There’s a story behind this one.
The ebook on Smashwords (here! https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/764769 ) had some sort of glitch in the ePub version. As a consequence, the book kept failing validation checks to go on the Smashwords “Premium Catalog” distribution list – which means that Smashwords don’t pass the book onto Kobo and Apple etc. I finally tracked down where the fault was and fixed it in the source file (hooray!) the other week. Then…the book got another note from Smashwords…
This time the note pointed to their guidelines for crediting multiple authors…
Long story short, ‘Camestros Felapton’ being on the cover might resolve the issue. We will see! Hence a new cover. 🙂
WOOOOOSSSHH! Cold open before theme music:
Flashback: Twenty+ Chapters Ago. Location – the lonesome homestead of Chiseled McEdifice on the far prairie plains of the Grassland Planet of Steppe.
Chuck the Pony lies on the ground. To all intents and purposes, he looks dead. In the distance, a cloud of dust marks the journey of McEdifice on his bicycle, off to exact revenge on the Treerat Gang.
A broad manly shadow covers Chuck.
“How you feeling buddy?” says a familiar voice.
Chuck opens his eyes. “I’ve felt better. Is the operation GO?” asks Chuck.
Above him in full mech-suit battle auto-armour is Chiseled McEdifice.
“The operation is GO. You did good. It’s all up to him now.”
See? I said Chuck wasn’t dead, we the authors explain to you the surprised reader who doubted our reassurances in Chapter 1.
Cue: THEME MUSIC! Da, da, da, da, etc etc etc.
And, we are back on Draculon 6 in the big spooky cathedral. Popwhistle Prince of Darkness & Gantt Charts is there, The Demon-Haunted Urn of Besty Darkshadow is there (currently Queen of the Space Vampires), Commander Clench is there, the forces of Qzrixian Military Intelligence are there (Noz Feratu, Qzrrzxxzq & ScanScan the Dancing Photocopier Man), a whole bunch of vampires are there, Chiseled McEdifice is there and they are staring at the newcomer: none other than CHISLEDMcEDIFICE!
“Why act so surprised?” says the new Chiseled McEdifice, “The clue was in the title all along! I am the real Chiseled McEdifice and I have returned.”
“But if you are Chiseled McEdifice,” says McEdifice, “then who am I?”
“Good question,” answers McEdifice, “You are an eCyberHuman called Chipmunk McEmphasis. You were created to look just like me in…Darn, I can’t remember. Tim when did Chipmunk appear?”
From out of the shadows steps TIMOTHY THE TALKING CAT wearing the uniform of the Psychic SWAT Mercenaries. “Hmmm, Chipmunk appeared in the Bumper McEdifice Annual Christmas Special – Chapter 3: Never Trust an eCyberHuman or their Tricksy Ways.”
“That’s right,” says Straw Puppy also stepping out of the shadows, “Tim and I (but mainly me) helped McEdifice stop Chipmunk taking over the Psychic Swat Mercenaries. Later Chipmunk saw the error of his ways. You see the eCyberHumans had been just a little too clever in creating a fake McEdifice. Chipmunk was so close to the real thing that he ended up with all McEdifice’s commitment to fighting evil in all its forms.”
“Wait!” said Chiseled/Chipmunk, “I’ve found a hidden directory in my brain files and oh my golly gosh, you are right! I am an eCyberHuman! This explains my natural affinity to fax machines!”
“This is all irrelevant!” cried Popwhistle, “Whether there is one McEdifice or two the situation hasn’t changed at all! You are still trapped in a spooky cathedral fall of vampires?”
“Oh really?” says McEdifice, raising one eyebrow but you probably can’t see that because he has his helmet on obviously, “Psychic SWAT Mercenaries – reveal yourselves!”
All around the cathedral, the many, many vampires pulled off masks and threw away their spooky capes to reveal: THE MASSED FORCES OF THE Psychic SWAT Mercenaries! They had infiltrated the cathedral had been bumping off the vampires one by one very, very stealthily while everybody had been talking.
“OK, that does change a few things,” conceded Popwhistle, “but you are still trapped on Draculon 6 with the whole massed might of the Space Vampire Empire at its peak!”
“Right this minute the combined space navies of the galaxy are exiting warp right above the planet,” explained McEdifice.
“But, but that’s impossible,” countered Popwhistle, “Our warp defence shield prevents enemy starships warping into the system! Only a senior member of the Space Vampire Empire Royal Family could lower those shields! And I KNOW I didn’t!”
“Checkmate Popwhistle,” said the spooky voice from the urn containing the ashes of Besty Darkshadow.
“Whattttt????” said Popwhistle incredulously.
“Oh come now,” said Betsy,” You can’t seriously believe that I would betray Chiseled McEdifice!”
“Well, obviously I could believe that! Your whole relationship is a paradigm of dysfunctionality! As far as I can see that egotistical cat and sociopathic hay-bail only include you so that they can repeatedly kill you off so that the big behelmeted lummox can emote at things. Frankly, that is not a sound basis for a healthy marriage!” said Popwhistle with a note of exasperation.
“Well I guess your vampire brain just couldn’t fathom the human emotion that we call love!” said Commander Clench, “You see we had this figured out back in book 7 of McEdifice & Darkshadow Detective Agency/Psychic SWAT Mercenaries. Off-screen, so to speak, Betsy agreed to go deep undercover to help stop the Space Vampire menace once and for all.”
“Chipmunk then agreed to wipe his memories that he really wasn’t Chiseled McEdifice,” explained Straw Puppy, “Allowing the real McEdifice to take the Psychic SWAT Mercanries into hiding. That way the Space Vampires would think McEdifice had really retired.”
“Exactly SP!” said Timothy, “With McEdifice retired, we knew that the Space Vampires would reveal their secret plans but they wouldn’t realise that Betsy was actually a double agent.”
“Zoiks!” said Popwhistle and suddenly he pointed to the back of the cathedral and shouted, “Oh My Gosh! Watch out everybody there is a squirrel!”
Everybody turned and opened fire but it was only a vampire rabbit which flew off pretty damn quickly I can tell you.
“Damn!” said Straw Puppy,”Popwhistle escaped in the confusion!”
“Never mind him,” said McEdifice, “There will be plenty of time to catch him later.”
“Well this was all very surprising,” says Qzrrzxxzq, “I think you could have told us your plan.”
“Sorry,” said Commander Clench,”The operation was on a strict need to know basis. We couldn’t risk Betsy with any kinds of leaks.”
“I’m feeling disorientated,” says Chipmunk McEmphasis, “What am I going to do now?”
“Your life is your choice,” said Betsy, “but if we’ve learnt one thing today it is that love can conquer ANY adversity.”
“Oh my! You are right!” said Chipmunk and he then ran into the arms of ScanScan the Dancing Photocopier Man.
Everybody cheered as they gave each other a great big kiss!
“Hooray!” said everybody.
By Timothy ‘Last Gasp’ Cat and Straw ‘Stick a Fork in It’ Puppy
“Has our whole relationship been a lie?” asked McEdifice, as Betsy finished recounting this backstory in the cathedral just so everybody could catch up.
“No Chiseled! I still love you its just that I’m now the most powerful demonic entity in this dimension! Our wedding vows are a sacred compact, Chiseled. You must join me as my husband and BECOME KING OF THE SPACE VAMPIRES!”
“NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!” said McEdifice.
“Yes,” said another voice as a figure stepped out of the shadows. It was Simon Popwhistle! Head of the Project-Initiation Gantt Chart Oversight Enabling Team at Spindle, Spindle and Gatefold!
“You?” said McEdifice.
“I just said so, didn’t I?” said Popwhistle.
An uncomfortable silence descended over the cathedral. Commander Clench looked at his shoes.
Betsy’s ethereal voice spoke up: “I think, Popwhistle, that we are waiting for you to explain to McEdifice why you are here rather than being tortured in a Human Resources dungeon.” [more twists after the fold]
McEdifice Returns: The Origin of Betsy
T.T.T.Cat & S.Puppy
“It is I, Betsy, the demonically possessed funeral urn of your ex-wife! I have done all this to reclaim you to be my king! Chiseled McEdifice – King of the Space Vampires!” she said, her voice echoing around the cathedral
“NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!” cried McEdifice – looking older and more careworn and yet still her McEdifice. The man she had cheated even death to find.
When they first met he was nothing more than Private Corporal Specialist Chiselled McEdifice of Tango Squadron, Fifth Phalanx of the Space-Navy Space- SEALS. Exhausted and dejected after Tango Squadron’s mission against the eCyberHumans had led to huge losses of his comrades after a secret infiltration by Space Vampires [see ‘The Dead Tell No Secrets of the Dead’ There Will Be Walrus First Volume V], Betsy had helped McEdifice re-find his Phalanx while McEdifice had helped her old Grandpappy fight off the corrupt rancher who was trying to steal his land.
After he flew off that first time, she never expected to see him again [see ‘Chapter 17: Here Comes McEdifice’ Straw Puppy and Timothy in Space fight the Space Aliens and Win: Book 4 – Outer Space Big War Again] but had valiantly got on with her life. She put aside any thought of meeting him again – for McEdifice was married to the Space-Navy Space- SEALS and wasn’t the kind of man to settle down with a giant space-oppossum rancher’s grand daughter.
Yet fate was destined to throw them together [see ‘Chapter 32: Farewell McEdifice’ Straw Puppy and Timothy in Space fight the Space Aliens and Win: Book 6 – Oh Boy! Space Battles!] when McEdifice decided to take up giant space-oppossum ranching and leave behind his life of fighting and vampire slaying.
All that would come to an end when the Andorrian Space Plague hit. McEdifice was forced to leave the planet in a desperate search for a cure [see McEdifice 1 – His First Solo Adventure] only to return an hour too late! The plague had struck and the antidote was ineffective once the victim had passed through the purple spot phase. Tragically, Betsy had died that day.
Or had she?
No, actually she hadn’t! Little had Betsy realized but in fact the woman who had died of the plague was a psychically linked clone of Betsy! The real Betsy was in a stasis chamber in the space castle of the evil scientist Doctor Millicent Malpractice [see issue 6 McEdifice Solo Adventures Volume 5] where she was being kept as a potential bargaining chip so that Doctor Malpractice could force McEdifice into fighting the Cosmic DragonBeast of the Cake Nebula.
Once again reunited [see issue 36 McEdifice Solo Adventures Volume 5] the happy couple decided to settle on Backwater 19 – the quiet planet of the Flyover Quadrant. The destruction of Backwater 19 by the telepathic twin of the Cosmic DragonBeast left McEdifice devastated by the loss of Betsy – doubly so as it happened two day before their wedding day [see Chapter 4 of Horrific Tales of the Cosmic DragonBeast – An Anthology].
That Betsy had both escaped the destruction of the planet and lost her memory and joined the SMOSHQ (Secret Marxist Organization for Spying Headquarters) was not discovered until two standard galactic years later [see most of Straw Puppy and Timothy in Space fight the Space
Aliens Commies and Win: Book 19 – It is Us Against the Space Commies!] Beautiful but deadly, Betsy (or as she was now known Betsina aka the ‘Scorpius the Assassin’) found her deep seated love for McEdifice triumphed over her highly advanced spy training and dialectic materialist ideology.
Taking on a new role as head of security and personal assistant to McEdifice, Betsy took on her new persona of Betsina Darkshadow. Together, she and McEdifice formed the crime fighting duo at the heart of McEdifice & Darkshadow Detective Agency [see McEdifice & Darkshadow Detective Agency: Book 1 – The Caractacus Caper] As Betsina Darkshadow she helped former Chief Sergeant Flight Commander Chiselled McEdifice solve psychic crimes, protect the weak and uphold the law. Finally tired of karate-kicking bad guys while wearing high heels, Betsina changed her name back to Betsy and she and McEdifice finally got married [see McEdifice & Darkshadow Detective Agency: The Final Volume – Happily Ever After!]
Her tragic death due to a hand-gliding accident [see chapter 1 McEdifice & Darkshadow Detective Agency/Psychic SWAT Mercenaries Book 1- Back & Ready For Action] would spur McEdifice on in his quest for an improved regulatory framework for hand-gliding safety. Not a book would go by without McEdifice mourning the loss of his dear Betsy and the urn containing her ashes would feature prominently in the second chapter of books 2 to 5 of McEdifice & Darkshadow Detective Agency/Psychic SWAT Mercenaries which just goes to show what a sensitive guy McEdifice is.
And that would have been it for Betsy if it weren’t for the intervention of the demon Demonicus who brought her back to semi-life as an undead shade [see Straw Puppy and Timothy in Space fight the Space
Aliens Commies Spooks and Win: Book 23 – Halloween In Space!] After Demonicus was defeated Betsy rejoined the McEdifice & Darkshadow Detective Agency as a haunted funeral urn [see book 6 of McEdifice & Darkshadow Detective Agency/Psychic SWAT Mercenaries] only to disappear mysteriously at the end of book 7 of McEdifice & Darkshadow Detective Agency/Psychic SWAT Mercenaries.
In fact, Betsy had discovered that she was in reality the half-human grandchild of the demon Demonicus because – get this, because this will blow your minds as a revelation – Grandpappy the space opposum rancher was ACTUALLY DEMONICUS ALL ALONG! Ha! I Bet you didn’t see THAT coming. Oh boy what a twist!
With Demonicus dead [see Straw Puppy and Timothy in Space fight the Space
Aliens Commies Spooks and Win: Book 23 – Halloween In Space!] Betsy was now a Princess of the Demon Dimension! With her new found status she had made herself Queen of the Space Vampires! Oh my gosh, yes.
“Has our whole relationship been a lie?” asked McEdifice, as Betsy finished recounting this backstory in the cathedral just so everybody could catch up.
“No McEdifice! I still love you its just that I’m now the most powerful demonic entity in this dimension! Our wedding vows are a sacred compact, Chiseled. You must join me as my husband and BECOME KING OF THE SPACE VAMPIRES!”
“NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!” said McEdifice.
McEdifice Returns – A Novel
By Timothy ‘America’s Greatest Living Cat of Letters’ the Talking Cat and Straw ‘My Friends Totally Told Me they Nominated Me for Pulizer’ Puppy.
Good evening dear readers, it is I, Timothy the Talking Cat. For each journey there is a destination and for each destination there is a journey and in each journey before one reaches that destination there comes a point where that destination, though not reached, becomes manifest in the course of the journey – when one apprehends that the drawing near of the destination and hence the end of the journey is approaching. Dear readers, you have followed our tale thus far and the chapter before you is NOT the end of our journey but merely a harbinger of the end. I shall let Straw Puppy explain…
Good evening dear readers, it is I, Straw Pups, currently wondering what a hair-binger is? Somebody who binges on hair? Reader, close your eyes and listen to my voice! Imagine a blood red sky, a wind blowing across a lake of blood that sounds half like a howl of pain and half like a moan of ecstasy. Around you are gothic spires, semi-ruined cathedrals, haunted castles perched precariously on cliff edges, frightened unkempt villages, ghastly space ports occupied by coffin shaped shuttle rockets, administrative buildings shaped like, um, um, spooky office buildings, bodies impaled on spikes, spikes impaled on bodies. Oh the whole place is blood and scary but also kind of sexy but not in away that is too kinky because we’d like the movie version to be rated PG-13(US)/12(UK)/M(Aus) – we can probably fine tune it by adding some swear words if it gets too close to PG (which would be just lame). Anyhoo, it is your imagination so you can make it as freaky as you like just don’t tell Timothy as he can get a bit squeamish.
DRACULON 6! The Vampire Planet! Yes, you heard me right! It is a planet FULL of vampires! Permanent cloud cover from its blood red clouds means that the vampires had no need to fear the caustic beams of the local sun. Surrounded by vampire friendly architecture and like, just LOADS of crypts and spooky places! The only non-vampires? Frightened villages, kept alive purely for sport! You think you would last FIVE MINUTES in this place? No way, José!
- ScanScan – the dancing photocopier man. His powers: interdimensional travel, Bolshoi level classical ballet dancing, can print, scan, photocopy and fax in a wide range of standard paper sizes including international A series A5 to A2, B series and US standards. Combat role: Transport and evac.
- Qzrrzxxzq – alien anthropologist, glamorous Director of Post-planning Process at Spindle, Spindle and Gatefold and reservist in her home planet’s special forces. Her powers: qualitative research and academic writing in the humanities, business administration, some kind of freaky alien Krav-Maga like fighting style. Combat role: intelligence and field support.
- Chiseled McEdifice – Veteran Space Marine, detective and vampire hunt, former leader of Darkshadow Detective Agency/Psychic SWAT Mercenaries. Powers: awesome at everything. Combat role: KICKING VAMPIRE ASS.
That was the team and here they were on Draculon 6 with no weapons and no backup and ONE mission: to find out what the flipping heck was going on!
“Here is the plan,” said McEdifice commandingly, “ScanScan you stay bunkered down here in this empty crypt where we are currently hiding and which we already secured and which is vampire free and which we have already ascertained isn’t currently being used by vampires.”
“Ready to accept next job!” said ScanScan obligingly, he eyes lingering softly and McEdifices firm muscles.
“Good man! Qzrrzxxzq, I need you to stay with ScanScan. He is our only route out of here and I need somebody I can trust to watch his six.”
“Damn it, McEdifice, you can’t do this alone!” said Qzrrzxxzq, “but I can’t abandon ScanScan!”
“Trust me Qzrrzxxzq, it is better this way. I can move quickly and silently and ScanScan needs his toner cartridge replacing. He can’t walk the distance needed!” explained McEdifice.
With that, McEdifice stepped out of the crypt.
“Please replace toner cartridge.” said ScanScan mournfully.
“I feel the same way,” said Qzrrzxxzq with a sigh.
Despite the fractured tombstones, impaling stakes, and writhing dead bodies, the going was smooth and McEdifice made quick time. His target was a massive central command cathedral that set amid a inch-deep lake of mirror like blood. McEdifice’s finely tuned vampire hunting sense told him that this was the epicenter of all Space Vampire activity. Vampire HQ if you will.
His mission was simple. Infiltrate the HQ. Gather intel. Kill any vampires that got in his way.
The great gates to the entrance of the cathedral stood open. Here on Draculon 6, the space vampires had no need for guards!
cat puppy like reflexes, he snuck into the cathedral, his sense tingling with the scent of vampire spoors. With his bare hands he pulled the legs of a near by stool and quickly fashioned them into razor sharp anti-vampire stakes – one for each hand and one spare (it was a three-legged stool rather than a four-legged stool which I think I’d call a chair rather than a stool I guess. I think a stool has three legs by definition).
Suddenly the massive cathedral doors closed with a clang! Around him the cathedral cloisters echoed with the laughter of hundreds of SPACE VAMPIRES.
Oh my gosh! It was a trap!
One very dapper vampire stepped out from behind a profaned altar.
“Welcome, Chiseled McEdifice, we’ve been expecting you!” said the vampire.
McEdifice said nothing but tightened his grip on the stakes.
“And by ‘we’ I mean your old friends – The TREERAT GANG!” laughed the vampire.
From out of the nave stepped the members of the Treerat Gang, still in the space army uniforms but now in a sort of more punk-sexy sort of way because they were obviously all now vampires.
“So it was the Treerat Gang who was behind all this all along.” said McEdifice still pretty damn cross at them for the following reasons:
- Shooting at his head
- Killing Chuck the Pony (don’t worry he isn’t really dead)
- Sabotaging Simon the Bicycle (sadly Simon is definitely dead)
- Putting hallucinogenic drugs on the handlebars of the Simon
- Being all round bad people
“Oh no,” said a different voice. Out from the shadows stepped Commander Clench of Intergalactic Space Navy Marine Corp.
“Commander Clench, my old nemesis!” said McEdifice, “So you turned traitor and vampire. Despite everything I thought you had more integrity than that! It was you behind this all along.”
“Hmm,” said Commander Clench, holding something behind his back, “No to all of those point, I don’t have more integrity, I’m not a traitor, I haven’t turned vampire and I wasn’t behind this all along. No, you see, delivering you to the Space Vampires was part of my officially sanctioned mission by the Galactic Government to broker a peace treaty. The supreme leader of the Space Vampires wanted just one thing – you and they knew exactly how to get you here and what your weakness was. Hmm, I should have guessed it was hippies.”
“But who? Who is this monster manipulating events!” shouted McEdifice looking around for some super-duper chief vampire.
“Who? Oh, McEdifice, she is right here!” and with that Commander Clench revealed what he was holding – a funeral urn!
“No! It can’t be!” sobbed McEdifice, “She went missing in McEdifice & Darkshadow Detective Agency/Psychic SWAT Mercenaries (MDDAPSWATM) Book 7: Crisis on the Space Orient Express!”
“Oh but it is!” said a spooky voice echoing from the urn, “It is I, Betsy, the demonically possessed funeral urn of your ex-wife! I have done all this to reclaim you to be my king! Chiseled McEdifice – King of the Space Vampires!”
McEdifice Returns By Straw Puppy and Timothy the Talking Cat.
The “story” so far. After being captured by the forces of the Space Vampires, McEdifice was sent back in time and space through the gaping maw of a giant space vampire head. Determined to rescue him the alien Qzrrzxxzq and ScanScan the Dancing Photocopier man, journey first to 1960’s America and then to 1950’s England. Reunited the trio leap once more into the future headed for Draculon 6 – The Vampire Planet of the Six-sixty-six System.
I was only a timid photocopier caught up in a mans world. I had set out to find myself and make my way in unforgiving world of office administration – but I had dreams, dreams I had to deny myself, dreams of dancing to the beat of my soul, dreams of moving to the rhythm of the universe.
Those long, lonely weeks working at the offices of Spindle, Spindle & Gatefold, I had felt invisible, overlooked, only noticed when something went wrong. I was always ready to be blamed for a late report or an overdue memo. No body saw me for who I really was but just a means to an end, a happy scapegoat for other people’s poor planning, bad timekeeping or inadequate attention to margin settings.
Then one day everything changed. An alien attack! I was possessed by a force I could not understand! Would this be the end of me? Doomed to be enslaved by a psychic power?
And then…then HE arrived. Broad shouldered and with a commanding charisma. A man who brooked no compromise, who knew where he stood and how he stood there. A man whose very name said “Chiseled”. With one powerful movement of his bemuscled arms, he freed me from the grip of my alien possession. At that moment I knew love for the first time.
But no sooner had we met than he left me. Yet for one brief moment I had been noticed. But more than that I was FREE, free to follow my two deepest desires!
- To dance! To dance like Fontaine! Like Baryshikov! Like Toni “Mickey Your So Fine” Basil!
- To photocopy my own bottom.
Admittedly the second one was less edifying. And yet…
Via the transformation required for both hobbies I discovered the secrets of multidimensional spatial manipulation. And by using those powers and the incorporation of an ansible projector into my functions, I could repay my debt to him by heading back in time to rescue my true love – Chiseled McEdifice.
Together at last, he held me in his powerful arms and said:
“WAKE UP MCEDIFICE!”
In a surprisingly higher pitched voice.
“WAKE. UP. MC. EDIFICE!” his voice insisted. This was not what I expected at all.
Suddenly I was drenched as if somebody had poured a bucket of cold water all over me.
I sat up with a start. Over to my left was ScanScan the Dancing Photocopier man shaking his head in a befuddle manner. Standing over me, holding a bucket, was Qzrrzxxzq.
“Wait,” I asked, “Am I Chiseled McEdifice or am I ScanScan the Dancing Photocopier Man?”
“You’re McEdifice,” stated Qzrrzxxzq.
“Oh boy, you will not believe the weird dream I just had!” I replied.
“Oooh yes, I will,” said Qzrrzxxzq, “You were narrating your dream VERY loudly. I had to wake you before you gave our position away.”
“But…” said McEdifice switching the narrative from first person to third person, “I was experiencing deeply romantic feelings about myself…”
“Place originals face down on the platter,” said ScanScan mournfully.
“I’m so sorry ScanScan!” said McEdifice, “It was a psychic leak caused by our interdimensional travel! I understand now! It all makes sense! The Space Vampires must have caused my brain to attune to the psychic auras of those around me. That’s why they sent me back to a time and place where I would be surrounded by peace loving hippies!”
“You are making no sense. Just wait there, I’ll get another bucket of water.” said Qzrrzxxzq helpfully.
“No need – I’m back in my right wits! You see, it was no good the Space Vampires killing me… that would just make me a martyr and an inspiration to manly Space Marines everywhere.” explained McEdifice, “Instead, they used hippies to dampen my manly Space Marine aura – an aura so manly and inspiring that without it the Space Vampires would at last have chance of victory!”
“You might be right, McEdifice,” said Qzrrzxxzq, “but we are trapped now on Draculon 6 with no guns and no ammo and you may have broken ScanScan’s heart.”
“Noooooo!!!!!” said McEdifice.