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Excerpt for Frostfire Worlds February 2018 by , available in its entirety at Smashwords





FROSTFIRE WORLDS

February 2018




Published by Alban Lake Publishing at Smashwords




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 Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.




Contents


Stories

A Spot of Orange by E.L. Bates

Stick to the Beat by Andra Cox Christen

And Satisfaction Brought Her Back by Tom Howard

Bells by Vonnie Winslow Crist

Cydonia-Based Egg for Rent by Russell Hemmell

Border Hounds by Harold R. Thompson


Flash Fiction

Brownie Surprise by Linda Lee Ruzicka

Snooty Clutey’s Hero Devil by Gilda A. Herrara

I Went to Mars, and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt by R. W. Warwick


Poems

The Study of Jupiter by Celine Rose Mariotti

Monster’s Meal by Guy Belleranti

The Ballad of Salis the Dragon-Killer by Rebecca Linam

The Tell-Tale Knight by Lisa Timpf

The Alphabet of a Magic by Shawn Vimislicky




FROSTFIRE WORLDS

edited by Karen Otto


All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photo-copying or recording or by any information storage and retrieval systems, without expressed written consent of the author and/or artists.


Story, Poetry, and Illustration copyrights owned by the respective writers and artists.

Cover illustration “Fire Up” by Teresa Tunaley

Cover design by Laura Givens



Vol. V, No. 3February 2018

FROSTFIRE WORLDS is published on the first day of February, May, August, and November by Alban Lake Publishing, P.O. Box 141, Colo, Iowa, 50056-0141. Copyright 2017. Subscription rates are $24 for one year, $44 for two years. Canada, $30 and $50. International, $50 and $90. Please send your story or poem submissions by e-mail to frostfireworlds@yahoo.com. Queries and other e-mail should also be directed to this address.


FROSTFIRE WORLDS is intended for younger readers, and therefore does not include “bad” language or “adult” themes. Parents and teachers with specific questions regarding our publishing guidelines and policies may direct them to the Editor at frostfireworlds@yahoo.com




A Spot of Orange

E.L. Bates



The watchtower bells went off, alerting the colonists to another mermaid attack. Eun-ha dragged herself off her mattress, and wondered grumpily why the mer-people, who lived in space away from such concepts as day or night, unerringly picked the middle of her sleep cycle to attack. She swept her bangs back from her eyes, tossed a short jacket on over the ankle-length pants and sleeveless top she always wore to bed, and joined the rest of her family in the floodlit courtyard between the two wings of their stone-built house.

Appa noted her arrival, the last of the family, with a short nod. "Does everyone have their weapons?" he asked.

Eun-ha's two brothers and her mother all silently brandished their gleaming spears. Eun-ha groaned to herself. She could have sworn she'd grabbed her spear off the rack when she left her bedroom, but obviously she must have forgotten. Again.

"Never mind," said Appa. There was neither disapproval nor indulgence in his quiet voice. "I thought you would forget, so I brought you an extra." He handed the long, silver-tipped weapon over.

Eun-ha took it and tried not to let the end drop toward the blue moss underfoot. Seventeen years old and she still found these things uncomfortable to handle. She was, perversely, unhappy with her father's foresight. What right did he have to assume she was going to forget her spear? Granted, she had indeed forgotten it, but she might have remembered this time. Sometimes she did. At least once.

It didn't matter anyway, whether she remembered or forgot. While the rest of her family joined the warriors defending the moon against the attack, she would be left defending the food storage. Not like her famous ancestor, the first Park Eun-ha of their line. She had been one of the first colonists to leave Earth and settle on this distant moon. Her name was as famous as Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, or Adaeze Gadanya, the developer of the planetary terraforming program. Even the smallest school children knew of Park Eun-ha.

When the space swimmers started their attacks against the colony a few years after the people had settled there, her voice was the first to refuse to leave. She had studied the alien creatures and coined the name "mermaids" for them, based on the old Earth legends as they had scaled tails in varying degrees of indigo, cerulean, emerald, turquoise, and violet, swam through the vastness of space, and could not exist in an oxygen-rich environment without special equipment, the name seemed fitting.

When this Eun-ha had celebrated her first birthday, they had set before her the telescope belonging to her honored ancestor amongst all the other future-predicting items. According to Appa, she had crawled to it without hesitation, not even stopping for the food. Nowadays, Eun-ha couldn't look at that revered treasure without feeling sick to her stomach.

"To your stations," Appa said now, and the family dispersed. Eun-ha watched her brothers run lightly over the artificially lit moss to their assigned sections of the dome. The colonists had built the shielded dome to cover the colony after the mer-people first developed their atmosphere suits. It was transparent and porous under normal circumstances, allowing air and sunlight to pass through freely, but when attacked would harden into a protective barrier. The governor had people working on a way to enlarge it to surround the entire moon, but so far it could still protect the colony alone. They were also trying to make it impermeable. Right now, the mer-people's weapons could in time penetrate the shield, and so it was the warriors' duty to climb the ribs of the dome and fight any who broke through. Some, her brothers included, were training with space suits to be able to go outside the dome and fight the mer-people before they could break in.

Eun-ha's task was to make sure no harm came to the storage units holding the year's harvest. No mermaid had ever attempted to attack the food storage in the history of the colony, but that didn't mean it never would happen, as Governor Patel was fond of saying. Even the lowest of duties could mean the difference between life and death for the colonists, he would intone solemnly.

Eun-ha trudged there now, not bothering to run. What was the point of any of it? They couldn't attack the mer-people on their own territory; they didn't have ships equipped with the technology that would allow them to go after the space swimmers. She didn't see that the mer-people would ever stop attacking them, either, though nobody knew exactly why they hated the colonists so much. It was a pointless, endless war, and sometimes she wished her ancestor had listened to reason and left the moon for a more hospitable environment. Word from colonies scattered throughout the galaxy on various other terraformed worlds proved that the mer-people only ever attacked this one. This moon was her home, and Eun-ha loved it, but she loved the idea of peace even more.

She never spoke of this to anyone. It would be considered close to heresy. From someone in her family even more than anyone else. There were always firebrands in the community, people who insisted they had no business remaining in such a dangerous place, that no one should have to live in the shadow of constant attack, but no one in the Park family would ever speak so. Eun-ha's mother did sometimes wonder aloud, in the privacy of their own family, if this was all worth it. Appa used to hush her, but of late he had started to get a thoughtful look on his face whenever she spoke of such things.

"We fight, for this is our home," he responded once. "We have taken up the promise of this moon and built it – you among others – into something good and beautiful. To aban-don it now would be wrong."

"If we are fighting for our home, then what are they fighting for? What inspires such anger and passion in them?" Umma had asked, for which Appa had no answer. They had not spoken of it since, but it had stuck in Eun-ha's mind.

Along the winding, narrow path that led toward the six low, rounded storage buildings toward the edge of the colony, Eun-ha was passed by fleet-footed warriors, healers, child-tenders, and others whose tasks during every attack were far more important and interesting than hers. Each time, she stepped out of the way, onto the soft blue moss that covered the moon's surface naturally, to let the other have the right of way.

No matter what one's job was in between attacks – Appa was a science professor at one of the two universities the colony boasted, for example – there was a strict hierarchy of respect for the battle positions. Appa was one of their best warriors and strategists, and as such, even the governor would give way to him during an attack.

At age sixteen, the family had trusted Eun-ha would also have risen to preeminence in battle, a valiant protector even fiercer than her brothers, or a brilliant scientist breaking new ground in methods of defense. Not so low on the hierarchy that she must give way to all others. Umma and Appa never spoke aloud their disappointment, nor even look it. They didn't need to. Eun-ha's disappointment in herself was powerful enough on its own.

All of the other people would be at their designated spots by now. Nobody had passed Eun-ha for a few minutes. She picked up the pace a little, raised her head and tossed her hair back from her face. Looking at the low-lying buildings rising gently out of the ground, colored a soft blue-green to fit more harmoniously with their surroundings, Eun-ha saw a flicker of movement behind the second from the end. She frowned. What was that? She was the only one on duty here, wasn't she? She had a moment of panic, wondering if she had been assigned a new spot and had forgotten about it. But no, Appa wouldn't have neglected to remind her of that before leaving. More likely it was somebody's stray chicken, escaped from its pen.

Eun-ha sighed and lowered her spear from a defensive stance to a more relaxed carrying position, but didn't loosen her grip too much. There was, after all, the slightest chance it wasn't a chicken . . . Sometimes thieves did try to take advantage of the distraction of an attack to break into the food storage or even people's homes and take something for themselves. It hadn't happened in her lifetime, not since Governor Patel threw the last thief outside the dome to be killed by the mermaids, but that didn't mean it would never happen again.

Eun-ha approached the last building in line, wishing these were built with corners for her to peer around. The best she could do was sidle along the wall as it curved and hoped that she saw whatever-it-was before it saw her.

As she came around the back of the building, only a few feet from the hardened membrane of the dome as it came down to the anchors buried deep within the moon's surface, she did not see the chicken for which she was hoping.

Clothed in a greenish atmosphere suit which floated a few feet above the ground, propelled by means the colonists still couldn't understand, was a merman. She could see his fierce pale-blue face, the pointed teeth bared at her, the cold black eyes, the brilliant sapphire and gold diadem bound across his forehead. She could not see his tail, but the suit showed the shape of it plainly. Eun-ha had never seen a merman in person before, only pictures, and now she was staring straight at one. Inside the dome. She squeaked, then clapped her free hand over her mouth in dismay as the merman turned his head at the noise. With nothing for her to hide behind, she had two choices: run away or stand in defense.

Running away seemed the most sensible option, aside from the merman's weapon. It resembled an old-earth cross-bow, but it fired bolts of pure energy rather than arrows. She could not outrun that. It was, however, possible to deflect the bolts with the haft of one's spear, coated in silver dug from the moon's mines. She and her brothers had practiced for that ever since they were children. Eun-ha was predictably terr-ible at it, but it was better than presenting her back as an open target as she ran away.

Besides, these buildings were her responsibility. The fact that nobody had ever expected her to need to defend them was irrelevant.

Eun-ha brandished her spear. "Surrender!" she said, wishing her voice sounded more commanding.

The merman pointed his crossbow at her. "Run home, little land girl. Forget you saw me and I will let you live." His voice was as rough and gravelly as everyone always said. Nobody was quite sure how the mer-people had learned to communicate verbally. The first Eun-ha, in her study of them, said that they spoke to each other mind-to-mind, but that they had somehow developed the technology as part of their atmosphere suits to translate their thoughts into spoken words, in the colonists' own language. It was unnerving seeing it happen before her. The merman had not moved his mouth inside his helmet at all, yet Eun-ha had heard his words plainly. The sound of them made her think he was a young merman. She couldn't say why exactly, only that his voice did not have the gravitas she would have expected from a full adult.

A tiny part of her wanted to take him up on his offer. The larger part was outraged at his condescension, especially coming from someone her own age or thereabouts. She saw that in his free hand he held one of the tiny orange tangerines that were Umma's specialty. Lee Yu-Na was one of the colony's best farmers; it was in part because of her contributions to the food stores that Eun-ha had been assigned here instead of an even lowlier spot.

"You are stealing my mother's fruit!" she sputtered. "You have no right to that food. Put it back at once! And get out before I call for help."

"I can't do that," he said, opening his gloved hand to let the tangerine drop. It rolled to a stop against the building, a glowing orange spot in a soft sea of blue and green. "My people are counting on me."

Eun-ha raised her chin. "As mine are on me. I am the descendent of Park Eun-ha, and I will not let you steal my people's food!"

At that, the merman's entire body tensed. "The Murderess!" he growled, investing the word with capitals. "I would be a hero indeed if I freed the galaxy from the scourge of one of her spawn."

"Eun-ha was a hero! She defended our people against you when you attacked us for no reason! She kept us on this moon when others wanted to flee. If it weren't for her, we wouldn't still be here!"

"Yes!" roared the merman. "She was the leader of your invasion of our territory. She was the one who captured and killed many of our people to study ways to better kill us. She is the emblem of all we hate!" He curled his tail underneath him, the tip almost brushing the ground. "I am Iansuss, son of Mrowa, daughter of Hasfer, and I will avenge my people on you!"

Eun-ha blinked, shaken despite herself at the vehemence in his words. Here was the answer to Umma's question about their passion. It was false, of course.

She repeated the stories Appa had told her from the time she was old enough to sit and listen. "There was no one living here when the colonists came," she said. "They studied everything about the moon, they sent out questions thr-oughout the galaxy to make sure nobody claimed it. No one came forward until after our people had settled here, had dug the silver mines, had begun our lives – only then did your people start attacking us. No warning! No reason given! Merely attack after attack. Of course, my ancestor fought back, she fought to defend her people and her home."

"We would never live here. Our home is the deeps, as is proper. No one would dream of dwelling on this moon! It was ours nonetheless, until your people stole it. A place both precious and deadly to us. You say your people inquired of the galaxy if it belonged to anyone. Maybe they did, but what good did that do us? We did not have the ability to communicate with your kind. By the time we learned, you had already begun to desecrate it, cutting into the surface to bring out the moon's blood, altering it with your buildings and your plantings and everything else. What else should we do but attempt to sweep you back from whence you came?"

Eun-ha forgot for a moment she was bandying words with a deadly enemy of her people. In a flash, she was back in school, debating logic with one of her classmates. "Did you try asking us to leave? Once you could communicate, did you at all let us know why this place was so important to you?"

He glared. "Why should we? Who are you that we should explain ourselves? We knew, once we saw how you treated the moon, how you pierced her for her blood, how you covered her with your abominations, struck their roots into the heart of her, that we could do nothing but destroy every last trace of you. Impious, cruel, reckless . . . there is no talking with such as you."

"Of course not, if that's the attitude you take!" Eun-ha rolled her eyes. "How were we to know this place belonged to you and you wanted us to leave if you didn't tell us?"

Iansuss fired his crossbow. Eun-ha jumped, but the bolt of energy missed her. Either he was as poor of a warrior as she, or he had fired out of frustration, not intending to kill. Swallowing her fear, she pressed forward with her reasoning.

"We have all believed for generations that your people are barbarians, attacking us out of sheer malice, because you never bothered to talk to us! And we haven't desecrated anything! The moon was barren when we arrived, nothing on it but this moss. The mines haven't hurt the land, we have protocols in place to ensure that. As for what we've planted, that's only improved the moon, not made it worse."

Iansuss shook his head once. "Lies! Every word you speak condemns you further!"

"I do not tell lies," Eun-ha said, stung at the insult to her honor. "And you cannot blame us for something we have not done."

"You stayed when our leaders told you to leave!"

"Told, yes, but not why! My people would not let themselves be bullied by you for no reason! If you had asked, if you had explained, then, perhaps . . . but why should we leave simply because you demand it?"


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