Space Rep: Exactly how do you space-nap a person?
Liza: I'm not telling the whole world? Then they'll improve their security and I won't be able to space-nap people.
Space Rep: You know it's illegal to abduct any sentient being, don't you?
Liza: Well, technically I'm not abducting them. I'm inviting them to come tell me about their book and then help me promote mine.
Space Rep: Your book isn't even Sci Fi.
Liza: My book is funny. All species need to laugh. You just don't want to be in snorting range of some.
Space Rep: But--
Liza: No more questions. It's time to download my very first space victim. Can anyone tell who it is?
Space Rep: I'm guessing Sandra C Stixrude.
Liza: Excellent job Space Rep. Let's all welcome Sandra to our space ship.
Space Rep: More like junk heap.
Liza: Hey, it's all I can afford. Now let's remove Sandra's helmet so she can see.
Welcome Sandra, Thanks for coming to my spaceship.
Sandra: Thanks, I didn't 'come' you wrapped me in a riot tube and put a visonless helmet on me so I could neither see nor scream for help.
Liza: Sorry if I gave you a bit of fright. I just wanted talk about your book. Marya: Anchorage#1.
Sandra: And your first thought was to space-nap me?
Liza: No, it was my second thought.
Sandra: I'm afraid to ask. What was your first?
Liza: To obtain sufficient biological matter to clone you, only the idea of duplicating the environmental occurrences that turned you into an author seemed impossible to recreate. So I went with plan #2--Retrieve Sandra for a marketing gig that lasts three days.
Sandra: So you put me into a riot tube and abducted me in my sleep for what you claim to be a marketing gig.
Sandra: You could have just called, you know. Could you remove the riot tube?
Liza: Sorry, no.
Sandra: Why not?
Liza: Because I've determined if I do that, my marketing experts immediately go home.
Sandra: I feel like a sushi roll. *growls*
Liza: Please don't do that. You're scaring my space kitty.
I cloned Yogi2 from an earthbound kidnapping. Yogi came to rescue his pet Kylie who was tied up. I was impressed by his ability to shoot laser beams from his eyes.
So I made a clone, which I named Yogi2.
Sandra: Didn't you say you wanted to discuss my book?
Liza: Yes, please.
Sandra: Can we get to that point? Because most people will stop reading pretty soon.
Liza: No. I've put a stop to that. You know the camera that resides on all communication devices now?
Liza: Well there is one, and from it, I can monitor if my readers are reading, skimming, or falling asleep. If the latter two happen. I teleport over Yogi2 to give them a laser zap. Believe me, they read my whole blog.
Sandra: And you can get people to subscribe to your blogs knowing this.
Liza: As an author, you should know we aren't allowed to TELL things anymore. We can only SHOW. Now to your book. I'll put the cover up again in case people have forgotten what it looked like and you tell, er, show me in visual language what it's about.
Sandra: Good idea.
Marya--the scholarly priestess-healer. Her integrity and quick intelligence have singled her out for a dangerous task. Roke--Knight Captain of the Tersha. His quiet demeanor hides deadly secrets. He disturbs her peace of mind. She disrupts his life, divides his loyalties and his heart.
Their meeting will change worlds
Liza: Interesting. So recite to me by memory your favorite excerpt.
Sandra: You could just release me from this tube so I could read it to you.
Liza: Not happening. Start reciting.
Sharp and keening, the notes sounded as if they were played along the edge of a thin sheet of metal in an endless, wavering cascade. Feren shivered and his head jerked up, his eyes glazed.
"It's so beautiful," he whispered.
"Beautiful wasn't the word I was thinking of," Marya responded, puzzled. "Bizarre, maybe."
Feren gave no sign he heard her. He rose and lurched toward the sound, tripping blindly over packs and bedrolls. Every male in the camp had bolted out of a sound sleep and stumbled to their feet.
What is wrong with them? She grasped Feren by the arm and shook him, calling to him, but he shambled forward, deaf to her entreaties. Harrel staggered past her, oblivious to her calls. She picked up the nearest pot and tossed the cold water over his head. He neither flinched nor paused.
"Sabiana!" Marya screamed. "Gather up what you can and get everything on the harduks! I can't stop them and we can't lose sight of them in the dark!"
The girl was awake, wide-eyed and whimpering, but she fought down her panic enough to act. Roke's compulsive need for a tidy camp meant they had secured every loose item the night before. Sabiana had only to throw the packs onto various beasts. Bedrolls, weapons, armor, coats and boots she tossed in jumbled piles and hoisted them as best she could, securing them in ways that would have made the experienced travelers among them cringe.
Marya flung herself in front of Roke and put both hands against his chest to try to stop his progress. Her boots slipped and scrabbled backward on the stones as he leaned forward and continued as if she were no more than a strong breeze. She slapped him hard across the face. Nothing. He simply kept stumbling forward with the others, making their way up the slope, over rocks and between boulders, away from the winding mountain road.
Marya threw the remaining arms and armor onto Storm's back and attached the lead reins of each harduk to the one in front. She tossed the saddle onto Windflower, hoped she had managed to fasten the girth correctly, and shouted for Sabiana to get Sunshadow. Moondancer would not allow her near him, though. He rolled his eyes as he backed and reared.
"Hush!" she called in anguish as the men disappeared around a bend in the slope. "Talk to Moondancer! We have to go after them now!"
The leemacat, who had begun to follow Feren, raced back down the slope, "bad song, ears hurt, afraid"
"I know, Hush, I'm afraid, too." Marya shouted as she pulled herself up onto Windflower's back. "But we have to stay with them and stay together. Bring Moondancer." She started Windflower up the slope and called back to Sabiana, "Grab Storm's reins and follow me, the rest of the harduks will follow him."
Windflower scrambled up the rocky slope, not a natural thing for a harduk bred for flat plains and marshes. They struggled around the bend where she had seen the men disappear, and Marya spotted a well-worn track, hidden from the road, which wound upward between sheer walls of rock. If she had not been watching, she would have thought the mountain had swallowed them up. She let out a long breath when she saw them ahead of her again, and waited until Sabiana and the rest of the harduks clattered up behind her.
The going was easier here, the smooth path rose on a gentle gradient and she soon caught up to the men who shambled toward the eerie music.
They continued this way for over an hour, the music increasing in volume, escalating from skin-crawling irritation to aural agony. As they climbed, the air turned bitter, damp, and cold. Heavy, leaden clouds cloaked what little of the sky remained visible. With the exception of Jovan, who had been on watch, and Roke, who slept in his boots, most of the men were barefoot, their feet soon torn and bleeding.
Ferocious and sudden, the storm struck, as if they had walked into a wall of snow and howling wind. The whirling eddies of white made it difficult to see more than two or three feet and Marya called to Sabiana and Hush to gather in as close as possible.
"Whose boots are those?" Marya pointed to the pommel in front of her apprentice.
"I don't know, Holiness," Sabiana yelled back, struggling to be heard above storm and song. "They have red leaves on the cuffs."
"Those are Liam's. Come help me!" With a quick look around, Maya spotted the youngster struggling over a patch of loose shale. She slid from the saddle and dashed across the path to him. With Sabiana grappling his ankles and Marya catching him as he fell, they managed to bring him down in a tangled heap of limbs. Liam still tried to crawl forward, but with both of them hanging on to one leg at a time, they stuffed his feet into the boots.
They located Liam's coat on Sunshadow's saddle, stuffed his arms in the sleeves, and then the process was repeated with Koros. Harrel proved nearly impossible and had to be flipped onto his back before they could shove his boots on him. The attempt to tackle Feren failed miserably. They had to hold the boots out for him to step into, which worked after a few fingers had been trodden upon.
Marya left Roke until last, since at least he already had his boots on. The blank, distant look in those fierce eyes disturbed her. After shoving his arms into the sleeves, she grabbed him by his coat lapels, hooking her crooked left-hand fingers through the top buttonhole and shook him hard, his head snapping back and forth.
"You're an agent of the Koss, for Alia's sake!" she shouted above the storm. "You're supposed to be this resourceful, driven man. This unstoppable force. Fight this! Come back out of it or I'll never believe the stories about Koss assassins ever again."
His eyes flickered, but even if he heard her, he was unable to fight free of the music's grasp.
At the top of one of the steeper rises in the path, a soft blue glow became visible. Marya peered through the driving snow and rubbed her eyes, unsure whether the glow was real or a symptom of snow blindness. It became brighter and more distinct as they struggled toward its source. Perhaps from some isolated house or temple, someone there would know what was wrong with the men and how to stop the horrible music.
As they drew closer, the nature of the light became clear. A cold, sickly-blue glow greeted them rather than the honest, welcoming light of hearthfire or candle. Even worse, the dreadful, metallic music emanated from the light.
Both beacon and nerve-grating singing came from what appeared to be an impossible woman standing on the top of the hill. Over twenty feet tall, heavy flowing material robed her. It fell from her shoulders in pleats that covered her to her feet, but left her arms bare. The light shone from her, but provided little actual illumination. The woman's face was beautiful with a kind and sympathetic smile, her arms opened to the men stumbling toward her through the storm. The gigantic figure was strangely translucent, as if the eye could pass within the robes folds but not penetrate to the other side. Marya shuddered. This was the singer from Feren's terrifying dreams of being paralyzed and trapped.
"Holiness, what is that thing?" Sabiana shouted, her voice thin and wavering.
The girl's question jarred Marya—not who, but what. Movement around the gigantic figure's feet resolved into human-sized hooded figures, walking through, as well as around her.
Marya gestured Sabiana closer. "It's not living. Watch the people by her. She's just an image, like a picture. I've never seen such a thing before. I don't know how it works, but don't be afraid, my dear. We have people to deal with here, not some gigantic monster."
As they drew near, the dark, hooded figures herded the men through the image one by one, the largest first. Marya tried to ask what they were doing, but the music was too loud.
The hooded figure directing the others grabbed the nearest person by the elbow, pointed to Marya and Sabiana, and shouted something. "Sanctuary" and "out of the way" and "hunt" drifted through the dual shriek of notes and wind. Not entirely reassuring. One person took Windflower's bridle and another grabbed Sunshadow's, leading them off the path.
They had herded all of the men except Roke out of sight through the image. A figure on the far side of the path produced a palm-length, black box from a coat pocket and pressed the top of the box. The giant woman disappeared and the music ceased. The relief from the horrible noise was so intense it took a moment to realize what had happened behind the concealing wall of that huge image.
The path swarmed with more hooded figures, some on foot and some on harduk-back. An iron wagon hitched behind four draft harduks provided the center of activity. Built onto this wagon was a box of closely set horizontal and vertical iron bars—a cage—the back held open with another iron bar. Inside on the floor, sprawled her boys, Jovan, Koros, Liam, and Crollus. They had been stripped of coats, weapons, boots and shirts, their hands bound in front, a black metal collar around each of their necks.
This was no rescue from the storm. This was a kidnapping. They were repeating the process with Roke, his coat taken from him, his hands tightly bound at the wrists. He swayed, shaking his head groggily.
Marya shrieked, "What do you think you're doing? Let them go! You have no right to treat us this way!"
At the sound of her voice, Roke's head snapped up, his eyes narrowing. Even with his hands tied, he whirled and kicked the feet out from under the figure behind him. That one went down with a heavy thud and Roke spun and landed a leaping kick to the chest of the one in front. Lowering his head, he barreled into the one on his right and knocked that one flat as well.
Free of grasping hands, he looked around wildly, staggered forward three steps, and vaulted onto Storm's back. He dragged himself upright, bound hands looped over the pommel and kicked the stallion into a run before he slumped forward. Storm galloped on and Roke, born to the saddle, kept his seat. The harduk's white coat and the white of his shirt blended into the blizzard, man and beast soon swallowed by the whirling snow.
Liza: Wow! You've got one amazing memory. And here are the links to buy this fabulous book.
Liza: Now all that's left is for you to say something meaningful about Worst Week Ever.
Sandra: Let's see. It only lasts a week?
Liza: Wrong. Trent mucked that up. Try again.
Sandra: It sounds like Carrie's week was even worse than being spacenapped. Worst Week Ever looks hilarious.
Liza: Ding, ding, ding! Correct answer. Thank you for coming to promote my book.
Sandra: Grrrrr. Will you release me now?
Liza: No we play Ground Hog for three days, and then Space Rep will let you go while I hide in my safe room. I've been warned space-napping is inherently more dangerous than kidnapping humans.
But I really appreciate you stopping by and you can use my human transporter to go home. It seems to work okay.
And Space Peeps, leave lots of comments. Sandra and I love comments. It's candy to our souls.