“Titanium Mike Saves the Day” is now complete at just under 5000 words, and off to my critique group. It’ll be critted next Saturday and I hope to get it in the mail to Analog shortly thereafter. My first new story since March, and my first new solo story since… crikey, last September. Really need to get on the ball. Speaking of which… in response to the recent meme that’s been going around, here are the opening paragraphs of the just-completed “Titanium Mike” and a few other stories in progress (“in progress,” in this case, means that they were completed a year ago or more but are now high on the list to be revised next). Titanium Mike Saves the Day (Hard SF) “Gramma, I’m scared.” The poor girl wasn’t just scared, she was terrified — tense and shivering and speaking in a breathy whisper her helmet mike could barely pick up. Behind a faceplate fogged with rapid breaths, her skin was pale and clammy and her sapphire-blue eyes twitched like small frightened animals. Helen wasn’t exactly calm herself. “Don’t fret, Sophie,” she told the child, but her own voice trembled. She muted her mike and took a deep breath to settle herself, the sound echoing loud in her helmet until she felt under control. “We’ll be safe here.” For a while, anyway, she added silently. The shelter’s single dim light was already beginning to fade. Moonlight on the Carpet (Horror) “Vrrm, vrrm,” said Liam as he ran the little wooden car across the Persian carpet. It was summer, a hot humid Midwest summer, and there was nothing else to do. Daddy and Mommy were away again. The blue and gold pattern, a thing the shape of the big black card at the top of the poker deck, could be Laclede Island where they went every month at this time. Liam ran his car along the causeway — a long curve of blue and red and black, and through the stripe of bright white moonlight that crossed it. The little golden hairs on the back of his hand glinted in the light. Across the causeway and along the bay, the little car sped. Liam imagined himself in the back, leaning his chin on the back of the seat, peering out at the streetlights that flicked past one after the other. But above them all would loom the moon, the full moon, outshining them all. Mommy and Daddy never took him out to the island when the moon was full. Interview with the Photographer (Hard SF) We called ourselves the Trillion even then, though in those days it was a proud and overweening boast, not the vast understatement it is today. Those were heady days, early days, days of energy and promise when anything could, and did, happen on a daily basis. In those days a person could say something like “I think we ought to take Jupiter apart and build something useful out if it” and be greeted with cheers. How young we were! Let me tell you a thing to impress upon you how different those times were from these: I was given five names when I was born. It was a formality even then, of course; the UniTag was already two hundred years old, but my parents still held to the old ways and tried their best to give their child a unique spoken name. They were old-fashioned with my genome, too, which definitely explains my stodgily symmetrical appearance and probably explains why I have been too stubborn to change it. But I’m slave enough to fashion to go by just Jonquil now. Night Mail (Fantasy) Nate Richmond loved estate sales. The mundane thrill of searching for bargains, with the slight ironic tang of a second-hand encounter with death, had always been exactly what he needed to distract himself from his cares. Besides, they were cheap entertainment. So on a crisp sunny Friday afternoon in May, when Nate’s cares were particularly big and his wallet equally empty, he strolled down 43rd from his apartment on Belmont to see what he might find. Nate was a thin young man of 23, with white, white skin and black, black hair. His chunky shoes and his pants and his denim jacket were also black, as was his T-shirt, which bore the name and logo of the industrial band Bauhaus. The only article of clothing that wasn’t black was his socks, red cotton decorated with white skulls. Around his neck he wore a small silver ankh. The decedent at this particular estate sale had been a woman with size 8 feet and extremely practical taste in shoes and clothing. Emerging from her closet, Nate found his way blocked by two large, burly men, the proprietors of the sale, who were disassembling the mahogany sleigh bed that dominated the bedroom. As they levered the box spring out of the bed frame, Nate noticed a rectangle in the thick dust underneath. “What’s that?” he said. The older of the two men bent down and picked it up. “Looks like an old desk set.” It was a large flat rectangle of embossed leather with brass hinges and fittings, maybe twenty-four by sixteen inches, wrapped all around with yards of yellowed cellophane tape. In the Joy Business (Fantasy) “Joy is the serious business of Heaven.” — C. S. Lewis Monday. The angel Umiel was trying to finish writing a Customer Research Report when her screen beeped. Again. It was an e-pistle from Ganiel, her supervisor: would she please update her monthly budget figures? Today? By 11:00? Umiel looked at the clock in the corner of her Illuminated User Interface — the big hand was on the X and the little hand was on the IV — and sighed. She considered asking Ganiel if this budget thing were absolutely necessary, but she knew what the answer would be: all priorities are top priorities, it’s your job to manage your own time, et cetera, et cetera, et blah blah blah. Ganiel would probably quote at her from The One Second Manager, or whatever management book she was proselytizing today. She set the report aside and opened the icon for the budget. It took her ten minutes to find her department — they’d “rationalized” the budget spreadsheet again — and properly record her paltry expenditures for the month. Then, when she returned to her own report, she discovered she’d lost her train of thought. The morning was not going well. She decided to take an ambrosia break.