Before I get to the HFQ stories, it’s time for another installment in the Saga of the Four Apes:
Sam got a tip from a mole in the AEAA (Agency for Exploitation of Animal Abilities) that the Bad Guys were planning to use a Fedex distribution center for some dastardly purpose. So, we cover our big rig in Fedex logos and head down the highway. Normally, Bobo the chimp rides shotgun, but he enjoys drawing attention to himself, so Fu the Orangutan sits next to me today. He wears a hoodie, and if anyone gets a look at his face, he has this way of holding it real still like he’s some jerk wearing an Orangutan mask.
Fu is quiet, working on a laptop, so I spend most of the drive trying to figure out whether Sam’s mole is a person working for the agency or literally a trained mole, but can’t come to a conclusion. I don’t want to let the team know I’m out of the loop by asking.
We drive past the entrance without stopping. No sign of a guard. He could be taking an unauthorized smoke break, or maybe the Bad Guy Kommandos beat us here. I back the truck up to an open loading dock, and Fu and I jump out and open the trailer doors. The H.E.R.B.I.E supercomputer, in a white Volkswagen Beetle chassis, pulls out first, with sumo wrestler Ichinojo Takashi filling the passenger compartment. Stephen Hawking stomps out in his heavy-lifting exoskeleton, followed by Balto the beluga whale in his amphibious battle-harness. Putin made a phone call and had one flown over from Russia, said he had a warehouse filled with thousands of them. One day I want to find out why.
The rest of my team files out of the truck: the gorillas Herman and Ice, the chimpanzees Bobo and Ob-ob, my love interest Samantha, Fu’s love interest Cixi, a clone of Bruce Lee, Hollywood actor Keanu Reeves, Vladimir Putin, and (we think) the ghost of Charlton Heston. The gorillas don’t carry weapons, but the rest of us have pneumatic tranquilizer-dart rifles. I wanted to bring something more powerful, but Fu and Cixi want us to kill as few people as possible. I could override them as team leader, but I’ve learned that every time I do, they come up with some convoluted plan to get what they want anyway.
We don’t make it far into the building before we realize we’re in the right place. Coagulating blood covers the walls, and the floor is littered with bloody scraps of cardboard boxes and shredded Fedex uniforms. Fu and Cixi hold up several uniform fragments, looking in my direction. These ones aren’t Fedex, they’re standard Bad Guy Kommando issue. Someone else, or someTHING else, is responsible for the carnage here.
[TO BE CONTINUED…]
More Blood than Bone by Erin Wagner. This story had some nice worldbuilding about a whaling-style community that hunts sea monsters for their magical teeth, but the conflict at the end didn’t seem to have much of an origin, and the implications of its resolution weren’t clear to me.
Lady and the Dwarf by Rebecca Brinker. A fairy-tale-style story. Very repetitive. Very repetitive. Very repetitive. Very repetitive. Very repetitive. Very repetitive. Very repetitive. I repeated that seven times because there were seven dwarves, and each got an almost identical passage.
Canvas Tears by Steve Rogers. Two men on a mission of revenge.
Paladin of Golata by P Djeli Clark. A child, who scavenges battlefields for items to sell, talks to a dying warrior and agrees to a proposal.
Forest of Bones by Christopher Chupik. One of King Arthur’s knights faces a giant.
The Blitz of Din Barham by Cameron Johnston. Magic users defend a town from dragon attacks. I enjoyed the wizards, shamans, and demonologists using different types of magic, and the sense of dread caused by the dragons. I didn’t like the resolution (spoiler ahead) where two young people spilled some powders together and accidentally discovered gunpowder. It would have been more interesting if the cast-out-of-wizardry young person had been working on gunpowder for months or years, or if the invention had been brought by an out-of-towner who seemed like a snake-oil salesman.
What Clev Yun Would Want to Tell by Adrian Simmons. I remember that as I was reading this story, I was thinking “this is going to end without a point”, but then there was a big twist right near the end that proved me wrong. It was not a happy ending to the story, though. I also seem to remember this story being a sequel to, or somehow related to, another story (which I enjoyed) by the author, but I can’t remember the name of the story at the moment.
I hope you all enjoyed the first installment of my latest Four Apes story. I have plans for a couple more, and will also try to finish up my magazine quest this year, finally giving out gold, silver, and bronze medals to the best sci-fi/fantasy magazines.