07:55:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 819 words  
Categories: Announcements, Old Ventures: Refuge

ANNOUNCEMENT: NaNoWriMo 2018, Old Venture: Refuge

I'm sorry. I know, no man is an island, but I've had trouble even being one drop of rain in a river. It's difficult, these days, not to feel like the very foundations of sanity are shaking loose. And I have struggled under my burdens, as I know many of you do. I only yesterday finished last year's NaNo (which I'll be uploading soon to the blog) and I'm going to try and publish one chapter a day this NaNo. It's going to be a rough election cycle this year, and I'm hoping we can get through it together. But if you retain none of the words before or after this, remember these: you are not alone. Amidst all the chaos, and pain, and dehumanizing horror, you are known, you are cared about, you are loved. And so long as we continue to have each other, and to hold one another in our hearts, we have hope. Below is an excerpt, a preview of a chapter I realized was important enough to write and publish out of order, where it might still have some impact. As always, check back daily for updates, on this as well as on older projects that I got behind in posting publicly. And in the meantime, may you and yours stay safe and close in these trying times.

* * *

Jack stepped out onto the stage, and for a moment was blinded by the house lights, and then the chorus of flashbulbs from the media. "I'm happier than I can say to welcome a true American hero onto this stage," the man said, flashing a wide smile.

Jack shook his hand stiffly, then waited for him to clear the stage before speaking. "I'm not comfortable being here," Jack said, "and I'm sure that shows."

The audience chuckled nervously. "That's okay. You're laughing with me," he paused, "I think."

"But I've never been comfortable using my... celebrity, I guess, like this. I've marched, with John Lewis, Martin Luther King, for many varied human rights on many different occasions. You could say I've never been apolitical... but I've always attempted to keep who I am as a man separate from who I was as a symbol. I never wanted to trade on the good I've done, and even today, that's not my goal.

"But I can no longer abide my prior silence. This is not the usual push and pull of politics. This is the rise of something far more sinister, an enemy we fought a world war against, an enemy I hoped we vanquished for good. Maybe that was nave of me. Maybe my generation failed to keep the flames of vigilance lit.

"I didn't decide to speak until last week. I waited, hoping that sanity would return, that someone, anyone, would be able to show the Republican candidate that he's not just trying to be the leader of conservative America, or scared America, that he'll need to lead all of us. He'll need to represent the will of all of us. He'll need to represent the hopes, as well as the fears, of all of us. And their convention convinced me that realization will forever evade him. At his core, he is a divisive and spiteful man. He doesn't like the idea of an America united, unless he can force us to unite behind him, not as a good and changed man, but as he is, angry, scared and lashing out.

"And with each passing day, the parallels with the fascist rise- a rise that cost our world millions of lives- become stronger, and harder to ignore. Every day, more language about how everyone but America is the problem is used, while more narrowly defining what counts as America. I have seen this ugliness before, I have seen what it does to good men and women caught up in its throes, and I have seen what they in turn do to those they deem unworthy of sharing soil with. I wish I could be here for any other reason, truly. But we do not get to choose our burdens, only how we rise to meet them.

"So please, vote. Not just for Democrats, but for democracy itself, for a return to normalcy, to respecting our differences, and the rights of others. For returning this country to an ideal for the rest of the world to envy. For a world where our most vulnerable are cared for, protected, and safe. For America as we want her to be, and need her to be, not what she was. Because viewing who she was through rose-tinted glasses can't erase those who were left behind or excluded in that past, and we know better, now, and we have to do better. The only hope I have to leave you with is this: we can do better. I've seen it. And I pray I'll live to see it again. Thank you."

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  05:52:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 460 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Rubberband

Alisa's neck snapped in Paul's jaws like a popsicle stick. Her body went limp, but he could still hear the strained sounds of her breathing, and through the flesh of his mouth he could feel the dying beat of her heart. He wondered, in her state, if that was enough, if it would control her, or at least buy him time enough to look for other ways to help her. He must have taken a long time in thinking, because he noticed her body changing the rest of the way, the long, thick hairs receding back into her body, and her bones reshaping. Still she hung, motionless, from his jaws, her body pink and vulnerable. She started to slip from his teeth, and he reached up to steady her, and was surprised to see his hands were completely human. For the first time since the fight began, Paul realized they weren?t alone in the room. Clod and Levy were standing defensively around Rica?s empty bed. He was holding his arm; Clod had tied a loose wrap around it. They were staring at him, horrified. Paul could feel his strength failing him. Their fight had taken far more out of him than he?d hoped. In a moment, he wouldn?t be strong enough to beat Levy at arm-wrestling, let alone handle Alisa again. The muscles in his jaw tensed, preparing for what he knew he needed to do. ?Don?t,? Clod whispered. His teeth cut into Alisa?s throat. Blood flowed into his mouth, choking him. He felt the remnants of his last meal rising on him, and he swallowed it, along with a mouthful of her blood. That made him nearly vomit again, and in pushing that back, he dropped Alisa to the floor. He fell down in half a kneel on top of Rica, with his hand against her stomach. She whimpered, and her ears went back. She was submitting. Paul forced himself to move off her, then crouched in preparation of lifting her back onto the bed. But even though she was smaller than him, perhaps even smaller than Rica was, he knew he didn't have the strength alone to lift her. ?Levy,? Paul said. The physicist stared at him, dumbly. Paul didn't think Clod would be able to help him lift Rica back onto the bed, and for some reason Levy's lack of acknowledgement infuriated him. ?Levy!? he yelled, and the other man scurried across the room, finally understanding. They got her into the air, and set her gently down on the bed. ?More straps,? Paul managed to get out. But already the world was falling away. His head smashed into the corner of the bed on his way down, and he was thankful for the peace it brought him.


  05:51:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 634 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Out of Service

Colleen shifted her feet nervously in the dark. She never liked the elevator, not since her first descent on it after she arrived. She made it through her training without puking once- a rare feat for an astronaut. She lasted four minutes on the elevator- something about the way it descended just made her legs go wobbly. Riding the elevator up to her shuttle home had been the only part of leaving the Station that made her nervous. And the fact that Dante, who never left the elevator unless it was dinner time, was missing, and that only made her more nervous. ?This is stupid,? she said. ?So you've said,? Vince replied. ?And yet, you came with me.? ?It is stupid,? she reiterated. ?Just because it's the least stupid option doesn't make it not stupid.? ?Your trepidation's noted.? He said. ?But if you don't mind, I'd prefer it if we could trepidate in a shuttle on our way the hell out of lunar orbit.? He struck the last of several keys. Red lights started to flash inside the elevator, and gave them a modicum of visibility. But he grabbed the intercom. ?Dante or anybody else on the elevator, we're making for orbit. We've got a more than minor emergency on our hands, and that's likely to be the safest place to be. So strap in, tight, because I shouldn't have to tell you, the g-forces are going to make the vomit comet look like a damn merry-go-round.? ?Oh, lord,? Colleen said. ?That's right,? Vince said with a smile. ?I forgot how much you puked on the way down. You're going to hate the way back up. Especially the first part. It's energy-assisted, to give the climber a boost. It means a higher acceleration, and-? ?Extra puking?? she asked. ?Probably,? Vince said. She was shaking by the time they made their way to the seats, so he helped her strap in. ?You aren't scared?? she asked him. ?Of this part?? he asked. ?Nope. Of reentry? Sure. Of those big goddamned things? Absolutely? But this? This is cake.? ?For you,? she said. ?For me, yeah. Reentry's the dangerous part, to me. This is... unpleasant. But nobody's burned up on the elevator, before. ?Are you trying to jinx us?? she asked. ?Or just make me vomit before we start moving?? ?We'll be fine,? Vince said. ?Ahem,? a voice said from behind them. Vince whirled around, not quite recognizing who it belonged to, other than that it was female. He could make out a woman's form standing in the unlit doorway, and from the silhouette, was fairly certain she was naked- not that he had much experience with naked women. Then she stepped into the light. ?Maria?? he asked, surprised. ?We thought you were... a monster, I guess. And not naked. Maybe covered in fur, but not naked. But I'm so glad you're oh-? He stopped. The red warning light had obscured it before, but he now saw that a large o amount of blood slicked Maria from her mouth down. ?Are you okay?? he asked. ?I'm more alive than I've ever been. Though I don't think I appreciate you calling me a monster. Men- even gay men- am I right?? she asked Colleen. ?Horrified of a woman with even a little power. Of course, if I were them, I'd probably be scared, too.? The automated countdown began on the intercom. ?Space Elevator launching sequence will commence in T-minus ten seconds. Proceed to the nearest secure launching point. Nine. Eight. Seven.? Vince eyed the abort button on the wall. Maria was between him and the button. ?You'd never make it,? she said, and sat in the seat next to Colleen. She touched the frightened woman's knee. ?Now buckle up,? she said. ?It's going to be a bumpy ride.?


  05:49:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 721 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Threeway

Paul ran, faster than he ever had, faster, he realized, than any human could. He ran with such speed that the air rushing past his ears sounded like the squeal of a French Horn. He touched his arm, but he knew before he felt them that it was going to be covered in those same, long, spiny hairs. He was afraid of what he was becoming, and what he'd do when he arrived, but he also knew he couldn't stop, or he'd be too late- he needed that speed, and he was going to need the strength that came with it when he got there. He took one final step outside the threshold of the medical bay, and paused on all fours to center himself and prepare his muscles to pounce. He landed front paws first on Alisa's chest. She was standing upright when he hit her, and the force knocked her over and into a wall of medical equipment. She snarled at him and snapped as she pushed herself back to her feet. The smell of burnt fur attacked his nostrils, and as she struggled to her feet he could see a black patch the size of her head across her back. Then he heard it, too soft for Clod or Levy to notice, a whimper, coming from Rica. It wasn't a human noise at all. Paul turned in time to see Rica snap the straps Clod had tied her to the bed with. Rica lunged at Clod, and Levy pushed her out of the way, and tried to hold her on the bed. She raked her claws across his arm, opening a deep and bloody gash, and he let her go. Paul swore, but it came out a snarl. Rica attacked first, leaping at his back, biting indiscriminately at his shoulder. Alisa was warier; she circled him, waiting for an opportunity, waiting for Rica's attack to progress from nuisance to distraction. Rica bit into Paul's ear and tore a strip of it away. Paul half-turned towards her, and grabbed hold of the back of her neck. Then he rolled her forward, throwing her into Alisa as she approached. The two of them fell in a heap to the floor. Paul pounced, trying to pin the both of them down. But they were too strong for him, and shoved him back. Rica was faster, more feral, than Alisa. She lunged at his stomach and latched on with her teeth. They dug into his flesh, but her jaws weren't strong enough to rend their way clear. He caught her unaware with the flat of his forearm, and Rica's back clapped against the floor. In the recesses of his mind, Paul wondered if she dislocated a vertebrae- but he knew that wasn't enough. He stomped his foot down on her throat- a foot he realized was more human than it had been before. He knew that made it less likely he'd try to kill Clod or Levy- but he worried it might also mean Rica and Alisa could overpower him. He noticed Alisa's fur retracting as she approached him. He saw the broken tip from the needle he'd used to inject her with poison, and realized that in combination with her injuries, she was probably weak, and needed rest. But she was desperate, too. She lunged at him, trying to deflect his arms to get a clean path at his throat. Paul shuddered as the bones in her face shifted and popped. Instinct grabbed him, and he wrapped his mouth around her throat. Under his foot, he felt Rica already trying to pry herself free. ?I'll kill you all,? Alisa said through grit teeth. ?I have to.? She believed it, too, and that belief gave her a rush of strength. ?We don't have to,? Paul said. It was only a moment before she broke free from his grip, and when that happened he wouldn't be able to hold Rica, either. ?You're a predator,? she snapped at him with a voice that deepened as her teeth sharpened and extended, ?or you're meat.? She raked her claws across his face, trying to pry herself free. Every instinct told Paul to kill her, or to let her go and flee. Paul hated himself, but he knew she was right. He bit down on her neck.


  05:48:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 858 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Love in an Elevator

?What the fuck?? Dante asked standing in the doorway of the lunar elevator. ?I've been stranded in orbit for close to a goddamned month with nothing to do but jack it. By which I mean, I've been in my own personal Valhalla, attended by big-tittied Valkyries. But the first time I get called down in all that time, and nobody even deigns to show up? Speed, you want to get Vince on the comms? It was his signature that called me down here.? He waited a few seconds. ?Speed? Oh, come on, man. I know I said your mother was an iPad, but you can't still be pissed about that. Christ, I wouldn't have thought a supercomputer could be hypersensitive. Speed? Son of several indigent whores.? He sighed, and turned around, rubbing his beard. He wasn't supposed to leave the elevator after it was called. But he also wanted to get back to sleep. Or a sandwich from the cafe. Or maybe check the latest feed for any new porn. He felt a hand on his work pants. ?Hmm,? he said, and looked down, and was more than a little surprised it wasn't his own. ?Whoa, um,? long, painted fingernails, coupled with slender and dainty digits, convinced him it was a woman's hand. He took a moment to ponder if there was a woman on the Station he wouldn't let grope him. Colleen gave him kind of a friend's stepmom vibe he normally wouldn't have been into, but he was basically in a lady desert, so any oasis would do. Hell, it had been long enough since someone had shown a little interest in him, he probably wouldn?t have minded if Vince painted his fingernails and put a hand in his pants. He spent another moment wondering if it was hotter to have a foreign hand on his crotch and not know the owner. But the thought didn't last long- the temptation and the not knowing was too much for him. He felt breasts press against his arm, naked, and large enough he could narrow things down. It wasn't Mai- which made sense, because he was fairly certain she didn't play for that team. Probably not Melissa, from how high up on his arm they were. And it wasn't Bella- her fingernails were much longer- scary longer. Which left Maria or Colleen. The one of them was definitely a cougar- the other might have been by porno standards. He turned, but before he could confirm it Maria leaned her head against his shoulder and kissed his cheek. He felt disappointed, which made him wonder if it was because he was more into the friend's stepmom thing than he'd thought. But then her tongue was in his mouth, and his brief disappointment was gone. She walked around to his front and Dante was a little sad the lights were fritzing again, because although she was naked he couldn't see much of anything. She kissed her way down his neck, then licked her way back up. She pinched his ear in her teeth and pulled it until it hurt. His right hand brushed up against her thigh, and came back moist. He smiled to himself, rubbing the fluid between his fingers. But there was something odd about the consistency, and he held his hand up into a dull beam of luminance coming off the emergency lighting. The warm wetness on his hand was shiny and red. ?Eh,? he shrugged, ?when in Transylvania, right.? She didn't say a word. ?Sorry. I may have been pickling too long in orbit. All I meant is, a woman's time of the month- it's a natural thing; not something I shy away from. It's just as much a part of her as her lips.? Maria leaned forward and kissed him. ?Or her hips.? Maria pressed her pelvis against his, then slid her hand into his pants. ?Or her big hands.? He was surprised by how warm it was; she was naked, after all, and the station air felt cooler than usual. ?Her breasts,? he said, and reached his left hand to her chest, ?or her eyes,? he slid the hand up her shoulder, along her neck, to her jaw, where he guided her head forward to look at him. ?Wait,? he said, ?what's wrong with your eyes?? He didn't know Maria well, but they'd eaten across a table before. And there was something different about her pupils, something... inhuman. She wasn't looking at him with those big eyes- she was staring at the world that just happened to include him- the way a dog did. ?Are you o-? She lunged forward at him, seizing his throat in her teeth. Only they weren't her teeth anymore, they were larger, sharper, and crowding the space in her mouth where his neck was. He felt her jaw quake, and the vice around his neck tightened. He couldn't breathe, and the world was dark, lit only by a bright, sparkling light that didn't illuminate anything. There was a sharp pain in his neck, and a wet pop, and he couldn't feel his body. He tried to scream, but couldn't.


  11:57:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 1596 words  
Categories: Whores

Whores: Counting On It

A quick little flash fiction starring Detective Campbell from Whores. Dedicated to Kennedy, Roberts, Thomas, Scalia, Alito, for doing their best to make Whores come true.

Counting On It

?Glad you could make it, Campbell.? He gets one alligator of ogling me before I tell him to knock it off; I'm just getting to the second when he notices my glare and averts his eyes.

?Detective, Sargeant. Why am I here?? It's raining, and it's clear from where his squad car is that it's going to be an outdoor crime scene. That already has me pissed off. It's Sargeant Roberts, and that's strike fucking two.

?Because I hear you like your steak bloody.? He shines a flashlight down the alley. There's a woman propped against a wall with several gashes in her torso, with a hell of a lot of blood soaking the cardboard she was left on.

?You got yourself a corpse. Congratulations. So why am I here??

?Look again, past your own smug sense of self-satisfaction,? he says. But then he looks, and realizes there's more blood and rain in the gaping torso wound than when he arrived.

He puts his boot on the body. It's a shit thing to do to a corpse, but it creates enough of a valley that the blood and water flow out of the wound, enough that I can see the internals. I put on a pair of rubber gloves, because while Roberts is willing to leave his foot and fingerprints all over this dead woman, I'm not. ?Outside, guy really went to town, thing you'd expect of a sick fuck.?

?But internally he was very precise. See this indentation- he clamped this flap of tissue back, so it wasn't in his way when he went for the ovary. He remembered, here, that he was pretending to be a psychopath, and slashed the crap out of her fallopian tube. But here, there's a section missing. Not dangling by a thin piece of sinew, but gone, surgically removed. But made to look like an attack.?

?And she was raped,? he says.

?And you know because...?

?Gut wound wasn't the only bleeding she was doing. And I've been around enough to know the nasty side of a sexual assault.?

?Hmm. So they were thorough, then.?

?They?? he asks.

?Have you found the husband??

?I never said she was married.?

?Married, or longtime boyfriend. Somebody committed.?

?Married. And we've been looking. He's not home. But we found his car. Edge of town.?

?That was fast.?

?It stalled out in a place with no parking. Looks like he pushed it as far as he could, but ended up abandoning it in the middle of the road. We found it before the body.?

?Have you got an address??

?Sure,? he says, ?but he's not there. We checked already.? I hand him my phone and he taps the address in. The database pulls up a license, with a current address. ?So what should I do, then?? he asks.

?Wait for crime scene. They'll be here eventually.?

?And in the fucking meantime??

?Try not to catch pneumonia?? He flips me off as I turn away. I don't blame him, and I return the gesture.

In this rain, there aren't a lot of people on the street. Really, only those who can't afford not to be. I roll slowly past a few, but they're too put together, or have umbrellas and rain gear. It's not until I find a man shivering, and thoroughly slicked from head to toe that I stop, before I even get a good look at his face. ?Car troubles?? I ask him.

?Something like that.?

?Want a ride?? I ask. He's certainly heard all manner of stories about not accepting rides from strangers. But he's not a girl, so he's not concerned about getting raped, or having to carry a rape baby to term, so he figures it's safer than the rain.

If only he knew. ?Thank you,? he tells me in jittery speech. He's exhausted, and sopping. He collapses, all but asleep. So he doesn't notice where I'm driving him.

We stop at his house, and that's when he starts to worry. ?I never told you where I lived.?

?You didn't have to,? I tell him, and show him my phone, which is displaying my police credentials. He pulls his phone out of his pocket, and scans mine, to verify I am who I say. ?Care to talk inside??

He lets me in, though he does it in this strange way, like I'm a vampire he could perhaps banish if only he doesn't invite me in. ?What's your name?? I ask him.

?You don't know?? he asks, bewildered.

?I didn't ask your driver's license; I asked you.?

?Antonin. Everybody calls me Toni.?

?I work homicide, a specific branch. Your wife was murdered.?

?God...? he says, and he very nearly sells it. But he can't quit break apart, because he's broken already- he broke hours ago, and there's just nowhere worse for him to get.

?Your wife was raped. Violently.? He swallows. ?Because my coworker's a moron, he didn't check into her medical history. I'm not, so I did.

?I'm going to tell you a story. And when I'm done, you can tell me what you think of it. A man and his wife, we'll call her Alita, were poor. In part, this was because she had a specialized medical condition. See, her connective tissues were fucked, so she couldn't survive carrying a child to term. Because of that, they fought for, and eventually won, an exemption to get her an IUD.

?But then the husband lost his job. Without his job, he lost his health insurance. When he lost his insurance, they lost their exemption, and they don't give those out like Halloween candy anymore.

?They waited. They were patient. They tried to find some doctor in town who would sign off on the medication. Then the decision was taken out of their hands. Alita got pregnant. Their new insurance provided for natal care. Their doctor told them it was ectopic, a baby growing outside the womb. This could be life-threatening for damned near anyone, but Alita in particular would not survive such a pregnancy- probably not even a surgery to transplant the ovum into her uterus- which has its own risks.

?They got desperate. Made phone calls, because time was short enough they couldn't waste the time to go to doctor appointments they increasingly couldn't afford.

?So they hatched a plan. They got into his beat up old piecer, and tried to leave the city. Maybe to go to one of the underground clinics in the burbs, maybe all the way to Canada. It doesn't honestly matter, for the story to ring true.

?But the gods weren't smiling on the pair tonight, and their car broke down. Alita was bad off, but they had a plan b. Her husband had tools. He used them to make it look like Alita was held down in an alley, raped, then mutilated at knife point. He felt like he could do it, remove the embryo from his wife, even in an alley, even in the rain, even still burning from the excruciatingly rough sex. She was never supposed to be in any real danger. He'd been careful. Checked out books from the library, read papers on his phone.? His face turns red at that.

?But she bleeds out. Maybe it's the anesthesia, maybe he nicks something vital. He tries to save her. He even calls in an anonymous tip, but she's dead long before an ambulance can show up- long enough he knows her brain's dead, even if they somehow manage to get her heart started again.

?So he runs. Or walks, as the case may be, meandering his way back towards their home. He's avoiding it, he's moving so slowly, because he knows it's going to be nothing but an empty husk when he gets there. What do you think??

?I think it's an ugly story,? he says bitterly.

?It's an ugly world. Which is why you're going to have to show me your penis.? He looks at me like I'm an insane person. ?That kind of friction burns both ways. You can show me your penis, or I can call in a male officer, if that would make you feel less like a scumbag.? He frowns.

?There's no point,? he whimpers. ?You already know everything that I did. And she's gone, so nothing the fuck else matters.? He's wrong, so I ask him the only thing that does.

?Where's the baby?? I ask him.

?Baby?? he frowns, then he gets my meaning, and his voice gets larger, filling the room. ?It's a zygote, in this case little more than a tumor that was killing my wife, slowly. Transplantation would have been the same kind of death, only a few months removed. I didn't kill my wife. I was the one- the only one in this insane world, that lifted a finger to try to help her. You're the monster, here- people like you are the reason she's gone.? I toss a pair of cuffs onto his coffee table.

?I'd be wearing those, when the Sargeant comes in. Trust me, they won't go on so gentle if he puts them on you.? I hear one side snap before I clear his front door.

Roberts is there, like I figured he would be. ?You got our man??

?Yep. Arrest and book him.?

?What's the charge?? Roberts asks.

?Do him for murder. Two counts.?


  11:21:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 917 words  
Categories: Announcements

Spec Fic Blog Hop

There's an ongoing blog hop highlighting speculative fiction writers and their processes. I've jotted a little getting-to-know-you interview below,

What are you working on?

Several things. At the moment, I'm prepping the second book in my space opera trilogy, the second book in my urban fantasy series, and a biopunk dystopian collaboration with Michelle Browne, as well as participating in a short story anthology due in the fall, and various other bits and sundries. I have approximately ten novels in varying stages of revision, and every spare minute not drafting a new project goes to rereading and tweaking those. So the next few years will give readers a lot of fun new stuff, but right now it's all a blur. The moment I finish a draft of one thing, I pick up another draft of something else.

How does your work differ from others in its genre?

Mostly due to my personality, I'd say.

I write across so many genres, that it's hard to pick out one idea or theme that always stands out in each work. I like quirky, minimalist fiction that has the sort of punchy humor and sensuality you might see on TV. I'm a sucker for off-color banter and surreality, and most of my work reflects that very particular tone. I write like I talk- with, at best, a very thin filter. I'm very heavily influenced by writers such as Hunter S. Thompson, Chuck Palahnuik, Garth Ennis, and Warren Ellis, who weren't afraid to let their own particular brands of crazy filter through their work; true impartiality is a dream, so the themes and ideas in my work very closely reflect how I see the world or my life at any particular time. I love entertaining people, but I love relating to people more.

Why do you write what you do?

That depends on the project. There have been some projects that I felt compelled to write, because I felt I had a framework to provide some general insight on something that bothered me. There's others that I wrote because it seemed like a fun story, or because I pitched the idea to my wife/plot-doctor/ballbuster, and she said "I'd read that." I'm a huge sucker for schlocky film and surreal visuals, so a lot of times, it can be something as simple as "Werewolves..... IN SPACE!" that captures my imagination. Perhaps the best answer would be that I'm afflicted with literary ADHD. Although most of my work loosely qualifies as "speculative fiction," I tend to have a more difficult time focusing on the usual writers' trajectory, of exploring one setting or idea through a series, through its completion, before picking up another. I like my series ideas, but at the same time, it's hard not to resent the characters I've already spent time with for pulling me away from the characters I could be flirting with.

How does your writing process work?

At this point, I've been steadily writing for more than a decade, so I'm not especially finicky about where/when/how, although I prefer to not have other people present, and I keep other distractions like music and TV to a minimum.

I have far more ideas than I can use, and I keep a little gladiator pit of fragments jostling for attention at any given time. When I think that a plucky little fighter is beefy enough for a go at the big time, I fill in the plot, outline it further, and then begin writing. I'm lucky to be a fast writer, and the generic "write a novel in a month" November challenge for me has been gradually been becoming tougher and tougher. Last year I wrote two novels in approximately 5-6 weeks. They're in varying stages of revision now; I usually like to sit on projects a while between drafts, to be sure that I am approaching them with as much clarity as I can.

On the note of that November thing, I do it as a public spectacle every year, and those who are inclined can tag along this year to see daily updates as I complete Next of Kin, a cyberpunk dystopia. I generally post a chapter a day, so posts may run after the end of the month if the book has more than 30 chapters. It's a fun little way of flaunting my process, and giving readers a taste of what'll be coming to their kindles soon. Both of last year's projects are in revision, though the first draft for one of them, Twist, is still elsewhere on the blog.

Next week visit Marilyn Peake's Blog to get a look at her writing. Marilyn Peake is the author of both novels and short stories. Her publications have received excellent reviews. Marilyn?s one of the contributing authors in
BOOK: THE SEQUEL, published by The Perseus Books Group, with one of her entries included in serialization at THE DAILY BEAST. In addition, Marilyn has served as Editor of a number of anthologies. Her short stories have been published in seven anthologies and on the literary blog, GLASS CASES. Awards: Silver Award, two Honorable Mentions and eight Finalist placements in the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards, two Winner and two Finalist placements in the EPPIE Awards, Winner of the Dream Realm Awards, and eight Top Ten Finisher Awards in the Preditors and Editors Readers Poll.

Marilyn Peake?s website: http://www.marilynpeake.com

Thanks for dropping by, and stay tuned for news regarding Sins Of The Past (The Sontem Trilogy 2), and Kindred Spirits (The Gambit 2).


  05:47:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 466 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Burnt

Paul grabbed the wolf by the fur on the side of its face as it lunged. He felt a surge of strength, though he couldn?t know whether it was adrenaline, or the change- or even if those two were separable. He pushed the wolf into the flame shooting out of the oxygen pipe. Alisa screamed, but unnervingly, it was half the scream of a frightened, hurt girl, reverberating from the belly of the great and hairy beast. She kicked at him with her hind legs, and twisted, until his own hands were dragged into the flames. His vision flashed white, and without thinking he let her go. She bounded over him, knocking him to the floor. He knocked his head on the counter's edge as he fell, and lay motionless for a moment. The moment didn't last long, because he caught a glimpse of Alisa running as he stood back up. He touched his aching head. The wolf had him beaten and vulnerable on the floor, only her panic prevented her from recognizing it. Paul knew he couldn't let her go. She was healing fast- at least as fast as he was. He had to catch- he had to stop her- or it wouldn't end until everyone on the ship was dead. Stop. He choked down the euphemism. He wasn't as close to Alisa as Rica was, or as he was with Clod and Levy. But he didn't want her to die, either. He found himself wishing he had managed to cut through his wrists- though that wouldn't have done Alisa or Martin any damn good. He felt the tension throbbing at the back of his head. He mistook it for anger, but he wasn't upset. He knew what he needed to do, and he was prepared to do. But his body was pissed off. The fall he'd taken would have at a minimum fractured a vertebrae in his neck, if he were still a normal human being. It was already being repaired, but the nonhuman parts of him wanted to take over, to make sure he didn't get damaged further. And that would have made things easier. Alisa wouldn't have the same advantage if he could just put on his wolf's clothing. But there was also a chance- too likely a chance to ignore- that he might attack Clod or Levy himself. So he took a long, deep breath, and forced his body into a state of calm. Then he stopped at the screen just outside the kitchen. He called up Alisa's locater. The system was still having issues; Alisa had caused more than superficial damage on her rampage, but eventually her beacon appeared on the diagram of the ship. ?My God,? he said. She was in the medical bay, standing between Levy and Clod.


  05:46:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 1132 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: STD

Ang breathed heavily. He wondered if it was another panic attack, or if instincts he didn?t understand were telling him to be afraid. He wandered for hours without a trace of Mai. But he?d found blood. Lots of blood. And that was why he climbed back into the vent. Something larger than any of the men on the Station moved past him. The lights were still on the fritz, but he saw long, thick hairs protruding from its back, and shut his eyes, because he knew if he kept looking at the beast he?d scream. He stalked it from the vents. As terrified as he was, he knew somehow that it would lead him to Mai. Strangely, it seemed to be shrinking in size- but that had to be a trick of the lack of light. It turned into a small medical closet. There was no way to peak inside, except to leave the vents. Ang took a deep breathe, and crawled out. For a moment in the dark he thought he saw light glint off a pair of eyes inches in front of his own, while he was still on his belly, and at his most vulnerable. He reached out, and couldn?t find a face for the eyes to rest in, and convinced himself it hadn?t been there. Quietly he slunk around the doorway, and peered into the small room. Mai was there, and hovered over some equipment. Feared well up in him, as he imagined the wolf rearing up to strike from the corner of the room- he had found her only to watch her die like Bella. He rushed into the room, prepared to fight it, if only to give her time to escape. But eh room was empty, save for Mai. And she wasn?t working on the equipment- it was the only thing keeping her on her feet. She was wrapped in an emergency blanket and shivering. ?Are you okay?? he asked. She turned, and looked at him. Her skin was slicked with beads of sweat, and she had a dreamy quality in her eyes. ?No remotely,? she said, but smiled like she was high. ?Take off your pants.? She touched her temple, and swayed as she took a step towards him. ?For a totally platonic medical procedure?? Ang asked. ?No,? Mai sighed, and her heavy breathing reminded him of the only sex line he?d ever called. ?I?m a carrier now- one of those things. And this infection, it's an STD. I was never bitten. I got it from Maria- from sex. And the wolves don't attack each other. I hadn't manifested any outward signs, but Maria knew. I don?t want to hurt. And I don?t want her to hurt you. So the only way we can save you is by intentionally infecting you.? ?Isn't that against your Hippocratic oath?? Ang asked. ?Maybe,? she said. ?But so far as I've been able to figure, the infection is thoroughly symbiotic; it doesn't harm a single organ or system in the body. It hitches a ride, but it also improves on the body, makes it stronger and hardier. And not infecting you would do way more harm. Because Maria will come back. I know it my bones. So take off your pants if you want to live.? Ang started to unbuckle his pants, then stopped. ?Wait. Why are you trying to fuck me?? ?I'm willing to, to save your life- because while you've been kind of a pain in my labia, we've all been there, with that lost little puppy infatuation; I wanted to bang the hell out of my junior year English teacher. But you being a little creepy doesn't warrant a death sentence.? ?No,? Ang buckled his pants back up. ?You're not thinking clearly. This is an STD, right? But another term for that is blood borne pathogen, right? So couldn?t you just bleed on me?? Mai swayed, and he reached out to catch her, thinking she?d fall, but she didn?t. ?God, you?re right. It's... I?m a fucking doctor. I know that. But this disease? it increases the imperative to mate. Most diseases do, on the margins, but I've never heard of a parasite with that level of influence. I don't know how I didn't see it. I mean, what was I thinking?? ?What was I thinking?? he asked with a smile. ?I just talked you out of having sex with me, didn?t I?? ?You told the truth, knowing it would keep you from getting laid, which was oddly noble. If I were even a little straighter, I?d be tempted to screw you for that selflessness. As it stands, I will put in a good word for you with- well, if anybody survives this, I?ll try and hook you up.? ?Hooray.? ?I?m flattered, Ang. But despite your somewhat effeminate features, you?re still too manly for me. I was thinking about having sex with you to save your life, but? I wouldn?t have enjoyed it. I would have spent the entire time thinking of Marlene Dietrich, and the rest of my life trying to suppress the memory of what actually happened. And, you?re kind, sensitive. Did you really want me like that? Did you really want to be part of my worst if most noble memory?? ?Well? no. I did really want to see you naked, but no, probably not.? ?Then buck up,? she said, smiling, and retrieving a syringe from an emergency kit on the wall, ?and roll up your sleeve.? She poked herself with the syringe, and pulled back the plunger. ?Is that necessary?? ?It?s definitely necessary that one of us gets pricked- unfortunately for you it?s not me.? She pushed the syringe into his vein, and pressed the plunger. ?Why don?t you jab it in a little deeper?? he asked with a smile. ?Because it would go right through the vein,? she said, pretending to misunderstand. ?And this will work?? ?Meh,? she shrugged. ?I don?t think I like the sound of that. Maybe we should just go back to plan A.? ?Don?t ruin your momentary fit of noble sentiment.? ?I just don?t want to die by mauling,? he said. ?You didn?t? you haven?t seen what she?s capable of.? ?I have,? Mai said, ?and what I?m capable of.? Ang tried to reach to her, for comfort, and she pretended not to see it, and turned back towards her equipment. ?But this is more direct blood to blood contact than I ever had with Maria. So it should be good. It might even be faster. But you also might want to hide out for a while the change isn?t instantaneous, and we wouldn?t want her mistaking you for an overlarge bunny rabbit just because you haven?t sufficiently changed at the genetic level for her to sniff it out.?


  05:46:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 536 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Fire Fight

Paul shivered in the cold air of the ship. Alisa had definitely damaged some of the ship?s systems, because he hadn?t felt cold since they left the Earth. He tried to tell himself he wasn?t afraid, but he?d never been that good of a liar. He didn?t know how to control the change, and didn?t know if he could fight off Alisa even if he managed it. He wondered if he was shivering because he was afraid. But he didn?t have time to probe further. He needed to find Alisa, either to stop her, or to choke her stomach so full of his flesh that she wouldn?t be in a hunting mood for a while. That prospect didn?t scare Paul at all, but he also recognized it as the coward?s way out. The overhead comms clicked on. ?Paul?? Levy asked. ?We?re showing a fire in the kitchen,? Clod cut in. ?Now isn?t a great time to screw with me,? Paul said, ?because the big bad wolf is probably enough on my plate for the moment.? ?I wish I were screwing with you,? Clod said, ?no sex-pun intended.? ?Shit.? ?We drilled on this, remember? You can do it.? ?I don?t remember the giant wolf being part of the drill. Plus, I was always doctor, not firefighter.? ?Yes, but doctoring is the same basic deal. Find the problem, hose it down. It?s not rocket science.? ?You know, unless one of the complicated pieces of rocketry equipment is involved in the fire,? Levy offered. ?You?re not helping,? Clod said. ?He?s helping a little,? Paul said, and chuckled. ?If my heart explodes from the tension, I?m no good to anybody, right?? ?Okay, so not exploding your heart is high on our list of priorities. But so is not dying in a fire. Or burning through all of our breathable air.? ?There's just no pleasing some people,? Paul said. Paul ran down the hall towards the kitchen. The air was warmer, he could feel the sweat coming. One of the air vents nearest to the stove was spewing gas at the heating elements, setting the gaseous mix on fire. Paul didn't know much about engineering, but he could tell that it wasn't just a bit of random damage. ?This was deliberate,? he said over the comms. ?You?re saying Lis is purposefully damaging the ship?? ?I think she?s got access to enough of Alisa?s know-how that she?s making it harder for us to resist her. And I can tell you from experience that she?s more resilient- so whatever damage she does to the ship she?ll still probably survive. It?s? kind of spectacular, in a way- I?ve never seen a survival instinct this? innovative.? ?Put your science boner away, Paul. We?re burning atmosphere as we speak- and I know I?m high-maintenance, but I really like being able to breathe.? ?The things I won't do for a pretty face.? ?You might have just made Clod's millennium with that,? Levy said. ?Clod? Oh, I thought I was doing this for you.? ?And that happy look she had on her face a second ago- replaced with pure, unadulterated, murderous rage.? ?Yeah, well, she's not the only one,? Paul said, staring into the eyes of the wolf.


  05:45:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 497 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Call

?This is insane,? Melissa said, unable to hide the strain in her voice.. ?I know,? Vince said, not putting in the effort to coddle her. He was busy working through the menu on the elevator callbox in the low light. He managed to route enough emergency power to the box that he patched a request for the elevator through to Dante in orbit. ?No, I mean calling the elevator. It'll be hours before it gets here. And you just want to stand around in the hallway while those things run around killing people?? ?I'm open to suggestions.? ?I'd suggest anything that gets us out of harms way, rather than keeps us in the eye of the storm.? Vince sighed. ?And I want the hell out of here permanently. Anything other than the elevator is stalling. We'll be trapped up here with them until we can get to the shuttle.? ?Well I'm not saying,? Melissa said, and stomped off. ?Wait,? Colleen said, but she turned down a corridor and was gone. ?We shouldn't let her go,? she said. ?I don't know about that,? Vince said. ?She might not be wrong. The elevator will take time. And maybe... maybe NASA will send help.? ?Do you really think that?? ?I wouldn't send help. If those... things are our crewmates. Then we've got a contagion. Adding bodies to the pyre doesn't save the Station, it only makes it harder to reclaim it. I'd probably wait and see. But Melissa was right about one thing: we can't stay here- we're too exposed. Come on.? He walked her down the hall a ways, to an unassuming door. ?I've never been in here,? she said. ?It was supposed to be a maintenance supply closet. But in the early days of the Station, we didn't have enough supplies to fill every storage area we had. So my predecessor converted it into a- kind of a safehouse. He was paranoid- still a little in the frame of mind of the original space race- so he wanted a place to hide from the Russians or Chinese if they ever tried to take the Station. There's old food and water stocks. I change them out, once every blue moon- but it's all probably stale as hell.? He closed the door behind himself. The room was small, the size of the studio apartment Colleen had in college. The left wall was covered in cubbies and stacked cases of food and supplies. The far wall had a twin bed pushed against it. ?But nobody on the Station knows about it but me. We should be safe here,? he said. ?You had to say that?? she asked. ?You're a scientist. You can't believe in jinxes.? ?No. I scientist probably couldn't believe in werewolves. But jinxes... it's an acknowledgement that there are things in the world we don't understand yet, and maybe an unorthodox application of Moore's law.? She sat down on the twin. ?So what do we do, now?? ?We wait.?


  05:44:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 577 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Fight Fire

The barricade shook with the force of the wolf battering against it. ?Hold it up,? Paul said, and walked away, leaving the two of them to hastily scramble to pick up his slack in securing the stacked medical equipment. He walked to the medical supply cabinet, and filled a syringe with chemo drugs and sedatives. ?Guys,? Rica said weakly, trying to sit up, ?I don't feel so goo-aargh,? the sentence became an extended retch as she vomited into a foldout sink. Paul noticed the hairs on her arms thickening and growing, the bones underneath her skin subtly shifting around. He sighed, and prepared another syringe. ?What are you doing?? Clod asked as he walked towards Rica with the needle. She wanted to run across the room- she knew if he put that into Rica's arm she would die. But the barricade shoved against her; she knew if she left the doorway, they would all die. Paul looked to Clod, then jabbed the needle into Rica?s arm, and pushed down the plunger. Clod's jaw dropped open. ?We're infected,? Paul said. ?Rica, myself, Alisa. That thing out there, that's happening to all of us. Rica was about to turn, which would have meant two of those things, one outside and one in here.? He held up the other syringe, and stood in front of them. ?Next time the wolf shoves, I want you to let her in, just enough for me to stick her. It'll hurt her, like hell; hopefully it'll give me time to slip out there.? ?Why the fuck would you want to go out there?? Levy asked. ?That thing out there is getting in here. It's not a question of if, but when. And when it does, it will murder the three of you. And if I stay, I'm worried... I might try to help it. But if I go out there, I think I can control myself enough to fight her off.? ?You think?? Levy asked. ?And if not, what, we have two and eventually a third werewolf trying to blow our house in?? ?Yeah, if it doesn't work, we're all probably dead. So when she pushes,? Paul didn't get a chance to finish the thought, because Alisa shoved against the barricade. Whether because of fatigue, or engineering failure, the barricade tumbled away and the wolf managed to shove itself most of the way into the doorway. Paul pushed his forearm in its mouth, and he remembered that moment what seemed like a lifetime ago, flailing to save himself when that first wolf attacked him. This time he had leverage, and pushed his arm far enough back against the wolf's jaws that it couldn't properly clamp down on his arm. He pushed the needle of the syringe into the wolf's eye, then pushed it harder so the needle pierced back through the optic cavity. Then he pressed the plunger. The wolf growled. There were no pain receptors in the beast's brain to register the cocktail of harmful chemicals swirling around in its skull, but the pain in its eye was excruciating. She stumbled, and nearly fell. Then she looked to Paul, and understood that she was about to become incredibly vulnerable, and limped away at speed. Paul started to remove his shirt. ?Wait,? Clod said. ?This is crazy. You don't have to do this.? ?I think I actually do,? he said, and handed her the garment, and walked through the scattered remains of the barricade.


  05:43:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 401 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Out Of A Frying Pan

Ang stared on in horror as Bella's body crumpled to the floor. He was certain- certain- that he was hidden in the air duct. Of course, the thing he was hiding from wasn't human, so that didn't guarantee him much. He desperately wanted to try to help Bella. Or to help the others. Or even to fight the wolf. But he couldn't force himself to move. In fact, it was difficult to force himself to breathe, he so desperately feared it hearing him. Several hours later he awoke, and realized that he'd passed out in the vent, trying to keep himself quiet. He waited another ten minutes, to listen for the sounds of the wolves he'd seen. But the station had never been more quiet. He crawled out of the nearest vent, and stayed on his hands and knees as he made his way towards Bella. He knew she was dead when she hit the ground, hours earlier, but now, knowing that he'd failed to come to her aid, he needed to assure himself that there was nothing he could do for her anymore. He wondered, if the wolves came, if he could play dead; if they might have lost track of how many corpses they'd left in their wake, and whether or not that might matter. Of course, it also might mean they'd try to tear a big old steak out of his side; that seemed worse, somehow. He hit a puddle of cool, thick liquid. ?Her bowels released,? he said, as the thought hit him a fraction of a second before the smell. He pushed forward, recognize that smelling of excrement was going to make him easier for the wolves to track, but also that he couldn't stop now. He reached out to Bella's hand, and found a bloody stump. He hoped the injury had happened postmortem. But because of that, he didn't bother checking for a pulse; that kind of blood loss over that period of time, without medical intervention, there was nothing medically that could have kept her alive. ?Damnit,? he said, and pushed himself up off the ground. He knew he should run, but where to? He felt bad about breaking him promise to Vince, but it also didn't seem to much matter anymore. There wasn't a safely barricaded area to return to. And now, more than ever, he needed to know Mai was all right.


  05:43:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 321 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Lunacy

Clod immediately ran to Rica's bed, and started frantically checking her vitals while trying to call up data on detoxing the chemicals Paul had pumped into her body. Levy set to work piling up another makeshift barrier, and this time he wheeled over the surgical cart. ?Huh,? Clod whispered, and her shoulder slumped. ?So, is he crazy?? Levy asked. ?Her pulse is normal. Respiration's beyond nominal. She's ODing on some of the nastiest chemicals you can put into someone, and in doses that should make them even more lethal. But her body's barely even depressed.? ?So he didn't kill her?? ?I'd say he tried, but... it's the same crap he shot himself full of, when he... I don't think he was trying to kill himself. He was just trying to slow himself down. Retard his body so he wouldn't-? the monitor started to beep loudly. Rica's body spasmed wildly as the muscles in her limbs tensed and relaxed rapidly. ?Shit,? she said. ?What's-? ?Her vitals are spiking.? ?Is there anything I can-? ?No, I mean that what he gave her, it wasn't enough. Jesus.? Clod whispered the name, staring blankly down at the smaller woman's arm. ?What?? Levy asked. ?I'd swear that, that the bones in her arms are shifting around. Like-? there was a loud crackle; Clod recognized the sounds of bones breaking, and then the bones reset themselves, longer than they had been. Clod grabbed a syringe, and another bottle of sedative from the cabinet. She measured out three times the recommended dose, and when she heard another of Rica's bones break added a fourth. Then she pushed the needle into Rica's vein and pressed the plunger. After a few seconds, Rica's body relaxed. ?Okay,? Levy said, ?assuming for a second that Paul is a crazy person. Is there anything, medically, that can explain that?? ?Nope.? ?This is lunacy- crazy, batshit lunacy.? ?But that doesn't mean it isn't happening.?


  05:42:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 574 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Lunar Mare

Bella didn't scream again. She wanted to. Seeing Mika's insides on the outside, she wanted nothing but to scream and scream and scream. Her hand was gone, replaced by fire and rage and a throbbing inability to focus. But seeing Mika's eyes shut for the last time cut through her panic enough for her to form the most important thought of her entire life: run. The wolf was behind her and the hole in the barricade in front of her. She jumped through it, and blood from where the wolves cut themselves shoving through the barricade lubricated her escape. She fell, hard, on the hall floor, and for an instant the pain of her lost limb was supplanted by that new pain, before it roared back again. She felt breath on her back and she knew the wolf was staring at her through the hole in the barricade. She turned slowly, knowing it was the wrong thing to do- but she was incapable of not knowing how close it was, or how much danger she was in. Just as she saw it at the corner of her eye, it lunged at her, snapping its jaws. But it caught in the opening in the door, and stopped just short of her, biting ineffectually at the air. She exhaled, but when she tried to take in another breathe she couldn't. She tried again, and again; she wasn't getting enough air of out of her lungs, and her breathing was too shallow as she backed away. The wolf thrashed angrily against the door, smashing its head and howling. If it could have, it might have tried to gnaw off its lower extremities to escape. But it wriggled. It was caught on something that stabbed it, and it cried out in pain, in a way that made her think of an injured dog, and she almost felt badly for it- except that the cry reminded her of the last sound Mika made after he saved her. The memory made her hope the beast died from its wound. The wolf stopped noises. She glanced back, and saw that it wasn't in the doorway. The hallways were dark, but she knew it was there with her. She ran. She could hear the sound of her heart beating in her ears. She could hear the sound of air rushing past. But she knew, even if she couldn't hear it, that its footfalls were right behind her. She glanced back, and saw others escaping through the barricade, and occasionally obscuring that view was the fur of the wolf as it chased her, eclipsing more and more of her vision as it closed in. Somewhere in the back of her mind, Bella recognized that she had saved her friends, that they weren't going to end up like Mika because the wolf was chasing her. But in those same dark recesses, she knew she'd have traded all of them places, put all of them in the wolf's path, just to not know what it felt like to have her guts dropped in a bloodied heap on her sternum. She wanted to cry, or scream again, but she didn't have even the strength to take another step. She fell to her knees, sobbing. ?Fuck you,? she said to the wolf as it circled. It put her neck in its jaws and clamped down. ?Just, fuck you,? she whimpered, right before she heard her neck snap.


  05:41:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 683 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Hollow

?I'd tell you there was nothing you could do,? Levy said, leaning against his makeshift barricade. ?But I don't know if that's actually true or not- not that I think that's the point- but you know I don't know, so it would be a hollow platitude. Clod's pissed. She thinks she's right- but when doesn't she, right? But I've known you long enough to know that you did everything you could to save him. Everything humanly possible- and you're an impressive enough specimen that your limits butt up against what is humanly possible.? ?It doesn't matter,? Paul said. ?He's dead. There isn't a fucking thing that can change that. Martin's dead.? ?I don't think you believe that,? Levy said. ?You can't save everybody- and that's not a philosophical point I'm making. Look at a long enough timeline, and we're all of us wormfood. You can't save all of us- you really can only ever postpone that inevitability. You tried to save him, but you couldn't. And there's no shame in failing- not when you've done everything humanly expectable. Martin isn't on you.? ?I'll be sure to explain that to his family,? Paul said. ?Fuck,? Levy said, ?family...? At that moment Clod set down the tablet she'd been jabbing with an angry pointer finger since they finished Rica's surgery. She fell onto one knee between Paul and Levy. ?You were right,? she said despondently. ?I've spent a half-hour running diagnostics on Martin's organs. Even if we'd managed to somehow turn it around, he'd have had massive brain damage- the kind we aren't equipped to deal with- and several failing organ systems. He was dead either way. And catastrophic damage occurred before you gave him morphine.? ?That doesn't mean it was the right call,? Paul said. ?It could have gone the other way.? ?No,? Clod said, ?it couldn't. It's not a fifty-fifty thing. Painkillers suppress the immune system- but it's at the margins, not at the rate of a coin toss.? She closed her eyes and sighed angrily, but then she opened them and looked at him and there was a softness in them he'd never seen. ?The fact is, I wasn't thinking clearly. Even when I was a medic, I didn't have the same kind of one on one with the people I had to help. I was serving an entire base, and the odds of me personally knowing someone I had to dig a bullet out of was pretty minimal.? ?But this was different. It was personal for me. I wanted so desperately for you to be wrong, I was willing to say stupid things- to believe them- just to have a few more seconds of hope.? ?That's not as bad as you think it is,? Paul said. ?If anything, I admire that in you. You're a fighter. You can't not be. Sometimes tilting at windmills is exactly the thing that carries the day.? ?Just not today.? ?No,? Paul said. They all stopped breathing at once. Because they heard the snort, low, guttural, and Levy's barricade of plastic equipment shook. ?God,? he yelped, jumping back. It was exactly the wrong reaction. Paul rushed to the barricade and shoved his body against it. The wolf rammed into it from the other side, and the force of their bodies rebounded, knocking them both backwards. Clod realized the error a second before Levy, and they pushed their bodies against the barricade just as the wolf made another run at it. This time the force of the charge dissipated into more human volume, and the barricade moved a little less. Silence settled over the room. ?You think it's gone?? Levy asked. ?No,? Paul said, bracing himself between them. The barricade shook with more force than ever before. They heard the tapping of footpads and claws smacking against the floor, getting further and further away. ?You think we're going to survive the night?? Clod asked, trying to hide the quaver in her voice. ?I'll leave the optimism to you,? Paul said. ?Is that a no?? she asked. He shrugged. ?No,? Levy said. ?But it's definitely not a yes.?

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