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This popped out today. I had no idea it was imminent. I was taking my break.
(Yes I had to SIT STILL for an hour before continuing to the next job.)
I had the travel computer with me, so I opened Google docs and considered my options...SALTARAE II is the priority right now...
Then I had a vision: a prisoner, bound hand and foot, hooded to blind her. Yes, I know. FTWD probably had something to do with that image.
Still, this story went a different way: How would the Commonwealth military deal with high value (and hence very dangerous) POWs? I've written stuff that hinted at the answer. Here's one possible answer. Exile, in Lines where the tech is too far behind for anyone to find a Gate or build a Shifter...enjoy!


AFTER DEEP FLANKING

Consciousness returned to her in bits and moments. She sought to return to sleep, to avoid wakefulness. She failed.

She was lost.

‘More than lost,’ she thought: ‘Doomed is more like it.’

The black bag over her head did not help at all. She twisted her arms, seeking some weakness in the bonds that held her wrists behind her back. ‘Futile,’ she realized. Though the rope felt soft, it reacted to every twist and turn of her arms, almost like a live thing.

“I cannot escape,” she muttered.

Her captors went silent, no longer speaking to one another in their babbling tongue. One voice came to her, speaking French: “You cannot.”

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"Are you certain, Clem?"

Clementine Irene Orenhauser raised her eyes from the small calendar book she'd been perusing: "As certain as one can be, I think. It's been six weeks..." She waved the book at Eleanor: their combined calendar, appointment book, and journal. It contained Eleanor’s firm block capitals, in Latin and Greek, and Clementine’s French and English notes and memories.

Eleanor Greenlaw frowned, her unfashionably heavy brows furrowed: "You are never that late. You are never late at all...should have noticed that. I suppose you are correct." Her voice sat just above baritone, with a rumbling quality that had thrilled Clementine from the first time she’d heard it.

Eleanor customarily dressed herself in a severe, nearly masculine fashion. That day she wore a shorter-than-usual skirt, a shirtwaist, and brogans with heavy woolen hose, as they had been considering a walk around the Peripateo.

The sun shone in through the windows of their small room in the Ambassador Hotel. Clementine thought: 'The Ambassador, a fine hotel, and so apt as it turns out. It’s a small room, with a large bed, and lovely romantic views all about. It's been such a fine holiday...' She smoothed the skirt of her dark green walking dress, her full lips drawn in between her teeth.

They sat in silence for a short time, then Eleanor rose and sat beside Clementine, embracing her: "My sweet Clemmy, how could this happen? Was it the twins?" Eleanor had the slightest trace of an English accent, suggesting a native of Britain with long residence in the western United States.

"Horace and Oliver? No, I don't think so..." She paged back through her calendar, musing: "...I think it simply has to be Mr. Crowell."

"Oh, my!" said Eleanor: "Well, Ambassador Crowell was quite an exciting performer. I can definitely see that..."

Clementine opened her shockingly blue eyes wider: "You think I'm pregnant because Nicholas gave me multiple orgasms? That's droll."

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This story went in some disturbing directions. Maybe it could use to be cut a little, but here it is as it is now. BTW, it has naughty words in it.

Three enormous trucks, laden with logs, swept growling around a bend in the highway. The second truck made the turn with its trailer at an alarming angle, but it didn't overturn. They sped down the hill towards him, growling like giant tigers.

"Glad I'm on the other side of the road," he murmured as they went by: "And I'm even gladder that I won't have to walk back down this way.' The wave front of hot deisel-y air washed over him. He grabbed his hat.

'Not that I've really walked that much,' he thought. He'd used his Shifter to geoSaltate big chunks of the road. Whenever he got a straightaway, with no traffic in sight, he'd just Shift to the uphill end.

He hiked around the curve and into a small town. Leaburg was on the map in his head; he was going to pick up some supplies there.

'Leaburg Market,' the sign said. He wiped sweat from his brow with a bandana he had in his hand, then entered.

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"Andrew!" The woman's voice was soft and respectful, though no less insistent.

"Count Andrew," she said: "Your Excellency..."

He opened his eyes slowly and breathed in deeply: "Something important?"

"As per your excellency's orders: a new batch of refugees is approaching." It was one of the few things that justified the interruption of his hour of meditation.

"Hmm. What has been done?"

"Sir Alec has ordered reinforcements to the walls. Lady Gwen has mustered the archers. Viscount Ruslan has taken a patrol away south, to come behind the band unnoticed."

"Oh. A large group, then?"

"At least thirty...by the way, the stranger, Ambros, has disappeared. He may also be behind the newcomers."

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Yesterday I had a satori as regards one of the books I’m writing right now. That is SALTARAE TWO, as yet untitled, the continuing adventures of a guy who looks a lot like me and gets to travel the Multiverse fighting for Truth, Justice, and the Hellenic Way. (Yes, it’s wish fulfillment; sue me.)

I’d sat down about a year ago and pounded out Chapter One of a possible sequel, trying to hit all the high notes necessary to remind my fans about what already happened and then push the action forward. (FYI, I believe I’m going to serialize this at LJ, like I did the original. (SALTARAE: an Adventure Across Timelines.)
Then I sat on that as I wrote bits and pieces, chunks and whole Chapters from further ahead in the story; I even wrote some stuff that may not appear until a third book. And a short story a couple years ahead in that Timeline, and a Chapter that might start the (possible) fourth book in that series...

Other projects distracted me, as well: such as the other two books that I am allegedly writing...things are a little scattered at the moment, Don’t worry, it will all work out.

But I kept saying: “Ya really oughta post that first chapter, your fans are waiting...”

Something held me back. I wasn’t satisfied, and I didn’t know why.

NOW I do. See, there’s no way in Hades or Eblis that Mr. Rothakis would make any plans for the day after the events at the Mainstage Meadow that didn’t involve getting RIGHT IN MAGISTRI ARRENJI”S FACE and demanding to know what, if anything, she knew about some kind of Hellenic activism or operations in United States Imperial Timeline Number Seventeen in the 20s and 30s of the 20th Century of the Christian Hypothesis.

So I have a chapter to revise: The old bastard is not going to hunt for gold coins in a Quiet Timeline, or infiltrate a homeless camp, or sell the gold in NYC, or avoid being seen by a woman named Andrea Scharffen in that same City, or anything else that might include blah blah...At least, not until Chapter Two.

Gotta go. See ya!
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This story...has been bouncing around in the back of my mind for years. Decades, I believe. It has nothing at all to do with any of the projects I've been working on. "Why are you doing this now?" I asked myself, as I typed it out.

The only answer is, it came to me again two days ago, in nearly finished form. Now that I wrote it down, I may hope that it will let me be, and I can write my own stuff again. Anyway, here it is:


HERUNOR AND IMRAHIL: homage á JRRT
A short story by A.M. Brosius

Heru labored across the waste; his armor weighed upon him.

His dented helm rode uneasily upon the sweat-stained coif that kept his hair in check. Dark hair, dark eyes, pale skin: not even the King of Umbar had so embodied the Numenorean race as did he, and his fathers before him.

His mail was rent in a dozen places, and blood stained the gashes in the grey heavy linen tunic he wore beneath. By that mail, by his helm and scimitar, by the dark device upon his shield, by all these things the Lords of the West would know him their enemy.

The gibbous moon rose into the unnaturally clear sky. It illuminated the broken lands all about, showing him his doom: ‘There is nowhere for me to go; east from here are the lands of our erstwhile allies, Easterlings all, who now will surely be our foes...’

“Our foes?” he asked aloud. “Who besides me survived? The King died, that I know...and all his men beside and around him, save my own self.”

Blood from the wound on his calf had soaked through the bandage, again. He had no more cloth to spare for a fresh dressing, so he let it be. He looked around, shivering: “Curse the tarks, and curse the orcs, and curses a thousand times more dire upon the Eye.”

He shuddered to say such a thing. Only a day before, his very thought might have reached the ears of the Dark Lord and his soul been forfeit. Then he laughed: “What matters that, now? Sauron, what has become of thee? Blown by the wind of Aman into the dark of Ilmen? Chained and bound, in some dungeon deep, beside thy lord the Dark God Melkor?” He spat, then continued his limping progress.

There stood, in the distance, one crackéd rocky tor. That prominence had become his only goal, promising a place where he could put his back to a solid wall of rock and sell his life dearly, when the army of new King of Gondor caught him up.
He stopped again, and turned to look back: the fires of their encampment were still visible to him. “I’d best make it to that shelter ere dawn...they will not cease their seeking with the sunrise. I’ve left them a trail of blood to follow, and their hounds can scent a fleeing man a day after his trail is cold.”
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A short story by A.M. Brosius.

Mr. Ambros Rothakis walked along the cliff top, stopping occasionally to gaze at the waves crashing against the rocks below.

‘I suppose the fellow could have wound up in the sea,’ he thought. ‘Not likely, though.’

He reached his destination, a spot across the road from a very famous restaurant. He could see the bull logo from that position. ‘I can’t see any other solution to the mystery. Let’s see if my guess is correct.’ He fired up his MPS; the invisible wristband produced a hologram of a Shifter. He pulled the actual Shifter out of the patch pocket on the left thigh of his cargoes. The Shifter bore a striking resemblance to a hockey puck, and weighed only a trifle less.

With both machines activated, he could clearly see the Timeline Gate in the parking lot across the highway. ‘It’s inactive, of course...I wonder how Mr. Jannsen managed to activate it?’

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