Will Kill for Money, Part 4 (of 4)

From the Casefiles of the Ragamuffin

Featured image swiped from ENM.

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Hilscher, their host, quickly made his way to Lung and did namaste. Lung, without cracking so much as a smile, bowed in return. Both men were gigantic, though Hilscher was the more intimidating of the two, as Lung had put on fat in recent years.

Iron Lung was a notorious gangster who ruled the drug trade in most of Southside, especially the massive slum called Harijan Basti. He and Rags had tangled more than once—and it was a testament to his resourcefulness and power that she had always come off the worse in those encounters.

Rags slipped away from the ladies cooing over her and walked brashly up to the huge men. She didn’t bow, but merely placed her fists on her hips and gave the two of them a childish scowl.

Hilscher’s voice came through Nicky’s earpiece. “Ah, Fräulein Rags, you have met Herr Lung, I presume?”

“I have,” Rags said.

Now a small smile cracked Lung’s stony face. He bowed slightly. “Ragamuffin. I am … surprised … to see you here.”

Hilscher smirked.

So this was what he was after—sending a message to one of his greatest rivals in the drug trade. Word would get out quickly, if it hadn’t already, that Rags was in Hilscher’s pay.

“I’m afraid Fräulein Rags cannot talk for long,” Hilscher said. “She is working tonight, ja?”

“How unfortunate.” Lung reached into his jacket, and Rags tensed, but his hand came out holding a pack of cigarettes. He stuck one between his lips, and Hilscher offered him a light.

After a few puffs, Lung said, “The Ragamuffin and I have much to discuss—but it will have to wait for another time.”

Casually, Rags cracked her fine knuckles one by one. “Y’know I use riot rounds,” she said quietly, “cuz I got a rule for me an’ my guys: don’t kill nobody. That’s my rule. But I carry just one half-jacketed hollow-point. Got it with me all the time. An’ you know why?”

Lung took a deep pull on his cigarette and slowly blew out a thick stream of smoke, but didn’t answer.

“I got your name etched in that bullet, Iron Lung, an’ one o’ these days, I’m gonna use it.”

Lung leaned down until he was almost eye-level with Rags. His smile again broke through his stony face, like sunlight shining through a chink in a rock wall. “Oh, I’m sorry. It’s terribly rude of me to meet a child like this. Next time we see each other, Ragamuffin, I’ll bring some toys, hm? Sharp ones … but I’ll be the one playing, you understand?” Continue reading “Will Kill for Money, Part 4 (of 4)”

Will Kill for Money, Part 3 (of 4)

From the Casefiles of the Ragamuffin

Featured image unidentified.

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This ballroom was not in the Arx Ciceronis, but it was in the swankiest part of Godtown outside the fortress. The décor was in a regional style blended with Western elements, the effect of which was jarring. The ceiling was a vast, honeycombed vault, each pit in its surface inset with a colorful mural depicting Rajputs hunting or in combat. A great crystal chandelier hung from the center of the dome; covered with candles rather than electric lights, it flickered wildly as the air played around it. Along the walls, horseshoe arches topped the tall, rain-drenched windows, between which were pilasters meant vaguely to give the room the appearance of a pillared courtyard. Most of the construction was of marble and plastered brick, but the ballroom’s highly polished sprung dancefloor was genuine hardwood, undoubtedly imported at great expense. On a raised stage, a light orchestra was already deep into a waltz. Several couples were dancing.

It looked simply like a wealthy party, but Nicky immediately noticed, against the walls, six stiff-backed, hulking marjaras dressed in long, maroon kurtas embroidered in gold. On their heads were high turbans edged with gold lace and decorated with golden brooches topped with white feathers. Each of these marjaras had the red fur, thick mane, and protruding fangs of a Kshatriya, a man bred for war.

As he had promised, Nicky made his way to the bar and threw himself down on a stool. “Hey,” he called, “drink-wallah.” Continue reading “Will Kill for Money, Part 3 (of 4)”

Will Kill for Money, Part 2 (of 4)

From the Casefiles of the Ragamuffin

Featured image unidentified.

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The home base of the Ragtag Army was the rococo parlor, decorated in the French taste, of Rags’s Victorian mansion high in the Arx Ciceronis. Having carted her favorite chair back from the godown in Godtown’s seedy east end to its accustomed place beside her round-topped fireplace, Rags was once again settled in its depths, idly wiggling her feet and pretending to peruse a dog-eared copy of Little Women. Muffin lay at her feet. Across from her, in a comparatively uncomfortable but more fashionable Louis XV chair, Suzie, the team’s radio operator, perused a picture book with a teddy bear tucked under her left arm. She looked bored.

In the middle of the room, sitting cross-legged on the floor with a blindfold over her eyes and a sheet spread before her, the tall and spindly Alex Taliaferro attempted to reassemble her M249 squad automatic weapon, a task at which she was failing miserably.

Nicky and Jeanne strode in through the double French doors. With them was the straight-backed Ryuji Fujiyoshi, who, at the age of sixteen, was the “old man” of the team. Clinging to his hand was his six-year-old sister Rika, whom everyone called Popkin.

Just as they entered, Alex threw up her hands and shouted, “Where in Jahannam is the gods-damned return spring?” Continue reading “Will Kill for Money, Part 2 (of 4)”

Will Kill for Money, Part 1 (of 4)

From the Casefiles of the Ragamuffin

Featured image unidentified, unfortunately.

This is a story I wrote as a test of a new character for the Rag & Muffin universe. It’s rather long, so I’ve divided it up. I’m not entirely sure what to do with it.

Just for the record, and for fair warning, R&M has content a bit harsher than what appears in Jake and the Dynamo.


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Edmund Hilscher’s physical bulk was enough to intimidate most people, and his keen mind and boundless energy were enough to intimidate the rest. With heavy jowls and shoulders a full meter across, he got what he wanted by getting in people’s faces—and sometimes by beating those faces in. In Prussia, he had been notoriously brutal in underground boxing before a mob offered him a lot of money to become a heavy. Five years of thuggery and a lot of ill-gotten coin later, he had left his boss with a slit belly and made his way to the ancient, sleaze-ridden temple city of Godtown. There, he carved out his personal empire in the heroin and opium trade.

He scared people. He counted on his ability to scare people.

But, standing in the monsoon rain late at night outside a rust-coated warehouse down by the docks, he knew he could not scare the people he was about to meet. He’d heard the rumors, and unlike the criminals who had learned better only when it was too late, he chose to believe them.

He couldn’t afford not to. Continue reading “Will Kill for Money, Part 1 (of 4)”

JAKE AND THE DYNAMO Chapter 27

Monday: Getting waterboarded by a magical girl is just another day in the life of Jake Blatowski!

JAKE AND THE DYNAMO

CHAPTER 27: MONDAY

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Dana put on her uniform, complete with the safety pins in her collar, the pen in her pocket, and the untied tie. While she stood sullenly by the front door, Mil gave her several kisses and tousled her ratty hair. She endured it with a silent scowl.

“Oh dear, Mommy didn’t get to make your lunch today,” Mil said, tutting. “I guess you’ll have to eat the school lunch … well, I suppose it’s all right. It’s only one day.”

Dana grumbled.

Mil bit her lip. “Just … I don’t know, just try not to eat anything that looks over-processed.”

Dana made a faint growling noise.

“Like, no ketchup. It’s full of corn syrup. And no chicken nuggets or anything. There’s no part of a chicken called the ‘nugget.’”

Dana rolled her eyes. “Can I go now?”

“Of course, sweetie. Walk with Jake, okay?”

Dana grumbled again. Continue reading “JAKE AND THE DYNAMO Chapter 27”

JAKE AND THE DYNAMO Chapter 26

The Morning After: Jake’s in the doghouse after Pretty Dynamo catches him with Sukeban Tsubasa!

JAKE AND THE DYNAMO

CHAPTER 26: THE MORNING AFTER

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After changing back into her magical form, Tsubasa left by the window. Jake had to press himself into the corner at the foot of his bed so she could—with her eyes squeezed shut—dash past him and leap to what she considered safety. Soon after she was gone, he closed the window, finished undressing, climbed into his pajamas, and lay down.

After all the commotion, the room seemed strangely quiet. His heart thudded in his ears, the only sound.

He tossed back and forth for several minutes, but no position felt comfortable. He had been having trouble sleeping for the last few months. Over the previous week, whenever he had slept, he had slept soundly from sheer exhaustion, but now that he had spent a weekend without anything trying to kill him, his insomnia was back.

The bed with its disarrayed and rumpled bedclothes felt desolate and empty. Thanks to Dana, he didn’t even have his Triceratops toy—not that he actually slept with the thing anyway; he just set it on his pillow on the rare occasions when he made the bed. Most of the time, it was buried somewhere under the covers or squeezed between the mattress and the wall.

He rolled over onto his stomach. In an ill-defined way, he had an inkling of why he couldn’t sleep. Now that he had come firmly and irrevocably into his adolescent years, going to bed alone at night had grown into a crushing, almost intolerable burden. It was worse now because he had tackled a girl in this very bed only a half hour earlier, an event that had provoked a bizarre mixture of fear and desire, leaving his nerves frazzled. He could still smell Tsubasa in his bedclothes: she smelled like roses and sweat—heady, salty, and exciting. The scent made his stomach ache. Continue reading “JAKE AND THE DYNAMO Chapter 26”

Team Pizza! (and a J&tD update)

Art by Roffles Lowell

My schedule is still fairly harsh through this coming week, but after Saint Paddy’s Day, things will slow down a bit for me. I hope to be posting more regularly.

Things are coming along smoothly so far on the publication process of the first volume of JAKE AND THE DYNAMO, which is currently under the working title of Down and Out in Fifth Grade. There’s no projected publication date yet, but some of the earliest preliminary work is done. I’m working on the bonus content: I had originally produced an extra chapter, but now I’m unhappy with it, and I’m considering instead including a novelette featuring Rifle Maiden’s misadventures while babysitting the Bubble Princesses.

I believe I’ve chosen a studio for cover art, and I don’t think he’ll mind if I say that I’m talking to Roffles Lowell about the possibility of doing interior illustrations. No commitments have been made, so this post isn’t an attempt to pressure him or anything. But I really enjoy the YA look of his style, and I appreciate that it differs from the standard style of Japanese light novels or Japanese-influenced work. This is obviously a weeb novel, so I like the idea of the art being non-weeb.

In the midst of our conversation, Roffles sent me the above picture of Team Pizza to show me what his work looks like in black and white, and he told me to do with the image as I wish. So this is me doing that. Featured up there, of course, are Pizza Margherita, her faithful dog Pepper, and Crazy Annie Shové, all riding comfortably on the Pie in the Sky.

Glossary of JAKE AND THE DYNAMO

ALTER EGO: A magical girl in her non-magical state. While prolonged magical activity has certain effects on the alter ego (analogous to intense physical exercise), she cannot use her magical powers unless she transforms (see TRANSFORMATION).

ANSIBLE: Technomantic device for instantaneous communication employing quantum entanglement.

ASCENSION: The transference of the MOON PRINCESS from Earth to Earth’s moon. Occurred approximately two hundred years ago.

AUTO-TURRET: Computer-controlled anti-personnel or anti-tank weapon, typically situated at a street corner. Designed to harry invaders of URBANOPOLIS.

BOSS: Informal term for the individual responsible for coordinating MAGICAL GIRL activity in the city. Appointed by the Mayor, the boss’s identity is top secret.

CATCH PHRASE: A MAGICAL GIRL’S introductory speech encapsulating the nature of her MAGIC and her motivations. Love, friendship, and justice feature prominently. Most magical girls recite their catch phrases during TRANSFORMATION and sometimes before fighting a MONSTER in order to give themselves a sportsmanlike tactical disadvantage.

CITY FATHERS: The civilian, secular government of URBANOPOLIS. Consists of the elected City Council and Mayor, and the Mayor’s appointed officials. To offset the considerable power of the TEMPLE, the MOON PRINCESS decreed at the city’s founding that women would be ineligible for public office.

CONTRACT: Binding and irrevocable agreement between a MAGICAL GIRL and a FAMILIAR, written in blood. Because only children can serve as magical girls, the contract, being a legal agreement, terminates on the girl’s eighteenth birthday when she reaches her legal majority. Continue reading “Glossary of JAKE AND THE DYNAMO”

JAKE AND THE DYNAMO Chapter 25

Wake Up Call: Finding a girl in your bedroom is an unpleasant experience when you’re Jake Blatowski!

JAKE AND THE DYNAMO

CHAPTER 25: WAKE UP CALL

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Jake spun around. There in the corner next to the door sat a girl, curled up in a ball with her knees against her chest. She must have been hiding behind the door when he came in. She had her right arm pointed at him, her hand bunched into a fist. That hand was shaking.

“Who—?”

With a loud clatter like tumbling kitchen utensils, several objects jumped out of her wrist: white knobs, spheres, and lozenges, all with long, gray tubes attached to them. The tubes pointed at him.

Tears ran down the girl’s face. She shuddered and ducked her head. “I’m … I’m r-really s-sorry—”

So dumbfounded was he that it took him several seconds to realize she had a dozen guns trained on him, enough time for her to shoot him several times over. Continue reading “JAKE AND THE DYNAMO Chapter 25”

Jake and Dana’s St. Valentine’s Day Extravaganza

Revenge is sweet, but obligatory Valentine’s Day chocolate is sweeter still.

Jake and Dana’s St. Valentine’s Day Extravaganza

It was late afternoon on St. Valentine’s Day. Now that school was out, Jake and Ralph sat on the floor in front of the couch and played a video game.

The game, specifically, was a port of Magical Girl Rumble for the Nintendo Ultimate. Although not a bad fighting game, it didn’t compare to the arcade version: it had only twenty playable girls instead of thousands, and somebody had decided not to bother taking advantage of the Ultimate’s motion sensor technology, so they had to play the old-fashioned way with handheld controllers.

“Boom!” Ralph shouted as he executed a devastating triple combo with Razor Urchin’s monomolecular filament. “You’re dead, dude. Just a few more hits, and—”

Jake mashed buttons until his Pretty Dynamo avatar jabbed and slashed with her spear, finally pinning Razor Urchin against a bombed-out building. Once Urchin’s health bar slid down to zero, she bounced into the air in slow motion before slamming hard into the pavement.

Jake dropped his controller. “Thank you, thank you. I’m here all night.”

“Ah, you got lucky! Where’s your stash?”

Jake reached behind himself, grabbed a plastic grocery bag off the sofa, and tossed it into Ralph’s lap.

“Ya gotta admit,” Ralph said as he dug through the bag’s contents, “going back to fifth grade has its perks.”

“Easy for you to say.”

“Are you kiddin’? Just look at this haul. I haven’t seen this much obligatory chocolate since—”

“Since fifth grade?” Continue reading “Jake and Dana’s St. Valentine’s Day Extravaganza”