Meteor Mags: Rings of Ceres – now in paperback and Kindle

rings of ceres kindle cover

In Rings of Ceres, a hell-raising space pirate and her indestructible calico cat return to a decimated asteroid civilization to rescue friends and kick ass, but they get caught up in violent riots between the desperate citizens of Ceres and the mercenary security forces guarding the mining corporations.

This sixteenth short story in The Adventures of Meteor Mags and Patches picks up immediately after the final scene in the Meteor Mags: Omnibus Edition.

Get Rings of Ceres on your Kindle now for only $2.99! Free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers! Also available in paperback! On iTunes and Nook Book.

Asteroid Underground Interview: Alonso

My old friend Alonso did an Asteroid Underground interview recently, and we will include it in our next epic release: The Battle of Vesta 4. Until then, enjoy this sneak preview with one of coolest musicians I ever managed a tour for. ~Mags ❤

***

We’re here with Alonso, formerly of the Sterile Skins, the premier punk/ska band of the early century, often credited for the pre-MFA ska resurgence that swept the USA. Lonso, welcome to the Underground.

Thanks, Holmes. Nice crib you got here.

Lonso, most of us thought you were dead. You disappeared after the Act was passed, and it’s been reported that you died in the raids in 2019 with the other members of the Skins. Can you fill us in on what happened?

I got a job. Can you believe that shit? I spent years haulin’ cargo all over the solar system for the Port Authority.

How does a known felon and fugitive get a job at the PA?

Ese, the PA is fucked. I mean seriously fucked. They’re too big for their own good now. They’re so full of desk jockeys and pencil pushers that no one has any idea what’s going on. If you got the cash to get a fake background and a matching passport, passing the interview test is easy. Why? You looking for work?

No, but I’ll keep that in mind.

It wasn’t such a bad gig. I learned to fly spaceships and kick all kinds of ass, got some mad skills in zero-gravity maneuvers and multi-grav combat environments. PA security might be weak, but the pilot training is off the hook.

And now that you’re not with the Port Authority anymore?

Imma tear this shit up! Meeting tía again after all these years was like, damn—it brought back all the good times, you know? I was like fuck being on the run. I’m sick of this shit. We need to bring rock and roll back to the System, know what I’m sayin’?

Before we talk about the future, let’s look at your past. Nobody can find original albums from your first band, Negative Influence. But I downloaded some digital rips from darkweb, and they are absolutely smoking.

That was a tight band, considering how young we were back then. What’s your favorite Influence jam?

So many choices. They’re all outstanding.

Yeah, but just one.

Alright. It’s got to be My Pussy’s on Fire and It Won’t Go Out.

Oh, hell yeah! We used to destroy that tune on stage. Crowds went apeshit for it.

How did you come up with that title?

Me? Hell, I didn’t write that. Our singer, Lily Whiteass, she did all that. She wrote all her own words, and most of our hooks. Sometimes me, or Brandon, or Socks, we’d take her basic ideas and mutate them into riffs. But Lily was the prime instigator.

Was it weird having a female singer who sang so much about her pussy?

Why would that be weird?

Here’s another classic track: Burn Your Parents’ House Down. That sounds like really bad advice.

The name of the band wasn’t Positive Influence, G.

Do you think songs like this had anything to do with the passage of the Musical Freedoms Act?

Look, we were just kids venting some aggression. We weren’t actually telling anyone they should burn down a house. That’s just stupid.

So, it wasn’t a call to action. It was more conceptual.

That’s a good word for it.

Can you give us any insight into why Negative Influence broke up?

It just kinda happened after Socks went to prison.

On what charges?

She burned her parents’ house down.

And the rest of you?

Nah, she didn’t burn our shit, bro. We were tight.

I mean—

Oh, like what did we do? Lily and Socks went on to form BitchFucker and toured Asia, and we kinda lost touch. But a couple friends kept bugging me to do a ska thing with them. I thought it’d be a nice break from the metal vibe of Influence, so I was like yeah, let’s give it a shot and see what happens. They already had two guitarists, so I ended up on drums.

Do you ever think about getting back into guitar?

I never got out of it. My new band has me on baritone guitar, and like two dozen drummers, and they’re all space monkeys. Then we got these octopuses that—

Did you say space monkeys?

Yeah, man! The octopuses put us in this telepathic communion, right? Then the monkeys got the beat, and I got the—

Hold on. Octopuses? Telepathy?

Pay attention, Holmes! This shit is gonna blow up. It’ll be way bigger than the Skins. We’re going interplanetary.

It seems telepathy would be confusing. If your mind and another mind are linked, how do you know which thoughts are really yours? How do you know if a musical idea is yours or not?

As long as it’s a bad-ass idea, who gives a shit? Do you even think about these questions before you ask them?

No, I just sort of wing it.

That’s all we do with the octopuses, ese. Wing it. Or tentacle it. Or whatever.

Does your new band have a name?

Nah, not yet. But we got a killer tour bus under construction right now. A name will come to us when the time is right.

I can’t wait to hear it. You’ll let us know when you get ready to tour?

You’ll know. Everyone’s gonna know. And no one’s gonna stop us this time.

Right on, Lonso. Thanks for joining us at the Underground.

Anytime. Hey, you got a couple cases of beer I can take with me?

Surgical Solution

© 2018 The Sterile Skins

Times you were trusted
Now you are busted
People you lied to
Don’t even try to

Give me noise pollution oi oi oi
Surgical solution oi o oi
Maybe you are one of them oi oi oi
Gotta rise above them oi oi oi

We have a method
No you never checked it
Worried for the future
Fix it with a suture

Give me noise pollution oi oi oi
Surgical solution oi o oi
You don’t wanna become them oi oi oi
Gotta rise above them oi oi oi

Only one incision
Make it with precision
It’s a good decision
To complete the mission

Give me noise pollution oi oi oi
Surgical solution oi oi oi
Your mind is ours to control
Now we cut you up and we make you whole

Meteor Mags: Jam Room

This vignette is a postscript to our sixteenth adventure, Rings of Ceres

Meteor Mags: Jam Room

9 November 2029: Vesta 4.

The day before her 106th birthday, Meteor Mags showed off her drum set to the new girl, Jinx. The two convened in the jam room Mags set up so Sarah and Anton could practice and work on songwriting. Patches stretched out with her eyes closed, resting her fuzzy face on one outstretched limb atop a tube head on an Orange amplifier.

“It’s a beautiful kit,” said Jinx.

“Bird’s-eye maple,” said Mags. “Custom-built on Mars. But if I had it to do over, I’d go with mahogany. Not as pretty, but a heavier sound that could kick a god in the balls.”

“Can I play it?”

“Anytime you want, dear. But if you fuck it up, you’re paying to fix it. Deal?” Mags held out her hand, enclosed in a fingerless biker glove.

Jinx slapped her hand into the older woman’s leathered grip. “Deal.”

Mags’ eyes twinkled like stars in a telescope’s glass. “Check out this bass pedal. I keep tweaking the action on it, but I think I got the right tension now.”

Bronze cymbals glowed in the jam room’s light. They perched atop polished chrome stands and hardware. The bass head bore a ring of skulls. Mags sat on the drum stool. Her ample backside and swishing, fluffy tail enveloped it.

Jinx said, “I thought you’d play with a double kick.”

Mags scoffed. “Batalla plays a double kick for the 78s, but I prefer the old-school approach. One foot for the bass, and one for the high-hat.” She gave the high-hat an expressive flourish, demonstrating its glistening sound closed, open, and in a half-dozen states in-between. “All about that high-hat.”

Corrugated foam panels lined the walls to reduce the ambient, reflected noise of the kit and the stacks of amplifiers around it. A hint of jasmine piped through the air vents to mask the stale scent of recycled air. Tattered couches and love seats along the walls sat so close to the array of instruments that ear damage was practically guaranteed, but they gave the close quarters a lived-in, homey feeling.

On one couch, Tarzi reclined with his feet up on an armrest and his head smushed against a pillow on the other. He had arrived a few hours ago after spending his morning in a spacecraft with Ryder. The older man’s conversation left him with a need to immerse himself in George Orwell’s book, Homage to Catalonia. He lifted an eyebrow to gaze over the top of the memoir. “John Bonham didn’t need two kick drums.”

Mags pointed a drumstick at the adolescent she affectionately called her nephew. “Right on, T-man. All in the wrists? All in the ankle, too. Speed, precision, lightness, power.” Mags pounded the bass pedal with her right foot and made it fire as rapidly as a machine gun.

Jinx took note. “How do you get it to go so fast but still keep time?”

“Come here and watch.”

Jinx stepped behind the kit and observed.

Mags blasted another staccato bass burst. Then she rested her sticks on the snare head. “Stay loose. You can’t tense up. But you need to stay firm, too. Don’t get all flabby. When you find that balance, you can do anything. I don’t just mean with a drum. I mean anything in life.”

Jinx did her best to absorb this advice. “When my ankle gets better, I’ll be all over it.”

“That’s the spirit.” Mags twirled the drumsticks in a blur. “Sarah and Anton could use a drummer, and you seem like you have the right attitude. Why don’t you show me what you got, but without the footwork?” Mags held out the sticks.

Jinx grabbed them. As soon as Mags slipped off the stool, Jinx filled it. She adjusted the tilt of the ride and crash cymbals, brought the high-hat a little closer, and executed a brief roll across the three rack toms from smallest to largest, ending with the floor tom. “You’re taller than me,” she said. “But I can work with this.”

Tarzi called out, “Drum solo!”

Jinx twirled her sticks with almost as much panache as Mags, tossed one into the air, and caught it. “You’re on.”

Mags lit a stolen cigarette and appraised the girl’s technique and timing. Jinx blasted into a speedy 4/4 punk beat then stretched it out into a flurry of syncopated, off-beat fills—not with the facility of a seasoned New Orleans drummer, but showing solid ideas and spontaneity.

A knowing smile crept across the smuggler’s face. Jinx was not yet a percussion expert, but she would be just what Sarah and Anton needed to jam out their tunes and kick some arse. Straight-ahead rock beats, with a generous amount of creativity to help their songwriting and improvisation. Mags made a mental note to thank Tinta for the introduction.

Sarah ran into the room, dragging Anton behind her as she had nearly every hour of every day since the boy’s father brought him to Vesta. His embarrassed expression of the first few days had disappeared, and a newfound contentedness shone on the face of the boy who had so recently lived under the threat of terror on Mars.

Mags said, “Now this jam session can officially start.” No one heard her over Jinx’s drumming.

Jinx saw the founding members of Dumpster Kittens and stopped playing. She didn’t smile at them, but she lifted her head in a gesture of recognition.

Sarah said, “That would be a cool beat for Agents of Cruelty! Are you feeling better?”

“Fever’s gone,” said Jinx. “Ankle is damned useless right now, but at least it isn’t throbbing.”

Mags introduced Anton to Tarzi, and a comfortable chatter filled the room.

Ryder showed up to see what all the racket was about, and another round of introductions followed.

Mags said, “This is the guy who planned the Yeltsin job.”

“I’m retired,” Ryder lied. “Now I’m just a chauffeur to Mags’ teenage sidekicks.” He plopped down on the edge of Tarzi’s couch.

The young man held out a hand and received a hearty slap on his open palm. “Thanks for the lift.”

Mags asked, “Are you two friends now?”

Tarzi said, “You were right about his having shite taste in music but awesome stories.”

“Dude,” said Ryder, “I played you the good stuff.”

“Sweet bleeding fuck,” said Tarzi. “It was like eight hours of Ted Nugent.”

“That reminds me,” said Mags. “Drum fills! Some of the all-time greatest are in Stranglehold. We need to add that to our list.”

Tarzi said, “I am not putting that right-wing jackass on our list.”

“Then I am,” said Mags. She took the sticks from Jinx and settled again on her drum stool.

Anton piped up. “We could do a jam on it. The riff is pretty easy.” He lifted a Gibson SG from its stand and tuned it.

Tarzi returned to reading. “All hope is lost.”

Sarah said, “I don’t know the words.”

“I got you covered.” Ryder snatched up a pencil and paper. He recited the words as he wrote, until he came to the second verse. “The road I travel’s a—” He raised his head. “Mags.”

“What.”

“She’s just a little girl. Are you sure you want her singing this?”

“Because it says bitch? Jesus, Ryder, you’re getting soft in your old age. This girl’s seen some shit you don’t even know about. Sarah, what’s a bitch?”

A pair of sweet, angelic eyes met Mags’. “It’s a female dog. Or, in prison, a person who performs sexual favors in exchange for protection from gang violence.”

Mags pointed a drumstick at Ryder. “See?”

“Oookay. Bitch it is.” He completed the line on the paper. “And if your house gets in my way, baby—”

Tarzi barely lifted his eyes from the pages. “We’ll get sued for this, you know. Quoting song lyric without permission.”

Mags laughed. “The Nuge was assassinated when he ran for President in 2016. Nobody’s suing us over Stranglehold. And if they do, I’ll kick their arse.”

Sarah asked, “What’s the melody?”

Ryder sang a few lines for her.

Celina appeared in the doorway. “For fuck’s sake, Ryder. Sing it in the right key!”

“Celina!” He descended on her like a storm and crushed her in a hug, causing her drink to slosh over her hand. “Goddamn, is it good to see you again!”

Celina slapped his bum. “You too, you lousy felon. Now let go before I suffocate.”

He released her, but his eyes were still held captive, and his smile faded not one bit. “What’s a key?”

Celina rolled her eyes and wiped her wet hand on her jeans. “Let me do this.”

Sarah listened intently to the older woman’s singing. “I can do that.” She stepped up to the mic. “Who starts?”

Mags aimed a drumstick at Kaufman’s boy. “Anton. I’ll count it off.” She smacked the sticks together crisply four times, establishing the tempo.

The young man began the riff, looking to Mags to make sure he had it right.

She gave him a wink and a smile and four extra bars to get settled. Over the blaring guitar amplifier and its crackling distortion, she shouted to Sarah. “Ready?”

Sarah stepped up to the mic and closed her eyes. Anton’s riff was a warm liquid, a comforting bed of fuzz, a sound as soothing as a city being bombed off the map.

On Anton’s eighth time through the riff, Mags exploded a drum fill on snare and bass. It shook the room so hard the building seemed in danger of falling off the asteroid into space. The precise, sharp sting of her snare made Ryder jump. He’d almost forgotten what a musician his partner in crime was.

The twelve-year-old Sarah launched into the first line. She didn’t really know how a dog in heat felt, but she was pretty sure it felt like kicking ass, the freedom to say anything, and a desire for something immediate and personal.

Celina sipped Kraken black rum, completely nonplussed by the wave of sonic annihilation rolling over her. She tapped her foot as if the ear-splitting racket from the speakers was the most natural thing in the world. With cool detachment, she noticed the new girl’s eyes never left Mags.

As Sarah’s vocal chords ripped into the verse about bitches and houses burning, Celina considered Jinx. Many of the young women the Australian had worked with in the club over the past few years were basically nice girls who had survived terrible events. But this newcomer had a good helping of the antagonistic, punk-rock attitude Mags exuded. It was a blessing and a curse.

On the one hand, it showed an inner anger and strength. On the other, it might be a guard against a deeper, overwhelming sadness. Rage was a wall, a barrier, and Celina wondered what unspoken torments Jinx carried with her. Would they destroy the young woman, or was she strong enough to conquer them? Celina decided to keep a watchful eye on her, lest inner turmoil lead Jinx and her new friends to destruction.

In the manner of a woman who has dealt with immeasurable sadness for too many years, Celina relegated all these thoughts to a space she held inside her. She returned to the joy of the moment. It was time for the guitar solo.

Mags backed off her assault on the drum heads and let the band bring it down a bit. Anton was no Ted Nugent, but he took a credible turn at a solo. He’d been influenced by his father’s illegal Sonic Youth records, so he eschewed Nugent’s shred style for a more atmospheric, textural romp. He put the headstock of his guitar against the amp. A wailing cascade of feedback poured out like a lake from a broken dam.

This raucous, flowing noise excited Patches. She leapt down from her perch on Anton’s amplifier and shoved her face between the microphone and the speaker’s tweed cover. With her ears pressed flat against her tri-colored head and her whiskers shimmering in the soundwaves punching out from the speaker, she howled into the crisscross pattern of the microphone’s metal head.

The guitar solo gave way to a caterwaul that nearly paralyzed her friends. The criminal calico filled the room with noises that spoke of her prehistoric ancestors: the fury of a smilodon sinking its teeth into a cave bear; the iron flavor of a mastodon’s blood in her mouth; the despair of watching spear-wielding primates rob a continent of its massive mammalian fauna.

No one in the room would forget that cry, but only Mags understood it on a primal, genetic level. The smuggler shut her eyes and saw in Patches’ song a place of bestial beauty and torment. A place of perfect belonging and never-ending loneliness. It smelled like Earth and rain and matted fur.

Mags’ drumsticks smashed into the tom heads like they called out for war. She attacked the crash cymbal repeatedly with the force of a lioness’ killing bite to the back of a zebra’s neck. She released a forlorn, unearthly howl in duet with her kitten.

Again, Mags backed off the percussive assault to let the band in. Sometimes, she thought, you gotta start low.

Sarah sang the pirate’s thought, and her voice led the group to the finale.

Meteor Mags: Omnibus Edition

Get ready for asteroids, anarchy, and excessive ammunition, because Meteor Mags and Patches are back—bigger, badder, and louder than ever!

On the asteroid mining frontier of the near future, a hell-raising space pirate and her indestructible calico cat rage against the forces of law and order, “liberating” cargo and racking up a massive body count—until they come face-to-face with an alien invasion!

Join Meteor Mags and her criminal crew, the hard-rocking Psycho 78s, in fifteen tales of interplanetary piracy and total destruction. Run for your life in the tornado that wipes out Ceres! Thrill to the savage mating rituals practiced by the evil space lizards! Learn how to smuggle cigarettes and shoot pool with the solar system’s number one dancer! Witness the unearthly energies of the machine that transforms Patches the cat, and merge your mind with a telepathic space kraken!

From rescuing a pirate radio DJ in a hail of bullets to dancing naked with a tribe of Russian space monkeys, Mags and her outlaw friends rock the Belt. But how long can they survive when everyone on Earth wants them dead?

Now Available on Amazon as a 588-page paperback featuring black-and-white art plus Asteroid Underground articles and interviews with the crew. Also available in a text-only version for Kindle for $9.95, or get the Kindle for free when you buy the paperback.

Also available for iBook, and on Barnes & Noble in paperback and Nook Book. The sixth volume collects all the material from the first five volumes, plus new stories. 183,000 words.

 

Hang My Body on the Pier

This story now appears in the Meteor Mags Omnibus Edition.

ABOUT THIS STORY

The fifteenth story in the Meteor Mags series presents scenes from her Great-gramma Magdalena’s early life, from when she was found orphaned, through early days pretending to be a boy and sailing with pirates, to her eventual rise to power as a pirate queen.

Central to the tale is her relationship with the man who found her and took her to sea, a man she calls Father. Combining third-person narration with excerpts from Great-gramma’s memoirs, this tale reveals the years which shaped her relationships with death, crime, the sea, and a male-dominated world of power.

Mags was named after her great-grandmother and worships her. By this point in the series, readers have discovered amazing things about Great-gramma. Though she died before Meteor Mags was born, she visits the space pirate to give her guidance in dreams and visions, and she may be influencing events in the stories. She created the magic ring Mags wears. The ring extends Mags’ lifespan to 200 years, just as it did for Great-gramma. The story of its creation has yet to be told.

This tale includes a framing sequence in the series’ “current day” of 2029, featuring characters who will be unfamiliar to new readers, but who have been central to the past seven episodes. Mags sings a song with these new friends she’s made in the asteroid belt—a song with origins in Great-gramma’s untold past on Earth.

This story now appears in the Meteor Mags Omnibus Edition.

voyage of the calico tigress

meteor mags 32v2 - Small Copy

This story now appears in the Meteor Mags Omnibus Edition.

OUR STORY SO FAR

The smuggler Meteor Mags and her criminal crew survived their suicide mission to Ceres—but just barely. They encountered Mags’ old friend Alonso, a musician from Kaufman’s favorite band. The pirates stole the freighter he worked on and almost killed him, but Alonso was too happy to see Mags to hold a grudge.

The storm on Ceres separated the crew from Kaufman and Patches: the treasonous official and Mags’ practically indestructible calico cat. Patches rescued Kaufman, but not before he took a beating from the tornado. They escaped in his stealth spacecraft.

On Vesta 4, where Mags and Patches swore to reunite, Kaufman’s son Anton awaits his father’s return. At Mags’ request, Sarah promised to show Anton around and take care of him. They help repair damage the club suffered in the cyborg incident.

On Earth, Mags’ “nephew” Tarzi studies a book she found which may reveal the origin of their reptilian enemies. She has also inspired her friend Slim to create a new field of mathematics; and with it, help her create a system to distribute free, unlimited energy throughout the Belt.

But despite their efforts, in the vast darkness of the asteroids and beyond, forces gather which threaten them all.

 

the ryderium caper

mags-35v2-5x7crop-small-copy1

This story now appears in the Meteor Mags Omnibus Edition.

ABOUT THIS STORY

The eleventh story in the Meteor Mags series reveals the smuggler has been up to much more than just shooting people and breaking stuff in 2029. No one in her crew except Slim knows what she has been secretly working on with an old friend of the family. She has big plans she gradually reveals in the next three stories set in November 2029.

In The Ryderium Caper, Mags and her partner in crime, Ryder, discuss Gramma Margareta. Readers met Gramma in The Weight of the Universe, and Mags has talked about her in an Asteroid Underground interview. Readers know Gramma made a ton of money in billiards in Europe in the 1800s; and after the estate she and Great-Gramma built was bombed in WWII, Mags and Celina helped her rebuild it as a home for female refugees displaced by war.

This matriarchal utopia grew into a micro-society that was responsible for developing the principles of gravity control; and along with her mother’s fierce devotion to anarchist uprisings and her great-grandmother’s penchant for piracy, it has informed our villainous leading lady’s ethics and sense of justice—and her own aspirations to shape the future of humanity.

Astute readers will notice the scene in April 2029 is the same night seen from another point of view in Part One of Mountain Lions Forever.

This story now appears in the Meteor Mags Omnibus Edition.