Chinese Lore- A selection of mythical fauna (10)

Red Ru

Physical Description:

A fish with a human’s face

Special Properties:

Its call is like that of Yuan Yang (a type of water bird that always appears in couples). Eating its meat can cure scabies.

Ran Yi Fish

Physical Description:

A six-legged fish with a snake’s head

Special Properties:

Eating this fish can prevent nightmares and misfortunes

Dust Shedding Rhino

Physical Description:

A sea creature that looks very much like a rhino

Special Properties:

Its horn has the dust avoiding and shedding property.

Fire Shedding Bird

Physical Description:

A swallow-like bird

Special Properties:

When the Fire Shedding Bird is put into a fire, the fire will automatically dissipate.

Moonlake’s Writing Updates- Mar 2023

As of the time of writing, I’m delving into enneagrams in an attempt to get closer to my characters, an idea I had taken from K. M Weiland (I bought a Humble bundle containing two of her books last year and I recently read them). I’m quite confident that I have my male protagonist pegged but I’m less sure of my female protagonist. I mean, I suspect she has the same basic type as me since after all, she’s like an alternative version of me (I didn’t set out to make her that way but let’s face it, that’s what most of my female protagonists wind up being. Even my male protagonists or major characters are more or less me. It’s only when it gets down to sidecasts that I write wildly different characters from me.)

As for the WIP itself, I’m on draft 0.83 but the numbering has lost meaning since seemingly a long time ago. I’m still forging on in a stumbling way but I know that’s the way it is. I will still keep going.

When I try to explain where I’m from people imagine…

The jump-off line is from In Your Next Letter by Carrie Shipers. 

When I try to explain where I’m from people imagine shopping and food. I interrupt with tall buildings, noise and the stink of markets. Here, most of the food are frozen so they don’t stink as bad. But in a market where you can buy live chicken, fish, prawns etc., there is always wetness on the ground that you want to avoid stepping in and you want to be able to shut your nostrils like a camel. Even the vegetable stalls can smell unsavory. 

When I try to explain where I’m from people won’t fathom how many subjects we had in primary school and that we had school on every alternate Saturdays, known as the long-short weeks. The long weeks were where you had school on a Saturday and the short ones you had to yourself. 

When I try to explain where I’m from I can tell them about food hawkers though in truth I never frequented them. I don’t like the concept of eating on the street as I walk, except for ice-cream. I saw the hawkers as safety hazards mostly as they pushed their carts on the street to evade being caught by authorities for selling without a license. Not that I’ve ever encountered that personally. Or maybe once or twice but not en masse like on TV. 

When I try to explain where I’m from my memory is fading. What else could I say? We had yumcha which is a Cantonese thing. Now it’s everywhere but the fact is some families make it a weekly thing there. Some even have it as a daily routine, alone. 

Adventures aboard the Chen Xing- Chapter 23

Aurora took one of the tubes out of the case, holding it up to light to better see what’s inside it. “Yeah, I think it does.”

I looked over at it. “Isn’t that the same colour as the blood sample?”

Aurora nodded. “I believe so.”

“Interesting, I wonder where they got it from?” Estella said. 

“Or who.” Aurora added. 

“Well, it might be the black building is the same company as that one I remembered. Sounded in the same field, anyway.”

Guppy said, “Does this mean people are going to start turning into those… things?”

“Possibly, or it’s some kind of vaccine maybe?” Aurora shrugged, “Let’s get it back to Jessica, she can do a proper analysis and tell us.” Guppy nodded but didn’t look convinced. 

“I doubt they’d want to turn people into monsters, it would make it hard to work here safely.” Estella noted. 

“Well, experiments are iffy stuff. One thing goes wrong and you get the opposite of what you want.” I said. Guppy got a wild-eyed look upon hearing that. 

“I’m sure if you ask nicely, Jessica will let you assist her in the lab?” Aurora told her with a grin. Maybe it was excitement, I figured she knew the kiddo better. 

“For now let’s dump these two sleaze balls in the jail and let the locals know we finished the job.” Estella pushed our bound captive towards the sled.

“I’m not sure that I wanna look at that stuff in the lab Aurora. Gives me the creeps.” Apparently my first hunch was right. 

“No ones going to make you Guppy,” Aurora spoke to her gently. “You can always go play if you’d rather, or help me out in engineering with some ship maintenance.”

“Or come on up to the bridge and I’ll start showing you the basics of how to fly the sweet girl.” Estella offered. 

Guppy looked torn. “Can I sometimes be in engineering and sometimes on the bridge? Those are both really cool. Then she looked over at me. “And, uh, maybe Sam could keep showing me how to shoot things? I could be the gutter of evil spacecraft!”

Aurora chunkled with a nod, “If that’s what you want,” She tossed Guppy the keys to the sled. “For now however, you need to drive us back to town.”

I took that as the cue to climb in. 

“But aren’t we gonna burn those things?” Guppy pointed at the crates. “I’m gonna have nightmares ’bout mutants, Aurora, if we leave them.”

“I was thinking we’d just fly the ship over here and turn this factory into a smoking crater?” Aurora looked over at me. 

“Yeah, why not?” I said. 

Guppy jumped into the driver’s seat. 

“Good thinking, that way if there’s any left over hidden supplies they’ll be trashed too.” Estella wrapped up. 

“Come on everybody, we’re gonna blow it up!” Guppy shook her little fists at the boxes. 

“Sam, could you maybe set these ones on fire before we leave? Just in case anyone heard all the commotion out here and comes poking around they won’t accidentally get infected?” Aurora asked me. “We can finish the job with the ship after we dump our prisoners.” I did as she said with my bow-gun. 

A few energy bolts into the pile of crates and they blew apart, flaming pieces flying everywhere. Some of the vines twitched as they burned. And I didn’t realise how much spores there were until I saw the quantity of them burning. 

Estella congratulated me as she threw the captive into the back of the sled and took a seat next to him and the unconscious man. “You decide to leap out and run for it, Sam here will set you on fire too, just to make sure you can’t spread any infections.” She told him with a glare. The gal caught on fast; apparently intimidation was the only way to stop that brain of his thinking. 

He nodded vigorously, sweat pouring down his face. 

Guppy gunned it without a shout of joy. “Aurora, let me show you what I was practicing when you those mean guys found me.” And she fishtailed out into the street, zipping down one street before she suddenly slowed down. “Umm… where are we going, anyway?”

“Back to the bar I guess?” Aurora shrugged. “Bartender should be able to point us towards the jail.” She gave Guppy the instructions to get there. 

We nearly got whiplash as Guppy stepped on the accelerator, then again when she slammed to a halt outside the bar. 

“We need to work on your finesse,” Aurora told her, “Anticipate when you need to speed up and slow down and then ease the pedals, don’t yank them like they’re a stuck door.”

She grinned. “But it’s fun.”

“It’s also hard on the machine, if we break it you won’t be able to drive it anymore.” She pointed out.

Her grin vanished. “Oh.”

“Sam? Do you want to go inside and ask about the jail and let them know you finished the job? You were the one they first approached.” Estella asked me.

“Sure.” I walked in to the counter and hailed the Sammy the bartender. “Where’s the jail? And we’ve got your culprit.”

He turned from the somber group gathered  to confer with him. He looked tense. “Hi, Sam, right? Sorry, I missed that. What did you find?”

“We found the sabotageurs. And we were going to drop the sleazeballs at the local jail. So coming in to ask directions.”

He blinked a couple of times. “That was fast. How long ago did you find them?”

“Well, just then. They were at that factory.”

“The one you were asking about before?” Apparently Julie was among the group. She walked towards me. 

“Yep. So we killed two birds with one stone.”

Sammy looked over at Julie. “They found them.”

Julie’s mouth was a thin line. “We can pay you now if you can just hand them over to us and let us take care of it” Her eyes were a store of anger. 

That never boded well in my experience. “And what are you going to do with them?”


“Let me talk to the other two gals about this. Or do you want to come out and talk with us?”

“I’ll go, you stay with the others.” Julie told Sammy as she followed me outside. I brought her over to the sled. 

“So what’d these two do anyway?” Estella asked her, casually shifting her shotgun so it’s pointed towards the ground, but also in the general direction of the bar.

“These are the ones sabotaging our hard work?”

“Two of ’em, “The rest are dead.” Aurora told her with a nod. “We got enough evidence they’ll swing at the trial, at least baldy here, this other guy is just some hired guard, seems pretty clueless he was doing anything wrong other than guarding a building from vandals.”

“You can just hand baldy there over to us and we’ll take care of it. Don’t worry. We’ve got your pay together, we can do the exchange now.”

“Take care of it?” Aurora gave her a questioning look. “You hired us to see justice done, not turn a man over for a lynch mob to have their way with.”

“Just let her have him, the sleaze tried to screw us over how many times after we took him prisoner?” Estella told Aurora. “Besides, we give him to the sheriff, this lady and her pals will probably storm the jail, and make the local law dog the same offer, no point putting him in a bad spot.”

Aurora sighed, looking over at me and Guppy. “You two got an equal say in this too.”

Guppy looked back and forth between everyone. “I don’t understand.”

Aurora looked back at Julie, “Like I said, take care of it? What do you plan to do exactly?”

“Make him pay for Suzanne.” Some droplets of tear rolled down her face. “I hated that woman like nobody else. Always arguing with me over where property lines were or who should get the latest equipment. But, goddammit, I’ve been fighting with her for more than thirty years. And today we found her cut in half by her own machinery. Looks like she’d been there for a day or two. Somebody,” and she looked pointedly at baldy, “sabotaged the machine to blast into shrapnel when turned on.”

“Pay how? He goes to trial, he’ll hang, or be shot for what he did, not seeing any reason that won’t settle the score?” Aurora pressed her. 

“She means to do to him what happened to Suzanne,” Estella said quietly. “One of those eye-for-an-eye things frontier places are famous for, make an example out of him. It’s ugly, brutal, but it gives folks closure, and sends a pretty clear message to other would be criminals what’ll happen if they make trouble in the area.”

Julie looked at Estella and nods. 

“Sam? Still waiting for your input.” Then Aurora looked over at Guppy. “You don’t need to weigh in if you don’t want to, but if you got strong feelings one way or another, you can speak your piece.”

Guppy’s eyes went wide but she did not speak. 

“Isn’t she a little young to be involved in this?” Estella asked Aurora doubtfully.

“She’s old enough to carry a gun, fire torpedoes and be kidnapped, she’s old enough to have a voice in what happens to the man who took her prisoner and roughed her up, wouldn’t be right to deny her the option if she has something to say.”

I frowned and shifted my feet. “I’m happy to let you hang Baldy but seems excessive to hang the other guy who just thinks he’s got guard duty.”

Estella nodded, not sure whether to me or Aurora.

“You say the other guy wasn’t involved. I don’t care what you do with him. I just want baldy there.”

“Can’t say as I disagree with Sam on that part.” Aurora looked straight at me. “To be clear here, Sam, they’re not talking about a noose, they’re talking about killing him with farm machinery, real painful and messy like, he goes to the jail he gets a rope.”

“Or he gets dragged out of there by a mob once we’re gone and maybe the sheriff gets hurt in the process, they want him, they can have him, I say, it’s awful, but so is what they did to that woman, they knew what’d happen when they messed with her machinery.” Estella said. 

Aurora leaned over and whispered in my ear. “Third option, one of us just shoots him now, spare the man a painful passing, but I doubt we’ll get paid much if we go that route.”

“Either way, I’m fine with giving this other guy a lesser sentence, in fact I got some ideas on what he can do to atone for his part in this.” She said so everyone could hear. 

Estella shrugged. “He didn’t even shoot at any of us, or hurt Guppy, so I’m inclined to go easy on him too.”

I sighed and shot Baldy right between the eyes. He died with a shocked look on his face. Julie’s mouth dropped open. But her eyes shone with satisfaction. 

“Now you don’t need to dirty your hands with him.” I told her. 

“My sincerest apologies for my friend’s actions, she can be a bit strongly opinionated sometimes.” Aurora said in a relaxed, deliberately drawn out manner. Great, now we were playing the good cop, bad cop trick from movies of decades ago. 

I saw Estella trying to hide her smirk. “She did you a favor, if you’d followed through on what you planned, it would of made you no better than him, and probably given you folks nightmares.” She pointed out, straight-faced.

Aurora nodded towards Estella. “There’s that too.” Then she took the opportunity to educate her caree, “Justice is swift and harsh sometimes, but he made his choice when he decided to traffic in bio weapons, sabotage innocent folks livelihoods, and start kidnapping people.”

Guppy seemed to be thinking, kept silent. 

Aurora pushes baldy’s body off the sled with her foot. “You can prop him up in a coffin next to the bar or whatever, not our business really, but we would like to be paid now, given we held up our end of the contract.”

Amid the silence that reigned, Guppy said very quietly but everyone heard, “The other kids woulda done what the lady wanted to do.”

Julie nodded, not sure to Aurora or Guppy or both, and went back inside. 

Aurora nodded and took Guppy’s hand, squeezing it gently.

“What about the other guy, we still dumping him at the local jail house?” Estella asked us. 

Julie came back with two other locals. She handed a bag over as those two grabbed the body and hauled it inside. 

“Nah, he wouldn’t get a fair trial, or sentencing here, I’m of the mind we bring him back to the ship, put him to work cleaning floors, maybe giving the outside a nice new coat of paint while we’re in town handling our business, then set him free with a reminder to pick his jobs with a might more care.”

“Hue and Jess could probably keep an eye on him easily enough,” Estella shrugged. “I’m fine with that.”

“Free labour, why not?” I commented. 

“Guppy?” Aurora asked her. “You got a say in his sentence too if you want.”

She nodded. “I’m ok with it. I never saw him before you came and saved me.”

“Let’s get on back to the ship then, Jess can treat his head injury and we’ll explain to him the terms of his sentence when he wakes up.”

“Works for me.” Estella nodded to me. “Good solution by the way.”

Guppy was gentler with the driving this time, a little bit. 

When we got back on board, Aurora helped me carry the man in to Jessica, and we filled her in on what happened while we were out in town. She nodded as she listened, “Sounds like I missed a party.”

Then she gave us a status update. “I’ve been pretty busy here, getting things set up. Not 100% done, but I’m making progress. Should be able to fix up that bump at least. And I’ve got enough lab equipment to do at least a little better testing than I could before.” 

Estella gave Guppy a slight smile. “Want to learn how the Xing’s lift off procedures work? Come on up to the cockpit and I’ll let you handle the pre flight checklist.” Guppy took the bait and ran off towards the cockpit. I followed, since there was nothing for me to do at the lab. 

“If that obelisk wasn’t in the center of town I’d be half tempted to blow that place to rubble.” Estella was telling Guppy. “You don’t traffic in stuff like those spores, it’s the kind of thing that could wipe out an entire planet, or numerous ones.”

“I’m sure Sam would let me use it for target practice.”

“We could do an infiltration and destroy under false identity now that we know what it does, you know, like in spy movies.” I said the first idea that dropped into my head. I do this, among friends. Relaxation, you know? 

“I like the way you think.” Estella smiled at the notion. “Do we want to do it before or after we talk to Scorsby?”

“Huh, we are doing this for real? I was just saying things, you know. Well, first things first, I guess.”

“Turning the factory into a parking lot, right.” Estella nodded to Guppy, “First power up the lift thrusters, gently it’s the lever over there in red, slide it up wards slowly until you feel us start to rise into the air.”

“I meant Scorby but I didn’t know you are that excitable.” I explained to Estella. 

Estella kitted the intercom. “This is your pilot, our co pilot Guppy is taking us into low orbit, stand by for lift off.” The kiddo concentrated hard, interacting with the lever as if it was made of porcelain. 

“I like your style, what can I say?” Estella looked back at me with a grin. “Aurora report to the bridge.” She said into the intercom before focusing her attention on Guppy and guiding her through lift off procedure.

“What’s up?” Aurora asked us. 

“Sam here just came up with a daring, but brilliant idea.” Then she signalled me to take over. 

I coughed, embarrassed.  “Well, Estella was saying how she wanted to bomb that black monolith thingy in the middle of town and that reminded me of spy movies. So I said we could infiltrate the building with false identity now that we know what it does. You know, you’ve got that blood sample that we could use. Pretend to be someone from headquarters maybe. Demanding why that has now leaked out.”

“Devious, I like it.” Aurora smiled in approval. “Small problem, though, they saw your faces already when you paid the place a visit the first time, didn’t they?”

“Well, they haven’t seen you and Jessica.” I said. 

“The guy at the front desk did at least, but we could come by in the late evening once he’s off shift.” Estella added. 

“Yeah, Jessica and me could be in the front, you two in the back, maybe with a bit of hair dye, all of us wearing uniforms similar to theirs.” Aurora looked at Guppy. “We could hide you in a crate, have them wheeling it in, you crouched inside ready to spring out and surprise people if need be.”

“I’m really good at crawling through vents. Tunnels, anywhere. They always had me do that before.”

“No vent crawling. You don’t know they haven’t set vines all around as guards.” I cautioned. 

“Sam has a good point. Though we could put her in fake cuffs, pretend we caught her snooping around if she doesn’t like the crate.” Estella suggested. 

“Nah, I can be in a crate. I’m just sayin I can be useful in other ways too.”

Moonlake’s Movie Discoveries (3)

Not many movies I had watched lately made an impression on me. I guess foremost among the notables is the Pirates of the Caribbean which I never expected to like since I had such trouble with Treasure Island as a child- I never went past the initial chapter and I’ve tried twice. But I binge watched the whole 5 movies over a little over a week. The original trilogy is better than the 4th standalone where Johnny Depp actually got the leading role but I think I watched the whole franchise for him. Then again, I already liked him from Edward Scissorhand when I watched it in year 7 or 8 for English and I don’t know the actual leads in Pirates- I can literally count Hollywood actors and actresses I know by name on two hands and the other day I didn’t recognise Geroge Clooney in Tomorrowland even though he’s supposedly one of the actors I know, I thought he was the bad guy when he came out. That’s how I ‘know’ Hollywood stars. 

Next comes Into the Woods which again has Johnny Depp though he only guest starred as the Big Bad Wolf. It’s got nothing special to it at the start but I think the ending ties it together for me where I understood that the title Into the Woods is really an allegory for Into Life. 

I also watched the Under Wraps duology which gave me Night in the Museum vibes but I didn’t like them as much because I think the targeted audience is more teenagers versus family. I recently watched the animated Night in the Museum film and it wasn’t bad. I previously really liked Enchanted so I watched the sequel Disenchanted and it’s okay but not as good as the original. 

On other news but closely related to my movie thing, one of my friends (who I took this movie analysis idea from originally) and I started this alternate week movie analysis arrangement where we would both watch the same movie and then show each other our analysis of it under the 3 Act structure. We picked the original Matilda for our first trial and the second one we did was Romancing the Stone before this routine is now sadly interrupted by my recent history with indigestion. I’m in the recovery phase now as I write but different complications have been on and off for about 2 weeks. 

When the moon came up…

Different than usual, the jump-off line is actually from the novel Lord of Emperors by Guy Gavriel Kay. For a while, I was doing Wild Writing daily so I had to supplement the Laurie Wagner videos with a source of my own. And that’s when I turned to fiction. I think the piece below is produced by a line that ‘chimes with me’ at least a bit.

When the moon came up I was asleep. Or as good as asleep. It is obscured here, by tall buildings. 

When the moon came up I was ready to greet it, dancing to starlight within a ritual circle. 

When the moon came up I waved to it. Hello again, my friend. 

When the moon came up I bowed to it. Thank you for lighting the dark. 

When the moon came up I paced. 

When the moon came up, where will you be? 

When the moon came up, was it a full moon? 

When the moon came up, what did you see with its illumination? 

When the moon came up, were you reading? 

When the moon came up, would it shine yellow, silver or grey? 

When the moon came up, would its light get splintered? 

When the moon came up, what would transpire under its light? 

When the moon came up it glimmered across the surface of a lake. This inspired a poem or a painting. Perhaps both. 

When the moon came up, would it touch you? Would you dream about it at night? 

When the moon came up, the stars would not be far away. 

When the moon came up again, perhaps I will no longer be. 

When the moon came up, it brushed against my face. 

When the moon came up a raven flew across the sky. 

When the moon came up wolves bayed at it. 

When the moon came up pyres were lit. 

When the moon came up we gathered to talk. 

When the moon came up one flower wilted, another came to bloom. 

When the moon came up a candle flickered amidst wind.

Remarkable Women in Ancient China (16)- Xu Fu

Who is she? 

  • The most renowned female fortune teller in ancient China 

Notable Life Events:

  • Born in 221 BC to a county governor father 
  • She saw Liu Bang (the founder of the Han dynasty) in her home county when he was en route to attacking the Qin capital and concocted a plan for her father to flock under his banner 
  • Xu Fu foretold that Consort Bo (eventually concubine to  Liu Bang) would give birth to an Emperor when she was still married to Lord Wei Bao (who preceded Liu Bang as her husband)
  • Liu Bang made her a noble after he founded the Han dynasty 
  • During the reign of Consort Bo’ son she foretold the key events of Zhou Ya Fu’s life: that he would become a marquis in three years, become the prime minister eight years after that and then die of hunger nine years after that. 

Why is she remarkable:

  • I believe she is the first female to be given a noble title in her own right since ancient China changed away from a matriarchal society to a patriarchal one 
  • Reputedly she was born holding a jade with the picture of a bagua in her hands and could speak already when she was a hundred days old. That apparently earned her recognition from the founder of the Qin Dynasty himself. She could also already tell fortunes as a baby via laughing or crying upon seeing people. I felt like these are more legends that have surfaced to great people. There were many of these floating around attached to certain historical figures. 

Moonlake’s thoughts on her: 

Not sure about personality, I just thought it interesting that she would have earned a noble title for herself due to her fortune telling skills. 

Moonlake’s Writing Updates- Jan 2023

I am still battling on for the WIP. Currently, I am working on adding more obstacles to Act 2 and potentially Act 3 of my story. 

I continue to be in my low energy phase with the WIP and I have cut down to one session per weeking day (5 times a week now) with a word count of 100. To that end, I am looking towards earning money now and am in the process of applying to tutor algebra, general studying skills, improving English and providing English essay feedback and teaching free writing on Outschool. 

I am now on draft 0.83 although the numbering is starting to lose meaning now- I have no idea whether I will have to go up by 0.01 from now on, I started off at 0.5 and incremented by 0.1 at first until this 0.01 thing just started creeping in and it’s been going on for a while now. 

The tentative next project is on the backburner now. I’ve given it two tries in between my decimal drafts and I knew what I needed to do to fix it- rather than peg a bunch of historical events and have them drive my story, I need to basically start from scratch and approach it from my protagonist’s angle and add pertinent events, perhaps borrowing from historical events. After all, I’m not a historical fiction author and what I was doing with it was too much historical fiction for me. 

That’s it for updates. Still continuing to write in my incremental way forwards. 

Adventure Abroad the Chen Xing- Chapter 22

The interior of the building stood up to what was advertised outside. There were machines halfway set up for building something and other machines in another part that looked like they were for tearing things apart. A collision of different minds wanting to build different factories squashed into one. 

“This place is a disaster.” Aurora commented. 

We were led to an area still under construction and mostly open space, before they were occupied by shipping containers that could be transported on trucks. Our captive pointed at them. 

“What’s in them?” Estella asked as she padded over to the crates, not letting down her guards as she did so.

He shrugged. “I get paid enough to not care.” Realising how that sounded, he hastened to elaborate. “I mean, it’s nothing harmful or anything. We wouldn’t get involved in anything like that. You can tell the sheriff that too, yes?”

“Assuming that’s the case, sure.” Aurora nodded at me, “Let’s open’em up and see if they’re worth hauling back?”

I moved over and lifted off the lid of the closest container. It pays to be vigilant, I always say. I dodged the blast of spores that shot out. Our captive turned and tried to run, as much as his limping allowed. Some people just never gave up. 

Aurora tripped him and he went sprawling. “You’re really, really burning through the last of our goodwill here.” She told him.Her curled up and covered his head, sobbing again. 

I sighed. “There he goes again. Pathetic to tricky back to pathetic.”

Estella told Guppy, “Scum like this is what keep us in business.”

“Anything in the crate besides the trap?” Aurora asked.

“I don’t know. They just said I’d regret it if I ever looked inside. And they wouldn’t even have to find me or lay a finger on me”

“I wonder if they were trafficking in the spores?”

“We did see a bunch of the plants growing outside.” Estella pointed out.

“We should collect a sample for Jessica to analyse.” I figured we should leave it for the specialist. 

“Good thinking,” Estella said as she hurried outside. 

“Grab some of the spores from the box too.” Aurora called after her. “So, which one was it?” She pressed the captive. “Are they coming in a few weeks? Or are they showing up sooner? Remember if we take care of them they won’t be able to hurt you.”

I looked down into the container whose lid I just prised open, to see whether I could identify its contents without touching anything. There were some coiled up vines insides, with some open flowers that might be the source of the spores. There was a flat, transparent container lying on the bottom. There was some clear fluid inside, which the vines had dipped into via tiny filaments. It looked like some kind of hydroponic setup. 

I whistled. “A container full of our viney friends being grown? Estella should come and look at this.”

The man sighed deeply. “There is a message they send when they plan on coming. But it’s not what you think. They send it to me, personally. I’m a telepath of sorts. I can hear thoughts directed at me by anyone I’ve met previously.”

“Okay, then what number am I thinking about right now?” Aurora gave him a test. 

“Are you offering me one?” He replied, which made no sense to me. Perhaps that was the point. 

“Okay, he’s for real, on that part anyway.” Estella gave her a blank look.

“I was imagining a mug of ale, he picked up on it.”

“So these people deliver these crates to you right? Or were you lying about this being a delivery zone?” Estella asked him. 

He waved his hands defensively. “I was telling the truth, about that at least. And I did find the kid while waiting for a new delivery.”

The vines started to uncoil and moved slowly towards me, as if it wanted to touch me. I moved back out of their range. It flopped back into the box. 

“We thought the kid was one of…” He stopped and put a hand over his mouth. 

“Finish the sentence or I’ll pass the kid a knife and she can fulfill all those promises she’s no doubt been making about gutting you.” Estella threatened him. 

Guppy gave him a toothy grin. “Ya know, it’s been awhile since I gutted a body. I could be outta practice.”

He gulped and started talking, without taking his eyes from Guppy. 

“You can try multiple times until you get it right, we can just have the doc heal him up in between.” Aurora added her contribution. 

“We thought she was one of Camdon’s tunnel rats. They don’t usually come out this way, but… the kid looked familiar. And we don’t get along too well with Camdon.”

“So who do you work for then? Scorsby?” Aurora asked him. 

“Scorsby?” He looked confused. “Rupert? I’d rather let Camdon sneak up on my back than do a deal with Scorsby.”

“Let’s hear what dirt you have on both of them, then.” I prodded him. 

“Not much to tell. Camdon and us, well, we are what you might call competitors. Except we deliver and he’s always looking for a way to cheat whoever works with him. And Scorsby, well, he’s just someone you don’t mess with. Always got some game going on that’s above and beyond us penny ante players.”

“So who brings you these shipments, and who do you give them to?” Estella asked him. 

He shut his mouth into a thin line. After a pause he said, “We’re just middle men who know better than to ask for names when it doesn’t matter.”

“You’re also savvy enough to make sure you’re not working for Scorsby or Comdon by mistake, so either you tell us…” Aurora glanced meaningfully over at Guppy. “Or our girl here will start making herself a new belt from your intestines.”

He mumbled something, then he came forth with the goods.  “Star Analytics. I’m not supposed to know that. They work through intermediaries. But, like you said, I’m too savvy not to know who I’m working for.”

“The twits who own the big black building in town?” That was getting to be Estella’s new obsession, after gardening. 

He nodded. 

“Sounds like we just found our source of local trouble,” Aurora nodded to us.”Now the question is where are they getting the plants from if not the asteroid?”


“Too  much knowledge is not to your own good.” I warned him. He took the hint and didn’t say a word more. 

“The bigger question is how did they get onboard our ship in the first place?” Estella said. 

“We landed near the junkyard originally, we might of picked some up there, or when you two were crawling around the tunnels maybe?” 

“Yeah, maybe, still, at least we have a name for the locals, and who is probably been hunting us, they want the plants for themselves.” Estella said. 

Guppy starts poking around at the other boxes. Not opening any, just being curious. Aurora cautioned her and she said she was just bored. 

“Well it’s pretty obvious where the shipments are being taken anyway.” Estella gestures towards town, “That big black monolith.”

“Now we just need to decide what to do about it all, I mean, taking on an entire corporation like that? I’m not sure we got the numbers, or the firepower to come out on the winning side.” Aurora said. 

“Let’s talk about that back on the ship, after we dump tweedle dumb and tweedle dee off at the local sheriffs.” Estella said. Aurora assented. 

“You… you’re going to put in a word for me, right?”

“Let’s see, you’ve lied to us, tried to flee, let us open a spore mine, and kidnapped my little girl, anything else I’m missing?” Aurora asked him with a glare.

“I told you all sorts of things that could get me killed! I put a lot of trust in you. You can’t expect me not to test that a little, right?”

“We’ll encourage them not to hang you, don’t worry, we keep our word.” Estella said. 

He hung his head in despair. “They’ll come after me if they know I talked.”

“A word?” Aurora gestured to us and stepped off to the side out of ear shot of him. I followed her. 

“Let’s hear it. This guy is desperate to save his own skin, we can count on him trying to double cross us if it helps him somehow, I was thinking maybe we could use that to our advantage, let him over hear us talking, feed him some misinformation, and then let him escape from the sled while we stop to buy groceries or something.”

“I’m not sure what misinfo we’d want to spread to that company?” Estella pointed out. 

“I had a thought of getting him to rat out Jake but he’s way too smart for his own good.” I admitted. 

“That we’re working for Camden maybe? Put them on his ass instead of ours for a while, buy us time to figure out how to handle this mess?” Aurora grinned at me, “We think alike.”

“Problem is, we let him go, we have a lot of nothing to show to the locals for what’s behind this mess, and he might just be the sorts to want payback, and come after us later if we let him run free.” Estella pointed out. 

“Yeah, that’s a pretty solid point.” Aurora admitted and glanced over at the captive, thinking I assumed.

“He has me stumped, not worth killing him yet but too tricky to do anything about.” I put up my hands in defeat.

“I say we turn him over to the local sheriff and complete our contract, if we need him later we can always work something out with the locals.” Estella said. 

“Fair enough, the locals aren’t in bed with the company at least, or they wouldn’t of hired us to look into things, so they’ll make sure he stays locked up.”

“All right.” I agreed. 

Aurora looked at her caree. “You got a say in this too, he did tie you up and whatnot.” She made an evil smile. “Well… He did punch me in the face. See my bruise?”

He started squirming. 

“I mean, I still think I need some guttin practice. But…” She dragged out the word as sweat rolled off our captive. “Yeah, send him to be locked up. Sounds like justice to me”

“It’s decided then we take him to the sheriff.” Aurora knelt down and started pulling off the man’s socks and belt.

“What you doing?” Estella raised an eyebrow at this.

“Bound and gag him?” I supplied. 

“Gagging him so he can’t scream for help while we drive through town.” Aurora nodded to me. 

“With his own socks?” Estella smirked at the notion. “Fitting. Nasty, but fitting.”

He looked defeated and didn’t struggle at all.  “Okay, lets deliver the garbage and collect our payday.” Aurora looked at the crates. “We shouldn’t leave these laying around either, might be best to destroy them.”

“Hey, Aurora?” Does this look familiar?” Guppy handed Aurora an open case with some test tubes that contained a blue-green liquid. 


This is using the form of the poem Prayer in my boot by Naomi Shihab Nye which essentially uses the For… motive repetitively. I am an atheist so I’m not writing fors as prayers, I guess these are more my contemplations. 

For the breeze that caressed my face. For the shards of light from the rainbow prism that had fallen on my face. For the whispering among the leaves. For myself and others. For the bygone years, the birthdays celebrated with cakes on which laid candles that I could never blow out in one go; I don’t know how they ever did it on TV. For my palm which used to sweat so much. For my black lustrous hair that spilled down my back like a cascading waterfall. I wish. For my tomorrows that are yet to come, bubbles that are yet to form. For my wandering thoughts. 

For sunshine and rainfall. For light and darkness. For destiny and personal struggles, a stand to say I make my own fate. For apathy and compassion. For appreciation and indifference. For laughter and tears. For family and friends versus strangers and enemies. For the mind against the heart. For logic warring with emotions. For us versus them. For myself against the world. For the past I turned my back on versus the tomorrow I’ve yet to carve out for myself.