Cameras Up! Action On!

There's no business like vote business.

The Queen of Clubs met that Bitch of Spades in the bathroom of Diamonds’ Rings at dawn. Dagger and lead pipe danced a tarantella. Stalls crumpled like dominoes, porcelain spewed chunks like penny fountains.

Fans ducked. Streams stuttered. Audiences tuned in to see the Whore of Hearts strut through the door—ring girl caught without a number on her chest. No worries, shit like that can be memed in. Heart’s spiked heel caught on cinder block rubble and sent up a crack cloud of dust.

“Oopsie-oop.” She giggled in that annoying giggly giggling glack Hearts girls pumped. Clubs lost synapses—sizzly snap—just hearing it. “Ocupado,” Hearts sing-sanged and backed up, her ass probably pressing into some random jack’s front.

Spades made her move before a ref yelled, “Cut!”

Bang. Clash. Slip. Fall. Back flat on harlequin tile, Clubs stamped her boots and howled in rage.

Spades laughed. “Dug your own grave? That’ll save some shovel.”

“We’re not done,” Clubs said, but Spades slipped through the cracks and was gone.

Ballots cast. View-votes tallied. Measure passed.


Spades’ Brand Man reported loc hot; banter came in lukewarm; early polls nail her as frontrunner. “Stay on message. You missed three ops to catchphrase. Our sponsors want more screen time. Remember to primp for the vidstreams—official and bootleg. Remember to flash the tats and flaunt the ads, yours or Clubs makes no nevermind.”

“No one can read glitter and sequins. Bump ‘em in post.” Spades wiped sweat from her bruises; mopped blood from her leg. “Remind me, what prop we just push?”

“Portal rights. Who qualifies as chesire and who can alice.”

“What side was I on?”

“Same as same. Side with the most privilege.”

“And Clubs?”

“All sides are one at Diamonds. Don’t over-rock this.”

“When’s my next vote?” Spades said, running numbers in her head and wondering if maybe it wasn’t time to cut Diamonds loose from the kickback racket. Trouble was, deck was stacked so steep, any switch was more likely to topple her than the system. Rock crushes scissors; wealth crushes fame.

“Tomorrow. Noon.” Brand Man looked up from his stream. “Pretty up the tats for the cams, Bitch.”

“Spades,” she said. “I prefer Spades.”


The Merchant of Diamonds walked the floor before the vote, pressuring sponsors, padding purses, and pimping those agendas. Clubs and Spades were hyping in the greens and the girls of Heart were serving distractions for lefts, rights, and mods.

“No business like vote business,” Diamonds said all smirky smirking smile, and bourgeoisied, “Let them vote twice.” for laughs and a half.

The ref yelled, “Cameras up.” The audience responded, “Action on!”

Action on’d.


The Bitch of Spades clocked the Queen of Clubs with a shovel in the lobby before the Whore of Hearts finished her flash. “Foul!” cried the crowd. “Boo,” said the bandwagoners. Spades phrased, “We dig deep for you.” Sponsors lined their purses with ill-got gains.

Spades bowed. Clubs concussed, rallied true. Found a chair and tossed it.

It hit. It broke. Splinters and clubs for all. Hip, hip, cheers—and chairs—away. Clubs called, “You can’t pass a prop without breaking a few chairs over wrong-heads.” Banter ratings plummeted.

Spades threw a punch. A bowl. The vote. Took a club to the chest, a kick to an important plexus, went down on one knee.

Clubs cracked, crowed, crushed. Spades spun, tripped on a too-close Heart and went slump. Tapped. Out.

Fight’s over. Ballots short. Prop tabled. Diamonds’ ticked.


Brand Man tsked Spades. “What happened out there?”

“Same as same,” Spades said, hanging up her sequins, turning in her glitter, cutting out the rot. “Queen crushes bitch crushes whore crushes viewers like you.”

“Tests high,” Brand Man said, working the feeds. “I can get votes behind that.” He close up’d, lived his stream. “Now. Once more for people.”

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Issue 2.1 Paperback

In this issue of The Dread Machine, you’ll meet a few shapeshifters, launch an attack on Her Majesty’s Royal Admiralty with a ragtag band of space pirates, and watch Paul McCartney die over and over and over again.

Read a sales listing for a cursed household mirror, deliver some fresh ears to your grandmother, greet the Big Bad Wolf in the cosmos, see influencers battle for democracy, experience your worst nuclear nightmare, change your face, hunt down a dangerous engineered creature, and discover a strange splinter. Whatever you do, don’t itch, be careful about which derelict ships you decide to salvage, and do not trust the maintenance bots.
$10.00

Featured in

Issue 2.1 Paperback

Meet a few shapeshifters, launch an attack on Her Majesty’s Royal Admiralty with a ragtag band of space pirates, and watch Paul McCartney die over and over and over again.

Read a sales listing for a cursed household mirror, deliver some fresh ears to your grandmother, greet the Big Bad Wolf in the cosmos, see influencers battle for democracy, experience your worst nuclear nightmare, change your face, hunt down a dangerous engineered creature, and discover a strange splinter.

Whatever you do, don’t scratch, be careful about which derelict ships you decide to salvage, and do not trust the maintenance bots.
$10.00

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And hearts through heaviest of armors.

Cameras Up! Action On!

There's no business like vote business.

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