Just a little silliness inspired by a Twitter conversation this morning involving @FantasyFaction, @PVBrett, and @PrinceJvstin. It made me think of @MykeCole‘s Control Point, so he got a mention too. It makes so much more sense if you’ve read their books and/or follow them. Which I recommend anyway.

So here it is, the start of a short wherein writers are kept as slaves to their audience.

Dead Lines

The rain was hard and ruthless, throwing up sprays of water from the puddles collecting in the dark prison yard. A cliché if I’d ever written one. Too bad this wasn’t just the product of one of my bad writing days. The rain was a frigid reminder, dripping down the neck of the prison-issue poncho—I’d have given a lot for this to be nothing more than a badly turned phrase.

“Keep moving, Petersen!”

Fac, everyone’s least favorite guard, stood on the wall, glaring down at me, his hands twitching on the shotgun. Some days it seemed like his tenuous grip on self-control was all that stood between us and the prison graveyard.

I shuffled back into motion, catching a wry grimace from Brett. “Fac’s in a good mood today,” he muttered. “He didn’t even threaten to shoot you.”

I didn’t look back him; conversation wasn’t allowed in the yard. “It’s cause I got five thou’ on the Regency YA paranormal science-fantasy yesterday,” I mumbled back.

“The one with the cannibals?”

I just dropped my head forward in a subtle nod.

“Your own, or did Weimer slip you some again?” Cole, ahead of me, said, his lips barely moving.

“Shut up, asshole,” I hissed. “You’ve had writer’s block before too.”

He didn’t reply. I watched him. His walk had the flavor of a march to it. I’d always thought he looked like he held himself as if there should be a gun in his hand. Maybe it was my imagination, ‘cause he wrote military. But I wondered if he’d been a soldier on the outside. Not that it mattered anymore, what any of us had been. We were writers now, and that was all we were.

“Inside!” shouted Nine, standing at the door to the inside. “Let’s go, writers!”

We trudged past her, that incredible rack, and that gun-arm of hers, back into the dubious comfort of the common room. They’d removed a lot of her cyborg stuff since Cole conjured her, in a careless flash of inspiration and exhaustion. But one thing they kept was the gun arm. It was really too bad that she couldn’t have been on our side. But she was Fac’s, just like everything we created here.

“Break time’s over,” she barked. “Back to work!”

We filed back into the work room, turning, one by one, into our chain-link cubicles and the typewriters waiting there. That was all we got. Pencils could be weapons. Scifi writers couldn’t be trusted not to hack computers. Only thing you could do with a typewriter, besides write, was throw it. And they’d bolted them to the tables after Schmidt tried that.

Nine followed behind, snapping the leg restraints on each of us as we sat down.

I glanced around as I lifted my hands to the keys, just in time to see Brett idly push up the edge of his sleeve as he did the same. The crisp-black edges of the tattoo made my heart stop.

“Shit, Brett, are you trying to get us all killed?”

He pushed the sleeve back down so fast his hand was only a blur of movement and I wondered what that tat would look like if I could see the whole thing. And what it could do.

“Shut up,” he hissed.

I thunked back against my chair, my heart beating again, wild and frantic with fear and a desperate hope.

“When’d you do that?” I whispered, my eyes locked on the keys in front of me.

“Been working on it,” he said.

“Finish it?”

He tipped his head forward.

“Shit,” I whispered to myself.

“Cole ready too?”

His head dipped again.


“Gave me the signal this morning at chow.”

Shit. This might really happen.

“You sure you’re good for your part?” he whispered.

The familiar resentment flared hot in my face. Them with their proven, published magic. Just because mine had been scifi. Boys. Always wanting to prove theirs was bigger.

“You just worry about your own business.”

“It is my business if you can’t come through and we all get—“

“Shut it, Brett, and work!” barked Weimer. “This ain’t social hour.”

We shut it and I saw a shiver run over Brett. Probably just as relieved as I was that it had been Weimer who’d snuck up on us and not Nine. Or Fac.

Weimer was on our side. Slipping us word count when we were short, passing on info about security weaknesses and helping us hide our powers. He even pretended he didn’t know about the pruno I brewed up for my muse. And he was helping us escape. Tonight.