Free Fiction Thursday – Reboot

Happy Thursday, everyone!

Regular visitors will notice the old website’s undergone a bit of a change.  Spring cleaning, virtual style.  I’m trying to make it easier for readers to find my stories, plus give everyone a head’s up when I’ve got new things coming out.  The sub-categories under the Fiction tab are still under construction, but we’re getting there.  Plus a lot of my older publications are getting snazzy new covers for the new editions, many of which are now in paperback as well as e-book.  Changes, I tell you — changes!

In honor of all those changes — not to mention the return of Free Fiction Thursday — this week’s story is “Reboot,” a time-traveling science fiction tale.  Enjoy!

Reboot ebook cover small

Reboot

 Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright © 2013 by Annie Reed

“Are you going to miss it?  Being a hero?”

I heard snickers and groans, pretty typical for a crowded classroom full of nine-year-olds.  I’ve been in enough of them over the years to know.  These days the desks are all molded plastic, clean-lined, ergonomic, not the knee-scraping wood and metal-framed contraptions I grew up with.  The cafeteria smell’s gone, too; now it’s the smell of too many bodies crowded together in too small a space.  Everything’s more crowded these days.

The girl who’d asked me the question, a pretty thing with braids in her auburn hair and shaved patches the size of my thumb on the sides of her skull—the newest thing in fashion, my granddaughter tells me—blushed a bit but managed to keep looking at me.

“Children!”  That was the teacher, a harried woman whose face—lined around her mouth, weary shadows underneath her eyes—looked every one of her middle-aged sixty or so years.

“That’s okay, that’s okay,” I said.  I held my hands up in a shushing gesture and the room quieted down.  I smiled at the girl with the braids and naked strips of pink scalp.  “It’s a legitimate question.  Not the first time I’ve been asked, so don’t go getting embarrassed, no matter what these guys think.”  I winked at her and she smiled back.  I still had some of my old charm.   At least it still seemed to work on nervous nine-year-old girls.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – Human Interest

Good morning, everyone.  Happy Thursday!

Whew!  This has been a busy last couple of weeks.  The fine folks at Thunder Valley Press are putting out paperback editions of a lot of my stories, and in the process updating the covers of some of my earlier publications.  A good example is this week’s free story, “Human Interest.”  Snazzy cover, right?  And the really cool thing about these paperback editions is that they come with a code for a free e-book copy of the same story.  If you’re at all like me, I love my e-reader, but I still like having paper books on the shelf.  Or shelves.  Multiple shelves.  Taking over the house. *g*

I also signed the contract for my story “Dead Men Walking” which will appear in Fiction River # 5, Hex in the City, edited by Kerrie Hughes. Isn’t that a gorgeous cover? Boy, I seem to be all about the covers this week.

Well, it’s not all about the covers, not on Free Fiction Thursdays. On with this week’s story, a cautionary science fiction tale. Enjoy!

Human interest v3 small

Human Interest

Annie Reed

Copyright © 2013 by Annie Reed

Cover Art Copyright Michael Knight | Dreamstime.com

Dusty, windblown sand pelted Samuel in the face when he stepped off the shuttle.

Great.  Just great.  Welcome to Paradise.  Another piece of shit town on a piece of shit planet at the edge of nowhere.  The absolute perfect place for the latest in a long string of crappy assignments for a vid reporter who knew his star had risen about as far as it was ever going to go.

Samuel ducked his head and raised his gloved hands to protect his face. His travel gear protected his body from the worst of the scouring sand, but he hadn’t covered up his face before he stepped out of the shuttle in case someone from the outpost expected a little meet and greet.  Over the years Samuel had discovered initial meetings worked best face to face.  When he established a personal connection early on, his interviews had the comfortable feel of two old friends sitting down for a chat.  Just the kind of vid shows his bosses wanted, and the kind of work that bored Samuel to death.

Only no one from Paradise had come out to meet the shuttle.  Samuel moved fast to secure a breather mask over his nose and mouth and flip down his helmet’s clear plexi shield.   The shield dimmed the glare from the system’s lone sun, hot and brilliant overhead even through the blowing sand.  The oxygen system in his mask kicked in, and he breathed in air that tasted flat and vaguely metallic instead of like something had burnt to a crisp about a million years ago. Technically humans could tolerate the air on Paradise, but Samuel had no desire to breathe dust and sand and who knew what else.  That nasty taste had to come from somewhere.

Part face guard, part heads-up display screen, the helmet’s shield kept the blowing sand out of Samuel’s eyes.  Still, the dry air seemed to suck all the moisture right out of him.  He wondered where the good citizens of Paradise hid their alcohol.  Good way to get to know the locals, sharing a drink or two.  Or ten.  Samuel really needed a drink.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Friday – Another Door

Good morning, everyone!

Once again, Thursday has morphed into Friday this week. Hours have changed a bit at the day job, making my days a little longer. Combine that with the end of daylight savings time and a presidential election, and… well… this week just flew right on by.

I have good news, though. I have a brand-new five-story collection out, TURNING THE PAGE, all about strong women facing a turning point in their lives. This week’s story is from that collection. I hope you enjoy “Another Door.”

Another Door
Annie Reed

Copyright © 2012 Annie Reed

 Published by Thunder Valley Press

Cover art Copyright © Nataliia Bielous |Dreamstime.com

Mavis Trimble dug her husband’s grave beneath the white oak tree where he’d proposed to her thirty-one years ago to the day.

It took her the better part of the morning to hack her way with a shovel through the first few inches of cold, root-choked ground.  There were easier places to dig a grave, but Mavis hadn’t picked the spot just because it was where Edgar proposed.

The white oak was the tallest tree in the windbreak behind their Iowa farmhouse, and Edgar had been a tall man.  The rope swing Mavis’s daddy had hung from the oak’s branches was still there, frayed now with age.  When she was a girl just beginning to notice that boys were good for something other than teasing, Mavis used to sit in that swing and dream about the handsome man she’d marry someday.  Edgar hadn’t been all that handsome, but he’d been a good, decent man who’d loved her with all his heart, and she’d loved him with all of hers.  Mavis wanted to lay his memory to rest in a spot that was special to her no matter how much hard work it took to dig the grave.

Before the sun climbed high overhead, Mavis gave up on the shovel and started attacking the rocks and roots with a pickaxe.  She worked up a serious sweat as she got into a steady rhythm with her swing.

It felt comforting to be warm.  The sun wasn’t much good for that these days.  The sky as far as she could see was filled with the same dark, ashy clouds that had been there the day before, and the day before that.  The clouds made the sun look like a pale, pitiful ghost of itself.

She should have started with the pickaxe, but the pickaxe had been in the heavy equipment barn, and that had been Edgar’s place.  Mavis didn’t like to go in the barn anymore.  The tractor and cultivator and corn harvester they’d put themselves in debt to buy were her husband’s babies, and they looked forlorn and abandoned without Edgar to take of them.  No one had used the machines since her husband left to fight in the war.  Mavis doubted anyone would ever need to use them again.

The life Mavis and Edgar had worked so hard to build for themselves was gone.  The farmland might have been in Mavis’s family for generations, but Edgar made it bloom.  He’d planted hundreds of acres of corn year after year, an ocean of green that stood eight feet, ten feet high, almost as far as the eye could see.  All that hard work had finally started to pay off.  This year had looked like the second in a row their family farm would turn a profit.

Their ocean of green was dead now.  The middle of August, and the stalks were brittle and dry and frozen, and like everything else in the world, covered with dry, dusty ash.

Mavis knew she should have worn a mask over her mouth while she dug, but did it even matter anymore?  A coughing fit nearly doubled her over, and she had to lean on the handle of the pickaxe to keep herself upright.

“Pitiful,” she said when she got her breath back.  The grave she worked so hard to dig was twelve inches deep, if that.  It was almost like the land was refusing to believe what Mavis knew in her heart.

“He’s not coming back, you hear?” she told the farm.  “I’ve accepted it.  Why can’t you?”

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thurs… er, Friday – Reboot

Good morning, everyone!

For various reasons, this week’s Free Fiction Thursday morphed into Free Fiction Friday.  Yes, it’s been one of those weeks where there aren’t enough days for the amount of work that needs doing. Guess I got too used to a four-day work week. 😉

Good news, though. 🙂 This week I’m celebrating my second paperback five-story collection, THE FOREVER SOLDIER AND OTHER FUTURE TALES.  The e-book version of FOREVER SOLDIER has been available for a couple of months, but the paperback is brand spanking new.  I’ve seen the proof.  It’s gorgeous!  My author copies are in the mail and the book itself should be available for purchase on Amazon any day now.

As part of the celebration, this week’s free story is REBOOT, one of the five stories in THE FOREVER SOLDIER AND OTHER FUTURE TALES.   REBOOT is a cautionary tale about a time-traveling pioneer facing forced retirement.  I hope you enjoy it!

Reboot

 Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

 Copyright 2010 by Annie Reed

“Are you going to miss it?  Being a hero?”

I heard snickers and groans, pretty typical for a crowded classroom full of nine-year-olds.  I’ve been in enough of them over the years to know.  These days the desks are all molded plastic, clean-lined, ergonomic, not the knee-scraping wood and metal-framed contraptions I grew up with.  The cafeteria smell’s gone, too; now it’s the smell of too many bodies crowded together in too small a space.  Everything’s more crowded these days.

The girl who’d asked me the question, a pretty thing with braids in her auburn hair and shaved patches the size of my thumb on the sides of her skull — the newest thing in fashion, my granddaughter tells me – blushed a bit but managed to keep looking at me.

“Children!”  That was the teacher, a harried woman whose face — lined around her mouth, weary shadows underneath her eyes — looked every one of her middle-aged sixty or so years.

“That’s okay, that’s okay,” I said.  I held my hands up in a shushing gesture and the room quieted down.  I smiled at the girl with the braids and naked strips of pink scalp.  “It’s a legitimate question.  Not the first time I’ve been asked, so don’t go getting embarrassed, no matter what these guys think.”  I winked at her and she smiled back.  I still had some of my old charm.   At least it still seemed to work on nervous nine-year-old girls.

“So are you?” she asked again.

Now it was my turn to blush a little.  No matter how old I got, hero worship was something I’d never been comfortable with.

“Well, see… I don’t think of myself as a hero.  Not at all. I’m just a workingman like everybody else.  Sometimes I go talk to nice folks like you, and sometimes I go someplace in another time.  It’s all just part of the job.”

“But aren’t you going to miss it?  Going to other times?”  This came from a boy farther back in the crowded classroom.  He was thin — pretty much everybody’s thin these days, but I’m old enough to remember when a lot of people weren’t so I tend to notice — and had a rainbow-colored shock of hair over his left ear and forest green spiral body art covering his head where the rest of his hair should have been.

There were fewer giggles this time.

“Of course I’m going to miss it, but I’ve been working hard for the last seventy years or so.  I think it’s about time I did some traveling in this time zone, see the world, enjoy my granddaughter and her children.”

That was my canned response.  In truth I was going to miss the hell out of this job.  I wasn’t ready to retire.  I went to work like everybody else, did what I was told, then before I knew it enough years had gone by that now I was about to retire whether I wanted to or not.  Nothing personal.  It’s in the program.  It’s your time.

Just didn’t feel like my time.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – Human Interest

Happy Thursday, Internets!

In honor of Worldcon opening next Wednesday — in my hometown this year! — how about a little cautionary science fiction tale?  “Human Interest” will be up for free for a week. Enjoy!

Human Interest

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2011 by Annie Reed

 

Dusty, windblown sand pelted Samuel in the face when he stepped off the shuttle.

Great.  Just great.  Welcome to Paradise.  Another piece of shit town on a piece of shit planet at the edge of nowhere.  The absolute perfect place for the latest in a long string of crappy assignments for a vid reporter who knew his star had risen about as far as it was ever going to go.

Samuel ducked his head and raised his gloved hands to protect his face. His travel gear protected his body from the worst of the scouring sand, but he hadn’t covered up his face before he stepped out of the shuttle in case someone from the outpost expected a little meet and greet.  Over the years Samuel had discovered initial meetings worked best face to face.  When he established a personal connection early on, his interviews had the comfortable feel of two old friends sitting down for a chat.  Just the kind of vid shows his bosses wanted, and the kind of work that bored Samuel to death.

Only no one from Paradise had come out to meet the shuttle.  Samuel moved fast to secure a breather mask over his nose and mouth and flip down his helmet’s clear plexi shield.   The shield dimmed the glare from the system’s lone sun, hot and brilliant overhead even through the blowing sand.  The oxygen system in his mask kicked in, and he breathed in air that tasted flat and vaguely metallic instead of like something had burnt to a crisp about a million years ago. Technically humans could tolerate the air on Paradise, but Samuel had no desire to breathe dust and sand and who knew what else.  That nasty taste had to come from somewhere.

Part face guard, part heads-up display screen, the helmet’s shield kept the blowing sand out of Samuel’s eyes.  Still, the dry air seemed to suck all the moisture right out of him.  He wondered where the good citizens of Paradise hid their alcohol.  Good way to get to know the locals, sharing a drink or two.  Or ten.  Samuel really needed a drink.  The shuttle ride to the surface had been a bitch.

Samuel had a hard time seeing anything even with his shield’s visual enhancements.  He caught sight of the ghostly outline of a low building, the distance difficult to judge in the storm.  His heads-up display didn’t even try.  When he tried to get a fix on the building, the display’s readout flashed double zeros.

A strong gust of wind buffeted Samuel, and he took a stutter step to the side to keep his balance.  “Could have warned me,” he said.

The audio pickup in his mask transmitted Samuel’s voice to the pilot still safely inside the shuttle. The man’s responsive grunt sounded amused.

“Could have looked out the windows,” the pilot said.  “You think all that fancy flying I did was for laughs?  Turbulence, brother.  On Paradise, the wind always blows.  Or didn’t you read your prep?”

(read the rest of the story here)