On the Fourth of July, I feel it’s my patriotic duty to write another Four Apes intro story:
Traffic around the Department of Agriculture headquarters in Washington DC slows to a crawl, as drivers gawk at the Eight Apes on the sidewalk outside.
Samantha looks into my eyes. “We don’t have to go in there.”
“What are you talking about, Sam? We were lucky to walk away from our last fight with the bad guys. We need the agency’s resources and firepower.”
“You’re missing my point, as usual. We can run. Let the agency and the bad guys fight it out themselves. Find some remote jungle island and start filling it with baby orangutans…” She takes hold of my hand. “and baby humans.”
“What the bad guys did in that town … I can’t stop thinking about it. I can’t get it out of my head. Someone has to pay. A lot of someones have to pay.”
Sam jerks her hand from my grasp as I squeeze tighter and tighter in anger. “Pfft. You’re just like Ob-ob. In fact, I think Ob-ob’s your twin, not Bobo’s.”
Bobo opens his mouth in a wide grin and nods his head up and down rapid-fire in agreement.
Behind us, an Audi driver honks his horn at the rubberneckers blocking his way. I flash a hand signal at Herman that I think means “stare that guy down”, but Herman reaches under the car and flips it onto its side. Not to be outdone, the vanilla gorilla shoves the car over onto its roof.
Sam rolls her eyes at the gorillas. “Knock it off, Ice. We’d better get inside before we have to deal with MPD as well.”
Wondering again what joker at the agency named the vanilla gorilla ‘Ice’, I open the building’s side entrance. “Let’s do this.”
We walk past doors labeled only with four-letter acronyms. The first is my former employer, the AEAA (Agency for the Exploitation of Animal Abilities). We pass the OWOW (Organization for Weaponizing the Oceans and Weather) and PSSP (Planetary-Scale Swarm Project) before reaching our destination, DADA (Department of Agriculture, Director of Agencies). The door is unlocked, so we enter quietly and spread out in the spacious lobby/waiting area, eyeing the doors leading to conference rooms and offices.
Ape-proof steel doors slam shut across the exits, trapping us inside.
[To be continued…]
A Tiger in the Garden by Alexandru Constantin. A minor noble is down and out in a colonial port. I liked the instances where the plot suddenly switched directions, and how some characters switched sides, but not in a grimdark, backstabbing sort of way.
The Monster Without by Julie Frost. A werewolf private-eye story (not the only werewolf private-eye story I’ve read recently, by the way) that tries to combine hard-boiled detective with sensitive guy. Those two things aren’t compatible.
Hal Turk and the Lost City of the Maya by David Boop. Initially a Western bounty-hunter story, until the Maya get involved.
King of Spades by David West. An older King David faces zombie Goliath. There is some extremely fluffy writing at the start, but it went away after a while, or I quit noticing it.
Desert Hunt by Jon Mollison. An ex-soldier takes on a child-trafficking ring, facing a moral dilemma in the process. The only story in the magazine without a fantasy element, it would probably fit into the thriller or crime genres.
The Chronicle of the Dark Nimbus by Keith West. Two adventurers guard a wizard’s tower against robbery.
Menagerie by Steve DuBois. After the US Civil War, a British diversity squad tries to prevent some ex-confederates from hatching a plot in the Florida Everglades. Diversity squad: an upper-class British woman, a half-black orphan, a pyromaniac, a homosexual, a giant Muslim woman, and a stinkin’ drinkin’ Irishman.
I don’t know why the author chose to have a British team go after the confederates, unless it was just to capitalize on the current popularity of Victorian-Era Britain in fiction. Britain (and France) sympathized with and assisted the South during the Civil War. My high-school history professors used to tell me that Britain and France might have entered the war on the Confederate side, if not for failures of grain crops in Europe (meaning Europe needed Northern grain) combined with bumper cotton harvests in Egypt and India (meaning Southern cotton was less valuable). Russia was the only European country that sided with the North, so a Russian hit team might have made some sense here. A squad of Pinkerton men would have made even more sense. A British squad only works if Britain had given the Confederates the secret weapon during the war, but wanted to hush things up post-conflict. There’s no mention of this, or of why the British didn’t just inform the USA of the Florida plot and let the Marines handle it.
Daughter of Heaven by Shannon Winward. A prophecy/ancient gods apocalypse, but not Lovecraft-style. These gods come back every so many thousand years to kill off nearly all humans, sparing those few who are holding special “get out of apocalypse free” cards.
Dead Last by Jay Barnson. Agents of a magical secret society go on a mission to exchange magical artifacts with another society, but the handoff goes bad. I liked how the main character used a minor (not seemingly useful) ability to take down the bad guy.
I haven’t crunched the numbers yet to see where Storyhack lands in my ranking of SFF magazines, but I suspect it’s in the top quarter. There were three each of stories I really liked, stories I thought were OK, and stories I didn’t care for.
I think I should apologize for my intro story. First, for the dreaded “to be continued.” However, so many of my intro stories have been based on cheesy 70s/80s TV shows, you should have seen that coming. Second, for the erotic content. There was hand-holding and mention of human reproduction. Whew, steamy!