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May 15, 2013


& etcetera

A Musing...

“You are educated. Your certification is in your degree. You may think of it as the ticket to the good life. Let me ask you to think of an alternative. Think of it as your ticket to change the world.” –Tom Brokaw

May 15, 2013, Page 2

Happenstance Literary & Etcetera

Next issue: On or about June 1, 2013 Submission deadline, Wednesday, May 29, 2013 No exceptions Creative Prompt: Traditions

Business Profile: Lena Atencio Some people are by nature creative, which can lead to a little too much spontaneity and not enough planning. No so with Lena Atencio. This is a young woman who puts faith and family first, and all other considerations second.

In this issue: Page 3 • The First Step Page 4 • Book Review: The Time of My Life Page 4 • Writer’s Websites Page 5 • Business Profile: Lena Atencio

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Page 7 • The Gate Sharon Vander Meer

Book Review: The Time of My Life, by Cecelia Ahern. A humorous look at what happens when life comes to visit and decides to stay. Page 5

Happenstance May 15, 2013 Happenstance Publishing Sharon Vander Meer For permission to use content contact:

Cover image: First Step from Some interior images from

The Gate, a short story by Sharon Vander Meer. Sometimes it takes the silliest thing to make you look at where you are in life, and how your decisions have an impact on those around you.

Page 8 • Poetry Sharon Vander Meer Page 9 • Thunder Prime: Hunter’s Light Sharon Vander Meer Page 12 • Cloudy Day

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Subscription: $12 annually Free to contributing writers Mail check to Sharon Vander Meer Happenstance Publishing PO Box 187 Las Vegas, NM 87701 Subscribe online at Happenstance Literary & Etcetera All rights reserved by Happenstance Publishing in Las Vegas, N.M. Reproduction of contents in any fashion without written permission from the publisher is prohibited. Happenstance Publishing is not responsible or liable for the loss of any unsolicited materials or incorrect dates or incorrect information in articles. Opinions expressed within the pages (or web posting) of Happenstance Literary & Etcetera do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the magazine. Bylined articles and editorial content represent the views of their authors. For permission to reprint any part of a bylined article, contact the author. Copyright 2013

May 15, 2013, Page 3

Happenstance Literary & Etcetera

The First Step Submissions Welcome These prompts are suggestions, not fences to corral the writing muse. June: Traditions July: Summer Celebrations August: School Days September: Autumn Leaves October: Spirits and Ghosties November: Fabulous Food December: Winter Celebrations Submission deadlines: One week prior to the publication date, which is typically on the 1st and the 15th of each month.

Writer’s Guidelines: 1. Must be original work. 2. Grammar, punctuation and spelling must be correct. 3. Maximum length 1,500 words. 4. Acceptable genres and styles: poetry, humor, essay, memoir, short story, photo essay, feature articles, travel, social commentary, food, wine and dining, book reviews, fiction, non-fiction, mystery, romance and sci-fi/fantasy. 5. Submission does not guarantee publication. 6. Submit work to: If you have specific questions about the submission process, please e-mail Compensation not paid at this time.


admire those who get a university degree. I didn’t. It was a miracle (and my mother’s insistence) that got me through high school. College wasn’t in the cards. My parents could barely afford to send my older brother to university, and to be honest the idea of leaving home scared the crap out of me. By the time I did graduate I was ready to start working. Maybe my disillusionment with the whole school experience had to do with starting out in one town and ending up going to three other schools in three different towns before I donned my cap and gown. I had been working for most of my teen years, starting out as a baby sitter in Hobbs, N.M. I know, big cliché. When we moved to Carlsbad, N.M., I went to work after school and summers as a carhop at Jan’s A&W Root Beer. That was an educational experience, mainly how to say “no” to every bad pick up line imaginable. When we moved again, it was to Artesia, where I started working as part of my class schedule at a jewelry store owned by Mr. Byron Smith. He was an old school employer who expected punctuality, integrity and a willingness to learn. At heart he was a Teddy bear. I went to school half the day and worked the other half. It was called Diversified Education, as I recall, for those of us who had neither the interest nor aptitude to go to college. I loved that job. Mr. Smith’s wife was a funny English transplant, who had met and married him when he was stationed in England during his military service. I learned a lot from both of them about retail, customer service and diamonds. I also learned the joys of hot tea with cream (real cream) and sugar. For various reasons my senior year in high school was at Hagerman High School (Go Bobcats!), in Hagerman, N.M., a small town in the southern part of the state whose claim to fame was being the hay capital of the world. That was a day or two ago, so the claim may have changed to something else, but back then if you weren’t a hay farmer or cattle grower, you were in a business that served the ag community. My dad was a plumber and sheet metal mechanic, so his skills were in high demand. I didn’t work that last year in school, but when I graduated my dad’s boss suggested I apply for a job at the newspaper office since I had no other plans. I had always enjoyed writing, but it was that job that made me fall in love with everything writing related. Mr. Stratton was a hard-nosed newsman who gave me the best journalism education I could ever hope to get. He and his wife gave me opportunities to write stories, encouraged me to do creative writing, and hooked me forevermore on printer’s ink. Now we’re into a digital arena and the ink is in pixels, but the principle is the same – writing and putting it out there for people to read. All you graduates moving into the real world of jobs (hopefully you’ll be able to find one) are in for a wild ride. You can shape your own future or let someone else do it for you. Graduation is one step of many that will take you where you want to be. Congratulations to each of you who made it this far. All of your tomorrows are in your hands. –Sharon

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May 15, 2013, Page 4

Book Review: The Time of My life The Time of My Life By Cecelia Ahern Publisher: William Morrow Paperback: $14.99


may have found my new favorite female author. She’s in her early thirties and is already an internationally known writer with several best sellers. If The Time of My Life, is an example of her work, Cecelia Ahern will be around for a long time. The story begins with, “Dear Lucy Silchester, You have an appointment for Monday, May 30.” Lucy doesn’t need to read any more; she’s already ignored several invitations just like it, all signed, “Yours sincerely, Life.” The funny thing is, Lucy isn’t surprised by this invitation to meet with her life, she simply doesn’t want to do it. She has created a nice little nest for herself in a tiny apartment with a found cat, a neighbor in her own little world of denial and a job she isn’t required to do much more than show up for. Not that she isn’t well-qualified to do the work of translating product manuals, after all she is fluent in multiple languages. The one she is only slightly familiar with, she has creatively found a way around. As far as her bosses and coworkers are concerned she is qualified as an interpreter in five languages when she is in fact qualified in only four. Her existence for the past two and one-half years is carefully built on a shaky framework of little lies that begin to crumble. It

all starts to unravel when Life, with a capital “L”, forces her to confront the truth of Lucy Silchester, and where she really is in the arc of her life. The Time of My Life is funny without being ridiculous, romantic without being schmaltzy, realistic enough any reader can relate to it, and downright quirky, especially when the personification of Lucy’s life is a man, a scruffy and irritating excuse for humanity. Lucy has enough in her life to make readers feel pretty good about their own. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommend it to anyone who likes a good story full of great characters and a few laughs. Ahern writes about choices and how those choices can define who we are, or who we make ourselves out to be. Ahern is the daughter of Ireland’s former prime minister, and lives in Dublin. She has a degree in journalism and media communications. Her first novel, P.S. I Love You, became an international best seller and was adapted into a major motion picture, starring Hilary Swank. Her successive novels—Love, Rosie, If You Could See Me Now, and There’s No Place Like Here—were also international best sellers. Her books are published in 46 countries and have collectively sold more than 10 million copies. In Las Vegas, N.M., The Time of My Life, may be purchased at Tome on the Range Bookstore. If they don’t have it in stock, they will order it for you. –By Sharon Vander Meer

Writing Tip: Three Websites Worth Checking Out


riting is an often isolating business, a place where we get so bound up in what we’re doing, we think we’re the only writer with issues like writer’s block, plotting, character development, freelance opportunities and the entire array of other concerns that come up. Here are a few sites where you will find helpful advice about writing and access to resources. Daily Writing Tips: – This site provides practical advice about everything from grammar to spelling to resources. The site and its information is free and not terribly cluttered with advertising. You can even test yourself on writing related topics. Writer’s Digest: – Writer’s Digest is a must have for serious writers. It puts you in contact with resources, links you with markets, informs you about contests, and

has a wealth of free information easily accessible through various links on their site. Writer’s Digest tutorials and online classes are excellent ways to get out of a writing rut and back on the road to productivity. Jane Friedman: – Jane Friedman is a writing and social media instructor currently employed as a web editor for Virginia Quarterly Review. Recent blogs on her website about writing include: Should You Self-Publish? 15 Questions; WRITING ON THE ETHER: Writers in the Inferno; 3 Ways to Improve Your Website Design; To Be Great, Strive to Be Ordinary; Start Here: How to Get Your Book Published. The information on Jane’s site covers a lot of territory, is instructive and kicks your writing energy up a notch.

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Happenstance Literary & Etcetera

Entrepreneurial Floral Boutique Opens


ome people are by nature creative, which can lead to a little too much spontaneity and not enough planning. No so with Lena Atencio. This is a young woman who puts faith and family first, and all other considerations second. A talented floral designer, Lena worked at Pink Carnation when it was a thriving business under the management of Dora Pinkston. She later went into business for Lena Atencio herself on a limited basis doing weddings and other events on contract. All the while she was thinking of ways to do what she loves and is good at, while still being a hands-on mom and fulltime wife. This Q&A with Lena gives some insight into how she achieved her dream. H: Give a little background about you and your experience as a florist. Lena: In 2004 I took a short community class in floral design taught by Dora Pinkston. Up to that point I had never done any designing or even knew it was something I would be interested in. Dora invited me to work evenings in her shop, The Pink Carnation, helping her with wedding work. I discovered I had both talent and a passion for floral design. After a few months I made the decision to join her full time. Since that time I have continued to work in the floral industry both full time and part time. H: Talk about Consider the Lilies Floral Boutique. Where does the name come from? Lena: One of my favorite bible scriptures is Matthew 6:25-30. This passage deals with worry, which has always been an issue for me. A Christian artist from Albuquerque I know wrote a song based on that passage called, Consider the Lilies. It had become an anthem in my life whenever I was feeling stressed. One day when I was singing it I thought, that’s a great name for a flower shop, and here we are! Starting a business is a difficult thing. The name constantly serves as a reminder to me Who is in control, and will both provide and take care of me, my family, and the business.

H: Where did the idea for a mobile flower shop come from? Lena: My life had taken a bit of a detour. I had two babies in two years and was a stay-at-home mom. I had continued to do weddings for friends and family and still felt passionate about floral design. I knew I wanted to get back into the business but I didn’t want it to be at the expense of my young children. I also did not want the burden of a big business loan or mortgage. I had seen some posts online about women who had converted Frito Lay type trucks and old Airstreams into mobile retail shops. I knew if I could find something like that with living quarters my children could stay in, it just might work for us too. H: How does it work? Lena: It works like any other flower shop you’ve ever been in, just a little smaller. We provide all the same services you would find in a store front shop, but we also have the ability to come to our customers. We do have limited hours of operation. As I said earlier I wanted something that would benefit my family and not be at their expense. They come first and I felt that being open five or six days a week would be too hard on my girls who are now ages two and one. Also it gives us a few days a week to travel once we have developed business in the surrounding areas. Currently we are open for business in Las Vegas Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday. We are available by appointment only on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday for private wedding and funeral consultations. H: What did it take for you to convert a trailer into a flower shop? Lena: A whole lot of sweat and tears! It was by divine intervention we found the trailer in Santa Fe. It was purchased the first week of February. I knew I wanted to be open by prom season so that left little time to get all the work done. It already had the living quarters for the girls so the remodel in that part of the trailer was minor. It was originally a trailer used for hauling race cars, but we purchased it from a company that was using it to haul mountain bikes they build. It was an ugly utility trailer. I designed the layout of the shop and hired my friend Pat Pinson to do the build. He added two storage cabinets, a bench, sales counter, windows, “fencing” for the kids’ room, stairs, and did a lot of rewiring. Once I had it back from him I did much of the work myself generally late into the night after my girls had gone to bed. I did solicit the help of friends and family to help paint, stencil, sew, lay flooring, wallpaper, and move things into place. It’s quite charming but small. H: What do you want people to know about shopping at Consider the Lilies? Lena: Clearly a flower shop in a

Happenstance Literary & Etcetera utility trailer is a bit outside the box. I have done everything I can to make it a pleasant and nice space for my customers. It is small and it is out of town, being parked at Mallette’s (in Las Vegas, N.M.) I know those are things that might be a bit inconvenient. However I am passionate about what I do and committed to providing quality flowers and beautiful designs for my customers, and I think that the services and work I can provide to the community outweigh the inconveniences of size and location. We are able to accept credit card orders over the phone so if the size and location is an issue there are still ways to enjoy our services. H: You have decided to not, at least at present, do Teleflora or FTD. Why is that? Lena: I decided years ago that I would not be a member of a wire service if I ever owned a shop. I do not like the idea of having to carry specific containers and design in a specific way. There are disadvantages in that I do not have the ability to send flowers nation wide or internationally. In addition it makes maintaining a web page a little more challenging in that I do not have Teleflora or FTD provided pictures of arrangements or marketing material. What it does mean is that the arrangements you receive from my shop are my creation. They are not a “canned” container with a specific flower count that has been duplicated and sent to thousands of people nationwide. If you call or come into my shop and want to see exactly what I will send, as you would in viewing a Teleflora or FTD website, you will be disappointed. I can provide pictures of my previous work as a guide to my style, but the inventory of both my flowers and vases will be fluid and change on a weekly basis. H: What kind of help did you have getting your shop set up? Lena: One of the greatest joys in this whole process has been really understanding just how blessed I am. I did a lot of the heavy lifting in getting the shop up and running, but I could never have done it without all the help I have had from friends and family. My husband Aaron Atencio, helped immensely in putting together and supporting the whole crazy idea. From there I had help with everything you can imagine from childcare so I could work, down to cleaning, painting, sewing you name it. Parents, siblings, cousins, aunts and great aunts, grandparents, friends, nieces, uncles the list is pretty long. One of my favorite things is to look around the shop and reflect on who helped with each element, and smile. Just about everyone I love had a hand in getting the shop the way it is today and that in itself is such a joy. I will say the stenciling on the ceiling was one of the hardest things. My mom volunteered for that job and after half a day of standing with our arms raised and necks bent we were pretty tired. I told my mom, “The next time you need help with something like this call me,” to which she responded, “I never do dumb things like this!” We had a good laugh and that helped us get the rest done! H: What else is available in the shop? Lena: One of the things we provide is a hand made enclo-

May 15, 2013, Page 6 sure card for every arrangement we send out. These adorable cards are made by my aunt Kathy Allen. I really wanted everything we do to have an extra special touch and this is one of the ways we are doing that. In addition we also have full size greeting cards she has made for sale. They can be purchased separately or sent with an arrangement. We also have a display of some of the embroidery items that can be ordered at Mallette’s right next door to our shop. They have some really great wedding, baby, or general gift ideas that can again be purchased separately or included with one of our flower arrangements. These items do need to be ordered in advance so plan ahead. H: Do you deliver? Lena: Absolutely we deliver! There is a $5 delivery charge for orders in the Las Vegas area. Deliveries can be made outside the Vegas area for an additional charge. Another service we are going to try and provide is sending a text message with a picture of the arrangement that was sent once the delivery has been made. This will serve as a delivery confirmation and so our clients will be able to view the arrangement their loved one received. H: What services do you offer? Lena: Three days a week we are available for PRIVATE wedding and funeral consultations. This allows us to focus on you as a client without the distraction of other clients or phone calls. You must call in advance and make an appointment to take advantage of this service. Consultation may be scheduled at our location, or in your home for an additional fee. We also offer extensive event and party decorating in addition to our floral services. If you are interested you can call to schedule a consultation. H: What more do you want folks to know about Consider the Lilies not covered by these questions. Lena: I am a simple person. I am not looking to get rich or make a name for myself with this business. I simply want to add a little extra income to my family, continue to be the primary care giver for my girls, all while doing something I love doing. I am passionate about what I do, especially wedding and event flowers. I believe that passion shows in the work I provide. If I wouldn’t send it to my momma it’s not going out the door of my shop. I am content with the space I have and the business I have created and I hope that people will be blessed by what we can provide our community. The Lord has blessed me greatly and I hope to share some of that joy and beauty with others. What: Consider the Lilies Where: Mile Marker #3 Hwy 518 @ Mallette’s Phone: 505-718-9593 E-mail: Website: “Little shop, big design!”

Happenstance Literary & Etcetera

Short Fiction: The Gate


he gate had been askew for a while, hinges rusted, slats gray and mottled where the paint had chipped off. Every time Ella passed through it going or coming, she would think, “I’ve got to fix that gate.” It didn’t happen. She was too tired from working, and too depressed by life. Harry’s cliché departure from hearth and home with the baby sitter three years ago was equally misery making and embarrassing. She had let everything go, including herself. Not that she was dirty or sloppy; she had a job to keep and being tidy was expected. Davey, Kara and Jackie were her priority. Every penny went to keeping them in food and clothing. Her needs were minimal. God knows she had no interest in impressing some man. The one she’d thought to be married to for a lifetime left her and the kids without a backward look. His pittance of child support arrived about as sporadically as did the man himself. He would take one or the other of the children for a weekend now and then. Not all at once, one at a time. His latest girlfriend, a bottle-blond size zero –(the baby sitter had dumped him within a month), hardly seemed like mother material, which was fine with Ella. The idea of someone else mothering her children made her brain itch. The gate, something Ella had asked her ex to fix countless times before he took off, was a symbol of all she had lost. Looking at it reminded her of how restless he had been, how undependable and lazy. That gate was him; crooked and damaged, not much good for anything. “Why don’t you fix that damned gate?” he’d ask when he came to pick up one of the kids. She would shrug, hug whichever child was going with him, and go back into the house without answering. What could she say? “That’s you. That worthless, broken gate is you and the wreck you’ve made of my life.” No, she couldn’t say that, but in her heart she knew it was true. And then along came the dog. The mixed-breed shaggy mess arrived on a crappy day following a call from the ex. He announced for the fourth week in a row he couldn’t take Jackie, the youngest boy, because size zero was expecting company. Nothing new there, size zero always had other plans, or didn’t feel well, or was going to a meeting. As a consequence of yet another no-show Jackie was being impossible. “Mom! Mom!” Kara raced in, breathing hard and shaking. “There’s a BIG dog in the yard. He growled at me!” Ella gave Jackie a stern look to let him know she wasn’t forgetting his latest tantrum and hurried to the door. Sure enough a large mongrel paced the yard, sniffling at this and that. The dog backed up to the gate, squatted daintily, and peed. Appropriate somehow. Ella liked the dog already. The poor thing looked confused but not ferocious. “Did the dog try to bite you?” Kara toed the carpet and scratched her ear in thought. “No, but he’s big and I bet he’s mean.” Ella studied the dog from the safety of the house. One way or another she had to do something. The dog, if it was dangerous,

May 15, 2013, Page 7

had them trapped until it decided to wander off. If it was harmless, they were imprisoned by fear, something Ella wasn’t about to let happen. “Stay inside.” The two children ran to the window to look out as Ella stepped out the door. “Shoo!” she shouted, flapping her arms and stomping her feet on the porch. The dog flopped on its belly and panted. The animal didn’t in any way appear threatening. Ella picked up a dented pan the kids had been playing with, took it to the water hydrant and rinsed it out. The dog’s eyes tracked her movements. She filled the pan with water and walked cautiously toward the dog. It scooted back, head ducked as though expecting a blow. “Hey now, it’s okay. Easy girl, easy.” The dog’s eyes darted as if seeking a means of escape, but the water was of greater appeal. When Ella put the pan down, the dog came up on all fours and lapped tentatively at the cool water. Satisfied it was okay, she drank deeply. “Can we keep him?” Jackie’s voice speaking so close, startled Ella, and she jumped, which made the dog back away and cringe against the fence. She turned to find the two children behind her. “I told you to stay inside.” “But he looks so lonesome,” Jackie whined. “It’s a she, and I agree she does look lonesome. That doesn’t mean she needs us to keep her company. Besides, I can barely keep us in food.” Ella said the words and meant them, but she was thinking how nice it would be to have a dog around, something big and intimidating. The dog returned to the water and began lapping at it, soulful brown eyes watching for surprises. When Kara darted forward, Ella grabbed for her, but she was already hunkered down next to the dog, petting its tangled fur. “She’s not scary at all, Mom,” she whispered. “Please, let’s keep her.” The dog’s tail began to wag and she closed her eyes under the child’s gentling touch. “We can call her Sadie.” Ella felt the situation getting beyond her control. “What if she…” “Sadie,” Kara said, her lips set in a stubborn line. “What if the dog belongs to someone? We can’t keep her if she belongs to someone else.” By now Jackie was beside his sister, stroking the dog’s fur. The animal looked like she was in doggie heaven. Ella sighed. Maybe they could keep the dog safe until its owner could be found. It was a wonder the poor thing hadn’t already been run over. “Don’t get your hopes up, but we’ll keep her…” “Sadie,” the two children said at once. “We’ll keep Sadie and take care of her until someone claims her.”

Happenstance Literary & Etcetera

May 15, 2013, Page 8

“And if no one claims her, then she’s ours?” Kara’s grin was a welcome sight, and made Ella’s heart clutch with love. How long had it been since the child had looked so happy? And Jackie too. His laughter rang across the yard as the dog nudged his belly with a wet nose. Had she unwittingly communicated her misery to her children? Had her actions taken the joy from their lives? Maybe their absent father wasn’t the problem; maybe it was her. She swallowed the bitter pill of self-recrimination and went to the gate, straightening it with a screech from the hinges. “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. For now we’d better get this gate closed so Sadie doesn’t get out in the street.” Kara pumped her fist in celebration and Jackie tried to copy her gesture. Sadie sat on her haunches watching with apparent curiosity. Ella struggled to close the gate and mentally toted up what she would need to do to fix it. A little paint wouldn’t hurt. “Hey, Mom, whatcha doing’?”

Davey swaggered up, his book bag slung over his shoulder. He was at the pre-adolescent stage when women as old as his mother rated slight to no attention. That he acknowledged her brought a smile to her lips. “We’re getting a dog,” Jackie said. “Dog?” Ella shook her head, but couldn’t hide the smile bubbling up from inside, and the dog had nothing to do with it. “We’ll see about that. Right now I want to secure this gate so Sadie won’t run away while we’re trying to locate her owner.” Davey’s face lit up in ways she hadn’t seen since before the ex took off. “Cool! Let me help you with that.” Ella stood back and watched in awe as the three people she loved more than anything in the world went to work on the gate, discussing with great seriousness what was needed. Sadie ambled over and observed the activity, already one of the family.

Poetry Waiting

In Case of Drowsiness

Three more days to the moment of truth she waited without words Fearless in her meditation frantic when she stopped at peace in silence. She would wear the yellow dress.

Sun Up

Gold shot with color it broke the horizon rising slowly washing the world with new light...

The lecture was long, without grace and style. Dreary. Whatever lesson may have been hiding among all those words, phrases, paragaraphs and pages were lost in a boring diatribe about something both uninteresting and uninspiring. In case of drowsiness I took another sip of Starbucks and called it good.

Poetry by Sharon Vander Meer

Can Do Attitude

You can’t, they said, Don’t even try You’re past your prime Gone is your time New blood is needed, New ideas seeded. Sit on the shelf, Behave yourself! When the job Didn’t get done Where did they go? I think you know.

Can Do Attitude II Impossible? Never! Improbable? Maybe. Doable? Give it a go try your best life isn’t a test success means saying, Yes!


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May 15, 2013, Page 9

Thunder Prime: Hunter’s Light Episode 9 Launch Alpha

Pella believes Chandor’s security can be breached, with the help of Chant, the daughter of a Chandorian chieftain. Can the fem be trusted? Pella has made it to Launch Alpha. What’s next?


aunch Alpha was made up of linked docks, launch pads, living quarters, commercial establishments, and agripods spread over two hectares of space. It was the first stop on a journey that would take me to my goal. Hermes was in orbit above the station and I was anxious to get down there, but had so far been thwarted by Romani’s refusal to release the shuttle. At the moment he was seriously getting on my nerves. He paced and ranted, ranted and paced. Candle sat in the chief pilot’s seat while another of Romani’s people, a Malcorian whose name was Anagor, sat next to her making notations into the com unit and monitoring the space station’s transmission chatter. I blew out a breath of frustration, but said nothing to curtail my boss and benefactor’s tirade. Romani hadn’t objected to embarking on this journey. What he objected to was taking on Bart Casey (who was at the moment asleep in quarters assigned to him, resting up for a change of shift), Candle Valenzuela and three kinder. Chant and the two male kinder were in crew quarters under the watchful eye of Box, who wasn’t happy about it. “I must be with you,” he said reasonably. “My programming is to protect you.” “We’re on Hermes, among friends. The kinder need you more than I do.” In truth I wanted them watched. I didn’t trust Chant. Ja’lu and Gol’du were unknowns, but compared to the brash femkinder, they seemed lost and frightened, despite their bravado. The three of them had appeared to be as much prisoners on Raptor as I had been, but I had only their word they were taken from some other transport to be sold as slaves. Chant was too curious by far, always watching. She had held true to her refusal to tell me anything more about Brutus Tauk until we were on Chandor. We had a long way to go. Getting to Chandor required going through five launch stations, and at each Hermes’ paperwork and personnel would be subjected to intense security checks. Who are you? Where are you going? Why are you going there? Cargo manifests and other documents would be studied in detail, every item questioned to the nth degree, as was the case at the moment, and the reason why Romani was on a tear. The security holdup was pretty much firburcock dung. Anyone could get past security by crossing the palms of the right authorities with cred to move the process along. Romani’s rant was a consequence of first stage security checks that were holding up getting a launch time. He was willing

to pay the bribe fee; I was not. He had done it before to expedite moving whatever he was carrying – be it passengers or cargo – through the system. He was making this trip for me, and although he’d managed to book cargo aboard so he could make a little cred, it wasn’t enough to justify paying out bribes. I was anxious to get moving, but I didn’t want to be any more indebted to Romani than I already was. “Chief Pilot.” Anagor’s voice stopped Romani. “Raptor has just received permission to orbit in preparation for launch.” “Raptor?” The sudden knot in my throat made it come out a little squeaky. “They’re following us?” Anagor shrugged at my question. “The pilot is asking for a launch in sixteen hours.” “Destination?” “Undisclosed.” “Can they do that? I thought you had to say where you’re going.” I turned to find Chant standing behind me, her question the very one I’d been about to ask. “What are you doing here?” I searched behind her for Box, but my ANAI wasn’t there. “Let her be,” Romani said, his arms crossed over his broad chest. “That a good question, me gel. You’re quite the savvy one now, aren’t you?” Chant tried for a nonchalant shrug, but Romani’s praise caused her fair skin to flush and she let out a giggle. Box strode into command bay with the other two kinder behind him. “There you are. You said you would remain in crew quarters while I took Ja’lu and Gol’du to get food.” Chant tossed her head with asperity, but gave no response. Box was perplexed by this non-verbal cue, one he would have to evaluate to interpret. I had no such constraints. “You lied to Box.” Which was something. Box was quite good at determining when humans were not speaking the truth. “Its nothing,” Chant said, sending a disdainful glance at Box. “Just an ANAI.” My anger flashed like cold water hitting hot oil. I grabbed the kinder’s arm and shook her. “Box may well be the difference between life and death for you at some point. Respect him as you would…” I stopped. Chances were this femkinder respected nothing and no one outside her experience as the spawn of a Chandorian chieftain. Box touched my hand signaling calm. I released Chant and stepped back. She rubbed her arm and glared at me in defiance. “Chandor, Raptor was taking us… and you, to Chandor,” Ja’lu said. “NO! You should have told me!” Chant lunged at the kinder, but he dodged her easily as Gol’du went into defensive stance separating her from access to his sibling. Everyone in command bay looked on in shock. The silent one had gone from an innocuous and unnoticed presence to

Happenstance Literary & Etcetera a ferocious protector. “I would have stayed on Raptor,” Chant said as she backed away. Box stepped in front of Gol’du and spoke to him quietly in qzzl. I blinked in surprise, not because of Gol’du’s aggressive response or Box being able to speak in Gol’du’s language, but because of Ja’lu’s statement. “How do you know I was being taken to Chandor? I thought you were locked in away, just as I was.” “My brother Gol’du has many skills. We were quartered near the galley and the talk echoed down the droid passage. He heard Mistress Durec say you have been bought as consort to Bannock Chandor Warren.” “LIES! LIES! Master Bannock takes only from Chandor fems,” Chant screamed. “He would have no use for this… this HUMAN!” A cold shiver ran down my spine, but when I spoke it was with firm determination. “I’ll be consort to none. Box, get these kinder back to crew quarters.” Chant flounced away and the other two followed, herded on their way by Box. I slumped back into my seat. Chant was an unreliable means for me to get what I wanted. The two siblings could perhaps be better allies. From Chant I wanted information about Brutus Tauk and his holding, information the fem had no intention of giving me until she was back where she belonged. I hadn’t realized the male kinder would be more likely to get me from information to action. These two very human looking kinder were able to survive on Chandor, an ability I hoped to learn from. It was my key to getting what I wanted. Direct access to Brutus Tauk. “You okay, gel?” Romani’s voice startled me out of my reverie. “Of course. Whatever Durec wanted to do with me, it’s over. I’m free of her.” “That’s not what I’m asking. Your father, he had to have…” “Known? Yes, that occurred to me as well.” “And I don’t think it’s over.” “What? I’m free. We’re going to Chandor with every possibility I’ll be able to go in search of my mother. Those kinder are my way to get on planet.” “You’re not thinking this through.” Romani glanced at Anagor and Candle. He jerked his head toward the passageway. “Anagor, you have the con.” I followed Romani to the galley, resigning myself to a lecture. I had a lot to think about, but knew I had to let him have his say. He pulled a water vacpac from the cold keep and handed it to me. He took ale for himself. “Gel, you’ve jumped into this whole thing with both feet, and I don’t say I won’t back you every step of the way, but you’re plain not looking at the whole picture. I was worried enough when you insisted on doing this. That was before I heard the kinder say Warren has already paid for you. That means Durec has her cred. She’s not gonna be much interested in showing up on Chandor without you.” It took a minute for his words to sink in. My heartbeat kicked into high gear. “She’ll try to get me back.” “That would be my guess.”

May 15, 2013, Page 10 I fiddled with the vacpac, spinning the unopened container on the tabletop. That was my life, spinning and spinning without an anchor to hold it still. “Why?” “I don’t expect she wants a powerful Chandorian after her.” “No, I mean why does this off worlder want me? How does he know who I am? What purpose would I serve?” The tips of Romani’s ears pinked. “For breeding,” he said flatly. I shook my head. “I get that,” I said. “Why me? How would an influential overlord of Chandor even know who I am?” Romani tore the ale pac open and drank deeply before speaking. At that he took his time, mulling over his answer, which was no answer at all. “Chandor keeps to itself, gel. No way a knowin’ the whys of anything they do.” He wasn’t saying what he really thought, maybe to protect me, maybe because he just didn’t know enough to comment. Somehow I thought it was more likely he was trying to protect me, from what I didn’t know. What was apparent, at least to me, is that Durec intended to get ahead of Hermes in the Launch Alpha cycle, perhaps to set a trap at Launch Beta. Hijacking in space was doable but problematic. A trumped up charge at a galactic station that would get us stopped and me back into her custody would be easier. It all depended on how much cred she had to work with, and given how much trouble she’d already gone to I suspected it was more than enough. I turned my brain off at the juncture leading me to wonder how much of a cut my father would get for betraying me. “I’ve changed my mind. I want to pay the bribe fee. I… I don’t have it now, but you can take it out of my share of the next…” “Shut it, gel. You owe me nothing.” He emptied the ale pac in one swallow and tossed it in the energy converter. “I’ll take care of it.” “And I want to go down to the station.” “No.” “You know it’s the best way to get information and we’re going to need all we can get.” “Scuttlebutt. Worthless chatter.” “We want to be moved up in launch rotation, ahead of Raptor, right? Given Durec’s apparent financial resources an influence, we have to do it in such a way she can’t manoeuver her way around any arrangements we make. Right?” Romani groaned. “Don’t tell me you’re going to Franklin.” “He’s the only one I know who can get us what we want.” “Yeah, and stab you in the back first chance.” I grinned. “Not if we hold back full payment until we’re on our way with Durec still in orbit.” Romani dry-washed his face and ran his fingers across his bald head. “Too much can go wrong.” “Absolutely. But when does it go perfectly right?” Episode 10 Launch Alpha is a vast floating city filled with danger and intrigue. Can Pella get what she needs to secure safe passage, if not all the way to Chandor, at least to Launch Beta? The next episode coming June 1.

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Happenstance Literary & Etcetera  

A digital magazine featuring original fiction, nonfiction and poetry from talented writers in a variety of genres.

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