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Project Enterprise: The Short Stories

Project Enterprise Short Stories

Author(s): Pauline Baird Jones

Two short stories from the Project Enterprise universe.

Men in Jeans
A romantic suspense mystery

Richard Daniels thinks life can't any stranger working at Area 51until he gets assigned to find out where a Houston area SF writer gets the ideas for her books. Should be an easy assignment—if it weren't for the dead guy in her back yard and the non-business related ideas she's giving him. (Originally appeared in the Death in Texas anthology)

Steam Time
A romantic steampunk adventure

The man formerly known as Tobias Smith hadn’t planned to ride along with Dr. Everly and his Medicine Show. Grifters gave him a pain their elixirs couldn’t heal. But he was headed to Marfa, too. And Everly’s son turned out to be a really a fine looking damsel—one in distress when the ghost lights of Marfa bump them into an alternate reality complete with an automaton gang and airships. Could he be the good guy? Be the hero, save the day and get the girl? (Originally appeared in Dreamspell Steampunk Vol 1)

Other books in the Project Enterprise series

The Key
Girl Gone Nova
Tangled in Time
Kicking Ashe


(From "Steam Time"):

Texas 1892

Ani called him stranger inside her head, because he sure wasn’t a “Joe.” To his face she didn’t call him anything cause she couldn’t call him what he wasn’t. Hadn’t said much of anything to him, not since he’d ridden over the rise three days ago and Pa invited him to ride along with them. He was headed to Marfa, too, though that was all he’d shared about himself of a personal nature. He didn’t talk much, which suited Pa, since he talked enough for all of them and a few more besides.
Wary for reasons she hadn’t figured out yet, she’d watched him through her lashes, mostly at night around the campfire, though her gaze might accidentally stray his direction now and again in daylight. She took care not to meet that hard-as-a-drill gaze, since she was supposed to be a boy and she didn’t feel like one when she looked at him. And if he looked too close, he’d know she wasn’t that young. Good thing she took after her blessed Ma, who had looked young until the day she went to her reward.
Ani’d exchanged skirts for pants when they took to the road selling the elixir from the rear of the wagon. Like her Pa, their wagon walked a fine line between serious and spectacle, as did his English accent. He claimed to be gentry, a younger son who’d eloped with the under housemaid and been shipped off to the colonies to remove the stain of his disgrace from the family name. Sometimes she believed it was true. She could talk gentry like him when the situation called for it, which it didn’t that much. Mostly she looked peaked and moaned so her Pa could heal her. Her gaze skittered the stranger’s way again. Not sure she could do either in front of him.
A lot of men had passed by—or even stopped to buy—since that day they took to the road, but none as interesting as the stranger. Big and likely looking, with a huge helping of tough in him, he had a cool gaze that saw things, though he was also a gentleman—or as much a one as her Pa. She saw it in the way her Pa reacted to him, how much it pleased Pa when the stranger called him “Dr. Everly” with just enough respect so as not to be obvious, heard it in the way he spoke, too.
Pa didn’t seem to see the danger that lurked below the stranger’s surface though he should. Danger clung like his clothes, fit him as well as they did, mingled with his scent that the night breeze sent her way every now and again. And lurking behind the danger she sensed a deep well of sad.
Unlike her Pa, Ani saw it all. One of them had to. Not everyone liked finding out you couldn’t buy a miracle for a dollar. That’s why they’d had to avoid the Paisano settlement this year. No, what surprised her was how it felt to see those things in him. Made her feel all strange and sad, too, made her want to do something about it, despite the danger. Didn’t think the stranger would let her do anything for him though and a good thing that was. Wanting to do something about a man had caught her Ma in the tangle of Pa’s life. Ma had loved him to the end, but she saw him clear and told Ani to see him clear, too.
“Illusions are for magic shows,” she’d said more than once, “not for living.”
Pa, well, he preferred illusions and more than a few delusions. Heaven knew his amazing elixir was mostly both. The stranger? If he’d ever had illusions, she had a feeling he’d lost them long ago.

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Genre: Science Fiction
Date Published: 12/06/2013
Publisher: Pauline B Jones

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