I’m still considering the option of advance publishing Elbert on Kindle Vella. Now, after four editing passes over part one, the master arc is firmly defined, so it’s not much of a risk delivery-wise … but, the question arises as to whether it’s good enough that I won’t be embarrassed for having done it. Also, I can’t tell if I have a hook in the opening act.
What say ye – would you spend another 8 cents to read the second chapter?
Part 1 – Chapter 1
August 16, 1928 — The Lazy L Ranch, South Dakota
“Well, ain’t you a furry bunch of critters.” The trail guide, a human citizen of Jivada, shook hands all around, the picture-perfect American cowboy in chaps and Colt Peacemaker — expert at rounding up Anye tourists or whatever. “Now, in these parts, the natives might call you Sasquatch, Bigfoot or Wendigo — ‘cause they’ve seen you plenty, but don’t know what you are.”
Watching from the front porch of the lodge, nursing her first cup of coffee, Francine anticipated the punchline. And they’re not going to find out today, are they?
His customers replied with hopeful enthusiasm, after which a lady put a hand up. “What’s a Wendigo supposed to look like.”
“Fearsome.” The man tipped his hat. “Narrow muzzle, big ‘ol eyes, tall ears, and fine textured pelt.”
“Oh.” She giggled. “Me.”
“Yes’m; by way of an Iravat named Vadin; started a fish camp in Newfoundland back in the 13th century.” He gestured toward the lodge. “The boss-lady’s great-grampop, in case you didn’t know.”
Francine took her cue, leaning over a balustrade. “Those first adventure travelers came from Jivada in Saraf Drive aircars. They didn’t even wear spacesuits.”
“Some tough old lemurs, right there.” He shooed the group away from a nearly invisible air shuttle in the process of landing. “Folks, stay away from the bus until the door opens.”
They visited while a pilot collected fees, the fellow mentioning she looked different from the last time he saw her. Francine patted her belly. “I’m pregnant; gained fifteen pounds.”
“Oops.” He made a sheepish smile. “I guess it’s too late for me to take you dancing.”
She batted eyes at him. “You’d go out with a fox in a dress?”
“Ma’am; the fox is a beautiful creature.”
In general, Francine thought humans were more fun than her own kind, but if she ever went on a date, it wouldn’t be with that one. He’s way too perky in the morning.
She logged into Earthwatch on her way through the lobby. The satellite image was unremarkable, the service reporting all clear — no convoy of soldiers on the highway, no rattletrap airplanes in the sky, no prying eyes in the foothills. It wasn’t a new concern, but she worried about it more than she used to.
Francine Suraksin, Executive Host, the Lazy L Ranch, picked her way through a line of hairy Anye AjJivadi queued up for breakfast, grateful for the resort’s biggest season ever, but thinking, If the authorities ever come around, it’ll be like herding cats to get these people out of here.
The town of Black Rock was twenty miles south, the road to Bismarck fifteen miles east. Francine knew it wasn’t just pessimism talking. It’s going to happen; the question is when. The only consolation was — if it turned into a fight, it wouldn’t be a fair one.
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