The Traction FactorAsh knows what it's likeThe Traction Factor by Ysabetwordsmith
to pretend, to fake something
because that's easier
than trying to explain the truth
to every idiot passing through her life.
There was one summer in her teens that
she spent with her Lakota cousins-by-marriage
during which she met a neighbor
who at the time was pretending to be a boy
in accordance with the body's shape.
Ash, at the time, was frustrated by how
all the other teenagers were pairing up,
and how it made her feel left out
because she didn't want to
do that with anyone.
So Ash and Skan pretended
to be boyfriend and girlfriend.
The other teenagers accepted them then
on the trail rides and fishing trips
and visits to the ice cream stand.
It was nice to be accepted.
Still, something itched about it,
something out of place,
something as uncomfortable
as a wrinkle in a saddle blanket,
unseen but always felt just the same.
So they parted company at the end of summer,
parted as friends and went their separate ways.
Ash explored her feeli
Where the Action Is, Was, and Ever More Shall BeDron retired from the armyWhere the Action Is, Was, and Ever More Shall Be by Ysabetwordsmith
with a bad limp and a bag of gold.
He missed the adventure, though,
and the everyday challenge of survival.
He bought a tavern
in a quiet little crossroad hamlet,
hung his axe over the mantelpiece,
and prepared to settle down.
At the end of the first week,
there was a brawl.
Two dwarves and four elves had it out.
Dron tossed them into the street.
At the end of the second week,
there was a fire. Apprentice wizard. Too much ale.
Dron put him out
and then extinguished the flames.
Not long after that,
bandits tried to raid the bar.
Dron's axe had a new nick in the shaft
when he hung it back over the hearth.
Then came the adventuring party
whose cleric had somehow gotten kidnapped,
and would anyone possibly have heard any gossip?
Oh please. Barkeeper.
At the end of the month, Dron smiled.
How could he ever have forgotten where the action happened?
Perhaps retirement wouldn't be unbearably boring after all.
Humming, the barkeeper polished h
Bull-DancersHe comes. Distantly, bellows echo. Bull. God.Bull-Dancers by Ysabetwordsmith
We wait, trembling, awed and silent. Youths. Maids.
Bull-God, galloping ringward, rumbles. What horns!
Palms. Chalk. Sweaty still. Grab the horns and – Heave! Leap!
Land well. Scattering, dodging charges, we flee.
Safe, safe! Holiness touches dancers. We kneel.
Each year, sacrifice blesses those who dare dance.
Flesh. Grace. Touching His power briefly, we fly.
A Turning Point in the Clockwork WarA war of attritionA Turning Point in the Clockwork War by Ysabetwordsmith
depends on supply and drawdown,
how much you have and how much you use up.
With personnel, the balance concerns
the influx of recruitment versus
the outflow of casualties, deserters, invalids.
There is only so much loss
that a fighting force can sustain
and still fight.
Pilot Claude Archer was the first
to challenge his invalid discharge.
"I don't need legs to fly," he said,
patting the healed stumps of his thighs.
"My Osprey runs on elbow grease."
The members of the discharge board
paused and looked at each other.
What he said was true.
The Osprey-class fighter jets
relied on hand controls,
and a sharp eye and iron nerve.
Fingers flicked through the stack
of discharge papers -- so many, many pages.
So many soldiers lost, never to fight again.
They could not afford to let slip even one
who might be retained, somehow,
to face the front line once more.
Far less could the war effort spare
one of its best pilots.
So they put Pilot Archer back on the roster,