"This is the right place for you, boy. They'll school you here to be a right-standing man, one who can keep control over his actions, like any good man should. You just got to keep yourself open to learn and to grow."
How far can trust grow, when you're in a place you despise?
Arrested for a crime he doesn't regret, Bat ends up handcuffed to a group of fellow city boys and sent on a long journey into the countryside. He knows that he is being transported to a prison for delinquent servant boys, but what form will his imprisonment take?
Tattooed with the rank-mark of servant, Bat must learn how to keep from losing his temper with the men who carry the keys to his freedom. But in the unbelievable world where he has been deposited, in which a genial master orders strict punishments and a servant acts like a master, will Bat be able to locate the door to his release? Which of his fellow prisoners can he trust to help him?
And will he survive long enough to find out?
Inspired by true events at a turn-of-the-century reform school, this novella (short novel) is set in an alternative version of the Chesapeake Bay region during the 1910s.
- Part 1 of Young Toughs
"When she was hired as a maid, no one told her that she'd hold the future of the Dozen Landsteads in her bosom."
It's sweeping day again, and her task seems straightforward: clean the dirt in her master's study and leave.
But Sally's master is no ordinary master, and Sally's sweeping could be the trigger for war. Finding herself in a dangerous trap, Sally must draw upon the wisdom of her allies in the servants' kitchen before disaster strikes.
- Part 2 of Young Toughs
"He came down the mountain one early summer afternoon, toward the end of what had not yet been dubbed the Hydrogen War. He was just in time to catch the climax of the war."
He knew he wasn't normal. Now he must save others who have been left behind.
For two years, since his parents left for the west coast of the continent, Phillip Schafer has lived in a mountain home, as far as he can get from society. But when the loss of his beloved companion forces him out of his refuge, he finds that the world is on the cusp of change. And he may be one of the few people left who is able to outrace that change.
Accompanied by two unusual allies, Phillip must escape from his nation before disaster strikes. But with no jet-car, he must somehow reach the skyport before the last rocket blasts off. . . .
- Part 3 of Young Toughs
"Having a servant-boy accompany them on this trip was annoying, Kit thought. But there was no way around it; Honey's parents would never have allowed Honey to visit Yclau without her young bodyguard."
Kit has reached her apprenticeship birthday and is on a path to inherit power. But what sort of power will she wield?
A journey from the First Landstead to the neighboring Queendom of Yclau seems an easy enough day-trip for two young women and a faithful young servant. Kit and Honey will simply catch a monorail to the queendom's capital and enjoy their first sight of a foreign nation.
But Yclau is not the First Landstead. It is a land of robots, memories of the Bomb, and a lingering fear of what might occur next.
Kit is determined to have her birthday the way she wanted. But she will need allies for her fight, and one of them is an ally she did not expect.
- Part 4 of Young Toughs
Tripp has two friends in high school: a rebel without a cause, and a girl fighting the social restraints upon her. But only one human being has any real hope of understanding Tripp, and he isn't human at all.
"Tripp leaned back against the leather. Leather reminded him of Jack, roughly masculine. That wasn't quite Tripp either. 'Al, what material are you?' he asked finally, closing his eyes.
"There was a pause before Al said, 'Ferrite, mainly.'"
Warning: The story tags include major spoilers. If you want to skip the tags, the important information is that this story is original slash (with original gen and original het subplots), set in an alternate-universe, retrofuturistic 1960s.
- Part 5 of Young Toughs