Those Aren’t Biscuits – 009 – The Prison Cat of Alabama

ThoseAren'tBisctuis

Hey folks, the latest episode of Those Aren’t Biscuits is live now.

In this week’s episode we explore The Rolling Stones’ place in early American history, we get up close and personal with 90s Superman and we take a chess lesson from the amazing Charles Dance.

Subscribe on iTunes, Visit the feed, or download directly.

Two Cephalopods Walk Into a Bar: Available Now

Two Cephalopods CoverHello all! Just wanted to let you know that I have a new book available on Amazon now. It’s a double volume containing both of my previously published collections for a special price. Details below.

Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk

Two Cephalopods Walk Into A Bar: Sixteen Little Stories

This double volume contains both The Octopus of Suspense, and Octopus Returns.

The Octopus of Suspense

The Octopus of Suspense is a collection of eight little stories that will take you somewhere new. Exploring a range of genres, each story enters the world of a unique character. From the desk of troubled pulp writer, to a starship in the distant future, The Octopus of Suspense offers a surprise at every turn. Originally written for weekly release online, they have been revisited and expanded for this new collection. Each story is between 1000 and 1500 words long.

Octopus Returns

From the author of Christmas Past and Time Trial.

The Octopus is back with another eight little stories. Visit the future in PILOT, discover the dangers of time travel in DETRITUS, don’t touch the glass in MIRROR, MIRROR, and many more.

Each story offers something a little different, but each will have you on the edge of your seat!

Short Story: Compassion

Coloured ChairsHere’s a quick piece I wrote last night. I’ve been a bit lax lately when it comes to writing every day so I’m making myself get through at least a thousand per day. With that in mind, this story is a little shorter than my usual Flash Fiction stories, but I thought it was worth sharing. Let me know what you think. 

Owen.

* * *

Compassion

Fell knew a tear had left her eye and was now heading down her cheek. She wanted to lift a hand and brush it away, but then someone might notice she was crying and the last thing she wanted was to be noticed. At times like this it was best to be unremarkable, and then maybe you wouldn’t be called at all. It was a lie, but it was all she had to stop herself from breaking into uncontrollable sobs. Then she would be processed sooner so she didn’t unsettle the others, and anything that would keep her out of the office for a little longer was worth the self delusion.

It wasn’t fair. That was not surprising, life was not fair, but it stung all the same. She had always done her best to avoid finding herself here, she hit all her quotas and she worked without every really stopping to consider if she liked her job. She just did it. Nobody really knew how the selection process worked, and they knew that the administrators would never say why one person was picked over another, but still the traditional wisdom saw out. Work hard, do what your Mother tells you, or you’ll be sent for processing too and it’ll be too late to say your prayers and meet your quotas then.

She could feel a quiver in her through, she tried to distract herself. She watched others in the room. It was quiet, quieter than it should be, if the selections were so important why was she the only one there. If she stood, walked out of here and never came back would anyone really notice. She would never know, nobody ever left. There was too much at stake. Back at the village, their work quotas would be lowered for everyone, she couldn’t take that away from them. If they even knew she’d thought about it, they’d never let her through the gate. She sat back in her chair and lolled her head, the tears came freely now.

An older woman came a sat beside her, she did not say anything for a few moments, but when Fell made eye-contact, she smiled.

“Good morning, Fell” said the woman. She extended a hand, adorned with a discrete signet ring. Fell sat up straight. “Forgive me, Administrator.”

“There is nothing to forgive.” She nodded at Fell and the two of them watched the small queue filter down. “You’ve had a long day.”

“How do you know?” She asked.

“I’m working on your case,” she had a file tucked under her arm. “All the important details are here. I’m sorry you haven’t been called yet.”

“Is it time for me to be seen?”

“No,” the administrator pointed to a small camera in the corner of the room. “They told me you looked upset, it’s perfectly understandable. I’m here to make sure you’re feeling alright.”

Fell bit her tongue.

“It’s ok, you can speak. We’re not monsters, you know.”

“I’ve never been to the processing centre before.” She glanced at the file. “Does it say that in there?”

“It does.” The administrator opened up the file and Fell caught a glimpse of every detail about her life, laid out in a double spread. “It also tells me a little about your family. Are you here on your own today?”

She nodded. “I didn’t want them to come.”

“A wise choice,” the administrator folded the file back up and dropped it on the chair. She leaned a across a looked right at Fell as she spoke. “You’re strong, I can see that. Strong enough to keep them away, and strong enough to sit her quietly while every urge is telling you to run out the door.”

Fell went wide eyed. “That would be a crime.”

“And yet people do it here every day.”

Fell looked at her hands, she felt ashamed. All she had thought of since she sat was getting up again and leaving, now she was being praised for being too frightened to go through with it. The administrator seemed to know what she was thinking and held her hand gently.

“I like you Fell,” she said. “I just want you to know, you go in there with the same dignity you’ve shown out here, and I’ll make sure your family isn’t billed for the processing.”

Fell’s eyes welled again. “You’d do that?”

“You have my word.” A red light flashed near one of the staff doors and the administrator shook her head. “Now I’m going to have to be going, I’m afraid.”

“Fell 3-6-9?” Someone called.

“Me too.” They nodded their goodbyes, and Fell got to her feet.

They weren’t too bad, Fell thought. They had a bad rep, the Administrators. People said they were sneaky, but Fell had never met one before today and she had seemed pretty nice. Someone had to make the rules, and you couldn’t please anyone.

As Fell walked to the reception desk, she saw one of the guards walking a Runner into the back. He struggled, but they’d already sedated him. His family weren’t likely to be let off the bill. There was a young man behind the glass who greeted her with a smile, and Fell was surprised she smiled back. She glared at the guards as she passed them on the way to the processing offices. She pushed the double doors open and walked down the famous white corridor, the door’s were alphabetical. She strode confidently until she found Room F. There was a moment’s fear as her hand touched the door, but in a second she was inside. She was inside the Room F that had haunted her dreams since the day she learned about the processing centre, but now it wasn’t so scary.

In the centre of the room was a small, comfortable looking chair. In front was a table with a glass of water and two small green tablets. On the wall a time counted down from the moment she entered the room. She knew what she had to do, and she had ten minutes to do it in. She sat in the chair, she briefly considered waiting the timer out and making the most of it, but the guards were on the other side, and she’d like to be done before she had to see them again.

With six minutes on the clock, Fell took the green tablets and died before the time ran out.

Those Aren’t Biscuits – 008 – America’s Cleanest Squirrels

ThoseAren'tBisctuis

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It’s that time again, the latest Those Aren’t Biscuits is live now:

In this week’s show we discuss the nightmare of squirrel segregation, why American kebabs gyrate, why good TV shows get cancelled, and we give you all the info on the new game for the Nintendo DS that might just save your life.

Subscribe on iTunes, hit the feed, or download directly.

Watson – A Short Story

It’s short story time again!

A little late this week because I’ve been insanely busy, but better late than never. This is a story I’ve wanted to write for a really long time, starring Arthur Conan Doyle’s wonderful Doctor Watson. I’m a big Sherlock Holmes fan, but I wanted to approach the story a little bit differently. These characters and books are all in the public domain now, so you should all go write your own too. 

Let me know what you think. 

– Owen

London Factory

* * *

Watson

Doctor Watson consulted his notes. This had to be the place, he had been through the crime scene thoroughly. More thoroughly, no doubt, than the Inspector had hoped, but he had all he needed. The murder was quick, and clean, with none of the quirks that would have been needed to get Holmes out of his study and into the street, but Watson prided himself on being somewhat less selective than Holmes had been. His criteria were only that the crime be serious, and his help be useful in apprehending a suspect.

He did not spot them immediately, but at the scene he had located what he considered to be the three essential clues. Firstly, the victim’s body and clothes were stained with oil. He did not have time to do proper tests, but he worked under the assumption that it was some sort of machine oil. A quick perusal through his reference notes and he was confident it was used for lubricating a variety of factory machinery. This narrowed the search immediately to the kind of rooms a labourer could afford. Secondly, he was looking for a man. One of considerable strength. The brutality of the crime, and the effectiveness of the brutality made that a certainty. That mean hard labour, he could exclude the factories hiring women and children. No textiles, or filling jam jars.

Watson stood under the light of the gas lamp and glared at the small lodgings ahead. The last piece of evidence, a small amount of mortar from one of London’s older buildings. Holmes would have said it was as unique as any fingerprint, and yet it had taken him nearly three hours to compare. It was late now, the body that had been deserted in the street would be cold and forgotten now, but her killer was still free. Now here he was, at the only point in London that his three pieces of evidence intersected. He reached inside his coat and drew out his revolver.

The door to the old house opened with little force. Inside was darkness, at first he thought the house was merely empty, but as his eyes adjusted he could see that no one had lived there for some time. He tread carefully as he made his way to the stairs, the owners might have been long gone but someone was always there to take shelter in an empty house. The man he was looking for might have been a vagrant, but it didn’t fit the evidence. He wouldn’t know until he’d examined the building.

He continued up the stairs until he reached a window at the top. It looked out across to the house opposite. Watson almost walked on, but for the light in the window across from him. The distance seemed to close, Watson felt as if he could reach out and touch the man across. The man was frantic, he peered out of the glass and back into Watson’s eyes. He was huge, almost seven feet, his skin stained in grease and grime.

He had been too sure of himself, to proud of his application if Holmes’ impeccable method, and yet he was not Holmes. He had followed the evidence to their source, and yet nothing said the man he was looking for actually lived in the building. How could he have been so stupid. The killer in the window shouted and smashed the lamp behind him. The house opposite was plunged into darkness.

Watson burst on to the street, he hear someone running and gave chase. If the killer was still in the building, he would probably stay. Bunker down and hope he’d mistaken Watson’s intentions, but if that was the man making his escape, Watson would never catch him. He slipped in gave between the terraces and caught sight of the enormous man, silhouetted against the lamplight. His heart was pounding in his chest, but he had to keep going.

As he ran, he thought of Holmes. It had been five years since his friend left London and in that time he had spoken to him only twice. The first was a telegram sent from Sussex shortly after he retired, he informed Watson that he had bought a small property far from the company of strangers, that it was absolutely beautiful and that Watson should visit him some time. Watson replied immediately, and told him he would happily make the journey any time. He received no reply.

The man was keeping his distance, he slowed, as did Watson. They passed people in the street, but the seemed to know better than to interfere. As Watson got his second wind, the man came up on the old Wetherby’s factory and slipped between the back gates. Watson slowed, the man was trapped. He tried to regain his breath, but it was no good. He was getting old. A shame, he heard Holmes’ voice in his head, his physicality was always more useful than his intellect. Would Holmes have really been so callous at a time like this? It felt like it at times, and yet in the years since Holmes left, Watson’s intellect had been useful, hadn’t it? He had assisted in the solution of many cases Holmes’ wouldn’t bother with, and had succeeded more often than he failed.

Still, he felt a fraud. He held his stomach and felt his lungs burn. He stepped up towards the gates. He would never been Holmes, but he could still bring this man to justice. Watson gripped his revolver and followed the man through the gates.

The yard was empty. A gas lamp hung over, illuminating the dark corners. It was empty except for a few sacks of scrap and waste, and a door the Watson guessed led into the back of the factory. He tried it, it was locked from the inside. He turned on his heel, looked for the men behind the gate, hiding the knock him down from behind, but there was nothing. He paused, he had seen something. He ran his hand along the iron gatepost. It was scored along the side.

He remembered Holmes’s letter, the second communication. It was short, Holmes said only that he regretted not being in touch sooner, that his retirement was busier than he anticipated, and that he was happy. It was unlike Holmes, until the end, in which he remarked that he had heard Watson had been taking cases of his own. This was, he asserted, “predictable but fortunate.” Watson wondered if Holmes had been hurt that he had chosen to carry on the work without him, but dismissed it. That would have been unlike him too.

Holmes often had a way of making Watson look a fool, but it was only when the man was gone that he really felt one. He was missing something, Holmes might have ascribed his success to “his method,” but it was apparent to even the most casual observer but there was something unique in the man’s mind. And yet, all the evidence was there, if he could only step back and see it as Holmes did.

Watson spun, pointed his revolver at a window on the second floor and fired without hesitation.

The man lived in the area, he worked in a factory, it was reasonable to assume he worked in this factory. He probably knew someone who could open the door from the other side. What was he doing in his rooms that night? He must have known Watson was tracking him down, he was waiting for him. From the minute Watson gave chase, the man was leading him into a trap. And then there was the score on the gatepost, he had seen that before. The mark from a rifle shot, someone practising for the big moment.

Watson lowered his gun and looked at the window. The point where all the evidence intersected. The seven foot man was slumped over a military rifle, three feet of him limp across the window frame.

Elementary, he thought.

Those Aren’t Biscuits – 007 – CIA DVD Rentals

ThoseAren'tBisctuisHello Podcast Fans! The latest episode of Those Aren’t Biscuits is live now.

This week we investigate the real story behind those Blue Box kiosks, make steps to go into business for ourselves. We give you all the latest on a two year old James Bond movie, and discuss why Infamous First Light is awesome (and why it isn’t). Then there’s just time to explore the latest chapter in the Alien Universe coming to a Nintendo DS near you.

As always you can subscribe on iTunes, visit the feed here, or download direct.

Infamous: First Light – Review

Infamous_First_Light_cover_artInfamous (Sorry. “inFamous”) is a funny old series. The first title was hotly anticipated back when the PS3 was low on exclusives and any game that had trophies was probably going to sell well, but the final game wasn’t all that impressive. It certainly wasn’t bad, and the story of Cole McGrath, the unwitting courier of a timebomb that turns most of his hometown into a quarantine zone, was interesting enough. The problem was that playing as a Cole, a electricity themed superhero, was never really that impressive. The city looked great, the powers were fun, if a bit shootery, but progress was very much in the “run here, collect this, run there, zap that” mode. Infamous 2 was much the same, and it wasn’t until the Vampire themed Festival of Blood  DLC that the series really started to click for me. Second Son, a PS4 exclusive, was a real step forward for the series. Drawing a line under the first games and essentially giving the player a soft reboot, Second Son took us to a beautifully rendered version of Seattle, in a future where those with powers, Conduits, are segregated, imprisoned and oppressed. The gameplay was much the same, but greater care had been taken to weave a more compelling narrative through Second Son’s toy box. The results weren’t groundbreaking, but effective.

Now we have First Light, an add-on to Second Son that follows Festival of Blood’s standalone release model. This is a traditional story expansion DLC with the added bonus that you don’t need the original game to play. If you do own Second Son, however, you can play as that game’s protagonist in some Score Arenas. It’s a nice model that offers something for fans of the original and also means the game serves as a taster for those who might be on the fence about Second Son. Given that the game is also one of this month’s free PSPlus games, Sony are probably hoping this will funnel a few extra sales for the series.

First Light puts you in control of Fetch Walker, a supporting character from Second Son. Set two years prior to the main game, you follow Fetch through a short, story driven adventure that fleshes out her backstory a little. Most of this takes place in a lighter, restricted version of Seattle. This is before the military DUP arrive, and so traversal through the city is quieter and, frankly, less interesting. The story itself is low key, but interesting. Fetch and her brother are hoping to raise enough money to leave the country when her brother is abducted by one of the warring gangs. In order to rescue him, you must complete a sequence of missions, track down collectibles, upgrades your skills and generally zip around the city using your superpowers. For those who’ve never played the series, this is a good taster for the gameplay, but anyone else will probably find it all a little too familiar.

Problems creep in early, the cut down version of Seattle is really too small to ever feel like you’re actually exploring, and some of Fetch’s powers are unlocked way too early. Right of the bat, you have the ability to zip around the city uninterrupted, which takes any sense of space out of it instantly. In Second Son, this power was also available but had to be unlocked after quite a lot of gameplay. Problems like this run throughout First Light, and it seems to be a result of trying to compress the entire experience of an Infamous game into a title that lasts only a few hours. This wouldn’t matter so much if it were true DLC, but as a standalone title, people are going to go into it blind, and the result is a game that feels slightly poorly paced out.

The story also suffers for the format. The problem is that Fetch’s story in Second Son, from a broken person out for revenge, to a survivor at peace with herself, was more satisfying and at odds with the story presented here somewhat. There are no outright contradictions, but playing through both stories presents us with a character who somehow manages to come to terms with all her old wounds twice in a row.

First Light isn’t bad, but where Festival of Blood seemed to blossom as a quirky, disposable title that knew it could do whatever it wanted with Infamous 2’s engine, this game just feels so confined. Seattle still looks beautiful, but it’s pared back to the point of boredom. The Neon powers are still a lot of fun, but they don’t gel as well with the gameplay, and are overpowered. Fetch has great lead character potential, but we join her in the middle of events that we know are just backstory. Exploring how she moved on after the collapse of the DUP? That’s a story I’d like to see.

The real winner is the game engine. Seattle still looks great, powers are beautiful and it’s fun to zip about fighting crime. There are even a lot of side missions to get on with and armoured cars to destroy, but that’s about it. There’s no real impetus to move on with the story. It feels very much like those side missions in the first Infamous where your Elvis impersonating friend phones you up and suggests you do something mildly distracting between the next big story battle. And that’s not bad, but it could have been so much more. As for the score arenas? It depends on if you like that kind of thing. I’ve never played the series for the combat, and I find the larger encounters more tedious than fun.

If you’re a PSPlus subscriber, this game is free, and for that price it’s a no brainer, but First Light is hard to recommend. A used copy of Second Son offers everything this game does, and quite a bit more. There’s fun to be had here, particularly if you’re a fan of the series, but not really enough unique to justify the game’s existence. Certainly not enough to part cash for it.

Against the Wall – A Short Story

hubble_large_04Hey guys, it’s short story time again. This story came about because I was processing an idea for a longer story and I wanted to get a feel for the setting so I wrote this up as a quick idea then fleshed it out. Let me know what you think. 

***

Beckett gripped the ladder, and through a fog of booze, made an attempt at a controlled descent. His knee cracked with every rung, but he wasn’t far from the ground. He still put his footing wrong at the last step and came down a bit too heavy, but he’d done a pretty good job. He checked his surroundings, one of the old Cavalier 2-26s. There was a time when they’d made up most of the Hive’s skin, the place had a little class in those days. Long before he arrived. Still, the Cavs were big ships, high quality, not the like the slums they built around them. By the time he worked the skin, the slums were mostly old cargo haulers surrounded by a network of sealing tubes and snub fighters. God knows what the shell was made of now.

He missed his cosy office, almost wished he’d never taken the job. No, he didn’t.

“How’d you like to nail Dylan for good?” She’d asked. She leaned in, asked him to keep this in her strictest confidence. She was shy, held back on the information until she knew she could trust him. And she could, he’d been working on putting Governor Dylan behind bars most of his life. The Hive was corrupt, everyone knew that. Even in the centre, where the ships still looked new and there were no blackouts, a good coin got you further than a decent job. Dylan was a special kind of corrupt though.

No, he didn’t regret taking the job. What he regretted was taking such a cushy place when he got the chance; it was making him soft. He found the 2-26’s exit without bumping into anyone, but had to squeeze through the old maintenance hatch into a communal hall that looked like a derelict freighter. He had to suck his gut in to get through, desk job was making him a little wider too. A few people milled about the old market stalls, mostly selling food that looked scraped together from vending machine overs. The map on the wall that reassured him; the route was a pretty straight line from here to the shell.

Of all his regrets, moving to The Hive wasn’t one of them. He arrived when he was twenty-three, he’d wanted to see it all his life. For some people, The Hive was the galaxy’s biggest folly; for others, a symbol of human ingenuity. For Beckett, it was just a place to find a good job. It started off as a small cargo fleet that settled a little out of the solar system. Deregulation of the shipping lanes made it more dangerous to travel alone, four or five ships were trading so often they started leaving the docking clamps together and stayed in a loose Orbit around the nearest star. That was ancient history now, for all Beckett’s life, the Hive consisted of tens of thousands of ships. Some big, some small. Some intact, the others broken down and harvested for resources. The up and coming’s in the academy liked to call it a free-form space station, but most of the traders called it Bric-a-Brac Moon.

Beckett was nearly there now. The outer layers of The Hive, the shell, contained the newest ships. Little more than single accommodation craft, wired in for power and emergency propulsion. Things were risky, but there was always work to be done. Truth was a nightmare but Beckett looked at it with all the admiration of a home town. If the little sun glider he’d lived in when he first arrived was still around, it would probably be carved to pieces by now. Hell, he reminded himself, it wouldn’t even be the shell anymore. The place had added twenty or thirty layers since then. He climbed through another sealing tube, breaking through into an observation deck. Crowded as always. The only place the rich bothered to visit in the shell, and they went with an escort. A chance to look out at the stars. And while they stared out, Beckett stared back the way he had travelled.

It had taken him days on foot. The last ten layers were suffering intermittent blackouts as the ships became smaller. There were no elevators, just hatches, doors, small empty cabins, and locked habitation centres to traverse. That had taken a day all by itself, but he had reached the skin. The outer layer of The Hive. Travelling this far was hard work. About the only thing harder was travelling to a specific spot on the skin. Going deep was easy, the centre was almost impossible to miss, but the outer shell of the hive was the size of a small planet. Beckett had been careful to plan his route, and to take his time. Not too much time, if he wanted to meet his contact he could not be late, but people who were careless often didn’t return. He held on to the image of the woman who hired him. No names, be discreet, meet the contact. One of Dylan’s rejects, banished to the shell for knowing too much. And that made sense too, the shell was full of people who had pissed someone off.

After six days of travel, Beckett had arrived. The skin was a thin but busy layer, usually full of engineers and new arrivals sealing their ships into the infrastructure before assessing the resources for harvesting, but the meeting place was empty. He walked the corridors for a bit, getting a feel for the place. He could see the workers through a viewing window, hard at work on the latest member of the hive, a small cargo vessel that was nearly broken down now. The meeting place was in the opposite direction; a small, beaten Nebula Yacht that looked empty. Becket climbed aboard. There was nobody there. He checked his watch. He was early, less than an hour, but better than he expected. He hoped his contact appreciated it.

He examined the ship, he had arrived in a ship like it. It had been his Fathers. He hadn’t thought about the old man in a while, he never appreciated Beckett joining the Hive. Old fool, half the solar system was on board now. Probably living in some slum somewhere, and never even bothered to get in touch. Beckett found an old overturned chair, one of the last bits of furniture left in the craft, and made himself comfortable. Everything had been taken, the slums were so bad these days, the poor sods living there had probably stripped it before the engineers arrived.

After two hours, Beckett gave up. Whoever his contact was, they weren’t coming. He had a feeling he’d been set up, no doubt Dylan had something planned in the city and wanted him out of the way. He felt a fool, before consoling himself. He had, at least, been willing to head out for it. Better than most would do. He lifted himself up and walked to hatch, which slammed shut when he was inches away. A radio crackled behind him, he spun around but he was alone on the ship. It was the craft’s internal radio, but the signal was broken, low powered. A source nearby.

“I’m sorry to mislead you, Mr Beckett.”

“Dylan?” His chest felt tight, this was bad.

“You know, I almost changed my mind.” The radio fizzed again, filling the silence. “But you were so dedicated, who else would have climbed all the way out here.” There was a grinding metal noise above and beneath him.

Beckett closed his eyes. “Oh no.”

“Goodbye, Mr Beckett.” He turned and stared at the stars outside, and felt his heart sink to see the ship was moving. He ran to the dash, looked for controls for the engines, the radio, anything to get control but it was all gone. “Don’t worry, Mr Beckett.” Dylan’s voice was already breaking up. “I’m sure someone will find you before the air runs out.” Beckett’s eyes traced the corners of the ship, trying to measure up the size. He wasn’t so convinced.

***

January Book Freebie

Owen Adams Free BookMorning Folks,

I’ve been promising you a 2015 book Freebie since New Year’s Eve now, and here it is. It includes my most recent book, Octopus Returns, and a couple of old favourites. Pick them up from Amazon, and you can read them on your kindle, or the kindle app on your phone.

Grab the books from the links below and let me know what you think.

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OctopusReturnsCover

Amazon.com / Amazon.co.ukThe Octopus of Suspense Cover

Amazon.com / Amazon.co.ukChristmas Past Owen Adams

Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk

Those Aren’t Biscuits 006 is live now!

notbiscuits2It’s that time again! The latest episode of Those Aren’t Biscuits is available now. Details below.

As Those Aren’t Biscuits returns to its regular schedule, we have a longer show this week. Join us for a thorough analysis of the cult classic Gremlins, a brief chat about Jack Kerouac and the latest on an upcoming sequel to one of cinema’s greatest masterpieces.

Subscribe on iTunes, check the feed, or download directly.