Status Updates

Status Updates

Main Focus: Gush (Fantasy Action/Adventure) Novel, First Draft = 21k out of 100k estimate (21%)

Side Focus #1: Assault on Dread Fortress Paine (Post FM6 Novella) = 20k out of 35k estimate (57%)

Side Focus #2: The Glassbreaker Goes Home (Post FM6 Novella) = 26k out of 40k estimate (65%)

Back Burner #1: FM7 School Story = 0k out of 80k estimate (0%)

Back Burner #2: Super Secret Awesome Project

Other Stuff I Need to Get To: FM3-FM6 concordance updates

Friday, January 29, 2016

3 Days Before FM5.5 Release Quick Notes!

1.  "King Henry and the Three Little Trips" is very done, all the beta readers have returned their lists and the final version plus the cover are finished.  I know you all LOVE to check for my books early in the system but I probably won't be putting this one through until midnight, so if you want to catch it, you'll have to stay up very late, like this vampire writer boy.

2.  I got kind of bored working on the mainline of FM6 (as I'm known to do) so instead of just sitting around thinking about my problems with it, or working on another novel like Gush (like that will ever happen!), I switched over and started the school story instead.  One of the things I did when writing FM5.5 was switching from POV to POV every few days and that really seemed to keep me focused on pumping out the pages, so I'm trying things this way again instead of doing all one, then the other.

3.  7 chapters are finished as drafts, six mainline, one school.  I'm estimating I'll need 28 to finish the book, so there are 21 left to write.  So far, so good.

4.  Been watching through the West Wing on Netflix.  Completely forgot how much I love that show.  I don't think there's been a bad episode yet and I'm halfway through the second season.

5.  Speaking of TV, they're making a TV show for "Altered Carbon".  Holy shit is that awesome, one of my favorite books.  Here's hoping "Heroes Die" gets it's due one day too!

6.  Really need to get back to the theater to see Star Wars again...

7.  Rain...more rain...even more rain...

8.  Can't wait to see what you all think of the new book, mini book though it may be.  Also can't wait to see if it sells like a book or a short story or...something else.  Really hoping people don't skip it, it would be a mistake.  So says all the beta readers!  Who have already read it...neener neener.

Monday, January 18, 2016

"Home is Where the Crazy Is" Sample (FM5.5 King Henry Chapter)

As promised!  Usual caveats apply, copyright, link back here, old unedited file because I'm too lazy to transfer the new one from my writing laptop to my main computer before release day, yada yada! Enjoy

***

“Your tits start scraping on the ground yet, you old bag?” King Henry answered the door, thinking it must have been the Lady despite Plutarch’s insistence otherwise.

Who else would visit Plutarch at that hour?

Who else would visit Plutarch period?

Only it wasn’t the Lady.

It was a delighted Miranda Daniels.

At some point in their tumultuous relationship the Ginger Nemesis had ripped the stick out of her ass, started having sex, and even talked about it . . . without blushing!  You had to embarrass her to get her to blush . . . and it was harder than ever to embarrass her . . . fucking awful!  Ever since, she’d been the one to gross out King Henry with the fact that pale, freckled disgusting ginger she might be, but she was just as much of a sexual being as anyone else.

And King Henry had just thrown a hanging fastball.  “Don’t,” he begged.

Unable to help herself, Miranda leaned forward so she could whisper it, “Only if he’s particularly rough and only if the room is carpeted.”

King Henry would’ve clawed out his eyeballs, but the problem was with his overactive imagination giving him a quick mental image.  “For fuck’s sake . . . I’m not even over the hairy strawberry text you sent me yet!”

“Well, I’m not over all the times you drunk dialed me to moan about Valentine,” Miranda pointed out, “so I guess we’re even.”

He got sheepish for once.  “Yeah, not the best week of my life.”

“I did warn you,” Miranda pointed out some more.  It was one of her favorite thing to do, especially to King Henry.

“Stupid me, I figured you were just telling me not to be an asshole like usual.”

Miranda grinned again.  “Oh, I accepted that you would always be an asshole a long time ago.”  Her expression softened some.  “Both of you are very far from normal, King Henry.  Valentine’s been told by just about everyone for her whole life that’s she’s special, so she doesn’t want to waste it . . . even on you.”

“Yeah . . . I don’t blame her . . . much.”

“That’s right, you have the Ceinwyn Dale Broke Us Up theory . . . I think I heard it four or five times, each time with a different reason for why she was doing it.”

“Junior!” Plutarch called from the kitchen, still grouchy.  “I’m fine with you staying the night, but if you try to have sex with a woman in my spare bed again I’m throwing both of you out on your naked asses this time!”

Miranda and King Henry stared at each other.  Brown as the deepest earth and green like moss rippling in a fierce Irish wind.  “Don’t,” King Henry begged again.

Her lips quirked a bit, but she relented on whispering about her own freckled butt, instead going with.  “We both know I’ve seen what you have to offer and would never partake.”

“Stop reminded me of all the stupid shit I’ve been through while you’re at it.”

“It’s hard . . . it was a bunch of stupid shit.  Just since you graduated . . . if you want me to go back to school then . . . wow, I might need a couple books.”

“About one-hundred sessions with a tape recorder actually,” King Henry murmured.

“What was that?” Miranda asked inquisitively.

Fuck me, I need to burn those tapes before she finds them . . . her or Val . . . or Annie B . . . or Isabel . . . Isabel will probably make a dildo out of them or something freaky as shit.

“Junior?!?” Plutarch called to save him.

“What?” King Henry called back.

“Who is it, you numbskull?!?”

“It’s Miranda Daniels here to torture me.”

Who?

“Redwind!”

“Oh!”

Miranda looked confused; it wasn’t an expression King Henry was used to seeing on her face.  

“Redwind?”

“It’s your fairy title.”

“I have a fairy title?”

“He talks to them more than he talks to humans,” King Henry explained.

“I have a fairy title?”

“Every Ultra has a fairy title.”

“I have a fairy title and it’s Redwind?”

“It could be worse . . . Pocket’s is Fernthrower . . . I helped.”

“Do you know what it’s like to have your hair color as your defining personal characteristic for your entire life?” Miranda complained.

“Nope . . . no idea at all,” King Henry deadpanned.

“You’re not that short,” Miranda said, “you grew out of it.”

“Could dye your hair . . . like, black maybe.  Be a Goth.  Can’t do anything about the freckles though . . . or the hairy strawberry.”

“Oh, that was just a joke,” Miranda informed, “I’m bald as can be down there.”

Again King Henry considered how to tear his brain out of his head.  “If you’ve finished tormenting me, I really need to get back to tricking Plutarch into helping me make a golem.”

“That’s illegal, King Henry!”  Miranda regressed.

“Only if you put a fairy in it.”

“Also, I didn’t come all the way across the school just to annoy you.  You don’t rate that highly on my list, thank you very much.”

“That’s good, because I’d need to be drunker than when I drunk dialed you to even consider making out with you, much less bumping uglies.  It might be shaved, but in my heart I’d know the ginger pubes were in there just waiting to sneak out and infect me.”

Her hands found her hips in a bit of indignation.  “We both know that if we bumped uglies I’d be the one worried about getting infected.”

“Why does everyone think I caught something from Isabel?”

“Because Isabel has plenty of crazy to spare and syphilis would be the least of it.”

“If I knew you would get so annoying over the Redwind thing I never would’ve brought it up.  Although I’m beginning to think it’s not about your hair and is about how you’re always on your period.  Menstrual fluids blowing in the wind!”

She slapped him.

He blinked.

“Sorry!” Miranda squeaked.  “Force of habit!”

“Yeah . . . well, guess I overstepped,” King Henry found himself apologizing.  “And Redwind ain’t so bad . . . I kind of like it.”

Miranda forced her hand down.  “What are you called?”

“The Dirt King.”

She stared.

“I know . . . it’s awesome.  Hey, maybe I can put in a word for you and we can get it changed?”

Now she shivered.  “No thank you; once was enough with you and your fairies.”

“About that . . .” He motioned for her to leave.

“Did the sentence where I mentioned that I wasn’t just here to tease you just go right over your head?” she reminded him.

“I’m busy.  Tell whoever it is that I’ll talk to them tomorrow . . . unless it’s Ceinwyn and she can still fuck off.”

“It’s the Lady,” Miranda said as King Henry closed the door in her face.  “You can’t say ‘no’ to her!”

“I am!” he yelled at the door.

“I’m supposed to lead you into the bowels of Admin, into the restricted sections!” she tried again.

“Fuck me,” King Henry growled as he yanked the door back open.

Miranda smiled at him.  “Curiosity will get you killed one day.”

“Yeah, so I hear . . . that or my big mouth, right?”

***

Two weeks from release!

Monday, January 11, 2016

"Shadow Running" Sample (FM5.5 Eva Chapter)

Eva sneak peek as promised.  You don't see it here but some mega Crazy happens in this story.  It might be my favorite of the bunch.  As always, still an unfinished sample with plenty of typos so sorry about that.  Also as always, if you want to share it please link back here instead of copy and pasting to your fellow fans.  Copyrighted by me, Richard Raley, and all that jazz...you aren't reading this are you, you skipped immediately to the sample, didn't you?

***

“The things I do for you, Lover Boy,” Eva mumbled to herself as she sat in her stolen car, thumbing the steering wheel with a chaotic beat that made little lyrical sense.  “Not really for you, to be fair.  For the Asylum, like always, but you’re involved so I’m blaming you, okay?  Always liked blaming you when something went wrong on one of our adventures and you must admit, usually it was your fault.  So this is too . . . I’m bored . . . I’m on a stakeout . . . must be your fault.  All. King.  Henry’s.  Fault.  Yes.  It.  Is.”

 Eva took a sip of her water bottle, gray eyes never leaving the dentist shop she was casing.  “I mean, I might have already found Iscariot and delivered Samson’s message to him if you didn’t decide to get yourself mixed up with the Curator.  Now Jackson’s dead and every inch of you smells like Isabel Soto and well . . . I’m pretty disgusted with you.  Someone should be, shouldn’t they?

“Boomworm won’t be.  Never could understand how she just let your crap go on by with a chuckle at it all.  Pissed me off from time to time, didn’t it?  And I’d tell you it did and we’d yell and get it out and then we’d be ready for the next leap to take together.  I fought to keep you on the path with me . . . Boomworm just let you roam around like a herding dog after wolves, and you kept coming back to her with dirt all over your fur and brambles in your paws . . .”

It was jealousy really.  Not even jealousy that he might have been with other women and she’d never have known it.  It was jealousy that Eva hadn’t been out their roaming with him, getting her own bit of dirt and bramble in her fur, the smell of strange and exciting journeys the only perfume she craved.  What did you do without me, Lover Boy?  How dare you!  You’re mixed up with all that intrigue and I’m out here chasing a shadow’s shadow!

To be fair . . . she was pretty sure she’d found it.  Isabel and Conan Sapa’s hideout at least.  The corner that the shadow’s shadow is living in . . . argh, I just can’t stand this spy metaphor junk.  Lying, deceit, subterfuge.  That was the part of her job that she had the most trouble with.  The training, the sneaking, the spying, even the killing she’d done in the name of the Asylum was all fine, not a single stain on her conscience, but the lying to the few friends she had . . .

“Killing easy . . . lies hard,” she said to herself.

 Lots of talking to herself lately too.

She just couldn’t talk to her friends about what she did or even the world she’d fallen into by accepting Samson’s training.  Most of them didn’t even know how dangerous vampires really were to mancers or that the upper structure of Vampire society existed.  They didn’t have a clue how much work the Learning Council did to keep them in check and to keep the peace alive.  Add in wild mancers going insane week by week, Weres expanding the black market for supernatural goods, and now the Curator . . . Eva was never without something to do, something she couldn’t talk about.
Another adventure that couldn’t be shared.

“You know what this is like, don’t you, Lover Boy?” she asked the invisible presence King Henry seemed to have this week in Las Vegas.  “Only difference is that I was invited into this world by our teachers and you seemed to fall into it, probably on your face, just like usual.  Or that nice plump tushy you got.”

Maybe she should stop with the metaphors and talk to him about it some time.  They used to talk all the time . . . best part of their relationship after the sex really.  They just never admitted to each other that the talking was up there . . . always pretended it wasn’t what they were about.  Sex, adventure, fun . . . casual . . . nothing more.  Then when it might have been something more . . . what if that stopped all the rest?  Couldn’t risk it . . . we have to break up!

Sure, sure, yeah, good idea!

Eva wasn’t sure about going back to that particular relationship with him.  Or even any relationship that included physical activities of any sort . . . even with him clear of Boomworm again, she wasn’t too interested.  “Sleeping with Isabel Soto and that Anne Boleyn months back, what is wrong with that boy?”

But conversation . . . conversation she wouldn’t mind.

Compare notes.

“I can tell you the names of the Divines and what they look like, what do you have?” she whispered the imaginary future that she knew she could never walk towards.  “You know how to split a pool, but what if I can still rock your world when it comes to anima, Lover Boy?”

She’d never do it . . . but it was nice to pass the time thinking about doing it.

Truth was . . . she’d left the majority of her peers behind.  King Henry, Welf, maybe Boomworm if Miss Dale kept feeding her info, but the rest?  In another world.  “Isabel too, I guess, just on the wrong side of it all . . . they’ll just make me hunt her down and put her back in her cage one day, so why not get it out of the way right now?  Especially since once I have her Iscariot will have to come to me . . . then I can deliver Samson’s message, let Lover Boy deal with Sapa, and hand Isabel back to the normal goons in ESLED . . . what a brilliant plan, right?”

Fines Samson talked a lot about finding weak points.  Conan Sapa was the weak point in all of this.  “Even if he killed Jackson somehow, poor big, bastard . . . competing in an underground Were event, why don’t they learn that Weres always mean trouble and it never works out?  Think King Henry would know after that mess in Los Angeles, but did he learn?  Never!”

If hunting Iscariot was a chore then hunting Isabel would be a nightmare.  “Locking the most powerful corpusmancer on the planet up in the Pit just to keep the Anima Quota down; talk about being stupidly optimistic . . . if only the Learning Council was nearly as good with plans as I am!”

Iscariot:  chore.

Isabel:  nightmare.

Conan Sapa though . . . hard to hide when you’re a seven-foot-tall corpusmancer who has had who knows what kind of anima experimentation done on you.  Seriously, men and their stupid muscles.  Like all those muscles would matter anything once the Mancy was brought into the equation.  Even without the Mancy, that much bulk would be nothing but a hindrance.  If Jason hadn’t been surprised that the fight took the deadly turn it did, Eva would have put money on him winning over Sapa.

But it had taken that turn . . .

You expect me to tell you to always fight like your life depends on it,” Eva tried to do a Fines Samson impression, “but you don’t get to fight for your life.  You get to fight for the life of every mancer on the planet.  So doubly don’t be a moron and ever consider to play fairYou’re the blade that darts in from the shadows, not some stupid ass crusader with a shield screaming as you charge in, never forget it!”

Conan Sapa, too many muscles or not, was the key to finding Isabel and Iscariot.

One:  find Conan Sapa.

Two:  track Conan Sapa.

Three:  Confirm Isabel is present.

Four:  Call in the Calvary in the form of King Henry and Welf.

Five:  Capture Isabel.

Six:  Use her as bait to lure out Iscariot.

“Eva Reti, she’s a planner,” she said about herself before lapsing into awkward silence.  “Eva Reti, she spends too much time alone in stolen cars.”

Recruiters and ESLED proper got their pick from the Asylum fleet of modern transportation, but not her.  Too obvious, Samson had whispered with a shake of his head, get you killed.  You need to know how to always obtain your own transportation.

So he brought in one of the best car thieves in the United States to teach her and Eva had been stealing a car every week for the last couple years.  “Alone . . . with my phone and Candy Crush as my only friends . . . at least they let me borrow one of the jets occasionally.”

Alone, but still a planner.  When everyone else had rushed through the Ouroboros Casino trying to track Conan Sapa’s quick departure, Eva had tracked his arrival, particularly the car he arrived in.  “Thus proving Samson’s point that company cars are a bad idea, especially a black Hummer still registered under a subsidiary of your mercenary company, despite the fact that everyone knows you’re working for the Curator.”

Too many muscles, not enough brains.

“The description of every corpusmancer on the planet except for Isabel Soto . . . whose problem is that she has twenty or so brains all in one head.”

Eva sipped some more water.  Once she found out about the Hummer, and really, a Hummer?  “Big muscles, small where it counts,” she chuckled.  Once she found out about the Hummer, she put in a call to ESLED’s computer club—where most of the electromancers, cryomancers, and mentimancers ended up—and they returned a list of Hummers spotted in Las Vegas during the last week.  NSA, be super jelly.

Next came an assumption that Sapa wouldn’t be in an affluent neighborhood or near the Strip itself, which cut down her list to a dozen.  Finally she put in the footwork and crossed off five possibilities before finding a black Hummer outside a dilapidated dentist office in a not-so-happy part of town.
Given the way she kept seeing shadows on the edge of her vision, the sciomancer sign of nearby anima pooling, she knew she was in the right place.  “Only he’s not alone and I don’t know who’s inside with him.”  Two other cars, a SUV and a Mini-Cooper.  She ran the plates . . . both stolen, unless George Derek Pleck—a seventy-two-year-old retired high school principal of Lancaster, California—was working for the Curator.  “Someone knows how the game is played at least.”

She tried to imagine the Curator driving a Mini-Cooper. 

“Just terrifying.”

There was no way the Curator was inside of that dentist office.  Whole idea was unthinkable, really.  Isabel probably stole one of them, but what about the third?  “And someone had to drive the Hummer after they dropped off Sapa . . .”

That put her at a minimum of four people inside the building.

Sapa, Isabel . . . but who else?


“Come on, Sapa, keep being stupid.  Come on out so I don’t have to go in there and get a look at all of you.”

***

Three weeks!  Check back next week for a King Henry sneak peek!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

King Henry and the Three Little Trips (FM5.5) Update

The first word back from the beta readers has been positive, in fact so positive and adamant that some changes are being made as concerns how this work is being categorized and where it is placed in the series.

Nothing of the story itself is changing, it's still three different interconnected stories (first novellas and now chapters) with T-Bone, Eva, and King Henry in 3rd Person POV.  But, it will no longer be called "King Henry Short Pack Two" and will instead be called "King Henry and the Three Little Trips" with FM5.5 plastered all over it so potential readers get the point.

It's not a full novel in the series (which are like 600 pages now but that's another discussion!), it's in a different style even, but beta readers pretty much commented, "they have to read this, if they don't read this, and they don't read this because they just think it's short stories, they'll be pissed and clueless once FM6 rolls around!"

I took this reaction as good news, since excitement is always good news, and have gone ahead and renamed it to better get the point across that yes, if you're a fan, you'll want to buy and check out this smaller, intermediate, more personal novel in our wider, epic story.  It was also pointed out to me that even at almost 200 pages, it's actually not that much shorter than FM2, and at a dollar cheaper than the full FM books, it's nothing anyone should complain about.  I'm sure I'll still get some complaints on that front, but I'll just roll my eyes at them.

So, not "The Foul Mouth" worthy, but very much worthy of more recognition than just "short pack".  I think calling it "King Henry and the Three Little Trips (The King Henry Tapes #5.5)" sets the stage for it well, marking it's place exactly where it belongs and that's how you'll need to search for it when it comes out on February 1st.

This all started because I figured if there was a Short Pack One there should be a Short Pack Two.  It'll be fun!  Easy!  No problem!  In the writing it became something a bit more, maybe more than I wanted when I started it, and I'm finally accepting that.  There's humor, there's diplomacy, there's danger, there's romance, and there's even death.  Those a novel makes.

I've always been very mindful of not overpricing my products and have always wanted to be a "bang for your buck" writer.  Perhaps this fear of being called out for abusing my fans wallets has led me to downplay this work up until now.  I know some found the 99 cent price tag for the first short stories to be steep and I always worried that I would be accused of double-dipping when I decided to release them again bundled together in Short Pack One.

I wasn't and now with this second ancillary work coming out, maybe I have been a bit too defensive.  I wrote a 200 page intermediate novel.  Hope you enjoy it.  There might even be another one after FM6, how about those apples?

King Henry and the Three Little Trips (The King Henry Tapes #5.5), Feb 1st, get hyped!

Look for the Eva sneak peek on Monday!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

"Driving Miss Vicky" Sample (FM5.5 T-Bone Chapter)

Release is still set for Feb 1st.  Beta read starts today so this sample is still unfinished rough cut, but I'm sure you lot will enjoy it just the same.  As usual, copyrighted by me, Richard Raley, if you'd like to share please post back here instead of copy and pasting elsewhere!

"Driving Miss Vicky" is a T-Bone novella, about T-Bone and Vicky Welf's trip into the Coyote Nation compound.

Enjoy!

***

The Fresno airport was perfect as far as Tyson was concerned.

Just big enough to get you where you needed to go, but not big enough that it had ever lost its little-big-town charm.  King Henry would have called it an airport worthy of a shithole, but then . . . he called everything a shithole.

Especially Fresno.

Tyson had a different view on it all.  He was born and raised in the town, and yes, it did have its problems with poverty and theft and gangs, it also always seemed to be the butt of jokes from Los Angelinos and San Franciscans—it wasn’t some perfect little town—but it was in the odd place of having some big city advantages without having big city disadvantages.  Like having a working airport where you could actually park your car and enter inside of it without having a massive security pat down every five feet.

Tyson was ten minutes early—he was always ten minutes early—so he bought himself and Vicky a cup of coffee from a small cart inside of the airport waiting room and sat down at an empty bench.  He hadn’t a clue what Vicky put in her coffee . . . or if she even drank coffee . . .   Yet she’s supposed to be my girlfriend, is she? Tyson grumbled to himself.  King Henry had a much looser definition on that term.  King Henry was also more likely to find himself having lots of amazing, mind-blowing sex with a stranger than Tyson, but, well . . . they had sort of traded places in Vegas on that front.
Though we did talk a lot too . . . she’s not a stranger at all really . . . I just don’t know her as well as I will one day . . .

Tyson liked Vicky.  Victoria.  Lady von Welf.  He still wasn’t sure which he should call her.  She smiled when King Henry used the nickname, but never frowned when her brother used her full name either.  Tyson felt like he was in the middle.  He could see both girls.  Vicky, the free spirited spectro-artist.  Victoria, the noble lady of House Welf.  He liked her.  Liked both of them.  Maybe more than liked them . . . girlfriend . . . he would like that too.

It was just a . . . thing . . . a King Henry thing . . . and maybe it will be another King Henry thing this weekend, but that doesn’t mean it’s more than that, he told himself to fight off rising expectations.   He wasn’t as inexperienced with women as King Henry liked to tease him about.  Tyson actually had a three-year long relationship at the Asylum, which was more than King Henry could ever say about the subject.

He wasn’t some romantic fool of a geek who fell in love the moment a woman showed interest in him . . . it’s just . . . he did like her.  Especially all the talking.  And . . . the King Henry thing hadn’t been so bad . . .

Other than him walking in on us the one time.

A plane landed on the runway.  Not Vicky’s plane.  Apparently, the Welfs had a pair of small jets just for their personal use.  More proof that I might be an Ultra and a businessman and firmly middle-class, but I would be fooling myself if I thought Victoria von Welf would ever have more than a fling with me, even if she wanted to.  She wasn’t like that, he knew, but . . . her brother surely was and her parents would be even worse.  Plus there’s the race thing . . . especially with King Henry running around spewing jokes left and right about my big black wang . . .

Seriously, T-Bone, that thing is so big that I think Vicky should get a purple heart . . . or maybe a purple vagina!

Hey, T-Bone, what up?  Trip on your dick lately?

So your dad’s Asian and you’re packing the BBC, even as a baby I’m betting, do you think there’s any chance yours was bigger when they adopted you, or did it at least take you till like four or five to eclipse the old man’s tool?

Tyson took a sip of his coffee as the passengers filed out of one of two airports gates.  If you wanted on a plane then of course you had to go through a line of metal detectors, but just waiting you had a whole central area to explore.  True to Fresno form, the airport designers had built a massive redwood forest display in the middle of it, trying to show off how close the city was to Yosemite Valley National Park.

Tyson had been once as a child, back before the Asylum, when family vacation was a possibility.  Not necessarily a bad thing that it’s not much of a possibility anymore, given the vacation I just tried to take ended up the way it did.  He remembered it differently as a child, alone with his parents in the car; heading all over California’s many destinations.  Theme parks had been his favorite, a two-week trip to Disney World when he was twelve winning the top spot.  Nature . . . he had never been much into nature.  Less into it now that I know Half Dome might have a dimensional portal to a dragon’s lair inside of it!

Rides, mechanisms, video games:  those were what he enjoyed.  Both riding them and figuring out how they worked.  Planes and the airport were included in all this.  Before the Trade Towers fell, back when Tyson was quite little, his father used to pack up a laptop and drag Tyson to the airport, where you could sit truly close to the runway, ooohing and awwwing over the planes as they landed nearby.

I suppose even Fresno had to grow up and get a tiny amount of security installed after that dark day . . .

“Is that extra cup for me?  I’m so thirsty!”

Tyson blinked in shock as Vicky appeared from a crowd of normal coach passengers, only to pick up her coffee cup and tilt it back like she’d recently crossed the Sahara instead of the United States in an American Airlines 777.  She put up a finger while she gulped mouthful by mouthful, forestalling questions.

Tyson stood up from his bench, asking one anyway.  “I thought you had your own jet?  I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to pick you up at the normal gates . . .”

“Brother’s resolve broke last night and he finally told Mother about what the two of us did in Las Vegas,” Vicky explained while taking a big breath to refill her lungs, all before attacking the second half of what remained in the coffee cup.

“Wha . . . .what?”

Another breath.  “I know!  I’m so mad at him!  I’m protecting your honor!  Even for a Welf, what year does he think it is?”

“Wha . . . what exactly did he tell her about me . . . exactly?”

It was Vicky’s turn blink at him as she causally tossed her empty coffee cup in a recycling bin.  “That we had sex.”

“Oh . . . right, we did do that.”

“And that I would have even more sex with you when I arrive in Fresno.”

“ . . . And . . . and did he guess correctly about this?”

“I mean, who does Brother think he is?” Vicky Welf asked the entire universe, not so much Tyson Bonnie, who was again trying to keep himself from getting his hopes up about more fling, if not more between the pair of them.  “Do you remember how he was hanging all over Veronica?  Mother never approved of him having an Intra for a lover and now he’s indignant when I spent time with someone who’s a Second Tier Ultra?”

Tyson frowned as he tried to work through the culture differences of normal-ish people butting up against Old Mancy families, all without shooting the Not-So-White elephant in the room.  “It’s only about me being just an Electromancer then?”

“No . . . it’s not about any of their complaints about you really: either that you’re King Henry’s friend and are somehow tainted by the association or that you’re interested in me for my money or that you’re only Second Tier or First Generation and, what would my fifteen-year-dead grandfather say about it?  Well, why don’t we go collect his skull and ask him?  Mostly it’s just about the fact that you have a penis and that it’s been between my legs in my precious, Welf, baby-spewing womb.”

“It has . . . indeed . . . been there,” Tyson confirmed blankly, at a loss of words even more than when he was around King Henry.

“And who does Mother think she is?” Vicky kept going.  “Telling me I should have saved my virginity for my husband!  I’ve counted the months from her and Father’s wedding to Brother being born!  Eight!  I told her so too this time!  You should have seen the look on her face . . . I’ve never seen her so angry before . . .”

Manners and feelings he dared not speak of warred inside of Tyson, as always manners won out.  “I don’t want to come between you and your family.  I—”

Complaining partly out of the way, Vicky seemed to realize they were together in one space again and suddenly threw herself at him.  Part hug, part leaping kiss, for once Tyson was glad he was as tall and as heavy as he was or they both might have fallen to the floor.  Vicky was rather well built herself, if not over built like Tyson.  When she jumped or bumped or grabbed you, you very much felt her muscles and her weight behind it.  He just barely managed to keep them upright until she pulled back, a smile on her face.

“Don’t ever say that again, Tyson,” she ordered like she expected him to do exactly as she told him.
“I’m never sure where I stand with you,” he admitted.  “It always seems like you’re nicer than any person should be, Victoria, especially to me.”

“Don’t ever say that again too,” she ordered him again before pulling his head down for another kiss.

“We’re making a scene,” he mumbled around her lips.

She pulled away reluctantly.  “It’s good you have such wonderful decorum, I seem to be losing mine the older I get.  Throwing that barb at Mother . . . what was I thinking?  It’s my own fault really.  I should have just lied about it all, claimed you were busy and that I was going alone.  But then Brother would have tried to invite himself just to be sure and they really shouldn’t talk about you.  I do have a temper, believe it or not.  Brother, Mother, and King Henry on occasion set it off and I just do the emotional thing . . . not the Welf thing . . .”

Tyson finally got a moment to study her.  Or better to say he got a moment to recover from her sudden arrival.  Vicky had mentioned King Henry making her angry, but the one trait both of them had in common was the ability to blow over a person and dominate an introduction.  And let that always be where the comparison ends, dear Mancy, Tyson prayed silently.

The last time he had seen her, she had been at her most formal, wearing a black dress for Jason Jackson’s funeral.  Now, she wore white for the most part:  white pants that were somewhere between full length and shorts—Tyson would never be accused as a fashion expert—a white, wool knit top that hung loose on her—capris, that’s what the pants were called, weren’t they?—a white belt with a cross pattern of golden studs made of real gold knowing the Welfs, and platform sandals on her not-so-dainty feet.  Her only deference to the fact that, March though it may now be, it still wasn’t quite yet spring, was a knitted scarf thrown around her neck, which was colored like a rainbow—not in a Gay Pride way, but in a Spectromancer uniform kind of way.

“Was I meant to wear blue and yellow and missed the hint?” he teased her.

She smiled up at him, taking in his usual khakis and sweater-vest, perhaps more stringently ironed than usual.  “If I had my way, you would be wearing nothing at all, Tyson, but I daresay that would cause more of a scene than the one you’ve already complained about.”

He barely managed to keep from blushing, falling back on manners.  “Would you like another coffee?”

“Yes!” she exclaimed at the idea. “Then we need to find your car and I’ll tell you about how I escaped!”

“You . . . escaped?”

“It’s not like I was locked in my room,” Vicky hurried forestalled, “but Mother wouldn’t let me borrow her jet after I called her a whore.”

“You . . . called your mother a whore?”

“Well, she insinuated that I was one and then I rebutted, as I said earlier.  Can I use this card thingy for the coffee?  They wouldn’t let me buy drinks on the plane with it, just the ticket.  Do you think we can get some of those pastries too?  All I’ve had is peanuts since I left the Mansion.”

***

Feb 1st!  Month away!