New and established authors.
Just in time for Halloween.
Did I mention free stories?
What’s not to love?
Out here on Platform Eight at the fringe of settled space, it takes a lot of effort to celebrate Old Earth holidays, no matter how hard you cling to your culture or religion. When one of Piki’s classmates convinced her parents to throw the party of the year themed around All Hallows’ Eve, she begged her parents shamelessly to be included. Out of love for a child they nearly lost to a slaver, they gave in—partially.
She had to convince me to be her guardian for the night.
I was no more proof against her honey-brown eyes than her parents had been, which is why I found myself dressed in a tiger-striped shipsuit—her idea—with more stripes painted crookedly on my face—her idea, and her paint job—walking through a gloomy corridor shrouded with clingy synth spider webs and tattered synth-cotton meant to be ghosts.
Piki’s classmate’s parents must have paid a fortune in permits and fines and had somehow convinced their neighbors not only to not complain, but also to go along with the party, as several doors were propped open with various faux skulls, cauldrons, and bats.
I assumed they were fake. The bats were an illegal biologic, and the skulls even worse—an illegal post-mortem human biologic which could house any number of diseases…
Or so I thought, until I looked for the dark angel—complete with shimmering holo wings and a tarnished halo meant to spook her friends—on all other nights known as Piki…
And couldn’t see her.
Slow down, I cautioned myself. Don’t jump to conclusions. If there was one child on the platform who would know better than to wander off, it was Piki. I could only think of one time she had sneaked out of her parents’ sleep bay since she was kidnapped—and recovered—and that was to find her missing kitten, an illegal biologic I tried not to think too hard about since I had given it back to her instead of insisting it be destroyed.
Panic, however, ignored my commands and gripped my guts with all the force of a malfunctioning slipstream. Spinning, I checked down the corridor the way we had come, then forward toward the classmate’s sleep bay. Maybe she’d gone on ahead of me there.
But I should have been able to see her wings.
With a tap on the ID chip in my palm, I activated a secure com line. First James responded, then Luis, both asking what was wrong, then falling silent.
“I can’t see her,” I admitted. Even sub-vocalizing those words made me stagger and set one hand on the wall. Unfortunately, it came away covered in spider web, which I wiped on my pants. “James, raise the lights in the corridor ten percent. Luis—”
“I’ll start a trace,” he told us.
Swallowing the protest that we couldn’t yet—according to station policy, we had to have the parents’ permission and clear the residence before we could use a locate on a missing kid—but Dios mío, her parents shouldn’t have to go through this again.
I eased forward, avoiding miniature goblins and ghouls, still searching for my dark angel. The classmate and parents had lit the common room of their sleep bay with so many electronic candles that I ought to report them… but no Piki.
“I’ve got a possible,” Luis muttered in my ear. “Something’s jamming our holo scans further down the corridor.”
“Copy.” Not a kid who got too far away from her guardian then, nor a prank. Not if they were jamming our scans. “James, lock down the slipstreams.”
“Already on it.”
Moving faster now, I tried not to bump into any of the children in the corridor—not my kid, not the one I had vowed to keep safe—and unsealed my pants pocket. One swipe and I could draw and activate my tech-gun, but not here in a corridor crowded with innocents. A quick glance into each open doorway cleared the common rooms of the sleep bays, and I thought about telling James to bring the lights up to full, and damn my career. Squinting, I saw a thick spider web hanging down from the overhead pipes, blurring the corridor beyond. “Go back that way,” I told the nearest youngsters, with that sickly-sweet tone of adults galaxy-wide hiding information from kids.
Then I fought past the web.
A tarnished halo glinted over gossamer holo wings. I spun the child around to face me and dropped to my knees. Despite the dark sparkles on her cheeks, the girl stared blankly.
“Piki?” I shook her gently.
The girl blinked and finally focused on me. “Ossifer Cordova,” she said solemnly. “He gave me a candy for you.”
“Are you all right?” Relief hit me so hard I wanted to throw up, but something in her gaze warned me not to let her go.
My dark angel held out her hand. “This is for you.”
Leaving one hand on her shoulder, I let her drop whatever-it-was into my other hand and risked a glance down. The illegal jammer hummed happily in my hands until I turned it off. “Luis, James,” I sub-vocalized. “I’ve got her.”
“He said he was your friend,” Piki whispered, pressing her trembling body to my side. “He didn’t tell the truth, did he?”
Ignoring the glitter in her hair, I petted it gently. “He’s not my friend.”
“He said he’ll see you soon.”
“It’ll be okay,” I lied. “Do you want to go back to the party?”
She shook her head.
He could only have been Gunnar Quin, the man I had stolen Piki from a few months ago after he took her to sell as a slave. He would see me soon—one way or another—and it would not be okay.
I would see to that.
Participants of Storytime Blog Hop – Visit all our story authors:
Angela Wooldridge Quiet Neighbours
Katharina Gerlach Australian Dream
Karen Lynn The Waves at Midnight
Sherri Conway Ants
Elizabeth McCleary Over James Henry Wilcox Dead Body
Canis Lupus The Picture
Peg Fisher All In the Fall, a Fractured Fairytale
Bill Bush Trapped
Benjamin Thomas Autumn Cascade
Crystal Collier Emily’s Ghost
Viola Fury 911
Juneta Key All Hallows Eve
C. Lee McKenzie Beautiful
Erica Damon Penance
J. Q. Rose Sorry
Elise VanCise Lady In The Woods