Shax, the spacefaring Demon Prince of Thieves, is visiting Freddy's house today. He's a little ticked, but you'll have to read Fear of Frogs to understand exactly why. Likewise for the answer to what the heck does this have to do with cowboys? Our intrepid interviewer, Kou, manages to keep this moving despite interruptions, digressions and a surprise guest...
*Shax saunters in wearing his best spit-shined cavalry boots, skintight leather pants (mocha brown) and a sleeveless mesh shirt (cream.) He plunks his feet up on the desk and points to Freddy* "I am not, under any circumstances, talking to that one."
Freddy: *tears form* “What did I do?”
Shax: "Kou, tell that one that sending Angel the article on those horrid, nasty, revolting...frogs wasn't funny. Not in the least."
Kou: “Freds, Shax doesn't like frogs.”
Freddy: “But they're cute and fun, and do weird things at mating times!”
Shax: "Not funny. Not speaking to you. It's all your fault. The whole mess."
Kou: “Uh-oh, what'd you do this time Freddy?”
Shax: "She gave Angel...ideas. Horrid, dreadful ideas. I can't talk about it."
Kou: *runs over to Shax and hugs ankle* “Freds can be scary sometimes. It'll be okay.” *pets pants* “I like these. Where'd you get them?”
Shax: "Oh. These? Let me think...ah." Shax gives Kou a wink and a grin as he scoops him up to set him on his knee. "A very wealthy shipping tycoon bought them for me."
Kou: *eyes get real big* “Were you traveling again?” *snuggles, then pokes mesh shirt*
Shax: "Always traveling, little one. It's how we live these days. This was back on Rigel 4, though. You know. BN."
Kou: *tail flicks* “Ummm, BN?”
Freddy: “So, I'm just going to get ignored while you two have a love fest? Kou, you're rubbing!”
Shax: *shoots a glare across the room, then pets Kou's head with one finger* "Yes. Before Ness. When I was still wild and sleeping with everything with an interest."
Kou: *purrs* “Oh! Oh! Before the pretty angel.” *raises hand while jumping* “Like Tadaashi when he turned into his fox... Except he only slept with me? Why did you need so many things to help you go to bed?” *eyes get bigger, lip wavers* “Do you have nightmares?”
Freddy: “It's not my fault. Is really isn't. Not 100% anyway. I did not know frogs could do that!”
Shax: "Did you hear something? No, neither did I." *Shax smiles at Kou* "Everyone has nightmares sometimes. Yes, I do. But 'sleep' is a euphemism, you know. For mating. It can be fun picking and choosing and moving on sometimes."
Freddy: *sighs* “I would so dunk you if I thought I wouldn't get snapped in two. Maybe Verin will help me.”
Kou: *steps back, puts paw over mouth* “Ooooh, mating.” *blushes* “I was, um, changed before I ever, you know.” *slides a look at Freddy then leans closer to Shax* “How fun?”
Shax: *leans in and whispers* "So incredibly much fun. But it's more fun having one person you can count on to be there for you." *leans back and raises an eyebrow at Freddy* "Dunk me in what?"
Freddy: “Water, to cool your head. I hear you have an interesting new game that I think we could have a lot of fun with.”
Kou: *rubs absently against Shax* “One person? Yeah, Tadaashi has his person, and now you have Ness. It'd be nice to have a person. Tadaashi says I'm still too young in human years.” *pouts* “Does Verin have a person?”
Shax: *finally looks directly at Freddy* "It's not a new game. Trauma ball is about a century old but that's for a later story. I'm not sure I'd let you on the trauma ball court. I don't need someone more devious than me playing. And Ver would be on my side. I think." *turns back to Kou* "You've all the time in the universe, little one. I didn't find my person until I was several thousand years old, after all. Oh, and Verin has indeed found an interesting person. A cowboy person. Whether that's THE person, I guess we'll see."
Freddy: “You know, we could be a really good team.” *waves back and forth* “Me and you. I heard you did some interesting things on old Earth.”
Kou: *gives Freddy the paw* “You're interrupting.” *looks at Shax in awe* “So you're saying you're really, really, really old? Did you see the pyramids built? What about the chariot races? Oh, oh, what about the Hoover Dam?”
Shax: *laughs and hugs Kou* "You're so damn cute. Can I keep you? Yes, I saw the pyramids go up and I may or may not have acquired a lovely golden cat statue from the Pharaoh Khufu. And Rome was just a lovely mess of decadence. The parties! The orgies! The pretties to be had by the handful! Helped that everyone was drunk off their asses half the time. The Hoover Dam, I'm afraid, wasn't quite as interesting."
Freddy: “Hey! No stealing my squirrel!”
Kou: *ignores Freddy* “Can I see the cat statue? Orgies and pretties. Hmmm. I wonder how Ness would feel about that? But… There's nothing interesting about the Dam? Doesn't it hide government secrets and aliens?”
Shax: “I'd have to take you to the ship to show you my pretties. Ness is...resigned to my appetite for pretties. But the orgies?" *shudders delicately* "My possessive fallen angel might toss people across the room if he saw me in someone else's arms."
Kou: *perches for a moment* “I think I'd bite you... A lot.” *jumps up and down* “I want to go on a space ride!”
Freddy: “Another trip to Australia?” *stops talking* “Who'd be knocking at the door now?”
Namid: *sticks head through door* “I'm told there was a patient I needed to see at this address.” *takes a long look at Kou cuddling up to Shax* “I'm not sure I know much about demon anatomy, but I'm good with my hands, so we can find out.”
Shax: *lets his boots down from the desk and indulges in a long look up and down* "Well. I may forgive Freddy after all. Since when did doctors get so drool-worthy sexy?"
Kou: *nips Shax's finger* “I'll tell Ness.”
Shax: “Ow! I’m just looking!”
Namid: *squints at Kou* “A talking squirrel?”
Kou: *puffs up* “Yeah, you got a problem with that?”
Namid: *steps inside room with his med bag and walks up to the desk* “Nope. No problem, just wanted to verify I heard right. So, sexy demon, who are we going to piss off playing doctor?”
Shax: *clears his throat but offers his brightest smile* "My Ness, my angel. Though I'm sure he wouldn't mind so long as we keep things on a professional level and our dicks to ourselves." Shax rubs at the base of his right horn. "I can't seem to get rid of the headaches, Doc. You don't mind treating a demon? You are 21st century, aren't you?"
We're going to leave everyone here for now and let them pick up tomorrow on Freddy's blog where Dr. Namid Rivers (from the Hot Off The Range story, "Sock Poacher and the Shower Thief") will have his say, too. For the full story on Kou and Shax's first story, pick up the Horns and Halos Collection from MCB (Kou is in "Internment," Shax's first story is there, too, "Hell For The Company, Brimstone #1")
For the full bog hop schedule, go back to the Mischief Corner Blog
A little bit on Fear of Frogs, Brimstone #2, appearing in the Hot Off The Range anthology from Mischief Corner Books:
Hot Off The Range (a Cowboy Anthology)
Mischief Corner Books
Barnes and Noble
While Shax recovers from a near fatality, his shipmates have been busy. He's rather proud of them taking the initiative and finding them a lucrative cargo run. His pride turns to outright horror, though, when he finds out what sort of cargo. Unfortunately, he'll soon discover that a healthy fear of frogs doesn't prevent frog-driven disasters. Time travel has never been so messy.
“We have cargo,” Ness began excitedly.
“Delivery cargo. Nothing hot,” Verin hastened to add.
“No, bonehead. Not cows.”
Shax ignored the insult and grabbed the coffee and cinnamon roll Ivana sent down the conveyor for him. “I like cows. The anti-grav ones. I miss them.”
“Hell’s sake, Shax, we’ll get you a damn cow.”
“I want two cows.”
Verin flung up his hands. “Fine! What the fuck ever! After this delivery, we’ll get your damn floating cows. You wanna see the cargo or not?”
“I do. Let me have breakfast first, please.” Shax sipped at his coffee, grateful for at least the illusion of it, even if he was certain he’d lost the decaf debate. His companions left him in peace even though Ness practically vibrated next to him and Verin leaped up to pace, claws clicking on the decking.
When he finished, he got up carefully to make certain of his balance. “All right, lead on. Let’s go see what has you two all wound up.”
He let Ness wrap an arm around him for the short trip. It was chilly in the hold, after all. Even with his jacket on, Ness’s heat would be welcome.
“So who’s the client?”
Shax stumbled. “The Humboldt U? On Europa? Really? Not some little knockoff?”
“Yeah.” Verin had the audacity to sound smug.
“Well, aren’t we moving up in the world. How did you snag something so highbrow?”
“Angel twink batted his eyes and I negotiated the contract.”
Ness took up the story, no offense in his tone. “We were in port on…a planet. I’m afraid I wasn’t paying attention to which one. Ms. Ivana said we needed sulfur for your meds. So Verin said I could go purchase some.”
“Generous of him,” Shax murmured but otherwise kept any caustic comments to himself about letting naïve angels wander around unfamiliar ports alone.
“Don’t make that face,” Verin growled. “It was on freaking Elistrus. He was safe.”
Ness nodded and continued, “As I was making the purchase, a man came to me. He seemed distraught. He said he overheard that I was spacer crew and did we take cargo? His previous contractor, apparently, had ended up imprisoned for certain… unseemly and destructive acts the previous evening.”
“So Twinkles calls me and I talked to the guy and told him, yeah, we’d take it. Easiest job we’ve ever had.”
To Shax, it sounded like Ness had landed the job rather than Verin. Who wouldn’t trust an angel’s face, even a fallen one’s? But his newly healed heart was more than grateful for the well-timed source of income, one that didn’t come with fencing stolen items and possible weapons fire. “Well done, cupcake.” He nuzzled under Ness’s chin just to watch him blush. “I mean that.”
They turned the last corner and Verin hit the door pad for the cargo hold. When they emerged onto the catwalk above the cavernous space, Shax stilled, trying to take in a sight so bizarre his brain refused to process it. He placed both hands on the railing and leaned out carefully. His beautiful, pristine hold was full of clear hard-plas tanks, what appeared to be several dozen pallets of them secured to the deck plates. He thought they were fish tanks at first, which would have been bizarre enough, but there wasn’t enough water in them for fish. There were creeping things inside those tanks.
“Are those…” He leaned out farther, as if getting closer would change the truth. Ness pulled in a sharp breath and clamped a hand around his arm. “Are those…frogs?”
“Yes, special ones,” Ness offered with breathless excitement. “Rhinella proboscideus frogs. Apparently very rare outside of certain Earth habitats. We’re also delivering an experimental dark matter generator, but that doesn’t take up nearly as much room…” Ness trailed off. “Shax? You’ve gone terribly pale.”
“There are frogs…on my ship…” Shax put a hand over his mouth to cover a sudden, indelicate belch. Over the engine hum, he became aware of a noise, an ugly, creaking grunt as if an ancient door with mud in its rusted hinges were being swung back and forth. The frogs were croaking. Hundreds of them.
Shax turned and fled, careening off walls and door seals as he stumbled through the corridors, trying to put space between himself and those horrid amphibians. He barely made it to his cabin and his private bathroom before he lost his breakfast.