Tag Archive: space station

Tumbleweed: Coming Soon!

Flip of a Coin 01One hundred thousand kilometers above the Earth tumbles the Chʼil Awoshí Station, a conglomeration of oddball environments used for everything from top secret research to filmography to recreation and housing. Fiercely independent yet by necessity interdependent, the inhabitants maintain a delicate alliance of cultures that clash and corporations that compete.

In The Flip of a Coin, a new disc is being built, soon to be joined to Tumbleweed’s Discworld. But although the corporation building the addition has complied with every rule and regulation, there is something unsettling about the newcomers. When a strange man in an environmental suit collides with the command module, half conscious and claiming to have escaped the new disc, Captain Kitewhetu must balance her suspicions with the Chʼil Awoshí’s reputation for respecting the anonymity and independence of its members.

The Flip of a Coin will be published at All For Science, the place for all things science. A new chapter will be posted every Sunday, beginning in September.

19 strip for Tumbleweed



Awesome DUNE fan art by Balaskas on Deviant Art

Awesome DUNE fan art by Balaskas on Deviant Art

“Very funny, Chad,” Walker spat, kicking the dirt. A knee-high field of grasses curved out of sight, following the circular hull. Scribbling through the field was a barrel-sized scar of dirt, as if some alien had tried to form a crop circle but failed miserably. It had probably taken Chad and his friends the better part of the night to do it. Considering the sloppiness of the work, they were probably beyond drunk.

“What’s fun…woah…” Chad slowed, kicking at the disturbed soil and turning in a circle to observe the damage. His act was perfect, the picture of dumbfounded innocence.

“Yeah. At least last time what you guys did could be considered art. This…” Walker spat in disgust. “This is just vandalism. I have half a mind to turn you in.”

Walker would never report Chad to the boss. It wasn’t just that Cynthia, Walker’s niece, was sweet on the boy. Chad was one of the few guys who could go a full shift in the extra-heavy gravity of the fields. Good help was hard to find, especially when it came to manual labor.

“This thing goes deep… a few meters at least.” Chad was crouching, pointing a scanner into the tunnel.

Walker stopped and considered. Maybe Chad wasn’t lying. He was usually quick to take credit for anything he did, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

A tremor shook the ground under their feet.

“Asteroid strike. Felt like a little one.” He shrugged. “Probably didn’t even pierce the hull,” Walker said, doubting himself but trying to sound certain for Chad’s sake. The kid could get pretty flighty when he got scared. He also had a bad habit of jumping to unlikely conclusions.

Chad looked up, wide eyed, then crept away from the tunnel opening. “I dunno, Walker.” He stood up, brushing the dirt off his trousers. “That didn’t feel like a strike to me. It felt…” Chad’s face twisted into an odd expression that Cynthia inexplicably found charming. Walker thought he just looked constipated. “It felt…closer.”

Walker shrugged off the comment. It wasn’t a question he wanted to answer, and Chad’s hypotheses would just get wilder and wilder. “Well, get the diggers going. We need to fix this.”

Chad dutifully strode over to the equipment locker, his movements bogged down. The grass was only about ten meters from the outer hull, topping layers of water, gravel, and a significant layer of dirt that primarily served as radiation shielding for the station. Earth-normal apparent-gravity was several levels above them.

“Whatever is was, it was big,” Chad said. “What burrows like that? Bears?”

Walker reached around to turn off the digger’s auto-mode. The last thing they needed was for the machine to arbitrarily start re-plowing the entire field.

“Bears? Really?” Walker asked, shaking his head, “Just kids. If not you and your friends, then some punk adolescent with more free time than brains.”

Chad bullied the digger into smoothing out only the area that was disturbed. Walker reseeded it and they moved on to the next spot. “Me and my friends…nah. We have more finesse. You’ve seen our work.”

Walker let the boy drone on about his less-than-admirable escapades. Although technically some of them crossed the line from simple pranks to actual crime, they were all mostly harmless. Somehow, Chad had avoided any kind of legal action against him. Chalk it up to charisma; the same attribute that had snared Walker’s niece into agreeing to go out with him not just a couple of times, but disturbingly close to something that resembled a steady relationship.

Cynthia could do worse, he supposed.

Another tremor made them both stumble to the right. Over to their left, the grass was leaning as if something from underneath the roots pushed it up.

Walker took the digger out of Chad’s hands. “I think we need to…” he wasn’t sure what to say. Maybe a meteor struck the hull in exactly the right spot, in exactly the right way…

“There it is!” Chad yelled, pointing over Walker’s shoulder. He whipped around just in time to see something slither through the grass and burrow under the dirt again. “I’ll get ‘im!”

“What…?” Walker froze in disbelief as the youngster ran off through the grass, chasing the…whatever it was. He still refused to believe there was some “thing” digging up the grass. All the biologicals on the station were carefully screened. Sure, the occasional rat got through, but rats didn’t…

He wasn’t sure what rats did.

“Gotcha!” Chad bellowed, diving low. An alien screeching sound rent the air, echoing off the ceiling. The grasses waved and parted where Chad was wrestling with something.

“Emergency! We need security and a med team in field 42B!” Walker smacked his com, then turned and grabbed a shovel.

“Yeghagh!” Chad screamed. Walker stormed in, shovel raised over his head. Chad’s arms and legs were wrapped a pipe. A squiggling, squirming pipe just as big around as he was.

“AHGH!” Walker yelled, his voice several octaves higher than he thought was possible. He brought the shovel down hard, bashing away at the monster and not altogether sure he was avoiding Chad in the process.

“Woo!” Chad cried out, rolling away. “You got ‘im! You got ‘im, Walker, sheesh…” Walker started trembling, dropping the shovel as Chad stood up and wrapped him in a bear hug.


“Woah! Yeah. Wait till I tell Cynthy about this!” Chad said, smacking Walker on the back.

It was a worm. Ichor spilled onto the dirt. At least three meters of the monster lay on the ground, unmoving. The tail disappeared into the tunnel.

“…radiation, I’ll bet. I wonder how many more of them are out there?” Walker heard Chad saying, but he was turned away, talking to someone else. A dozen responders had magically appeared. One of them was shining a light into his eyes, asking him something.

Walker shook his head, shaking off the feeling of shock. “Fine. Just need to…”

He knew what he needed to do.

Chad deserved a commendation.

Chad deserved a promotion.

Chad deserved his job.

Lord knew, Walker didn’t want it anymore.

I cut back on my writing severely back in November when I found out we had to move in January. I have a couple of stories in my brain for The Cities of Luna that need to come out, but I really needed to get the cobwebs out first. That’s what this is… just a quick freewrite to shake out my brain.

I’ll be revamping the website soon. Since Under Loch and Key is mostly for fun writing like this,I may be cutting it off soon and making my public face as professional as possible. We’ll see.

MOON DRAGONS, the newest story from THE CITIES OF LUNA

MOON DRAGONS, the newest story from THE CITIES OF LUNA



man-falling-down-mdShe’s gonna blow…”

“No…no no nonono…” Emmet chanted, his eyes on the same tourist they both all watching.

“She’s about to…. oh, there she goes,” Raven said, unnecessarily booting Emmet in the rump. It was his turn.

Emmet launched himself through the crowd, vacuum in hand, followed closely by a herd of cleaning bots, maneuvering expertly in the microgravity.

“Allow me to assist you,” he said to the green-faced woman.

“Mmm…” was all she could mumble, looking like she might throw up again.

He set the vacuum to its task and placed one arm around the woman’s back while placing a barf bag near her face, activating the oxy flow. “Place this over your mouth. It will help you breathe, and contain any more regurgitation.”

Fortunately, she did as she was told. Some people resisted, insisting they were fine and then proceeding to make an even bigger mess.

A couple of rubberneckers almost missed the turn, but Raven launched out and politely nudged them back into position. The flow of tourists and commuters continued to move through the space, being gently pushed along by the bumpers. Emmet carefully maneuvered the woman out of the flow and over to the aid station. “Just put your legs through here…” he said, guiding her to the rails. “It’s just like you’re sitting down…there…”

Once she was settled, Emmet turned back to see if the bots had finished what they needed to do. The vacuum had returned to its station, emptying and cleaning itself. Raven was spraying the mist that would trap any remaining bits as they floated to the filter intake.

Just beyond Raven, there was a disturbance in the pedestrian flow. A largish man was trying to get back through the crowd, pushing people out of the way as he bounced along the corridor.

“Sir!” Emmet called out to him. “Please go with the traffic. There is a U-turn about twenty meters ahead if you need to come back this way.”

The man looked angry, and he was focused on Emmet. “You!” he yelled, followed by something unintelligible.

Emmet looked left and right, but the man was definitely focused on him.

“Sir, you must move with the flow of traffic,” Raven called out, helping the people who had been pushed away from the bumpers back into the flow. It would be disastrous if they ended up with a jam. A large ship had just docked, and people needed to get from one place to another.

Emmet punched his security call button, and the bumpers automatically slowed to half speed. A confused murmur echoed through the crowd as they adjusted to the slower movement. “Sir? Sir!” Emmet dodged as the man launched himself directly at him. The man yelled something in a language Emmet didn’t understand, but it was obvious he was outraged at something Emmet had done.

“Security! Help!” Emmet called, abandoning protocol in an effort to escape. He watched in horror as the man put his hands on the sick woman, attempting to pull her away from the aid station.

Rubberneckers were causing a pileup as more people missed the turnoff, floating away from the bumpers. Raven, who would usually have swept in and nudged them along, turned turbo and launched herself at the angry man. She latched onto his back, then sprayed a mist directly at his face. “Here, sir,” she said, her voice dripping with sarcastic triumph. “This will help you breathe.”

The bumpers stopped, and a soothing computer voice instructed everyone to remain calm in several languages. The angry man slumped, not quite unconscious, but no longer struggling or fighting.

A security detail zipped in on turbo, and Raven handed the groggy offender off to them.

The sick woman called out something in a language Emmet didn’t understand, struggling to extricate her legs from the rails at the aid station. She floated out and Emmet extended a hand to her. She pulled herself to him, then pushed away, directly toward the security detail.

“Husband!” she said, gently grabbing the man in custody. “Idiot,” she said apologetically.

The security detail nodded, and carried her along with them as they removed him from the area and the bumpers started up again.

Emmet let out the breath he hadn’t realized he was holding. Raven came over and slapped his back, sending him spinning.

“You should get hazard pay for that one!” she joked.

“That’ll be the day,” Emmet mumbled, righting himself so he could look down the corridor at the oncoming traffic. A small boy, being held tightly by his mother, was holding his hands over his mouth. “Just promise me you’ll get the next one.”

I fell off the writing wagon a few weeks ago and needed to shake things up a bit to get back in the swing. This is just a random, off the cuff story. I hope you enjoyed it.


I love it when I can use the incredibly hunky cover model John Quinlan to illustrate a story! Check out his site... he has some wonderful images designed with writers in mind!

I love it when I can use the incredibly hunky cover model John Quinlan to illustrate a story! Check out his site… he has some wonderful images designed with writers in mind!  Photography by Sandra Kimball.


Jonesy shuffled along the corridor, cursing the heavy gravity and low lighting. The environment was not designed with humans in mind.

The job had seemed a dream come true for a young man fresh out of college. “See the Galaxy!” they said. And he was definitely seeing a lot. Vast alien civilizations… landscapes of intense foreign beauty… exotic foods…

And in between these brief excursions, he spent long hours or even days in space stations and star liners that did their best to accommodate the diversity of sentient species that inhabited the galaxy.

This particular station was humid and hot. His suit stuck uncomfortably to his skin. Apparently the races that frequented this particular part of space liked it that way. They also liked seaweed. At least he thought that’s what had been in the carton he bought at the shuttle concourse…

He stopped to check his hotel’s address again. He had to hunt through a list of alien scripts before he found one in Linguish. Apparently, he was heading in the right direction, but still had a ways to go.

Individual smells didn’t bother him. It was when they all combined, like baloney on a banana split , that he started feeling nauseated. None of the smells were even remotely human.

The sounds weren’t human either. His ears automatically tuned out the ever-present babble of alien languages. It was a skill that didn’t need to be taught. Like learning a foreign language by immersing oneself in the culture, he had immersed himself in every culture all at once. His ears rebelled and his brain created its own coping mechanism.

Taking a deep breath, Jonsey forged onward.

He kept up with the crowd, knowing that the sooner he reached the hotel, the sooner he could rest. Most places didn’t even have chairs that were comfortable for humans.

He did a double take, freezing in place while the crowd flowed around him. Turning around, he joined the flow in the opposite direction until he reached the opening to what looked like a bar.

And smelled like a bar.

And sounded like a bar! Not only were there a few other humans inside, there was an actual band on stage, singing not even in Linguish but in actual English! It was an ancient folk song, but it was an old one, and he knew it well.

He had to stop himself from hugging the bartender, he was so happy to sit down on a cushioned stool made perfectly to fit his species’ ass and drink something that he didn’t have to first check wasn’t poisonous to his metabolism.

He was home. Or at least as close to it as he was going to come for the next four months.

This story is unrelated to anything else I’ve written. It’s my response to the Write On Edge Prompt that had a song, and travelling, and senses, and… well, it’s hard to describe lol! Concrit would be great.