This is the winner of the Matthew Cross Writing Contest-September

Illustration by Joe Cross. Copyright 2022.

The winner of the Matthew Cross Flash Fiction Collaboration Contest is

Alan K. Dell

I started the story below. See how Alan starts after the red line and immediately engages us with a witty tale full of Sci Fi twists and action.



The two missiles came out of nowhere.

Shelby was on a geomapping mission on an uninhabited planet, S2-298.3890, so the last thing he expected was missiles.

Riding along in the bus, he had kicked up his feet on the navigation control panel and was checking some sports stats on his handheld when the audible alert sounded. The main screen flashed a warning in red: “Incoming projectile.”

Shelby nearly fell out of his chair.

“Emergency evasive maneuvers,” said the bus’s AI. “Fasten harnesses.”

Shelby saw the missiles appear in the corner of the main screen. Then the bus tilted sharply and Shelby did fall out of his chair.

Faster than he could think, his body slid from the chair and into the leg space under the navigation control panel. Like an idiot, he just curled up and covered his head as the sound of the engines and the rushing wind outside grew so loud it overcame the bus’s sound dampening.

The bus only had shielding for atmospheric conditions, not military grade stuff. If those missiles exploded nearby, his hands over his head weren’t going to do him any good.

As he curled in the dark crevice, the strangest thoughts passed through his mind. He didn’t find himself praying or calling to his mother in desperation. Instead, he remembered the first time he laid eyes on the bus.

On Shelby’s first day aboard the Ever Loving, Captain Herb gave a tour of the ship, ending Cargo Bay 4. It was reserved for the bus and Shelby’s gear. The bus was 20 metes long with a wingspan of 40 metes. The body was a fat cylinder with a barely rounded blunt nose. The fusion engine took up the back half of the craft, and the imaging and analyzing equipment filled the front. The bus’s geomapping equipment probably cost more than the Ever Loving

The bus was spaceworthy but it was built for long glides in planetary atmospheres. The fusion engine could keep the bus aloft for a month in normal atmospheres.

“Sturdy and long lasting,” Herb said with an approving nod. “Plus, she flies herself.”

He gave Shelby an appraising look. Shelby got the distinct impression that Capt. Herb did not think Shelby measured up to the craft.

As a pilot, Capt. Herb was right. The only craft Shelby had ever flown were in gaming simulations. In fact, growing up on an urban planet, he had never driven any sort of vehicle because all the vehicles drove or flew themselves.

The bus shuddered and then there was stillness. Not silence. In fact, if anything, the wind sounds had grown even louder than the engine noise.

Shelby opened his eyes and found himself floating in the middle of the cramped cabin. The bus did not have artificial gravity, so when the bus was in space, the passengers were weightless. And when flying through atmospheres, the planet’s gravity applied.

In wonder, Shelby watched minute flecks of water splatter against the main screen as soft, gray streams of fog roiled as far as he could see. Then Shelby’s head gently struck the ceiling, and he came to his senses. The bus was in freefall. That was the reason he was weightless.

The bus was plummeting towards the planet. The gray mist outside was the cloud layer he had been flying over. The bus was falling through the cloud.

“AI, craft status update.”

Shelby pushed off the ceiling, grabbed the top lip of the chair, and swung himself into the seat. He clung to the webbing with shaky hands as he snapped in the five-point harness.

“Explosion imminent,” said the AI in a calm voice.

Then Shelby heard two pops in quick succession. They sounded distant. He almost breathed a sigh of relief when a roar washed over the bus and the entire craft shook. Even fully strapped in, Shelby was nearly shaken from his seat again. He could feel his molars tapping together like dice in a cup. It seemed like every bolt of the bus was shaking and grinding. Shelby imagined the entire structure separating into its component parts, all flying in separate directions into the sky, leaving Shelby strapped in his seat in midair like a cartoon character.

In a panic, his mind returned to the first day aboard the Ever Loving.

“I’ll see you in the mess at 6 ship’s time for dinner,” Capt. Herb said. Then he left Shelby to examine the bus and get to know her. Shelby quickly walked around the ship’s perimeter. It was just a big, bulky hunk; nothing exciting. Nothing like the gleaming, sexy craft available in gaming. He climbed inside and the AI automatically booted up.

Sitting in one of the two seats, Shelby ran through the AI’s introduction videos. They covered the bus’s specs, details about the fusion engine, and operating conditions in literally hundreds of atmospheric types. Before Shelby knew it, it was 6. He wandered through the Ever Loving, trying to find his way to the mess. He ended up 15 minutes late. Facing Capt. Herb’s glare, he promised himself to be on time for dinner the next day.

Capt. Herb and Shelby were the only two aboard the Ever Loving. Capt. Herb had his routines. He had only a few rules. One, don’t touch anything that’s not yours. (“The Ever Loving is not yours.”) Two, keep to your quarters, the mess, the head, the main corridors and Cargo Bay 4. Three, dinner’s in the mess at 6 sharp. Four, dinner topics are captain’s prerogative.

Capt. Herb kept to himself except for dinner. Dinner was an event. Capt. Herb personally prepared dinner each night and served it piping hot at precisely 6. He chose the evening’s dinner topic, and he slowly teased every morsel from his guest on that topic. On topic per night. As Capt. Herb put it, they had a month together and most people’s life story took less than a month to tease out. So Capt. Herb spent the month in transit slowly savoring Shelby’s life story, asking probing questions and sometimes even sharply questioning the details of Shelby’s life.

After the first week aboard, Shelby realized he had not done much in his short life. Barely out of university, this gig was his first real job. He felt slightly guilty that he did not have better stories to entertain Capt. Herb in return for the homecooked meals.

Shelby spent the first week in the bus’s cramped compartment. He completed the bus’s video manuals, but there were no vid materials on flying the craft and no simulators. He tried poring through the written manual in the ship’s computer, but it was so technical, he gave up after only a couple of hours. Then he threw himself into analyzing the geomapping data from the two drones that had been sent to map the planet. Both had reported anomalous readings of the planet’s geothermal zones. The Type M planet with its healthy fauna and breathable air could prove to be an excellent colony, a valuable commodity. But the subsurface readings showed very active geothermal reservoirs on all four continents. 

Shelby, a geomathematician, had been sent at great expense to scan 3890 again and to determine what dangers the geology may pose to colonists. After the first week aboard the Ever Loving, he felt comfortable with the bus’s scanning and analyzing equipment. So he spent most of the second week analyzing the data available in his roomier quarters. He was going to spend a cramped month inside the bus flying over 3890 before Capt. Herb came back to retrieve him, so he decided to enjoy the room aboard the Ever Loving while he could.

Halfway through the transit to 3890, Shelby decided he had done all he could with the data provided by the two drone expeditions. He had a lot of free time, and he found himself spending more and more time working on a side project he had started in school. He was developing a mathematical model to predict the outcomes of one-on-one first-person fighter games, Shelby’s favorite sport. If he cracked the code, he could win a fortune gambling.

The bus stopped shuddering and at almost the same time the viewscreen cleared. The clouds disappeared and the blue expanse of an ocean filled the screen. Off to the left, Shelby could see the mottled greens and browns of a continent. The continent seemed to be growing and Shelby realized the bus was still diving towards the planet.

“AI, can you straighten up or flatten out or something?” Shelby couldn’t find the right words. He felt like “horizon” might be one of them, but he prayed the AI would figure it out.

“Emergency controls have been compromised. Switching to manual control.”

“What? Manual? No!”

The panel in front of Shelby slid open and a joystick surrounded by buttons slid towards him.

“AI, engage automatic pilot!”

“Automatic pilot has been compromised. Manual override engaged.”

The right side of the main screen filled with symbols that probably made sense to a pilot, but Shelby was no pilot.

The continent below filled half the screen and was growing.

Shelby grabbed the stick. He had not played any flying games since childhood, but he remembered that in some craft the stick goes forward for down and in some you pull back.

“Here goes nothing,” Shelby said and pulled the stick back gently. The stick felt small, light and cheaply built. It felt like he could break it with one swift jerk. Clearly the manual controls were an afterthought. But the stick turned out to be responsive. The bus’s nose came up gradually. 

It took a few harrowing minutes, but with a little coaxing, Shelby managed to bring the craft level. He wiped his brow and leaned back in his seat. He scanned the readouts on the right side of the main screen. He found a graph showing his altitude and an outline of the bus in a circle showing the angle he was flying at.

“Whew, glad that’s over,” Shelby said.

“Proximity alert,” said the AI in a calm voice. “Two aircraft have matched your vector and are accelerating. Threat estimate: 92 percent chance of hostilities.”

“AI, can you open a comms channel to the aircraft?’ Shelby said.

“Affirmative, channel open.”

Shelby gulped. He had no idea what to say. In his games, the characters would say something short, snappy, exuding confidence. He was running out of time. Could he, with his knocking knees and chattering teeth, muster up enough swagger to convince these aircraft to back down?

With a deep breath to calm his racing heart, he stammered, “I don’t want to die! Please don’t kill me!”

Shelby clamped his hand to his mouth.

Smooth, Shel. Real smooth.

The aircraft continued their rapid approach, with no response to his message.

“I don’t think they’re listening,” said Shelby, squinting out of the side window. “AI, evasive maneuvers.”

“Negative. Manual override engaged.”

“Oh . . . right. Still me. We need to go faster.”

Another panel opened and a throttle control slid out, stopping to his left.

Shelby pushed forwards on the new control. The cockpit rumbled with the acceleration. He dipped the bus’s nose down sharply, then banked hard to the right.
Something shot past the cockpit. It was nimble, needle-like and gleamed iridescent blue.

The bus turned. Shelby pulled back on the stick as the second fighter buzzed past, too close for comfort. Compared to these strange vehicles, the bus had all the maneuverability of a brick.

“Hostile aircraft closing,” the AI said as the bus levelled. “Missiles incoming.”

There were mountains below. Opening the throttle to maximum, Shelby directed the bus towards a narrow pass between two of the towering peaks.

“Proximity alert.” Lights flashed red around the cockpit.

With improbable skill, he tipped the bus’s wings and passed through the gap. Two sharp pops told him the missiles had impacted the rock.

Level again, Shelby puffed out his cheeks and slumped. “AI, hostiles?”

“Hostiles have disengaged.”

The bus was now clear of the mountains and low to the ground. The air in front of the craft shimmered like a heat haze, and Shelby frowned.

A city appeared from the haze; a huge metropolis of impossible shapes, gleaming coloured glass and chromatic metal.

Then something clipped the bus’s right wing. Alarms sounded and the bus dipped.

Shelby barely had time to register what had happened before the craft hit the ground with an almighty crash and everything went black.

Shelby blinked open his eyes; his harness had saved him. Everything was wrecked, but he was alive at least. He unbuckled himself and crawled through broken glass and shorn metal.

Outside, he stood facing the impossible city, now fully uncloaked.

He heard a chittering sound behind him. The fighters had landed nearby and their pilots stood, holding weapons. They had six mantis-like limbs and wide-flat heads with four insectoid eyes. Shelby was rooted to the spot as one approached. A tentacle whipped out from its body and attached to his temple.

Within his mind he saw a vision: His trespass. War. The Republic was doomed.

As the creature towered over him he muttered, “What have I done?”

I hope you enjoyed this piece of flash fiction that Alan K. Dell and I wrote together. He’s a great collaboration writer!

If you enjoyed Alan’s prize-winning ending, please make sure and share some kind comments below.

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

King Brutus, Keeper of the Flame, broods on his new throne

King Brutus on the throne. Illustration by Joe Cross. Copyright Joe Cross 2022.

Joe Cross, my illustrator, has been perfecting his craft as an illustrator ever since Mrs. C bought him an iPad just about a year ago.

If you follow my writing contests, you probably recognize his artwork. He has been illustrating the contest stories since August 2021, when he gave me a striking image of the nameless android in “After the Fall,” the dystopian Sci Fi story for my September 2021 Contest.

Android in Stockheim. Illustration by Joe Cross. Copyright Joe Cross 2021.

Since then, I’ve pushed Joe’s artistic abilities and strained his schedule with my constant demands for more illustrations for the writing contests. And he has never failed me.

Joe is not an artist by breeding, experience, or formal training. Until I recruited him–or perhaps he recruited me–he had not picked up a pencil to draw anything since he was a child. And then came the fateful day. We were chatting, and I was bemoaning the fact that I constantly need illustrations for my contests and other stories. The Globe Folio, an ongoing Sci Fi series set on a planet filled with beasts, bandits, and hovercraft, demands unique images at a voracious rate.

At the time, Joe was not an artist. He’s more of a Humanities guy. So it surprised us both when he volunteered to become my illustrator. I know he loves Sci Fi just as much as I do, and he loves reading the Globe Folio stories. But he claims to be neither a writer nor an artist.

We made a deal that as long as he provides illustrations for the contests, I’ll provide all the art supplies and classes I can afford. But mostly, Joe is self taught. He fills sketchbooks with pencil sketches, and he learns as much as he can about the Procreate app on the iPad. (It’s an amazing program, and only $10!) He constantly watches artists and how-to programs on YouTube. And he surprises me with every new piece he delivers.

Well, now there’s no question that Joe is an artist. He’s been the sole illustrator for my website for a year. He still considers himself a beginner, but I think he’s gotten pretty good. Of course, I’m just a scrivener, so what do I know?

As my illustrator, Joe’s primary job is to create a singular image for each of the contest stories. But for some time, Joe has been trying to illustrate the Globe Folio stories. Eventually, he would like to provide the main illustration for all of them. And, he even has hopes to begin providing the smaller illustrations within these stories. That’s a lofty goal. So far, we have more than 30 individual stories, if you count both parts of our many two-parter stories. But it’s great to shoot for the stars!

Details from “King Brutus on the Throne.”

With Joe’s permission, I am starting to release his illustrations for the Globe Folio stories. They come in no particular order. Joe draws and paints (digitally) an image for whatever story he thinks he can manage with his growing skills.

So here’s one of Joe’s early pieces from December 2021: King Brutus on the Throne.

If you enjoy this piece, please feel free to drop Joe a kind comment below. And if you’d like to read the story that inspired this piece, check out The Burning Flame by Frasier Armitage.

King Brutus broods on his new hover-tech throne. An orange seal of the Flame of Belmont burns at the top of his throne. Underneath, the hover tech casts a white light over the helmets and armor piled at his feet. Behind him, an open fireplace the length of the wall casts flickering flames in the gloomy chamber.
King Brutus broods on his new hover-tech throne. An orange seal of the Flame of Belmont burns at the top of his throne. Underneath, the hover tech casts a white light over the helmets and armor piled at his feet. Behind him, an open fireplace the length of the wall casts flickering flames in the gloomy chamber.

Read a thrilling and feel-good ending by Jeremy Wilson

Illustration by Joe Cross. Copyright 2022.

I’m sharing the finalist stories from the June Contest. Here’s a hopeful ending with a twist or two by Jeremy Wilson.

Sur Veil Lance


I fly up in an arc and hover over the city lights of Minimagemma.

When I reach the peak of the arc and hold steady, my hoverpack hums a little louder. I’m not supposed to do this because it wears down the hoverpack faster. But there are so many rules under the Republic, who can keep them all straight?

Minimagemma means little jewel.

At least, that’s what I’m told. I don’t know Latin. I keep meaning to learn because the leaders in the Republic eat up all that ancient Roman stuff. Statues, robes, pillars. All that random debris.

To honor that tradition, the leaders of Minimagemma re-covered their aboveground fiber channels to look like an aqueduct. I don’t know what that is, exactly. It looks like a bridge to nowhere, to me. But I heard the local Republic delegation was very impressed.

They covered the thing in blue lights, so you can’t miss it.

“Hey,” says Jolo, breaking my reverie. “You gonna hang up there all night? Or are you gonna do your job?”

Jolo is joking of course. He doesn’t care about the job any more than I do. And why should he?

The job is basically to terrorize the good folk of Minimagemma.

We are the Sur, the guardians, the watchful eye from above. Sent by the great and beneficent leaders of the Republic to protect this petty little planet. But protect them from what? This planet is so far from any of the Republic’s enemies, there’s no chance of an invasion. And what could Jolo and I do, just two lances, against a determined invading force?

That’s right, two lances per shift to protect the whole city. And some of the smaller cities only get one lance.

So . . . think about it. Two lances flying over the city day and night. Showing off their flashy compound wings like some kind of Angel of Death and carrying glowing lances. Are we really there to protect the city from the Republic’s enemies? Or, just maybe, are we there to remind the good folks of Minimagemma that the Republic is watching over them?

Here’s a hint. The Republic always sends Sur from other planets. We never protect our own planets, our own homes. Wherever we are sent, we are always strangers. And on this planet, also called Minimagemma, I don’t think any of the Sur are even from the same planet. We’re all strangers to each other. Makes it harder to get chummy. Makes it harder to trust each other.

Jolo is in charge tonight. He’s more senior than me, been on planet maybe three years, which is apparently a long time. He decides we’ll do some maneuver practice, which is my favorite.

Jolo and I are the lucky ones. And we know it. Even though we were both basically kidnapped from our homes as children and shipped off planet, there are a lot worse things than our current duties. We could be serving as Auxilia in the Republic’s wars with the Polity and other enemies. Because of our skills and test results—and passing all the necessary loyalty tests—we joined the Sur. And, for now at least, we “protect” Minimagemma by flying overhead most nights with our glowing lances.

And let’s face it, flying with wings is pretty cool.

My first station with the Sur was on a massive farming planet. We actually rode these smelly, native beasts called Loxo. They were twice as tall as me, covered in tangled hair and smelled like waste matter. But they were very loyal, and some of the lances taught their Loxo to do tricks.

My second station was only one year on an Inner Ring planet. There we actually flew patrol ships with our traditional glowing lances built into the ships’ weaponry. Now that was a cool station. There was so much to do there that I blew through my stipendium fast. I still owe a few guys back there, but it shouldn’t take me long to send the credits. There’s really nothing worthwhile to do here except fly, and I can do that for free.

I’m not gonna lie. When I saw my first set of wings, I thought they were hokey. And on the transport here, I’d heard some stories about Sur falling out of the sky because the old machinery was so busted. But that was mostly legend. Despite a few falls, almost no Sur has actually ever died “in harness.” As they taught us in training, as long as the hoverpack is operational, the worst that will happen is a slow descent to the ground. The magnetically articulated wings do take some of the burden off the hoverpack by allowing for gliding and breaking a dive, but they are not essential to staying aloft. Which is good because it’s the vaccing wings that are most likely to fail.

I follow Jolo down to an altitude just above the building tops. For practice, we follow the network of streets. We are playing a game of “Match This” with me trying to imitate Jolo’s moves. I’m pretty good in the harness—a natural some say—but Jolo has two years on me, and he can still trip me up sometimes. We work our way towards the city center, which is a little odd. The city center is where the most elite and loyal of society live. Not that we care about local crime, but there’s rarely even a mugging in the tightly guarded center. We only go there to stand pretty behind the leaders giving speeches. Our brilliant, white wings, our glowing lances and our silver “veil” masks are paparazzi  favorites.

Jolo flits between the arches of the aqueduct, blue lights playing over the constantly moving testa of his wings. I follow, trying to make the minute adjustments to replicate his flares and barrel rolls. It takes all my concentration, and I barely notice we are approaching the Forum Romanum. He exits an arch at near top speed and follows the top of the blue-limned wall surrounding the Forum Romanum. Every planetary capital in the Republic has a Forum Romanum sealed inside a wall. Some even have an inner wall and an outer wall. What are they so afraid of? Mixing elbows with the dirty masses?

“Evasive maneuvers!” Jolo shouts through his Veil right into my ear.

Without thinking, I bank a hard left downwards while Jolo banks a hard right upwards. I assume we’re still drilling until I see the glare of the rocket tail, a shimmering trail of light pointing straight at Jolo.

I see him hanging there in the dark, night sky. An unearthly figure, with white wings outspread, his dark flightsuit lit beneath by the city lights and in the reflection of his Veil I see the rocket’s bright glare.

Then the rocket explodes between us. The brilliant explosion blinds me before my Veil’s autodimming feature kicks in. I’ve drilled for blind flight. I follow the Veil’s audio prompts until my flight is level. It will take precious seconds for my vision to clear and taking evasive maneuvers while blind is probably more dangerous than any rocket fire. So I take a moment to send a distress signal to Sur headquarters.

I make a guess as to the last direction I saw Jolo and I begin a gentle glide path in that direction. It’s a stupid move, but instinct tells me that the rocket exploded without hitting Jolo directly. He knew something was up and had begun evasive maneuvers, so maybe he survived the blast. But if he did, he’s likely injured.

My nightvision returns, and my eyes sweep the horizon and then the streets below for any sign of Jolo. Instead, I see dark figures emerging from almost every building on the outside border of the wall. They are flowing towards one of the major gates to the Forum Romanum. The Righteous Victory Gate, I think it’s called. They are chanting something, but I don’t know enough of the local dialect to understand it. Jolo has learned a good bit of the local patois. Too bad he’s not here to help me

I see a flash of white in the dimness. It disappears in an alley. I bank hard to follow.

Then I see something I’d never expect in a million years. A tank is crawling up the avenue that leads to the Righteous Victory Gate. It’s a homemade job. Really just a heavy hovercraft with a plasma cannon mounted to the top. But I’m pretty sure it can take out the gate. 

Wow, I think, what has happened on Minimagemma? This is a full-scale rebellion!

I take careful aim and zap the tank with my lance. A golden shaft of light—a very powerful laser—strikes out and destroys the tank. That probably leaves one more charge in the lance. It’s powerful, but it sucks juice like a Loxo sucks water. It’s hard to believe the lances once were actually considered good weapons.

I rise higher, ignoring the crowds and looking for any sign of Jolo. Any reflection of samite white. Any glow of a yellow lance.

I follow my Sur training for nighttime maneuvers. I close my eyes for ten breaths and when I open them, I keep them unfocused. I pay attention to any change in my whole peripheral vision. Only then do I detect the faint yellow glow, moving along an alleyway. It’s headed towards the gate, not away.

Silently, I alight at the mouth of the alley, my lance at the ready.

A handful of dark figures running towards me pull up sharply. Two of them awkwardly carry a set of wings. A third carries the lance. And at the back of the group is Gremaine. His silver veil hangs around his neck.

By the light of the glowing lance, I can see his eyes widen. “Leila!”

“Gremaine, what are you —” but I don’t get to finish. Gremaine lunges forward and grabs me in a tight hug.

“I didn’t think I’d ever see you again,” he manages through tears. He releases me and notices my armor. “You’re a Sur?”

“What are you doing here, Gremaine?”

“They’re gone Leila. Mum, Da, the colony, all of it . . . gone.”

I hear his words but they make no sense. “What? What are you talking about? No, you’re wrong.”

“I was there, Leila! I had to watch it burn!”

“Wha— . . . the Polity?”

“No—” his chest convulses, “No, it was the Republic. The colonies peacefully protested the tribute of children and the Republic made an example of them. They sent Planetkillers, Leila! PLANETKILLERS!”

I fall to my knees, unable to breathe. My vision blurs. Through my tears, I’m dimly aware of the chanting again as a mass of angry figures passes the mouth of the alley, heading toward the Righteous Victory Gate. “What’re they saying?” I mumble, desperate to distract myself from the horrible truth tearing through my brain.

“The tide is rising. The storm has come. You will repay the blood you have stolen.”

“What does it mean?”

“You know what it means, Leila. The people will no longer cower while the Republic sends their children to be fodder for the Polity’s plasma cannons.”

“But why here?” I ask. “There’s nothing here. We’re on the outskirts of the empire,” my mind grasping for anything to wake up from this nightmare.

“Leila—” he drops to his knees to look me in the eye, “this is happening everywhere. They’ve gone too far. As for Minimagemma, what better place to hide an experimental weapons lab than the outer rim, on the other side of an impenetrable wall, surrounded by those most loyal to the Republic?”

I don’t want to believe it but something inside me screams that he’s right. I lift my gaze to meet his. “What happens now?”

“We have to bring down that gate. Otherwise the people will be slaughtered. A fully charged lance should be able to do it but this one was damaged when your partner fell.”

His mention of Jolo must have stirred something in my eyes.

“He’s banged up and unconscious but alive,” he reassures me. “Do you have any charge left in yours?”

“Should be enough for one shot.”

“Let’s hope you’re right.”

We exit the alley onto the Via Sacra, taking cover behind the charred husk of the tank. Once the lances are primed, we fire. For a moment, daylight seems to descend as the wall is bathed in golden light. A cloud of dust and debris obscures the gate. We hold our breath, waiting for the smoke to clear. Moments turn into agonizing minutes.

A gentle breeze coaxes breath into our lungs and reveals a tangled, glowing mass of alloy and stone. With a deafening groan, what’s left of the gate crashes down and a wave of anger, righteousness, and hope crests through the opening.

I hope you enjoyed this piece of flash fiction that Jeremy and I wrote together. Jeremy is one of my favorite collaboration writers and a frequent competitor in the writing contest. His writing is so compelling that if he does not win the contest, he always makes the finalist’s cut. You may recall that Jeremy was the March Contest winner, and as one of my 2022 Champions, he cannot win another contest in 2022. He also won the April 2021 Contest.

If you enjoyed this story, I know you’ll love the version written by Frasier Armitage that won the June Contest. Frasier was the very first winner of the contest in September 2020 and he has gone on to win the contest in 2021 and now again in 2022 with this June Contest. Check out Frasier’s prize-winning ending.

If you enjoyed Jeremy Wilson’s ending, please make sure and share some kind comments below.

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

Secrets are brought out of the shadows

A sailboat glides across glass-smooth water and over the reflection of white clouds piling on the horizon

Out of Shadows



Raindrops slashed at Solanio’s face as he and Butch made their way up the river. Solanio pulled the hood of his cloak up and hoped the storm that was brewing would give them the cover they needed. Two quick flashes of light shimmered through the tall grass when they reached the mouth of the inlet. 

“Drop anchor,” Butch said. 

Solanio cut the engine and steered the skiv silently through the reeds. Three ragged shadows slinked toward the skiv. 

Photo by Joran Quinten.

“Oy, we ain’t got all night lads. Quick step,” Butch growled at his companions.

“And quietly, while you’re at it,” Solanio hissed.

A stout, barrel-chested man stomped aboard. His matted hair was tied back into a rattail that wagged down his sweaty back. He gave Solanio a toothless grin before moving aside for his mate. A wooden peg jabbed the deck, nearly missing Solanio’s well-oiled boot. The peg’s owner sat his skeletal frame on the crates next to Butch, his gaunt face glowering. Lastly, a brute that matched Butch in size and number for belt-knives sagged the skiv even further in the water. 

“Tiny, Bones, and Dagger, at your service.” Butch gestured to each of his mates. 

“Pleasure. Shall we?” Solanio swallowed hard and started the engine.

The pelting rain blurred Solanio’s vision, making it difficult to scan for the barge. Tiny gave a low whistle and nodded ahead into the growing darkness. Sure enough, the lights of the barge twinkled in the rainfall and river mist. 

Solanio scanned the skies. 

“What are you looking at?” Butch snapped. 

“Do you see any drones?” Solanio asked. 

Butch laughed. “Trust me. There won’t be a Whitehall drone pass over this side of the river for some time.” He tapped his temple, as if he kept the inner workings of the drones inside that thick skull. 

“Alright. I’ll pull alongside the barge and then you do the rest.” Solanio gripped the controls.

“We know the plan. Smash and grab. Done it a thousand times.” Butch drew a pair of knives from his belt and ignited their laser blades. “Ready, boys?” 

Solanio shuddered under their unnatural glow and silently nudged the skiv to the starboard side of the barge. 

On the barge, the barge he owned but had been tasked with raiding, his trusted crew relaxed on the deck as if the rain were a summer breeze. 

Butch and his men secured rigging, and silently attached the skiv to the barge, entwining them in a lattice of knots. Solanio rubbed his gold signet ring–a ring signifying his membership in the Guild–trying to summon any last luck it might supply.

The skiv aligned with the barge, and in that instant, everything stilled. The river seemed to pause, even the breeze dropped, as if the world held breath for what was about to happen. 

But the moment soon passed, broken by the pirate crew bounding onto the barge’s deck and mounting their attack. 

“Pirates!” the barge captain bellowed, snapping his crew to attention. 

Solanio sunk further into his hood, not only to hide from his barge crew but also from the squelch of soggy punches and the metallic clang of blades connecting. A mighty clap of thunder shattered the sky above, tearing at the frayed edges of Solanio’s nerves. He flipped the helm to automatic and scurried below deck as mist engulfed the skiv and barge. 

Solanio paced in the darkness, shaking his head. The clash of steel rang out from the deck above. A sickening thud pounded the boards. He closed his eyes and tried to push out the screaming voices. 


“Where is he?” 

“Show yourself!” 

Ghost? That wasn’t one of Butch’s pirate friends. 

A gust of wind ripped through the hull, shaking its metal plates. Terrified shouts and shrieks pierced the air, drifting down to him in echoes.

“There’s another one!” 

A second thud sounded, followed by a splash on the port side.

“Coward! Show yourself!” Butch screamed through the raging storm. 

What was going on up there? This was supposed to be a simple smash and grab. Butch had said as much. 

Another clap of thunder shook the skiv, threatening to roll it. Solanio knew he was needed at the helm, otherwise this hover would become his coffin. But he couldn’t bring himself to enter the fight. 

Photo by Johannes Plenio.

His fingers tapped the pistol below his cloak, remembering Prospero’s promise that its wide beam would eviscerate anything in its path. He breathed deeply, tightening his hood to mask his face. Prospero had better not have been exaggerating. 

As the skiv rolled in the rising river, Solanio crashed onto its deck. He squinted through the rain and mist to steal a look at what was happening on the barge, but he couldn’t see beyond its prow. The sounds of the fight quieted and all Solanio could hear was the lapping of water against the barge’s hull. 

Solanio blindly scrambled up the rigging, and pulled himself onto the barge. He tripped and crashed onto the deck, glancing back at what had sent him toppling. Tiny’s limp body twisted, soaking the deck with crimson blood. 

Solanio scrambled to his feet, drawing his pistol. He whirled around to find the bodies of the three barge crewmen gruesomely slain. Dagger lay in two halves, cut clean through. The crate containing the eye still sat on its pedestal in the center of the barge next to Butch. Butch’s eyes widened in a maddened frenzy. Beside him, Bones quaked. 

“Come out, ghost!” Butch shouted into the air, drawing the thunder closer. 

“What the—” Solanio’s voice caught when, from nowhere, ten silhouettes of men surrounded the barge. They drew swords which flashed like lightning in their hands. 

All the blood drained from Solanio’s face as he aimed his pistol at the closest silhouette, but before he could fire at the man, their body vanished into mist. Butch lunged at another attacker, nearly falling over the railing. Bones threw himself at the specters. Solanio continued to aim erratically at each figure that appeared before him, but each disappeared before he had the chance to shoot. 

In no more than a blink, all the shadows vanished. Bones lay on the deck, blood spilling from a gash on his neck that no medicine could mend. 

Photo by Solen Feyissa.

“I said show yourself!” Butch bellowed.

A figure landed in front of Butch. The mysterious man knelt, his face obstructed by the pitch-black cloak he wore, before he theatrically unsheathed a long, gleaming sword. He brought the blade in front of his face ready to strike. Solanio beheld a piercing blue eye in the sword’s reflection. A Newlondoner? 

Butch roared, daggers gripped tight, and pitched himself at the assassin. The man swiftly dodged Butch’s attack and swung his sword, catching Butch in the arm. Butch howled in pain through gritted teeth. The figure stood motionless while he waited for his opponent’s next attack. Solanio watched the mysterious man perform a graceful ballet of parries and feints as Butch lumbered clumsily, failing to land a single blow.

Butch slammed his body into the man and stabbed his attacker’s cloak. It rebounded off their armor plating, sending Butch crashing to the deck. Butch grabbed an edge of the cloak as he tumbled, entangling the two. Butch swung his fists wildly, finally connecting with his foe’s face to land a satisfying crack. Solanio tiptoed toward the crate which held the kraken’s eye, never daring to look away from the fight. The man spun and expertly pinned Butch. He pressed the edge of his sword against Butch’s pulsing neck.

“Who ordered you to this shameful task?” The man pressed the edge deeper into Butch’s skin.

“The Guild. It was the Guild.” Butch lifted a bloodied finger toward Solanio. “Ask him. He’s one of them!” 

Solanio froze with his hands hovering just above the crate. The figure flicked his wrist toward Solanio while maintaining his hold on Butch. 

“Your disgraceful deeds have sealed your fate.” The man bowed his head and, in one fluid motion, killed Butch with a slice of his sword.

As Butch crumpled to the deck, the man flicked his wrist again. A drone cut through the mist to face Solanio, a red light near its lens flashed. Solanio swerved to avoid the drone’s rotors. It was no Haller drone. He aimed his pistol at the figure as they approached.

“Stay where you are!” Solanio’s pistol hand shook.

“Everyone will know what you and the Guild really are.”

Solanio caught a glimpse of the blue eyes beneath the hood again. 

“I said, stay back!” Solanio yelled. 

“You cannot stop what is coming.” 

“Maybe not. But I can stop you.” Solanio pulled the trigger of his pistol. A crack boomed through the air and a flash of light illuminated the dense fog, blinding him. He stumbled backward, shielding his eyes with the crook of his arm. The pistol’s blast shrouded everything in its hot beam. What did Prospero need a weapon like this for? 

The gun’s glowing report relinquished itself to the darkness. Surrounded by shadow once again, Solanio peered across the deck at where the man’s body should have laid in a charred heap, only to discover that the man and the crate with the kraken’s eye were gone. 

“No!” Solanio slammed the pedestal that once held the crate. 

He ran his fingers through his drenched hair when Leonardo’s words echoed in his ears. Shadow Walkers. Could they actually be real? He knew his fair share of skilled Newlonders, but this man’s skills were unlike anything Solanio had ever witnessed. He was more than a myth. More than a ghost. He was real. 

Solanio forced the madness of what he’d witnessed out of his brain. He had larger worries to contend with than a fictional group of mysterious crusaders. What would that man do with proof of the Guild’s misdeeds? Of his misdeeds? Mind racing, Solanio jumped back to his skiv to race back to Newlondon. He had to warn the Guild, find a way to shore up the damage before it was too late. Before the shadow struck again. 

Balthasar steered his skiv towards the Westminster dock. Sebastian and Gonzalo stood waiting. 

“What happened to the barge?” Gonzalo asked. 

Balthasar said nothing in reply. 

“This isn’t good business.” Sebastian frowned. “Who are you, and where is the barge?” 

“I believe this is yours,” Balthasar growled, unloading the crate single-handed, as if it weighed nothing. 

Sebastian and Gonzalo’s mouths gaped like a couple of river fish. 

Balthasar bowed towards them and pulled away from the jetty. An honorable trade. When he was out of sight, he angled the mirrored panels to disappear into the coastline. 

Balthasar found the mouth of Limnoreia Estuary and guided his skiv to a pocket behind the high reeds. He closed his eyes to listen to the wind on the water. He placed his sheathed sword before the shrine in the skiv and bowed. 

“I thank the wind for its power, and the ocean for its patience,” whispered Balthasar.

He recalled the drone and replayed the attack on the barge. Holograms projected everything it had recorded. A smile played at the corner of his lips. The effort to reprogram the drone had paid off. The drone’s duplicate projections of himself around the barge proved to be perfect decoys to confuse his quarry. Balthasar tapped his wrist to enable the audio playback when the hologram replayed the moment he had pinned the pirate to the deck.

Who ordered you to this shameful task?

The Guild. It was the Guild. 

Balthasar flicked his fingers and the hologram spun to show the face of Solanio approaching the crate. He paused the recording and keyed in a command for the drone to deliver the recording to Leonato. 

“It is done.” Balthasar watched the drone disappear down the river. He snatched the communicator from his buckle, knelt before his shrine, and sent a message through the water to every Shadow Walker on the Globe. All at once, their pendants would shimmer with the same call, the same cry, the labors of their purpose realized at last. Just as every dawn began with the smallest glimmer, so too, they would rise with the words that every Shadow Walker had been waiting for, and Balthasar had finally spoken. Those fateful words could not be undone, could not be escaped, nor could the raging storm that came with them. 

His message was simple. “Out of the shadows, there shines a light.” 

If you enjoyed Shanel and Frasier’s story, feel free to leave comments below. If you would like to read more about Newlondon, read “The Beast Below” which kicked off the Newlondon stories in the Globe Folio series.

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

P.S. Now you can enjoy the Globe Folio from the beginning:

Act 1: Night of the Rocket

Act 2: Nights of Revelation

Now you’re all caught up. But don’t worry, we have more stories from the Globe on the way soon!

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

The Guild pulls Solanio deeper into their ranks

A sailboat glides across glass-smooth water and over the reflection of white clouds piling on the horizon

Out of Shadows



Solanio led Captain Ward and her litany of bodyguards along the pier and up the steps of the Guild Hall. Through the large double doors, they entered the Guild’s chambers. Robed figures wound a route between the soldiers to the semicircular desk and took their respective seats. Prospero reclined in the central throne. 

Ward crossed her arms and tapped her foot. “Are these the city’s leaders?” she asked Solanio. 

“Captain Ward of the Polity, may I present you to the Guild of Fisherman.” Solanio gestured in a reverential bow between Prospero and the Polity. 

Photo by Adolfo Félix.

“And why are you not among them?” Ward asked. “You were the one who represented the city on the eve of our arrival. Did Newlondon not consider the Polity important enough to send one of their own?” 

Prospero rose from his seat. “Captain Ward, allow me to introduce myself. I am Prospero. And it was my choice to send Solanio to meet with you for the simple reason that he was best qualified in the art of diplomacy. The same reason he was selected as our auctioneer. Surely you can appreciate that holding a rank does not necessarily make a person the best equipped for a given task.” 

Ward heaved a sigh. Politicians. How many more of these insufferable double-talkers would she have to suffer? Just once, she’d have liked to draw her weapon and put a bullet through the forehead of these so-called diplomats. Bullets were the plainest form of communication. 

Leonardo blundered his way to the front and took Ward by the elbow. “Captain, Prospero is an honorable man. You will find no greater authority in Newlondon.” 

At least she wouldn’t have to repeat herself. Saying it once was painful enough. “Very well. Has Solanio informed you of the purpose of my visit?” 

Prospero took his seat once again, the balance of power restored. “He advised us of your tour. You would be visiting each city to assess what resources could be of use to the Polity. I trust the auction was an adequate demonstration of the esteem in which Newlondon is held by the rest of the Globe.” 

“I don’t care for your little rivalries and power squabbles,” Ward said bluntly. “I’ve seen places like Newlondon on every planet I’ve ever stepped foot on. It has that same stink to it. This city is nothing but bait.” 

“Bait, Captain?” 

“It’s a place for reputable folk to hide their dirty, little secrets. Where husbands can attend ‘business meetings’ with their secretaries, away from prying eyes. Where gamblers can place their bets at a card table or backstreet fight. This city’s an enticement, and you think it’s hidden behind the netting and the fishing and the family-friendly amusement arcades. But we both know that nothing remains hidden forever. Time has a way of exposing all things. And the time for Newlondon has come, Prospero.” 

“Why, Captain, you make it all sound so unseemly. Newlondon has its fair share of amusements, but we take pride in the services we provide. Wouldn’t your men benefit from a little relaxation when they’re off-duty? Where better to find a pleasant diversion than in one of our motels, where I hear some wonderfully talented ladies are currently performing. Would that not be something of value to men who’ve spent years stuck inside one of your sterile ships?” 

The soldiers glanced between each other with a spark of giddiness. 

Photo by Jordan Harrison.

Ward turned her head, her glare snapping them back to attention. “All bait is dressed up to appeal, Prospero. But it doesn’t stop it being bait. Where others might look at this city and see the glamor and the lights, all I see are a sorry collection of ramshackle buildings and some fishing nets. What have you got to offer the Polity which we could make use of?” 

“What of the pollium? There are always more krakens in the sea. I’m sure with the Polity’s resources, and our fishermen’s skills, we could collect enough pollium for the entire Polity of Planets.” 

Ward cackled a laugh. “You think the Polity have any need of pollium? It’s garbage. We have more power in a single engine cell aboard the smallest of our ships than a thousand eyes of pollium could ever produce. What can you give us, Prospero? Leonardo tells me that you Newlondoners can do much for us. But all I see is trash. Give me one good reason why Newlondon shouldn’t be torn to the ground and stripped for parts like the scrap it is?” 

The Guild members turned to their leader, and Prospero clasped his hands together, reclining in his chair. “Tell me, Captain. The other cities you’ve visited—have you found minerals and materials that might be of value?” 

“There are resources on this planet that are of value,” Ward answered. 

Prospero smiled. “And I take it your men are experts at transporting such ‘resources’ across the Globe.” 

“My men are capable of almost anything.” 

“Is that so? Do they know where the Mirrim lurk? Have they mapped out every turn of the river? Can they recognize the roar of the savagelands or sense the ambush of bandits? How many of your men can feel a ripple on the river and know whether to run or hide from what rises below? There are beasts on this Globe that would swallow your men without a sound and slither into your skin without you even knowing. And this cargo, these minerals, are fodder for these creatures.” 

“We carry weapons. We’re trained in combat. I think you’ll find we can handle ourselves.” 

“Of course. Your men have nothing better to do than babysit cargo, have they? And their weapons work against enemies you cannot see, or hear, or touch?” 

Ward bit her lip. 

Prospero opened his hands and gestured around the table. “We understand if you take no pleasure in our city. But we of the Guild are tasked with the burden of setting the rates of guides and transporters who can protect the many assets of this world. We are its guardians and its shepherds. Ask your friend, Leonardo here. How long would Whitehall last if Newlondoners did not protect the oil pipeline hovering above the sand? All the way from Westminster to Whitehall, we guard it.” 

Leonardo blushed, but he remained silent. 

“Come, Leonardo, there is no shame in admitting that you wish for us to strike a deal with the Polity for the sake of Whitehall. For the sake of all the cities. And for the sake of the Polity. After all, without Newlondoners, what would be left on the Globe for the Polity to take besides corpses and beasts? These resources you speak of are valueless unless they can be transported safely to your vessel. Wouldn’t you agree?” 

Ward gritted her teeth in the knowledge that the old man spoke the truth. She only had so many Marines at her disposal, and she couldn’t afford for her best Marines to become couriers and delivery pilots. Any goods she mined from the planet would be worthless if she couldn’t transport them to her ship and lift them to the UPS Pacifica. “What would stop us from hiring our own guides from among your people?” she asked. 

“Newlondoners know better than to work without the Guild’s approval. And they’d never be granted a license unless it was passed by one of us. Without a license, they’d be no better than smugglers. And if you knew anything about Newlondoners, you’d know that they’d sooner kill you than let you call them a smuggler.” 

Ward nodded. “Alright. Let’s say we came to an arrangement. What price would you name to extend these services to the Polity?” 

“My dear, we would be only too happy to assist the Polity. We Newlondoners are traders at heart. What do you propose would be a fair trade for such services?” 

Ward pinched the bridge of her nose. This is the part she hated. Playing diplomat was just another form of haggling. “You spoke of the technology to hunt krakens. Would that make a fair trade?” 

Prospero shook his head. “It’s a fair place to start.” 

“What else do you want?” 

“Were you not at the auction?” Prospero raised an eyebrow and stroked his whiskers. 

Ward sighed. “Fine. We’ll match whatever doubloons you deem appropriate. Name your price.” 

“Why, Captain. How generous. I believe we have an accord.” Prospero rose and extended his arm to Ward.

She stomped across the chambers and grasped it, grimacing, as if she were dipping her hand in a nest of eels. 

“As a courtesy,” Prospero said, “allow us to welcome your Marines in the truest Newlondon tradition. Free drinks at any tavern they desire.” 

Ward’s skin crawled, but she could hardly refuse. “Very well. They could do with some time to recharge.” 

The Marines around her loosened their shoulders and beamed smiles. Leonardo breathed a sigh of relief. 

“If that is all, Captain, then we have business with Solanio,” Prospero said. 

Ward stroked her chin. “There is just one more thing.” 


“Leonardo was telling me about a group known as Shadow Walkers. I was hoping to meet one.” 

Prospero gripped his stomach and howled in laughter. “Oh, Leonardo. You should know better than to play pranks on the Polity.” 

Ward scowled. “What do you mean?” 

“Stories of the Shadow Walkers are just tales told to children. They’re nothing but myths. I mean, really, who could appear from the shadows to fight for justice and disappear just as quickly? Such warriors exist only in stories.” 

“But,” Leonardo spoke up, “if they aren’t true, then what of the rumors about—”

“Rumors?” Prospero interrupted. “Leonardo, you know better than to listen to gossip. The Shadow Walkers are just a fairy tale, I assure you.” 

Captain Ward turned to her Marines. “Right, you jarheads. All who wish to return with me, get ready to depart. The rest of you, enjoy your drinks. Dismissed.” 

The Marines rushed out of the chamber, their tongues wagging. 

Ward marched out of the chambers with Leonardo in tow. 

Solanio stood before the Guild. “Fairy tales, Prospero?” he said. “Were not the Polity a mere fairy tale? Yet, here they are.” 

Photo by Jonas Jaeken.

“Don’t tell me you believe in the Shadow Walkers, Solanio?” 

“Not at all. But who knows what else she might have given us if she’d been allowed to think they were real?” 

Prospero nodded, casting his glance across the chamber. “What did I tell you, brethren? Will he not make a wonderful addition to our Guild?” Prospero extended his palm, and inside, a Guild ring shimmered gold. 

Solanio stepped forwards and took the ring, placing it on his own hand. 

“Congratulations, my boy. You have business to attend to, I believe?” Prospero asked. 

The image of Butch flashed across Solanio’s mind. “Yes, I have a customer waiting. Thank you.” Solanio bowed and turned on his heels, cradling the signet ring that commanded the respect of all. Inside the fold of his jacket, the pistol Prospero had given him—the one that would wipe out everything in its path—felt insignificant when compared to the power in the band of gold wrapped around his finger. If only Bianca could see him now. 

Perhaps Bianca suffered from the same delusion that Ward did? That there was no value in the Guild. How could a woman so calculating as Ward be so naive? Dismissing Newlondon and all it had to offer—was she even human? 

Solanio shook his head. 

“Shadow Walkers,” he scoffed below his breath. “The Polity have much to learn.” 

Balthasar watched from his skiv on the water. The two men with purple eyes lingered with the crate and the bounty of the kraken’s eye within. Another Newlondoner guided them away from the amphitheater and across the dockyard to a pristine barge. They boarded the polished hovercraft, outfitted with the finest weaponry across its mount, and surveyed it. The men nodded and returned to the dockyard as Newlondon haulers lifted the crate onto the barge. 

All the while, the bandit at the window stalked the crate like prey. 

Balthasar gripped his buckle in one hand, and the hilt of his sword with the other. 

“Grant me patience,” he whispered to the ocean, “so that I do not strike too soon.” 

Solanio slipped along the crowded thoroughfare, past the taverns where Polity Marines indulged in pitchers of ale, surrounding themselves in the skirts of blue-eyed beauties. 

From the amphitheater behind him, the Polity flier lifted in a whirlwind of salt and sand before it blasted heavenward, its roar fading into the distance. Goodbye, Captain.

Across the docks, Solanio crept to his barge. The brothers Sebastian and Gonzalo of Westminster waited by the hovercraft. 

“Gentlemen,” Solanio said, approaching them. “Is everything in order?” 

“The eye is on board. But are you certain it’s safe on your barge, Solanio?” Sebastian asked. 

“If you wish to tour the barge, I have no objections.” 

“We’ve already checked it over.” 

“And . . . ?”

Gonzalo shrugged. “It seems in order.” 

Solanio smiled. “Excellent. Do you have the contract for the Westminster Brides?” 

“Signed and sealed.” Sebastian handed over the documents. “And we deposited the doubloons with one of your Guild people at the amphitheater.” 

“Then I wish you well. My men will see you in Westminster.” Solanio bowed and stepped back from the berth. He gestured to the men aboard the barge, and the engines fired, lifting it from the water. 

Spray dashed the brothers Sebastian and Gonzalo, and they watched their cargo shrink as it disappeared up the river. 

Photo by Vasily Ledovsky.

Solanio darted across the harbor, and from his pocket, he removed his chain of keys. He bounded up a flight of stairs to his office on the first floor of a building overlooking the sea. When he reached the top, he selected the key, but the door was broken in two. Splinters of wood covered the floor.  

He entered the office, and Butch stood by the window, surveying the dock. 

“Was it really necessary to break the door down?” Solanio asked. 

Butch bared his teeth, flashing Solanio the look of a growling wolf. 

“I’ll take that as a yes,” Solanio said. “Are you ready to depart?” 

“My crew are waiting in an estuary up the river.” 

“Then let’s go and meet these fine fellows of yours.” 

“After you,” Butch snarled. 

Solanio led the giant down the steps, but he hesitated before emerging into the street. He turned back and placed a hand on Butch’s chest, stopping him dead. 

“It’s better that we’re not seen together,” Solanio said. “Watch where I go, and follow without drawing attention to yourself. Can you do that?” 

Butch sighed. 

Solanio paced over the cobblestones, through the berths to a sleek skiv with all the trappings. He boarded, and from his keychain, selected the combination of keys that would start the engine. 

Butch blundered a path behind him, and when he stepped aboard the skiv, it dipped and rocked under his weight. 

“Stay down.” Solanio turned the keys and the engine ignited. With movements swift as a striking snake, Solanio piloted the boat out of the bay and up the river. 

He pressed his hand against the pistol in his pocket and prayed that he need not use it. The craft skittered over the waves with the speed of a skycrawler’s dive, following the barge which held the eye. The eye he was about to steal from his own men, trained to withstand any ambush. Trained to kill. 

He rubbed the ring on his finger. This had better be worth it, he thought. 

Balthasar watched the soldiers emerge from the Guild Hall. They entered taverns and swigged ale in a raucous manner that befitted animals, not officers. He shook his head at these so-called “warriors.” Where was their code, their creed, their honor? The only war they seemed capable of fighting was the one with their liver, judging by the amount they drank. 

Through these louts, Solanio–with a Guild ring on his finger!–made his way to the barge, and with a wave of his hand, the kraken’s eye began its journey upriver. 

Balthasar’s fingertips bristled with the urge to follow the eye. But the bandit in the window didn’t move. Something else was going on here. Something else lurked in these shadows.

The two purple-eyed men returned to their hovercraft, and its violet sail followed the barge. But Balthasar focused on Solanio. He entered a building and appeared in the upper window with the bandit. 

The Guild in league with bandits? No surprise there.

Balthasar traced Solanio and his bandit lapdog as they boarded another skiv and ventured up the river. Balthasar adjusted the mirrored panels of his hovercraft to better reflect the riverbank and struck after them, carrying the storm with him. For plotting with criminals, Solanio deserved all that was coming to him. They all deserved the thunder. And Balthasar would bring it, for there was no stopping the wind. 

If you enjoyed Shanel and Frasier’s story, feel free to leave comments below.

And in just two more days, on Friday, we’ll bring you the exciting conclusion of “Out of Shadows” in Part 3!

If you would like to read more about Newlondon right now, try “The Beast Below” which kicked off the Newlondon stories in the Globe Folio series.

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

P.S. Now you can enjoy the Globe Folio from the beginning:

Act 1: Night of the Rocket

Act 2: Nights of Revelation

Now you’re all caught up. But don’t worry, we have more stories from the Globe on the way soon!

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross