Today the Drabblecast brings you “Diamante and Strass” by Lucy A. Snyder.
Lucy A. Snyder is a five-time Bram Stoker Award-winning author, appearing in publications such as Pseudopod, Strange Horizons, and Weird Tales. She lives in Columbus, Ohio and is faculty in Seton Hill University’s MFA program in Writing Popular Fiction.
Our story today has got it all, a sort of Thelma and Louise post-apocalypse Sci-Fi western!
“Are these the gunslingers?” The Queen looked down her long, thin nose through her kaleidoscope monocle at the dusty duo.
“She’s a gunslinger. I’m a bomber,” said Strass.
The Queen of Montana stood regal before her icy throne as her guards hauled in the notorious man-eater Giorgia Diamante and her accomplice, Elvira Strass.
Our Drabble this week is “Motion Sensitive” by JanetMermaid:
At first she thought a motion-sensitive light in the bedroom was stupid, but it came with the apartment. She shrugged it off. Before long, she’d grown to like it. Whenever she got up in the middle of the night to use the toilet, the light automatically came on for her. No more stubbed toes.
One night, she awoke when the light blinked on. Nothing was there. “Must need maintenance,” she thought.
This happened three nights in a row. On the fourth night, when the light came on, she finally saw why. She’d rather have suffered stubbed toes and darkness.
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Our twabble comes from Wil on the Drabblecast Forums:
The first Universal Translator worked ‘okay’, when translating, but it didn’t make your lips talk in-sync, like on TV.
We pick a new twabble winner every week. They’re 100-character stories. They’re fun! Shoot us one on the forums or tweet us!
Drabblecast 393 – Diamante and Strass
Diamante and Strass
by Lucy Snyder
The Queen of Montana stood regal before her icy throne as
her guards hauled in the notorious man-eater Giorgia Diamante and her
accomplice, Elvira Strass.
“Are these the gunslingers?” The Queen looked down her
long, thin nose through her kaleidoscope monocle at the dusty duo.
“She’s a gunslinger. I’m a bomber,” said Strass.
Diamante gave her a sharp elbow in the ribs to shush her.
The thickly furred floor beneath them twitched indolently and the
zebra-striped walls breathed in afternoon slumber. The castle was far
too familiar with the pheromones of murderers to be concerned about
“Yes, Mum, they are the ones you requested.” The captain
of the Queen’s guard pulled a savage, snub-nosed machine pistol from
beneath his sky-black cape. “We found this customized weapon on Miss
“I call it the Dance.” Diamante tipped her woven steel
Stetson toward the Queen. “St. Vitus style.”
“In the olden days,” the queen observed with an arched
eyebrow, “dancing was like exploding.”
Diamante gave her a curt, knowing nod. “That piece’ll give
‘em all a decent overloading.”
“It connects to something in your hip?” The Queen peered
at Diamante’s left side.
Diamante touched the lumpy scars on her tanned flesh above
her low-slung leather ammo belt. “Neuromilitary implant. The Dance
links to my optic lobe and fires in perfect synch with the diastole of
my heart. I just have to think about it and the whole room’s dead.”
“What a soft bounce!” the Queen marveled.
“She’s a hot machine.” Strass impatiently pushed back her
thick golden hair. “But surely you didn’t bring us here to jawbone
hardware. What can we do for your Majesty?”
The Queen pulled a digital wand from the folds of her
shimmering robes and pointed it at the fuzzy floor in front of the
duo. She flicked it on, and a bust hologram of a skinny man with a
wild, dirty-blond mane and an equally unkempt beard spilling over a
priest’s collar appeared before them. The pupils of his blue eyes were
mismatched: the right was as small as the point of a dagger and the
left was as big and dark as a Stimjim tablet.
“Bring me the head of this preacher,” the Queen ordered.
“That’s Reverend Dr. Johnny Swarovski.” Diamante squinted
at the flickering holo of the thin white man. “He used to be your
Duke, didn’t he? Before he invented his secret formula.”
The Queen acted as if Diamante hadn’t spoken. “Johnny’s an
American, but he’s fled across the border. My signet ring will
guarantee his extradition should local knights intervene.”
She slipped the signet off her pinkie finger and flipped
it to Diamante. “The spy in my cab told me Johnny’s holed up in the
desert outside Medicine Hat with his … acolytes.”
“Acolytes? How many?” Diamante frowned as she wiggled the
ring into the tight front pocket of her jeans.
The Queen smiled at her. “Surely you’re not afraid of Americans?”
Diamante frowned. “I’m not afraid of the world. What’s in
this deal for us?”
“A clean slate,” the Queen replied. “We’ll drop the bass,
murder, cannibalism, corpse defilement, and public intoxication
charges from the rave in Anaconda.”
“Ezekiel,” spat Strass. “That dirty jerk.”
“He got what was coming. They all did.” Diamante’s eyes
glittered. “You’d have done the same.”
“Maybe I would.” The Queen gave the daintiest of smiles
and shrugs. “But do my bidding, and there shall be no cell block
tangos for you girls in my domain. And of course there’s more.”
The Queen snapped her fingers, and two of her guards
brought forth a bulletproof tortoiseshell case and popped the horny
locks. In amongst the pulsing guts of the tortoise were dazzling
pounds of glittering pale gems.
“My best friends, and soon yours,” the Queen said.
“Provided you bring me the good Reverend’s head.”
“Did you want the rest of him past his neck?” Strass asked.
“Not necessary.” The Queen pursed her lips. “But I do want
the head brought back intact. Alive. And … unmolested.”
So Diamante and Strass kitted themselves out in the finest
rhinestone body armor the queen’s arsenal could supply, packed up
their weapons and a good medical stasis unit, fueled their biogas
Harleys and rode north up the ruins of I-15.
They stopped at the Coutts border crossing like regular
citizens; this was the first time in years that they hadn’t jumped the
wall. The rest of the traffic was mostly cargo beasts, NAFTACorp
assault dinosaurs, and a few hand-painted vans full of various
doomsday cultists headed to the North Pole. It was a nervous half-hour
wait; Diamante’s hand kept straying toward the St. Vitus Dance, and
Strass fingered the lumpy outlines of the white phosphorous grenades
she had stashed in her bra.
But the strolling Death Mounties in their humming red
power armor gave neither the gunslinger nor the mad bombshell a second
“Where you gals headed?” The border agent pressed his
sizzling brand into the fleshy page of the gunslinger’s passport. The
booklet quivered and squeaked in his hand.
“Medicine Hat,” Diamante replied.
“Oh, be careful out there.” He gave her a smile that was
two parts grandpa concern and one part raptor leer. “Take the northern
route through Vauxhall; the highway through the Glassy Desert ain’t
“Why?” Strass handed over her own struggling passport.
“Why, there be monsters!” He branded a page, and her
booklet urinated on his wrist; he didn’t seem to notice. “Goths and
rockabillies. Transpsychic bandits. And other creatures that ain’t fit
for Thor’s clean earth!”
They passed the Taber Starship Impact Memorial and turned
onto the highway that transected the endless shimmering craze of green
glass like a dark laser burn. Suddenly, Diamante’s motor began to
rattle. Soon the whole Harley was shaking like a junkie. A few moments
later, Strass’s motorcycle started jerking, too.
They pulled off to the side of the highway. Diamante got
out her flashlight and inspected their machines. Tiny blue silicon
worms, hatched from eggs carried on the dusty winds, had invaded the
engines. The wrigglers were devouring the metal, leaving behind sticky
trails of epoxy; the cylinders were nearly clogged with the acidic
“Damn shitburners!” Diamante kicked a tire. “I knew we
should have sprung for ceramic Vincents!”
“Well, this ain’t good.” Strass shaded her eyes and
squinted out across the glaring barrens. “This place is still full of
radium … if we have to walk the rest of the way, our bones’ll be
glowing by the time we get there.”
Overhead, they heard a tiny sonic boom. A rocket-powered
swallow dove straight down from the sky and landed on a spar of broken
glass. When the cyborg scissor-tail opened its beak, the Queen of
Montana’s voice came out, thin and sing-song.
“Don’t dilly or dally,” the Queen told them sternly. “I
have word that the Duchess of Minneapolis wants Johnny dead. No head.
She’s sent her Raspberry Berets to jam him.”
Diamante swore and kicked the tire again. The swallow
gulped and rocketed away.
“Well, that’s a fine kettle of cocks.” Strass shaded her
eyes again and resumed scanning the dazzling plain.
“We’ll have to hitchhike,” Diamante said. “We’ve got to
get out of this place.”
“I think I just spotted our rides,” Strass replied. She
dug her noise bomb kit out of her saddlebag, extracted the amplifier
and set it up on the pavement. She plugged in her microphone and
started beatboxing, hissing and spitting rhymes and grunts out at
whatever she’d seen in the bright distance.
Diamante heard Strass’s beats echoed back, faintly at
first, but then louder and louder, the harmonics shifting and
multiplying as dark shapes rose on the garish horizon and moved closer
Soon, the shimmering glass mirage cleared enough to reveal
huge cybersonic lizards, each the size of a tour bus. All were the
descendants of feral iguanas who’d been impregnated and mutated by
eldritch technologies from the starship crash that glassed the desert.
Each iridescent scale on their saurine bodies acted as a tiny speaker
pounding back the sounds that Strass sent forth. The cybersonic
lizards bobbed their heads and flicked their blue tongues in time with
The lizards circled Strass and Diamante, fascinated by the
music, but unwilling to let themselves be touched.
“Let me try,” whispered Diamante. She got into her own
saddlebag and unfolded her air guitar, brushed her fingers through the
virtual strings for a quick tune-up, and began to play “Purple Haze.”
Strass switched up her beat to back Diamante’s music, and the lizards
made the glass quake as they writhed in appreciation.
As Diamante hit the climax, one opalescent lizard was
entirely overcome by her hot licks. He fell forward onto the pavement,
scales buzzing and crackling with feedback, rolled over and offered
his pink neck and belly to the girls. While Strass scratched the
lizard under his massive chin and sang “Suffragette City” to keep him
still, Diamante fashioned a halter and reins out of her spool of
carbon fiber rope.
Once they harnessed the scaly beast, the girls climbed
atop his ridged back and urged him up the highway. He lumbered slow
and steady for miles, until the wind shifted and his scales began to
vibrate in sympathy with a cacophony in the distance. They heard
voices, yes, and music, but it was all too chaotic to be a concert,
too profane to be religion, too apocalyptic to be just another party.
“Johnny?” asked Strass.
“Johnny,” agreed Diamante. “Let’s get our man.”
The lizard slithered them from highway to hills, and
around midnight they crept up to the edge of a vast, fog-filled
amphitheatre that Swarovski’s legion of acolytes had dug in the
blood-black earth with their own hands. The stink of narcotic incense
and alcohol and sweating flesh was nearly overpowering.
“It’s like the bowl of the bong of the gods.” Strass
pulled her bandanna up over her nose and mouth.
The Reverend Dr. Swarovski stood in the center of the
amphitheatre on a bare dirt stage, barefoot in a gold lamé robe,
speaking in tongues into a microphone. He was ringed by his thousands
upon thousands of dancing, ululating worshippers who were pounding
away on improvised instruments: toxic waste barrel drums, AK-47s
fashioned into electric basses, whistles made from sniper rifle
cartridges. Only a few of his celebrants appeared to be human.
Swarovski waved a golden aspergillum like a wand and
flicked glittering silver fluid onto the soil. The mud foamed,
writhed, swelled into a huge membranous bubble that burst, spilling
forth a naked purple minotaur, six feet tall and fully formed.
“My priestly beast!” Swarovski declared. “As I am the god,
and the dog, my body the one true temple, I declare you join your
brothers and sisters in holy riot! Soon, we shall spread our message
to the world!”
The inhuman crowd roared in joy and swept up the confused
newborn. Swarovski set to wetting the dirt once again. Strass and
Diamante watched creature after strange creature birthed from the
earth and his secret formula.
“He’s got a real front line assembly down there.” Diamante
frowned. “We should have brought more ammo.”
“We need a diversion.” Strass fingered her grenades.
At that moment, a raid siren blared, and three dozen
Valkyrie figures rappelled down from a vast invisible dirigible
lurking in the sky. They wore supple silver armor and purple berets
and propelled themselves on wicked plasma skates that vaporized flesh
and bone and burned the dirt to slag.
The Raspberry Berets zoomed round and round the
amphitheatre, annihilating anyone they could throw beneath their
glowing skates, a fist-pumping derby of death with Johnny Swarovski
howling impotently in the eye of their storm. His acolytes were
running and flapping and flopping from the amphitheatre, trampling
each other, shrieking in unimaginable terror. In moments the Reverend
Doctor would be the Berets’ minionless prey.
“No way,” Diamante vowed.
She drew her St. Vitus Dance and thumbed off the safety.
The weapon hummed to life in her hand and spat jacketed lead at the
invaders. A dozen heads exploded into red glitter before the others
twigged to the threat above them.
The Berets scattered, reformed in smaller attack units, a
military metastasis. Diamante picked them off with relentless
precision. Strass stepped in when Diamante had to reload, hurling
knuckleball grenades from each fist. Each bomblet went off with a
sunburst flash and bone-pulping boom. The air filled with the stink of
phosphorous and scorched hair.
The Berets’ squad leader screamed down on them, one skate
rising for a lethal roundhouse kick. Diamante cut her in half with a
chainsaw barrage of bullets.
When the red mist cleared, Diamante and Strass were the
only ones left standing amidst the amphitheatre carnage.
Just them … and the Reverend Dr. Johnny Swarovski.
He turned toward them slowly, giving them a dazzling
rockstar smile, letting his golden robe slowly fall open to reveal a
perfect chest and promising package. “You girls are surely both my
saviors. How can I ever repay you?”
Diamante pointed the Dance at his heart. “Get down on your
knees and pray ….”
The Queen’s secret service ambushed the girls the moment
they tethered their lizard outside the palace.
“Hey now, hey now,” Diamante complained as the guards
frog-marched her and Strass into the throne room and forced them down
on their knees. “What’s this corrosion? We had a deal!”
“Had. Past tense.” The Queen looked to the captain of her
guard. “Have you the box? And the weapon?”
“Yes, Mum.” He pushed his cape aside to reveal the St.
Vitus Dance deactivated and holstered at his side, and then he
gestured for his men to bring forth the medical stasis box. Johnny
Swarovski stared at them balefully from behind the Plexiglas pane and
mouthed silent obscenities.
“What about our promised payment?” Strass demanded. “We
lost our bikes out there. We had expenses.”
“Leaving here with your lives should be payment enough,”
the Queen replied haughtily. “My advisors think I should simply have
you both killed.”
“That’s a dirty deed!” Diamante fought against the men
“Dirt cheap, too.” Strass was very still.
“I am being most generous. Begone with you.” The Queen
waved her hand, and the guards hauled them back out to their giant
lizard. A heavily armed squad escorted them to the city limits.
“Get out and don’t come back!” the squad leader ordered.
“You’ll be shot on sight.”
Diamante and Strass rode their lizard to the top of a
nearby low mountain and stared out at the glittering spire of the
castle. They could just barely make out the huge bulletproof picture
window of the Queen’s boudoir, where no doubt at that very minute
Johnny’s head was being put to salacious uses.
“What should we do?” asked Strass.
Diamante tipped her steely hat back and wiped her brow. “I
reckon we go to Plan B.”
Strass squinted at her. “You sure?”
“She’s got it coming. And I expect Johnny’ll prefer it this way.”
Strass shrugged, dug in her jeans and pulled out a tiny
black remote. Pressed the button. The boudoir window shattered outward
as the microscopic, scanner-proof fusion device Strass had planted in
Swarovski’s neck stump exploded. Confetti of glass and steel sparkled
in the midday sun as it rained down on the castle courtyard.
They watched the green smoke trailing up from the exploded
window for a few moments before Strass spoke again: “Okay, so what
“Wanna to go back to Cali?”
“Nah. Don’t think so.”
“How ‘bout Kathmandu?”
Strass’ face lit up. “You know? I’ve always wanted to!”