May 2019


“So tell me, Ms. Almeta, what do you bring to the Honey Bee Inn? Why should we hire you instead of one of the hundreds of other up and coming strippers anxious for access to our high-rolling clientele?” The owner, Madam X, regarded her newest applicant with a jaded gaze.

Donna, excited, began her prepared speech. “Well, I have a year’s experience at the EXP Bar-“

Madam X cut her off curtly. “I’ve seen your resume. A year at the EXP Bar, another at Chamber of Secrets, and six months at The Other Castle and Star Whores. But we don’t look into the Pensieve here, Ms. Almeta. I want to know how you can handle yourself.”

“Well, I’ve got a lot of experience-“

“What did I just say? This is an audition, Ms. Almeta, not an interview.” Madam X motioned for Donna to follow her.

The Honey Bee Inn was closed for the morning, and staff was busy cleaning and making repairs. The remote-controlled droids that served drinks were being polished, the individual booths shaped like British police boxes were being wiped down, and large wall hangings were being changed out, as they were every week. Thursday’s Rurouni Kenshin was coming down and Friday’s Firefly was replacing it.

“It’s not enough to have a little experience at a nerdy club,” Madam X said over her shoulder. “We’re not just looking for cosplayers.”

“Coming through!” A staffer rolled a rack of clothing past, bagged for dry cleaning; Donna counted nineteen Sailor Moon suits and a single pleather-stitched Catwoman jumper.

They entered the backstage area next. A few of the girls were lounging around, either watching subbed reruns of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya on a 50-inch plasma screen or playing console games. Donna recognized a Famicom, a Sega Saturn, and even a PC-FX among other consoles, and one of the dancers was furiously button mashing through a game of Darius Gaiden.

“We’re looking for hardcore nerds who are able to understand and improvise,” Madam X continued. “When someone calls you sempai—and they will call you sempai—we need you to roll with it.”

Donna smiled. “Senpai, watashi ni kidzuite kudasai!” she chirped. “Senpai, kakkoiidesu!”

“Hmph,” Madam X said, though Donna thought she saw a smile flitter across her face. “Your accent is boorish, provincial, and you speak it through your nose. Save it for the audition, shojo.”

Coming out from backstage, Madam X led Donna to one of the poles. “Oh,” Donna said. “A lightsaber pole! I’ve got a lot of experience with these.”

“You’ll find these are not so clumsy or random as the ones you’ve used before,” Madam X replied. “The color varies depending on your performance, from purple to green to blue to red. You won’t be Sith-ing pretty if we get to red, though. Now, we’ll start you out with a basic set. Diva Dance followed by Lapti Nek, then some Hatsune Miku. If you make it that far, we’ll wrap up with the image song from One Piece, a disco remix of Eyes on Me, and The Power of Love by Huey Lewis. Any questions?”

“Which Hatsune Miku piece?” said Donna.

“I guess we’ll find out, won’t we?” Madam X jabbed a finger at the booth, high above the stage and floor. “Hit it!”

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“We’ve never had it better” you whisper
Clutching two-day shipped item to breast
As you type in, with trembling hands
Your student loan interest for the year
Sighing ruefully at a tax refund
Barely enough for a month’s rent
“What a world we live in” you say
No phone at home, no TV, no data
Just a generation-old smartphone
And a three-figure monthly bill
Hanging on until the updates stop
Videos stuttering on library wi-fi
“What a time to be alive” you say
Holding your side in pain
Fearful of a doctor’s visit
The cost of a year in college
Bankruptcy in surgical scrubs
Debt comes for us all in the end
“This is the age of miracles” you cry

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Some believe them to be larval souls of soothsayers that have somehow managed to pupate. Others hold that they are native to the Abyss itself, reflecting its chaotic and dark nature. Whichever is the case, the abyssal swallowmoth is prized both as an oracle and as a pet, for these small lepidopterans possess the power of prophecy. However, they tend to mix outright lies in with their truths, tend to prefer uncomfortable truths, and are also known to be deeply sarcastic. So using them for anything other than entertainment tends to be highly problematic–if someone is wise enough to tell the truths from the falsehoods, chances are that they are wise enough to get by without one.


A sample of remarks made by Rosie, a typical abyssal swallowmoth, in a 24-hour period:

“I was the biggest worm that had ever been in your underwear.”

“The death of planes draws near, and the universe will shatter in its footsteps.”

“SHE CALLED YOU A FILTHY HO.”

“When your girl leaves your side she starts hitting on the first low hanging available fruit that comes her way. She’s a little home wrecker! She learns from the best.”

“The ripples of your selfishness are echoing across the planes in ways that will not fully be understood by any but the gods, and even then not until long after your demise.”

“Did you SEE that bling? FAKESVILLE.”

“She doesn’t know and will never know.”

“This ‘new’ choker has been worn by 557 people before you.”

“That haircut makes you look fat.”

“They are coming.”

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Claude tamped some ersatz tobacco into his pipe, wincing at the sharp taste as he lit it. “I bet you thought that was fun, huh. Sabotaging their supplies, sugar in the gas tank, things like that.”

Francois squared his jaw. “It’s only right. It’s justice.”

“Uh-huh.” Claude took a puff, and his face soured at the taste. Bound by habit, though he exhaled a ring of smoke. “And what good is your justice when they catch you, hmm? They won’t hesitate to kill you.”

“I’m not afraid to die,” Francois said.

“Aren’t you? You’re a little boy playing at war with a wooden gun. Two wars ago, I saw what could happen when boys stood up and pretended to be men. In the face of determined men, trained men, men with a plan…the only question is if they will kill only you or torture you for knowledge of your associates.”

Francois scoffed. “You want me to lie down. Like everyone else.”

“Did I say that?” Claude raised an eyebrow. “You don’t get to be pushing ninety by being rash, at least not without plenty of luck. Here is what I am saying. They have a plan. You have none. Make plans, and make them better than those dogs who think they are running our country.”

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Dear Appeals Committee,

I am writing to you today to request that I be readmitted into Southern Michigan University. Given my academic performmance over the last semester, as well as the serious nature of the charges against me, I was disappointed but not surprised to receive my dismissal letter in the mail.

I freely admit that I had a very difficult time last semester, and my grades suffered as a result, though the newspaper and national media accounts were often biased and grossly inadequate in their coverage. While I know you don’t want to hear me make excuses for my poor academic performance, I would like to try and explain the circumstances.

First, I knew that registering for 18 credit hours in the spring would require a lot of me, and that hijacking a tanker truck—even one that I thought at the time was filled with milk and not gasoline—would be difficult to fit into a healthy study schedule. I was also planning on relying on my study group to help me get through, until it turned out that Ramirez had lied about knowing how to hotwire a car and we had to leave him at the Canadian border crossing.

While I thought I could handle the 18-hour workload, and I still think I could have, my godfather became very ill in February. I owe everything I am to my godfather, who has been a mentor and a confidante to me, asking only for the occasional favor in return. While he was at home, injured in an Gambrelli assassination attempt and unable to work, I had to drive over every weekend and some weeknights to help out with business and to care for the Family.

Needless to say, the hour-long drive each way cut into my study time, as did the duties I had to do as a man of honor. Even when I was at school, I was very distracted with the situation and was unable to focus on my schoolwork. I understand now that I should have communicated with my professors, taken a leave of absence, or even postponed the Corsican job altogether. I thought I could handle all of these burdens, and I tried my best, but I was wrong.

I love SMU, and it would mean so much to me to graduate with a degree from this school, which would make me the first person in the Family to complete a criminal justice degree and become an inside man on the force. If I am reinstated, I will focus much better on my schoolwork, take fewer hours, and practice my timetables much more rigorously. Fortunately, my godfather is recovering and has returned to work; one the reprisals again Gambrelli have ceased, I will be free to work on school and my own small-time hustles. Also, I have met with my advisor, and am attaching a letter of support which she wrote of her own free will.

Please understand that the low GPA that led to my dismissal does not indicate that I am a bad student. Once I have had a chance to make my professors offers that they cannot refuse, I am certain that I will get a 4.0 this coming semester. I hope you will follow the lead of the District Superior Court in giving me a second chance. Thank you for considering this appeal.

Sincerely,
Emilio Andolini

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Baia del Placer Cantina
Cananea, Sonora, Mexico
November 15, 1913

The first man, wearing pilot’s leathers and little else but a union suit, nodded from his slouched pose at the table. “Phil.”

“Dean.” The second, dressed like a farmhand with a day’s sweat and a day’s stubble, drew back a splintered chair and dropped into it.

“I suppose you know that General Hill ordered me to kill you if we see you sputtering over Naco again,” Dean said. He raised a cloudy glass in a mock toast. “Those bombs you dropped didn’t kill anybody, but they scared the hell out of Hill and embarrassed him too. He’s not a man who likes to be surprised, scared, or embarrassed.”

Phil smiled. “And here I thought that was the whole point of the exercise.” The waiter shouted out his order, straight Chihuahua tequila, and he waved them over. “I offered to fly for Hill and Obregon too, you know, but they were paying by check and Huerta came through with cash. I’ve got orders to kill you too; you know Hill’s got at least one bird.”

“You mean, you lent them yours, and it came with a free pilot.” Dean sipped at his liquor, swirling it thoughtfully before swallowing. “You know, Phil, that’s an interesting proposition. How exactly does one kill someone in an airplane from another?”

Phil pulled a revolver from his waistband and thumped it onto the table. “That’s how, I’m guessing.”

“Well,” said Dean. “You could save yourself a lot of trouble right now.”

“Bah.” Phil swept up his tequila and took a drag, winching as it went down. “After all we’ve been through? From Panama through to here? Sooner or later people are going to figure out how to murder each other in those things, but I’d rather it wasn’t somebody I sort of liked that went down first.”

“Likewise,” said Dean. He pulled a hand out from under the table, revealing a cocked Webley. Lowering the hammer, he set it on the table next to Phil’s. “I reckon two smart fellows like us ought to be able to think our way out of this predicament, don’t you?”

“Take the money, don’t get fired, and don’t die?” Phil said. “In the cockpit or up against a wall?”

“Exactly. I think I have just the idea to make it happen, too, if you’ll order us another round of drinks and help me work out some of the practical points.”

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Name: Gnat
Age: 20?
Occupation: The Brains

The Margrave’s agents are all people from alternate versions of Deerton that hope for a better, perfect, version of the town once all competing and imperfect Deertons have been erased from every dimension. Nathaniel, or Nat, or Gnat, is a constant hub of buzzing nervousness, always stuttering and falling over his own words in an attempt to please the Margrave and her various agents. Because of this, no one really likes him or wishes to associate with him, and Syd in particular can be vicious in their mockery of Gnat, occasionally taking his form to parody and insult him.

However, Gnat’s nervous exterior hides a strong and disciplined mind, one that is eminently equal to the tasks of finding ley lines that can be unraveled to erase parts of Deerton from existence. He is also well-versed in many other fields, from electronics to history to philosophy. Gnat’s desire was knowledge and the mental acuity to use it, so he is extremely self-conscious about his work and will fly into a flustered rage if he feels like someone is making him look unintelligent.

Trivia: He has also taken it upon himself to document the various erased Deertons, and keeps a trunk laden with souvenirs from deleted towns. These documents tend to reflect his personal interests, and include a variety of movies and music unique to various alternate worlds that he enjoys listening to. It is mostly anime, with subs being GREATLY preferred to dubs. Incompatible cross-universe media standards are also his eternal bane.

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