New Story Online – “Options,” at Avenir Eclectia

Avenir EclectiaSince last I mentioned Avenir Eclectia, the ongoing saga of The Space Colony Time Forgot, but I Won’t Let You Forget, four more of my episodes have posted. To catch up:

In “Chaplain,” “Nightingale,” and “Satori,” John Milton finally enters the virtual-reality world of the Dreamers as a full member and is welcomed by an unlikely guide:

John Milton’s sandals crunched on fine gravel as he walked with Jiro Sukahara along the meandering path through the chaplain’s expansive private garden. His balance was improving with each step, enough to let him savor the subtle splendor of the flowers and greenery. Feathery blossoms from a giant cherry tree at the garden’s heart filled the air and tumbled across the footpath.

In one corner, a sandy basin was dotted with angular stones arranged in a pattern that, to John, seemed orderly and random at the same time, and the white sand was raked into curving grooves that flowed into a complex spiral. A tiny brook roughly bisected the garden, its murmur punctuated by the slow metronome of a shishi-odoshi, a pivoting bamboo tube that filled and emptied itself at the base of a trickling fountain, making a pleasant wooden thunk with each cycle. Jiro explained the device’s original purpose was to startle wandering deer and discourage them from munching on the foliage.

“But mostly, I enjoy the sound it makes.”

Today, in “Options,” we return to the story of Smith the Artful Dodger and his little covey of orphans. He’s reluctantly sent them off on a smuggling mission after a little arm-twisting from an old and most unsavory friend. Now, he’s trying to convince himself it was the right thing to do. His companion Kate has other ideas:

All Wallace cares about is the money. We have a deal. We help him smuggle his parcels, and he lets us be.”

“How very warm and cozy.” Her smile was acidic. “’Tis a glorious day indeed, when we clasp hands with the likes of Wallace Beadle.”

He wouldn’t look directly at her. “You think I’m enjoying this? I had no choice.”

“There’s always a choice, Smith. You taught me that. Your speciality is finding the choices nobody else can see. Since when do you give up so easy, or toe the line on a contract with a piece of filth without conscience or scruples of his own?”

“This is different. Peacekeepers are involved. I can crack Wallace’s skull if gets too high and mighty, and I can lead a few fat Enforcers a merry chase, but I can’t dodge Peacekeepers. Their resources are unlimited, and they have license to kill.”

“Fine. You were backed into a corner, with no other options, so you ducked your head and tugged at your forelock, for the sake of the children.” Kate stood up and gazed into the depths of the long corridor where they’d skipped away on their dubious errand.

“Something like that.”

Read the whole thing at Avenir Eclectia. If you want to catch up on the adventures of John Milton and Smith from the beginning, links to every episode are listed on my Publications page (scroll to the bottom).

Avenir Eclectia is a shared-world speculative microfiction project sponsored by Splashdown Books. If it catches your interest, consider finding your own place within the emerging history of our lost colony! Submission guidelines here.

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