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Friday, November 18, 2011

Natterby Close

Links to the rest of this story may be found here.


Amy ran all the way down the corridor and skidded to a stop in the parlour, where the smile faded from her face when she saw Grayson’s expression.

“Have you seen the newsfeeds?” he asked.

“No,” she said, edging around the table. “What’s happened?”

Grayson tapped the panel on the wall and suddenly they were standing at the cross-section of two streets, flames burning harmlessly beneath their feet. Amy turned in a circle, a frown on her face as she took in the skimmer on fire further down the road and the plume of smoke rising above the buildings.

“This is Natterby Close,” she said, returning her attention to Grayson. “On C-Prime.”

He raised his eyebrows. “I wouldn’t have expected you to be familiar with it.”

“I’ve been around,” Amy said with a shrug. “Your familiarity comes from your time in the Commissioner Guard, I assume. How long were you stationed here?”

“Not long,” he replied. “I was a cadet on my first assignment. I don’t know if you remember, but thirteen years ago Natterby Close was flaring particularly hot.” Pain flickered across his face briefly. “Ironically that was the assignment that led to meeting Sophia. I got caught in the blast off a homemade bomb. Taz had to carry me out.” He shook his head.

“So why are we here now?”

“Thirteen years ago the Commissioner Guard brutally quelled an uprising in Natterby Close,” Grayson said. “I missed most of it because I was in hospital, for which I am grateful. I did a lot of things in the Guard of which I am not proud, but the protesters in Natterby Close were always careful to be peaceful, at least at first. They never engaged the Guard unless forced to defend themselves. And they were protesting against the violence, the force, the unrelenting oppression that the Guard used against peaceful demonstrations like their own. It wasn’t until later that they began to retaliate with violence and the protests turned into riots.” He looked around and flinched at the sound of something exploding in the distance. “And now it’s started up again, except this time they skipped the peaceful protest stage. The Commission has been cracking down harder and harder on infractions in the last couple of months and the pressure had to break out somewhere.”

“They’ll all be dead in a week,” Amy said, watching as a squad of heavily armoured Guardsmen advanced down the street towards the plumes of smoke in the distance. “You know as well as I do — better — the Commission’s policies on civil disobedience.” She started to walk down the road, following the squad and absently trailing her hand through the flames leaping from the burning skimmer. “If they can’t put them down in the first few days they’ll raze the area, people and all.”

Up ahead, the squad stacked up outside the front door of one of the row houses, crouched under the windows. At an almost imperceptible signal from the captain, one of the men lobbed a fist-sized grenade through the broken window. A moment later the building shook, the shock wave echoing up the street. As the last of the window glass fell to the ground, the guards knocked down the door and entered the building. Something exploded and as a man screamed, Natterby Close abruptly snapped out of sight, returning them to Cam’s parlour.


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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Parents, children, and really good muffins

Links to the rest of this story may be found here.


Amy woke in the morning feeling completely disoriented. She was surrounded by giant pillows, with a squishy comforter drawn up to her chin, and it took her several minutes to realise that she was in Cam’s bed, in the Manor, on Idylla.

“Oh god,” she muttered, dragging the covers over her head. She’d fallen asleep on the floor. She hadn’t done that since she was a teenager, and certainly not since Cam started getting into trouble.

With a sigh, she flipped the comforter back off her head and looked around the room. Despite the fact that the room oozed sophistication, there were still elements that Amy recognised from their childhood. On the sleek desk across the room sat one of her model ships that she’d given Cam for his tenth birthday, even though he hated space and everything that happened in it. The painting over his bed was a Jacui, from their mother’s collection. And poking out of the wardrobe was the sleeve of a flightsuit Amy recognised as having belonged to their father.

“Good morning,” Cam said cheerfully, batting aside the strands of glass fish that dangled across the doorway. He peered at her. “You must be feeling more rested. The dark bags under your eyes look more like circles now.”

“Thanks,” Amy said and patted the bed. Cam jumped up and bounced twice before scooting up to lean against the headboard. “Why do you still have Dad’s old flightsuit?”

Cam looked embarrassed. “I don’t know,” he said. “I’d say nostalgia, but that’s a pretty shite term for anything involving Dad, isn’t it?”

Amy slid out of the bed and walked to the wardrobe. She opened the door and pulled the flightsuit out, holding it up and considering it with a funny expression on her face.

“What’s up?” Cam asked.

She glanced back at him over her shoulder. “Dad was wearing this that day,” she said. “The day I hid in the closet.”

Cam’s mouth twisted. “Do you want me to get rid of it? I didn’t know.”

“No.” She put it back. “Keep it. For the memories.”

“I don’t want to remember Mom like that,” Cam said.

“Then get rid of it.” Amy shrugged and stared out the window. “I certainly don’t care.”

Cam watched her for a moment and then sighed. “Yes, you do.”

Amy rested her head against the window. “It doesn’t matter. Is Grayson awake?”

“He’s been up for two hours and is somewhere out on the grounds.” Cam joined her at the window and considered the acres of land spreading out below the Manor. “I think he’d like to get out of here. I make him uncomfortable.”

“Hah,” Amy said. “You make everyone uncomfortable.”

“Except you,” he replied, dropping a kiss on her forehead. “Come on, let’s get you some breakfast.”

Amy trailed after him into the sitting room. “Do you think you’ll ever change, Cam? Give up on your profligate ways?”

“And give Dad the satisfaction? Hah.” He picked up a fluted silver jug from the table by the sofa and poured a stream of dark liquid into a cup. “Maddie brought up coffee and muffins while you were asleep. Do you want chocolate or blueberry?”

“Ooh. Chocolate. No. Blueberry.”

Cam handed her the cup and a muffin. “Please eat them,” he said, licking blue off his fingers, “because if you don’t I’ll have to and then I’ll get fat and that would be really bad for my image. I’ve already had four this morning.”

“These look suspiciously like Mildred’s muffins.”

“Maddie’s her daughter.”

Amy leaned back and took a bite, letting out a contented sigh. “Did Grayson get muffins?”

“Said he doesn’t like them.”

She rolled her eyes. “You know, I’m inclined to think he’s being as difficult as possible because he doesn’t like people helping him.”

Cam perched on the edge of the sofa. “He’s going to find out who we are eventually, you know. All he’s got to do is send a message once he’s on his ship asking who lives in the manor on the hill near the Crescent Village stop, and he’ll know we’re Seamus Brenner’s kids.”

Amy set the muffin on the table and cupped her hands around her coffee cup. “I know.” Staring down into the black liquid, she said, “Can you pull any strings?”

“Like what? Call up the Idyllan Planetary Network and request to be removed as the listed resident of the house?”

She raised her eyebrows. “Well, that would do it.”

“It’s a little out of the way of my usual requests, sis. They’ll want to know why.” He rearranged the remaining muffins before picking one up and absently tearing a piece out of the side. “I try so hard to stay out of politics. I’m the brainless Brenner, Anni. Remember?”

Amy pinched the bridge of her nose. “Fine, so I’ll do it.”

“Why does it even matter so much?” Cam demanded. “So what if Grayson finds out? So he decides you’re not worth his time. It’s not like you’ve ever had any interest in maintaining friendships before. Keep ’em at arm’s length, that’s always been your motto. What makes this different?”

“It’s not different,” Amy said. “That is — ” She frowned and took a gulp of coffee as she thought. “It’s not Grayson, if that’s what you’re thinking. It’s the kid. His daughter. Molly.” She bit her lip. “I think about that girl and I think about me. I can’t help it. Her mother’s dead and her father isn’t around, and now she’s on this planet with people who are sick and she must be terrified. And Grayson actually wants to go to her.” She lifted her eyes to Cam’s face. “If Grayson realises we’re Seamus Brenner’s kids, he won’t have anything to do with us, not with how much he despises the Commission for what they made him do. He’s suspicious, but he won’t reject us out of hand without proof, not when we can offer him so much assistance in getting to Molly. But if he has proof — ” She stopped. “I don’t want that little girl to die.”

Cam regarded his sister for a moment. “I was wrong about you. You’re a damned softy.”

Amy threw her muffin at him. “Oh, shut up!” With a sigh, she pushed herself off the sofa and stretched. “Grayson’s going to be getting antsy. I should be going.”

“Yep, you should.”

“But first…” She leaned around him and snatched a muffin from the plate. “Hah! The last chocolate one is
mine!”

Cam scowled and lunged for her as she ran for the door, laughing.


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