Half Of Everything
The Stories By Natasha Duncan-Drake From The Wittegen Press Giveaway Games
Published by Wittegen Press
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Wittegen Press Giveaway Games 2012
Copyright © 2012 by Natasha Duncan-Drake
Artwork by Sophie Duncan and Natasha Duncan-Drake
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.
During July of 2012 Wittegen Press gave away one short story, or story part per day.
Every morning a new short story was available at:
Each title was available for download for one day only.
These titles have now been compiled into a selection of anthologies. This anthology contains all the stories written by Natasha Duncan-Drake for the games.
The anthologies available are:
This story is science fiction.
Queen of Heaven was the first story to be published in the games, 1st July 2012.
Queen of Heaven may have been the first published story in the games, but it wasn't the first I started writing, just the first that I finished. I actually began Sleep of the Damned originally, but it turned out so much longer than this one that this was completed first.
The only aim of this story is humour and the plot stemmed from one mental image. I was watching one of the music channels on TV and I saw a video where there were human cyborgs in pieces with these long metal tentacles coming from the bits (I forget the song entirely). This gave the mental image of Karla reattaching her arm and the whole story grew from that.
The whole space princess going off to be married just kind of happened as I wrote and I really enjoyed the vaguely ridiculous situation I created. I hope very much that you gain as much fun from reading the story as I had writing it.
Throwing the gun into an air vent, Karla pushed her ruined hand into her pocket and arranged herself in the corner on the floor, as if she'd fallen there. It was ridiculously over the top and melodramatic, but she had to look as if someone had just tried to assassinate her. How these idiots thought they were going to succeed when they couldn't hit the broad side of a space freighter she would never know.
It was only a few moments before she heard footsteps hurrying down the corridor and her rescuing hero appeared. Captain Narine was tall, handsome and highly intelligent, but luckily he seemed as susceptible to her beautiful-princess-in-need-of-protecting act as every other man she had ever met.
"Is it over?" she asked, making sure to over play the fear as much as physically possible.
"Thank god," Captain Narine said, falling for it hook, line and sinker. "Yes, it's over. Are you hurt?"
She shook her head.
"I don't think so," she replied and batted her eyelashes. "What happened to that nasty fellow?"
"He somehow managed to shoot himself in the head," the captain replied and at least looked confused about it.
"Oh," she replied and produced a 'that is so terrible' face while making sure to tear up.
Any questions the good captain might have had instantly vanished from his expression and she let him help her to her feet, at which point she did her best impression of a swoon.
"Oh dear," she said, "everything's gone all wobbly."
"I think we should take you to sickbay," Narine said, with a kind, but rather patronising smile.
Since it was the reaction she had been going for she couldn't exactly hold it against him.
"I'm so sorry to be this much trouble," she said and let the man help her walk down the corridor.
With the captain treating her as if she was as delicate as one of the ice sculptures of Dienar XII it took them a while to traverse the distance. It was a relatively large ship and had been one of the Star League's cruisers before the cutbacks. By all accounts Captain Narine had been one of their finest commanders until he'd opted to buy his own ship and become an entrepreneur.
"Dr Maron," Captain Narine said as soon as they walked into sickbay, "Princess Karla has had a nasty shock and needs some of your tender loving care."
Dr Maron was a short woman somewhere in middle age with the bedside manner of a computer and gave Karla and the captain an unenthusiastic smile. Dr Maron was the only person on the ship apart from Karla's personal attendants that knew she was anything but an airheaded princess.
"I'll get the anti-anxiety medication," Dr Maron said, "pick any bed. Then you can go, Captain, I'm sure they'll be someone else for you to shoot at soon."
Karla had learned pretty quickly after coming on board the Queen of Heaven that not even the captain was stupid enough to argue with the ship's doctor. She had heard some rumour about passion killers in the coffee and decided it was best not to ask. 'Couldn't get it up for a week' had been one phrase that she had overheard.
Karla gave Captain Narine a brilliant, grateful smile as he left her sitting on one of the beds. She even gave him a wave with her good hand as well.
"Is he gone?" Dr Maron asked after the sound of the doors.
"Totally," she replied and pulled her hand out of her pocket.
Dr Maron took one look at the mess of wires and lubricating fluid and didn't even comment.
"Is it a hobby," Dr Maron asked in a mild tone as she pulled out a large box from one of the medical storage cabinets.
"Assassination attempts you mean? It does happen rather a lot," Karla agreed and held out her arm as Dr Maron placed the box on the bed next to where she was sitting.
"This is the third time someone had tried to assassinate you on this trip," Dr Maron said, taking hold of her arm and giving it a swift twist and pull.
"It is a bit excessive," she agreed.
There was a click and her hand and lower forearm came away leaving metal and plastic tendrils waving in its wake.
"Some factions really don't want me marrying Prince Daken," she said with a shrug.
She wasn't overly impressed with the idea herself, but that's what came of being a princess. The marriage would bring together their planets and give them something to celebrate, while the governments cemented trade agreements that would benefit both peoples. The intergalactic press were being fed all sorts of rubbish about it being a love match, but, in fact, Karla had only met her intended once. They had barely said two words to each other.
"It was an assassination attempt that made me a cyborg," she said, chatting away, since she knew Dr Maron was not the talkative type. "I was twelve and they blew up my shuttle. Mother was the one who insisted no one be told, said it would help me stay safe. Seems she was right. Of course they seem to be trying really hard at the moment. That's why Father hired Captain Narine; normally I'd have just taken the flag ship to Ballan, but old Captain Varn is a dear, but totally not up to assassination attempts."
"Yes," Dr Maron said and picked up the correct spare arm from the box, "you've mentioned that before."
Karla took that as her cue to shut up and just held out her arm. As soon as the spare hand was within a few centimetres of her it picked up the signals from the rest of her arm and the connections began to wave back at the ones still attached to her. She wasn't really sure how it worked, nanites or something that had never made a lot of sense even when she had looked it up, but the two sets of cables came together, merged and then pulled the new limb onto her old one. In a few seconds the skin had meshed together over the join and she could wiggle her fingers.
"Well," she said, bouncing to her feet, "thank you, Dr Maron. There's only one day left to Ballan so I hope this is the last time I will be in need of your services."
"We can but hope," the other woman replied dryly.
The wedding would be in a few days, a huge grand affair, but since they were supposed to be so in love it had been arranged that Karla would arrive a few days early. Originally the wedding was supposed to have been on Trynos, but the king of Ballan was far too ill to travel, so all the arrangements had been shifted. The likelihood was that they'd be having a royal funeral pretty sharpish after the royal wedding, which would save on the price of flowers at least.
Karla smiled politely at everyone who curtsied or bowed and shook her hand as she was taken from the shuttle to Prince Daken's private suite. She just hoped he wasn't boring, because she could put up with a lot of things but boredom wasn't one of them. Her guard joined the two palace guards outside Daken's rooms and she was shown in and offered a seat on a very nice chaise long.
"The Prince will be with you in one moment," Lord Ran, the master of ceremonies, told her. "If you need anything, please do not hesitate to use the summoner. This one has been coded to your fingerprints."
He pointed at a small box on the table that had a gold biometric scanner embedded in the top.
"Thank you," she said, still smiling in her best inane way and batting her eyelashes at the lord, "you're too kind."
The man bowed and smiled back before hurrying out.
The first thing Karla noticed once she was alone was some hushed whispering coming from the next room. The fact that one of her ears was a cybernetic implant made it very easy to eavesdrop. Unfortunately she only picked up the final words of what had to have been a conversation and they told her nothing. However, it wasn't a shock when a nervous looking young man appeared through the doorway.
"Forgive me," the young man said, "I am Prince Daken."
What she totally did not expect next was for him to produce a small pistol from behind his back and shoot straight at her. The fact he closed his eyes tight shut as he pulled the trigger gave her a clue he wasn't used to firing anything. A dart hit her in the arm as she stood up.
"Oh you have to be kidding," Karla said and rolled her eyes.
She plucked the dart out of her bicep and flicked it away.
"You've been behind all these assassination attempts, really?" she could hardly believe it.
Her fiancé was standing there looking like a fish out of water as his mouth opened and closed.
"How ... you should be ... that's not possible ..."
"Cyborg," she said and plucked the gun out of his hands, "one of the things I was going to discuss with you today."
Daken kept on doing his impression of a fish.
"Why exactly all the theatrics?" she asked. "You could just have said no to the wedding."
"And have the trade negotiations fail?" Daken finally found his voice. "I could never do that to my people."
"But you could kill me," she replied, unimpressed.
She rolled her eyes again and sat down. Daken actually looked embarrassed now.
"It seemed like such a good plan when Phlyn suggested it," the young man said somewhat helplessly.
"My father's right hand man," Daken said and sat down as well.
All in all he looked rather dejected.
"Did he give you the gun?" she asked, spotting a plot a mile away.
"Then he's setting you up. Your Dad's going to abdicate in favour of you because of ill health, correct?"
"Has anyone checked for poison?"
Daken looked utterly horrified and Karla just sighed. Some people just didn't have the sense they were born with. Never had she been more glad for all the training she had received as a child. Now her mother's insistence on the lessons was looking more and more reasonable and less like obsessive paranoia.
"Why don't you want to marry me?" she decided to find out all the facts.
"I'm gay," was the instant response.
Karla waited for more.
"That's it? You're gay and you think that's a good reason to kill me?"
Possibly she was just a little irate at that.
"Phlyn said you would insist on all sorts of things and if your advisors found out they would do terrible things to those I have had relations with because there were laws on Trynos and ..."
Karla held up her hand to stop him.
"Just assume everything Phlyn said was a lie."
She also read between the lines.
"You're also in love with someone else, am I right?"
Daken appeared even more nervous all of a sudden.
"All lies, remember," she added when Daken remained silent, "I'm not going to do anything to him."
Suddenly the door at the back of the room burst in and a young man brandishing what looked like a hairdryer barrelled out.
"Don't you dare hurt him," was the screamed ultimatum.
It was really hard to resist the urge to bang her head on the table. Daken's people were clearly prone to melodrama.
"I'm not hurting anyone," she said, "now put that down before you accidentally give yourself a blow job."
Daken's friend looked utterly stunned by her words.
"I'll shoot you," he managed to stutter.
"With a Harrington 4001, I think not," she said and rolled her eyes again. She was going to give herself a headache if she wasn't careful.
The young man kind of sagged and looked so incredibly sad that Karla actually felt sorry for him.
"Please don't hurt him," he said in such a plaintive tone any move on her part would have been like kicking a puppy.
"Furthest thing from my mind," she promised, and it was, because the whole situation was utterly ridiculous.
Daken reached out and the other man went to him instantly and it was kind of adorable how the prince pulled his friend into his lap and petted him to make sure he was alright.
"That was very brave, Cas," Daken said, even as the prince took the hairdryer away.
Karla thought she might be ill, it was so sweet.
"Okay," she said, snapping both their attentions back to her, "not to break up this delightful scene, but we need a plan."
Daken brightened at her words.
"You mean you're not just going to turn me in?" he asked.
"It's obvious Phlyn wants to usurp your throne and scupper the trade agreements in one blow," she replied, "so of course not."
The look Daken gave her said that maybe it wasn't so obvious to him.
"The trick will be making sure he doesn't have a chance to do anything to your father before we have him in custody," she mused, ignoring the blank look Cas was giving her.
She tapped her chin as she thought it through. There was the option of having Daken bluff it out with Phlyn, but then she looked at her fiancé and completely ruled that out. Daken was about as likely to pull that off as Cas was to suddenly declare he was straight.
"Okay," she said, "well we'll definitely have to go through with it, our planets would never understand if we don't ..."
Daken opened his mouth to object.
"... but," she added before he could say anything, "we can come to some arrangement. You're pretty, but frankly I prefer my men a little more butch."
The expression on the prince's face said he clearly wasn't sure if he should be offended by that.
"It's not as if we even ever have to have sex," she said as she thought about it, "all offspring will be dealt with via artificial insemination anyway. You can keep Cas and I have a certain captain who has been incredibly gallant so far, but I'm sure I can corrupt him. We'll need a ship to do a tour of all the colonies anyway."
She smiled to herself as the plan formed in her mind; she was beginning to think everything was not such a disaster after all.
"Hmmm," of course that didn't solve the issue of Daken's father, "I think I'm about to insist on a royal audience and of course you're coming with me."
"What about Phlyn?" Daken asked, sensible enough not to question anything she said.
"Just look incredibly worried and inept as if you couldn't manage to do what he told you to do and he won't do anything rash."
It wasn't going to be hard to convince Phlyn that Daken was incompetent, after all the man thought the Prince was an idiot. On that one point Phlyn might have been right, but at least Daken seemed like a loyal idiot. The way the Prince looked at Cas was very telling.
"We'll need some backup," she decided and then smiled, "and I know just the way to get it."
A couple of minutes later she was in contact with the Queen of Heaven. Of course the call would be being monitored, but she could work with that.
"Captain Narine," she said, giving him her best princess smile on the monitor, "I'm going to see the king. I will need my personal stylist down here immediately, I can't possibly meet him in the same dress in which I greeted my fiancé. It wouldn't be seemly."
"Personal stylist?" the captain asked, looking perplexed.
"Yes, right away."
"It can't wait, Captain," she interrupted him. "What with these assassination attempts I'm just not looking my best. In case you were wondering he's the big one, looks a lot like you come to think of it."
She saw the moment the captain caught on since she didn't actually have a personal stylist with her. She had a PA and a guard, but since her wedding dress and regalia had been sent on another ship her wedding planner and stylist were with them.
"Of course, Princess Karla," Captain Narine said with a smile; "I'll have him sent right down. I'll have some of my crew carry the luggage for him."
"Thank you so much, Captain," she said and air clapped just to complete the image.
She switched off the viewer and turned back to Daken and Cas.
"Is your personal stylist a bodyguard or something?" Cas asked in all innocence and Karla had to remind herself that not everyone was gifted with brains.
"I don't have a personal stylist," she said and gave him a smile rather than rolling her eyes. "Captain Narine will be here soon, with armed backup, pretending to be my stylist."
"Oh," Daken said and then smiled as well, "that's awfully clever."
When Captain Narine arrived Karla was impressed. Gone was the star ship captain and in his place was a snappily dressed hunk with purple hair and designer glasses. Karla had absolutely no idea how the man had managed it.
"Princess," Narine greeted with an over exuberant bow, taking her hand and kissing it; "of course I am at your service."
They were being watched by two of the palace guards and the performance was perfect.
"Thank the lords of heaven," she said and ushered him and his retinue in. "I have to look my best."
"Of course you do, Your Highness," he replied as the door closed.
"We have a problem," Karla said as soon as the rest of the palace was shut out.
"I gathered that," Narine replied, "good act, by the way, you had me fooled."
"It keeps me alive," she said without the slightest hint of apology. "Captain Narine, Prince Daken of Ballan and his consort Cas, Daken, Cas, this is Captain Narine."
"Consort?" Narine asked.
"Long story," she replied, "I'll explain later. Firstly we have to deal with a man called Phlyn; he's the King's right hand man and he organised the assassination attempts on my person and I think he's killing the king."
"You don't do little problems do you?" Narine commented. "What was he planning to do with Prince Daken?"
"Frame him for my death," she said without going into detail; the last thing she needed was grey areas. "We're going to visit the king and when I identify the poison we're going to expose this whole plot."
Narine lifted a well plucked eyebrow, Karla was impressed by his dedication to his duty, that had to have hurt.
"Exactly how are we going to do that?" the captain asked.
"Poison sweeper," she replied and held up her left hand and let the palm pop open, "and then I'm going to plant the evidence on Phlyn."
She grinned at the thought. Mostly she was all for due process, but this was one of those awkward moments when playing by the rules just wouldn't work.
"You have cybernetic implants?"
There was something about the way Narine spoke that caught her attention. A lot of people were a little squeamish about cyborg technology, but the information seemed to have had the opposite effect on the good captain.
"Lots of them," she said in a tone only Narine could hear to test the water; "both legs, both arms, right eye, left ear, right lung."
Of all things she saw Narine's pupil's dilate and she couldn't help glancing down; the leather trousers he was wearing really didn't hide a lot.
"Later," she said quietly, "I need to talk to you about hiring your ship for a really long tour of the outer colonies. Daken's going to be occupied while we're travelling."
She looked significantly in Cas' direction.
"At your service, Your Highness," Narine said and his voice was kind of deep and gravelly.
Karla mentally kicked herself. Stopping usurpers came before banging the hell out of good looking men.
"Right," she said and grabbed her squealing libido, pushing it firmly to the back of her mind, "I need another dress and then we're going visiting."
No one had to tell Karla which one was Phlyn. The man appeared as soon as she arrived with Daken at the king's chambers and proceeded to pretend he had not been informed of why they were there.
"It is my duty as the daughter of the royal house of Trynos to give the greetings of my father to the king," she said as Phlyn tried to make some kind of excuse. "It would be rude if I did not and a princess is never rude."
Phlyn looked at Daken and the prince gave a very good impression of being scared witless.
"I couldn't," Daken said as if he was about to say more.
"Of course you couldn't refuse your lovely fiancé," Phlyn put in smoothly, "but I must insist the visit be very short."
"I totally understand," Karla said and gave him her best vapid expression. "Lorn and the rest of the boys will stay here if that's not too much of a problem. Lorn would insist on being here to make sure I looked my best."
Phlyn acquiesced with a very fake smile. It all seemed to be going perfectly. Then, however, as they went to enter the king's suite, Phlyn went to go with them.
"The private words of kings are scared," Karla announced promptly as the man tried to chaperone them.
It seemed Phlyn knew when he was beaten.
"I only wished to open the doors for you," Phlyn said as if he had never intended on going in.
Karla was really going to enjoy bringing down the smug bastard.
It was dimly lit inside and there was an aide sitting by the king's bed. Daken actually took the initiative and shooed the man out. That was when Karla held up her hand to stop him speaking.
"Bug," she said as her right index finger vibrated.
It looked really odd truth be told, but apparently the designers hadn't thought that through. As she held her hand out her finger twitched in the direction of the device it had sniffed out. When she found it she zapped it with a small electrical charge and the bug whined and died.
"Okay, we can talk now," she said, walking up beside the bed.
The king was deeply asleep, which was probably a good thing. Explaining what she was doing to a semi-lucid man probably wouldn't have been fun.
"What should I do?" Daken asked.
"Find everything your father uses regularly and put it on that table," she said as she began to sweep the items beside the bed.
The poison sweeper didn't just detect poisons, it analysed whatever it was pointed at and the information was fed straight to her cerebral cortex, so she was given a list of all the medication as she worked. There was nothing on the bedside table that shouldn't have been there. By the time she was done with that Daken had pulled a lot of things from the bathroom and put them just where she had told him to.
They had to work quickly before Phlyn said to hell with royal protocol, so she waved her hand over the whole pile. The information being piped into her brain made her eyes water and she almost jumped out of her skin when the silent alarm went off, even though she should have been expecting it.
"That," she said, pointing at a small, ornate bottle.
"But that's just oil of fario root," Daken said; "it is the royal scent."
"It's been poisoned," she countered, "with devoxi."
It was probably worrying that she knew all the names of all the popular poisons and some that trained assassins had likely never heard of as well.
With a thought she sent a command to her left hand which smoothed the skin and removed her finger prints before picking up the bottle.
"Time to plant the evidence," she said with relish.
Daken just nodded, clearly completely out of his depth. He was sweet, but she was going to have to train him to use his brain more.
They walked out and Karla immediately put her hand to her head and swooned right at Phlyn.
"Oh," she said as the man caught her, "it's so terrible."
She even managed to squeeze out a tear as she slipped the bottle into Phlyn's pocket. Crying women always seemed to faze even the most heartless man and he never so much as noticed. Hamming it up to the max, she allowed herself to be sat in a chair and fussed over.
"Water please," she requested.
Of course a glass was brought for her as quickly as possible and then one of Narine's men stepped forward with a hand held poison scanner.
"The attempts on the princess' life, you understand," the crewman said.
"Oh, please do," Phlyn said.
The crewman was good; he made a show of scanning the water and then just happened to back straight into Phlyn and lower the device. Of course the alarm immediately sounded and this one was not silent.
Of course it all went like clockwork from there. Phlyn was caught with the poison, Dr Maron conveniently turned up to swoop to the king's beside, confirming devoxi poisoning and prescribing the antidote. Karla screamed and pointed a lot to make sure Phlyn could not talk his way out of it and that was that. All very exciting and then all very boring as bureaucracy took over and a very awkward official asked her what she had seen.
It seemed like hours before she and Narine were escorted to the suite she had been given until she and Daken were officially man and wife. Of course everyone still thought that Narine was her personal stylist.
"So," he said as soon as they were alone, "that job you mentioned?"
"Oh yes," she said smiling at him and batting her eyelashes, "there are some conditions."
"And they would be, Princess?" he asked, playing along with her act.
"Well I need a personal bodyguard at night," she said in her best innocent tone, "and sometimes during the day as well, and I'm a princess so he has to be high ranking. Would you like to be a lord as well as a captain, or maybe a viscount? I think you'd make a good viscount."
"I would love to be a viscount," Narine replied and stepped into her personal space.
"Oh goodie," she said and clapped her hands, then she picked him up and threw him on the bed just to see the look on his face.
It was a cross somewhere between shock and mindless arousal; she was going to have so much fun.
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About Wittegen Press:
Wittegen Press is a small independent publisher of eBooks based in the UK. We publish on many eBook sites. To see our whole catalogue please visit our website.
Tasha was born and raised in rural Kent, England where she still lives with her husband Rob, just down the road from her twin sister and sometimes writing partner Sophie. Tasha has been writing since she was a pre-teen and chose to take it up as a full time career when her company downsized and made the whole software engineering department redundant. After setting up Wittegen Press with her sister as a brand for their books she has not looked back, publishing novels, novellas and short stories in a wide range of genres.
Before taking up writing professionally she was very active in the world of fanfiction and still believes it is a wonderful creative outlet, even though she doesn't have very much time to play anymore. She likes to maintain a lively presence online and welcomes new friends, readers and writers alike.
For more information about Tasha's books and where to find her at places like Twitter, please check out her profile at Wittegen Press, linked below.
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