will go first. Objections are now allowed.”

Felicita stood. “I would like to call Leonor Cummings to the witness stand!” There was murmuring as Leonor and Strintella debated intensely. There was nothing Strintella could do to stop her from calling Leonor.

A chair on a platform raised from the floor front and center. Leonar got up, went to the platform and sat down.

Felicita stood in front of her. “Ms. Cummings, I have one question for you: How do Brac’tai reproduce?”

“Objection! Question is irrelevant!” Strintella screamed.

“Objection overruled!” Legaltron replied. “Relevance has yet to be determined. Witness must answer question.”

“Umm… well… A male Brac’tai sticks a tentacle into—“

“Wrong! If you had bothered to learn anything about Brac’tai beyond how to get them to serve your own sexual fantasies, you would know how they mate!” Felicita pointed at the screen. “I present exhibit A, a video taken in the Terrillwyn of a male and a female Brac’tai mating!”

The room darkened and a video appeared of the screen. A male and a female floated a few feet away from each other in a slow moving jungle stream. They looked completely identical with six arm tentacles, four foot tentacles, two eye tentacles and large gaping mouths. The male spit white goop into the water. The female spit greyish goop into the water.  Then both Brac’tai stayed still and watched the goop as it melded and congealed. The video sped up and showed a tiny Brac’tai a few inches in a diameter forming out of the substances. When the Brac’tai was fully formed with fully working eyes, it let out a high-pitched meep and both parents swam off in opposite directions since the tiny Brac’tai was fully self-sufficient. Fortunately for the rest of Terrall, while the Brac’tai were prolific breeders, their young were easy prey for aquatic predators.

The lights came back on as the entire DAFBLA contingent sat stunned.

“Ms. Cummings,” Felicita said, “you clam that DAFBLA is a dating service, that you are exploring the love between a hominid female and a Brac’tai. But how can you claim it’s mutual when you can clearly see that Brac’tai quantify sexuality in a completely different manner? Brac’tai certainly aren’t getting sexual gratification out of it. They aren’t capable of that. Therefore, DAFBLA cannot be about love. It is a merely a way for women to find sexual release and therefore is a prostitution service. The women are paying for the opportunity to meet and screw Brac’tai.”

“Objection!” Strintella screamed at the top of lungs, tears running down her cheeks. “The Brac’tai aren’t paid!”

“Objection sustained! Plaintiff must prove the Brac’tai receive material benefits from DAFBLA. Unless Plaintiff has more questions, witness can return to her seat.” Lenora scurried back to the defendant’s corner.

Felicitia smiled. “I present exhibit B, a Biogenomics invoice dated 10/15/10020. It’s for a delivery of five thousand gallons of nutritional fluid, plus three resting tanks, to DAFBLA headquarters. This delivery date corresponds to the date three more Brac’tai became ‘available’ in addition to the ten they already had.”

“Objection! Exhibit is a forgery!”

Both Felicita and Bella burst out laughing.

“Objection overruled!” Legaltron said. “Defendants have no merit on which to base this claim due to document being verified by Biogenomics.”

“The defense would like to change its plea to guilty,” Strintella sobbed.

“Plea change accepted. What punishment do the plaintiffs seek?”

“Complete disbanding of DAFBLA, your honor,” Felicita said. “The Brac’tai under their employment will be free to do as they please.”

“Do the defendants wish to contest this?”  Legaltron asked.

Strinella hung her head low. “No.”

And Felicita had won a stunning but easy victory. All she really did was show them their delusions and the defense crumbled. Sure, some women would continue to prey on Brac’tai for selfish sexual gratification, but the organization itself was finished and its Brac’tai slaves free.

Good riddance.

Read more side stories!

 

Fiction K23 Side Story

K23 Side Story: Sandworm Rodeo

Yes, this was an actual story!

This story is what spawned that cover!

 

Payol Chincrusher was going to die. The orc was dehydrated and standing in 110-degree heat a few hundred yards from the Meran Ocean, a vast body of water which bordered the Alamaro Wastes. He stumbled over the flat burning sand and collapsed.

This was what happened when you screwed over the Mol Borang, a large hijacking ring that stole millions of credits worth of Barrenlands ore every year. He snitched on them after his bosses refused to give him a fair share, letting the powers that be know when a major heist was planned. Dozens of Mol Borang were killed. In return, the Mol Borang dumped him in the Wastes to die, a far more insidious death than just shooting him.

As his consciousness began to fade, he noticed something odd. There were dozens of eye tentacles poking up a few inches above the sand in a long line parallel to the shore. Payol instantly knew what they belonged to: Brac’tai, the amphibious round tentacle things that spawned in Elemchi’s waterways and then drifted around the world, wherever the ocean currents would take them. A bunch always ended up in New Delta, working for Ashram-Uriah but many never did.

Despite where they were, these Brac’tai were very much alive, as every eye was focused squarely on him.

He was saved.

Brac’tai were living water filters, able to survive in all but the most polluted waterways, their bodies filtering everything but necessary nutrients. Unfortunately for most city-states, using Brac’tai to filter their water was impractical and they would need millions to make any serious difference.

“Help me,” Payol moaned.

A sandy tentacle came out of the ground, wrapped around Payol, and a brac’tai pulled itself up so that its large gaping mouth was flat with the ground, becoming a goblet of cool water, which the brac’tai sponged in. This would be highly embarrassing if anyone saw him, but life was life. He drank.

Then Payol notice the sand that shifted upwards with the brac’tai was wet. This made sense being so close to the water that he could hear the drone of the ocean. Being buried in the sand must have let them gather and conserve water while their skin let them breathe. Still, what they were doing here was somewhat of a mystery. There was nothing here.

The answer came when the ground began to shake and everyone, Bac’tai and orc alike, began to rise out of the sand to massive cheers. The Brac’tai had attached themselves to bumps on the skin of the Alamaro’s sole natural inhabitant: sandworms. Sandworms were hundreds of feet long and slid over and beneath the sand, living off microbes in the sand. They were what made the Alamaro Wastes uninhabitable everywhere but the City of Sands. This was due to the sandworms being unable to pass through rock, a fact which also made sure the worms stayed out of the rest of Hominia.

As the worm rose, the Brac’tai that had saved Payol turned around, and Parol held on for dear life.

He saw that they were towards the front of the worm, where its large gaping mouth was located. Its mouth contained several teeth, which loosened the packed sand at deeper depths for easier digestion. The ingested sand would travel through the worm’s giant stomach and would be expelled out the animal‘s rear end. While they weren’t carnivorous creatures, standing in a worm’s way meant you’d be swallowed, digested and expelled.

The sandworm, once it had surfaced, tilted itself upwards and then slammed back down, to even louder cheers.

Payol began to rock as the worm contracted and relaxed, pulling itself along the ground, the bumps on its flesh giving it traction on the fine sand. The Brac’tai began to slap the worm’s rough skin, causing it to move faster. The rocking turned into a constant vibration as it accelerated.

The Brac’tai then pulled at once to the right and the sandworm turned inland. The wind was now beginning to rush against Payol’s face as the sandworm reached speeds so fast the front of the worm lifted off the sand as it traveled.

The Brac’tai bounced and the sandworm dived into the sand. Payol shut his eyes and held his breath as the sand tore his soaked clothes off his body. His thick orc hide stayed intact, clutching the cool slimy Brac’tai even tighter.

The Brac’tai leaned back and the sandworm rushed up and launched into the air. At the apex the sandworm turned down. For a split-second, Payol was weightless, floating in the air. A rush went to his head.

He began to cry out in joy with the Brac’tai as the worm dived back into the sand, and then launch again.

Up and down, up and down they went, over and over again in an exhilarating ride. How long this lasted he didn’t know, but the ride eventually ended and the worm sank into the sand far enough that Payol was back on the sand.

The City of Sands glistened in the afternoon sun, the worm as close as it would go.

Payol patted the Brac’tai. “Thank you.” They all chirped.  Payol stood up and walked a few feet. Then the sandworm began to rise back up as the brac’tai waved goodbye.

The sand began to burn and Payol dashed towards civilization, food and clothes. The sandworm turned around, taking the Brac’tai back towards the ocean. They would probably just soak up more water and go for another ride or two before heading back into the oceans, departing for other ports of call.

As much Payol wanted to stay with them, he had other things to do, like deal with the Mog Boral and maybe start a business sending tours on sandworm rides.

As he reached the City, an enormous metal box, Payol dismissed the latter idea.

The expense from lost clothes would probably put him out of business.

Fiction K23 Side Story

K23 Side Story: Finality

Every time the clockwork gear clicked in the clock on the mantel along the wall in his study, Alvar Tanner’s heart skipped a beat and his trepidation rose.

14:25:37.

14:25:38.

14:25:39.

His study was silent. He had sent his family away. He wanted to be alone.

14:25:44.

14:25:45.

14:25:46.

The plush armchair he sat in was no longer comforting. His clothes were soaked with sweat.

14:25:58.

14:25:59.

14:26:00.

Four more minutes!

The seconds were counting up to 14:30:00, when he would reach one hundred years and a day…when his time would finally come to an end. He was in great shape at one hundred, looking like he was in his early forties.

That was all thanks to the arcane age-extending treatments he’d paid through the nose for. Every year since his late-twenties, a mage would say a few incantations, inject Alvar with some concoctions and Alvar would physically age at a fifth of his normal rate, starting from the moment of the treatment. Regardless of when one started the treatment, they’d always die at the same age: one hundred years and a day. At that moment, one would suddenly look their age then promptly die. And if they missed a treatment, the years they‘d “skipped“ would instantly catch up with them.

14:26:55.

14:26:56.

14:26:57.

Most who underwent the treatments until a hundred simply sedated themselves so they died in their sleep. Alvar couldn’t sleep. Most underwent the treatments to remain in good health until the end. Alvar underwent the treatments because he feared death. He was terrified of losing all that he had.

14:27:30.

14:27:31.

14:27:32.

Alvar was rich, the owner of a successful aircraft manufacturer called Ansala. He lived in a huge luxury apartment filled with things gathered from his travels over the four continents. He had been married to the love of his life for seventy years, though he had lost her when she hit a hundred and a day a few months before. He had four children, eight grandchildren and thirteen great-grandchildren.

14:28:00.

14:28:01.

14:28:02.

A Uthiran acquaintance named Baroglong who was pushing eight-hundred told Alvar he was lucky. There was a reason all Uthirans eventually went mad. It was the only way they could deal with the time. His acquaintance was obsessive-compulsive, nearly eating Alvar when he moved a chair out of place in the Uthiran’s warehouse den. Alvar didn’t care, he still wanted to live for a thousand years.

14:28:59.

14:29:00.

14:29:01.

Less than a minute to go. There was nothing anyone could do. The most advanced medical technology in the world would not able to extend his life. Any more treatments were pointless.

14:29:35.

14:29:36.

14:29:37.

His time was up. He could do nothing but reluctantly give in. He held up a small mirror and looked at himself.

14:29:58.

15:29:59.

14:30:00!

The clock chimed on the mantel and continued clicking away, but Alvar didn’t hear it. Alvar had gone deaf. He could no longer see himself; he’d went blind.

His hair fell out. His teeth rotted. His skin wrinkled and sagged. His bones went brittle. He took one last wheezing breath and his heart stopped…

But that was not the end, not yet. His soul had one stop to make on its journey to oblivion. It was a limbo of sorts where all the souls of the sentient went, a place where Thagnar the Dead stripped souls of their attachments to their previous life. It was these attachments which would keep them whole. The souls of plants, insects, microbes and the like skipped this step, as they formed no attachments; most were not even aware they were ever alive at all.

The experience in that limbo was different for each soul, mirroring the life they had lived. For Alvar, he was sitting exactly where he was, still in his forties, but with one small difference. His wife, Osana, stood in front of him looking radiant and beautiful in her prime.

She walked to him and took his hand. “It’ll be ok, Alvar, there’s nothing to be afraid of. Death comes to all things in time. It ‘s the way of the universe.”

“But I didn’t want to go. It’s not fair!” He pulled his hand away.

She bent down and took his head in her heads, forcing him to stare into her sparkling brown eyes. “I didn’t want to die either, but I accepted it and slept through the end. Thagnar allowed me to stay here and take the final steps into nothingness with you.”

He pushed her back. “You’re not Osana! The last thing she did before she took the pills was saying her final goodbyes, leaving no lingering regrets!”

Osana transformed into Thagnar the Dead, a hooded figure with skeletal hands. All one could see of his face was glowing red eyes. “Osana was easy,” the deity said in a deep baritone. “She split apart with little effort.”

Alvar crossed his legs and arms and looked away. “You’re evil!”

Thagnar laughed. “I am not evil. I am necessary, While Illwyn can always form new souls from the infinite energy, without me and the end I bring, life is not worth living. Let me show you something.”

Alvar and the chair found themselves in a massive cavern with a large opening to the outside on a wall and a brook running through it. In the center of the cavern was a humongous blue Uthiran, at least a hundred feet long, curled up on the ground. Its eyes were glazed over. Its mouth hung open, a pool of drool forming on the ground. Occasionally an electric spark traveled over its scales and sent twitches through its wings and tail.

“We are on Uthira, mere moments after you died. No one here can notice your presence as you are now simply divine energy. That Uthiran lying there, named Imsomon, is twenty-five hundred years old, older than New Delta itself. Look at him,” Thagnar pointed a bony finger, “He’s catatonic. The mental stress of seeing empires rise and fall and mountains erode into hills has left his mind fractured and broken. He spends every day sitting in that very spot, staring off into space, growing ever larger and more powerful even though most of him will never move again under his own power.”

Another blue Uthiran two-thirds Imsomon’s size slowly walked in carrying a torn carcass of something. “Dinner, father,” she said to him in Dragon with a soft tone. She put the carcass down, tore off a hunk of meat and slowly chewed it. She pried Imsomon’s mouth open a little further and spit the meat inside. Imsomon swallowed.

“You are watching a daughter’s love for her father, a love that over the millennia-and-a-half of her life has become an obsession. All Thaxia does is care for her catatonic father: Feeding him regurgitated meat; giving him water from the brook; cleaning his orifices and removing his waste. She feeds from the same carcass, drinks from the same water, lives in the same cave. Her identity is his identity.”

“But why?” Alvar asked. “I thought Uthirans stopped dealing with their parents completely after a few centuries.”

“For many that is true; but not for all. Thaxia was the strongest of her brood, the one Imsomon was proud of the most. He took her under his wing and molded her into a strong and powerful dragon even as his mental state deteriorated. She never moved far, and when he finally went completely catatonic a millennia ago—“

“You can’t be serious!” Alvar screamed.

Thaxia began collecting water for him in her jaw.

“It is true,” Thagnar replied. “Imsomon has been laying here and Thaxia has been caring for him in the exact same way for the last three-hundred sixty-five thousand days… give or take a thousand or two.”

Thaxia was holding her father’s jaw up as she poured water down his throat.

Thagnar continued, “When he dies, she will die as well. Her purpose for living this long will be gone.”

Alvar put his head in his hands. If he could cry he would. “Stop this! I don’t want to see it anymore!”

Thangar waved his hand and Alvar’s face turned to look at the Uthirans. Thaxia walked back to the brook to collect more water.

“No. You must that learn that the longer you live beyond your time, the more of a relic and a burden you become. They have both lived long beyond their time, stuck in an endless cycle of repetition because there is nothing else. But do not worry, I have shown you them because that seemingly infinite cycle of days is not infinite after all.”

Thaxia came back with a second mouthful, but let it splash on the ground when she felt no breath. Imsomom’s body was limp. His eyes were closed. There were no more sparks. Thaxia sniffed and nudged her father a few times. She let out a pathetic roar and collapsed next to him. Her breathing slowed, and then stopped.

The cavern vanished and Alvar stood in a black void with Thagnar in front of him. The deity extended his hand. “So now do you understand why all things must come to an end?”

Alvar nodded. “Yes, I do. My life ended when it was still very good. I am glad that I have lived a long and fulfilling existence. My time has passed.”

He took Thagnar’s hand.

In an instant Alvar Tanner ceased to exist. His soul was decimated, his existence no more. His soul’s energy was now in Illwyn’s care. She would form it into a completely new soul which would give life to someone yet to be born.

K23 Side Story

K23 Side Story: Thrown To Glory

In about a minute, Sabarwen was going to be thrown hundreds of feet, and she had to calm her mind despite being extremely uncomfortable. The Deltan elf stood at the start of a 90′ long runway beyond which lay an expansive pool of red goo that would break her fall. Behind her, an ogre named Gorog the Mighty was talking to his troll trainer as he wiped powder onto his massive paws.

The glaring overhead lights of the gargantuan Cloudplex burned into Sabarwen’s purple skin, causing her white leotard to become drenched in sweat. Her silver hair, tied in a bun, was itching. The roar of the 300,000-spectator crowd deafened her. Camera pods buzzed around her, sending her image to the large view screens set up in the arena as well as to millions of home viewers around the world. A small army of officials milled around the track ready to make sure everything was within the rules.

She ignored it all. She needed to center herself. She had reached the highest point an implement could achieve in elf throwing, Terrall’s most popular sport. Sabarwen was about to be thrown by the gold medal favorite in the Ogre Male’s Deltan Elf Female Throwing Finals at the 10017 Hominia Athletics Large Hominid Games, beating out dozens of others via random selection.

Elf throwing’s origins were controversial. Elves, particularly light skinned Teolian elves from the totalitarian city-state of Teolos, claimed the sports originated in ancient times when ogres killed virgins by flinging them off cliffs. The official history maintained by the Elf Throwing League, the sport’s main governing body, and Hominia Athletics, the megacorp that owned and ran the New Delta Athletics Complex where the Cloudplex was located, was much more benign.

According to them, the sport originated around 9975, when a Deltan elf and her ogre lover were frolicking on a beach next to the Uthiric Ocean not far from New Delta. The ogre playfully threw his lover into the ocean. She enjoyed it and asked to go again. Other ogres, trolls and elves watching wanted to join in the fun. Soon the fun turned into serious competition, with male ogres and their boxy green-skinned counterparts seeing how far they could launch elves of both genders and variety.

The Elf Throwing League was established in 9980 with the first official event held in the Cloudplex the following year. The sport quickly became the city’s most popular athletic pastime. Watching elves, especially Teolian elves, being launched never got old. This version was supported by the fact that the original Deltan elf in the story was alive and president of the Elf Throwing League.

The Hominia Athletics Games were the largest sport event in the world, the only sport event Hominia Athletics ran themselves. There were four specific competitions which rotated annually on a four-year cycle: Small Hominid, where gnomes, dwarves and goblins competed; Medium Hominid, where elves, humans and orcs competed; Large Hominid, where ogres and trolls competed; and Non-Hominid, where Uthirans, avians, komodo, brac’tai and others competed.

While the Non-Hominid Games were the largest because of the sheer number of events, the Large Hominid Games were the most popular because ogres and trolls were simply the most fun to watch. The Large Hominid Games always had the largest viewership and the most sponsorship money. In addition to elf throwing, the Games also featured other popular sports such as cage brawling, goblin catching, gnome punting and the always hilarious large hominid gymnastics.

Sabarwen wasn’t concerned with that. All she was thinking about was that if she messed up here, she’d be reduced to a training implement. She would spend the rest of her career being thrown by amateurs who could injure or kill her.

A human official on the side blew his whistle, signaling the throw to commence. The roaring of the crowd grew even louder.

Sabarwen relaxed her limbs as Gorog thumped over, the floor shaking with every step. He towered over her 5’5″ petite frame.

“Ya ready?” He asked.

Sabarwen nodded. “Yes.”

Saberwen didn’t know Gorog. Implements were barred for mingling to prevent cheating. She knew he threw extremely stiff, making landings painful, but that was why he was one of the best.

Another whistle was blown, and the crowd quieted.

Sabarwen turned around. Gorog wrapped his hands completely around her mid-section. Gorog lifted her up and placed her waist on her his shoulders. Sabarwen went rigid, body in a straight line at a 45-degree angle. Her head was parallel to the tips of his long pitted tusks, eight feet off the floor.

Gorog stared down the runway and Sabarwen’s mind went blank as time slowed. Each step shook her, but she stayed perfectly still. Halfway down, Gorog was now in a full sprint, his hot breath shooting past her ears.

The throw happened in a snap, Gorog’s arm shooting forward like a piston and releasing her at the end of the runway.

The world was silent except for her heart beat. The cavernous Cloudplex was a blur.

Then she hit the goo, pain shooting from her fingertips to her toes as the goo repelled her into the air. The world and the crowd rushed back as she went limp and fell into the red. The goo cradled her aching body. A light on the side of pool adjacent to the point her finger tips first hit lit up.

The crowd went wild, rattling the entire stadium. She looked up at the scoreboard. Gorog had thrown her five hundred ninety-two feet and seven inches, a new world record by six inches!

Sabarwen sobbed as she looked back at Gorog, now a tiny figure, embracing his trainer in celebration. While Sabarwen couldn’t attend the medal ceremony and would probably never see Gorog again, her name would still go into the record texts next to his for all time.

It was a common refrain among elf throwing critics that the sport was degrading and insulting to elves. But what they never understood was that the elves’ performance was as critical as the ogres and trolls that threw them. If Sabarwen’s posture wasn’t completely straight and rigid, if she had choked and went limp too soon, Gorog wouldn’t be receiving the gold medal.

For one brief moment, two complete strangers became one to produce something legendary. He had thrown her into glory.

K23 Side Story

K23 Side Story: Ogres in Motion

Ylean Shotear nervously sat in her apartment in front of her console. She was about to read a review of her latest dance performance, “Ogres in Motion,” by Culture Watch, New Delta’s premiere arts publication.

The Deltan elf calmed herself down, opened her red eyes and began to read.

“I’ll be blunt, ‘Ogres in Motion’ is not dance,” began the review. “It is a mockery of dance. The work, created by renowned Deltan elf choreographer Ylean Shotear, was meant to portray ogres, both male and female, in a graceful manner. She failed. Ogres will never be graceful.”

“It’s not racism,” continued the review. “It’s simple physics. There’s no way those hulking behemoths can move gracefully around the stage. One only has to look at large hominid gymnastics for proof. That sport involves ogres and trolls moving through an obstacle course without smashing one glass object. Even troll females, who are half a foot shorter and 150 pounds lighter on average than their ogre counterparts, have trouble getting perfect scores. Ylean Shotear has never seen large hominid gymnastics, otherwise she’d know better.

“The performance began with a duet with a male, Gro the Triumphant, and a female, Luro the Round, set to a fast-paced elven vocal aria. The dancers panted and sweated as they thumped around the stage trying to keep up, and failing as they quickly became out of synch. At one point, Gro swung Luro into the air, spun her around and tried to gently put her down; except Luro didn’t so much land as smash onto the stage, jolting everyone in the audience.

“Next there was an ensemble piece with all eight ogre dancers, five females and three males, set to a gradually quickening drum score. From the very first note, the ogres continually bumped into each other as they attempted to move in sync. The end result was that halfway though a male tripped, sending all eight toppling in a chain reaction. The ogres quickly got up and continued as if nothing had happened, only to topple again at the very end.

“The final piece involved gnomes dancing between ogres’ legs set to clockwork trance. The gnomes were exquisite dancers, but I feared for their safety as at least two nearly got squished.

“As I said at the start, ‘Ogres in Motion’ is a mockery of dance, and that is why I loved it so much,” concluded the review. “Ogres is Motion is the greatest parody of serious dance I have ever witnessed.  Any attempt at deeper meaning is twisted into sheer comedy. Everyone in the packed house, myself included, lapped it up and gave a roaring ovation at the very end.  I therefore wholeheartedly recommend this production. Go see it; you’ll have a marvelous time.”

Ylean was ecstatic.

That was exactly the review she was hoping for.

Try the other side stories or the novellas if you like what you read.

Fiction K23 Side Story

K23 Side Story: Tell the Big Girls to Shove It

The follow story contains frank discussions of tampon usage. Reader discretion is advised.

—-

Matro Barkley didn’t choose feminine hygiene, feminine hygiene choose him. The various choices and events that had led him to be the CEO of Temple Products, which specialized in feminine hygiene products, was ultimately less important than the fact that he was good at his job.

After taking huge shares of the market for products aimed at women of seven out of the eight hominid races, it was time he conquered the last untapped and most challenging market: female ogres.

There were two problems with selling to them. First, most existing pads and tampons were too puny for ogres notoriously monstrous periods. But teaming up with Cybrix Technologies and Biogenomics, Temple had a developed line of tampons and pads called Big Girl, which was made out of materials routinely used to soak up Deltan sludge. While other hominids couldn’t use Big Girl without getting toxic shock syndrome, even trolls, it was perfect for ogres. The second problem was a little harder to overcome, as most ogres were dumb as rocks. Selling them anything was difficult, selling them intimate products was nearly insurmountable as they never grasped the point of half the stuff they were being sold.

To help solve this, he turned to his vice presidents of development and marketing, two human women named Calida Reine and Lola Mchugh. Calida had gotten her PHD in product design creating a moldable pad, unmarketable and uncomfortable, but it was ingenious enough for Matro to snatch her up. Lola was a marketing veteran could find a way to sell just about anything if given the time and the resources.

One morning, Matro sat with the women in a brightly lit, pastel colored conference room eager to hear the results of the extensive product testing they had done. Matro sat on one side of the table, the two women sat on the other.

“The pads are fine and ready for market,” Lola said. “The tampons, however, presented a problem.” She took off her glasses and stared right at him in her matter-of-fact style. “Almost all of the testers were too dumb to understand the instructions.”

Matro winced slightly. “Go on.”

Calida reached down into her bag sitting on the floor next to her. She brought up a Big Girl Tampon box, which featured a smiling ogre on the front. She then brought out the instructions insert and read it: “’Hold the applicator at the grip location with your thumb and middle finger. Remember to keep your pointer finger away from the applicator. With the removal string hanging down, insert the applicator into your vaginal opening at a slight upward angle—‘ Too complicated with too many steps. We went back and figured out the tampons are sturdy enough not to need an applicator. Therefore, in the second batch of samples, we removed the applicator from the box and condensed the instructions to one sentence. Every tester in the second batch used them correctly.”

“I understand not needing the applicators, but how could you still write tampon instructions in one sentence?” Matro asked.

Calida handed him a second sheet. Matro read it, and sweat started forming on his forehead. He crumpled it. “I’m canceling the product and will take the loss.”

“But Matro,” Lola said, “It works, they’ll buy it and you’ll make tons of money. Who cares what the instructions read?”

“I’m not selling a product with  instructions that read,“ he un-crumpled the sheet and cleared his throat, ”’Shove the tampon up your cunt when blood comes out.’” Matro wadded the paper up and tossed it. ”I’ll be the laughing stock of the industry.”

“Our competitors will shut up once they see the sales,” Lola said. “Besides, the instructions are a blunt way of saying what women already do.” Lola and Calida exchanged glances.

“Why not go home and ask your wife and daughters what they do with their tampons,” Calida added, “and then make a decision.”

Matro remembered his home life and said, “My daughters would tell me…” he groaned. “Never mind.” He stood up. “Great work, I’m glad I have you two around.”

Matro now respected ogres. They didn’t dance around the obvious with technical language and jargon. They only understood the blunt truth. His competitors were all too considerate, and that was why no one had tapped the market before. Matro was going to make huge amounts of money being shameless, if just this time.

—-

Read this and sixteen brand new short stories in Sandworm Rodeo!

K23 Side Story

K23 Side Story: 36 Hours in Gruck

36 Hours in Gruck

 

The following is the journal written on a screen found next to the half-eaten corpse of Teolian diplomatic aide Reitherl Durndavel.

 

5/22 17:22

 

Arrived in Gruck on the once-a-day shuttle from New Delta. High Mage Fillion wants me to report on the current state of Gruck for possible reopening of diplomatic channels, a routine affair that happens every few years. Kurwin is an idiot for even sending me. I don’t have to go to Gruck to know that the answer is still no. But I have a job to do and I’ll do it. So I’ll spend the next day and a half in Gruck and take the 5/24 morning shuttle back to New Delta…if I live that long.

I’d love to stay in the shuttleport, but it offers no amenities of any kind and the guards clear it and lock it down at 18:00.

 

5/22 19:30

 

Quickly found my guide waiting by the exit. He’s a goblin shaman named Nugri. Nice fellow, very smart, not your usual goblin. Told me to summon on rags instead of my robes, makes me less of a target. He led me into Gruck proper.

Gruck is a disgusting, filth ridden sewer, as usual. The swamps of the Ogunlands don’t stop at the Gruck city limits, they flow right through. Everything and everyone is covered in mud. Most dwellings are animal skin tents or crude stick huts. I even saw some ogres not bothering with dwellings at all and just living out in the open air.

I saw one ogre beat another ogre unconscious for a piece of meat. I asked Nugri if the perpetrator will be brought to justice. He said no. The ogres didn’t have a justice system. The goblins used shamanism as a means of distributing justice, but they weren’t about to impose order on beasts twice their size.

I also saw my first ogre female. One really doesn’t get a sense of how hideous they are until you see one fornicating with a male in full view. She was on top, her mud-adorned rolls of flab jiggling as she ground against her mate, her sharpened tusks glistening with sweat and drool.  Nugri said that despite being “cauldrons of blubber,” females could still rip me apart.  He added that when a male rips your head off, it’s one quick clean jerk…but when a female rips your head off, it takes a few tugs, making your death all the more agonizing.

He led me into a goblin section, which was surprisingly less disgusting, if only because the goblins go to the bathroom in designated channels where the water moves the sewage away from the area. Disease is still rampant, however.

Saw a goblin with cholera. There hasn’t been a case of that in Teolos in a few millennia. Poor fellow, nothing I could do.

Nugri lives in a one room stick hut with his mate and four kids. It’s cramped, it’s dirty, but with no economy to speak of here, there’s no way to get the materials to make a better dwelling.

I’m currently waiting for dinner of smelly bread and ham to be prepared by Nugri’s mate. Everyone lives with their dinner, hogs and chickens run free, crops growing right outside. Predators run free too. I saw an alligator lounging around not far from here. Hopefully it won’t come after me.

 

5/22 21:00

 

Dinner was pretty bad but it was food. Hopefully the inn I’m staying at nearby with have some tastier treats. Somehow I doubt it.

I asked Nugri why everyone didn’t seem to be starving to death. He replied that there were goblins starving to death, they didn’t just live in this section of Gruck. He could take to me see them if I wanted to. I declined.

I followed up with questions about the predators. He and his mate looked sad. That particular alligator I had seen nearby had been there for years and had ate one of his children the previous year. He didn’t try to kill it because another one would take its place. No real point to it.

Have to stop writing now. Nugri is going to take me to the inn.

 

5/23 02:04

 

I can’t sleep. This isn’t a real inn, it’s a bunch of crappy tents with a crude fence around it and a fire pit in the middle. There’s no mattress, no pillows, only a ratty blanket and no floor. It’s hot, I’m covered in mud, flies are buzzing me and there’s no shower in sight. I was told to just shit where I stood; at least I had the decency to go behind a tree.  I could magically wash myself and summon an outhouse, but I’d just get caked up again in ten minutes and chances are some constipated ogre would make the outhouse usable only once.

Outside the tent right now, I can hear faraway screams as a goblin gets devoured by something. Much closer I can hear the groans and moans of yet another pair of ogres fornicating in public. That term is relative, naturally, because there doesn’t seem to be much privacy in Gruck.

At least they had roasted pig, which tasted better than the slop served at Nugri’s hovel. They also had beer, which tasted like riding dragon piss, but it wasn’t potentially toxic like the water.

I ate my food with the only other guest staying there, a Cybrix salesman from New Delta named Alberto. Like my superiors, every couple of years Cybrix Techonologies sends people to Gruck to see if they’re in a state worth dealing with, such as selling much-needed technology like water filtration systems.

Alberto had been there for two days already and looked like one of the natives with the mud caked to every part of his body. He told me nobody here had any money, everyone either bartered or just took what they needed. He was headed back to New Delta in the morning to tell his superiors a firm “not now, not ever!” He was so relieved to leave he was almost giddy.

I wish I was heading back, but I still have so many hours to go.

 

5/23 08:30

 

Slept terribly. Breakfast of more roast pig. An ogre is coming to show me around the ogre parts, this should be interesting…

 

5/23 10:00

 

My ogre guide is Grogg the Bright, the younger brother of the late Trogg the Genius, famous for being the world’s smartest ogre. Grogg seemed as intelligent as his brother, though this was never proven since Grogg never saw much point in moving out of Gruck. Grogg said that he was entertaining an offer from Academics Incorporated to become a professor at New Delta University. Apparently, Trogg’s departure and subsequent death helped the department because it meant New Delta University had to go looking for professors, which they didn’t really do under Trogg’s tenure. They had already one professor, Trogg’s troll female replacement, and were courting at least two others besides Grogg. Grogg’s niece, Gamie the Wave, had already decided she wanted to be an Ogre Studies major and would probably become a professor herself in a few years.

I then changed the subject to Grogg’s relationship with Trogg. Grogg said that while Trogg was in Gruck quite frequently they weren’t close. The reason was that Trogg believed his less intelligent peers survived out of sheer brute force. Take that out and they were not fit to survive. Trogg had created Ogre Studies in order to create an ogre culture where none had existed.

Grogg saw things differently. While their family was rare among ogres because of their intelligence that didn’t mean they were superior, just different.  After all, if they were superior, then evolution would’ve selected their intelligence to be common among ogres. Obviously, it had not.

5/23 14:00

 

Saw my first ogre children. They were… monstrous. Ogre newborns weighed thirty pounds, male or female. Seven years old girls were five-foot-five, as tall as I am; boys were six feet tall. Ogre play consists running around and hitting thing with sticks, which was what the adults did as well.

Saw the ogres’ food source: log pens filled with pigs, chickens and giant toads. They were communal property as ogres just took for themselves and kept predators and goblins away. The goblins who attempted to take from the pens were starving. They had been shunned – mostly those who disobeyed the shamans or harmed others.

This was not what I expected and will bring it up when I meet with Nurgi later.

After that, we went to the closest thing Gruck has to a government, an ogre warlord named Bor the King. Bor lived in a large circular hut made of mud, and animal skin and bone. He sat on a throne of bone with a crown of bone, wielding a bone scepter.

Bor didn’t do anything at all. He wasn’t even a figurehead in almost all respects. He and the previous warlords were simply there so Gruck could be considered a city-state, since they had to have a government.

When I showed up, we quickly left because Bor was drunk and babbled incoherently on the throne. Grogg assured me that he wasn’t always like that. I wasn’t entirely convinced.

We just finished a lunch of grilled giant toad. Not bad….

 

5/23 17:40

 

After I finished writing the last journal entry Grogg took me to the Temple of Thagnar. Grogg took his leave there as he had to dig up his screen out of the mud underneath his tent and contact NDU for more contract negotiations.

The temple was maintained by a group of mixed-gender troll priests. It was the most ornate structure in Gruck. It was made of imported stone and had electricity and water filtration. They made you take a shower and wash off the mud before you entered. I was shocked.

Unfortunately, despite how nice the temple was, the ogres needed to be reminded to use it, otherwise they wouldn’t. Grogg said before he left that ogres didn’t see the point. Doing so didn’t give them food, drink or sex. Why Thagnar would choose to patronize a race that didn’t care to engage him is beyond anyone…but deities are mysterious entities.

The main patrons of the temple were goblins since shamen regularly studied and practiced there. The trolls even let them keep their parchment scrolls in the temple library for safekeeping.

It was there that I found Nurgi again. He was training a group of girls, one of them being a daughter of his I had met the previous evening. The rest were other girls that had come to Nurgi after a dream told them to.

They were all sitting perfectly still, attuning their bodies to transmit and receive messages from Ulax, the All-Seeing, the foundation of shamanism. Nurgi said they would be like that for a while, so we had some time to talk.

The training of girls was a brand new phenomenon, thanks to Eluna, the only full-fledged female shaman alive and the last of the Te line.  Eluna was well known in Gruck, primarily because it was the current shamen who ran her out of town on a shuttle after her father died.  Nurgi expressed regret, stating that at the time shamen would rather let an entire shamanistic line go extinct than let a female practice. After another shaman shared what Eluna’s experiences were like, everyone quickly changed their minds and now shamanism has a real chance of reviving.

I asked if he thought Eluna would train more to carry on her line. Nurgi assumed so, but since he didn’t know her personally he couldn’t say for sure.

I then asked about the starving goblins and why he didn’t mention they were criminals. He said it was because I never asked why they were starving.

The girls came out of trances and Nurgi asked what they saw. The each said that Ulax showed them random vision of people and places. They described these scenes in extreme detail, including my apartment, right down to the blue and red sofa with flower patterns sitting in front of a tapestry showing a unicorn. These girls really were future shamen.

Nurgi praised them and they went back into another trance.

 

5/23 22:00

 

Nurgi and the girls left about 18:00. Spent the rest of the evening guests of the trolls at the temple learning about Thagnar worship. Contrary to what I thought, Thagnar worship is surprisingly bright, putting a focus on this world and the pleasures in it because they’re gone once we die. There was a joke among the priests that orgies were a religious ritual. I didn’t ask if they engaged in orgies and I honestly did not want to know.

I now, however, think that while ogres don’t actively worship Thagnar, the constant drinking and fornicating I saw was the Ogres honoring Thagnar even if it wasn’t official.

A troll priest brought me back to the inn. I would’ve loved to stay at the temple but the priests allowed no overnight guests in order to avoid setting a bad precedent.

Grogg messaged me an hour ago and said he’ll take me to the shuttle in the morning instead of Nurgi as he’s going to New Delta himself, having reached a deal this afternoon.

I’ll finish up and give my recommendation then.

 

That was the end of the journal entries. Around 04:30 on the morning of 5/24, an alligator snuck into Reitherl’s tent while he was sleeping and ate everything but his legs. Grogg the Bright took the screen to New Delta, where he gave it the Teolian Embassy. Upon receiving it, Teolos once again decided to ignore Gruck for the time being.

Hominia Map

Check out the rest of the K23 Side Stories and K23 novellas

K23 Side Story

K23 Side Story: The Kobolds and the Cubes

Alba Mendez led his fleet of trucks along a barely visible road in the Kobold Steppes, the highland plain at the southern end of the Cromag Range. It was the early morning and the kobolds now occupying the land he wanted would still be sedentary, so it would be easy to find them and give them their eviction notice.

Up ahead, he could see a large mound in the road. “There’s an ant hill up ahead,” he said to his driver. The human nodded and took a long circular route around through the grass, which the others followed. Last thing they would want to deal with was a swarm of angry giant ants.

Despite its reputation as cold and desolate, the Kobold Steppes most of the year was the opposite, full of tall grasses and populated with various fauna, including foxes, antelope, buffalo,  gryphons, giant insects and various types of oozes. The dominant intelligent specie was the kobold; large, bipedal and highly intelligent grey wolves. Most led a nomadic life, though many lived in Tirkvah, the only permanent kobold settlement, which revolved around their biggest export, cooked gelatinous cube gel. It was nutritious, delicious and a beloved dessert all around Hominia.

Gelatinous cubes were the only ooze that had been domesticated.  Starting in the third month of the year, several groups of gel-herding kobolds would drive a single cube via fire behind the buffalo and sheep nomads. As the cube ate the herd’s waste, it would grow and split and so in the eleventh month the gel nomads would be driving thousands of cubes per group. The groups would bring the cubes into Tirkvah, where in the winter months, the cubes would be killed in giant kilns. Once dead, the gel became loose and runny. The gel would be bottled and sold in large markets where various hominid buyers would pay top credit for it.

It was an ancient way of life that was hadn’t changed since long before the start of recorded history. In prehistoric times, the kobolds simply kept the gel for themselves. Now, most was exported, and afforded the kobolds relative luxury. Tents became alcohol-powered trailers and torches became flame-throwers.

And where there was wealth, there were greedy people looking to steal it, like Alba Mendez, representing a group of wealthy New Deltan investors who wanted to mass market cooked cube gel. His plan was simple. First, he would evict the kobolds from their native lands. Then they would fence in the area and farm a stationary herd of buffalo and just send the cubes behind the herd and continually kill of the cubes to keep them manageable. This idea was so obvious; he was shocked the kobolds never tried it. While Alba would have loved to just send a bunch of cubes to the more accessible Deltan plains, due to the soil and climate the cubes would  die within a day or two and the gel would be inedible. They had to be farmed on the Steppes.

Finally, Alba had the kobold group in sight. As he suspected, the small caravan was stationary, a dozen trailers circled in front of a massive herd of a few hundred cubes in a large flattened area. The cubes were all clear, silent and just shimmered in the early morning air. The cubes were of various sizes, depending on how many other cubes a cube ended up absorbing, the average was about four feet to a side. While some worried about eating shit-fed gel, the truth was the cubes would eat anything, including unlucky kobolds, and all would be digested within hours, even the bacteria. The only thing the cubes didn’t eat was grass, which they simply flattened as they moved over it. The ecosystem relied on this.

Alba had his trucks form a semi-circle, pinning the kobolds against the herd. Alba then put on his wide brim hat and beige jacket and stepped out of his truck, slinging a laser rifle over his back. The rest of his crew were a mixture of ogres, dwarves and humans, all hardy, all armed to the teeth with guns and grenades.

Alba looked around and spotted the kobold males running through the cube herds on all fours with the flame throwers strapped to their back, doing a quick count of the herd. The females and the pups were in the trailers. Pregnant females or those with pups rode in the trailers when on the move, while non-mothering females also tended to the herd while not doing household chores. Right then, the females were cleaning up after a breakfast of dried buffalo and lamb meat as leftovers, solid waste and other garbage were being tossed out to the herd, with the lucky cubes getting an early meal.

Alba stepped forward and whistled. Doors and windows opened and females and pups peered out.  The males among the cubes came forth. When all the kobolds were looking at him, Alba said, “This is our land and our cube herd now. Get back in your trailers and leave or we’ll be forced to open fire.”

The kobolds laughed, which sounded like quick, rapid howling.

The largest kobold, the alpha male, stood up and walked over on two legs. His bumpy grey fur was streaked with silver. His face was scarred from years of hardship and danger.

“IF you want our property,” he said, “you need to only pass a simple test.” Kobolds spoke in barks, growls and howls, but could understand hominids and hominids could understand them.

“And what test is that?”

The alpha howled. Another male drove towards Alba a tiny cube, one foot to a side, with small controlled jets of flame from his thrower. The male shot the flame at a steep angle, hitting the dirt directly behind the cube, sending it forward. A female walked out of a trailer with a lit torch.

“See that boulder over there?” The alpha pointed southwest to a large boulder sticking out of the grass. “Drive the cube over there and bring it back. If you can do so, the herd is yours.”

While the ogres in his group might fall for this if they could understand the bipedal wolves, Alba wasn’t that stupid. Alba raised his arm and his group leveled their guns at the kobolds. “I don’t like being tricked.”

“No trick,” the alpha said. “This is how pups learn to control the cubes. If you do not know how to control one small cube, then you stand no chance of driving a herd of much larger cubes.”

The kobold did have a point. “I’ll take your challenge.” Alba dropped his rifle and took the torch. The kobolds and the hominids stepped back, leaving just him and the mindless but living gel.

Alba had read up on cube herding before he came. First, one never, ever touched a cube for any reason at all. If you did, it would suck them in and devour them. While the cube he had to take to the bolder was too small to eat his entire body, it could eat his hand off. Second, the cube would always move in the exact opposite direction of the flame. Third, one must control the flame with finesse, or it would light the grassland on fire, especially during the dry months.

Alba swung his torch low to the ground. The cube sprung into the air, rotated over his head and landed behind him with a nice loud splat. Maybe he didn’t do it right.

Alba bent down and slowly pushed the torch forward. The cube slid to the left and circled around his body.

The kobolds broke out in laughter. “Now do you understand?” The alpha said.

Alba groaned. “I’m new at this, give me a minute.”

Alba bent down again. This time he blew into the flame, sending it billowing out. The cube went the bolder. He continued blowing the cube forward, even into the tall grass. Eventually, he made it to the boulder. The herd would be his in no time.

But then he heard screaming and turned around. The herd had congealed into a humongous cube at least fifty feet high. His men turned and ran in terror. The cube spilled in an arc over the trailers and kobolds and landed directly on top of them and the trucks, doubling in volume as the gel enveloped Alba’s entire entourage.

His men flailed in the goo, but quickly went still and started to float. Everything inside the living gel would slowly disintegrate in full view.

Alba tossed the torch against the bolder, which the boulder enveloped. The boulder wasn’t a rock at all, but a mass of brown pudding ooze. The ooze shot through the air and surrounded Alba, crushing him to death. Then the ooze began to devour Alba’s remains.

The small cube returned to the kobolds and joined the massive cube.

The kobolds howled and danced in victory and would enjoy a nice day of rest while the cube ate its prey and then split apart back into smaller cubes.

Hominids who tried to steal the cubes always fell victim in the same way. The cube to boulder trick had worked for millennia as the hominids never learned. This was because the hominids never respected the cubes, treating them simply as a commodity, not a living creature to be respected and cared for. The kobolds might have killed most of the cubes at the end of the year, but it was the way to keep the environment alive.

Without someone to tend the cubes, the most powerful of the oozes, the Steppes would become a lifeless wasteland in a matter of a few years at most, with even the grass being devoured. The greedy hominids always claimed they wouldn’t let that happen, keep the environment healthy, but the toxic sludge fed by trash and the dead at the bottom of the New Deltan towers proved otherwise. The kobolds never visited New Delta for that reason.

But the kobolds didn’t direct the cubes to kill the greedy; the cubes did in on their own. The cubes might not have had a brain like other creatures did, but they weren’t stupid. They benefited from the symbiotic relationship as much as the kobolds did. They somehow knew that if they killed the environment, they would die along with it.

Alba Mendez wasn’t the first greedy hominid to die, nor would he be the last.

The circle of life would continue without him.

K23 Side Story

K23 Side Story: The Importance of Receipts

Arnoldo Kramer stormed into his local Stolen and Smuggled Goods Market, or S&S Mart for short, carrying a laser pistol.

The four specially armored avian guards standing towards the front lifted their own guns.

“No. Trouble,” one said from behind a specially-made facemask. Avians normally didn’t wear armor,  it was too heavy to fly. The ones who guarded S&S Mart locations wore armor for added protection because they stayed on the ground.

“I bought this a few days and ago and it doesn’t work. “

“Counter. In back.”

Arnoldo made his way past the purchasing kiosks. There were several people buying the array of stolen and smuggled goods the Mart sold. A few criminal types like himself, a few poor people looking for cheap goods and even a well-dressed man who was probably looking to buy back what was stolen from him.

Half the goods were unloaded by thieves cashing in or others disposing evidence. The other half was stolen by the Mart themselves via a network of theft rings. The government would’ve loved to put them out of business but they paid their taxes and provided needed food and goods to the poor. The Avian Syndicate protecting them to keep their food source safe didn’t hurt either.

Arnoldo made his way to the laser-proof cage built into the back wall. Behind the clear barrier sat a bored-looking troll female. S&S Mart liked to hire orcs and trolls. They were fearsome, yet could actually speak clearly unlike most ogres. Troll females had the added benefit of being gorgeous which tended to help sway male shoppers.

“I’d like to return this,” Arnoldo said through the intercom.

“Reason?” The troll, named Grixla the Steady, asked.

“You sold me a defective weapon! I was going to shoot a defaulting borrower’s knee caps out, but it jammed and didn’t fire. One of my buddies had to do it. It was embarrassing.”

A drawer slid open. “Let me take a look.”

Arnoldo slipped the pistol into the drawer. Grixla pulled the drawer back. She took the pistol and typed the special S&S Mart serial number into a console.

“Mr. Kramer, the Markok pistol you purchased was clearly marked as “Defective, good for parts.”

He banged his fist against the glass. The avians turned their heads. “It wasn’t marked like that when I bought it two days ago!”

It was marked “good as new.” The designation was burned into his mind. He wouldn’t have purchased an obviously defective weapon.

“I’m sorry sir, it’s marked that way now and therefore cannot be returned. And I think I trust the computer over you.”

Arnoldo put his face up to the glass. “Let me talk to your manager.”

Grixla did not flinch. “I am the manager on duty at the location, but if you’d like to go above my head, the Avian Syndicate members are over there.” Grixla pointed while smirking.

Arnoldo took the pistol out of the drawer. “One of these days, I’m going to bring my buddies and teach you bastards a lesson.”

“You do that, sir,” her eyes glimmered. “I look forward to it. Have a nice day!”

Arnoldo grumbled out of the store. Served him right for looking for a cheap gun at a place that didn’t provide receipts.

He should have known better.

—-

K23 Detectives Three Pack with Bonus Novels

K23 Side Story

K23 Side Story: No Holds Barred

Get up! Get up!

Nona the Rocket’s head was spinning from Tulma the Star’s overhead slam. Nona’s black shorts and sports bra were soaked in sweat. Her feet felt itchy and uncomfortable in her laced up boots.

Outside the chain-link cage, the massive Cloudplex crowd of seventy-five thousand was going wild; everyone, except for her parents.

Nona’s father and trainer, Knunc the Trunk, stood at ringside yelling, “Shrug it off and counter!”

Her mother, Borga the Rocket, a celebrated cage brawling powerhouse and current Ryland Aerospace CEO, stood next to her husband, glaring at Nona. If Nona  lost the match, she would not become a professional cage brawler and would have to wait another year for the next  Cage Brawl Association’s professional tryouts. Borga wouldn’t disown the sixteen-year-old troll if she lost, but she would be very disappointed.

Nona had been groomed to be her mother’s successor and wrestled with it every day. While she loved and respected her mother, she also didn’t want to be her mother.

Across the ring from her parents, two ring commentators, a troll and a near incomprehensible ogre, were yelling the play-by-play into headsets. Camera pods floats inside and out of the cage, capturing the action.

Tulma smirked at Nona’s parents as she went for the pin. The tattooed troll was  twenty-five years old with an 6-13 record, which is why she was wrestling the tryout matches, the CBA wouldn’t give her any other fights anymore. But as Tulma had stated in an interview, while beating rookies wouldn’t normally help her much, beating this particular rookie would help her gain regular matches again. She had as much to gain as Nona did from winning.

The troll female referee counted: One… Two… Kick out!

The crowd booed as it was a tradition to boo the rookie at the tryout matches until they truly proved their worth.

Tulma huffed and picked Nona up by her long black hair hair. She tucked the teenager’s head under her arm for a DDT. Nona summoned her strength and kneed Tulma in the stomach.

Nona then grabbed Tulma’s arm and tried to whip her towards the ring ropes, Tulma wouldn’t budge.

Crap! I need to stop watching theatrical wrestling the night before a match.

Cage brawling had grown out of theatrical wrestling, still popular among humans. Theatrical wrestling was fake fighting, where everything was choreographed and set up for maximum drama. Most of the flashy moves that characterized it required the defender’s help to pull it off, or sell, the move. For example, a clothesline, or running forearm to chest, required the one taking the move to fall back and flail on the ground, pretending it did major damage.

Then ogres discovered it, and found they could pull off most of the same moves simply via their own strength, though some things, like whipping your opponent around the ring, could never be replicated. They held their first real matches inside crude wooden cages with both sexes competing. The ogres introduced what they called cage brawling to the trolls during the late 9800s. Once this happened, the sport became even more popular, prompting its organization and the flimsy cages were replaced with steel chain.

When Nona realized Tulma wasn’t budging, she kneed her again and grabbed her torso.

Nona looked over at her parents, who nodded.

With every muscle so tense they bulged under her soaked green skin, she lifted Tulma up above her head, dashed three steps and threw her in air across the ring, over the ropes and into the cage wall opposite the ring entrance.

The cage wall snapped and literally fell over, lying flat as it was supported by the heavy, solid barricade. The rest of the cage stayed up due to very smart construction. The four walls were free standing, and latched to each other.

Tulma was writhing, gritting her teeth through the pain, trying to stand.

The ref ran over and seeing the nothing was actually broken and Tulma wanted to continue, signaled the match would continue.

If they were men, the match would have been over, with Nona disqualified and possibly arrested. This was because the male lying on the fallen cage would’ve been dead. Male cage brawling during its early days had an in ring fatality rate of forty percent. Once it became professional, a huge list of banned moves and disqualifications were introduced. Since the fatality rate in original female version was negligible, it had far fewer restrictions on the action, so it was vastly more popular. The CBA loosening the latches during the women’s matches so the cages split open more often, didn’t hurt.

The crowd was deafening. “Nona! Nona!’

I might actually win!

Nona took deep breath, bounced off the ropes and leaped into the air to splash her opponent.

Tulma put her knees up just in time.

Nona had the wind knocked out of her and doubled over onto the chain.

Tulma kicked up and leg dropped her younger opponent. Then she stood up and elbow dropped Nona’s head.

The crowd sounded distant, the overhead lights blurred and pulsed.

Tulma pinned.

One…Two… Tulma pulled away!

Tulma wasn’t just going to beat Nona. She was going to humiliate a legend while doing it.

Borga had an amazing  record of thirty-seven wins and eight losses and held the CBA Female Troll Championship title for eight of her  fourteen years as a cage brawler. She also had two cage brawling gold medals from the 9993 and 9997 Hominia Athletics Large Hominid Games, and a silver from the 10001 Games. In 10005, she became pregnant with Nona, married Knunc, and retired at the age of thirty-one.

Tulma pulled a near unconscious Nona off the wall and walked her around the cage to her parent’s side.

Tulma hung Nona on the railing. Exciting onlookers tried to touch her but ogre security guards in the crowd quickly pushed them away. Tulma then picked up one of two steel folding chairs provided for Nona’s  parents to sit on if they chose.

They glared at Tulma, but could do nothing.

“Watch her suffer!” Tulma cracked the chair across Nona’s back.

Nona screamed in agony.

The commentators wondered if they were watching a cage brawl or theatrical wrestling match.

“Your legacy ends here, Borga!” Nona didn’t scream the second time.

The ref checked and was about to end the match, when Nona stood up.

She turned, eyes burning with rage.  “How dare you!” Nona hissed.

“Little Borga is pissed, how sad!” Tulma swung the chair, but Nona caught it, and pulled it away.

“I am not my mother!” Nona roared as she slammed the chair into Tulma’s forehead so hard the impact echoed throughout the arena.

The crowd was silent once again.

Tulma stood there for a few seconds, and then collapsed.

Nona pinned.

One… Two… Three!

The crowd cheered as the referee held Nona’s arm high in victory. Tears rolled down face as she had done it.

Borga finally smiled and hugged her daughter by the side of the ring. “Congratulations,” she whispered. “And you’re already not me because I lost my first tryout match.”

Nona pulled back, “Really?”

“Of course, you’ve seen that match several times along with the next one where I famously dived off the cage top and put my opponent through an announce table.”

Nona shook the ringing out of her head. “Sorry.”

“It’s alright,” her father said. “Neither of us remembered stuff right after match.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Regardless, I’m proud of you,” her mother said. “My cage brawling glory days ended long ago, while yours have just begun.”

Nona hugged her mother again. ”Thanks, mom!”

Her parents each draped an arm over their daughter and led her back to the locker room while medical personnel attended to Tulma and ring attendants repaired the cage for the next match.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers