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“This is much more civilized,” Drake Mangrove says, lifting a cup of tea to his lips. There’s sand in his saucer, since the cafe where he and Debra Millman sit is on the periphery of an outdoor market, but it beats an interrogation room by a mile.

“Indeed it is,” Debra Millman, Agent, says. “I have never found interrogation rooms to be much use. People tend to get inarticulate when you beat them up.”

“The female form you’re in is friendlier, too,” Dr. Mangrove says. “How long have you been sporting this look?”

“Since I got here. Changed on the transport.”

“Well, it takes the edge off. The male version is a little more – I don’t know, unfriendly – if you don’t mind my saying.”

“Can we talk about Sam Brubeck now?” Debra Millman asks. “I need you to know, we have footage of him leaving the hospital in haste minutes after Angelica was found dead in her room. We can place him at the scene. We also know that he was her last visitor. Now, why do you suppose he was at the hospital, and why did he leave so quickly?”

“No idea,” Dr. Mangrove says. “Maybe he was upset. His mother was in a coma.”

“Well what has he told you since he got here?” Millman asks.

“Nothing,” Dr. Mangrove says, and sips his tea. “Do you suppose they have biscuits, here?”

“Drake, what has he told you? You two have spoken. I need to know what he has said to you. Anything, even a small comment, could break this case open.”

“He needed somewhere to stay,” Dr. Mangrove says. “So, I gave him one. No clue if he’s still there. I’m going to get a biscuit.” Dr. Mangrove gets up from his chair.

Debra Millman stares into space. Of course Drake doesn’t want to accuse the son of a close friend of murder. But this is going nowhere.

And now, Drake Mangrove is nowhere. Agent Millman scans the crowd, but her tea companion has disappeared.

“Drake, you’re such a dork,” Debra says under her breath. Whatever. Now that there’s a tracking chip on him, she can find him whenever she wants.

Time for more research.

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Hello Neptunians,


Let’s skip the niceties today – we’ve got some important info.


Warning: Do NOT go out to the drop site North of Market 22. Repeat, do NOT go out to the drop site North of Market 22. Update your maps so you know what we’re talking about.


We know it’s tempting, folks, there’s probably some righteous stuff in there – metal, wire, engine parts, batteries – it can be a real temptation to see if you can get out of there with a few leftover goodies from Earth.


And trust us, we understand that a good generator or a battery can mean the difference in a storm situation.


But we’re hearing that it’s not a good scene out there. People are going out and not coming back. In fact, they’re not making it to the site in the first place. We hear tell of at least six people thus far who have gotten sucked right down into the ground at a radius of about fifty feet away. Went under, haven’t been back. All over in a second.


Is the surface undermined in the area? We don’t know. Is there an imminent collapse? We can’t be sure. Could be anything. But be warned – there’s a perimeter around the site, and if you go inside of it, you risk heading underground on a permanent basis.


Let’s let the experts do their job. If you are an expert, please go out there and do your job.


That’s it for now, consider yourself warned. Radio Neptune out.

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NEPTUNE ROAD. Adventure. Mystery. Hackers.

©Betsy Streeter.



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Angelica Brubeck stops screaming long enough to realize she can see nothing, the world is black. Is this what it is like to be dead? Screaming and blackness? Where has she been up until now? She has no memory.


There was an explosion nearby, or at least she heard the sound of one. Does that mean she can still hear? Can dead people hear?


She feels a shift. Not a physical shift, since she doesn’t seem to have a body.  But it’s a shift, nonetheless.


She thinks forward, and feels herself move in that direction. It is like a tunnel with no end, or a giant tank of water in which she is swimming around.


Now she hears noises, digital in nature. Some kind of lights, up ahead. A node of some sort, or a way station. She pauses. How is she seeing and hearing? She tries to lift a hand in front of her face, but there is no hand. And no face.


The noises go up in pitch and accelerate. She listens to them, blends with them, becomes them. The lights are around her now, blinking on and off. Flashes everywhere. Now, tiny characters, ones and zeroes, and electrical bursts zooming in and out. Red, green, orange.


Angelica turns her attention to the characters and symbols that seem nearest to her. The pieces begin to come together, fitting like puzzle pieces and dropping into position in a sort of grid.


What is this? The grid builds, becoming more complex. Soon it fills her field of view.


Within the grid, Angelica can see patterns emerge. Something like a window, or a monitor. Bits of words. The words attach to one another.


Angelica is exhausted; she must rest. Let these flashes of light do what they will. But before she loses consciousness, she sees one recognizable word take form:




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Neptune Road: Sometimes you need a little space. Or, a lot.

©Betsy Streeter



Neptune Road hit 25 installments this week.

Time to recap what crap has gone on so far.

Here’s what we know:

1. Everything on Neptune is salvaged, a lot of it from junk heaps dropped off from Earth.

2. Everything is also hacked to within an inch of its life. Ikea Hackers would do great on Neptune.

3. Philo used to work at the Scar City Casino, but he quit. And left. After shedding his body. Interesting strategy.

4. The storms on Neptune are a problem.

5. Sam Brubeck is under suspicion of murdering his own mother.

6. Agent Millman, tasked with investigating Angelica Brubeck’s murder, starts out a man on Earth but is a woman by the time she reaches Neptune. Not clear yet how often she plans to switch genders.

7. There are rumors of some disease called “salvage sickness,” which just sounds like an ailment made up as a cover to get people to keep quiet.

8. It’s not a good idea to make a human backup.

9. Those Casino folks are pretty sketchy.

10. May figured out how to drive a Vanagon even though she’s nine.

That’s just some of what’s gone on – now onward to the next 25 installments.


Cass, Queen of the Bird People, is a forthcoming character in Neptune Road. My stuff is driven by characters, so I spend a lot of time with them before they appear in a story.

I spent part of today figuring out her look.

Shockingly, she’s an animal-headed being with a cyborg horse. So far.

First up was figuring out some basic geometry and proportions. I knew this was a figure on a horse. Or a cyborg-horse. She’s a mashup of old and new technology and culture, part animal, part person, part high-tech, part warrior.

These initial shapes determine a lot of the final product – tension in the pose, drama, opportunities for lighting etc.

Next up is narrowing down choices and starting to zero in on the outer lines of the figure – again looking at things like anatomy, drama in the pose, etc. I knew I wanted her holding a weapon that went across the front – which makes her left-handed. Cool.

Then I added weight to the more important line work and started suggesting lights and darks.

Then I spend some time kicking around in there, discovering how the cyborg horse wants to work, what is flesh or metal or technology, messing with details like wardrobe and weapons.


Cass will be bringing her badass-ness and attitude to future Neptune Road installments.