Category Archives: Samples

Gods, Witches, Space & Stars (+bonus short story)

Back in 2011 when I started this blog, I named it “Gods, Witches, Space & Stars” as an encapsulating summary of the type of stories I was working on at the time: switching back and forth between what I called my “Gods & Witches” secondary fantasy world and some science fiction.

I first created my “Gods & Witches” world in 2009 for Brandon Sanderson’s SF&F writing class.  As part of that class, we were to begin a whole new writing project rather than continue working on any pet projects.  So, I began a Rapunzel-inspired story set in a secondary world of–you guessed it–gods and witches, where “gods” had creation magic and “witches” had destruction magic.  The repercussions for using their magic were inspiring awe, reverence, and a compulsion to worship or follow (gods) or inspiring intense fear and hatred in anyone in the vicinity to the point of their wanting to kill you (witches).  There’s a bit more to it than that, but my idea was to take folkloric trends and human tendencies and press down on them, exaggerate them, or make them a bit more concrete and a bit less abstract.

I ended up writing something like 76k of the first book of my planned duology (The Witch’s Tower (Rapunzel retelling) / God’s Arrows (Cupid & Psyche retelling))  before running into several problems I was unequipped to solve at the time.

One, The Witch’s Tower was far bleaker and more tragic a story than I actually wanted to write.  And although I retooled the ending and overall arc several times to make it lighter or more hopeful, I kept running into the fact that although I mentally wanted to write something more uplifting, I emotionally couldn’t.  Frankly, I was carrying too much emotional baggage from my own life that I needed to confront, work through, and heal in order to be able to write anything else.  Writers write from our hearts and our subconscious as well as our minds, after all.

Two, even though I’d been writing collaboratively with friends for over a decade by this point, I had comparatively little experience crafting plots solo.  The 76k I’d written barely scratched the surface of the story I wanted to tell, and I was frustrated by its lack of substance.  I wasn’t sure at the time if this was due to my intense love of long-story formats or if I simply didn’t know what I was doing.  I suspected it was more the latter, (although frankly it’s probably both).

It was really hard for me to reach the decision to set the world and these stories aside, however I don’t regret it.  I spent the next several years experimenting with and learning from short fiction, from 1k one-offs to my 44k novella.  I won’t say that I’m a master of plotting now, but I’m increasing my ability to tell if my pace is a plot problem that needs solving or if I simply need to go ahead and indulge my love of wandering through character and worlds.

Then in 2014, my friends at World Weaver Press did a #SFFLunch Twitter chat on my birthday and I jokingly suggested they create a dragon anthology for me.  Aaaand they agreed! Haha, I’m still highly entertained and pleased by this.

After looking at the worlds and stories I had to hand to see where I might craft a dragon story to submit, I eyed my Gods & Witches world and characters and realized that allowing the mentor-figure of The Witch’s Tower to encounter a dragon in her backstory would set her on a much less lonely, wearying, tragic path.  It would also unravel a good deal of the resulting situation and plot I’d written out in that 76k, and sort of create a “what if something else had happened” alternate direction.

In other words, if I wrote a dragon-and-girl friendship romance story with this character in this world, I could not only practice my plotting, but I’d create much more light and hope and a greater potential for happiness within my own inner worlds.  It felt like a much more suitable way to say goodbye.

I took up the challenge; I wrote the story.  I saved it a couple years to submit to the anthology, but unfortunately due to a few things the anthology never got off the ground.

However, I’ve also sought help and feedback on the story sporadically over the years, and I’ve learned a lot from my experiences revising. From cutting a scene on one reader’s feedback, to putting it back in with a different approach on the very next reader’s feedback, revising this story has given me a lot to think about concerning what’s right or wrong in regards to storytelling and the relationship between a writer’s intent and readers’ expectations.  Especially since, in my quest to write a lighter story (despite the protagonist’s difficult past), I originally undercut the protagonist’s emotional arc and made her a bit colorless and the ending weak or difficult to understand.  I’ve definitely grappled a lot with the balance of dark and light in this story.  We will see what impact my revisions have made.

Now it’s time to share it with the world and move on to the next big adventure: another world, another novel that’s now well over 100k and pleasing me much more.

I should probably change the name of my blog to something more suitable to what I’m writing currently, but first, my announcement!

I’m giving away this story, “The Dragon’s Gift, Once Given” for free to start off my new fiction-writing and releases newsletter.  The story clocks in at roughly 12k, right between short and long, haha.  I’m still happy with how I wrote their relationship.  A dragon with a sense of humor? Check!

Enjoy! 🙂

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Behind the scenes: What She Saw By Lantern Light

I’ve been a fan of both Enchanted Conversation and World Weaver Press for years.  So when I saw the announcement that Kate Wolford would be heading up a joint anthology of original or lesser-known fairy tales set in winter, I decided I would write towards her prompt.  I never actually expected that she would like it, though I did try to hit both her theme and word count goals as a sort of experiment for myself.

What follows is a spoiler-free behind-the-scenes glimpse into the story, why it turned out the way it did, for those who like to read such things.

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When I sat down to write the story in April (2015), my grandmother, for whom I’d been the primary caretaker the first six months or so of her brain cancer, had just recently passed away.  My own health, since I had my own chronic illness to contend with, had been thoroughly shot to pieces, but as part of my recovery I’d decided to return to writing again little by little.

I also had no workable computer at the time and so the idea was that I’d trial out writing a couple short stories on my 7″ tablet paired with a new bluetooth keyboard before delving into anything longer.  This set-up created the interesting effect of only being able to see a few lines of story at a time.

If the tale is packed full of details, it’s because if I didn’t write them, they would not exist.  Whatever ended up “on paper” became the story in my head, not the other way around.

In the bleak midwinter…

The opening line of the Frozen Fairy Tales prompt also happened to be the title of one of my favorite carols.  I’ve included the version that has meant the most to me over the years, trekking with me through the snowfalls and dark nights of my time living in Armenia, and soothing my grandmother’s anxiety as we sat together in her living room in our last month together.  I tried to capture the essence of the song in my story, both consciously and unconsciously.

“And a woman as had her wits about her.”

The Secret of Roan Inish is perhaps my favorite folktale movie of all time.  I watched it religiously when I was younger, to my sister’s bemusement.  If I was going to write a own folktale retelling, I had to pay homage to it in some way, if only in a turn of phrase.  Everyone with Netflix should check it out.

‘Not old like me. I mean old. Old like darkness and stars,’ she said to the flames.

Terry Pratchett’s Thief of Time has been my “bedtime story” audiobook of choice in recent years.  It never fails to sooth my own anxiety and help me conquer my insomnia (a frequent, pesky demon since my chronic illness struck).  One of my favorite scenes is when Nanny Ogg tells Susan, granddaughter of Death, her own hearth-tale about the lady Time giving birth to a mostly-mortal boy.  In honor of Terry Pratchett’s passing and in thanks for all the comfort and relief, I paid tribute to this scene by giving my favorite line a cameo.

Christkindelsmärik

(Photographer Claude TRUONG-NGOC, Wikimedia Commons)

(Photographer Claude TRUONG-NGOC, Wikimedia Commons)

The original Alsatian folktale I based my retelling on starts off with a newly-wed young woman setting off on her first, midnight trip from Rosheim to sell goods at the market in Strasbourg.  Making the switch to Strasbourg’s world-famous, centuries-old Christmas Market seemed like a perfect change to make, given the winter theme.

Sunday’s child…

The concept of a child born on Sunday being able to see into and participate in the world of spirits and faeries I borrowed from a different Alsatian folktale, which I translated from an oral telling under the title “The Faerie’s Gift of Tears.”

My own family lore…

I grew up with stories about my ancestors, including how one Swedish ancestor of mine (a young woman) would regularly walk for long hours of the night to “commute” between where she worked and where her family lived.  And there was this one time where she thought she saw something frightening in the dark…. I won’t tell you what it was or what it turned out to be, but the imagery has stayed with me.  My grandmother also told me a couple tales of her family members encountering friendly ghosts.  So, there’s that.

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“What She Saw By Lantern Light”

Our first snowfall ironically marks the occasion.  My short story “What She Saw By Lantern Light” can now be found in the anthology Frozen Fairy Tales.

Winter is not coming. Winter is here. As unique and beautifully formed as a snowflake, each of these fifteen stories spins a brand new tale or offers a fresh take on an old favorite like Jack Frost, The Snow Queen, or The Frog King. From a drafty castle to a blustery Japanese village, from a snow-packed road to the cozy hearth of a farmhouse, from an empty coffee house in Buffalo, New York, to a cold night outside a university library, these stories fully explore the perils and possibilities of the snow, wind, ice, and bone-chilling cold that traditional fairy tale characters seldom encounter.

In the bleak midwinter, heed the irresistible call of fairy tales. Just open these pages, snuggle down, and wait for an icy blast of fantasy to carry you away. With all new stories of love, adventure, sorrow, and triumph by Tina Anton, Amanda Bergloff, Gavin Bradley, L.A. Christensen, Steven Grimm, Christina Ruth Johnson, Rowan Lindstrom, Alison McBain, Aimee Ogden, J. Patrick Pazdziora, Lissa Marie Redmond, Anna Salonen, Lissa Sloan, Charity Tahmaseb, and David Turnbull to help you dream through the cold days and nights of this most dreaded season.

Table of Contents:

Introduction by Kate Wolford
The Stolen Heart by Christina Ruth Johnson
Faithful Henry by Steven Grimm
The Ice Fisher by J. Patrick Pazdziora
Buffalo Wings by Lissa Marie Redmond
Cold Bites by Tina Anton
Death in Winter by Lissa Sloan
Simon the Cold by Charity Tahmaseb
The Light of the Moon, the Strength of the Storm, the Warmth of the Sun by Aimee Ogden
A Heart of Winter by Anna Salonen
Happily Ever After by Amanda Bergloff
The Heart of Yuki-Onna by Alison McBain
The Wolf Queen by Rowan Lindstrom
What She Saw by Lantern Light by L.A. Christensen
The Shard of Glass by David Turnbull
How Jack Frost Stole Winter by Gavin Bradley

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Story accepted!

Happy All Saints’ Day!

My Alsatian folktale retelling “What She Saw By Lantern Light” will be published in Enchanted Conversation‘s and World Weaver Press‘ joint winter anthology, Frozen Fairy Tales.  You can find out more information, including the announced table of contents, here. You can find Frozen Fairy Tales on Goodreads, here.

I’ll post more once the anthology’s released. 🙂

Until then, I put my Bibliography back up, fully fleshed-out.  I took it down a couple years ago because it was depressingly empty and I felt having it up was rather pointless (and discouraging).  But now it is much fuller! And there is a point to having one! Woot woot.

 

 


Persinette Wide Release

It took me longer than I was expecting to put together this wide release.  First came life things, then came a bug in the ePub, then came various hitches with several different retailers.  However, it’s all come together and Persinette is now available at a variety of e-book retailers.

Persinette_2

A hundred years before Rapunzel, there was Persinette. Before the Old Witch ever locked Rapunzel in a tower, a Fairy set out to change Persinette’s destiny.

Read the French fairy tale that inspired the Grimm Brothers’ “Rapunzel,” learn about the authoress Mlle de La Force, and discover answers to questions such as why Persinette’s father traded her for a fistful of parsley and how she survived for years alone in her wilderness.

Includes translations of the French tale “Persinette” (1698), the Italian tale “Petrosinella” (1634), and the German tale “Rapunzel” (1812-57), along with background information on each of the tales and their authors.

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Retailers:

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Buy direct:

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Add to Goodreads or write a review

Librarians: Purchase Persinette for your library catalog with Overdrive or EbooksAreForever


Call and Response poem

I’m going to be collecting a few things I’ve done elsewhere, here, to make up for the lack of interesting things lately on the blog while I work on writing and translating.  The first is a poem-response sent to a folklore aficionado acquaintance.  Check out his tumblr for lots of cool faerie-lore.


Persinette on Patreon

Persinette is available as an exclusive early release for all Patreon backers for the month of March.

Description:

A hundred years before Rapunzel, there was Persinette. Before the Old Witch ever locked Rapunzel in a tower, a Fairy set out to change Persinette’s destiny.

Read the French fairy tale that inspired the Grimm Brothers’ “Rapunzel,” learn about the authoress Mlle de La Force, and discover answers to questions such as why Persinette’s father traded her for a fistful of parsley and how she survived for years alone in her wilderness.

Includes translations of the French tale “Persinette” (1698), the Italian tale “Petrosinella” (1634), and the German tale “Rapunzel” (1812-57), along with background information on each of the tales and their authors.

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Patreon is also the only place you will be able to get the e-book with this version of the cover.

I was going to say more, but a lot of important and exhausting life-things happened in March, so this is what I’ve got.  Thought I would go ahead and post this now while it’s still March….


fairy tale & folktale translations

For those of you who follow me on Twitter or Tumblr, you’ll already know that I’ve launched a website for my fairy tale and folktale translations.  But we’re approaching the end of the year and I thought I would post an official announcement here.

I’ve had the website URL reserved for years, but only since July of this year have I started building it up, in preparation for an imminent e-book launch.  But that is news for another day.

My folktale translations are the only thing I’m writing at the moment, since I only have the time/energy to write a few sentences at a time every few days, but it’s working well enough to be able to post a translation per month.

For those interested, visit littletranslator.com


50k vs. 140 characters

I find it funny that I won the Halloween twitter-fiction contest, considering I found out I won in November while toiling away at trying to write 50k (whereas in October I was gleefully experimenting at paring down story-glimpses to 140 characters).

Here’s my winning tweet.  If you’re curious, I chose The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo as my spooky-book prize.  It also doubles as part of the curriculum for the historical fiction course I’m taking via coursera.


Pirate Ink & Short Stories

So, here it is 2 AM and I’m an insomniatic bird again.  It’s not so bad this time, since apparently there’s someone to keep me company online.  However, since I had this idea, I thought I might as well enact it. Seeing as the Sandman isn’t coming by to see me anytime soon.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my list of projects lately.  Mostly about how I have a lot of unfinished projects that I would like to spend time on–and, ultimately, finish.  I really don’t like abandoning stories. Each one is a little life inside me that wants attention, wants to grow, wants to become something and mean something to someone.

However, the more time I spend getting to know myself as a writer, the more times I relearn this lesson:

–I do not (as yet) know how to craft an effective short story plot.  But more importantly, I am not interested enough in reading tons of short fiction to take the time to learn how to do it right. I am however, greatly interested in novellas and novels.  I love series. I love spending lots of time with a particular set of characters.  I love plots, subplots, and stories that  grow organically over time.–

In 2007 I took a short story class and learned this about myself.  In 2011 when I began writing regularly again, I picked up both my WIP novel but also started dabbling in short stories to see if this fact had changed.  I really do like how short stories can be completed much more quickly than novellas and novels, and that was something I needed.  I needed to feel I could still accomplish things I set out to do.  However, the story-genesis process is so draining, the world and characters just can’t get themselves rich enough yet contained enough to shape a working short story plot, not like my longer fiction which seems to construct itself much more naturally.

However, dabbling in short fiction in 2011-2012 has taught me a few very useful things:

  1. How to routinely submit my fiction and what’s expected of me.
  2. More about revision.
  3. Rejections aren’t personal.  They’re just part of the process.
  4. To take pleasure in my stories being read and enjoyed, even if they’re ultimately rejected for publication.
  5. Not all editors are created equal, and some are much nicer than others.
  6. I really do love writing longer works than shorter ones.
  7. We can much more easily create the types of works we like to read.

So, today I am looking over my projects and making an important decision.  2013 will be full of novellas and novels.  I have learned what I need to learn at this point from short fiction.  Right now, I want to concentrate on learning more from and about my novel writing.

Therefore, I am going to release this (very) rough (and incomplete) draft into the wild.  I liked the concept: tattoo artist on a cruise spaceship saves a pirate-princess runaway by using her craft.  But I couldn’t get the execution right at all, not in my outline, not in the draft.  It kept fizzling and fizzling.  I could probably make it work as something longer, but it just was not fitting itself into a short story space.  Not to mention that I was trying to throw a draft together without knowing the characters enough, the world enough, and so on.

So this is a chance to take a peek into my process. Hello, rough draft. May you live to embarrass me all the rest of my days.

Without further ado, Merry Christmas?

= = =

Pirate Ink by L.A. Christensen, originally started for the magazine The First Line, May 2012 deadline.  Deadline: missed.

Rachel’s first trip to England didn’t go as planned.  Fortunately or unfortunately, the day everything went awry started like any other day: with breakfast. Only the zero gravity part was different. After a week in space, she still hadn’t got used to it. No matter how carefully she pulled back the adhesive wrapper off her hot-tray, anything that could float or fly usually took off like a rocket.

Today was no exception. Rachel harrumphed then blearily set to rescuing her pancakes before they catapulted too far away from her.  She brought them back to hover above her lap while she scraped up some jam and one-by-one cemented them to the tray.  “Ah-ha,” she muttered when she’d finished, as if the food were at fault.  Of course, if she were being honest with herself, it had been entirely her fault for repeatedly forgetting to strap the tray to her lap.  At least she’d remembered to harness herself to the wall before applying physics—or whatever it was she used to open her food. She muttered again and set to cutting and spearing her breakfast.  At least her space-nausea had worn off. Her newly-awoken appetite had her stomach growling.

“Some cruise,” she grumbled, for perhaps the hundredth time. Like all the other ninety-nine times, the complaint did little to reassure her.  Boarding this spaceship had been a mistake, one she could not run from. She was stuck until they got to Earth, like it or not.

Once when she was nineteen, she’d gone on an ocean cruise.  It’d been an impulsive move to get away from a bad boss who drank hard, swore harder, and always found a reason to dock her measly pay.  The ocean liner had made up for all of that, though.  Late night parties, shows, and all the food she could eat—she didn’t even get seasick. Gorgeous views across the rippling water. She could paint or snorkel all she wanted, lose herself in liquid sunsets and vibrant colors, and pick up impromptu clients.

This cruise, however, was nothing like that.  The ship jumped the greatest distances, like a rock skipping across the surface tension of water, just like any other ship. Then it sailed leisurely to orbit and sling-shot around planets—most of which were gas giants that were pretty, true, but impossible to visit. So far they’d only made one tour-stop, and that was to refuel on a station that was too utilitarian to be used by tourists. Onboard, there were no shows but the ones outside her window.  The only entertainers were the tour-guides who doubled as scientists—you could tell by the enthusiastic, if obscurely pedantic way they explained the minutia of each vista–and the all-you-could-eat meals were pre-cooked and came shrink-wrapped.

Not to mention, she hadn’t been able to make a single universal credit since debarking.  Not that she’d figured out how to use her equipment in null G yet.

Once again, choosing a space cruise-line rather than a shorter route via passenger ship had been an impulsive move, a trait in herself she was beginning to regret.  Attending the London Tattoo Convention had been a longtime dream of hers, but there were more direct ways of getting there.  She thought this cruise would be like the last. But unlike the ocean which she’d taken to immediately, there was nothing for her out in space but streaking stars and boredom.

And with boredom came unwanted thoughts and memories. Hardly an escape.

She pushed the bubbling regrets and memories down again and forced her attention to her breakfast. Eat now, stew later, she joked to herself with a wry slide of a smile.

She’d finished her pancakes and was well into her bacon and eggs when everything went dark.

For a moment, she couldn’t see anything but the Gaussian blurred starlit streaks through her window. Her heart thudded loudly in her ears with a dizzying blood-rush to her head unhampered by gravity. Then, bars of red light appeared overhead, casting strange, bleeding shadows about her room, and a voice crackled eerily by her ear. At first, she couldn’t understand what he was saying, it was too strange. Then the voice repeated his message, “All passengers, this is your captain speaking. Please follow the red arrows and report to [the seating area] then buckle in as quickly as possible. This is not a drill.”

She froze, not quite believing her ears. Though her mind hung suspended in confusion, her body believed; it clamped up then shivered, reacting to the creepiness of the blood-washed dark, the crackling voice, and—yes, was that a note of fear in his tone? Like an aftertaste, she felt the reality of the captain’s dread shift through her senses.

An emergency. Perhaps a fatal one. On a cruise ship?

Rachel was glad she’d forgotten to strap her tray to her lap, it was hard enough getting her shaking fingers to unbuckle the straps of her harness. When she was freed, she worked her way hand-over-hand down past her window.  Another ship was coming towards them—fast. Was this the emergency? She didn’t recognize the insignia painted in blazing colors along its side, but it reminded her of the gaudy, cheap tats she’d seen some men wear that made them look almost comical, beefy arms and all.  She scowled at it as she climbed down the wall, surprised at how quickly her hands found the protrusions meant to be handholds.

At last she arrived where she’d tied down her baggage and immediately hooked a leg around one as she bent to untie the other: her [tattoo case]. Livelihood first, she decided, her fingers stumbling over the knot. It took too long. Her pulse thudded too heavily in her ears and her fingers trembled too much to move quickly. By the time she’d got it free and its cold metal slung over her back, the Captain’s voice was crackling over the intercom again, this time with audible strain, “All passengers, please report to [the seating area] now. We need to [make the jump].”

She left her case of clothes behind. Kicking off the wall like she was a swimmer, she aimed for her closed door.  But this was space—air, not water.  She was careening too fast.  If she hit the door she would just bounce off it. No waves would be there to anchor her against her target.  At the last second, she reached out to hook her hand around the hatch’s handle and held on as tight as she could. As predicted, she landed against the hatch with a solid thump and ricocheted off it again.

Rachel cursed and held on tight then swung her legs around to prop against the wall so she could leverage herself enough to open the hatch.

She’d wasted too much time going for her tat equipment.  There was only a trickle of people streaming through the corridor like fish swimming down a river, propelling themselves along with much more grace than she’d ever manage. A few carried baggage with them, but most prudently had their hands free.

Rachel pulled herself around the door then raced off, one-handed, along the wall, following the streaking red arrows.

Ahead, an old woman’s white hair appeared through a doorway. “What’s that?” the old woman croaked. Her eyes were heavy-lidded as if she’d been napping, and she looked blearily about.  Her wrinkles etched her face into a scowl. “What’s going on? I thought this ship was safe.”

A dark-haired young man, sliding over the floor slowed then anchored himself by the old woman. “Come on,” he said, cajolingly. “The crew needs us to be secure for [a jump]. We’ll be safe soon.”  He offered her his hand. When she took it, he pulled her out of her room as if she were as light as a balloon.

I’ll never get used to this, Rachel thought, as she adjusted her path to sail over them.  It was all too ludicrous.

The hallway curved around, and by the time she rounded the curve and slipped through the next hatchway, the majority of the other passengers had slipped through the hatch at the corridor’s end into the [seating area].  She could hear the rumbling hubbub of their anxious voices.

Then a siren screeched by her ear and she heard nothing but its high-pitched wailing. For a moment she was stunned, dazed, and without thinking she let go of the wall to clamp a hand over her ear and swear.  Two white lights flickered ahead.

Then the captain’s harried voice came over the intercom, “We’ve been boarded. Please remain calm and stay where you are. Sealing all hatchways, and sending out security.”

Abruptly she realized what the blinking lights meant, one on either side of the door. But by the time she’d grabbed the wall and thrust herself forward, it was too late: the hatchway [to the ___ area] slid shut with a gust of air then locked itself tight. A deep, metallic thud reverberated through her ringing ears.

Rachel stared at it uncomprehendingly. A sick feeling wormed through her belly.

Floating somewhere beneath her, the old lady swore, released the young man’s hand and propelled herself to the hatchway to slap at it with her fists. “Let us in! Open this door right now!”

Muffled voices answered her from within, but Rachel couldn’t tell what they said.

“Someone—help!” A girl’s voice rung out behind her, half-strangled by a grunt.

Without thinking, Rachel dropped her tat case and spun around, pushing herself towards the girl who was struggling to keep the previous hatch open wide enough to slide through.  The girl had her shoulder and upper back lodged into the opening and seemed to be keeping it from crushing her by sheer force of will, judging by her size.

The dark-haired young man made it to the girl first.  He spun his feet swiftly around, took up a position to leverage himself against the wall, then grabbed the handle.  Rachel had a moment to wonder why the doors didn’t have sensors to tell if anything obstructed them as she pushed herself to the girl’s other side, then grabbed the girl’s arms and pulled her through.  Once again, Rachel overshot; her rescue attempt had them both spinning out into the center of the corridor, but at least the girl hadn’t been crushed.

Behind them, the hatch slid shut with a gasp of air then a clunk of metal.

Trapped. In a corridor. While they were being boarded.  She couldn’t believe it, not really.

She couldn’t really believe she’d managed to save a girl from being crushed, either.

“You alright?” Rachel asked, looking the girl over as they spun, just to make sure.

“Yeah.” The girl reached up and grabbed a handhold to stop them with barely a glance.  As she reached, her sleeve pulled back and revealed the tat starting at the back of her hand and curling around her wrist and disappearing beneath her sleeve: it was a black-and-grey-realistic baby dragon, wet-wired with diodes for eyes that twinkled like poison-green stars in the dim light.  Then a streak of light came shivering out of its nostrils, curling down toward her fingers: smoky bioluminescence like winking Earth lightning bugs, probably wet-wired as well to get the effect’s timing right.

Despite her disorientation, the creature’s beauty was a stab at Rachel’s heart, a triple-edged blade of envy, longing, and shame.

She stared at it, startled by the sensation she’d seen the tattoo somewhere before.  The stylized, India-ink-like lines especially at the dragonlet’s eyes reminded her of _____ ‘s work. Another Earth-based tattoo artist whose art she admired and whose entire portfolio she’d obsessed over since she was a kid, giving tats in her backyard to her friends.  She’d give her left eye to apprentice with him, but she’d probably have to settle for basking in his presence in London instead.  His waiting list was nearly impossible to get on, and his tours were booked years in advance.  If this girl had managed to get a tattoo by him, she was either incredibly rich, lucky, or well-connected—or all three.

Distracted, Rachel mumbled a ‘thanks’ of her own and anchored herself against the wall—or ceiling. (She’d lost track in her tumbling.) Then she gave the girl another look over—and blushed immediately at her mistake.

The girl wasn’t a girl, he was a boy.  He looked to be about fourteen or fifteen, though he was taller than she’d expected for a boy of his age.  He had the long, thin look of someone who’d either just come off a growth-spurt or else he’d been in space too long. __ He’d shaved his head into star patterns at his temples, and slicked the hair above into whorls like comet-trails. Definitely a space-freak, she thought, with a touch of awe where before she’d regarded the breed of space-dwellers with bafflement.

The boy gave her a nod then looked past her, his eyes widening by what he saw. Even in the strange, red glow cast by the emergency lights, he went noticeably pale.

Rachel turned, dreading the return to reality, and saw the same gaudy spaceship floating tranquilly not a hundred meters away.

“Who the hell are they and what do they want?” The old woman had ceased pounding at the hatch and had turned to release her fear at the windows and the ludicrous, lurking ship beyond.

“I think they’re pirates,” the dark-haired man said. He’d come to hover alongside the window.  “They don’t look like the ____ to me.”

A woman with streaks of grey in her red hair that floated about her like a halo peered out the other window. “Pirates have boarded us?”

“Why aren’t we running?” the old lady demanded, as if she held them personally responsible.

“We were—but the—that ship is faster, and this is a cruise ship, not a cruiser.  We couldn’t prepare for [a jump] fast enough to make it out of their range,” the tattooed boy said in a small voice.

“Pirates aren’t supposed to be here,” the old woman said. “[Company Name/PanGalactic Tours?lol] guaranteed this tour would be safe.”

“Let’s hope your insurance makes better guarantees,” the boy muttered, rolling his eyes.

= = =


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