A gentle touch

/ February 19, 2017/ Begin, Stories

Mr Ping was in high gear. Last night, when he had closed the Tea House, he had set the cleaning bots to work, clearing every speck of dust, every crumb, from the floor and from the tables; every splatter was now gone from the walls. The bots had been going all night, ensuring they missed nothing, and had only retired a few moments ago. This evening, the doors would be closed to the public. This evening was a Special Occasion.

Once a year, Mr Ping closed the Tea House to the public. Nothing short of a great honour would usually move him to do such a thing, and the noodle bar downstairs was still open. But tonight, the restaurant itself was sealed off, reserved for the kung fu masters of the Sphere of the White Crane, and their students. Today, it was Chinese New Year, and the martial artists gathered for a grand celebratory meal. Read More

Trigger Warning

/ December 14, 2016/ Begin, Stories

I know some people will want to blame my parents but I don’t think that’s right. It’s true they were liberal but it wasn’t their fault; it was the way they were raised. My grandparents came of age under Xiong Ling so maybe you should blame her, or the whole Xinyang Dynasty. It was a different world back then. They fell for all the leftist propaganda – on my mother’s side, particularly. They believed in it fervently, and took great care to instil those warped values in their children. Even when times changed they clung to the old ideas. They never accepted the evidence of Empress Xiong Ling’s sorcery, and would often mutter darkly about a vast right-wing conspiracy. On my father’s side they were less extreme, but my mother never had a chance. She was a headstrong woman, brainwashed from an early age into wilfulness and radical thinking. Is it any wonder then, that she passed the disease on to me? These things run in families. In a way we are all victims of the dark legacy of the Xinyang liberals. Read More

Red Silk

/ November 7, 2016/ Begin, Character Sketches, Stories

Natalya was confused as she left the house, that day. Her father had just informed her that he had found a husband for her to marry, one with a good family and guanxi. She would be leaving within the month. This was good news. At last, she would be free of the shackles of a father who did not make it a secret that he wished she had been a boy.

But at the same time, what would she be going into? What of this husband she had never met? And she would not just be marrying this man. She would be entering his house to live with his family. She had only heard of the Mas; had never met them. But she knew who they were. And she was going to marry the eldest son, Maksym. Was he kind? Good-looking? Or was he ugly, and grateful to be married to someone as handsome as Natalya, even though she came from a far lower-ranking family than his own? Read More

Not Much of a Criminal

/ November 4, 2016/ Begin, Stories

Everywhere Yanmei looked, there was stuff. Great piles of smart parchment slid gradually off chairs and onto the floor. Scattered here and there were fast-food cartons, leftover rice or noodles now spilling out cold and forgotten. Bundles of coloured wire tipped with all kinds of interface plugs poked out from a large wicker basket.

A big box of dusty circuit-boards sat on a workbench in the middle of the room, together with an old pair of sandals and a soldering iron. On the floor in front of the bench sat Xiaofan, peering through a large magnifying glass at what, if Yanmei was not mistaken, was a rust-covered squirt-unit from an old Moppitt-250.

Xiaofan looked up. “Don’t just stand there. You’re doing my head in.”
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Jakaranda, The Great Elephant Dancer Part 1

/ October 16, 2016/ Begin, Premium, Stories

Long ago, back when humans still lived on a planet called Earth, a sage of ancient China crossed the great mountain range to the south of the country, and found on the other side the dark and untamed region of India. It was a land of marvels, filled with exotic animals the like of which the sage had never seen, nor even imagined. One such creature was the elephant. It was as tall as ten men, and weighed as much as a hundred. It was covered from head to toe in orange fur. It had fangs almost two meters long, and as sharp as razors. It had a long nose like a snake, with a hand at the end. The elephant was very strong – it used its nose to tear large branches from the trees, cram them between Read More

Mr Li, the Odd-job Man

/ October 10, 2016/ Begin, Character Sketches, Stories

On the First Cropship of the White Crane, there were problems at the Waste Recycling Plant. This was not unusual. Today it was a dodgy output manifold, but there was always something leaking, clogged or broken; always something that needed fixing. It wasn’t the most glamorous job, but Mr Li had no complaints. As far as he was concerned, there was never a dull moment. Mr Li liked fixing things. He could fix anything.

Here on the Long Yu, water was supremely precious, and what there was had to be collected, cleaned and purified so it could be used again and again – not only by the populace, but by the Emperor himself. The Waste Recycling Plant, overseen by Sergei Ma Gao Lei, the good Lady Ma’s eldest, was there to ensure that no water was ever wasted. But nothing is ever perfect, and over time the losses were significant. Read More

The Scout

/ October 2, 2016/ Begin, Stories

Viktor Hung Su looked down at his watch. Technically, his shift had finished ten minutes ago, but he was in the middle of a job. Something had left a nasty scratch in the Throne Ship’s hull, so deep it had stripped right through the gold cladding to expose the steel surface beneath. The repair work was fiddly and time-consuming, but he wanted to get it right. Viktor was young, but he was skilful. He took great pride in his work, and this had not gone unnoticed by the bosses. In a year or two, he hoped, they might grant him the rank of Craftsman. But that would only happen if he continued his good work. They would be watching him closely. Read More

Reenie as a Young Woman

/ July 22, 2016/ Begin, Character Sketches, Stories

Everyone knew Irina Lan Mei. A local beauty on the Fifth Cropship of the Black Rhinoceros, she turned heads wherever she went. She was the object of affection for many a young man, but she had so far turned down every one of them. It was not that she did not want to get married, or that she wasn’t interested. She was simply biding her time. She was young. She would give herself room to be a girl before committing to becoming a woman.

This was a constant source of worry for her family. Society dictated that she simply must get married, and she was now almost twenty-three. If she left it much longer, people would start to gossip. Why hadn’t she married? Did she not like men? Did she *gasp* prefer women?! The Wheels of Rumour span, but Irina was deaf to them. Other people’s opinions had never held much sway, and so she went about her life as she wanted to, with a spring in her step and a smile on her face.

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An Evening Out Pt 1

/ June 16, 2016/ Begin, Stories

The girls of the Lotus Blossom Palace were getting dressed up in their finest clothes. Madam Wong had decided that they deserved, and indeed needed, an evening off. This was a rare occurrence for the lotus girls; they were in high demand on the First Cropship of the White Crane, and free time was a precious luxury that most of them could ill afford.

Many things had changed over the centuries since the Long Yu fleet set off from old Earth, but New Year remained the most important date in the calendar. It was the ideal time for the girls to take a break and Madam Wong was so determined to take them somewhere nice that she was even willing to leave the mochibots in charge of the Palace while they all went out. Read More