Promises Made in the Dark by Michelle Rose

Promises Made in the Dark
by Michelle Rose

free urban fantasy fiction

A board creaked and the young man winced. Sterling Adams eased himself along the barn wall, trying to be as quiet as possible. The straw in the loft was doing a good job of muffling his footsteps from the men beneath. He was getting too old for creeping around in lofts, let alone hunting for smugglers.

He was many things: heir to a shipping empire, cryptozoologist, novice mythical archeologist, and husband to Emma, who would inherit the van Winden Trading Company. And he was handier around an engine than your average person, too.

As for sneaking around in barns, stalking criminals? Certainly not.

He was far more likely to be found pouring over old trade route maps and diagrams of machinery than doing anything dangerous. Even the fact that he was here tonight was all his stubborn wife’s doing.

Since the South has lost the war, the business of smuggling of magical creatures had boomed. People were still scattered and there were pockets of lawlessness sprinkled throughout the country. It made it easy for persons interested in shady dealings. Although Sterling and Emma technically lived in the North the traveling device Sterling carried with him made it possible for them to move over long distances in moments. It made it far easier to hunt down smugglers and their cargo since they had gotten it to work properly. Emma was nothing less than vigilant when it came to returning magical creatures to their proper homes. The fact that it gave them a short time to study magical creatures firsthand was beside the point.

There was a rustling from the loft against the opposite wall and he closed his eyes, taking a deep breath. The noise Emma was making sounded tremendously loud to his ears–her heavy skirts whisked over the loose straw on the floor.

He wished he knew what she was looking at, and if the spectacles were working correctly. He hated it when she snatched up his toys before he had the chance to properly test them.


Sterling put a finger to his lips and scowled at his wife, but she just made a face at him as she adjusted the gold spectacles perched upon her nose.

“We brought it with us.” A voice came from down below them, on the main floor of the barn.

Sterling was relieved the speaker apparently couldn’t hear the noise Emma was making as they continued with their foul business. He immediately loathed the man from the bottom of his ugly, brown worn shoes to his moldy, frayed belt all the way to the ragged black bowler hat perched on the back of his greasy balding head. His beady eyes glittered with greed as he spoke to the man next to him.

“Did you, now?” A rotund man with beautiful golden hair and lively pink cheeks folded his hands and rested them on his enormous belly. “Excellent. However did you manage it so quickly?”

The fine cut of the well-fed, larger man’s suit raised the hair on Sterling’s neck. He wouldn’t conduct business like this personally, he’d have sent a man to do it for him. He and Emma had expected to find the usual scum trading stolen magical animals amongst themselves, but the man below them was completely out of place in the dusty, old barn. Something about him was just not right.

There was a sound from the doorway and a tall, thin man with sandy blond hair and deep-sunken eyes slipped into the barn. “Just have to know the right people,” he croaked in a voice that sounded like gravel.

The smarmy man in the bowler whistled, and a sullen-looking teenage boy with mousy brown hair shuffled into sight, his thin arms cradling a small wooden crate. He seemed to be whispering to it.

“You’re going to spoil that damned thing.” The man in the bowler sniffed at the boy.

“They keep better if you talk to them.” The teen gave him a scowl from under the fringe of his scruffy hair.

“You forget your place, boy,” the tall man said warningly. The man in the bowler nodded and he took a step forward.

“He’s right, you know,” the round man said quickly, raising an eyebrow at the tall man. “If they’re not socialized they lose all their appeal.”

“You can talk the bloody thing to death, for all I care.” The man in the bowler snapped. “I just want my finder’s fee.”

The tall man grunted in agreement as the boy put the crate down. He began to pry the top off with a small crowbar, careful not to upset the crate in his work.

“I’m not going to pay good money for substandard merchandise.” The round man frowned at the crate. “I hope you’ve been taking care of it properly.”

“Don’t you worry,” the man in the bowler said in a soothing voice. “That boy prattles to it all day.”

“She’s not an ‘it.’ Her name’s Shee-Shee,” the boy muttered.

The man in the bowler glared at him, but the round man seemed to get very excited. “How do you know this, boy?” he asked, his eyes glittering, almost with hunger.

“She told me.”

He barely had enough time to squeak out his reply before the bowler-wearing man slapped him so hard he fell down.

“Animals don’t talk, you daft bastard.”

“No, not usually,” the round man said, rubbing his hands together greedily. “But these are a special breed. They can talk, but rarely do, and only to people with a gift for hearing.”

The man in the bowler assisted the boy to his feet and helped him brush himself off. “Of course, of course they do. Slipped my mind. Sorry about that, lad.”

The boy glared at his attacker, but the round man looked the boy up and down appraisingly. “How much for the set?”

“What?” The boy looked aghast, his face twisted in horror.

“Double,” the man in the bowler said quickly.

The tall man reached into the box and pulled out an animal. At a glance in the dark it might remind someone vaguely of a ferret, but that’s where the similarity ended.

Its coat was molten gold, glinting and glittering in the lamplight as the tall man turned it around in his hands. Its feet were large and webbed. It had no tail, but it did have a row of horns that sprouted from the center of its forehead and ran down its long back. It snuffled the tall man’s hand curiously and its whiskers made a thrumming noise as they twitched.

“Oh, that is quite fine, isn’t it?” The round man looked extremely happy as he shook the hand of the bowler-wearing man vigorously and the boy gaped at them.

“You can’t sell me!” The boy cried out, but the tall man had quickly put the small beast away and moved to a position behind the boy. He shook his head almost pityingly as he pulled out a cudgel and gave the boy a sound rap on the back of his skull.

“Of course we can,” he snorted at the boy lying motionless on the dusty floor.

“His name’s Garret. Got a mouth on him, but that’s what you’re going to be using him for, isn’t it?” the bowler-wearing man chuckled at his own joke and the round man gave him a look of distaste.

“Want us to load him in a crate, too?” the tall man smiled widely.

“Do you really think it’s necessary?” The round man frowned as he waved a hand at the boy and a green light pulsed around him for a moment.

Up in the loft, Sterling quickly looked to his wife, who was adjusting the glasses nervously and frowning. Her fiery temper had gotten them in a pinch on more than one occasion and he was afraid she would act hastily.

“I’ll give you a tincture for next time.” The round man rolled his eyes at the tall man in a bored way. “It knocks them out. We don’t want you accidentally breaking anything.”

“Where you going to take him?” the tall man asked. He was rewarded with a hard kick.

“What do you care? We don’t have to feed him and cut him in anymore.” The man in the bowler scowled at him.

“I assure you, the boy will be taken care of better than you would be able to provide for him,” the round man said reassuringly. “Binding his hands and feet should do. And put his head in a bag. Wouldn’t want him to lose his mind before we get to where we’re going.”

The bowler-wearing man stared at him for a moment before smiling nervously. “Of course, sir. Just give us a moment to wrap up your purchases.”

The round man chuckled merrily. “A pleasure, gentlemen.”

Sterling glanced again at Emma and was relieved to see her backing away slowly and looking at the group of men warily. She jerked her head and Sterling frowned at her. His eyes flickered back to the men, but her look was insistent and scared.

He eased out of the loft, wincing as another floorboard squeaked in his haste.

“What was that?” The tall man raised his eyes towards the dark loft, squinting at the shadow Sterling was hiding in.

“I’m sure it was nothing,” the round man said warmly, as he looked at the shadow and directly into Sterling’s eyes. He looked back at his companions. “Let’s drink to celebrate our transaction.”

Something flickered across his features and Sterling didn’t like it one bit.

The men turned their attention back to the round man and the bottle of wine he’d pulled out from a leather satchel that was lying nearby.

Sterling got out of the loft as quickly and silently as he could, and slid down to the yard where Emma was impatiently waiting for him. She grabbed his arm and began pulling him away from the barn, her eyes wild with fear and her voice a terrified whisper. “If we get out into the open air the trail of magic should dissipate quicker. Don’t transport us until we’re past that apple tree!”

“I don’t understand,” Sterling said, bewildered. “I know he saw me. Why didn’t he tell his companions we were there?”

“He knew we were there before we’d even entered the building,” she squeaked.

The man’s boisterous laugh rang out from the barn, its jolly sound carried on the wind. Then the screaming started.

“Now!” Emma squeaked in panic. “Get us back now!”

Sterling fumbled in his pocket until his fingers closed around the familiar brass cube. He looked into his wife’s frightened eyes before he twisted it in his hands and pushed a small button.

In a flash of light the field was empty.

###

“What was that about?” Sterling asked, in a bewildered voice as they reappeared, stumbling, in their laboratory.

“I don’t think he can track us this far away,” Emma muttered. She reached for the bell pull and rang it three times.

“Track us?” Sterling felt his face go pale. “But we used the Mythos Machine!”

“We’d better pray it works this time.” She quickly went to a bookshelf and scanned the titles. “You were lucky to have it set to return us. It would have been unfortunate if you’d had to fiddle with all those dials and things in a dark field.”

“Of course it works,” Sterling spluttered as the door opened and his manservant, Bobbington, an older, pale man, with large watery blue eyes poked his head through the doorway. A pretty dark-skinned girl’s head followed a moment later. Sterling looked at them with a panicked face. “Why wouldn’t it work? No one’s been able to track it before, even with the residual magic!”

Emma picked a thick leather tome off the shelf and brought it over to the heavy wooden table she used for research.

“Where’s the alicorn?” the girl asked questioningly. “I thought you’d tracked it down?”

“We’ve got bigger problems on our hands.” Emma said, seriously, as she flipped through the book of magical creatures. She stopped at a page and pointed to a picture of a frightening creature. Martha scuttled over to the table and her eyes went wide. “Can we do anything about one of these?”

“Pray we have enough time.” Martha squealed before she fled from the room, hurriedly kilting her skirts so they hung around her calves, sensibilities be damned.

“What’s going on?!” Sterling thundered.

The older man’s eyes rose from the page to look at his charge. “You saw a demon.”

“There’s no way he didn’t notice us!” Emma said, shaking her head. “He could have smelled us a mile away. Literally.”

“Then why didn’t he do anything?” Sterling asked, bewildered.

“Because he got a good deal, and a good meal, and we’re no threat to him at all,” Emma said grimly as she glanced over to their work-table. “Unless he’s up for a hunt after he eats.”

“I’ll go assist Martha,” the older man said firmly. “There isn’t much magic left in me, but I can still chop ingredients.”

“Good luck, Bobby,” Sterling said seriously.

“I don’t think luck would do us any good in this case,” Bobbington said, grimly, before he turned and left the room.

“What can I do?” Sterling whirled to look at his wife, who was already donning a shaded pair of goggles and lighting a small fire within a metal chalice. “Did those men get eaten?”

“If they were lucky,” Emma said, her mouth in a tight line.

“And if they weren’t?” Sterling swallowed dryly.

“Then it’s either playing with them or possessing their human bodies with lesser spirits.” She set a dark wooden bowl over the fire and the bottom of it began smoking. “Then it can force them to do anything. Murder, suicide, worse.”

Sterling shuddered. “Why would he want an alicorn?”

“The alicorn might be the only thing we don’t have to worry about at this point.” Emma shrugged. “They come from the same plane as that type of demon. He’s probably taking it back home. If he’s a shepherd he might have been tracking it down for generations.”

“What about the boy?” Sterling asked quietly.

Emma’s shoulders slumped. “I don’t know.” She selected a bottle from the shelf in front of her and poured a liquid into the bowl. “I’m going to try to find out. I mean, the demon can talk to the alicorn–he didn’t need the boy.”

Sterling finally figured out what his wife was doing. “Are you trying to scry for them? Against a demon?!”

“It’s the only hope I have,” Emma snapped. “Unless you have hidden demon-intuitive talents I don’t know about.”

“Not that I’ve discovered, but there’s a first time for everything,” he said sarcastically.

She looked up from her brew and her face softened behind her goggles. “I’m sorry, Sterling.”

He quirked a corner of his mouth at her. “Sometimes I wonder if I’m better off tinkering with machines, you’re better at all this than I ever was.”

“You do engines and devices so well,” Emma confirmed, as she opened a box and put a pinch of powder in the bowl before stirring gently with a glass rod. “Anyone can do what I do if they can read. You have a real talent.”

“As sweet as this is to witness, your pillow talk can wait until later.” Bobbington was peering back into the room. “I need Sterling.”

Emma snorted from her position at the work table. “Just—be careful. I’d hate to survive a battle to have the house blown to bits by a miscalculation.”

“Yes, mum,” Sterling clicked his heels together and saluted his amused-looking wife. “Getting out of your hair, mum.”

He turned to walk out of the laboratory, but a hand on his arm stopped him. He turned to see Emma pushing her goggles up, an earnest look on her face. “If we—if we don’t make it—“

“Don’t even be thinking such a thing.” Bobbington harrumphed. “I’ve got a few handy things in my old bag of tricks. Something the Archbishop gave me for services rendered.” He pulled his elderly body up to its full height, even though it made him wince.

“Good.” Emma said as she turned back to her potion. “We’ll need all the help we can get.”

Sterling and Bobbington hurried out of the room and along the long dark-paneled hallways of the Adams’s manor.

“I’m afraid I put it in a bit of a spot,” Bobbington said, embarrassed. Sterling groaned. Bobbington’s hiding places were infamously inconvenient.

“Where is it this time?” Sterling asked, even though he was afraid of the answer.

Bobbington blushed deeply. “Well, you know the chandelier in the dining room?”

“It’s in the chandelier?” Sterling felt his heart sink. He hated heights.

“Yes.”

###

Martha frowned into the bowl, her dark fingers swirling over the surface of the elixir. She was sure she’d done everything correctly. She had only seen the spell done once, but her grandmother had impressed the importance of knowing scrying spells on her as soon as she could walk. It took time, but it wasn’t complicated. She dropped a small white stone into the bowl and color bloomed dark blue in the liquid.

She let out a sigh of relief and praised every saint she could think of. As far as her options in life went, her life here was ideal. She wasn’t going to let a stupid demon wreck everything for her.

She heard a tremendous crash from elsewhere in the mansion and her head whipped around, her face scowling. Her instinct was to run, but she steeled herself and poured the liquid into a bucket, then dipped in the tips of her broom bristles.

She quickly brushed the threshold going out into the courtyard before picking up the bucket and racing to the door leading into the manor and doing the same there. If she had to retreat, she wanted to know she had a safe place to retreat to.

She charged along the hallway, a determined look on her face and her broom clenched in her hand. When she got to the dining room she swept some of the liquid in the doorway before registering what she was seeing.

“What the bloody hell are you doing?” she blustered, as her eyes took in the demolished dining room table. The giant brass chandelier was sitting motionless in the rubble as dust settled around it. Sterling was staring at the wreckage, nodding as if he were pleased.

“It’s some sort of device!” Sterling said excitedly. “Not quite sure how it works yet, but that’s all the fun, isn’t it?”

“I’m going to finish sealing the building.” Martha snorted, as Bobbington scurried into the room, his breath coming in quick puffs as he went. “I’ll leave you two to your mystery machine. Just don’t blow us up!”

“We’ll do our very best, I assure you,” Bobbington said, putting a hand on her shoulder, but she only let out a frustrated noise before storming out of the room.

###

She was headed toward the front door when Emma burst into the hallway. “What was that?”

“Two idiots,” Martha muttered. “Don’t mind them, just keep working. Anything you can see at this point will help us.”

Emma rolled her eyes and heaved a great breath before turning and running back to the laboratory.

Martha finished warding the doorways of the ground floor and was weaving a window enchantment when her eyes spotted a flicker in the distance. She faltered for a moment and almost dropped the delicate threads of the spell before she remembered herself and flung them into place.

Her eyes searched for the flicker in the dark and she felt the heat drain out of her as she realized the tiny flicker was growing closer.

“It’s coming!” Martha bellowed as loud as she could down the empty hallway. She could only hope that the night’s silence and the hollowness of the manor could help her voice carry to the others.

She heard banging and a sound like something bumpy being rolled deep in the manor. She groaned inwardly. She didn’t know what secrets the chandelier was holding, but she was sure it wasn’t good.

###

Sterling growled as he heaved the chandelier up the last step of the curved staircase, a brass support cutting into his shoulder. He had never before been so thankful his mother insisted on making grand entrances. If the stairs had been narrower or steeper they’d never have been able to get the beastly thing to the second floor.

“There’s a way to mount it.” Bobbington was puffing as he helped Sterling roll the chandelier down the hallway to the balcony overlooking the front of the manor. “But I’m not quite sure I remember how.”

“Not your fault, old man,” Sterling snorted. “We left looking for magical weasels and came back with a demon. Did this device come with any diagrams?”

Bobbington pondered this for a moment, and then realization dawned on Sterling as his eyes lit upon an object.

“The sundial! I always wondered why it was in such a strange place: you can only read it part of the day! I remember asking about it when I was young, but mother couldn’t tell me why it was there.”

“It was there long before she married your father,” Bobbington grunted. “She wouldn’t have known.”

“Did you even get around to telling father once he was older?” Sterling demanded as he opened the double-doors and the cold night breeze tickled its way past them.

“You know, I don’t quite remember,” Bobbington said in his thinking voice. “I might not have gotten around to it.”

“If we survive this, we’re going through the bloody manor and cataloguing everything you have squirreled around this place and how it works,” Sterling ground out between his teeth as they moved to get the chandelier in place.

“What if they were to fall into the wrong hands?” Bobbington demanded.

“They’re not going to fall into anyone’s hands if no one knows where to find them.” Sterling grunted as he tried to lift the chandelier and failed.

“Ah, there’s a trick to this one!” Bobbington beamed. “I remember now!”

“Well, remember faster!” Sterling looked out into the darkness and saw what looked like a torch light getting closer.

###

Emma stepped back from the smoking wooden bowl, her chest tightening from anxiety. She took a deep breath and tried to think of calming thoughts.

A scene sprung to mind: her at the top of the apple tree in the backyard, an apple high in her hands like a prize. The loud snap of a branch breaking and then the sensation of falling before she hit every possible branch she could on the way down before she fell onto her discarded basket of laundry. She had been bruised, but otherwise fine. The basket had been smashed and the clean wet laundry pouring out onto the muddy ground.

Her mother had been horrified, her father had laughed, which is what led to her trying to beat him to death with her fan.

She chuckled out of hysteria and vaguely wondered if this was like to have your life flash before your eyes. She took a deep breath to steady herself and looked at the bowl with grim determination. She would not have her life ended before she got to the same to Sterling over something their yet-to-be-conceived child had done.

She flung a handful of brown powder at the liquid boiling before her. It flashed with a brilliant blue light and let off thick black smoke just as Martha scurried back into the room, causing her to stagger for a moment.

“I’ve almost got it!” Emma cried as she picked up a satin bag of rose petals and sprinkled them around the base of the chalice.

“It’s coming!” Martha choked as smoke filled her lungs. “I’ve seen the hellfire!”

Emma cursed as she ripped her goggles off and quickly put on a pair of what looked like thick leather mittens. “Roll back the carpet. I’ll be there in a moment.”

Martha charged from the room as Emma carefully reached out for the hot wooden bowl. She took care not to spill a drop as she hurried to the parlor.

When she got there, Martha had rolled back the carpet and taken the wooden insert out of the shallow metal pit set into the floor. Emma carefully poured the liquid into the pit, feeling grateful when Martha began chanting alongside her. She had faith in her abilities, but she knew her young teacher was far more powerful than she was when it came to spells. Plus, working with Martha had always made her feel confident and her spells more powerful.

The liquid quickly spread out, its surface black as night. Suddenly two fierce eyes were looking back at them. Emma and Martha drew back with a gasp as a rumbling chuckle filled the night air.

Martha dove for the wooden insert, but a flash of fire threw her back. Emma gasped in horror as the liquid in the basin began swirling and forming itself into a rotund, man-sized shape.

“The circle should still hold!” Martha choked out, as a billow of sulfur-scented air was released from the forming creature. “I think. If it doesn’t, he might be able to enslave us with lust!”

Soon, the form of the round man stood in the basin, peering at Martha and Emma curiously. “Do you normally greet your guests with such fanfare?” It cocked an eyebrow at them and his face was transformed into something truly wicked.

Emma heard Martha’s breath hitch in her throat as a magical wave of desire washed over the both of them. Emma suspected that if they hadn’t been ready for it they would have torn out their own eyes to get to him. Emma felt disgusted with herself and held her ground. She prayed Martha would be able to do the same.

The demon made a harrumphing noise. “Must be losing my touch,” he muttered to himself.

“We’re truly sorry for intruding,” Emma pleaded, ignoring the look of horror on Martha’s face. Her teacher may be stronger willed, but if the creature was going to find out what it wanted to know regardless of if they were alive or dead, Emma much preferred “alive.” She sincerely hoped honesty would work. If not, she hoped for a swift death. “We thought we were stopping human smugglers.”

“I know.” The creature began to change shape again, his face becoming beautiful and his body tall and muscular.

Emma became more alarmed as Martha choked again. Her breath came in a heavy, steady rhythm. He eyed her appraisingly and she had to close her eyes and concentrate to control herself.

Emma still had the blossom of love only a newlywed carries in her heart, rendering her impervious to the demon’s charms, unlike Martha, who at sixteen years of age was altogether too familiar with the tug of physical desires.

Martha gritted her teeth and let the enchantments wash over her, but it was obvious she had to fight to keep control of herself.

“That’s more like it,” he seemed to mutter to himself. “I wonder . . . why would humans be interested in the welfare of an imp that has no powers on this plane?”

“Anyone smuggling them is trouble,” Emma said simply. “We were investigating.”

“You almost revealed yourselves.” The demon regarded her coolly. “Because of the boy.”

“He—he didn’t seem to be there of his own volition,” Emma stammered embarrassedly.

“Even after you knew he could speak to the alicorn, you would have saved him.” The demon rubbed his chin. “Curious. Would you have still saved him if you knew he was part demon?”

“We . . . would have dealt with it if problems arose from his heritage,” Martha stammered defensively. The demon’s eyes fell on her and she broke into a sweat. She had trouble breathing as he lazily slid his eyes over her.

He snapped his eyes back to Emma and Martha slumped over. “You are so trusting, young sorceress, to offer a place among yourselves to one you know nothing about.”

“He’s just a boy,” Emma ground out between her teeth while looking at Martha, hoping the impulsive woman would hold her temper.

“So far,” the demon said, appraising Emma. “You are an interesting creature.”His eyes went to Martha and she began to shiver uncontrollably.

“Oh, so many secrets for such a little room!” The demon threw his head back and laughed, a booming jolly sound that echoed through the manor. “If there were more like you in the world it would be an interesting place, indeed.”

There was a loud sound above them, as if the men on the balcony above had just realized the threat was beneath them and not in front of them.

“I will leave you to yourselves tonight, manipulators of reality.” The demon smirked at the women as a clatter of footsteps pounded down the stairs. “You will see me again, I know this for certain. I won’t even have to go through the boring process of looking for you.”

Emma felt a chill go through her as she began to hope Sterling and Bobbington would stay away. Who knew what the creature would do if he decided he wanted entertainment?

“But even you know that spying on demon business is a serious offense.” He looked Martha up and down before licking his lips hungrily with his slick black tongue. “And I am willing to let you go. I would say you owe me a favor.”

Emma felt her mouth open and close. Her eyes instinctively went to her mentor and she was frightened to see Martha staring at the creature with wide-eyed fear.

“I see there are no objections,” he said silkily. “Excellent.”

Emma heard Sterling and Bobbington rushing down the hallway as the demon drew his human form up to its full height. She heard the gasps behind her when they skidded into the room and laid eyes on the beautiful demon.

“Until then, ladies,” he gave them a short bow, “gentlemen.”

In a whirlwind of smoke that smelled like rose petals, he vanished; the scrying liquid fell back into the basin with a splash, its color turned a sickly green.

“How did he get past the enchantments?” Bobbington blustered.

“We let him in,” Emma put the back of her hand to her forehead and wiped a bead of perspiration away. “He rode in through the scrying spell. Stupid, stupid, stupid!”

“They can do that?” Sterling gave her a surprised look.

“Apparently they can,” Martha said grimly as she watched Bobbington shuffle up to the metal basin and peer in at the spoiled potion. “My grandmamma didn’t manage to cover ethereals before she passed on, God rest her soul.”

“Your grandmother did the best she could, as fast as she could, when she realized she was getting sick,” Emma reassured the girl. “You know more than most women my age would, and you’re far cleverer in using your powers. I’m sure she was very proud of you.”

“It just left?” Bobbington asked them suspiciously.

“The thing that was supposed to help you ended up letting it in?” Sterling’s face screwed up. “How do we know everything doesn’t have a flaw in it?”

“We don’t,” Bobbington said seriously.

“It said we’d see it again,” Emma said, her voice just above a whisper. “That we owed it a favor.”

The old man’s face went white as his eyes flickered from one woman to the other. “Favor? What kind of favor?”

“I don’t know,” Emma said, fear beginning to creep into her voice. “For letting us go and not punishing us for spying on demon business.”

“You did a good job,” Martha assured her. “Few could do what you just did.”

“I just told it the truth,” Emma said in a puzzled voice.

“Exactly.” Martha patted her on the arm.

Bobbington seemed to mull this over for a moment. “I don’t know what this might mean for us.”

“We’ll see what it has to say when it returns, and then decide whether or not to fight it.”

“It might not return for generations,” Bobbington consoled her. “If ever.”

“Fight it?” Martha threw her head back and let out a full, throaty laugh. “Do you understand what it would take to fight a demon?”

“I have an idea,” Emma said her lips pursed. “But nearly impossible to implement without everything already in place. It’ll take ages to put together.”

“Then we should start now,” Sterling said with a firm nod. “What do you think?”

“A device for use against demons,” Bobbington mused. “Has such a thing ever been tried before?”

“I’m not sure,” Martha said skeptically. “In biblical times perhaps, but that knowledge has been lost for centuries, if not longer.”

“We should get going right away.” Emma nodded. “Just as an alternative option.”

“Where do you think we should begin?” Sterling asked Emma, grinning and offering his arm to her, which she took gracefully.

“The library of course!” She smiled at him.

He chuckled at her as he began to lead her from the room. “I have been looking for another hobby since the Ice Blunderbuss project ended.”

“Soon we’ll have a new prototype to play with!” Emma pointed out, her voice growing excited.

“Don’t be getting ahead of yourselves,” Martha warned.

“It’s just a bit of research,” Sterling protested. “One can’t be too prepared.”

Bobbington snorted. “I think you two have had enough excitement for today. Time to become civilized again.”

Both Sterling and Emma scowled, but Bobbington held his ground. “Tea, something light, then up to bed.”

“You can stop treating me like a child, now,” Sterling muttered.

“When you stop acting like one. Even your father knew there had to be a balance.” Bobbington returned his scowl.

“I’m making tea,” Martha said grumpily. “Anyone who wants any can come along. Those that want to argue can stay here.”

Emma disengaged herself from her husband’s arm and strode off with Martha.

The men looked at each other and shrugged.

Now how can anyone argue with that?

©Michelle Rose
science fiction short story

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Michelle Rose

Michelle Rose

Michelle Rose spent her childhood in Northern California with her nose in a book. When she wasn't she could be found playing with gadgets and tools in her grandfather's workshop and finding interesting things in his barn. Diagnosed as having 'an overactive imagination' and known to become bored at school, her fifth grade teacher quickly taught her to sharpen her writing skills and she began keeping regular journals. It was with his encouragement that she began writing short stories.

When she was in her early twenties she moved to Santa Rosa where she gained an eclectic group of friends that encouraged her to be true to herself and eventually she was. She has held an odd assortment of jobs including pizza delivery driver, salesperson at a knife store, making custom concrete countertops, fry cook, and flower seller at ren faire.

She now resides in a cozy house in Western New York where she and her Patrick are owned by two bossy cats. They enjoy watching sci-fi in their pajamas and collecting half-finished knitting projects and Mustang schwag.
Michelle Rose

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Michelle Rose